August: staying in Canada longer than expected, for good reasons

Posted by Patrick Lam on Thursday, September 1, 2022

Table Of Contents

Status

I feel like there was a huge backlog from the pandemic (which I still don’t think is over). Everything was stuck. They’re starting to resolve now. Ça commence à debloquer.

Professionally, two things accepted (a grant and a paper) and two papers rejected. I’ve started to think about how to reformulate one of the papers. I’ll have to think more about the other one once I finish marking. Meanwhile, surprise submission happened.

In judo, I graded for fifth dan. I found myself writing a lot of words so I pulled it out into its own post.

Competitive stream grading, St. Jean sur Richelieu. Photo: Vincent Scotto/Judo Québec

I’m now in New Zealand for the next while. The first week I was here I was marking the last bits of the 122 exams and all 52 term papers I had to mark. In the spirit of quantifying everything, Crowdmark tells me that I spent 16 hours marking the exams. It felt like the exams took a week to finish, which may be about right for 16 actual hours of work. I did a couple of papers on the plane, but I did not have enough time and energy to mark them all, even with 20 hours in the air. Fortunately I was able to sleep during some of those hours.

Let’s talk about the world now.

The Weather

First, think local. People complained about the NZ weather being really poor in August, and there was flooding caused by an atmospheric river in Nelson. I noticed a bunch of slips in Wellington

MetService says that it is currently “Fine. Northerlies” at 14.2° in Kelburn (2PM). Waterloo, ON is rainy and 21° with a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 10PM. The low in Waterloo is 19°. Maybe that’s a bit too hot, especially the minimum. But 14 is a bit on the chilly side. I decided to put on long underwear to sit inside today, and I’ve been wearing a tuque outside.

I was in Brisbane last Tuesday, transitting for 12 hours. The 21° and sunny August weather was maybe perfect. The urban design less so. (Countries visited: +1, to 38).

ANZAC memorial in Brisbane.

COVID

Still not over, even though many people in Canada seem to believe that it is. It’s bonkers that Ontario just announced that there is no more mandatory isolation even if COVID-positive (supposed to stay home if symptomatic, but it’s not as if there isn’t asymptomatic spread with this virus.) And it’s not like people wear masks in Ontario either. WTF. In NZ there is talk about revisiting the (7-day) isolation period; we’ll see what happens.

There is a lot more mask use in indoor spaces in New Zealand than in Canada. I’d estimate 80% masked indoors (grocery stores, pharmacies, transit) in Wellington and 20% in Waterloo. I’m still doing my best to dodge (long) COVID; as I’ve said before, I’d be unlikely to die, but the probability of unwanted long-term consequences is too high for my liking.

Technology helps to some extent, and it looks like bivalent vaccines are coming to the Northern Hemisphere soon, but there is zero noise about them in New Zealand. My last dose (Novavax) was in July so maybe I’ll wait until my trip to Canada in November for a bivalent booster. That’ll be about 5 months.

Dose Date
1 (Pfizer) Sep 2021
2 (Pfizer) Nov 2021 (+2 months)
3 (Moderna) Jan 2022 (+3 months)
4 (Novavax) Jul 2022 (+6 months)

November would be another 4 months out. We have no data on how the the various formulations will be in practice, but there is reason to believe that they will be more effective than the original ones. The real question is: how good are they vs. infection; so far, the original vaccines remain good vs. severe consequences, but are not great vs. infection.

The current 7-day average number of new cases in New Zealand is 2251, which is 45/100K/day. The NZ Ministry of Health has extrapolated an 50% underestimate rate, so the real rate is likely 90/100K/day. The probabilities would work out much more favourably with a rate of 25/100K/day, which would be a reported number around 12/100K/day or 500/day. Maybe we’ll get there. Today’s number is 65% of last week’s number, so if nothing else changes, we’d see 500/day in 3-4 weeks. Extrapolation is risky, though.

In Ontario, the health authorities are saying that there is an elevated plateau. I have no idea what level that represents.

