Aaron's blog

Tiny Bubbles

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Fri, 11/22/2019 - 18:38

This is a puzzle game with a UI that is well-suited for a touchscreen.  I did pay for the DLC that removes ads (I almost always do this).

The puzzles are all very well designed.  There are several groups of levels that have some nice variations.  For example some types have new bubbles constantly being added so there is that element of randomness being added.  And others are very carefully designed to play a specific way, even requiring careful timing as the bubbles collapse on a few of them.  On a few of the levels I got impatient and used the hints.  In general, as I played the game I would become tired of it after 6-8 puzzles (30 minutes?).  I think that is fine, as this allowed me to kill time on many different occasions and I always enjoyed playing those 6-8 rounds until I tired of it.  Maybe it means that the game was mentally stimulating and tired me out.

There is one mechanism throughout the game where two bubbles of different colors combine to make a third color of bubbles.  In the normal color mode I believe it is pretty intuitive how they combine, for example yellow+blue=green.  Unfortunately I am color-blind and I had some challenges with the normal color mode.  Fortunately is a colorblind mode and those colors are easy for me to distinguish.  Unfortunately then the colors don't combine very intuitively, for example white+yellow=darker yellow.  After a while I just memorized the combinations, so it isn't a game-ruining issue.

I could maybe see myself replaying some levels in the future.  There is an Infinity mode where you get some moves every few hours.  I did a couple cycles of this but wasn't that interested.  This is probably a mechanic to drive you to purchasing micro-transactions.  I almost universally avoid those.

There are achievements; I don't have any desire to finish them out.

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Survived the storm

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Mon, 11/18/2019 - 14:05
SpaceX ships including GO Ms. Tree

The wind blew hard for over two days but our anchor held well and we stayed in place.  It was a stressful weekend with howling winds, a rocking and spinning boat, constant worrying, and poor sleep.  Yesterday evening it finally started to get better.  On the plus side, we didn't have it quite as bad as two of our neighbors who kept swinging towards each other at anchor.  I think one of them had a full keel so was more affected by the currents in our anchorage.  At one point the guy from the one boat rowed his dinghy over to the other boat and three of them were up on the bow of that boat messing with the anchor for about an hour.  Not sure what they were doing as the situation was still similar afterwards.  But all of their rowing and standing around was taking place in 30 knot winds and pouring rain--not fun!

We have a few battle scars.  The bimini cloth was thrashing against one of the solar panel supports that is sort of rough aluminum and eventually it split itself on that edge.  The bimini top also lost the flap that covers the window for looking up at the sail; this window is covered by a solar panel now so the flap is no longer necessary anyways.  The port side long window cracked.  I'm not sure exactly what caused this, probably just temperature changes and flexing over the years.  There was evidently a lot of stress on the window as the crack immediately separated about 1/16".  That will be costly and tedious to replace ($550 and 20-30 days to manufacture and ship, plus a full day to remove, prep, and install).  A fender flew over the lifelines but was tied on so we didn't lose it.  Also the sail cover and dodger minorly extended some rips that they already had.

Today we left around 10:00am and went 25 miles to Swansboro, NC.  It was a pretty cold day and we planned the short day because of forecast scattered showers.  They started 5 minutes after we anchored...great timing!  On the way we drove past two ships with big booms sticking out of all four corners, and one of the ships had a net stuck between them.  Anna said maybe they were for catching stuff so it didn't fall on the boat...I basically told her that was ridiculous.  Then I looked up the name of one of them (GO Ms. Tree) and learned that it is for catching the fairings that are parts of rockets that SpaceX launches.  So I was simultaneous ashamed of myself and amazed at the coolness of them.

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Anchor watch in Beaufort, NC

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Sat, 11/16/2019 - 11:30
Aqua Map Marine anchor screenshot

This is our "anchor watch" situation in an app called Aqua Map Marine. These tracks are since yesterday afternoon when the wind started blowing hard.

I positioned the anchor icon after anchoring so it is kind of a guess, but as we swing in arcs I can move it to the center of the arcs to be more accurate.

It goes off a couple times per night saying "BAD GPS ALERT, BAD GPS ALERT" which just means it has lost GPS signal. Usually it has figured it out by the time I wake up and pick up the phone, so that is annoying.  Out bedroom is under the cockpit so it doesn't have great exposure to the sky.  Fiberglass is pretty transparent to RF but there are some storage lockers with a lot of stuff in them and I bet the solar panels are good at blocking it.

The long straight lines are from when it gets an inaccurate reading, then a line is drawn back to our actual location as correct readings are put into what appears to be an averaging model.  There is a time delay on the out-of-bounds alarm so I think only once has it actually alarmed when it is doing this behavior.

It runs in the background using the GPS continuously which uses up maybe 50% of the phone battery (Pixel 3A) in 8 hours.

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Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Fri, 11/15/2019 - 18:12

This was an interesting read that significantly expanded my knowledge on wine.  Yet it wasn't a clinical, textbook sort of read.  For instance, there are a few chapters on specific wine making regions.  These were interesting but it probably would have been a dry (pun) read if the whole book was a chapter on each region.  But it mercifully moves on to the drama of wine critics and the finer points of hosting wine-tasting parties.  A couple of the characters are very interesting and entertaining (one vintner that spouts one-liners non-stop) and the others are competently described.

