Saturday, September 30, 2023

Friday, September 29, 2023

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Monday, September 25, 2023

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Friday, September 22, 2023

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Mastodon in Three Steps

I've been a Facebook and Twitter user for a long, long time. I did the Livejournal and MySpace things, too. I'm even still blogging here every once in a blue moon.

When I heard about Mastodon, I didn't think much of it. But now that Elon Musk has bought Twitter and is determined to destroy it, I found myself looking at Mastodon again. The success of a social media platform depends on the users. If people abandon Twitter, it's dead. But for something to "replace" Twitter, lots of people have to join it. If enough people join the same new platform, it will take Twitter's place in the social media sphere. But people don't like change. People don't want to move. And most social media platforms aren't as mature as Twitter. Despite its faults, Twitter is fairly nifty and easy to use. Mastodon isn't "simple" so a lot of people won't move to it. Except, a lot of people ARE moving to it. And if they get past the first bumps and confusions, a lot of them are finding they like it quite a bit. And I think it may have hit the critical mass it needs to thrive.

As such, I'm going to try to tell you how to join in the fun. You can do a web search on "Mastodon Social" to find out lots and lots of details and information that will help, but I'm going to just give the absolute fundamentals.

ONE: Find a server.

This is the most confusing aspect for beginners, and the main reason I didn't try to jump on earlier than I did. You have to find a server instance and join it. But don't worry or panic: You don't have to stay on your first server and it's fairly easy to move if you find a better place for you.

So, easiest way? If you know someone already on a server that they like and you think you will fit in, you can ask for an invite. Depending on server rules, they might be able to give you a link.

If you don't have a friend who can invite you, go to Join Mastodon and click on "Find a Server" or "Create Account". There will be a list of servers, each with a link to either sign up or apply to sign up. Why are many asking for applications? Because there are a lot of people joining right now, and they want to screen out bots. Remember: You can move later if you find a server that fits your needs better. So for the moment, just join a server.

TWO: Set up your account.

By default, you should see a screen that looks something like this (click to embiggen):

In that first column, look for the Edit Profile link and click it. This will take you to a set up page where you can enter your display name, a brief bio, add pictures for your header and avatar, and pick some other options. Definitely add a bio and change the avatar. If you have a website, you can use the profile metadata to add a link to it that will show up right under your bio. Click the "Save Changes" button and you are ready to go to the next step.

Optional: At this point, you can write an introduction post (use the hashtag #introduction - yes, it's important to use hashtags on Mastodon) and pin it so it shows up at the top of your profile. To pin, go to a post you've written and click on the three dots in the bar under the post and select "Pin on profile".

THREE: Find people or hashtags to follow.

On Mastodon, you can follow people and hashtags. So if you want to follow me, go to your search bar (above the text box in that first column) and type/paste into the box and hit Enter. Unless your server is blocking mine (or there is a glitch), I should show up. You can then either click on my name to look at my profile and click the follow button from there, or click on the icon to the right of my name right there in the search results.

To follow a hashtag, type it into the search box. So, I follow #CatsOfMastodon. You would just type that into the search bar, hit enter, then click on the hashtag in the search results to view a bunch of awesome furballs.

And that's the basics. Really. That's all there is to it if you want to get started. There's a LOT more you can do and learn, and I urge you to read up on all the details when you can find them, but for the basics? That's all. Find a server, set up your details and find people or hashtags to follow.

  • User names need to include the server instance. So it's like email:
  • You can look at "wild" feeds by clicking the "Local" or "Federated" icons.
    • Local will only show people on your server.
    • Federated will show any posts from people on servers connected to your server in some way.
  • Different servers have different rules and sometimes different versions of the Mastodon software. Make sure you read the rules for your server.
  • Yes, there are phone apps. There is a default Mastodon app, but people recommend Metatext for iPhone and Tusky for Android.

