The Journeyman

Web Name: The Journeyman






Finally Caught It

After avoiding a positive test result for over two years, the walls fell and I contracted COVID-19.

It has laid me out a bit. Worst than the worst flu I’ve had. I’ve had some coughing and breathing difficulty, but not anywhere close to the pneumonia I’ve had previously. I’ve heard folks talk about how they’re normal mentally for a couple hours, then experience brain fog. I’ve had similar where I can think as usual, despite the body hurting, then I can’t figure out how to string a sentence together.

I tested positive on Wednesday afternoon, started on antivirals on Friday, and at the end of Saturday, starting to feel more like normal.

I’m grateful for the vaccines, the antivirals, and that only one of the kids have tested positive (and asymptomatic at that). As soon as I tested positive, the kids were masks at home except when asleep and I stayed in my room as much as possible. After confirming their negative status and finished school for the week, off they went to the in-laws for the holiday weekend.

Bleh. I can’t imagine how much worse this would have felt before we had the medical tools we have now.

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Incident at the Elementary School

At my kids’ elementary at dismissal time, there was an incident of someone approaching the gate where “walkers” are dismissed to their parents. The individual seemed to be under the influence of something, and when a teacher asked him to leave, the individual struck a couple of teachers. Parents acted quickly to subdue the individual, teachers evacuated the kids, and police were called. The Austin PD response was incredibly fast and took the individual into custody.

It reminded me of when I was in elementary school safety patrol being trained to give plenty of space to folks “acting strange”—thankfully none of them ever approached the school.

It’s unsettling to be driving up to your kids’ school with multiple police cars flying by with lights and sirens, then turning into the school parking lot. I’m glad it was just someone high throwing a couple of punches.

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Today’s horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde is a tragedy beyond words.

First, for the murdered, I pray that they’re in the Kingdom now in a place without pain or sadness. For the families and loved ones of the ones we lost, I hope and pray that they can process this surrounded by a community of love and that they are shown ongoing support. I keep the murderer’s family in my prayers as well. And lastly, the entire Uvalde community—it’s going to be a very long road for the entire community and I pray that they’re able to stay united and work through this as a community.

I wrote about the murder of 20 kids at Sandy Hook seven years ago for the third anniversary of that unspeakable event. To be honest, I can’t read that post today. Ten years after Sandy Hook, we have another case of nearly 20 kids murdered in their classroom with an AR-15-style weapon. We have had hundreds of mass shootings already this year.

While Governor Abbott is embarrassed when Texas doesn’t sell the most guns and pushes through constitutional carry (as a political ploy to counter the anti-mask further-right pushback), gun violence is out of control.

The Second Amendment begins with “a well-regulated militia.” As a member of the regular militia of the United States, I want our political leaders to fulfill the Second Amendment and provide regulation.

This has to stop. This is a pro-life issue. It’s a matter of justice. The vast majority of Americans want universal background checks, red flag laws, and so forth. These are areas that we have common ground on that should happen immediately. I don’t know if these things would have made any difference here, but we need to move forward.

My heart is empty tonight. Those poor kids—those gone and those whose rest of their lives will be forever scarred by today.

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Getting Started with Matrix

When a small organization that I’m involved with wanted to move from text messages or Telegram to a more robust real-time chat platform, we had a few options. There’s Slack, of course, and Discord, but we’re geeks and wanted to look to open-source solutions. The open-source aspect was appealing for a few reasons—no corporate overloads involved, able to tweak/hack things that didn’t quite work for us, and it was a chance to explore something none of us have worked on before.

After using Matrix a bit with the organization, I realized the power of bridging, where you interlink other chat tools into the Matrix instance, and decided to create my own personal instance as well. I took two different approaches to setting up Matrix for each.

The Hard Way

Initially, I did it manually. I started a 1 GB Linode running Debian 11 and followed the instructions for installing Synapse. Additionally, since the group already had a Telegram chat, I installed the Mautrix Telegram bridge. This was a bit of work getting everything working just right. I did modify the Synapse settings to restrict new users to only those with a verified e-mail address on a particular domain and auto-add all new members to a particular room.

