April: between Winter and Spring; more travels

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, May 1, 2022

Table Of Contents

Status

Recurring trend: writing these while in transit. I’m on AC796 from LAX to YYZ (and now on VIA 62 from Toronto to Montreal). Hope I haven’t caught COVID on the plane. Fortunately there is still a mask mandate on all of the planes I’ve been on, but people aren’t always great at wearing their masks properly.

On the plane from YYZ to LAX; arriving in Auckland, with Montreal-style bagels available; lots of people ready to fly from Auckland to LA; cheeky Air NZ bathroom humour ("Will you marry me? I love your country"); back at LAX.

Not that much has changed yet in terms of tech. Maybe there will be omicron vaccine results in a few months. Took longer than I expected. Hopefully it’ll work and also on the new new variants. Kid vaccines might come in a few months too. I just learned that three nasal spray vaccines are in Phase 3 trials and eight in some sort of trials, which is good news at least.

The unwillingness of people to wear masks is shocking to me. COVID is bad. You don’t want it if you can avoid it. Wearing a mask is kind of annoying, but isn’t that hard.

I am glad that the University of Waterloo extended its mask mandate to at least include the start of the Spring term. With what we can guess about today’s numbers, I think it would be irresponsible not to.

In April I was in Montreal, Yellowknife, and New Zealand (Wellington and Northland), taking advantage of the weeks between the end of the Winter term and the start of the Spring term. I entered New Zealand the first day I possibly could, April 13, flying through LAX. The flight to Auckland wasn’t busy at all. The flight from Auckland back to LAX was completely full, as is LAX-YYZ.

Flying was less complicated now that Canada has dropped the testing requirement; the US still requires a supervised RAT. I brought a Switch Health test and that worked. I don’t think I’d say it’s cheaper, because the ticket to NZ was pretty pricey. The cash I saved on the PCR went instead to Air NZ.

OK, so what’s the epidemiological situation? Still trying to dodge COVID. In Canada and New Zealand, it’s probably not the hardest time to do so for those of us without kids; the last few months were harder. But people are still getting COVID. About 7000 per day in New Zealand. We really have no idea about Quebec and Ontario. I heard that Ontario is only detecting 7% of infections. Didn’t eat inside any restaurants in April, airport lounges excluded.

I have some higher-risk events coming up, in particular the pre-Nationals judo training camp. Still more COVID than I’d like. The tournament itself should be fairly low risk; one just doesn’t fight that many people.

Meal for a pied stilt; aurora borealis outside Yellowknife; Zealandia tui; me and Cape Reinga lighthouse

New Zealand

More below on my trip. While we were hiking the Te Paki Coastal Walk we got residency. So on this brief 2.5 week trip I entered NZ on a work visa and left as a resident. It’s too bad I’m leaving, but I’ll be back as soon as I can. Still, I have things that I’d like to do that are best done in Canada. Will re-evaluate that situation in a few years.

University

Was barely on campus in April: two (teaching) days at the beginning of April. Probably won’t be on campus much more in Spring than in Winter, although Walks as a Service will be easier.

Work setup

Not quite optimal in New Zealand, but it was just for 2.5 weeks, of which 1 week was vacation. Didn’t have many calls either (it’s the semi-quiet time between terms). Bringing back the USB-to-HDMI widget, so I’ll have more options for connecting my camera.

If you put succulents outside in small pots in Wellington, they just do their thing! (I later removed some grass).

The townhouse & life maintenance

They are also going to replace the failed bedroom windows, which is nice, but took some doing. Apparently trades are difficult to hire for small jobs.

Possessions

  • Christmas pysanka ornament from airbnb host in Yellowknife (thanks, looks great!)
  • Replaced approach shoes with same kind.
  • I thought the dining room in Wellington was kind of dark. Two light bulbs later, it’s better. The eco-store didn’t recognize the CFLs as such until I pointed it out. (“Hey, that light bulb is a CFL and has mercury in it…”)
  • Exercise bands for plyometrics.
  • Another lightbulb for that Montreal airbnb.

The webbing belt last month I got was stretchy, which is actually not quite as good as my existing one, because it’s harder to attach things to it. Useful for normal life, though, since I don’t actually wear things on my belt except when hiking. I’m not that unfasionable.

