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Stuck at home? Use tech to have fun!

We're all in the same boat, so when we're not working, we're just like everyone else -- a new cocktail regimen, kids to occupy, time to fill. Fortunately, we live in an age of technological wonder, so we have a few advantages over our ancestors who had to read books and play bridge. Not that there's anything wrong with those things. We've been playing a lot of board games too. But here are some ways to use the digital world for connection and fun.


Netflix Party
If you have a Netflix subscription, did you know you can watch a movie at the exact same time as someone else (or lots of other people), and also do a group chat at the same time? Start a weekly movie night with family or friends. It only works on the Chrome browser on a computer (not iPad or Phone or a TV, though you could maybe use AirPlay to show your screen on your TV if you have an Apple TV). Free.

This is a lot like Netflix Party, except that it works with more services: Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Vimeo, or YouTube, and everyone watching needs to have an account on that service. TwoSeven's also a little flaky. But when it works, it even lets you video chat alongside your movie. It works with Firefox or Chrome browsers. Free, but we invite you to consider donating $3/month on their Patreon page.

Other movie-watching services are detailed and kept up to date in this article at The Verge: How to watch movies with friends online

We have been playing Jackbox games with our family -- they are online games that appear on your TV, and everyone plays their part via their cell phone. You can play it by adding the app on your Apple TV 4th generation or later, or by playing on your computer and possibly using AirPlay to put it up on the big screen. There are several different kinds of games, ranging from trivia to joke writing to identifying personality traits of the other players. Our favorite is Drawful, where each player has to draw something on his or her phone, and then that drawing gets shown to everybody else, and everybody else guesses what the drawing is supposed to be. Drawful is on sale for only $5, or you can get a “party pack” that has multiple games for $12-$20.

Peloton is providing a free 90-day trial for their app (which you can use even without the stationary bike or treadmill). A few people we know are loving their daily rides and get motivated by having the trainers shout things at them. After the 90 days it’s $13/month. (If you want your own spinning bike, though, that costs more.)

There are also lots of exercise studios now doing Zoom classes, so check and see if your favorite yoga or pilates studio or gym is offering this!

Craft Night
Various sewing, knitting, quilting, and other craft stores are doing virtual weekly craft nights on Zoom. For example, Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver has one on Tuesdays, and A Verb for Keeping Warm in Berkeley, CA is doing Fridays. And they are free (although you need to sign up in advance).

Check and see if your local craft store is doing anything similar.

Just Dance
Dance along to popular songs and get points for following the dance steps perfectly -- you need to download the special app on your phone, and hold the phone in your right hand while you dance, so the gyroscope in the phone knows if you’re doing the right moves or not. (It also works with XBox Kinect and similar systems, so you don't need your phone if you have one of those.) We danced with our nieces to “Into the Unknown,” “Uptown Funk”, Billie Eilish, and Ariana Grande. Available through your TV, Nintendo, Playstation, XBox, and other formats. $20.


Do you have any suggestions for amusing yourself while we're all at home? Let us know and we'll mention it in a future newsletter!

(May 2020)

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