How to be a better man through blogging (your results may vary)

It's been a while since I posted something here, at least something that isn't technology or Apple related. When this blog launched in 2011, I imagined it to be something dynamic that would ebb and flow with my whims. I've had a website in one form or another since 1995, and my style has evolved considerably since then. But I'm known for taking on too many projects at any one time. When you add on my tendency to procrastinate, one or all of those projects wind up suffering. (Note to self: Remember that book you said you were going to write.)

I told myself that I would not let blogging be a casualty of my personality, but an extension of it. I wanted to blog more than just a hobby or providing periodic updates on Shannon's health status (she's doing well by the way – more on that later). But throwing the occasional app or technology review on this blog didn't quite mesh with the goals I laid out, and the terms of WordPress's free blogs limited my ability to transition to a more business-like model. Apple's transition away from MobileMe also meant I would be losing my current web servers, and I needed to find a new one. So I purchased a few domain names, partnered with a friend to help me with web hosting, and was born. In the spring, I launched as a subset of that blog to be a showcase for iPhone photography.

I expanded my use of social media to include new accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. Managing multiple social personalities isn't easy, but I've slowly gotten accustomed to it. It's fun to meet and share ideas with new and interesting people. Even though I blog less than I want to or probably should, the daily interaction I have with my friends and followers through these networks drive me to keep at it.

This brings me full circle. It has been two years since Shannon was diagnosed with breast cancer. That gut punch took most of the air out of my sails, and frightened me to no end. Fears of losing the love of my life. Fears of being a single father. Fears of my son growing up without his mother. Those fears were compounded by being an Air Force Brat with no real hometown. My support network was vast, but with family and friends spread throughout the country, I feared that even the fantastic friends I had in Bismarck would never be enough to fully help me through this. Social media provided me an outlet to express those fears. Blogging our experiences gave me a voice I thought I had lost years ago. Suddenly, distances didn't matter. Strangers became friends, and my support network grew.

Thankfully, Shannon's cancer was completely treatable. We still had to deal with the ups and downs of surgery, chemotherapy, nausea, radiation, more surgery, drepression, and anxiety. Adding a toddler to the mix caused a significant strain, but we were together. My fears still remain, but they are tempered with the knowledge that Shannon isn’t going anywhere. We have our jobs, our home, and each other. Every day, I tell myself we will get through this. And every day, I try to do something to help ease the burdens that Shannon carries and help alleviate her fears. I’m not a perfect husband by any means, and I often stumble in that effort, but I’m trying. What matters is we are a family, and that is only support network one really needs.

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It’s 3 AM: Top iOS Apps to Cure Insomnia

I can’t sleep. My allergies are killing me and I’m not supposed to take anything before my allergist appointment next week. Guess whose going to ignore his doctors orders?

Since I’m awake, I might as well share my top apps to cure insomnia. (The proceeding statement has not been verified by the Food and Drug Administration. BisManApps is not designed to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult your doctor and your bank account before starting any app regimen.)

1. Words With Friends. Chances are if you can’t sleep at least one of your friends is probably awake, too. Challenge them to a game.

2. Audible. If you have an account, download this free app and grab your favorite audio book. Preferably one narrated by someone with a British accent.

3. BlogPress. Blog something.

4. Angry Birds Space. Killing green space pigs with superpowers bird projectiles has always helped me.

6. Hulu+. For $7.99 a month you can watch practically any TV show known to man. Past or present. Snorks marathon anyone?

7. Netflix. Same price as Hulu+, but with movies and more TV shows. Just don’t watch The Walking Dead. Your trying to fall asleep, remember?

8. HBOGo. If you subscribe to HBO via cable or satellite (check with your provider), download this free app to watch streaming on demand movies and series. Pick a documentary and wait for the Sandman.

That’s it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Game of Thrones is on.

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Mr. Smith Gets an iPhone, part 2

This is the second article about top political apps for use on smartphones and tablets. You can hear more about these apps on Top 3 Podcast via the Wild Inspire Podcast Network. You can listen to the podcast after the jump.

