July: some small trips

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, August 13, 2023

Table Of Contents

For no really good reason this report is a bit later than I’d like. So it goes.

In July, I got a few things out the door, and had 3 trips: one to Auckland, one to Turoa (Ruapehu), and one to Queenstown (actually, off-the-grid at Wye Creek). Two of the trips were weekend trips, while Queenstown was 5 days. It’s not quite like a North American summer, especially since I was climbing ice, but from a work point of view, yes, feels like summer.

Auckland International Open; penguins at the Auckland Aquarium; Tahurangi;
B climbing ice at Wye Creek.


July was pretty stable (and an all-time Omicron low). The numbers in New Zealand are now increasing. I’ve heard noises about an actual wave in the US, projected to infect 10% of the population. Wastewater numbers in Kitchener aren’t currently spiking.


Here’s a study about how masks worked to reduce COVID transmission in Ontario in 2020.

  • Peng, Bosco, Simmons, Tuite, and Fisman. “Impact of Community Masking on SARS-CoV-2 Transmission in Ontario after Adjustment for Differential Testing by Age and Sex.” mexRxiv

Some economists developed a mechanism for adjusting for testing rates by age to conclude that mask mandates do indeed work. They don’t look like they do, because young people don’t get tested much. The bottom line is that the actual number of cases in Ontario in summer and fall 2020 was 630,000, and the estimated number of cases without masks would have been around 340,000. [mastodon thread by @auscandoc@med-mastocdon.com]


I’m hoping that the new monovalent XBB vaccines will be available in Canada in October. I read something about them being behind schedule, but the latest I heard was that they should be available in the US by September 15. Meanwhile, further along, there’s news about a new vaccine consortium to run late-stage clinical trials; an intranasal booster past phase 1, and a pancoronavirus vaccine (preclinical).


I maintain that for non-elderly people, the biggest issue with COVID is long COVID. (There are other things too, like medium-term risk of cardiovascular damage, but we just don’t talk about that, with some exceptions.). Our society is really bad at chronic illness. Here’s an Ed Yong piece in The Atlantic about long COVID and ME/CFS.

And, in other long COVID news:

There is a more technical article about diagnosing Long Covid from the Best Practice Advocacy Centre New Zealand:


Finished the Journal of Systems and Software submission during the jury duty week; there was a July 10 deadline, which was right in the middle of that week.

We also sent in a proposal to help build a Software Engineering program at Laurier. Let’s see if they are willing to pay us at our stated rates, which are, in my opinion, high but fair.

Worked on 18 days; nominally 20 work days in July. Definitely still working, but not at peak intensity level. There was a lot of FAUW work as well as talk preparation and delivery. Will put in a push for a conference paper resubmit in August.

Grad students/mentees

I think I talked to my single grad student once. Maybe I talked to one of my incoming students once (or maybe that was in August?). Will have more meetings in September when I’m back up to 3 students.


In addition to the JSS submission, I presented a talk for Oracle Labs:

I also remastered a version of my UBC/PNW PLSE talk.

The problem with putting the tripod in front of the screen is that it can be hard to see the screen.

And, there was an NSERC Discovery Grant Notification of Intent.




There was a lot of Faculty Association stuff. Since there was a member-initiated motion going forward to reset the Board of Directors, as the chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee, I took the initiative to propose a new minimal slate of Directors to the membership and to constrain how the remaining Director spots would be filled. The online Special General Meeting had record turnout (over 500 out of 900 members) and all of the proposed motions passed, including my proposed slate. I would have preferred if it had not been at 4am, but so it goes. The external meeting chair from OCUFA was very good.

I am optimistic about the future of the Faculty Association, though we all will have to do a lot of work to get it back into a functional state.

Wrote a Continuing Lecturer promotion letter for a colleague.


I had jury duty in New Zealand. (Ironically, I just got a jury questionnaire in Ontario too, go figure). That took a week of time. I’m confident that we reached well-supported verdicts. It was an interesting experience. Unlike in Ontario, you do get a token reimbursement for your time in New Zealand; I followed University of Waterloo policy and made a corresponding donation to the University.


