October: NSERC Discovery Grant writing, and refereeing in Canada

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, November 5, 2023

Table Of Contents

I felt like October was, once again, interrupted by a trip that took almost half the month. Before leaving for Canada I did manage to vote. Wellington elected two electorate Green MPs, which has never happened before. The final configuration of the government is still under negotiations, but it’s less than ideal. Climate change? Housing crisis? Nah, we’ll just ignore these issues.

The entire month of October, intellectually, was working on my NSERC Discovery Grant application. A friend says that we Canadian academics worry a lot about the 13 pennies that we get from NSERC. Which is true. But we feel like we should do the best job we can. I hope the panel likes my application. Anyway, at least that’s done now.

I had hoped to have time to prepare a talk for Amazon on October 23, but I didn’t. Will try again for December. No DG to write then.

I also had three weekends of judo refereeing: Wellington, Winnipeg, and Toronto. Good stuff.

Zealandia had an AGM with James Cameron as a special guest. He seems pretty reasonable. Definitely a Canadian accent.

Wellington Cable Car; pied shags at Zealandia; kookaburra in Sydney; flying foxes also in Sydney; NZ Electoral Commission orange guy says "enrol and vote here"; NZ nationals; Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.


Maybe there’s a wave starting in NZ (and Australia) right at the beginning of October? Wastewater numbers are up. Is it a blip? How big is it going to be? Probably not Omicron-level. Maybe no yum cha this weekend. I did get my XBB vaccine in Waterloo (#6) though. The last day I was there my local pharmacy got it in stock.


It really was overwhelmingly Discovery Grant work: 20 days of work on it in October with 22 work days. Some service and students/collaborators. No deadlines except for DG.

Grad students/mentees/collaborators

Mohammad finally got his NZ work visa (but it’s not as slow as Canadian work visas for Iranians, estimated at 41 weeks). Got him a ticket to New Zealand so we can actually meet in person.

Chatted with students/collaborators on 7 days. I actually met all of my current students in-person this month, either in New Zealand or in Waterloo. Ramping up meetings with new student Vinayak. Mohammad arrived in NZ while I was still in Canada, but I then met with him after that. There was also a SWEN/PL meetup in Wellington just before I left.


Had a FAUW NEC in-person lunch as I prepare to hand that off to capable hands when I go on sabbatical.

Also went to a PhD seminar in-person (the supervisor called in from Montreal!). Showed up at a “Coffee with the Dean” where Derek Rayside was the guest, talking about PEng.


Just one (multi-destination, as always) trip this month.

NZ Nationals, Porirua, 7-8 Oct

The first of my three weekends of judo was the New Zealand National Championships. This year they are in Porirua, a close-by suburb of Wellington (20 minutes by train or about the same by car). It’s a big tournament for New Zealand, but New Zealand’s a small country. Anyway, I found it to be well run. I fought in -66 and that was pretty forgettable. Well, the funny part was that I had been reading up and emailing fellow referees about pushing versus stepping out (it’s stepping out 95% of the time). I managed to get myself a pushing penalty. Then back to Wellington for the week.

Winnipeg, 12-16 Oct

I then flew on separate itineraries to Vancouver (with a short stop in Sydney) and to Winnipeg. While in Vancouver I managed to meet up with Mohammad who was stopping there on his was to New Zealand. It was surprisingly hard to find a cafe open early in the morning near Broadway-City Hall in Vancouver.

Winnipeg exceeded expectations when I visited it. The (segregated) bike infrastructure looked good on my walk, but I had no bike. I counted 28 bicycles during my 2.5 hour YWG walk, including a group of 10. The weather was welcoming (mid-October, not February!), and the best banh mi ever. I dunno about February in Winnipeg.

Squirrel; pedestrian underpass at Portage and Main; cars; inviting for bikes; the Assiniboine; Hallowe'en decorations; Winnipeg Union Station; no trains for next 16 hours; Canadian Museum of Human Rights; inside the museum.

I wrote a review of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. (It’ll appear in the October posts list but it predates this post.)

