I just got a Fitbit Versa 4 wrist band, and was disappointed to hear the online consensus that it wouldn’t permit me to “use” a music app (or other non-proprietary apps, for that matter!). The stated reason was that Fitbit didn’t open the model to outside developers. This was surprising to me because my previous Fitbit Alta HR could control Spotify from the wristband.
Long story short, I was misinformed, because the Versa 4 does a good job controlling Spotify from the wristband if you configure the device correctly and know how to navigate the wristband. I discovered this by trial and error after a fruitless search for help on the internet.
True, it is limited and cannot control music selection, as you can on some smart watches, but you are able to Stop, Restart, Skip Forward, Play Previous, and ‘Like’ the tracks you play in Spotify from the app running on your Android phone.
Here are the steps that I found:
First, configure your Versa 4 to report Spotify notifications. You do this as follows:
In the Fitbit app on your phone, navigate to your Account settings by tapping on your picture/avatar in the upper-left corner of the screen. Then select the Versa 4 device. On that page, tap on Notifications. On the Notifications page, select App Notifications. Now scroll down the list of apps on your phone, and check Spotify.
Now your Versa 4 can respond to Spotify when it’s running on your phone!
To control Spotify from the wristband, you must first open Spotify on your phone, and start some music playing.
Next, as the track is playing, simply pause it on the phone!
You should immediately get a notification on your wristband identifying the album and artist. If you tap on the notification, it expands into a scrolling menu with choices for Like, Previous Track, Play, and Next Track. All these choices work as expected. Tap on ‘Play’, and the track should resume playing. If you tap on ‘Play’ after that, the track will pause.
There are two additional choices in the list:
If you tap on ‘Close’, the notification is removed from your notifications list, and you will need to go back to you phone to pause or re-start your music, which should send another Spotify notification to the wristband.
If you tap on ‘Open’, the wristband buzzes, and reports ‘Link Sent’. This serves to reopen the Spotify app on your phone to the album or cut you are currently playing.
Let’s sail to the Bahamas, we said, or maybe the Dry Tortugas. At least as far as the Florida Keys. Those were, however, just dreams. Southerly winds had kept us on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) for all but one day of our trip by the time we got to Fort Lauderdale, just 45 miles from the beginning of the Keys. And that’s where we gave up.
There were two major reasons. The first was that the ICW bascule bridges (also called drawbridges, but on the water they’re divided into single and double bascule, depending on the width and/or engineering) and are not timed for sailboats. The bridges open at certain times, say on the hour and half hour. As an example, when we pass through one bridge, we have 30 minutes to get to the next one—which would be fine if we could go 6 mph. But we can’t, unless we have a strong wind and are not in the narrow ICW. Either it’s not possible, or we just don’t yet have the skill for sailing it—even assuming the wind was coming from the right direction. So we end up getting to the next bridge at 35 past the hour, meaning we have to hover in place for 25 minutes. Staying stationary is difficult in a sailboat, as the boat is at the mercy of the tides, the current, and the winds. And it is even more difficult to control when many, many powerboats at high speed tend to wake us, making helm management even that much harder.
And that’s the second reason: the powerboats. The wake they set up, one right after another, is stressful. One large wake can send us crashing into something—a post, another boat, a paddleboarder—on the other side. And there are hundreds of those boats traveling up and down the ICW at high speed, some of them with four 450-hp engines. (Our 37’ boat, by comparison, has one 40-hp engine from 1979.) Elliott is much better at handling the boat in those sorts of situations than I am.
Between Fort Lauderdale and the Keys are many more bascule bridges, which limit how far we can go in a day when the timing doesn’t work out. So we considered going “outside”—on the ocean. But that would require wind from the right direction, which wasn’t forecast for close to a week, meaning we’d have to sit still in Fort Lauderdale for six or seven days. Ugh. The nearest dingy dock where we could go ashore was about two miles away, which was too far for us. We were anchored in Sunrise Bay, right off the ICW, and that spot is a favorite for day trippers—people who would come out, party with loud music, and then leave at sunset, making it noisy and full of those powerboats with their massive wakes, threatening to unseat our anchor. At least, that’s what I was afraid of; Elliott was more confident of the anchor. I am, apparently, a Nervous Nelly (Anxious Annie?) sailor.
