December: taking all the courses

Posted by Patrick Lam on Thursday, January 4, 2024

Table Of Contents

As of January 1, I’m on sabbatical again, this time for a full year. Yay! Let’s get some papers written and accepted. 2023 wasn’t too bad either, though I’ll reflect on that in a separate post.

How about those hybrid courses? It’s good to take courses and upgrade skills; that’s one way of learning. See below for more discussion. As I wrote last month, I had the in-person parts of a Wilderness First Responder course (Seattle, 5 days) and Avalanche Skills Training 2 course (Nelson BC, 4 days) lined up for December.

On the work front, I got an acceptance for our Empirical Software Engineering submission; reviews which look kind of negative for our Foundations of Software Engineering submission (we’ll see what our response does); and a journal paper rejection (which I’m complaining about). There were a lot of things in-flight in December. Now there’s just PLDI, FSE, and NSERC in-flight, plus my email to the journal editor.

Turns out I also did a bunch of consulting for the WLU SE program.

Up next, I have some more volunteering work I’d better do for the OAC, as well as 6 PLDI reviews.

Kagou; cloven-feathered dove; Nouméa view from Pic Maloui; new black belts Brad, Roberta, Sam in Wellington; crow in Vancouver; Seattle from the ferry; Cornice Ridge snow; Five Mile Basin; Half Dome (not that one).


Really not over, as JN.1 points out to us. China is probably doing worse due to less vaccine uptake and large population. Anecdotally, I know four people who got COVID over the holidays, and wastewater says that this is the second-highest peak in the US after Omicron. See Eric Topol’s State of the Pandemic for more. He points out that JN.1 should cause us to revise our estimate of an Omicron-like event upwards from 15-20%-in-two-years. We could improve ventilation and wear more masks, but people don’t seem to be doing that. Mucosal vaccines (paywall) will probably work eventually, he says.

OK, what about Long COVID? Yep, still happens.

Clearly it still is better to not get COVID than to get COVID, and I’ll continue to wear a mask where there are lots of people, like airports and buses.


December is typically pretty quiet (unless one is trying to submit a paper). I gave a talk at Amazon, and Moh and I wrote a response to our FSE reviews. Let’s say there are 16 work days in December. I worked on 11, and (slightly disjoint) worked on WLU-SE-not-my-day-job on 8.

Grad students/mentees/collaborators

Since I was on tour, I managed to meet with a number of my students and mentees. I had in-person meetings with Mohammad, Ardi, and Alex (in Wellington, Seattle, and Montreal). In total I had meetings with mentees/students on 7 days. There are going to be no in-person meetings in January and February. Maybe March.

Also had one-off career mentoring of an SE 2019 grad from Auckland Airport under the pohutukawa tree. The strange story about that was that I was going to do it from Wellington airport, but Air NZ moved me to an earlier flight (!) so we scheduled the mentoring session for when I’d be in Auckland instead. Also recovered the headphones I’d left on an Air NZ flight while passing through AKL (!).


Reviews: Journal of Cloud Computing (while at WFR), revision of a TOSEM submission. PLDI reviews to start in January. Finished with FAUW service for now, attending the early-morning (for me) General Meeting in case there were any questions (there weren’t).


We handed in a first version of a first deliverable for WLU SE. I have some more things that I’d like to write up to describe our intent, but I guess now we wait a bit. I billed 17.45 hours in December.


Maybe delaying the New Caledonia report was unwise in retrospect, because now I have that trip and the mega-Christmas-trip to report on. Anyway, the two trips in December were the tail end of New Caledonia, plus Seattle/Montreal/Nelson. In the interests of getting this out the door, I am only going to write a paragraph about each of them.

New Caledonia

Couple of days on Ouvéa, which was easy to get around by hitchhiking but hard to rent a car and hard to plan events; then the rest of the time on the Grande Terre, where we visited two provincial parks (Grandes Fougères and Rivière Bleue) and also the Koghis, getting some hiking in, as well as mountain biking and kayaking, and not seeing the birds hidden in the canopy for the most part.

North America

  • Landed in Seattle, gave a talk at Amazon, went for a walk at Tiger Mountain with Aaron, worked in the library, went to IslandWood on Bainbridge Island for the WFR, visited Macrus and then off to Montreal, leaving a pouch of cables and cards somewhere.

