August: Here's Delta

Posted by Patrick Lam on Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Table Of Contents

Giant trevalley; toilet at the Rangiwahia Hut; video editing; lockdown walks in Aro Valley.

Here we are again

The 1pm show starring Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Dr. Ashley Bloomfield is back. Really we could do without, but here we are.

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that COVID got out in the community eventually. The almost six-month stretch with zero COVID was great, but now Delta is here, and New Zealand is once again crushing it (despite the statement to the contrary by the New South Wales premier about how Delta is uncontrollable). It’s harder to crush Delta, but people know what to do.

Us and Alert Level 4 lockdown

NZ Alert Level 4 means that almost everything except supermarkets/dairies, pharmacies, and essential goods (by delivery) are closed. Definitely no takeaway food.

We had a pretty bumpy start to lockdown with a broken fridge and an ant infestation. Fortunately our property manager got a new fridge pretty much as quickly as one might imagine (we told her on Saturday and the fridge appeared on Tuesday), and ordered ant traps for us. The freezer still worked with the old fridge, so we had some frozen pizza and lots of frozen corn and peas. I don’t recommend frozen pizza. We seem to have gotten rid of the ants. (Ants are great, outside.)

I missed my chance to get a haircut before lockdown so I’ll be at more-than-8-weeks again. Kind of like this picture from the archives (last year):

Oops too much hair (April 2020, on the Makara Walkway).

Aside from that, what else happened in August?

And then, of course, the lockdown. More below.

Kuhl's lorikeet on Atiu; Rarotonga Punanga Nui Market; me on Aitutaki; Rangiwahia Hut.

August posts

What’s going on in the world

Last month I’d talked about Australia being off the table for 8 weeks. Well, the outbreak here came from Australia through the Managed Isolation and Quarantine hotels somehow. It’s unclear how. Anyway, so now I can’t even go to Australia, not that I’d want to, especially after Victoria and NSW seem to have given up on elimination for now. Other states are still working on or maintaining elimination even if they’re not talking about it much. I really get the feeling that Australia’s vaccine rollout is less smooth than New Zealand’s, and depending just on vaccines isn’t a great strategy.

Taiwan beat a non-Delta wave. Vietnam is locking down maybe even harder than New Zealand but hasn’t controlled COVID yet. Fiji is in a lot of trouble.

Canada’s case numbers continue to trend up, as do vaccination numbers. The news right now is about vaccine passports, which should help increase numbers. Waterloo seems to be doing slightly better than Ontario as a whole.

I had also mentioned that there would be an announcement about the NZ border on August 12. The plan is to gradually open to vaccinated travellers by the end of the first quarter of 2022, with different requirements depending on the risk level where a traveller might be coming from. Definitely not before Christmas though. Now, the question is whether Canada will be low-risk (no quarantine) or medium-risk (5 days' quarantine). Probably medium at best.

Vaccines

Before this all happened, my spouse MP got her first vaccine dose. She was eligible a bit before me due to her job. Apparently the process was that the workplace nominated a list of people. Soon thereafter, vaccine bookers called and set up an appointment. The call was on Friday and there was an appointment available on Sunday, but she went on the Monday instead. I walked her to the vaccine site, which seemed quite smooth and very fast—essentially no waiting. Get vaccine, wait 20 minutes, take selfie (without mask), done!

The NZ vaccine rollout has greatly accelerated with this outbreak. Bookings are now open to all 12+ with the 6-week spacing. I have appointments for September 8, a week from now, and November 3. The appointments didn’t open at midnight on the appointed day, but they opened mid-morning, after some brokenness. NZ is now doing 6 week intervals but a bit longer is better for me due to other things going on.

Computers are hard, but they can be made to work.

As of today, 54% of population (news says eligible but I think it’s total) have received one dose, and the current rate is about 1.5% of total population per day. This is not sustainable with current vaccine stocks, but they’re working on getting more, probably through swaps.

NZ COVID

So, yes, delta. For a while now 100% of MIQ cases have been delta, and now one case got out from MIQ somehow. The connection between the MIQ case and the community is still unclear. But it definitely got out there and is the largest single outbreak yet by far, with 680 cases. And that despite going to max lockdown, level 4, within 12 hours of the first case being detected. (What was I doing just before lockdown? NZAC Wellington Photo Contest meet. Then went to the grocery store, which instantly got slammed; they clearly had pulled in staff who weren’t planning to work those shifts.) I read an estimate that there were maybe about 100 undetected cases preceding the detected case, in a tradie (tradesperson) in the seaside village of Devonport.

