it’s just a show, I should really just relax

Recent dreams:

  • I was the third of three drummers for a high school heavy metal band. Like, an official class, taught by the guy who had taught the school’s jazz ensemble in real life. And just like the jazz ensemble in real life, we were really not good.
  • Throwing books at Hitler, while he sat for an interview with an NPR reporter. Nice hardcover editions of The Sandman graphic novels. I’m not sure if Neil Gaiman would approve, or would suggest I find something else, but it was effective — The Kindly Ones really took a chunk out of his arm, messed up his uniform and completely disrupted the interview.

And speaking of relaxation, I have found that while the nasty-tasting CBD oil helps my anxiety and mood, the capsules I bought from a different company (at a higher concentration, even) just don’t do very much. I must be carrying a lot of tension in my back muscles just from the anxiety, because switching back to the oil for a day relieved a knot that had been bothering me for a week. And here I thought it wasn’t doing that much to help physical pain. Hopefully I can find an option that is less yucky, but still effective.


In local music news: those thoughts about an “acoustic universe” — and maybe watching season three of The Expanse — led to a general concept for the next album. The working title is Passing Through, as in both travel and permeation. I’ve got four candidate songs in place now and one rejected, all coming from experiments with QPAS, ER-301, and the Volca Modular.

The VM is a fascinating and sometimes frustrating little beast. It’s rough around the edges and has a lot of limitations, compared to Eurorack modules or software. Some of those are the “do more with less” kind which encourage creativity; some give it character; some are just annoying. But overall it’s pretty amazing for such a tiny, cheap synth.

Some people have been trying to compare it to a Buchla Music Easel (at $3000+) or a Make Noise 0-Coast (at $500+) and that doesn’t seem fair. But I think I can honestly say it’s at least as interesting as an Easel, and I honestly like its wavefolding sound and its LPGs better than the 0-Coast. (But the 0-Coast is really good at big, solid triangle basses, which the VM will never be, and it feels like a really good, well-calibrated, quality instrument and not a toy.)

My new case arrived, and I was eager to get moved into it but my spouse wisely pointed out that it’s probably better to burn it — that is, in the sense of pyrography — before loading it up with fancy electronics. Okay, that makes sense. 🙂 I spent a few hours poring over clip art and tattoo designs of stars, meteors and black holes for inspiration; she spent a day or so working up a rough draft design in a paint program. I think it’s going to be pretty spiffy and I’m eager to see the results!

I’ve occasionally thought about getting a tattoo, but decisiveness was not my strong suit and most of the symbology that meant much to me wasn’t something I’d want to wear on my skin. But it strikes me that it’d be really cool to have a tattoo with a neat design made by my spouse, which has some thematic similarity to her tattoo, and matches the design on my instrument…

well-oiled machine

For the last few days I have been trying CBD oil. Someone on a forum recommended it about a year ago when I was talking about anxiety, but at the time I thought “whatever, hippie.” There’s this mental connection between hemp and pot that is not very scientific or fair but was trained into us 80s kids, and the common semiotics don’t really help.

Over time, more articles about it came up, and I read a couple of them and thought maybe it actually might be helpful for anxiety… but I was still unsure about how legit and legal it is. But then in the past couple of weeks, two or three billboards have popped up locally advertising CBD in shops. After a few hours of researching it some more I thought… okay, why not. I have various pain and would like to lay off the ibuprofen, and anxiety is still a thing even if it’s not so oppressive as it was last January. So it’s worth a shot.

Following advice and reviews from several sources, I went with a CBDPure tincture oil (300), taken sublingually, half a dropper full twice per day. Let me tell you, the stuff tastes just plain gross. I don’t get too much of that while letting it rest under my tongue, but if I’m not lucky I do when I swallow the rest. Burping is the worst though, ewwww.

It absolutely does make me feel more at ease and unburdened. It doesn’t seem to be doing much for pain, but I have been skipping the ibuprofen since I started. (Maybe because, with a better mood I am less bothered by the pain.) It might be worth trying a stronger concentration or more quantity after a few weeks.

Once this bottle is done, if not before, I may look into capsules or gummies to avoid the nasty, nasty taste. Since I’m not having panic attacks I’m not too concerned about whether it takes effect in 10 minutes or an hour.

I’ve picked up a whole bunch of music-related reading — a couple of individual ebooks, and then a Humble Bundle on computer music. My first read among them was A Bang, A Whimper & A Beat: Industrial Music and Dystopia.

It’s a scholarly study of the genre, its meanings and inspirations and how it is viewed by fans and non-fans. There’s a whole section analyzing a selection of five songs in terms of content (with a heroic but doomed effort to transcribe them) and listeners’ impressions, which I largely skimmed. Otherwise it was pretty interesting stuff, and made me realize some things that I just sort of accepted subconsciously or didn’t especially take note of.

Industrial had its beginnings in anti-capitalist, “anti-art” art groups. Early industrial was sonically more acoustic, involved building ad-hoc instruments out of junk and making clanging, percussive noise to go along with busted guitars and such. As the cyberpunk fiction genre (which is pretty explicitly anti-capitalist) emerged, the music and fiction swerved toward each other and became entangled, and it became more of an electronic music genre.

The theme of dystopia is strong: the earth and its people exploited past the breaking point. Dehumanization for profit, oppression for profit, war for profit, religion for profit. “Rationalization” taken to irrational extremes and the downfall of society. The machine as a symbol of oppressive power, systemic lack of human empathy — and also as victim, the loss of individuality, individual worth and freedom of expression. (“We are the robots”, the Kraftwerk song says; “we are programmed just to do anything you ask us to.” The word “robot” comes from the Czech robota, meaning forced labor.)

