Saturday movie review: Cyber-Seniors

I do most of my connecting with my grandsons and their mama (my daughter) in various long-distance manners, most of which are online or via FaceTime. So I fully understand the value of being online and the importance of helping seniors get online.

Which is why I believe the documentary CYBER-SENIORS should be viewed by anyone who has an elderly parent or other loved one who could connect with friends and family online but has been hesitant to learn how to do it.

Today, though, I'm actually with my grandsons and their mama—visiting them in the desert rather than seeing pictures online or chit-chatting over FaceTime—so this movie review must be quick...so I can get on with the visiting. Here goes:

Cyber-Seniors documentary

Bare bones, bottom line: CYBER-SENIORS is super! And the poignant...

Read More

What I learned this week: Google+ hates me

The last couple of weeks, I've been spending much time and energy trying to better figure out Google+. Most specifically, I'm working on getting the hang of Google+ hangouts. Google+ hangouts are quite similar to Skyping, only it's super simple to have a large number of people join you. They're a fantastic way to participate in (or just watch) online interviews and information sessions on a variety of topics, as well as visit with friends and family.

Chloe from GenerationFabulous.com has been instrumental in encouraging all the Generation Fabulous members — of which I'm one — to hop aboard the Google+ train, and she led the first Google+ hangout I've joined. It was an opportunity for those of us who have never hanged out (or whatever the grammatically correct term might be) to try it in a low-stress atmosphere.

During that first hangout, Chloe taught me and some other newbies a thing or two, such as how to make our names show up during a hangout — especially handy for those of us who want to look professional when getting interviewed online. I've never been interviewed online (nor am I ready to be) but I followed her directions and now come across quite professional looking in a Google+ hangout. Well, at least the label does.

google hangout(The picture of Jim is there because I did this practice one with Jim to get shots for this post; hangouts require you to, well, hang out with someone. He didn't use video, so just his profile photo shows up.)

Chloe also showed us how to access nifty tools that make us look the opposite of professional. They're fun things that enhance the experience when participating in a hangout with grandkids, which is one of the more awesome reasons to figure out Google+ hangouts, if you ask me.

google hangout fun

I'd also like to figure out the hangouts so I can hang out with friends who are scattered across the country. I'd be happy to wear a crown or smiley face then, too.

There also are some fun sounds to make grandkids (and big kids) chuckle while hanging out:

google hangout sound effects

Also cool for hangouts with grandkids: The storytime feature in which you can choose a book from the bookshelf and read it aloud to kiddos watching and listening from their end.

google hangout story time

That's just a small snippet of Google+ hangouts and why I think they're pretty darn cool.

So why do I say Google+ hates me?

Well, because with all the cool things I could do with Google+ hangouts, my microphone doesn't work most of the time. I can Skype just dandy in the morning, but when I attempt a hangout in the afternoon, I sound like I'm underwater. Or I can't be heard at all.

I first thought it was a problem with my computer and my microphone, but it's not. Like I said, my mic works fine for Skype. It does not work fine for Google+ hangouts. And yes, I do have all the settings set correctly (I've checked... about 316 times). I've also replaced the audio drivers on my computer just in case... and my mic still doesn't work for Google hangouts. At least not most of the time.

I've searched and searched and searched for an answer online. Only to find a large group of equally unhappy folks with equally distressing problems when it comes to Google+ hangouts. It's not us, it's them. Meaning it's Google+.

Google+ hates us. For some unknown reason.

And that just plain stinks because I want so badly to play in Google+ hangouts. I so want to wear a pirate hat and patch while reading a story to Bubby and Mac. Or while enjoying a drink and some girl talk with faraway friends.

But I can't. Because Google+ hates me.

And that, unfortunately, is what I learned this week.

(I'm hoping what I learn by this time next week, though, is how to make my mic always work in the hangouts. I'm not giving in to the Google+ hate that easily. Stay tuned.)

Today's question:

What did you learn this week?

The Saturday Post: 10 time-saving tips worth learning edition

I've gotten in the habit of sharing on Fridays what I learned during the week. I didn't do that yesterday, having chosen to share this instead.

So today I will share one thing I learned this week. Actually, I'm feeling extra generous (and extra learned) and will share with you 10 things I learned this week. I have no doubt you will learn something from this, too.

There you have it. Now we all learned (at least) 10 things this week!

Today's question:

Which of the 10 tips in the video are you most likely to use to save time? (Me, I like the space bar instead of a scroll bar tip.)

