WISE Tech Tip – May 2023

Twenty-five years ago this month, Apple introduced the iMac and, with it, changed my mother’s life for her last couple of years. (She lived with us for five years until she passed in 2000.) We bought her a Bondi Blue iMac.

With it, she discovered Amazon. She was a voracious reader and buyer of books. Packages with obscure books showed up at our door.

Google gave her new worlds of  news from folks such as the then-feisty Ariana Huffington as well as websites on psychology, sociology, history, art, and, of course, books.

She planned and paid for her own trip to Bermuda because she could.

Yes, the operating system on that early iMac was unsteady, requiring frequent attention from the in-house IT support. Mac OS X wouldn’t be available until after her death. Nevertheless, it was neither too soon nor too late to hop on that rickety raft of a computer, pretty and bold like her, to find new worlds.


WISE Tech Tip – April 2023

Karl Hakkarainen

As many of you know, I carry a pocketful of pens. Even though the ratings for best pens doesn’t include them, I prefer a Cross pen and pencil along with Pilot Razor pens in red (for editing) and black (for writing boldly). This kid, however, has us all beat, writing his notes with a quill pen.

This certainly didn’t age well

The iPhone is certain to fade into history as another cool Apple innovation, that others soon rushed competitive, like-products to market, blowing away any significant lead Apple might have.

From Apple iPhone Doomed To Failure, Network World January 11, 2008

Today I Learned (TIL)

  • There is a USPS facility in Utah where the work consists solely of deciphering handwriting.
  • The first U.S. president to be arrested had another distinct. Ulysses S. Grant had a condition called congenital amusia. People with this condition cannot recognize music as music; they hear only cacophonous noise.
  • Nearly two decades before Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner recorded “Rocket 88,” the Boswell Sisters sang “Rock and Roll.”
  • The Neutral Confederacy  was a union of Iroquoian nations in Canada. They were called “Attiwandaronk,” meaning “they are those whose language is awry” or, as authors David Graeber and  David Wengrow described them in The Dawn of Everything, “those whose speech is not quite right.
  • We know that lifelong learning is integral to what we offer in WISE. A researched at the University of California, Riverside, has also shown that older adults may achieve same cognition as undergrads. Let us keep on learning.

Why does Wild Apricot blogging suck?

Three reasons I won’t use Wild Apricot for a blog:

  1. I can’t control the amount of text that’s displayed in the blog widget on the site. (There might be a way to tweak this with some fancy CSS, but I don’t want to spend the time, given the other two reasons.)
  2. There isn’t a way to export the blog, other than copy and paste. If you have dozens of entries, you need to do a lot of work to fetch the words and images.
  3. You can’t access blog content via the API, either to post content or extract it.

Files, we has them

It seemed like a good idea, moving my files from Dropbox to OneDrive and saving on the expense of another synchronization/backup service. Well, not so much.

OneDrive, bless its heart, can’t be included in the Windows 10 search index. This means that, if I want to find a file by name or contents, Windows has to do it all anew, each time. With a lot of files, it can take a minute or more. That might not seem like a lot, but it adds up when you’re doing normal work.

So, back we go.

In which we tried to make appointments

Operator: …And what is your ZIP code?
Me: zero-one-five-two-zero
Operator: Could you repeat that?
Me: zero-one-five-two-zero?
Operator: Gerald?
Me: Zero
Operator: Gerald? G-e-r-a-l-d?
Me: My ZIP code is zero, um, oh-one-five-two-oh
Operator: And, your phone number?
Me: Z…five-oh-eight…

After last week’s surgery, I needed to make two appointments. One was with the doctor who performed the procedure. The other was with a nurse or nurse practitioner in a particular practice group.

I first tried the number provided to me on my hospital discharge paperwork and wound up in voice mail hell (VMH) with a series of unhelpful prompts that never identified what organization I had reached. Waiting to speak to an operator, I was repeatedly directed back to the VMH loop with prompts for department listing and employee directory, neither of which produced any recognizable result. Rather than choosing a random person from the list, I tried another tack.

My hospital discharge paperwork also provided the hospital’s main phone number. I called that number and explained what I was trying to do.

Operator: We don’t schedule for doctor’s offices.
Me: But this is the number I was given when I was discharged from the hospital.

After a bit of time, the operator provided me with a phone number. I called and listened to three minutes of dreaded hold music (DHM). I hung up, dialed again, listened to three more minutes of DHM, hung up, and tried my luck with the second task.