Overall well written, enjoyable, and educational.  I don't recall exactly what it was but something about the first chapter didn't enthuse me...I recommend that you keep reading.

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Oriental and Beaufort, NC, and a big blow coming

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Thu, 11/14/2019 - 19:26

The new impeller worked well when I started up the engine in the morning so we motored a few hundred yards to the nearby fuel dock and filled up with 30 gallons of diesel.  Then we took off motoring down the ICW.  It was an easy day of me watching the autopilot do its thing while Anna and Louise stayed warm below, still trying to get over a cold too.  I put the jib out a couple times to get a small speed boost but most of the time the wind conveniently shifted to always be on the nose.

We arrived in Oriental, NC about an hour before sunset and found a spot at the free dock there.  It was nice to just hop off the boat and go for a little walk.  Anna got ice cream that night and the next morning I tried to get a replacement shower handle at the marine store.  They didn't have one but I got some fuel filters and oil.  We had a late departure around 11:00am as it was only 24 miles to Beaufort, NC.  This was a nice short trip, and even a little exciting when a very young deer swam across the channel just in front of the boat.  We found a nice spot to anchor near the dinghy dock.  There were some big winds coming the next day so it was nice to feel the anchor set really hard--a good yank.  Hopefully it is not actually stuck on an obstruction!

We survived the windy afternoon and night and have been bumming around for a couple days.  It has been cold!  We figured out that the generator alone can run the climate control system (I was getting too fancy trying to run it through the inverter, sometimes you just have to try the simple things) so now we have some relief when the temperatures get extreme.  One gallon of gas probably runs it for 4-5 hours so its pretty reasonable to run occasionally.  One night it got down to 33 degrees, and then it was a high of 45 degrees yesterday.  Now the weather appears to be stabilizing in the 50s which we have found to be pretty reasonable.

Today it really would have been good to sail "outside" (in the ocean versus in the ICW) to Wrightsville Beach as the weather was favorable, but I have a two-day cough and figured a long 12-hour day would not be good for my health.  Plus it was really cold in the morning.  So we stayed here and I went to town to get Louise's medication.  I also found a laundry place so went back to the boat to get all the blankets and towels and got that done.

The next three days will be solid rain so we will be hunkered down.  Good thing I got some good books at the book exchange in Belhaven!  The rain is part of a crazy storm system that is brewing in north Florida and will move up the coast through the weekend.  On Saturday the winds will build to 30 knots sustained and blow like that for about 24 hours where we are so that will be exciting.  There is a lot of chatter on the cruising Facebook groups as the storm is hitting such a long segment of the coast and there are many people working their way south down the ICW like us at this time of year.

Maybe on Monday we will be on the move!

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Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Sun, 11/10/2019 - 18:13

This jumped around a lot.

Think like a long-form magazine article that starts out with the exciting subject matter and brings that discussion towards a climax, then abruptly cuts to tell the story of when the person of interest was growing up.  For example, "and so, John took the last few precarious steps towards the top of the mountain.  <cut>  When John was 5, he was interested in many thing." And then maybe 50% of the article's length is spent on this not very interesting backstory, until it cuts back to John reaching the top of the mountain and everyone's reactions afterwards to finish out the article.

Now imagine that for 8-10 characters--that is this book, and I found it annoying.  There are even some points where the author explicitly says thing like, "remember x, who had done this and that?  Now they are..."  Like, maybe if he had told me their story in a continuous segment I wouldn't have to be pulled back and forth.

The wording is a bit pretentious in many places, trying too hard to convey the author's awe of things like the conditions or the racers' determination.

The content overall is good.  The descriptions of the challenges that the racers faced are great and did give me an appreciation of them.  And it was a good way to learn about the subject matter.

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Alligator River to Belhaven, NC

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Fri, 11/08/2019 - 20:47

It was calm when we anchored last night and then the wind built up from the north overnight as expected.  I had the anchor alarm running and the anchor held well.  With only 0.5 miles of fetch the 20 knot winds were kicking up about 1 foot waves--it was pretty fresh!  But the canal to Belhaven runs mostly east-west and has lots of trees along shore so we figured it would be an OK day to travel.  I noticed that the depth sounder was showing about 1.5 feet deeper that when we anchored.  There is maybe a 0.5 foot tide so I think it was a wind-driven tide.  And I believe that caused water to flow with us through the canal as we flew through with a 1.5 knot favorable current.

At the far end we had about 12 miles of bays to cover so we lost the wind protection of trees a close shore.  I put the jib out and was able to back way off on the engine power and still maintain 6+ knots of speed.  It was only about 50 degrees and still 15-20 knot winds so pretty cold!  Anna is still sick so she mostly rested downstairs.  I started reading Godforsaken Sea while the autopilot did its thing.

