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.

When in Dallas

After 40 or so years of visiting the Dallas area, with literally hundreds of layovers at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, I have never actually been in downtown Dallas, until today.

This morning I woke up at my hotel at 1700 Commerce Street. It was going to be a hot day, so a morning walk at 7:00am seemed like the right thing. I was within a mile of the spot where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I walked down Main Street heading east and soon reached the famed, or infamous, Dealey Plaza. Here is a map, and the red arrow shows the exact location of Kennedy’s death.

I was there around 7:00 in the morning and there were no tourists yet. It was all empty and quiet. Later in the day this area gets quite busy with many tourists walking around and taking pictures. I avoided all that by being there early.

The above photograph shows the location of Kennedy’s death (red arrow) and the window where the shooter sat (blue arrow). The address of the building is 411 Elm Street in Dallas. It was a book depository in 1963.

Here is another view from a little further away. You can see there was hardly any traffic that early in the morning.

Here is another view of the same spot, this time from the center of Dealey Plaza. If you click on my photograph and zoom in where the arrow points you may see a white X that is actually marked on the street on the very spot.

Bob Dylan wrote a very moving song in his last album Rough and Rowdy Ways titled Murder Most Foul. The song is about the Kennedy assassination.

Twas a dark day in Dallas, November ’63A day that will live on in infamyPresident Kennedy was a-ridin’ highGood day to be livin’ and a good day to die

You can find the full lyrics here. I recommend you listen to the song. I can’t post it here for copyright reasons.

The sixth and seventh floor of the former book depository are now a museum named The Sixth Floor Museum. It opens at 10:00am, so I had to come back later to visit the museum. I it did not regret it. There are countless exhibits of posters, photographs and audiovisuals.

This picture shows an exact copy of the rifle that was used. The actual rifle that killed the president is at the National Archives.

And most eerie and deeply disturbing, here is the window from where the shot was fired. The area is enclosed by glass in the museum, and the book boxes are of course staged. There were book boxes the shooter used to rest the rifle.

I stood there for quite a while and let it sink in. This very spot was the place where U.S. history changed when a popular president was killed by a loser with a cheap gun.

I still remember the day. I was six years old and I had just started second grade in elementary school in Germany. My mother told me about what happened before I went to school. She wanted me to be informed in the event that the teacher brought it up.

When I was in the museum I watched some video clips of the day’s events. There were the ominous clips of the motorcade rolling down Main Street in Dallas, literally Kennedy’s last minutes alive, showing him waving to the crowds on both sides of the streets. Then the car reached Dealey Plaza and turned right onto North Houston Street before turning left again onto Elm Street to the fateful spot. I looked up and saw the building and the window where the shooter sat that very moment. He was not visible, but the window was definitely open – this was just seconds before.

In another clip, it showed the Kennedys arriving on Air Force One at Dallas Love Field that morning. It showed Jackie in the now famous bright pink outfit coming out of the plane and walking down the stairs, followed by the president. Lyndon Johnson greeted them. Eventually Kennedy entered the open limousine. As it pulled away, there was a Texas Lone Star flag behind the car, and right next to that flag was a Confederate Flag.

And that also made me stop and think.


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.

A Tale of Two Hikes

Within a week from each other, I went on two hikes that were in some ways very similar, in others, very different. Here is the tale of two hikes:

On Monday, June 12, I hiked part of the Halemau’u trail on Maui in Hawai’i. Here is my post about that hike.

Exactly a week later, on Monday, June 19, I hiked part of the Fuller Ridge Trail on Mt. San Jacinto in Southern California. Here is my post about that hike.

For similarities: On both hikes I went in and out on the same trail. There were no circular options. On the first hike, I went in for 2.8 miles and then turned around. On the second one, I turned around at the 2.3 mile point, because it was the high point. Both hikes had a high point right around 8,000 feet. On both hikes I was on the trail for about three hours.

But the differences were much more dramatic.

Trails in Hawai’i are much rougher. Volcanic rock is sharp, sometimes brittle, and difficult to walk on. Even when the rock is smooth, like on boulders, it’s slippery and uneven. Volcanic rock does not break in sheets like granite, so surfaces are rounded. Walking on Hawai’ian trails requires actively looking at foot placement of every step, to the point where my neck would start to hurt from the constant looking down to my feet. This way, I also miss some of the views. Sure enough, a few times I’d look up and enjoy the sights while walking, and I’d promptly twist my ankle. Not a good idea miles out in the wilderness. Trails in California are generally wooded. Yes, there are rocks and boulders in many places, but foot placement is much simpler. You can look up along the trail and walk safely much of the time. That’s much better for the neck.