  • Five days in Montreal, with MP coming on day 3. Went to a solstice party. Did not catch COVID. Met up with 3 other people. Bought a bunch of gear for the avalanche course, discounted (though hard to source in Montreal).

  • Flew to Castlegar, leaving on 25 December, staying near YYZ, and arriving at YCG two days before the start of the course. My flight was not cancelled, but my boots took an extra day to arrive somehow. Took an avalanche course. My new thin (85mm underfoot) skis don’t really work in the Kootenays. I just sink.

Travel planning

Didn’t plan for any future trips this month. Too busy executing trips. The next trip coming up is Nelson NZ for judo training camp, then Sydney for a summer school.

Movement statistics

Surprisingly OK amount of walking for the activities I had this month (not much walking during the WFR for instance; and just the Tiger Mountain hike). New transport mode: REM. Plus the Bainbridge island ferry to get to the WFR.

  • 🚶 Walking: 119km on 27 days (average, same as November)
  • 🚲 Biking: 25km on 3 days (mostly when not in Wellington)
  • 🚗 Driving: 915km on 17 days (5 in New Caledonia, 4 in Seattle, 3 in Montreal, 6 in Nelson)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 51km (airport to judo; out to IslandWood on Bainbridge Island; shared taxi from Castlegar to Nelson)
  • ⛴ Ferry: 30km (to/from Bainbridge island)
  • 🚌 Bus: 29km on 3 days (Wellington and Montreal)
  • 🚆 SkyTrain: 28km
  • 🚆 REM: 13km (Montreal to Brossard)
  • 🚇 Metro: 72km
  • ⛷ Skiing: 21.5km ski touring during AST 2 (not including 1 lift ride)
  • 🚣 Kayak: 3.6km (Parc de la Rivière Bleue, New Caledonia)


All the organized walks were in New Caledonia.

Also, in Seattle:


Only really one day of Turkey 2015 photos left. I guess the question is whether I take more pictures than I process. 11 out, 12 in. Oops. Here’s what I processed in December:

Goreme baloons; dovecotes; modern cliff carvings; papaveroideae (poppy-like but not quite); art workshop; cliffs at Ala Daglar; cliffs and mountain; back at Ottoman Cave Suites; Uchisar Castle.

I processed pictures from Reading Week in Montreal in February 2022. Couldn’t go to NZ that year, and MP wouldn’t have been able to re-enter NZ until April 13 if she had left. What a time.

Down Beaudry metro; all year biking; snow on the Plateau; routesetting at Bloc Shop; public art; Hotel Place d'Armes (our wedding venue); stuff at YYZ.

Almost done with the Queen Charlotte Track from October 2022:

Punga Fern pool; Outer Totaranui viewpoint; Eatwells Lookout; weka; weka and babies; Nikau View.

New Caledonia and Wellington, December 2023:

One of the twins; Brad; some effort on the ground; Brett and Brad; Nouméa market; crossing the dodgy bridge; refuge; me kayaking; sunken forest.

The List

Did a lot, but didn’t take so many pictures, and did work on the 2015 backlog, as well as more recent photos.

Old pictures from Cappadocia, 2015:

  • [May] Cappadocia (3)

To do, all from 2021 (days):

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

Even more pictures from 2022:

  • [April] Northland (4)
  • [May] trips 1 and 2 to Montreal (judo nationals), not on computer yet
  • [August] Colonial Knob, not on computer
  • [September] Napier (2)
  • [September] Motueka (2)
  • [October] Queen Charlotte Track (2)
  • [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)
  • [July] Skyline
  • [July] Turoa
  • [July] Wye Creek (2)
  • [August] Petrel Station (2)
  • [August] Rotorua (quick)
  • [August] Ski trip (4)
  • [September] Wellington double rainbow, Zealandia (2)
  • [September] Waterloo/Calgary/Seattle/Squamish
  • [September] Taupō (3)
  • [October] Winnipeg, Scarborough and Sydney (3)
  • [November] Whitireia Park (1)
  • [November] Puke Ariki Traverse (1)
  • [November/December] Ouvea, Noumea Zoo, Aquarium, Grandes Fougeres, Pic Malawi (6)
  • [December] Seattle, Montreal, Nelson (7)
  • Various (5)

December posts



Mostly on the move this month.