Still, downtown Winnipeg isn’t a place, and Portage and Main still sucks. My experience would have been worse if I was staying downtown. I walked from YWG to my airbnb, and took the bus twice? Paying for the bus is annoying; I used $3.25 cash both times—that should probably be the actual fare as opposed to $3.10. Open payments, e.g. taking credit cards on the bus, is really useful. It’s not like I’m going to get a Winnipeg transit card on my brief visit.

Approaching from the Forks (where I ran into some other judoka of course), I found it pretty easy to enter the CMHR. On my previous trip in 2011, I had walked around St. Boniface too. On this trip, I walked in parks (did encounter some sketchiness near downtown) and across residential neighbourhoods, which weren’t that interesting, but either highly posh or at least not that seedy looking. I can’t really say “oh neighbourhood X of Winnipeg is cool”. I did run across one cool gelato place which I barely got to in time (and managed to use their restrooms; unlike NZ, this just isn’t a thing in Canada).

The standout discovery was Banh Mi House, which was likely the best banh mi I’ve had.

Gelato and the best banh mi.

Waterloo, 16-20 Oct

I had originally booked a flight out of Winnipeg mid-morning Monday. Then I was invited to be on a panel on campus, and I changed to a 5:30am flight. Turned out the panel didn’t happen. Oh well. I did get an op-up to business class on the full 5:30 flight, which I always appreciate. Even at 5:30.

I definitely took an Uber to the airport for the 5:30 flight.

I was thinking that I could have bailed on the 5:30 flight and taken the 11pm train on Sunday night. That would get me to Toronto at noon Tuesday. Nah, think I’ll stick with the flight.

Apart from that, I had meetings with people (students and colleagues), went to a PhD seminar, and installed my new-to-me Network Attached Storage with fresh 8TB drives. I also had all the foods that I liked: banh mi (not as good as Winnipeg), jamaican patty, pastel de nata.

I meant to leave more stuff in Waterloo than I would take away, but I think I failed due to bringing my old NAS to Wellington.

  • Stuff I left in Waterloo: 3 shirts, 3 books, food (gifts for my hosts)
  • Stuff I picked up: NAS, crampon bits, ski helmet that I’d earlier forgotten

The only picture I have is a not very good one of a domestic chicken in Kitchener, which I won’t post.

Scarborough, 20-22 Oct

Next destination: Scarborough. I left my bike at my place and then took the bus to Kitchener station, meeting up with Derek for the train ride to Union, where I waited at Derek’s place for a while before meeting with Marco for dinner.

Downtown Toronto with the CN Tower; Ontario Open.

To get from Union to Marco’s place, I rented a bikeshare. This weird thing happened where I scanned the QR code. The adblock plugin warned me about the link. I thought that was weird but clicked through anyway. Then it was definitely a sketchy phishing site on the other end. My collague Kami thinks that either it was typosquatting based on an incorrect QR read, or else someone had stickered over the QR code with a man-in-the-middle attack.

After dinner at Seor Ak San, which was full enough to be promising but not too full that we had to wait in line, I went to pick up my rental car and then my new crampon antibotting rubber from Ontario Resoles. They seem to fit on my crampons just fine.

Ontario Open was good. I think I refereed well. Long days as usual. Would be good to get a 6th mat. Went until 8PM on Saturday and 5:30PM on Sunday.

So the thing about the Sunday flight was that my Toronto-Vancouver flight was delayed two hours, getting in just past midnight local time (i.e. 3AM Eastern Time). Not ideal. I tried to change to an earlier flight, but by the time I could request it, the only seat left was a middle seat in the back of the plane. I had booked a Premium Economy reward. Not worth it to switch! But that made transit impossible at YVR. Turns out that a taxi at the normal rate was better than a surge-priced Uber.

Seattle, 23 Oct

I had planned an overnight in Vancouver and just one day in Seattle. I changed my flight to Seattle to later than originally planned so that I would get some sleep: outbound flight at 11:30am and not 8:30am. That helped with recovering some sleep after the tournament. Hard to avoid sleep deprivation when refereeing.

