The scientific method

I started my new weekly ethics topic with three classes today, on the scientific method. I’m a lot happier with this topic than the last one on digital assets, which I felt was a bit too technical for some of the kids, and they didn’t really enjoy it as much. This one feels better. It’s really more about critical thinking, but since my class is advertised as “Critical and Ethical Thinking”, that’s not a bad thing.

It was supposed to rain here today, being stormy, but there was barely a sprinkle. We may have more move in overnight. The next few days are supposed to be very rainy. We’ll see.

Mostly otherwise I worked on comics, and did my 2.5k run, and took Scully for a walk.

Oh, and I got the agenda and schedule for the next ISO Photography Standards meeting, which is being held at Apple headquarters in Cupertino in November. I’ve decided not to fly over to California this time, but to attend via web conference. That means starting at 4am (9am in California), for three days in a row. It won’t be pleasant, but at this point I prefer that to flying to the United States, given COVID and the political situation over there.

New content today:

Being a busy bee

I had a full day today. I started with my Year 6 ethics class at the local school. We’re in the middle of three lessons talking about tolerating other people’s beliefs, and today we explored what it actually means to tolerate something. Does it mean you don’t try to convince them they’re wrong? Does it mean you should try to understand the reasons why they hold those beliefs? Does it mean you don’t make fun of them? Does it mean their beliefs are as good as yours? This is a well-behaved group of kids, but this morning I had to encourage them to speak – I asked some questions and got silence a few times.

I did a 2.5k run when I got home. And then took Scully for a walk at lunch time.

The afternoon I spent writing up my report for the ISO Photography meeting I attended in Cologne last month. I have to send this to Standards Australia, prior to our follow-up local meeting, which is on Friday next week. This involves going through all my notes from the meeting, plus the various reports that were presented, and distilling it down to highlights and significant events. I completed it and sent it off… just before starting my three online ethics classes in a row.

So it was a very busy, but productive day.

New content today:

Cologne meetings, day 5

It stormed overnight. I heard the heavy rain and thunder briefly in the middle of the night, probably some time after midnight. A bit later it had stopped, but the room was so hot that I was sweating while trying to sleep. I got up and opened the window to let in some cold air, which helped. But I had to close it again a short while later to keep the noise out. It had cooled the room down enough to allow more sleep.

When we went out for breakfast it was cool and overcast. I thought it didn’t look like imminent rain, so we didn’t take umbrellas, but this turned out to be a mistake. We sat outside at the same cafe as yesterday and by the time we were finishing our muesli it started raining, lightly at first, but steadily getting heavier. We followed the lead of a pair of women were were sitting at an adjacent outdoor table and dashed inside to wait out the rain before returning to our hotel. However it looked like it had set in, so we decided to make a dash for it when it became at least a little lighter. As we were about to leave, the cafe owner appeared with an umbrella and said we could borrow it and bring it back tomorrow. I was about to say we wouldn’t be around tomorrow, but my wife reminded me that her plan for the day was to walk north past Eigelstein to Agnesvierteil and Nippes, so she’d be walking right past the cafe later this morning. So that worked perfectly.

We stopped in at the hotel and then split up for the day. I went south towards the cathedral.

Cologne Cathedral in the rain

I had about half an hour to spare before needing to catch my train, so I took the chance to go into the cathedral briefly. Even though we’ve been in there many times, I like to have a quick look at least once every trip.

Inside the Dom

Then I caught my train out to Horrem for today’s closing sessions of the ISO meeting. On the train I spotted a couple of birds which I used Merlin to identify as common wood-pigeons. This brings the number of species I’ve managed to spot and identify here up to 7 as recorded in eBird (but 8 if I also count some mallards at the beer garden on Tuesday night).

The meeting today was all of the closing administrative details, going over action items, resolutions, planning for the next meeting, and other stuff like that. My lunch today was cheese spätzle.