Between one thing and another, we decided to head north, back to Dallas Bluff eventually. So, in order to avoid the powerboats and the bridges, we decided to go on the outside as far as we could. The wind was from the right direction, the wave period was 5 seconds, and the seas were forecast to be 2 to 4 feet, which to us newbies sounded doable. We passed through the Port Everglades inlet (past a half dozen giant cruise ships) and started north–into a washing machine of waves and wind. Tossed back and forth, up and down, side to side—it wasn’t long before I was starting to get seasick—and unable to do anything but keep my head over the edge of the boat. Knowing there was no way we could keep that up for two days, poor Elliott was left to handle the helm for nearly three hours straight in rough seas back to Sunrise Bay. We were both shaken up by the trip. If anything had happened to him, we would have been adrift, wandering who knows where. Experienced sailors would know that wave height is only part of the picture; now we know that too!
The next morning, the seas were said to be 1-2 feet with a 7-second period. That sounded better, so with some trepidation we set out again. And oh, what a difference! About 90 minutes in, with our sails up, we turned off the engine. Days like that are what sailing should be. Quiet, moving along at 6 knots in the right direction, we figured we’d be back in Georgia’s waters in about two and a half days.
Knowing one of us would be at the helm all night long, we took advance naps. Around noon, half asleep, I heard the radio squawk: “Seatow, calling sailing vessel Kathryn”—and came wide awake. Seatow or Boat US is who you call when you need help. What was going on that Elliott needed Seatow? Turned out it was a wrong number—Elliott had been calling a tug, the mv East Coast, that was directly in our path and towing a large rusty container ship. Seatow has misheard the call and assumed we were calling for help. Whew! Elliott went down for a nap shortly later, and we had a thoroughly exhilarating sail through the evening. He pulled the first shift, from 8 pm to midnight, so I went down to sleep, though with an earlier nap, it was hard to fall asleep before 9. I awoke at 11 p.m., ready to help out and make coffee—but it wasn’t long before the night just deteriorated into a (for me) living hell.
First, the preventer broke. In essence, a preventer keeps the boom from slapping from one side of the boat to the other, preventing an accidental jibe. The boom began swinging wildly, as we realized it had also broken the boom vang, which keeps the boom from going up and down too far. So now the boom is swinging every which way, and anyone going forward risked getting hit in the head by a gyrating boom. Elliott rigged a temporary preventer, and since he’d had no sleep, went down to take a two-hour nap. As soon as he went to sleep, our autopilot controller stopped working, which meant I would have to hand steer the boat—at the same time the wind picked up. I managed to hand-steer for about 90 minutes when I didn’t think I could keep going, so I yelled for Elliott. At that point, we decided it would be best to motor, so we attempted to take down our mainsail and furl in the genoa (the forward-most sail). Alas, the genoa line was snarled somehow and because it’s such a massive sail, we couldn’t put the boat “in irons”—directly into the wind—and therefore couldn’t get the mainsail down. So we let the sheets (ropes) on the genoa loose, causing it to flap all over, and finally got the mainsail down. Elliott went forward (life vest and jack lines secured to the boat just in case—while I practiced my “Man Overboard” call to the Coast Guard. I think he spent nearly two hours at the bow, between one thing and another, going up and down, left and right, but eventually he got it all working. Somewhere in there our new Vesper radio stopped transmitting so we had to switch to our backup radio. While all this was going on, we were making 1.6 knots instead of our planned 4 knots, and many of those miles were heading off in the general direction of Greenland. So much for our plans of getting all the way back to Georgia.
Also, I wanted bioluminescence, starlight, and a beautiful sunrise/sunset at sea. Alas, there were clouds and no bioluminescence at all. Or if there was, I was too focused on the compass to see it. So much for those romantic notions!
By 10 a.m., Elliott had the preventer fixed, the boom vang reattached, the autopilot working, but the Vesper radio was beyond help (even though it was only 14 months old. Addendum: and about to be replaced under warranty). And I was getting…nonresponsive from lack of sleep. My brain was going “Oh, look at the pretty numbers on the compass! Oh wait, I’m supposed to steer by them… Shit.”
