December: start of summer / back to winter soon

Posted by Patrick Lam on Saturday, January 21, 2023

Table Of Contents

I have a Mastodon account! (Well, two: one for research and one for general tooting).

Not much to report on the COVID front. Had one known close contact encounter at the SPLASH banquet but continued to test negative and had no symptoms through 5 days. (Later on I found that I actually had two close contacts. Dodged them both, this time. Probably my luck isn’t infinite, but I’m grateful for it now.)

Another close call.

Canada counts seem to be fairly stable? But hospitals and especially pediatric hospitals are super full as of early January. NZ is definitely having a December (start of summer) wave with lots of cases.

China seems to have given up on zero COVID. Omicron is eventually just too hard. I still think there should be measures like masking and improved ventilation. They reduce transmission, at least. Even the bivalent booster still has 50% efficacy against infection by recent variants, if taken in the last 3 months.


OK, winter really is coming and I started to work on my courses next term, specifically ECE 459 assignment overhaul. I coded Rust string processing for basically a week to write a template that students can optimize. I also need to prepare some flipped lectures.

I went to my first conference in three years. It’s great to talk to people in person. SPLASH in Auckland was super convenient for me. I really appreciated the good ventilation at the conference venues (University of Auckland Grafton campus, and Auckland War Memorial Museum). Lots of people made the trip from the US and Europe as well. Not so many from Canada except for a contingent from UBC.

Lecture hall at Auckland Uni; Rob O'Callahan giving an engaging keynote; Māori cultural performance at SPLASH banquet; excellent air quality at Auckland Museum; preparing for Onward! reprise.

I was surprised to see that I’d worked on 16 days in December, given the holidays where I definitely didn’t work. And I talked to my students on 4 days.


More service. Internally, there was a master’s thesis to read, and two PhD comprehensive exams (one had been rescheduled due to a calendar error). Externally, I also started a new SIGPLAN-M long term mentoring gig and met my mentee at SPLASH.

Looks like I did no peer reviews in December.


Finally we submitted our Empirical Software Engineering paper. Hope it gets in!

I also gave the talk for my HATRA workshop paper (student authors couldn’t make it) and reprised my Onward! Essays 2020 paper in person. I had a pretty decent audience for all of these talks (yay!) and I think the HATRA Github Copilot paper had the most questions I’ve ever had following a talk. It is a trendy subject right about now.


I was on a trip for more than half the month: Auckland for 5 days and South Island for 13 days.

Greater Wellington hike: Haurangi Hut

We went on a hike in the Remutakas out to Haurangi Hut; it is almost accessible by transit from Wellington. There is an Uber ride at the end and then it’s possible to return by bus (some guy did offer us a ride). We did not hear kiwis, though they are supposedly out there.

Orangorango River (wouldn't want to cross it there); and moss.

SPLASH conference, Auckland

First conference in three years; the last one I’d been to was SPLASH 2019 in Athens. The logistics for the SPLASH trip to Auckland were straightforward. I had gotten a flexichange ticket enabling same-day changes, so I could change my flight and check in at the dorm, Grafton Hall, before the desk closed at 5pm. I was on the 8pm flight and changed to the 10am flight, getting in at 11, and to campus at 1pm (with a lunch break).

Grafton Hall is a modern student residence, all singles, with ample common space. Was refurbished in 2019. The showers are actually pretty much like airport lounge shower units. A bargain at US40/night.

Five days in Auckland was more than I’d spent in the city before. I shared NZ travel advice with people at SPLASH, but all I really know about Auckland is Māngere, Piha and Aotea. I could also recommend Rotorua as well.

Grafton Hall room; Auckland Town Hall (took my mentee for a walk there); Auckland Uni Judo Club; Sky Tower.

Some of the food was OK. The soft shell crab bao was less tasty than I was hoping. Yooa and Tako had octopus balls (tako). I’m not sure about eating octopus. They may be too smart. Anyway the yakitori in Japan will be tasty.

South Island wilderness adventures

Like everyone in New Zealand and many people from overseas, we flew in to Queenstown. I think the huge hordes stayed in Queenstown. We tried to get away from the huge hordes by going to Wānaka (small hordes) and Mount Cook Village (some visitors). Did many of the things we’d been planning: Gillespie Circuit, glacier kayaking, Mueller Hut. Also went rock climbing in Wānaka. The South Island Adventures post features many pictures of Wānaka grebes; I’ve put a few here but there are far more there.

Glacier kayaking on Tasman Lake; banded dotterel; night sky at Mueller Hut; baby grebe on parent; me on Gillespie; Crucible Lake.


December looked a lot like November, except that I had half as much biking (I was away from my bikes for much of the month).

  • 🚶 Walking: 175km on 29 days
  • 🚲 Biking: 22km on 3 days
  • 🚗 Driving: 1,016km on 13 days (823km around Wānaka)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 6.1km (once to WLG)
  • ✈ Plane: 2,207km (WLG-AKL roundtrip, WLG-ZQN roundtrip)
  • 🚆 Train: 23km (Auckland suburban train)
  • 🚌 Bus: 191km on 7 days (Greater Wellington hike; Auckland; Wānaka shuttles; glacier kayaking)
  • 🚣 Kayak: 4km (Tasman Lake)
  • ⛴ Boat distance: 22km (jetboat for Gillespie)
  • 🚡 Cable car: 0.7km (1×)

The driving amount was much more reasonable. When in Auckland, there was minimal driving. On the South Island, there was a bunch of driving between Wānaka, Makarora, and Mount Cook Village.

