A Locked-down April

Posted by Patrick Lam on Friday, May 1, 2020

Table Of Contents

I’m writing this on April 30, a day after we were originally scheduled to leave Wellington. But that was no surprise to month-ago me.

Most of April has been under NZ Alert Level 4, although we’ve been in Alert Level 3 for a couple of days now. We’ve been in Wellington since March 20 and not in a car between March 25 and April 29, which is some sort of record for me. Usually I can go a week without a car ride, but 4.5 weeks is something. Also my last haircut was March 3, which is also a record. It looks like The Warehouse has a 2 week shipping time for clippers, so I’ll be going a bit longer still.

First take-out in a month, from Upesh Kitchen, on the first day of Level 3. Delicious!

I’m grateful that NZ has recognized the importance of exercise and keeping parks open. We have not done anything like South Africa’s Alert Level 5 with no outdoor exercise. I think that would be counterproductive here (and in Ontario too, but no one asked me about that). More about daily walks below, under Travels.

Certainly Level 4 worked in terms of meeting elimination goals. Let’s hope that Level 3 goes well also. It is certainly a time to watch the numbers closely.

Makara Walkway: many turbines, my hair, sunset


The deadlines are coming sooner rather than later. Fortunately we are also converging. The Onward essay on versioning with VUW colleagues still needs a bunch of work but we’ve been making steady progress. One of the observations in that paper also came up in an email I wrote about undergrad calendar changes, surprisingly. In any case, I’m confident that will come together. The OOPSLA paper with David is also making progress, although we’re still waiting for hopeful results.

I counted 27 days with some work out of the 30 days of April. That may be too much. Not that I worked anywhere close to 8 hours on each of these days. Some days were quite minimal. (I believe the line about 4 hours of creative work per day as a sustainable upper bound over the long term.) But I’m fortunate to not have, for instance, childcare responsibilities.

Ongoing (my grad students)

Continued an average of 1.5 times per week per student and one weekly group chat. Not as good as in-person meetings but who’s doing that now?


Not that much! One reference letter and one journal paper review. I guess OOPSLA papers will come in for review soon. Hopefully after we submit ours.

More weekly tips/SE survey exhortations to SE 2024.

One last survey invite to go, during the first week of the co-op work term.


  • Walking distance: 192.5km (3 zero days).
  • Biking distance: 0 (no judo practice to bike to!)


A sparrow near Island Bay; clouds rolling in on Wellington from the Brooklyn Wind Turbine; more turbines from the Northern Walkway.

We celebrated Alert Level 3 by renting a car and going to the Makara Walkway, which is not far from Wellington and yet quite isolated: there’s nothing around there. We optimized by going to the Eastern Walkway the next morning before our 24 hours with the car were up.

We should be able to do all of the top 20 Welly Walks. Currently we have completed 9 and we’ve been on parts of 4 others.


  • None (sigh).

We are definitely looking forward to intra-regional travel at Alert Level 2 and getting away from Wellington at Level 1, whenever these happen.

Groceries & other bills

As we went into lockdown it felt like the only thing we could do was walking and grocery shopping. It also felt like we were going to the grocery store every second day. In part that was because we had to build up staples; we can go longer now without literally running out of food. Most recently we managed one week, though we did re-provision on bread.

month C$ month C$
April 2020 grocery 1000 April 2019 grocery 372 to 600
April 2020 restaurant 0 April 2019 restaurant 750
March 2020 grocery 900 March 2019 grocery 600 to 900
March 2020 restaurant 550 March 2019 restaurant 720

Uncertainty in grocery due to Kitchener Farmer’s Market cash spend, upper bounded at $80/week (probably less). This year is, of course, highly atypical.

Electricity also seems to be about 25% cheaper in Ontario than in New Zealand. This is a bit complicated to calculate because about half of our Ontario bill is distribution. Our place in Ontario is heated with natural gas. But hydro plus heat seems a lot more expensive here even for a 600sqft apartment than our 1500sqft townhouse!

I don’t quite understand the cost of living here relative to the average pay. Canada seems to do quite well on that front. Maybe the quality of life in Canada isn’t as good. Stuff has an ongoing series, including this entry on Canada according to NZ expats.


Hoping that the two weeks under Alert Level 3 will suffice and thinking that they’ll pass quickly.