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.

Posted in Blog Bits, Shannon's Journey Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Review: Take a picture and make it last longer with MoPho App

Update (July 9, 2012): The prints I ordered arrived this weekend. They are shipped separately from the other items you order. They come in a flat, secure photo mailer, which is better than cramming them in the box with bulky items. Check out my updated video review below.

More and more my iPhone is replacing my DSLR as my camera of choice. I take a lot of photos with my iPhone. So many that I tend toward hoarder. My biggest problem is trying to figure out what to do with all the photos once I’ve taken them. Some go to Instagram, others to Facebook, but the majority of them just sit on my phone or hard drive.

My wife keeps telling me to get my photos printed, and I always respond “Someday”. There are some apps like Hipstamatic and Postagram that give you the option of turning your photos into prints, and while I’ve never used them they are convenient. But what if I want something besides a 4″ x 6″ print? Like a T-shirt? Or a coffee mug? Or a beer stein? Or my cat? (OK, not my cat).

My dreams of surrounding myself with tchotchkes emblazoned with my own photos seemed impossible, until I learned about MoPho App (Free, App Store). MoPho stands for “Mobile Photography,” and besides being fun to say it is one of the more unique apps I’ve found in the App Store. This free app lets you take your iPhone photos and have them turned into any number of products and shipped right to your door, all without ever having to get off the couch or put down your soda. The app released in January 2012, and just saw a major upgrade to its interface. As part of the update, they are offering new users 10 prints for free with the offer code “10Free”. Read more ›

Posted in The Mobile Lens Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Posted in BisManApps, Tech Corner Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mr. Smith Gets an iPhone

This is the first in a series of articles 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 WhiteSocial media dominated the 2010 elections, and is sure to continue in 2012. How can the public make better use of these new tools to learn more about incumbents, candidates, and their positions on the issues? More and more people are consuming their news on-line rather than through traditional television or newspaper channels. There are many online tools for learning where your congressman or senator stands on certain issues. But what about when you aren’t at your computer? Enter mobile apps. With a smartphone or tablet, mobile apps let people get their information whenever and wherever they want it. And political news apps are one of the best ways for political junkies and novices alike to stay informed.

Humans are skeptical by nature, and we very particular in our news sources. The public worries about the political “spin” that makes it harder to separate fact from fiction. In Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Jimmy Stewart’s character stages an epic filibuster to defend himself from trumped up charges of corruption. In an attempt to discredit him, political bosses in his home state manipulate the news media, twisting the facts and prompting constituents to send hundreds of letters and telegrams opposing Senator Smith.

With the 2012 elections well underway, what are the best mobile apps for political news? Most of the major national news organizations (and some local ones) have their own apps, a comprehensive news app that isn’t limited to one specific source is the best option. Other factors to keep in mind are:

  • When was the app updated last? Was the app designed for the 2010 election and hasn’t been updated for 2012? Does it work with older devices or only the newest ones?
  • What are the reviews? Does the developer have a website. blog, or Twitter account? Does the developer respond to customer suggestions or comments?
  • Don’t limit yourself to free apps. Paid apps often have free or lite versions that let you try the app out before deciding to spring for the full.

With those questions in mind, here are the top 3 political apps that have earned a place on my iPad and iPhone. These apps are only available on the iOS App Store, though similar apps maybe available on Android.

