parker higgins dot net

Wednesday music

I watched a few episodes of the new Netflix show Wednesday. Show’s fine, and the Danny Elfman score is interesting, and I laughed when his theme first started playing and was dutifully described in the subtitles as “jauntily macabre.” If you want jauntily macabre you have to go to Danny Elfman, right?

As the show went on, I noticed that a lot of care went into the musical descriptions, so I pulled them out to look at the whole collection.1

Some very fun ones in here! I like “delicate, cryptic”, “whimsically morbid”, “quirkily dreary”, “twinkling, wondrous”, “groovy, kooky”. The final cues before the last episode’s closing theme are “tender, wondrous”, “gentle, quirky”, into “grimly grandiose”. I haven’t seen enough of the show to know whether you could follow any of the plot through these descriptors, but I bet you almost can.

I’ve put the full list of 255 music descriptors up on Github, but as a sample here’s all of the second episode:

  • eerie
  • quirky
  • jauntily macabre theme
  • chilling
  • chilling
  • creepy, ornate
  • tense
  • tense
  • dramatic
  • quizzical
  • plucky, excited
  • whimsically morbid
  • intimidating
  • despondent
  • mournful, dramatic
  • suspenseful
  • dramatic
  • suspicious
  • mellow
  • cheekily dramatic
  • pensive
  • foreboding
  • suspenseful
  • elegant instrumental
  • instrumental
  • chilling
  • jauntily macabre outro

Jauntily macabre indeed. I do sort of wonder at what point in the creative process those were selected. (Like: did Danny Elfman get a note that they’re looking for a “whimsically morbid” piece for that section, or did he write a piece that somebody downstream clocked as whimsically morbid?)

  1. I did this by sort of manually compiling a single file wednesday.xml that contained all of the season’s subtitles and then running:

    grep -oP '(?<=\[)(\w)(,?\s*\w)+(?= music)' wednesday.xml

    I’m not very good with regex but that should be matching lines that include a [, then have a word followed by maybe a comma and more words or not, followed by music 

Tooting from the intersection of art and technology

I’ve finally taken the plunge at set up my own Mastodon instance at a dedicated domain, as has been foretold by the prophesy of my recent posts. Instead of using one of the very fun subdomains I surfaced in classic literature, though, I found one that plays on the goofy meme-y phrase about “the intersection of art and technology.” And so, my new Mastodon instance lives at The plan is to offer accounts to a handful of friends—never a big general purpose server, but hopefully developing something adjacent to a group chat.

When I posted about the move, somebody on Twitter asked about the benefits of a smaller server, and I found myself writing enough that it seemed like a good thing to bring over here. This list is a little loosey-goosey, but maybe it will be useful to somebody considering making the mover.

  • My instance is running Hometown, which is a fork of Mastodon by Darius Kazemi that introduces a few useful features that are unlikely to get merged into the main version. One that seems significant is the inclusion of “local only” posts, which I hope can help facilitate the group chat feeling. I had been familiar with Hometown before, and had read Darius’ Run Your Own Social guide, but a post from Christa really sold me on it. If you’re interested in trying Hometown, there are a bunch of public servers running it.
  • There’s been a lot of discussion about moderation and defederation recently, and I think the implied Mastodon model mostly works better with smaller instances. That is to say: I like the idea of making defederation decisions by and for a small group of people (me and my friends), and I prefer knowing that my own ability to federate isn’t contingent on the moderation decisions of a big server admin. In my timeline right now are discussions about instances defederating with, an instance that thousands of journalists have recently signed up for, and the flagship instance as well. I totally respect the ability of instance admins to make those decisions, but I don’t want to get caught up on either end of it, and I think I’m less likely to in my little corner of the fediverse.
  • Also it’s a funny cool domain! I haven’t had a vanity email address in a while but I’ve always respected the move. One of my favorite employee perks at my last two jobs where getting and emails. My hope is that this feels like a little symbol of belonging for a handful of my buddies.
  • I know the recent rush of traffic was starting to strain people’s servers, and there’s been a lot of discussion about making sure that people were chipping in to cover volunteer admin support. I only put together recently that, because of ActivityPub’s push model, posting to many followers is more expensive. Hosting my own instance means I can worry less about whether I’m a drain on somebody else’s resources.
  • Similarly, I can throw money at my own instance if it starts to get backed up! I’m hosting my instance with, and they make it easy to bump up my installation’s resources if I need to. I’m not sure that will always be worth it, but it’s nice to have that option available.

