solid, liquid, gas

So, that colon cancer screening I was scheduled for? I went through the low-residue diet (not too onerous) and the day of clear liquids and gallon of nasty laxative+electrolyte sludge and the disturbing and unpleasant consequences of that. But there was a massive thunderstorm with record-breaking flooding — 10.85 inches in a night here, up to nearly 13 inches a bit west of here — and the doctor had to cancel.

So at this point I’m waiting for a call back from the nurse to reschedule me and hook me up with more of that crud I had hoped not to have to drink for another 10 years. Sigh. My considerable ire and frustration at this were mainly offset by the fact that our house suffered no damage, while several houses around here flooded spectacularly. Last I read, one person and several pets and shelter animals died. So my day was on average, far less awful than it could have been.

The next album is at 42 minutes of material. With lots of beta testing recently of both Eurorack stuff and plugins, I was inspired to take one track outside my usual area (*) although there’s still continuity to it. Then the next brought it back in, with the next with some very simple but effective patching, including the Mikro just running through a volume pedal, Valhalla Delay and compression, and a two-voice drone done with one instance of Arturia Easel V.

(*) My spouse says, “you have a usual area?” That got me contemplating the perceptions of an occasional listener vs. the musician who is steeped in this stuff 24/7. Part of the music exists in my head and not in actual sound transmitted to others, perhaps. On the other hand, she might also be thinking about my older work or my earlier Starthief releases, which certainly have differences from most of my more recent music.

Since it’s been a bit since the progress photo of my Miezo, I wrote to the luthier to ask for a time estimate. Mostly I wanted reassurance that I didn’t miss an update or invoice. Between a very busy shop and a much needed vacation, it still does need the final sanding and finishing, then assembly — but it should only be another couple of weeks. I’m eager but satisfied with that.

I am rereading the Stormlight Archive series, as it’s been a couple of years and it’ll still be a while before book 5 is released. I’m nearing the end of its first novel, The Way of Kings.

I’ve become a more critical reader of Brandon Sanderson. The way he wrote women at the time the series began, while better than many authors, still had some room for improvement I think. And while his very specifically designed magic systems are kind of his trademark and they work well, they are sometimes explained by exposition dumps that can affect the pacing of an action scene. (This is contrasted with a lot of secrets and mysteries that are hinted at and never fully explained, or foreshadowing that happens several novels before the event itself… but you just know there are charts of how all these mysterious figures and legends are interrelated.) In my opinion he’s gotten better about these things in more recent books. Anyway, what I find especially compelling about the Stormlight Archive is the distinct voices and attitudes of the characters — you can really see their mental state and their different ways of thinking — and the great big emotionally packed moments.

Some of those are big glorious hero moments. Some of those are “just told off the asshole” moments (and those are almost as glorious). Some are “holy shit” moments (big reveals of something hidden or really, really bad news for the good guys, or super weird freaky scary stuff). And they all hit hard. And sometimes they hit in rapid succession without even time to breathe in between them. He’s really good at these and it’s very much at its peak in this particular series.

So I reread the series because Dalinar and Adolin and Shallan and Rock and Lopen and Lift and co. are awesome characters, but also for the really huge payoffs and gut-punches.

at peace

The first week of hybrid WFH worked out pretty well. That second monitor is occasionally mildly helpful for gaming or music or other things, but really handy for work. Staying home 4 days was nice. Coming back in to the office today hasn’t been unpleasant; I think the balance is good with this.

Two books I was waiting for were released last week. Linda Nagata’s Needle has a couple of fascinating new characters who really stole the show from Urban and Clementine. Overall though, it was a bit disappointing. There was some tension in the plot, but it felt pretty weak compared to the earlier stuff with Lezuri, with a vague “confusing anime ending” and not much closure for something that was supposed to conclude a series.

Becky Chambers’ A Prayer for the Crown-Shy was not disappointing at all. The second in her super-cozy “Monk and Robot” series, almost every chapter is like a philosophy discussion among friends over tea (sometimes literally). It brings smiles, and there were times where I just had to close the book and sit back with satisfaction. My only possible complaint is that there isn’t more of it — I feel that it’s fitting that these books are short, but I want more, but I also feel like wanting more is part of the experience of it, if that makes sense.

Maybe rather than wishing specifically for more of this series, I should wish there were more books like this. It’s in the “hopepunk” subgenre but also feels a bit like Moominvalley in November but specifically for adults. Hmm. Anyway, after devouring this one I’ve gone back to reread A Psalm for the Wild-Built.

Over the weekend I recorded 15 minutes of music for the next album. This time I’m going to try not to be surprised when I find I’m ready to start mastering. 😉

I’m eagerly anticipating shipping notification for my Miezo — I expect it any day now. I’m also beta testing some fun stuff, experimenting with a couple of techniques, and still grabbing the low-hanging fruit from Koszalin.

One thing I’ve found recently is I really need to keep up with practice/noodling on bass. Otherwise, during a recording session — especially with the Mikro — I’ll wind up with pretty sore fingers. It doesn’t take a lot of practice to maintain calluses and finger strength, but it also doesn’t take more than a few days for those benefits to diminish.


