Aaron's blog

Minecraft: Dungeons

By aaron.axvig, 18 July, 2020
Date completed

This is basically the first dungeon crawler that I have played, except Gauntlet: Legends a long time ago at a friends house in Fortuna, ND on his N64.  The genre doesn't seem to really suck me in anymore as I usually play two levels of Dungeons and then call it quits for the night.  Still, I have made it through the first two difficulty tiers and am just a couple levels into the Apocalypse tier now.

Overall it is decent fun, adequately polished, good value at $30, etc.

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Quantum Void by Douglas Phillips

By aaron.axvig, 18 July, 2020
Date completed
3 months ago

Great for the price I paid, which is free since I signed up for the Kindle Unlimited free trial (and set a calendar reminder to cancel it).  Hey, there are a lot of books that I won't even read for free so this is still a compliment.

Good pacing and very nice mix of real quantum theory with some made up stuff, and an accompanying final "chapter" that tells you exactly what was real and not.  There were some hints at time things in the story which the third book Quantum Time will surely get deeper into.

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Sphere by Michael Crichton

By aaron.axvig, 12 July, 2020
Date completed
3 months 1 week ago

Excellent read, nice mix of psychology with sci-fi.  A lot of technical details of how they are able to survive in various ways underwater are ignored but I think that is the right choice as it lets the story stay focused.

I will be grabbing Michael Crichton books when I see them in the future.  I knew he was a very popular author but I don't think I had read any of his works prior to this one.

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Quantum Space by Douglas Phillips

By aaron.axvig, 11 July, 2020
Date completed
3 months 1 week ago

An easy read for the easy price of free via Prime Reading.  Good enough that I will probably spend the $4 for each of the sequels in the next week or two.

The balance of real quantum theory and made up stuff was OK, and the puzzles of the communication devices were nice.  The analogy to explain how 3D space appears from a fourth dimension was very reminiscent of how it was described in The Three Body Problem.  In the afterword the author does cite The 4th Dimension by Rudy Rucker as "a fun book about dimensions" so maybe that is a prior work that both of them built on.

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Cumberland Island, Brunswick, and Beaufort

By aaron.axvig, 3 July, 2020
Anna and Louise on the beach with a horseshoe crab

We motored almost 60 miles to Cumberland Island--a long day!  The next day we went on a long walk on some of the trails there and along the amazing beach.  And the day after we traveled to Brunswick, GA to see our friends Leanne and Mark.  After we anchored near the marina they had us over to their catamaran to visit.  For supper we walked into downtown to find something but not much was open so we went back to their boat and made burgers.  The next day we made the difficult decision to travel on even though we would have loved to stay and visit more.  The holding for our anchor in that spot was not great and storms were forecast, the marina was fairly hostile about us taking our dinghy to their customers' (our friends') boat, there was no other dinghy shore access, and it was very hot.  It was best to keep moving, but only barely.

After a late start at about 11:00am, we made it maybe 5 hours until inclement rain made it seem wise to anchor in a creek that was actually only about a half mile short of where we had been thinking about stopping.  Of course we were still not fast enough and had to do the anchoring in light rain.  That and the next two nights were all spent kind of in the middle of nowhere; Darien Creek, St. Catherine's Island (we noticed magnolia trees/blossoms for the first time here, but did not spot any lemurs), and Skull Creek.

From Skull Creek it was just a short hop to Beaufort, SC.  We found a great nook just south of the city waterfront and ended up spending a little over a week there.  At low tide there was a great sandbar for Louise to play on.  There is a great public dock there so we really enjoyed the town.  One day we rented bicycles and rode on the Spanish Moss Trail which is a "rails to trails" trail...very flat as a former railroad.  Anna dropped her ring off to get a matching band made.  I did a lot of OpenStreetMap editing.  I replaced the air conditioner run capacitor and got the EasyStart working so that we can reliably start our air conditioner using the generator.  It rained a fair amount.  We called the marina to pay for a mooring ball so that we could use their laundry facility; none were available due to maintenance but they were nice enough to let us use the laundry anyways.

Eventually it was time to move on again to so we headed for Charleston.  We stopped short because of a long stretch of opposing tidal currents and approaching storms.  So the next day it was a relatively short day.  At one area called Elliott Cut the tidal current really flows fast.  Our timing was a little off so it was 1.5 knots against us and there was a bridge a couple miles up that had a restricted opening schedule.  A catamaran entered the cut just before us and wasn't going fast enough to make it through the next bridge opening.  He didn't respond to many hailing attempts on the radio so I ended up passing him in the cut.  We had very good maneuverability due to the opposing current but it was still pretty tight in there!  About halfways between the cut and the bridge he hailed us so I was able to explain and apologize for my aggressive driving.  And the bridge opening worked out--we were there on time and he was able to make it through too even though the bridge tender did yell at him on the radio to speed it up!

