July, including a vacation

Posted by Patrick Lam on Friday, July 31, 2020

Table Of Contents

I’m between trips as I write this. Tomorrow morning we are flying to Invercargill at the end of the South Island and, if weather permits, continuing to Stewart Island/Rakiura. (I’ve learned, however, that we often need to be flexible with these plans, as weather can be from slightly to extremely unfavourable.) Two and a half weeks ago we came back from Christchurch and the West Coast.

I noticed that I promised a writeup for Charleston last month. It’s still to come. The backlog continues to increase.

The relative situation hasn’t changed from last month. NZ is stable (though the managed isolation facilities are full), while Victoria state in Australia hasn’t re-stabilized yet. The numbers in Quebec and Ontario are better although the re-opening plan seems aggressive to me, and I hear there’s not enough PPE. I hope people don’t go overboard with cleaning surfaces (re: The Atlantic on hygiene theatre).

Again, it’s not really cold here, but it is cold inside. When it’s just a bit colder outside, it feels a lot colder inside. The past week has been relatively warm, around 15°C. We continue to sit around the heater, although it’s only half on.


We actually submitted to ICSME NIER in early July, although I talked about it last month’s summary.

We just got an acceptance tonight (yay!) for that ICSME submission, so I guess we’ll be virtually attending that conference, as they announced. We also got an acceptance for our Onward! essay (yay!!), and I did a bunch of edits this week. There is also another round of revisions for JORT. Our OOPSLA submission will have to find another home. No new submissions (that would be quite something), but ready to start on new projects once I return.

I did not have any time to do coding on the OOPSLA submission or on the LLVM-related project. Maybe next month, now that OOPSLA discussion is done.

Days with work: 18. Explicitly tried to take a couple of non-work days while in Wellington, but still a substantial fraction of a normal month when I was away for 11 days in the month. There would normally be 23 workdays in this month.

Ongoing (my grad students)

We seem to be back on more regular schedules for chats with students, excluding my travels, and I talked with my students on 10 days. Will try to maintain a similar pace in August when I’m not on a trip.


Although I only wrote 4.5 reviews in July, OOPSLA Review Committee discussions took a lot of time. Travelling to a physical meeting takes time (and wouldn’t be possible this year), but at least the commitment for the meeting is just a weekend. Of course travel takes a lot longer from New Zealand. For a virtual meeting, discussions consume a substantial part of a month. I have RC discussions in my notes for 8 days, which is easily 16 hours of work.

I learned that SPSS data files are basically csvs and can be edited in Python. I collected and massaged the SE2024 results and sent them off to the analyst.

I also did an analysis of electives taken by SE students. (Almost no one takes non-intro non-Math non-Engineering courses, with a total of 17 enrollments in courses numbered 300+ between Fall 2017 and Spring 2020 out of a total of 20,000 enrollments).


This is, in fact, part of my day job. Had 2 video calls to discuss course planning for Fall 2021.


No new AV gear, but continued to outfit the kitchen with a better knife, cutting board, and pan. It’s hard to buy these things from thrift shops here: the selection is limited. Apparently it’s hard to get good pans here, period. We learned about scam pans from locals. Sounds traumatic.

We also confirmed that it was possible to send mail from Canada to New Zealand. It’s slow (3 weeks) and expensive ($44), but eventually gets there. Good to have my renewed credit cards.


As stated above: 11 days of travel (1 trip), 18 days with work, two days fully without work and one almost so (just letter drafting). I’m interested to see what the walk count will be.

  • 🚶 Walking distance: 195km (way up from 117.9km, but Heaphy Track happened), 2 at-home zero days, 2 bike-only days, no travel zero days.
  • 🚲 Biking distance: 75km (judo practice 7x plus biking to the bike fixing place) (my bike is now 20% faster after replacing a shifter, oiling the chain, and inflating the tires)
  • ⛴ Ferry distance: 190km (Google says 100km one way, 90km the other way…?)
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 559km
  • 🚗 Car distance: 981km
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 95km (GippsAero GA8 Airvan)
  • 🚣 Kayak distance: 2.3km
  • 🚆 Train distance: 402km


It felt like there was less day-to-day walking than in June, but even subtracting the 80km of the Heaphy Track we still have the same number of kilometers of walking, so there must have been more.