Starting next week, I’m switching to a hybrid work plan, with Mondays at the office and other weekdays remotely from home. There’s flexibility built in, and also the possibility I might convert it to 100% WFH later on. We’ll see.

I have two 22″ monitors at work at 1680×1050 each (although in my recent computer upgrade I was offered a third, and turned it down.) At home, I have one 29″ 21:9 ultrawide at 2560×1080, so approximately 1.76 work monitors’ worth. That, plus borrowing my spouse’s webcam very occasionally, served me fine through the pandemic lockdown.

(The Onion, apparently from 2012? I would have guessed a few years older.)

But I’ve decided to get serious.

While there’s no horizontal room for more monitors, nor much bigger than what I already have, there’s vertical space aplenty. Ergonomics dictate that one’s visual focus should mostly be a little below eye level, but the occasional glance upward isn’t a problem. So after some deliberation I’ve bought a second 29″ 21:9 display, a stand to mount the two in a stacked configuration, and my own webcam.

I looked into curved monitors — I’m not sure they make good sense at this size, given their generally higher cost and questionable benefit. Probably great for some types of games if you’re talking 40″ or more though.

I also briefly considered side-by-side monitors rotated to portrait orientation. Seems like it’d be great for some uses, not ideal for others, and a disaster for gaming. Think of all the times when you want to or have to hold your phone sideways, and then imagine that you just can’t.

Anyway, when WFH, I can keep Remote Desktop on one monitor and use the other for notes/Teams/browsing/MP3 player/remoting to a second machine. For music, I’m sure Bitwig handles stacked monitors very well, and it’ll be beneficial to have Sound Forge and my notes both visible for editing/mastering. For gaming… probably not that helpful most of the time, though occasionally having a guide/notes on one monitor will be nice.

Speaking of which, I’m either going to uninstall Guild Wars 2, or go ahead and try End of Dragons. I’ve leveled several characters to 80 in the past few months, with one of them finally achieving 100% map completion and the rest making me think “what’s the point?” when I hit the level cap. A lot of the level 80 elite specs require a bunch more skill points before they become fully effective — until then they might be weaker than standard builds. My Deadeye is pretty great though, so I could see running the new content with her. For that matter, I’ve never actually done the Heart of Thorns stuff. Nor whatever it is that gets you a flying mount. Okay, maybe I won’t uninstall just yet.

good stuff

I have an app on my phone that counts the time since or until a specified date. So this is how I am keenly aware it has been 2 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days since I put down a deposit on a Miezo 18. I had a rough expectation of 3 months, and was thinking about emailing to ask for a time estimate soonish. But today I got a build photo!

I love how the raintree body and ovangkol fretboard match so well, and I find the texture and colors really pleasing. For aesthetic reasons I almost wish I’d gone for an unlined fretless — but I’m sure when the instrument arrives I will be glad of the frets.

Shouldn’t have long to wait now!

Xaoc Koszalin arrived, and I’ve played with it for roughly an hour. It is VERY different from the Freq Shifter in Bitwig. The biggest differences:

  • Koszalin is thru-zero (downshifting a frequency below 0Hz will “reflect” and start climbing back upwards again, though with inversed phase). This is cool when you feed it things other than sines, so some pitches start crawling back up while some are still heading downward. The Bitwig one just stops at 0.
  • Koszalin does simultaneous up and down shifting on separate outputs. This is great for several patch possibilities — get ringmod by mixing them equally, stereoize a mono signal, or shift up and then serially back down (or vice versa). Probably several other tricks going on here too to experiment with.
  • Koszalin has feedback! This is huge in terms of the sonic possibilities. The feedback can be up, down, or a combination (up left and down right). There’s also a “Density” knob which seems to add a slightly delayed signal to fill in between the stripes of the barber pole; basically something to just try and see what it does.
  • Bitwig’s has a wet/dry knob. This would have been nice on Koszalin, but there’s always Blinds and other options for mixing in the dry signal.
  • Koszalin has both exponential FM (for pseudo pitch tracking) and linear TZFM (for dynamic depth without too much disruption of pitch).
  • Koszalin sounds smoother when fed with sub-audio-rate signals that are shifted up into audio range.

The magic of a frequency shifter is that it’s linear rather than exponential. Aside from making harmonic tones inharmonic (or trying to un-stretch inharmonic ones from Odessa for instance), this has some cool implications.

When two sounds are playing at slightly different pitches, there’s a “beating” effect that happens as their waves support or cancel each other out. This is what makes it possible to tune by ear — keep adjusting until the beating disappears.

What if all the partials are off by progressively larger differences though? The beating effect will happen at different rates, causing a sort of crawling “barberpole” motion that can sound really cool. I mean, it easily gets into overly psychedlic wackiness, but with some good judgement it can definitely be a useful effect. At higher rates it becomes a different sort of timbral effect. When you start throwing in the power of feedback and FM, it’s quite a tool.

But yeah, just running Odessa into it and trying to unbend its inharmonicity can lead to some really spiffy drones. Or right now, I have an unearthly Rings > Koszalin > Mimeophon > Rings feedback patch going. Or with the feedback, you can ping it and get weird little self-made melodies…