A word about how differently Elliott and I reacted to this stressful event. I think Elliott found it much more satisfying than I did. He’d see a problem, and then go solve it. Never mind he hadn’t had sleep, it was important to do that task, whatever it was. And he was up for the challenge. For me, it was, “I’ll think better when I have some sleep. Just let me nod off for half an hour, then I’ll be good again…for a while.” As I think about it, I’ve had very little prolonged stress in my life…short bursts here and there (exams, health events, normal stuff), but overall I’m pretty much in control and stress/drama free. Out there on the ocean, there is no control—at least for the non-mechanical among us. All I wanted was sleep, and that for perhaps 18 hours, or possibly 36.
We shortened our route and motored instead for the Port Canaveral channel. This was drama of a different sort, but at least it was daylight. The trip up the channel was rolly, windy, and required dashing across the channel in front of a Carnival cruise ship. By 3 p.m., we were tied up at a boat slip. We took showers (first time in 10 days—oh, the pungent life of a sailor!), and fell asleep.
As an addendum, the trip up the Canaveral Canal and through its lock the next morning were fantastic. We saw a bald eagle, a couple of roseate spoonbills, and flying fish. It was a slow motor to our next destination, Titusville, and that’s just what we needed. We’ve been at Titusville Marina for a couple days now, and the perils of the night seem far away. I’m not sure I ever want to do an overnight again, but then, in the middle of that night, I didn’t even want to sail again.
It seems the highs are really high on a sailboat, the lows are really low. Kind of like a roller-coaster. Personally, I’ve always liked the carousel better.
This wisdom was imparted to me in just those words by a wise teacher years ago. It’s helpful for all manner of reasons ranging from your morning eggs to that snazzy free key chain you fell in love with last year, but now, sadly, is randomly shedding your keys unnoticed.
And this isn’t to suggest that the fixable be cast off willy-nilly. All who know me will attest to my compulsion to repair and return to service almost anything worth fixing.
However, there are times to just let things go to rest; to be set aside gently and allowed to be unfixed.
Sometimes it’s the blender… And sometimes it’s someone you love.
A rift happens. An event shaped by people or happenstance puts you at odds with someone close to you, and you find yourself being asked to subscribe to the loved one’s views… except you cannot share them.
And they find your resistance to their beliefs churlish or wrong, and in turn, you find their insistence judgemental, manipulative or self-serving,… and round and round…
Adulthood undoes the hierarchies of the nuclear family. Older siblings no longer outrank the younger. Children come to view parents as equals, but parents might not yield to that idea.
And our experiences as people diverge; our sense of right and wrong, just and unjust, become nuanced by paths that lead in different directions, and away from a friend, or parent, or brother.
I’m not one to assert my differences: I’m quietly tolerant. I avoid making judgements. On balance, in personal relationships I’ve thought there’s more to be lost than gained by claiming the “moral high ground”.
Ironically enough, I’ve been judged harshly for that.
So, a door gets closed.
If you closed it, you’re inside. If closed on you, you’re outside…
And yet, you are still inside your own safe space and journey. You have a door of your own. You might leave it open, or at least leave it unlocked. Or perhaps choose to set a latch on it, because boundaries would be wise in some cases. Any of those choices could apply.
As to your feelings, well, I only can say for myself. After the initial shock and hurt of the conflict discovered, beyond having been judged, and engaging in counter-judgements, when the smoke of volleys exchanged blows away, and the dust has long settled, I’ve learned this much:
That forgiveness, answered or not, is ultimately healing, and a peaceful path forward.
An article in this morning’s Washington Post gave me pause. It’s a thing now that some, perhaps many, people have come to resent receiving phone calls. I’ve sensed this shift in attitudes for a time, but not focused on it. “Text! Please don’t call me!” is the etiquette now. It seems there are people thrown into panic when their phone rings with a caller unexpectedly.
Then again, voicemail has gone the way of the horse-drawn cart, perhaps deservedly, because texting IS more convenient, and, yes, much less intrusive. I’ve many friends who have disabled voice mail in their phones, and I myself only check for voicemails as an afterthought.
Even junk callers are now preferring to text me rather than ring my phone. But, there have been voicemails that delighted me, and which I’ve saved, and listened to repeatedly, as if they were photographs of someone as they were years ago. It’s not likely I’ll hear more of those in days to come.
