Wednesday, March 08, 2006

my quick trip to a'dam

I went to Amsterdam this afternoon to meet with a potential collaborator for my research project. My sponsor from the university, a professor in phonetics, had helped me set up the meeting and he was there as well to help in the process. It was a detailed session which showed me just how much needs to be done (not undoable though) and also what else is possible. My project as it is now involved just designing a system to alter the timing of synthetic speech in a way as to make it more perceptually distinct, but since this is actually relatively easy within the confines of certain systems. So to fill any remaining research time, it seems logical to test the performance of the system, both on people's perceptions of words it produces but also, now, of whether it is actually perceived of as more pleasant. This will make it a bit more commercially appealing if successful, but still needs to be intergrated fully within the larger TTS system.
Afterwards I walked around the city, hoping to find a large bookstore in the vicinity of the centrum. Alas, A'dam is a city for book-lover's, but all I found was newstands and gorgeous little antiquarian shops that I just want to move into when I see. None were likely to have books on Borland Delphi or Visual Prolog though and I got tired of seeing tourists after awhile. I did take a few pictures in the rain:That is a view of the 'Crooked Wall' or Kromme Waal from the Prins Hendrikkade, which Van Gogh painted long ago in much brighter colors then seen today. A'dam is filled with all sorts of tight alleyways between canals and buildings:and of course...coffeeshops (aka cannabis vendors), some of which advertise more subtly than others:Before Napoleonic tax codes made street numbers a necessity (their late arrival causing all sorts of subsequent odd numbering schemes), Amsterdammers would hang a plaque over their doors, displaying some element of the fortune that enabled them to build their castle:Lastly, I must comment on the graffiti. I've seen quite a bit of graffiti growing up in the NE. All over New England these days and NYC there is graffiti of varying complexity, but mostly the really complex masterpiece tags are quickly scrubbed away, or papered over by advertisements if they are on some street-level construction barrier or something. Not in A'dam though: everything stationary seems to be a target, with miles of train corridors splattered with tags over and over. A drab rail underpass in the middle of polder country will have its underside coated in outrageous colors with letters five meters in height. An immaculate row of ancient brick houses will *blam* have a giant wildstyle mural on its side. Inside alleyways, on gratings, atop impossible rooftops, the pragmatic Dutch likely see it as not worth the effort to clean up.

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