Holiday Letter

2022 is over!

Dismal Wizard hits the 2022 lowlights.

Dave rants about some of salient features of 2022. The big one is that it is almost over! During the year, Dave traded autos, continued care for bladder lining cancer, and is breaking up with Twitter to follow Mastodon. Most of this article is about Mastodon as Dave’s AniPal (dog, cat, and plushie buddies) are unwanted participants in the drama that is Twitter and are looking to abandon ship.

Dave Drives Electric

In late 2021 Dave took a leap into the unknown by trading the Mk 7 GTI for a VW ID.4 battery electric vehicle. I traded my beloved GTI for a “pig in a poke”, an old country expression for trading something known for something unknown. I ordered the ID.4 before there were any in the country to test drive. This was a big act of faith on my part as I’m fussy about cars and keep them a while.

Our EV is charging to complete a voyage from Richmond VA to home.
Millenium Falcon in space dock regenerating the dilithium crystals

In 2020, I had a mishap driving the GTI through a red light while trying to find a street sign hidden in the trees. This got me thinking that it would be nice to have a copilot, ie a new vehicle having driver assists and navigation built in. The ID.4 navigation (built-in and Apple Maps) shows the distance to the turn on the driver’s binnacle display. Dave would not have been looking for a street sign having its head in a tree.

Electric vehicles turn the auto fuel/energy experience on its head. With a petrol vehicle, you are always fueling en route. With an electric vehicle, you almost never fuel en route, almost always at your destination, and almost always at home plate. Fueling en route is required only on longer day trips and over night trips.

VW has a reputation for building high value vehicles with German preferred agility and comfort. VW was careful to keep the ID.4 experience first rate. The car is superior in comfort to many products costing half again as much. Range is competitive and the AWD variant is faster than most ’60s muscle, handles better, and stops better. Seating, visibility, cabin comfort, etc are superior. Build quality is German precision. Volkswagens from the Beetle on have been this way. Solid value in their market segment.

I’ve been using Apple Car Play and Apple Maps for navigation. I find it superior to the Google alternatives for iPhone and to the built in Software 2 navigation. Software 3 is coming soon. Apple Maps is really good at cuing turns to most destinations in the area. And it did well taking the dogs to reunion.

Dave’s Bladder

Treatment of the bladder lining appears to have Dave’s bladder cancer in check for now. The last few cytoscope exams have been unremarkable. Dave continues BCG immunology-therapy per the standard of care.

A recent CAT scan for metastatic disease found a dodgy spot on one of the ureters connecting kidney to bladder that will be examined in a February outpatient surgery. This is an outpatient cytoscopic procedure similar to colonoscopy but without the prep.

Dave is starting to get a little anxious regarding metastatic disease. Thirty percent probability. Electing Donald Trump was a 30 percent outcome!

Dave is leaving #fowlsite

With Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, I’ve decided to drop out of Twitter. It had become repetitive. Use of third party public API apps had spared me the advertising and the vitriol. With the head melon at the helm, Twitter is taps full open toward the iceberg.

Twitter has over 20 billion of debt requiring over 1 billion per year of interest to be paid. Twitter has never earned a billion dollars in a year. There is no way it will cover the vigorish. There will be margin calls. There will be a bankruptcy. This is one bird unlikely to rise from its ashes.

But I’m getting tired of few responses and the Twitter “engagement” algorithms decide what I’m to see. I’m tired of liking something only to see my entire feed reorganized including things I had skipped over to follow a thread backward. Enough is enough and the melon man doesn’t need more money from me. After 9 years, I’m just going to let the dog accounts go fallow.

Twitter Alternatives

Several Twitter replacements are in development. Hive, Post, Mastodon, Tumblr, and a few more. All, other than Mastodon, are corporate undertakings and only Tumbler’s owner has a record of good behavior.

Most of these are works in progress. Mastodon and Tumblr are in production. One, Mastodon, is a non-commercial project that has legs and a sound standards foundation. Of them, Mastodon, is designed to be independent of venture capital and all the problems VC brings to the party. is a product of the WordPress people at Automattic. If you prefer a commercial Twitter alternative, Tumblr is a good one. This is a shameless plug as this blog is hosted by

Tumblr is interesting in that it can communicate as an Activity Pub node with Mastodon. This makes Tumblr a good choice for those with buddies in the Fediverse. Your Mastodon user will reflect your Tumblr activity. Tumblr is a short post card service like Mastodon with followers and some back and forth permitted so the two map well. A good choice for Rex The TV Terrier and others needing a larger presence.

Anyway, we are jumping ship to Mastodon as in the EU. Dave and doggos all write using this address. No 3 feeds and 3 personalities to play. Just the gang. We continue to post the daily checkin, dog stories, and the day’s record.

How Mastodon Works

This section is a bit of a departure from “that was the year that was” stories. I’ve written a couple of articles about how Mastodon works but writing them as I learned, they are a bit disorganized. So I thought I’d pull what I’ve learned together and present it more clearly for the AniPals leaving Twitter for Mastodon.

Mastodon Logo courtesy of

Mastodon Origins

About 6 years ago, maybe more like 10, the free open source software movement had an idea for an alternative social network free of artificial intelligence, user preference harvesting, algorithmic content selection, and addictive design. Under the Social Web Networking Group of the W3-Consortium, they developed a publication protocol (Activity Pub) atop the W-3C Activity Streams protocol. This protocol supports the creation, editing, deleting, and distribution of web content. Implementations support analogs of the common social medial services including

  • Frendica, a Facebook-like service
  • Mastodon, a Twitter-like service
  • NextCloud, a file hosting service
  • PeerTube, a video streaming service
  • PixelFed, a photo sharing service

Users of each of these can communicate using W3C Activity Streams and Activity Pub protocols and the common addressing structure.