Everything is ramped-up this time with delta: the lockdown is harder and the locations of interest are more inclusive. We’ve talked about locations of interest before. With the advent of delta, the government is saying that many of the contacts that would have been casual contacts now require 14 days self isolation. Not that this matters in a lockdown.

I correctly predicted that we would stay in Level 4 for the full 2 week incubation cycle. They didn’t announce it all at once; I guess they were hoping that NZ would get lucky again like last time. But, nope. It was announced about 3 days at a time. There has not been any non-household community transmission outside of Auckland; Wellington has 15 cases but (all but one of?) them came from Auckland.

Auckland remains in Level 4 for another 2 weeks at least. The numbers have been trending down, but it’s still too early to tell.

We (outside Auckland) went to Level 3 yesterday and there was noticeably more activity on the streets: non-essential click and collect shopping and takeaways are allowed.

Delicious food from Upesh Kitchen.

Going forward, I’d say that we have some chance of being in level 3 for 1 week, and some chance of being in level 3 for 2 weeks. If nothing changes, more than 2 weeks would be unlikely.

Age distribution: yikes!

Age distribution of latest outbreak, credit The Spinoff.

We can see that the age distribution in this outbreak skews young. Despite this, we still have 32 in hospital and 8 in ICU. With this distribution we might hope for 0 deaths, but the ICU patients are in for a tough time.

Pictures

Canada does have some scenery which is perhaps even grander than NZ scenery. But NZ scenery is much more accessible to us in Wellington than Canadian scenery to us in Waterloo (and in Montreal, really).

Selected pics from the archives: Mrs. Pink at the Above the River B&B; Boom Lake in the Canadian Rockies; that famous shot of Taranaki and the tarn; Anna on Buddha Buttress in the Canadian Rockies; ABC Cave in the Silverpeaks; hoiho near Dunedin.

I did these pictures, quite a bit off the backlog as we can see. Plus, this lockdown has prevented further travel. Though the week in the Cook Islands added 20G to the backlog.

  • [August 2017] Canadian Rockies (Boom Lake, Buddha Buttress)
  • [February 2020] The rest of the Waikato trip from last year: climbing at Froggatts Edge and Sheridan Hills; photogenic dog Mrs Pink at the airbnb; Rotorua and Whakarewarewa Maori Village.
  • [April 2020] Southern Walkway
  • [April 2020] Makara Walkway
  • [April 2020] Eastern Walkway
  • [June 2020] Matiu/Somes Island: heaps of kakariki near Wellington (more than Zealandia)
  • [June 2020] Pouakai Circuit: epic pictures of Taranaki and the famous tarn
  • [December 2020] Ducks and grebes and scaups at Queenstown
  • [December 2020] Dunedin climbing at Mapouhati; Silverpeaks; albatrosses and penguins
  • [July] Bouldering at Turakirae Head
  • [August] Rangiwahia Hut (up, down)
Honourable Mentions at the NZAC Wellington Photo Contest: "Your Food, Let Me Steal It" by MP (Alpine Nature); "Crevasse Jumping Practice for Sheep" (Humour).

To do:

  • [January 2020] Kapiti Island
  • [May 2020] Tongariro again
  • [January] Hump Ridge Track
  • [February] Jumbo Circuit
  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [April] Avalanche Peak, Mount Somers Track
  • [June] Rotorua (airport walk)
  • [July] Hobbiton
  • [July] Aotea
  • [August] Cook Islands

That’s all of the multi-day 2020 trips except for climbing at Wanaka, plus there are a couple of one-day albums with lots of pictures that I haven’t listed above. Those one-day albums take up a surprising amount of disk space though: Willowbank wildlife reserve is 2.4G, Kapiti Island is 3.6G. I’d better get some of those off the hard drive soon. Still, my current 55G of pictures on the hard drive and 11G free is almost enough to get the 20G of Cook Islands pictures onto the hard drive.

