January: teaching and extracurriculars

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, February 5, 2023

Table Of Contents

I’m trying to get started early this month and post before the 25th of the month. For February that would be close indeed to the end of the month. So I’m writing this on January 27th. We’ll see how it goes.

I was at Pearson Airport for three Fridays in a row in January: January 7, 13, 20, and 27 (and Toronto City Centre on the 22nd). But after this, not again until mid February. I thought about going to Saguenay next weekend—the first weekend of February—but decided not to. Whoa, actually staying in Waterloo that weekend. Then Peterborough the Sunday after that, and then Japan for Reading Week (coming soon!) All this made the start of the semester especially challenging. I seem to have gotten through it though.

After the Around the Mountain (Taranaki) Circuit January 2-5, I flew back to Canada on January 7 for the start of classes on January 9. I’m teaching two classes (four days a week) this term: ECE 459 Programming for Performance and ECE 453/CS 447/CS 647 Software Testing Quality Assurance and Maintenance. We’re now past week 3. The start of February is during week 4. Instead of getting off the plane and driving my car back from Montreal to Waterloo, I made another trip the weekend after that, and stopped by Mont Tremblant for skiing along the way. Then I went to Montreal to referee at the Coupe Gadbois, followed by the Pacific International trip that I’m currently on.

I scheduled my COVID bivalent booster for January 9, the first day after my return that Phamily Pharmacy (near my place) was open. Now I should be good for about three months at 50% efficacy versus infection, which is actually not bad. It’s better than flu shots a lot of the time. Not perfect, though. Scientists are still working on better vaccines, but the funding isn’t there for warp-speed progress, unfortunately. No known close contacts in January, but judo tournaments are large and there is some risk. On the other hand, I’ve been too busy to go to other things which might carry COVID risk…

Alas! as I write this on February 1, it looks like COVID finally caught up to me. I had read the new FDA recommendation for three RATs (day 1, 3, and 5) and started today with a weakly positive test. I have a tiny cough and am a bit tired; it would be easy to attribute that to the red-eye from Vancouver. COVID isn’t over, but for me, the vaccine should be pretty optimally timed.

Wild weather on the Around the Mountain Circuit; AKL back to normal; a match at the Coupe Gadbois; mountain view from Abbotsford.


I was reading the January 31, 2020 mathNEWS. We do know more about COVID today than we did back then, which we also seem to be wanting to forget (e.g. masks work! kids in schools with masks have fewer COVID infections than without!) But the rate of new knowledge production is much slower now.

It also seems like the flu/RSV/COVID high season in the US is now past peak; NPR reports this as well.

Tim Requarth of Slate wrote about COVID and the immune system just at the end of January, summarizing recent research. It seems that many cases of long COVID correlate with detectable changes in peoples’ immune systems. But probably for those who don’t get long COVID, the immune system recovers.

I also think, based on excess death numbers in North America, we’re still undercounting COVID deaths (and I think they’re higher than they could be if we took some precautions, though it’s not completely clear the modelling bears that out). What we could be doing is having cleaner indoor air. Some places are great. Other places are abysmal. The Ontario Society of Professional Engineers has a working group on indoor air quality and some good reports on it.


The main thing this month was teaching during the week (and not working on the weekends due to other committments). That was keeping me quite busy. Things should be settling down now.

Worked on 20 days, even with taking a 4 day hike at the beginning of the month. For instance, I prepared flipped-lecture notes at a St. Hubert restaurant on the way back from Tremblant while waiting for the chicken to arrive. Supposedly there are also 20 workdays in January, January 3 being a university holiday. Started student meetings in the first week of classes and talked to students on 7 days.

I submitted another sabbatical application: instead of taking a 6-month sabbatical starting July 2023 (and having 2.5 years of service credit left afterwards), I am taking a 12-month sabbatical starting January 2024. Makes more sense.


Trying to teach ECE 459 as a flipped class. Well, I’m enjoying it. I wonder what the students think. Certainly more are coming to class this term than last year. Starting online really established a different rhythm for that course than last year’s online-only start.

ECE 453 is a traditional lecture. It’s much easier to teach 44 undergrads and 2 grads than 125 MEng students. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with that course over the next few years with new faculty, etc.


I had a journal and a grant review, plus a PhD thesis to read. COVID threw my schedule off a bit, so I did manage to read the PhD thesis (mostly) and serve on the committee, but the reviews are still pending. This week, I hope. Apart from that, there was some SIGPLAN-M mentoring—the usual, really.

