Who Do? ooVoo



Today was the kickoff of “My ooVoo Day With…”, a “week-long experiment in blogger to fan interaction.” What’s ooVoo? According to the website, it’s “the next evolution in online communication.” It enables up to six people to participate in an online conversation, at the same time, via video chat or text. Other features include video messaging, file transfer, even phone calls. The name makes me smile, since it reminds me of an old comedy routine quoted by Myrna Loy and Cary Grant in “The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.” (“You remind me of a man…”) But the technology has me intrigued.

To showcase the ability of the technology, well-known bloggers are hosting chat sessions throughout the week, covering a wide range of topics. Anyone is invited to grab an available slot and join in the conversations. As a thank-you to the hosts, ooVoo is making a donation to each blogger’s charity of choice.

I didn’t even own a webcam—but the opportunity to talk with these bloggers on a face-to-face basis was too good to pass up. So I ran out and got a webcam, and had it set up just in time for the start of “My ooVoo Day With…” I had the privilege of participating in a chat with artist and new media consultant Susan Reynolds and communications specialist Connie Reece, founder of Every Dot Connects. Susan’s battle against breast cancer inspired the creation of the Frozen Pea Fund, which is working to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer. The FPF is one of the organizations benefiting from the ooVoo Day event.

The site proclaims that ooVoo is “remarkably easy to use,” and I agree. Being familiar with web chat, I was able to intuitively use the features of ooVoo, even though I had no previous experience with video chat. The design—with its theme of black, gold and gray punctuated by bright primary colors—is aesthetically pleasing, and makes it easy to identify things at a glance. I quickly found myself looking at my own face onscreen, alongside those of the other participants.

For the first chat, I was on my laptop, with a high-speed Wi-Fi internet connection; but found that it had trouble keeping up. The audio and video were erratic, making it tough to follow the conversation. Thankfully, the simultaneous text chat capability helped me have a say even when my voice couldn’t make it.

A quick query to Scott Monty garnered the advice to use a wired connection–so I moved operations to the desktop PC. An ooVoo chat from there worked just as it should–decidedly cool. I noticed that if a chat participant is using external speakers rather than a headset, I hear my own delayed voice in the background–which makes it kind of surreal at first–but beyond that the chats were as easy and normal as sitting across the table from people at a coffee shop.

The possibilities of using ooVoo have me enthusiastic—whether it’s to connect with my siblings in the same state or get to know my readers from all over the world.

And I’m also looking forward to other “My ooVoo Day With” chats coming up later this week. They remind me of a place, actually. What place? A coffee shop. Who do? ooVoo.


The New Vernacular


mousewords is blogging Twitter via an RSS feed.

Think about that for a minute.

It makes perfect sense.

What a world we live in these days…



My ‘Space has a new look, in honor of the upcoming Art for 1000 Wells auction! I welcome everyone to stop by and take a look!

I ARE the Geek Squad

Miracle Max: “Somebody call the Brute Squad!”

Fezzik the Giant: “I’m on the Brute Squad.”

Miracle Max (scanning Fezzik up and down): “You are the Brute Squad.”

—The Princess Bride

So I got some memory for my laptop.

Now, I’ve had some years’ experience with taking the desktop PC apart, and disconnecting and reconnecting various paraphernalia in that respect. But as my notebook (or “Baby,” as I call it) is only a bit over a year old, I haven’t had a reason to take it apart yet. It’s one of those things that you really hate to get the first ding on—it’s so nice and new.

Well, the biggest “ding” was that Baby was taking her own sweet time to do normal tasks. So, I took the finest option available to me, and bought her the biggest memory card she could handle. Mind you, this is my first laptop, and it’s an entirely different sort of animal from the PC. In my career of computer troubleshooting, I’ve come to rely heavily on intuition…which sometimes doesn’t seem to translate from one piece of technology to the other.

Well, I got the card all right, and this morning I went to install it. The included instructions tell you how to ground yourself against static electricity. They also quite clearly illustrate how to put the card into the slot—but they don’t show exactly where the slot itself is. The backside of Baby tells me nothing whatsoever.  The instructions that came with Baby are so high-tech that they’re installed on the notebook itself. Which means I have to power up the notebook, when I wanted to keep it off and static-free.  Bummer.  I told you, Baby takes her sweet time.  It takes her for-ev-er to wake up. It’s gotten to the point where I usually just put her on “hibernate,” rather than power her down each day.  It’s easier that way.

So I awoke the sleeping babe and found the Help information.  It wasn’t that helpful.  As a matter of fact, it told me absolutely nothing I needed to hear. Oh, except for the Gateway website address.  Not to be disrespectful to Gateway—it’s just that oftentimes, with instructions, I get the feeling that somebody presumes you should know what it is you’re looking at.  Or for.

So I went to the website.  A little niggling around there, and THANK THE LORD!  PICTURES!!  They had a step-by-step example with PICTURES.  Ah, so THAT’S the memory slot.  This is going to take a screwdriver.

