Unless You Prefer 'Zoombomb' to Zumba
Or Enjoy Being Added to Calls without Your Knowledge
A New York chef I've never met in person but have followed on Facebook for several years recently posted this to her stories page: "No pedicures, no haircuts, no makeup. The world is about to get ugly (smiley face)...But people can still be beautiful in all the ways that matter. We can still smile, we can still pray, and we can still contact one another to let them know how much we care, how much we love them, and how grateful we are to have them in our lives."
During these times of adversity, many of us have turned to video-conferencing platforms like Zoom to do just that. It's been a lifeline for schools, businesses, family members, and friends who want to reach out to one another. Connect.
From the standpoint of technology, Zoom is user-friendly, stable and reliable. It has connected us with doctors, family members, friends and coworkers. Even shrinks and therapists are using it to talk their clients through mental health issues that arise when social-distancing threatens to become social isolation. Or worse, when you're quarantined with someone you're not especially fond of.
Unfortunately, bad actors have entered the virtual landscape, disrupting our attempts to connect during the current storm. These intruders are hackers who exploit Zoom's vulnerabilities in order to shout racist, homophobic messages or interject pornography into video-conferenced classrooms, prayer meetings, and family gatherings. The phenomenon has added a new word to the 21st century lexicon: "zoombomb."
The problem is serious enough that both the FBI and the New York Attorney General have launched investigations into Zoom's privacy safeguards, following several instances of "zoombombing" now that millions have come to rely on the platform during the coronavirus pandemic.
So before you jump in to the Zoom ecosphere (or even if you already have), here are a few things I've found via the BBC, which may help you maintain your cool, your privacy and your security while using Zoom:
Which Do You Want First, the Good News or the Bad?
No, I'm not talking to YOU. The greeting on this post is from an email I received shortly after the indispensable Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that it's the elderly—people in their 60s, 70s and 80s—who are most at risk for serious illness and death due to COVID-19.
The email was from a college buddy who lives in Greenwich Village. Back in the day, I knew him by nicknames that no longer apply, most of which referred to his Beatle-esque mop of brow-covering red hair. A fine mane if ever a mane there was. His appearance has changed over the years (bye-bye boyish bangs), but his curmudgeonly sense of humor has not abandoned him altogether. Not even after a worthy career on the frontlines of education. "I hope you survive the plague," he wrote. And with that his email came to an end.
Although it's always good to hear from college pals, I was surprised to find myself on the distribution list for such a message. After all, I'm not elderly. How could I be? I look in the mirror and see a man in the prime of life. Which I suppose is exactly how the subjects of Tom Hussey's famous "Reflections" see themselves. That's the photography series where people of advanced years gaze into a looking-glass seeing only younger versions staring back. But surely I'm different from those folks. I really am in my prime, even though I have passed Miss Jean Brodie chronologically
Nevertheless, I trust Dr. Fauci more than anyone on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. And it turns out that I really do fall within the purview of COVID-19's hit list. Dr. Fauci is 79 years old and runs 3.5 miles a day. Proof enough that age is just a number. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is a poor mathematician. It slices and dices at will. And it does not discriminate.
It's not as if you can challenge COVID-19 to a chess match like the late Max von Sydow in The Seventh Seal. This sucker don't play no games.
That's the bad news. ..
Sure It's Unconstitutional & Bloomberg Is Out, But the Subject Proves Unavoidable Even in the Galapagos Islands
The best part about Ecuador is when I forget myself. I am in a gondola high above the Mashpi Reserve when that happens. We have just completed a three-kilometer hike through the rainforest, down a steep slope toward a waterfall, then on through the shin-high current of the river for another kilometer or so.
My companions and our guide are spread out before me. But there’s enough distance between us that I see them against the towering green landscape. Man in proportion to nature. The clean clear river encircling my feet, eddying around smooth wet stones, splashing against my Wellies. A few hundred steps above the river, we board the gondola and travel the long distance between the cloud forest and the rainforest. The air is alive with the songs of Mashpi’s native birds, the high-pitched call of its frogs and the rushing river far below. You cannot get to know God unless you’re not there –is a quote I’ve seen on a refrigerator magnet. Now I begin to sense what that means. There is more to life than me.
I like big books, and I cannot lie. My background includes talk radio, newspapers and TV news. I've hosted a morning-drive classical music program on the California coast and published nationally in Reader's Digest, the Christian Science Monitor, and Playboy. I've won awards for my journalism and my fiction. One of my essays even made it into an anthology for college English courses. For real? Yes, for real.
If you’re reading this website, think of me as a troubadour standing on the street corner, strumming a guitar and singing a few songs. Not everyone who comes this way is able to make contribution. But if you’re one of the passers-by who can, then feel free to drop a little spare change in my hat by clicking either the Donate or the Become a Patron button below.