January: Nelson, Wellington, other Nelson, and Sydney

Posted by Patrick Lam on Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Table Of Contents

I’m really not experiencing large blocks of unstructured time right now, particularly with all the reviewing I’m doing. But it is true that I don’t have any teaching to prepare, at least.

In any case, I haven’t had time to write the January report, or a report on all of 2023, having been in Sydney and then almost immediately onto the Travers-Sabine Circuit in early February. Well, February is only half over! Though at this rate I should start the March report.

Indeed, for the month of January, I was away from Wellington for 15 days out of 31. In general, in terms of non-work, I walked, skiied, went to judo, got a pretty painful irritated disc, birdwatched, and volunteered. Also replaced things (cards, hardware) that I lost somewhere on my North America trip. For work, I wrote a lot of reviews and talked to students and advisees, but didn’t really write up any of my own research. I did update my talk for ASESS. (Someone said it sounded fresh, but this was actually the 3rd time I gave a version of this talk.)

Russian chapel house on Zuckerberg Island; Barrow's goldeneye (BC); grey-headed flying fox ×2 (Sydney); Grand Canyon (Blue Mountains); pond at YCG; skiing at Whitewater; Nelson (BC); Wellington Harbour.


JN.1 is less now, but still there. NZ wastewater suggests that maybe it’s half of the early-January peak, with about 75% of the case count. The judo tournament in Abbotsford is still going to be in a poorly-ventilated venue; not thrilled by that.

There are some next-generation vaccines deployed in Japan: they may have longer-lasting effects. Mucosal is still very much work in progress, though. Maybe later in 2024, though that would still seem quite fast at today’s rate (vs 2020’s rate).

Last month, Eric Topol’s State of the Pandemic highlighted a study showing that a higher vaccine count was correlated with less chance of long COVID (dose-response), though the count went only to 3 and not to 6.

I am still avoiding crowded restaurants and wearing a mask on buses and airplanes. I figure if it’s just us and the staff, like yesterday, the restaurant is probably pretty low risk.


Reviewing my notes, it really was all reviewing plus talking to students and collaborators. Let’s say 17 days with work and 18 work days. PLDI was probably about half of my work in this month. The ASESS summer school/ACSW conference was also partly in January. Just a bit of WLU work, more to come in February. Non-professionally, I used my programming skills for volunteering.

Grad students/mentees/collaborators

Back to all virtual meetings. NZ is far. First meeting with new PhD student Alex Le Blanc as a PhD student. Meetings with students/collaborators on 7 days, plus a freelance advising session for an SE2018 grad. Also there was a conference where I was doing conference things.


All PLDI reviews all the time. Also the ASESS talk and SIGPLAN-M mentoring. And freelance undergrad alum advising.


Almost no WLU work in January, just 1.5 hours. More in February.


Nelson BC to Wellington (January 3); Nelson NZ (January 19 to 21); Sydney (January 25 to February 2), which was immediately followed by the Travers-Sabine, which will feature next month. I still do intend to write the overdue trip reports (plus a 2023 summary) but haven’t had time yet.

Nelson BC

In the part of that trip that was this year, we went skiing on New Year’s Day at Whitewater; not much snow, but that was good for my thin skis. I was concerned about rocks. Maybe I should have rented skis for more carefree skiing. I did not wreck my skis, at least. Then we went on a walk in Nelson to Mountain Station, which was OK but not exceptional. And then getting out of Castlegar was touch-and-go as always, but we made it in plenty of time, and visited Zuckerberg Island in Castlegar. There was a bit of a fiasco with eUpgrades at YVR which I won’t get into here.

Nelson NZ

Late last year, I had signed up for the Judo NZ training camp. Unfortunately, between signing up for the camp and going to the camp, I got an irritated disc (as I learned from the physio in Sydney). I didn’t know that at the time of the camp. Anyway I went and supported our athletes from the Wellington Judo Academy; we had a contingent of 10 or so, which is a good fraction of the camp. I did what I could but I had no explosive moves. Not the best. The camp was well organized and we learned things especially from Aki. Apparently they always go to Nelson College for this camp? Good setup.

On the mat; marae at Nelson College; bike still at WLG!


