Archive for the 'United States' Category

The exchange rate according to today’s Apple announcements

October 21st, 2009

Apple announced some shiny new things today. Given that the Australian dollar is around 92 cents, we’d hope for a good exchange rate. What has Apple actually done?

  • iMac 22-inch: US $1,199, AUS $1,599

  • iMac 27-inch: US $1,699, AUS $2,199

  • Mac Mini Base: US $549, AUS $849

  • MacBook: US $999, AUS $1,299

  • MagicMouse: US $69, AUS $99

  • Apple Remote: US $19, AUS $25

It’s important to remember that the US prices are before sales tax, so I’ve taken the GST (10%) off the Australian prices to work out the exchange rates.

When we do that, the exchange rate ranges from 71 cents (on the Mac Mini, which is sad because that’s the one I want to buy) to 85 cents on the MacBook. The average is pretty much 81 cents. Clearly there’s some rounding going on to hit nice price points.

Why is it so much lower? Because Apple (like most other companies) isn’t silly. They know that the exchange rate fluctuates, so they don’t set prices based on what it is this week. Rather they look at longer run averages. And if you look at the average exchange rate over the last six months (excluding October, as they would have set prices a few weeks ago) it’s also around 81 cents.

Hillary versus Obama: The continuing saga

February 12th, 2008

I honestly thought we’d be done by now…

Wasn’t Super Tuesday going to be the killer blow for the Democrats?

Well, I suppose it’s almost over for the Republicans, although John McCain really could still lose it from here.

But Hillary versus Obama, that’s going to be with us for a while.

I don’t have a brilliant idea about who’s going to win. I think it comes down to whether the American electorate is more sexist or racist.

That’s a pretty close call, so it’ll be interesting to see.

My guess is that Obama will win the day. But at least it’s a fun battle to watch. And whichever way the Democrats go, I think they’re looking pretty good for November.

Why can’t we all just get along.

January 6th, 2008

In case you hadn’t noticed, the TV and film writers in the US are on strike. It’s been about 9 weeks now since they went on strike in November.

The economics side of this is the question of ‘why’? The standard theory suggests that you should never see strikes, because the simple threat of one should be all that the unions need in order to achieve the best outcome they could. What this ignores is the problem of asymmetric information – not everyone knows the same pieces of information, and some (like how committed the membership of the union is to the strike) are very hard for any side to know perfectly.

But even given that history, strikes in Hollywood tend to be long and vicious. I think that’s probably because the studios can stockpile a lot of finished product, especially in film, and that protects them from the immediate economic consequences. It’s probably also because the personality factors are going to be exaggerated in the environment they all live and work in.

So what are they fighting for?

They’re ultimately fighting over who gets a piece of the pie, and who gets to be treated as a hired player. There’s a strange line drawn in business between the people who are entitled to a share of the profits they create (authors, hedge fund managers), and those who are simple employees who have no rights to a share of profits.

Writers are currently in the first group, getting a (small) share of the profits that come from DVD, video and TV screenings of the things they write. The studios would like to put them into the first group.

Who’s right? It’s hard to say.

The best economic answer to the question of whether you should get a share comes down to bargaining power, and in particular of whether your characteristics (be they creative or simple marquee value) will boost the project more than the next available worker. In Hollywood some writers clearly have that cachet, and some do not. But they all bargain together, and so the value of the top writers gets pushed down to the whole pool to some extent.

So the pure answer would be ‘if they’ll give it to you, then you deserve it’.

Hence the strike.

I just wish they’d get back to it. I’m starting to miss TV, and I’ve finished half my computer game pile…

US TV 2006 update

December 10th, 2006

Updates on the shows from my earlier post:

  • Jericho: Still not watching…
  • Vanished: Didn’t entice me back.
  • Smith: Still canceled.
  • The Class: Every time I say ‘I’m giving up on this’, the show redeems itself with some really good, really dark writing. Still right on the edge every episode, but hanging on so far. But not a ‘must see’.
  • Men in Trees: Continues to be entertaining, although I’m about 4 episodes behind now.
  • Help Me Help You: Nope, too much focus on the Ted Danson character, and not enough on the other interesting people in the group therapy session. Gave up on it.
  • The Nine: Not enough in it to sustain the premise, I gave up a few minutes before it got effectively canceled.
  • Ugly Betty: Still entertaining, but the backlog is also building up a bit.
  • Heroes: Just gets better and better every week. The best TV that I’ve seen in years and years. I’ll write a longer review in a few days, I hope.
  • Studio 60: Distressingly uneven, with way too much tendency for Aaron Sorkin to take revenge on those who have ‘wronged’ him in the past, with every character standing for someone in his life. Plus the comedy bits just aren’t very funny. Still, enough to keep me interested.
  • Friday Night Lights: Still keeping up there, very very good stuff (although it’s now dropped to second behind Heroes for the best show of the season).