There’s a constant stream of light work on the FAUW Nominations and Elections Committee. It’s very manageable.


Submitted a Mitacs Globalink proposal. It was kind of a lot of work for a small amount of money. I appreciate our ECE department chair matching the $4k to be provided by Globalink with $2k from departmental funds.

Apart from that, too much teaching to substantively advance my research, and my new student Mohammad is taking two courses this term, so it’ll be tough as well. I should really choose new students for September though.


One longish trip (once again, second try lucky) and three weekend trips (eeps).

Around the Mountain (Taranaki) Circuit

Brooding cliffs on day 3; walking the riverbed on the deviation on day 2; path through the forest on day 2.

I write (Taranaki) to distinguish from the Round the Mountain (Tongariro) Circuit. Usually AMC versus RMC is consistent but even some of the official signs on the AMC say Round the Mountain.

Day 1 was super easy. Day 2 got a bit harder. Then day 3 had quite strong winds that got pretty tiresome. Not as bad as Mount Fyffe, but exposed to the wind for longer. Day 4 was really easy as well. Elevation gain got up to +1040m on day 3.

This hike is harder than a Great Walk, i.e. after the first Pouakai-Circuit-overlapping day, the next two days are not a sidewalk. The AMC is easier than the Gillespie Circuit, but we got worse weather. The views with the rocks, the rivers, and the mountains are worthy. It’s not that alpine, but it is definitely above treeline (see comment about weather!) I might try it again to see if we get better mountain views. We had some, but we’ve definitely had more when we did the Pouakai Circuit.

Back to Canada

This was the day after returning from New Plymouth. Nothing so exciting about the trip; just a bunch of hours on a plane. Didn’t get the upgrade on the Auckland-Vancouver segment, nor did the people next to me, who were returning to Montreal from Australia. That overnight economy seat 18F was pretty uncomfortable this time, though the food was fine. I was definitely not up for public transit from YYZ after all that flying. Our condo, though, was left in excellent condition (just don’t ask the plants what they thought about it).

Luggage on the Wellington Airport Express; chai latte at Air New Zealand Lounge in Wellington; preventing crow nesting in a totem pole; another YVR totem pole; Christmas tree still up at YYZ; my stuff at YYZ.

Fetching the car & Mont-Tremblant

I decided that the weekend after returning to Canada would be the best time to retrieve my car, so I got a plane ticket to YTZ on Friday afternoon. Met up with hopefully-future-colleague Weiyi on Friday evening (he patiently waited while I was delayed and waited for my luggage and then we went to Mont Tacos), then my aunt and uncle, then Michael on Saturday, then went skiing at Mont-Tremblant on Sunday (good snow on top, not so much base) and gave Bilal a ride back to Toronto. Was good to have the company in the car.

Upgraded on a 1 hour flight (expiring points); car buried in snow; Berri-UQAM metro to Longueuil; bibliothèque du Plateau-Mont-Royal; good skiing day at Tremblant.

Coupe Gadbois

The next weekend after that there were two judo tournaments: in Montreal, the Coupe Gadbois; and, in Regina, the Saskatchewan Open. The Sask Open is on the Canadian circuit and watched by the national referee committee, but there would be a lot more matches at Gadbois. I chose to go to Gadbois.

Gadbois is one of the 4 provincial “développement” tournaments on the Quebec circuit, and had about 950 entries this year. It includes U12 through veterans, including a combined U21/senior division. I noticed that this tournament had noticeably fewer referees who were National A or higher than in the past; 3 IJF As were rostered by Judo Quebec for this tournament but indicated that they couldn’t make it. Felt like a changing of the guard.

Anyway, I had a good time at this tournament with my Quebec referee friends. Diane Couture has done a superlative job in getting more women involved in refereeing. On Sunday morning we got the veterans and ne-waza (groundwork), which was more engaging to referee than U12.

Transportation was messy. I had a Bad Transit Day getting to Pearson: the GO bus which had worked so well last week (got there earlier than forecast) left behind 25 people at its first stop this week; then I took the GRT bus to the Kitchener train station (should’ve taken the LRT) and it was super full; then the connecting bus from Bramalea to Pearson was early and left without me. At that point I gave up and took an Uber to the airport.

Then it turned out that, on Sunday, I also needed to take an Uber from the Centre Pierre Charbonneau to the airport at 4:30 to make my 6:00 flight to YTZ. There was 15 minutes of traffic delay near YUL. I arrived at YTZ at 20:19 and it took until 00:13 to get back to Waterloo, which is pretty terrible. Driving my car to/from Pearson would have been way faster, but the roads were messy, I didn’t have winter tires installed, and flights to Pearson were quite delayed.

