Hurricane Sandy relief

Find out how to help hurricane relief efforts.

Yes, there are plenty of goofy jokes—and stupid, erroneous pictures—of Hurricane Sandy going around the Internet, but there are also plenty of people who could use our help. Fortunately it’s not hard to give, and if you have anything to give, remember that every little bit helps. A text message carrying just $10 can go a long way—and you can even pool together with friends if it’s hard to make that amount.

You can text a donation easily by sending it to 90999. Just text the words “RED CROSS” (don’t include the quotation marks) to the number and the $10 donation will be charged to your account.

Just what will the Red Cross do with your donation? Having volunteered with them before, I trust them as one of my favorite humanitarian aid groups, and I can tell you that most of your money will be going to fund direct relief to people, such as food and shelter. Counseling support and other help may also be provided with your donation.

If you want to donate more than $10, feel free to send multiple texts in the increments that you prefer. As far as I know, there are no limitations on the number of texts per person.

Can I live without my iPhone? Of course, but...

Yes it's a cliche, but I can't live without my iphone. I am reluctant to say those exact words, that I "can't live without it." Perhaps that designation should be reserved for dialysis machines. But I can say that my life would be very different.

For example, I am one of those people who loathe asking for directions. Which meant I spent a fair amount of my life wandering around lost, especially when traveling. Enter the iPhone and suddenly, I am never lost, because I am only an app away from directions to my next destination via car, public transit or my own two feet.

Then there's the question of whether the restaurant you are about to enter will provide you with a good meal or a bad one. Absent the obvious signs like smell, general cleanliness, or whether the establishment is crowded, pre iPhone your choice was a gamble. With iPhone in hand, I have the collective opinions of the entire English-speaking world at my sliding fingertips. This makes me, my stomach and my dining companions much happier.

Finally, the iPhone is the ultimate argument solver. Before the days of mobile web access, you'd have to wait until you were home to “Google it” and determine which one of your friends was right about the release date of the original Footloose movie. Or you would have to stop by the library and ask to borrow the microfiche machine. However, with the ubiquitous iPhone, disagreements like this can be settled quickly, preserving friendships or, at the very least, allowing the conversation to progress to a different topic.


Map Apps

I've been testing out different apps in preparation for a two-week road trip that I am taking completely on a megabus. Since I'll be having long layovers in different cities that I don't know at all, I'm especially looking for apps that are good for walking around and contain information about smaller cities since I'll be visiting not only Atlanta and Nashville, but Montgomery and Huntsville, Alabama.

I haven't seen this cartoon in probably three decades, but I can still remember the Peanuts comic about when Charlie Brown sent Snoopy out to find his real mom at the puppy farm. When Linus asks Charlie Brown if he had given Snoopy a map, Charlie Brown hesitates. “Well,” he says, “I gave him something like that.” The cartoon cuts to Snoopy, holding a globe in one hand and looking down. “They longitude and latitude lines should be marked on the ground somewhere” Snoopy says.
A lot of map apps make me feel that same way. Google maps can be absolutely impossible to use and is also extremely slow. I hate how it refreshes for no reason (i.e. even if you're standing still) and then if you're not using a wireless signal (which you probably are not, because you're walking around), it takes forever to refresh and you're stuck tapping your foot, wishing the longitude and latitude lines were marked on the ground somewhere.

For most medium sized and above cities, I'm really digging hopstop. Yes it works mostly for public transit, but you can also use it to determine walking directions, which it can give you step by step like you're using your car GPS. Now if it could only read them to me, I wouldn't bump into as many people as I explore new cities.

Megabus App

Not too helpful, but not too shabby

I am a big fan of Megabus, the new bargain bus company that has totally completely and utterly changed everything about bus travel. They have great bargains for their fares (and yes, I am occasionally able to find the one buck fares that they advertise) and best of all you actually buy a seat on a specific bus. Unlike the Greyhound or the Chinatown buses, where you buy a ticket for some bus traveling between your destinations, hopefully the one you want to be on, but maybe not. This means that interstate bus travel is not only less stressful, but actually dependable. This makes a big difference for me, since I am mostly traveling for work.

One of the ways Megabus keeps their bus travel so (relatively) cheap is that they don't have a lot of extras. You know, like actual buildings to wait in or actual employees where you catch the bus. And because they don't have an actual place to pull into, they do things like pulling up on street corners, grabbing their passengers and their suitcases, and taking off.

