Saturday, June 29, 2013


just in time to make it 2 for June:

Notes at the Robards Library on the U.Toronto campus, 3:30 pm on 6-26-13.

My feet are very tired. Got up this morning at 5, took a shower, kissed my wife goodbye, and went out to meet the waiting taxi. Had a coffee at the airport.

Got on the prop plane to Toronto at 6:30. Had a coffee on the plane, with a muffin and a cup of yogurt. Clearly I am thinking of food.

Looking out the plane window while we were still on the Boston tarmac, I noticed that I could see the flicker of sunlight through the propellers - I was sitting right next to the front of the left engine, on a plane that was two thirds empty - but only in my periphery. So the propellers were rotating no faster than 60 Hz. Once we went to take off and the engines revved up, I couldn't see the flicker anymore - revving up meaning revving faster, you see.

Got to Toronto by 9, the Billy Bishop airport, on a little island on the lake in front of the city. First person off the plane, last through customs. Canadian customs are actually pretty challenging! Dunno what was up with that.

Then, took a 1 minute ferry ride to the shore, and walked north on Bathurst street. Made it to Kensington market and found a little open air restaurant to get breakfast. It was almost 10. I was already soaked with sweat. Ninety degrees out, humid, and not a cloud in the sky, and I'm wandering the streets of a strange city with a 10 pound bag on my back and a poster tube on my arm. I had a cheese omelet, which came with salad and hashbrowns, it was pretty good. And toast.

I am so hungry. I then wandered for about an hour, through Toronto Chinatown, until I came to the Toronto Art Gallery or whatever it's called. Bought a ticket and discarded my luggage, and wandered the museum for 3 hours. Best part by far was the set of installations on the fourth floor, something I've never seen before: little repeating 3-d audiovisual pieces, rooms full of stuff with recordings playing - some of the recordings were little dramas, one was just a rainstorm, from start to finish. It was great. Had a coffee at the museum.

Then I left the museum and went the wrong way, south instead of north, deeper into the city instead of towards the University of Toronto. Finally I made it here, and now I'm resting in the library, cooling off and writing these notes. I took lots of little videos of my day so far.

From here, I need to 1) get something to eat, 2) get to a subway station, 3) figure out how to use the Toronto subway, and 4) use it to get to York, or as close as I can (then I have to take a bus, apparently). If all goes well I'll be at York University in no less than 90 minutes. Wish me luck! I'm so hungry.

part 2, 18:56pm, June 28 2013

Meeting is over. Sitting in the weird weird weird Billy Bishop Airport departure area/lounge. It would be much nicer if half the flights weren't delayed because of some storm.

Meeting was interesting. Had several talks with F.K., about my current in-review JOV paper, for which he is one of the reviewers; about my current little blur adapt project that I presented (to 3 people, I think) here at this meeting, he had some very helpful comments there; and on other random spatial vision lightness brightness topics. Lots of fun, I think talking to him made the whole meeting worthwhile.

Also met with D.G., as a sort of pre-interview for a postdoc position. Not sure I want to really apply. I was testing to see if it was something that might be up my alley, definitely far up it, but now I'm thinking maybe too far. It's probably too much of a stretch to try to work natural scenes and spatial vision into the level he's working at. I'll study his work over the next couple of weeks, then let him know.

Also managed lunch with F.W. to discuss migraine psychophysics. She seems to have cooled a bit on the migraine spatial vision business, but is still interested. Similar attitude to N.H. about the difficulty and unlikelihood of having migraineurs do vision tasks or perimetry during their auras, though I am not convinced. I will take the long view. M.D. is enthusiastic, I met with him last week. I am almost thinking of writing an entire proposal out, it seems it would be relatively straightforward. I feel I've put all the requisite pieces together, i.e. bounced ideas off all the important people. The main thing that's missing is predictions as to how certain psychophysical properties might be influenced, which is something that L.L. brought up on his own. So now, it seems I should get back to him.

