Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How Many Drumkits does A Drummer Need?

Nearly two years ago, I began a series of entries (quite popular, I might add) with respect to my acquisition of an older Canwood drumkit, and my efforts to restore them.
The entries begin with the first installment: "How Many Drums Does A Drummer Need?", and continues with the article: "Status of the Makeover". I was then contacted by a new Canwood drumkit owner, when I penned the "Response to J.T. Massacre" entry. The fourth entry described my gripes with tuning, aptly titled: "Tuning Lug Annoyances". The fifth entry centered around my desires to purchase a second Canwood kit to ensure I had one kit to gig, while the other kit underwent extensive restoration.

Well, cyberspace is a serendipitous place, and out of the blue, I was contacted by a fellow Canwood owner in my neck of the woods who claimed he had a Canwood kit for sale, and if I was interested in purchasing it. To make the deal even more desirable, the drumkit was in the shell sizes I was desiring. He was kind enough to provide me with photos of the drums, including areas of concern -- the bearing edge on one of the drums has been damaged and repaired with wood filler.

We exchanged further emails, telephone numbers, and we agreed on a price. Last Friday, I jumped in my car and made a three-hour drive to his city to inspect the drums in person. I met the seller, who was friendly, helpful, and easy to get along with. We spent about an hour together, not just talking about drums, but about the music scene in his city, and a great deal about the music our bands play. I guess I don't need to say that I purchased the drums on the spot, and was home in time for dinner.

According to the seller, this is one of the earliest kits Canwood manufactured -- in fact it is likely drumkit number 14. The drums are in a flaming bright red finish, though over the years, the lacquer has cracked due to changes in temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. The drums are scratched, thus the drumkit will need refinishing. A number of tuning lugs and washers have rusted, and will need replacement.

Most of the issues the drums have are cosmetic, though there will be an order to drumbuilder.com to order some necessary replacement hardware. as I noticed tuning hoops on the 12" and 13" tom are out of round, and the Wood hoop on the bass drum is cracked and will need replacing.

The first matter of business is to get the drums playable as soon as possible, as I plan to gig with them this weekend (approximately 1 week after purchase). So I did a quick cleaning of the shells, and put my trusted Evans G1 coated heads on the shells. As you can see from the attached photo, I began building the kit I plan to gig with this weekend, mixing and matching parts from both drumkits. Since the colors do not match, I'm calling it my "FrankenKit" for the time being.

When my schedule is a little more free, then I will attempt the restoration process, and I will continue to blog about it step-by-step.

So, two years later, I again have to ask myself the question: "How many drumkits does a drummer need?"

And my answer is at least four.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Why Play The Lottery?

So the big news the last few days seemed to center around the record-breaking $48-million (estimated) dollar jackpot that was won by four recipients this past weekend.

I say this because I generally don't play the lottery. I buy a few tickets here & there, usually when the jackpot gets over 20 million, but it amounts to about twice per year that I get in line and buy a couple tickets, and like everyone else, secretly hope that my numbers are the ones that are drawn that night.

The lottery puzzles me. First of all, it is a legalized form of gambling (and I'm not here to criticize gambling), but my point is that the odds are stacked against the player. It makes little sense to me to take my hard-earned cash and blow it on something that could remotely pay off.

Now I had considered going on this tirade that the government uses the lottery as a means to ensure the working class remains poor, but my arguments would have been speculative at best, and I thought the better of ranting about it here. In a different light, the lottery gives the working class hope, that there is a possibility that we can change the stars before us.

So I began to think about how much people spend on the lottery. Certainly, us Canadians must collectively spend billions per year on lottery tickets if we can enjoy such jackpots as 30-40 million. But how much does the average person spend on the lottery?

I think lottery ticket buyers come in two types: Those who play every week, and those who play from time to time, when the jackpot hits gigantic proportions (like myself). For argument's sake, let's consider the average player who buys tickets every week.

