3, 2, 1 …action!

Remember way back ….when I mentioned how one of The Man’s was going to be a movie star of sorts? Well, almost 5 years later, I finally got a chance to see the production. It’s pretty good actually, and Scott did a wonderful job. Thomas wasn’t the greatest actor however …he looked a little fidgety, plus I caught him glancing into the camera. Oh Thomas. But hey (‘Hay’ …get it?) they both handled their 2 minutes of fame with the utmost grace, and I’m sure acting futures are on the table if they ever quit their day-jobs.

Thomas probably shouldn’t though….

donating

I did the platelets thing the other day kids …fun?

I used to donate maybe once every few months way back when, and it was only because platelets is a little more of a time commitment than plasma (1.5 hrs vs about 45 min) that I didn’t go more often. It is a slightly more complicated affair too, and this past donation reminded me of that. When I initially asked about possibly donating platelets a few weeks back, I was told I wouldn’t be a good candidate because I don’t weigh that much ….and they now apparently restrict donations to heavier people so they can draw two samples as opposed to the typical single. Drawing two essentially means more bang for the platelet buck, and given all the behind-the-scenes work needed for the process it kinda makes sense.

So they drew(?) a ‘CBC’ on me for funsies during my last plasma donation, and my platelet count was unexpectedly high considering my body weight ….and so they called me up for this recent platelets donation in the role of filler; someone to come in when a regular donor can’t make their appointment. The rationale is that it’s better to at least get one sample than nothing at all because of a no-show.

Platelets is an interesting donor experience; you get covered in warm (microwaved!) blankets and beanies, calcium chews to snack on, have a ‘return and draw’ cycle every few minutes to keep you awake, and kinda get pampered while you lay there in comfort for the near 55 minutes it takes from initial poke to the final needle withdrawal. Factor in the pre and post setups and voila …1.5 hours has passed away. It is a little weird though, and I can feel my body (neck, lips…) kinda chill ever so slightly. You feel a bit ‘off’ but it’s the kind of off that you can’t really put your finger on …and then it’s suddenly over.

And so you may be asking yourself -why donate? Good question. Personally, I look at it as a break-even/balancing act between healthcare-in and healthcare-out. What I mean by that is I don’t like to be sick and dependent on others for my health, and so when I feel ill and visit a doctor ….in the back of my mind I kinda feel guilty about it; not wanting to be a burden and, if I could, pay them back. Healthcare is free here in good ol’ Canada, but I don’t think that means we’re free from having to worry about how we get that care. Of course we pay for it through taxes, but I’m sure there’s a lot of people who use more than they put in …and so this is my way of putting in just that little bit extra. I’m helping ….as Ralph says.

I’ve had knee surgery, an appendectomy, various sutures, procedures and visits for moles, cuts and cysts etc. …. all of it adding up to quite a few thousands I’m sure, and so if I can give back a little and help some others is return then why not. It costs me nothing and I can afford the time. And I feel good about it too ….knowing that there’s a little bit of me in potentially hundreds of strangers walking down the street lol. And of course let’s not forget the main reason for donating in the first place….

Free cookies!

george-cookies

Humongous Poo (HP)

I lost my ‘official complaint’ that I thought I kept last month. It was my rant to the powers that be about the absolutely terrible support service I had from Hewlett Packard in regards to an HP Envy 17-kxxxx that the had drive and battery replaced under warranty. That was just before Christmas too, which kinda sucked for timing. It also needed the wireless module replaced about a year earlier …again, under warranty. But this last rant was out of frustration as I was transferred to 11 different people and given 4 different case numbers. I was told that ‘service’ would be covered ….and then I was told that I’d have to pay out of pocket – anywhere from $49 to about $160 depending on who I spoke to. I was on the phone for over an hour and a half, disconnected at least three times, and had to explain things over and over again to each person I was in touch with. It was frustrating to say the least, and I couldn’t say enough bad things about HP computers and service. Or so I thought….

The caps lock light came on the other day with 3 slow flashes, indicating (as I found out) that there’s a ‘memory’ issue. And of course the warranty just lapsed, so I decided to go in on my own …and I have to say compared to all the Apple products I’ve worked on, the HP build and design (Envy line at least, but probably more…) is as ‘least expensive’ as you can get. Taking apart this 2 year old computer, which is somewhat modern because it’s only 2 years old, wasn’t any better than prying apart the older iBooks that I used to work on for funsies. And now that I’m thinking about it, the plastic on those things was at least thicker and able to withstand some impacts etc. This Envy was horrible though, and putting it back together went so fast that I think I understand why it was made the way it was; because it’s easier (and cheaper) to make things less complicated.

