Road Trip, Day2

September 26, 2023 (Reading time: 1 minute)

We slept in a private home last night, the way one does these days via an app on our phone, and it was just fine. We a found a few crumbs in otherwise clean sheets, and the elderly lady of the house was kind and helpful. She seemed grateful to have a bit of company passing through.

The home is one of those row houses in a modern development with fruit trees and a patio. The trophies of children now grown and departed decorate corner tables here and there in the house. I had a good night’s rest despite the jets from Dulles International climbing out overhead. We’re three miles from the Potomac River and the Maryland state line.

Ann is here in Virginia to claim free fabric and other quilting notions. A friend invited her to come fetch them and a sewing table before they were discarded. So we’re hoping for a rain-free trip back to Charlotte with this booty riding in our pickup. The table is a handsome thing, but too big, really, for Ann’s sewing room. She plans to re-gift it to another quilter down in Georgia: A journey for another day…

Road Trip!

September 25, 2023 (Reading time: 1 minute)

Ann is being gifted a sewing desk, which she will re-gift to a friend, but is very excited to be getting, as well, a bale of quilting fabric. The only catch is that we must drive something approaching a thousand miles to fully execute this retrieval.

The journey will take us up to far northeastern Virginia, which means tilting at the windmill of Washington, DC traffic. I am not looking forward to that, but it could be fun. The plan is to stay at an AirBNB, and those have always proven interesting. You meet people you’d not otherwise meet, and sometimes dogs and cats, too.

We’ll be in the vicinity of the Manassas/Bull Run civil war battlefields. If there’s anything worth seeing or doing up that way, let me know in the comments.

In browsing the morning news, tucked in with the insanity of the Republican House and the general idiocy of the Republican Presidential campaign was the happy news that the writers’ strike is close to ending. Huzzah!

So, those are this morning’s stray notes. I must needs get my act together for the journey ahead. Have a lovely day, everyone.

Journal Entry: The Gambler and the Thief

September 24, 2023 (Reading time: 2 minute)

Yesterday I was confronted by a stranger at the McDowell trolley stop. He was inclined to chat, so I indulged him, and learned he was bound for some bar to watch a college football game. His manner was the striking thing about him: He was fierce, a bit, and seemed a little angry under his skin. He was also unusually open about himself, admitting to a problem with drink and drugs, and gambling. In the course of a few minutes I’d learned this well-groomed guy had spent time in Tampa, LA, and now Charlotte, and was not presently using. I decided that maybe this underlying anger was at himself, to be headed to a bar where he shouldn’t be drinking, and watching a game he shouldn’t be betting on.

I had another striking encounter last night, in one of those dreams that persists on waking. A different stranger inserted himself into my path and task, which was to shift a vehicle and boat trailer at a sandy rustic marina. This fellow had longer, darker hair, and was taller than the angry guy, and his manner was jovial, engaging and friendly, except he was intent on talking me into handing the truck, boat and trailer over to him. He was larceny with a smile. No matter how I countered his intent, he’d smile and shake his head, refusing to get out of the truck, and reaching for the keys in the ignition. Eventually, I ran him off by summoning the boat yard guard.

Over coffee this morning it occurred to me there was some relationship between these guys, and some reason for their persistence; the focus they clearly command for me.

First, the two of them differ from me in many respects, being engaged in action challenges, while I usually pursue duty and observation. I was on a grocery shopping trip when I met Angry Guy, and was doing my job for the marina when Chuckles, the boat thief, showed up. They were, by turns, tempting personal demons of addiction, and thievery, while I sat there, a foil to their actions.

I’m glad to have met them both, if only for the opportunity to reflect on them, and try to capture them in words this morning. They are both characters, the stuff stories are made of, and their choices, however questionable, are full of life and momentum, and remind me to engage with my demons and the world too, and not merely observe.

Journal Entry: Time for another jab…

September 23, 2023 (reading time; 2 minutes)

I awoke this morning with a notion of starting a journal now that I’m getting comfortable in my seventh decade here on Earth. Modest goals, I thought, just a paragraph or three daily to clear my head, or set down my nightly dreams, or rage against wrong-doings to set the world aright before the important business of solving the NY Times Wordle.

Maybe I’ll post these up on the blog, too, at times. There aren’t many out there who would be so rude as to read them and laugh.

Ann and I are getting over our is it fourth COVID vaccination? (Ann has corrected me: It is our SEVENTH!) My left arm has a knot at the injection site which matches a sore place that remains in my right arm from the jab last year. I’m also apparently due for a flu shot, too. I don’t mind. We’re grateful for the margin of safety from these measures. I don’t do respiratory infections well. Sore arms are a small price to pay.

I’ve had COVID twice now. Thrice if you count the rebound episode the second time, but that was only re-testing positive after an all-clear instance. Or it could have been a false positive. There’s never absolute certainty in a world riven by pandemic, not that you hear that word so much now. The panic has faded. We see masks but not so many. I’ve stopped using one myself, unless asked to. There wasn’t a line for the vaccine this time, and I forgot to ask for the once again free COVID tests. Just last summer they wanted $20 for a pair of them.

And to be clear, COVID hasn’t taken a physical toll on me. We know people who have been hit hard both with their health and peace of mind. I’m grateful for Paxlovid, and for Ann’s and my continuing health. I’m grateful for my physician, Eugene Sangmuah, and for the virologists and microbiologists who curtailed the disaster. Thanks, Gene! Thanks, y’all!