Due to a car crash (not mine) in Seattle, I changed my plans, dropping by M’s place and then getting a ride from him back to the airport. Got some gross ready-to-eat food from a Seattle supermarket.

Then it was back to Vancouver, a couple of hour wait at YVR (didn’t quite have enough time to meet up with Jeff), and out to SYD. I would have preferred waiting in the lounge instead of having the (premium) check-in agent convince herself that I did not need an NZeTA due to having a visa. Grr. Is it possible that the passenger with status and a NEXUS knows about entry requirements for the country where he holds a residence visa? Nah, computer text isn’t clear to them. That hour-long wait was completely unnecessary.

YVR, coming and going.

Sydney, 25 Oct

I’d already done an airport walk from SYD so I figured I could take the perfectly good (though, at A$17, pricier than the C$9 Presto UP Express) Sydney AirportLink this time. The temperature this time was much more temperate and suited a walkabout. MP suggested that I try to check out local birds again, so this time I made my way to Centennial Park and finally saw a kookaburra in the wild. On my way, Oxford St. in Paddington was fairly urban and had stuff. Also anti bike path NIMBYs. Can’t avoid them. Grr.

After finally seeing a kookaburra, plus tons of birds in the ponds, I decided that I should actually check out Bondi Beach. It is indeed quite scenic. I could see that the Bondi Beach to Coogee Bay walk was packed with people. Sure, must be worth it.

Met up with someone from Mastodon at SYD and then caught my flight back to Wellington, which was slightly early. Rode my bike back up the hill to our place (better than last time I was coming from the airport, when I just couldn’t).

Magpielark in a tree; kookaburra; Pacific black ducks; Australian raven with food; grey-headed flying foxes; Sydney train; jacaranda blooms; Bondi junction ped zone; Bondi Beach.

Travel planning

  • Air New Zealand was having a seat sale to the islands, so we got tickets to New Caledonia for the end of November. Unfortunately I’ll miss a few judo things in Wellington, oh well.
  • We signed up for the Overland Track (“Ausralia’s premier alpine walk”, says the website). Our flight to Hobart is going to have to be changed because Air New Zealand is cancelling the nonstop Auckland-Hobart, but that doesn’t change too much for us; we just change in Australia rather than Auckland. It’ll be just at the end of fall in early May. Logistics start to get complicated but should be doable.

Movement statistics

Similar to September, but less walking and fewer taxis. Did have an airport walk from Winnipeg though! Once again it was Wellington east to Scarborough and then back west, though with one different stop this time: Winnipeg instead of Calgary. Not much driving, except for the Taupō trip.

  • 🚶 Walking: 96km on 26 days (below average)
  • 🚲 Biking: 150km on 16 days (60km of that in KW)
  • ✈ Plane: 40,091km (WLG-SYD-YVR-YWG-YYZ-YVR-SEA-YVR-SYD-WLG)
  • 🚗 Driving: 630km on 10 days (half of that was the return from Taupō)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 14.8km (again I forgot something—my refereeing jacket—in the Winnipeg airbnb, plus an actual taxi ride from YVR to airbnb was cheaper than Uber)
  • 🚌 Bus: 126km on 6 days (YWG; flixbus to Waterloo; to Kitchener station; Seattle; around Sydney; Zealandia shuttle)
  • 🚆 Train: 130km (Kitchener-Union Station-UP Express; Sydney airport roundtrip)
  • 🚆 SkyTrain: 25km
  • 🚇 Subway: 3.4km, 1 trip (Toronto, to UP Express)
  • ⛴ Boat: 20km (sailboat to Maori Rock Carvings on Lake Taupo)
  • 🚡 Cable car: 0.6km (1×)


No walks in nature. I had an airport walk from YWG to my airbnb, and then walked around Sydney, including to Bondi Beach.


Around KW, January 2022

KW in winter 2022.

Back to New Zealand via Montreal, August 2022

Competitive stream grading in St. Jean sur Richelieu. Collect godan. Then see some koalas in Brisbane (my first ever stop in Australia).

