November: winter is coming

Posted by Patrick Lam on Saturday, December 3, 2022

Table Of Contents


November had an action-packed two-week visit to Canada. The anchor events were refereeing at the Quebec Open and Ontario Open judo tournaments. Then I added two PhD defences and other work-related activities. Put in a few meetups and it made for a super busy trip. Which was followed by an attempt at the Around the Mountain (Taranaki) circuit (bailed due to rain + required river crossings) and MP’s dad visiting NZ. A last-minute laptop failure didn’t help either.

Now I’m trying to finish a bunch of service obligations (reference letters, reviews) and get some papers out. At least I’m back in Wellington until SPLASH in just under two weeks’ time. I told my grad students “normal services resume” (for this week at least).

I hope I can finish a couple more things, especially research things, before I start to prepare for Winter term. For ECE 459, I should prepare a new assignment and flipped classroom activities. For ECE 453, I could make a choice and teach ECE 453 like I’ve taught SE 465 in the past; but should I? Or should I teach the more verification-based ECE 453 offering like I taught ECE 653 last Spring?

Maybe what was most challenging was staying in 9 different places in November, the longest being 6 nights in Wellington at the end and 5 nights at my parents’ place at the beginning. Keeping stuff organized is difficult especially with no space; when I was in Waterloo for 4 plus 2 nights, I had some space to spread out my stuff. But generally not in any of the other places.

In summary, November had two contiguous trips, though one of the trips in particular had a lot of work.

As much as we saw of Taranaki; Columbia Lake in Waterloo; Tawhiti Museum; barrel at Volcano View where we stayed; ducklings in Wellington

Where I stayed in November; commas for contiguous nights:

Wellington 1, 6
Parents 5
Waterloo 4, 2
Scarborough 2
Toronto 1
New Plymouth 1, 1
Opunake 2
Volcano View 3
Haurangi Hut 1

More COVID thoughts

Still not many restaurants, though more than in the past six months. More than zero. Ideally uncrowded and with good ventilation. And masks everywhere else (even if retail is generally low-risk, says the NZ Ministry of Health; transit is higher risk; but why take any risk for the grocery store? I always have an N95 mask in my pocket. Charlotte Muru-Lanning: “At least wear a mask on the bus” writes similar things). The sensor I got actually works fine, but the 3D printed plastic boxes and stand are falling apart. I should epoxy them together again. (As opposed to my dad’s super sketchy sensor which totally reports the wrong number all the time. At least it’s directionally accurate?)

The numbers in NZ continue to increase, although relatively slowly for now; the 7-day rolling average is 2.8× higher today than it was at its lowest, two months ago, and the estimated reporting rate is like 35%. The hospitalization numbers have also increased proportionately. I think I’m seeing more masks than last month, but the number last month was really quite small. I think the masking numbers in Canada are increasing more; I just got an email about how masks are required for final exams at the University of Waterloo.

NZ is now a bit behind, say, Canada, with respect to offering additional doses and new vaccines for low-risk people (me). It is probably true that additional doses don’t prevent much death in my age group. But studies suggest they might help with long COVID. Anyway, I’m going to get another dose in Canada in January.

Meanwhile in Canada, it looks like the number of cases continues to decrease after a peak in late October. I think the issue now is more about a lack of pediatric ICU capacity due to RSV and flu as well as COVID. I got my flu shot in Canada this month.

I don’t really see any more new helpful technology in the near future. Still waiting for nasal vaccines. (I noticed that Mexico approved some Cuban vaccines. But no one knows anything about vaccine efficacy anymore.)

November travel

As I wrote above, I was basically travelling from November 2 through November 24. It’s a long time to be on the road. For the Canada segment I had a day pack and a personal item. I lost track of a couple of things and broke others.

First stop: Auckland Air New Zealand lounge for breakfast; luggage in corner; chair hits wall. Flying out of Auckland; Tokyo Narita, where I didn't manage to eat anything; station Lionel-Groulx; leaving Montreal by train; Montreal ad in Toronto; YVR; AKL; back to domestic terminal; Red Rocks (Wellington).

I flew to Montreal via Auckland and Tokyo after some flight change shenanigans: hard to take segment 2 BNE-YVR before segment 1 WLG-BNE. Instead I did WLG-AKL-NRT-YUL, which was about 10% more flight miles and 20% more flying time, with two 12 hour flights rather than 1 plus 12 plus 5.

Segment 1: Canada (Nov 2-15)

In Montreal I stayed at my parents’ place. Which isn’t as restful as I’d like. While it was definitely not the first time I refereed the Quebec Open, it was my first tournament as an Ontario referee.