The anchorage in Charleston was rougher than I liked and I didn't feel like staying there so we motored on the next day to Georgetown.

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Vero Beach to St. Augustine

By aaron.axvig, 3 July, 2020
St. Augustine sunset

From Vero we motored to near Palm Shores, FL.  I changed the oil the next morning and we motored on to New Smyrna Beach.  We anchored, took the dinghy to the nice public dock, walked around the abandoned (COVID19) downtown with Louise, and got some food to go from Panheads Pizzeria.  It was VERY buggy when we got back to the boat with our food.  I think this is the place where so many of the bugs (sort of like gnats?) got into the boat before we put the screens in, that eventually we just left one light on in the v-berth to attract them all.  Periodically I would swat the cloud of bugs around the light to kill as many as possible.

The next day (April 22nd) we arrived in St. Augustine.  We pulled in to the fuel dock for diesel and water and to figure out where to rest for a few days.  A mooring ball would have been ideal but they were not available for two boats or for more than two nights.  We didn't want to anchor because it would be pretty windy and the current really runs through that area.  So we decided to spend three nights at the dock and Keelin' It would do so too.

The current was moderately flowing into the slip which makes pulling in bow-first tricky because you don't have much time to rotate the boat before getting pushed into the slip.  But it was flowing much less near shore where the slips were compared to the fuel dock.  I wouldn't do it again, but we did make it in.  I was about 15 degrees shy of getting the full 90 degrees of rotation that we needed so the port side of the boat went against a piling and Alex on the finger pier was able to push on the bow to complete the rotation.

We had a couple days of lounging and Anna made a huge grocery run with Lisa.  We decided that we would like to spend a month there but Keelin' It opted to continue on.  We had payed about $280 for three nights and it was something like $350 more for the 27 additional days.  At most marinas it is only economical to stay for one-month periods!

We had a great month in St. Augustine.  The marina is right in the historic district so there was plenty to see even with pandemic shutdowns.  Louise got a lot of great walks.  I spent a lot of time walking around making improvements to OpenStreetMap.  We ordered many maintenance and wishlist items.  Anna hosted the cruisers net a few times.  We had sun-downers with our neighbors from our own cockpits.  And eventually it was time to leave.

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Drupal upgrade to version 9

By aaron.axvig, 16 June, 2020

This went OK.  I had some tangles with incompatible modules, almost surely my fault for doing things wrong. Fixing it was a good way to become more familiar with composer and the Drupal module system!

To get Drupal upgraded I edited the composer.json file manually to remove the Matomo module, which was a bad idea.  I suppose it was using its versioning info to signify that it was not compatible with Drupal 9.  So once composer no longer knew that I wanted the Matomo module it was happy to upgrade to Drupal 9.  But Drupal's internal config still knew that I had the Matomo module installed.  Eventually I figured out how to uninstall with the Matomo module with drush, but only after figuring out a workaround for a bug with the module uninstaller.  BTW the Matomo code was no longer in the modules/contrib folder on my server and composer refused to install it since it was incompatible with the already installed Drupal 9, so I had to manually download the Matomo module code into that folder in order to be able to run the drush command to uninstall the module.

Then I found that I had similar problems with two other modules: popular_tags and tagclouds.  Fortunately I WAS able to add and remove those at will using composer as I was learning that I needed to uninstall them using drush, and they did not have any uninstall errors.  I actual wrote this up backwards--I think I figured out the Matomo module after solving the issue with these other two.

It would have been a lot easier to disable/uninstall those modules in the Drupal admin pages before upgrading!

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Bahamas: Great Harbor Cay to Norman's Cay

By aaron.axvig, 21 April, 2020

Better late than never to write about what we did in the Bahamas...

Our first day in Great Harbor Key we went and talked to Rhett and Deb on SV Twin as we recognized them from the marina in South Bimini (and they have the same model boat as we do).  They were planning to move around a point about 1/2 mile away and we decided to move with them.  We would be more protected from the winds for the next day or two.  Then we went to walk around town.  There was a wild preaching sort of thing going on in the city park, sort of like slam poetry maybe.  The one lady was rhythmically shouting (rapping?) into the microphone and a few others were gathered around.  They had their maxed out PA system pointed outwards so everyone could experience it!  We went to a little restaurant on top of a hill and had some OK food.  We also bought a few things at the relatively well-stocked grocery store.  Then that evening we went over to their boat for supper; I was a little late as I took the dinghy to the marina to get the MyIslandWiFi hotspot unit.  The cut through rock into the harbor is pretty neat.  It was dark on the way back and I had the dinghy lights on.  As I was about halfways back to the boat (a couple miles trip) I felt a wake.  You can tell from the feel of the waves how recently the wake was made, and these felt very recent.  And then I smelled exhaust.  So basically some maniac with no lights on buzzed right past me in the pitch dark.