This leads to the most annoying part of Megabus: because there aren't any employees to ask if the bus is coming or not, when the Megabus is late (which it is, not infrequently) you are left simmering in great anger, unable to figure out if the bus is on its way, been canceled or, just as likely, were forced to move their bus stop to a more suitable place.

So, unlike most apps developed by big companies, the Megabus app actually addresses their biggest problem. You can enter the megabus number and arrival time and see in real time where the bus is. It still doesn't tell you why the bus is late, but just knowing it is on its way (or isn't) is really useful.

It will be even more useful when they add their heavily traveled east coast routes.

Pimple Poppin' Goodness

Because junior high just wasn't long enough apparently, I downloaded the lite version (oh the puns I could make here) of the Pimple Popper Application for my iphone.


My whole family is obsessed with popping pimples. Yes it's gross. Yes it's disgusting. Yes it's really bad for your skin and contributes to infections that lead to those deep pitting acne scars. But it's really impossible to resist popping a pimple that has come to a perfect head, with its little pus filled white pocket just taunting you, crying out “pop me please, I need to be popped.”

So perhaps it's in the spirit of harm reduction that I downloaded this, with the hopes of avoiding these overwhelming feelings of need to pop or as they say in PPA (Pimple Poppers Anonymous) my uncontrollable popping triggers. Of course, since I'm 43 and haven't really had a pimple since I was in eight grade, it's a little hard to make the argument for myself personally. But we're talking the spirit of the thing anyhow.There is something to beware of though: Pimper Popper is a game. You would not know this either from their description in the itunes app store or even from the reviews in the app store, although the reviews are pretty sparse. Perhaps no one thought to mention it. You'll need to create an apple games account, which is free but takes a few minutes, and then you have to compete against yourself or another pimple popper. Still it's worth it for the satisfaction of the virtual squish.

So the Pimple Popper is pretty fun but it would be more fun if you could just amuse yourself. Some things, like pimple popping were made to be cooperative, not competitive.

Sunrise, Sunset App

Only Does One Thing But Does It Well

I get torn between wanting phone apps to be multifunctional and wanting them to be really good at one thing. For example, I just discovered the City Your Way apps, which are also called the Way (insert city name here) apps. Each of these city apps (they have more of them internationally than they do for United States cities, at least right now) is really a round up of a bunch of other apps: for example the New York City app includes information about wifi, local parks, local transport, nightlife, events, religious places, craigslist, hotels, museums, weather, weekend getaways, green, airports, etc. There are three full screens of content. Some of that I will never use. I will seldom need to find a gas station in New York because no one I know drives and there are only three gas stations and everyone knows where they are anyway. At least the people who drive know about them I suppose. Or I could ask a taxi dude if I really needed to know. Of course, I can hide this feature so it's not one more thing to scroll through, but all these features make for a very large app which means a pretty slow app. It take 15 seconds just to open!

So that's why I am ever so slightly charmed by the Sunrise Sunset app that I just discovered. It doesn't do anything fancy. It can't tell you where to find coffee, or free wifi or half price Broadway tickets or the best burrito in Brooklyn. All it does is tell you when the sunrise and the sunset will happen. And for a light impaired, potentially seasonally affected disorder person like me, that's plenty.

505 Motivational Quotes: A Little Something For Everyone

I like motivational quotes a lot. I have them written on three by five cards on the walls of my office, I write them in the margins of my notebooks, I recite them into mp3 files that I listen to as I do work that doesn't require my full intellectual attention. I really like motivational quotes.


Yet, if you look at the same quotes over and over they lose their ability to well, motivate. You stop seeing them, or the magic of the phrasing starts to be lost on you. Also, since most of us could use motivation and encouragement in slightly different forms (and for slightly different difficulties) each day, sometimes a quote that is helpful on Sunday morning can be downright irritating on Monday afternoon.This is why I like the 505 Motivational Quotes App specifically. There are certainly other motivational quotes apps and even some de-motivator apps, which are truly cynicism apps and are clever and even sometimes useful in their own right. But the 505 Motivational Quotes App is broken up into eight different categories from which you can read a quote; happiness, inspirational, leadership, life, motivational, personal growth success and wisdom. Once you've selected a category you can read through the quotes in order, or you can select a random quote (although it seems to randomize to any category so I don't know how helpful that feature is) .