The Saturday Post: Is Facebook changing our identity edition

The other day I was having trouble getting on Facebook, and it seemed the problem was with Facebook, not with me or my computer. I started thinking about how much I and nearly every single person and business I know has come to depend on Facebook.

Then I wondered what we would all do if Facebook crashed. For good. Or just plain shut down. For good. For whatever reason.

What would we do?

Because of that thought, I thought you'd find this PBS video interesting. I certainly did.

Watch Is Facebook Changing Our Identity? on PBS. See more from Idea Channel.

Today's question:

How often do you get on Facebook?

9 ways to lift a grandma's spirits

I've been feeling a little down lately because I can't get my <cuss> wireless network to work in my house. Why is wireless that important? Because my work takes place online, and I prefer—sometimes need—to do that work wirelessly. Plus, I just plain want it, and that should be good enough reason.

These are my wireless devices that previously networked nicely, some for years:

  • My computer
  • Jim's computer
  • My iPhone
  • My wi-fi radio
  • My printer
  • Netflix

They did just fine up until last Wednesday. Then *poof* the wireless went wacko for reasons unknown. Now the only devices working are my computer and my wi-fi radio. No computer time for Jim. No Netflix for either of us.

Not being able to figure out why is making me crazy. Even more so now that when the Comcast tech visited yesterday, he tested all the vitals, replaced cables, scratched his head, said, "I've never run into such a thing," then apologetically told me I'm on my own since I do have one computer working, proving my Internet works and wireless connectivity isn't their job.

In light of the craziness (and crabbiness) my computer connectivity issue has caused, I'm in need of some serious spirit lifting. I'm fortunate for these spirit-lifters that made a difference the last few days:

1. A weekend visit from my youngest.

2. An afternoon with my mom and sister, at the urging—and chauffeuring—of my youngest.

3. Friday food and fun with my youngest, oldest, and hubby.

4. Videos of Bubby and Mac.

5. A text from a friend telling me she's at an outdoor wedding at a public garden venue and it reminds her of my back yard.

6. Picking my one and only zucchini from my garden. (At least I got one, which I keep telling myself is far better than none.)

7. New reading glasses—three pair, in fact, courtesy of the combo pack at Wal-mart.

8. A check for freelance work that came sooner than expected.

9. Only 16 days left until Jim and I fly to the desert to see Bubby and Mac again.

Despite still seeking the ultimate spirit lifter of all—a solution to my wi-fi woes—those are the things that helped, those are the things I need to keep in mind and focus on.

And I'll do exactly that—after I check just one more setting that just might be the answer...

photo: stock.xchng/channah

Today's fill-in-the-blank:

__________ always lifts my spirits when I'm feeling down.

The ringing in my ears

I have an iPhone. It's not the latest and greatest version with all the bells and whistles and FaceTime application, but I love it just the same. A few of the iPhone features make me nuts, of course, such as the auto correct (which it apparently does others, too, sometimes in hilarious fashion). For the most part, though, I'm quite pleased with the snazzy smartphone and consider myself privileged to have it.

One of the best things about my iPhone, I think, is that I can automatically tell who's calling me. Not because I have Caller ID—which I do—but because of how each person sounds when they're trying to reach me, thanks to the ability to set ringtones and text tones for callers. I don't even have to pick up my phone to check Caller ID to screen my calls.

Which is music to my ears. Because I pretty much hate talking on the telephone. So only if it's someone in my immediate family do I usually answer right away. Unless I'm in the bathroom. But at least then I know who it is I need to call back as soon as I'm out of the shower...or whatever...without even having to look.

We are a family of texters, so the same goes for when I'm musically notified that one of them is calling without calling at all.

The really great thing about having the ability to screen calls with the iPhone is that I've attached a sound to each of my family members that audibly resembles who they are. At least to me. Sounds that make me smile—not just because one or the other wants to talk or text with me, but because the sound I've given them is so, well, them.

To show you—or, more accurately, sound to you—what I hear that gets me grinning, I'd like to introduce you to my family...by ringtone.

BRIANNA: I talk to Brianna probably more often than I talk to my other two daughters put together. Brianna likes to talk. And for the most part, I like to hear her talk. But she does indeed talk a lot, and we all like to tease her a bit about it. So I was quite pleased with myself when I found that my iPhone had a ringtone perfectly befitting my oldest daughter. When I first assigned it to her, I giggled every single time she'd call. Now I simply smile, for this is what I hear when Brianna calls. When she texts, my oldest daughter sounds like this, just because I imagine her texting as quickly as she can—and expecting me to respond as quickly as I can.