  1. Flipboard, Free (iPad/iPhone). While this isn’t specifically a political app, it is by far the best app for reading news from multiple sources on the iPad. You select “channels” from technology to current events by connecting to your Facebook or Twitter accounts (if you have one) or you can choose from one of the curated channels provided Flipboard. There are several devoted to Politics and political news sources. You can also add an RSS (real simple syndication) feed from your favorite blogs or read tweets from specific politicians. You are able to share articles via Twitter, Facebook, or save them to read later with services like Instapaper and Read It Later.The app displays articles information in magazine format, so rather than a static list of links you get the text, images, and videos from the article right within the app. An integrated web browser allows you to read full articles that may not display correctly.The app has been around since 2010 and consistently receives high praise from reviewers and is one of the top rated apps in the App Store. The company just released a version for the iPhone as well, and you can sync your channels between both devices. It also supports multiple accounts, which is especially useful if you share an iPad with a spouse or child that has different tastes in news.
  2. pTracker is a suite of apps developed for iOS by pTracker, LLC. They are “news discovery apps” that give you access to a wide variety of news and search options for news about nearly every elected official in the United States. A full description of each of the apps and their features is available on as well as a free sample search so you can see how the apps work in real time.
    • politicoTracker (iPad, $4.99/iPhone, $9.99) News about federal, state, and local politicians grouped by all 50 states and key issues
    • govTracker (iPad, $4.99/iPhone $9.99): News about government agencies
    • campaignTracker (iPad, $4.99/iPhone, $0.99): News about campaign, issues, and election information
    • politicalTracker Twitter Edition, Free (iPad/iPhone): Lets you follow the Twitter feeds of federal, state, and local politicians

    What sets these apps apart from other news apps is real-time search and the ability to cross-reference an individual politician with specific issues or policies. It has includes an 8,000 name database, covering nearly every federal, state, and local politician in the United States, combined with nearly 25,000 news sources. The database doesn’t capture every politicians in the United States, but it is the most comprehensive, and is one of the few apps that includes state legislators. The apps also do not let you share articles via Twitter, but you can e-mail articles, save them off-line viewing. The apps have not been updated since early 2011, but according to the developer an update for politicoTracker’s iPad version has been submitted to Apple for review and should be available for download soon. Twitter integration is also in the works for a future release.

    The apps have a simple interface and are missing some features, like Twitter integration. But overall the apps work extremely well at simplifying your search for political news. I currently have campaignTracker and the Twitter versions on my devices, and intend to download politicoTracker once it is updated. The developer provides a lite version and a free sample search on its website so you can see the app in action before you buy.

  3. Election 2012, Free (iPhone). Mobile website for Android and Blackberry. This brand new app was developed by the New York Times to provide one click access to the latest campaign news. The app provides top political news free of charge, and provides you news from other sources like the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Live election results are the highlight of the app. During the Iowa Caucuses on January 3 vote totals were continually updated throughout the night, and users were able to track votes as they came in from individual counties.The one caveat is that most of the apps’ content, including live election results, opinions, and video, requires a digital subscription to the New York Times. New digital subscribers can get 4 months for just 99 cents. After that, the cheapest plan is $15/month, which gives you access to Election 2012, the stand alone New York Times smartphone app, and the full New York Times website. If you are a NY Times subscriber, this is the app for you. It’s free sections of the app very useful present news in an easy to read format, so it’s worth the download. But digital subscription requirement will limit its usefulness for most casual users.

This list only begins to scratch the surface of what is available. In future articles, we’ll review directory apps for contacting your representatives and senators in Congress, advocacy apps that let you express your views on legislative issues, and specialty apps for following legislation or other government activity.

Do you have a favorite political app that’s available on iOS or Android? Add your suggestions in the comments below or post a message on Twitter @bismanapps. We may review it in a future article or Top 3 Podcast.

Posted in BisManApps, Tech Corner Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sound of Silence

Another month has come and gone without a blog post from me. I know I said I’d be better about keeping up with things, but as they say the road to something is paved with . . . something. I really don’t know.

Moving on. You may recall I started this blog on September 11, 2010. I never imagined that 8 months later, Osama bin Laden would be dead. The last few days have been pretty emotional for me. First, a little about this post’s song-related title. I had a lot to choose from, but “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” was too obvious (and overdone) and “Under the Sea” seemed far too tongue-in-cheek inappropriate, even for me. The Sound of Silence seems fitting, since there has been little silence since the news broke, whereas some would have preferred a little more silence.

