Aiya EƤrendil elenion ancalima!

Since mentioning that my spouse was sick and I wasn’t at 100%, I managed to get fully sick. Not quite the fierce cough that she had and I didn’t lose my voice, but definitely aches, some coughing, nasal congestion, more eye mucus than I have ever experienced in my life, more aches, no energy plus a lot of sleep deficit. I wound up taking off work Friday (on which I’d normally work from home) to sleep, suffered through the weekend, took a sick day Monday too, and wasn’t sure about Tuesday but bulled through. The last couple of nights around bedtime have been the worst, but this morning I woke feeling the best I have in days and wasn’t even exhausted when my shift was done. We both seem to be improving but getting well again can’t come fast enough.

She’s been playing a lot of LOTRO lately — a game still running after 17 years and never the level of popularity that something like Everquest, WoW or Guild Wars have had — and all of that Tolkien lore and running out of other books for the moment got me rereading the LOTR trilogy again. We also watched the extended edition movies over the weekend, and it’s been interesting to have the book and movies so close together in my memory, noticing all the bits where dialog was lifted verbatim from one character or scene and given to another, keeping the flavor but changing the context. Aside from the big ones (removing Tom Bombadil, killing off Saruman at Orthanc) there were a lot of changed bits that I didn’t remember being different.

I haven’t kept count of how many times I’ve read this trilogy, nor how many times I’ve watched it. I do know this isn’t the first or even the second time I’ve read the books while ill, either. Let me tell you, the Emyn Muil and the rest of the approach to Mordor aren’t super comforting when you’re also tired and hurting and lacking sleep. Maybe I should be reading A Psalm for the Wild-Built instead, or This Is How You Lose the Time War, Stardust, Tress of the Emerald Sea, or even Gideon the Ninth. But like Frodo and Sam, I endure.

Other than that it’s been a lot more playing GW2, and not so much music making. I’m at 41:13 so far but aiming for maybe 55-65 minutes. It’ll come, I’m not on a deadline.

I’ve got my Skyscale mount, and it changes the game. Navigating through a lot of the world is very different, particularly the Heart of Thorns areas which were already quite vertical thanks to gliders and many updrafts. Small groups of weak monsters, and otherwise somewhat stubborn siege equipment, can be ruined by a blast of the skyscale’s breath. Fights you aren’t interested in are easier to avoid. Areas that are otherwise more awkward to get to, aren’t so much (though mounts, and sometimes gliders, are disabled in certain jumping puzzle areas; more than once I’ve been caught at high altitude without a parachute, so to speak). I also trained my Skimmer to swim underwater, which speeds that up considerably, and have learned more about the endgame and how best to tackle the Daily and Weekly Astral Acclaim goals (and turn them into significant gold, which, if you amass enough, can eventually be turned into Gems rather than having to pay for some in-game clothing and goodies). I’ve gotten to a point now where I feel like I don’t need to play it very intensely but can earn decent rewards. I’m going to just continue to skip Legendary item crafting, raids, fractals, competitive play etc. I might start the End of Dragons campaign sometime though, get my skiff and learn fishing. šŸ˜‰

Other games? I grabbed Suika Shapes, which is a neat expansion of the “Suika Watermelon Game”, a sort of matching/tetris game but with physics. Originally blobby fruit of various sizes, this version lets you select an array of abstract shapes, and also change some of the physics rules (bouncy, slippery, etc.) and playing fields. A nice casual diversion.

Still forging ahead gradually with Deep Rock Galactic Survivors. I have no wish to really challenge myself at higher difficulty settings but I’m gradually unlocking weapon upgrades, artifacts and class variants.

Soulstone Survivors is almost on hiatus. The Monkey King update is coming — adding a new class and a new spell category but also changing a lot of core mechanics, so that my notes about what works and what doesn’t will be invalidated again. But hopefully more varieties of builds will work well and should be fun to explore. It’s supposed to turn into less of a dodge-fest as you progress through Endless modes, so that much will be a welcome change for sure.