The categories do vary in quality a bit. For example, the success category seems to have more archaic, slightly more banal quotes from sources such as Winston Churchill. But the happiness category combines quotes from both modern and historic figures which provides a nice juxtaposition of thought and increases the likelihood you can relate to one of the quotes. A nice feature would be the ability to mark favorites; that might be available on the enhanced version.

Hello Cruel World

A Really Really Useful App

There are apps that helps you organize lists and apps that help you work out, encouragement apps, religious apps, comedy apps and apps to help you shop. In fact, there are lots of apps to help shopping. Big shock there.But Hello Cruel World is one of the few apps that can save your life. Based on gender radical and lifesaver Kate Bornstein's book Hello Cruel World: Alternatives to Suicide for Freaks, Teens and Other Outlaws, the app is a wonderfully simple guide to well, alternatives to suicide.

The app contains a catalog of 101 alternatives to suicide. Written very much from a loving, harm reduction viewpoint, suggestions include treat yourself like an honored guest, send out a distress signal, make art out of it, experiment on animals and small children (that is, social skills), stay in bed, travel and have adventures, moisturize, go stealth, go completely batty, learn another language of love, and one I particularly like, write your own code of honor. To use app, you thumb through the cards until you find one you like, tap and read the back.

As the description that comes with the app says, these alternatives range from playful to irreverent to highly controversial. But its the inclusion of the more controversial alternatives that actually makes the app so important. When people are feeling down and really really down, the last thing they need is moralizing. They need understanding and they need, well, real alternatives. Considering these alternatives, guided by a single rule, “don't be mean,” seems one step closer to safety for anyone having a hard time.

Hungry? GrubHub at Your Service

"I wouldn't use Grub Hub if I had allergies or special food needs unless I had already ordered from the restaurant in the past"

Folks living in large cities in the Mid Atlantic area of the United States have probably encountered the irreverent cartoon based subway advertisements for the GrubHub service. I've seen them so far in New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore. I don't believe the subway ads alone would have been enough to try the app, after if you want to order delivery food in Brooklyn where I live, it's a matter of picking up any one of the approximately three million menus that are left in your apartment lobby, picking up you cell phone and calling.A friend told me about Grub Hub though and I started using it regularly. I've seen a few complaints about GrubHub both in the app store and on the individual restaurant reviews, but I've never had a problem with a single order I've made. It's perfect for when you're apartment sitting and you don't know who delivers to your area or when you want to order a different kind of cusine than you normally do. Also, there are some restaurants that don't heavily advertise that they deliver but still do, but only through the Grub Hub service.

Another advantage of Grub Hub is that your order doesn't go through human hands until it printed out or at least in electronic form. This means if your order is simple and you don't require substitutions or any changes from the menu, there is less chance for any error. I wouldn't use Grub Hub if I had allergies or special food needs unless I had already ordered from the restaurant in the past, since there's no way to communicate directly with the restaurant. For simple meals when you're not super rushed (using Grub Hub adds about 15 minutes to the process) I definitely recommend this app. 298

Honey Badger Don't Care

It Just Uses This App

If you haven't encountered Randall's Honey Badger Don't Care video on youtube, the Honey Badger app might not make much sense to you. You should go watch the video yourself, but if you need me to summarize, basically it's an old National Geographic video (you can still see the logo in the far left corner of the screen) about this animal called a honey badger. The honey badger is the most insane fearless animal in the world and the video illustrates this. However, in the Honey Badger Don't Care, a dude named Randall has stripped the (probably boring) National Geographic audio and substituted his own hilarious take on the honey badger, repeating at intervals “honey badger don't care. He just takes what he wants.” It turns on Randall is this animal lover guy and he's done this for a bunch of videos, but it seems like honey badger video is the first time he made something that went mega-viral.The app then (which is free by the way, but if you like the honey badger video you won't be able to keep yourself from buying the ringtones) has a lot of fun stuff. First of all, you can watch the HoneyBadger Video, which is a nice way to cheer yourself up if you are feeling a little low, as well as garner yourself courage if you need to confront either a cobra or a boss that won't give you a well deserved raise. Then there's more videos, including my favorites “The Great White Sea Monster.” There are also soundboards and a way to make Randall your outgoing voicemail greeting as well as funny “have Randall narrate your video” option.