After the meeting business and saying goodbye to all the delegates, I caught the train back to Köln and was back in the hotel room about 3:45. We went out together to get some cake, because oddly enough I hadn’t had a chance to have any cake in Germany yet on this trip! My wife led me to a cafe she’d found with lots of good cakes: Cafe Printen Schmitz. We sat inside, being the only ones to do so, when everyone else was sitting out in the sun. We want to avoid both the sun and the cigarette smoke, so we often end up being the only ones sitting inside at places here. I had a slice of cherry cheesecake, while my wife had some of the house-made gingerbread. The cheesecake was good, but the gingerbread was really excellent – full of ginger flavour and firm and hearty rather than soft.

Having taken care of dessert before dinner, we walked over to the laundry to pick up our clothes that we’d dropped off yesterday. The man was very friendly again, and said he’d given us a 10% discount because we’d said we didn’t need them ironed. I guess that’s part of the normal service and it must be unusual for people to say don’t bother.

Then we wandered slowly towards Henne Weinbar where we had an 18:00 booking. We were a bit early, so stopped to browse in some shops, including a really amazing and large second hand clothing store that sold clothing by weight. We’d also passed a ceramics store the sold tableware and other ceramic items by weight too. Some of the plates looked really good, but we resisted because there’d be no way to carry them home safely.

We arrived at Henne Weinbar just before 18:00 and were shown to a table set for 4 people. We sat on the same side against the staircase so we could both look out into the room. We tried several of the wines, and slowly worked our way through several small sharing dishes, as well as some excellent bread. The food was delicious and inventive, with unusual combinations of ingredients. We had the burrata with dukkah pesto, turnips, basil, and mint; corn croquettes with parmesan lime aioli and pepperoncini; zucchini flower with cacao e pepe stuffing and spicy coloured tomatoes; and the pike perch dumplings with rice bisi, peas, ham, and beurre blanc. M. finished with coffee and we shared a plate of chocolates, which were hand made and had the following flavours: apricot and basil; verbena, raspberry, and cucumber; nut butter, popcorn, and sea salt; kombucha and caramel; and coconut, cashew, and gochugaru (Korean chilli pepper). Overall it was an amazing meal, and a great way to end our stay in Cologne for this trip.

We walked slowly back to our hotel where we had to pack our bags for a quick departure early tomorrow morning, catching trains to ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

Cologne meetings, day 4: Laundry dramas and too much good food

This morning my wife and I went out to have some breakfast at the cafe near Eigelstein-Torburg that opens at 09:00. They had two choices of muesli: Nußmüsli and Früchtesmüsli. Both had nuts and fruit in them! We ordered one of each, and when they arrived it seemed that the major difference was actually that the nut-muesli had toasted muesli chunks, whereas the fruit-muesli had raw rolled oats. There was no indication whatsoever of this difference in the menu listings. They were generous serves with yoghurt, a very filling breakfast.

After eating we went back to our room to pack some laundry into a bag for me to take to a laundry we’d found in Ehrenfeld yesterday. We left the room and my wife left me at the station, where I caught a train to Ehrenfeld. I found the laundry and asked if they spoke English, but the woman there said she only spoke German. I tried to indicate that I wanted the clothes washed for pickup tomorrow, but we had a miscommunication that I only realised after I’d left. She thought I wanted them this afternoon, not tomorrow afternoon, and quoted me a high “express” price, and said I couldn’t have them before 16:00, which was too late for my planned pickup time tomorrow. Also, she said they’d only do pants and shirts, not underwear and socks. And the quoted cost was 31€, which was way more than I wanted to pay. So I ended up leaving without dropping any of the laundry off, and only figured out the communication error on the train to Horrem.

At the meeting I had the same peanut soba noodles as I’d had on Monday for lunch. I enjoyed it on Monday, and felt it was healthier than the chicken schnitzel option we were presented with yesterday when choosing our lunches. Technical sessions today were on camera resolution measurement (which included a technical presentation by Bosch on difficulties they had measuring wide angle automative cameras using the ISO standard), the RIMM and eciRGB image file formats, and a new project on pixel-related camera specifications.