Professional

Feels like most of my professional effort has been with helping with master’s theses. One is pretty much submitted and the other one is a small number of weeks away. We punted an ICSE submission on another topic to the early OOPSLA deadline. I’m glad that OOPSLA put a deadline in October, the deadlines felt really front-loaded in the year earlier. We’ll try for ICST and OOPSLA in the next two months.

In Fall, I’ll have one (shared) student back from an internship (COVID, no travel for the internship, sigh), a new student, and a student returning from parental leave. Also, one of my students just made it to Canada after a year studying remotely in India. Plus, in the Fall, teaching.

On the teaching front I recorded two videos (ECE 198 intro, about marks), tried out Calendly, and reached consensus on a few decisions. Should probably get the board that the students will be using for their projects.

I worked on 22 days, with 3 days of really quite minimal work. Talked to students on 18 days. About the same as the 21 work days in the month. Maybe it’s better to count about the 8 days of vacation and one weekend tramp; most other days had some work. September will likely be busier, though hopefully there will be at least some of the trips that are rescheduled.

Goals for September: Support ECE 198, submit NSERC Alliance (probably 80% of the words exist now, and I updated my CCV, grr, and maybe I’m close to getting the system running under Docker), submit to ICST, work on OOPSLA.

Collegiality

There was some OOPSLA review committee work: we got revised versions and checked them against our reviews. I served on a PhD comprehensive exam committee. Some freelance SE undergrad student advising.

Travels

Cook Islands and a short tramp up to Rangiwahia Hut.

  • 🚶 Walking distance: 83.1km (not as brutal as I thought)
  • 🚲 Biking distance: 31km (thanks lockdown, no commuter biking)
  • 🚗 Driving distance: 432km (Rangiwahia + a tiny bit on the Cooks)
  • 🚗 Taxi distance: 2km
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 7km (no Uber available from WLG)
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 4431km (RAR-AIU, AIU-RAR, RAR-AIT, AIT-RAR, RAR-AKL, AKL-WLG)
  • 🚡 Cable car distance: 0.7km (1x)
  • ⛴ Boat distance: 25km
  • 🏍 Scooter distance: 107.5km (wow!)

Walks

  • Rarotonga Cross-Island Trek: pretty rugged for a tourist walk.
  • Takitumu Conservation Area: more of a tourist walk here, with Rarotongan flycatchers allegedly here but hard to see.
  • Rangiwahia Hut: back here again! Short but a good outing with friends.
  • Ahumairangi Ridgeline Track: some decent elevation to get up to the top. We’ve been in this reserve but not on this particular walk before.
  • Brooklyn Wind Turbine Route: back here again! nice 2hr lockdown walk, back through Kelburn.

Other sports

I guess I managed to get to judo twice in August. COVID and the Cook Islands will do that. Plus there was the NZAC Wellington photo contest on the last day before lockdown. On the other hand, the upcoming North Island and South Island Championships are cancelled/postponed. We’ll see what happens with COVID. My blue judogi is presumably still on its way from Canada.

MP had tried to snorkel in Greece but wasn’t properly equipped. We took a snorkeling tour in the Cook Islands and saw all sorts of fish that we couldn’t photograph. We did go snorkelling successfully in Aitutaki and Rarotonga. Here are some pictures from Aitutaki that appeared in my Cook Islands report.

Re-up: Giant trevalley; crabs; me on beach; MP and hermit crab; giant clam shell; blue water and ominous clouds.

We rode scooters around, but I really don’t consider that a sport. Avoiding a wipeout on the wet leaves and mud did require a bit of skill honed during winter biking.

Travel planning

Whoops, all my trips blown away by COVID. Tentatively rescheduled Paparoa, and hopefully Abel Tasman soon thereafter. But since the tournaments in September aren’t happening, I have a bit more free time. Must do all the things before leaving.

Gear

I really don’t think I bought much last month.

  • NZ credit card
  • No backpack
  • Plunger
  • Cook Islands shirt, last minute purchase at the airport

The credit card was quite hard to get. They sure had a lot of questions about our money. All that to lend up to $5000. But it’s better than paying thousands of dollars of FX fees on my Canadian card.

I was looking at getting a Fiordland pack, but decided that my current Figure Four (rip) pack is still OK for a while. It has a few holes in it but I’ve taped them. The Fiordland pack isn’t noticeably lighter.