The fauna in Hawai’i is much reduced. There are bugs and flies, but not many, and I can never remember being bothered by bugs. While there are ants in Hawai’i, since they were introduced through human activity over the last couple of centuries, they are not everywhere. When you sit down for a snack on a California hike, you always have to be careful about sitting down near an ant nest. They seem to be everywhere, and ants are one of the main reasons why I never liked cowboy camping (sleeping without a tent). There are also gnats and mosquitoes from time to time, although that depends on the season. There are a lot less bugs in California than there are on the East Coast of the United States, of course.

In California, there are always several animals you have to be on the lookout for: Bears, mountain lions and rattle snakes. I have been lucky enough that in all the decades of wilderness hiking, I have never run into any of these animals, but it is always a worry and a concern when hiking. In Hawai’i, there are no snakes, and no native mammals, so no bears, mountain lions or any other predators. There were no mammals at all on the islands until sailing ships brought them with them, including domestic animals, and of course rats and other pests.

The Hawai’ian weather is tropical; we call it pajama weather. You can live in shorts and T-shirts all day and all night long. You really never get cold. That is different at altitude, of course, so it depends on the hike. Jackets and windbreakers are needed above 5,000 feet in elevation and vital at 10,000. But for the most part, it’s very warm. Although the sun can be brutal. Sun screen is a must. There are many similarities in California. The sun is also brutal most of the time, but it gets cold at night and warm clothes are necessary. California is essentially a desert, hot in the day and cold at night. So appropriate clothing is important.

I thought you’d enjoy this short analysis of two very similar, but very different hikes I was fortunate to do within just one week. The contrast struck me.


Hiking: Fuller Ridge Trail

According to the Forest Service, the Fuller Ridge Trail just opened up on June 5 this year, due to significant snow at higher elevations. Our company gave us the Juneteenth (June 19th) off as a holiday, so what better activity for me than to drive high into the mountains and do a high country hike. I drove up Black Mountain Road from Highway 243 west of Idyllwild. The road is 7.5 miles up the mountain one way. You come back the same way.

This is the start of the road on the left. On the right you can see Highway 243. On the map below you can see this point at the red arrow.

The road looks pretty harmless at first, but it quickly turns rough, in some spots very rough.

Here is an example where I left my car there for scale. These ruts are two to three feet deep in some places, and it’s pretty much required to have a high clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

After about six miles up the mountain, we come to some very dramatic lookout points. I call this picture “Jeep in the Sky” for obvious reasons. Looking down from that rock, this is the view:

You can see the San Bernardino Valley about 6,000 feet below us here. The line is Interstate 10. In the distance, you can see the snowcapped peaks of San Gorgonio, the highest mountain range in Southern California at 11,503 feet (3,506 meters) elevation.

About 7.5 miles up, at an elevation of 7,400 feet, I get to the Fuller Ridge Trailhead. This is a large parking and camping area. Usually there are just a few vehicles here. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) crosses Fuller Ridge Road here. This is where I parked my car and started my hike up the PCT.

The trail climbs steadily uphill and for the most part is well developed.

There are some good stretches of fairly easy hiking, except, of course, always uphill.

There are many crashed trees that obstruct the trail. This one here is at least four feet thick and I had to take my backpack off and literally crawl under this to get through. In some other spots the trail was fully obstructed by fallen trees, I had to climb up or down around them to move past.

This one was at a lower altitude and thankfully didn’t obstruct the trail. 

Soon I got to the first snow bank. This was one of the first. The snow was at last six feet deep – on June 19!!

The vistas were amazing in all directions. Especially higher up the granite outcroppings towered over the trail.

Looking north east, more views of the valley, and the thin strip of light on the horizon to the right of the tip of the tree is the distant Mojave Desert.

Eventually I reached the crest of Fuller Ridge at about 8,000 feet elevation, and the views in all directions were spectacular.

Here is the San Jacinto main summit ridge. The highest point visible from here is actually a false summit. The summit itself, at 10,834 feet, is behind that peak.

Turning my head to the south I can see all of the Southern California “Inland Valley” area, including Temecula, Murietta and Hemet, and countless mountain ranges. I was also able to spot sections of the road where I had just driven up.