Conference trips are pretty rare for me these days. Hopefully our PLDI paper gets in (got some good reviews) and there will be a trip to Copenhagen in June. It’s far from Wellington. Anyway, Craig invited me to give a talk at the ASESS summer school and I gave an updated version of my Hot Takes on Machine Learning for Program Analysis talk, in addition to chatting with Australian and New Zealand academics for the most part. (There were a couple of people from farther: my colleague Mike from Waterloo who is in Australia on sabbatical; one from University of Toronto also on sabbatical; and some from Europe).

Red-browed firetail; red-fingered marsh crab; Australian water dragon; sulphur-crested cockatoo; galah; white-throated treecreeper; waterfall; crimson rosella; welcome swallows; misty forest; the views at the Blue Mountains.

MP came along before the conference and we had a mini Australian vacation, with birds and nature. First visit to Australia by MP, and she says she enjoyed it.

We went to see birds at Dee Why with Mike of Aussie Bird Tours. He’s excellent at spotting birds. The lagoon had mostly birds that are also in New Zealand, but I did see the superb fairy wren. Then we went a bit into the parks and there were other birds, like the Eastern Yellow Robin, which I did not photograph, and the Golden Whistler, which I got a blurry photo of. It was a 38C day and we limited outdoor activities after the tour, going to the air-conditioned Australian Museum and then the Parramatta Lake reserve, where we saw heaps of sulphur-crested cockatoos in the Woolworths parking lot.

The next day we went out to the Blue Mountains. It’s amazing that the Blue Mountains is accessible by transit, though most of the Grand Canyon walkers came by car. There were 5 of us on the bus. I will note that the Blue Mountains walks have a much more ethnically diverse crowd than the tracks of New Zealand. The weather was 0 visibility but we saw the cliffs and birds, returning by the Cliff Top track and Popes Glen.

On MP’s last day in Australia, we went to the Botanic Garden at Mount Annan, which had other parrots, including a lot of rainbow lorikeets. Also a bunch of red-rumped parrots on our way out (causing us to miss the last bus) and a satin bowerbird. To get there, we took the train out to Macarthur Station, which has a mall. I do not like malls.

I got eSIMs with two cheap Australian providers, amaysim and iinet. Activating the eSIM takes hours and for amaysim you have to have landed in Australia (they do passport verification). amaysim seems more technologically advanced. Do not open an account with iinet. It is really hard to close the account. They want to send you a text message to verify the account and the text message just doesn’t seem to arrive when you’re in New Zealand. Anyway, pretty cheap.

Travel planning

There was some just-in-time travel planning for the Sydney and Travers-Sabine trips. Didn’t need to plan them too much in advance, though lodging in St. Arnaud (Travers-Sabine) is scarce right now at the last minute! Sydney had plenty of room, even though it was Australia Day aka Invasion Day.

Movement statistics

Lots of walking and trains in Sydney. Pleasingly little driving.

  • 🚶 Walking: 165km on 24 days (up from December; lots of walking in Sydney)
  • 🚲 Biking: 84km on 11 days, including 17.6km on ebike (that bike commute to judo)
  • 🚗 Driving: 59km on 5 days (Nelson to Castlegar mostly, but also getting rides from people)
  • 🚗 Taxi: 11km (to NSN and last-mile Botanic Garden Mount Annan)
  • 🚌 Bus: 138km on 8 days (Nelson BC; Sydney)
  • ✈ Plane: 14,786km (YCG-YVR-AKL-WLG, WLG-NSN-WLG, WLG-SYD)
  • 🚆 Train: 314km on 4 days (Sydney has lots of trains)
  • 🚆 LRT: 6km (Sydney)
  • 🚡 Cable car: 1.4km (2×)
  • ⛷ Skiing: 30km on-piste at Whitewater


Some walks in Wellington and Sydney, including Blue Mountains:


I did finish Turkey, finally. 10 days processed, 10 new days of photos. I guess that’s a steady state. Good hiking days in Turkey.

Pigeon Valley: through the rock; rock hoodoos; clay pot dinner; Ihlara Valley: painted church ceilings; columnar basalt; Selime tomb; our cave hotel.

I finished the pictures from the Queen Charlotte Track (October 2022) and also some pictures from Northland (April 2022), though I still have more from Northland to do.

Angry bird (pīwakawaka edition); more weird rocks at Wairere; pied shag/kāruhiruhi at Anakiwa; spoonbill at Anakiwa; back to weird rocks at Wairere; Kenepuru Sound; QCT ridgeline; Davies Bay beach.