The lack of silence is the “celebrations” around the United States Sunday night as the news of bin Laden’s death broke. Many people believe they were in poor taste. We all agree that no one should rejoice in someone death, no matter how evil. Someone even invented a quote attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr to make that point, and it took over Facebook. The sentiment of that quote and the intent behind it is admirable. We shouldn’t rejoice in someone’s death. And some of the revelers seemed far too happy. Hell, I even tweeted about it. But everyone seems to admit that the world is a better place without bin Laden in it. Sure, al Qaeda still exists, and was made up of various off shoots long before bin Laden’s death, meaning his death hasn’t “solved” the problem. But for those of us that lived through September 11, it is momentous.

As far as the (in)appropriateness of the celebrations, I think truth lies somewhere in the middle. Psychologists have tried to rationalize it as young people who came of age during the last 10 years, those still in grade school in 2001. For some of them, bin Laden was the face of evil. Something other than human, a virus that needed to be eradicated. The sudden outpouring of emotion, coupled with crowd mentality, appeared foreign to those that weren’t there. I admit, when I heard people chanting “USA” outside the White House, I was torn between a sense of patriotism and a sense of bewilderment at was I was witnessing. One clip from Fox News showed Geraldo Rivera interviewing a DC college student, proudly proclaiming that he had two finals the next day and wasn’t going to study for them because “We just killed bin Laden!” It seemed inappropriate, but I understood him.

I understood because I was there on September 11. I was not near the Pentagon that day, much like some New Yorkers were not near the Twin Towers. Everyone in both cities were affected differently, some more directly than others, but both cities mourned as one. Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania was either bound for the U.S. Capitol or the White House. If those courageous passengers had not taken matters into their own hands, the devastation in DC could have been far worse. When they evacuated the Capitol and congressional office buildings, we didn’t know what was coming. Reports flooded in that the State Department had been attacked, that buildings near the White House were on fire. When I returned home, sonic booms from F-16s out of Andrews Air Force Base shook my house. I was there. I remember the fear and anxiety, the tears as I watched the towers in New York fall.

I was alone. TV was the only news. Phone lines were clogged, delaying my efforts to contact my parents. It was a day spent in disbelief. A day spent in silence.

On May 1, 2011, though, no one was alone, and they were far from silent. Twitter was the first to break the news. I just happened to log in to check messages before going to bed, when I saw the notice the President was going to speak. I had no idea what it was bout, but could tell from the posts that it was something big. I assumed it was about Libya or some such. It wasn’t until I started seeing bits and pieces about bin Laden appear, slowly at first, then much faster, that I suddenly realized what was happening. I grabbed Shannon and we turned on the TV. My emotions got the better of me. I broke down and cried as the news confirmed what my Twitter stream was already telling me. I was reliving the horror of September 11 all over again. But this time, my tears were not of fear or remorse. They were tears of relief. It was over. I have been carrying a weight around for 9 and a half years. It never weighed me down that heavily, but it was there lurking in the background. When I finally turned in for the night, I went into my son’s room, kissed him, and rubbed his hair. I cried some more, thankful that he will not have to grow up in a world where bin Laden still lives.

So, let’s not vilify those that choose to express their emotions over Osama bin Laden’s death in a way we do not approve. We don’t know how they feel. Their emotions simply got the better of them. They were not celebrating someone’s death. A symbol that defined their youth had been erased, and they reacted the best way they knew how. More importantly, they weren’t alone.

For me, I am equal parts happy, relieved, and saddened. A turning point has been reached. The man responsible for more than 3,000 dead is no more. But the death of one tyrant will not bring back those we lost. Our men and women in uniform are still in harm’s way. And somewhere, another terrorist is plotting his next move. But I still sense that something has changed. And that’s a good thing.