I believe the 6/49 makes two draws per week, and one draw costs $2. The "Extra" costs an additional dollar, though this is for a separate $250,000 jackpot. Thus, if a person plays the lottery twice per week, picks two sets of numbers and the Extra, a person is gambling $10 per week. To look at it another way, the average person spends $520 per year playing the lottery.

Most people play the lottery their entire lives, hoping to win the big prize. Therefore, you could say the average person plays the lottery for about fifty years. Ten dollars per week over the course of fifty years must amount to a fair chunk of change.

So I began to consider what would happen if a person invested the same amount of money into a GIC over the course of their lifetime instead of playing the lottery? Yes, I am talking about compound interest here.

So out came the Excel spreadsheet, and I began to run some numbers. Let's just say for the sake of argument, that you start with an initial investment of $0, and the going interest rate is 3%. Now interest rates change over time, and that is beyond the scope of our argument.

If you invest $10 per week into a GIC at 3 percent, after one year you will have $527.72. You've only made $7 in interest, so it doesn't look very promising. After five years of this practice, your investment has grown to $2804.26. Still, not a lot, but a little savings nonetheless. After ten years, your investment has grown to $6062.20, which might be a few month's worth of work, or perhaps an extravagant vacation. After twenty years, your investment will have grown to $14,244.60. And after fifty years, your investment will have grown to $60,315.68 -- which is more than many of us make in a year.

This essentially means if you start investing your lottery money when you are 20, by the time you are 70, you will have a sizable nestegg in the bank -- and this is on 10 dollars per week. Most of us spend more than that on frivolous things such as tobacco, alcohol, and entertainment. It is likely the average smoker spends $50 or more per week on tobacco. Us average drinkers spend anywhere between $20 and $50 per week on our vices.

So what if the smokers quit cold turkey and took the $50 per week spent on tobacco and invested it similarly?

At the end of one year, $50 per week invested into a GIC will grow to $2638.62. After five years, your investment will have grown to $14021.28. After ten years, your investment will have grown to $30,310.98. After twenty years, your investment will have grown to $71,222.98, and after fifty years, your investment will have grown to $301, 578.42. This isn't a bad deal considering you are getting only 3 percent on your investment, and you can enjoy the fact that you will live longer because since you won't be smoking.

When you consider the possibility of variable interest rates, investing in more lucrative investments (though riskier), such as mutual funds, the stock market, real estate, you could be a wealthy person by the time you retire.

Perhaps you should think about that the next time you are buying your weekly, lottery ticket, a bottle of booze for the weekend, or your next deck of cigarettes.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008: The Year of Unemployment

Well, here I am. Another year has gone by, and I take the first day of the year to reflect on all the wonders of the year past, and try to surmise that I am indeed better off this year, than I was the year prior. Well, in a lot of ways, this year felt like a giant step backward. In another light, I had to break free of molds that kept me trapped in the circles I had been driving in for more than five years of my life.

So what was the biggest news in my life of 2008?

1. I quit my job of six and a half years. For many reasons I wish to remain private, but in its' most literal sense, it was killing me slowly. I wasn't earning as much as I should have. I simply had enough, and I needed to explore new avenues and learn new skills.

2. I became a simple farmer. And no, you won't see me wearing cowboy boots, belt buckles, funny shirts, or cowboy hats. And you won't find me listening to Country music either. But this year, you found me outdoors for more than 12 hours per day, driving heavy equipment, pushing, pulling, lifting, and working my butt off. Yes it was a nice change from the drudgery of being at the same desk, doing the same things over and over again.

3. The rock band I play in, Tung N' Groove, managed to play a number of successful shows in the area. As the band gained momentum, we managed to play to some very busy establishments, build a growing fanbase on Facebook, and record a full-length demo CD, which we supply to prospective clients. The band even played our first out-of-town gig to a packed house in Brooks.

