the rhythm of time

I’ve been reading Brian Greene’s Until the End of Time, which sounds like it could be pretty much any fiction genre but is nonfiction. It’s gone from entropy to the formation of stars, heavier elements, the organization of molecules, life and its possible origins, consciousness, storytelling, and religion so far. A lot of it is in service of confronting not just individual mortality, not just an eventual end to our species, but to thought itself — and appreciating the wonder of the moment, whether the moment is a personal “right now” or the universal “this period when consciousness exists.” The sightseeing along the way is pretty breathtaking too.

It amused me to be reading it when the final episode of Loki Season 1, “For All Time, Always” hit. It wasn’t perfect, but was highly entertaining, more philosophically fascinating than most MCU material, and I liked the particular villain once we finally met them. It may have been the best of the three Disney+ MCU TV series so far, though I did like WandaVision quite a lot too.

And I guess it’s as good a time as any to announce that my next album is now in the mastering phase, and will be tentatively be called Pulse Code. It has a steady 49 BPM tempo throughout, never falling away to a pure drone. Why 49? It sounded good, matches my age, and as a square it’s maybe a little more interesting than 48 or 50. 😉 The rhythmic values vary though; it’s not a relentless beat every 1.232 seconds the entire time. I’m curious to see how it feels once it’s all put together.

My plan right now is, after assembling it into a continuous mix, I’ll break it apart into individual tracks again with the expectation of seamless playback. While there’s some overlap between tracks, the distinct beats make for generally clearer transitions than my last few releases. But I may also include the continuous mix in the download as well, so people can pick their poison.

Thursdays’ infrared massage bed was mostly very pleasant, with just a little “ugh why are you doing that, robot” and a bit more “you could just stay on that spot for the next ten minutes.” But the only deep tissue massage I’ve gotten from a live person was… grueling, and I’m not entirely sure it was as helpful. This actually had my back not hurting or feeling tense for several hours. By Sunday I had managed to tangle and jangle the wires in my back again, but I still feel more resilient, somehow. Anyway, I’d do it again and probably spring for the far IR sauna afterward too. Sitting in the heat isn’t a lot of fun but I have to admit, my muscles were very relaxed afterward, the last time I did it. And their setup has nice pleasant scenery and music, not just staring at the wooden walls for an hour.

Perhaps it was that, perhaps not, but Friday at work was much more tolerable than it had been. Today’s been okay too. Maybe from this point I’ll just be able to roll with it, or maybe the scope of things that people are expecting has simply slowed its expansion enough.

On the gear front, I think I’m moving on from the Verbos Harmonic Oscillator after all. It’s featured heavily in Pulse Code, but I’m feeling again like I have too many oscillators. The other superstars are all sitting on the bench fuming “put me in, coach!”

VHO has some mojo of its own, but honestly? I think I was better off with software implementations, where cleaner sines but phase modulation and waveshaping gave me more flexibility. And I only used those on occasion, so dedicating 36HP and a chunk o’budget to it is probably not my best choice.

Again, I don’t have any particular weak spots in the modular that need shoring up, so it’s a matter of fulfilling curiosity and looking for opportunities. Right now what I’m considering is Xaoc Zadar and/or Mannequins Just Friends, and Plancks 2.

Zadar is a vector-based, sort of wavetable-ish quad envelope generator. The shapes are presets, but can be warped and scaled, and a section can be designated as a sustain section. (The latter was something they argued with me about before release, because it would ruin their whole design vision, and then they realized it was a good idea after all and added it in a firmware update.) It can also repeat, like an LFO, and run at audio rate like an oscillator. And people mostly seem to love it. The one exception is people who don’t like menus, so… it remains to be seen how I’ll feel. But I should probably at least try it.

Just Friends is sort of super-Tides. 6 slope generators which can be envelopes, LFOs or oscillators, can be individually triggered/synced, and the rates are all ratios. It has a few alternate behaviors, including a polyphonic LPG-based mode, and a whole bunch of additional stuff that can be accessed via Teletype. It’s kind of surprising I’ve never tried it before. And in addition to all the modulation and audio it can do, people often use it as a harmonic oscillator 🙂 So maybe I should have chosen this all along.