LINKS - Lots more details are available once you are ready to jump in. Here are a few articles that can help.
  • Don't Panic - An Increasingly Less-Brief Guide to Mastodon
  • Fedi.Tips - An Unofficial Guide to Mastodon and the Fediverse
  • How to Set Up a Mastodon Account (and what to know before you do)
  • BBC - Twitter users jump to Mastodon - but what is it?
  • CNN - With Twitter in chaos, Mastodon is on fire
  • How to Find Your Twitter Friends on Mastodon
  • How to Join Mastodon, the Ad-Free Social Network Billionaires Can't Buy
  • A Big List of Mastodon Resources

  • Edit: Here's a nice calm video explainer for people who learn better that way.

    Monday, October 24, 2022

    Doctor Who: The Power of the Doctor review

    Spoiler Warning. This is an episode you want to see for yourself before it's spoiled. So everything is going below the fold...

    Monday, August 01, 2022

    Random Rant (Names)

    I... *ahem*


    I collect...


    I collect names. I admit it. I'm a name hoarder.

    My parents were super-generous and gave me three. Well, they started out by giving me just two, but added a middle name. I actually have an amended birth certificate with my middle name added. I like all of them.

    Laura = Victory, my original first name. Most people in real life call me by it. It's a good name. A solid name. It's been used by lots of people, both good and bad, but I like it.

    Jean = Gracious, my middle name. Added kind of last minute to my infant self, I still like it. It is also a decent name. I have used it quite a bit online - mostly in games as part of a character name.

    Dunham = My original last name. It means something like "village at the hill" or the like. It came down to us from a fellow who changed his own name to it during what might have been a mid-life crisis. The family history on the subject is very interesting.

    In college I added a nickname by choice: Tegan. I used it exclusively online and in fandom for many many years. There are more people in this world who know me as Tegan (or my grumpy "RealTegan" when "Tegan" was taken) than as Laura.

    Then I married a fellow and decided to collect HIS name as well, and Gjovaag came into my name hoard. Gjovaag is the name of a place in Norway where my husband's ancestors came from. They, too, changed their name when they left that place and went to Stavanger - apparently their name was so common there they just used their old home town name instead. At least, I *think* that's how it worked.

    Anyway, at the moment I have five names. I like them all. I've kept them all. And that's nifty.

    There are people who have changed their names and don't want to use their old names. That's also fine. What's not fine is when someone changes their name to something new, makes it clear they want to use that new name, and then some jerk comes along and uses the old name. That's a bad thing.

    Just because I hoard names doesn't mean I insist on using old names or deadnames for people who don't want them. If they've buried a name, leave it buried. I'm happy to sit on my hoard of names, but other people are different. RESPECT THOSE DIFFERENCES.

    This has been a PSA triggered by nothing in particular.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2022

    Newbery Medal Winners: The Cat Who Went to Heaven

    The 1931 Newbery Medal went to The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth. For once, a nice, short, succinct little story won. This was not a long slog of a read like some winners have been. A poor straving artist in historical Japan adopts a kitten when his housekeeper brings it home one day, because she can find no food. Named Good Fortune, the cat's name proves to be prescient as the artist then receives a commission to paint the death of Buddha for the temple. As he paints, the artist contemplates the life of Buddha and the roles the various animals he paints had in his lives. It's a neat framing device to tell a series of short animal stories. Coatsworth also tells the story of Buddha himself. A Western writer in the 1930s writing about historical Japan could be cringy today, but this respectful treatment holds up well, even if it may not be completely accurate. Because of the complicated relationship between Buddha and cats, Good Fortune has a lot of opinions about the artist's work. It all works out in the end, however, as one would expect.

    My local library did not have a copy of the book, so I put in an interlibrary loan request. They acquired a copy from the local university. Normally libraries let their books out to other libraries for three weeks, but they let me have it for seven! And when I saw the book, I knew it wouldn't take me near that long. (Sure enough, I read it in less than an hour!) The big surprise, however, was the age of the book. Although it's still in print, this was a fourth printing of the first edition, from August of 1931 and only a year after the initial printing. If it weren't for the library tape and card pocket in front, this could be a very valuable book! It's held up well for being over ninety years old, but I don't plan to just leave it in the outdoors return box anyway, I'll make sure to return it when the building is open and I can return it directly to the librarians.

