February: with short escapes to Quebec

Posted by Patrick Lam on Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Table Of Contents

Status

One could have a fairly normal life in Ontario now. If one ignores the fact that there are still over 1,000 confirmed cases a day, and surely many times that many unconfirmed cases: the positivity rate is just over 10%, and there is restricted access to testing. But, restaurants are open, gyms no longer have vaccine mandates, and classes are back to normal. On the other hand, hospitalizations have also dropped below 1,000.

I think that there’s been a certain amount of normalization of deviance in that the situation is still worse than at many times in the past, but also, admittedly, the short-term consequences are generally less dire for most people (long COVID excepted). But it’s still very much possible to catch COVID here.

It came up in conversation: how many people in Ontario got COVID during the Omicron wave? I saw an estimate from wastewater of 1.5 to 4 million cases, which is 10-25% of population (I think on the Ontario science table webpage). It’s not everyone, at least in this wave.

So, I’ve been choosing my activities carefully, but they certainly haven’t been risk free. I hope I’ve been making the right choices: I’ll do things with people important to me and also sports. I don’t do things with risk and no upside. I don’t like having to make these choices.

February activities included judo practice (unmasked), bouldering (masked), and going to Quebec City (mostly masked) and Montreal. Just to keep track, I wrote down the unmasked activities I did in Montreal. Also, since Monday, teaching in person (small attendance, masked).

New Zealand

Last month, I wrote:

They have a plan for when Omicron explodes, aiming to slow the spread.

Welp, Omicron had arrived in NZ a month ago, and now it has exploded. There was simply too much Omicron for MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine, at the border) to contain, and then for test-and-trace (despite heroic efforts for much of February). MIQ in particular is a system run by people, who are fallible. Now it’s in the community, to the tune of about 20,000 cases a day as of March 1. The 95% vaccination rate among 12+ and 71% of eligible boosted (18+, 3 months since dose 2) is going to help with severe outcomes, though hospitalizations are still at an all-time high. We might expect to see a few bad outcomes in children with Omicron, unfortunately.

It’s complicated, though. If New Zealand had kept out Omicron through the global wave, then MIQ could stop it now. But MIQ was scheduled to end now anyway; it’s unsustainable to run forever. So, then what? And even with the now-low levels detected at the border, it would still get into the community. Usually later is better for facing COVID, but it’s by no means certain that there is going to be a better vaccine 6 months from now, and the existing immunity will wane to some extent. There would be more Paxlovid, at least. I dunno.

I said last month that I expected the Ontario peak to be comfortably in the past, and it is. Maybe it was January 14, in retrospect. And for NZ, at any rate, the peak is supposed to be about two weeks from now. If we’re lucky, the NZ peak will be behind us by March 1, though that’s by no means certain; and even past the peak there are stil lots of people getting COVID.

Meanwhile, yes, the border is open to me (as an existing visa holder) as of 23:59 on 12 April, if they don’t move it earlier. And self-isolation will be dropped as of today. So I’ll have 2.5 weeks in New Zealand without any self-isolation. Hope I don’t have to hide out from COVID. Though I’m more than ready to do so if needed.

University

Have been doing in-person teaching since February 28. That’s one lecture. Nine students out of 150 came at 8:30. I spent Feb 27 planning flipped activities.

The townhouse

Nothing much to say here. Replaced most of the missing things now, though I could have sworn that I used to own more socks than I do now. There really isn’t any other place they could be though. Maybe I should buy more.

Everything is sorted, including the outdoor gear and the books. The small exceptions are pictures, which are still mostly on the dining room table, and some magazines on the floor in the computer room.

I talked about getting rid of stuff. I got rid of a small amount of stuff both at home and at my parents’ place.

Work setup

I talked about this last month. I managed to get the camera working with gPhoto2. It took just a bit longer than the 15 minutes I had before I needed it today, but I did manage to use it for a subsequent Zoom meeting. Somehow it doesn’t get blown out as much by the daylight in the computer room.

February posts

Quick post about how I improved my happiness level by switching around lightbulbs in an airbnb.

  • Warm lights FTW: no, really, I was so satisfied sitting in the room with the warm light that I’d brought from the bathroom.

Not so many posts, but I did pictures.

Pictures

It’s about 1-2 evenings to process a day of photos now, pretty consistently. I do it when it’s too late for me to think about more challenging topics. Mostly it’s selection, along with horizon alignment, cropping, and the most basic colour adjustment.

