Category: technology

The Art of the All Day Zoom

I’m in another eight hour Zoom meeting today (well, obviously not without breaks. When else would I be writing this but at lunch?). This is not my first all-day Zoom session. It’s not my second, or even my third. Over the last long pandemic era, I’ve been in many meetings that have lasted 4 or more hours. They’re not fun, but I’ve gotten to the point that I know how to handle them, more or less. And seeing as how Zoom seems to be a part of our life probably for the next ever (though the platform itself may change at some point), I thought it might be useful to offer a few helpful tips for maintaining your sanity during long Zoom meetings.

(Note: if I’m ever in a long Zoom meeting with *you*, of course, I don’t need to use any of these tactics. Meetings with you are nothing but pure bliss from start to finish. I’m talking about Zoom meetings with anyone other than you. That goes without saying, right? Right.)

  1. Hydrate. This is part of a successful approach to pretty much anything. Yes, it’ll make you healthier, but it’ll also force you to take breaks from the Zoom meeting. All that hydration has to go somewhere, and you need to stand up and step away from the meeting now and then. You just can’t sit there for eight hours staring at a screen. Trust me. (And even when I don’t have to take a bathroom break, I will sometimes just turn off my camera and stand up. It really does help.)
  2. Eat! True, sometimes this means you have to turn off your camera for that as well (or risk being the butt of jokes about whether you brought enough for everyone), but food helps me focus again. One of the tragic side effects of the Zoom era is that the days of free food are over. In a typical all day meeting, there would be some juice and muffins to start the day, and then we’d have a lunch brought in, and there might even be some cookies in there somewhere in the afternoon to seal the deal. Now? It’s all up to you. I’m still on my limited diet, so I just look forward to my banana and my peanut butter sandwich. But I definitely look forward to them. If I weren’t on a diet, I would bring some other goodies to get me through the day. But I’d set specific times when I could eat them, because otherwise I’d eat them all within the first hour. Just saying.
  3. Exercise. Not going to lie, here: sometimes I turn off my camera and mic, and I jog in place in the middle of Zoom meetings. I mean, I need to exercise anyway, and that’s something I can easily do while I’m paying attention to what else is being said. It gets the heart rate up, and keeps me from succumbing to feeling overwhelmed by the hours of Zoom meetings that still lie ahead. True, sometimes this means you have to stop jogging, turn on your camera and mic, and risk explaining why you’re so flushed, but in those cases, just meet it head on. “I was exercising. Multitasking.” I mean, everyone else on the call has just been sitting there. You’re really flexing some “I’m a person who takes care of himself” muscles when you explain that.
  4. Keep a side chat going. It helps if you identify an ally in the meeting. Someone you can send snarky messages to in the middle of everything. BUT NOTE: DO NOT use Zoom to exchange these snarky missives. Zoom is like the Eye of Sauron. It keeps a log of all messages during the chat, even “private” ones, and then it sends those messages to the person who ran the meeting. So keep your side snark to Google Chat or Facebook. You’ll thank me later.
  5. If you’re really in trouble, and the meeting has turned into one of those terrible “You have to be here but it really doesn’t have anything relevant for you” affairs, then don’t forget you’ve got the internet at your fingertips. Sometimes you can check the news or your email or do some other business. But remember (WARNING!) if you wear glasses, those glasses will betray you. Cameras these days are pretty sharp. They’ll easily show the reflection of your monitor against your glasses, and it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that what you’re looking at is something other than a Zoom screen. So be careful with this. Just saying.

But really, with those simple steps, you can make it through even the longest Zoom meeting. Speaking from experience. Though if you’re lucky, you won’t have many of those to deal with.

Now if you don’t mind, my lunch break is running out . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

AirPods Pro Review

I bought some ear buds a while back, thinking they’d be an excellent way to listen to music on my iPhone. (I get an Apple Music subscription free with my Verizon account. Actually, starting next week I’ll also be getting Hulu and ESPN+ for free, in addition to Disney+. I don’t know how long these deals will last, but I’ll say I really love taking advantage of stuff that comes to me for free when I’m paying for something anyway.)

