Aaron's blog

Philosophy of rock picking

By aaron.axvig, 3 October, 2022

Today on my morning break from work walk I observed some little painted rocks on the side of the path.  The one nearest me had something about doing good deeds written on it.  I saw a few on the other side of the path just too far away to read, and decided I would save it to read on the way back instead of breaking my pace.

So on I went to the midpoint of my walk and turned around.  A minute later I saw a red pickup truck with city parks department logos on it driving along the path just ahead of me.  The truck stopped, both people got out, and each picked something up on their respective sides of the path.  A few yards on the passenger got out and picked up another.  And then he just walked next to the truck and picked up a few more pieces of "litter".

So I did not get to read that rock on the other side of the path.

This gave me plenty to think about for the rest of my walk.

First, isn't it kind of mean-spirited to pick up these little rays of hope?  I swear I saw a sneer on the guys face as he returned to his seat!  But I was a ways away.  Maybe he was just smiling for some other reason.  Perhaps he enjoyed the message on the rock.  Technically he is just doing his job.  And he has some good eyes to see a little rock from inside a pickup!

Should his job duties include picking up these rocks?  5 rocks on the side of a trail seem unlikely to cause problems.  What about 50 rocks?  How about 1 rock on a hump and a deficient safety guard on a mower that sends the rock zinging off?

I think part of the joy one derives from seeing these little messages is their subversiveness.  Someone got away with a small act of defiance in placing it, and I saw it before "the man" restored order!

Running a 5k aaron.axvig Sun, 05/01/2022 - 06:58

Yesterday I ran in a 5k at Sertoma Park.  This was put on by a Parkinson's organization and I found out about it because my employer's fitness program was offering extra points for participating.  It seemed like a good challenge so I signed up.

I did not do any prepping except for my walking at work, where most days I go on a brisk walk for my two 15 minute breaks.  Typically this is along the walking trail that runs past the office but I really like to cross over to one of two residential roads that are just a short ways away, as that way 2/3 of the walk can be enjoyed without the constant traffic of Old Red Trail.  There are some steep hills on those roads too, so if I keep my pace up I can get the heartrate up briefly.

The day of the race was 40F and windy, but thankfully the rain held off and everything was dry.  I shivered at the starting line for a few seconds after throwing my jacket in the car and then the mass of people took off.  Not knowing what a reasonable pace would be, I stayed towards the back in my #8 sign to see what others do.  A few hundred yards in my feet were pounding heavily and my joints and muscles hadn't yet warmed up.  Still I was pretty sure that this pace was too slow so I passed a few groups.  At about the 3/4 mile mark I switched from a full in/out breath cycle every eight steps to every four steps.  And then I was excited to have made it to the mile mark without walking!  Might as well go for two.

In the second mile, my seemed to improve a little as my feet stopped clonking so heavily.  I couldn't remember the last time I had run some distance other than sprinting around on a beach or sandbar, so I had no muscle memory of efficient movements for that pace.  I kept from becoming too winded by consciously slowing my pace on occasion.  Of course it would soon creep back up again.  On the third mile I was definitely feeling the exhaustion but not in any painful ways so I pushed myself to run the remaining way--no walking.  And I made it across the finish line in 31:17, 29th place out of 44. Pretty good for a 210 pound guy with no prep other than a reasonably active lifestyle.  The top event time was 20:30.

Today, the next day, my knees are complaining a little bit.  My calf muscles were tight yesterday, which is a typical problem for me.  Otherwise, I'm doing fine and I really enjoyed the challenge and finding out what I am still capable of.

Aaron and Anna's 2021 aaron.axvig Fri, 01/14/2022 - 09:55

Here are the short and long versions that I wrote for my mom's "Christmas" letter which I guess will actually be sent out in mid- to late-January.

One paragraph version 

We bought a HUD house in Mandan in February and fixed it up while finishing the family condo renovation project, moving from the condo to the house two weeks before Easter when Anna's family visited us.  Anna worked January-May as the Assistant to the Chief Committee Clerk of the House for the ND Legislative Assembly.  Then she traveled to Virginia to get the last of our belongings off of the sailboat and returned for summer school to kick off her pursuit of a diagnostic medical sonography degree at BSC.  I built 400' of cedar picket fence so that Louise can enjoy our entire yard.  I built a wraparound porch on the front of the house—"just" the base, with the columns and roof to be completed in 2022.  Dad helped extensively on all these construction projects.  I left Cloverdale for a job at NISC, still doing network administration.  The sailboat almost sold, but then didn't.  Anna has been babysitting baby Brita every morning and continuing college classes.  We got married on New Years Eve! 

