Long time Macintosh writer and Macworld columnist Anyd Ihnatko displayed a very cool instrument this past week at Macworld Boston. It was a ukuele with a built in USB port to hook directly up to a computer without the need for any other external devices. Dubbed the iUke, it was built for him by the folks over at Brian Moore Custom Guitars/iGuitar. You can read the story behind the iUke’s creation as well as see a picture of the instrument at the following link:

Welcome to iUke on Flickr – Photo Sharing!

The iUke works perfectly with GarageBand. Just plug it in, fire up GarageBand, and play away. Andy says he will post sample audio from the device on his personal site shortly.

Into the West

“INTO THE WEST, a six-week television event from TNT, Executive Producer Steven Spielburg and DreamWorks Television, explores one of the most powerful and defining chapters in American history.”

I’ve really enjoyed the first two episodes of Into the West. I’ve only caught bits and pieces of the first episode, saw all of the second, but missed the third. There will be six, two-hour episodes altogether. This weekend they’ll show the fourth episode. You can see the new episodes Friday, Saturday, or Sunday evenings (8/7c) with an encore presentation of the previous episode on Sunday evenings (6/5c) just before the new episode airs.

One of the main character’s name is Jacob Wheeler who originates from Virginia. He rescues a Lakota named Thunder Heart Woman from being sold to a mountain man. They eventually get married, move back to Virginia, then move back out to California again (with tons of other things going on in between). The whole show doesn’t focus on the two, but so far they seem to be the two common links between the settlers and the Native American’s. Here’s a preview of what this weekend’s episode entails:

“Jacob Wheeler’s children witness history as the transcontinental railroads bring east and west together. Margaret Light Shines, Jacob’s daughter, is captured by the Cheyenne, and is adopted by the tribe. But when their village is brutally attacked by U.S. soldiers, she turns her back on her old life and escapes with her new Cheyenne family.”

As the many different stories have unfolded, we get to see the settling of the West from many different perspectives, and the good and bad aspects of both the newcomers and native people are presented. You can read a very detailed synopsis of each episode that has aired as well as brief descriptions of what is yet to come at the Into the West website:

Into the West

I’m also looking forward to the final two episodes of the series. Episode 5 will be about Crazy Horse and Custer at Little Big Horn, and the series will culminate with the massacre at Wounded Knee in episode 6.

It’s unfortunate that you have to have cable or satellite to watch this. But I’m sure that the DVD will be available shortly. I’ll most likely at least rent it on DVD when it’s available so I can watch them all together. And hey, it could possibly the first made for TV anything that I purchase on DVD.

Virtual Banjo Lessons

This goes right along with the two banjo ebooks I wrote about earlier. The authors of those books are offering virtual banjo lessons in mp3 format. There’s a catch however (from their Plunkthumping website):

“The catch here is that after the each workshop goes online we will not post the next one until at least five people send us audio files of themselves playing the “homework” assigned at the end of each lesson.”

Here’s the website:

Virtual Frailing Banjo Lessons

Rather interesting idea. I don’t have a banjo handy, but if anyone tries these lessons out, please leave a comment.

Stars & Stripes Forever

Anyone know who Bill Tapia is? I didn’t until today. He is a long time folk singer. His instrument of choice is the ukulele. I came across an mp3 file today of a live performance he did of Stars & Stripes Forever (control-click or right-click the following link to save to your disk):

Bill Tapia: Stars & Stripes Forever

And if you’re interested in knowing more about Mr. Tapia and his music, you can visit his website.

Sandra Day O’Connor leaving Supreme Court

It’s been quite a week of news for the Supreme Court. From CNN.com about 10a Eastern:

“Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court and a key swing vote on issues such as abortion and the death penalty, said today she is retiring. O’Connor, 75, said she will leave before the start of the court’s next term in October, or when the Senate confirms her successor. “It has been a great privilege indeed to have served as a member of the court for 24 terms,” O’Connor wrote in her resignation letter.”

CNN.com – Sandra Day O’Connor leaving Supreme Court – Jul 1, 2005

She was a desenting voice in the recent eminent domain decision and had written a very critical response to the decision.

