This post is primarily for the technically challenged. However, if you already know how to use some of the things mentioned in the video chats 101 post I did months ago, you might find this a bit less redundant because I’m going to offer some suggestions on how and when to connect with family during Thanksgiving inn a pandemic. I’m going to be real. We have a lot more resources than we did in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, so unlike in 1918, when we had no internet, FaceTime, or zoom, we have that resource today. Here’s what to do, in case you forgot, about all the options you have in connecting with friends and family.
1. Zoom is a wildly popular meeting app. For this Thanksgiving, they will lift the 40 minute video limit on calls for families celebrating together over the platform. If you know how to use Zoom, great, but keep this in mind. You need a camera in order to do video calls, and for some of us, particularly blind folks who are totals who can’t see the video, you’ll need to give us a bit of a hand by telling us where to aim the camera. Don’t be afraid to tell us where to place it, and camera placement will do the video call a lot of good. Zoom has lots of protections in place, but my concern is zoom bombing which is inappropriate especially for a Thanksgiving feast. To combat the bombers, just use a password when dealing with your meeting setup. When you set up a new meeting, just make sure you email or message people the link so they can follow the link to your meeting, but don’t forget the password. Passwords should not be easy to guess, but you can also use euphemism in your alpha numeric password, but it might be that you have to use numbers, which is cool because people will try to guess alpha numeric names like “feast1247” for example. This is only an example.
2. Do you have a family member who has I things? Perhaps your friend or family member uses FaceTime. IF you don’t use FaceTime video, it might be useful for totally blind people. Here’s an idea though. FaceTime will support groups up to 24 people, which is a number typical of my pwn family’s Thanksgiving. So if you want to hold Thanksgiving over FaceTime, do the following things: make sure you have an iPad or iMac or whatever. IF you’re sighted and a video aficionado, make sure you have a good GoPro or similar camera. Be sure the camera is angled so everybody is seen and connected with while you interact with your household. When you put the camera in the right place, everybody will be able to wave and Grandma might just wave back at you and you will see her do that.
3. Google Duo takes groups of up to … wait for it … 32 people, which is more than enough for a good family feast for Thanksgiving. IF you want to do a duo call, you can do it on a Google Nest Hub, a smart display made by Google and partners with Nest. When you have this thing set up in the right place, the cameras will track every movement and you will be able to do a video chat with your grandpa. IF he has a phone such as an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy s whatever, he can also join in the call. Make sure you have the home or nest hub set up. Oh and by the way, the hub is accessible through Talkback, and so is a Facebook portal. I am very happy to report that the portal has talkback, and it’s thanks to a fellow blind tech aficionado who wrote some interesting stuff on Facebook about it too.
4. What else can we use to connect with family? Well, dropping in on an echo show is also great. However, you can only have one to one drop ins, so if you are dropping in on a group of people, this might be helpful. I would recommend the echo show for those of you who like videos in this style. Echoes in the show category range from eight to ten inches to I think about twelve or fourteen. Pick a size of screen that works for you. You can also drop in on a fire tablet from the same company that makes the echo show. Just put it in show mode and away you go. I love my fire tablet, and I also like my echo dots too because they have good bass in them. However, I don’t have a hub or echo show. We are a bit camera shy around here.
Preparing your feast should not be so hard. For us, this means we won’t buy the seven pound Tom turkey at all. The sides will be a breeze, but still, the side dishes will have to be carefully monitored because of lactose intolerance, which is beginning to be a boon on my cooking. Honestly, I’d rather have a casserole with a half cup of cheese as required by most recipes than to have to waste my time with vegan or veg recipe books. I can’t imagine eating vegan cheeses, those with lactade labels on them because some of those recipes don’t accommodate that. I was going to make a broccoli casserole, but oh no, too much cheese. … Before you make a feast side dish, you would ordinarily have to ask if all people can eat it. However, people are also allergic to foods these days. Peanut allergies are common, but egg allergies are more serious. I had an ex who was allergic to eggs, and as he put it, if you gave him egg by accident, you’d have to call the fire department. That’s no joke. This guy was really allergic to eggs, and he couldn’t get a flu shot.