The positive is you really know everything going into setting up the server. The negative is it is a lot of steps for each bridge, keeping things up to date, etc.

The Simpler Way

When wanting to setup a personal server, I decided to try out the Ansible playbook. The biggest thing I noticed it that it is more resource intensive than the manual setup I had, in particular I’m running on a 2 GB Linode on Debian 11 instead, granted I ended up having a lot more running because it was just so easy to setup compared to the manual viersion.

What is nice about the Ansible playbook is that you setup everything with the proper keys, settings, etc in a config file, then the playbook automatically installs/upgrades everything. It just works.

Some notes that helped me. This particular playbook is meant to run on your own machine and it’ll SSH into the target server to run the various commands to setup everything. Additionally, you can run the commands again to reconfigure if you make changes to the config file (ansible-playbook -i inventory/hosts setup.yml --tags=setup-all,start).

Server and Clients

For both the hard and simpler way, Synapse is the server-side component for Matrix. There are other servers out there as Matrix is simply a protocol, but Synapse is the most battle-tested. For clients, you can install the client to your own server or you can use Element which is available for various device platforms or a web version. Using the web version, you can still log into your own homeserver.

If you want to self-host your client as well, the Ansible playbook provides a handful of different options.


The Ansible playbook makes adding the various bridges relatively easy compared to installing them each individually. I’ve setup my personal instance to bridge between Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messages, Twitter DM, and Signal. In practice, this means that I can use Element (web, desktop, or on my mobile devices) as the single client I use for any of those systems. No matter how you message me, if it is one of the above platforms, it all is loaded in Element.

Simplified, this works by having a special room on my server to house each chat on another service. There’s a bot that interfaces both systems and passes the data between them, whether that is actual messaging or “so and so is typing…” information. It’s not 100% perfect—I’m not sure how to start a new conversation in Element with someone on a bridged tool—but I’m no longer opening 5 different apps to catch any conversation that happened while my phone was put away.

Have you tricked out Matrix?

What’s something cool that you’ve done or seen done?

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History Repeats

I’m sadden by the developments in Ukraine. History does repeat itself. My ancestors were Black Sea Germans—Germans who migrated to modern-day Ukraine at the invitation of Catherine the Great and Alexander I. My ancestors were promised peace, ability to worship and speak German freely, and exempt from military service.

It began to change in the beginning of the 20th century and then after the Bolshevik Revolution, it totally changed. Man-made famine and closure of schools and churches led to marches to forced-labor camps and death in Siberia. My family had migrated to the United States in 1909 so was spared the worst of it.

Ukraine is, again, a place caught by the changing whims of Russia.

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One Year Later

One year ago today, I was watching a livestream of the U.S. Presidential Election Certification while at work. I didn’t pay attention leading up to January 6, 2021 to know about President Trump’s rally that morning and, since I was watching only what was happening in the chamber, I was overall ignorant of what was happening outside the Capitol.

The livestream I was watching had a comment that maybe they should start watching the other feeds coming from outside because it looked like it was becoming very charged, but I didn’t think much of it until the session was disrupted to allow the Congressmen to evacuate.

I am sadden that we can’t agree as a country to the events of that day. People intentionally came to the Capitol that day to disrupt the legal and constitutional proceedings to enact the election carried out the previous November. This was not a simple protest. This was not people exercising their rights.

This was domestic terrorism, insurrection, treason—whatever word you want to use—with the aim of violently promoting the lie that the election was fraudulent. It’s been a year and multiple states have tried to scrape the bottom to find proof of this lie. There is none. Instead, states across the country are trying to make electing our leaders harder in an attempt to not win elections by being the person the most citizens want, but winning through making it harder for people who likely wouldn’t want to vote for you to vote.

The American experiment is still that, an experiment. We’ve been lucky and blessed that it has been able to withstand what it has, but we’re still at a critical moment.

I pray that, as a country, we find ways to accept reality together and ensure that our democracy is protected from those within who seek their own gains.

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