July: last month of classes for Spring, plus some trips

Posted by Patrick Lam on Monday, August 1, 2022

Table Of Contents

Status

I was home this weekend for the first weekend in 5 weeks (so I am not writing this on a plane). There was definitely a bunch of work from different locations in July, plus a few days of recreation when I could; the month wasn’t as brutal as June, but not a breeze either. The trips (pretty much all Thursday afternoon through Monday):

I’ve been working on eating peaches this week before they go bad. I’m up to about 3 or 4 peaches a day. Towards very late June/early July this year’s strawberries came into season (seems later than I’d expect).

Aside from writing papers (which delayed the June report), I’ve been doing teaching-related work, like running the auto-grade scripts (and responding to zillions of regrade requests) and setting the exam. The end is in sight, though. The exam is ready to go. Just have projects and exams to mark once they come in, as well as running one more autograde.

COVID continues to be a thing, and Ontario and Quebec declared a 7th wave near the beginning of July. Wastewater data suggests that it’s now at a high plateau in Ontario. Lower than the Omicron peaks in January and April but higher than the valleys in February and June. People still seem to be ignoring it. A couple of hospital emergency departments are full. The NZ reported numbers are now estimated to be 50% of actual numbers and, after an early July wave, the moving average continues to go down; school holidays recently ended, but masks are required in schools for students 8 and up (once again, pretty sensible; and, “zero pushback from students”).

On my trip to Montreal I figured I’d be able to get a fourth dose, and Novavax is available as a booster there. Apparently one can’t get Novavax as a booster in Ontario. Vaccines are available to everyone who is in Quebec, whether resident or not. (They are also doing this with monkeypox vaccine, and indeed, there was monkeypox vaccination going on where I got the COVID vaccine too). There is suggestive data about Novavax efficacy, but it’s not super conclusive.

I made an appointment by calling Clic-Santé; there were some walk-in spots for Novavax in Laval and on the South Shore, but that seemed to involve an hour of driving overall. It did take an hour for them to enter my vaccine info, partly because of a data entry problem when I called to make my appointment (my name is not Patrick Lan), and also because Ontario entered a bogus Canadian lot number on my NZ vaccination. I had to remember that I could log in to mycovidrecord to show them the NZ record (the NZ International Vaccine Certificate only shows the most recent dose).

Serves me right for not having an active RAMQ number.

Ruth and dom; butterfly on Grosse Île; Lake Placid; Stanley Park crow; Montreal elephant.

University

This really was a much more normal month for me than June; I went to campus 7 times, 6 for some teaching-related task. There was an ECE lunch which I combined with teaching. There was also a departmental retreat which I was able to attend for an hour, after teaching.

I had a cold on a day when I was supposed to be teaching. Given the number of rapid tests I did, I’m quite sure it wasn’t COVID. But, in the interest of modelling staying home while sick, I cancelled lecture that day (and I worked on the VISSOFT submission all day… not the best thing when actually sick.)

In the before times I would also do graduate student meetings in person, but now I don’t (unless it’s a walking meeting). That was the other major reason to go to campus. I had one walking grad student meeting in June.

I guess I can reiterate that casual encounters at a university are super useful, but I still don’t know how to reproduce their serendipity.

The townhouse & life maintenance

Not much. MP applied some caulk in the bathroom (shower water diverter) and kitchen (in lieu of backsplash). We had someone come and measure the door that needs replacement due to pavement ants. Which are great, but better outside the house.

Stuff management

The lamp works, though with a low wattage bulb. I could get a higher wattage bulb. MP says it’s taken 9 years to get this thing working.

Better. Let's call that good enough.

I bought a few other things:

MP brought her winter jacket to Nadia’s Express Tailors in Waterloo and got the zipper fixed. We’ve been requested to bring manuka balm.

Professional

I wrote the June report halfway through July because I was busy writing papers. Still, I think July was less of a grind than June.

We got a (short) paper accepted and a paper rejected so far. I did work with Sruthi intensively on the (successful) VISSOFT submission, collaborating with Jens and Craig on it. Still waiting on a grant and another paper (which is maybe a bit of a long shot, but we’ll see in two weeks). That paper, for Onward!, was based on Ali’s master’s thesis, but Ali has graduated a while ago, so it was mostly just me massaging the text.