Meanwhile both cDVCA and Morpheus got here, and I despite not really feeling creative, I did spend some time digging into them a bit.

cDVCA is super cool. Some designs for LED light dimmers use PWM (pulse-width modulation) rather than voltage control for the intensity. Maybe you can only turn the LED on and off, but if you switch between those states faster than the eye can see, the width of the pulses determines the light’s brightness. This same concept works for audio amplification too (“class D amplifier”), and in fact is used in some low-power devices because it’s more power-efficient.

cDVCA being modular, you get voltage control over the clock speed and filter cutoff, and the clock tracks the standard 1V/OCT (and is audible if you don’t patch audio into the input). There’s also an analog drive stage (affecting the PWM, so… yeah!). So if you just add an envelope generator, it’s pretty much a miniature synth voice in 6HP. Or an analog/digital(-esque) distortion, or an LPG (thanks to the gentle filter slope), or you could actually use it like it’s a normal clean VCA. If the drive is pushed hard enough it partially overcomes the grit of low clock speeds and has a unique sound. Super versatile and nifty.

And then Morpheus — a Eurorack, stereo version of the Z-plane filter from E-mu Morpheus. It consists of “cubes” of 8 different filter responses, and the knobs morph between them to create the actual filter shape it uses. Even the Frequency control is actually a morphing control and may, along with the effective cutoff/center frequency, cause changes in slope, resonance or overall shape (though that’s less usual). The Morph control often affects resonance, or peak spacing, or shifts from lowpass to bandpass or something along those lines, and the Transform control is very context-dependent. Some of the cubes have only 4 entries, and the third knob is assigned to distortion by default (or you can switch it to morph to bypassing the filter).

There are 289 cubes on the thing. That’s a lot to explore, given that any single cube is already more complex than a typical analog filter. But despite all the cubes, the menus and settings and filter sequencer and so on, it’s still a filter, so using it isn’t too much of a chore. The display nicely shows the current filter curve, which along with the name is a good guide to what the filter can do. There are a lot of flangers, vocal formants, instrument body resonances, etc. here — many of which get either really ringy or quite crunchy when subject to distortion — but there are also some more conventional filter types you’d normally expect on a synth as well.

I have a few nitpicks, at least with my minimal experience with it so far:

  • I could want either fewer cubes or better organization — maybe an optional category setting, maybe just sorting the cubes by type a little more sensibly. It seems like it was originally sorted, then more cubes got added to the end (and they didn’t want to rearrange it and confuse people who already were familiar with the layout). Being able to choose “just lowpass” or “just vocal” would make finding cubes easier.
  • It’d be nice if there were dedicated controls for Transform and Distortion, instead of choosing its destination from the menu. Some of the full cubes can benefit from distortion, and some of the “.4” cubes could still benefit from the wet/dry effect that Transform gives them.
  • In a few cases, Frequency doesn’t primarily control the frequency, but Morph does. That doesn’t fit with the “Full Level” input acting as volt/octave control for frequency, and the inconsistency is galling since it calls for repatching modulation sources.

But like I said: nitpicks. This is a flagship filter, and I expect it’ll be the subject of a deep study like I did with Shapeshifter. And like Shapeshifter’s wavetables, I will probably find a few favorites and stick mainly with them… or maybe not.

From a couple of sources I’ve heard that this is a module where going through the manual is a good idea; there are descriptions of the intent and suggested usage behind many of the cubes. I did that, but… I kind of think it’s more fun to go with “the street finds its own uses for things.” This of course only complicates the inclusion of so many different cubes… but it’s kind of a good problem to have. There are many sweet spots and much accidental inspiration to be found.

Another neat new thing, just dropped today, is Sinevibes Integer: a BBD-inspired delay, not really an emulation of a BBD but the concept of a variable sample rate delay with different settings for stages, filter slope and quality. The holy grail for me is still software emulations of an analog BBD (filter optional) and PT2399 delay complete with the noisy breakup behavior when underclocked… but this is still a spiffy thing that can be employed to make cool noises, and it’s inspiring and cheap.