(Written closer to publication time): OK, based on the most recent NZ figures and midpoints from Prof. Tara Moriarty’s estimate, we have NZ at probably a true 80/100K/day; Quebec at 210/100K/day; and Ontario at 510/100K/day. There is 4× more COVID in Ontario than in NZ!

University

There was a lot of work but I was on campus 4× (including Capstone Project in-person demos, giving the ECE 653 final exam, and providing lunch for TAs marking the SE463 exam). August is usually pretty quiet on-campus. January 2022 was also quiet, but for different reasons.

Apparently my keyboard has been located. It got misplaced after December 2019 and we found another one, but it was the mirror image keyboard, and not quite as good. The actual keyboard was in a box somewhere. Nature is healing!

August travel

Locations:

  • Waterloo
  • Toronto
  • Montreal
  • St. Jean sur Richelieu
  • Brisbane
  • Wellington

All on one trip since leaving Waterloo. I went east to St. Jean sur Richelieu, then west to Brisbane, then east to Wellington.

Another luggage photo.

I did buy and eat more peaches in Ontario (Niagara!) and brought a few to Montreal. Then I flew to New Zealand and had a subpar orange (“very average” in NZ speak; or did I eat a lemon? Nah.). I’ll be going to the Napier market this weekend. We’ll see if they have anything good there.

Sobey's in Waterloo has better and cheaper peaches than downtown Toronto,
but these were still OK.

Professional

I now have a bit more time to think about research once teaching wrapped up, putting aside the week and a half of grading. The NSERC Alliance International grant got funded (so I should send a student to NZ for a semester) and the paper didn’t get accepted. Will have to think about where to send it next.

But first, we are working on a HATRA submission based on a superb course project, and probably also a submission (different work) to Empirical Software Engineering, and Sruthi is wrapping up her MMath thesis.

Speaking of which, we have an artifact for the VISSOFT paper now; we also did the final submission. Go Open Science!

This month, 9 days with student meetings. Well, there was also an end-of-term picnic at (outside) my place. I was less slammed than in June when I had the graduation picnic, and so I managed to do some cooking on my new eBBQ. Unfortunately, the grilled squash was less tasty than I hoped.

I talked to my incoming master’s student Mohammad, who has now made it to Canada. I guess the borders are open enough now. There’s still news about people having trouble with the border, but it’s certainly not universal.

I count work on 28/31 days in August, which exceeds the 22 workdays in that month. A lot of that was teaching, despite the lack of lectures.

It’s already time for another sabbatical: July to December 2023. I filled out the application. It’s pretty quick to fill out, really. It looks like I will still have some remaining sabbatical credit and teaching credit once the sabbatical is over in January 2024.

Collegiality

I did a TOSEM review. The very day I was writing that review, they sent me another paper to review. Gee, thanks.

I also served on a PhD committee. Congratulations to Hung Viet Pham on a successful defense!

Travels

The walking amount was disastrously low while I was in Canada in the first half of August, but the week in Wellington redeemed it. I had thought of doing another Adirondacks peak on my way to Montreal, but didn’t have time for that.

  • 🚶 Walking: 101km on 21 days, with 30km on 22 days in Canada and 70km on 9 days outside Canada.
  • 🚲 Biking: 101km on 10 days (back to normal with respect to pinched nerve)
  • 🚗 Driving: 1042km on 8 days; on 3 occasions in KW, but also Waterloo to Montreal
  • 🚌 Bus: 74.2km on 4 days (to access hiking in Wellington)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 32km on 2 days (to YUL and from WLG)
  • 🛩 Plane: 18100km (YUL-YVR-BNE-WLG)
  • 🚇 Métro: 11.5km on 1 day
  • 🚆 Train: 41km on 2 days (to BNE, and in Wellington)

I took the Johnsonville train in Wellington this month, which completes the set of all of the MetLink Wellington train services. I also took the train to Porirua. Porirua City is more urban than I expected.