Plancks is a micro version of Mutable Instruments Frames. Frames was pretty neat when I had it, but I mainly underutilized it as a mixer, attenuators and simple DC voltage knobs. I think in a smaller format, as long as I stay away from the hidden button combos for deeper configuration, it’ll be useful as an interpolating scanner/multi-way crossfader or to reshape modulation signals. And — something I didn’t really realize at the time — there is no shame in using a complex tool in simple ways when that’s what’s called for.

balance check

I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but my hopes that the stress would dissipate after jury duty haven’t worked out so far.

There were videos a few years ago of Boston Dynamics testing their BigDog robot’s balance by shoving and kicking it while it was trying to walk. It would stumble and catch itself each time, but one couldn’t help feeling sympathy for the robot and frustration on its behalf. “This is how the robot uprising began,” some said.

I feel kind of like that robot. Each time I’ve felt like I caught my balance at work and was making progress, someone would want something else.

The actual work isn’t horrible, don’t get me wrong. Some of it is outside my previous experience or perspective but nothing I can’t figure out eventually. It’s more the frequent interruptions and the general pile-on.


  • One dev meeting per week or two, typically less than 20 minutes.
  • Either a well-defined list of tasks for each 2-week sprint — some assigned specifically to me, some unassigned but to be done when I’ve finished the specific ones — or a general list of things from which I have free picks — or a bit of the latter after finishing all of the former. 100% of it programming, mostly C++ and a little C#. Mostly in areas of the code that I’m already familiar with!
  • Occasional code reviews for K. (whose code was usually immaculate and didn’t require any commentary), or for M. (whose code is usually pretty good) if K. happened to be on vacation.
  • Occasional questions from an engineer via email or chat. But not very often, and almost always about something I’ve already worked on.

Recent changes:

  • Dev meeting that I am supposed to host 1/3 of the time. Longer because we have to coordinate more.
  • Product Team meeting, 1 hour a week, where I’m supposed to offer a long term perspective that I have never had to worry about before.
  • IT meeting, another hour a week?
  • We may need to have semi-regular meetings with QA as well.
  • Reviewing half of M.’s code and half of P.’s code. P. is new (to us; he’s an experienced coder) so his code needs a closer eye and more commentary; he also has questions about how things work and needs occasional help. Also I feel like my own checkins need more commentary from me for the benefit of M. or P. reviewing it rather than K.
  • Reviewing code from the engineers.
  • Answering pretty much all the questions Engineering has for development about support issues etc.
  • On a rotating basis: running the Dev meeting, adding tasks to the sprint schedule, monitoring the automated build/test servers and diagnosing failures/coordinating with IT to fix issues. (This is one thing that got me pulled into the IT meeting.)
  • A project to configure new build/test servers running on a different platform, which I specifically expressed that I did not want to have to deal with.
  • A contract project that I volunteered for because I like that it’s a medical application that will directly improve some peoples’ lives, but then I learned that it’s going to be kind of an ugly series of mostly-not-programming puzzles to work out. If/when we do get the contract (it’s kind of a strong rumor at this point).
  • In a few months we’re going to try to hire another developer. Which is good, but that puts me on the spot as the primary person screening them and training whoever we hire, and I cannot express how much I don’t want to think about that right now.
  • On a good day I might have a 2- or 3- hour stretch to work on the actual programming tasks that are assigned to me.

I’m also frustrated that the one thing I was known for — getting a lot of programming tasks done quickly and efficiently, including debugging some difficult stuff — is not going to be possible anymore because my time is so divided.

Mental context switches take time and energy. If I’m working on a logic problem or rebuilding a user interface, and I have to stop for 10 minutes to answer someone’s question about an unrelated thing, it probably takes another 10 minutes after that to get back up to speed on what I was originally doing.

I don’t have any ideas for dealing with it or adjusting to the new normal any faster.

I’ve booked time on an automated massage bed this afternoon. A fancy thing that scans your spine and does all kinds of massage techniques with heated rollers, which has been getting pretty good reviews. The place is less flaky than some of the other massage/sauna/float places around here — no paying $40 to sit in a room full of pink salt and breathe, no non-medically-necessary IV “therapy”, no cryo fat removal or whatever, just some far IR saunas and these massage robots. While it probably won’t do much for shoulders and neck, my back has been a mess for a while and maybe this will help reduce some tension and pain.