Posted in Blog Bits Tagged with: , , , , ,

How to Shave a Life

One month from today, I’ll be shaving my head for the second time in 5 months. It will be the fourth time overall that I’ve gone bald for a cause, and I’m going to need your help raising money. I want to raise $2,000 in the next month. You can donate on my head here.

The cause is the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. They are a firm dedicated to raising money to fund research and cures for childhood cancers. Each year, 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. It is the number one killer in children. Basin Electric, my employer, started North Dakota’s first St. Baldrick’s event in 2008. To date, we have raised more than $350,000 for childhood cancer research. To date, I’ve raised more than $4,500 personally for St. Baldrick’s. This year, our theme is Shave a Life, and we’re taking this puppy community wide. Jimmy Kleinsasser, of the Minnesota Vikings, has even donated a signed jersey and football that we are going to auction off.

Readers of this blog know that cancer has weighed heavily on my mind for months now, as Shannon continues fighting (and winning) her battle with breast cancer. Last October, as she was losing her hair to chemotherapy, I stood up and shaved my head along with her – without raising a single penny. I was proud to do it, and even more proud of her and the grace and humility she has shown since this ordeal began.

Friends and visitors to this blog also know that I am personally conflicted when it comes to single purpose cancer charities. As much as breast cancer is at the top of my list, I’ve lost too many loved ones to lung cancer, multiple myeloma, liver cancer, etc. You name it, someone I know has it. But my conflict only goes so far. As much we all endure what I call Pink Overload during October, these single purpose efforts really aren’t single purpose at all. They all have one driving goal. The complete and utter eradication of cancer from the planet.

So whether your funding research to cure childhood cancer through St. Baldrick’s or funding breast cancer research through the Komen Foundation, cancer is cancer. Cancer doesn’t care if your 6 or 60. It will kill you if given the chance. So let’s do everything we can to stop it in its tracks. We have to start somewhere, and this month I’m starting with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

I hope you’ll join me.

Donate on my head

P.S. My partner in crime with the Red Wild Show, Scott Wild, is hosting the first ever 24-hour Trivia event in Bismarck on February 25, 2011, at The Elks Lodge. All proceeds from the event will go to benefit St. Baldrick’s. If you’re in Bismarck, and want to come out, sign up at and get a team going. Or join a team already in progress at the event. We’re going to go from 5 pm Friday to 5 pm Saturday. On Saturday, bring your kids for some kid-friendly trivia, like Disney and Nickelodeon. You don’t want to miss this.

Posted in Blog Bits, Shannon's Journey Tagged with: , , , ,

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes

How do you measure a year? In my case, in 140 characters or less. Here is how 2010 went for the VandeVenters, Twitter-haiku style. From the highs of a new family, to the lows of a third miscarriage, to the fear of cancer. Here’s hoping 2011 gets the message. “We’ve had enough, thank you!”

New Year brings a lot
of plans. So much to do and
see.  What to do first?

Valentines Day is
so sweet. Just the family.
Life’s never better.

Not much news. Chris goes
to Washington, D.C. First
of two trips this year.

Oh happy day. It’s
another baby on the way.
So much excitement.

Everything is
great. Work, play, friends, trips, and planning
for the new baby.

Molar pregnancy.
Our third miscarriage. Can’t have
any more children.

Road trip to Sturgis.
Shannon’s 20th high school
reunion. Good times.

Cancer? WTF?!
Seriously, you’re starting
To piss us off, Life!

Surgery, chemo.
Road to recovery is
long, but within reach.

Fighting with chemo,
nausea, and a toddler.
Lord, give us patience.

Normalcy returns.
Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, and/
cake. Carter turns two.

Last chemo is done,
But Carter’s now afraid of
the dark. Go figure.

Posted in Blog Bits, Carter's Camp, Shannon's Journey Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Ball of confusion

I will always remember October 15, 2001. Nine years ago today I almost died.