Interesting things I saw... C.B.'s keynote address was pretty bad. I don't know what the general opinion was, but it seemed for the wrong audience - like he was addressing a bunch of visual physiologists in 1992. Don't know what was going on there. Good talks were R.K. on superior colliculus, showing us maps and explaining function, things that if I've ever learned them I've forgotten; G.L.'s talk was interesting, reading and training reading with CFL patients; H.W.'s talk was good, R.B.'s I thought was too much review; A.P.'s talk on form perception and V4 was very interesting. A.P.'s and R.K.'s were like little topical seminars on things I didn't know; I guess R.B.'s was similar but I already knew all of it. D.Z. gave a talk on how MRI magnets affect the fluid in the semicircular canals, resulting in constant nystagmus for anyone who gets into an MRI machine. I remember the slight shock I got the one time I was put in an MRI magnet, but I don't remember noticing nystagmus. I might have thought it was concentration problems, instead.

So that was the meeting. Mostly good, a little slow in some places. I got to attend the retirement of the great H.W.. Poster sessions were too brief, barely worth the trouble, though I did get F.K.'s comments and H.W. came by and didn't complain about anything, though he didn't volunteer compliments or suggestions either. He thought the phase filter was a neat idea, though.


Observations on Canada

The way of speech is different. They do say 'soarry' instead of 'sarry', and they say it a lot. I hear a lot of 'os' instead of 'as', 'possengers' instead of 'passengers'. There's something else, a character that feels narrow somehow. I don't know what 'narrow' means there, but it feels right, so I'm using a word that feels right to describe a feeling that I can't otherwise describe. May all be in my head.

The York campus, which is in the northern Toronto suburbs, had lots of animals. I saw a raccoon, a groundhog, and a rabbit, and lots of black squirrels. I saw the groundhog and the rabbit at the same time. I don't think I've seen a raccoon up close since I was a kid, probably out at the cabin or something. And I'm not sure I've ever seen a groundhog up close. This was all right in the middle of campus.

When I was trying to get up to York, just having gone into the Spadina station, I got turned around and lost and couldn't find my way. An older guy, long white hair bound up behind his head, heavy set, white beard, noticed that I looked confused, stopped, and told me where to go.

Again, I feel that the people are different. A part of it must be in the speech, which sounds American but is subtly different. I think a professional would be necessary to explain the differences completely. Multiple idioms that I've heard from C* and D*, many times up here. I wish I could explain the feeling better, because I don't think it's all language. Maybe more visits will resolve this place better for me. It may be because this is big Toronto City, but people seem to dress strangely, less conservatively than Americans in general. Gaudiness isn't standard but seems more common than on Boston streets, at least. I guess I can't generalize from Toronto to Canada. Toronto is clearly an immigrant city, I would say barely half the people I saw in the city were white, lots of Chinese, black, brown, etc. In that sense, it reminds me more of San Francisco or LA. It's very unlike Montreal, which did not have such an American appearance, and which at the same time was much more white.

Aside from the people, it looks exactly American. No obvious differences in infrastructure. The York campus has lots of tunnels and connected buildings, which I would guess is more due to the winter cold and snow and not some sort of Canadian preference for warrens. When I walked through the city I got feelings of China-ness somehow, I think because there was so much construction going on. Nothing about watching the streets makes it look different in any obvious way from watching American streets.

All flights are delayed by hours. Some are nearly canceled. I don't know what's going on, must have been a string of storms across the northeast.

First time ever, I saw another Tennesseean at a vision meeting. He was an undergraduate from MTSU of all places, said he was from Bellevue. I questioned him a bit and he just talked and talked. Despite being from Bellevue, he seemed not to have heard of Cheatham County or Kingston Springs, and so I didn't like him. Complained of Tennessee as a place to escape, where no one wants to return. How can you want to escape if you don't even know your surroundings? Not that I'm not ambivalent about this myself, and I'm half over as old as this guy, but I don't think I was ever that bad. Main thing that rubbed me wrong was that he talked too much, which I guess is just a personality trait. It will probably get him places, I don't know.