Here is another section of the trail at the ridge. The wind was blowing fiercely over this narrow ridge at 8,000 feet.

After reaching the ridge, at about 2 miles up the trail, I wanted to press forward, but the trail was descending down on the other side through a series of switchbacks. Since time was running short, and I had another hour and a half to walk out and then another hour and a half to drive down to the highway, I decided to turn around at about 2.3 miles. To do this enjoyably, I need to come back with a full pack for an overnight stay on the mountain. That’s for another day.

You can see my turnaround point at the green arrow on the map at  the top of this post.

Overall, the views are spectacular, the hike is dramatic, and on the trail itself I did not see a single person. I was totally alone on that mountain, and I loved every minute of it.



Book Review: Bad Monkey – by Carl Hiaasen

A few weeks ago we visited Key West, Florida, for the first time. When talking about the trip with friends, someone recommended that I read Bad Monkey, since it’s a hilarious book, and a lot of the action takes place in Key West. I had also heard about the book Squeeze Me by the same author, and word was that it, too, was hilarious.

A hapless former deputy sheriff named Andrew Yancy in Key West is drawn into a murder case. A tourist out on a deep-sea fishing boat had reeled in a human arm, presumably the only remains after a fatal shark attack. But once the coroner in Miami gets a look at the arm, it quickly becomes clear that what looks like a shark attack may well be a murder case. Without official authorization, Yancy decides to solve the case with the help of a whole community of other misfits.

The story is hilarious and sometimes I had to laugh out loud. Hiaasen seems to have intimate knowledge of the souls of the people in southern Florida, the Keys, and the Bahamas. He makes fun of the people and the institutions in the self-deprecating manner of an insider of that world.

Having just spent a long weekend in Key West, I enjoyed references to local places and tourist activities. Bad Monkey was a fun, quick read that entertained me and had me turning the pages. There is a sequel to this book, and Hiaasen wrote many other crime novels, presumably along the same lines, with goofy characters, strange and unlikely events and local idiosyncrasies.

There is not any moral to the story, or any big lesson to learn. Bad Monkey is pure entertainment – that’s all.

Hiking: Lahaina Pali Trail in West Maui

The Lahaina Pali Trail in West Maui is a 4.6 mile one way trail. You can hike it in either direction. I took the east to west approach, because I wanted the morning sun in my back, not in my eyes. It goes from about 20o feet above sea level to 1,560 feet in elevation, and then drops back to sea level.

If you have ever been to Maui, you surely have seen the windmills on the West Maui mountains. This trail climbs up to the windmills, crosses the ridge behind the 10th one counting from the bottom, and goes back down to meet Highway 30 just west of the tunnel on the road to Lahaina.

[as always in my posts, you can enlarge the photographs by clicking on them, and in this post that might give you a better sense of the scale of things]

All the posts and comments on the AllTrails app say to start early. 8:00am is not early. I set my alarm for 5:00am, which seemed the middle of the night. Sunrise in Maui (just a week before summer solstice is at 5:45 am. I was at the trailhead at 6:00am sharp, and the first rays of the sun hit me as I was ready to go.

I had allocated three and a half hours for this hike one-way, and I ended up using three hours and 28 minutes. You might think I know my hiking equipment after 66 years of testing it.

The first rays of the Maui morning sun put everything into a golden light. This is a shot of the trail (can you even see it to the left of the tree?) just a few minutes after I started. The sun is right behind me and you can see my endless shadow in the picture.

Here I am a little further up the trail, and the golden light has turned into fierce Maui sun already.

Turning the other way, as the sun hid behind a cloud for me, I am looking down the valley between the main island and the West Maui, with Kahului (the largest city) in the back on the horizon.

Down in the bay we can see Maalaea Harbor, a very popular departure point for whale watching and diving tours on Maui. Of course, in the back you see the vast expanse of Haleakala itself, with 10,023 feet altitude the tallest point on Maui and one of the most massive volcanoes in the world. Here is my review of my hike on Haleakala from a few days ago.

This is a special shot of the Maui waters with the island of Kaho’olawe in the the background. This island is completely uninhabited and since a couple of decades ago again owned by the State of Hawaii, after it was used for decades by the United States military for bombing exercises.