One Week in Corsica

Long, long ago, when I was just recently back from a fantastic week on the island of Corsica, I wrote a book in which I blew up big sections of Paris and Corsica. At the time, there were several groups fighting for the independence of Corsica; perhaps they still are–it seemed rather entrenched. I finished the book just before September 11, 2001. Somehow, it didn’t seem appropriate to do anything with it just then, so I put it away. And now, almost a quarter of a century later, I dug it up.

The link to it is below. If you read nothing else, try chapter 7. I like it best. And chapter 1. The rest kind of … sucks. By the end of retyping it (since 22 years ago I didn’t save it on a disk), I was inserting sarcastic comments, making fun of my own writing: [Oooh, magic! She pulled out a gun she’d left at home! Now it’s a fantasy book!] or [How could she come in? There were two big people blocking the doorway? Ah, must be more magic!]

Also my characters don’t grow or change, they just sort of lump along like day-old doughnuts, pulled by unseen forces until they have a bad idea and then they do something stupid. I’m almost embarrassed to put it out here, but the upside is I’ve gained two inches of space on my bookshelf.

Anyway, here’s the link to the whole thing, rather than chapter by chapter. Read it or not. Read it and make sarcastic comments and send them to me. We might as well get some humor out of it now! It’s in both Microsoft Word and a pdf (the pdf loads faster, at least on my laptop).

American politics is in a shambles…

American politics is in a shambles, and it’s entirely due to the faction that gave us the former guy, 45, Donald J. Trump.

Long ago in a simpler time when small towns had parades with fire trucks, marching bands, and sidewalks lined with families and kids waving flags, this nation celebrated its simple two-party politics with neither side holding sway too potently, and the losing side of some electoral contest would cheerfully muse, “Well, the pendulum can always swing the other way next time!”.

Today we have a majority of a minority party still capable of commanding a majority of the electoral college (but not the last time, thank God!) who are under the spell of a candidate now facing 91 felony counts on four separate indictments. They are a passionate bunch of folks.

I’ve been talking with a number of former-guy supporters, and you just can’t get them to confront the reality of these pending court proceedings. They either change the subject to “the Biden crime family”, as if that was an actuality, or they discount the importance of the indictments entirely. They are a tribe united in their denial of events they’ve seen with their own eyes, and firmly believe they are entitled to believe lies while knowing them to be lies.

Which is precisely how the RICO statutes in Georgia were used to indict 18 co-conspirators alongside the former guy. Because you aren’t entitled to ACT on a lie you know to be a lie when your actions impact the outcome of a fair election to overturn it in favor of the loser.

These neighbors and acquaintances, as far as I know, aren’t engaged in conspiracies with a direct impact on events. But in so far as they deny reality, and willingly adhere to leadership they either know or suspect to be lying, they act in bad faith.

This time in our history has become the age of bad faith. Too many of our countrymen are willing to adhere to lies spoken to promote the privileges of their faction, to disfavor “the other”, and while eroding and degrading the institutions which made this nation what it once was, a reasonably fair and flexible democracy.

Gingrich and the Neo-cons, and every zero-sum gaming, winner take all pol, player, and office holder since them have brought us nearly to the end of the great experiment of American democracy. And they’ve done it by promoting fraudulent concerns while ignoring real issues and problems.

And, irony of ironies, they’re celebrating closed-mindedness; the adherence to “alternate” facts, and “us vs. them-ism”, against the great “evil” of WOKE-ISM, which I guess means people who are aware of what’s actually happening, is true, and worth attending to, and working towards.

I’m of the opinion that most of these former guy supporters wouldn’t recognize functional government if it reduced unemployment to under 4%, and showed them a faster economic recovery post -COVID than any other nation on earth, because, well, they don’t. Too busy mumbling about the Biden crime family, and ignoring 91 actual felony charges pending against their former guy…

Colorado ‘Rona Episode!

We took a trip to Colorado in mid-July and somewhere along the way I picked up my second bout of the ‘Rona. The Frontier Airbus 321 has seating for about 180 passengers, plus crew. I think I might have picked it up from the stewardess who laughed in my face when I asked if there was breakfast on board.

Even when the fever and sore throat showed up back at home the next week, I’ve got to say the trip was worth it. Both Ann and I arranged to spend time with great friends from our separate deep pasts. It’s not just any old friend who will let you install a ceiling fan with them, dangling from a 20 foot A-frame ladder. And Ann’s college roommate knew some really wonderful places to hike.

I was able to knock off the rest of this year’s professional CE in one lengthy meeting, too. So, all good, mostly.

But Coronavirus is still a damned annoying presence in the world. It’s nothing to play around with, and can set one up for cardiac and vascular complications. Ann and I both showed symptoms within the week after our return, but somehow only I tested positive, and became feverish.

We both were able to obtain Paxlovid on our first symptomatic day, and I can’t understate the importance of that. It is a major game-changer, and will get you out of bed much faster than without.

Control Spotify on Your Fitbit Versa 4 !

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.

I hope this article has been useful for you!

Overnight Sailing Adventures

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.

Let broken things be broken…

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.

Things break. It’s okay. Forgive.

…our word-window on the world.