After the meeting I went back to the hotel. My wife was waiting for me at the station, having found another laundry where we might be able to drop our clothes. It was on the way to walking to dinner tonight, and open until 17:30, so we had time to go back to the hotel and drop my bag before heading there. This was a much better result, as the guy there spoke English and he was fine to was everything, although he insisted on having to do it as two loads to separate the lights and darks. Even when we said we just wash them together he said he wouldn’t because he’d be responsible if any of the colours ran. Anyway, he said we could have them back around 15:00 tomorrow, which was perfect. I can probably pick them up on the way home from the meeting tomorrow.

We walked slowly onwards to our dinner at Belgischer Hof – a place we’d eaten last time in 2019 and thoroughly enjoyed. We had some time to kill before our booking, so we stopped in some fo the trendy and funky shops along the way, looking at art, photography, homewares, books, and antique kitsch.

At Belgischer Hof, we were shown to a small room up the front, different to the large room out the back where we’d eaten last time. Our waitress spoke decent English and we ordered the Vorspeisenvariation, a mixed appetiser platter for two people, plus flammkuche. One had brie, radicchio, green onions, apple, and almonds, while the other had Reblochon cheese, tomato chutney, rocket pesto, and shiitake. Quite the mix of ingredients! All six of the flammkiche on the menu were completely vegetarian, so we had plenty of choice. The appetiser board was amazing, with three small jars of differently spiced salads made with lentils, chick peas, bulgar wheat; some dark rye bread; a fish tartare (I suspect it was herring); curry waffles; a green salad; a goat’s cheese and tomato brûlée; pickled beetroot; slices of ham; and small chunks of some sort of roasted meat (I suspect pork) with mushrooms. We were getting full already after this, so it’s lucky flammkuche are not too heavy!

Appetiser board

Stuffed to the gills, we walked home slowly. We were lucky to beat the forecast thunderstorms, which were predicted earlier to break around 20:00, but now we’re back at the hotel the forecast has been pushed out to around midnight for the onset of the storms. Hopefully they will cool things down a bit, because it was too hot today.


Minoritenkirche, Cologne

Cologne meetings, day 3

We slept in later today, getting up a bit after 07:00, which felt much more normal than yesterday’s 04:00. We decided to walk up to the area round the Eigelstein-Torburg just north of our hotel to find some breakfast. There were some cafes around, but the only one open only had a choice of a “schnell” continental breakfast, or eggs. We really wanted some muesli or something. We settled on grabbing some bakery items at a BackWerk, which is a cafeteria style bakery with sandwiches and pastries. I had a falafel sandwich on a Turkish roll and a cherry danish while my wife had a chocolate croissant. They were really fresh and good. After that, she grabbed a cappuccino at an Italian cafe that we’d spotted, but which didn’t open until 09:00 – we had to wait a couple of minutes until it was open. They had muesli for breakfast, but again not until 9am.

It’s a very weird cultural difference to Sydney, where all the cafes are open and serving a wide variety of breakfast menu items from 6am.

After a quick stop back at the hotel for me to pick up my bag for today’s meeting, we left together to catch a train to Ehrenfeld, which I’d found as a neighbourhood worth exploring. We walked around some of the streets there, and it was okay, but not especially interesting. I’d suggested to my wife that she could maybe explore this area by herself after I left for my meeting, and then catch the train back to the Hauptbahnhof herself, but it seemed we’d seen everything by 11:00, so we both went to the station and caught our trains in different directions at the same time.

I arrived at Horrem for my meeting a bit early, but a few people were there already. Technical discussions today were on imaging noise, image flare, autofocus performance, and depth sensor measurement.

During the meeting I searched for some nice places to eat dinner on Friday night. I found a wine bar called Henne Weinbar in the Belgian Quarter which does tapas style dishes for sharing. It looks good and has good reviews, so I booked it.

The meeting finished a bit early today as some of the technical sessions ran short, so I left a bit before 15:30 to catch a train back to Cologne and meet my wife. We decided to go to the Roman-Germanic Museum quickly to have a look in there before it closed at 17:00. I wanted to have another look in there after our first visit many years ago, and it promised the bonus of being air conditioned so we could escape the heat of the day a bit. The weather today was 30°C and there seem to be precious few places with air conditioning to get out of it. Unfortunately, the museum seemed to be closed for renovation or something. So instead we walked over to the adjacent Museum Ludwig to look at some modern art instead. The good thing was this museum was open until 18:00, so we could take a more leisurely approach.