Just one month after the worst terrorist attack on this country, the United States was paralyzed by an unseen killer in the mail. Anthrax. I was working for Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota in 2001. The morning of October 15, a Monday, a letter containing fine anthrax powder was opened in our mail room. Congress had been subjected to hoax mailings before, but we had all known about the cases of skin anthrax in New York and the photographer in Florida who had died. When the prescence of anthrax was confirmed, our lives changed.

I’ve never really sat down to put my thoughts about this day on paper. My reluctance stems from our desire to keep out of the limelight, to respect each others’ privacy, and to not become part of the story. I continue to honor that. But ever since Shannon’s cancer diagnosis, the effect this day had on me has weighed so heavily on my mind that I have to say something.

The media at the time reported 25 Daschle staffers, 6 Capitol Police officers, and 3 members of Senator Russ Feingold’s staff were exposed to anthrax. However, those tests only confirmed the presence of anthrax spores in these peoples’ noses. Spores are tiny. Hundreds of senate staff and members of the public had to be tested. This strain was so virulent and pervasive that anyone working in an office with a “positive” result required treatment, even those who were deemed “negative.” Negative meant nothing. There was a very good chance that anthrax had entered all of our lungs. All told more than 60 people were exposed to enough spores to kill hundreds of people, if not more.

By Wednesday, every member of Senator Daschle’s staff that was working in his Hart Senate Building office was put on a 3 month regimine of Cipro. That was later extended to 4 months, along with three doses of the anthrax vaccine. Senator Feingold’s staff, the capitol police officers, and anyone who happened to be in the corridor outside our office that morning – even the pizza guy who delivered our lunch – joined us on the months long treatment. Throughout, many of us volunteered to have our blood tested by medial researchers. If being exposed to anthrax meant they could improve treatments and help people better survive a future attack, we were eager to sign up.

We should never forget that New York was impacted by these mailings, where employees of NBC News, the New York Post, and other outlets were exposed, including a 7-month old infant who contacted cutaneous (skin) anthrax. He survived and is now 9 years old. This was not an isolated attack that affected a handful of people. I think the public would be better served if they remember that.

I am particularly heartbroken by loss of the two postal workers who handled our letter. Thomas Morris, Jr. and Joseph Curseen, Jr. My colleagues and I didn’t receive any better quality of care (the same was provided for any member of the public impacted) but, unfortunately, these two men were exposed and didn’t even know it. Inhalation anthrax is a tricky bastard. It mimics the flu, and October was flu season. They didn’t have the flu. Their colleauge Leroy Richmond faired better. He was exposed around the same time, and was lucky enough to have his anthrax diagnosis made just in time. He survived, but his rehabilitation has been long and hard.

I met Mr. Richmond and Mr. Morris’s son for the first time in March of this year at an FBI briefing on the case. I wanted them to know just how much I respect and admire them for their courage and perseverence. The entire country was victimized by these attacks, but these men were on the front lines. I am extremely proud to have helped enact federal legislation renaming the mail facility at which they worked in honor of Mr. Morris and Mr. Curseen.

I’m not going to go into too much detail into the FBI and U.S. Postal Service investigation of the attacks, and the person they finally determined to be their key suspect. That suspect killed himself in 2008, so we will never have a trial and will never know for certain why he chose to kill and harm so many people through his actions. To this day, I still cannot bring myself to watch any of the documentaries about the attacks. It is just too painful.

But life goes on. I have a 23 month old that brightens my every day and I have a wife who loves and needs me. If anthrax couldn’t beat me, this cancer sure as hell won’t.

Dedicated to the memory of Robert Stevens, Thomas Morris, Jr., Joseph Curseen, Jr., Kathy Nguyen, and Ottilie Lundgren. Your sacrifice is not forgotten.

Posted in Blog Bits Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Welcome to BisManApps 2.0

Gremlins invaded and decided to muck around, so this site is in the process of being restored. We will soon return you to your irregularly scheduled blog posts.