And let’s examine what we all know has happened to customer service: No one wants to actually speak with you! After delving through the elaborate menu options and several invitations to contact them online or by email, you’re more likely to arrive at a voicemail box rather than a representative. And you sense the sketchy odds of that message being reviewed any time soon!
The written word, too, is taking a back seat to the cuneiform of emoticons, emojis, and whatever other modern glyphs are now the mode. Even the representation of verbal sound is fading away in the way we share our thoughts.
So it seems, my world is rapidly shifting to a future when phones will mostly communicate in silence. I believe there’s a connection between this trend and the increasing isolation between and within communities, but that is a subject for another day.
For my part, ring me any time, or text if you prefer. Leave voicemail if so moved, and I will listen to it. Make it endearing enough, and I might even save it!
Nora Ephron’s mother once said to her, “Everything is “copy”, meaning that anything occupying one is fodder for the maw of your creative life. The challenge of journaling is to take what’s on your mind, and express it in a way that is potentially meaningful to one’s self, or even to others, in which case it may become a blog entry.
For Nora Ephron, this truism made for a fruitful life of creative projects, and I’m here today to embrace the possibility.
I learned this week that WordPress has a setting that permits the author to “privately” publish a draft, so it will only appear to its originator or an editor; only for those approved when logged into the site. This is, I realized, a perfect way to become more engaged and active with personal writing on a daily basis, because it removes the pressure to polish work as one is writing.
The fussiness of scribbling in a notebook, and then refining and transcribing some time later, and to finally rewrite it all in the environment where you might wish to display it for general consumption; all that can now be undertaken in the final venue, through its messy phases, until ready to release from the “private” realm into full publication.
I could wax on about the intuitive qualities of the WordPress Block Editor, and how it has vastly simplified integrating photos, link creation, and other media content as you refine the layout of your work, but that’s not the point of my journal this morning.
I’m here to remind myself, and you, that self-expression is joyful, and to say “Thanks!” for whatever makes it easier to launch in to it.
Well, put most simply, it’s Thanksgiving on a smaller, quieter, more manageable scale. It’s less food, and simpler choices for the day. Try staying put, and doing less. It’s much lower stress, you can be certain!
Our Thanksgiving has been one of quiet time with the computer, and books, and music. A spot of viewing the Macy Parade. And a bit of repair on a truculent blu-ray player.
We’ve been untroubled with shopping, or travel. Utterly negligent of feast preparation, and football. I haven’t even left the building, but we did do some laundry. And we both had wonderful family time by telephone with daughters and special friends. I only get exhausted if I am surrounded by too many party people. Don’t you?
Who needs all the sleepy making turkey, let alone a turducken. Next year try to do less, and keep it simple. What if we just treated Thanksgiving like a really, really good dinner party? Plan a cohesive menu, invite a sane number of guests, craft a rhythm to the evening, and make the whole thing feel special yet still manageable. Last Thanksgiving my wife and I decided to try something different. When our guests asked what they could bring, we gave them a one-word answer: nothing. Now that’s perfect for your austere Thanksgiving!
For the uninitiated, PiHole is a way to scrub lots of ads AND improve the privacy of all devices using your internet provider at home. It’s a service most people run from a small, dedicated Raspberry Pi computer which you host on the network.
It does this by filtering all DNS queries on your network through a list of known advertising sites, and blocking those advertisers from placing ads on the webs you surf. It also blocks a good deal of monitoring of your devices by external webs spying on your devices at home. It lets you monitor which of your devices at home are most affected by “rogue dns hogs”, which can give you a heads-up on computers at home that may be compromised by malware. PiHole is also capable of managing DHCP IP address assignments on your network, and has other useful tools baked in. It’s really a terrific addition to your home network, and a good way to use any stray Raspberry Pi you have lying around.
There are very good how-to pages on setting up Raspberry Pi systems, and installing PiHole on them, but this post is not about that. We’re here to supply specific notes on implementing PiHole most effectively on a network using a router running the Fresh Tomato firmware.
Fresh Tomato routers, because of their complex configurations, have confounded numerous PiHole users; me among them. The page at this link reviews three different methods to make ad-blocking work in PiHole. Method 2 has advantages over the others, but the notes (derived from a different router firmware) don’t really show what to do in Fresh Tomato routers. The notes below worked for me to solve the problem. Here’s my configuration for PiHole with a Fresh Tomato router. (Asus RT-AC66W running Fresh Tomato 2022.3, and PiHole v5.14.1, running on an old RPi-2 and Raspian Lite.)