E-mail the info to myself.  Power Baby down.  It takes her just as long to get ready for bed as it does to wake her up, so I just hit “Hibernate” out of habit.  Blink, she’s off.  Flip her over, suddenly realize that my own “random access memory” didn’t remember which panel I was supposed to take off.

“Not my fault!” as Han Solo would say—the carbon monoxide poisoning left me with a Swiss cheese memory.  So I do the usual steps:  Get mad at myself, then start over.

Head to the PC.  Get the help site off my e-mail, commit the panel to memory, then go back to the kitchen right quick.

My Dad is on hand to help.  I asked him for a really small Phillips screwdriver.  So he brings out a crowbar.  I’m laughing out loud.

Having been duly impressed with the awesome fearfulness of static electricity, I ground myself on anything that sits still.  Remove the battery.  Eschew the crowbar, use a screwdriver, remove the panel, look eagerly within.

There’s already a card in the slot.

Have to think about that for a second.

Reading the information on that card, I realize, well, of course the computer has to have some memory installed—it was only that I was expecting to ADD a card, not have to REPLACE one. WHY DOESN’T ANYONE TELL ME THESE THINGS?  I do some mental shenanigans here for a second.  250 MB of memory vs. 1 GB+.  More is definitely better.  So yes, the old card comes out.  Where’s my tea???  Oh, wait, no liquids by the computer.

So I get the old card out all right.  Reverently remove the new one from its static-free bag—which by the way had a hole in it from shipping and handling—and go to install it.  It doesn’t…quite…fit.  Not that it isn’t supposed to—it’s just that it needs to be pushed, and all I can see is the price of this little wafer floating before my eyes.  “Just jiggle it,” my Dad advises.  Age-old remedy, I think to myself, for the computer age—but there’s a reason why the age-old methods have stuck around for so long.  They work.

So the new card is in.  Put the plate back on, plug the battery back in, flip Baby over, and fire ‘er up.

Ah, no Blue Screen of Death, thank Heaven.  But…what’s…

Black screen.  With words on it.  And a menu of choices.  Oh, dang.

“Delete restoration data and proceed to system boot menu” or “Try restart again.”  Holy cow, yes, try again, please.

Chews on that for a minute, then back to the same screen.  I read the message again.  My eyes are glazing over at this point.  I’m presuming—no, I’m intuiting—that I’m getting this trouble because I had Baby on Hibernate, rather than shutting her down from the Start menu.  So she needs to be restarted, and I have a feeling that that’s what the “delete restoration data” menu choice does.

But would you want to take a guess with anything that has the words “delete” and “data” in it?

So I call the Geek Squad.

The guy on the other end of the line doesn’t even let me finish talking before he takes a breath to answer.  “Yes, just click that option, you’ll be fine.”

I figured.

As he spoke, I clicked on the ominous “Delete data” option, and my Baby gave a deep sigh and showed me the Windows screen.  All was right with her world.

And dang, did she wake up fast this time.

Well, I wished a very happy day to the guy from the Geek Squad, and in the meanwhile felt my intuition redeemed.

I ARE the Geek Squad.

“Chewie, Hand Me the Hydrospanners!”


I never thought I would ever find myself on my hands and knees, poking my head into a dusty, claustrophobic location, while I sorted through an incomprehensive tangle of wires. Wires that had power running through them, no less.

If I could have imagined that, I wouldn’t have ever dreamed that I would know what I was doing as I rooted through those wires.

The climax of the fantasy would have been if I pictured myself crawling into a cramped area on my hands and knees, rooting through a tangled mess of live wires, knowing what I was doing…and actually FIXING a problem.

Well, self, welcome to Fantasy Island.

One of my all-time favorite aspects of the Star Wars Trilogy was Han Solo’s ship, the Millennium Falcon. To me, few things about the series were cooler than that massive structure, with all its mysterious hideaways and corridors—with its fame for speed and maneuverability—and almost best of all, it’s cobbled-together repair work, like layers and layers of paint, built up over many years of seat-of-the-pants emergency fixes. I love that scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Han has his head poked into the side of the Falcon, trying to get the behemoth to work even as the Imperial army closes in on them, necessitating a fast escape.

I had a Millenium Falcon toy as a child, but it didn’t have nearly enough nooks and crannies, and no wires at all. However, as I grew to adulthood, I would think of the Falcon anytime I discovered the need to do anything even remotely technical. As a writer and an artist, those experiences were seldom.

Then my three techno-savvy brothers went away to college, leaving me with the responsibility of caring for our home-built computer.

Welcome to the Falcon.

It’s been a while since I first poked my head into the inner workings of that mini-behemoth. I find myself creating many seat-of-the-pants fixes nowadays…and the thought of the Millenium Falcon was never closer than it was the other day. The left speaker went out on our sound system.  It had been blinking in and out for a while, which was frustrating; but usually a little jiggle would get it working again. That day, however, no manner of jiggling would get that speaker to work. Ooh, wire problems, I thought to myself with a wince. That was annoying, because I wanted to listen to some inspiring music while I drew my artwork—and having one speaker just wasn’t cutting it.  So, I pulled my chair away from the computer table, got down on my hands and knees, and took a journey to a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away.

