Aaron's blog

The simplicity of cider by Amy E. Reichert

By aaron.axvig, Thu, 10/31/2019 - 12:50
Date completed
4 years 3 months ago

I grabbed this off of Anna's stack of books to kill time while the autopilot steered us down the Chesapeake Bay.  Right away I could see where the entire plot was going, but there is some satisfaction to be derived when the book meets your expectations.  The book wraps up competently with enough interesting things happening.

Some passages, especially describing Sanna's inner thoughts, gave me a perception that the book is is targeted towards a female audience.  It is interesting to read something like that on occasion.

Completion status

Monument Valley 2

By aaron.axvig, Tue, 10/29/2019 - 19:46
Date completed

A great sequel, improved in many ways and true to the spirit of its predecessor.

A little bit more story but again I didn't really get that into it.  Some additional interesting mechanics, a second character in some puzzles, and very cool graphics.  Again one level with trippy upside-down walking but it was a bit more understandable to my eyes.

The game says to make sure you have the sound on in the beginning and it is right, the sound design is amazing.

Completion status
Digital platform

Monument Valley

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 10/25/2019 - 17:11
Date completed

Great puzzles with flawless gradual building of skills.  I never had to look outside of the game for help (The Witness comes to mind) nor use an in game hintsystem (none exists) a la The Room.  The only ridiculous level design was level six in the Forgotten Shores DLC where I found it difficult to visualize a continuous plane in some circumstances where the character is walking upside down.  But the solution was decipherable anyways so I didn't spend much time trying to convince my eyes to see something.

Story...can't say I paid much attention to it.  I guess some "ancient beings" or something left the puzzles as monuments.  Whatever.  It is not crappy and stays out of the way.

I played the original game, DLC levels, and the Ida's Adventure standalone part.

Completion status
Digital platform

Visiting Washington, D.C.

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 10/25/2019 - 10:17
Aaron and Anna with the White House in the background

We traveled the 30 miles from Annapolis to Washington, D.C. yesterday morning via hailed ride to New Carrollton, MD and then the subway.  My priority was the National Air & Space Museum so we went straight there.  That was sort of a bust as about 1/2 of the museum was closed for renovations.  We still spent about 90 minutes looking at the rest of the displays.  For lunch we walked a few blocks to a line of about 15 food trucks that we had previously spotted.

Then we walked back to the Mall and decided to go in the National Museum of Natural History.  One of the first things we saw there was a rhinoceros gathered from Africa by Theodore Roosevelt.  When writing this post I read a little more about the specifics of that, which was part of the Smithsonian–Roosevelt African Expedition that collected over 11,000 specimens!  We spent a good amount of the time on the animal exhibits but breezed through the mineral exhibits which I think would have been really interesting to spend more time on.  But we had more places to go!

We almost made it to the Washington Monument but then decided to go to the Holocaust Memorial Museum first, which was great.  Then we spent a few minutes with the Washington Monument, Anna walked a little on the grass with her shoes off to give her feet a break, and we checked out the WWII Memorial.  We went down the south side of the reflecting pond as the sun was sinking pretty low about an hour before sunset...very nice.  After an obligatory few photos with the Lincoln Memorial we decided that we didn't want to wait the half hour to see the sun set behind us as we watched from the steps there, so we visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and then went to see the White House (from right where the National Christmas Tree will be).  Then we made the long trip back to the boat and had a late supper!

Back in Annapolis

By aaron.axvig, Wed, 10/23/2019 - 19:16
Weems creek

Monday was a beautiful sunny day and we motor sailed about 45 miles to Annapolis, MD.  We checked out Back Creek to anchor where we did last time we were here but it was just a little too full for us to feel comfortable.  So we looked at the map and decided we would try out Weems Creek.  15 minutes later we were there and found plenty of room for us and Thursday's Child to anchor.  I took Louise to shore for a walk and we watched old sitcoms on the Laff channel that our antenna was able to pick up.

