here at the end (of 2022)

I’ve worked out the next minor set of changes to the modular:

  • Sell the BeetTweek and Wogglebug.
  • Sell the Inertia and Tilt, and replace them with a 4ms Mini PEG and a Make Noise Function.
  • Replace the Softwire Press with Bela Gliss once it arrives.
  • Unrack Marbles but don’t sell it quite yet. See if I feel like the VCV Rack version is enough to cover my fairly rare usage of it.
  • Maybe sell the Compare 2.

BeetTweek was a fun toy and a very nice light show. It has some practical usage too, but with all of the other controllers I have it just wasn’t getting much of a workout.

Wogglebug is also pretty neat. While I had some fun with it, again, I just didn’t use it much and don’t reach for it unless I’m specifically thinking “how can I use my Wogglebug?”

Inertia, too. I just haven’t been getting much usage out of it as a modulator or modulation shaper, nor as an oscillator (where it has a great deal of competition), nor even as filter where I think it is at its best.

Compare 2 is another one that’s neat but not getting much use. Bitwig Grid is admirable as a comparator when I can live with the latency, which is nearly always anyway. But there’s nothing specific I want to replace it with. If Wogglebug doesn’t happen to sell first I might just put that in instead.

Tilt gets more use, but I have never gelled with its ergonomics. I don’t really need an ADSR envelope very often. I think Mini PEG’s synchronized rise and fall (something even Just Friends won’t do) will be very suitable, and I know I like Make Noise Function’s feel and response.

I like Marbles, and I used to use it pretty heavily but it’s really fallen off over the past several months. 0-Ctrl handles the great majority of my minimal sequencing. I expect the VCV version will cover the occasional patch.


Partway through our holiday road trip. Winter storms and extreme cold have made this a very eventful Christmas, a difficult one in some places in the US and a tragic one in others. We only had about an inch of snow at home, but it was bitterly cold on our travel day. The roads were mostly clear and traffic was mostly not bad, but stopping for gas and restroom breaks was mighty unpleasant with windchills in the -30s. It was still a long day and we were glad to arrive safe at our destination.

Christmas feels pretty low-key in general this year. But it’s good to be with my parents again without it being medically related, and share in food and just sitting around talking.

MSNBC has been going back over the year’s top stories and showing a couple of documentaries of recent events (the Jan 6th mess, the ridiculous press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping and how it affected that business) and it seems weird that these things were only a couple of years ago — at the same time it feels like it’s been years and yet unresolved. The idea that Trump could wind up in office again is surreal and disturbing.

I’ve also been going back and rereading this blog. It’s a slice of my modular and creative journeys, spanning the release of several albums. It’s also incidentally a record of the turbulent times around COVID-19 and the election and changes in my career and such. I’m not really drawing conclusions from it, aside from… life is messy, and it goes on, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Not very profound or original, I know.

2023 goals

I found some inspiration yesterday, and it’s time to write up my goals / plan / guiding principles etc. for 2023.


  • When in doubt, don’t reply to threads. You can’t fix bad attitudes or narrow minds online, and you can’t convince some people with facts, and you probably can’t calm down people who are riled up about a thing. Better to just not get involved.


  • Since I’m 80% working from home and this isn’t a great neighborhood for taking walks… get on that exercise bike!
  • More walks around the lake on weekends when weather permits.
  • Cut back on snacks — the easiest way to do this is just don’t buy them.


  • The best way to expand and improve is through technique, not more/different gear.
  • Whenever I hear a demo of a piece of gear that gets my attention, I’ve been able to patch something similar (or inspired by it) with the gear that I already have. Remember that!
  • There are very few modules I own now that I’m willing to give up to make space to try something else. And I also would rather keep all my modules in the main case than use the overflow pod. So that means… don’t buy any modules unless they overcome those other drives.
    (That being said, I do want to go through a process with each of my modules: work out how I feel about them. Whether they’re just cool, or actively serving me in my music. If they’ve been getting less use, do I just need to work with them a bit and rediscover them — or is there something I could substitute for them that would be more suitable? This has to take software integration into consideration as well.
    For instance: Marbles is nifty, but has been getting less use in favor of 0-Ctrl sequences, and I have Marbles in VCV Rack.)
  • Improve my bass playing — I want to play cleanly and confidently on both the Miezo and UBass.


Did I mention I am backing the Bela Gliss touch controller module? It’s like a vastly upgraded version of the Soundmachines LS-1 Lightstrip. Nicer sensors, nicer (color) lighting, and some smart processing. It can act as a level meter that can also scale, offset and clip the input signal; as an LFO; as a 5-key pressure keyboard; its recording mode can loop, one-shot or scrub (making it effectively a waveshaper) and overwrite on the fly. Nice.

