Does This Skype Camera Make My Blog Look Big?

A few weeks ago, at the suggestion of my wise friend Anna, I sent a query off to the producers at ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. Since they had recently launched their "Made in America Challenge," might they be interested in my own similarly-themed project? To be honest, I'd pretty much forgotten about my email letter to them. Hunting in low-level panic for USA-made products all over town and cyberspace--and writing about doing so--has become a full-time job. It's difficult to follow-up on my own correspondence.

But last week, to my surprise, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer replied. The email, sent by a staffer, was short and to the point: "Perhaps we can arrange a time for a quick Skype interview?"

Perhaps? Definitely. I sent a grateful and equally-brief reply.

Next thought: Skype…?

Like most parents nowadays, I simply turn to one of my kids for tech help. Yes, I'd heard of Skype. Sort of. It's this magical, mysterious two-way computer communication tool, right? Video conferencing, I think it's called. Hey, I watch "Ellen." I watch "Oprah." I've seen those slightly grainy, odd-sounding Skype interviews. I'm not totally clueless. Except I am. I called my son, Matt, who's my go-to person for all things computer. I tried to sound calm. "I told the producer I could do it, but I don't know anything about Skype. I promised to have it up and running by tomorrow morning. And I have to prep, read the morning newsfeeds, figure out what to wear and oh shoot. Do I have to wear makeup…?" I remembered the time I went to the Academy Awards a few years ago. My Dad, ever the cinematographer, looked at me as if through a zoom lens and said, "You're gonna get someone to do your makeup, right? Ya gotta get that done by a professional."

"Mom, relax. You can Skype, no problem. See that tiny square lens at the top of your laptop? That's the camera. We'll get it hooked up tonight. I'll do it with you on CrossLoop."

Let me just say how much I love CrossLoop. I'm sure there are other companies that do the same thing, but Matt uses CrossLoop and he knows his stuff, so this must be one swell tool. The company's based in Monterey, California. CrossLoop (if anyone out there's as clueless as I am) allows someone offsite to log onto your computer, but only with your active cooperation. That evening, from the comfort of his home, Matt called me. We logged onto CrossLoop. Within seconds, Matt had my computer's contents visible on his own screen. We set up the Skype account, got it up and running. Matt coached me, explaining how to look into the tiny camera on my laptop. "If you look at me, it won't look like you're looking at me, know what I mean?" It seemed strange, staring at that tiny square lens. I put a yellow sticky note just above it, with an arrow to remind myself to look there and not at the screen. I asked Matt what I should wear. "Who cares? You won't see anything past your neck anyway. Just have fun."

For more Skype advice, I deferred to Kristen, a family friend who blogs at candidlyred.com. Kristen has patiently answered all my questions since I first decided to take on this year-long project. She's upbeat and full of practical tips. She had definite opinions about Skype-wear: nothing with patterns; nothing black, red, white or yellow. That eliminated my entire wardrobe. And I really wanted to wear something made in the USA, just on principle. But I had zilch. The only USA-made clothing I owned was my new Cat's Pajama's bathrobe. Maybe I should just wear it, to make a statement. Kristen shot me back a tactful reply: "I think it might be best to go a little more professional."

But what does that say, America, when not a single item in my closet was made in the USA? How did we get to this point? Is this crazy project of mine doomed? How long can I go without buying new clothes?

The morning of the ABC News Skype interview, I received an urgent email from blogger-reader, Randy Erwin. The Department of Commerce stats had just been released. The 2010 Trade Deficit was 33% larger than the year before. I put on my Made in China jacket (grey; a Kristen-approved color) and Made in China jeans and Made in China boots, and felt a renewed sense of purpose. Maybe I was just one blogger, and a tech-challenged one at that, but something had to change in this country. Lousy makeup, bad lighting (sorry, Dad) be damned. I had to do my part to get a message out. Maybe someone would listen.

Click here for my ABC World News Skype segment.

PS: Midnight snack with Don: Semifreddi's chocolate biscotti. Yum.