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.