The Montreal segment was probably the most chill part of the trip (thesis reading time), but still involved a lot of social interactions. As did all of the trip.

From the Quebec Open referee meeting on November 2 through the flight back to New Zealand on November 15 I was pretty fully programmed; for work, see collegiality below. Plus two judo tournaments. Also twelve social meetups (!)… and no COVID (whew).

I brought a lot of reading material (paper) with me but didn’t get through that much. Paper’s heavy!

Imported KitKat (and stuff all over); Montreal church Saint-François-d'Assise; St. Michael & St. Anthony's Church; view of Montreal; Vancouver Harbour.

Segment 2: Taranaki (Nov 17-21)

We had planned to do the Around the Mountain Circuit which goes around Mount Taranaki. Unfortunately there was a lot of rain forecast. Walking in the rain is no fun but in itself is fine. The problem is that the AMC also contains unbridged river crossings and those can become impassable. So we bailed based on the forecast and planned another attempt for early January.

(On the other hand, we just did a walk in the Remutaka Forest Park where there was 10mm of rain forecast; but it fell in the night and we didn’t even get wet on the hike. There weren’t river crossings on this walk, but the Orongorongo might have been sketchy to cross.)

So instead we stayed around New Plymouth a few days (rented a sit-on kayak for an hour—there were some waves—and visited the Puke Ariki museum). We also did some on-the-fly trip planning, fleeing to the rain shadow of Taranaki. There, we did a walk around the surf town of Ōpunake, and visited the Tawhiti Museum (whoa, quite some models). Also we visited the Rotokare Scenic Reserve, which is a drive-in predator-free reserve with kiwi which one can camp in, as well as the Turuturu Mokai Pa, which has history but not much to see today.

Cliffs; Waiaua River Dam (and fish pass); minature pony; calf; tile "mailbox"; hunting cat; flowers at Clifftop Gardens; little free library (is it that cat?); tiled bench.

Seen on the Ōpunake Loop Trail:

  • minature pony in someone’s driveway
  • bunch of dogs; dog owner swearing at their dog :(
  • cat that was hunting
  • fantail, tui, butterfiles, sheep, baby cows
  • Clifftop Gardens

My laptop screen stopped working, so I got a Chromebook in New Plymouth just in case. More on that in the acquisitions part.

Segment 3: In-laws (Nov 22-24)

We met up with MP’s dad and stepmom in New Plymouth and did some walks in the rain. Didn’t quite get a view of Taranaki because of cloud. Went a third of the way up the mountain. Tried a walk to Pahuta Trig starting from Lisa’s Gully but it was treacherously slippery. Did part of New Plymouth’s Coastal Walk. Then, back in Wellington, the Red Rocks walk.

Tahaurangi Lodge on Taranaki; cliffs on Taranaki; chick at airbnb in Egmont Village; Te Rewa Rewa bridge in New Plymouth (being repainted); California redwoods far from home; inside our barrel; Kapiti Island.


I continue to not think about teaching. Service as described immediately below. EMSE paper now pretty much ready to go (finally).

With all the travel maybe I neglected my grad students a bit, though I did interact with them on 10 days (not evenly distributed through the month), and twice in-person, including meeting my student Mohammad in person for the first time. Also talked to an undergrad who wanted to do a project next term. Met a bunch of SE alumni and students-who-are-not-mine too.

Worked on 20 days. There are 22 work days in November.


OK, I did all the service.

  • 2 PhD defences
  • 1 PhD comprehensive (rescheduled due to committee member calendar mixup)
  • 1 SE Board meeting
  • 1 graduate student recruitment event at McMaster (nice change from the Ontario Universities Fair)
  • letters for 5 students wanting to go to grad school
  • some work for FAUW Nominations and Elections Committee.

Beyond work, there was also 1 AGM for the OAC and the two judo tournaments I’d come to referee. I also joined the Judo Ontario Referee Committee.


Walking amount was not bad given all the travel. Flying to NZ is a lot of km, including the 40% for going through Tokyo. Various forms of transit, though no commute of course.

