I doubt I’m going to be posting any more Twitter-like short posts here anymore. You can find me on my Mastodon server: @json@micro.sadlerjw.com.

I was on the mastodon.technology Mastodon server for the last several months, but due to the admin’s personal situation he had to shut down the server, so I decided to try setting up my one single-user instance. (It actually turned out to be a tiny multi-person instance when my friend Mike asked to join.)

(I’m @json@micro.sadlerjw.com. Give me a follow!)

I tried to get everything set up using Docker Compose based on the docker-compose.yml file in the Mastodon repo. It was pretty straightforward, but I ran into a few gotchas, which I figured I’d document here:

  1. The Mastodon services expect the Postgres user to be a member of a group named with the same name. (If your DB user is mastodon, then its group should also be mastodon.
  2. The Mastodon web/API server will silently refuse any non-HTTPS connections. If you’re running a reverse proxy in front of it which terminates the SSL connection, you need to include the X-Forwarded-Proto header. This was really hard to figure out, since the Mastodon server didn’t so much as log the connection attempt.
  3. The Mastodon web/API server will reject any connection not using the hostname it was configured to run under. It does log that it rejected the connection, but not the reason.
  4. You may want your Mastodon handle (eg @json@micro.sadlerjw.com) to use a domain that’s different from the one the server runs on. For instance, my server is at https://micro.sadlerjw.com. If I had known how, I would have configured my handle to be @json, without the “micro”. You can do this using the LOCAL_DOMAIN and WEB_DOMAIN environment variables. You can find details in the documentation. You can’t change this after you start using your instance!
  5. SendGrid has a free tier if you send less than 100 emails per day. This post on the Mastodon Discourse forums helped me get it set up.

There are definitely a few minor things that don’t seem to work properly, but I’m not sure if it’s either “federation ain’t perfect,” or something that’s my fault, or a problem with the software. For instance, I can’t seem to add a post with video uploaded from my iPhone. Your mileage may vary.

Hope this can help someone! At a minimum, this has been a fun experiment. I definitely wouldn’t recommend administrating a server for a large community though…that sounds like a lot of work both in terms of setting policies and moderation, and also in terms of keeping the services up and running and responding quickly. But stand up a little server for your friends, it might be fun!

Psychonauts 2


I finished playing Psychonauts 2 the other night. What a great game. Cute and funny writing, incredibly clever and varied gameplay, a solid (if heavily foreshadowed) story, and great voice acting (including Elijah Wood)!

The game has decent character diversity, featuring a disabled character, a gay couple, and characters dealing with all sorts of mental difficulties. The game focuses on the founders of The Psychonauts, who experienced a traumatic event together long ago, and has the player character, Raz, jumping into their brains to help them work through their responses to that event. Its treatment is light-hearted but not trivializing (all of the characters are treated with a lot of empathy), and the physical manifestations of these characters’ minds is absolutely stunning in their creativity. The level design is off the charts.

In spite of the game’s inclusiveness, it has some blind spots. Its use of Eastern European stereotypes throughout is uncomfortable, and the treatment of the inside of an East Asian character’s mind in one of the later levels is more than a little problematic. If you make a joke about how smelly a fish market is, you’ve made a joke about fishes; but if you make a joke about how dirty a fish market is in this context, as Phsychonauts 2 does, you’ve made a joke about the sanitariness of an East Asian culture. It reminds me a bit of the term “wet markets” and the demonization of those Chinese markets in the early stages of the pandemic. The level only has a few missteps like this, but better to have avoided them altogether.

The story was very emotionally engaging in the first 80% of the game, but unfortunately the ending fell a little bit flat for me, not living up to what I think could have been something really, really special. After the final battle, it just sort of…ended.

In spite of some cultural missteps, the rest of the game is truly wonderful. If you feel like giving it a try and you have Xbox Game Pass, it’s available there!


TIL you can export an OPML of your YouTube subscriptions for importing into an RSS reader. There’s a button at the bottom of the subscription management page.

Goodbye, YouTube website!


The world lost a true musical icon today in Neil Peart 😭