September: 'back to school' and yet more trips

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, October 1, 2023

Table Of Contents

I’m starting to write this with 4 days of September left. This month has also flown by. Well, I did fly to Canada, which took a bunch of days. Have been back in Wellington for a week and a bit. Also two weekend trips in September: camping on Matiu/Somes Island and a trip that was meant to be mountaineering but diverted to Taupō due to the weather.

I just updated my Common CV (boo!) in preparation for some NSERC applications. One can always publish more. But looking at the publications over the last 6 years (including a pandemic), it hasn’t been terrible. Not superb, but not terrible. I hope the NSERC Discovery evaluators read my proposal favourably. NSERC only looks at last 6 years but I looked up my total h-index while i was looking up citations in general and Google Scholar reports 25, which is a solid number.

The NSERC Discovery application is the main thing I have to do in October, but I also have a talk to give at Amazon. It’ll be busy.

Moh’s two papers are in the process of being submitted again; we just submitted to FSE after an ICSE reject (we failed to excite a champion, and I reworked the marketing), and the Empirical Software Engineering paper is back with us for a second revision and getting close.

As I continue to write this I am in Taupo on a trip. We had meant to go to Tongariro but the weather forecast was bad.

Kakariki; Sydney Opera House and bridge; YVR ramp; Calgary tournament venue; me at Panorama Ridge (photo by Becca Meyers).


Influenza-like illnesses in NZ are dropping again per FluTracker information. That’s likely to be flu, which is seasonal. COVID isn’t seasonal yet, but also seems to be stable in NZ. There is a recent rise in wastewater numbers in Wellington and Otago, though not reflected in NZ-wide numbers.

XBB COVID vaccine available “soon” in Canada. No mention of it in NZ. I’ll plan to get this new yearly vaccine when I’m there in a two weeks, though I phoned my local pharmacist today (10/4) and he said that he got an email last week saying “sometime in October” and hasn’t heard any more than that. Ontario says “late September” but we are already late September and I haven’t heard anything. My first stop in Canada will be in Manitoba, which says “early-to-mid October”.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins just got COVID for the second time. I’d think that politicians in the middle of a campaign would get it more. But, here we are.


There was some service, which I’ll describe below, but mostly this month was talking to students/collaborators and pushing projects ahead, i.e. no big deadlines. Those are in October! The FSE resubmission was easy because we didn’t make major changes to the content, only tweaking the marketing with the goal of getting our message across better.

I ended up working on 18 days in September with 20 work days. Decent effort.

There is an RTI application I’m in on, so that was an excellent reason for me to do the Canadian Common CV (ugh) right now. That’s done, modulo any improvements that may happen between now and November 1.

Grad students/mentees

Managed to have in-person meeting with Moh, Mohammad, and Vinayak when I was in Ontario. Moh and I worked out the plan for the FSE submission on a Sunday morning in Toronto before I flew to YYC, and Mohammad presented his research to me and Vinayak. We also had a Walk as a Service around Columbia Lake.

Also had an in-person meeting with SIGPLAN-M mentee Ardi, though that was a bit interrupted by realizing that I forgot some stuff at my friend Aaron’s place and hurriedly taking an Uber back and then out to the light rail so that I could get to the airport just in time. No missed flights this month either!

Talking to students/collaborators/mentees happened on 8 days (though one of those was while walking to Sydney CBD from the airport, not ideal conditions for paying attention). Started talking to Vinayak, will do so more next month.


Finished Vanier Scholarship letter and quickly got out a letter for a Waterloo student applying for an MEng (kind of makes sense in their case). Chatted with an SE19 in grad school at U of T at his housewarming party in Toronto. Wrote two TOSEM reviews, one in a (nice) library in Calgary while my buddies were having afternoon drinks. So it goes.

Ran a FAUW by-election. Turnout was in line with the old normal, which is good. That should be almost all of the big tasks for my term on the Nominations and Elections Committee. Now it’s up to the new Board. Good luck!


There was a big trip and two small ones. The big trip was another of my multi-stop trips, reaching Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and Seattle. The small trips were on the North Island of NZ, though crossing water was involved in both of those.

Matiu/Somes Island, September 2-3

We’d been to Matiu/Somes Island for a day trip before (pics). Last time the ferry was free because COVID, but now we had to pay for tickets, and indeed, calling in to make a reservation does not mean that they hold tickets for you. I’m not quite sure what reservations mean. Anyway, either you get lucky on stand-by (we did) or you line up early.