  • 🚶 Walking: 172km on 26 days
  • 🚲 Biking: 51km on 6 days (mostly in Waterloo)
  • 🚗 Driving: 1,294km on 15 days (North America sucks [581km, 8 days/11] though 6 driving days [692km] were in New Zealand)
  • 🏍 Motorcycle: 5km (to deliver to buyer)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 41km (from NPL airport; around New Plymouth 2×; to get to Wellington hike starts 2×)
  • ✈ Plane: 34,560km (WLG-AKL-NRT-YUL, YYZ-YVR-AKL-NPL)
  • 🚆 Train: 667km (MTRL-TRTO, UP Express, Paekakariki-Wellington)
  • 🚌 Bus: 181km on 4 days (including Waterloo-Toronto for 102km)
  • 🚇 Métro: 72.9km on 6 days (mostly in Montreal)
  • 🚇 SkyTrain: 28km (YVR-Vancouver and back)
  • 🚆 LRT: 4.8km (dentist appointment)
  • 🚣 Kayak: 2.8km (New Plymouth)

I really hate the fact that I spent 30 hours of the month in a car: some driving around Montreal, then from Waterloo to the Ontario Open, and also around Taranaki. I did spend a bunch of time in the car back from New Plymouth doing Duolingo though. Works pretty well when not driving. Google Maps says that I spent 15 hours in airports, but that’s not quite right because it doesn’t do timezones perfectly. Here’s the breakdown. 13h34 is the true amount, compared with 44h27 of flying, on 6 segments. The AKL layover on my way back to NZ had some padding involved because it was on separate tickets and who knows how late the trans-Pacific might be?

airport wait flight duration
2 Nov WLG 1h18 WLG-AKL 1h00
AKL 2h00 AKL-NRT 11h00
NRT 2h30 NRT-YUL 12h00
YUL 0h10
15 Nov YYZ 1h00 YYZ-YVR 5h22
YVR 0h25
2h45 YVR-AKL 14h15
AKL 3h15 AKL-NPL 0h50
NPL 0h11


The upcoming trips is a lot longer than it was last month. Three goes at planning after-the-Gillepsie (pro tip: in NZ, try cities between Christmas and New Year’s; don’t go to Queenstown/Wanaka); two sessions planning AMC take 2; Japan booking and revising; and buying Western Canada plane tickets for refereeing.

Upcoming trips:

  • SPLASH in Auckland in December
  • Gillepsie Circuit in December
  • Coupe Gadbois (Montreal) in January
  • Pacific International, late January
  • Japan for Reading Week
  • Edmonton International, March

Outstanding travel planing:

  • Japan: well, at least we have plane tickets
  • Hotels for Western Canada tournaments

(Not at all stressful: Air Canada app shows the cancelled Japan ticket in addition to the actual one).

For the Gillepsie, we got a reasonably-priced rental car in Wanaka (we take a shuttle from Queenstown). We thought about going from the Gillepsie to Haast but didn’t. Instead we’re going to Mount Cook Village for a few days, then back to Wanaka. Finally, accommodation became kind of impossible, so we’re going to Dunstan Downs high country sheep station, camping for a night, and hiking to Fat Man’s Lodge for a night.

After that, we’re flying briefly to Wellington, and then to New Plymouth again for AMC take two. Sometimes it takes multiple tries.


I did manage to process a lot of pictures while in airplanes. There’s a mix of 2022 and 2021 pictures, and then one set from 2019 after talking about the Devil’s Punchbowl (Hamilton) with Marco, who had visited recently. And, I didn’t take that many pictures in November, especially since we didn’t actually do the Around the Mountain.

Total: 7 in, 13 out. After I finish the last day of the Banks Peninsula I can work towards pushing the earliest non-processed photos from July to September, though the Hobbiton set might be epic.

Did a good part of the Banks Peninsula trip, October 2022:

Sunset at Onoku Farm Hostel; me at Trig GG; typical Banks Peninsula Track view.

Avalanche Skills Training 1 (instead of the Pacific International), March 2022:

Houses at Mosquito Creek; skiing at Mount Seymour; The Chief; Whistler.

Cook Islands, August 2021:

Atiu festival coconut opening contest; me bouldering; two kingfishers; hermit crab; Rarotonga flycatcher; ice skating in july; Coral Beach Bungalows.

Rotorua (Waikato Bays Open), June 2021:


The List

To do, all from 2021 (days):

  • [July] Hobbiton (5)
  • [July] Aotea (5)
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers (7)
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track (4)
  • [October] Mt. Cook and Mt. Somers (3)
  • [November] Leaving NZ

Even more pictures from 2022:

  • [January] Walking around KW
  • [February] Reading week trip to Montreal
  • [April] Northland (6)
  • [May] trips 1 and 2 to Montreal
  • [July] Vancouver (2)
  • [July] Cape Cod
  • [August] Brisbane airport walk
  • [August] Colonial Knob
  • [September] Napier (2)
  • [September] Motueka (2)
  • [October] Banks Peninsula Track (1)
  • [October] Queen Charlotte Track (6)
  • [November] New Plymouth (4 days with more than a few pictures)
  • [November] Radome/Red Rocks
  • [November] Remutaka overnight (2)

I see there is no way I’m going to wrap up 2021 by the end of 2022, but maybe I can get close.

