The best of the federal blogosphere

Smart phones for behavioral health care
Armed With Science blog

The smart phone you carry is more than just a communications device. You have as much computing power in your pocket as a desktop PC of 10 years ago or a room-size mainframe of 30 or 40 years ago.

One of the many things you can do with your pocket powerhouse is facilitate behavioral health care, writes Julie Weckerlein at the Defense Department’s “Armed With Science” blog. Available applications offer help for such common needs as assessing symptoms, locating resources and tracking health conditions.

"For example, the ‘T2 Mood Tracker’ is an app that allows users to self-monitor emotional experiences associated with deployment-related behavioral health issues," she writes. "This technology is useful because it allows users to collect real-time health data, monitor their own progress and share this data with their health care provider."

The app is available for iPhone and Android devices.

Who are Fannie and Freddie?
Government Book Talk blog

If you turn to the government for a good book recommendation, don't expect to hear about Stephen King, J.K. Rowling or even Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The mission of the Government Printing Office’s blog is to shed light on important federal publications. So unless King or Rowling go to work for the government, they will never be on the list.

The latest recommendation from the “Government Book Talk” blog is "Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Role in the Secondary Mortgage Market" by the Congressional Budget Office.

“Like a lot of people, I’ve spent many years not knowing exactly what Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do," writes blogger Jim Cameron, a GPO employee. "Until the housing meltdown, I would have been hard pressed even to tell you whether they were federal agencies or not (they’re not — they are government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs)."

CBO’s publication, available online or in book form, explains what Freddie and Fannie do and explores the ramifications of making them either wholly government or wholly private compared to their current hybrid status. The book "seems like a great guide for policy-makers and anyone interested in the backwash from the great housing debacle of the past few years," Cameron concludes.

Invasion of the photo snappers
Digital Preservation blog

Butch Lazorchak might be just a bureaucrat in some people’s eyes, but he can pander with the best elected official. A digital archivist at the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), Lazorchak writes about how he managed to win over a room of eighth graders from Imagine Schools’ South Lake Middle School who were in town from Florida for the traditional end-of-year field trip to the nation’s capital.

His secret weapon? The teenagers’ fondness for taking and sharing photos on their cell phones, which is the devices’ second most popular feature for teens, after texting, according to the Pew Research Center.

Lazorchak and his colleagues prepared a presentation to help the kids understand how to capture, describe and preserve their digital photos, which included a warning about using social networks as primary storage options. History has shown that those sites don’t last forever.

The Library of Congress launched the “Digital Preservation” blog May 31 to complement its other public outreach efforts. “NDIIPP is trying to influence behavior on a number of levels, first and foremost by raising awareness of digital preservation issues and spurring people to take personal action to preserve their own materials in the current absence of comprehensive tools to help them do so,” Lazorchak writes. “After all, the personal photographs of the students at South Lake could become the valuable cultural heritage materials of tomorrow, but only if the students take care of them first.”

Art unplugged
Eye Level blog

Tierney Sneeringer, a program assistant at the Smithsonian’s Luce Foundation Center for American Art in Washington, D.C., created the Luce Unplugged series of free monthly concerts that feature local musicians who perform and choose a work of art to be the focus of an accompanying talk.

Sneeringer told Mandy, one of the Smithsonian’s “Eye Level” bloggers, that the idea for the series originated during a panel discussion at the American Association of Museums' 2010 conference. A panelist from a nonprofit arts organization in Los Angeles "told a story about a musician who followed museum visitors around while playing songs about the artwork,” Sneeringer said. “From then on, I was on a mission to have live music in the Luce Center."

When asked what she would do with an unlimited budget and free rein, Sneeringer started off with a vision of world-famous musicians performing and ended with a more mundane idea: "The other day a visitor suggested we get bean bag chairs — that could be fun. We are in the middle of planning something extra special for the fall so everyone should stay tuned!"

About the Author

Technology journalist Michael Hardy is a former FCW editor.

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