A big total eclipse is coming in 10 days, with an hour’s drive (assuming no excess traffic, which is wishful thinking!) getting us to places where totality will last nearly 5 minutes. We’re hopeful that we’ll be feeling well enough to go on a small adventure by then. We were looking forward to bringing my parents but they’ve decided they’ll just stay home and enjoy the partial eclipse as they’ve done before, without eclipse glasses, just checking out the weird shadows and dim sky and cooler temps and changed birdsong. I feel like that’s a mere shadow (heh) of the experience of totality, but… okay. It’ll just be the two of us, and that makes logistics a bit easier I suppose.

and another thing…

For your patience y’all get two posts in one day. Exciting, eh? This is the one where I talk about music and music gear.

With everything else, the new album has hit a slowdown. But it’s got about 37 minutes of material and I have an idea for starting the next recording session.

Still waiting on the release of Madrona Labs Sumu and Dawesome MYTH, but I figure, given what’s been going on at work I should not be complaining much about software release delays. You never know what stupid thing that doesn’t even seem like it’s programming can hold things back. (In the case of MYTH, it’s being delayed by the publisher to allow another release to take its time slot.)

ALM Busy Circuits just released Cizzle, a Eurorack and VCV module that does phase distortion (similar but not identical to the Casio CZ-101 and related synths). I went for the VCV version; it’s kind of neat as an occasional thing but it isn’t going to be a staple for me.

A bigger deal for me: I’ve got AtovProject cDVCA and Rossum Morpheus on the way, planning to set aside Interstellar Radio and Harmonic Shift Oscillator to make the space.

I’ve got a page about Class D amplifiers, in which the last paragraph admitted cDVCA was better than my indirect patching attempts, and after rewatching a couple of demos, I put it on my short list of things I could get.

Morpheus is something I’ve been curious about for a while. It’s basically a zillion filters arranged into “cubes” where you can interpolate between 8 different topologies as well as modulating the frequency. It’s well-loved for resonator duties, as well as a particular 90s synth sound. Before, I was a little intimidated by the amount of stuff it has, thinking it’s almost preset-like in some ways, but now I think that might be unfounded. Worth a try anyhow!

So what of IR and HSO? IR is cool but I don’t see it as an essential for me. I don’t use it as an effect that much (modulating and demodulating a signal at low and differing frequencies to dirty it) because it’s just too dirty most of the time. It’s more fun as a unique sort of complex oscillator, but… not an everyday driver. I think I can approach those sounds with cDVCA and some other techniques anyhow.

HSO sounds gorgeous, don’t get me wrong. But the sound is honestly not so far off from all the FM options I have to make it really distinct. And part of my justification for the module was that it can operate above audio rate, useful for clocking IR as an effect (heh) or Drezno or… those class D VCA patches.

Mystic Circuits Ana 2 seems like it’s imminent too, with Eli posting a photo of… a box of something. That’ll be a small boost in both utility and weirdness.

I’m also pondering replacing my Xaoc Katowice with a Three Sisters. They have a little in common but 3Sis is much more flexible, and it’s a filter rather than an EQ, and I know it sounds lovely with FM (argh there I go, don’t I?) But then, it’s also a bit pricey so I’m not sure, and in terms of filter flexibility Blades and Morpheus are already excellent. Maybe I should just leave well enough alone. “Just because you can…” and so on.

life moves pretty fast

Almost three weeks since my last update… wait a minute. I actually wrote a post on 3/8 and then completely failed to publish it.


To catch up:

  • We chauffeured TJ and Noelle (my parents’ cats) successfully and without harm. TJ does not like anyone but Dad, and the trip didn’t endear us to her at all. Noelle headbutted me right in the mouth the next day to show all was forgiven.
  • Do not book a car from Enterprise through a third-party service, including Expedia, because they will screw things up. But we got a 2024 Hyundai Palisade, not quite a luxury SUV but a couple notches above what I’m used to in size and comfort and tech goodies. It has level 2 automation (adaptive cruise control plus automatic lane keeping), blind spot cameras, parking cameras etc. as well as heated seats/steering wheel, individual temp/fan controls per side, etc. but it burns more than twice as much gas as my Prius C, and I prefer the feel of driving a smaller car. Gimme those creature comforts and safety features on a sub-20K hybrid or fully electric car, please (yeah, right…)
  • My parents arrived OK a couple days later, and their stuff in a POD a couple days after that. We’ve been over a few times to help with a few things and generally to visit.
  • I thought we had things resolved at work but we encountered a couple of new showstoppers. (Also, I hate .NET and how Framework and Core have similar-looking but different version numbering schemes and out-of-order dates for how long they’re supported.) but Now we’re mostly just waiting on a 3rd party library vendor to fix an issue. So things have slowed down a bit for me and I’m doing a few long-wanted but low priority code cleanup tasks.
  • My spouse is sick, probably allergies but it hit hard. I’m not feeling super great myself, but our symptoms are quite different and I’m at least getting decent sleep.