Snowy YYZ departure; YUL; this time, walking right by luggage collection at YUL; Centre Pierre Charbonneau set up for judo; Olympic Village; back at YUL.

Pacific International

I’d refereed at this tournament in 2019 and fought in it in 2014. I was also planning to referee it in 2022, but it and the Edmonton International got moved to the two weeks in April where I would be in New Zealand. Instead I took an AST 1 Avalanche Skills course last March.

For the past few years, the Pacific International had been held at the Richmond Olympic Oval. The Canadian national championships in 2013 were also there, where I’d had my best result (5th). This year, it would be at Abbotsford, which is an hour’s drive from YVR. (One could fly to Abbotsford YXX, but not with Air Canada, and I’d used points to book this travel).

It was good to referee with some people from the West that I don’t usually referee with, as well as others who I have refereed with before. I was talking to a newer referee from BC. Sometimes people in Ontario think it’s hard to get experience, but this seems to be true in BC as well. I pointed at Quebec tournaments, though of course Washington is closer (with the appropriate approvals to cross the border).

We were refereeing U21 -60kg, and due to the draw, some of the preliminary matches could easily have been senior bronze medal matches at open nationals—I know this since I fought that category last May. Well, hope I impressed the Judo Canada Referee Committee.

Some referees went to eat at Boston Pizza in Abbotsford, which had 3.6* on Google Maps. Instead of that, I had a spicy chirashi at a nearby sushi restaurant, which I think was much tastier. And on Sunday I met up with my friend M who drove up from Seattle just to see me, which was very nice.

This tournament was well organized, but the air quality in the venue was actually abysmal, as indicated by my CO2 meter readings reaching 2800ppm. Turns out I tested positive for COVID on Wednesday after returning from the tournament.

YYZ yet again; stop in Ottawa; crow protection at YVR; airbnb in Abbotsford; AgRec Centre; good judo and abysmal air in the Centre; flying out of YVR; off the plane at YYZ.

Future travel planning

MP and I worked out the details of the Japan trip. Should be great! We are going to see early cherry blossoms in Miura Kaigan, walk on the most popular part of the Nakasendo (and slightly less popular parts), stay in a ryokan, and see some castles and some red-crowned cranes in Hokkaido. Also maybe there will be some powder to ski on.

Movement statistics

Walking normally drops precipitously in Waterloo, but I guess I made more of an effort this year, and I was only in Waterloo for two thirds of the month. Biking goes up again.

  • 🚶 Walking: 131km on 23 days
  • 🚲 Biking: 80km on 16 days
  • 🚗 Driving: 1,021km on 6 days (including Montreal to Tremblant to Waterloo, and Abbotsford)
  • 🚌 Bus: 341km on 9 days (New Plymouth shuttles and buses; getting to YYZ and from YUL)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 276km (New Plymouth; YYZ; Montreal)
  • ✈ Plane: 26,749km (WLG-NPL roundtrip; WLG-AKL-YVR-YYZ; YYZ-YUL; YYZ-YUL-YTZ; YYZ-YVR roundtrip)
  • 🚆 Train: 70km (GO to YYZ)
  • 🚡 Cable car: 2.1km (3×)
  • 🚇 Métro: 51.7km on 4 days (Montreal)
  • ⛷ Skiing (downhill): 53km

I went to some effort to bring my car back but I haven’t used it yet. I rented a car in Vancouver. The $55 in additional fees for a 2-day rental was uncool.

Air New Zealand Lounge food; Air Canada AKL-YVR: not bad beef; midnight snack (biscoff, nuts, cheese and crackers); hot breakfast; YVR-YYZ French Toast; YYZ-YUL cheese and fruit plate (× 2); YYZ-YVR nuts; smoked salmon tartare and heritage mix salad; veal and tomato pasta; cheesecake.


Even though I was terribly late with the December report, I did do some more pictures.

I like these ones. Except for the baby-grebes pictures (to come), these may be the best grebe shots, with the sun reflecting in the grebes’ eyes. Unlike the cloudy-day pictures, which I’ll more aggressively prune.

Grebe couple; housing crisis; nesting instinct.

In July 2022 I visited my friends dom and Ruth in Cape Cod and dropped by Tohoku Judo. It was super hot.

Seals on the Cape; herring gull; Cape Cod marshes; everyone is flying at Pearson; Tohoku Thursday night crowd; selfie on the Cape; Boston Logan.