Auckland International Open, July 7-10

The last-minute flight worked and I took transit to the airbnb, except for the last mile Uber. Could’ve walked 4km, but it was rainy and a bit late.

I was trying to figure out whether the Auckland Open or the North Island Championships would be a better tournament. Going on last year’s entries, I bet on North Islnds, but I think I did it wrong; there were strong teams from French Polynesia and New Caledonia (which has a strange political status). I refereed all weekend, including a 23:59 golden score match. Yikes! Maybe I would have liked to do the Sunday training camp instead of refereeing the kids. We finished by 2pm on Sunday.

The tournament was near Mission Bay, which is on the beach. Made a trip to the aquarium on Sunday afternoon as well. They have gentoo and king penguins.

Easy come, easy go. Lost a free cup I had gotten from Kathmandu and that I was using for my tea. Too bad, it was a nice insulated cup.

Canadian flag at Auckland International Open; a match; gentoo penguins; some crab; Auckland over the tracks.

Turoa Tahurangi attempt, Matariki weekend (July 14-15)

I offered to lead a NZAC Wellington trip. We had been hoping to get to Mount Angelus. But it was too late to get boat tickets for Matariki weekend. Need a bit more lead time for that.

Instead, we went to Turoa Tahurangi. Unfortunately, we let ourselves get psyched out by the no-visibility forecast and left for the trailhead (aka ski resort) pretty late. We might have been able to do it if we had left at 7:30 instead and not futzed around: it was pretty clear at the mountain.

Access to Ruapehu during the Matariki weekend was challenging. There seemed to be hordes of people just going to see snow and sledding, likely from Auckland. We couldn’t even get up to the lodge for a while: the road was closed due to lack of parking up there. We chilled out in the DOC Visitor Centre and eventually they let us up. The Whakapapa parking lot was apparently closed from 11 to 3. It was nice to stay at the Manuwatu Ski and Tramping Club lodge. It’s far from Tuhurangi but was the only possible accomodation choice by the time we were ready to book something. I’m sure the non-bookable huts wouldn’t have worked.

We made it to the base lodge at 11 and gained 400m of elevation in 2 hours. At the upper lodge, I got out the stove and we had a hot chocolate.

Carrots at Okahune; leaving Whakapapa; glimmer of blue ski; cloudy tarn; me with found goggles; skiiers at Turoa.

Leading Technical Ice course, July 25-31

The thing about technical ice is that I don’t really need to go ice cragging. But technical ice does occur on mountain climbs, and so the options are either to bail; to go around the long way; or to go over it. Knowing how to climb technical ice makes more options available.

I only brought the Chromebook on this trip and left it in a car. It was fine since I wasn’t using computers much on the trip. I did manage to do some editing of my website through the Chromebook (specifically adding a Mastodon verified link). I haven’t used the Chromebook much but it’s good to have a low-value backup computer.

Anyway, the course was given by mountain guide Tim Robertson through NZAC. I’ve only been climbing ice once before, and it was about 20 years ago.

We had an excellent crew, with Dan from Australia and Bianca from Wanaka. Unfortunately Chris had to cancel, but he lent me his tent, which I didn’t quite set up right. I would have welcomed a hut in Wye Creek, but managed OK in the tent. Turns out I had way more gloves than I needed in these conditions.

In terms of the ice climbing itself, my tool placements were definitely shaky at the beginning, but got more confident as the course progressed. I still don’t have a 100% accurate assessment of when a placement is secure, but I’ll tend to underestimate, which is fine I guess, just requiring more work.

Apart from swinging the axes and crampons, there’s the matter of ice protection. We definitely got practice placing screws and making V-threads and A-threads. And clipping pre-placed screws on lead, which is a useful part of ice climbing progression. Still haven’t made a lot of ice anchors; that’s something that I should practice more.

I do feel like I can lead easy technical ice now, like WI2. WI3 might be a stretch depending on how fat it is.

Guide Tim learned to ice climb in the Canadian Rockies and kept on going about how there was great ice and great ice climbers there. I’ve definitely met some of those climbers but I haven’t climbed that ice. Maybe one day.

