let the chips fall…

I’ve now finished recording on the next album. Like Parallax it’s in two parts, each consisting of multiple sessions that blend together. I was originally planning to go for two 30-minute parts but the second one wanted to end where it did… and that’s kind of the theme here. Making the music and just letting it work out the way it does. Not exactly a new concept for me, but the way the first couple of sessions just sort of automatically fit together hand in glove made me feel that the album’s theme should be, loosely, serendipity and trusting in fate and a relaxed attitude toward certain aspects of the process and outcome. So I’m calling this one “Where They May.” Thankfully I’m finishing it before May — it’s taken a while (by my standards) due to life events and illness etc.

As for the phrase “let the chips fall where they may,” I always thought it was an odd turn of phrase referring to gambling, with chips “falling” to the winners of a hand — or perhaps a pachinko-like game with literally falling tokens of some kind. But the internet says it comes from chopping wood. Not so much about gambling, as focusing on the broad strokes and dealing with the details after (if it’s even necessary)… that’s not unlike my musical approach.

So, yep… on to mastering, artwork and publishing my notes. The notes have some neat detail that reveals how many recording takes there were per session, or at least I think it’s neat anyway.

The art… hmm. I had an AI-generated image I thought would be cool, but my general attitude is a lot more frosty and skeptical toward AI art now, even when it doesn’t really look like AI art. Maybe especially when it doesn’t look like AI art, because I start wondering whether there is a specific artist’s work that it does look like.

I thought maybe there was something to be found on the borders of glitch art and AI art, where you give it nonsensical prompts and it produces something uniquely weird. While I’ve had a little luck keeping things extremely abstract (the cover of Daydream Network for instance), often a style still imposes itself, one obviously cribbed from human-made art or stock photos.

I’m not saying I will 100% swear off of using AI art tools, but I’m at least going to tread very carefully with them.

What else? Still coughing, and it’s annoying. I’m feeling 90% better for the most part, but once in a while a cough sets in, stops me from taking deep breaths and is generally uncomfortable and tiring. I got really tired of sugar-free lemon-mint Ricola, and then really tired of sugar-free Werther’s Original hard candies (though they taste much better and honestly seem to be no worse at cough suppression) and am now resorting to sugar-free wint-o-green Life Savers mints that frankly taste kind of weird — our grocery store doesn’t really offer anything else suitable. But knock on wood, today seems to be better so far.

Soulstone Survivors updated its update, mainly just increasing the pace of leveling streamlining away a couple of the more awkward new boosts. It feels much better. That said, I’m hitting a point where it’s kind of just passing time, grinding to get the costume unlocks and I could probably do something else instead. That something else would have been a lot more music if I’d been feeling better, but perhaps now?

My Guild Wars 2 experience has stabilized/stagnated too. I have a main now, my dual mace Soulbeast. Quite tough and somewhat helpful at background-supporting nearby players. Very respectable burst damage, but it peters out after a while — if I were willing to give up the bow for a second melee weapon set I could fix that, but I’ve found it useful for some situations; maybe I could experiment though. I’ve gotten into the habit of logging in, doing all of the daily/weekly Astral Acclaim tasks that aren’t too annoying, and then back out. I’m kind of thinking I should go ahead and do the End of Dragons story with this character.

Deep Rock Galactic Survivor is fun for the occasional round, but that’s about it. And that’s fine.

After The Silmarillion, I reread Paper Mage, a fantasy novel set in China that has some neat aspects to it. And then when searching for the next thing, accidentally discovered that I have a second copy of it, as well as finding my own paperback copies of The Silmarillion (I’d read my spouse’s) and Lord of the Rings trilogy (I’d read it on my phone via Hoopla). Checked with the county library again and now I’ve got a couple of books with similar themes on my Kindle:

  • The Dead Take The A Train is a Richard Kadrey / Cassandra Khaw novel. Generally trashy and gory but fun, it’s a world where the big financial players in NYC have deals with horrific eldritch entities, and the protagonist is a freelancer caught up in their plots. I would not want to see this as a movie and am maybe a bit glad for my visual aphantasia, but it does make an entertaining book. I’m about 3/4 of the way through it.
  • Season of Skulls, from Charles Stross’ Laundry Files universe (where a secret government organization was meant to protect the world from horrific eldritch entities), the third in the New Management trilogy (where they failed and Britain is currently ruled by one such entity). Generally this series has less gore (though there are times) and general scumminess than the other book, but better dark humor and more bureaucratic/late capitalist absurdity (though the New Management kind of wiped away a lot of that) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of what’s in the setting.

turn around, bright eyes

For the 2017 eclipse, where we were in Hermann, MO, we took photos with our humble phone cameras using the lenses removed from a spare pair of eclipse glasses. And they were… not awful? Not award-winning but reportedly better than some experienced photographers got with fancier equipment.