The ram is only accessible by removing the motherboard so the whole thing almost had to come apart. And in HP fashion, the website they provide for self-repairs was missing the most important part; instructions on how the board comes out. They get you started on the optical drive, top case, initial connecting ribbons, wireless modem, and then leave you stranded on how the board is removed. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I figured it out though, more or less, and reseated the ram strips (which were loser fitting than any Apple ones I’ve come across) and things seem to be working again. For how long I don’t know ….and I’m not holding my breath. And I’m backing things up! lol. Complete junk though, and the old Powerbook G4 that I picked up for $20 the other day feels like the future compared to this thing.

And it’s 10 years older.

hp

on titles and tires….

Someone on my twitter feed (yes – I have a twitter account, but I assure you it’s for stalking purposes only…) made the comment after a person left a disparaging remark about President Elect Trump; “You’ve got to respect the title!” Meaning, I suppose, that you must give respect to The Office of the President Of The United States because the position itself is of value and importance …not to mention being held in high regard throughout history and around the world. And so respecting that position implies respecting the person in that position.

Or is that really the case? Can you honestly respect a position but not the person in it? Isn’t the value inherent in that title dependant on the person/people occupying it?

The only reason the title POTUS as a position is valued in the first place is because history has placed admirable, respectable people within it. The title didn’t bestow greatness upon itself without assistance from these former occupants ….and the title warrants esteem because those who in the past have been POTUS were themselves highly esteemed individuals, going on to do wonderful things while in and representing that position. The fact that a politically ignorant, vulgar, misogynistic, self-centred businessman now occupies such a valued chair if anything debases the title for those whom might hold it in the future ….and so any respect afforded to President Elect Trump by the position of POTUS works against the title itself by disparaging its greatness for future Commander in chiefs.

The person and the position are separate on one level but entwined on another, and I can’t help to think that if subsequent occupiers are equally deplorable then in time, the POTUS title will flounder from its lofty peaks, requiring a substantive rebuilding if the US is to retain its ‘greatest country in the world’ moniker. Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again! campaign could take an ironic turn when he assumes control in a few weeks, and I wonder if those apathetic voters might kick themselves for hanging back on this one. Separating the position from the person might work in the short run, but given time I think you’ll find the position itself marches hand in hand with those chosen for it. Sadly.

Anyway….

Autonomous vehicles are just around the corner kids, and I like it. Seriously, I do. I know what you’re thinking, a guy like me who’s kinda old school and who drives for a job couldn’t possibly look forward to a future of driverless vehicles. But I do, and let me tell you why – I think we’re becoming worse drivers. Not that we were great at any point, but our ability level is slipping thanks to the very things that promise us safety. It’s almost as if we’re being weened off driving, slowly, with the assumption that in a few decades we’ll be completely removed from the experience. Technology is moving into our driving lives under the premise of comfort, convenience and safety…

For example; with active park assist you no longer need to trouble yourself with vehicular spatial awareness skills; with onboard GPS you no longer need to be aware of the area or direction you’re driving; with ABS you forsake the ability to manually control your car during braking; with blind zone awareness you no longer need to worry about checking over your shoulder; with impending backup camera legislation you’ll no longer have to worry about visually checking around your car; with winter tires you’re given a false sense of security as you no longer fret about how your car reacts to different snow/ice conditions….

What all these advances in technology do is release the driver from developing and/or maintaining the physical skills and awareness required to manually operate their vehicle. We’re being pushed out of the driver’s seat and handing control over to Skynet -lol. It’s almost as if we no longer want to be bothered with the tedium and needless frustration with driving. Nobody likes traffic, nobody likes wasting their time commuting, nobody likes having to worry about gas and oil and windshield fluid etc ….we like to drive when it suits us, but we hate to drive when we’re forced to. And so we gradually lose interest in vehicle related skills because we’d rather have that time to ourselves; to listen to music, talk on our phones, check our social medias etc. Our priorities when driving are no longer to our vehicles, those around us, or to the space they occupy as much as they are to more personal interests.