Helo takeoff; Wye Creek ice; camping in the snow; the Remarkables; ice cragging; gear; me on a climb.

Travel planning

Jury duty threw a wrench into my Auckland travel plans. Fortunately, Great Journeys NZ refunded my train ticket after I told them I had jury duty. (I didn’t really think I’d get selected, and the room really was full of potential jurors. I guess I just won). I got a last-minute flight from Wellington to Auckland on Friday evening: on-the-fly travel planning.

I also checked out the guidebook for the Turoa Tahurangi route in the Auckland Central Library. Libraries are great.

Also did some travel planning for the Wanaka skiing trip.

Movement statistics

Looks like I was about at the 2021/2022 monthly average even without multi-day hikes. Not so many formal hikes, but I did make an effort to leave the house and walk sometimes. There was more annoying weather in early August, but July was good. Small amount of biking as usual. Driving was almost all for getting to Ruapehu. There was a ferry and a pair of helicopter rides.

  • 🚶 Walking: 134km on 27 days (good)
  • 🚲 Biking: 66km on 7 days (almost all judo)
  • ✈ Plane: 2,294km (WLG-AKL-WLG, WLG-ZQN-WLG)
  • 🚗 Driving: 640km on 4 days (mostly Ruapehu)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 4.2km (last “mile” to airbnb in Auckland)
  • 🚌 Bus: 100km on 5 days
  • 🚆 Train: 29km on 2 days (AKL)
  • ⛴ Boat: 7km (Queenstown ferry)
  • 🚡 Cable car: 0.6km (1×)
  • 🚁 Heli: 44km (ZQN to Wye Creek)


There was a slog out to Touchdown on the ice climbing trip (3 hours, 2.2km, 500m), plus walking around Auckland.


More 2021 pictures. The two-year anniversary of picture acquisition is fast approaching, but there are only 3 days left to process. But one of those days is Lake Matheson, which is a doozy (1000 pictures).

Paparoa etc, September 2021

Not the Paparoa Track: Hilton Blackball; helo at start of Paparoa; pointy Southern Alps CHC-TIU.

Whio; old machinery; sunset at Pororari; MP; falls at Waterfall Creek; nikau; cute story about wekas and bikes; Paparoa landscape; the track on a grey morning; pancake-like rocks.

Auckland, July 2023

Back to the present, here’s a day from Auckland, and in particular the Aquarium visit. Highlights from these appear above, so I’ll skip them here.

Turoa, July 2023

The List

More progress on the September 2021 album, though there are a lot of pictures from Lake Matheson.

  • [January] Zealandia, January 4/14/18/Wellington Butterfly (23), Zealandia (April, June, September, November), Wellington Sunset (November), lens tests (November)
  • [September] Paparoa Track & the Glaciers (3)

Backlog 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] New Lens Day
  • [December] Wanaka Grebes (6)
  • [December] Gillepsie Circuit (4)
  • [December] Mueller Hut (2)
  • [December] Glacier iceberg kayaking
  • [December] Omarama

Added a bunch more pictures from July, although I did get one day of Auckland pictures and the main Turoa pictures up.

  • [January] AMC (6)
  • [May] West Coast Tour (3)
  • [May] Montreal and NZ (4)
  • [June] Wellington Open (1)
  • [July] Skyline (1)
  • [July] Auckland (2)
  • [July] Turoa (1 more)
  • [July] Wye Creek (6)

July posts

I wrote about zombies. I used a free photo on the web to illustrate it. Later on, I found my own zombies photo in my archive. Now I can’t find it anymore. I guess it doesn’t have good enough metadata.


Kind of spendy month. Good thing the University gave us all a lump sum to compensate for Bill 124 being struck down.