    Sunday, June 19, 2022

    Hugo Awards 2022 - A few thoughts and a couple of rants

    Yes, I have been reading the Hugo Awards finalists, trying to work my way through them at a decent pace. I have read a few of the nominations, but far from all of them. So here I go with some of what I've already read/watched/whatever.

    First up, let's look at Best Novel. I finished The Galaxy, and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers, first, then realized I probably should have saved it for last. Chambers books are thought-provoking and twist your mind, but in a gentle and friendly way that makes them a relief to read. As a palate cleanser, her books are the best by far. This one is no exception. A solid tale of a group of strangers meeting under strained circumstances and getting to know each other, it plays out both gently and powerfully. I genuinely liked all the characters and laughed along with them (the bit about cheese just had me howling). I could have sat and read just about each character for another few hundred pages, but Chambers sets up the situation then plunges the reader into a bit of stress which cements everything. Excellent and wonderful, and a book you can easily read without knowing much of her other works (I've only read a couple). I don't yet know how it'll hold up compared to other finalists, but it is definitely worthy of a Hugo Award.

    The next one I read was A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine. I had not read the first novel, which this is a sequel to, so I was lost in places. But not so badly lost as I've been reading other sequels. I quickly got into the rhythm of this universe and enjoyed learning more about each character and how they interacted. By the end of the book I had a very good sense of what had happened in the first book. Overall, it was a good book, solid and worthy of a Hugo. It also managed to provoke some very strange dreams, so that was interesting.

    I have not yet read the other four finalists. I'll try to post something when I get through those.

    In other categories...

    I read "The Sin of America", by Catherynne M. Valente, finalist for Best Short Story. This is one of those painful tales that I can see being required reading in a literature class. And while I don't think it's bad, it's a little too painful and on point for me to say I "enjoyed" it. Hugo worthy? Certainly. Will it be at the top of my ballot? Unlikely.

    In the Best Series category, I've read enough of The World of the White Rat, by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon) to say that I absolutely enjoy this universe and want to read more in it and I'm quite pleased to put it on my ballot at the top, unless I manage to read enough of one of the other series that is so fantastic to knock it off my pedestal. But yeah, this is a great series of books.

    I have a request of all future people nominated in the best series category. Please Please Please Please PLEASE include in the packet a small text list of the works included in the nomination (every eligible work) in a suggested reading order. Nothing fancy. Nothing major. Just a freakin' list so we know what books to look for if we aren't certain and don't have to Google it and run through a dozen different variations of what books might be in that series and oh here are the ones that just got published but they aren't part of the nomination but here they are anyway and no, that's not a part of the series but someone listed it anyway and ... so much irritation could be removed by just listing the works.

    In Best Graphic Story, I read Far Sector, written by N.K. Jemisin, art by Jamal Campbell, as it was coming out and yeah, it's worth a Hugo Award. An excellent series and that's coming from a comic book fan who doesn't much like intergalactic stories. It was just so well written, nicely layered and beautiful. Well worth the effort of reading. Right now it has the top spot on my ballot, but I haven't read the other books yet so that could potentially change.

    I read “How Twitter can ruin a life”, by Emily St. James in the Best Related Work category and it still stings. The anger I feel at the mob who caused all that pain... and yet I understand completely. The essay lays it out very cleanly and clearly, and so I find it to be Hugo worthy. As with other categories, it's on the top of my list at the moment simply because I haven't read anything else in the category, but I certainly could see it staying there.

