Aaron's blog

Firewalls and Internet Security, 2nd Edition: Repelling the Wily Hacker aaron.axvig
Date completed
1 month ago

I chose this book knowing that it was old.  My thoughts were that it would be interesting to see how things used to be, and also that it would focus more on what nowadays seem to be basic principles.  I can report success of both points.

The book overall had a nice balance of hacking stories, security principles, protocol analysis, and functional recommendations.

Completion status
Suggested replies aaron.axvig

I have used suggested replies for a few years.  Everyone has.

Lately I have felt a little slimy using the feature.  It isn't really me replying to that person that I have some relationship with.  Don't they deserve five seconds of my time?  Some programmer/system/"learning" is actually changing the tone of my conversations every time I tap a reply that is close enough, instead of typing out what I usually would.

So I disable this feature now.  I'm not ruthless about it, but if I notice it and don't mind the effort then I will take the time to turn it off.

Surely AI in the news lately has influenced my sensitivity on the topic.  I haven't tried any of the cutting edge GPT products.  Maybe this is where I become the grumpy old man or hippie-type.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson aaron.axvig
Date completed
4 months ago
Completion status
The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle... by Arthur Herman aaron.axvig
Date completed
4 months ago

We chose the topic of philosophy for the second read our three-person book club, and after a brief consideration of Nicomachean Ethics itself we pivoted to this book to get more of a broad introductory take on the subject.  This ended up being a perfect fit for me, who had essentially zero knowledge on philosophy and its characters.

This really expanded my knowledge of so many things, especially the history of Greece, Italy, Egypt, etc. as it relates to the great thinkers that bounced around the area over the centuries.  The relationship of these thinkers and their ideas to religion was also particularly interesting.  And of course the core idea of the book, the diverse platforms of Plato and Aristotle, is something that I will enjoy thinking about and reading more directly about for years to come.

But first I will need to read some lighter stuff.  This book is lengthy and I read a lot of it in 10 minute chunks, so it seemed to drag on and on.  Worth it though: this ranks as one of the most impactful books I have read.

Completion status
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton aaron.axvig
Date completed
6 months ago

I did not realize how old this was when I started reading it.  I was thinking early 90s for some reason--off by 20+ years!  So my initial thoughts of mediocre quality of framing of technology and processes were similarly off and it is really a great book in that regard.

I am not a fan of the report/write-up structure, with the frequent wry sidebars about how the scientists were missing things.  One or two of them did nice foreshadowing but that is all I will concede.

I recently read Project Hail Mary and I wonder if some concepts with regards to the organisms in that were inspired by this book.  Or maybe it is kind of a genre and other examples exist.

Completion status

The Soul of Baseball by Joe Posnanski

By aaron.axvig, Sat, 01/28/2023 - 11:25
Date completed
7 months ago

First book of a three-person book club that I am in.  The "He might have a kid of his own at home" message of the opening sequence really set the tone for the rest of the book--it is a message of positivity and being thankful.

I found myself a bit bored in the middle of the book.  It was repetitive but also firmly established some kind of Americana vibe, so fine overall.


Completion status
Aaron, Anna, and Alice in 2022 aaron.axvig

AliceMy mom has not asked for me to write up a Christmas card section yet but I thought I would anyways.

We had a great time at our wedding to start out 2022!  I think most of January was just recovering from wedding things.  Anna stayed busy at home babysitting niece Brita and family friends' baby Roxy.

In February we went on a ski trip to Red Lodge.  And we found out we were pregnant, due November 9th.  Anna soon started working on tearing out the old carpet in the room which would be the future nursery.  I made several batches of deer jerky in our new dehydrator.  We went to a few concerts--Winger + Firehouse and Buckcherry + Alice Cooper.  I went to St. Louise and Cedar Rapids for work.

We went to the daylily society's spring auction of daylily plants and got seven new varieties.  People go crazy for some of them!  We enjoyed seeing the new flower types bloom later in the summer.  And our trees and other landscaping is coming along nicely.  A couple pepper plants grew large and produced a lot.  Our neighbor seemed to have a bottomless supply of cucumbers to leave for us.

We camped in Stanton with parents and sibling for Memorial Day.  Friends Jason and Bobbie visited for July 4th and we had a really good time.