On the router:
Go to Basic: Network: WAN0 Settings: DNS Server , and set DNS Server to ‘Auto’. Click Save at the bottom of the page.
Go to Advanced: DHCP/DNS: DHCP/DNS Client (WAN), and uncheck ‘Enable DNSSEC’, uncheck ‘Use dnscrypt-proxy’, and uncheck ‘Use Stubby’.
Further down, find DHCP/DNS Server (LAN), and check ONLY ‘Use Internal DNS’ and ‘Enable DNS Rebind protection’.
In the area for ‘dnsmasq – custom configuration’, Enter the following:
‘ dhcp-option=6,<ip of your pihole system>’ . Ours is as you see below:
Click on Save.
Then, in PiHole:
Go to ‘Settings’ and click on the DNS tab :
At Upstream DNS Servers, Custom 1 (IPv4) enter your in-network router IP address.
Check the recommended setting: ‘Allow only local requests’. (If your network is secured behind a firewall, the other choices may be acceptable.)
Advanced DNS settings-
Check ‘Never forward non-FQDN A and AAAA queries’.
Check ‘Use Conditional Forwarding’.
Enter your Local Network in CIDR notation, and the IP address of your DHCP server (router).
I was very surprised that there was no need to enter anything beyond ‘Auto’ as noted for DNS Server on the router’s Basic page.
On your Windows client computers, review the DNS server settings for the network device, and set to default.
I spent considerable time trying to enable DNSSEC on the router, and in pihole, but it only broke things. If you have any insight on THAT problem, please post in the comments, and I’ll try to make it work, and add it here!
It is VERY helpful to view the query log while fiddling with these settings.
“There must be some way outta here, said the Joker to the Thief…” -Bob Dylan
We knew it would be bad back in 2016, sitting there watching the election returns as the worst imaginable person in America was elected without a majority to the presidency. “This is verrry bad…” , murmured Cherie, as the rest of us stared at the screen in shocked silence. The Supreme Court was only in the background of our concerns that night.
Fast forward to June, 2022: three new hyper-conservative and radically partisan Supreme Court appointees, in concert with three other Republican appointees, are wreaking havoc on the nation.
In one week the high court:
Has have discarded a century of precedent in New York State, of requiring a carry permit for handguns.
Has discarded fifty-plus years of precedent for a woman’s right to bodily autonomy.
Has mandated a right for teachers and coaches to openly force religious indoctrination on their students and athletes.
Has mandated the use of public funds for parochial schools.
And has severely weakened the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reduce carbon emissions in our fight to save the planet.
There was no national majority consensus behind the election of the hideous canker who shifted the balance of the court, just as there was no national consensus behind the Republican-controlled Senate which denied an appointment to President Obama, who WAS elected with a national majority consensus.
The Republican electorate, it’s fair to say, has been radicalized to an extent where a majority of them nationwide no longer believe in democracy. At least, they don’t seem to believe in the democracy I was raised to revere.
They do NOT constitute a majority of our citizens, And yet, they have transformed the Republican party into a malignant organism which is now dominating the course of our nation’s culture and history.
The Supreme Court IS the existential crisis causing me angst this morning.
The guitar I found in the dream was as round as a jug, and wielding it for play was awkward, as tho you had an obese dwarf in you arms, but it was stringed, and fretted, and and ready to play. It wasn’t mine. I found it in a dorm room that had once been mine, but I’d been away for many years, and so had an improper sense of entitlement as to what I found there. I may have awoken there, or I may have made my way there, dreamily, on foot, ascending the sole escalator, which was set to go down. It wasn’t so fast as to make climbing impossible, but it was narrow enough to complicate traffic had I encountered anyone going down.
The rotund guitar was resting on an armchair in the corner of the room, and I picked it up intending to strum her, but thought better of it, as I suspected there were sleepers in other rooms nearby. I wasn’t trying to be sneaky, but was honestly concerned for the peace of the place. The bottom of the instrument was a deep, wooden green, and patterned like a melon. Her strings were gut. And I was very curious as to how she would sound when played, so I lifted her from the padding of the chair, and took her with me.