Driving to Montreal; flying over BC; YVR; BNE; Brisbane trains; BNE-WLG; Wellington bus.

Getting to New Zealand

People complain about flight meltdowns this year, but I haven’t really had any terrible experiences while in transit. But, let’s put in a chronology of this ticket getting me to NZ.

  • May 28: booked a (points) ticket for August 6, after the ECE 653 exam.
  • July 21: cancelled the August 6 ticket and rebooked (for $) for August 22, after the judo grading.
  • July 23: seat selection.
  • July 26: paid $150 to change to a day earlier, August 21; I learned that the grading ended at noon, and the earlier flight looked to have better upgrade potential.
  • Aug 6: Air New Zealand pushed a schedule change so that I would have 11 hours instead of 12 hours in Brisbane, and changed the flight number; had to call in to accept the change.
  • Aug 11: Air New Zealand broke the return bound by rescheduling WLG-BNE so that it would arrive in BNE after BNE-YVR departed; I called in to change my return itinerary to WLG-AKL-NRT-YUL, which surprisingly only adds 30% more miles.
  • Aug 21: Check-in was difficult, apparently because of the e-upgrade request. It took 30 minutes. Removing and re-adding the upgrade request seemed to work. T-storms allowed me to change from the 18:30 to the 17:00 flight for free, though that flight only left at 18:00 after all, while the 18:30 flight left at 19:00. There were no missed connections.
  • Aug 23: I asked the Australian Border Force worker about re-checking luggage and she looked at me as if I was some sort of weirdo. It’s just the US that makes you do that (sometimes Canada).

The actual flying was smooth. The thing about a 14 hour flight is that you do have a lot of time where you could sleep (unlike a 4.5 hour transcon, or a 6 hour flight to Europe). And maybe the 21km of walking in Brisbane helped with not having jetlag.

Future travel planning

We started making travel plans for the term. Turns out a term really isn’t that long. I booked a ticket to Christchurch for the NZAC Temple Basin trip. I have all the gear for everything except alpine ice, but I don’t know what activities I’ll actually be doing.

It looks like:

  • Queen Charlotte Track in late October
  • Gillepsie in December (second try)
  • Around the Mountain Circuit in November? Currently broken, hopefully fixed by then.

and maybe another few days in Christchurch in early October. Also this weekend we’re going to Napier, which is a 4 hour drive and is forecast to be sunny.

I think I’m ready for my trip to Canada in November, which includes refereeing at the Omnium du Quebec and the Ontario Open. And I’ll stop by campus for a bit. I don’t have a ticket back to NZ yet.

Visit: Toronto, Montreal, and St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Argh! This was the second time driving from Waterloo to Montreal in 2022, and indeed less than 2 months after the first time. That’s one more time than I aim for, and two more times than I would like. It just made too much sense, though, with (1) bringing my stuff; (2) driving to St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu; and (3) leaving the car at my parents’ house.

I figured I could shorten the drive a bit by stopping in Toronto. It doesn’t feel much shorter. I stayed overnight, though, and paid a social visit to Marco. In Kingston, I had a Harvey’s hamburger for the first time in years. I still think it’s probably the best fast-food burger; though there are more upscale fast-food options available these days. (“Legacy burger chain”?)

Managed to get out climbing for a day at Montagne du Tranchant. It was super hot. Hard to climb even moderately hard in the heat.

From Montreal, I drove to St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu. I guess it’s pretty close to Brossard but not so close to the east end. I stayed in St.-Jean for two nights to avoid the drive.

And, this time, I flew to New Zealand out of Montreal. I had too much stuff to take transit to the airport (skis and boots; two suitcases, one with gear; plus carry-on). Uber was $48 plus tip from my parents' house, which is still somewhat cheaper than the $70 (tip included) taxi fare a few years ago.

The old stomping grounds; the crag; St-Jean dojo; Vieux-St-Jean renos.