Free banjo ebooks

Taken from ezfolk.com:

“Patrick Costello has recently released two of his popular old-time banjo books under a Creative Commons license, allowing them to be distributed freely on the Internet. These books are outstanding resources for all beginning banjo players and the online versions are completely FREE.”

Banjo ebooks

I thought Justin and all you other aspiring banjo players might enjoy this.

With Liberty and Justice for…

… Rich, private, corporations and their interests. That’s who mostly won this week with the three most recent Supreme Court Decisions. To be truthful, two of the three decisions progressed the interests of the wealthy corporations. In my opinion, it was not a stellar week for the US Supreme Court.

Before I get started, remember, I’m not a legal expert. So the accuracy of my conjectures may not be 100%.

I’ll start with the ruling that deals with the public display of the Ten Commandments. I can see why the court made the ruling it did, and I’m not really for or against the ruling itself. It’s just another example of how far away from God this country continues to slip. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the religious beliefs of the founding fathers played a big part in how they shaped our government. The last time I checked, our national motto was, “In God we trust”. You can read about this specific ruling here:

High court split on Ten Commandments (CNN)

The next ruling had to do with file sharing and whether an ISP or producers of file sharing software can be held liable for any copyright infringement that may occur by the users of their networks or software. In what was not all that much of a surprise to me, the court ruled in favor the big corporations and media conglomerates, basically saying that yes, they can sue the ISP and/or the software producers if someone misuses their network or software. I guess the RIAA got tired of settling measly $3,000 suites with 13 year olds. They now want permission to go after the big guns. Maybe this was an example of a court that is “out of touch” with some of the modern concerns of this century.

File-sharing services can be liable for music theft (CNN)

Now to the biggest travesty of all the decisions to spew out of the court this week. This is the one I totally disagree with. And I’m not too far off from most of the country as people from both sides of the political line are equally as stumped and worried about the ramifications of this decision. The decision has to do eminent domain. Government has the right to take private property if the acquisition of the property is clearly for the benefit of the “public”. Well, there is no clear benefit to the public in this case as it looks like the major benefactor of this decision is a PRIVATE pharmaceutical company.

Supreme Court backs municipal land grabs (CNN)

My thoughts and fears are best summed up by the following article:

“Hi, I like your view, so I’m taking your house”

My hope at this point is that all my friends that just graduated from the UM law school eventually have a hand in putting this country back together.

Finally… some relief!

Holy smokes. It looks like we’ll finally be able to sleep upstairs in our own bed tonight. It has been scorching around A2 the past several days. It was nice leaving work this afternoon, it was not yet 80, as opposed to nasty mid 90s with 90%+ humidity. Right now it’s a very manageable and mostly cloudy 83. Nice that it cooled down today also, as we have to go out this evening for Nick’s t-ball game. Last week it got rained out.

And speaking of rain, you know how bad things get when it’s 95, 90% humidity, and then it decides to rain? Might as well pour boiling water over your head. It sure doesn’t do anything towards cooling things down that’s for sure.

When it gets real hot and humid, we usually have to sleep downstairs. The air conditioner is in the front room and it does a good job of keeping the living room and the kitchen cool. The kids rooms don’t ever seem to get hot, even when we didn’t have the air conditioner. Here’s the catch… If we want the living room to be cooler, we have to close the windows upstairs, and our only means of cooling the upstairs is two windows and a fan. When we keep the windows closed upstairs, it gets extremely bad. So much so that it often doesn’t ever cool down at all overnight. Not only is our room upstairs, but the office is upstairs also. Becky can usually only work until around noon, then it just gets too unbearable up there.

Anyway, we haven’t been kicked out of the upstairs yet today (it’s almost 4pm here) so that bodes well for actually sleeping in our own bed tonight. And it was nice to give the AC a little rest this morning as it seems like the thing’s been running for 40 days and nights. I don’t think we’ve had a summer this bad since we’ve been out here, and definitely not in the last 2 years. It’s usually this bad a few days in August, and even less in September, but it’s never been this bad this early since we’ve been here. The rest of the week looks similar to today though. Whew! Can’t wait for Friday to get here when the forecast high for that day is 79 right now. Of course, Becky thinks that would be a great opportunity to clean out the shed. Nnnnnooooooooo. :(