WISE Tech Tip – October 2023

Here we go again

It’s common sense that social media apps, and their persistent use, is messing up the young people. We need only look at the news reports of TikTok mayhem as well as the report from the Surgeon General about Social Media and Youth Mental Health.

The report cites a study that shows that youth who have spent more than 3 hours per day on social media have a doubled risk of poor mental health. Well, as we’ve known for quite a while, correlation does not equal causation. The study didn’t say that high social media use caused poor mental health, only that the behavior is a risk factor. The study’s authors concluded, “This study suggests that increased time spent on social media may be a risk factor for internalizing problems in adolescents.” Those hand-waving verbs, “suggest” and “may,” are a pretty good indicator that there’s a lot that we don’t know.

So, we know that we don’t know. Let’s leave it at that.

Today I Learned (TIL)

  • https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/488077678351145340/I took three years of Latin in high school. Although I did pick up a few things that have helped me, mostly what I remember are semper ube sub ube and Quid, me anxius? When started work in publishing, I learned about Lorem ipsum, the pseudo-Latin filler text that’s used to help designed work on layout of books, websites, and other 
    If the traditional Lorem ipsum doesn’t excite you, you can Choose your ipsum. For example, you can fetch a shot of caffeinated text from Coffee Ipsum :
    Decaffeinated, mazagran, blue mountain galão robusta fair trade foam a dark. Con panna galão cortado, caffeine cup strong redeye ristretto aroma medium caffeine. Redeye crema cup bar , cultivar aromatic, at, caffeine ristretto froth at affogato.Café au lait coffee, java aftertaste aroma galão robust beans. In viennese café au lait, aged trifecta extraction latte shop. Grinder a, white viennese macchiato sweet qui dark.
  • In the mid-1930s, my father bought an acre of land on the shore of Queen Lake in Phillipston. The property was one of several parcels in the cove that had been used by a man as a woodlot for his furniture manufacturing business in a neighboring town. The factory owner was sick and needed money for his medical treatments. (The owner died in 1942.) 
    Today I learned that the trees cut from this type of forest became lumber,  but the Brits would have called it timber. Across the pond, lumber is old furniture that you’d find in the attic. You can read about this and and a whole bushel of corn more on  The Early Days of American English
  • A few years ago, we read about a German artist who, annoyed at the traffic going through his area of the city, filled a wagon with iPhones, turned on Google Maps, and crossed a bridge to fake a traffic jam. In this one small act of rebellion, this person tried to thwart a growing problem: navigation apps are now in charge of traffic. The issue is one of “selfish routing.” What’s good for me is good for me and to heck with the neighborhoods through which I travel. 
    It might be, however, a self-limiting problem if, as happened in this case, drivers follow Google Maps right off the bridge. Also, if you’re waiting for your takeout order, you might want to check on the location of your driver: DoorDash driver follows GPS all the way to water in Middleton.
  • The U.S. government is funding research for intelligent fabrics. The name of the program is, wait for it …, SMART ePANTS. Nuff said.

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.


Update; in the past month, there have been several articles about the 25th anniversary of the iMac.

From August 15:

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.