And the two new shows since last time:

  • 30 Rock: Great talent (Tina Fey in particular), but the delivery of this show is very strange. It’s very much a poor corporate vehicle of a show, with intermittent sparks of good writing overwhelmed by very poor, very cliched writing for most of it. Gave up after about 3 episodes.
  • 20 Good Years: Intermittently funny, but nothing really new. A waste of a couple of very good actors.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll try and get reviews up for Heroes, Friday Night Lights and Studio 60 sometime before the end of January, and then a recap at the end of the US TV season.

Enjoying the victory

November 10th, 2006

I’ve been watching the commentators at The Corner, where they’re learning to come to terms with the election defeat of the US Republicans:

A friend of mine […] has long argued for amending  the constitution so presidents have one five year term and then can only run for one two year term. Eight years is too long.

Especially if they might be a Democrat next time…

Not only were successful conservative governors elected or re-elected in a number of states (admittedly, mostly in the South), but in a few places, Texas among them, state legislatures actually experienced a net conservative gain.

Which just goes to show what a bit of gerrymandering can do for you…

I still think we can get to victory in Iraq, broadly defined.

For instance, if I define it as ‘defeating Saddam’, we’re golden.

This Makes Me Furious […] Bolton unlikely to win Senate approval.

Because with Santorum gone we’re running out of raving lunatics on the right.

I find federal holidays that fall on weekends so confusing.

OK, no political joke here. Just funny anyway…

It’s entirely understandable and predictable that in the wake of this election liberals would go into wishful thinking mode and declare that they’ve escaped history.

Does the phrase ‘permanent conservative majority’ ring any bells?

Oh, I could do this all day. But probably shouldn’t…

US Elections

November 8th, 2006

Great stuff in the US elections…

As expected, the Democrats are going to easily get control of the Houes. But it’s looking more and more like they’ll get control of the Senate too. Well, Lieberman willing.

As of this moment (10:10pm AEST) the Iowa Electronic Markets are suggesting a 60-95% chance of winning the senate. The most liquid market is suggesting at least 80%. But it’ll be the lawyers who decide this one in Virginia I think.

Holiday Economics

October 30th, 2006

So which special occasions do we (well, the US) spend the most money on? The National Retail Federation has the breakdown (via Snopes):

  1. Christmas (‘winter holidays’): $438.6 billion.
  2. Back to school: $54.2 billion.
  3. Mother’s day: $13.8 billion.
  4. Valentine’s day: $13.7 billion.
  5. Easter: $12.6 billion.
  6. Father’s day: $9.0 billion.
  7. Super Bowl: $5.3 billion.
  8. Halloween: $5.0 billion.
  9. St Patrick’s day: $2.7 billion.

A few surprises there. Firstly, why so much on Easter? Mother’s day and Valentine’s day are both going to have a lot of gift giving in there. Are there social/religious groups that give out presents at Easter? And secondly, clearly fathers are getting the raw deal, with a $4.8 billion shortfall! (Although you could argue that it still doesn’t make up for the $5.3 billion on the Super Bowl).

Finally: St Patrick’s day, $2.7 billion? That’s enough to buy about 3,070,000,000 litres of beer, or around 10 litres for every man, woman and child in the US. Good going!

(Although that’s American beer, so it would have the alcohol content of about 3 Australian beers…)

Have you ever wondered why there’s an obesity epidemic?

October 26th, 2006

Via The Daily Show, I give you the Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick:

Jimmy Dean Pancakes & Sausage

There are just no words…

What free trade agreement?

October 23rd, 2006

From The Courier-Mail (via Boing Boing):

THE United States has slapped a ban on Vegemite, outraging Australian expatriates there.

I don’t feel that I’m exaggerating when I say that this is the greatest outrage ever! Where’s Mark Latham when you need him?

Stupidest lawsuit ever

July 10th, 2006

No further comment needed: 

A Northeast Portland man is suing basketball superstar Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for a combined $832 million. Allen Heckard filed the suit himself, June 29th in Washington County Court. Heckard says he’s been mistaken as Michael Jordan nearly every day over the past 15 years and he’s tired of it.

(Via Overlawyered).