  • technical ice boots: I was a bit worried about the fit but it seems fine; my approach shoes are definitely more comfortable though!
  • Black Diamon Sabretooth Stainless Pro Crampons to go with the ice boots
  • various slings and cords (5mm prussik; BD 18mm nylon 120cm)
  • two tuques: I just can’t win
  • more liner gloves as well as ice clippers
  • a balaclava (I guess I didn’t bring any) that I didn’t use
  • got ski jacket back after zipper replacement
  • poo pouch
  • yet another charger, this one quite compact for a laptop-capable one: Switchwerk Type-C PD Charger 65W

I also picked up my Sigma 100-400 lens, now fixed. I got worried on a trip when it was again failing to focus, but this time, it was just the switch being in Manual Focus mode.

My RX-100 may be on the fritz after the Queenstown trip. It gets into this mode where it starts to turn on and extend the lens, and then gives up on that and turns off, and cycles through turning on and giving up.


Judo practice 6×, including club Blue and White Tournament.

Went to the bouldering gym on July 17th.



  • Gemini Cafe and Eatery: cool space next to Moore Wilson’s and a bunch of other small eateries; there was also Grace Patisserie there before they went on maternity leave. Enjoyed my matcha latte.
  • Mother of Coffee: relatively new Ethiopian restaurant in Wellington, was delicious and not very expensive. Historically my favourite Ethiopian restaurant was Fasika in Somerville MA. This compared well to it, though it’s been too long and I can’t really say one is better than the other.
  • Regal: yum cha, pretty much like dim sum when I was growing up in Montreal for the most part. I thought that in Vancouver the specialties were different.


  • Good George: tournament went late on Saturday and this was the last bet. Good ribs. Apparently a chain, saw a location in Rotorua also.
  • Lupino: Italian restaurant, fried gnocchi was perhaps too sweet.
  • Forbes Homemade Gourmet: good scone.



  • Fergbaker: baguette from Fergbaker; met my high expectations. Was it buffalo mozzarella & tomato?
  • Vudu: pretty serious sausage roll which I ate on the ferry to near the airport
  • King Made Noodles Queenstown: had beef noodle soup which was not pho; got packed with a bunch of CHinese tourists as I was there.
Pan-fried gnocchi from Lupino; beef noodle soup (not pho); fries and chorizo (not poutine); no comment?; ribs from Good George; Ethiopian dish from Mother of Earth; baguette from Fergbaker; yams (aka oca).


Same as usual. More FAUW, less OAC (though the letter writing campaign seems to be going well).


I read more of the books that I borrowed from the library.

  • Colin Moore. Off the beaten track: 20 multi-day walks on New Zealand farm and backcountry trails. 2009.

These hikes are pretty luxurious and easier than Great Walks, but good to know about them. We did enjoy the Banks Peninsula Track and Hump Ridge (which is going to become a Great Walk any day now).

  • Kerry-Jayne Wilson. NZ Seabirds: A Natural History. 2021.

Encyclopedic book about our state of knowledge about NZ seabirds as of 2021. Some excellent pictures from the usual photographers. Discussion of birds’ migration, feeding, biology and breeding, and conservation. It’s tough to be a seabird, and it’s tough for humans to study seabirds since we’re stuck either on land or on boats, and they’re flying. Though it’s still hard enough to preserve the NZ fairy tern, which is still a shore bird.

Broad-billed prions and Chatham petrels are both rare, but the prions steal burrows from the petrels, killing petrel chicks and causing the petrels to “desert their burrow and break their pair bond”; they then need to find another partner and breed successfully, which takes another season or two. The author and her grad student developed burrow flaps to keep prions out (made from neoprene wetsuit offcuts).

  • Alan Froggatt. The Story of New Zealand’s Unique Birds: from Adzebill to Yellow-eyed Penguin. 2021.

This book starts with a bunch of extinct birds, which is depressing, but then talks about the birds that are not extinct yet. The birds generally aren’t highly coloured but some are really weird (kakapo, kea, kiwi).

  • Rob Suisted. National Parks of New Zealand. 2011.

Been to all of them except the disestablished one. Not so much new content to me, but some good pictures (it’s a photographer’s book after all). Restricting to National Parks does exclude some of the classic pictures though, e.g. Moeraki boulders.


Good month with the usual mix of things I get up to. No complaints, really.