4. My blues band, The Savoys, had nothing but trouble securing work over the course of the year. In fact, we played a total of three gigs the entire year. I'm sure the whole band found it frustrarting, since we had to recruit a new member, and learn a pile of new material. I really would like to say otherwise, but I have a bad feeling that if we can't find any gigs soon -- and I mean really soon -- the future of the band will be in question.

5. I was fortunate to hone my skills at recording to the point where I have managed to garner some attention from prospective clients. With assistance from select bandmates, I managed to record both the Savoys and Tung N Groove, as well as a few other clients -- for money. I really would wish that this mobile recording thing could grow into something I could do once or twice a month -- if I could make five hundred bucks a month recording, I'd be one happy camper. That would be a considerable raise, as I think my little studio earned something like 500 bucks this entire year.

6. I continue to teach my pupils. It appears that I am getting a few more phone calls as of late, which doesn't even pay the bills, but hey, something's better than nothing at all.

So that's been it, really for the year. I can't say I'm desperate yet, but I would sure like to earn more than I'm earning right now. Ideally, I'd love it if I could make music (and when I say that, I mean, bands, students, and recording) a full-time endeavor. I don't think that's going to happen this year, though.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On The Impending "Coalition Government"

Well, it didn't take long for they boys in Ottawa to send things to Hell in a handbasket after spending some 300-million dollars on a an election campaign which resulted -- more or less -- in the same government in the House.

What has developed in the House of Commons in the last week or so is nothing short of amazing.

As for my thoughts on this "three-party coalition" set to topple the Harper government, I am unsure of what is the best alternative. It is clear to me that the democratic process in the House will be roadblocked until a majority is elected -- which could be 2 3, or 4 elections from now -- nobody knows. The Liberals, the Bloc, and the NDP are thwarting to usurp the conservative party by 'joining forces' with one another -- these three parties in the past couldn't agree on a single thing. Even if they manage to obtain power in the house, infighting between the parties will ensure the 40th Parliament will be dead -- and we will be heading to the polls sooner, rather than later -- like the 2011 date proposed by the coalition.

This whole mess has left Canadians enraged, while our Governor General is decidedly out of the country. At least Her Excellency returns tomorrow to deal with the crisis. Sadly, come Monday, she's going to have to make a difficult choice: either accept the three-party coalition as the governing party, or dissolve Parliament and we head into another election campaign -- the second in almost as many months.

Following this story, I have read hundreds of comments from enraged Canadians, and many of them spouting nonsense, which, more or less, is why I felt compelled to write about this subject. Here are two of the most idiotic statements I have read -- and my editorial as to why these are so ridiculous.
Quote #1 (paraphrased): What's been happening this week in the House of Commons is appalling. The Members of Parliament are acting like kids in a schoolyard. We should send them another message as disgruntled citizens by NOT voting in the next election.
This is utter madness. The reason why we have this lousy excuse for a government this term is because of voter apathy -- the lowest voter turnout in Canadian history! If you vote or don't vote, the end result is the same: the votes are counted, and the ones with the most votes win. How is not voting going to make a difference? That's like trying to instigate Revolution by taking a nap. Now, sending a message by spoiling your ballot is a little more effective in a sense that you are at least sending a message. The end result is the same though -- the person with the most votes still wins.
Quote #2 (paraphrased): 60% of the population didn't vote for Harper. That means 60% of the population will be happy to see someone else in power. So the three-party coalition is probably a good thing.
Oooh, this one is a doozy. Don't get me started about "voting for Harper" -- under 1% of Canada's population voted for Harper -- only the majority those who reside in his riding did. We vote for a Member of Parliament. The person elected Prime Minister is most often the leader of the party with the most seats. But I digress -- this wasn't what I was getting at anyway.

Instead, let's replace "Harper" with "Conservative" in quote number two. While it is true that the Conservatives received only 40 percent of the vote, The Liberals, New Democrats, the Bloc, and the fringe parties received even less; if you sum them together you get something like 60 percent.

