A Boring Observation About the New iMac

The new Apple 27″ iMacs announced last month ships with a monitor with the insanely high resolution of 5120-by-2880. When you sit down in front of one of these you are looking at 5120 pixels wide * 2880 pixels high * 4 bytes per pixel = 56Mb of data.

To put that in perspective, the first computer I bought with my own money was a Commodore Amiga 500 in 1990. For the time it was an advanced machine with a special chip (the blitter) that could copy (according to Amiga Hardware Manual) almost 4 megabytes per second if you set things up juuuuust right and the wind was behind it.

That means that an Amiga working flat out could just manage to clear a retina display in slightly over 14 seconds, whereas the iMac can draw a whole frame every 60th of a second. Computing has come a long way in 24 years.

(adjusted for inflation, the iMac is probably cheaper as well)

Book Review – Hellstar

Hellstar by Michael Reaves and Steve Perry

Cover picture from HellstarEarth’s first colony ship to the stars is going fine, several decades into its trip to a distant habitable planet. The 8000 inhabitants are healthy and happy in their metal torus. But slowly things start going wrong – mechanical failures and strange physical phenomena manifest themselves with increasing frequency, and soon the population starts showing the strain. A serial killer and a dangerous recreational drug don’t help things either.

Hellstar, despite the terrible title, is actually not a bad hard scifi (with a few mystical overtones) thriller. By no stretch of the imagination is it a good book, but it is well-paced and its only real major crime was being written in 1986. It’s time to bring out The Eighties Scifi Paperback Checklist:
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More Things I Have Done in Boston

Concert at the Hatch Shell

Hatch Shell at night
The Hatch Shell is an awesome sound shell sitting right beside the Charles river in the center of Boston. During the summer, various Orchestras (of which Boston seems to have dozens) put on free concerts on midweek evenings attended by fairly large crowds.

The music was great. The worst part of the evening was the people around us that would just.not.shut.up. The best part was the Bill Oddie impersonator (besocked and besandaled, naturally) who went around furiously but silently shushing them. It didn’t work, but was very entertaining to watch.

Twelfth Night in the Park

Also midweek and in a (different) park, a spirited performance of Twelfth Night. A tale of mistaken identity, cross dressing, and wacky hijinks that wouldn’t be out of place in the particularly well-written episode of Threes Company. This is one of the comedies, so everyone ends up married at the end instead of dead. Hurrah!

Ferry to Provincetown

South of Boston is a peninsula jutting out into Atlantic Ocean called Cape Cod, which is basically Boston’s summer residence. It seems just about everyone decamps down to The Cape for weeks at a time. At the very tip lies Provincetown, a coastal resort town.

We took a ferry from Boston, which is a nice 90 minute trip in itself. Or, in the this case because the ferry broke down, a nice 150 minute trip. But we did get to see a whale on the way.

Provincetown has a reputation for being a magnet for gay people. I can’t see why.

Provincetown Main Street

Seaman's Bank, Provincetown

The town itself is really nice, with a very lively main street filled with cool bars and eateries alongside art galleries that actually contain interesting stuff. It is a total tourist trap, but the sort of tourist trap that other tourist traps aspire to be. The homosexual agenda line items regarding making a nice town have all been ticked off in Provincetown.
Provincetown Shore at Sunset
Being right at the end of Cape Cod, Provincetown is surrounded by beaches and dunes. A excellently maintained and only slightly hilly bike track wends around the sights. Even with a ferry-imposed delay, Provincetown was well worth visiting.

The Freedom Trail, Various Wildlife Refuges, and Three Pieces of Performance Art

This entry is just a collection of random stuff I have experienced recently. In no particular order:

The Freedom Trail

Bunker Hill MonumentThe Freedom Trail is a self-guided walk that winds through central Boston, passing various sites of historical interest on the way. Boston is very proud of its history, being the site of the American Revolution (boo hiss) and the abolitionist movement (better late than never) and its role in the American civil war (hooray).

About 40% of the sites on the trail are connected to Paul Revere, I was pretty sick of hearing about him by the end.

At the end of The Freedom Trail is the Bunker Hill Monument. Technically (and confusingly) not on Bunker Hill, the monument commemorates The Battle of Bunker Hill (which was also not actually on Bunker Hill). In any case, you can climb to the top of the monument (294 steps!) for a cramped, hot, and majestic view of the city. This picture is looking vaguely west along the Charles River in the background.
Boston from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument

4th of July

The fourth of July is one of the important holidays, and one Boston celebrates with gusto. The public celebration was brought forward one day because of the bad weather forecast for the 4th, so I went down to the Charles River Esplanade to see how things were done. It was basically like Symphony Under the Stars in Auckland but with more security (and armed police wandering around). We were treated to various patriotic songs by the Boston Pops Orchestra and some hits from a Beach Boy. The crowd had a very lucky escape when Joey McIntyre couldn’t make the rescheduled event.

I learnt that nobody really knows the words to the America national anthem, and fewer people actually have the range to sing it. I also learnt that Americans get annoyed if you sing the correct lyrics My Country, Tis of Thee, which more properly begin “God save our gracious Queen.”

The concert was cut short due to the encroaching rain, and we were treated to the best fireworks display I have seen. It must have been visible from most of the city. The best part were the shells that exploded into reasonable attempts at a giant smily faces.

5 minutes after the fireworks ended, the thunder storm took over the skies. Boston gets proper summer storms, the lightning lasted for over an hour and for a while you could almost read by it, so frequent were the flashes.

Sharknado

I don’t really have much to say about this. Sharknado is a (terrible) made-for-TV film that became a minor hit a while ago. This was a special presentation by the guys behind Mystery Science Theatre 3000 which consisted of them playing the film in its entirety, but making jokes over the top. Despite being fairly inept, Sharknado is quite entertaining, and with added jokes makes for a good evening’s entertainment.

My only other observation is that in America, a small coke at the theatre is approximately 1 litres worth.

The Phantom of the Opera

The tragic story of a hideous man who sits backstage playing the keyboard all-the-while lusting over a beautiful actress he will never have. Wherever does Andrew Lloyd Webber get his ideas from? </old joke>

This was a lavish production, with pyrotechnics and all sorts of stage trickery. It turns out I had completely misinterpreted the story, so the ending was a complete surprise to me. The Boston Opera house is pretty amazing just by itself. It is a little like the Civic is Auckland but about twice the size. This photo doesn’t really do it justice.
Boston Opera House (from the cheap seats)

Ipswich River and Great Meadows Lake Wildlife Sanctuaries

Finally some photos from two wildlife sanctuaries I have visited in the last few weeks.

Beaver Dam at Ipswich Wildlife RefugeThis is a beaver dam (the pile of sticks, not the bridge – beavers are neat but not that good at building). I have seen several of these constructions in various parks, but no beavers as yet.

Lillypads at Ipswich River ReserveThis pond was absolutely filled with turtles of various sizes. American ponds seem a lot more alive than back in New Zealand, with frogs, insects and small mammals all vying for space. The lilypads are nice as well.

Triple Feature – All Three Transformers Films

Red Letter Media is a company that produces humorous film reviews. I have linked to these guys before, when they released the amazing takedown of The Phantom Menace.

Here is something different. A little film called Transformers 4 : Age of Extinction is coming out soon, and what better way to celebrate this milestone than to watch the first three films? Simultaneously.

Personally, I have only seen the first Transformers. It was terrible.