And in a month I’m going to take a few days to drive down to visit my parents, who I haven’t seen in ages. Hopefully that will be relaxing too.


Thursday morning, the air conditioning was dead at the office, and we were sent home for our comfort. By that evening there was still no ETA for repair, so Friday was a second work-from-home day. Fine with me! And by the end of that day it was still not repaired, so Monday — if my jury summons was cancelled, which it was not — would have been another.

But then Friday night, a line of storms rolled through with hail — baseball-sized in some nearby areas. Then a second line of storms came through with 70mph winds and knocked out power to 38,000+ people, including us.

44 hours later, after 4 or so revised estimates, we finally got power back. Weather wasn’t too horrible through most of yesterday, but it started getting uncomfortably warm after night fell, and worse through today. The combined stress of various factors really took it out on me today.

I think I can handle the jury duty stuff, with that taken care of.

Work is probably going to be an adjustment over several weeks. In a nutshell though, it’s what I feared but in a way I didn’t express well: I’m not a manager, but I do still have to attend more meetings, spend more time reviewing other peoples’ code and helping them with programming problems, do a bunch of technical configuration stuff that I have no experience with, solve non-programming-related problems, and hold some kind of longer-term perspective when I used to intentionally be fed two-weeks-or-less chunks to deal with. So far it looks like 2/3 of my work time is now NOT programming.

I guess the key to coping with it is just to roll with it though. I don’t think that with the available people, I could have been sheltered from dealing with all of this. I don’t have any recommendations for anyone other than do not expect any miracles from me and do expect me to be completely off my game for the next few months.


I’ve been a little rocky the last couple of days. Anxiety is in force again, despite previously feeling that most of my concerns about K. leaving the company had been settled.

Turns out: I’m the senior developer, the one who is supposed to know things. People want stuff from me. No longer can I just focus on a short time frame worth of work assigned to me, or a very specific technical problem to solve. The job is different now, even if I’m not a “manager.”

And there’s the jury duty thing. I know it’s not that big a deal, but it’s unusual and so I’m worrying about it. And… whatever else. If anxiety were rational it wouldn’t be anxiety!


The Model:Cycles has been fun — I’m glad I traded for it. Fun to just bash out some beats, or coax it to do drones and ambient tones and chimes and such. I’m going to stick to my plan not to record it and just let it be something to relax and have fun with.

The new album is starting to take shape. Three sessions recorded so far, all steadily 49 BPM — I don’t want to use the word unrelenting to describe the beat, at least not yet, but certainly continuous. It’s a little bit of a creative challenge to me compared to uniting everything with a pure drone, but I think it’s going to work out.

I’ve finished reading Linda Nagata’s “Nanotech Succession” books. I think “Book 0”, Tech-Heaven, is an extremely optional read. It might belong in the timeline, but there are basically no characters or plot points that set up the next three books except in a very general historical sense. And honestly, it wasn’t as visionary or as compelling overall.

The Bohr Maker is a lot more of the true setup for the series. Though it’s relatively early in the life cycle of these technologies, it’s an introduction to radically redesigned humans; nanotech “Makers” that can clean pollution, cure disease and rebuild matter; the “atrium” (an organ interfacing the brain with computers); “ghosts” (software versions of people’s personalities, which can be re-integrated with consciousness) and so on. And one of the protagonists, Nikko, returns much later in Vast — but he feels very much like a different person because a lot has happened It’s kind of semi-optional perhaps, but is a good read that stands on its own.

Deception Well now feels like it should be required reading for Vast, though I have probably read the latter four times first over the years. It introduces Urban, Lot and Clemantine — three of the five or so main characters in Vast. It also does more to explain the cult parasite (possibly a weapon meant to disrupt/ruin humanity, possibly an accidental outcome of a hybridization of human and alien) and the Well protocol (a collection of nanoscale life that enforces cooperation between species rather than conflict), which was not always clear.