Posted in BisManApps, BlogBits

It’s not all about the Pentiums – Intro to Mac class now available

dcmacnutGreetings fellow Internet citizens. I’ll be teaching a class through the BSC Community Enrichment program designed to give new Mac users an introduction to the OS X operating system. The classes will be held 6 pm to 9 pm on September 11 and October 2 at the Bismarck Public School Career Academy. Both classes will have the same information, so sign up for the one that is most convent for you. You can learn more and register below.

View the other classes I’m teaching at BSC this fall

The Mac vs PC debate has raged on for decades. I am the first to admit I am what some would call an Apple Fanboy, but I’m not here to evangelize Apple over Microsoft. What I do have is more than 20 years of experience with Apple and Mac computers, and more than a decade using OS X. Having been in your shoes myself once, I know what pitfalls to avoid and the tips and tricks to make your Mac experience seamless and (relatively) stress free.

The class is for anyone of any skill level. Whether you’re moving from a Windows-based PC or this is your first computer, this class is for you. Even seasoned users who want to get more out of their desktop or laptop will benefit. Register soon to reserve your space.

Topics covered in the class will include the most recent versions of OS X, Lion and Mountain Lion, and a brief preview of OS X Mavericks which Apple will release this fall.

  • Setting up and using iCloud and e-mail
  • Using iPhoto to organize, edit and share photos
  • Managing your schedule with Calendar and Contacts
  • Browsing the Web with Safari
  • Chatting with friends and family over FaceTime
  • Using your iPad or iPhone with your Mac
  • Purchasing new apps from the Mac App Store
  • Opening and editing documents
  • Navigating OS X using multi-touch gestures
  • And other tips and tricks

Register for the September 11 class

Class ID: 6455
Wednesday, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm; 1 session starting September 11, 2013, ending September 11, 2013
Fee: $39.00
Instructor: Chris Vandeventer
Location: BPS Career Academy , Room 328
Registration Closes On: September 11, 2013 11:59 AM

Register for the October 2 class

Class ID: 6464
Wednesday, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm; 1 session starting October 2, 2013, ending October 2, 2013
Fee: $39.00
Instructor: Chris Vandeventer
Location: BPS Career Academy , Room 328
Registration Closes On: October 2, 2013 11:59 AM

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Posted in BisManApps

Come with me to the Cape – iPhoneography with Jack Hollingsworth

It’s been nearly a year since my last post. In that time events in my families life took priority over blogging, but I never strayed too far from Twitter and my other social media accounts (you are following me, right). I have made some valuable connections. Visit for all of my latest info.

I’m pleased to say that things seem to be settling down (knocks on wood). Through it all, my passion for iPhoneography continues to grow. I started teaching a class in April at Bismarck State College as part of the community enrichment program, and will kick off another round in the fall. And I’m meeting some really fantastic artists and photographers from around the world.

This weekend, I’m in Cape Cod with renowned iPhone photographer Jack Hollingsworth and several other iPhoneographers for a workshop. Jack grew up here and is going to take us to his favorite spots. We will learn from each other and share our own tips and tricks on how to take great photos with an iPhone.

Follow me on Instagram at @dcmacnut and on Twitter @TheMobileLens for photos from the weekend. Or you can search for the hash tag #CapeCodiPhone to follow the group. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

On Twitter #CapeCodiPhone
On Facebook #CapeCodiPhone

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Main St,West Dennis,United States

Posted in The Mobile Lens Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

News: Learn the ABCs of iPhoneograpy at BSC

I’m excited to announce I will be teaching North Dakota’s first class on iPhoneography this fall at Bismarck State College. The class is conducted through the college’s Continuing Education, Training, and Innovation Program. The class will be from 6 pm to 9 pm on Tuesdays starting October 2 and running through October 23. If you’re from the Bismarck-Mandan area and have an iPhone, head on over to the BSC Community Enrichment site to register and enter “iphone” in the search box. Be sure to check out some of the other photography classes being offered. Space is limited, so act now.