So, yes, this time we’d stay overnight. I had noticed that there were quite a few kākāriki last time, so we went to try to get some good kākāriki pictures with the 100-400 lens, rather than the bridge camera.

The campsite is impossible to book in summer, but late winter/early spring is very possible, and we could even change the dates a couple of times. There are also various cabins, but they are pretty expensive for a party of 2. The cabins do seem to work well for a family.

There is a sign advertising NZ’s most photographed sheep, and the campground is in a sheep paddock (the ranger moved the sheep out before we came). So, that means that you get to wash your tent afterwards to get the sheep poop off. The kitchen facilities are good, though, and you have plenty of time to see the old quarantine facilities.

Kākāriki are most active in the morning. We saw some when we first came in on the ferry, then pretty few, and then a bunch the next morning. We heard penguins but didn’t see any.

Overall, a low-overhead way to see a bunch of kākāriki and no penguins, and we got back to town in time to go to the Harbourside Market. Worth doing but I wouldn’t do it again—been there, done that. Still, a relaxing weekend.

Piwakaka/fantail, kākāriki, tauhou/silvereye, red admiral butterfly, nurseryweb spider.

Calgary et al, September 7-19

I made a rookie mistake on the 14 hour Sydney to Vancouver leg and ended up with 31E, a middle seat. It is possible that I had selected a seat which got changed, but it is far more likely that I had just forgotten to select a seat and Air Canada chose one for me. Ugh. Won’t do that again.

The South Asian woman next to me was not at all hesitant about asking for help, e.g. with putting her bag in the overhead compartment (which I guess she couldn’t physically do herself). I have the privilege to not need help with that sort of thing, fortunately. Also, somehow her vegetarian meal order didn’t get in, and she was diabetic. The Air Canada staff didn’t have an extra one but tried their best to find her enough food. Not a great situation. 31E really is a terrible seat. I paid $30 for internet and wrote 300 lines of Python code to data crunch some small-scale artisanal bits.

First, then, to Waterloo where I met my students, dropped off some stuff at my place, and took care of various errands (haircut! dentist! banh mi! Grand River Rocks!). Pro tip: you can otherwise authenticate at the bank (credit union) if you forgot your ATM card. I got some OK peaches at the market. Also met up with my aunt in Mississauga; my former student Jon (thanks for the hospitality), his partner, and their 3 dogs; and colleagues. And dropped in on a housewarming party by an SE19 grad in Toronto.

Great blue heron; flying over Australia; event at Waterloo Town Square; CN Tower.

Then it was off to Calgary for the primary purpose of the trip, the IJF referee seminar given by Daniel Lascau (Head Referee Director). It was well-attended by referees from everywhere, including the candidates for the Continental and IJF grades. But first, I met up with recently-graduated student Moh and we made a plan for resubmitting the paper that got rejected at ICSE to FSE, with marketing changes.

The seminar was advertised as three days but actually was only given over two days, so we had a free Monday. Gord Okamura gave an impromptu kata seminar for referees. “You thought you were done with the nage-no-kata (throwing kata) but here we are.” (It is not a requirement for any grading past 3rd dan in Canada, but there is pressure to do the IJF Academy, which includes demonstrating the nage-no-kata again). Then we went to downtown Calgary, where I wrote a TOSEM review, as I said above.

Wood duck; Hiro's Judo Club; Calgary Tower; Memorial Park Library; Training camp at Calgary shiai-jo; sunset over Calgary.

A version of the clinic material is on the Internet, but having a guy there to present it was easier to get through for me. I cannot watch 14 hours of video. It is a bit difficult to follow lectures for 2 hours, and I wasn’t really going to ask questions, but I still got something out of it. It is good to have the situation videos (it was all about explaining the calls in 200+ videos) available to refer to later. I just did that and it makes sense upon further thought. I think.

There was a hotel breakfast at our Best Western in Calgary, which was all right, but the one in Australia was better, and Asian hotel breakfasts are even better. I also had a great white peach from the organic grocery store while walking in downtown Calgary, better than the ones I got in Waterloo. Too bad I also had a poutine. I wanted something lighter but eventually panicked at the prospect of not having any food. The poutine wasn’t even good (not hot enough).

Unfortunately the LRT back to the hotel smelled slightly of pee. In general the LRT would have been relatively convenient, but was not much less expensive than a shared Uber, and was slower (transit usually is, unless cars get stuck in traffic, and we were travelling off-peak).

