April: end-of-term slog

Posted by Patrick Lam on Monday, May 3, 2021

Table Of Contents

I still know how to submit grades. Hadn’t done it since August 2019, and even that was Capstone Project grades. So it’s been almost two years since I marked exams. I’d forgotten about how much of a grind it is. Setting and marking exams is one of my least-favourite parts of the job. I also would have benefitted from being a bit more specific in the Programming for Performance question that I marked. I think it was good to make it more open-ended even at the cost of some marking pain, though. Again another year until I mark more exams.

Now I’m free from teaching until sometime in July when I’d better think about the Fall term offering. Yay!

April has overall been a real grind, with an attempted paper submission and now grading. We had one trip to Christchurch, where our planned objective got rained out, but we still did a bunch of elevation gain (though not much distance, which means steep ascents).

Wellington tree bloom; welcoming committee at our Christchurch hotel; iguana at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve; Sylvester; Be a Tidy Kiwi

April post

  • No Gillespie. 0/2 on recent trips due to torrential rain forecasts. No Christchurch writeup yet.

Life in Wellington

It’s definitely mid to late fall. Not that much colder (last month I was writing at 11pm with 12°C outside, this month, same time, 14°C outside), and we’ve been using the heating inside. Also, here’s a purchase I definitely don’t regret.

Hut booties. Not just for huts!

Walking in the sun still feels pretty warm, but days are short: sunrise 7:09AM, sunset 5:26PM. Still another half hour of light in the evening to lose. I always prefer Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time since I’m never up at 7AM. And it makes the time difference from Eastern Time worse. Also, coordinating things during the transition is complicated because the time changes aren’t lined up, so it changes from 6 to 7 to 8 hours.

As long as you’re not surrounded by snow or water, the UV is pretty moderate now; MetService says UV protection is required between 11:40AM and 12:50PM.

Other news

NZ news continues to happen. The event that is perhaps most relevant to the world is the Australia travel bubble, as of April 19, and the Cook Islands travel bubble, due to start on May 17. The announcement that is of no interest to anyone outside New Zealand is the abolishing of District Health Boards (but it’s a big deal to those in NZ who care about health policy and implementation). And the news that many foreigners in New Zealand would like to know—immigration policies—is still not announced, despite promised updates by the end of March.

I read a NZ Herald article positing that Australians might come to NZ for vaccine tourism. That’s strange, since Australia has vaccinated twice as many people at NZ as a proportion of the population (8% vs 4%), yet there seems to be much more angst in Australia about the slow vaccine rollout than in New Zealand. The level of urgency is approximately the same low level in both countries (hence the bubble). Seems like a failure to manage expectations in Australia, whereas NZ says “hey, we’re ahead of schedule”.

Do I have to talk about Ontario? OK, fine. I think Ontario got a bit unlucky this time with B117. Combined with an incompetent provincial government and not so much help from the federal government (but the fault is with the province in the first instance), it’s looking bad for the next 6 weeks. Do I believe the numbers about the projected vaccination rate in 6 weeks’ time? At least Quebec has been doing better. Still lucky enough to not be there still.

I’ve applied for another Specific Purpose work visa to take me until January 2022. (For fun, I also read the Immigration New Zealand Operational Manual. Does that surprise you?) Given usual processing times they should be getting back to me any day now. And then I anticipate teaching in person, fully vaccinated, in Winter 2022.

Pictures: Did most of November and have two more days in that month. Also did all of March, but I posted about that in April. Currently behind by:

  • [November/December] Kepler
  • [December] Routeburn/Milford
  • [December] Dunedin climbing, Silverpeaks
  • [January] Hump Ridge Track
  • [February] Jumbo Circuit
  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [April] Avalanche Peak, Mount Somers Track

I did sort these pictures this month:

I’ve reduced 700 pictures from Kepler Day 2 (lots of kea pictures) down to 168 and posted them. So, I guess I got through almost all of November’s pictures. That’s not quite a six month lag? And there were lots of one-offs in 2020 that I haven’t processed, though I’ve created albums for one-offs now.

Keas on the way to Iris Burn Hut

Currently my hard drive contains 65G of pictures. It’s a bit unmanageable.

NZ and COVID-19

Apart from the above, here’s the latest COVID ad from the NZ government about vaccines:


Slammed by marking. My streak of bailing on talks continues: there was the one in March that got blown out by a cold while travelling (and thus staying in place a bit longer), and this one for which Past Me was like, sure, end of April, there’s not anything like exams to mark or anything like that. Oops. Not like it happens every year.

Did not manage to submit ASE, now aiming for SCAM. Did a bunch of work on the paper and wrote some Doop queries with help from the Doop team, a good experience. Need to get back at it in the next few weeks.

Co-op student who was working with me for the past two months finished. I refused to play 16 questions for co-op eval, just answering the important bottom-line question. Got some insight into the Commuter Challenge codebase, trying to set it up locally in a VM.