Long version

As 2021 opened we were hard at work remodeling Eve's old condo which we were living in.  For a while we had been doing dishes in the bathroom sink and living out of two small bedrooms, one as a bedroom and the other serving as office/living room/storage.  I think by January we had the kitchen and living room mostly back in order so life was good. 

I was settling in to my Network Administrator role at Cloverdale Foods which I had started in November 2020. Anna was working January-May as the Assistant to the Chief Committee Clerk of the House for the ND Legislative Assembly.  She worked with a lovely group of people there and really enjoyed it. 

We also spent January working on purchasing our own house in Mandan.  This was a HUD house that had been foreclosed on in November 2019 so vacant for over a year.  It had no power or heat so was very cold and unwelcoming to prospective purchasers such as ourselves.  One funny memory is of when we tracked snow in with our boots one day and then  a couple days later when we returned to look again the snow was still sitting there on the living room carpet.  But the house did have some cool features like cast iron radiators and stained glass windows, and living in 130 year old house seemed like something we should try, so we went for it. 

We closed on February 1st and promptly started trying to heat the place.  This was of course during a crazy cold snap of about two weeks constantly below 0 degrees F.  A small electric heater thawed out the utility room in the basement, but more was needed.  A large electric heater was procured and made it comfortable to work inside but also hurt on the electric bill--I figured something like $15 per day!  We started meeting with contractors, and after many appointments and disappointments decided that the only reasonable option was to get started on it ourselves. 

Usually I just remember it as, "yeah we fixed the pipes that were burst from freezing".  I think I have suppressed the detailed memories!  But if I really try, the memories flood back of my dad and I splitting every evening and weekend for at least a month between the condo and this house.  Almost every day included a trip to Menards.  Who would think there are so many different pipe…things.  Little by little we worked our way through the water pipes and hot water heating system: pressure test a section, cut open walls and ceilings to find the leak, fix it, repeat.  Getting one radiator working in the basement was a huge milestone.  Then one in the entry way, and another in the bathroom upstairs.  Finally a big one in the dining room.  Now it was pretty much spring so that was enough heat to live there until winter, though it wasn't exactly warm in the bedroom. 

Then about two weeks before Easter we started to move in for real.  Also we thought it would be a good idea to invite some of Anna's family to stay with us for Easter…what a rush!  They actually did help us with a sizable list of repairs and cleaning so it truly was a great holiday. 

I spent most of June and July building 400' of cedar picket fence around the yard.  That's turned out to be a lot of fence, and it was a crazy hot summer too.  But little by little it got done.  We had done the contractor courtship dance for the fence, and replacing the porch with roof, again on both not finding any reasonable options.  In August I started on the porch.  Just the learning and planning on this was an accomplishment.  I set about digging out the old piers and putting new ones in--a delightful way to entertain myself on more crazy hot days.  Oh yeah, our house doesn't have air conditioning so until we ramped up on window air conditioners the house would go from 90 during the day to 80 at night.  Soon beams and joists were going up, and then the supremely rewarding stage of putting on the deck boards.  My dad helped a lot on this too; it has been great to work on all these projects with him. 

As winter approached we started to get cold in the bedroom, so I finally got the radiator plumbed in up there.  Anna really got going on all the wedding planning details, and she started babysitting Britta for Laura and Brandon.  We had a great Thanksgiving with Eliot and Caroline visiting for a week.  Every evening we had a grand meal at a different sibling or parent's house--very busy but very fun!  Then we were off to the Twin Cities for Christmas with Anna's family and our wedding on New Years Eve. 

The wedding and celebration were amazing and a fitting way to cap a really great year.  Thank you to all who were there, and who have been there for us.  We are so happy to be back!

Our wedding

By aaron.axvig, 6 January, 2022

A few days ago we celebrated our wedding on New Years Eve, so I thought I would write about it.

We had a quick Christmas of sorts in the evening of December 23rd with my parents.  They gave us a set of keys to their condo, so we will need to get a visit planned out!  Then we left Mandan the next morning - Christmas Eve morning.  Our departure was close enough to our plan of 9:00am.  The 20 miles of roads just west of Fargo were a little icy but it was otherwise perfect winter traveling and we arrived in the late afternoon in time for a nice dinner and then gift opening.