I was busy tracing those speaker wires through the impossible tangle of dusty cords under the desk—dusty no matter how frequently I vacuum them, and tangled despite my efforts to organize them—and had just slipped my fingers behind the subwoofer to check the speaker cord, when it came to me that it was just like working on the Falcon! And then, wonder of wonders, I felt the cord I was looking for, gave it a push, and heard the beautiful sound of a speaker coming to life. Rudimentary, to say the least, but it fixed the problem!

And Chewie didn’t even need to hand me the hydrospanners.


Detail of 'Vision' by mousewords

I can see farther today than I could yesterday.

A part of that is due to the world of information on the web. I’ve only recently been getting involved in the latest trends online—before, I was too busy to spend much time browsing. Now, though, I find I need to do that for the sake of promoting my work.

It fascinates me what can be found on the internet these days. The volume of information has always been amazing—but the tools for accessing it now are impressive. Being a writer, I find that to be a blessing.

With del.icio.us, I can track and keep “tabs” on the websites I find interesting. What’s more, I can tab all my research sites, and have them at my fingertips no matter where I go or what computer I’m using. No more saving a copy of my favorites list and e-mailing it to myself periodically! No more forgetting to update that list, either.

With RSS feeds, I can have the latest updates from my favorite blogs and websites sent to my feed reader, where I can access them in one place. Which means that now, when skyM blogs about something new, I don’t have to wait for an e-mail from her to find out about it.

And best of all, with blogs, I not only have access to the thoughts and writing of thousands of people all over the world, but my thoughts can travel the world over, as well.

Now if somebody would just come up with a good way for me to remember all my passwords.

A Symphony of Web Page Design

It’s one of those days. My afternoon coffee hasn’t kicked in yet. I’m staring at a page that has some HTML started on it. I need to build my home page for my website. But I just can’t seem to envision it today. Instinctively, all I want to do is grab a sheet of paper and do a preliminary sketch.

But I can’t exactly grab the monitor off the desk and start scribbling on it. So what on earth do I do? Amazing how art is so visual, and web page design is about visualization. If I’m working directly with HTML code, I write out the information and can only picture in my mind what the end result looks like—until I view it on a practice page, that is.

It reminds me a great deal of music composition. While I have never written music, and have only a bare knowledge of notes, I’ve heard stories about how talented composers will sit down and write an entire symphony…never once hearing it with their ears until it’s performed for the first time. I thought that was fascinating when I read it. Now, it comes to me how similar it is to web page design.

…Okay, the strong coffee is kicking in. I’m getting some ideas, and I’m browsing some sites for helpful information and some inspiration.

…Five minutes later, I’m laughing out loud to myself! I just looked up some web design tips on Webmonkey, and point #6 on the second advice article is, “Sketching is for sissies.” Whoa! Hands off that paper! JJ

Hmmm…and yet…another person tells me to DEFINITELY make a sketch first…

Okay, this is not confusing at all. Whatsoever. Yeah…

Take Your Candle, Light Your World

Well, it’s a big day—I am officially considered a webmaster.

 I was thrown into the world of computerdom when my three techno-savvy brothers went away to college. The support of the PC was left in my hands. Since then I’ve managed to stumble my way up from Word Processor and Web Browser to Computer Techie. No mean feat, and frustrating along the way, but mighty fun.

 Recently, I’ve discovered the world of HTML.  Once again, necessity drove me to expand my horizons. My sister and I began selling our work on eBay—my art, her photography—and it didn’t take long before I felt the need to have a fancy listing like all the other cool people. It became tiresome to have to pay for a template, when I just knew I could write one myself, if only there were some way I could see how to do it.  Well, you can find anything on the web, even an HTML tutorial.  So here I am, a few weeks later, tossing out terms like “font-face,” “div style,” and “bgColor” like they’ve had meaning to me my entire life.

I took the step up from eBay listing page to website page a few days ago…but today I made the biggest step of all.

 Today I am a webmaster.

I registered a domain name this morning.  It was a big step for me, even bigger because of what the new website will hold—it will be the official website of the novel I’m finishing up.  When the book goes to press, the website will have been up and running for some time, doing the wondrous work of ”teaser” marketing.

I’ve been working on this book for almost four years now, struggling to complete it while dealing with the side effects of chronic carbon monoxide poisoning.  (That’s a post for another day.)  After all this journey, the book is near enough to completion that I’m actually beginning the marketing for it—awesome.  There was a lot of meaning to that instant when I clicked the button to submit my domain name into the world.  Oddly enough, I was listening to Chris Rice’s album, “Short Term Memories,” while I worked, and at the very instant I registered my domain name, the lyrics said:

“Take your candle…go light your world.”