Short Ribs Day

For Thanksgiving Debbi and I went over to our friends Chad & Camille’s house, bringing Domino so he could play with their dogs.

There was actually a fair amount of prep involved: Camille was making the main dish and hors d’ouevres, but we bought the sides: Debbi made 10 pounds (!!) of mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon and maple syrup, and an apple pie, as well as bringing a pumpkin pie. I decided to try making a beet salad, with candied pecans. I also brought the makings of Aviation cocktails, since Chad and I are both gin drinkers. So Wednesday was mostly a day of cooking and baking at our house (followed by comic book night, of course).

Thursday morning I also convinced Debbi to give me a haircut, as it was getting uncomfortably long for me.

We’re having unseasonably warm weather this month – it’s cracked 70°F a few days this week. I almost wore shorts! The four of us and their kids H & D played games outside for a while before settling back to munch and chat. And that’s pretty much how the day went – other than revving up the dogs from time to time – through dinner, until we all collapsed in food comas. (And it got cold enough after sundown that I was glad I didn’t wear shorts.) The short ribs were fall-off-the-bone delicious. I put a little too much dressing on the salad but otherwise it turned out great.

Debbi and I have been doing Thanksgiving dinner by ourselves for quite a few years so this was a really nice change of pace.

Shorts ribs and gravy over mashed potatoes, green beans with bacon and maple syrup, and beet salad. Partly eaten.


A popular destination for participants in the Twitter diaspora has been Mastodon, which broadly resembles Twitter (you have a timeline of people you follow, you respond to their posts, like them, and add them to your own timeline) but is different in some key ways. The most important way is that it’s a distributed network, where people join a specific instance (the term for a server), but can follow people on that or any other instanced.

I joined Mastodon briefly back in 2018 during some other scare over Twitter that I don’t even remember anymore, but the instance I joined is now defunct. With the Twitpocalypse apparently upon us I looked around for a new instance. I was reluctant to join one of the really big instances (like, though I’m now not sure why. Mastodon gives you a timeline of people you follow, but also one of everyone on your instance, so I decided to look for an instance with a community I might enjoy following, and ended up on, and you can find me here.

Things are moving pretty fast and people are now recommending joining instances which are well-supported, able to handle the influx of new users, and have good moderation policies regarding the usual racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic and other shitheads. While I don’t think my instance has been put to the moderation test yet (though it does have a list of limited and blocked instances), they’re doing pretty well on the other scores – it was under 3k users when I joined, doubled that in a day, and is now closing in on 30k, and while there have been a few bumps they’ve been ramping up capacity and asking for donations to pay for it.

As a Twitter substitute Mastodon works pretty well, depending on what you’re looking for, and keeping in mind that it hasn’t yet scaled to anywhere near the size of Twitter. For example, you can’t limit who can reply to your “toots” (as posts are called there), and it’s not even clear how that would work in a distributed system like this. I also don’t think the Legion of Shitheads has yet descended on the Fediverse (as the collection of federated servers is called), so there hasn’t been a real trial of the agglomeration’s moderation facilities.

The web interface is serviceable, and there are some good apps for iOS out there – I’m using Metatext. macOS apps are more of a work in progress: I’m using Mastonaut there, and it’s okay, but (for example) it doesn’t support bookmarks. (I’ve also been using Metatext on my Apple Silicon Macs, and it’s really close as to whether I like it better than Mastonaut there. So far Mastonaut is winning.) I also just started using Toot!, as it released its first update in a couple of years this week and it has good word-of-mouth. (It’s not available for Apple Silicon Macs, though.)

There’s a lot of opportunity for UI innovation in these apps, because for the most part they’re fairly small refactors of the web UI. Maybe Tapbots will fill that space. I wasn’t really around for the era of innovation in Twitter clients over a decade ago, so this is a new experience for me. All the clients I’ve tried so far are superficially similar but can be very different in the details. UI design is hugely influential in whether certain features are discoverable and usable, and if people are using a variety of different clients then that could really impact how the system evolves.

Functionally, I appreciate that Mastodon separates favourites (a.k.a. likes) from bookmarks, as I mainly used likes on Twitter as bookmarks and so was somewhat stingy with what I’d like. I’m starting to use each differently on Mastodon.

I haven’t yet tried the lists feature. I use lists a lot on Twitter, but in an idiosyncratic way: Most people I add to a list I mute from my main timeline, but a few I don’t, and I don’t know if I can do any of that on Mastodon. Lists looks like it’s not yet a first-class feature, as it’s somewhat obscure in the web UI, really obscure in Metatext, and doesn’t seem to be supported yet in Toot! (though it might be coming).

One thing I really miss from Twitter is an unread count for my main timeline. I realize the distributed nature of Mastodon probably makes this a little tricky, but it seems like it ought to be possibly to provide a reasonable estimate. I also miss syncing my read location across my devices, something Tweetbot does really well for Twitter. I read social media across something like 7 devices (3 iOS, 4 Macs), so it gets annoying to always be scrolling up to find the last few toots I’ve read.

It feels like Mastodon is still in its honeymoon period, and I see quite a few tweets indicating that people are aware of that. The culture is a combination of what the software supports, enforces or guides users to, and the norms that long-time users have imposed. If the system continues to grow, I expect those norms will be gradually (and at times abruptly) transformed as newer users vote with their behavior for what sorts of norms they’re willing to follow, and what they want to encourage others to follow. For example, there’s currently a norm of putting a broad array of topics behind content warnings, which hides them until you click on it, and I have a hard time seeing that enduring at the level it is today.