We finished a quick tour of the galleries a bit after 17:30, and then began walking to the restaurant Klaaf for dinner. We took a seat inside, though most of the tables and customers were outside. We wanted to be away from the sun and the cigarette smoke, although a lot of smoke drifted in anyway. My wife had a daily special which was a cast iron pan filled with fried potatoes, mixed vegetables, and topped with two fried eggs. I had the bratwurst with fried potatoes and mushroom sauce.

The food was decent, but the meal was spoiled when the previously polite waiter wanted us to pay in cash and looked offended when we asked if we could pay by card. He reluctantly got the card reader machine and then as he handed over the receipt he said pointedly that “the tip is not included”. I assume he must have mistaken us for Americans and assumed we’d be leaving a big tip. But we’re well aware that Germans don’t normally tip and had not been intending to do so. So we left quickly, a sour taste in our mouths.

I stopped at a gelato bar across the square to get a cup with scoops of pomegranate and lemon gelato. Then we walked back to our hotel for the night.

Cologne meetings, day 2

My wife and I were awake about 4 o’clock this morning, due to going to bed early and being partly jet lagged still. I searched online for a cafe or something open early for breakfast, but many places only open at 10 o’clock or thereabouts. There were only a few places at the main train station open that early. I found a place called Haferkater that made hot porridge, with various toppings. That looked good, so we went there and got some and took it to eat sitting on a bench in front of the vast Cologne Cathedral. It was chilly, so the hot food was good.

After eating, we went to see the Wochenmarkt farmers’ market in Apostelnkloster. This opened at 07:00, but we arrived a few minutes earlier while the stallholders were finishing their set up. It was a small market, with a couple of large fruit and vegetable stalls, a couple of flower stalls, a cheese truck, butcher’s truck, and seafood truck, and a baker with cakes and cinnamon rolls, plus a bread baker.

We stopped to look at the bread stall and the senior woman there began talking to us about their bread. She was very keen to tell us all about it, mentioning that they had sourdough starter over 100 years old, and most of their bread was made using rye flour. She asked if we’d like to try some bread and before we had a chance to answer she starting slicing a large loaf and spreading it with butter for us. She had us try the plain rye loaf, and one with walnuts in it, and then she cut a slice of a loaf with small bits of ham baked into it – she asked if we were vegetarian and offered it to me when I said that my wife was was. All the bread was really good.

She told us a story about how when grandmothers in Germany used to bake bread, they would hide it in a cupboard for a day and only let the family eat it the next day. She said that developed the flavour, but also it was because if they let the family eat it fresh out of the oven then the entire loaf would go in no time. She told us a bunch of other stories about the bread. They also had big trays of various slices with crumble toppings: apple, berries, and poppy seed. She grabbed some of there loose crumble topping and gave us a handful to try, then started cutting some of the poppy seed slice. Before she could offer us some of that to taste I said we’d like to buy a full slice of it. It was a large piece and cost only 2.20€. I asked if we could take some photos of the stall, and her and her junior assistant posed for a photo for us. And then she cut us two slices of their loaf with fruit in it – figs and other things – and put those in a bag to take with us as well! It was really good to have such a nice chat with a stall holder like that.

German poppy seed cake

After the market we went for a long walk, around a couple of neighbourhoods that I’d found recommended as interesting places to see in Cologne. We went first to Rathenau, near the University of Cologne, a trendy student district. This wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped, seeming like any random district. From there we walked north to the Belgian Quarter, which turned out to be much nicer and more interesting. It had some nice parks and a lot of quirky and curious shops. Unfortunately they were all still closed, since it was still early.

