Saturday, September 22, 2018
A visit to the USA
The trip was triggered by the wedding of a dear friend from school who got married for the first time in New York. My daughter is studying at Harvard in Boston near by so we decided to visit her as well.
Watching evening TV by flipping between channels like CNN and Fox News presents the viewer with two strikingly alternative realities both accusing each other of speaking un-truths. It's hard to believe that they are reporting on the same basic events.
Looking out over New York (shown here from the Empire State Building) it's easy to understand the deep shock of the attack on September 11, 2001 caused and how that continues to resonate.
Radio is a superior medium in the US and it was great to listen locally to Podcast favourites WNYC and various PBS affiliates. I listened generally on FM but they talk about HD radio which I couldn't receive.
Often stations suggested asking your smart speaker to play the program and it seems clear that smart speakers are rapidly becoming an important part of people's homes and audio listening habits.
Uber is dramatically cheaper and better than taxis. In Boston, Ubers would turn up within two minutes sometimes and they make it clear they'll start the meter after two minutes if you keep them waiting.
Highlights for me include the Science Museum of Boston which has a Space exhibit on at the moment featuring some moon rock and Neil Armstrong's gloves.
America is truely bilingual with Spanish heard and seen everywhere.
The science museum also has the largest and original Van De Graaff generator. It's the actual one built by Van De Graaff at MIT. We attended an impressive, if rather cheesy, performance that featured large Tesla coils being modulated with sound as part of the show.
An unexpected highlight was the Isabella Sewart Gardner Museum in Boston. This place has an eclectic collection of fine art arranged in a quirky grouping.
The museum suffered a major robbery in 1990 where 13 works were stolen and have never been returned or even been offered for sale. They've left the empty frames in place on the walls.
At Harvard I attended a lecture with my daughter who told me it was "bring you dad to class" day. The class was Data Science and was an introduction to the Python Pandas module. I also went to a "brown bag" talk by a PhD on applications of the block chain for management of the Commons.
Television is packed with ads for medical drugs (complete with alarming lists of possible side effects) and there are many ads from lawyers offering to help you get compensation for side effects. It's no wonder the health system there is so expensive. I value Australia's system very much.
Travelling from Australia to the east coast of the US is a very long journey and it makes me even keener to spend time noodling around in the van rather than undertaking these sorts of trips.