Aaron's blog

Shady Turo experience--did I get scammed?

By aaron.axvig, Sat, 11/23/2019 - 19:35

A week or two ago I read this article about AirBnB scammers and it was pretty interesting.  This week we used a Turo car for a day and I can't help but wonder if I was part of some scam.

  1. The listing was for a Fusion, but said in the description that it was actually a Fiesta and for some weird reason they weren't able to update the listing.  Probably they previously had a Fusion listing and wanted to keep the same reviews or something instead of creating a new car listing.  Anna used my phone to make the reservation so I hadn't read the description, so I was more frustrated by this vehicle change initially, then realized that it was partly my fault.  But still...the car model should be correct.
  2. The car still had dealer plates on it.  The dealer paperwork in the glovebox showed that the car was purchased four months prior, so they should definitely have the plates by now.  When I later read the reviews, one said they walked away from the car over this issue.
  3. The host asked that I text them a picture of my driver's license with the odometer.  I'm not sure why including this photo in the Turo app wouldn't be good enough.  Probably Turo has a policy saying that the host can't ask for that sort of personal info.  Anyways, I idiotically did text them the photo so now they have my phone number and DL info.  Not smart.

A few hours into the car rental I started to figure out how sketchy all of this was.  I submitted a support ticket with Turo but still haven't heard anything back two days later.  Hopefully I don't get my identity stolen and hopefully that host gets shut down!  I haven't been able to figure out exactly what the host would be gaining so maybe there is no scam.

Next time we will probably look into a regular car rental.  I don't think it is much more expensive.  And while car rental companies can sometimes be frustrating, at least you know it is almost certainly innocent incompetence and not malicious activity.  So there is a balance: more personal dealings (Turo, AirBnB, Couchsurfing, etc.) which may be cheaper, more convenient, and/or more personal, versus real businesses where you may pay more and get a bland experience that you know is going to be the same every time.


Tiny Bubbles

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 11/22/2019 - 18:38
Date completed

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.

Completion status
Digital platform

Survived the storm

By aaron.axvig, 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.


Anchor watch in Beaufort, NC

By aaron.axvig, 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.


Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean

By aaron.axvig, Fri, 11/15/2019 - 18:12
Date completed
3 years 8 months ago

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.

Completion status

Oriental and Beaufort, NC, and a big blow coming

By aaron.axvig, 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!


Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy

By aaron.axvig, Sun, 11/10/2019 - 18:13
Date completed
3 years 9 months ago

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.

Completion status

Alligator River to Belhaven, NC

By aaron.axvig, 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).