Our bathroom sink now drains faster than the tap fills it, so that’s good. The other issue with beginning of lockdown was that one of the sides of the kitchen sink was draining super slowly and the in-sink-erator wasn’t working. The plunger and knowing about the reset switch fixed that. Turns out that plungers are essential items that can be shipped to you.

Decided to stick with the Winkl bed. Sold the Ecosa on trademe.

Also I used my rashguard (long-sleeved T-shirt) which I brought from Canada but hadn’t gotten around to using yet. Good protection from the sun while in the water. Just haven’t been in the water that much.

Future gear

I’ve been investigating mirrorless cameras which are portable and yet can photograph some birds. Leaning towards the Sony a6600 with the Sony E 55-210mm and an Olympus TCON-1.7.

Pro: The autofocus will definitely be better with a new camera.

Con: A bit worried about reach. Definitely not as much reach as the Panasonic FZ80, with 1200mm, but the super zoomed in pictures on that camera have pretty poor image quality anyway.

The goal is to bring the camera on hikes, and a heavy camera/lens is no good for that. The super heavy lenses are also outside my budget. We’re already looking at an extra 500g over what we have now. Anyway, I’ve been reading reviews and updating a spreadsheet with weights. Let me know if you have any thoughts on cameras!

Miscellaneous life maintenance

  • Mailed ballot to the Canadian High Commission in NZ.
  • Applied for a Partner of a Worker NZ visa to facilitate coming back next year (the triple winter plan).

Restaurants

I talked about the Cook Islands restaurants in the Cook islands trip report, so I won’t repeat that here. Rapae Bay on Aitutaki was really good, Ride Monster exceeded expectations for breakfast, I enjoyed the buffet at Kura’s Kitchen at Atiu Villas. Ika mata is worth having; I did, twice.

Lockdown:

  • began with leftovers from Upesh Kitchen and back into Level 3 again with same. I think it’s my lockdown tradition now. Hopefully no more.

Feilding:

  • Hansens Cafe promises “seriously good sausage rolls” on the sign outside and lives up to those expectations.
  • The Strong Room in downtown Feilding: ravioli is pleasant after a short hike, salad even more so.

Our restaurant bills are obviously way down for these last two weeks. Somehow it also felt like our grocery bills were way less than last lockdown too. I think part of that is that we had no pantry reserves last time, while this time we do (despite the fridge failure). Here’s what restaurants look like under Level 3.

A restaurant in central Wellington under Level 3.

Books and other media

Well, I got my notebook (the source material for these summaries!) wet after bringing it (and all our Aitutaki stuff) in the boat. Spent a few hours transferring notes to a new Moleskine notebook. Computer survived the boat trip fortunately.

Soggy log entries. Tamatea Dusky.

I’m currently reading (and can hold on to during lockdown):

  • Tamatea Dusky by Peta Carey, the 2021 NZ Mountain Book of the Year. Contains bite-sized conservation stories woven into a narrative and linked through Dusky Sound, beyond the kākāpō and the takahē.

I read early 1900s travel literature about New Zealand:

  • Emerald Hours in New Zealand. Kind of self-published but not very well negotiated: 1909 Press article. Wanted to see 100-years-ago descriptions of some of the places they’d been to. 30 miles back on the Milford Track in one day?!

Went to a presentation about the pictographs and pictograms at Mazinaw/Bon Echo by Dr. Lynn Gehl, organized by the ACC Toronto Section.

More words

Tons of pictures and some professional words last month, so still no progress on the blog post backlog.

Colophon

I did a bunch of website infrastructure work this month.

  • There was the Hugo slider work so that you get links to galleries where they exist now.
  • While writing this entry, I got tired of Hugo being slow. It’s supposed to be fast. Well, I’d put 20,000 npm files into my static directory, and that slows down Hugo. Using revelry, I pre-built the historical document State of the Software Engineering Program, 2017 and it now takes up 53 files instead of 20,000 files. So Hugo runs in 2s instead of 10s. Dynamic rebuild in 178ms.

Revelry seems out of date and it might not even build under today’s npm, but there is docker support, so I can use it with the historical versions. That helped a lot.

Conclusion

I once again appreciate takeout as well as having a working fridge! We don’t do takeout often but it is good to have the option. Teaching is really soon but seems under control for now. Hope I can do the trips I planned, COVID permitting.