I want to give a special thanks to Richard Gray of for being a trailblazer in creating his iPhoneography class at Kensington and Chelsea College in London this year. That class was hugely popular, and I hope that Bismarck will live up to the expectation.

iPhoneography: Taking pictures with your iPhone

The best camera is the one you always have with you is a cliché that has been repeated so often no one remembers who originally coined the phrase. Geared toward amateur and professional photographers alike, in this class you’ll learn how to take better pictures with your iPhone. Examine apps, accessories, and traditional photographic techniques scaled to the mobile phone platform. Discuss the limitations of iPhone photography compared to traditional cameras, and how to turn those limitations into advantages. Take photos every week in and out of class, and participate in critiques. By the end of the class you’ll start to view your iPhone as more than a phone that also takes pictures; you’ll also see it as a camera that also makes phone calls. You must bring your iPhone (any model) or even your iPad (as long as it has a camera) and make sure it’s fully charged. Students will also need to sign up for a free Instagram account in order to share and comment on photos taken by the class. The class also requires an Apple App Store account and the purchase of approximately $25 worth of photography apps. A list of apps will be provided on the first night of class along with an iTunes gift card to cover the purchases.

Posted in The Mobile Lens Tagged with: , , ,

Review: Go back in time with Pitfall! for iOS

Screenshot of Pitfall! intro

Activision just released the 1982 video game Pitfall! for iOS, in recognition of the game's 30th Anniversary. Pitfall Was the second biggest selling game for the Atari 2600 when it was released, and was one of the first games I bought. I've played it more times than I can remember. In fact, I still have the original game and console. So when I saw this in the App Store I grabbed it immediately, and set about reliving my childhood.

When I launched the app, the first things to greet me were the classic 8-bit graphics and the original games soundtrack. I'm not ashamed to admit that I peed my pants a little. Then the game suddenly shifted, and Pitfall Harry transformed into a 3D adventurer being taunted by a tiny monkey while running away from a volcano. My next reaction was just like that many of you probably had. This game looks an awful lot like Temple Run.

I've played Temple Run, and I like it. Some bloggers are saying Pitfall isn't original due to the similarities between the two games. But this is nothing like the numerous clones trading off Temple Run's popularity. It's trading off Temple Run's popularity and 1980s' nostalgia. Completely different. Ultimately, similarities aside, the big question is whether the app is any good.

In my assessment, the answer is yes. There's enough variety and subtle differences from similar games to make it interesting. The app has multi-perspective viewing, which constantly shifts, and the a ability to earn checkpoints like the original, so you don't have to start over from the beginning every time. The vines, pits, snakes, and scorpions are also back. I could play it for hours, and I probably will. The app is 99 cents in the App Store and is compatible with the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. The Verge questions the apps reliance on in app purchases to speed up game play, so that is something to be aware of. For example, those checkpoints you earn require in-game currency to use them. You can collect “treasure” in the game to buy them, or skip that step and pay real money. In this respect it's like real money to get them, or just collect “treasure” use them. You can play without them, but the game does nag you after a while. In my opinion, Pitfall is a pretty cheap time machine. Now if you'll excuse me, Benson is on.

I've posted some screen shots of Harry in action below. The guys over at Touch Arcade also have a great review showing off some of the game play.

TA Plays: 'Pitfall!' – A New Endless Runner Based on The 1982 Classic 'Temple Run' …Wait


Posted in BisManApps, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

You’re Still The Best: Dcmacnut’s Top 10 Essential Apps for the iPad Revisited

This post originally appeared on my Random Facts of Life blog as You're the Best Around, January 11, 2012.

In January, I offered my suggestions for the essential apps for any iPad user. Many were focused on features that the iPhone had, but the iPad did not. Since then, Apple has released its 3rd generation iPad and annouced iOS 6, both which provide much needed upgrades in some of these areas. But not all iPads will benefit from these additions, with the first generation iPad not being able to run iOS 6 at all. So here, again, is my list of essential apps – version 2.0.

