Okayama: Photography meeting day 3

This morning after getting up and having the breakfast things we’d bought last night from a 7-Eleven, my wife and I walked over to the same coffee shop where she’d had a coffee yesterday morning. This time the staff pointed out that I needed to order something if I wanted to sit there with her (which they hadn’t done yesterday!), so I had to get up and go straight to my meetings.

This morning we had technical discussion on: photographic vocabulary and definitions (updating the existing standard), an additional presentation on HDR held over from yesterday, and the ISO DNG format. Following this we moved into the closing administrative session, which was broken in two by lunch.

We broke for lunch by 12:15 and I met up with my wife at our usual spot. I’d searched and found a couple of bakeries that we could walk to and try for lunch: Hattori Bagel, and Espresso Bar – The MARKET. We walked past the bagel place first and went on to check The MARKET. My wife liked the look of the bagel place, but liked The MARKET better. It looked like a boutique bakery with small loaves of interesting grainy bread, biscuits, scones, and things, They had a lunch menu with a few choices of vegetarian dish plus the soup of the day, and also some sandwiches and focaccia, mostly vegetarian but with a couple of tuna/salmon options.

I chose the brown rice quiche and soup, while she grabbed a fig scone and a lemon/tea scone to have with a caffe latte. We sat at a table outside on a small wooden patio, so we could enjoy the quiet street ambience. The soup turned out to be what I think was green split pea. The quiche had chunks of sweet potato and onion in it and was pretty good.

As we were eating it began raining, out of today’s overcast sky. At least the weather is cooler today. We walked back to the Convention Centre in the sparse but heavy drops, where we parted ways again until later in the afternoon.

Back in the meeting, I assisted with drafting of the WG18 resolutions, and then we had the final administrative session for the working group. But that’s not the end of the whole meeting! There were still TC42 sessions later today, and tomorrow.

The WG18 meeting wrapped up by 14:00 and I returned to the hotel to meet my wife again. After a bit of a rest we went out to the giant Aeon shopping mall across the street so I could have a look around, and also to buy a cheap umbrella which may be needed in the next few days as rainy weather is forecast. I also checked out a couple of game and hobby shops to see if they had any interesting things. I found some Japanese Magic: the Gathering cards, but not for the Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty expansion, for which I might have considered buying a few. So I saved money but not buying any!

We came back to the hotel and soon after I went back to the Convention Centre for the second administrative working group session. After this I went over to the adjacent Crowne Plaza Hotel to meet my wife there in the lobby before we went to the meeting reception up on the level 19 Sky Lounge. It was a standing buffet with a wide range of food: little fried crumbed things, prawns in a spicy sauce, pieces of steamed fish, chicken pieces in another sauce. There were several vegetarian options including roast vegetables, mini quiches, mini sushi rolls with three different fillings, salads, and some other things. They also had chefs preparing fresh sushi, served six pieces to a small wooden box, and plates of freshly fried tempura with vegetables, prawns, and fish pieces. There were also dainty pieces of three different types of cakes, and cut pieces of various fruits for desserts.

TC 42 meeting reception

The Japanese organising hosts and the TC 42 chair gave brief welcoming speeches and then we started eating and chatting with various delegates. There was entertainment: firstly singing by the main woman on the local organising committee, then a musical performance by delegates on recorder, trumpet, and clarinet, with same woman and a man I didn’t recognise doing some brief vocals towards the end of an original composition written by the guy playing the recorder. And finally after these there was a pantomime performance with a narrating drummer announcing various things in Japanese, while a dancer dressed as a samurai performed, then two dragons appeared (performed as large puppets by men inside the dragons), leading to a fight in which the samurai cut the dragons’ heads off.

TC 42 meeting reception

We chatted with various people, and it was good to hear that many are excited to come to Australia again next year when hopefully I will be hosting the WG18 meeting in October 2024. It was a good event, and the view from the Sky Lounge was wonderful, with panoramic windows to the north and south showing off the city of Okayama and the mountains to the north, as the sun went down. The reception was scheduled until 20:00, and in true Japanese fashion the hotel staff announced it was over and ushered everyone out right on time.