The next day we decided to go to the beach on the island.  As we rounded the point on the way to the dinghy parking area the waves really picked up.  We were very glad to be anchored on the calm side!  We walked about 1.5 miles to the east side of the island and played with Louise there for an hour or so.  The sand was soooo fine!

We spent one or two more nights there and then went with SV Twin and SV Make Way to Hoffman Key.  We had a really nice sail to there.  Aaron and Rhett went to check out the blue hole.  The anchorage was just OK as there was some surge that made the boat rock in funny ways all night.  Then we motorsailed to Nassau where we fueled up and anchored a bit west of the conch shacks area.  We stayed there for several nights while some wild winds blew through.  We walked a long ways to do laundry one day, went to the grocery store another day (very nearly stocked and priced as well as an American grocery store), and ate at the conch shacks.  Overall we enjoyed it there, despite having heard many bad things.

Then we motorsailed over to Allen's Cay.  We anchored there for a few days and had an amazing time snorkeling and paddleboarding around the boat, exploring some nearby reefs, checking out the iguanas, and just really loving the incredibly clear water and sunny days.  Rhett and Matt had their spears out at one of the reefs and some snorkelers from a tour boat were very upset that we would fish inside of the national park where it is prohibited.  They didn't believe that the park starts about 10 miles south of where we were...probably thought all of the Exumas were in the park.

Our next stop was Norman's Cay.  There were quite a few boats in the channel there but we easily found a spot near the mostly submerged plane wreck which is a very popular snorkeling spot.  So we did some snorkeling and spent a few nights there too.  A big front blew through and one night at about 2:30am our anchor alarm went off.  I quickly determined that it was NOT a false alarm and that we were indeed on the move.  As I popped up on deck and got the engine started our anchor rehooked and we swung sideways into a sailboat that had previously been a few hundred feet behind us.  I was able to drive ahead into the 35-40 mph wind then and keep us ahead of that boat while Anna pulled the anchor up.  Then drove in the dark and crazy wind and two foot waves back to pretty near our old spot and were able to anchor again.  There was no sleep until the wind finally started to abate later in the morning.  As for a root cause, I think that the anchor plugged up with grass and therefore did not handle the 90 degree change in wind direction well.  We talked to the other boat that afternoon and they didn't really have any damage other than some very scared kids.  One of our stantions was bent a little.

Also that night a charter catamaran had one of their lazy jacks break so their mainsail was flying around in the wind.  And then their anchor must have drug too because they were driving around.  Eventually they got re-anchored but still couldn't figure out how to get the sail under control.  They asked for help on the radio but no one was willing to go help them in the dark...I'm certain it would have been different if there was a significant risk of harm to them.  Eventually they figured out that they could lay on the sail and once it was light out and slightly calmer I went over to help them out.  The front end of the dinghy was VERY light in the high winds, definitely a risk of flipping in those sort of conditions.  Once I got there I used an old reefing line that I had brought along and laced their sail down to the boom.

One morning I went with Rhett, Don, and Matt to spearfish at a reef maybe a couple miles south.  It was pretty hard to find as no one had brought any electronic navigation devices but eventually we found it.  It was mostly 15 feet or more deep and there was a pretty strong current.  Don speared a fish and was hollering for us to hurry up and get him because a shark was trying to get the fish from him.  There were lots of barracuda around there too, and I really did not like snorkeling in that spot.

At all of these places we were trading nights hosting dinner with Rhett and Deb on Twin, Matt and Laurie on Make Way, and Don and Mary on Lovely Lady.  It was a very fun group!

Leaving the Bahamas

By aaron.axvig, 21 April, 2020

About a week ago we decided that it was finally time to leave the Bahamas.  We had basically been sitting on the boat for three weeks as more and more restrictions were put in place.  I don't remember all the details but it was a progression: first all gatherings were prohibited, then all beaches were closed, then more and more until we were literally forbidden from leaving our boat for any purpose.  Grocery delivery was to be arranged with a $150 minimum and $15 delivery fee.

