Monthly Archives: December 2019

Beyond the 1000th Meridian by Wallace Stegner

Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the WestBeyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West by Wallace Stegner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a biography of John Wesley Powell, a relatively unknown pioneering scientist and naturalist who was immensely important in the exploration and shaping of the western United States. Stegner’s unbridled admiration for Powell damages the historical value of the book as he is unabashedly biased toward Powell’s view of everything. He gives Powell credit for everything good, e.g. correct maps and descriptions, land use policies passed by Congress, pertaining to the region and vilifies all those who opposed him politically or scientifically, especially William Gilpin. Powell might be considered one of the first American environmentalists, but he was also very active in lobbying in Washington and held various positions there and had associations with the Smithsonian Institution and federal departments. Stegner writes well, so I don’t really have any complaints on that score, but I am no history buff so I can’t say I enjoyed the book. I read it only because it’s a selection of my book club. Another factor that turned me off to it is the vituperative descriptions of the politics of the day. We have enough of that going on today.

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The Last Astronaut by David Wellington

The Last AstronautThe Last Astronaut by David Wellington
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can barely squeeze out two stars on this one. This sci-fi first contact novel features a disgraced woman astronaut who is redrafted by NASA to lead an expedition to a distant object or ship from deep space that is on a course to collide with (or perhaps make close contact with) Earth. The plot resembles a made for Syfy channel late night time filler. None of the characters are remotely plausible. Rao (the doctor/astrobiologist) is a scaredy-cat. The military representative is a nasty, vile-tempered, power-mad alien hater (sound like someone?) Others are no better. In fact the members of the competing team from a private space company are downright evil. They all bicker and disobey orders and generally do just about everything that is stupid and unlikely. The alien(s?) in the object are not … well, no spoilers.

I listened to the audiobook. The very poor reader made the immaturity of the writing even worse. She overacted horribly. Rao’s voice sounded like a timid 10-year-old girl cartoon character. The military guy sneered and scoffed every line, and so on. At times she reminded me of a librarian reading fairy tales to dim four-year-olds.

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New Message Notification From Your “my Social Security” Account

New Message Notification From Your “my Social Security” Account

You elected to receive email notifications when there is a new item in your my Social Security Message Center.  You may log in to your account to view new Message Center items.  Please do not reply to this automatically generated message.  To unsubscribe from future notifications, please log in to your account and update your Message Center notification preferences.

If you just received an email like this, you should probably ignore it. It’s a legitimate notification from Social Security, but you’ll never be able to receive it. I just tried. I clicked the link for my account and tried to sign in. It didn’t accept my password. It never does. I’ve had to get a new password every time I’ve tried to log in. The SSA system is ridiculously inefficient. I think they disable your password after 90 days or something unless you log in again, which, of course, no one does. So after three tries, the following message appears:

If you click the contact us link in the lower right corner you are directed to a page with an 800 number. If you call that you have to sit through a lengthy recorded message. When I finally got to the point where you’re supposed to say “Help Desk,”  I did. The result: a recorded voice that says I will have to hold for one hour forty-five minutes. 1h 45min! Ridiculous. And this is to get a message they could have just sent in the original email. Of course I gave up. I’m not waiting that long. I just found out that my wife got the same message. So I know what the message is. No doubt it is just a notification of what the COLA is for next year. I already know what it is: 1.6%. It’s been announced on the news and a simple web search will tell you. I have no doubt they’ll send the same information in the mail, too. So just ignore the message. This my Social Security is the most useless and unusable computer program ever devised. Your government in action. Blah!