We’d had plenty to eat for dinner and so just headed back to the hotel via a 7-Eleven to get some breakfast supplies. Then it was showers and bed time.

Okayama: Photography meeting day 2

I slept a bit better but not fully through the night. We got up at 07:00 and had breakfast in the hotel room with the things we’d bought last night. I had a salmon onigiri and a small set of sushi rolls. My wife had a red bean paste bun, and then tried what she thought was simply some plain type of mini bread rolls, but which turned out to be a “3 flavours” thing with chocolate, custard, and red bean paste in the middle of the mini rolls!

After this we prepared for the day and left around 08:00. My wife walked with me to the coffee shop I found yesterday near the Convention Centre and got a latte there. We parted and I went to the meetings, while she was planning to visit the Okayama Prefectural Museum and Okayamajinja shrine.

The ISO meeting today started with a session on a proposal for measuring the information capacity of camera systems, using Shannon information theory. Then we discussed angle-dependent image flare measurement, followed by depth camera characterisation for accuracy and resolution.

We broke for lunch a little early. I met my wife and we walked north of the Convention Centre to find one of the lunch places recommended by the meeting organisers. We found the place called Sanuki Otoko Udon Nose and were looking at the picture menu board outside, which looked like it had some suitable vegetarian options for her. Then one of the Japanese delegates from my meeting came out and said hello, and asked if we needed any assistance with the Japanese. I asked if there were vegetarian options and he pointed out a few on the menu board outside, so we went in. We all had to wait a few minutes for a table, and my meeting colleague was with two other Japanese delegates, so I reintroduced them to my wife (they probably met briefly last year in Cologne at the beer garden dinner).

A couple of minutes later we were seated at the central bar-like area. The waitress gave us an English menu, and my wife picked a dish of cold udon noodles with kelp and some other vegetables, plus a quail egg. I chose a bowl of hot noodles with tempura prawns and vegetables, which came with a smaller bowl of dipping sauce and a plate of chopped spring onions, sesame seeds, and ginger. My Japanese colleague helped us interpret the waitress, who was asking a couple of questions. He said that the dishes came in three sizes, which he described as 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0. We both asked for the 1.0 versions. She also wanted to know if she should bring the cold noodles first, or wait until the other dish was cooked so we could eat together, and we chose the latter.

The meals came and they were both substantial. The quail eggs were raw. My wife mixed hers through the cold noodles with the sauce, while I put mine into my dipping sauce and swirled it around. We filled up quickly and were very glad we’d chosen the 1.0 size! After paying (cash only) the cheap ¥1700 for the meals, I left my wife at the nearby Hokancho shopping street so she could look around there, while I headed back to the meeting.

The next session was about camera autofocus repeatability. And then there was a long session on high dynamic range photo display and gain maps for dynamic range conversion. This included a couple of interesting demos of HDR image conversion and display, using an Apple HDR monitor to show off the images. This was pretty impressive, and hopefully a preview of a near future with easy access to HDR images and good ways of displaying them for people on all sorts of display hardware.

The digital photography working group session ended by 17:00, but I had an extra two hour meeting until 19:00 with the TC 42 Administrative Working Group, which deals with business matters at the higher technical committee level.

After this I left and met up with my wife again. We dropped my bag off at our room and then walked over to Omame-dokoro Masu, a place described by Google as a tofu restaurant. It had good reviews and many people saying it was great for vegetarians. We found what I thought was the place, but it was difficult to tell as there were three doors close to each other, and no English anywhere in sight. We poked our noses in one and I asked the staff inside simply “tofu?” and they nodded, so we entered and took seats at the bar counter. The place was tiny and there were just seven seats, but there was also apparently an upstairs room with other customers up there.

One staff member typed on his phone and then showed us a translation which said, “Sorry the menu is only in Japanese.” We said that was okay, and I used Google’s photo translate on my phone to get an idea of what was on the menu. We ordered the “peanut tofu” appetiser, “special tofu dumplings”, and “assortment of 6 types of fried tofu – sweet and spicy sauce, spicy miso, plum meat, dengaku, grated radish, fried garlic”. I assumed “plum meat” meant the flesh of a plum. I got a beer to drink and M. tried a “Calpis”, which turned out to be a milky yoghurt drink, which she liked. The last dish arrived first, being six blocks of fried tofu topped with the various things. But one looked suspiciously like tiny fish and tasted to me a bit like it, so I asked after looking up the Japanese word for fish, and the guy confirmed it was indeed fish. So I ate that one, but my wife had the dengaku (miso) one and half of each of the others.