U.S. Capitol in Black and WhiteIn the last Top 3 Podcast, we talked about apps for political news. In the penultimate scene of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Jimmy Stewart’s Senator Smith passes out after seeing bins of telegrams and letters from his constituents calling for his removal from office. In the age of social media, letters and telegrams may seem an antiquated way to reach out to your senators and representatives in Congress. Yet, phone calls and traditional letters are still a large part of how the public communicates with Congress.

And with more and more elected officials are embracing social media, it is hard to be believe that Congress didn’t really embrace e-mail until the mid to late 1990s. The Library of Congress’s THOMAS internet legislative database is just 17 years old. Then in 2001, the anthrax attacks on the U.S. mail system forever altered how traditional mail is handled in congressional offices, causing e-mail use to skyrocket.

U.S. Capitol in Black and WhiteSpiral bound paper directories like this are still quite popular in political Washington. They are informative and easy to use, and recently started to provide social media information. But the directories are updated just once a year, so would quickly become outdated should a senator or congressman resign or die in office. Mobile directories have started to spring up to fill that gap, both for iOS and Android devices. The best of these directories provide phone numbers and addresses along with links to voting records, detailed bios, social media services, staff contacts, and more. If you’re unsure of who represents you in Congress, the apps can use your phone’s GPS to find your congressman. There are several directory apps for both iOS and Android, but these are the best.

  1. The only directory on the iPad or iPhone you’ll ever need is one of the Congress in Your Pocket appsdeveloped by Cohen Research Group. Cohen Research Group has been provinding electronic congressional directories for years, starting with Palm Politics on the Palm Pilot apps are not free, but they are worth every penny. The apps have been featured on the App Store five times.
    • Congress, $0.99, iPhone, is a barebones app, providing key information for members of Congress: photos, bios, contact information, and social media links. Most people will find this app more than sufficient
    • Congress+, $4.99, (iPad/iPhone) is for a person with more than passing interest in politics. This universal app adds committee assignments, top congressional staff members for each office, links to legislation, campaign finance, and other web sources. You can also add notes to individual records.
    • CongressPro, $29.99 (iPad/iPhone). This app is the granddaddy of them all. While the first two apps cover most everything anyone would ever need, this app is for people in government affairs or policy position who need more in depth look at Congress, but for what it provides it is worth the price. It includes everything from Congress+, with an expanded committee section. Business professionals can also add notes in the app to track appointments or specific items discussed in meetings and share them within their organization. Most importantly, it provides free automatic updates. Every time there is a change in the database, those changes are downloaded to your device so you always have the most current information. The app currently provides information on the 112th Congress. When a new congress is seated after the elections this fall, the database can be updated with an in app purchase.

    Cohen Research Group has also expanded it’s apps to more than a dozen state legislatures, making the premier provider of legislative directories in the App Store.

  1. MyCongress, free, iPad, and Congress 411, free, iPhone. At 99 cents, the Congress app is difficult to pass up. But free is even better. For iPad users, MyCongress is one of the best free directories available, making good use of the iPad’s larger screen. MyCongress provides current news, YouTube videos, and tweets from senators and representatives. It does not have sponsored legislation or vote information, however. Congress 411 is similar to Congress, but adds votings records for senators and representatives – one thing Congress is missing.
  1. Congress, Free, Android Market. If you own an Android device, this app developed by the Sunlight Foundation is the only directory app you’ll ever need. The Sunlight Foundations an open government and transparency advocacy organization. The app provides all of the contact information you’d expect, and adds real-time updates of legislative activity when Congress is in session. The app’s design is also on par with those available for iOS, and since it is built on the database, the legislative information it provides is updated frequently.

You may find other free or paid apps for both iOS and Android, but they are poorly designed and lack significant developer support. If you’re a casual user or a business professional, any of these apps deserve a prominent place on your mobile devices.

As always, please share your favorite political apps in the comments below and we may review them in a future podcast. You can also send your recommendations via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.

Bonus for Jimmy Stewart fans.


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