I spent a bit of extra money on taxis in Calgary so that I could go to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. Used my third-tier camera (Sony HX90-V) to finally get a good picture of a male wood duck.

Successfully got to Seattle after going to the YYC lounge, bringing François as a guest, and YVR. Seattle was hosting Beyoncé for a concert and there were lots of people wearing shiny clothes. Dropped by the Seattle Judo Club for training (I’d been there many years ago). Amazon meetup didn’t work, but did mentor Clément and Ardi, though my meeting with Ardi was cut short by a reminder that I’d left my toiletries at Aaron’s place, and a Uber ride back there and then to the LRT to get to the airport, where I did not miss my plane to Vancouver (everything worked out in my favour this time).

Panorama Ridge view; Black Tusk; Parking Lot Wall.

In Vancouver, I rented a car (hybrid Corolla, measured 4L/100km gas economy) and headed to Squamish, where I hiked Panorama Ridge and did a bit of cragging at Parking Lot Wall. Brad was on pager duty but drove Becca and me to Panorama Ridge. That is a super scenic hike and it felt like all of Vancouver had come out for the walk. The trail is long but super easy (Class 1, really).

Finally I had a much better seat on the flight back to New Zealand via Sydney. I also had another ridiculous walk from SYD to the city centre. It was hot and I was tired, but I did get a decent picture of a sulfur-crested cockatoo and some other birds. And the famous Sydney Opera House.

Australian ibis; Westfield Sydney Tower; sulfur-crested cockatoo; Central Station.

Taupō, September 29-Oct 1

Not great weather for mountaineering.

We had meant to go to Tongariro National Park but the weather and avalanche forecasts were bad (it got to Considerable on the Saturday, but if you can’t see anything, that’s bad too).

Wairakei Terraces; Maori Rock Carvings; nesting coot; Craters of the Moon; sunset at Taupo Top 10 Holiday Park.

So instead we redirected to Taupō and did a bunch of touristy things, which I’ve now described on my NZ places. Nice low-key weekend. In particular, we went to the Craters of the Moon (steam vents, more vegetation than the moon); Huka Falls (um, it’s no Niagara Falls?); Wairakei Terraces (remind me of Pamukkale, we preferred Craters of the Moon, too many people in the pool on the first Saturday of school holidays) and the Maori Rock Carvings with Taupo Sailing Adventures, which was great.

Russian MI8 helo; not the Maid of the Mist; aboard Tiua; McDonalds DC3; a helicopter currently able to fly.

Travel planning

Should now be all planned for the year, whew. (Oops, now we’re thinking about where to go in November. Spoke too soon. Answer: New Caledonia for a week, and then Overland Track in Tasmania in May.)

Movement statistics

Did manage to get some walking in on my trips. Flying to Ontario is far, though I also added a bunch of stops around North America and basically went all east then hopped back west. More taxi trips than in any recent month, though some were shared; when shared 3-4 ways it’s not that much more than transit in Calgary.

  • 🚶 Walking: 123.5km on 22 days (about average; multi-day hikes hard when travelling)
  • 🚲 Biking: 107km on 12 days (more in Wellington now that MP is riding her e-bike, but also in KW this month, having picked up my bike and used it to get around)
  • 🚗 Driving: 850km on 11 days (all in Canada/US)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 55.6km on 6 days (flight out at 6am, mostly shared Calgary plus YYC, Seattle after forgetting stuff, flight in at midnight)
  • 🚌 Bus: 37.4km on 3 days (YYZ-Bramalea; Grand River Transit; Calgary; Seattle)
  • 🚆 Train: 140km on 5 days (Bramalea-Kitchener; GO Transit; UP Express)
  • 🚆 C-Train: 64.8km on 3 days
  • 🚇 Subway: 2.5km, 1 trip (Toronto)
  • ⛴ Boat: 20km (Matiu/Somes Island ferry)
  • 🚡 Cable car: 0.6km (1×)


The two notable walks were Panorama Ridge (lots of elevation and distance, but almost Class 1 sidewalk) and another airport walk, Sydney (NSW). Also did a walk back from Otari-Wilton’s Bush after we decided not to do a longer walk in Wellington due to rain.


I finished the September 2021 pictures at last! Whew. That was just under 2 years after the fact. I also finished the May 2023 pictures and did a couple more recent pictures.

Las Vegas, December 2009

Hey, I never uploaded these pictures from 13 years ago. I guess they were in the wrong month, since they are technically January (yay 6AM January 1 flights) but part of a December set.