Another airport walk: Brisbane

Eleven hours in Brisbane. What to do? Well, there is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and the old standby: the airport walk. I got off the plane at 6am and sorted myself out for an hour before setting off on a walk. My rule is that it counts to either a non-airport-hotel or to the city centre, for some definition of centre. Brisbane Central station definitely counts. (Train stations count for all places that I can think of except for Ottawa, ha, ha.)

The airport walk was not the worst but far from the best. Interestingly, Google Maps and Organic Maps (OpenStreetMaps source) gave radically different walking instructions. I tried a shortcut but it ended in a fence. There were a lot of missing sidewalks. London Heathrow was striking for being pretty far out and yet still fully walkable (if not appealing in the same way Geneva and Zurich were).

At some point the itinerary took me next to a canal and I saw some Australian pelicans and noisy miners. Later on, I saw another miner; magpies in their natural habitat (not NZ!); and Eastern water dragons.

I walked through the Brisbane suburb of Hamilton, which seems to be named after a different Hamilton than the NZ city Hamilton, which is yet again named after a different Hamilton than the Ontario city Hamilton.

The Lores Bonney Riverwalk was a nice recreational path, but it was completely disconnected from its surroundings; it was quite hard to leave the multi-use path except at specific points.

Then I finally got to central Brisbane, but it felt like there was no there there. I think what it is is too many car lanes and not enough density of people and places. The stores were right next to each other, but it still wasn’t quite right, and there weren’t a lot of people out walking. I was walking in downtown Napier today, which is like 100 times smaller, but there were tons of people out on the streets. To be fair, it was a Saturday rather than a Tuesday. But still.

Brisbane airport; leaving the airport on foot; Australian pelicans; tree in bloom; central Brisbane across the river; really segregated infrastructure; Prince Consort Hotel; Brisbane Central station.

Another thing was that I couldn’t find public toilets in Brisbane. Maybe I don’t know where to look. There were some in Brisbane Central, but they were behind the turnstiles. I did buy a ticket from the ticket desk. This is an annoying thing too. You can’t take the buses unless you find a ticket desk (rare) or you buy a transit card. So, getting back from the Lone Pine koala sanctuary could be: 1) pre-buying a $6 (!!) bus ticket; 2) taking a taxi/Uber; 3) walking. I walked 5km to the nearest train station.

Lone Pine is much more a zoo than, say, Zealandia in Wellington (which only has the one fence around it; no cages inside). There are animals in displays. Including lots of koalas, of course. There were also hundreds of schoolkids on field trips. They all were issued hats as part of their school uniform. Makes sense.

There was kangaroo feeding but most of the kangaroos were having none of it. The hundreds of schoolkids had all fed them first.

Eastern water dragon; emu; kangaroos; koala; kookaburra.

After the last 5km walk (making 21.3km in total), I took the train back to the airport ($26). At the Indooroopilly train station they said open payments with my credit card would work, but that was not the case when I tried to tap off at Brisbane station.

Anyway, I got to Brisbane airport a few hours early, checked in (again, I needed to talk to someone—this time to transfer the luggage information), and waited in the Koru lounge until boarding was called. Turned out that we left late but still arrived early. And that was the first time I’d landed in Wellington from an international flight. Biosecurity was quicker than the first time I’d arrived in Auckland in 2020, but about the same as when I came back from the Cook Islands in August 2021.

While not travelling

Most of the month was not travelling. What else did I do?

The townhouse & life maintenance

Updated house manual for Fall tenant. Changed the garage code again. Did a not especially thorough cleaning and packing of stuff.

I registered to vote in New Zealand; municipal elections are happening both in New Zealand and Ontario in the next few months. I organized a proxy vote for Waterloo as well. Now I have to figure out who to vote for.

Stuff

On a recommendation from the Internet, I bought an electric BBQ. It seems to work fine, though I end up plugging it in through the window. The limiting factor is skills on the grill.

Also I replaced the bulb in the Turkish lamp so that it actually provides some lighting now. And I got some water softener salt. It’s never easy to lug 20kg of stuff even a few hundred metres. I try to arrange to be out and about in my car when I do that. I suspect that Wal-Mart is much cheaper than Sobey’s for the salt right now.