Should have a new grad student coming in September, if he can get in from Iran. Unlike my Indian grad student, who was supposed to finally come to Waterloo last weekend. Terrible situation in India.

Research todo:

  • RFI for Auckland Transport
  • NSERC Alliance proposal
  • SCAM submission
  • SE retrospective

That should keep me busy for May!


P4P: So the thing is, in normal times, about 25% of students come to class in fourth year. And we have these recorded lectures now. But there may well be a desire to come to class in January. (Though the NZ experience suggests that people come to class at about the same rate as usual; there was only 7 weeks of interruption here though). We need to do a postmortem of P4P from this past term and speculate about what we’ll do next year. Maybe it makes sense to have one section of traditional lectures and one section of flipped lectures.

The servers on which the students (290 of them) were supposed to do their practical programming assignments for the exam had super high load and students were sad. But I polled the students afterwards and there was overwhelming support (90%) for practical assignments for the exams. We need to prevent server meltdowns though.

SASE: Students did reasonable course projects and did OK on the exam. I felt like I didn’t ask very deep questions of the papers we read, but that’s probably just fine. It’s more of a survey, really.

Fall: There are actually 0 scheduled lecture hours for the first-year lab course for the fall. I talked to the other instructor and lab instructor, and we’re in agreement: we’ll record some instruction on useful things students need to know. TAs can go help students in the lab, though we’ll strongly recommend that they are vaccinated before doing so. We’ll be available to help students remotely.


  • There was a huge crowd running for the FAUW Board, and I didn’t get elected. Oh well.
  • Once again, planning grad ceremony, this time for SE 2021.
  • Engaged with ECE Chair Nominating Committee and provided thoughts.
  • Refereed strong FYDP project (Rust compiler extension)
  • Freelance SE alum advising on academic careers
  • Bid on papers to review for OOPSLA.


Hopefully have reached the end of the grind. Talked to students on 20 days and worked on 24 days, with 20 workdays for April. Will definitely take more weekends in May. Teaching two courses is real work.


Came back from Queenstown just at the beginning of the month. One extended weekend away in Christchurch and one weekend inside a gym.

  • 🚶 Walking distance: 72km (yikes, a new low for our time in New Zealand, but we had good elevation gain at least)
  • 🚲 Biking distance: 65.2km
  • 🚗 Driving distance: 697km
  • 🚗 Taxi distance: 19.7km (3x to WLG)
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 37.1km
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 1251km (ZQN-WLG, WLG-CHC-WLG)
  • 🚡 Cable car distance: 2.1km (3x)

Speaking of mobility, can you see an issue here?


I had a low-velocity bike/bike crash at a high-contention spot on Great Harbour Way where the bike path gains vertical separation. We were both really quite apologetic about the collision and everything was mostly fine except that I needed a new brake pad. I also bought some lube for my chain. Now it’s quiet!


We were planning to do Avalanche Peak through Crow Hut but there was again 100+ mm of rain forecast and the DOC staff said we should be up for staying at the hut for 5 days given the conditions. Rained out again. Instead we climbed Mount Somers and got lots of elevation gain but not so much distance.

Near Avalanche Peak summit, on the summit plateau of Mt. Somers, and eels at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve.

Other sports

Climbing day at Cattlestop basically in Christchurch. Still having a tough time on NZ rock.

Was pretty consistent in getting to judo practice after the cough that kept us on the South Island for a few extra days abated. So the first third of the month was a write-off but after that was good. Made it to practice once in Christchurch. Won 2 matches to take 1st in senior men -66 at the Wellington Open.

The view from Cattlestop Crag; Wellington Open podium; a Judo tournament!

Travel planning

Planned a trip to Rotorua/Tauranga in July, with Hobbiton being the focus. Bought tickets for Canterbury Open but haven’t really made plans yet. Planning Cook Islands for August.


  • Got Black Diamond softshell zipper repaired under warranty, yay.
  • Hut booties from Macpac
  • Replacement camera battery; noticed that my RX100 wasn’t so good at holding a charge anymore. Ordered on sale from noel leeming.

Again my lack of inReach doesn’t seem to have posed a problem.

Food truck

Not really any other restaurants worth mentioning this month.


I finished Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. It’s all there.

I have a pile of books from the library but April’s been busy. May will be better.


Again bringing back the list of things to write up:

  • Photos: making some progress by virtue of not being out quite so much in April
  • August (Rakuira) trip writeup
  • September (Canterbury) trip writeup
  • Travel philosophy (been in final-drafts form since before the pandemic)
  • Greece recommendations (mostly drafted)
  • November (Northland) trip writeup
  • November-December (Kepler) trip writeup
  • December (Milford/Routeburn) trips writeup
  • January (Hump Ridge) trip writeup
  • February (Tongariro) trip writeup
  • April (Canterbury) trip writeup
  • Days of Great Walks writeup
  • SF vs Wellington writeup
  • NZ National Parks writeup


Yay, non-teaching term coming up. Should be a good time to do some research and even some travel planning.