(The moon approached from different directions in 2017 and 2024.)

The partial eclipse photos at least show almost what the eye sees: a fairly clean and clear portion of the a smooth, circular sun, whether with a small bite removed or just the thinnest crescent. It’s almost unreal. The totality photo with no filter is much less good, a bit of a blurry and pixelated mess compared to the bizarre clarity of what the eyes see during those moments. But not bad for a camera lens smaller than a pinky nail, right?

You’d think a more modern phone with “better” cameras and “enhanced” software would take better photos. It did not. Orange cloudy pixellated blobs with weird bands of brightness that look like compression artifacts. The sun maybe not even round but weirdly ovoid. I took something like 130 photos (the SolarSpot app can take them in bursts) and a video, and… it’s mostly crap.

Here are the best of them, both taken at totality without the eclipse filter:

(The lights came on in the soccer field in Perryville right before totality; I’m not sure that explains the amount of light seen on the horizon, but it certainly seemed darker than this in person.)

I have to wonder if the camera software now is trying too hard to adjust for unusual lighting conditions, resulting in worse eclipse photos. And/or maybe the quality of the extra eclipse filters made for phones wasn’t up to the level of the ones for our eyes. Or both? Anyway.

Photography aside… it was an incredible thing to witness. Some words that come to mind are awestruck, holy, inspiring, humbling, unreal, wondrous, joyous. Atavistic? “Amazing” is so overused but yes, struck with amazement. Apparently there’s an effect where people who’ve just experienced an eclipse among other people are more likely to use “we” words than “I”, and some psychological studies were among the other science being done yesterday. I can certainly see how people in ancient times would have been terrified by such an event, but with it being predictable and understood, it’s very much a thing to marvel at.

It took us about an hour and 20 minutes to drive to the soccer complex in Perryville, and we went pretty early to make sure we’d secure a spot. There was plenty of parking available then, and a few spots even within an hour of first contact (they filled up by the time things were underway though). Apparently we choose our spot well, because further south in Cape Girardeau (a bit closer to the center of the eclipse path) there was a line for the parking area before 5 AM.

The drive back was over 5 hours. The GPS tried to direct us to a side road to save half an hour, but there was an accident which both halted traffic and forced us back onto the highway. Also we’ve both got some sunburn (mine is limited to my neck, thanks to my big floppy sun hat, so I don’t have post-sun headache on top of still recovering from this respiratory infection). Still very much worth it!

always something there to remind me

I’m doing a bit better with the Silmarillion this time around. I will give some credit to A (Mega) Guide to the Silmarillion, and some to being willing and able to look up stuff at tolkiengateway.net and elsewhere when I forget who the Vanyar are again and where Nargothrond is and what race Borthand is.

(While The Hobbit and the Silmarillion are approximately the same length, there are 42 characters in The Hobbit and 216 in the Silmarillion, according to tolkiengateway… throw in the whirlwind geographical tours of places that sometimes have 2-3 names and gets destroyed later in the timeline anyway, and a little outside help is a very useful thing.)

I mostly don’t participate in TalkBass, except in the “Ambient/Post-Rock/Textural bass playing thread” which has turned into a nice little clique of people doing interesting things. Most of the rest of the site is Boomers in dad bands, and their musical world is not my musical world.

But when I visit the site, it shows the most recent threads, so I see what those strangers are up to. Today’s is “Anybody else came to terms with the fact they’re just not fan of effects?” My answer is “LOL no.”

I can certainly see in that in a typical band playing live, the bass guitar is going to want minimal effects. The amp probably takes care of overdrive and EQ. It’s not unusual to have a compressor, maybe fuzz or a phaser — but it’s also not unusual to plug straight in.

I’m not in a typical band playing live. Stack those effects, chain them, pile them on. Sometimes the bass doesn’t sound at all like a bass when I’m done with it, more often it’s a kind of electronic hybrid.

But that got me thinking about a project where I avoid using most effects — all the delays, reverbs, granular, chorus/flanger/phaser sorts of things, lo-fi-izers, spectral processing… the idea is a little scary but exciting at the same time. I have no idea what my music would sound like that way! I’d have to make some arbitrary decisions about what gear and techniques are valid to use — the line between, say, a wavefolder as a synthesis method vs. overdriving a filter vs. actually using Peradam or Ruina is a little fuzzy. But I might just take this idea up as my next project. Possibly another half-hour thing like Slow Teleport, rather than a longer one like the current project that is still, I promise, underway. I just need to not be sick, busy, or in the midst of a deep dive into gear.

all at once

Sunday morning I did our taxes — I have to recommend FreeTaxUSA.com, it’s a legit site and lets you file a federal return online for free, plus a state return for $15. And in the evening I watched Everything Everywhere All At Once, which was a coincidence — I didn’t know a tax audit was part of the plot. All I knew going in was “Michelle Yeoh” and “sort of a superhero film” and “people having to do absurd chaotic stuff to break through reality” (which, in general, is a concept I like a lot for a magic system). And it just happened that Netflix had it.

I don’t want to spoil anything for those like me who haven’t seen it, but WOW what a film. What a crazy, stupid, brilliant, absurd, hilarious, touching, multi-layered, fun film. I didn’t even realize that it had a long running time (having a pause button really helps with the bathroom problem).

I would summarize it as: “what if The Matrix, but instead of 90s edginess and lots of guns it had the absurdity and heart and fashion sense of The Fifth Element dialed up to 11, and manic creative energy? And not in the least for kids partly because it’s actually mature (without losing playfulness), and partly because a few moments of immature humor don’t pull any punches. An action/SF movie not about defeating some horrible evil but coping with life’s everyday difficulties.” Someone on Metafilter FanFare said of it “If Charlie Jane Anders and Chuck Tingle had a baby, and the baby was a movie, this would be it.” And yeah, that also fits!

I think I’m going to want to watch it again, probably more than once.

And after that, I was still feeling pretty decent Sunday night, and woke this morning feeling well enough to physically come to the office, and even to a break to walk around a bit. I’m not at 100%, there’s the occasional annoying cough, but SO MUCH BETTER overall. My spouse seems to be doing much better too.

The appendices in Return of the King clarified a few lore questions we’d thought of. Then I launched into The Silmarillion, that combination of beautiful prose (at the very start, with the Music of the Ainur) and quickly decaying into utter slogfest (once it gets into “the begats”, trying to remember which group of Elves followed/rejected which movements, which people are 4000 years old and which ones merely a couple hundred, and keeping track of which placenames are the west, the West, The West, THE WEST or not-actually-on-the-planet). I’ve started reading it several times, and I think I finished a complete serial reading exactly once (retaining very little). Will I finish this time? I dunno.

I mentioned the upcoming Soulstone Survivors update in my last post. It landed, and then it bounced. Apparently enough players complained that they reverted the update within hours (but made that version accessible through beta options).

To keep the story short, there were a TON of changes and the balance was completely redone. It very successfully fixed issues with the difficulty curve (cruising on easy, getting faster and easier, then either WHAMMO into a wall of impossibility or devolving to a tedious slogfest). But it changed the pace of the game, and I think that’s where people have a bit of a legitimate gripe. (Complaining that “Light Beam got nerfed” or “my crit rate is less than 100%” isn’t meaningful if you consider just how much else changed…)

Personally I like a lot of the changes quite a bit, and I think pulling the update was a mistake… but such radical changes could have used more playtesting. I think it could be rescued simply by reducing the XP required to level up, resulting in faster accumulation of buffs. Maybe a very slight base run speed boost, so the slowest characters don’t feel quite so physically slow. And maybe some tweaking of a few of the level-up bonuses to bring them into line with each other.

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?)


Crazy days. The Big Last-Minute Update at work required about three more layers of updates, but we’re getting through it. (Update ADOS so we can update the build agents (requiring new VMs with updated OS) so we can update so they support VSTest 2022 so we can update everyone to Visual Studio 2022 and Fortran 2024 so we can update the three critical third-party libraries, which required writing some code to cover for their mutual incompatibilities, so we can pass a cybersecurity certification.)

The plumbing stuff at my parents’ new home is done except for final inspection and we’ve been doing some final fixes and cleaning. We’re going down this weekend in a rental SUV to pick up their cats and some stuff.

Last weekend though I managed to record 10 more minutes for the next album, putting it at one continuous 30-minute mix. Since it’s an album rather than a live set, I’m gonna keep going… though probably will switch to a “side B” as I did for Parallax. As a thank-you gift for the house work, my parents sent me a small steel tongue drum, like a mini version of my HAPI Origin. This sounds pretty great through Wingie 2 (I heard you like resonators, so I put a resonator in your resonator…)

Scottish Eurorack company InstrÅ«o recently released a dual allpass filter, called DAPF (the only non-Gaelic module name they have). DivKid did a great demo video of it, and I was convinced. It’s 4HP, the size of the last remaining gap in my case. Perfect.

Allpass filters are a bit weird. If you have a basic concept of lowpass, highpass, bandpass filters, the idea of a “filter” that doesn’t filter anything sounds like a joke. But a side effect of those other filters is a phase shift around the cutoff frequency, and indeed, an allpass filter does the phase shift without changing amplitudes. What that means is, if you put a particular waveshape into it, you get a different shape out that sounds exactly the same, having the same harmonic content, just shifted ever so slightly in time according to its center frequency. This turns out to be a surprisingly useful tool:

  • mixing the affected and unaffected signal in various ways creates other filter types.
  • moving the filter’s center frequency induces phase shifts; do it at audio rate and it sounds like FM synthesis.
  • move that center frequency more slowly, and with a feedback loop through the allpass filter (typically with several APFs in series) and you’ve got a phaser effect.
  • altering the waveshape means that nonlinear waveshaping (e.g. distortion, wavefolding) and analog logic operations/ring modulation/etc. will affect the signal differently. This allows you to fold a “square wave” (since it’s not square anymore, it just sounds like one). Shifting that center frequency changes the waveshaping in interesting ways.
  • allpass filters somewhat resemble the diffusion of sound waves in physical spaces. Digital reverbs tend to use combinations of delays, allpass filters and comb filters to do their thing. While you’d need an armload of DAPF modules to patch a reverb this way, putting it into feedback loops of various kinds does have neat results.

I found a particularly cool, unexpected application I found for it last night. Running a unipolar envelope through it, while also patching that envelope to the CV input, lets you get a bit of bipolar ripple/wobble. This reminded me of New Systems Instruments Inertia… so I added a feedback path through the allpass and got resonant wobbles like Inertia. Maybe this is how that module is implemented.

crawling along, but fast

The replacement Wingie 2 arrived, and it’s pretty cool. A little flawed, but I like how sensitive the internal mic is and how that translates to lovely pings and resonances. Just pressing the buttons on the built-in keyboard causes it to ring, as does moving your fingers on the case, a little wind, breath, etc. And it’s a feedback champ if you’re using speakers. It might not be the most versatile instrument/effect out there but it’s gonna get some use. Plus there’s the Blippoo Box firmware to try out.

Second track for the next album is recorded… and it coincidentally fit so well with the first one, it sounds intentional, and they’ve now been merged into one track. Also, another snippet that I made a loop from fits well with a semi-generative loop I separately patched in software, and together, I think it fits with the finished parts… lots of serendipity going on here. Overall, I’m expect this to turn out to be a long-form continuous thing like Slow Teleport or Parallax.

Speaking of serendipity, there was a weird, loud, deep bass hum from some passing vehicle right at the end of my most recent listen which totally fit, sounding like the intro to another section. If I could have recorded that right then I’d have done it.

I had a dream last night about being at a concert in a small room. Several people with various synth gear, computers, instruments, including one woman with a sort of hybrid taiko/doumbek, wooden but with a bowl shape like a tympani. They were having some technical issues with some instruments, and wound up doing a sort of live coding session on two computers which they then just let run for a while and sat back and listened. I had one of those dream epiphanies that doesn’t actually make sense in the waking world, something about how the division between composition and improvisation, or manually played and sequenced parts, was both ironic and illusory, which was supposed to be relevant to how I make music. Whatever, I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing.

My GW2 playing has been continuing. I’ve now got a level 80 staff/rifle quickness Deadeye — which doesn’t use the Be Quick Or Be Dead trait like I first though but is set up to maximize Steal Time. A glass cannon that can solo some champions but gets in trouble when CCd, so I’m probably going to rethink my chosen skills and make sure I have some kind of stun break/escape plan. She’s scary with the rifle, able to clear out a whole bandit camp (or whatever) without moving, but the staff is more fun and satisfying.

The update that adds more new weapons is coming soon. Some look super cool, some a bit more plain but might be fun. So I’m not gonna start into End of Dragons with anyone until that’s here since I might have a new favorite… or might get tired of GW2 again before I get there. (But that’s okay if so, I’ll surely be back later.)

I also just picked up Deep Rock Galactic: Survivors a couple of days ago. Where other “survivors” games seem to be a combination of strategic building and twitch action, this is more about tactical movement choices. Slower pace but it keeps you thinking on your feet the whole time, not just avoiding the hordes. You’re a Dwarven asteroid miner, there are thousands of alien bugs and some specific objectives to fill in a fairly short time. You could tunnel through some rock to force the bugs to go through in single file and set up a choke point, but you move slower doing it and they might catch you. But there’s some health crystals to mine for. And should you let them get a little closer so more of them get squashed when the drop pod falls? Depending on your weapon, upgrades and class, you typically auto-aim at the nearest bug, which means to take out the boss that’s your objective, you have to keep it fairly close but outside the reach of its claws. If you’re the Gunner, you mostly aim in the direction you’re running but you’re trying to run away from the bugs while shooting them…. so yeah, lots of stuff along those lines. Overall, I still think I prefer Soulstone Survivors, but this is a different-enough-yet-similar style to be fun too (despite some slightly-off voice acting and mediocre writing).