Gas Prices in Tennessee

A few days ago I drove from Memphis to Oklahoma City, crossing through Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Here was the price of gas in Memphis:

After just filling up my tank the week before in Barstow, California, at $6.49/gallon, this seems out of this  world.

Is it time to leave California?

Walking on a Cruise Ship

On August 29 we were on the cruise ship Noordam on the way out of Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. The Noordam’s deck 3 is the main deck where all main exits are, with access to the life boats. There is a plank path all around the ship, from bow to stern. In the bow, there is a plaque indicating that the distance around the ship is exactly 0.33 miles, meaning that three times around the ship comprises a walk of one mile.

To get a sense of the scale of the ship, here is a (partial) picture of her [lick to enlarge]:

Deck 3 is where the orange life boats are, just at the top of the black painted hull. The top deck is number 10.

I decided to do my customary two mile walk in the late afternoon on the way out of Glacier Bay National Park. The wind was brisk, particularly when walking forward toward the bow. I estimate that the ship was moving at a speed of about 14 knots or so.

I turned on my Garmin Instinct watch to track my walk, and it was supposed to be an experiment. The Garmin tracks walks with all manner of statistics, and it saves a map of the walk. I have displayed such maps many times on these pages, usually when I show hikes. I was interested what a “walk” of two miles would look like going around in circles on a moving ship.

Doing the two miles, or six times around the ship, took about 35 minutes. Here is the map:

Obviously, it’s on water and it shows up as a straight line. The width of the ship is only about 100 feet or so, which is not enough to show up as a wiggle on the path. The red and blue areas are fast and slow. I would have registered as walking faster going backwards away from the direction of the ship’s movement. But it did not turn out that way at least consistently. It may be that the ship slowed down or speed up at one point, or that my Garmin was starting to get wonky.

[Note, the Garmin was getting wonky, and I have since upgraded to an Instinct 2 for that reason].

I wish I had another chance to do this experiment over again with a reliable device. But there you have it, a map of a two mile walk on a moving cruise ship.

AI and Nietzsche – ChatGPT Making Things Up

Friedrich Nietzsche

Today there was a long segment in the CBS Series “60 Minutes” that discussed artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on society. Most of the examples were from Google’s Bard. One of the sections talked about hallucinations, and how the AIs are making things up.

This reminded me of a recent experience with ChatGPT you might find amusing. I was looking for a segment of Nietzsche where he discussed how Christianity is poisonous to human life and humanity. Rather than searching a number of books, I asked ChatGPT. Here is my exchange:


Which Nietzsche passage talks about Christianity being poison to human life


The passage you are referring to is from Friedrich Nietzsche’s book “The Antichrist” (Der Antichrist), specifically in section 39. Here is the relevant passage:

“The Christian faith from the beginning, is sacrifice: the sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of spirit; it is at the same time obedience and self-annihilation. When you encounter suffering in your life, it is not in order to make you better, but solely in order to degrade you and humiliate you… Christianity is called the religion of pity. Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy—a loss out of all proportion to the magnitude of the cause. The case of the death of the Nazarene is a mere trifle by comparison with the sort of things that are continually enacted on a grander scale, under the auspices of holy pity, throughout the length and breadth of Christendom.”

In this passage, Nietzsche criticizes Christianity for its emphasis on sacrifice, self-annihilation, and pity. He argues that Christianity degrades and humiliates individuals by suppressing their freedom, pride, and self-confidence. Nietzsche believes that Christianity’s focus on pity as a virtue is detrimental to human life, as it weakens individuals and drains them of their strength and energy. He further suggests that Christianity’s influence has led to significant acts of suffering and sacrifice throughout history.

Alright so far. This came back in a second after my question. I didn’t have to search. The passage is in The Antichrist, and particularly in section 39. I read the passage and most of it made sense. I had what I wanted.

But the English translation just seemed kind of flat to me. Nietzsche, among many other things, is one of the most important contributors to the modern German language and his style is unique. For that reason I asked ChatGPT to not just give me a flat and vapid translation, but rather the original text.

Here is what I asked:


Do you have the German original text to this: [and here I repeated it’s sample quote from above].