Ontario peaches; car-free Montreal and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu; Club Judo Haut-Richelieu; Air Canada aircraft at YUL; in-flight sunset.
Welcome to Brisbane; hungry emu; dingo; koala; Tasmanian devils;
Australian ped crossing sign; ANZAC memorial; Doh!

Queen Charlotte Track, October 2022

Good pictures of the rare king shag and a blurry picture of a yellow-crowned kākāriki on a trip by e-ko to Motuara.

Spotted shag; king shag; white-fronted terns; fur seal; out-of-focus yellow-crowned kakariki.

Calgary et al, September 2023

Did another day from that trip.

The Panorama Ridge view; Black Tusk; crowds; alpine wildflowers.

Zealandia, October 2023

I took my student Mohammad to the Zealandia wildlife sanctuary.

Paradise shelduckling; kaka; California quail; whitehead; two pied shags.

The List

Didn’t do any 2021:

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

A bit of progress on 2022 trips:

  • [February] Reading week trip to Montreal
  • [April] Northland (6)
  • [May] trips 1 and 2 to Montreal (judo nationals)
  • [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 (6)
  • [December] Gillepsie Circuit (4)
  • [December] Mueller Hut (2)
  • [December] Glacier iceberg kayaking
  • [December] Omarama
  • [December] Wellington NYE

And 2023:

  • [January] AMC (6)
  • [May] Montreal and NZ (4)
  • [June] Wellington Open
  • [July] Skyline
  • [July] Wye Creek (2)
  • [August] Petrel Station (3)
  • [August] Rotorua (quick)
  • [August] Ski trip (4)
  • [September] Wellington double rainbow, Zealandia (2)
  • [September] Waterloo/Calgary/Seattle/Squamish (9)
  • [September] Taupō (3)

October posts

I also updated:


Here come the routine parts where I talk about consumerism and sports.


Except for the books, surge protector & lamp, all at the end of the month. I thought I wasn’t going to spend money on things this month, and then…


Not much! The travel really interferes with practice, and I did not bring a judogi this time (though I still had more stuff than I wanted). Made it to judo practice 4× and climbed at Grand River Rocks once (I did bring my travel harness). November will be more stable. Hope I can make it to climbing gyms in Wellington.


(Too much) fish and chips from Cobb & Co (Porirua); tapas from Margot (WLG); sausage roll from Dalina (YVR); Banh Mi House menu (YWG); Asoyama Sushi (YWG); some Chinese food from Mizu (YKF); pasta from Scaddabush (YYZ); pie (SYD); sugarcane juice & cha gio (SYD); avocado toast (WLG)


  • Avocado guy at the market: only took cash and said “oh, just come back next week and pay”.
  • Margot. We got there at 5pm and the back-of-house staff were enjoying a moment of sun on the bench outside. Anyway, they served delicious tapas-style food (tartare-like chopped raw beef; terrine; etc); one of the better meals we’ve had in Wellington.


  • Cobb & Co. Fish and chips. Too much of a good thing.


  • Dalina. Good sausage roll. Had a tough time finding something open early in the morning; I also had some tea at the Lumiere Cafe first.



  • Scaddabush: I organized a group dinner for the Ontairo Open referees here. Super responsive to our needs even if we were somewhat difficult with respect to numbers and arrival time, and the food was good. I put in some effort to find a place that was decent and located conveniently enough.


  • Mizu: was less crowded than Gol’s, but somewhat less tasty I guess. Was OK.


  • lamb shoulder pie from a cafe, it was much more extra than most NZ pies
  • some random place in Bondi Junction selling sugarcane juice and cha gio: just what I needed on a hot day, and helped somewhat with avoiding overeating in transit

I did not manage to retroactively locate the places I got food from in Sydney, though I could find them again.


I helped with the Judo Ontario Referee Committee by organizing the referee dinner and having the usual meetings. I also wrote the Mount Hopeless trip report because I didn’t seem to manage to delegate it to anyone and it was an NZAC Wellington trip. Some amount of OAC and FAUW NEC work too, though not much.


Didn’t finish any books this month, though I was reading What If? 2 by Randall Munroe. Come back next month to hear about that.


Again, one trip, and this time all the work was the NSERC Discovery Grant.