Sports

  • Judo: 4× practice plus grading/kata clinic; missed a week in the middle while on my way to Montreal.
  • Climbing: 1× inside and 1× outside at Montagne du Tranchant (quite hot)

Man, what happened to my hobbies this month?! Looks like I spent a lot of time editing pictures, and my travels managed to interfere with judo practice. I should get back to the climbing gym now that it’s a non-teaching term.

Food and Drink

Canada

  • The Caribbean Kitchen at the Kitchener Market: I usually get a Jamaican patty here, but I had a roti, which was good for 2 meals.
  • Mapo Korean BBQ: went out here in Toronto, not crowded yet after a recent move, but will surely get there.
  • Harvey’s burger en-route to Montreal, and then a poutine from Bellepros near my parents’ place.
  • La Cloche à Fromage: failed to get dinner (lunch only), but did get fancy cheese for my sandwich for the next day.
  • NO.900: went here instead, had an interesting whelk&speck pizza, enjoyed being in a restaurant and watching other people (a 10-year old girl out for dinner with a relative?) and also the CO₂ meter.
  • Le Dorchester: pulled duck burger in the parking lot terrasse.

Brisbane

Does Brisbane have good food? I have no idea! Didn’t manage to do any dining. All I had was a ham and cheese croissant outside the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary.

Wellington

I’ve had two pies so far, one from the Kelburn bakery and one from Concorde.

  • abrakebabra: I don’t think I’ve featured them here; MP’s favourite iskender supplier.
  • Rātā café: I have definitely featured them here before, but they always make tasty food.
  • Wilson Barbecue: Got a Wellington on a Plate burger on the last day this year. In general, those burgers are more fancy than I would normally go for. I guess once a year is OK.
Spaghetti sauce in the Instant Pot; whelk&speck pizza; Air Canada pie; Chilean hot dog.

August posts

I’m also going to re-up a post that I spent some time fixing. That was an epic adventure.

I was talking to Marco and we were talking about my minimalist wallet. Maybe I’ll make a compilation of physical objects I recommend.

Reading

I got around to reading

  • Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow. Had been on my radar for a while, but never managed to read it. Should read the sequels as well. I had even participated in the Kickstarter for Attack Surface.

I checked out The Bone People from the Waterloo Public Library; it is a NZ classic. I failed to find time to read it before leaving. I now have QAnon and On checked out from the Wellington City Libraries and I’m sure I’ll be able to read it.

Also, Wellington City Libraries went fines-free. Yay!

Pictures

Making a lot of progress here, especially since I didn’t take that many pictures in August. I didn’t finish any sets, so the to-do list isn’t shorter, but many elements of the list have fewer elements remaining.

I entered pictures from Northern Quebec in the NZAC Wellington photo contest. We’ll see how that goes.

Inuksuk on Caubvick; red crater on Tongariro Crossing/Circuit; tern and savannah sparrow on the Îles de la Madeleine; seagull eating starfish; Atiu swiftlet; our transport on Atiu; Atiu coastline; Stanley Park train.

To do, all from 2021 (days):

  • [February] Tongariro Northern Circuit (2)
  • [June] Rotorua (airport walk) (3)
  • [July] Hobbiton (2)
  • [July] Aotea (3)
  • [August] Cook Islands (4)
  • [September] Sea to Sky II
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers (7)
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track (4)
  • [October] Mt. Cook and Mt. Somers (3)
  • [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 (2)
  • [April] Yellowknife (the rest of it)
  • [April] Northland (6)
  • [May] trips 1 and 2 to Montreal
  • [July] Iles de la Madeleine
  • [July] Vancouver (2)
  • [July] Cape Cod
  • [August] Brisbane airport walk
  • [August] Colonial Knob

Conclusion

Yes! No more teaching! Though the HATRA submission is a good thing to come out of the ECE 653 pain. Now back to doing research, and also having time for myself.