Whoever wrote quote number 2 above obviously thinks his/her world is black and white. The only way 60% of the population would be happy about Harper's government being toppled is if -- and only if -- 60 percent of all voters marked an X beside the checkbox that read: "Anyone but Harper" on their ballot. Last I checked, that option was not on my ballot -- or anyone else's.

So if you let Stephane Dion become Prime Minister, do you think 60-percent of the population is going to be happy about it? Absolutely not. Maybe 20 percent of the population will be happy about it -- those who are privy to Liberal ideology. And if Gilles Duceppe became the appointed Prime Minister (it would never happen anyway) would that mean that everyone in Quebec would be happy? Absolutely not. In fact, I would expect there are a number of people who voted conservative -- even though they don't like having Harper as the party leader. We can't do anything about that as citizens. Our duty is to elect the representative who will best serve our interests in Parliament. To vote by ideology -- or along party lines -- something I see way too often in Conservative Alberta -- I consider to be dangerous. I've seen so many unqualified, egomaniac, socially corrupt, power hungry, and greedy folk get elected because they ran for the "right party" -- it makes me question the intelligence of the public. But hey, that's why we love democracy: at least we had our say.

Now even though these "quotes" aren't verbatim, they are representative of a number of comments on news-stories published all over the web. Seriously. Go have a look, anywhere, and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, November 03, 2008

To My American Friends...

Let's do it. Let's make history. Let's forget the status quo. Let's take a chance in hope for change.

Let's elect the first African-American to the White House in history.

In one day, you have the power to not only change your nation, but change the world.

It's about time.

The world is watching, and waiting in anticipation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nothing To See Here Folks, Move Along...

The result of today's election -- of the $300 million the Canadian Government spent on this election campaign, has been somewhat disappointing to many Canadians. In one light, I am glad that I contributed in my own way, even if the person I voted for was not elected, I at least had my say.

That being said, for the most part, the election results came in pretty much the way I had suspected they would.

Now, how would you know this? I would have made my prediction publicly on this website, but like so many of the public, I was not terribly excited about this election campaign. The only major issue (the economic meltdown) only came to light mid-way through the campaign. Just take my word for it -- this is what I predicted:

  • The Conservatives would marginally increase their representation in Parliament, though only succeed in winning a minority. In truth, they gained 19 seats, which was more than I expected they would.
  • The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois would lose seats. In truth, the Bloc managed to maintain their representation; the Liberals lost a substantial 26 seats.
  • The New Democrats would gain representation -- though not as much as leader Jack Layton would predict. I was very accurate in this prediction, as the New Democrats gained over 20% representation in the House.
  • The Green Party would remain a fringe party.
What does this mean to the common Canadian citizen? Well, not much really. The face of parliament hasn't changed much since Parliament was dissolved last September. There was no major shift in the balance of power. I guess this is the reason why so many people feel that this election was a waste of time and taxpayer money.

I bet if you ask Jack Layton, he would feel that $300 million was money well spent. When you consider that his party (and his power in Parliament) grew by more than 20 percent tonight, he became the true winner of this evening's election.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though gaining 19 seats in the House, becomes the first loser, as he was unsuccessful in clinching a majority government.

The bigger loser, of course was Stephane Dion. Losing 26 seats in the House will ensure his leadership will be cast into question in the coming days. I suspect we will see the Liberals spending all kinds of party money on leadership conventions, only to produce a new leader who will have the daunting task in attempting to repair a broken party.

The biggest losers of all, were the people of Canada. Roughly 56-percent of eligible voters cast a ballot -- the lowest in Canadian history. I consider this a major black mark for Canada, and for democracy as a whole. Voter apathy produces only one thing: Tyranny. If you consider that there were nearly ten-million voters in Canada that did not cast a ballot today, there was a distinct chance that those votes could have impacted the results of many ridings.

To protest by not voting (something I have been hearing about recently) is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. This is exactly how tyrants come to power.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New MacBooks Underwhelming


It has been some eight months since Apple released an update to their laptop lines. Given the delay, us Apple zealots were expecting something big -- and I mean really big.