Indeed, as I made my way from the small cluster of sleeping alcoves, I did see at least two occupants stretched out on pallets, lost in dreams of their own. I balanced the guitar on my shoulder (or was it actually a mandolin?), and made for the narrow escalator. The descent was considerably more relaxing.
Ann stirred beside me, and I woke up. She said good morning, and gave me a kiss before arising and gathering herself for the day. “Sleep in.”, she told me, as she knew I’d been up for quite a while in the middle of the night, unable to sleep.
The art of finding your way back into good dreams is something I wonder about.
She closed the bedroom door, and I stretched across the now capacious mattress, and thought about my dream. Details came to me that I’d passed over: The guitar, as I considered forming a chord, proved unplayable for me, for while it seemed to have a fret board for fingering and chords, the strumming neck was missing. (There is, of course, no such thing, but that didn’t occur to me in the dream.) I looked for the strumming neck, and saw where it might have once been, jutting away from the fret board at about a 30 degree angle for just an inch or two, and beyond that nothing. Alas, I thought, this isn’t for human hands, or, at least not for mine.
(By the time my head was getting into sorting these details out, I was back in the dream itself, deep asleep again, the whole bed to myself.)
The dormitory, I was now realizing, was part and parcel of my working life, which included two actual things I’ve done; two big things: I was in the military long, long ago, and much later, as a civilian, I practiced eye doctoring on an army post. This dreamscape was a military dormitory. As I reached the lobby, there were residents in uniform, lounging here and there. I seemed to belong in the place, but knew that even if I had , it was in another time, and my presence, although in rhythm, was a trespass.
The weight of the guitar on my shoulder made me feel conspicuous. It was wrong that I had taken it. My curiosity as to how sweet it might sound with a B7 chord was misplaced. I couldn’t even find it’s strumming board! It was time to return it.
So, I made my way back to the escalator, and trod against the downward flow of the steps with enough effort to climb back to the suite of rooms where the dream began. Again, it was lucky no one was descending, as it could only have made for slapstick in trying to get ’round one another.
In the common room of the suite, two of my neighbors were now awake, and one guy was fixed upon the guitar across my shoulder, so I asked the other one, “Whose is this? I need to return it.” His eyes crinkled, as tho’ to say, “Oh, this will be fun.”, and he pointed at my staring neighbor. So, I turned back to him. His face relaxed a bit, and he raised his eyebrows, which asked, “So?”.
“Yes. Well. I don’t seem to belong here. When I woke up, I saw this in the armchair, over there, and the beauty of the thing seized me, and I just had to hear how she sounded, so I picked her up. But it seemed too early to play her, and I really didn’t want to disturb anyone, so I headed downstairs with your guitar, just to hear how she plays. But, it seems that I can’t do any more than form chords with my left hand, and I’m unable to actually play, or even hear her if I hold her…”
“So, I owe you an apology. I hope you understand, and accept my words as sincere… Here…” , and I returned his guitar.
“Thank you,” he said, “It’s not a problem.” I chose to believe him, but his expression was unreadable.
So, who was he? And who was the fellow watching us. Or is all that unimportant? Are the themes of being displaced, or the importance of courtesy and forgiveness the point here? Is the guitar a symbol, or just some weird failed mandolin design? In Hitchcock films, sometimes the hat is a clue, and sometimes it’s only there to drive the action: It’s a MacGuffin, they say.
And as to the matter of navigating the dreamscape: I know a fellow: He’s a psychologist and a sailor, and he has created a teaching project concerned with just that; navigating dreams. I’ve not taken his courses, nor talked with him much about his work with dreams. We live on opposite sides of this small planet. I do think I might send him this essay, as he’d find it interesting.
However, I’ve not had much luck before last night in completing a meaningful cycle in a dream. I well know how, as you are waking from a powerful dream, your mind is rich with ideas attached to the action you’ve just experienced: Such a story! It needs to be retold! This place was full of other stories, with lessons to be learned, an entire cycle of stories: An anthology of stories! But the longer you lie there, waking up, the substance of the place, and all that meaning boils away. It’s evanescent.
This is one time I can at least recall having closed a story, despite that damned escalator, and found a lesson or two to ruminate on with my coffee in the light of the day after.