I really appreciated the 210mm lens for the A6600. There are some pictures that are just impossible with my point and shoot, and would have been worse with the bridge camera. It’s also just faster to take pictures, though it’s also easier to inadvertently leave it on and drain the battery.

Two herons; flying spoonbills; flying stilts; grey warbler.

It might be good to travel with extra pants in case of spillage on planes. But pants are heavy. Maybe the lightest pants I own, or pyjamas, for emergency situations. Not as if I’ve just spilled things on myself.

I again barely used my sunglasses. I guess I actually did use them once on the beach when it was very sunny.

Professional

Reading social media is often not useful, except when it is! You might notice someone observing that the ASE abstract deadline is that day (or that the judo nationals signup deadline is that day). We’ll try to retarget ISSTA to ASE. Could work. Otherwise, I made a work plan for where my submissions are going in the next term.

Since I was less physically present in Waterloo in April, I had no in-person interactions with students except for delivering two flipped lectures, plus project presentations for my graduate class. I was really scarce to my grad students this month, talking to them on 3 days. That will change as the new term starts. Also flew on the same plane YYZ-LAX with ex-grad student and had dinner at his place. (Congratulations Jon for your teaching-stream faculty offer from the University of Toronto!)

Talked to a Capstone Design group that was trying to get ready early and doing something in line with my research interests.

Was a research interview subject for climbing-related research.

Collegiality

Average amount:

  • SE Board: prepared statistics, called in from the lounge
  • other SE service: wrote prospective ugrad student notes, drafted a constitution
  • evaluated an ECE 499 project
  • FAUW NEC: election wrap-up
  • attended CS 497 showcase

Running into colleagues in the hallway is useful! But I’m not super keen on going in to the office more just to be able to do that.

Teaching

Wrapped up Winter courses. Had exam prep, perhaps my least favourite teaching-related activity (maybe exam marking is worse). Made cookies for ECE459 students, much more favourite.

Prepared for ECE 653 and SE 490 in Spring.

Travels

  • 🚢 Walking: 166km (yay, go Te Paki Coastal Track)
  • 🚲 Biking: 142km (the Kelburn hill is a disincentive)
  • πŸš— Driving: 1323km (NZ 750km, NWT 174km)
  • πŸš† Train: 128km (UP Express & Auckland Eastern Line)
  • πŸš‡ MΓ©tro: 24km
  • πŸš— Taxi: 142km (one YYZ-to-home will do that)
  • 🚌 Bus: 280km (including Buses Replacing Trains to Waikanae)
  • πŸš‡ MΓ©tro: 24km
  • πŸ›© Plane: 39681km (YUL, YZF, WLG, KKE)
  • β›· Skiing: 16km
  • β›΄ Boat: 43km (Bay of Islands Snorkeling)

That is a lot of plane; New Zealand is far. Walking quantity is satisfactory.

Trip: Yellowknife

This should be a post on its own. Here it is.

Post: There was a few days after classes ended and before the New Zealand border opened for me, so I decided to visit the Northwest Territories.

Aurora viewing near the Yellowknife airport; NWT Judo Association; Bush Pilots' Memorial.

Trip: New Zealand

Really wish I could have stayed longer than 2.5 weeks, but had to return to Waterloo to do my job on May 2, and was only able to enter on April 13. We made the most of it, with a small hike to Kapakapanui near Wellington (bike + train access is usually possible, but there was Buses Replaing Trains), and a longer hike in Northland. I figured that, with COVID, tents were better than huts, and Te Paki is a tent-only hike. We did it in 3 reasonable days. It has a bit of everything in terms of scenery. Lots of beaches for sure. Kind of like Abel Tasman that way. But also Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Reinga), a place of spiritual significance to Maori and a significant tourist draw, and also native bush. Lots of pied stilts in particular.

We also went snorkeling and visited two different boulder sites: Koutu Boulders and Wairere Boulders. Also the “God of the Forest”, Tane Mahuta, and Manea Footprints of Kupe.

We saw a lot of seabirds around Northland in general and also on Te Paki. There was a huge flock of spoonbills, a fair number of pied stilts, welcome swallows, heron, kingfishers, and also silvereye.

