World Wide Wade Goes West—Episode IV: Torch Lake, MI

Sharon Branson, a retired nurse, and her husband Dean Branson, a retired industrial chemist and toxicologist, are busy enough for any three non-retired couples. I met this fascinating couple through my parents, who serve with Dean in the Three Lakes Association, a conservation group working to preserve the natural environment around Michigan’s Torch Lake and two adjoining lakes. Sharon is a webmaster and a volunteer caregiver for her parish, and Dean, in addition to his conservation work, is also active in the Rotary Club. In fact, on the day I interviewed them, the Bransons had just returned from a trip to Minneapolis (where I am now, coincidentally), and were on their way to a local Rotary dinner where Dean was to be feted as the outgoing president.

How do they keep up the pace? Technology helps a lot, it turns out. As Sharon and Dean explain in the interview that we’ve excerpted in today’s episode of World Wide Wade Goes West, they use desktop software, the Internet, and their new iPhone 4 to coordinate their schedules, keep in touch with all of their fellow volunteers, do research, pay their billls, and (now that they have an iPhone with GPS) navigate to their various meetings. While they profess not to understand some of their gadgets (Dean says it’s helpful to have kids they can call up for instant customer support) they struck me as more technically sophisticated than some technology writers I know.

The chance to sit down with a variety of people across the country and hear stories about how they use information technology was the whole idea behind our video series. I’ve been thrilled by the depth and freshness of the perspectives we’ve gotten so far. And there’s more great stuff coming tomorrow, from Minneapolis. I urge you to check out the whole series, including the pilot episode and our videos from Gloucester, MA, and Rochester, NY and my more personal video from yesterday. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel at

I’m not even half way across the United States, and already this whole video project has benefited from the enormous generosity of so many people. I’d like to extend a special, personal thanks to Dean and Sharon Branson, David Cook, Bettina Hein and all of the folks at Pixability, Mark Nelson, genius-guy videographer and video editor (and copilot) Graham Gordon Ramsay, my parents Paul and Patricia Roush, and Oliver Zhou. Thanks also to Bob Buderi, Rebecca Zacks, Luke Timmerman, and all of my colleagues at Xconomy for helping to line up the time and resources for this project, and for picking up the slack while I’m on the road to San Francisco.

World Wide Wade Goes West is sponsored by Pixability.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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