I’ve been playing a lot of Guild Wars 2 lately. The “Realm of Dreams” update for Secrets of the Obscure landed just before the cat taxi run, bringing additional story chapters and the long-awaited expanded weapon proficiencies.

The story for SOTO is an absolute mess that I won’t even try to summarize, though it does have some intriguing bits. And almost every new combat mechanic and set-piece boss fight are SUPER ANNOYING (some encounters make it inevitable that you’re going to die and get resurrected over and over and over, others slow down your movement to an excruciating crawl). Nonetheless, I got the new goodies unlocked. Pistols for Guardians are OK, not amazing with my greatsword-focused guardian who was doing the story. Axes for thieves are pretty great (but maybe not better than staff, aside from having a little range). Pistols for Elementalists struck me as extremely meh. Maces for rangers are awesome, and I wound up leveling up a new ranger to 80 and going Soulbeast with them. (Also risked going to the SOTO area with them at level 63, avoiding all combat, to find a Sky-Chak Striker to tame. One aspect where SOTO does beat Path of Fire or Heart of Thorns: once you get a certain distance into the story, you have access to a portal there for all of your characters and don’t have to play through the story again to let them in.)

I also found some better guides and have been working on unlocking the skyscale mount in Tyria as well as SOTO. It’s overly complex, with game design clearly leaning on the availability of wikis and tutorials and online automated exchange rate tools. I now have all of the collections done, but since I wasn’t training the right Masteries on that Guardian, I still have to do more experience grinding stuff to fully unlock it. At least that’s straightforward.

Guild Wars 2 has coins, gems, karma, spirit shards, laurels, transmutation charges, research notes, astral acclaim, racing medallions, festival tokens, provisioner tokens, geodes, bandit crests, 16 expansion-specific currencies, 3 guild currencies, 8 PvP/WvW currencies, 8 raid/dungeon currencies. None of those require inventory slots and are shared between your characters. But then there are also inventory items: 11 keys, 16 core tokens, 16 Living World tokens, 3 expansion tokens, 14 festival tokens and 2 special event tokens. Plus some oddball crafting materials that are not that different from tokens. And some discontinued currencies and tokens which one might run into on occasion.

The skyscale’s saddle collection requires 30 provisioner tokens, which have to be acquired from scattered NPCs in exchange for other tokens/hoarded materials (or in a couple of cases, items from the auction house). But each NPC only allows buying one or two tokens per day per account. How is that fun?

This is *after* finding an egg (random drop in one of a few only-searchable-once-per-day locations; I got it on day 3), Skyscale Egg Infusions quest (which takes you all over the world and some of the steps require specific timed events, giving you about a 5-minute window during an event that happens every 3 hours), and the Skyscale Growing Comforts collection which required items dropped from specific enemies around the world).

For comparison, the raptor mount in Path of Fire happened right after the first running battle, and in fact is given away at an early level to all players now even without the expansion.

One of the reasons I have stuck with / come back to GW2 so many times over other games is how well it eases the friction that other MMOs present. Don’t want to join a guild or look for a group? No problem. Kill stealing? It doesn’t exist, everyone who does damage gets XP/loot. Penalties for dying? None. Inventory management? Smoothed. Don’t want PvP? It’s completely separate. Fast travel? Easy and fast. Account-wide currencies and bank vault? Yes. But the crafting and the different tiers of items get insanely complex, as do achievements/masteries/etc.. I suppose some people like that, though, and it does add some longevity to being at max level (in theory. In practice, how many new characters have I started?)