May, moving down the levels

Posted by Patrick Lam on Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Table Of Contents

It’s astonishing how quickly things have returned to almost-normal in this country. Since May 14 (3 weeks ago already!), we’ve been in Alert Level 2, where most things are open. Physical distancing, capacity controls and mandatory contact tracing remain for now, although there will be another decision next Monday, June 8. The number of known active cases is 1 and the last positive reported case was on May 22.


I had been planning to wait a few more days, but I was walking down the street and noticed a barber open with no line, so I’ve had reasonable hair since May 17. The Onward deadline was with too much hair, but the OOPSLA deadline had the right amount of hair. Very important when spending hours at the computer. Looking through the records, it looks like I feel like I need a haircut after 6 weeks and then wait another 2 weeks to actually get one: Sept 5, Nov 5, Jan 7, Mar 3, May 17. The 10-week interval was excessive.

My hair’s still a bit long so I may actually run closer to 6 weeks this time. One thing I’d been wondering was whether my hairline was higher than it used to be, or whether I’d just always been getting haircuts with shorter hair in front. The current state of my hair suggests that it’s the haircuts, not the hairline.

Post-haircut after 10 weeks of no haircuts.


Submitted 2 papers, punted 1 towards ICSME NIER track.

  • Patrick Lam, Jens Dietrich and David J. Pearce. Putting the Semantics into Semantic Versioning. Submitted as an essay for Onward! '20. [pdf]
  • OOPSLA submission under double-blind review with Jun Zhao and David Liang.

We had a change of submissions between OOPSLA and ICSME and then punted the ICSME to be a NIER submission as deadlines approached and results didn’t.

Splitting the work with David on our OOPSLA submission, I ended up writing a bunch of code to extend Jun’s code. There was an intense week of work before the OOPSLA deadline, culminating in two crunch days. Anywhere on Earth time is actually reasonable in NZ (midnight AoE = midnight NZ time or something). After I finish reviewing other peoples’ OOPSLA submissions I’ll go and clean up my own code.

It was fun to work on the semantic versioning essay with VUW colleagues. I hope to continue joint work over my extended stay here in Wellington and beyond. I’ve never written a research essay before but took inspiration from the form of Yannis Smaragdakis’s Onward essay this year, “Next-Paradigm Programming Languages: What Will They Look Like and What Changes Will They Bring?” Also, maybe one of these years I can pull off a longer visit to Athens; COVID prevented this year’s visit. The submission process for the Onward essay wasn’t nearly as intense as for OOPSLA, partly because we weren’t collecting results at the last minute. It did involve some late nights at a hut though (more later).

We continue to collect results for the ICSME NIER paper. They were looking a bit thin but after revising the approach they are more promising now.

Out of my initial pile of 10 OOPSLA papers I’ve reviewed 2 so far. The remaining reviews will be a chunk of work for the next week.

This month I did 26 days of work. Five of these work days were just talking to people. (I mean, that’s the whole prof job, talking to people, right?) I’m ready for a more normal balance now.

Ongoing (my grad students)

I missed the group chat due to the Queen’s Birthday weekend this week. But planning one for tomorrow. 16 days with grad student meetings last month. Basically I try to reserve some days where I don’t have grad student meetings.


Last month I wrote “not that much”. This month: that much! Read through 300 OOPSLA abstracts, sent bids, reviewed two papers. Talked to ECE Chair Selection Committee. Prepared a print-on-demand book (via Blurb) of Derek Rayside’s writings to Software Engineering students in these interesting times.

Sent my final life tip to SE 2024:

  • don’t get between a seal and the water.

I guess I should collect the SE2024 survey results and send them off for analysis.


  • Walking distance: 122.8km (down from 192.5km last month, 6 zero days this month)
  • Biking distance: 25.7km (2 judo practices)
  • Trips: 2


The highest-walking day in May was only 10.5km; we didn’t do any long walks, mostly due to being busier. Red Rocks was a bit long, but not compared to April. Some of the zero days were due to paper deadlines. Others were due to weather or due to being travel days for climbing. Tramps planned for June.

Kereru in Karori (photo: Marie-Pascale Desjardins); Red Rocks sunset; Wellington Harbour from Te Ara Paparārangi; painted rocks at Te Ara Paparārangi

Top 20 Welly Walks progress: 14 done, plus parts of three others. The long one remaining is Skyline. I also am planning to do Sea to Sanctuary even if it’s not one of the top 20. But first, Matiu/Somes Island next week. Weather looks good.


Fortunately, Elliott recruited me on two climbing trips once we were well-ensconced in Level 2.

  • looked for a climb at Tongariro; trad/sport climbing at Ruahepu; sport at Tukino
  • Queen’s Birthday weekend: took the ferry to South Island and climbed at Charleston.

I was originally thinking that I wouldn’t be able to do any trips until the ICSME paper deadline but once we punted that then I was free(r) to go climbing at Ruapehu. I was worried about the Ruapehu trip being irresponsible—not because of COVID but because of the day job—but we couldn’t have hit the ICSME deadline.


After staying in a castle-shaped hotel in Palmerston North, we proceeded to Tongariro in search of the classic climb Cioch. MP didn’t think she’d ever be at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing again, but there we were. We found the climb but didn’t have enough time.

We had another good day of climbing at Whakapapa Gorge (“generally immaculate rock” ✓) although it might have been better to get more than 4 routes in. Scoopage is a classic though. At Double Cone I had climbed some alpine trad but this was the first trad cragging I’d done in a while.

And Elliott wanted to explore Tukino (Mangatoetoenui Gorge, “remote rugged character”), which was on the other side of Ruapehu. Also good rock. Got in a bunch of sport climbs, although Bowie Rickman slabs seemed easier than advertised. We got out just before the torrential downpour. Go us!

The nights at the Manawatu Lodge (awesome facility with the needed WiFi) were filled with paper revisions and OOPSLA bids. Made it hard to start as early as desirable given 9hr days.

Ngauruhoe again; me on Scoopage (photo credit: Elliott O'Brien); funky rock at Mangatoetoenui


On this trip I went somewhere new for once, which was super exciting, even if it involved 2 days of travel for 1 day of climbing. The Interislander ferry is a completely normal ferry. Cathedral Wall is full-value. I aimed for Wild Horses in the Sun and did the crux, but probably went off route to Stinger for the rest of it (more protectable). Dolphins. Gotta get back to the West Coast.

Rotoiti; dolphins; sunset at Charleston

Groceries & other bills

OK, now we have restaurant expenditures. May was pretty normal and our grocery spend was C$770, which is probably on the high side compared to Canada. We still aren’t spending that much on restaurant. Let’s see how June goes.

month C$ month C$
May 2020 grocery 770
May 2020 restaurant 477
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

I also compared electricity bills again. I now think the price per kWh is about the same as Ontario if you take the total amount and divide by kWhs. Monthly spend in May was $232 on 896kWh, up from $217 in April (but it is also colder in May). Our electricity provider doesn’t do off-peak pricing but it has an Hour of Power where you get “free” power. It’s harder to take advantage of the Hour of Power when you have to spend money to heat the place all day.


Wow. Almost back to normal. Got a bunch of papers submitted, now reviewing OOPSLA and hoping for ICSME. More trips in the future.