gray Christmas

Like I had said, we generally spent our Christmas vacation at home. There have been several days of rain and mist and fog and general grayness, and that’s fine, except I’ve missed any opportunity to go for a nice walk. Yesterday there was a pretty good snow but the air and ground temps were too warm for it to persist. There’s still 4 more days off before I have to go back to work, but it’s going to be snowy tomorrow and still quite cold for the rest.

We made ourselves a feast. Slow cooker turkey with apples & onions, spiced root vegetables with walnuts & goat cheese, roasted brussels sprouts & butternut squash, roasted yellow beets for her (I am not into beets at all), garlic mashed potatoes (skin on of course!), dressing, canned jellied cranberry sauce for me, pumpkin chocolate brownie bars, and apple spice “pie cake” (pie filling with cake mix, normally done in the slow cooker but since that was busy, it was in cupcake form instead). The plan was to eat it for three days. We knew it’d be too much, we just didn’t realize just how too much it was, somewhat exacerbated by the fact we couldn’t get a turkey smaller than 7.1 pounds.

Today, to make up for missing our chance at the Georgia Aquarium, we visited the more humble but still pretty nifty St. Louis Aquarium, followed by lunch at The Fountain On Locust, which is a must-try if you’re ever in the city and like ice cream, booze, or boozy ice cream (and the non-dessert food’s good too).

Since our plans had changed at the last minute, my mom shipped our gifts two days before Christmas. The package got as far as the St. Louis regional post office and have been delayed. But we had the stuff sent by my brother, and by the other side of the family, and each others’.

The musical toys were a pair of Otamatones (probably an Amazon wishlist flub), which are trickier than I would have guessed to play, and the Paper Jamz “Pro Microphone” I had put on my list. This seems like a toylike karaoke machine with autotune, but it has mic and headphone jacks so what I see here is a lo-fi granular pitch shifter that does vibrato, chorus, autotune and harmonizer effects, which can get pretty wild with synth input. It’s even fun just using the included mic and built-in speaker for feedback howls, or applying the chorus effect to a desk fan…

I’ve generally been in a phase of trying things out. Plugins I had never tried before, most notably including the Sinevibes stuff (I wound up getting Whirl), and Madrona Labs Virta. I’m definitely going to have to test the latter on bass, but I was surprised at the things I could get from it with synth patches and will probably pick it up even if it doesn’t track the bass that well. Not sure what stopped me from trying it out before, it’s very cool. I’m spoiled by full modular environments and would like to add a slew limiter to it, but it’s still super neato. I’m hoping that “early access” version of Sumu is released in the next few days as promised, too!

I tried AudioThing’s updated Space Echo emulation, and… it sounds great, sure, and I think it sounds better than Cherry Audio’s take on the same device. But I realized I really don’t need either of them. I’ve got Twangstrom for the spring reverb, and plenty of nice delays.

Arturia gave away a very cool new effect called Refract, which split voices in a “super unison” method of some kind and then optionally filters and processes each a little differently, with a choice of bandpass filter, comb filter, distortion, bitcrusher, or harmonizer, making for a surprisingly cool and versatile plugin that… might actually be my favorite new effect of the year, coming in late as it did.

I may make myself a list of things I want to go back and explore in more depth. I’m feeling like I have a lot of tools that do a lot of things, and most of them deserve a more thorough exploration. Kind of continuing what I did with Synchrodyne, Shapeshifter, and Akemie’s Castle last year but extending it further.

Soulstone Survivors was by far my most-played game of 2023; it more than adequately distracted me from Diablo IV, which is great because I didn’t want to support Activision-Blizzard after the sexual harrassment and union busting stuff (and reviews are not super positive anyway). I think I’m cooling on Art of Rally, and still hesitating to buy the new WRC game even though it’s already discounted. EA apparently laid off most of the Codemasters developers shortly after release, it’s still reportedly got performance bugs to work out, they’re doing that season pass thing in some way and it reportedly has some form of unpleasant DRM.

So lately I picked up New Star GP a bit more, and Guild Wars 2. I never finished the Heart of Thorns expansion stuff because I found it a bit tedious and directionless. I never even started the End of Dragons story, after buying it on discount. But I picked up Secrets of the Obscure — mostly because it offers the Weaponmaster account-wide thing that unlocks more weapon types for each class, as well as a reportedly easier way to get the Skyscale mount. In reality… right now there is an issue preventing characters below 80 from using the Weaponmaster weapons, which is supposed to be fixed in January, and the non-temporary and account-wide Skyscale thing seems to be a tedious collection full of random dumb luck. I went to all of the mapped sites for skyscale eggs and searched them all to find nothing, and even if I’d found an egg I’d be looking at weeks (probably) of collecting stuff. And weeks from now my interest in the game is likely to have tapered off anyway, and I’ll wait for several more months before playing again… so it goes.

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