We arrived at Belhaven and decided to stay at the town dock where it is only $1/foot so $37 for us plus $5 for electricity.  It will get down to 33F tonight so heat is great!  We hooked up the power in a different way that happens to let us see how much power the heating system uses...1500 watts continuous.  Our portable generator could actually sustain that output so possibly we will be able to run it at anchor in the future.  The startup current has overloaded the 3000 watt inverter when I tried to run it off of that in the past, but the inverter has a mode where it can combine generator plus battery power for a short time in excess of 3000 watts so we won't really know until I try it that way.

Docking was exciting as we needed to fit in between two other boats to side-tie on the dock.  I came in too slow and turned in too soon so it looked as though the wind would push us into the other boat's dinghy hanging off the back.  That would be very bad so I backed out of there but was restricted in that movement by the other shore of the small basin so for a few tense moments our dinghy was resting against some poles on land and our anchor was resting on the other boat's lifelines, stanchions, etc.  Fortunately nothing was damaged and the wind soon blew our back end around so I could reverse out of there.  For the second approach we decided to switch to the more favorable (due to prop walk) port side towards the dock.  Turning in the small basin for this added more excitement as we softly ran aground.  But eventually I approached with better speed and less early turn-in and the wind blew us nicely into the dock.

The local CVB caters to cruisers so we got a warm welcome from their staff.  There is a cruisers lounge with a book collection so I traded in a few books.  Also on tonight's list was impeller replacement, which seemingly went well--final test will be tomorrow when we fire up the engine and see if water comes out of the exhaust (it is supposed to).

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End of the Dismal Swamp Canal and into the Albemarle Sound

Submitted by aaron.axvig on Thu, 11/07/2019 - 08:32

We didn't have to leave very early yesterday morning from the Dismal Swamp Visitors Center because the bridge and lock 4.2 nautical miles south has scheduled openings.  We planned to catch the 11:00am one.  We filled with water and said goodbye to Walkabout and then left just before 10:00am, leaving not much extra time.

About one mile into the trip the boat slowed from 5.2 knots to around 4, I think because we had passed through one of the mats of sticks, grass, and scum (duckweed) floating on the surface and it got stuck on the keel.  So I reversed a little to see if that would fix it and then noticed a different sound coming from the engine.  We stopped (just gliding to a stop in the middle of the very calm canal) and the strainer was packed full of duckweed.  I think some of that mat got sucked in or else reversing caused us to suck in more duckweed than normal.  With the clean strainer the sound went away so hopefully it was just the sound of the impeller sucking water really desperately or vacuum bubbles churning around somewhere.  It's pretty crazy for that to be audible over the engine noises though.

I think one other possibility is that the speed loss was due to the engine losing power from overheating (if that is even a thing?).  But then I would expect the interesting new noise to be from engine damage and to not go away.  It would be nice to have an engine temperature gauge or even to know if the overheat alarm works; that is a significant source of risk when it comes to running our engine.

We cleaned the strainer a couple more times before the bridge and it was about 1/3 full each of those times.  We cleaned it at the bridge and then went slowly through really thick duckweed to the lock a few hundred yards away.  It was completely full when we emptied it there.  I think our slow speed there was the major factor in causing it to fill up so fast, with the exceptional thickness of the duckweed contributing some.

We dropped about six feet in the lock which was pretty cool.  Then we were out of the canal and into a winding river that gradually widened which was exciting because then I could use the autopilot.  This was all very scenic, with trees (cypress?) right up to the edge.  I saw something slink beneath the surface--it looked kind of long so maybe an otter?  The strainer never took on much duckweed in the river here, and eventually the duckweed thinned out to nothing.  It was a hard day for the impeller and it is right about at its scheduled replacement after 600 engine hours so I will be replacing that soon.

On our arrival at Elizabeth City we looked around for a while at the available docking options.  There were some slips with pilings and tiny (almost useless for our boat) finger piers which would have been OK but there was a nice crosswind to make getting in there difficult.  So we tied up to an available place at a bulkhead, met the neighboring Canadian boat, and went to check in (no charge) at the visitors center.  Anna paid $5 to use their showers later and also found out about a nearby Dairy Queen, so we walked there with Louise.  Anna is getting sick so the ice cream really soothed her sore throat.

Today we left at about 9:00am and it is a very nice day: sunny, 65 degrees, absolutely calm winds, and just ripples on the water.  That's not good for sailing but very OK for crossing the Albemarle Sound as it is shallow, hence notorious for any waves being choppy and very uncomfortable.  Also it is littered with crab pots and those become much harder to see in waves.  In the Pasquotank River I spotted a massive floating stump that was right in our path...that would have been a bad one to hit!  Sometimes we hear reports of hazards like that on the VHF so I reported it to the Coast Guard and a few minutes later heard them make an announcement about it.  Maybe it will prevent a bad day for someone.

At the end of today's 45 mile trip we should be just past the end of the Alligator River.  We won't anchor at the bottom of the Alligator River itself (its more like a 3x15 mile bay than a river) because around midnight the winds are supposed to start blowing from the north, straight down the length of it.  We will go just around the corner and anchor there.

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