Part of me likes that though, and then part of me doesn’t. I like it because I think it’d be wonderful to have commuting controlled by technology; no more distracted driving; cars, speeds and traffic flow synced with lights, intersections and pedestrian crossings; no more frustrations as destination times could literally be preset; environmental improvements by eliminating many of the starts/stops that characterize an average trip…. There’s lots of good things to happen by removing us from equation, but then – and perhaps it’s the old school in me, there’s lots of things that we’d lose as well; independence and self-determination in our travels, the feeling/sense of responsibility and ownership, a lose of creativity and individuality, and the feeling you get with meandering around town or impromptu road trips….

Vehicles have become a second home for many; comfort, security, familiarity …and often an accessory for the lifestyles we lead. They’ve become like that favourite pair of jeans and grow old with us like a family pet. They make memories and they mark milestones, and the idea that the car can go the way of the just another apparatus in our day to day lives doesn’t sit so well with me. But again, I’m old school …and perhaps it’s time to trade in our environmental disasters for something new and improved.

*mmmmm, new and improved environmental disasters…*

testing 1, 2, 3…

It’s another instalment of Music Professionalism 101 kids. Today’s topic ….the infamous soundcheck. The impetus for this post was the comment from a friend about how long and what a waste of time a recent soundcheck was, and so I figured I should get on my high horse and do the soundchecking world a favour. I know …that’s the kinda guy I am. As per usual, this mostly applies to the gigging, rocking, pop-musicing sorts of endeavours filling the local streets, bars, clubs and corporate venues in cities world-wide. And as per extra usual, these are solely my abysmal observations put to digital paper as only I can. Disclaimer officially disclaimed.


The word soundcheck, although separated into two distinct words by my ‘spellchecker’ (which isn’t separated btw, how ironic…) is at its roots two distinct words; sound and check. In the gigging context a soundcheck is that activity where the band collectively checks their sound. You check your sound because, more often than not, the performance you’re about to embark on requires you to play through some sort of public address system –PA for short. Checking your sound in this instance means balancing the band’s instrumentation (levels, eq’s, effects etc.) as they’re amplified through the PA, effectively making it sound as good as possible (given room dynamics) for both the lovely listeners and the performers on stage. The PA system and setup by the adorable PA peeps is a different beast from the soundcheck, but as they’re both so interconnected you can’t really talk about one without the other.

In a perfect world, soundcheck’s happen after the PA is set up and ready for action. Let’s say a soundcheck is at 2pm for example ….what that means is that as a player you have to be set up and ready to ‘check your instrument’ at 2 pm. A horn player might only need 5 minutes to set up and be ready, in which case they can arrive 5 minutes before the check. A keyboardist might only need 15 min – and so they show at 1:45 pm. Basically then, the time you would need to show up for the soundcheck is dependant upon how long you need to set up all your gear to be ‘performance ready’ for the time it starts. A drummer may need an hour while the vocalist a minute ….yes, life is unfair and you should choose your instrument wisely.

The soundcheck itself starts the very instant everyone is setup and ready to go …players in their places with bright shining faces as they say.

Now – there is the detail of setting mics and stuff which the PA people have to place on stage when each performer is eventually ready to check. This only takes minutes though as most good PA people have this equipment waiting to go right beside your spot on stage (you did provide a stage plot right!?) There are those with special needs …the drummer for example (it’s always the drummer….) if the whole kit is being mic’d, or people with effects or special requirements like in-ears, sequencers etc. that require a little extra time. However, these special needs people know this already, and afford themselves an extra 5-10 min. on top of their regular set up time. So then, maybe 10 minutes after everyone’s ready, the PA people will commence with their witty banter: “Can I get some kik please?” ….quickly and effectively going around her/his input channels getting all the musicians adjusted for monitors and FOH (front of house) systems. Again, in a perfect world.

After the lines are checked and each player’s sound is generally happening for not only themselves but for the others in the group, the band will play one or two songs and the PA people will tweak a few more mids ….smiling assuredly at each other knowing things sound great and the world is a better place.

And that’s the end of the story!
Or is it….

