February: COVID, teaching, and a trip to Japan

Posted by Patrick Lam on Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Table Of Contents

February was really quiet with COVID recovery, and then we went on a trip! This term is also going by pretty quickly. I’m waiting for a bunch of things in March and hope that goes well.


As I mentioned last month, I didn’t manage to dodge COVID indefinitely. Less is more, and almost three years is pretty good. Hopefully it’ll be more than 3 years before getting it again. It was most likely in the Ag Rec Centre in Abbotsford, which actually had abysmal air quality,

Abbotsford AgRec Centre looks spacious; but has terrible air circulation.

I wasn’t really ever in a terrible state but the tests were weakly positive on day 0, strongly positive through day 4 and definitely still positive through day 8, with a weak positive on day 9 and a negative on day 10. I had a cough and felt tired; I did a bunch of load-shedding with respect to work, only doing tasks that were hard to reschedule. My recovery wasn’t linear; it was kind of a pattern that I felt better on day N, worse on day N+1, and better again on day N+2.

Fortunately I seem to have no noticeable long-term effects (but the studies seem to show that we’re at higher risk for heart attacks and diabetes for a while at least). In Japan I walked 20km in a day and went skiing; those were both fine. I’ve also been to the climbing gym, but not to judo practice yet.

Things COVID disrupted

  • Logan movie screening (I had bought a ticket for a movie!)
  • Iron Ring Ceremony

Things COVID didn’t disrupt as much as it could have

  • Lectures: we didn’t actually have class the day before the Iron Ring Ceremony, and I figured I had enough slack space in ECE 453 so that I could cancel Wednesday’s lecture.
  • Trips: It was early enough that it didn’t disrupt my trip to Peterborough to help give a refereeing clinic, and I realy appreciate that it didn’t disrupt the Japan trip.

Overall COVID situation

I was writing on Facebook that the rate of new information about COVID that’s been coming out has really slowed down since March 2020. But there are a bunch of new factoids of various levels of reliability. I’m still hoping for a nasal vaccine, but there’s no evidence that is going to be available anytime soon.

The same links, but with more discussion:


Worked on 17 days. Took a week (Reading Week) plus 2 days of vacation and did minimal work during that week (answered a bunch of emails on the 11 hour train ride). Took 2 sick days at the start of COVID; would have taken 3 but didn’t want to postpone a student’s thesis defense, and did read some of the student’s thesis on one of the 2 sick days. February is short but has 20 work days.

Talked to current and potential students on 5 days, plus SIGPLAN-M mentees on 2 other days.

Most of the work was teaching and service, as well as working with my grad students on their research (though not so much of that this month). There will be more next month.


I said more students were coming to class than last year, but that is definitely no longer true; I’m seeing 8 students come to ECE 459 at MF 11:30. I’m not quite sure what’s going on. Maybe students like to come to traditional lectures more than flipped lectures?

Strangely, I have more students come to ECE 453 even though it’s a way smaller class. It’s like 22/44 for ECE 453 and 8/140 for ECE 459. ECE 453 is not flipped though. I’m very happy with TAs this term, especially having 2 TAs for ECE 453.

Also, I had a quiz in ECE 453, and the students did well.

I cancelled one ECE 453 lecture and recorded two videos due to COVID. I also recorded a congratulations video for ECE 459 after their Iron Ring Ceremony.

I knew that I’d be getting the video gear back out. I did not use OBS this time; I just recorded the videos with zoom and edited them with kdenlive.


Nothing major to report. Grant proposal review for the Hong Kong Research Granting Council, FAUW Nominations and Elections Committee, faculty hiring screening call and interview, PhD defense (while I had COVID), 2 SIGPLAN-M mentoring calls.


I started editing Moh’s draft, but then he found that he had to make a major correction to the infrastructure, so I put that on hold. Mohammad is super busy with courses, and Laurian is plugging away. Not much to report this month. I suppose I could have done research instead of going on vacation, but that is not the choice that I want to make.


Stayed at home for the first part, then a Saturday trip to Peterborough, then a Reading Week trip to Japan.


For MP’s first trip abroad since the pandemic started, we agreed that Japan for Reading Week would be the ticket. Close to halfway between Auckland and Toronto; only 12 hours for both of us.