Vast greatly expands the story of the Chenzeme, and the theme of humans choosing what to become and/or being forced to be particular things. It’s much more of a journey, both literally and narratively. It’s almost, but not quite, one continuous chase scene the way Mad Max: Fury Road is, only its craziness is completely different of course. The strongest book of these and a fitting conclusion.

….except that the Inverted Frontier books Edges, Silver and the companion novel Memory, continue the story with a journey back toward Earth and the “Hallowed Vasties” (Dyson spheres that fell to the cult virus) to find out what happened to civilization. I feel like I have to read those soon.

culture jam

A few days ago I realized I kind of missed finger drumming on the Maschine, even though I don’t really make that kind of music. There’s something to be said for just playing, enjoying the journey without any thought of a destination. For many years that was 100% of my music making.

I’m grateful to have found the flow, to where I can just start making sounds and follow them to a finished recording, which is almost always worth keeping and listening to again. But I think a little bit of less “productive” music will do me good as well.

My thoughts immediately turned to the Elektron Model:Cycles. I very nearly went for one in the past but made other choices. It’s a drum machine, but it’s also an FM synthesizer — and “an ambient powerhouse in disguise” according to some.

I was pretty pleased to get a trade offer: a Cycles and some cash for my DAFM Genesis YM2612 synth (which I haven’t really used since The Sky Above The Port) and the Behringer interface. It arrived extremely quickly, and also extremely wet — the mail carrier left it on the front porch but failed to push it back one more foot where it would have stayed dry in yesterday’s rain. The outer box was soaked and disintegrating, but the inner box was barely damp and the machine itself was just fine.

And fine it is! Lots of fun, mostly not too confusing despite Elektron’s reputation (I haven’t really gone through the whole manual and have a pretty good grasp of things). Great sound too, of course tailored to drums, but it does indeed do the ambient thing, with some limitations. The envelopes are decay-only; if you want a slow attack you need to use the LFO, and there’s only one LFO per voice. It’s not going to take the FM drone prize away from Akemie’s Castle, but it was never meant to and it has its own charms.

My plan is to not integrate this with my other music gear for a while, leaving it as a spontaneous playtime instrument (running off a USB battery pack once the appropriate cable arrives). I can definitely see the possibility of using it “solo” to create tracks or a full album, with minimal external processing… someday. I’d rather get in the habit of just jamming with it though.

snap, crackle, shut up

The crackling problem I was having with the new interface is solved. A lot of people had said “sounds like a clocking issue.” As it turns out it wasn’t firmware, drivers, some kind of surprise incompatibility, power/grounding problems, USB interference, a defect, etc. — it was a very simple cable issue.

The interface is connected to the ES-3 via an ADAT Toslink optical cable. It’s weird and toylike, like a very thin plastic straw. The core is transparent plastic, wrapped in a reflective coating. An LED (not a laser) on the output connector pulses at very high rates to transmit data through the tube to a detector on the other end. I guess the advantage is, electromagnetic interference isn’t a factor and you can transmit a lot of data over a very thin “wire” — but it’s kind of needlessly complicated.

If you bend the cable too sharply, you cut off the signal. Or if the connector isn’t firmly snapped into place, or there’s dust in the way, you don’t get a great signal. I’m pretty sure it was one of the latter that was the problem. Pulling out the connectors at both ends and dusting them with compressed air fixed the crackling.


  • I’m not using any Behringer gear anymore. (Yay!)
  • The Scarlett is physically much deeper — it extends all the way to the back of my rack box, making the jacks much easier to access.
  • Either the size of the chassis is acting as a much better heat sink, internal spacing of parts prevents heat buildup, or it’s better designed or using better parts in an electrical sense (or all of the above); it runs cool without needing to use the fans I put in that rack box. I could probably put another 1U device into that box if I had a need for it rather than dedicating it to ventilation.
  • It looks a bit nicer 🙂 and has LED indicators to make levels very clear on the analog inputs, a mute button with a light to tell you it’s muted, etc.
  • Total latency is very low. ASIO latency is almost nothing. I have the buffer set to 64 samples and might even be able to go lower than that — I’ll see what I can get away with in a complex setup with multiple ins/outs and a bunch of running plugins and MIDI data flowing. Also, I’m not using the best USB port for the job yet; a USB C-to-C cable is on the way. Anyway this is good news for modular integration with the DAW — I may not have to do any timing correction at all.
  • My hope is that the extra speed will mean I won’t get the random glitches I had before. Sometimes these would make it into the recording (and I’ve had to apply some creative edits to fix those), sometimes they were audible while recording or during playback but not actually present in the data. What prompted me to actually go for this upgrade was hearing from a couple of people who’d also gone from Scarlett 1st gen or Behringer’s clones to 3rd gen, and had these problems disappear.
  • The zero-latency monitoring features in the thing make it easier to diagnose routing issues and other problems. Also if I were going to play live I could still use the interface without a computer, in theory.
  • It may be psychological, but it seems like the headphone amp sounds better.