Christmas Day was pretty relaxed and we didn't have anything scheduled.  Dave showed me his forge where I twisted some metal bar into an "A" shape and another piece into a looped tool holder wall thingy.  The forge is unique in being completely home built, including a burner built of black iron pipe with a wire-feed welder tip as the propane injection nozzle.  I got a bit carried away drinking beer around a campfire with Dave that evening and really felt that the next day.

So then we had about 4 days to finish preparing for the wedding.  On Monday we dropped my car off to get some mysterious noises checked out (was the brakes), went to a Hennepin County office to get our marriage license, and picked up some great pastries from Lunds & Byerlys on the way home.  One was a lobster tail which I had only ever heard of on the TV show Archer.  Very good!  Anna did A LOT of work on wedding details and I helped with a few things.  Melting the wax out of 95 votives and washing 55 glass vases sticks out in my memory of things that I did.  We also made a last-minute run to buy a sport coat for me to wear at the rehearsal dinner.

Thursday we packed and moved to the hotel--The Marquette in downtown Minneapolis.  We hauled several luggage carts full of stuff out of a couple of cars, to Anna's suite, to Daniel's room, and to the reception venue Windows on Minnesota.  Then it was soon time to head to the church for rehearsal which went well.  Dinner at the Women's Club was great, with a beautiful venue, great drinks, fun people, and an excellent beef tips and mashed potatoes meal.  Many people spent about an hour blowing up balloons for an arch at Windows, and I made it to bed around 11:00pm to get a solid 8+ hours of sleep in Daniel's room, where the men would be getting ready the next morning.

I have heard that the next morning was pure chaos for the ladies up in Anna's suite.  Men have it easier--Daniel invited me to join him in the gym at about 9:30 so I went and walked on the treadmill while he ran for 15 minutes, and then he coached me through some sit ups on a rubber ball and bench pressing some free weights.  We got our tuxes steamed well ahead of schedule, and then the photographer came around 1:00pm and we were off to the races.

From then on it was go go go for 12 straight hours!

I went down to the atrium for the first look and the photographer quickly learned from the security guard that she needed a permit to photograph there.  We still got the first look pictures done there but then quickly went up to Windows to do all of the family photos.  Rush rush rush!  Someone swore about someone bringing my gift over.  It was a very cool gift.  Everyone ran around like chickens with no heads, but many pictures were successfully taken.  Then we went down with the whole wedding party to get on the bus to go take photos outside.  We did a set with the whole group in a cool old-charm alley, and then just Anna and I around the corner in front of the shop where she bought her dress.  It was snowing moderately with 1/2 inch of fresh snow on the ground which I think will result in awesome pictures.  10 degrees was a little chilly though!  A park across the street called us over for a few more photos too.

We did some photos at the church and (not exactly sure on the order here) Anna and I were taken in the photographer's car for some other shots.  First on some bridge still with the beautiful falling snow, and then to a different bridge where the Grain Belt sign is.  It was getting a bit windy (cold!) but we survived.  The photographer (Kelly Birch) was amazing with keeping us moving and resolving/preventing so many small things that really could have dragged us down.  So tactful, charismatic, wise, etc.--she was a huge deal.  And we were so thankful to have her, because somewhere in here we got a text from the event coordinator at Windows saying she was going to be out of the office for a few days...starting now...WTF.  She must have had a family emergency or something.

We waited at the church, scrounged up some snacks, and then it was time for the ceremony.  I really enjoyed the songs we pick and the organist absolutely brought down the house with the last song (Joyful Joyful I think?).  It sounded so good!  I got surprised by having to repeat something during the ring vows about a "triune God" which I had never heard of before.  Everyone survived the cold for 5 minutes to do some sparkler photos on the church front steps.  Then off on the bus to Windows.

About 10 minutes into cocktail hour we spent 25 minutes gathering Kleins and Coopers for a large family photo, which I found to be a very frustrating use of time.  But ultimately I got plenty to eat and drink anyways!  The passed mini beef wellingtons were pretty good, and the shrimp was very nice especially when dipped in a little glass of sauce.  Bailey saved Jessica from dumping one of those glasses of sauce all over Anna's dress during cocktail hour: it was so close!  Jessica's speech was nice, Simon's was way long but good, mine was way short and unnecessary, and then we danced.

The photographer grabbed us at 10:30pm to do some more photos, some in a dark room up there, some in the atrium, and some with fireworks outside.  These seem like they will all be epic!  When we lit the firework fountains on the sidewalk some random person ran up and was warming his hands on it in the background of at least one photo.  Hilarious!