Back to Canada. The buses were just like American buses. The subways were regular subways, long cars like the China style, where you could walk from end to end. Spadina station where I first got on was a link between two lines, one of which I didn't travel on, but it looked a lot like the Boston green line, trolly cars running through tunnels. I would have liked to try that one. The friendly white-haired guy got off one of those.

Forgot to mention til now, had a headache yesterday morning, give it a 7, maybe even 8. Woke up with it and it got worse through the morning, coming and going. Quasi-hangover, but I'd just had 3 beers with a full dinner the night before, not enough for a real hangover, though I think the alcohol probably did cause it, in addition to dehydration from the long trek across the city and the general relief of arrival. Slept terribly Wednesday night, partly from the headache starting, and partly from Terry calling and texting me every 10 minutes starting around 6am, probably had barely 5 hours total.

Right eye trigeminal was sore, still sore today, but the headache disappeared over lunch yesterday, went from a 7 to nearly zero. I was still a bit dazed and confused, but got over it pretty quickly. Slept well last night, got at least 8 hours in, maybe more.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

accidental maxwellian view?

Busy this month, and keeping it to myself so far.

The title of this post is just a guess. Let's talk about some interesting entoptic (or maybe just optic) phenomena.

First is something that I've noticed before, in the same context that I'm going to describe here, but also during our winter trip to China in late 2011, lying in bed one morning and watch the sunrise through the curtains, with my eyes full of sleep.

I'm standing at Fenway Station, waiting for the train to come and take me home. I'm soaking wet because its pouring rain and I didn't take an umbrella. My glasses are specked with water droplets. The sun has set.

I find that I can attend to the fine structure of the images projected on my retina (I'm doing this one eye at a time) through the water droplets. This is a little strange, since the droplets are just a couple of centimeters in front of my eyes, so it should be impossible for me to focus on them and to resolve such fine details, but I'm doing it anyways.

The droplet images - for the most part circular, disk-shaped - look like something between an amoeba and an image of the sun. The amoeba-ness is from their speckled, squirmy, internal structure, like a bag of little bits and pieces. The details are fine, near my acuity limit. The sun-ness is from their perimeter, which has a rim that stretches outward, like the corona of the sun in eclipse. I will draw a picture and put it here, since I can't find anything like it on the internet.

These things I've noticed before. My theory is that the droplets are acting as little lenses, focusing an image near my pupil, which is then - in a sort of accidental Maxwellian view - getting perfectly focused on my retina. The structure I'm seeing is the texture of the interface between the water and the surface of my glasses, little bits of dust and et cetera. It's like seeing a water droplet through a microscope, which adds (through psychological association perhaps) to the impression of seeing an organism. The rim is the edge of the droplet, the meniscus, and the corona is the stretching of the edge due to surface tension.

All that is just a guess! Nobody I talk to seems to have a good explanation, but that seems as good as any.

The next part I had not seen before.

I found that in my left eye, but not in my right, when I blinked, I saw bright specks, pin points of light, against the background of the droplets. I couldn't see the specks outside of the droplets.

When I attended more closely, I discovered extremely fine structure to the points of light. Basically, they looked like this:

I tried a sinc function, but that wasn't quite right, because I couldn't see more than a couple of rings, like you see here. What you see here is the product of a radial sin function, with the center set to 1, and a radial Gaussian. In words, each pin point was surrounded by a black ring, which was surrounded by another bright ring, then a dim ring, and then I'm not sure. Each little point was the same as the others, but I had to get them near the fovea to see them clearly. They were tiny; they each were only a few arcmin across. And, they were bright: the central point was white, and the ring surrounding it was black.

I really don't know what these things were. I have forgotten a crucial detail: did they move when my eye moved? I feel that I could look from one to the other, but I don't remember if this is really how it was, or if it's just how it seemed. If that's how it was, they can't have been on the surface of the eye, and it's hard to explain why I only saw them in the left. At the time, it made sense to me that they were on my cornea, specks of dust, so I think they must have been fixed to my point of view. They slowly faded and became less distinct, and I would occasionally blink to restore them.

So, weirdness at Fenway.