Certainly! Here is the German original text of the passage you requested:

“Das Christentum von Anfang an, Opfer: Opfer aller Freiheit, aller Hochmuth, alles Selbstvertrauens des Geistes, zugleich Unterordnung und Selbstvernichtung. Leid, begegnest du ihm, in deinem Leben: nicht um dich zu vervollkommnen, sondern bloss um dich zu erniedrigen und zu erniedrigen… Das Christentum heisst die Religion des Mitleids. Das Mitleid steht in Gegensatz zu allen stärkenden Leidenschaften, welche die Energie des Lebensgefühls vermehren: es ist ein Niederdrückendes. Der Mensch verliert Kraft, wenn er mit-leidet. Durch das Mitleid wird jene Abzehrung an Kraft, welche das Leiden bewirkt, tausendfach vermehrt. Das Leiden wird durch das Mitleid ansteckend; unter bestimmten Umständen kann es zur völligen Preisgebung des Lebens und der Lebenskraft, zu einem Verlust von über alle Verhältnisse gehender Grösse führen. Der Fall des Todes des Nazaräners ist hierbei ein Fall von geringster Art gegen die Dinge, die in der ganzen Länge und Breite des Christenthums unter dem Patronate des heiligen Mitleids fortwährend in grossem Stile aufgeführt werden.”

Please note that the translation provided in my previous response was not a direct word-for-word translation but captured the essence of Nietzsche’s ideas.

Now I got suspicious. This looked very wrong. The German is not elegant, not Nietzsche-like at all. It is what I could call broken German at best. I then went to my Kindle system and bought the original German edition of Der Antichrist and looked for section 39. I quickly found that section 39 has nothing to do with this subject. Only a number of text searches finally got me close. Searching for the keyword “Nazarener” finally brought me to section 7, where I found the segment below which loosely matches the blue section above. “Nazarener” only appears once in the entire book.

From Kindle:

Man nennt das Christenthum die Religion des Mitleidens. – Das Mitleiden steht im Gegensatz zu den tonischen Affekten, welche die Energie des Lebensgefühls erhöhn: es wirkt depressiv. Man verliert Kraft, wenn man mitleidet. Durch das Mitleiden vermehrt und vervielfältigt sich die Einbusse an Kraft noch, die an sich schon das Leiden dem Leben bringt. Das Leiden selbst wird durch das Mitleiden ansteckend; unter Umständen kann mit ihm eine Gesammt-Einbusse an Leben und Lebens-Energie erreicht werden, die in einem absurden Verhältniss zum Quantum der Ursache steht (– der Fall vom Tode des Nazareners)

— Der Antichrist (German Edition) (p. 7). Kindle Edition.

Where it found the first five lines of its text I have no idea. I could not find it and didn’t have the patience to look further.

Of course, it did give me a disclaimer:

Please note that the translation provided in my previous response was not a direct word-for-word translation but captured the essence of Nietzsche’s ideas.

From this you can see it went back to its previous response and admitted that it was its own translation – I presume. It didn’t lift if from a professional translation published in an English edition of The Antichrist.

Rather than giving me the original text that I asked for, it gave me a translation back from its first poor English translation, so what I might have accepted for the German original was a translation of a translation. Why it thought it was from section 39 is a mystery. It definitely didn’t tell me the truth when I gave me this translation of a translation rather than the original text I requested.

In summary, ChatGPT just simply “made things up” in response to my question. The only value it provided was giving me the name of the book – but even that I might have guessed.

Christianity? Antichrist? Take a wild guess!

From my experience here I can conclude that if you want something mediocre written quickly, ChatGPT can be very helpful. But if you are doing serious research, or you want to get the truth or reality, beware.

AI, like your crazy brother-in-law at the backyard barbeque, just makes stuff up. Maybe in that regard it is All Too Human – to ironically quote another Nietzsche work.

Philips Sonicare 4700 Toothbrush Fails

After using the previous generation of the Sonicare toothbrush for at least 10 years, I bought two new Sonicare 4700 brushes for myself and my wife less than a year ago. I bought them at my dentist, which probably made them more expensive than if I had gone to Costco. I paid about $100 each.

In the last few days, mine started failing. The brush shaft became loose and wobbly, and since the effectiveness of an electric toothbrush is based on vibration, it simply did not work anymore.

I was going to invoke my warranty, but the Philips website was not very helpful, and I had no idea where my receipt was. Who expects a toothbrush to fail and registers it after the purchase? Not me! I didn’t keep a file on my toothbrush like I would on a car or a computer, for instance.

Enter YouTube. The first video I found was from deependstudios. It described exactly how to open the toothbrush. Without it, I would never have figured it out.

I gave it a shot, what did I have to lose? 