Every time a new restriction was announced it was always slightly open to interpretation so the situation was changing every day as different officials were asked questions.  There were many interpretations of whether travel back to the US was allowed, with or without stops to sleep, refuel, get groceries/water, etc.  I was very stressed out and losing a lot of sleep.  Most recently they did publish guidelines to answer some of those questions, which also included a line "encouraging boaters to return to their home country".

So we eventually came to an agreement that we would start the return trip on Friday.  Then Anna found out that she had a role in a murder-mystery held via VHF radio on Saturday night so negotiated that we would leave on Sunday.  But the weather window was too good starting on Friday and we found friends on SV Keelin It that were also going back to the US on Friday.  We were talking to them at 10:00am on Thursday and they were 60 miles north in Staniel Cay.  We quickly decided to leave at 11:00am to make it 50 miles to Blackpoint and then we would be caught up to them if we just left a little earlier than them on the next morning.  So we got off the phone with them and then quickly prepared to leave.  Aaron had just gotten the steering system repaired the evening before and half of the steering pedestal remained to be put back together!  But we did get everything done and leave at 11:00am as planned.

Another friend, Eric on SV Medicinal, joined us for that trip up to Blackpoint.  We had a nice motorsail for the first half of the trip and then the wind died out and it was just motoring.  We passed through Dotham Cut just as the sun set over the beautiful "White Horses" cliffs.  The cut was in full ebb flow at about 3 knots against us and even with hardly any swell in Exuma Sound it was developing a two-foot "rage" as they call the tide rips here.  Pretty exciting.

We motored north Friday morning at sunrise and Keelin It popped out of the Staniel Cay harbor to join us as we passed by.  We soon turned west to follow the Decca Channel over to the Tongue of the Ocean and then followed that north.  As dark settled in we could see the glow of Nassau to the northeast and a few of the smaller towns on Andros to the west.  We pretty much always had 8-10 knots of wind at our backs so had the motor running just above idle to keep our speed in the 5-5.5 knot range.  I was very nervous about fuel levels as I hadn't filled the tank to overflowing but was "pretty sure" it was basically full when we left George Town.  "Pretty sure" feels a lot like "pretty dumb" when you are out with no land in sight!  Our fuel gauge does not give very good readings when the tank is full-ish.  Anna reassured me that my calculations made sense and that we should be fine, and by midnight we burned enough that the tank level indications became steady enough to inspire confidence, showing that we had 70% of our 35 gallon tank left and 10 gallons on deck.  We burn about 0.5gph at slow speed and 0.8gph at a fast cruise, so this would easily be enough to motor the whole way if necessary.

And it basically was necessary.  As we passed through the Northwest Channel at dawn on Saturday we turned west which put us on a good angle to the wind so we had the engine off for about four hours, but that was it.  The wind became westerly so we motored into it towards Bimini.  We heard from another boat on the radio that thunderstorms were forecast in the Gulf Stream between 3:00pm and 9:00pm so planned to anchor off of the NE tip of Bimini until those passed.  On our way there a rain shower blew north ahead of us and then built into a nice looking storm.  And then it reversed course and came back at us!  It wasn't too bad, 30mph winds and moderate rain, not much lightning.  We arrived at Bimini at about 6:30 and anchored.  We siphoned our 10 gallons of diesel from on deck into the fuel tank, had some supper, had a nap, and then took off in the pitch dark at 9:00pm.  As we got around Bimini we were welcomed by the crazy glow of lights from Florida only 45 miles distant.  Again the winds were pretty calm so we were motoring, but having basically no waves is very nice too.

We arrived at the Fort Pierce inlet at about 3:30pm on Sunday.  Just outside the inlet I filled out our info for US Customs on their app and received notification that they approved our arrival a few minutes later.  Inside the inlet it was a culture shock as the sand bars were lined with boats and people partying, maybe 80% of them observing any sort of 6 foot separation rule.  We quickly got fuel at the nearby marina and then took off to make it through a bridge that only opens every half-hour.  Keelin It didn't make it through so we turned off the engine and sailed downwind with just the jib at a leisurely pace.  Big center-console boats with three or four 400 horsepower engines were screaming past us up and down the channel (is there anything more American?!) and it felt really good to see such normal activity after 3-4 weeks of sitting there in the Bahamas on crazy lockdown.

Eventually Keelin It caught up to us and we anchored just south of the Vero Beach City Marina.  Anna and I took Louise to land for the first time in maybe three weeks and we picked up some pasta and pizza to go.  It was amazing, not only in taste but also most importantly in having the freedom to get it in the first place.

Death's End by Liu Cixin

By aaron.axvig, 14 April, 2020
Date completed
6 months 1 week ago

This was a great end to the trilogy, featuring some of the grandest sci-fi themes I have encountered.

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