    To my surprise, I've already seen three of the six finalists in Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form and four of the six in Short Form. I have a nit to pick with the Dramatic Presentation categories that I'll start with, though. There are two Dramatic Presentation categories: Short Form and Long Form. There needs to be a third. Serial. For example, in Long Form, we have WandaVision - a series. Up against a bunch of movies. In short form we have a bunch of single episode of series - five of which are NOT standalone episodes. At least as far as I know. The Arcane episode is the culmination of eight episodes of build-up and in no way could have the impact as a standalone that it would if the viewer had seen the rest of the series. Expanse is utterly incomprehensible if you haven't seen the rest of the series. For All Mankind? I've never seen a single episode. Will I understand the season two finale? The only standalone episode is Star Trek: Lower Decks, which is hilarious and wonderful and just freaking GREAT... but it's literally the only one on the list you could possibly understand easily without seeing other episodes. And I have issues with giving a Hugo Award to any work that cannot stand on its own. I'm clearly in the minority, but that's my opinion.

    Okay, so now that's out of the way... Best Dramatic Presentation: Long Form. I've seen Dune, Encanto, and WandaVision. All of them are good, although Dune left me a little cold (ironically enough). For sheer power, WandaVision has Encanto beat because of the length of WandaVision compared to Encanto. For sheer enjoyment, Encanto is the clear winner. I will attempt to view the other three finalists before I make a final decision, but it's going to be difficult because putting a movie up against an entire TV series is a lot like comparing apples to oranges. Yes, they are both fruit, but you enjoy them differently.

    For Short Form, Arcane: The Monster You Created is going to be the top of my ballot. Yes, it suffers from the "can't stand alone" problem, but as long as the Hugos have these limitations on works, I'll pick the one I know is best. Likely second will be Star Trek: Lower Decks: wej Duj which was excellent on multiple levels and rip-roaring fun as well. Loki: The Nexus Event and The Wheel of Time: The Flame of Tar Valon are both good, but Arcane has them beat by miles, and Star Trek by a mile or so. I have not watched any Expanse since my first attempt failed. I just couldn't get into it. So I'll leave it off my ballot. My husband has been watching For All Mankind and plans to coach me through the nominated episode, so I'll figure out where it goes when I see it.

    The only other category I'm willing to opine on at this time is the Lodestar Award, which has the excellent Chaos on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer. If the other finalists are even half as good as Kritzer's work, I'm going to really love reading these.

    So, that's where I'm at right now. I hope to update again soon(ish) with more thoughts.

    Saturday, June 11, 2022

    Every American should watch this

    Tuesday, June 07, 2022


    Hubby-Eric and I have had a tough couple of years since I fell ill right as 2020 started. He's been my caregiver during that time, which isn't an easy job. I can move around now, walk for short distances, do a number of things... but he's still under a lot of pressure.

    One of the jobs he's always having to tackle is food. Now, I have never been a good cook, and he has always been the primary meal creator during our marriage, but I used to help as much as I could, and would sometimes make meals. Now... now I'm lucky if I can stand in the kitchen for more than five minutes without feeling like I'm going to collapse. Without me to help, he's been doing all the work in the kitchen every day. So we started thinking about getting a nice meal service to give him a break every once in awhile.

    The big problem with meal services is that I have some dietary needs, so we had to make sure the meal service we picked is careful with ingredients and we could choose options that would work with my problems. After some research, we decided to try Sunbasket. They had high ratings and also lots of options for special diets. The nutritional information is solid, and they offer meals that aren't kits - meals that you can toss in a microwave and go. But they also offer kits, so if we want to try something new and learn new techniques, we have that option.

    We decided to try it starting in May, and scheduled our first delivery for May 16th. It never arrived. We were told it was damaged in shipping - apparently someone at FedEx drop-kicked it or something. So... no first meal. They credited us for the cost, and sent our second week of selections on May 23rd.

    I got Chipotle butternut squash stew with chorizo, cauliflower, and cashews and Burrito bowl al pastor with plant-based Impossible Beef. Eric got Gyro-spiced chicken bowl with brown rice, fresh slaw, and yogurt sauce and Louisiana-style beef and barley bowl with spicy red pepper sauce. The food was really good. I had issues with giant cauliflower chunks in the stew (why does no one ever cut them into smaller pieces?) but otherwise loved both meals. Eric enjoyed having spicy foods again. It was nice... but then we had to wait for our second week because of Memorial Day.

