Virtual Vacation: International Space Station

Virtual Vacation: David Keener and the ISS

So, there’s this lockdown thing going on, as if that was news to anyone, and it looks like every single vacation plan I had for this year is gone. And probably next year’s vacations, too.

Now, I could complain about stuff like this, but, really, it is what it is. I’m reminded of people, like my grandfather, who survived harder times than these. He lived through the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Depression, and then served aboard destroyers guarding Atlantic convoys from U-boats in WWII.

But unlike in my grandfather’s time, we have high-tech options…for entertainment and for exercising our imaginations. So, if I can’t go on a real vacation, I’ll go on some virtual vacations.

All right, so here’s my first virtual vacation. Thanks to the magical “Virtual Background” feature of Zoom, the group communications application, here’s a picture of me aboard the International Space Station.

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The Future of Writing Groups

Hourlings Writing Group, On Zoom

The Hourlings writing group meets every Sunday without fail, and no pandemic is going to stop our meeting. Of course, certain realities obviously have to be taken into account…like the safety of our members. The last three meetings, including today’s meeting, shown above, have been conducted using the professional version of Zoom.

In this meeting, we had fourteen attendees for roughly three hours. Yes, I know it says 15, but Marty’s on twice, by phone and laptop, due to some technical difficulties on his end. Overall, it was easily accessible to everyone, and by a special link that had the meeting information baked into it. As a bonus, one of our attendees was Jeff Patterson, who moved away a couple years ago and now lives in the Atlanta region.

Some of the nice features of Zoom:

  • A stackable view of the videos for all attendees.
  • An integrated chat capability for sharing comments, links, etc.
  • Screen Sharing (which we used a couple of times).
  • Meeting recordings—to be kept around for about a week in case someone wants to revisit a key part of the meeting.
  • Flexible Audio and Video Controls, i.e. – you can mute your audio and turn off your video whenever you want.
  • Custom Backgrounds: In case you don’t want to show your house, or if you just want to have fun, you can have a custom background behind you. In my case, I chose to look like I was sitting in a fantasy bar.

All in all, it’s a pretty effective way to run a meeting.

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