Lots of home improvement activities again.  In winter, Aaron worked quite a bit on the basement.  New flooring and lighting really improved the feeling of the space and then he set up all sorts of desks and computer things.  He built a custom fit server rack under the stairs to hold equipment too.  Early in the spring Aaron and Randy spent a lot of time finishing the inside of the detached garage.  With pine carsiding walls, white metal ceiling, and lots of lights, it was a great improvement.  In early summer Aaron worked hard on the porch columns and roof, getting it closed in by July, painted by many helpful parents and siblings in August, and various other details until essentially complete in November.  September saw two weeks of activity as we hired the install of an air conditioning system.  We were able to use it for one hot day!  And squeezed in Aug-Oct Aaron gutted the nursery of plaster and lathe, insulated and sheetrocked, and trimmed it out.  Not quite done when baby arrived, but close enough!  And finally, all 400 feet of fence got painted over the course of the summer…little by little by little.

Alice Magdalena arrived a few days early on November 2nd, weighing 6 pounds 5 ounces.  She has been keeping us busy every since, healthy and growing, nearing 9.5 pounds for Christmas.  We spent a week in mid-December in Arizona so several relatives there could meet her and so we could escape winter for a bit.

Coffee makers aaron.axvig

At home

My first coffee maker was a two-mug Gevalia.  It used one small filter one each side, to brew directly into the included mugs.  If you forgot to set the toggle on the top to "1" when you only wanted to make one mug, then water would pour out side two and make a mess.

Gevalia two-mug coffee maker

I'm pretty sure Grandma Jean gave this to our family.  I had it in my dorm room in college, and had it through my time in Medora in 2018.

As some point of living in my West Fargo house I acquired a green regular (drip brew, 10-12 cup size) coffee maker.  Probably this one:

Green coffee maker

The glass pot on that broke for some reason, so that was the end.

A black Mr. Coffee took its place.  Very close to this, but I'm pretty sure it is not grey on the bottom.

Mr. Coffee machine

I still have that one, but it only gets brought out when I need to make coffee for several people.  At some point I had a metal filter for this, which is fine but annoying to clean.

In 2018 I got an Aeropress before going sailing.  This was my first time making above-average coffee myself.  Eventually (while on the sailboat) I got a hand grinder so I could grind my own beans too.  It wasn't until just a couple months ago I saw in a YouTube video that I could just hook my drill onto the grinder shaft to run it.  Pretty good idea which would have saved me a ton of time.  Making coffee for guests on the sailboat was incredibly tedious with the hand grinder and single-serve-producing Aeropress.


I still have the Aeropress but don't use it much any more.  BTW cleanup with the metal filter is significantly worse than with paper filters, so I do not recommend the metal filter for this.

As a wedding present from the in-laws, I got a Breville "the Bambino Plus".

the Bambino Plus

This makes very good coffee.  I don't think I even knew coffee could be this good until I went to buy my Honda CR-V and the seller offered me a cup of coffee.  It was so smooth, rich, not bitter, etc.  Actually I don't know if I have even reached that level with the Bambino.  I don't know exactly what machine she had.  I believe the brand started with a G, so quite likely Gaggia.  I think it had a copper-look housing, and with a sort of house shaped profile from the front (with peak of roof flattened).  Maybe it wasn't Gaggia--I seem to remember that the logo was written out in cursive and rising towards the right, which I don't see in any Gaggia logoing.

Anyways, I mostly make Americanos and they are quite good.  Milk-based drinks are fun to mix it up every once in a while.  London Fog drinks are a solid choice too.

I also got a Breville "the Smart Grinder Pro" as a wedding gift and that is a really nice machine.

At work

The law office that I worked at had a Keurig, which was a pretty new and fancy thing to have at the time.

At Microsoft they had three full-auto grinding/brewing machines.  I think these would just make regular coffee, no added milk or whatever.  In fact I'm sure that is the case, since there was occasionally drama about someone leaving an opened/half-used tiny milk carton in the fridge, and whether it should or could be used by other people.  Nonsensical.  The machines had Seattle's Best coffee in them.  During my time at Microsoft is when I first developed a strong daily habit of drinking coffee.

In Medora there was just a Mr. Coffee in the breakroom, with Folgers grounds provided by TRMF.  Katie was known for making the coffee ridiculously strong.

At Cloverdale there was a "syrup-based" Farmer Brothers machine.  Pretty good for syrup coffee.

At NISC there are syrup machines on each building/floor.  Mostly they are just OK.  But in the cafeteria there is a full-auto machine that grinds and does espresso, cappuccino, cafe mocha, etc.  Top notch, until it broke and they couldn't get parts for a few months.  A few months of the OK syrup coffee.  I brought in some K-cups to mix up my days with something a little better.  It was eventually replaced with a machine that eats hotel-style single-serve filter bags of coffee grounds.  It can do all the cappuccino type things too, not quite as tasty as the old machine but still good.

Philosophy of rock picking aaron.axvig

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!