Bunch of avalanche gear.

So I replaced a bunch of actually obsolete safety gear (it still works, for the most part, but not as well as modern gear). There were a lot of pre-Christmas outdoor gear sales in Montreal. I wonder if fewer people are going outdoors now that COVID is not keeping people outside as much?

Online courses

OK, let’s not talk about the IJF Academy. The in-person part is surprisingly cheap, though, including lodging for a week for US$300? Just have to get to a suitable place. Probably Japan.

The hybrid Wilderness First Responder means fewer scenarios vs fully in-person. There’s still a bit of lecture, though I guess less. Probably if I had done a hybrid course before my recert a few years ago, I would have felt more up to speed when the course started. Also, having a course in December is a bit of a weird timing. Lots of Seattle locals and not many outdoor pros. Pros would have had to cert earlier in the year because the season has now started.

The AST2 really used the hybrid nature to add an extra field day, which was great. I feel like I got a good idea of what’s around the Kootenay area in terms of backcountry skiing. (The crux is getting there!) The group was pretty experienced and moved fast. My skis don’t really provide enough flotation for that snow. This course had some things where we were supposed to respond to the content, though I don’t know that anyone actually read that.


Oh boy. One judo practice and one bouldering session at Fergs. Then again, I was only in Wellington for 6 full days in December. Hard to keep up a routine with that much travel. Some of the travel was active. Other parts of it not so much, e.g. holidays and first aid courses. Though ideally the first aid helps with keeping future activities safer.


No books. Read some of my enqueued magazines.


The scale suggests that I have been eating out a bunch in December. Time to get back on track.

Nouméa, New Caledonia:

Crepe; breakfast at La Terrasse.

Seattle: I seem to have made it to a bunch of midrange places which serve original, tasty food.

  • Fogón Cocina Mexicana: the US generally has better Mexican food than Canada and NZ, and Fogón delivered with some well-executed tacos.
  • Sugar Bakery: croissant kept me going before giving a talk
  • Pho Saigon: I had a pho, which was what I expected
  • Noi Thai Cuisine: large servings, right downtown, quite busy; more upscale.
  • IslandWood: good food even when not catering for weddings!
  • Kilig: post hike dinner, midrange but super tasty Filipino food
  • Theo’s Gyros food truck
  • Gõ Seattle banh mi: filling-heavy, legit
  • The Birdhouse: has a pop-up feel but makes good breakfast
Tacos at Fogón (lengua?); cheese croissant from Sugar; pho; Kilig calamari dish; gyro fries from Theo's Gyro's; Noi Thai; IslandWood food; another croissant, from Birdhouse.



  • Il Focolaio: downtown Montreal pizza (many choices) in Carré Philipps
  • Aldea: salt codfish; I guess that’s not supposed to be super flavourful
Mama Kitchen (Wellington); Il Focolaio, Aldea (Montreal).


  • Guffo Café (did I say how hard it was to find a coffee place open early in Vancouver? Also, no one there.)
  • Bonjour Banh Mi: good banh mi just off the SkyTrain (but otherwise kind of in the middle of nowhere), super popular with nearby construction workers


  • Desi Donair: correct poutine with donair meat; on a second visit, the desi wrap was good but the fries were not
  • Empire Coffee: best breakfast sandwich ever per MP, quite affordable
  • Dragonfly Cafe: scone powered me through the morning of a ski tour
  • Cantina Del Centro: there is a reason we don’t see fish quesadillas usually
  • The Black Cauldron: our New Year’s Eve meal, including soup
Bonjour banh mi; Desi Donair poutine; Cantina Del Centro fish quesadilla; Desi Donair wrap; soups at Black Cauldron.


Many things continued from November.

I started this in November: once upon a time I developed a judo club membership database Menba. It’s still running, but I was doing a PHP upgrade on the server and that required more updates to the PHP code as well. Software upgrades, joy.

I had an OAC Board meeting and some mailing list maintenance; we seem to have successfully migrated from MailChimp to Buttondown, which is working well enough so far, and we sent a newsletter. Also parcelled out some work for the refereeing committee which I should get to doing and wrote some meeting notes.


Was hardly in Wellington! Not so much work in December. Will do more in January while on sabbatical, plus as many hikes as I can find time for. Fewer trips coming up in January for sure.