Tuesday started off with scattered light rain.  Anna's friend Will who she worked with in Big Sky lives in nearby Crofton and he came to say hi and bring us a few packages that had been mailed to his house.  It started raining more often and I took Will back to shore.  Then he gave me a ride to the grocery store about four blocks away.  I bought about as much as I could reasonably carry (I always put the heavy things in the backpack) and then walked all the way back to the dinghy in steady rain.  As we unloaded the groceries back at the boat Anna said that some of the bags were so wet that they felt heavier from the water!  We used the generator for about an hour to make some water and heat it for showers, and charge the batteries to keep our electronics going to entertains us through the rainy day.  It was interesting that the watermaker produced 27gph rather than the 15gph that we expected in the cold water here.  My best guess is that the creek we are in is not very salty as the tidal range here is only a foot or so.

Today we met Steve and Susie on shore at 9:30am and went to tour the Naval Academy.  It was a pretty interesting tour.  We went through a couple of the big halls and towards the end saw all of the students form up in the courtyard and march in to lunch.  Then we followed them into Bancroft Hall (all 1,000 or more of them were gone into the depths of the building already) which had some great architecture.  After the tour we went into the Naval Academy Museum which had great displays about the ships, technology, leadership, etc. of the Navy in all the wars throughout the generations.  There was also a very interesting part about the research arm, especially all of the satellites that they have launched.

We walked around Annapolis a while and checked out a few shops with Steve and Susie, plus the obligatory ice cream. Tomorrow we plan to take the bus/train to DC and see a few things.  Steve and Susie are heading towards Hampton, VA tomorrow so will probably see them there on our way south in a few days.  There they will be preparing to go offshore with a bunch of boats in a rally down to the Bahamas--something like seven days at sea.  We will proceed our own way slowly down the coast but I think eventually find them in the Bahamas.

Block Island -> Port Washington -> Atlantic City -> Cape May -> Chesapeake City

By aaron.axvig, Sun, 10/20/2019 - 16:25

We took the dinghy over to the very nice dinghy dock at Block Island and set off for a walk.  A block away we found the Block Island Maritime Institute where there was not much going on except a couple small tanks in the parking lot with some fish and crabs in them.  A couple blocks further on we found a "Killer Donuts" stand and I tried one.  It was a pretty standard donut.

About a mile further we arrived at the 1661 Inn Animal Farm.  This is a big petting zoo basically.  We looked at a pig, some emus, cranes, kangaroos, and a yak.  Then in some pens that we could walk in they had llamas, alpacas, tiny horses, and donkeys.  We petted a couple llamas (possibly alpacas, can't remember the difference).

Then we started to work our way back.  We had lunch at The Yellow Kittens and then spent quite a while at the museum run by the Block Island Historical Society.

The next day we left and sailed (no motor) into Long Island Sound.  Just SW of Fishers Island we went through an area marked on the chart as Tide Rips.  We could see that it was pretty turbulent and when we got there the waves slapped us around a little.  They were up to three feet tall, very steep, and coming mostly from the side so they sometimes splashed into the cockpit, which is pretty rare!  For some reason the wind jumped in speed there too; fortunately we had reefed about 10 minutes earlier as it had been slowly building.  The current in that area peaked at four knots and I think we had about 2 knots favorable for most of the day.

As we traveled further Anna looked at the chartplotter and saw that the AIS data showed Thursday's Child ahead of us about 10 miles.  So she radioed them and they decided to stop at Duck Island where we were planning to go.  We anchored there and then I checked out Duck Island where there was a sign saying to stay off because of bird nesting.  Then we went over to visit and have a few drinks with Steve and Susie on Thursday's Child.

We left pretty early the next day to make it the 66 miles to Port Washington, just outside of New York City.  We ran the engine the whole time as we were sailing downwind in weak winds.  They have free mooring balls for two nights there so we tied up to one.  They also have two nice dinghy docks with really close grocery stores, hardware stores, laundromat, etc. so we took part in all those services.  After two nights on the mooring ball we moved at about 8:00am to anchor just outside the mooring field and then I flew back to Fargo for a couple meetings.  Anna's mom Karen arrived that afternoon to spend the next few days checking out New York City with Anna.

They walked around the 911 memorial and Times Square, ate at Tavern on the Green in Central Park with Anna's aunt Diane who happened to be in New York City, and saw Book of Mormon.  They had more ambitious plans but one day was so windy that the dinghy ride to shore would have been very unpleasant plus there is always some risk of the anchor dragging.  Also the train ride to the city is about 45 minutes each way, and Louise needs some attention occasionally.