Given all these benefits, I’d been casually hoping to migrate servers for a while now, and certainly since it became possible to transfer existing followers. I’m excited to be starting this chapter of my Mastodon usage now.

Even more public (sub-)domains

I was surprised and delighted by the pick-up to my little host-finding script this last week, but I had to crank the surprise-and-delight meter up a notch today when Ed Summers messaged me on Mastodon to let me know that he’d done a bunch of cool work polishing and packaging that script. That description is a little generous, too: Really, Ed came in and made a real project out of a pretty thin idea, and I’m very grateful for it.

So now! “public_domains” is live and even available on on PyPi for pip installation, and the new version improves on my idea in a bunch of ways. whois checking, which had been a bit flaky and required a bunch of network connections, is now optional, improved, and has a progress bar. And just today, Ed added the ability to search Project Gutenberg for a title and check for possible hosts in the first matching result. Very fun.

As an aside, keen observers may note that the my previous post on this topic was the first blog post I’d put up here in years. In the meantime, too, I’ve done some behind the scenes work such as moving this site from Wordpress to Jekyll.

I’d already been giving some thought to relaunching this site to catalog my thoughts and work in a place of my own, and that feeling has been deepened as Twitter is under whatever tumult it’s currently facing. I have to say, somebody like Ed coming along and building on a bit like this really feels like the best-case scenario, and a fun throwback to earlier blogging days. We’re back!

Public (sub-)domains

The tremendous influx of traffic to Mastodon got me thinking that it might finally be time to set up my own instance, and how-to posts from Jacob and Simon have only increased that interest. But as a little branding excercise, and especially if I want to offer accounts to a few close friends, surely I could do something a little more fun than just my first and last name.

Many Mastodon instances are on subdomains, and since the early days weirder new-style TLDs have been de rigueur. (The flagship has always been at a .social!) So I set out to find three-word phrases where the third word is a 4+-letter top-level domain, using as my first source text Moby Dick.

The results were great! The script I wrote output all possible options, which I then spot-checked to see which were available, but I’ve since updated the script to do a quick whois check to see if the domain is already registered. (whois support is a little spotty for some of the weirder domains, so many are inconclusive, but I was surprised at some of the good ones available.) As of right now, here are some possible instances available for registration:


Wouldn’t those all be great places to call your home in the fediverse?

Normally I would wonder to myself if this kind of thought experiment is cool but this time I feel like I’ve got external validation in the form of the reaction to this thread on Mastodon, which has also been great. Somebody even bought the domain on the strength of the find.

People responded with some cool possible instance names from The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, White Noise, the King James Bible and more. Really fun.

The little Python script that finds these uses NLTK to tokenize big text files first into sentences and then, within sentences, into words. Then it checks to see if there are three long-ish words in a row where the third one is on a list of TLDs. Since posting that script on Mastodon yesterday, I’ve updated it with the built-in whois check as well.

As of now, I’m still tooting from a boring old (well-run!) general purpose instance, though who knows… with available, maybe I will move soon.

New Rossword puzzle

Sorry I Haven’t Posted for a while!

I do of course intend to return to the blog, yadda yadda, lots of updates to share. One quick thing that merits an update today is that I’ve co-constructed a crossword puzzle with Ross Trudeau over at Rossword Puzzles. Go check it out.

Ross is a mentor to many in the crossword world, and I’m lucky to have weaseled my way into that cohort through being friends with him. We also (and this should be the subject of another blog post! The inspiration is returning, see!) host a regular Twitch stream called Cursewords Live, which involves a lot of solving puzzles in my cursewords software.

Ross and I previously co-constructed a Universal Sunday puzzle (available as a PDF) published on January 10 this year.