With that resolved and the new VHO, things are ready for a new album. I’ve been concentrating my thoughts elsewhere, with work and other changes. I do have a possible idea for an album that has a consistent pulse in a single tempo, never stopping, slowing or speeding up. That would be unusual for me, but I’m curious to see how that would fit into an “ambient”/drone context and with the idea of a journey.

resolution, more or less

My first couple of days back in the office, and things seem pretty okay. The initial weirdness wasn’t Covid-related anxiety, but lots of little things like the chair, keyboard, going back to dual LCDs instead of one ultrawide, and really: the fact that nobody was talking much. It felt quieter at the office than it does working from home, where there’s the dogs and the aquarium and the AC unit outside the window, and me talking to myself and sometimes Alisha playing a game or watching videos or commenting on stuff.

I don’t think there’s any real benefit to working at the office, in terms of actual job stuff. On a personal level, it was kind of nice to have bookends to the day, a better place to walk around during breaks, and I guess the chair is a little better than the one I have at home. But being in the office is kind of a performance, and I somewhat missed not having to do that. There’s also dealing with the warm drinking water, public-ish restrooms, having to refrain from talking to myself too much and swearing at the computer, etc. So it’s mixed.

As far as the other stuff goes: after the general dev meeting and my performance review, things are a bit more straightened out. S. (the product team lead) and K. (the supervisor who’s leaving) asked whether I wanted to pretty much keep a similar role to what I have been. There were already plans to change a few things in the process and distribute/delegate some of the responsibilities. It sounds like I’ll be making a few task assignment decisions but won’t really be a “supervisor” in an administrative sense. Good! I’ll also probably be picking up a contract that involves a medical diagnostic application for our software — which will involve updating some 20+ year old code so it can run on Windows 10. So that’s cool.

My fancy music library sync plan is foiled because Veracrypt mounts the USB drive as FAT32 format, while Icedrive sync requires NTFS. So I’ll have to do my syncing a bit more manually, either mounting Icedrive or just bringing the stick home to sync. No big deal.

The VHO does not have the immediate wow factor of many of my other oscillators — it seems a little bit plain at first, although certainly with some character. But a little modulation here, a little combination of its outputs there, and it can really come alive.

The higher partials are not just weirdly shaped sines as if waveshaping is a little off, but contain a lot of other harmonic content in themselves.

This is the spectrum of a 60hz sine from Shapeshifter — you couldn’t ask for a more ideal sine wave.

This is what Blades looks like when it’s resonating at 60Hz. (Well, 62.55 because I didn’t get that picky about tuning it.) There’s a little harmonic distortion there; you can see a touch of the second harmonic, a bit more of the third and fifth.

This is the VHO’s first partial output, with the core tuned to 60Hz. You can see there’s a bit more distortion or stuff “leaking” into the output maybe.

Here’s the 4th partial, with the core frequency dropped two octaves to 15Hz to compensate. Trying to decode this a little, it looks like other partials are getting into the signal and there’s also harmonic distortion of the one we’re trying to monitor.

And here’s the 8th partial, with the core frequency dropped another octave down to about 7Hz. Some of what we’re seeing here must be harmonic distortion of the lower partials, and… it all gets pretty crazy honestly. But it has harmonics in common and therefore sounds pretty great when run through further distortion.

A fun thing to do is to take one of the partial outputs, or the triangle or saw, and the “final” mix output and combine them in something like a ring modulator, FM Aid, comparator etc. while modulating the scan/tilt or individual partial levels. The first output gives it some stability and the second some timbral variance. You can achieve things not entirely unlike formant filter sweeps this way, but weirder.