While en-route, I had time to write up a trip report for the first part:

The Nakasendō was an ancient road linking Edō (Tōkyō) and Kyōto. As I understand it, the Tokugawa-era “alternate attendance” policy reinforced shogunal control by forcing feudal lords to go live in the de facto capital Edō every other year, and their wives and first-born sons to live in there all the time. (More money spent on real estate and travel is less money spent on raising armies!) We wouldn’t have time to do all the 300km of the road, but we could do a bit more than the 8km tourist highlight from Magome to Tsumago.

House with wheels in Tsumago; water wheel; old building in the rain.

MP wanted to see the cherry blossoms, so we added early cherry blossoms in Miurakaigan just at the beginning. They weren’t at peak yet; a week later would have been more epic probably. We did see warbling white-eyes and some water birds.

Food stalls, warbling white-eye, and little egret.

We also went to see more historic districts and castles in Takayama, Kanazawa, and Matsumoto, and then up to Hokkaido for mellow nature. Well, maybe the double black diamond at Sapporo Teine that I did 5 times isn’t quite so mellow, but the snow was super soft.

In Matsumoto, there was a black kite busily eating some prey. We could see (through the monocular) feathers flying.

Hida Folk Village; Matsumoto Castle; kite with prey above castle; MP with snowman at Hida; Kanazawa historic street; onsen in hotel in Takayama.

We did a lot of train travel on this trip, even more than originally planned: 2108km (half of Toronto-Vancouver). It was pretty comfortable, though the Hokkaido trains in particular (“limited express”, not shinkansen) were up to 40 minutes late. The longest train day was 1245km over 11 hours. Once you get to Hakodate, you’re on the slow train to Sapporo.

Ekiben (lunchboxes for the train); model trains; shinkansen pulling in at Omiya.


I also helped put on a clinic for new and prospective judo referees in Peterborough. Hope we get some new referees out of it; Ontario is quite short on referees. From memory, we had about 8 people there. Stayed in Toronto the night before and carpooled to Peterborough. It’s kind of far. Many things are far in Canada, unfortunately.

Future travel planning

I’d forgotten all about planning these this month, but here we are:

  • a somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Marble Mountain in April for Easter Weekend. Can also go to Gros Morne.
  • West Coast May trip; should get to the Sierra Nevadas, Seattle, Vancouver/Squamish, and Nelson.

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: 100.1km on 13 days (thanks COVID)
  • 🚲 Biking: 59.7km on 6 days
  • 🚗 Driving: 662km on 5 days (Peterborough was most of that, plus looking for owls)
  • 🚌 Bus: 304km on 6 days (Japan plus Pearson)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 3.4km (Kitchener to home)
  • ✈ Plane: 21,520km (YYZ-NRT roundtrip, KUH-HND)
  • 🚆 Train: 2108km on 9 days (Japan plus UP Express)
  • 🚇 Métro: 43km on 5 days (Toronto, Sapporo, Tokyo)
  • ⛷ Skiing (downhill): 12km, chairlift: 13km
  • 🚶 Snowshoeing: 2km (Kushiro)


I finally fixed videos on my gallery (by cloning the videojs plugin from its github source)!

COVID was a chance to do a bunch of pictures. Then I went and took 55G of pictures in Japan, oops.

Hobbiton et al (July 2021)

MP loved Hobbiton so much that she went back a second time; I came with her on this trip and we went to the mid-winter feast.

Tarawera; Hobbiton; Te Waihou/Blue Spring; sheep at Sheridan Hills; corrugated steel animal at Tirau; plam and MP at Hobbiton; from Mount Maunganui.

Tekapo, Aoraki, and Mount Somers (October 2021)

Not yet complete, there is still 1 day with 600 photos. Hopefully soon. Some great photos though.

Aoraki over Lake Tekapo; black stilt at Glentanner; mountains from Unwin Lodge; penguin at International Antarctic Centre; the Pinnacles at Mount Somers; malamute at the International Antarctic Centre.


Random pictures, including some really old ones from the archives:

View from Pencarrow Head lighthouse; Wellington Harbour from Mount Vic; tui from Mount Vic; seabirds at Waikanae; miniature baby pony and mom; little shag.

