Say Goodbye to the Phonics in Telephony

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!

Everything is Copy

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 done, and thank you, WordPress!

Austere Thanksgiving

What is an austere Thanksgiving?

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!

PiHole: Configuration notes for use with Fresh Tomato Router:

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:

  1. Go to Basic: Network: WAN0 Settings: DNS Server , and set DNS Server to ‘Auto’. Click Save at the bottom of the page.


  1. Go to Advanced: DHCP/DNS: DHCP/DNS Client (WAN), and uncheck ‘Enable DNSSEC’, uncheck ‘Use dnscrypt-proxy’, and uncheck ‘Use Stubby’.
  2. Further down, find DHCP/DNS Server (LAN), and check ONLY ‘Use Internal DNS’ and ‘Enable DNS Rebind protection’.
  3. In the area for ‘dnsmasq – custom configuration’, Enter the following:
    ‘ dhcp-option=6,<ip of your pihole system>’ . Ours is as you see below:
  4. Click on Save.

Then, in PiHole:

Go to ‘Settings’ and click on the DNS tab :

  1. At Upstream DNS Servers, Custom 1 (IPv4) enter your in-network router IP address.
  2. 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-

  1. Check ‘Never forward non-FQDN A and AAAA queries’.
  2. Check ‘Use Conditional Forwarding’.
  3. Enter your Local Network in CIDR notation, and the IP address of your DHCP server (router).
  4. Click Save

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.

Good luck!