We walked back to the centre of town along a street with more shops. My wife marked the area to come back later today when I was in my meetings. We continued east all the way to the Rhine River, and walked back to our hotel along the water. Here’s the church Groß St Martin, behind a row of picturesque old buildings:

Groß St Martin church

During our walks, I spotted some birds: plenty of feral pigeons, some common blackbirds, a couple of carrion crows, and a Eurasian magpie. I used eBird to record them, but realised I needed to download a European bird pack to get it and Merlin Bird ID to work properly. Not being familiar with European birds, I had to spend some time later confirming the identifications of the blackbirds and magpie. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen (or at least consciously noticed) a Eurasian magpie before – I didn’t expect it to have such a long tail!

Back at our hotel room I picked up my gear and went off to my meeting, leaving my wife to explore by herself for the afternoon. I caught a train to my meeting. Lunch today was chicken gyros with rice. Technical discussions were on: A new proposal to start work on technical stability of camera support systems (such as tripod mounts); image stabilisation; and a new high dynamic range and wide colour gamut image format.

After the meeting today, we had a group dinner with all of the delegates from the meeting. My wife was also invited to come along. We went to the Biergarten am Aachener Weiher. We took a U-Bahn train from Breslauerplatz to Neumarkt, and then a tram from there to Moltkestraße, which was a short walk from the beer garden. All the others were there already. We had a good time chatting with the other delegates and eating food and drinking beer. I had a Wienerschnitzel, which was okay, but nothing special.

After dinner we left as the gathering broke up. We walked all the way back to the hotel as the sun slowly went down. It provided perfect twilight for photographing the cathedral and the Hauptbahnhof, so I snapped a few photos with my phone.

Kölner Dom twilight

Hauptbahnhof Pride

Hauptbahnhof sunset

Cologne meetings, day 1

It’s Monday, the first day of the ISO Photography Standards meeting that I’m here to attend. We still have several delegates unable to travel due to COVID, so we’re doing a hybrid online meeting, with roughly half the people attending via Webex (a virtual meeting app like Zoom). So rather than the usual 3 days of 9-5 meetings that we do for a regular face-to-face meeting, we’re restricting the hours each day for the sake of people in middle-of-the-night time zones, and doing 5 days of meetings from 12:15 to 17:00. And from the discussion today it seems we’ll be staying in this agenda format for at least a few more meetings, until most people can attend fave-to-face again.

We began the morning waking up early in our room in Würzburg. It was difficult to sleep because of how hot it was and the fact that the room had no air conditioning. I had an icy cold shower last thing before getting into bed, which helped and I got some sleep, but woke up in the middle of the night hot and sweaty. I opened the windows wide to let in cooler air, which helped a lot until the sun started brightening the room around 5am.

We got up at 6am, half an hour before we’d set the alarm. This gave us time to have showers and pack our bags before leaving the hotel early and finding some breakfast before catching our train at 7:32. We found a cafe/bakery and had some croissants, then bought some bottles of water and an apple for the train.

The train delivered us to Cologne a bit after 10:30 and we checked into our hotel, which is very close to the station. Our room was available already, so that was good. We dropped our bags and left straight away, because I had to catch another train to Horrem, where my meetings are. My wife said goodbye and went to explore Cologne by herself until I return this evening.

The first day of meetings went smoothly. It was good to see some of the familiar faces in person again after nearly 3 years of Zoom meetings. We had a dozen or so delegates present in the room, plus a similar number attending virtually. The host provided free lunch – today was choice of soba noodles with salad and a spicy peanut sauce, or some pasta which looked like lasagne, but I didn’t get a close look as I chose the noodles.

We finished almost an hour early for the day. I went back to the hotel and met my wife there, after she’d spent the afternoon getting reacquainted with the city centre. We walked north to the Ebertplatz area to get dinner at a restaurant called Feuer & Flamme (Fire & Flame). They specialised in flammkuchen and had a big selection of vegetarian options.

Monkey and flammkuche

And after sharing a couple of delicious flammkuche we decided to try one of the sweet dessert ones:

Dessert flammkuchen

Overall it was really good!

We’re both still pretty tired after the day, and adjusting to the time zone, so we’ll get another early night.

Comic crunching

Today I had a few chores to do: grocery shopping, tidying up some laundry.