I thought I’d show you a map to put this picture in context. The start of the green arrow is about where I stood when I shot this photo, and the arrow points to Kaho’olawe. The bay under the arrow is one of the most important breeding grounds of the humpback whales, hence the busy whale watching port of Maalaea. There are no whales in June, but during the winter months between January and March, people have posted that they can see countless whale breaches from this hike.

Finally I reached the windmills. They are gigantic. I took a dozen pictures, trying to get the picture to give a sense of the size, but none do them justice. There is no scale I can put on these, but I do know that each blade is 111 feet long.

This is how close I was allowed to get to them without trespassing.

Eventually I got over the ridge and then the long trek down the other side started. I must say that this is one of the rockiest trails I have ever been on. This picture shows a section of the trail. The boulders in the back are as tall as I am. This is the trail. Can you even see it?

Finally, I am getting close to the other side. You can see the highway in the middle of the picture. The end of the trail is in that green area by the highway.

Here is a picture of me waving down to my wife on my final approach. She dropped me off at the start and came back to the other side of the mountain to pick me up. With my camouflage outfit, you probably have trouble even seeing me. That is by design.

Here I am finally back. Thoroughly tired, very sweaty. Legs wobbly.

The trail is very, very, very, very rocky, all the way. You literally cannot take your eyes off the trail for a single step, lest you risk twisting your ankle or worse. Loose rocks, boulders, rounded rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere. Even though it was only a 4.6 mile hike, it felt like 10 miles. You need good boots to do that. At my age, hiking poles are a must. I don’t think I could even do this without poles.

I brought three liters of water and used about half of it. On a desert hike, in the tropical solstice sun, I bring plenty of water and I never regret it. This hike is always hot, no matter what time of the year or time of the day. Most times it is also very windy, but it was not today so early in the morning. The sea was as calm as a mirror.

I strongly recommend this hike – but you need to be a HIKER. This is not for the casual tourist. You need hiking gear, preparation, and you have to know your body.

I met very few people. One hiker passed me going east to west, and a total of six people met me coming the other way.

I was alone on the mountain, and I liked it that way.



Book Review: Single Jack – by Max Brand


We have a timeshare condo on the Island of Maui in Hawai’i and we arrived on Saturday. In the condo there is a bookshelf with a couple of dozen books of all kinds. I usually check the books and find nothing of interest. This time, for some reason, a western caught my eye. It is a tattered paperback, titled Single Jack by Max Brand, copyright 1950. The edition in my hand was printed in 1974. It’s obviously been read a few times, but it is surprisingly clean for a book that old. The cover is labeled with a price of 75 cents.

I opened it up to the first page and started reading, and promptly got drawn into it. The last western I remember reading was the Incident at Twenty-Mile by Trevanian, and that was decades ago. You might guess I am not a western reader.

Single Jack is a story about an outlaw by the name of Jack Deems who goes by the name of Single Jack. He is a young man with an uncanny gift of – you guessed it – shooting. He is faster than all the gunfighters in the west and he is more accurate. Fate puts him into the Montana town of Yeoville (fictional) where one man named Alexander Shodress has bought the town with corruption, thievery and murder. He rules the town as its overlord, he is immensely rich from ill-gotten loot, and he annihilates anyone in his way. Enter Single Jack Deems, a man unlike anyone Shodress has ever met.

There is a good rancher, his younger brother, an eager young lawyer; there is a pretty girl who everyone falls in love with, and there are bands of the west’s worst gunfighters.

The pretty girl’s name is Hester Grange, and oddly, this is the second Hester in literature I have come across in just a couple of books. The last one was Hester the Molester in A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I have never met a Hester in real life, but I have now encountered two of them in two books in close succession.

I enjoyed this book of 211 printed pages. It was harder to read since the print was too small for easy reading, and there were not many good and bright enough lamps in the condo. It’s been a while since I have read a hardcopy book. It just took me a few days between swims and hikes on the island.

Hiking: Halemau’u Trail in Maui

Today I hiked the Halemau’u trail in Maui. It starts just below the summit of the Haleakala volcano.

Here you can see me at 8,000 feet (Haleakala’s summit is at 10,023 feet). You can see the clouds below me. This picture is facing north.

There is a good, developed parking lot at the trailhead. Trisha dropped me off at about 8:30am and I was due back by 1:00pm.

This is the start of the trail. It looks pretty benign here, but it’s a very rocky trail. You should wear good hiking boots.

The views all around are of course spectacular. The clouds are way below me. In the distance on the left of the image, the dark area below the clouds, is the Pacific.