Here is the toothbrush removed from the housing and the tools I needed. Yes, there is a hammer there, and to understand why, watch the above video. Unlike the deependstudios guy who ended up ruining the charger while trying to open it, I was able to avoid his mistake and fix my toothbrush like new – thanks to his video and instructions.

It all comes down to one screw, seen here in the center of the picture.

The Sonicare is made in China, who would guess, and it seems it’s all made out of Chinesium. This screw, which holds in the vibrating shaft, had come loose. Who would design a toothbrush where the most critical functional component that makes it work is attached by a tiny screw that comes loose with vibration?

I had to make a trip to Home Depot to get some thread lock, I put a tiny dab on the tip of the screw and fastened it tightly. I needed to use my computer grade tiny screw driver set to do that. My normal tools were too large.

All new! My toothbrush is back in business. I am sure this happens a lot to these units. I am amazed that Philips isn’t coming up with a better design.

All thanks to this video by deependstudios.

My Lack of Cultural Awareness

Have you ever realized, as you got older, that you’re missing out on stuff.

For instance, I just checked the ten most popular songs right now. I am certain I don’t know any of them, and never even heard them. I don’t listen to the radio at all. When I checked, I realized that I only know two of the artists in the top ten right now: Miley Cyrus (3rd spot) and Taylor Swift (2nd spot).  However, I would not recognize a single song by either of these artists. If I heard them sing, I would not know who they were, and if I saw them in a lineup, I would not recognize them.

I would, however, recognize the artists of my day, the likes of  The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Melanie, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and so on.

Similarly, I just thumbed through the pages of this week’s Time Magazine. On page 72 there is an article about Johnny Depp. (I actually know who he is). I guess he has been having some trouble with his ex wife and dueling lawsuits. Here is an excerpt of that article:

The allegations, and the details of the subsequent messy trials, are horrifying enough by themselves. The trollish Depp fans who took to social media to harass Heard and the women who stood by her made the situation uglier.

You’d have to have been cryogenically frozen through most of 2022 to have missed it.

Well, I have not been cryogenically frozen in 2022. I actually pay attention to news and politics, I vote, and I watch movies. After all, Depp is an actor.

But I had no idea there were lawsuits and there was ugliness online about it.

That is how I came to the conclusion that I am no longer culturally aware.

Most Hated Corporations

I just stumbled on this Reddit post:

Which company could go out of business tomorrow and it would be to the betterment of this world? : AskReddit

There are over 5,000 answers as we speak, and just scrolling through casually, here are the winners by a large margin:

  1. Nestle – this is by far the top of the list
  2. Ticketmaster
  3. News Corp (Murdoch, Fox News)
  4. BlackRock
  5. Meta (Facebook)
  6. Mega Churches
  7. Church of Scientology
  8. Monsanto

Of course, the list goes on for thousands, but as I scroll, there is a consensus:

Nestle. Ticketmaster. Fox News.

Life Imitating Art

Last night we were out walking in downtown San Antonio and came across this scene in a dark corner next to the sidewalk, which requires explanation.

The bench is an iron bench. Most of its space is taken up by an iron “statue” of a person sleeping on the bench, wrapped in a blanket.

To the left of the bench is a homeless person sleeping wrapped in a blanket, almost mirroring the statue.

The man on the right is resting on the open space of the bench, his sleeping bag stashed under the bench.

Sometimes life imitates art.

A Day in the Life of Refugees

It was winter. The mother was 35 years old. Her husband was gone, fighting in the war. She had five children. The oldest daughter was 9, her oldest son was 8, and there were three younger daughters. With them was her mother, the children’s grandmother. They packed up a few suitcases with the most important belongings and they left their home. They locked the door. They headed west. They never saw their house, their home, again.

The year was 1945.

The town was Breslau, then Germany, now inside Poland.

The mother was my paternal grandmother. She would die in childbirth two years later.

The 8-year-old boy was my father.

The invading force they were fleeing from, closing in on Germany, were the Russians.

My father is still alive today. He knows what these thousands of fleeing Ukrainian families feel like today.

Two Jeeps – 29 Years Apart

I am in this transition period where I own two off-road vehicles at the same time.

I thought I’d arrange them in the driveway for a one-time picture together, before the old one leaves.

2021 on the left, 1992 on the right.

Mail Call with a Conservationist

A few weeks ago I hiked in to visit Devin in the California Conservation Corp camp in Yosemite. Here is my report for reference.

When Devin went out in April, he basically mothballed his truck, closed his apartment, and as part of that had all his mail forwarded to me.