The sound palette in industrial music fits: drums for the march of progress or the march of troops or unceasing pounding machines. Heavy bass and drones for foreboding. Distorted and processed vocals — tormented and scream-like, cold and machinelike, or calling for revolution through a megaphone. No guitar solos (and few synth “solos” as such) because virtuosity is individuality.

Like punk, an important aspect of the genre is a rejection of conformity to the mainstream (disseminated via capitalist media for the convenience of the corporate overlords) — but it does it with a martial, regimented, uniform beat. It uses the imagery of fascism and control against those things, and sometimes confuses non-fans in the process. For a while after the Columbine shooting, industrial music was scapegoated alongside video games, trenchcoats, and all sorts of irrelevant things that aren’t guns and the alienation that leads people to use them on each other.

There is a constellation of genres that are culturally associated with Industrial music — due to similar messaging and aesthetics but more because some of the musicians and many of the fans crossed over. Goth is a particularly strong association. Another is Industrial Ambient, which is now more commonly called Dark Ambient.

The musical imagery of Dark Ambient is the desolation left in the aftermath. Abandoned factories and cities, rusting vehicles, collapse and decay; salt flats and dust bowls; tolling bells and whispering ghosts. Lots of reverb! Icy tundra, outer space, tombs — a closely related subgenre some have called “Isolationism.” Disquiet in a quiet place, pensiveness, mysteries and secrets, the spirit world, the interiors of ancient or alien ruins — I have no idea what this branch is called but it’s more what I associate my own music with.

And then there’s Dark Techno (closely associated with Drone Techno), which borrows heavily from Dark Ambient as well as Industrial. It tends to be slow and heavy compared to most Techno and Industrial, with vocals a rarity; it’s more like ambient with a beat. Some of my music kind of tacks toward this subgenre without quite getting into its lane, I feel.

vision thing

In dealing with some health insurance garbage — the intentionally and increasingly obtuse system we have to deal with for getting refunds from our employer for a portion of the horribly large deductibles we have been stuck with for the past couple of years — I found some interesting messages in my account:

So is that… visions, as in premonitions of the future? Grand insights, perhaps? Because there’s got to be an upside to this thing…

Also, I was checked for eye in December. The optometrist confirmed that I have eye.

Not very good ones, but they still count.

I figure for all the stupid forms I have to fill out, get rejected, re-submit, appeal and finally get approved, there are four people getting paid a pittance to do the bullshit job of rejecting and/or approving them (who also are submitting their own claims and having them rejected by someone else), a manager to tell them they’re not rejecting enough, investors telling them all they need to be more profitable this quarter, a consultant paid by my employer telling them once in a while that they have to not reject claims so much, and time wasted by my employer’s accountant and president dealing with the consultant and getting their own forms rejected. Medicare For All now, please.

Anyway, I figured out a pretty good option for synth 2.0: synthracks.com makes many different custom cases; and a particular unpowered portable one that will be perfect. The power supply and busboards I put in the rack will be more than adequate. With some luck and perhaps a cheap studio rack box I may even fit all of my synth gear (except the Maschine) on one side of the desk; if not I can still get most of it together and just have the Microbrute on the other side perhaps.

Of course if I had better woodworking skills I could build my own case, but… I’ve seen the stuff I’ve cobbled together. It’s not pretty, or sturdy, or the right size, or lined up correctly, or attached properly or… yeah. The wood semi-frame I built for the back of my rack is attached with wire ties because I split the wood twice trying to put it together. So I’m leaving this to a pro.

*not* incoming so much

How to Crush Your Habits in the New Year With the Help of Science

I particularly like that idea of having a “theme” for the year. An online acquaintance does this in almost a literary sense — determining the books he reads, the directions his imagination goes and so on, even giving years names. For that article’s purposes though, I think “improve my blood sugar” works as a theme, because there are multiple angles I can approach that from.

On my last doctor’s visit, he upped my Trulicity dose. There’s an effect it has where, when eating, after bite N you feel fine but after bite N+1 your guts say “okay, stop now.” It’s a somewhat different feeling from what I think of as fullness — less nausea-like than what Byetta did for me at first, but still quite effective.

I’ve also been taking Gymnema (“sugar destroyer”) for a while, too. If you taste it, it’s sort of the opposite of “miracle berry” — it ruins the taste of sweet things for a short while. It may or may not also have some appetite suppressant effects but that seems doubtful. It also may help lower blood sugar a little through a separate effect.

But beyond that I feel like my appetite has decreased, and that is very welcome. Yesterday was my first day back at work after an 11-day break; I picked up the same food I often do for breakfast on the way in and it was too much, and I wasn’t super hungry at lunchtime either. A couple of days ago, I got up at about 6 AM, didn’t eat anything until 2 PM, and still wasn’t too cranky. I’ve been wanting snacks and desserts a lot less. When I do feel like snacking on something, I ask myself if I’m actually hungry, and can usually answer no. For the times when it’s yes, I’m trying to keep interesting varieties of small tomatoes around, and raw almonds and that sort of thing.

I’m not declaring victory here yet by any means, but I’m at least hopeful that it will keep working. I haven’t measured my actual blood sugar and I don’t know how long these effects will last, or if the broken dials in my body will misadjust themselves again and I’ll start getting hangry. But I hope to cement this stuff as a habit first. Not a diet, but a new normal.

I have mixed feelings about checking my blood sugar. It’s often more painful and more of a hassle than giving myself injections. When the numbers are bad, it can be super frustrating and worsen my emotional state, to the point where I give up on it. But it also does help show what’s going on and what changes in diet might be effective. But my new endocrinologist doesn’t insist that I test it regularly and only has his diabetes patients visit every 6 months for A1C testing instead of every 3, so perhaps the emphasis on that was a bit much. Hmm.