And I spent some time working on writing Darths & Droids comics, to try to build up enough buffer to last through my upcoming trip to Europe in a couple of weeks. Two weeks from today I’ll be flying out to Germany for my next ISO Photography standards meeting. My wife is coming with me and we’ll be spending a few days sightseeing in the Netherlands afterwards before flying home.

That prior meeting online that I mentioned a few days ago turned out to be at 3 am in my time zone. I have no idea how the invitation managed to know that and convert the time zone. Anyway, the convener apologised for the inconvenient time for me and said it wasn’t essential that I attend, so I’ve sent my apologies.

Tonight is real life games night, but I’ve excused myself because I needed some time to relax and spend with my wife and do a few more tasks rather than spend the entire evening out. We went for pizza at our favourite local place. It was really cold, but nice to go out and have a walk.

New content today:

Not specifying a time zone

I have a meeting invitation in my email. It’s for an ISO photography standard technical meeting. The “When” field says:

Friday, 10 June 2022 3:00 am – 4:00 am

It doesn’t specify a time zone. So I’m not sure when the meeting actually is. It was sent by a guy in Helsinki. There are two somewhat plausible options:

1. It’s 3-4am Helsinki time (10-11am here). This would be my preference, obviously. It requires the odd choice of the organiser to schedule at 3am in his own time zone – but this is not beyond reason, as most of the people involved in the meeting are in Japan or the USA, and that time makes it a reasonable time of day for everyone else.

2. It’s 3-4am in my time zone (8-9pm Helsinki time). I find this less plausible, because I don’t know how the invitation could know what time zone I’m in. The organiser would naturally have selected his own time zone, and then got Microsoft Teams to send out the meeting invitations. But the invitation is going to my email address – and I don’t see how Teams could possibly know what time zone I’m in, so it shouldn’t be able to automagically convert the meeting into my time zone. And I’m not using a Microsoft mail client, so my mail client shouldn’t be trying to do anything “clever” and converting times in an MS Teams invitation into my own time zone.

I tried searching to find out, and I found two different contradicting answers on! One said that Teams meeting invitations are in the time zone of the meeting convener, and another said that it automatically adjusts to the time zone of each invitee!

Either way…. the meeting invitation really should tell me what time zone the meeting time is in. Why does it not do that??

The gist of all this is that I had to send an email to the convener to ask what time the meeting is on, even though that information really should just be in the invitation.

New content today:

Games and Indian dinner

Friday night was online board games night with the guys. I ate dinner at home so I could join in early this week. We played Dice Forge, Can’t Stop Express, 7 Wonders, Azul, Scattergories, Codenames, and Sketchful. And possibly something else that I’ve forgotten.

Most of the day yesterday and today I spent working on my current secret project. There’s a bit of a deadline on this, so it’s occupying a lot of my time at the moment, and there’s nothing I can really say about it.

Oh, Thursday night I had that ISO planning meeting. We were deciding if enough people were prepared to travel to Cologne to have a face-to-face meeting, or if we should convert it to a fully online meeting. I was hoping the agenda would be finalised as a three-day face-to-face meeting, so I could travel to Germany, attend the meeting, and then have several days free at the end to explore some of the Netherlands. On the other hand, if we cancelled the face-to-face and did a virtual meeting, I would reschedule our flights and we’d have a pure vacation trip a few weeks later.

Unfortunately we kind of ended up with the worst of both worlds. Enough people are planning to travel to make it worthwhile doing it face to face, but virtually all of the Japanese contingent are not travelling—probably restricted by their companies in ongoing COVID precautions. So to please them it was decided to have a hybrid meeting, and instead of 3 days of 9-5 meetings, it’s going to be spread out as 5 days of meetings from 12:00-17:00. This is bad for me, because now I have to spend 5 full days in Cologne, while my wife entertains herself while I’m in the meetings, and then we only have a few days left at the end for sightseeing before heading home. SO it’s less than ideal, but I guess we just have to make the most of it.

Tonight for dinner we decided to go to an Indian restaurant that is a bit over half an hour’s walk from our place. We took Scully there in her doggie backpack, and she walked all the way home. I tried a new dish that I’ve never seen before: pistachio chicken, which was very nice.

New content yesterday:

New content today: