Studio and cat updates


My basement studio setup is coming along slowly but surely. I ended up buying a used ADAT preamp to expand my existing audio interface (rather than buying a new interface/patchbay/etc.) and it mostly works great, although I’m going to see if I can hack an S/PDIF decoder into a word clock source for it so that the 18i8 can be master (which makes a couple of things easier to deal with).

For now I’m using my old MacBook as the recording computer. It only has a 500GB drive, though, and I couldn’t find the power adapter for my external HDD enclosure, so I decided to try just running Native Instruments off of my NAS over gigabit Ethernet. Nearly every install failed with a nonsensical “malformed XML document” error, which turns out to be a known issue with attempting to install to a NAS. Oh well. Hopefully that PSU turns up soon. I’m sure it’s in the bottom of whichever box I end up unpacking last.

(The PSU isn’t anything particularly exotic in principle, just a 12V 2A center-positive wallwart, but for some reason all the 12V center-positive wallwarts I can find can’t accommodate its extra-thick center pin.)

But anyway, today I finally got to the point where I could hook up my piano, and so I played piano for the first time since April, which felt nice. I can’t believe I let it be this long. I guess I really thought the backyard shed studio would go a lot more quickly!

Having my recording interface be down in the basement does mean I have no idea how I’m going to deal with headphones on my Mac mini upstairs. For now I have its headphone output going to a small speaker amp (which has no headphone output) and if I want to use headphones I’ll just like… switch to my AirPods, I guess. My plan was to hope that a four-way headphone amp I have turns up so that I can connect headphones and the speaker amp to that. Another possibility is I could hook the headphones to the headphone out and the speaker amp to the line output on my monitor, and then switch system audio outputs to switch between headphones and speakers. I’m probably overcomplicating things again. How do normal people deal with headphones and speakers on a computer? (No fair saying “use computer speakers with a headphone jack”)

This setup also means I don’t have a proper microphone on this computer anymore but I’ve been using the webcam microphone for a while now anyway (since it works better with Google Hangout and Discord chat and so on) and it seems fine enough.


I ordered some cat pheromones to try to help my cats get along with each other. So far it hasn’t had much of an impact. Fiona at least isn’t trying to murder Tyler anymore but she was already at that point. She still won’t let him play with her, and he’s ridiculously frightened of her.

Tyler thinks he’s still a tiny kitten, when he is very much neither tiny nor a kitten. He thinks he can fit on my shoulder. Or that he can climb up on my chest and nestle atop my boobs. He is sorely mistaken. (Well, I’m the one who’s sore, really.)

I guess it’s a good thing that he thinks he’s smol and weak because he gets startled and spooked easily, and his reflex is to cower and hide rather than to attack. If this 20-pound mass of muscles wanted to he could easily do a lot of damage. But thankfully he’s a big ol' scaredy-cat, a gentle giant, an absolute unit.

He also has ridiculous amounts of separation anxiety. Hopefully that’ll pass as he comes to realize that he’s safe here.


I’ve been feeling enough better for the last week that I’m going to try going back to work next week. I’m still not like… that optimistic about stuff. But I hate being in this holding pattern of nothingness. One of the accommodations I asked for is not having oncall duties. HR already denied that accommodation. So, that’s unfortunate.


Decaf Asterisk refused to be made into espresso, but it’s pretty good for pourover. Anyway I’m almost done with that bag, and next up is some Goodnight Moon which is an espresso-oriented dark roast.

I still haven’t managed to get a good shot from my bottomless portafilter, with what seems like pretty bad channeling. All of the usual/suggested channeling mitigations aren’t working though; even if I grind coarse and spend way longer on puck prep than should be reasonably necessary it still happens. I’ve also tried using a 20g dose in a larger dosing basket, and of course I’ve also been using a calibrated tamper. I’m just going to switch back to the standard portafilter for now. Oh well.

I do have some ESE pods on the way and that’ll be interesting to experiment with, and to see if they fare better in the bottomless portafilter (which would indicate it’s a problem with my tamp or grind), or at the very least it’ll give me a standardized baseline to compare my fully-manual results against.

I’ve worked out that my current espresso setup would cost around $1100 to build from scratch, and of course that doesn’t include all the stuff I’ve cycled through in getting there. Expensive hobbies are expensive. But I always will prefer having control over what I get out of it, even if it takes effort and learning. I mean, especially if it takes learning and experimentation. It’s sort of what I do, as a general habit.

I can sort of justify the expense in that after a year of making coffee at home it’ll pay for itself compared to getting a daily shot of espresso at a coffee shop, except if I didn’t have an espresso setup I also wouldn’t be having daily espresso, so that’s kind of a false equivalence. But it brings me joy and my setup is still pretty cheap compared to most enthusiasts', anyway.

I do wonder if I’d have been better off just getting a full-automatic machine like the Gaggia Brera or the like. But that isn’t as much fun. And going that route, I’d might as well just get a Nespresso or something.

I actually had a Nespresso machine back in 2014 (having enjoyed the one we had at Sony before we were forcibly switched to Keurig, and then later to a full-automatic machine whose make I don’t recall), but the cheap one I had didn’t really produce very good espresso, especially if the pods were sitting around for too long. So I got rid of it a couple years later when I’d realized it was just taking up counter space and I didn’t enjoy using it at all.


I’m getting incrementally closer to being done with Songs of Substance. Right now the main hangup is I’m not quite happy with the track ordering. But I’ve still got 3 weeks until the intended release date, and I chose that date to give myself some time to do things right. (Also because it’s on Bandcamp Friday.)

This time around I’m hiring someone else to do the album art (the current art on the preorder page is just something generated by an AI and is by no means final), and it’s been fun to bounce ideas off of each other. What they’ve made so far is very promising.


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