In any case, the ones I got were middle-of-the-road Jabras. Not super expensive, but not cheap ones either. I tried them out some and they were . . . fine. I didn’t like how outside sound seemed to echo in my head when I had them on, and I listen to enough different devices through the course of the day (my laptop, my phone, my iPad) that switching between all of them was a real pain. In the end, I stopped using them that much. They were nice, but not enough to get me to start listening to music regularly again.

This is surprising to me in many ways, since I used to listen to music all the time. I would go everywhere with my portable CD player and happily listen to music all day. I still listen to music plenty in the car, but I had stopped doing it throughout the day, just because it felt like too much of a pain, I suppose.

With the shift to online learning at the university, Denisa has needed to use my iPad more and more for her classes. (Along with the Apple Pencil, she can use it as an on-screen whiteboard in Zoom classes.) It’s a year and a half old, so old enough for me to justify buying a new iPad and just bequeathing my current one to her so that she can use it whenever she needs it. And when I went to buy the new iPad, imagine my surprise to see Apple was doing a deal for educators: buy an iPad, get AirPods for free. For a bit more money, I could upgrade to the pros. I’ve loved my noise canceling Bose headphones on planes. If these worked the same way, without cords . . .

I bought them. I’m a sucker for technology, and I hoped the Apple reputation for ease of use would make the difference.

I’m very pleased to say that it did. The sound on them is really impressive, and the noise cancellation is fantastic. There’s an easy way to switch between letting the outside noise filter through and tuning it out, and changing from listening on one device to another is also just a few clicks away. I can go from listening to a Zoom on my laptop to listening to my phone as I walk around campus without any real effort. Siri works well on them, too.

Consider me a happy customer. (Though since I paid half off for them, it’s not like it was a huge bar to pass.) Would I still be happy if I had paid the full price? I think so. I could see me using these on planes instead of my Bose headphones. (The one drawback is that they might get uncomfortable after 4+ hours of being in. Not sure on that yet. It seems for now that I’m getting used to them. But then there’s the issue of battery life. Recharging them halfway through a flight might be a pain. Does it override the smaller travel footprint? If I ever get to fly again, I guess we’ll find out.)

I know Apple gets a lot of disdain from some, but there’s a lot to be said for how easy it all works together when you’re all in the same ecosystem, technologically.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

And So It Begins: Ceding the Tech Support Crown to the Next Generation

For as long as I can remember, whenever there was a tech problem in a household I was a part of, I was the go to person to solve it. I’ve always enjoyed rooting around in the innards of wires, and I’ve taught myself all sorts of things, from how to build my own computer (I’ve built two now) to how to design web pages to how to set up a home theater system. It just went without saying that when the time came that something electric broke down, it would be up to me to get it back working again.

I’m still able to do that, but the last bit, I’ve found myself taking a back seat more and more to Tomas. Why? A few reasons.

First, troubleshooting electronics can be a really long, arduous process. You know what you want the things to do, but you can’t for the life of you figure out why they aren’t doing that thing. To tinkerers like myself, that means you end up delving into online forums and guides to try and make yourself as expert in the area as you can, hoping in the process that you’ll come across the appropriate solution. That takes a lot of time and patience, and I don’t often have time (or patience) for some of these issues. If there weren’t another person in the house who enjoyed this sort of thing, that would be one thing, but . . .

The second reason is Tomas really excels at the same sort of process it takes to troubleshoot. He’s good at searching online for answers and putting the results of those searches into practice. Better yet, it’s something he enjoys doing. All those years of tinkering around with technology ended up indirectly getting me the job I have today. Why? Because in addition to having a library science degree, I had tech experience, and the first job I took at UMF was for the position of IT Librarian. Having a tech support background (and being able to prove it during the interview process) gave me a real leg up. So I think it’s definitely worth it to help foster the same attitude in my kids if possible.

