Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Green Apples

On Apple's website for their new Macbook computers they state the following:
The new MacBooks. The world's greenest family of notebooks.

The highly recyclable, even more energy-efficient MacBook family has been designed with the environment in mind.

And a bit further down:

Reduced packaging.

The new MacBook packaging is up to 41 percent smaller than the previous generation. And smaller boxes are much better for the planet. Because smaller boxes mean we can fit more boxes on each shipping pallet — up to 25 percent more. Which means more products will fit on each boat and plane. Which means fewer boats and planes are used, resulting in fewer CO2 emissions. It’s just one seemingly minor change. But it has a major positive impact on our environment.

Interesting. It appears that a major selling point of the new Macbook is that it's "environmentally friendly", even before the customer purchases it.

So you can imagine my surprise to learn from a nameless source (an official Apple retailer in New Zealand) that it's standard Apple policy to ship all unsold stock back to the USA when demand exceeds supply, even if there are customers lining up here.

This is a bit troubling - I mean, the implications of this are rather unfortunate. It means that the cute little Macbook someone might buy in, say, Manhattan, thinking they are being environmentally friendly, has in fact traveled both to and from somewhere like New Zealand. Or further! Perhaps multiple times!

Fewer CO2 emissions indeed...

GST discounts and bad maths

Over the last few years, I've seen a few retailers host sales that proclaim "No GST" or "We'll pay your GST!" followed by a promise of a 12.5% discount (because, after all, GST is 12.5%, right...?).


Hopefully most people will realise the problem here. If you add 12.5% of something to itself, then taking that bit off again is only an 11.1% discount. A 12.5% discount is more than the GST component.

So what does this mean for the customer? Can we expect a full 12.5% discount? Or should we be happy with the retailer only paying the GST, an effective discount of only 11.1%? Advertising law suggests one could easily claim the full 12.5% discount in this case.

This ambiguity led me to write to a major retailer (who shall remain nameless) who responded with the following:

As you correctly point out, if we truly gave the customer just the GST component back, it would be 11.1%. We give the higher amount to make the concept very simple for the majority of people who find the GST calculation difficult. We appreciate that you are not one of those people, but hope that you enjoy the extra 1.4% anyway.

Personally I'm still not happy with this. If a retailer wants to pay your GST as a promotion, that's fine, but I don't think it should be followed by a claim of a 12.5% discount. And if they really want to give you a 12.5% discount because they think there's something magical about that number, then don't mention GST, because it's irrelevant.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New York City

We arrived at JFK Airport and took the Subway to our hotel in Queens.

Our room had quite an interesting view.

Times Square.


One of three giant banks of coloured M&Ms...

The tallest building (NBC Tower?) in the Rockefeller Center.

The view north from the top of that building. Note Central Park and just how huge it is.

The view south east towards the Brooklyn Bridge. You can just make out the Financial District on the far right. The Empire State Building stands alone and is of course the highest building in Manhattan.

Why not take a helicopter ride over the city?

Some great views from up here.

Looking down at the USS Intrepid and another carrier (which wasn't there the next day).

Manhattan from the sky is amazing.

The Liberty statue is much smaller than I imagined it would be. However, it's still impressive to see in person.

The Brooklyn Bridge.

Looking over the East River (which isn't a river) towards Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Bridge.

Sunset from the centre of the bridge.

The next day we went for a walk in Central Park. The weather was stunning as you can see.

The American Museum of Natural History and Rose Space Center. The giant ball inside is a planetarium. At night, this whole structure is lit up and supposedly looks amazing.


The largest meteorite held in captivity. Called the Ahnighito fragment or Cape York meteorite, it weighs over 30 metric tons and is almost entirely iron.

A beautiful night time view from the top of the Empire State Building. Note the Chrystler building on the right. It is a beautiful building.

We went to see a Broadway musical - "Hair Spray". Neither of us are big fans of musicals by any stretch, but we went to see one anyway. It was extremely good. Very entertaining and the production quality was amazing.

No photos allowed inside so we had to have a special photo shoot outside afterwards.

Grand Central Station - see if you can find P.

A gloomy investor in front of The New York Stock Exchange.

Ground Zero. The gap in the skyline is very dramatic.

Here I am standing in front of the USS Intrepid. A once-operational American aircraft carrier that served in the Pacific in the 1940s as well as in the 1960s as part of the Apollo recovery missions. It is now a floating naval aeronautical museum.

The meatball - helps pilots land on the carrier by reminding them about dinner.

This is an F-16 Fighting Falcon. This is an impressive fighter, even parked on the flight deck.

A British Harrier jump-jet.

An American F-4 Phantom.

As you can see, the flight deck of the carrier holds quite a few aircraft on display.

On the wharf nearby is a Concorde.

Swish! Leather seats and plenty of leg room.

The Concorde cockpit.

While I was onboard the Intrepid, P went to visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which she really enjoyed. Then we regrouped and jumped on a train for Baltimore.

I have one last post to make, and that's our time in Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Erfurt & Berlin

Well, we've been back in New Zealand now for a little under a week. Trying to settle back into work has been difficult for both of us, but I think we're getting there now the jet lag has subsided.

Now there's a bit of time to post the last few blog entries for the last few destinations on our trip.

Well, it turned out that the surprise location was Erfurt - a charming medieval town between Munich and Berlin.

This is actually a bridge completely covered in shops and houses.

A view along the bridge. There were some lovely craft shops.

Erfurt is a small town, so when you finally stumble onto the main square, it's quite a shock to find two giant buildings forming the religious town centre. It was getting dark and the photo doesn't really do justice to the scene, but those buildings are massive.

We stayed overnight at a Augustiner monastery where Martin Luther was a monk for about seven years.

The next day we travelled on to Berlin.

The famous Brandenburg Gate. A Berlin icon.

This was the royal family's private church. Not bad for a private chapel eh?

The controversial Jewish memorial. It consists of 2711 concrete blocks of various heights arranged in a grid. You can walk amongst them. One interpretation is that the blocks represent individual stones that are placed on a grave site during a Jewish funeral.

It's an impressive monument.

Underneath there is a Jewish museum.

This is the square where the National Socialist Party (the Nazis) performed their infamous book-burning. As a memorial, there is a room built under the square with empty bookshelves, symbolising the empty space left by the books burned that day.

This is all that remains of Hitler's bunker. It is now a carpark.

One of the last remaining stretches of the Berlin Wall.

The other side of the wall. Beneath you can see an exhibition about the atrocities committed by the Gestapo, who used dungeons below this area to torture and murder people.

The German Chancellor's building, affectionately nicknamed "The Washing Machine".

The Reichstag - the German Parliament.

On top of the Reichstag is an impressive viewing dome made from glass and steel.

Here is the main power reactor that supplies the entire country. It's protected by numerous turbo turrets and fighter patrols.

Actually it's a mirrored column above viewing windows, through which you can observe the German parliament when in session.

Two spiral walkways curve up and down from the viewing platform at the top of the dome.

We visited a Nuclear Fallout Shelter beneath the city. There are many such shelters, this one is designed to house 3,500 people for two weeks. If such a thing happened, with that many people in such a small space for so long, it would be a living hell.

And that concludes our European Experience!

I have one more post lined up that covers our short stay in the United States.