There was a busy day on July 27 with all of the errands (bring computer to get fixed, collect it again when the part was DOA, deliver baby gift, fix bicycle). I did all the things and had tasty ramen at The Ramen Shop also. Bicycle fixing at Mechanical Tempest took less time than I thought and my bike is much faster now. I could still replace the front shifter.

Top 20 Welly Walks progress: 16 done, plus parts of three others. There’s really only one that I haven’t been on at all, the Redwood Bush Loop.


South Island: West Coast and Canterbury

More trip reports to come (ha). I guess the TranzAlpine is actually written up but needs formatting and pictures.

  • Pohatu Penguins at Akaroa, Mount Sunday, and Christchurch
  • BreakFree on Cashel (Christchurch): A Review Basically, while we were at it and going to the South Island for the Heaphy Track (my second time on the ferry), I thought we should also go see other parts of the South Island. Penguins are high on the list, so we went to Akaroa. I saw that the TranzAlpine was back (and super popular!) so we went to Arthur’s Pass (we finally saw a kea) instead of just doing the one-day return trip. And Mount Sunday is Edoras; how can we miss that?

The last day of the Heaphy was exhausting with the flight back to Nelson followed by the drive to Christchurch. We had originally meant to stay in Nelson for a night on that end, but delayed to get slightly drier weather (though day 2 on the track was still quite wet). I double booked accommodation for that night in Christchurch, in part because I forgot about the airbnb I’d booked, and in part because Tripit added it to the Athens trip which we weren’t on.

Skyline Walkway

After hosting people for pancakes (a first for us at this tiny apartment in NZ), we took a $37 Uber to get to the far end of the Skyline Walkway. (The Uber takes 15 minutes. The bus takes an hour. The sun sets at 5:30. Though it took us 4 hours 10, so we might have been able to take the bus after all.) This was another track that we preferred to the Escarpment Track north of here, and easier than the Northern Walkway. We could see the South Island as well as Wellington Harbour. Highly recommended. Also MP and I both got head-butted by a cow.

Travel planning

Planned the trip to Rakiura/Stewart Island this month. Thinking about some judo tournaments for September. No definite plans yet. Keeping an eye out for news of Milford/Routeburn reopening.


  • O’Sha, Takaka: Enjoyable Thai food
  • Costas Taverna, Christchurch: Was great to have a meze platter here.
  • Le Panier, Christchurch: Best croissants I’ve had for a while!
  • KUMO Japanese Cuisine, Christchurch: Not bad for kaiten sushi.
  • Sevenpenny, Greymouth: Had a whitebait sandwich here. Has potential.
  • Why Not Cafe, Kaikoura: Recommended by bus driver, lived up to recommendation.
  • Rātā Cafe, Zealandia: Had a bunch of good snacks here.
  • Nam-D, Wellington: I like the banh mi at this food truck chain.


I got a Wellington City library card at the temporary Te Awa library branch. Turns out it just opened on July 14 and is open on weekends while they figure out what to do about the Central Library. The staff were quite enthusiastic about signing me up for a card. I managed to not properly check out some books (somehow the computer lets you return books that you didn’t check out) so I went back and got some. Borrowed some NZ literature and Kākāpō: Rescued from the Brink of Extinction by Alison Ballance, which I noticed in the Christchurch bookshop we stopped by while getting out of the cold.


I appreciated the July trip. It was great to get away for a while. Haven’t really got anything new started just yet but I did a lot of work on things that Past Me signed up for. Now the path is clear to actually starting new things. After I get back from Stewart Island and hopefully seeing diurnal kiwi.