Then the dumplings arrived, looking like fried gyoza. I tried one, and the filling was very suspiciously meaty. I asked the guy, who asked another staff member, who said they had chicken in them. So this was a bit surprising! I ate them, and they were good, but my wife was left not having any. We ordered a couple of other things, this time asking to confirm they were fully vegetarian before ordering. So it was a bit of a mixed bag, with unexpected items and surprise meat in dishes. I wonder how many vegetarians have gone to this place and assumed the entire menu was vegetarian, and came away thinking some of the dishes had surprisingly good “imitation meat” in them!

We were full, and walked home along another different route for variety. We stopped in at 7-Eleven for more breakfast supplies and then went back to the hotel for the night. I grabbed a random ice cream which had zebras on the wrapper, and it turned out to be vanilla ice cream with ripply stripes of chocolate through it, and was quite good. So it was really a day of surprising food!

Okayama: Photography meeting, day 1

Today was the opening day of the ISO Photography Standards meeting that I’m here in Okayama for. It’s being held at the Okayama Convention Centre, which is just a few minutes walk from our hotel, on the opposite side of the main train station.

For breakfast we went to a nearby 7-Eleven and picked up some packaged onigiri and a couple of random sweet things and headed back to the hotel room to eat them. After that, I walked the short distance to the Convention Centre, and found the meeting room, where I was early, but the Japanese admin staff had already set up. There were coffee and tea and some simple snacks, including some specialities local to Okayama:

  • Kibi-dango – small type of mochi
  • Ote-manju – very thin flour based shell filled with adzuki paste
  • Yumesen – “waffle” wafers filled with cream, vanilla or matcha

This meeting is a Plenary meeting for all of ISO Technical Committee 42 Photography, which is the umbrella committee for our technical activities in Working Group 18 on digital photography. The whole committee also includes other working groups dealing with photo printing, image stability, storage, and other issues related to physical photography. We only have a plenary meeting once every two years, and in between the separate working groups have their own technical meetings (WG18 meets three times a year). The first part of the meeting this morning was a plenary session, which was essentially administrative business for TC42 as a whole. It was also the first chance for the new chair of TC42 to lead a face-to-face plenary meeting after the 2021 meeting was replaced by a fully virtual meeting due to COVID.

After that plenary session we had the opening session of the WG18 meeting, again more administrative stuff. The main thing for me was discussion and planning of the meeting scheduled for Sydney in October 2024. We needed to decide on the dates, bearing in mind things like technical conferences that some members may be attending around the same time of the year, so there are no travel clashes. We decided on the week of 14-18 October, 2024.

During the lunch break I went by myself to a curry house not far away and had a Japanese curry with vegetables and a fried pork cutlet.

After lunch we had the first technical session. This discussed work on standards related to low light camera performance with simulation of human hand shake (i.e. not using a tripod), the memory model used for storage of digital images by cameras, and definitions of camera pixel-related specifications (like exactly what a megapixel is and how to count them for camera sensors). These sessions took us through to the close for the day, which finished a half hour early, at 16:30.

After the meeting I returned to the hotel and met my wife (who actually came out to meet me halfway) and then a little later we went out for dinner. I wanted to try an okonomiyaki place that I’d found with reviews saying they did a good vegetarian version. It was just around the corner from CBD Green where we had dinner last night, and in fact we’d walked around to have a look at it then. It was a little hard to tell which place it was, as there was no English signage at all, but it looked popular with a queue of people waiting for tables. So we went a bit early tonight to hopefully beat the queues.