In addition, has integrated WordPress and Tumblr with Activity Pub.

Mastodon has Linux-like Beginnings

Like Linux, Mastodon began as a solo practitioner’s personal project. In 2016, Eugen Rochko, a Russian expatriate living Germany, graduated from college as a computer science student. While looking for work, Eugen began development of Mastodon to put his college skills to use. He wisely chose to build his project atop Activity Stream and Activity Pub, two WWWC standards. And to make a Twitter-like service but one with the features that were annoying omitted and the features that permitted a toxic culture to develop omitted.

Like Linus Torvolds, he was both skilled and lucky. That W3C had developed the Activity Streams and Activity Pub standards provided a sound functional design for the new service. This conceptual foundation is the key to Mastodon’s success and is what differentiates it from the commercial competitors moving fast and breaking stuff.

Mastodon Community Culture

Each Mastodon community has its rules of conduct. One needs to be mindful that the node you joined is not in the land of “Congress shall make no law abridging …” and that hate speech, Nazi speech, etc may be banned as it is in Germany. Beyond applicable law, each community has its own policy with regard to civility, profanity, obscenity, pornography, etc. Each community also has civil discourse and moderator guidelines to foster a welcoming environment in which

We speak of things that matter 
with words that must be said, 
Can analysis be worthwhile? 
Is the theater really dead?

The Dangling Conversation
Simon and Garfunkel 

I’ve found that it is actually possible to have civil discussions of the sort I’ve not had in years. People don’t pile on as nothing strays into the larger world or is trawled up by bots.

Twitter trolls that try to climb aboard find themselves tossed overboard (blocked and maybe node blocked) pretty quickly.


Each community has a crew of moderators. In the smaller communities, volunteers keep an eye on the traffic. In larger communities, paid staff may keep order. There is a reporting mechanism and reporting is effective as the report will be queued to the moderators and an actual person will look at it and take action.

Members can also mute (filter for a period) or block (filter forever) users, nodes, or posts containing keywords.


Mastodon is organized around nodes that participants join. The creators originally imagined that nodes would be public accommodations of a club-like nature. Birds of a feather would flock together at a node featuring a slice of subject matter, say art, music, political science, life sciences, pub hangout, etc.

Users Join Nodes

As originally envisioned a group of users sharing a common interest would establish a Mastodon node for their use or join a node catering to that interest.

Nodes are able to exchange messages with each other. Each user has an address @user@node. Each node maintains queues with nodes to which users have addressed a message. A queue daemon sends messages to the remote node which stashes it for delivery to the users on that node.

Followings Drive Traffic, not an Engagement AI

Users select to whom they will listen. If you follow nobody, nothing shows up in your home feed which receives the traffic addressed to you. You are welcome to read the local feed and the federation feed. These are the messages sent to your local members at your local post office by both local members and global members. Only messages originating at or addressed to your post office are available.

Users subscribe to content submitted by fellow users by following them. When a user makes a post, a copy is queued to each of the users that are following the originator. Those you are following can be on the local node or any federated node. A full @user@node address identifies each person following.

Communities Span the Mastodon Network

Some of the web writing about Mastodon suggests that Mastodon communities would be local to a Mastodon node. But the address syntax and network architecture allow Mastodon communities to span the Mastodon Federation, well, the entire federation as each type of Activity Pub application (the W3C standard) can communicate with any of the others. So communities are entirely emergent. That is, they just happen as people discover shared interests and follow one another.

Users Send Content to their Audience

Users communicate by making posts that the originating node distributes to the user’s following (The set of users who have elected to follow you. This group is your “audience”). When you follow a user, you become a member of their audience. When a user follows you, they become a member of your audience.

Users Control Content Movement

Users explicitly control content movement to their audience. When I create a post, I send it to my audience. Each member of my audience, at their discretion, can send my post to their audience. Content moves only along the audience tree and only in response to user action.

Favoring Content Tips the Chef

If a user likes a post, they can favor it (give it a gold star). This action means “my compliments to the chef” and in no way influences routing of content. But it does suggest to the originator what he is doing well.

To have a feed, you must follow!

For your content to reach an audience, an audience must follow you. For content to move further, a member of your audience must explicitly forward the content to their audience. If you don’t post, nothing goes to your audience. If you don’t post, you likely won’t have an audience. If you don’t follow, you are not a part of any audience and nothing comes in.

Mastodon rewards speculative following early on. If somebody is uninteresting, they can be dropped later on. Following and unfollowing is intentionally light-weight. No mother may I. Mastodon does not notify on unfollow.

Searching addresses and hashtags

Searching on hashtags is a good way to discover content. And audiences to join. It is a good way to build a following list. Reading the feed can be a bit like drinking from the hose. Too much is coming out. Too little goes down.

Search trawls only addresses and hashtags. Text is not searched. This is a deliberate choice to make difficult the kind of piling on seen at the #fowlsite. However muting and blocking searches the entire message to squash unwanted or nasty content. Dealing with an unpleasant poster is as simple as blocking the address or the node and keywords appearing in the offensive content. Blocks are until rescinded. Mutes are for a time period of a few hours or a few days to give something a chance to blow over.

Following a Hashtag

Mastodon is able to follow groups of hashtags. For example, I follow #greyhound and #sighthound. I also follow #ZSHQ to keep up on goings on in the Zombie Squad HQ world. And you can follow #ZZST for Zombie Squad Saturday Training. I assume that you will see only messages addressed to your node (post office) that contain the tag.

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.