    I am a picky eater, and I despise spicy food. Most of the options in the "fresh and ready" meals are spicy. I also don't much like chicken. I would say 90% of healthy food uses chicken as the protein. So my meal options are usually extremely limited, and I almost always end up with something I dislike (and I'm referring to all my meals, not just Sunbasket). For our June 1st meals I picked Crustless chicken pot pie with carrots, celery, and mushrooms and Smokehouse sausage jambalaya, while Eric went for Korean sweet and sour chicken bowl with brown rice, kale, and carrots and White bean turkey chili. The pot pie was fine, but there was way too much liquid, making it more of a stew than a pot pie. The jambalaya was, as I suspected, a little too hot for my tastebuds. I had to grab some sour cream from the fridge to keep my tongue from exploding. But except for the heat, it was really tasty.

    This week we decided to order the same things, so we got Beef donburi rice bowl with edamame and kimchi-lime vegetables and Sweet pea and broccoli risotto. We had the beef last night, since Monday's are Eric's busy day, and ... wow. It was really good. I had the sour cream ready, but it was not hot-spicy at all, though it had a complex flavor. We will have the risotto later.

    So, three weeks in, I can't say I've judged this service completely yet. I can say a few things though. I'm still disappointed we didn't get our first set of meals, especially since I was told there was "a free gift" in that first package. They definitely did not send any free gift in any of the subsequent orders. I have no idea what the gift was supposed to be, or if it's worth being annoyed about... but yeah, it is annoying.

    I've already mentioned the issues with choices. Looking at the menu for next Monday, there are 16 meals to pick from. Ten of those meals are marked as spicy, leaving me only six choices. Of the six, two I've already tried, two are spaghetti (which is so easy to make at home, why would I order it?) and the other two are chicken dishes. So... not much variety for me. However, the next week there are plenty of choices, so it's a mixed bag.

    The meals came in a sturdy box with good packing (which makes me wonder just what FedEx did to that first package), and each meal was nicely contained with clear instructions on how to heat them. When we try a meal kit, I'll report how those go. But these are dead easy to make and tasty. The beef from last night was really filling as well, just all around nicely done.

    The price... well. The price is a bit high for what we are getting. Yes, they are catering to my special needs, but I can't help but feeling we could almost do as well picking up some crappy tv dinners at the grocery store. They wouldn't taste as good, but this is a pretty expensive option for my meals.

    Overall, I'm still undecided. Eric and I agreed to give it a few weeks and hopefully after he's done with his regular teaching for the school year we can fit in some meal kits, but I'm not sure we'll continue this after a couple of months.

    Monday, June 06, 2022

    Inkwell Tales

    Inkwell was curled up on my lap, purring, and I noticed some stray hairs so I reached down and grabbed his brush and started to help groom him. He purred and stretched and made it clear that I was to continue. After a time he got up and wandered off. I set the brush on the table next to me instead of back in the chair's side pocket.

    A short time later, Inkwell wandered back and leapt onto the table ... then leapt backwards in that amazing move that only cats do - completely rewinding. He landed on the floor and let out a mighty MEOW of protest at the table.

    Baffled, I looked at Inkwell, then looked at the table. The only difference from usual was the brush. I picked up the brush and showed it to him. He grumpily jumped back up on the table, and investigated the scary thing in my hand.

    He glared at me again, then stalked out of the room in a huff. I gingerly put the brush back in its side pocket. Minutes later, Inkwell again entered the room, this time putting his paws up on the table to check for scary objects before he jumped up and proceeded back to my lap for cuddles.

    Note to self: Do not leave the brush out. I got clutter shamed by my cat.

    Sunday, June 05, 2022

    Gun Rant

    I do not hate guns.

    I know, I know, I'm constantly whinging about the evil of the NRA and screaming that politicians who get money from the NRA should be voted out of office. But...

    I do not hate guns.

    I have fired guns. I have handled guns. I enjoy target shooting. A .22 rifle and a paper target are a joy to me. Handled safely, I have absolutely no problem with guns.