West Coast of NZ, September 2021

These weren’t the impressive Lake Matheson photos. Still, we enjoyed our time in Hokitika for instance.

Wood ear mushroom; kiwi plush toys; under a tuatara; Hokitika Gorge; piwakawaka; me modeling Swann-Dri; MP on the trampoline; meet Mr Weta; oops (not the first time); Hokitika driftwood sign.

MP visits Canada, July 2022

Many climbing pictures are portrait.

Wet rock, which is why we could get onto...; Diedre the next day (×3); Granville Island PSA.

West Coast of North America, May 2023

This set was almost done, so I got it over the line.

Looking up at Devil's Slide; about to descend; a fern in Underground Seattle; manganese prism skylights.

Petrel Station, August 2023

There is a ton of pictures but at least I posted my Caspian tern. I was hoping it would be a fairy tern, but not so lucky.

Dabchick; dotterel glamour shot; Caspian terns.

Skiing, August 2023

Started on this set.

No visibility; inside a Wanaka Lakeside Holiday Park cabin; traffic control with a view; top of Willows; Exhibition Bowl and bumps; view from Queenstown Return.

Matiu/Somes Island, September 2023

Heaps of kākāriki! (See above for selected pictures.)

Calgary et al, September 2023

Again, selected pictures above.

The List

There are still a couple of days from 2021 but they should be pretty quick once I get around to them.

  • [January] Zealandia, January 4/14/18/Wellington Butterfly (23), Zealandia (April, June, September, November), Wellington Sunset (November), lens tests (November)

Backlog from 2022:

  • [January] Walking around KW
  • [February] Reading week trip to Montreal
  • [April] Northland (6)
  • [May] trips 1 and 2 to Montreal
  • [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] Montreal and NZ (4)
  • [June] Wellington Open (1)
  • [July] Skyline (1)
  • [July] Wye Creek (2)
  • [August] Petrel Station (3)
  • [August] Rotorua (3)
  • [August] Wanaka Ski Trip (4)
  • [September] Double rainbow/Zealandia (2)
  • [September] Waterloo/Calgary/Seattle/Squamish (10)
  • [September] Taupō (3)

September posts


Plugging along.


Visited MEC in Calgary and bought a couple of things. They were pretty low on stock for bike lights.

  • Emergency bike light with CR2032 batteries, $5.
  • Lezyne Femto USB Drive Front Light: I have a bunch of white front lights but their batteries are all getting pretty old and perhaps less able to hold a charge, so I’m holding this one in reserve for when the existing lights are all dead.
  • MEC Reversible Merino Toque: I am starting to own a lot of toques but none of them are the ones I like anymore. Sadly, I lose toques more often than I’d like.


Judo practice 7× at 4 dojos in 3 countries, plus sitting on the mat for the whole clinic; the 7 includes when I visited Wayne in Waterloo, though I didn’t step on the mat.

One visit to Grand River Rocks, and I did climb at Parking Lot Wall in Squamish. Maybe after NZ judo nationals and getting back from the trip I should organize to go climbing more often.


Meat synia from Shouk at the Harbourside Market (WLG); halloumi salad at Sir John's; tasteless but refreshing gelato from Zini (SYD); smoked fish hash from Floriditas (WLG); pizza from Graffiti market (YKF); banh mi from Mymy Sub; Ke Sushi (YYC); Saigon Vietnam Deli (SEA); Highground Pork Belly at Logan Brown (WLG); Foxton Fixx; croquette at Cafe De Molen (Foxton); two way cooked lamb and some curry; crustless quiche (TUO).



  • Shelly Bay Baker at Leeds: had a decent almond croissant, but the regular croissants were way too big.
  • Cafe De Molen: Not quite Wellington, but Foxton is close enough. Dutch/NZ fusion. We ate in what was basically a shed, less crowded than the main building. I had a croquette. I always like croquettes. Also had Foxton Fizz. MP says it mostly tasted like sugar.
  • Logan Brown: Delicious, high-end. During lockdown they had been doing “Logan Brown at Home” and I had that once. But these days they are doing a 3-course tasting menu. Worth a visit for a fine dining experience in Wellington.
  • Shouk @ Harbourside Market: Had a meat synia, which was nice after getting back from Matiu/Somes Island.
  • Floriditas: Smoked fish hash for brunch. It had an egg, but nice to have with things that are mostly not eggs for breakfast.