I talked to my students on 7 days, which is once and a half every week. Also met up with ex-PhD student Jon who is moving to Waterloo; and an SE alum, in Montreal. Haven’t done group walk/event since having two events in close succession in June (one to celebrate graduation). Maybe I should try to be more consistent with group walks. Anyway, group event planned for August 13. Once a term would seem about right for group events, except that there was graduation.

Well, 24/31 days with work in July is less than 30/30 in June, but there are only 20 work days in July.

Collegiality

Negligible this month. I do have a journal article waiting for me to review as well as a PhD thesis, but I haven’t done them yet. I had one Walks as a Service and one dinner with an SE alum. I went to a session where faculty provided input on acadmeic integrity issues for graduate students.

Teaching

Lectures wrapped up, but still, having 125 students in a course is a lot of work. The grad course really was high workload (and I say that before marking the projects and finals).

The Capstone Design Project course is lower workload, though still some (I should count how much). Having TAs for Capstone Design seems quite helpful. I wonder if we made that course more busywork-heavy than last time I taught it in 2018; that is, there are certainly more deliverables now. Do they help? A week-by-week list of deliverables would help.

Looking forward to not teaching next term.

Travels

This month, I was in Waterloo for 18 days.

  • 🚶 Walking: 108km on 26 days (lower end of averages from 2021)
  • 🚲 Biking: 93km on 9 days (tried to limit biking, and also out of town a bunch)
  • 🚌 Bus: 135km on 4 days (P&B bus from Cape to Logan)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 8km on 1 day (from Pearson to airport hotel)
  • 🛩 Plane: 11156km on 6 days (YYZ-YUL-YGR and back; YYZ-YVR and back; YYZ-BOS and back)
  • 🏍 Scooter distance: 190km on 4 days (you really can go pretty far on the Iles de la Madeleine)
  • 🚇 Métro: 10km on 2 days
  • 🚆 SkyTrain: 25km on 2 days
  • 🚗 Driving: 2701km on 20 days (trips do that; but only drove within KW once)

I did manage to reduce the amount of biking in July and increased walking, which feels like the right direction for now. (I’ve had pinched nerve arm tingling since mid-June, and went to the doctor in mid-July and a couple of days later the physio. It was definitely doing worse after physio, and is now back to about the status before going to the physio.)

I am surprised by how much scootering there was in July.

There was a lot of driving associated with trips. And flying. That was just one transcontinental flight, plus two flights to places that were pretty far east in North America. I didn’t even ride the Stanley Park tourist train.

Planes (a bunch), scooters (ok amount), trains (0 ridden), and cars (too much).

Trip: Îles-de-la-Madeleine

As MP puts it, she invited herself to join her mother’s vacation with her aunt. I came along too. Figured it was also a good chance to explore this remote area of Quebec.

As the name suggests, they are islands (an archipelago), and there seems to be a bit of island time going on too. We waited for an hour at the airport to get driven to the central rental agency to pick up the scooter. (They were busy getting everyone who had rented a car out first).

The accent is a bit different. People say it’s somewhat Acadian. It’s not uniform; different people have different accents. We got poutine near Grosse-Ile and there is in fact a small Scottish community there: the shop owner preferentially talked to us in English.

The Îles are famous for kitesurfing (which I’ve never tried) and for birds. We did see a few birds, but aren’t good enough at birding to see lots of birds (and we didn’t optimize our trip that way either).

We did do some walking and saw beaches and lighthouses. There is a compostelle-style walk, the Sentiers entre Vents et Marées, but the segment (12 Île Centrale) we did on the Cap-aux-Meules was all road walking and had marginal views (couple of minutes of good views, mostly meh) until we bailed and got a ride (from a nearby birder—I could guess from the gear in her car, and confirmed the guess). We did miss a segment of more beach-like walking on this segment.

Flying tern; eider ducks; savannah sparrow; tern got fish; busy YYZ.

Trip: Montreal

Mostly visiting family; in particular MP visiting her dad’s family and family friends. My parents did express a desire for takeout Chinese food so I used my Google skills to source the optimal choice (from Brossard) and bring it to them. MP also had St-Hubert chicken for the first time in a while (though I imported package sauce to NZ, so we can do almost as well there by combining with Winner Winner; hard to do coleslaw though).