  1. When the iPad was released in 2010 it was missing a feature: a clock app. Developers stepped up to fill the void. One of my favorites is Nightstand Central. It comes in paid and free versions, and is worth a look. Even though iOS 6 will finally add a clock app to the iPad, these third-party apps will continue to deliver. Get it from the Nightstand Central for iPad - Music Alarm Clock with Weather and Photos - Thomas Huntington.
  2. The iPad's bigger screen is perfect for a calculator, but the iPad doesn't come with one. The third-party app I use on a daily basis is Calculator HD for iPad. It gives you four calculators, including a scientific calculator, in a stylish interface. Get it from the Calculator HD for iPad - CrowdCafé.
  3. The new iPad has built in speech to text capabilities, and will support Siri as part of iOS 6. But Nuance, the company behind the popular Dragon Natural Speaking also makes Dragon Dictation for iOS, and has announced a new virtual assistant called Nina that other developers can incorporate into their mobile apps. Get it from the Dragon Dictation - Nuance Communications.
  4. Are you sensing a theme? The iPad is also missing a stand-alone weather app, meaning you need to turn to the App Store. The Weather Channel® app is great for casual users. If you need more robust apps, read my intereview with Erin Huntimer of to find out what she recommends. Get it from the The Weather Channel® for iPad - The Weather Channel Interactive.
  5. The iOS calendar app is great, but it's not for everyone. Agenda Calendar by App Savy is a powerful calendar manager with a minimalist design. The interface gets out of your way so you never have to worry about your meetings. Until you're late for one. Get it from the Agenda Calendar - App Savvy.
  6. New York Times tech columnist David Pogue recently had his iPhone stolen, and this free app helped him track it down. It works great on the iPad, especially when your toddler hides it behind the couch cushions. Get it from the Find My iPhone - Apple.
  7. The iPad is designed for reading, and GoodReader is one of the most popular document managers out there. It will store and let you view PDF and Word documents, as well as PowerPoint presentations, photos, and video. It syncs with iCloud and many popular could services, like Dropbox, Box, and SugarSync. Get it from the GoodReader for iPad - Good.iWare Ltd..
  8. Evernote is more than just an app. It's an entire ecosystem that could fill it's own review. This free service connects with multiple other apps, letting you store photos, business cards, photos, audio, and more. With apps available for every major deskop and mobile platform, you're information will never be out of sync. Get it from the Evernote - Evernote.
  9. Flipboard is a social magazine that took the iPad by storm. There are many other apps that will aggregate the news for you, but Flipboard has the best viewing experience of them all. The company is constantly improving and expanding the apps capabilities, and it deserves a spot on your iPhone home screen. Get it from the Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine - Flipboard Inc..
  10. Snapseed by Nik Software is a simple yet powerful editor that was named Apple's iPad App of the Year in 2011. The new iPad has a camera on par with the iPhone, but where it really shines is in viewing and editing photos. The bigger screen is better suited to this task, whether your editing photos taken with the iPad, iPhone, or transferred to the iPad from your point and shoot camera. Get it from the Snapseed - Nik Software, Inc..


Posted in BisManApps Tagged with: , , ,

Blogger Spotlight: It’s Raining Erin – Chatting about the weather and apps with a ND weather geek

Today on, we are launching a new semi-regular feature highlighting notable bloggers, their hobbies, passions, and most of all, their favorite apps. In this premier post, we are talking to my co-worker and fellow Apple geek, Erin Huntimer, who blogs at She’s a certified weather spotter in North Dakota.

Screenshot of

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Posted in BlogBits Tagged with: , , , , ,

Rolling down the river

Uploaded August 04, 2012 at 02:02PM to Instagram
Posted in Instagram Tagged with: , ,

Come and get it

Uploaded August 03, 2012 at 06:40PM to Instagram
Posted in Instagram Tagged with: , ,