After the hour I spent on sites such as Gizmodo, and MacWorld reading up-to-the minute updates on the press conference this morning, I can't help but be a little disappointed.

Two things really bothered me. First and foremost, the new models don't sport any processor upgrades. Some models actually appear to have slower processors than the last revision. It is true that Intel is expected to release new mobile processors in the coming weeks. If I were Apple, I would have waited until the new processors were available.

The second thing that bothered me was the absence of the Firewire port on the MacBook model. On the MacBook Pro, only one Firewire 800 port is available. This is a cause for concern for any recording enthusiast, as you will need a Firewire 800-400 adapter in order to plug in your audio interfaces. Furthermore, you won't be able to use the that fast external hard drive, unless it is daisy-chained to your interface, and then you lose more than half of your bandwidth.

The bottom line is -- if you want to record on your laptop, the MacBook Pro is your only option.

Now, that being said, there were some advances in the MacBook and MacBook Pro models that are very impressive. The new design is beautiful, strong, and lightweight. All Laptop models now have LED-backlit displays, which means brighter, truer color representation, and lower power consumption.

The most striking news is the inclusion of the new NVIDIA graphics chipsets, which boast more than 5 times the performance of the Intel integrated graphics chipsets of the last-generation MacBook. The extra gigaflops of processing power will be better realized next year when Apple releases Snow Leopard, which will have the technology to utilize unused GPU-cycles on operating system tasks.

The price points aren't terribly impressive either. That may be partially due to the falling Canadian Dollar, but I digress.

As much as I love portables, I always feel that I am paying a premium for portability. That probably explains why I still have a desktop computer as my main audio workstation. When you consider that you have much greater storage capabilities, faster processors, larger screens (in the case of the iMac), more i/o options, the desktop computer wins hands-down.

I guess I'd be better off to wait another 6 months and see what upgrades the first-revision MacBook Pros will boast. I made the mistake of purchasing a first-generation MacBook, and thanks to an extended warranty, all the issues the computer has suffered has been repaired free of charge. This includes random shut-downs, cracking case (twice!), and audio jack issues.

Yeah, I'm thinking it would be a good idea to wait a little while.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Help Save The World's Largest Music Collection

I would have thought the world's largest Music Archive would have been located at the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, or in the Archives of one of the Big 5 record companies. Apparently, none of these come close.

The world's largest Music Archive is owned by one person: Paul Mawhinney. He has spent his life collecting records, and has massed a staggering archive which includes over three million vinyl records, and over 300,000 compact discs -- all in pristine condition. Many of the titles have never been listened to. The number of rare and collectible titles he has must number in the tens of thousands, if not higher. For some titles in this archive, a collector would pay thousands of dollars for just one album.

It makes my piddly little CD collection of some 800 units look like a drop in the bucket.

But Mawhinney's archive is under threat of being discarded. Due to age and failing health, Paul Mawhinney has no option but to sell his collection. Pundits have suggested the archive is worth approximately $50 million.

The problem is, there are no buyers.

Mawhinney even tried to pawn the archive on eBay. If my memory serves me correct, the highest bid was about 1.5 million, and the winning bidder did not pay. He has offered the collection to Museums, collectors, Libraries, and Universities, and not one of them wanted to purchase it.

Much of the collection does not exist in the digital realm. Mawhinney has vinyl in his collection that stems as far back as the late 19th century. His estimations is that perhaps as much as fifteen percent of the vinyl released from antiquity through the 1940's have ever been digitally remastered.

In other words, this archive is the most complete account of American 20th Century Pop-Culture -- anywhere.

I think it's an utter shame that this collection could wind up in the landfill. It belongs at the Smithsonian; it belongs at the Library of Congress -- it belongs at a University... any University.

If you want to learn more about this archive, and what you can do to help save it, I would suggest visiting the website, or viewing the video available here.