I’m back in the groove after ∞↺ (which you can pronounce as “infinite loop” or “infinite feedback” if you like). I spent a few hours Sunday morning making a new track that I’m quite happy with, without restricting myself to no-input feedback loops. Once more Strega is really kicking butt, as is the combination of Rings and Koszalin, and the new Just Friends firmware is pretty great.

I’ve also been playing with Stable Diffusion a bit, where before I had exclusively been using Wombo. SD I think works a bit better getting as specific as possible, although it still won’t necessarily do exactly what you want. Wombo sometimes generates more interesting abstract images with less effort, though it seems to be somewhat flakier about random failures. In either case it’s just sort of… try things and get basically randomized variations that you can maybe use or maybe not.

At the same time I’ve seen several more articles recently on how horrible it is that these tools (or toys) exist, how it’s not real art, it’s a threat to artists, and so on. I have mixed feelings.

I’m not a trained or particularly talented visual artist, but I’ve made 6 album covers using these things… and 23 others without AI assistance, using Creative Commons images and/or my own photography. (Plus older ones for pre-Starthief releases.) Is it somehow more “cheating” to use an AI tool in the process, than it is to Google for copyright-free images I can manipulate?

I’m not willing to say that what comes out of these tools is not art — that question (besides usually being tiresome, and so often used to describe art that a person just doesn’t like) depends on context and intent. While my fumbling with prompts and curating the results and editing and compositing afterward require less skill than a painter or professional illustrator, it is still not a fully automated process that lacks in artistic intent, by any means.

Can these tools be used nefariously? They certainly can! But so can Photoshop, or a pencil. Faking photographs is nearly as old as photography. Imitating other artists’ styles and infringing on other peoples’ IP are older than copyright law. You can’t tell me that professional illustrators are not asked on a regular basis to mimic some other artist’s style. I’m in favor of trying to reign in the tools a bit to protect artists as much as possible, and maybe don’t permit the likenesses of specific people by name to be used either. But art itself is not inherently safe and polite — the ability to use art in protest and parody is important. It’s just that machines are even less trustworthy than humans where it comes to making some kinds of judgement calls, I guess.

so done

Black Panther was really a great film. Its sequel Wakanda Forever was — after some time to sleep on it — a decent superhero movie with a few really emotional moments. The plot, motivations and character were a bit more confused, and even the action was a bit unclear at times. But to be fair, I think the first movie was already going to be hard to follow even without the loss of Chadwick Boseman.

At the start of this feedback album project, I felt curious and inspired and the flow was very good. But taking a couple of weeks off from it for holiday travel kind of threw things off, and most of all I miss playing my synths and my bass and my usual methods. So I decided to just stop — “art is never finished, only abandoned” — and move along to the mastering phase, so I can get back to playing and get my groove back, so to speak. It’s important for me that music-making feels like play. I might make dark and pensive and ominous music but there is real joy in its creation, or else it doesn’t work.

The release should be soon. The music and art are done, I’m just considering writing up some text and/or diagrams for a webpage.

best (and not so best) reads of 2022

We’re almost 93% of the way through year, and it’s time for more Best Of lists, because I say so. So here are the books I read in 2022 (for the first time) which I found particularly excellent:

  • Project Hail Mary
  • Pretty much everything by qntm: There Is No Antimemetics Division, Ra, Fine Structure, Ed, Valuable Humans In Transit
  • Inverted Frontier series: Edges, Silver, Memory, Needle
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy
  • What If? 2
  • The Lost Metal

Books I enjoyed well enough:

  • The Blacktongue Thief
  • A Master of Djinn
  • She Who Became the Sun
  • Quantum of Nightmares
  • Foundryside (and its sequel, Shorefall)
  • Skyward Flight
  • Dreams Bigger than Heartbreak
  • A Thousand Steps Into Night
  • Iron Widow
  • Nona the Ninth (the first two books are in the top category though)
  • The This

Books I had mixed feelings about:

  • Dune
  • Termination Shock
  • Escape from Yokai Land
  • The Just City
  • The Grey Bastards
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  • The Union

Books that I barely or don’t even remember reading, but apparently I did:

  • The Raven Spell
  • The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry
  • Persephone Station
  • The Betrayals

Books I mostly didn’t like:

  • From Scratch: Writings in Music Theory
  • Technic and Magic: The Reconstruction of Reality

These were all on Kindle. If I read any new paperback or hardcover books this year, I honestly don’t remember them right now. I did reread several. But I’m mostly a convert to ebooks — they’re lighter to carry around, don’t take up storage space, and don’t have to be shipped.