When I returned from Fargo I met Anna and Karen to have excellent steaks at Del Frisco's and then we went to see Rock of Ages…very good.  Karen left very early the next morning.  Then the weather was rainy and gloomy for a few days.  As our batteries gradually drained we determined that having a generator would be worthwhile.  One factor: people in Fargo were asking me how I liked sailing and my response was always that I was ready to return to the modern life of unlimited resources--water and electricity primarily.  The Ace Hardware nearby had one generator in stock, a 3500 watt unit that was larger than we really needed, but hey with one that size we would even be able to run the AC or heat (reverse cycle AC) if needed.  So we got that, unpacked it, determined that it was 1/2" too large to store nicely under the helm seat, and returned it.  The next day I went to Home Depot and got a suitcase-sized Honda generator which is a much better fit for us.

Now that we have the generator we have only used it for four hours in three weeks but the peace of mind benefit is continuous.  We now have an easy backup plan if it is cloudy, and it makes it a lot less worrying to use some power for comfort.  To shower for example, we might use 5-10 gallons (extravagant to some salty sailors out there I'm sure) and run the water heater for 15 minutes (also extravagant, we hear plenty of people talking about hanging black solar shower bags).  Altogether that would only take about 1 hour of generator run time, or maybe 1/3 gallon of gas.  Fun fact: the generator can produce 2000 watts at full load but our battery charger can only charge at about 1000 watts, and we have 1100 watts of solar, so technically our solar panels can charge our batteries faster than the generator!

Those cloudy days were very windy also and I was quite happy to finally wake up to relative silence one morning.  The wind howls in the shrouds and the bay at Port Washington was big enough to let some waves build.  The next day the waves south of New York City had died enough that we were able to travel down to Atlantic Highlands, NJ.  We fueled up there and then when we were looking for a spot to anchor we ran aground while the depth finder said 9.5 feet of depth.  Turns out that was miss-calibrated, probably by me!  The next morning were on the move at 4:00am.  The trip to Atlantic City was about 80 miles…a very long day!  There is an eddy current off of the Gulf Stream there that flows south at 1 knot so that helped us along nicely.  We motored the whole day but had a boost from the sails as the wind blew us downwind.

The next day we went to a casino buffet for supper and then a comedy show.  Both were good!  The scale of the casino facilities and the grandeur of the finishes (with a certain level of tackiness of course) were sort of shocking after having spent a year now in campers, sailboats, and sort of rundown touristy waterfronts.  Oh yes, October 12 marked a year since we left Medora!

We motored down to Cape May the next day.  We anchored in Sunrise Lake and I took the dinghy to a nearby park that had a dock and walked Louise around for a bit.  It was definitely out of season there and everything was oddly quiet.  The holding there was not great and there was a big storm coming (we learned the next day that it was called a bomb cyclone).  So we spent the next two nights tied up in a slip.  It was very windy, 30 knots gusting to 45 knots!  We enjoyed our stay there plugged in and were able to run the heat to stay very comfortable.

The day after the winds died down, they were still blowing moderately straight down the Delaware Bay which we needed to go up.  So we stayed at the slip another night.  I tried to replace the worn out chain roller on the bow but the nut and bolt holding it there seem to be permanently joined.  We had lunch with Steve and Susie at Lucky Bones Backwater Grill and we stocked up at the liquor store.  Then the next day we left at 6:30am.  It was a bit of a nervous start as when I turned on the depth finder in the slip it showed 4.5 feet (low tide!) which would mean we have about 1 foot of keel stuck in the ground.  I guess the mud was pretty loose as we were able to back out of the slip easily, and I think the sensor is calibrated about 6" conservatively now.  We rode a great 2 knot current all the way 70 miles to Chesapeake City.  We are still there today as it has been raining all day.  And we are still hanging with Thursday's Child too!


Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter

By aaron.axvig, Sat, 10/19/2019 - 03:00
Date completed
4 years 3 months ago

This starts off sounding like it is directly describing Elon Musk and SpaceX.  I haven't bothered to look up the exact timing of this book's writing and the founding or inspiration of SpaceX.  Sadly the rocket launches don't really continue (I think I would have loved something more like all of the rocket launches in Seveneves).  The first half of the book earns the great rating that I am giving and the second half is good enough to not drag the rating back down.  And I think I will read the sequels.

Completion status