Although it doesn’t always happen, it’s always best to try for this perfect experience. You may know up front that so and so aren’t going to make it when they should (or if at all!) but you still hope most of the group and the PA peeps will have their act together and any ‘issues’ can be minimized. You also expect people to be responsible for their own lives too; the bass player factoring in the hauling and transport of their gear through the maze that is the venue, the keyboard player bringing all they need in terms of amps, cables etc, the vocalist having lyrics, the horns bringing music stands etc. etc. Being late or missing in such a interconnected and fast paced environment sucks because it frustrates others and puts undue stress on the whole procedure. Because of this, being professional and respectful to those doing their tasks (being quiet like a mouse when others are checking for example!) means getting things done efficiently, finishing the soundcheck on time, and as well helps to instil confidence that things will operate smoothly when the gig finally gets underway.

In the imperfect world however (of which a good portion of the gigs I do subside…) there are all sorts of corners to be cut in getting the soundcheck done (or not) and the show on the road. For example; there’s the band that does its own PA setup, the band that requires minimal PA use and only mic’s some of the members, the band that drops their gear off throughout the day for the PA peeps to mic just before the show starts, the band that has some people setting up as others are soundchecking, the band that doesn’t even soundcheck and relies on the PA peeps to balance things out over the first few tunes, the band that shows up at a scheduled time only to find the PA people haven’t been able to setup their gear and everyone has to wait, the band and/or PA people that show up with broken gear and have to hunt around for unbroken stuff, the venue that changed rooms at the last minute, the organizer that changes the “It’s not going to change” schedule, the person whose dog ate their homework etc. etc…

There’s a million things to go wrong before a soundcheck, during a soundcheck, after a soundcheck or in lieu of a soundcheck happening at all, and there’s a million ways to ‘make it work’ in terms of getting the show ready for your eagerly awaiting public. The important thing though is that you should always aspire for that best case scenario. By taking care of things on your own end (scheduling, transportation, equipment, backup gear etc.) you minimize the potential of things going wrong and ensure it’s NOT your fault if things happen to go south. And if everyone down the line does that, then you’ve increased the odds of a successful soundcheck and put positive vibes toward the upcoming show. When delays/screw-ups happen though …be patient and do your best to help figure things out. And if you’re the person/company/venue screwing up? ….well, don’t let it become a regular thing.

You just might get more work that way :)

HNY (it’s what the kids say…)

“On the bass, Derek Smalls. He wrote this!”


Happy New Year’s kids! I figure the best way to start this year is with the classic ‘jazz odyssey’ from Spinal Tap. It pretty much sums up what 2017 will bring as far as I’m concerned. There’ll be adventure, exploration and of course the delving into new musical frontiers. And how do I know all this you say? Well, I don’t. I’m just guessing. And I’m a horrible guesser fyi btw (the kids say this too….)

For my lame New Year’s adventure I made my way out to Edmonton’s infamous Churchill Square. It was full of people but then it wasn’t full of people, if you know what I mean. It could have been the cold. I caught the late show too, and I think most of the people/families with kids kinda left the building after the early instalment of fireworks. And I don’t blame them ….it was a little frosty around the edges as the Man says.

As for resolutions …nope. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Nothing at all. I hate them (and I think you know that) and I always will ’till I’m dead and buried and/or whatever manner of human disposal they come up with in the future. Why? Well, they don’t work. They focus the attention from what needs to be done in the present to what needs to be done in the future – and the future never needs the focus that the present needs. Or something like that. It’s science though, and you can’t fight the science.

Although methinks 2017 will give it a run for its money.

band1

The festive crowd at Churchill Square

band2

News from Aleppo…

I don’t know much about Aleppo.

I know basic things of course ….that it’s in Syria, that Syria’s been in a ‘civil’ war for years, that President Bashar al-Assad has (with his Pops) been in power for decades. I also know that he’s Alawite, that he used to be in the West’s good-books, and that he fell out of them not just as a result of the Arab-Spring but also for his support against the war in Iraq. I also know what I hear from mainstream media regarding the Syrian ‘civil’ war; how the government forces used WMD’s blatantly killing its own people, how the Assad regime sided with US’s enemy Russia, how ‘genocide’ as been used to describe the atrocities, and how the city of Aleppo has been completely destroyed due to fighting. Knowing all these things doesn’t mean I know anything though; I’m not connected to members from the Syrian community nor am I constantly up on the day to day happenings through social media from the country. Nope, when it comes to Aleppo and Syria I know very, very little. Aside from what I hear in the news that is.