When we got there, the place only had two tables occupied out of about ten, so we were seated and they turned the hotplate in the middle of our table on to heat up. The waitress apologised that they didn’t have menus in English. I said we wanted okonomiyaki and my wife was vegetarian, and she said that was okay. She went down a list of options, pointing at the lines on the Japanese menu: beef, pork, prawns, squid, mix, and also the same again with noodles. We opted for the noodle-free versions, I got the mix and my wife the vegetarian. We were looking forward to cooking them ourselves on the hotplate, but we noticed a guy cooking things on a bigger hotplate at the kitchen/bar area. One set of cooked noodles came out for one of the other tables and they put it on their hotplate and turned it down to just keep it hot. Then soon after they brought our already cooked okonomiyaki over and did the same.

Oh well. We still got to add our own sauce and mayonnaise and kelp flakes, and bonito shavings on mine. And it was really good. Although they were a little on the small side compared to other places where I’ve had okonomiyaki before. But they were very inexpensive. The whole meal, plus a glass of beer for me came to only ¥21,000, or about A$21.

We explored a little further down the street where the restaurant was, as it looked interesting, with dozens of other small restaurants lining the sides. Then we walked back to the station, where earlier we’d seen a take-away crepe place, with a queue of people waiting to order. I fancied one of those for dessert to make the total dinner more substantial. When we got there, there was still a long queue, and I realised why when I saw a sign that indicated that the place was having a one-day sale, and all crepes were only ¥390. In fact, the queue was even longer than it looked, because we saw a young couple try to join on the end, only to be escorted by a staff member outside the food hall area, to an additional roped off queuing area out in the main station concourse, where more customers were already waiting! So… we decided not to bother queuing up for crepes, and I got a Belgian waffle from another place nearby, a peach and strawberry one. It was very good – crisp crust, chewy interior, and good strawberry flavour in the waffle itself, topped with a peach cream.

Back in the hotel we showered and prepared for another earlyish night, with hopefully a solid sleep for myself this time.

Day full of Zoom meetings

I had outschool ethics classes at 8am and 9am, followed immediately by a Zoom meeting from 10-12 for planning the agenda for the ISO Photography standards meeting in Japan in two weeks.

Then at 1pm I had another Zoom meeting, this time with the professor of the university courses I’m tutoring. We’re gearing up for running the Image Processing and Pattern Recognition course again in semester two (beginning in August), and he wanted to go over some suggestions that I ad at the end of last year’s course for improving the course material and presentation. I’d written a list of things, and we went over those so he understood everything. I would be happy to help produce some of the extra diagrams I suggested, but I’m very busy the next few weeks preparing and then travelling to Japan, and also he didn’t want me working on course material without getting paid and he doesn’t have budget for that.

Tonight I have another ISO Zoom meeting, scheduled for 11pm-midnight my time. This is an ad-hoc group meeting for the depth camera performance topic. I missed the last one two weeks ago because I was sick. I may skip this one too, because honestly I don’t contribute much to the discussion, as it’s the others who are doing experiments with the equipment in their labs.

In between I took Scully for a couple of walks, avoiding the large band of rain that crossed Sydney in mid-afternoon. For dinner I made spätzle with split pea soup. My mother used to make spätzle a lot when I was growing up, and I made it a bit too when I first moved out, but haven’t done it much for many years now. I should do it more often.

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Back into teaching and comics

Friday night was online board games night with friends, so I skipped my daily update. After missing last week’s face-to-face games due to COVID, it was nice to get together online and play some games.

My Friday was very busy. I had my first ethics classes since cancelling a week’s worth while I got over COVID. I had one at 9am, which I’d moved an hour earlier because at 10am I had a Standards Australia meeting (also via Zoom), to follow-up from the ISO Photography Standards meeting I attended in February. We had the usual administrative business, and I went through the technical report I wrote summarising the discussions and events of the international meeting. It went okay, although I had to pause a few times for coughing, which is still an issue as I recover from the illness.

At lunch I went to pick up a weekly grocery shop from the supermarket. And then in the afternoon I had three ethics classes in a row. I managed okay, but again, needing to pause to cough a few times. The cough is really quite annoying. It comes and goes throughout the day – sometimes I have a long period of coughing and feel awful, and then I it settles down a bit and doesn’t bother me for a while.