Bugaboos: Moon over tent at Appleby Campground; Aaron inspects the route; me atop W Ridge of Pigeon Spire. Jumbo Circuit: Rockies-like tilted fault topography; sunrise at Jumbo Hut. End of day crowds at Mont-Ste-Anne.

To do, all from 2021:

  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [April] Avalanche Peak, Mount Somers Track
  • [June] Rotorua (airport walk)
  • [July] Hobbiton
  • [July] Aotea
  • [August] Cook Islands
  • [September] Sea to Sky II
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track
  • [October] Mt. Cook and Mt. Somers
  • [October] Red Rocks
  • [November] Waikanae, eclipse
  • [November] Timaru Circuit: Mount Cook / Oamaru
  • [November] Leaving NZ

There are also a couple of pictures from 2022:

  • [January] Walking around KW
  • [February] Reading week trip to Montreal

Professional

We were hoping to submit to ECOOP but didn’t quite manage to finish on time. FSE is in two weeks and I think we should have interesting results by then. This is another resubmission. I also worked on making sure the data for our ISSTA submission replicates well. That’s pretty much there now, with one minor exception that I thought I’d fixed, but nope.

Since I was actively working on the ECOOP submission I talked to my students on 13 days and I think there was one walk with students. Every two weeks seems good for student walks, but things are a bit busy right now. I also talked with a prospective student, admitting him, and wrote a letter for a current student to attend a summer school.

I’m trying to figure out how to get my Indian student a visa to visit New Zealand before October, but it seems difficult. If anyone reading this has any leads, please let me know!

Teaching

Static Analysis for Software Engineering is proceeding well, and going forward I only have one more paper presentation to do. There are three more weeks of class, plus final project presentations.

I ran a flipped classroom session for the first in-person meeting of Programming for Performance. Not sure if it’s actually higher impact to flip, given that there were just 9 students, but I enjoy a more interactive experience, since I don’t think lectures are very interactive. Good to see the students that showed up, and with the current state of Omicron and the number of students present, pretty low risk. (I also went back to last year’s Assignment 3 discussion on Piazza and added clarifications from there for this year’s release.)

I also attended a Remote to Flipped Workshop by our Centre for Teaching Excellence. I think I had the low-level tactics pretty much in-hand, but I greatly appreciated the discussion of higher-level strategy at a whole-course level. They really try to make sure that we don’t increase workload by having the videos plus in-person content; we should instead focus on what is important. I support that! (Also happy to not think about curriculum at a whole-program level, though I do chat with the current SE Director about that sometimes).

Collegiality

Felt like a lot. Internally, I went to a department meeting and 3 hiring talks. (There are a lot of ECE hiring talks; I’m at least trying to go to the more relevant ones). At a University level, it is busy season for the FAUW Nominations and Elections Committee, and we’re filling a bunch of positions and finding candidates for the upcoming Board elections.

There was also a lot of external service: I participated in an IQAP visit for a peer SE program, which was two days plus a day of report writing; participated in PLDI discussion and meta-review writing (I got 5 of those to do, though some were easier than others); and SIGPLAN-M mentoring.

Travels

  • 🚶 Walking: 80km (essentialy same as January for a shorter month)
  • 🚲 Biking: 108.6km (down 40% from January)
  • 🚗 Driving: 909km (argh; three airport runs and a Toronto visit, plus driving to Mont-Ste-Anne)
  • ⛷ Skiing: 72km (also 72km chairlift)
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 34km (Montréal)
  • 🚇 Métro distance: 71.8km
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 2596km (YYZ-YUL round trip twice, YUL-YQB round trip)

Kind of cold but normal for February? Got around much more than in January, but not too much more walking. Probably not that much walking in March either.

Travel planning

I bought my ticket for Wellington in February. I also planned my upcoming March trips (Edmonton to Saskatchewan and back; and Vancouver) almost completely.

Other sports

  • downhill skiing, YQB
  • back to climbing (3x), judo (2x) in second half of the month.