Of course, this isn’t without concerns. I do wonder if I won’t find myself technologically frustrated in a few years when Tomas is no longer in the house and I’m back to doing these things on my lonesome. Is this how it begins? Ten years from now, am I going to be staring at my computer in horror when it starts displaying everything in Swahili, not knowing what keystroke I made to turn it to Swahili mode, let alone how to turn it off?

Probably not. Because if there’s one thing I’ll remain good at, it’s the ability to find information online. That’s comfortably in the “Librarian” wheelhouse, and so that’s an area I’ll still be working on keeping up to strength. The biggest part of successfully handing technology issues (I’ve found) is a willingness to troubleshoot, and the ability to get over the fear that you might break something. I remember the first time I installed RAM in a computer. I was convinced I was going to crush the motherboard, and I was really surprised just how hard I had to end up pushing to get it to seat finally. (Of course, the other trick is knowing when to wave the flag and take it to an expert. Because I definitely have broken things over the years . . .)

But for now, I’m enjoying being able to outsource tech problems as they arise, shifting into a consulting role instead. Suggesting ways to fix something, or providing insight into new approaches.

After all, who else is going to tell me how to use my super-duper genius phone when I’m eighty?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Simple iPhone Hack: Scanning with Notes

A busy day today (and yesterday’s post on racism was so weighty), so I don’t have time for much of a post. However, in this time of pandemic, I’ve found myself in the need of a scanner multiple times. (Go figure.) Getting signed contracts back and forth is difficult, especially when you’re away from your fully equipped office. So it’s been very useful to me to have an easy, free way to scan documents with my iPhone. I hadn’t been aware of it until a few months ago, and it occurred to me today while I was using it that some of you might not know about it either.

Allow me to correct that.

If you open up the “Notes” app on your iPhone (it’s preinstalled on all iPhones. Part of the iOS platform), all you need to do is create a new note by pressing the small paper and pencil icon in the lower right corner of the screen. This will bring up a blank document, along with the keyboard. Above the keyboard are several icons. Press the one that looks like a camera, and then select “Scan Documents.” At that point, it brings up the back camera. You put a piece of paper on a table, center it in the screen, and it will automagically scan it. You can then switch to a new sheet of paper to scan and continue doing that until all the pages you need are scanned. Hit “save” and then you can email it wherever your little heart desires.

I hope that helps some of you. But remember: with great power comes great responsibility.

Have a nice Wednesday!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Wonders of an Automatic Email Signature

I send a fair number of emails each day. (Ugh.) I use two main accounts (one for work and one for home), which is better than when I had to worry about a third one for MLA as well. But from my home email, I often send two types of emails. One is from me personally, and the other is from me as the Stake Executive Secretary. I have my signature automatically added to all emails. The standard one gives links to my blog and my books for sale, because marketing. (Not effective marketing, but still. It’s the thought that counts, right? Sure.)

The thing is, I’m not comfortable with that signature going out with my church emails. I’m not trying to shill books on unsuspecting church members, after all, and up until a bit ago, I always had to delete that email and put in something generic instead. Then, Gmail added the option to store multiple signatures.

Friends, this was a real game changer for yours truly. These days, I’m often sending out 10-15 emails to various church members at a time. Deleting that signature and retyping it time after time after time was a real first world problem, but it was a problem nonetheless. Now, I just saved two different signatures. When I need to switch between them, I can do that with two mouse clicks.

It probably cuts down on email times by a good 5-10 minutes, which might not seem like a lot, but when it’s 5-10 minutes of time that you feel like you’re just wasting time, it’s wonderful. I’m a firm believer that if you can save time here and there throughout the week, it pays dividends in the long run. If you can do something more efficiently, wonderful!

So if this is something that sounds like it could help you, allow me to direct you to these instructions.

Enjoy, and have a lovely weekend!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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