The trail is very rocky. This is just one section as an example. It happens to be at a ridge with drops of hundreds of feet on both sides.

The switchbacks down to the crater floor are epic. This picture does not do them justice.

Here is another picture of some of the switchbacks below me. The green area on the right bottom of the image is where I am going.

Finally I reached the crater floor. The end (and turn-around point) of the Halemau’u trail is another mile from here. However, it took me one hour and 45 minutes to get here, and I ran out of time to complete the trail to the turn-around point. Trisha was expecting me at the parking lot at 1:00pm, and with no cell phone reception, I was not able to let her know I’d be late. So I turned around at this spot. I was 2.8 miles and 1,300 vertical feet down, and the hike was downhill all the way. Now the real hike started, going back up the mountain.

This is looking up where I came from, just the first section of it. It took me another one hour and 45 minutes to get back up. I brought two and a half liters of water, but only used about one. It was very windy, as it always is on this mountain, and the temperature ranged from 50 to 66 degrees F.

Bring good boots, bring lots of water, and wear sunscreen. It’s a great hike and I’ll do it again.



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.

Movie Review: Tower Heist (2011)

Josh Kovak (Ben Stiller) is the manager of a high-rise condo in New York. The owner of the building, Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) lives in the penthouse on the top floor, complete with a rooftop swimming pool.

It turns out that Shaw is arrested for fraud. When the dust settles, it becomes clear to the employees, from manager to doorman, that the pension fund they entrusted to their high-living landlord and employer, is gone. Shaw is ruthless.

A group of the employees recruit Slide (Eddie Murphy), a common street hustler, to help them steal their own money back. That’s how the Tower Heist gets started.

This is a light comedy, and it’s actually entertaining to watch, as all movies with Eddie Murphy generally are. But you can’t take it seriously, the plot twists are over the top, and at the end, it all seems a little silly.

That’s what we got when we flipped through Netflix for “something to watch.” We had a couple of light, entertaining hours.


Hiking: Eagle Rock

After many years of hearing about Eagle Rock, today we finally did the hike.

The trail starts at the Warner Springs Fire Station. Facing the station, just to the right, there is a gate. Parking is available along the street on the other side. The trail is about 3.3 miles each way. Since we were both under the weather and therefore a little slower, it took us about three hours round trip, plus some rest at the destination. Also, on this June late morning, the temperature was around 83 degrees and it felt very hot out there in the beating sun. I recommend you get an early start, or come during the October – April season. I recommend you bring plenty of water. I used a whole liter and had just a little spare.

The entire trail is along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and if you go in the spring, like now, you’re likely to run into a few PCT through hikers. You can always spot them, scrappy, with a full pack, and the pace and speed of a gazelle.

The first section of the trail goes through a few cattle gates. Be prepared to run into cattle. We heard them nearby but there were none on the trail when we passed.

The trail meanders along a live creek (at least it was live now after all the rains) and it provides an opportunity to wet a bandana and cool off. The trail is also covered by oak groves. Some of the oaks are huge and  look hundreds of years old.

The vistas are endless. Think Ponderosa.

Finally, we’re on the last quarter mile. The outcropping in the distance is the back of Eagle Rock. You can see some hikers on the trail. We must have seen at least 100 people going in and out this morning.

Finally we have arrived. Here we are posing in front of the famous Eagle Rock.

On the way back I kept on the lookout for some motifs for painting, as I always do. Here are some cactus blossoms that might make a great 36 x 36 floral arrangement for my collection.

Here is another one that Trisha spotted. It’s a different type of cactus.

Trisha made sure I took a picture with her in it of the same scene – so you have “Trisha for Scale.”

The Dismal State of American Airlines

I have been a decades long loyal American Airlines Flyer. I am approaching three (3) million miles on American Airlines alone! You can’t say I didn’t give them my best shot.

However, I am close to finding another airline for my business. Most recently, my experience was pretty dismal – as posted here. In fairness, the airline awarded each of us 10,000 bonus miles for the unplanned adventure.

Then I just came across this post for another traveler:

The Dismal State Of American Airlines Flagship First Class – Live and Let’s Fly (

It certainly looks like this flight attendant was not trained. If I were treated like that at the local Subway shop, I’d find another sandwich place. If I paid $2,000 or more for a first class seat, and I’d get this treatment, I’d find another airline.

I am not sure what’s going on with American, but things are not well.

