Something fun to play over Zoom (or other video conferencing tool that has screen sharing)

A simple text based word guessing game that can be screen-shared over Zoom. Can you guess the famous movie quote above? (Answer below).

As almost the whole world is under some form of stay-at-home order during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of our social interaction with colleagues and friends have moved online to video conferencing, such as with Zoom.

For me and my church growth group, we have been using Zoom over the past 5 or 6 weeks. This past Friday evening, I was tasked with conducting an ice-breaker, and I only remembered that I needed to come up with something a couple of hours before the growth group session.

I came up with an idea of a word guessing game like the Wheel of Fortune, as it can be played by a big group and could be fun for a wide age-range of people. We have some pre-teen kids in our growth group.

The execution of the game would have been challenging with a pen and paper or white board, so I thought I’d quickly mash up a simple Python script that will take a list of phrases and replace it all with hyphens as a placeholder for each letter, and fill in the appropriate letter as someone guesses it.

Half an hour later, I had a simple and functioning game, and chose a couple test bible verses to play-test with my wife in the other room. The game went down really well in our growth group, and everyone had a good time playing it. Since then, I found some movie quotes and played the same game again using the movie quotes with my old high-school friends.

I have cleaned up the code, and made it load the list of phrases from a JSON text file and uploaded it to my Github for anyone wanting to try it:

To increase legibility over the screen-share, I recommend increasing the font size in Terminal via Preferences->Text->Font Change. I used a font size of 20.

Using a larger font size in Terminal helps with legibility over the screen-share.
Using a larger font size in Terminal helps with legibility over the screen-share.

Then, in the centre of your Zoom meeting controls at the bottom, click on Share Screen and then select the Terminal window where the Python code is running, and off you go. You conduct the game asking people to guess a letter and then moving on to the next person if they cannot guess the phrase.

Select the Terminal where the Python code is running in Zoom's Share Screen dialog box.
Select the Terminal where the Python code is running in Zoom’s Share Screen dialog box.

As for the answer to the famous movie quote in the opening image at the top of this blog post…

May the force be with you.
May the force be with you.

Keep safe, everyone!

Opening a bank account in the US without a SSN

Recently, I started working for a US company and would like to receive my pay in a US bank account. As I am not based in the US, I don’t have a Social Security Number nor a US address.

According to a blog post by Ashray, it was possible with just your passport and a utility bill from your home country showing your name and address; as long as you are physically present in the US: How To Open a US Bank Account As a Tourist / Non Resident

On this trip to San Francisco, I brought along a utility bill and gave it a shot. Ashray had success with Capital One, but there are no Capital One branches in San Francisco. I tried three banks and only found success with one: Wells Fargo. I also tried with US Bank and Chase, but both required a local US utility bill or some sort of proof of address in the US.

With Wells Fargo, it was easy to open a checking account with just my passport and the utility bill from my home, and a US$50 minimum deposit. The Everyday Checking account has a monthly US$10 charge, but it can be avoided if you have a US$500 direct deposit, or maintain a US$1,500 minimum balance in the account, or perform 10 transactions on your debit card.

Within 30 minutes I had my account set up together with online banking access, a temporary debit card and PIN number, and a couple blank cheques and deposit tickets. The minimum deposit was done with the new debit card at their ATM machine. Super easy. The permanent debit card will be posted to me at my home address.

The main drawback of a Wells Fargo account is the ATM charges if you have to withdraw from another bank’s ATM (non-Wells Fargo). It’s not a problem on the west coast as there are many Wells Fargo branches and ATMs, but they don’t have such a big presence on the East Coast. It’s US$2.50 charged by Wells Fargo, plus however much the ATM’s bank charges you.

I intend to use to initiate an ACH Pull to transfer money back home whenever I need it.

So thanks to Ashray for his useful blog post, and I am blogging for anyone wanting to open a bank account in San Francisco or on the west coast: Try Wells Fargo!

EDIT 07 July 2016: Here’s a top tip, opening an account will require a US phone number. You can setup a Google Voice number before you go into the branch to open the account. You will need a local US mobile number in order to receive a confirmation code to get a Google Voice number. Just ask one of your colleagues or a friend to help you out. Then, when you open the bank account, just use your Google Voice number as your main phone number. You will not be able to receive texts from the Bank (for things like access codes), but you will be able to receive phone calls from the bank on Google Hangouts even if you are out of the US!