The List

The end of 2021 is in sight. To do, all from 2021 (days):

  • [Misc] Zealandia (January 4/14/18), a Wellington butterfly (January 23), Zealandia (April), Zealandia (June) (September)
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers (7)
  • [September/October] Abel Tasman Coast Track (4)
  • [October] Mt. Cook and Mt. Somers (1)

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

And here’s the 2023 list.

  • [January] Around the Mountain (6)
  • [February] Japan (13)

February posts

I linked the AMC trip report last month but I actually wrote it in February. And I wrote part of the Japan trip report.


Less to write here this month.


  • “USB charge port & FOLDABLE STAND for Smartphone & Tablet”: the stand part is pretty good, though I haven’t found the perfect stand yet. I wish it could be higher and hold the phone more solidly, but clamps are annoying too. I don’t use the charge port much, but it seems like it could be useful for people.
  • Kioxia TransMemory 64GB supporting USB3.2 Gen 1: someone measured the write speed as 33MB/s. I had the idea that I could copy my 50GB of Japan photos onto it. That would take 42 hours.
  • plants, allegedly survivors; we’ll see.
  • a plastic box for storing gear, after I broke one of my old ones by leaning on it.


There was the Nakasendo segment (about 20km) and lots of general walking in Japan, though not trails for the most part. No other trails.


No judo due to COVID and Japan trip! Went to the climbing gym once; just happened to be the assistant manager Taylor’s last day. Then there was walking, skiing, and snowboarding in Japan.


We had an in-person Ontario Alliance of Climbers Board meeting (first in 3 years), which was conveniently scheduled before leaving for Japan, so I could stay in Toronto overnight. I also did some more IT work for the OAC. CiviCRM upgrades are really annoying; I did one in the Maple Leaf Lounge at Pearson.


Lots of restaurants in Japan, though maybe not so likely that I’ll go back to any of them because Japan is far. But maybe we’ll go again sooner rather than later.

  • many convenience stores in Japan (New Days, 7-11); the food is a lot better than at convenience stores in Canada!
  • Suzuya yakuniku (grilled meats) place, tasty (though I often left the meat on a bit too long, but that’s my own fault).
  • Daikokuya: “we have chestnuts from Nakatsugawa today” which is Nakatsugawa’s claim to fame; they were OK but we did quite like the udon and soba and the not raining on us.
  • Kameyama minshuku 20 minutes’ walk outside Tsumago isn’t quite a restaurant but the food was quite good, especially the grilled fish.
  • Miyagawa Morning Markets in Takayama, various tasty food from stalls (croquette, bao, croissant, filled donut)
  • Logica Docco, super tasty pasta lunch in Takayama (I had beef & potato pasta)
  • Ichibaya inside the Ōmichō market in Kanazawa: good sushi
  • Imoya Cafe in Kanazawa next to the Ninja Temple: the guy really likes sweet potatoes, you can only order sweet potato based food. Good, though.
  • Fuwari: could quite possibly have been the best meal we had in Japan. Grilled meats, croquette, and some sashimi.
  • Washou market: katte don is where you get a bowl of rice and then you make your own chirashi by picking toppings and getting them put on top of the rice (by different vendors). yum!
  • CoCo Ichibanya: a chain; went to a location in Akebonobashi (Shinjuku) which had excellent air quality and also good croquette curry.
  • Soushi Menya Musashi: super rich ramen broth and pork belly. Maybe too rich? But worth it, though a bit hard to finish. I did it!

Probably my top 2 were Fuwari and Logica Docco (yes, pasta in Japan). The katte don was good too.

Grilling at Suzuya yakuniku; dinner at Kameyama minshuku; pasta at Logica Docco; chirashi sushi at Ichibaya; meat board from Fuwari (yum!); katte don from Washou market; curry croquette; dipping noodles with incredibly rich broth at Soushi Menya Musashi; airport sushi at Narita; Air Canada Premium Economy food (last-minute operational upgrade).


Started reading Before the Dawn by Tōson Shimazaki. It’s a real brick and weighs over 1kg. I did not want to bring another 1kg of paper to Japan, so I also borrowed a copy from the Internet Archive and was reading that.


February is short, though staying in the house for 10 days is… different… and something I’d rather not repeat. Really enjoyed our trip to Japan though. March is pretty much the last month of teaching, which is nice.