The midnight champagne toast was great with confetti everywhere.  Posing so much for the photographer right around that moment kind of sapped a little of the fun out of it but in the long run the memories will multiply as we have those photos forever.  Jason then monopolized the ear of the DJ for the rest of the night so things got a little crazy with some wild music, and eventually (far too late) the night drew to a close.

We were plenty tired and, frankly, in rough shape the next day.  We said good bye to many guests and spent time with others who were staying for various reasons, and then cleaned up some things at Windows.  My car battery was dead from the headlights being left on when family used it to get to the church for the wedding.  Chris and Kelly took us and 7 others to go ax throwing in the evening.  I had a great burger at the hotel bar and Anna had a steak at a little cocktail table between the couches in the lounge, then off to bed to start catching up on sleep!

The next morning we packed out all sorts of stuff from the hotel rooms.  There were no luggage carts to be found, so this meant many trips down to the parking garage.  Then we unloaded everything at Karen's, I drove the Boyce-Coopers from the hotel to Karen's, I had a Hotzza Motzza, we repacked, and we drove home.  We were so exhausted!  I had two energy drinks in the late afternoon/evening to stay alert while driving and still had no problem falling asleep around 11:00pm.

Now a few days later we have had a couple evenings to recover and make a little progress unpacking.  Married life has been good so far.

The Richest Man in Town by VJ Smith

By aaron.axvig, 6 January, 2022
Date completed
10 months ago

I found this book on in a bookcase at work and spent the second half (and then some) of my lunch break reading it.  The story of Marty is great, to the point, and tugs at the heartstrings--a good reminder to do a little better and care about people.

Completion status

Rating

Dirt to Soil by Gabe Brown aaron.axvig Wed, 12/29/2021 - 09:17
Date completed
11 months ago

The first thing that hooked me about this book is that it that the author farms just outside of Bismarck.  Local connection!  I had never heard of him or the farm, but Anna was given the book by someone so we threw it on the bookshelf to read eventually.  Then we happened to see Gabe at the recent Pride of Dakota exhibition and said we already had the book, which he had on display.  I bought some horseradish beef sticks from him (actually were not amazing tasting...) and made a mental note to read the book soon.

So I brought the book to read over Christmas vacation and it was a great read.  It was very interesting to read about advanced or maybe even "hippy" farming techniques.  Never have I felt such desire to buy some destitute land and spend 15 years bringing it back to life--hopefully that fades rapidly!  I have limited knowledge of the other side of the story (traditional farming) so it would be interesting to hear that perspective.  But everything in this book does seem to make sense.

Completion status

Rating

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

By aaron.axvig, 12 October, 2021
Date completed
1 year ago

Ehhh...let's just say I mostly agree with the two or three out of five reviews.  At 40% I was reasonably certain I wouldn't finish the book, but I guess I just needed a little break (also motivated to finish a book to mark that goal off of my list).

This book is notably lacking of interesting science concepts.  Also, I can't remember anything truly interesting about the ways in which the alternate history deviates from real history.

Completion status

Rating

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

By aaron.axvig, 2 October, 2021
Date completed
1 year ago

I picked this book out at the library as the one to read to complete my goal of reading a book during my four weeks off between jobs.  I wandered the shelves looking for books that looked like sci-fi (somehow it seems like one can pick them out pretty easily by the title, font, and imagery on the spine...I can't quite explain it) and found this one, and was pleasantly surprised to see that it won Hugo and Nebula awards.  Should be a good one!

Unfortunately I did not enjoy it and stopped in the middle of chapter six.  This is where you final get the reveal that the book is about old gods versus new gods.  I had been dragging myself through the book up to hear and at this point I realized it was not going to be interesting.  As a final check I read the plot summary on Wikipedia and even that was boring.

Learning about the House on the Rocks in Wisconsin was very interesting, and I plan to try to find a list of other interesting locations like that which are mentioned in the book.  IIRC the intro alluded to people doing road trips tracing the characters' travels so there must be a few other good destinations.

The version I had was the one with annotations by Leslie S. Klinger.  I did enjoy the presence of the annotations even though they slowed down my pace of reading, and would readily read another annotated book.