I processed pictures from my departure from New Zealand in November 2021:

Wellington Judo Academy class; pōhutukawa mural in Newtown; just under the luggage weight limit; NZCon on the plane; Māngere Mountain in Auckland; actual pōhutukawa; deserted Auckland international terminal; SoFi stadium in LA; many flights at LAX; topiary dinosaur in Santa Monica; cheap but adequate hotel near LAX; CanCon; Montreal Trudeau airport in winter.

And some random days in 2021:

Vietnamese book in the Nelson Public Library; Wellington Cable Car tunnel; Sylvester the Allenby Cat.

The List

To do, all from 2021 (days):

  • [January] Pencarrow Coast/Lighthouse
  • [January] Zealandia, January 4/14/18/Wellington Butterfly (23), Zealandia (April), Zealandia (June) (September)
  • [March] Waikanae Beach
  • [July] Hobbiton (4)
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers (7)
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track (4)
  • [October] Mt. Cook and Mt. Somers (3)
  • [November] Mount Vic

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)
  • [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)
  • [December] Kereru (03/12), Zealandia (05/12)
  • [December] Auckland
  • [December] Wanaka Grebes (5)
  • [December] Gillepsie Circuit (4)
  • [December] Mueller Hut (2)
  • [December] Glacier iceberg kayaking
  • [December] Omarama

At least I have (almost) no new pictures from January.

January posts

Two posts this month, just like last month.


What else happened in January?


Got a bunch of things fixed, e.g. clothes, and my summer bike (saddle replacement). I tried to replace a flat on my winter bike but couldn’t do it without pinching the tube, so I finally brought it to the store after two unsuccessful attempts. Did sort of replace the shifter cable, though it’s not quite right.

  • Smith Holt ski/bike helmet (20% off at Sports Experts in Montreal, turned down the floor model with pre-existing scratches.)
  • Anker PowerCore 10000mAh external battery: huh? micro-USB charging in this day and age?! Seems light, though carrying another micro-USB cable loses.
  • UBeesize 62" phone tripod: not quite sure what to make of this; it’s super tall.
  • Manual nose hair trimmer: I thought I had lost my old one, then it turned up again. Anyway, I’ve had bad experiences with battery-operated trimmers not working. This one seems to work fine.
  • USB-C cable 5-pack: I always feel like I need more USB-C cables. Haven’t actually used these yet though (also haven’t travelled since getting them). I should!

I’ve started using my Thinkpad X1 10th Generation. It seems to work. The 6th gen hasn’t quite conked out yet. Anyway, the new computer is about 30g heavier and also has lots of empty disk space for now. I can put all the pictures on it. Installing Debian over the Ubuntu that was there before was a bit hard, but that’s Debian’s fault I think.


Apart from some Walks as a Service in Waterloo (one at the Environmental Reserve, one at Waterloo Park, and one on the Iron Horse Trail),

  • Around the Mountain Circuit, on the second try. Also walked around Miramar looking for orcas. Did not see any orcas, but did see tuis, greenfinches, and silvereye. The Massey Memorial is quite something.


Only went to judo practice once (but February will be worse), and no climbing. Terrible, really.


We were in New Plymouth and again went to George’s where I had an excellent wagyu + caramelized onions on fried bread. Also Snug Lounge which was OK.


  • Le Toit Rouge: very average food, but not many people and good company (mostly Quebec referees; hard to find a table for 15 on a game night)
  • St-Hubert: sure, it’s a chain, but I like it.
  • Le Ming Chuan: last minute diversion; good Chinese (“Asian Fusion”) food.
  • Chez Claudette: well-executed poutine.
  • Mont Tacos: meh, ok, but wouldn’t write home about it.


  • Sui Sha Ya: a better choice than the Boston Pizza with 3.6*.
  • Maojiaohuola: yep, was spicy as advertised. Dry hotpot. Copious quantities for not much money.

In Kitchener-Waterloo, I managed to get to Banh Mi Givral and enjoyed the sandwiches, as usual. I also had some samosas from Hasty Market near the old bus station.

Calamari at Snug Lounge; wagyu and egg fried bread from George's; very average "French tacos" at Mont Tacos; eggplant from Le Ming Chuan; poutine from Chez Claudette; Fairmount bagels; St. Hubert; Sui Sha Ya spicy chirashi; quite spicy Chengdu dry hotput from Maojiaohuola.


Finished Can’t Get There From Here and wrote a review. Nothing else.


First month of the term done. Looking forward to Reading Week (and not having COVID) already.