    For defense against wildlife in truly wild places, I don't have a problem with slightly higher caliber weapons, responsibly owned by intelligent people. I don't even have an issue with people hunting, as long as they eat what they hunt and follow wildlife expert's advice so animals aren't driven to extinction. I don't really approve of it, and I wouldn't do it myself... I think it's a little childish and disgusting if you can get food in another way... but I'm not going to shame people for it and I'll keep my mouth shut about it. As long as it is done responsibly and legally. After all is said and done, I eat meat and - frankly - the meat I eat is produced in a disgusting way as well. I cannot claim any moral superiority there.

    So I do not hate guns.

    But I also see that guns should be carefully controlled and maintained, and I see that the "general public" is unable to do so because there are too many people with too many problems. There are always people who go too far, which is why we have to have rules. Some people won't stop until they hit the rules, no matter how much harm they are causing. You cannot leave *anything* completely open and free because someone will always ruin it for everyone else: the whole "this is why we can't have nice things" syndrome.

    So limits must be established. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution was never a suicide pact. Reasonable limits are always expected on any freedom. Despite the First Amendment, free speech has reasonable limits on it. This is understood by everyone with even an ounce of brains. The same applies to the Second Amendment.

    Right now, the freedom demanded by second amendment extremists is infringing on the freedom of literally every other person in the country by denying us our right to life and pursuit of happiness. It's hard for kids to be happy when any day they go to school might be the day they are slaughtered by a gun nut with an AR-15. People have been murdered by these "well-regulated milita" morons in schools, churches, grocery stores, movie theaters, street festivals... our entire lives are now at risk because some self-important twats decided their personal right to compensate for their own short-comings is more important than every other citizens' right to life.

    I do not hate guns, but I hate people who love guns over everything else.

    No one needs a weapon of war in their home. If you cannot defend yourself with a .22 you probably aren't intelligent enough to own a water gun, much less an automatic or semi-automatic. The likelihood you'll get yourself shot in a gun battle, probably with your own weapon, is very high if you feel like you *need* an AR-15 to defend yourself. Invest in a baseball bat, instead.

    The arguments about defending against a tyrannical government are laughable as well. How long are you going to last against the entire US Army? No, seriously. The fantasies of urban warriors waging a war against the fascist state are just that, fantasy. You stop fascism by stopping it at the ballot box and destroying the propaganda machine that helps drive it - not by feeding into it and becoming the very tyrants you claim to want to defend against. Most gun nuts *are* the fascists they claim they want to bear arms against. They've just been brainwashed into believing they are the good guys. Years of propaganda by the Russian-funded NRA, and Fox propaganda channel have programmed them into being the very thing they hate. And they refuse to see it, because that would mean admitting they are wrong.

    I do not hate guns.

    But I am tired of people who love guns over their fellow humans. Who love the thought of being some sort of stupid action hero so much that they cannot see the pain they cause. Who worship guns devoutly, send their constant tithes to gun manufacturers and the NRA, who practically pray to their guns and celebrate the deaths of children with little dances on stage at the NRA. I'm tired of them all.

    Every day those gun worshippers block reasonable gun control, they drive me further toward more severe gun restrictions. Every time another child, another mother, another cousin, friend, lover dies in a senseless hail of bullets, I want more severe restrictions. Every time I see a politician saying "let's not politicize this" as they turn a crime scene into a gun rally, I want more severe restrictions. Every time I see an NRA member crying that they are the real victims when a fellow gun nut murders someone, I want more severe restrictions.

    Every time someone claims these slaughters are false flag operations, I want every single gun nut to be forced to view the crime scene in person and be forced to clean the gore up with their bare hands.

    Right now, I'm in favor of reasonable gun control. The Clinton ban on assault weapons should be put back into effect. Other restrictions should be discussed and debated on their merits, not dismissed out of hand by the bought-and-paid for NRA politicians. The longer those politicians block reasonable efforts, the more severe my own position on gun control gets in response.

    I do not hate guns. But I'm definitely headed that way, thanks to the NRA and the cult of the gun.