We had gone to Tipsy Oyster in Paihia a few years ago and liked it. We tried again. Well, first, we parked outside a happening bar with a bachelorette party and thought that was the Tipsy Oyster. Didn’t want COVID along with our oysters. Eventually figured out that it was not the Tipsy Oyster and went there. Unfortunately they were out of oysters.

Was also nice to see people in New Zealand again. MP of course but everyone else too, or at least those I could fit in. Also Zealandia.

UP Express Frustration

I had a really unfortunate series of waits for the UP Express. 30 minute headways are terrible for something that’s supposed to be a frequent and convenient service to Pearson. The service is convenient when you’re on it, but the 30 minute headway means that, on average, you spend a lot of time waiting for it. The pre-pandemic 15 minute headways are way better.

  • April 3: 31 minutes (flying into Billy Bishop, picking up car from Pearson; YTZ shuttle seems antisynchronized with UP Express)
  • April 6: 31 minutes (going to Yellowknife YZF; just my bad timing)
  • April 9: 33 minutes (coming back from YZF; bad luck with plane landing time)
  • April 10: 22 minutes (going to NZ; again my pessimal timing)

Argh! (Then again, when I was leaving YYZ, there was a guy waiting for a taxi which had been circling the airport for 50 minutes looking for the pickup spot. Wow.)

Future travel planning

Bought tickets for YGR (Îles de la Madeleine) for Canada Day. MP will spend 8 days there with her mother. I’ll spend the 4-day weekend. Updated the spreadsheet for MP’s Canada tour.

Finalized planning of the Northland (Kerikeri, Te Paki, Cape Reinga) trip; more about that below.

Other sports

  • Judo: tournament and refereeing, plus 5 practices (1 in Yellowknife).
  • Bouldering: twice (GRR, Hangdog)
  • Cross-country skiing: it’s the thing to do in April in Yellowknife! Frame Lake; tried to do Plant Lake but that was just bushwhacking; Yellowknife Ski Club 10km loop.
  • Bike trip around Miramar Peninsula and then back to Kelburn. Thought about doing a segment of the Remutaka Cycle Trail but it’s hard to get a good fitting rental bike for MP and this was lower-commitment.
  • Bay of Islands Snorkeling: lots of fish around the Bay of Islands, see them up close.
Behind the tables at the Quebec judo provincial championships; cross-country skiing on Frame Lake and seeing hockey opportunities; potential crag at Cameron Ramparts on Ingraham Trail; seen while biking around the Miramar Peninsula; returning the bike; lots of snapper at Urupukapuka Island.

Food

  • Vua Sandwiches again: may be my favourite banh mi place in Montreal. Got upsold to a large.
  • Bullock’s Bistro (Yellowknife): “should I have the fish fried or grilled?” “definitely grilled” was the correct answer, some of the best grilled fish I’ve had. It was arctic char. Pricey but well worth it.
  • Winner Winner (Wellington): way better BBQ chicken than the NZ grocery store
  • Pinches Taco (LA): ah, finally had Cal-Mex food after years, while dropping by Jon’s place.

Imported to New Zealand:

  • Packaged chicken: can’t get it in Canada or NZ. You can get chicken in cans but not in plastic pouches. I’m not hiking with a can if I can avoid it. Useful for ramen.
  • St-Hubert sauce packets to eat with BBQ chicken.
  • Ketchup chips.
Chocolate chip cookies I made; awesome grilled Arctic char from Bullock's Bistro; imported ketchup chips.

April posts

None.

Pictures

Some progress on the 2021 archives, plus Kerikeri and Zealandia.

Way too many pictures on the hard drive now. No space!

To do, all from 2021:

  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [April] Avalanche Peak, Mount Somers Track (there are some really good pictures here!)
  • [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] Arriving in Oamaru (Nov 21)
  • [November] Leaving NZ

Even more pictures from 2022:

  • [January] Walking around KW
  • [February] Reading week trip to Montreal
  • [March] Avalanche course
  • [April] Yellowknife
  • [April] Kapakapanui
  • [April] Northland

Conclusion

I did really enjoy my trip to NZ and brief Northland vacation. Was good to see people in NZ again (including, of course, MP). Glad that the Winter term is done, but I have more teaching coming up in Spring. Yellowknife was interesting too, was quite a contrast to NZ in some ways and not in others; I get the feeling that the ethos isn’t that different, and there is certainly more aboriginal influence there than in Ontario.