Mastodon seems to have tipped into having a critical mass of users, so I’ve been hanging out there more often. (A few folks I used to follow on Facebook but who dropped off of that platform have also popped up there.) I think it has a lot of challenges ahead of it, though, perhaps as soon as this year. For example, once the shitheads show up en masse I expect there will be many blockings and bannings and evictions, and some sites “defederating” other sites so they no longer receive their content. I think it’s gonna be rough, at times acrimonious, and might take quite a while to settle into a steady state (which I bet will involve several largely-separate federations). And even then it will continue evolving, just as Twitter did, as users find new things they want to and can do with it, and the software maintainers encourage some of those things and not others.

(This doesn’t include the potential issues of the U.S. or E.U. governments turning their eyes to certain instances via – for example – DMCA takedown notices, or other potentially complicated liabilities. Social media in 2022 is not social media in 2010 or 2006 or 1999, as this thread makes abundantly clear (TW: stories of some pretty nasty things the poster saw while working at LiveJournal).)

So far Mastodon gets a thumbs-up from me, and I’ve been using it about as often as I use Twitter, sometimes posting to both places, and sometimes only to one. I can see some of the rough edges and the barriers to entry that it presents, especially to non-technical users. Hopefully its growth will lead to faster evolution of the platform, although as a largely volunteer endeavor there’s no guarantee of that. But it seems to have handled the early waves of the Twitter diaspora fairly well, so I’m optimistic.

San Fran Sunset

Debbi and I are both on vacation starting today (well, I was off yesterday also), so after a fairly lazy morning we drove up to San Francisco for the afternoon.

We got ice cream at Ghirardelli Square (sadly, they no longer validate parking in their garage), swung by the new location of Borderlands Books in the Haight, and then drove over to Ocean Beach just in time to see the sun set a bit before 5 pm.

A lot of driving for just a few stops, but it was fun.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean at Ocean Beach in San Francisco


I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone reading this what a shitshow things have been since Elon Musk – or, as I like to call him, Space Putin – took over a couple of weeks ago. It’s been like watching Donald Trump try to run the Presidency: A self-important loudmouth who is either in way over his head, or who’s happily tearing things down for his own inscrutable reasons, or a mix of the two.

Basically: This guy is the brains behind Tesla and SpaceX?

I have no idea whether he’s really been the brains behind Tesla and SpaceX, or if he’s just been claiming credit for the brilliance of others. It’s entirely possible that he used to be a genius – or, at least, the right genius at the right times for those companies – and something’s changed. My guess is that Space Putin is a billionaire who’s been living in a billionaire bubble which has shifted until he’s mostly getting feedback from right wing nut jobs and doesn’t trust anyone else.

My working theory is that Space Putin bid to buy Twitter for the LOLs, didn’t expect that he’d be forced to go through with the contract he signed, is upset that he was forced to go through with it, doesn’t believe that Twitter has any real value and therefore that his purchase is a sunk cost which can’t earn back his investment, and so he’s just taking out his frustrations on the company and its employees, and amusing himself along the way. That might not be what’s happening, but it’s a simple theory that fits the observable facts for those of us on the outside.

There are lots of takes and summaries of what’s been going on at Twitter. Here’s a pretty good one which runs through, well, this morning(ish). At which point Space Putin tweeted:

Elon Musk tweeted: Part of today will be turning off the “microservices” bloatware. Less than 20% are actually needed for Twitter to work!

Shortly thereafter people observed that two-factor authentication, while still active, was no longer sending confirmation codes when people tried to log in. And even more ominously, that tweets from locked accounts (that only their mutual followers should be able to see) were appearing in public searches:

Mary Robinette Kowal tweets: Apparently in the process of "removing bloatware," Twitter 2FA is now broken (email codes MIGHT still work, but I'm not testing it for obvious reasons). If you have 2FA and want to continue using Twitter, I recommend not logging out since you will be unable to log back in.

if you are saying something on a locked alt that you do not want people to see, deactivate it now

A few days ago I thought it was pretty likely that Twitter would either file for bankruptcy or suffer a catastrophic failure by the end of the calendar year. Given how fast things are moving (and breaking), I think it’s entirely possible that one or both will happen by Thanksgiving.

It’s been a shitshow of epic proportions.

I remember first seeing Twitter back around 2007 (I think at my friend Emma’s annual Boxing Day party) and thinking it was kind of a waste of time. I joined it (my profile says) in June 2008. I didn’t use it a lot the first couple of years, but it grew on me. I’ve made over 37,000 tweets, which works out to about 7 per day. I used to forward all my tweets to Facebook, until Fb dropped support for that integration. Twitter has not been an integral part of my life. I haven’t really met any good friends there, although I’ve made a few, and connected with some people through it who I wouldn’t have otherwise. I use it to discover things like audio dramas, and comic strip artists, and to follow some creators I wouldn’t be able to otherwise, like J. Michael Straczynski.

It’s probably inevitable that almost every social media platform is going to either die or fundamentally transform in some way. Maybe some of the smaller ones, like Dreamwidth, can establish a steady state where they continue on unless something catastrophic and unforeseeable strikes them. But the big commercial ones are motivated – often forced – to keep growing, and they’re always going to hit a wall and have to figure out what’s next once the growth ends. Facebook is struggling with that existential crisis right now. We may be seeing the end of free, ad-supported social media as we know it, and something new will take its place, as it supplanted blogs as the dominant social media, and as blogs supplanted bulletin boards and mailing lists.

Anyway, I continue to write here from time to time. Maybe I’ll write a little more often. (Boy, if I had a dime for every time I said that, I might be able to buy Twitter from Space Putin.)

Meanwhile, other than here you can also catch me on Mastodon, the upcoming not-so-new hotness which many Twitterers are flocking to. I’m, spouting similar crap to what I spew(ed) on Twitter. Maybe I’ll see you there?