Quick turnaround on pictures from the Avalanche Skills Training 2 in Nelson, BC:

Russian chapel house on Zuckerberg Island; guard cat in Castlegar; Kootenays landscapes ×2; Half Dome and Ymir; Kutetl Creek; looking W past Ymir; striding across.

The List

This list is longer than last month because the pre-2020 backlog doesn’t show up on it. Oh well. January didn’t help.

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 (2)
  • [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)
  • [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] 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 (5)
  • Various (5)

Now I have a 2024 backlog as well.

  • Various (2)
  • [January] Nelson (2)
  • [January] Sydney (5)
  • [February] Travers-Sabine (7)

January posts

I wrote a review of On Cold Iron by Dan Levert but that’s actually a February post. No posts in January.


Pretty different month from December.


  • Pomoca Back Fix Tail Strap: my skins are not quite staying on; maybe this will help.
  • The North Face Jim Beanie: I lose hats often. I have many tuques right now.
  • Arc’teryx Heliad Belt: I have a really old webbing belt. I really don’t like belts with metal buckles.
  • Satechi Aluminum Slim Multiport Docking Adapter: I had a Thinkpad adapter but I lost it. This one seems to work as well. You can use it to plug HDMI and USB, as well as pass through power. I also have a USB power adapter from Satechi which I don’t quite trust: it doesn’t seem to always work.
  • Longer power cable for monitor. Needed to change the setup so that I could plug it in.


One day of resort skiing, one irritated disc (at the first judo practice of the year) and 12 other practices (maybe not the brightest). Didn’t go climbing. Pretty active.


More magazines (though not many in Australia) and read some of On Cold Iron, though books is more weight to carry around.


Food in North America was great. Turns out I’m more critical of NZ/Australian food, though we did have some good meals in Sydney. I certainly also have grumpy comments about that, though.


New locations of existing Wellington places:

Also went to Southern Cross. Maybe I haven’t actually eaten there before. I think the croquettes weren’t as flavourful as I would have liked. And I got some ice cream from the pop-up stand at the top of the cable car run by Cabletop; the kiddie size was tiny, but that’s fine.

Yorkshire pudding; Sushi Tendo; ice cream from Cabletop.

In Sydney:

  • ChefnWok: I thought there was good wok hei. MP was less impressed. Braised pork belly, yum (there was a lot of it).
  • Kumiho: Korean/Japanese sushi place. The kingfish roll was weird, not our favourite. Tonkatsu was competent.
  • Pho Bay Noodle: food truck at the Beaches Market, superb.
  • A Pie Face location: they open super early but it was actually a terrible pie. Also we had no luck getting good food in Katoomba.
  • Han Ky, Parramatta: had a great milkshake but then the pho did not live up to my aspiration. My noodles were not bird’s nest crispy as I was hoping.
  • Random stalls open early-ish at Westfield Parramatta: the Chinese bakeries are different than in Montreal and I don’t like the palate as much; also had some passable dumplings.
  • Makimoto Macarthur Square: Was fine I guess. Did not like the mall location, even if sitting outside.
  • EAT GRK: haven’t had this type of Greek food for a while (Wellington has a food truck and a restaurant, but they’re different); food was good but the location was on a street with far too many noisy cars.
  • Hong Ha Bakery, Mascot: deservedly famous banh mi; they call them chicken rolls? Not as good as the place in Winnipeg but still a solid A.
Excellent Pho Bay Noodle; Australian summer peaches in season; sushi and bento from Kumiho; braised pork belly from ChefnWok; mediocre pie; Cantonese chow mein from Han Ky; well-presented sushi from Makimoto; EAT GRK meat and taramosalata; Bánh mì gà aka chicken roll from Hong Ha.


Somehow there was a dinosaur theme.

Kaiā-nō-kāhunui/condorraptor; Jobaria tiguidensis.


As part of kicking off the Ontario Alliance of Climbers Annual Membership program, I found two problems with CiviCRM; one was actually in our install, and one was a legit bug. The notabug still got a resilience-adding patch for future versions committed, and the legit bug had my fix committed as well. This ate three days of my time.


Strange first month of sabbatical, with mostly PLDI reviews and some travel. Onwards.