Level 1 June

Posted by Patrick Lam on Saturday, July 4, 2020

Table Of Contents

This month started in Charleston where I went climbing with Elliott. As I write this I’m going to the Heaphy Track tomorrow morning. We chose to delay for a day due to weather.

The number of active cases in NZ is now 21 but that is a misleading number; all of these cases are in quarantine “at the border”, i.e. found in returning New Zealanders in managed self-isolation. The number of known active cases in the community is 0 which has been a stable number for a while. As Victoria state in Australia shows, though, cases do seem to be capable of escaping at the border, perhaps through a cigarette lighter. But things are good here for now.

Since my last update, then, New Zealand moved to Level 1, which is essentially life as usual, with a bit more contact tracing for large events, and encouragement that people keep logs of where they’ve been. Everything is open except for the border.

Judo practice in particular is back to normal. Just like before lockdown I managed to get out pretty regularly. The biggest obstacle is torrential downpours, no fun to bike in while my rain pants are in Canada.

Wellington in July is even colder than San Francisco in August! Brr.


Back to the usual schedule. Haircut 6 weeks after the previous one, that is, July 1. MP says that this one is much better than the previous one.


Submitted an ICSME New Ideas and Emerging Research paper with my student David. I realized that I actually know 0 committee members from this track. Clearly not my core community, and I’ve never submitted a NIER paper to any conference. We’ll see how it goes. Another virtual conference. I suppose it is plausible that Australia will be open by then, but it would be hard for people to get there (even me).

That makes a total of 4 submissions so far this year: 1 OOPSLA, 1 Onward, 1 ICSME NIER, and 1 JORT (“and now for something completely different…”) That rate would be really good if extrapolated over the whole year.

After getting back from the present trip I’ll be polishing some code that I kind of duct-taped together for OOPSLA (or, in NZ, put together with No 8 wire), and then starting a new project with VUW. We had an in-person meeting to discuss this new project a few weeks ago.

Days with work was at 23, down 3 from last month. About 10 of those would be spent largely writing OOPSLA reviews. Sounds about right.

Ongoing (my grad students)

Days with grad-student chats this month was 14, with weekly all-students chats. There seemed to be some drop-off towards the end of the month, but Waterloo’s Spring 2020 term is also getting towards its end, so TAships and course projects are getting busier.


Wrote a total of 16 OOPSLA reviews: 2 in late May, 4 in July, hence 10 in June. Still have to revisit a couple of the reviews and calibrate with other reviewers. Basically took a large part of working hours in June, about one review per work day.

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

Graduation celebration

Did a bunch of service work which was, in a sense, leftovers from the SE Director role. With Derek Rayside, organized an SE-wide celebration for the Class of 2020. Borrowed MIT regalia from a local MIT PhD grad, practiced and delivered a short speech, took care of other logistics. Also deliberated about Capstone Design Project award winners.

Got a bunch of AV gear to facilitate this: tripod, USB-HDMI capture widget, cables, Bluetooth headset. Now ready for remote teaching if needed. Hard to buy this gear anywhere these days, but especially in New Zealand. Fortunately I was resourceful enough to find vendors. Tip: don’t get a micro HDMI to HDMI converter, get a cable.

The camera store sent me two capture widgets. It was kind of annoying to get an envelope and print out the return label.


In addition to 23 work days, there were 6 trip days.

  • Walking distance: 117.9km (about the same as 122.8km from May), 3 at-home zero days, 2 travel zero days.
  • Biking distance: 58.5km (biked to judo 8 times + transit once)
  • Trips: 2 out-of-town, plus 2 Greater Wellington


The walking in June was more concentrated than in May; Atiwhakatu turned out to be 14.4km in a day, while Pouakai had 14.1km and 11.8km which were treacherously full of slippery wet roots. There were a couple of other 10km days.

At-home zero days weren’t due to being hosed by work, but just not having anywhere I had to go on those days.

Top 20 Welly Walks progress: 15 done, plus parts of three others.


Half of Jumbo Circuit

Jens, Kiera, MP, and I went tramping. The timing worked out such that the whole Jumbo Circuit would have been challenging, so we went to the hut. Despite having a reservation for 4, there was a group of 13 already there. So we walked back out to the car and drove back to Wellington. Still a nice day out.

There are many river crossings on the Jumbo Circuit.

Matiu/Somes Island

This meant that our Sunday became available, and the Matiu/Somes Island ferry was still free in June. So we went and saw a bunch of shags and flocks of kākāriki.

Shag and kākāriki (photo credit: Marie-Pascale Desjardins)

Titahi Bay

Elliott organized yet another climbing trip, this one much closer by. Titahi Bay has a couple of decent climbs (but not that many). I climbed Dysentry Groove, which was a thought-provoking 17. Then we topped out, which involves more grass climbing than I counted on. We got out very close to the posted 6pm gate closing time. In the event, the gate did not close.

Titahi Bay; Dysentry Groove

Pouakai Circuit

The trip of the month was the Pouakai Circuit, which we did over two days of hiking, plus one day of driving out. I didn’t think there would be anyone at the huts, and neither did the California expat DOC staff at the East Egmont Visitor Centre. We were both wrong and MP was right. There were 32 people and capacity of 16. This wasn’t the coldest night I’d spent in a hut (that would be Lake of the Clouds), but the floor was still pretty hard.

Me and Mount Taranaki; summit close-up; the Instagram shot (and photo contest winner); some ferns


The Harbourside Market in Wellington opened again at Level 1. It was super busy when we got out the first weekend it was open. Haven’t been able to get back yet.

Yams at Harbourside Market

Also got out to the Wellington Zoo while it was free in June.

Although This is Still PLDI, attending a virtual conference whose time zone is in London from New Zealand is super difficult. I listened to some keynotes, chatted a bit on the Slack, and went to the Gather a couple of times. I acknowledge that going to conferences is a barrier to access, but I find engaging with virtual conferences to be challenging, especially when they happen in the middle of the night.

Travel planning

I’m currently in Takaka waiting for better weather tomorrow for the Heaphy Track, and then visiting Pohatu Penguins, Mount Sunday and Arthur’s Pass via the TranzAlpine ($75 winter special!). That took a bunch of travel planning. Pouakai Circuit was easy to plan, although we still shifted days due to weather. Nonrefundable hotel reservations are not ideal.


In the past few weeks we’ve managed to find some delicious Wellington restaurants. Our batting average is significantly less than 1.000 but places that appear in the press seem to be consistently good.

  • Ti Kouka Cafe: seems to be fairly famous Wellington brunch spot
  • Fisherman’s Plate: (not in press) best pho in Wellington
  • Ramen Shop: was in NZ Herald list of restaurants, did not disappoint
  • Dragons: famous dim sum (aka yum cha)

Outside Wellington:

  • The Tin Hut (Featherston): good pub-type food
  • Kiss and Bake Up (Otaki): semi-fancy bakery


It’s great to be in NZ these days. We count our blessings and await news about how Winter 2021 will be taught at Waterloo. Starting new research projects and hoping that the second half of the year will be as productive as the first half of the year.