Completion status

Rating

Start of the house project

By aaron.axvig, 2 February, 2021
Electric heater trying it's hardest in the utility room

Yesterday we closed on our new house on 6th Avenue in Mandan.  It was a HUD house, having been foreclosed on sometime in 2020.  A stream of thoughts:

  • It's an old house, built in 1890.  So there is a neat radiant heating system, high ceilings, large wooden trim, and a pretty traditional floor plan.  Overall it seems to have been kept up to date over the years.
  • Who knows what happens during foreclosures!?  Supposedly some things were winterized, but the heating water pipes are burst in two visible places and the potable water system doesn't hold pressure.  So the most interesting part of the next week or two will be seeing how we do in the frozen pipe lottery.  Hopefully not too much plaster repair is needed once we are through with that.
  • Today before work I stopped by and turned off all of the breakers.  This way nothing funny would happen when the power company came over and turned on the power while I was at work.  Then after work I went and dug through the pop-up camper at my parents' house to get my small electric heater, but could not find it.  $20 for a new one and I was on my way over to the house.  Some lights came on as I flipped the breakers, which was exciting.  I set up the heater in the utility room with the door halfways closed and left for the night.  It should get pretty warm in that room and at least take the edge off in the rest of the house.  At one point today I estimated that the heater (1500 watts running continuously) could heat the house to about 40 degrees above the exterior temperature but further though leads me to revise that down much further.  1500 watts = 5,000 BTU-hours and a typical furnace seems to be 60k-100k BTU, running at probably under 1/2 duty cycle unless it is super cold.  So maybe 30k BTU-hours to maintain about 60 degrees?  It's a pretty rough estimate.  I think it is probably not a linear scaling of BTU-hours per degree of temperature difference.  So I'll guess a 25 degree rise.
  • Tomorrow I will see about getting a couple different parties in to look at the pipes.  One is the (plumber friend of the?) husband of a neighbor that my mom knows, the other is a mechanic that my dad knows.
  • The house is in the Mandan Renaissance Zone and I confirmed with the city that the property has not previously participated in the program, which can only be done once ever.  So that will be a significant tax savings if everything works out well on that.

 

The past 5 months

By aaron.axvig, 5 December, 2020

We left the boat on the hard in Deltaville, VA in early August with plans to return to Minnesota and North Dakota to see family and do a couple weddings.  Hopefully by the end of the two months I would find a job in Bismarck or Fargo.  The drive was just over 20 hours and since we left the boatyard at about 11:00am we spent the wee-est hours of the morning sleeping in the rental minivan at a rest area.  After a week or so in Rosemount we left Louise and headed to Dickinson to meet Tyrel and then ride with him to Whitefish for a wedding.  I recall that we really enjoyed cleaning out Tyrel's car in the morning before we left.  It's weird how it is fun to clean someone else's car!

The wedding (and hiking, Cold Smoke, mountain, shared lodge, etc.) were all great.  Then we had a blast volunteering in Medora where I worked outside service (moving golf carts around and cleaning them) and Anna worked laundry and retail.  Then after settling in for one night at my parents' in Bismarck we decided that it was now the best time to go see Anna's grandparents in Minot.  So we spent a few days there and then returned to spend a week preparing for my sister's wedding in the back yard.  That wedding was a great success too!

My job search was not so successful.  I had done a few video interviews but gotten no offers.  My mom tested positive for COVID and we were still living with her so we had to quarantine for her 10 days of possible contagiousness PLUS 14 days of time after that during which we might develop out own cases.

Quarantine was an interesting experience, and I can easily look back on it with positive or negative overall feelings.  The facilities (their house :)) were very nice so we were fortunate there, and had plenty to do.  I worked on job applications and interviews, and made a lot of OpenStreetMap contributions in south Bismarck.  I played some Minecraft: Dungeons, went on walks and bike rides, and worked on building a wooden bucket with my dad.

After quarantine Aaron went pheasant hunting and Anna went to Minot.  Then we headed to Rosemount to help Anna's mom move.  I did a lot of painting in the old and new houses, and then made many trips back and forth moving stuff.  I had brought a trailer down to pick up some unused used appliances for our house remodeling project, so that was handy to have for moving furniture and things.

About one week into November we rushed back to Bismarck on the last day of the warm spell.  The idea is that we would get the furniture off of the trailer and load some dirt from digging out an egress window into the trailer.  But about 20 minutes after we got the appliances unloaded the weather front came through, bringing cold, wind, and drizzle.  So I ended up loading the dirt a couple days later.  And then I finally got a job offer, and then a second one on the same day!  I accepted the one in Bismarck/Mandan and we are living in my sister's condo while we renovate it.