November posts

I guess the trip reports which I referenced in last month’s report count.

I can go back to the Banks Peninsula report and put in the correct picture links. Also, extra post:


Not a very settled month.

House maintenance

As I arrived in Waterloo, the light fixture in my kitchen stopped providing power to one of the bulbs. Replacing the bulb didn’t help, so I replaced the fixture. Turns out one has to go to the right hardware store to get fixtures. Home Depot probably has it, but it’s hard to reach without a car. When I had a rental car I got one from the Home Hardware on Park St in Kitchener, which has much more choice than the one on Weber.

Incorrect fixture.


So I was about to leave Waterloo and the internal monitor on my Thinkpad X1 6th Gen started being flaky and not displaying anything. I plugged in the computer to an external monitor and noticed that if I turned the internal monitor on and off, it would work again. It’s hard to do that with the internal monitor being broken, but I wrote a script to do that ("~/bin/twiddle" which I can type blind) and got another couple of days of computer use. Living on borrowed time.

Just before leaving Canada, I noticed that Lenovo was having a 50% off sale on Thinkpads, so I ordered a Thinkpad X1 10th Gen, shipped to Waterloo. Way cheaper than getting one in NZ (so the 50% off was real to some extent). I guess I’m losing some resolution from my current 2560×1440 display. It was true last time and still seems to be true that buying a bigger hard drive separately is way cheaper, so maybe I’ll do that. Or I could keep less than 80GB of photos on my hard drive.

By the way, I’ve been a long-time fan of the Thinkpad X1s. They’re much lighter than what I had before. Macs are lighter and they do run Linux but it seems like you miss out on functionality if you do that, and I’d rather not run MacOS fulltime.

So that I’d have a computer, I went out and bought a higher-end Chromebook. Such Chromebooks were not on display in any of the stores that I looked at. Finally I got to a Noel Leeming and looked on the Internet and found the Duet. It’s still not super high powered but it’s better than the other ones. And it has a Debian shell available, which is nice, because I run Debian on my machines. I can do most things on it that I can do on my X1, but the keyboard and screen are worse. The touch display is kind of nice though.

All of my Icebreaker shirts seem to be getting old and have runs in them. New Icebreaker shirts have a too-prominent logo. I aim to avoid wearing logos. The Macpac shirt does say “macpac” on it, but it’s small.

Last time I bought a water bottle it was $40. This time it was $30, plus there was a Black Friday sale, so it was $21.


  • Johnny Pag FX3 motorcycle
  • Water bottle
  • Phone stand
  • Trackball, maybe

I finally managed to sell my motorcycle. Well, the cheque has cleared anyway. I lost a water bottle and broke a phone stand. Maybe I lost my water bottle, or maybe I left it in my office. I’ll know in January.


Did not do Around the Mountain. Did walk Orongorongo to Big Bend Track to Haurangi Hut in the Remutakas and out mostly on the Whakanui Track to town (18km, 790m elevation gain). Did not hear kiwi at night.

Waterloo (NZ) station; leaving Catchpool Valley; last obstacle just before Haurangi Hut; inside the hut; Orongorongo looks sketchy due to rain; trees; goblin forest.


Not a lot of judo but I did make it to Wellington Judo Academy, Asahi, and Torii (my home club) in November. None more than once. No climbing at all. Now it’s getting to be maybe a bit more COVID than ideal for going to judo practice. We’ll see how December goes.

Black belts at Torii (including rokudan not in gi); Omnium du Québec; Ontario Open.


Lots of travel = lots of restaurants. (“You visited 19 eateries in November. That’s more than in any of the previous 6 months,” says Google Timeline.)


Couple of places in Montreal:

  • Kouzina Niata: Greek takeout in Montreal’s Mile-End. Many of the classics, well executed.
  • Parma Cafe: super tasty porchetta “panini” (bread not crunchy—what kind of panini is that?—but the filling was great), plus iced tea, on a terrasse in November
  • Restaurant Hachoir: tartares etc, modern-ish Montreal dining.