I went to the Saint Vincent Hospital website to find a number for the department where nurses and nurse practitioners allegedly worked. I could find no department number, only the option to choose a doctor from a list of, I’m sure, very qualified practitioners, but people I never knew. I chose one doctor at random and clicked the Call Now button which opened a popup on my computer and tried to make a call. This particular computer didn’t have my Google Voice set up to allow me to make calls, so the button did nothing.

Back to the Saint Vincent Hospital website, I tried a toll-free number associated with the department and spoke with the operator who thought that my ZIP code started with Gerald. After we’d sorted that out, she gave me the last names of nurses in that department, along with their phone numbers. The third one was 14 miles away, she said. I asked if the first two were in Worcester. “Yes,” she said. I chose the first one because I recognized the exchange. A Google search showed that the number was related to a practice group in another part of the city.

I jotted down the number and called. This time, the DHM was pseudo-Lynyrd Skynyrd interspersed with a series of boops and beeps that led me to the answering service for the Pain Click where I could cancel an upcoming appointment that I didn’t have. I left my name and phone number anyway.

Sandra and I went for a walk, and I told her what I’d not gotten done that morning. She suggested that I use MyChart to ask for help from my primary care physician’s team.

It worked.


I received a referral from my PCP to the department in question along with a phone number for said department. I called the number, listened to DHM for six minutes, followed by a series of telephone rings, followed by four more minutes of DHM, until I finally spoke to a person who was not pleased to be speaking to me (or anyone, I suspect). In spite of that, I received an appointment with a nurse for three days later.

A short while later, I received a message via MyChart from the surgeon’s office, asking if a date two-and-a-half weeks hence was good. I quickly replied that it was.

In conclusion:


  • Sandra
  • My PCP’s care team
  • MyChart

Mixed Results

  • Person who answered the phone after 10 minutes


  • Saint Vincent Hospital website
  • Saint Vincent Hospital telephone trees


This might explain some of what’s going on: Report says there are 19,000 unfilled hospital positions in Mass. The people who are staffing these positions are basically good, hard-working, competent employees who want to help those for whom they care. There just aren’t enough of them.

In addition, several people with whom I’d had contact received what I call field promotions. They are put in customer-facing jobs for which they have neither the training nor temperament. I’m thinking about the phlebotomist who said I’d filled out a form incorrectly. She said, “You did it wrong.” twice. I’d had blood drawn from one arm earlier in the morning. She tut-tutted at the bruise and proceeded to give me a worse bruise on the other arm.

Zoom audio oddity

In a recent session, we encountered an as-yet unexplained problem with audio in a Zoom session.

The presenter used PowerPoint with embedded video clips. The audio in the clips could not be heard by many, perhaps most of the attendees. Audio from the presenter and other attendees was fine.

Although the Zoom version used by the presenter was a few months old (December 21, 2020 version 5.4.7 (59784.1220), there was no detectable pattern regarding who could hear the audio or not. Some with older and newer versions could not hear the audio, others could. Most people were using the Windows client. (Details may not be significant here.)

Unfortunately, there was no recording of the session.

So far, we’re exploring a few threads. None of these seem compelling, but we need to start somewhere.

  • The presenter was using an unencrypted session (for reasons yet to be determined).
  • The videos were both a series of pictures with an audio overlay and some downloaded, unedited YouTube clips.
  • Verifying that the presenter had the Share computer sound checked when screen sharing.


It works in practice, but not in theory.

We met with the presenter today. Audio from movies and YouTube was garbled and then nothing, video was jerky. Observers were on Windows and Mac. The presenter switched from his laptop to desktop. The desktop machine is a bit older. Don’t have the specs on either machine.

Audio and video worked fine on the desktop. We have something that works, even though we don’t have an explanation of why some attendees in the previous session could hear the audio, while others couldn’t.

I’ll take something that works over something that’s explainable any day.

“science is a social phenomenon”

An opinion piece in Scientific American, We Need Social Science, Not Just Medical Science, to Beat the Pandemic, reminds us that public health measures rely heavily on trust and community spirit. Science is necessarily incomplete because it’s continuously testing its findings against additional facts. Our general ability to adapt are much slower, often trailing the changes in scientific discovers by decades. For example, half of what we knew about hepatitis and liver disease 45 years ago has been superseded. Not knowing which half is obsolete can be deadly.