We made it out to St. Jean sur Richelieu to visit MP’s brother; I’ll be back on August 20 and 21 for judo.

Wellington Street in Verdun got pedestrianized and seems to have a good vibe. I didn’t get to spend enough time there aside from eating at a restaurant.

Tristan at the office; MP's family; Wellington Street; Montreal vaccine clinic; MP.

Driving to Montreal is terrible and it looks like I have one more trip this year along the 401 to get to St. Jean sur Richelieu. Which is more trips than I’d like to take. But it would have been inconvenient and expensive to go to Montreal in July without the car.

I also wanted to repatriate MP’s bike from my parents’ basement, but didn’t plan the logistics properly (early start to Adirondacks, late night in Brossard, things are far.)

Since we had the car, I also added a side trip to Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks, staying at TMax and Topo’s (private room). I would recommend that as a place to stay in the Adirondacks. I’ve also camped outside the ACC Montreal Section hut. That works too. Somehow, the hike wasn’t as nice as hikes in New Zealand.

Giant Mountain trip: St. Eustace church in Lake Placid; Chapel Pond Slab climbs; descending.

Trip: Vancouver

Going to New Zealand involves flying to the West Coast and then across the Pacific. (Well, you can now fly from Houston or Newark too, but still.) I figured that we could visit Vancouver for the weekend and then send off MP to New Zealand from there. She also stopped overnight in Honolulu and went to Diamond Head, which I’m told was great.

All of my July flights were daytime flights and the flight from Toronto to Vancouver was on a spectacular day. The Canadian Rockies are indeed impressive. More than NZ’s Southern Alps, I’d say.

We were planning to do hiking and climbing. It drizzled, but we only did climbing, because we were told that there was still quite a bit of unfrozen snow on the trails which we’d just sink in. So, on Friday, we did Rambles, a 3-pitch climb on the Lower Apron, and on Saturday, we did the 6-pitch classic Diedre on the Apron. The drizzle made things challenging, and I was a bit rusty with multipitch technique, but we got up all right. Thanks to Ilze for letting us stay in her guest room!

About to climb; on The Rambles; the business on Diedre.

We also walked around Vancouver on Sunday and Monday morning. Mostly Stanley Park and Granville Island Public Market. Excellent sushi, as we expected. MP says we should investigate living in Vancouver, but it is expensive and it is dark and rainy in the winter. I think NZ has better weather, but it’s also much farther from Montreal.

Over the Rockies; roses; Stanley Park train; heron; raccoon; gull eating starfish; Vancouver skyline; Granville Public Market.

Trip: Cape Cod

It’s been a while since I visited dom and Ruth, and they have been enjoying their new cottage on the Cape—specifically in Dennis, MA, which is I guess near the start of the Cape. (I seem to get to Boston every 4 years on average). So I booked a trip for the weekend after MP left.

Boston feels like it shouldn’t be that far, but it kind of is, still; door-to-door time could be as little as 5.5 hours, which is not nothing. Being an hour from the airport doesn’t help.

  • left at 10:45AM for a 4PM flight (could have left at 1:30 with minimal margin for error vs 401 disasters)
  • doing ParkForU saves a bunch of money (a hundred dollars?) and is less annoying than waiting for the Park ‘N Fly shuttle, but does still take some time: you drive to their lot, their driver drops you off at the airport.
  • there were customs and security lines, but not for me with NEXUS: probably less than 15 minutes from curb to lounge, including US Customs (even if all but 2 of the NEXUS/Global Entry kiosks were down).
  • got to Boston Logan at 6:30PM and to Assembly Square at 7:15PM.

Managed to fit in a visit to Tohoku Judo Club; Thursdays aren’t the most popular night, but a Monday/Wednesday visit was too hard logistically. Good to see Sergey. Thirsty Thursdays at the conveniently located pub downstairs. Since there were only two other people (including 1 server) at the pub, I figured that additional COVID risk was minimal.

Seems like every 4 years I manage to visit Tohoku.

I can see how the Cape is a welcome change of scene from Somerville, even with living on a street with some trees. I’d like to live somewhere more urban, but I guess it really depends on where it is. There was a nearby lake which I actually swam in for a while. We visited some tourist sites nearby like Scargo Tower and not as close by like the Shark Center. There were also seals and birds on the Chatham Pier (wish I had the 210mm lens), and lobster rolls at 2.5× the Îles de la Madeleine price. We went for some short walks but the 33C weather made it unwise to do anything longer.