Greater Toronto and Hamilton:

  • Mother’s Vietnamese Kitchen, Hamilton: I ordered the bánh cuốn đặc biệt (with chả lụa), which was pretty authentic.
  • CÀ PHÊ RANG, Toronto: They style themselves as a bánh mì restaurant, and that is fairly good (it grew on me), but the phở broth is exceptional.
  • Caribbean Wave, Scarborough: Carribean-Chinese food, which I hadn’t had before. Though it was almost like there were Carribean items and Chinese items and not so many mixed items, or I didn’t know which to order. I had the curry goat & roti, and would get the curry goat again (maybe not the roti).
  • Tacorrito: Ain’t Cal-Mex food, but did stave off starvation and sleep as I drove back to Waterloo from Toronto.


  • Sun Sushi: There were 4 sushi shops in a 2 block radius. Koi Sushi next door was slightly higher rated but had tons of people, which I’m not thrilled about in COVID times. Sun Sushi was almost empty, excellent, and cheap ($31 all-in per person); what I expect from Vancouver sushi!
  • Revolver Coffee: Brad G said this was the best coffee he knew of in Vancouver. Can’t say. Had tea, which was fine, and the best donut I’ve had for a while; it would be a savory-to-sweet comparison versus Smoking Barrel in Motueka, but same league, and maybe cheaper in Canada.

New Zealand

  • George’s Moturoa, New Plymouth: finally had a “boil up” (traditional Māori soup), while MP had some Asian-ish-style noodle bowls. Not spicy, but really flavourful. Also tried one of the croquettes. I always like croquettes. Owner was friendly. Would definitely go again!
  • Social Kitchen, New Plymouth: covered terrasse was probably reasonably COVID safe and kept the rain off us, though I could have done with fewer walls around the terrasse. The small plates are indeed small but flavourful (e.g. salmon, halloumi).
  • The Burnt Place, Hawera: prawn tacos (good), scotch filet (ok). Haloumi fries exceeded expectations.
  • Fonterra Cheese Club: Back in 2016 they talked about a bigger cheese shop in Eltham but it didn’t really happen. Anyway we got some cheap cheese. Less fancy than Oamaru’s Whitestone outlet, but still some gems, and I think more of a factory-outlet discount chez Fonterra.
  • Tawhiti Museum Cafe, Hawera: There is a lot of Wind in the Willows stuff in the cafe. Anyway, somehow I don’t usually have high expectations of museum cafes, but I’ve been to a couple that have actually been pretty decent, including this one, even if it’s just cabinet food. The Aratoi Museum in Masterton also has good food. Maybe the most epic one is at Te Papa in Wellington, but I have not been there.
  • Volcano View Cafe: standard white people food, if that is what you are looking for; didn’t manage to have Dutch pancakes; looking at their Facebook page I see they did a rijstafel in August 2020 on special order, which I haven’t had since 2000.
  • Area 41: hmm, I think I liked it better last time? They had just started with a new menu.

No new restaurants in Wellington, but we did do Taste of Home, Mr Go’s, and Winner Winner.

Looking at the Winner Winner website, I noticed that (1) the title is “Fried Chicken Dinner”. I’ve only had the roast chicken, not the fried chicken. (It may be better than St. Hubert in Quebec!) And (2) it is also a franchise with 3 locations across New Zealand. Looks like the BurgerFuel Group bought franchisor rights in 2017 but didn’t sell many franchises. There are over 50 BurgerFuels in NZ.

Volcano View chicken; Montreal poutine; bánh cuốn; roti with goat curry; Sun Sushi; food we cooked in Ōpunake.

Not restaurants

Another small rabbit hole. The received wisdom (2 sources, so obviously reliable) was that Mountain House was the best brand of freeze-dried food (if one doesn’t dehydrate at home). Can’t get them in NZ. I imported some, which I got from MEC. The beef stew and chili mac were disappointing. Turns out MEC now only lists 5 meals on its website, and they’re not exciting. (Beef Stew, Chili Mac with Beef, Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, Pasta Primavera, Lasagne with Meat Sauce). REI has a lot more. Is Mountain House just not as good anymore? Or is it a MEC problem?

But! It turns out that Bass Pro Shops / Cabela has the full set of Mountain House products. We’ll have to find out next time I’m there.


Didn’t want to carry any books with me on my travels, though the papers were heavier than a couple of books. Did start reading Can’t Get There From Here by André Brett (maps by Sam van der Weerden) back in Wellington.


There’s always more that I want to do than that I have time to do, but I managed pretty well this month. Next up, I have to wrap up the non-teaching semester and prepare for Winter. But then I don’t teach again until 2025.