When you do your feast for Thanksgiving, whether it’s a mini feast or a bigger one, try to remember what the day is really about. As Linus in the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Christmas and Halloween specials puts it, Thanksgiving is a very important holiday and the only national holiday dedicated to giving thanks. Let’s do a quick history refresher.
First of all, nobody in the Thanksgiving story was a pilgrim. What is a pilgrim? Well, a fine example of a pilgrim would be someone who makes a journey to a sacred spot like Mecca in Saudi Arabia for Muslims or Israel for the Jewish people. Those are true pilgrims if I should say so myself. The Native Americans who celebrated with the so called Pilgrims had enemies everywhere, but the Pilgrims as we call them weren’t pilgrimaging at all. These were Puritans, the first refugees before the Trump era bullshit hit the fan. These guys sailed in on the Mayflower in 1620 or whatever. In 1621, thanks was given to the “Indians” as Linus would say, but yeah, these first nations fellows who helped the Puritans through the wintertime and taught them to grow corn and such because the refugees lost half their people then. What we do in a family today is not quite so similar.
The colonists, or puritan refugees, actually had food that was not similar at all to the foods we eat today. They had weird food,, and I bet Charlie Brown would be proud to see toast on the menu, and he made all that toast. In the special I watched on Apple TV Plus, Linus suggested making the feast for his friends, Marcy and Peppermint Patty among them. However, what Peppermint Patty would not understand later on in the meal’s progress is that the refugees actually had what we call eel on toast for their first feast. The regulatory feast we know today became a thing with Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, and he gave us the third Thursday in November tradition we know of today. So, our Thanksgiving this year 2020 will be November 26. Let’s be real though, turkey is not a requirement for Thanksgiving. Some people simply won’t eat meat, but my husband is a carnivore. HE eats every bit of meat he can, including the bacon. Talk about bringing it home only to have him eat it all up.
So what am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? Well, I’m thankful for yet another year gone by, not having caught the big bad virus floating around, and being able to have at least my partner around if things got rough. I couldn’t ask for a better lockdown/quarantine buddy. Trenton has proved to be a great source of humor, jokes, and optimism during this difficult time. I’m also grateful that this year, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is fully described on Apple TV Plus for subscribers who are blind or visually impaired and that Apple has made a full commitment to describing a big huge chunk, practically all of their material. It makes it a lot easier to watch things and love the dialogue, but also to understand the images that flop across the screen. I figured, thanks to descriptions, that Lucy is a real dork and should never be trusted by anyone on a football field. Charlie Brown indeed falls on his back and almost hurts himself, oops. Descriptions really help the viewer who is blind to understand the imagery the sighted are viewing on the screen. Another good example is Snoopy and Woodstock being weird at the end of the special, but I think it was kind of weird Snoopy made popcorn and toast but let’s add another gem to the history refresher. The colonies had popcorn in their food stock, so I don’t think Charlie Brown and his friends were far off but Peppermint Patty was not able to access info about the colonies’ food choices so she quietly assumed the role of food critic. Peppermint Patty was flabbergasted by Charlie Brown and Snoopy’s selection of food, saying, “What’s this? A piece of toast, a pretzel stick, popcorn? What blockhead cooked all this?” She goes on to ask where the turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce are. Given whwat we know, however, she’s wrong. Puritans didn’t have access to cranberry sauce like we do, and the puritans also didn’t know anything about turkeys. As far as I know, they indeed had toast, but the thing would have fish caught in the sea somewhere. If I had toast, I’d have put some sort of preserve or jelly on it because that’s a fancy way to dress it up. Now that’s something Peppermint Patty could have done better.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends who celebrate, and please take care of yourselves and stay safe and healthy. The pandemic will be over soon, I promise.