Some of Behringer’s recent antics got me thinking about replacing my audio interface, just to be done with that company entirely. I realized there’d be an actual benefit, because the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd gen has much less latency, can run at much higher sample rates (if I weren’t tied to 48kHz max by the ES-3/ES-6) and has better analog parts. (The UMC1820 was almost certainly Behringer’s clone of the 1st generation 18i20, but a little bit lesser.) So I went for it. And it’s pretty nice overall — it’s not running anywhere near as warm (possibly due to the larger, metal casing acting as a heat sink, but more likely due to higher quality overall) and even just listening to music, I feel like the headphone amp is better.


I’m getting crackling on the ADAT inputs from the ES-6. A couple of channels will crackle every few seconds when silent, but all of them when there’s a signal. It doesn’t seem to depend on any of the settings that I can find. It seems like it might be a clock problem, but I’m not sure what I can do about that. The ES-3 gets its clock solely from the ADAT signal over the optical Toslink cable, so it relies on the interface’s internal clock. The ES-6 gets its clock from the ES-3 via a ribbon cable on the back, and then its own Toslink cable goes into the interface’s input. I get the crackling whether or not I set the 18i20 to internal or ADAT clocking. So… hmmm. It could be a dodgy optical cable I suppose.

I’ve written both to Focusrite and Expert Sleepers to see if they have advice. I really want to use this thing; I’m getting latency so slow it’s hard to hear without setting up tests specifically for it, and I suspect my occasional random glitching days are over if I can straighten out the lots-of-glitches I’m getting right now.

[screaming internally]

Two things:

  • the Verbos Harmonic Oscillator was supposed to be delivered today. Instead, I got a “Delivered” notification from FedEx that says I signed for it (with a random squiggle that’s not one of my random sqiuggles). But there was no truck here, no dogs barking, no knock on the door, and no box with electronic goodies inside. UPS did this with some coffee I ordered a few months ago; with FedEx it was was a little easier to get past the gatekeeping automated system and have an actual human start investigating it. [UPDATE] a few hours later, it was actually delivered, and I’m playing with it now. More on that when I have some coherent thoughts!
  • my supervisor at work is leaving for another job, as of July 1. This is something I was nervous about before, and was a factor in applying to Noise Engineering: I don’t want to do management stuff, I just want to write code. Now that it’s been announced I’m…. kind of numb to it. One of the final things K is going to do is my performance review, so maybe I will get a bigger than normal raise out of this or something, since I will now be the senior developer on the staff…? At any rate, there will definitely be some discussion of things.
  • a third thing: today is not Bandcamp Friday (where Bandcamp waives their cut of proceeds and the artist gets it all, aside from credit card processing fees)… but they are donating proceeds to the NAACP for Juneteenth. So I filled out my music collection with 8 more albums and emptied my wishlist again.
(I like how Laurie Spiegel’s album art glares out like a ray of concentrated sunshine from the gothy looks of everything else here.)

I’ve been culling my music library a bit faster than I’ve been adding to it. Stuff I just don’t have much interest in listening to repeatedly anymore, or honestly was never that much into in the first place, gets set aside. Not deleted though, in case I change my mind. Currently, the main library has 690 artists and 925 albums, and the archive has 264 artists (no easy way to count albums, but probably about 280?)

For music at work, I’m using a VeraCrypt-protected USB stick (not because my music library is a huge secret, but because all portable drives must be encrypted by policy), which will be perfectly synchronized with my main music library before I bring it to the office. And I’m also using an encrypted cloud storage service: syncing my music library, current works in progress and some other stuff from my home machine up to the cloud, and syncing it down to the portable drive. I don’t know whether I want to try two-way sync — if the USB stick gets its encryption locked or is removed but the sync monitor is running, will it think all those files got deleted and try the same in the cloud? This isn’t a big burden for my music library, but for password management (which I definitely don’t want to get broken) I’ll have to be sure that changes are made only from home.