The problem with the news though, is that it isn’t always what it’s made out to be. In a perfect world it’s supposed to be a de-facto retelling of events that leaves any conclusions solely to the listener. In our slightly more messy and human one however, it becomes something no quite so removed from the objectiveness on which it’s based. Which is why it’s refreshing to hear differing opinions that present something ‘not quite’ along the party lines. Opinions from knowledgable sorts, and whose narratives are occasionally drowned out by the sea of popular opinion.

Gwynne Dyer and Professor Nahla Abdo (via Ryan Jespersen) offer just that.
*taken from the download page on 630 ched.com*


Merry Belated Christmas…

The trip out to Tisdale was fun ….all the excitement you can handle and then some. Lots of food, family, friends and of course presents. It was quick, as per usual, and the drive was long. Oh, and it was cold. I left Edmonton when it was around zero and I arrived to -24. And it stayed there. And then it got colder. And then me and the Mom woke up on Christmas Day with some kind of dizzy, flu type bug ….but then she got better, and I think I may have figured out what may be ailing me. Maybe.

Alexys had a great time! Well, I suppose the older kids enjoyed themselves too ….and the young-un’s are the reason for the season after all. My nephew and his family surprised my Mom with a trip to an Oiler’s game sometime in February, so she’s looking forward to that …and I might have to whip up some entertainment of sorts for a day or two. Maybe. I scored the classic triple-S when it comes to gifts as well; shirts, sweaters and socks. And then gift cards – they seem to be the new ‘I don’t know what to get so here’s this’ thing. And they’re OK!

Might be using one tonight :)

alexys

stuff #5784.23

Holy tired kids…

It’s been a busy few days and it’ll be an equally busy next few …all before I rest my weary bones in the mighty Saska-bush part of the world. The present’s are almost all got, although I could use some wrapper-monkeys to help the cause. Dutch store crap has been picked up, the car fixed (kinda), blood bled, and the Baritone Doctor Christmas Greeting Cards are all set to be delivered to deserving girls and boys worldwide. Sleep is missing though ….the good, quality kind that is, but hopefully even some good shorter stuff will suffice for a bit. And I keep thinking I’m forgetting something too – like a present or person or something that I was supposed to take care of before I bugger off. Hummmm …It’ll come to me.

After the fact I’m sure.

baritone-doctor

 

cheesecakes, christmas, chores and cartoons

The BBJ’s did a little Christmas party for the bus driver’s this weekend …and no, we didn’t play the Hey Bus Driver Speed Up A Little Bit number that we probably should have. We played other numbers that they seemed to dance to, but just not that one. Stefan did a solo piano set too, followed by the ‘BBJ Jazzzzzz Trio’ that had the crowd thoroughly enjoying their steak. There were cheesecakes as well (I think I mention all my cheesecake gigs out of habit) …and rather enjoyable – I had two sorts; one chocolate and one something else. The chocolate ditty was the best. The something else was good too, but not as good as the chocolate. It was chocolate after all.

And that’s it for the Christmas Season in terms of shows …the next stop is the exciting Christmas Day itself, which will be out in the mighty Tisdale part of the country. Haven’t been there since Grandpa passed, so it’ll be kinda sad at times I’m sure. I’ll eat his portion of the meal …that would make him happy. Still have to load up on some more gifts yet too, but most things are kinda taken care of. I’ve a few items that I put off, but this week should pull those loose ends together and then see me hit the road Friday ……Thursday in a pinch. Mmmmmm, sweet 8 hour drive with no cruise control.

I think I’m going to try to take some time over the holidays to organize some type of photography page to this blog. It’s never had one, and I’ve always sub-contracted the page out to Flickr (for the longest time) and then to ipernity about 3 years ago. Since I’ve placed them there, I honestly haven’t been back. I know …..sad. I don’t even know if the ipernity peeps are actually people – they could be robots! I don’t know, and I hope I remember my sign in data otherwise my crap could be there for the foreseeable future.

And last but not least, I’m going to remark about the run today. Yes, I did run. No, I haven’t been running this whole Winter (more or less) but I did make the effort tonight with the ol’ Matrix at the Kinsmen. Whenever I run on machines I always get the impression nothing is real; calories, distance, pace, heart rate, you name it…. It all seems so cartoony. I’ll take its word for the time running though, those seconds feel of the real world, but everything else I’m kinda skeptical about. The sweat seemed real too. And the sore feet, sore knee and tight hams that seems to follow about 5 minutes later. Yeah …those seemed real.

Sadly.

t5x

Image from fitnessdepot.ca