Book Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany – by John Irving

After trying to read The Last Chairlift and getting through about half of the way, I remembered that I had read A Prayer for Owen Meany a long time ago, probably when it first came out in 1989. I remembered that I thought it was a remarkable book, I remembered it was about a boy, and that’s about it.

A Prayer for Owen Meany has a print length of 1,115 pages. This explains why I have seemingly not been reading lately, or at least publishing book reviews. The fact is, it takes forever to read Owen Meany.

The story is about two best childhood friends, and it starts in a small town in New Hampshire in 1953, when the boys are 11 years old. John Wheelwright is the narrator, but his best friend, Owen Meany, is the protagonist. Owen, in a stroke of terrible bad luck, hits a foul ball in a Little League game and kills John’s mother who is among the spectators. Owen does not think this was an accident. He thinks he is God’s instrument.

The story follows the two boys and their friends and family through their coming of age and into adulthood. It weaves a rich tapestry of characters, and when the book finally ends, you will miss them all and the world in which they have been living. After all, you’ll have been spending a lot of time with them.

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a treatise about religion in American society. But it is also about the Vietnam war and the plight that generation of young men went through to deal with the draft and what it did to their lives and American society.

Irving likes to portray unique characters, and there are some similarities across his books. For instance, the protagonist in The Last Chairlift was “very small” as was his mother. Irving has something about small people. Owen Meany is also very small, very light. As an adult, he is just under five feet tall. Also, due to some congenital defect in his larynx, he has a very gravelly, out of this world sounding voice. His voice is so unique, that throughout the entire book, all direct quotes spoken by Owen are done in capitals. “YOUR MOM HAS THE BEST BREASTS OF ALL THE MOMS,” Owen would say to his friend John when they were 11 years old and analyzing — well — what boys that age are interested in. You will get used to Owen’s capitalized voice quickly and it works well in this book.

Besides his highly unusual voice, and his extreme smallness, Owen is brilliant. He gains the respect of the adults around him through his actions and statements, and he tends to command the attention wherever he is present. Needless to say, he is the valedictorian in his class, and eventually joins the U.S. Army through the ROTC program.

Owen, who thinks he is an instrument of God, believes he has a mission in Vietnam, and all his actions and decisions throughout his life seem to point to a single day in Vietnam – where his purpose lies.

Visiting Hemingway’s House in Key West

Last week we visited Key West, Florida, for a few days. There are two very famous Key West citizens whose presence is felt all over the island. One is Jimmy Buffett, the American singer and songwriter, author, actor and businessman, who is best known for his music, which often portrays an “island escapism” lifestyle. He started his career partly in Key West, and “Buffett-stuff” is all over the island. The other famous Key West citizen is Ernest Hemingway, who lived there in the 1930ies.

We visited Hemingway’s house, which is now a well-preserved museum dedicated to his life and legacy. Here is a view of the house.

I found it riveting to be walking through the rooms where he lived, including his bedroom and the master bathroom, the sleeping quarters for the nanny, and the room where his kids slept.

But most inspiring was seeing his writing studio. Here I am at the foot of the stairs. The studio door is at the top of the stairs above my head:

Here is another view of the building from the other side:

I was able to enter the studio. I was alone while there, behind a fence to keep out tourists, of course. I had plenty of time to just reflect.

This room, museum staff told us, is largely untouched as it was when Hemingway wrote there in the 1930ies. This is his actual chair and table. You can see one of the 54 cats on the property under the chair on the left. It is said that all the cats are descendants of Hemingway’s cats. He went up into that studio before breakfast every day to write at least 700 words. 70 percent of Hemingway’s work was written in this room, including the following novels:

  • A Farewell to Arms
  • Death in the Afternoon
  • Green Hills of Africa
  • To Have and Have Not
  • The Fifth Column
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Snows of Kilimanjaro

It turns out, I have only read one Hemingway book: The Old Man and the Sea, and I have read that several times. I have no review of it published here, since the readings were all before 2007 when I started this blog.  I once tried to read The Sun Also Rises, but could not finish it. Here is my short review.

Being in that studio inspired me, and I decided to give it another shot and read some Hemingway.

After the visit to the Hemingway house, we went across the street to climb the historic lighthouse:

Here is a look back to Hemingway’s property from the top of the lighthouse:

If you find yourself visiting Key West, I strongly recommend you visit this museum. The entry fee is $18 per person – cash only – yes, but it’s well worth it.