You could also join the Facebook Group "Save The Music", which currently has an appalling 85 members.

I consider myself to be quite the audiophile. I don't think I've ever thrown out a CD, and I've often bought an album for nostalgia, without ever having an intent of enjoying it -- or even if I did enjoy it as a youth. My personal CD collection is an archive as much as it is my music library. In my travels, I have found great difficulty obtaining certain albums, and have often learned that many titles I remember listening to as a child were never released on Compact Disc. Given the fact that the next frontier for music is the kind that only exists digitally, I find it disturbing that there are entire generations of music that is being forgotten.

Vinyl eventually wears out or gets brittle. Magnetic tape is easily erased with magnetic fields. Compact Discs were designed to last 20-25 years. Hard drives will fail. It is obvious that music is going "format-less" -- that is existing only in the digital realm. What remains of the last 5 generations of music should be preserved for future generations. Mawhinney's archive is the most complete of any on this earth. Some institution should take responsibility and properly manage the archive before it is gone for good.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Dirt Nap

Well, it was inevitable. My trusty iBook laptop which has given me so much grief over the years (though it ran trouble-free for almost 14 months) has finally decided to take a dirt nap. It suffered a fall to the floor (not my fault this time), and has trouble booting.

I get a boot chime, and I get a grey screen, but the OS refuses to load. No Apple screen, just a blank grey screen staring back at me. So, of course I went into troubleshooting mode to figure out what I could find out. Well, I pulled out my OSX discs and attempted to boot from the optical drive and repair the hard drive. This usually cures most problems, but no dice this time. I heard the optical drive spin up and do a little reading, but I saw no feedback on the screen.

At this point I decided that I had better find a way to rescue any files that reside on the hard drive.

So I booted into target disk mode from the other laptop in the house (a first-generation MacBook) and was successful in mounting the iBook's hard drive on the MacBook. A few minutes later, and I had everything I could think of that I may need to keep from the dying machine. As an afterthought, I ran the disc utility program and repaired the hard drive on the ailing laptop.

Thinking that I may have repaired some critical damage on the hard drive, I attempted to re-boot the iBook. Again, a boot chime and grey screen, but nothing else. Running all the possibilities through my mind, I came to the conclusion that I had a failure somewhere on the video processor, or some other problem on the hardware bus that was preventing the machine from booting.

Either way the failure is on the logic board, and that only means I have one option left. Purchase a replacement logic board, or retire the laptop. Replacement logic boards are incredibly expensive, and when it comes to iBooks, logic boards are in short supply, as this is the component that usually fails in the first place. As far as eBay is concerned, purchasing a used logic board from a seller is a bit like playing Russian Roulette -- auctions for laptop components are almost always parted from dead laptops.

So the next logical thing is to say sayonara to the trusty computer. I've had the machine for over 5 years -- and it was at least 2 years old when I bought it. I've likely sunk as much as $1500 of hardware and software into the laptop -- for repairs, upgrades, etc. So where does one draw the line and refuse to sink more money into the machine? Well, that is always the definitive question. Even if it was working, the most I could get for the laptop would be $200. If I hocked a dead iBook on eBay, I'd get less that $50 for it.

I think it's time to look into a new(er) machine. One of the stipulations is that whatever machine I purchase, it must be faster and newer than the machine it replaces. Therefore if I purchase a replacement laptop, it must have at least a 1 GHz G4 processor. These machines are still sitting around the $500 mark on eBay, which I thought was a little rich, provided that G4 laptops were retired by Apple over 2 years ago.

I realize it might make a little more sense and buy a state-of-the-art laptop computer for $500 more. The other two Apples that live in this house I consider to be quite fast already -- speed isn't the issue here. The issue is the chipset that resides in older Apple machines. The G4 architecture allows me to run legacy software. Yes, I realize that I can run old software through a virtual machine -- though my experiences with virtual machines and emulation has been mediocre.