Travel planning

For the most part, too busy actually travelling to do travel planning. I did buy a ticket for MP’s trip to Canada in April, and planned the Montreal car recovery trip that I’m on as I write this.

We also had a day in Wānaka, with no car, before going to Makarora where the Gilespie Circuit starts. We used it to go to the library and do Japan travel planning there (we’d bought tickets in late November). The Wānaka library is perhaps more prescriptive than it needs to be about where to sit. The couches are either in the teenagers’ section, or the kids’ section, or the no-devices section. Anyway we sat there and consulted the Japan Lonely Planet guidebook, while waiting for our car rental pickup time.

Wānaka library. Too prescriptive.


I got through a lot of pictures in the first half of December. Then I was travelling, often without access to my laptop.

I finished the Banks Peninsula Track pictures from October 2022. The scenery really was spectacular.

Adolescent seals; Stony Bay Cottage; Stony Bay Peak; broken ladder at No Albatross Point.

I did some new lens tests:

Cat on Dixon St steps; Australian memorial; pohutukawa blooms.

I also finished the Oamaru/Mount Cook/Tekapo album:

And there was the Auckland Open and Aotea Track from July 2021, including some black petrels:

Kereru; tāiko/black petrel; Auckland "International" Open SM-66 podium; Little Barrier Island in the distance; Kiwiriki bay; Kauri tree.

The List

To do, all from 2021 (days):

  • [July] Hobbiton (5)
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers (7)
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track (4)
  • [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] Queen Charlotte Track (6)
  • [November] New Plymouth (4 days with more than a few pictures)
  • [November] Radome/Red Rocks
  • [November] Remutaka overnight (2)

Well, maybe in the last bit of January I can do some more of the 2021 pictures.

December posts

Two posts is not bad for having done a lot of travelling in December.


As usual, reporting on various activities in December.


I had thought that I had lost my new USB storage key in Auckland. I had not! It turned up a few weeks later. Go figure.

T-shirts are subject to entropy (they accumulate runs), and I got a few new merino shirts to eventually replace the Icebreaker shirts with runs in them. Of course I’ll continue wearing the shirts with runs in the outdoors, but not so much in the city.

I’d gotten my pants fixed in Waterloo, but that was just a stop-gap measure. They’re broken again. I will have to investigate the pants situation. I own a lot of pants, but maybe not other summer-weight hiking pants. I definitely have a bunch of heavier pants, including some soft-shell pants I use to play in the snow.

I also got a new-to-me 35mm prime lens:

Planning to use this lens for evening street photography in Japan. It should be better at low light than the kit 15–50 lens, which is the only other “normal” lens that I have. The other lenses are either telephoto (55–220, 100–400) or wide-angle (12mm) lenses.


There was one serious hike here, the Gillespie Circuit, and then the Around the Mountain Circuit just at the start of January. Entirely satisfactory. Here’s the full list.


Not much judo practice: went 3 times, including once at the Auckland Uni Judo Club. There was a local judo tournament, the Wellington Closed, where I got 2 wins for 1st; and the end-of-year “smashi-waza” at the Wellington Judo Academy. Also, 4 days of outdoor rock climbing: 1 at Titahi Bay and 3 at Wānaka. The first two days at Wānaka at Farside were more sporty with interesting overhangs and athletic moves (though still quite moderate), while the third day was on the Diamond Slab. I can climb harder grades on slab than overhang for sure.


I went to a couple of places in Auckland while at the conference:

  • Yooa & Tako at Auckland Night Market: Legit takoyaki, good for walking around with and eating (which one wouldn’t do in Japan, but is OK in NZ).
  • Dong de moon: Korean food. I wrote “unremarkable” about it.
  • Selera Cafe: Curry with roti. Yum! Tasty post-judo-practice food.
  • Kuai Dian: Unfortunately the soft-shell crab bao was not as flavourful as I’d hoped.


  • Jo’s Pies: been here before but thought I’d give them another shout-out. Fairly substantial pies.
  • Best Ugly Bagels: had a bagel with toppings including bacon. Noticed halfway through that they forgot to put the bacon. They gave me a free bag of 4 bagels.
  • Peking House: end-of-year dinner with Wellington Judo Academy; felt like the Chinese restaurants I’d known from Montreal, but in Wellington.


  • Big Fig: kept on coming back here for breakfast and sharing a large plate. Didn’t make it to dinner.
  • Amigos: tacos exceeded expectations, including standard ones and also non-standard ones like a Caesar Salad taco.
  • Aki Sushi Wānaka: legit for sure. Rice was sufficiently vinegary, and they somehow have a supply chain for fish beyond just salmon and chicken (which is not a fish). Is in the new food truck hub which wasn’t there in 2020.
  • LuLu Asian Supermarket: good choice for boba tea (went twice!), and the dumplings were fine.
  • The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House: was OK I guess; we had FOMO about Muttonbird (5.0*) but it wasn’t even open over Christmas, so not a real option during our visit.
  • Fudog: I’ll rave about the crispy eggplant. Definitely a highlight. Salmon tataki was good too. The Cow Pizza & Spaghetti House


  • Boots and Jandals: had a quite good fish and chips. Staff shortages: some kid was delivering our food…
Soft shell crab bao; curry and roti; SPLASH banquet dinner at Auckland (War Memorial) Museum; various tacos; Big Fig breakfast; pizza and spaghetti; crispy eggplant and salmon tataki.


Continued reading Can’t Get There From Here by André Brett (maps by Sam van der Weerden) and finished it in January (review).


December was great. Especially the conference and vacation parts. The real world kept me from posting about December for quite a while though!