Scargo Tower; surfacing seal; seagulls at sunset; crab on the beach; Fort Hill.

Getting back was a bit exciting. I was supposed to go back on the Monday, but Air Canada anticipated thunderstorm problems and allowed free changes, so I changed to a Tuesday flight. Had to call in to make the change. It’s actually kind of a pain to do this by phone: definitely when Skype takes a while to load credit (didn’t it used to be easier to call landlines purely over IP?) and also when it wants a callback number. Borrowing a local phone was much easier.

The flight I was originally on (well, that I’d changed to a month earlier) ended up delayed by 2 hours. That’s fine if you know that you are only going to be delayed 2 hours, but you don’t really know how many hours you’re signed up for. And the airport was far from where I was staying on the Cape. The Tuesday flight I was on operated smoothly. The two other Tuesday flights before that one were cancelled, oops.

Air Canada is now operating out of a larger space in Terminal B rather than just the corner, so that’s nice. The terminal is much more spacious than I remember. (Terminal E used to be airy, but not Terminal B).

Future travel planning

I did change my NZ ticket to August 22 and then to August 21 (for an additional modest fee of $150, sigh).

As mentioned, there was thunderstorm-incited on-the-fly travel planning on Cape Cod.

I forgot about some travel planning I did in June. I booked a ticket from Wellington to Nelson for the judo South Island championships in mid-September.

But, my TripIt remains quite empty for now, with just St. Jean sur Richelieu, NZ (in 19 days!), and the subtrip to Nelson.

Sports

Sandbagged on "Give a hoot, don't noise pollute".

Not so much this month due to the travelling. At least I managed to walk a borderline decent amount.

  • Judo: 3× (5th dan application approved, now I just have to show up for a clinic on August 20-21).
  • Climbing: 0× inside; two days at Squamish in the rain (somewhat rusty at multipitch); one day at Rattlesnake Point.
  • Hiking: Giant Mountain (Adirondacks). Some walks on the Iles de la Madeleine. Stanley Park. Fort Hill/Red Maple Swamp/Salt Pond on Cape Cod in super hot weather.

Food and Drink

Îles de la Madeleine

Montreal

Lake Placid

Waterloo

  • Proof Kitchen/Lounge: Hadn’t been here for a while; it continues to be a good semi-fancy choice for Waterloo.
  • Ethel’s Lounge: I didn’t eat here, but I had reports of a disappointing Buffalo wrap (not tangy).

Vancouver

  • Marutama Richmond: MP really didn’t like her ramen.
  • Cork and Craft, Squamish: tacos were OK, as I recall.
  • Sushi Sen, Squamish: as good as last time 10 years ago. BC sushi FTW.
  • Narwhals Ice Cream, Squamish: super dense ice cream sold from a trailer.
  • The Teahouse in Stanley Park: the tagline is “an unforgettable dining experience” but we felt very forgotten by the staff; was it their first rodeo? Food was acceptable when it finally came.
  • Ki-Isu: “A Japanese restaurant that tries hard to please your taste bud.” Complete success. I often say “we can always order more” and usually we don’t. We did.
  • Terra Breads: great croissant.

Other

  • Boustan, Scarborough: very average.
Poutine on the Îles de la Madeleine.

July posts

None (lots of trips and teaching and paper writing = not so much time).

Pictures

Definitely falling more behind here, but did get a couple of albums processed.

Arriving in Atiu: our transportation; red junglefowl; rainburst.

To do, all from 2021:

  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • [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] Leaving NZ

Even more pictures from 2022:

  • [January] Walking around KW
  • [February] Reading week trip to Montreal
  • [March] Avalanche course
  • [April] Yellowknife (the rest of it)
  • [April] Northland
  • [May] trips 1 and 2 to Montreal
  • [July] Iles de la Madeleine
  • [July] Vancouver
  • [July] Cape Cod

Conclusion

On track to post the July summary much earlier, which suggests that I’m not quite as hosed as I was in June. Still, Spring term can’t end soon enough, and I’m looking forward to getting back to NZ in two weeks.