I scanned his mail for urgent stuff, paid any bills that might need taking care of, and collected all the letters in one file. When I hiked out, I brought all his mail with me. It was a small bundle of maybe 20 letters or so. It probably weighed half a pound, and as a backpacker who counts every ounce, it was substantial.

We sat around the campfire when he opened the various letters, saved those that needed saving, crumpled up those that could be burned and threw them into the fire pit.

I noticed that he kept tearing off the windows of the envelopes, where the addresses show, and stacked them on the log next to him. Then he burned the rest of the envelopes.

After he’d accumulated about 10 of those, I became puzzled and asked why he was doing that.

He said that one of their rules was not to burn plastic, and these envelope windows were plastic. So rather than throwing them into the fire, he separated them from the envelopes, collected them and put them in with all the other plastic trash to be packed out by mule train every Tuesday.

Now mind you, we’re 8,500 feet up in the mountains of Yosemite. The next hiker may be several miles away. The next road is four miles down the mountain. But the conservationist didn’t burn the little envelope windows in order to keep our air clean.

That’s mail call with a conservationist!

Are Kids, Are Choice

Here is an enlightening picture of protestors in Science Hill, Kentucky.

Image Credit: Reddit –

Let them breate. We will pool are kids out of school so they don’t learn readn and writn and ritmatic.

Are Kids, Are Choice.

I wonder how the feel about Are Bodies, Are Choice when talking about abortion and contraception?

This is a little bit of evidence of the progressive dumbing down of America.

People want a choice about a cloth in front of a child’s mouth. But by exercising that choice, they are willing to expose their children, their teachers, and themselves to unfettered spread of a deadly virus, and to prolong the pandemic, and to help the virus mutate further.

But of course, the same person that can’t spell Are Choice is probably challenging Dr. Fauci and his recommendations, based on something they read on Facebook.

The virus does not care. It kills a substantial percentage of those that get infected, it leaves massive long-term effects for many of those who survive, and it creates massive hospital bills that most people can’t afford.

Good luck with Are Kids, Are Choice in Science Hill, Kentucky – oh the irony.


Pacific Ocean from Space

Source Reddit:

This photograph of earth from space shows the planet from a very unusual perspective.

Obviously, it illustrates that we’re a water world.

It also shows that literally and entire half of the globe is Pacific Ocean.

Hawaii is known as one of the most remote island chains in the world, with the most distance to any land anywhere. This is visible here.

California is at the top (see me there?) and the entire west coast of North and South America span the upper third of the globe.

Branson in Space

Richard Branson  took the first ride to space today in the spaceship he dreamed up, designed and built – over decades. It’s a phenomenal achievement for a private individual, and it celebrates human ingenuity, perseverance, drive and creativity.

In the early morning, at 3:00am, Musk showed up at Branson’s house to wish him well. Branson tweeted this.

As I read  the responses, I was astonished that there were quite a few adversarial ones. I posted a few here with my own comments.

Red talks about the “age of extreme greed” presumably accusing Branson, attributing his success to greed. There is so much wrong with this tweet.

  1. Who decides what is pointless as a task to spend one’s time on. I wonder what hobbies Red has that are less pointless.
  2. Branson is a private citizen who opened a record store in England when he was a young man. He called it Virgin Records, and eventually built an airline and now a space tourism company – from scratch. I wonder what Red has accomplished in his life that we can all read about?
  3. I wonder what infrastructure systems are failing, and how fixing those is somehow Branson’s responsibility?

Then I saw Natasha’s post below:

She is worried about the destruction of the world, and questions Branson and Musk about what they contributed to the world. Well, Musk probably has made more changes to our current world than almost anyone, perhaps except Steve Jobs. He has built a car company from scratch, and forced every major automaker in the world to start producing electric vehicles. Then he started a rocket company and revolutionized how America sends humans into space,  and in the process saved billions of taxpayer funds by drastically reducing costs. Musk came to Canada with a single suitcase in the early 1990ies and one of his first jobs was shoveling out a sewer line, standing knee-deep in shit. In 1995, he arrived in California, got enrolled at Stanford and then dropped out to start a software company. I wonder what Natasha’s credentials are, what she has done to save the world, and how it compares to the records of Branson and Musk.

Hmm, private citizens can spend their money on whatever they want to spend it on. I wonder what Neo’s fantasies are and what he spends his money on that is so lofty.