There was downhill skiing near Québec City. It’s pretty good. I went to Stoneham on Friday night as it looked to have better night skiing than Mont-Ste-Anne (nothing interesting is open at Mont-Ste-Anne at night) and was only a small detour on my way from the airport to Mont-Ste-Anne. Then I went for a bit more than a half day on Saturday and as long as I could on Sunday before heading to my flight. It was really quite cold that weekend, so I didn’t want to start too early. But the scenery was much more scenic on Saturday (blue skies) than Sunday (overcast). I eventually made my way over to the versant sud, where all the diamonds and double-diamonds are, and did a lot of laps there. Good bumps and trees, especially the Forêt Noire (which isn’t one run, but a collection of them). It really is quite viable for a weekend from Waterloo, especially since the mountain is close to the town/airport. I definitely like it better than Tremblant. Lift tickets are expensive, car rental and lodging wasn’t too bad. Had St-Hubert chicken for the first time in two years.

Ile d'Orléans from Chutes Montmorency; night skiing at Stoneham; day skiing at Mont-Ste-Anne; some structure atop the mountain.

Google failed me in Quebec City for late-night groceries. There was this pretty tiny expensive 24h grocery place which wasn’t even self-serve. (The person said that the packaged cookies she had were healthy….?) Across the street, there was a perfectly fine grocery store open until 11pm, where I provisioned for the weekend. In particular I got bars for lunch so that I could (1) ski more (which I’ve done for a long time) and (2) avoid eating inside (which is a new thing I’m avoiding).

Went back to the climbing gym mid-February. (“The” isn’t quite right, I’ve also been to Bloc Shop in Montreal, which is graded one or two V-ratings easier than Grand River Rocks I think.) Actually despite having a lifetime membership for the Kitchener location, I paid for a 4-month membership for the Waterloo location. Figured they could use the money, and it’s usefully located for me when it’s winter and I’m busy. Bouldering isn’t my favourite, but maybe I’ve been getting better at it. I guess we’ll see when I manage to climb V6s. Climbing is sort of objective that way.

At Bloc Shop they issued everyone a fresh surgical mask. I wore it over my N95.

And the riskiest sport activity I’ve done is judo, at my home club in Montreal on February 21, and in Kitchener starting February 24. Well, there really weren’t many people at home, so that limits risk by definition. But there are more in Kitchener. It really would be hard to do judo with a mask. Climbing’s fine, but judo is too aerobic. (I noticed the Canadian women’s hockey team at the Olympics wore masks in their first match but not in the final; on the other hand, there wouldn’t be more games that they needed to stay healthy for, and everyone had presumably been in the bubble for longer by then).

GRR Waterloo; Bloc Shop Hochelaga; Asahi Judo.

Happily, my weight is dropping again, so hopefully I can indeed fight in -60 at the provincial championships and then nationals. I’d rather not do them, but I need 16 grading points at Canadian circuit tournaments, and it’s been hard to get them these past few years.

Life maintenance

Got a haircut. Wore an inconvenient mask; note to self: ear loops. Went to the optometrist. Think my eyes got worse in the last 6 months somehow. Maybe work related.

Food

I went to one restaurant in Montreal with aunts and uncles, and had coffee twice. And I ate in some airplanes and in the Montreal and Toronto Maple Leaf Lounges. So far, no COVID, so that’s good.

  • Le Moineau Masqué, Montreal café
  • Bellepros near my parents’ house, for perhaps my favourite poutine (fries a bit soggy, but tasty)
  • Kam Shing Côte-des-Neiges: Chinese restaurant; where else would my family go out to eat?
  • St-Hubert: mmm BBQ chicken. Take-out in Quebec 400m from my motel.
  • Sherbrooke 2 pour 1 Pizza: has very average reviews (3.3*) but I really can’t complain about the gyro.

Due to all this travel I only got to the Kitchener Market once. Huh.

St-Hubert; poutine; gyro; not Schwartz's, but good smoked meat at YUL MLL.

Purchases

What I got:

  • from MEC: backcountry skiing gloves (clearance), that are slightly warmer than what I had before; replacement dogbones for quickdraws; bike lights; binoculars; got alpine skiing boot adjusted to be easier to buckle (after 15 years); rain pants; lots of Mountain House freeze-dried food (clearance).
  • partially repaired X1 Carbon 6th gen; TrackPoint doesn’t work—one advantage of not doing it yourself is that parts from the supplier that are broken get replaced for free.
  • Kakapo Lego kit arrived; will have to find time to do it in March!
  • Plane ticket to New Zealand.
Kakapo Lego, and fiendishly difficult puzzle encountered at friends' house.

Conclusion

A more typical February for me. Still being pretty cautious but doing more risky than in January; on the other hand, community prevalence is also much lower, so maybe total risk didn’t increase too much. Pretty busy with work, as is usual during a teaching term.