ANDREA: My youngest daughter calls me far less often than Brianna. Actually, she calls far less than Megan and Jim, too. But that's okay. She calls me just as often as she needs to and just as often as I need her to. Same with texting. But when she does either, she always makes me smile. First with the ringtone assigned to her. Or the text tone that she urged me to use—which is kind of like this one but not exactly (only because I couldn't find the exact MP3 to use for this post). The actual one is the iPhone minuet tone Andie suggested I use and imagine her dancing around each time I hear it. Which I do. Which along with some of the off-the-wall things she writes, is another of the reasons I smile when Andrea texts.

MEGAN: As the mother of my grandchildren, nearly every time my middle daughter calls or texts, there's some mention of my grandsons. Sometimes she even graciously treats me to photos and videos via text. So the ringtone and text tone for Megan require a smidgen of whimsy to match the fun (usually) found at the other end of the line when she rings in. So each time there's news of my grandsons—or my daughter herself—heading my way via a voice call, this is what I hear. The sound of a photo or video magically traveling from the desert to land in my hands in the mountains typically sounds like this.

JIM: When Jim calls to let me know he's left work and on his way home or that he's forgotten what it is I said I wanted from Taco Bell, this is what I hear. That's just the bluesy kinda guy my husband is. Of course, he'll text occasionally, too. Being the one in the family who is newest to texting and wee bit less adept at it than the rest of us, though, he doesn't know it, but he sounds just like this when he texts me. That's my Jimmy.

Bubby and Mac are clearly far too young for phones of their own. When the time comes, though, I'll likely create a special ringtone for each, something original to match the truly original personalities of each of my goofy grandsons.

That's how it is with my family. How my immediate family sounds to me.

My extended family? Well—and, Mom, don't be offended by this!—I've assigned the same ringtone to all of them, from my parents to each and every one of my siblings. When they call—which isn't often—there's typically some anxiety-inducing news they plan to share. So I warn myself in advance with a spooky little riff that sounds like this. Did you feel that as you listened? That is indeed the feeling accompanying most calls from my siblings. Best to be prepared before saying, "Hello."

My siblings and parents shouldn't be offended, though, for at least they get a special ringtone. Strangers? All they get is this generic old telephone ring. Yet even that sounds pretty darn cool coming over my iPhone—though I must admit, I ignore that specific ring nearly every time I hear it. Like I said, I hate talking on the phone; talking on the phone to strangers is something I pretty much refuse to do.

That's the beauty of screening my phone calls—made simpler by the ringing in my ears.

Today's question:

What are your favorite ringtones to assign to family, friends, and foes?

Three things I blame on technology

Little kids no longer learn that telephones go brrrrring. 

Because phones no longer ring, they sing ... or scream or crow or play themes from horror flicks or annoying comedy shows.

Coworkers no longer gather around the water cooler to discuss last night's cliffhanger episode of their favorite television series.

Because everyone records shows, to watch on different dates, at different times. Or they catch it on Hulu or iTunes -- alone -- and can't say anything until they're sure others have seen it. By then the thrill, the urgency, the excitement is gone.

Dogs are no longer taught to fetch the newspaper.

Because the news is all read online. Or not at all.

I really shouldn't complain, though, because:

1. I hate talking on the phone.

2. I no longer work in an office so I never engage in chit chat with coworkers about favorite televsion shows.

3. My dogs don't fetch the paper -- which I actually do still read in print -- because some days, fetching the paper myself is about the only exercise I get because I spend much of my time sitting on my cuss blogging. Yet another thing I blame on technology. (Which is more acceptable than blaming it on lack of willpower and motivation, wouldn't you say?)

Photo credits: Click photos for source.

Today's question:

What do you blame on advances in technology?

Low-tech genius

I'm continually thankful for all the gadgetry that makes long-distance grandparenting easier to swallow. The high-tech blessings of digital cameras and e-mail allow Megan to regularly share with me the low-tech genius of our Bubby.

Megan's latest e-mail:

Hi Mom, I'm procrastinating my workout right now. But I wanted to show you the latest drawing Bubby did. It is so obvious how strong his hand muscles are getting. I have students right now who can't press down this hard when they use markers or crayons. I was so proud of him! We did this one yesterday afternoon. Talk to you later, love you!  

And the attached masterpiece:

Ten years or so ago, parents had to snail mail artwork to grandparents. I consider myself truly blessed -- and thankful I don't have to move to the dreadful desert in order to witness Bubby's daily activities!