Since I spend a great deal of time working in Logic on recording projects, I do have need for state-of-the-art technology. I have had my current desktop machine for a year and a half (and it was 1 year old when I purchased it) -- so it's beginning to get a little long in the tooth. I will likely wait for another iMac revision (or 2) and see if I can upgrade to a 24" Aluminium model for $500 less than a new one, but that's a story for another time -- and in all honesty, I don't need to be in a major rush to replace that laptop.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Reprise

Exposition

It all began early last week. My Band, Tung N' Groove, has been hard at work trying to expand our fanbase, and by doing so, one of the necessary things to do is to play in more venues. So we were pleased as punch when the owner of the Mainliner Pub agreed to have Tung N' Groove play at his pub -- which was scheduled to be on July 18-19, 2008.

Things changed rapidly when the owner of the Mainliner called our guitarist DH last week and insisted to change the band's booking date to June 27-28. As it turned out, our bass player couldn't make it due to family commitments.

DH really didn't want to lose the gig to another band, since he is also a member of Mule Shoe, he called the boys in that band to see if they could play the gig instead. As it turns out, their drummer, JY, was working out of town, so it appeared Mule Shoe wouldn't be able play the gig.

Then DH had an idea: Since MC Fro was once a member of Mule Shoe, why don't we get him to fill in on drums? After consultation with all the members of the band -- myself included -- that's exactly what happened.


The Story

Now, longtime readers of my little weblog will know that my experience in Mule Shoe wasn't exactly a walk in the park. If you remember, I was fired from the band because the bass player wanted to make music with his son. There was nothing I ever did wrong to warrant dismissal; it was just nepostism, pure and simple. Personality-wise, I always got along with the guys in the band -- so I wasn't worried about that -- but going into the situation, I was a little apprehensive. Perhaps I felt like I was re-opening old wounds, maybe fate was originally telling me that I wasn't supposed to be in that band, perhaps I didn't want to be exposed to some of the particulars, politics, and idiosyncracies of selected members. You might be able to relate to this comparison, but have you been able to get along with certain people individually, but put them together, and all hell breaks loose? Mule Shoe isn't exactly like this, but from my perspective, it could be compared to this in certain situations. A band is a business, and a relationship. It is much more than that in one respect, and in others, it's really nothing more than a working partnership.

Geez, what I put myslef into, just to make a couple hundred bucks.

Given my track record with local bands, I have tried to keep my involvement as professional as possible -- not get too close to the members of the band, and not put my heart into the music too deeply. Thus, if things go awry, then the separation isn't so painful.

I did take the job, promising myself to play my absolute best.

I was once a member of Mule Shoe, but that was three years ago. Many questions were going through my head. Would I remember all the songs? Did they learn a pile of new ones that I don't know? They released an album in late 2004; would they want to play any originals, and if so, how many?

All the questions led me to believe that I should sit down and review all their material. The problem is -- is that there isn't a set list anywhere. Even the guys in the band never carried set lists. If I racked my brain and scoured my iTunes collection, I only could come up with about 20 songs that I recalled Mule Shoe ever playing -- and that's about half of what's required to play a night's worth of material in a pub. I have also been incredibly busy as of late, so I haven't had the time to sit down and review anything.

So I went into the gig cold.

And what came out of my hands over two nights was nothing short of a miracle. All the covers -- even the originals -- came out with so much accuracy and precision that I left the other bandmates speechless. I even surprised myself at the accuracy of my long-term memory. I did not play perfectly -- when music is as subjective as it is, there will always be room for improvement -- but to the casual listener, these errors would have been entirely missed.

In the end, it was great to catch up with all they guys in the band again. We had lots of good laughs, many hugs and handshakes, and we made some pretty-good-sounding music. The crowd was decent, and supportive on both evenings. We all walked out with smiles on our faces.

What did I learn? Why should there be a moral to every story? I guess that means to be professional on all levels all the time. And play every gig like it's your last.