Today was similar, with the coughing fading in and out during the day. I went for a walk with my wife and Scully to the Naremburn bakery and had a cinnamon scroll for morning tea, which was really delicious. On the way home it rained, and became fairly heavy. We’d taken umbrellas, but forgotten Scully’s raincoat, so she got soaked, and when we got home we had to towel her off and give her a blow dry.

I spent much of today writing new comics for Irregular Webcomic! I’ve had two weeks of no new strips after the buffer rain out a couple of weeks ago, but now I’m planning to photograph this new batch tomorrow morning and have them ready for Monday.

I made Thai red curry vegetables and rice for dinner tonight – which is the first proper dinner for both of us that we’ve had for some time, as my wife hasn’t felt up to eating much since she got COVID as well, but she’s feeling better now.

New content yesterday:

New content today:

COVID day 7

I feel mostly better today, after a better night’s sleep. The last thing is this lingering throat tightness and coughing, which is pretty bad. It’s difficult talking for long without breaking into coughing.

Today I did some real work though. I had to write a report on the ISO Photography Standards meeting I attended in February, for Standards Australia, ahead of our follow-up national meeting on Friday. I’d intended to write it last week, but got cut short by COVID. The meeting was to be held in person in the city, but the project manager contacted me to suggest moving it to Zoom, which I agreed to.

In between writing parts of that report, I went for a walk with my wife (who is feeling a bit better today too) and Scully, trying to beat the heavy rain that fell most of the afternoon.

New content today:

ISO meeting day 3, and more rain

The ISO meeting today was mostly administrative cleanup, going through action items and minutes, but there were two technical discussion on potential new standards that we may want to develop, based on submissions from the Italian and Spanish national standards bodies. The Italian one is the tripod strength one they proposed a couple of meetings ago, and which we need to figure out how to handle. The Spanish proposal is for a standard for machine vision cameras, and we decided that sounds like something we should be doing, so we’re encouraging that too. The side benefits of these are the hope that Italy and Spain will join out committee as full members, and hopefully host meetings in their countries some time in the future.

We had a lot of rain overnight. I mentioned last night that we’d had 20 mm of rain. By morning that total had increased to over 50 mm. And we had another 15 mm during the day today. I took Scully out for a brief walk during a break in the ISO meeting, when I thought the rain had eased off for a while, but we got caught in a heavy shower. There was news about flash flooding across Sydney and a lot of trees down, cutting roads and power lines.

But the good news is that today was much cooler than the run of very warm days we’ve been having. They haven’t been hot – it has most definitely not been a hot summer, but it’s been hovering around 30°C every day for weeks now. So today’s 22°C was a welcome respite.

New content today:

ISO meeting day 2, and a big storm

Day 2 of the ISO Photography standards meeting was all technical discussions. We talked about standards for measuring low light performance, specifying camera-related vocabulary definitions, defining transformation maps for converting between standard and high dynamic range images, updating definitions of camera technical specification to handle new technologies, measuring the information-theoretic capacity of camera images and systems, and measuring autofocus performance.

One of the interesting quotes from the discussion concerned the autofocus standard. The authors wanted to allow measurement of autofocus under conditions that simulate being held by hand – with the camera shaking and wobbling due to hand unsteadiness. In a formal testing situation, you need to simulate this with a robotic device that is programmed to shake the camera in the same manner as a human hand. Another expert said that it seemed weird to have this, rather than just using a tripod to hold the camera, since we already have a different standard for measuring imaging performance when hand-held. The author responded that (my paraphrasing): Almost 100% of photos taken are hand-held, so requiring a tripod for a performance test is somewhat perverse.

Another interesting concern that was raised came about because of the recent explosion in AI algorithms. Someone pointed out that we have standards for measuring image quality that work by having the camera take a photo of a standardised test chart, and then comparing the quality of the image to an ideal reproduction of the chart, noting where the image from the camera is degraded. This reflects the real world performance, since photos of scenes will be degraded in the same way. But someone pointed out that digital cameras are increasingly using image processing to improve image quality, and soon no doubt they’ll be using AI algorithms. And if an AI algorithm knows the standard test chart it can recognise when you try to take a photo of one… and output an image which is a perfect reproduction of the test chart. So when you take a photo of a test chart, the measured “camera performance” will be absolutely perfect, but this will not reflect the camera’s actual performance when photographing a scene.