Scientific innovation is not a waste of money, it’s usually a seed to greater things. These guys are not billionaires because they are greedy, or were born rich, they are billionaires because they spent their entire lives coming up with new ideas and then materializing them, and getting back up after every setback and failure (and rocket explosion) and starting over again. Musk has earned fortunes through the companies he has started and almost lost them again every time, starting the next ones. But he has persisted.

Rolf has an interesting angle. He apparently thinks that it’s Branson’s responsibility to plant 100 million trees, or build the first efficient water desalination plant.

Why have we never heard of Rolf Oehen and his revolutionary desalination plants that he has invented and built. And I might ask, how many trees has Rolf planted? Surely not 100 million.

Has he planted any trees?

Then there is Greenspaceguy! He blankly states that billionaires don’t pay income tax? Really? How does he know? Does he listen to Bernie Sanders, perhaps?

The irony is that Branson isn’t even a U.S. citizen. He’s British. I certainly don’t know what income taxes he pays, but he wouldn’t owe the U.S. government trillions.

And no, billionaires are not created by not paying taxes. I know plenty of poor people who don’t pay taxes, but they are not becoming billionaires. You become rich by building stuff that millions of people want to buy and spend their money on. Then, after you make a lot of money, you get to start paying taxes on it. The money doesn’t come from nothing. It comes from human ingenuity, perseverance, drive and creativity.

I think I need to stop right here and enjoy Branson’s “overnight success” that he has worked his entire life on.


The Celebration of Ignorance

It was 1995.

Hardly anyone in the world knew what email was, and had never sent or received one. The first traces of the Internet were just surfacing. Google didn’t yet exist (it was created in September of 1998). Amazon was just founded less than a year before. Big tech was Microsoft on the desktop. Apple was just about to plunge into failure after Windows 95 was released, and it looked like it was going to die. Elon Musk had just moved to California to attend Stanford University but decided instead to pursue a business career, co-founding the web software company Zip2 with his brother.

That was when Carl Sagan wrote his book The Demon-Haunted World.

He had a vision of the future more than 20 years out that is eerily accurate and reflective of what we’re experiencing now, with the dumbing down of America in full swing. Here is an excerpt:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost  the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

It is now 2021. Good morning, everyone!

A Tale of Two iPhones

The iPhone 6 came out in September of 2014. I bought the iPhone 6 Plus on April 23, 2015. It was the top of the line on the market then and I paid $500 including tax. I bought the largest version since I wanted to be able to do all my Kindle reading on the phone, so I didn’t need another device.

I was successful with that, and the iPhone 6 has been a rock-solid companion for me ever since. It was sleek and thin in design.

About a year-and-a-half ago the battery started failing, so I went to a local shop, and for less than $50, I had a new battery installed. It was like new.

I use my phone for calls, texts, emails and, most importantly, reading books. Everything worked fine.

Then one day, my work required that I use the phone for two-factor-authentication (2FA), which means I have to use it to log into my computer. The app for 2FA could not be installed on the version of iOS on my phone. So – I was left with no choice but abandon my perfectly-working phone just so I can get a new one that supports that 2FA app.  Of course, all my workmates had been laughing at me for using a five-year-old phone, but I couldn’t help it, it worked fine, and it did everything I needed to do with it.

I bought the iPhone 12 Pro Max. With tax, it set me back $1220.-. Pretty expensive for something I don’t really need or want, but have to have.

When I got it, I noticed that Apple had let the design go. My old phone was thin and sleek and weighed only six ounces. The new one was about the same size, but a bit thicker, with an edge around it, rather than curved edges easy on the hands. And it weighs eight ounces, which is noticeably more when you hold it in your hand a lot when reading books.

The 12’s claim to fame is the new camera system, which uses a concept called Lidar to take pictures. Supposedly it can capture spatial information better and make pictures more three-dimensional. Not something I need but I get.

However, I noticed one thing that I could not believe at first: When you lay it down flat, the camera lenses stick out, and it does not rest properly. See the quick video I shot:

Steve Jobs, who chastised engineers for sloppy work inside computers – things users never saw – would never have accepted a product with a major design flaw like this. I call it a design flaw, because I want a phone that I can lay down flat on a table without it rocking.

I bought a case for it, which cures the rocking problem, but it makes it even heavier and bulkier. Steve Jobs used to sneer at cases. He asked why you would cover up something as beautiful as an iPhone with a case?

My iPhone 12 Pro Max works fine. I am enjoying battery life that lasts me four days of use, and I can run my 2FA app. I can read. I paid $1220 for what I would call a poorly designed product, so poor that I am motivated to write a blog post about it.