  • Zini Gelato: Hot day, pleasantly cool pistachio gelato, though it didn’t really seem to taste like anything?
  • Sir John’s: My quest for a light meal finally worked, I had a grilled halloumi salad. There was something that was unavailable that was supposed to come with the salad (squash?), but they substituted avocado. Also a good choice on a hot day. I wanted a pie, but maybe that wasn’t the thing.


  • alice + Brohm ice cream co: The ice cream from Alice + Brohm in Squamish was a lot better than at Zini. It claims to be modelled after NZ “real fruit ice cream” but has more flavour. I did not mention this to the staff when I was there.
  • Saigon Vietnam Deli at 206 12th Ave S in Seattle: delicious banh mi in a neighbourhood that is definitely sketchy and where I was honestly wondering a bit about hygiene standards…
  • Graffiti Market: Yep, you can get a pizza there. It’s good. We had leftovers.
  • I had a quite good congee at the SQ lounge in Sydney. Surprisingly tasty for, well, rice gruel.


  • The Big Cheese Poutinerie: Google lists it as “Canadian” food, OK. That could be controversial. Anyway, it could have worked out, but the sauce was too cold.
  • Love at First Scoop, Calgary Farmers’ Market West: Cute story, good ice cream.
  • Flavours of Quebec, Calgary Farmers’ Market West: Chatted with the owner, who had moved from Quebec to Calgary 15 years ago. I was wearing my Judo Quebec jacket. Didn’t actually get any food, but it looked good.
  • Calgary Farmers’ Market West: Lots of stuff here, including actual stuff from farmers as well as the two vendors immediately above. A bit out of the way.
  • Ke Charcoal Grill & Sushi: Thanks to Eugene for picking this, it was a good compromise between being accessible for a group and actually having quite good sushi. Much preferred over the usual places we get to like La Cage Au Sports.
  • Mymy Sub: “Authentic Vietnamese Street Food”: Check. Brought a bunch of people to have banh mi for lunch after the impromptu kata clinic.
  • Last Best Brewing and Distilling: OK food, not just fried pub food (though they had that too). They had a “NZ Pilsner”. Had a beef dip.
Flavours of Quebec in Calgary; Love at First Scoop; Very average poutine from The Big Cheese Poutinerie; real fruit ice cream from alice + Brohm.


Ran a by-election for the FAUW Board. Turnout in line with normal, which is good. Whew, that should be most of my FAUW Nominations and Elections Committee work.

Some JORC meetings and OAC work, though not much this month. I mean, was attending the referee seminar volunteering? It kind of was? So that is a doozy for sure.


The last book from my 7-book haul was about Wellington Railways—a book for railfans. I’ve written about getting around NZ 100 years ago and reviewed André Brett’s book Can’t Get There from Here on the national rail system. This book is about Wellington trains.

This is a condensed version of a full review.

David Parsons. Wellington Railways: Colonial Steam to Matangi. 2010.

This book exhaustively covers the early development of Wellington region rail until 1920; refinements from 1920 to 1970; and the changes from 1970 to 2010. Wellington rail did manage to mostly hang on through the global Reagan-Thatcher neoliberal era, and the network is now expanding (ask me again after the NZ general election this weekend). The tramways didn’t make it, though, and it actually is kind of hard to get from one end of central Wellington to the other end by bicycle or transit. A good LRT would help with that; Let’s Get Wellington Moving is also going to work on that even without the LRT, though I wonder how effective it will be.

There’s also mention of the Cable Car. Back in 2010 it was reported to have run until 10pm on weekdays. That would have been an option for getting home from judo, versus the brutal uphill climb. It’s hard to find out when that changed. The Internet Archive might have some information, but then I’d need to navigate the Archive.

Some quotes:

  • “In Wellington the revenue covered only 60 percent of the expenditure and although this was considerably better than the 25 per cent covered in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin, it called for some action either by cuts in services or financial support to reduce the deficit.” (Late 1960s) Did it really? Or should we subsidize transit? (I just wrote to Region of Waterloo councillors about not having more ads on transit and got a “sure!” response from Coun. Huinink…)

  • “The success of these trains [to Paraparaumu] was soon apparent. It was reported that about 300 people were travelling into Wellington each day.” (The Te Huia Auckland-Hamilton train seems to have 350 daily passengers after a 2021 launch.)

  • “Many of these [permanent station] buildings have now been destroyed due to vandalism and lack of respect, many having been replaced or reduced to little more than waiting shelters.” Also I bet it’s in the architecture of the places. In the next paragraph, the text talks about how the vandalism started when staff were withdrawn. Uh, yes?


One long trip and some start-of-year work, both research and service.