This is something we actually have to think about, to try to design a performance test that can’t be cheated in this way. There are options, such as randomising the test charts or procedurally generating them, but this all requires very careful design and testing. So we have plenty of work ahead of us in the next few years!

Tonight while teaching my new ethics class on Exploration, there was a big thunderstorm. Lots of lightning and heavy rain and wind. We had 20 mm of rain in a couple of hours, and no doubt there’ll have been some flash flooding and probably some trees down across the city. No problem here, thankfully.

New content today:

ISO meeting day 1, and a new semester of Data Engineering

Last night when I wrote my blog entry, I thought I’d be getting up at 06:30 to start the day with the ISO Photography Standards meeting at 07:00. It’s in Tokyo, and that’s 2 hours different in time zone to Sydney… however just before bed I suddenly realised I’d done the time conversion wrong! The 9am start in Tokyo was actually 11am in Sydney not 7am!

This meant two things: (1) I didn’t have to get up so early and rush through breakfast. (2) With the finishing time also 4 hours later than I’d thought, the meeting now ended at 7pm, rather than 3pm. But the Data Engineering course I am teaching started at 3pm, in at the university. I’d planned to miss just the last hour of the ISO meeting and head in on the train at 2pm. But now that meant I’d be missing the last five hours of the ISO meeting!

Ugh… this was a bit of a mess, but there’s nothing I could do about it. I joined the ISO meeting at 11:00 and had to make apologies that I’d be leaving after just 3 hours. I was there for the opening administrative session, but missed most of the technical discussion sessions in the afternoon. It’s a shame, but couldn’t be helped.

Today was the very first day of the university semester. The class began at 3pm, and I noticed the students all sat clustered very close together in the large lecture room. And 5 minutes before the starting time, before the lecturer had even said anything, a deathly hush fell over the room as they all waited for the lecture to being. This is a first year course, so today was the first day of university for all of these students. And the lecturer said it was quite possibly the very first university lecture for many of them. Ah, that initial naiveté! It’ll wear off quickly, probably.

The lecture was good and the students were all listening and concentrating. It was introductory material for the course, the assessment methods, a demo of the Matlab software package which we’ll be using during the course, and the material I wrote on ethics of data science for last year’s course revamp. We finished a little early. One disadvantage of the course running 3-6pm is that it ends in peak hour, so the trains heading home are crowded. So I sat with the lecturer for a bit and we caught up on news since we’d last seen each other at the end of last year’s Image Processing course, before we headed for the trains.

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A busy morning, a hot run

This morning I had an online meeting (via MS Teams) for ISO Photography Standards – specifically an ad-hoc technical meeting for investigating accuracy standards for depth measurement cameras. This is one of the new projects we’re working on and we’re in the experimental phase, gathering information to try to develop standards for measuring depth and resolution accuracy of such cameras. Unfortunately I can’t contribute with any actual experimental lab-work, but I’m in the ad-hoc group (essentially a technical subcommittee) because I have experience with and interest in these devices. The meeting was 08:30-09:30 my time, so convenient, but it ate up some of the morning.

After that my wife suggested we go for a long walk to the Naremburn bakery for morning tea. Sure! So we did that, taking Scully for a walk. They had a nice looking pastry filled with custard and sultanas, topped with flaked almonds, so I tried that.

When we got home (and this is a 4.5 km walk), I immediately changed and went out for a run. An I decided to do a long one, 5k! It was approaching noon by now, but I wanted to get it done then rather than later in the afternoon when it would just be hotter. It was an exhausting run.

I had to be home and showered and have lunch before my second game design class at 2pm – but the student didn’t show up. I’m going to have to contact the parent and arrange some make-up class time.

Then this evening was three more ethics/critical thinking classes on the UFOs topic. Two of them were good, with the kids demonstrating good critical thinking skills. But the first one I had three kids and they were all bouncing alien theories off each other the whole time, for every question! It was… well, interesting. At least I hope they had fun!

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