  • And a fourth thing: a few weeks ago I mentioned that Linda Nagata’s Vast was one of my favorite books, but I had not previously made the effort to track down the rest of the series. I got used paperbacks through Alibris and started on “Book 0” of the series, Tech-Heaven. It is almost not recognizable as the same setting.

Vast is in the far future, centered on a spaceship whose “soul” is the uploaded consciousness of a criminal who was sentenced to separation from his body and servitude in the fleet; the other crew are humans whose bodies are modified for space to varying degrees; the conflict is an encounter with an automated ancient battleship left over from a war that ended before life even crawled out of Earth’s oceans. If I remember right, Earth was long ago mined for materials to build a Dyson sphere, which was then lost in a nanotechnological plague that was part of a religious war? Something like that.

Tech-Heaven though? An early 90s vision of clunky VR-helmet cyberpunk, with orbital colonies just beginning. The main plot is that a man is preserved cryonically in hopes of future revival, by his wife’s wishes but against the objections of his sister, who happens to be a powerful and influential senator. His wife has to endure her next decades not really sure what to think of her relationship status to anyone. His sister winds up leading an anti-technology conservative faction that, oops, spawns terrorist groups and a whole new political movement that becomes a de facto government as old nations lose their cohesion. The man himself, not much of a participant in things at least so far, has really bad dreams loosely connected to whatever small bit of consciousness is still hanging on after he’s declared legally dead and goes through the freezing and/or revival process.

All this is to say, this is definitely not the same kind of book. The line of continuity between this book and Vast seems tenuous at best, though of course I will be better able to judge that after reading the whole series. The writing itself doesn’t come off as assured and as brain-grabby. It took some time to get into it, and I’m still mainly just skimming the nightmare stuff. And when the frozen guy’s wife interacts with certain other characters, it’s like Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football every damn time and I really wish she would learn.


My spouse’s first day on her new job is today. It was quite a long search for something that met her criteria. It isn’t the most exciting career on the planet, but there is a lot to be said for a dull-ish, stable, non-irritating job with decent management and minimal exposure to the public.

I’m feeling more accepting about going back to the office myself, at the moment — I’m actually kind of looking forward to it to some extent. (Maybe part of this is because I now have a jury summons a couple of weeks later to fret about instead!) The COVID stats are trending downward. The county’s at about 50% adult vaccination. We poked around a couple of stores this weekend, including an outdoor outlet mall on a ridiculously hot and sunny day (probably the most sun I’ve gotten since 2019) and the idea of being out of the house is generally feeling less weird and scary.

Speaking of weird and scary, I noticed a few days ago that Phonogene and Portal combined are the same size as a Verbos Harmonic Oscillator. I feel like neither of these are essential modules for me — Phonogene because my Bitwig sample looping game has improved, and Portal because it’s just a weird distortion thinger and was always kind of a situational oddball.

The VHO is something I’ve been wanting since at least 2017. It featured prominently on two of my most favorite modular albums — Caterina Barbieri’s Patterns of Consciousness and Nathan Moody’s Etudes III: Red Box. It’s a clever design that I have imitated (to good effect) in the ER-301 and in Bitwig Grid, and to a lesser extent with Bitwig Organ and SonicLab Fundamental — though without really capturing the full flavor, nor all aspects of its flexibility.

I’ve held off until now because it’s big. Originally, I just didn’t have the space. Then I had “too many oscillators” and told myself to make room for VHO I’d have to drop Akemie’s Castle. Which, despite considering it many times, never happened because Castle is just too charming.

So despite adding Odessa and Manis Iteritas to my “too many oscillators” I’m getting this one too. Because I want it, and there aren’t any other needs or wants that can outweigh it.

The design is a single analog oscillator core, with the typical outputs — plus individual outputs for the first eight partials of the harmonic series, and a mix output controlled by sliders, CV inputs, and a “scan” function (like a bandpass filter) and tilt (like low/high pass). In terms of additive synthesis, eight partials is pretty primitive compared to a monster like Odessa — but having a combination of direct and macro control, individual outputs, and an analog flavor with characterful rather than pure sines and some saturation in the mixer, makes all the difference.

Even my software-based attempts at harmonic oscillators have been pretty nice in conjunction with some waveshaping and/or FM. I’m expecting this to be more than that.