Apple Watch sales beats entire Swiss watch industry in Q4

More Apple Watches shipped in the fourth quarter of 2017 than the entire Swiss watch industry, a report claims, showing the Apple-produced wearable device is still growing in popularity, though analysis also indicates the Apple Watch still has some way to go before it can outpace Swiss watches on an annual basis…

❝ The chart reveals the Apple Watch shipped an estimated 8 million units during the fourth quarter of 2017, more than the 6.8 million Swiss watch shipments over the same period. It is also noted that the Apple Watch saw a year-on-year increase of 2 million shipments, representing growth of 33 percent, while Swiss shipments slightly contracted from 7 million in Q4 2016.

Across the entire year, Swiss watches continue to outsell the Apple Watch by a wide margin.

Guess the Swiss really aren’t supposed to worry, eh?

Lessons Jony Ive learned from Steve Jobs


Early days at Apple

“Steve [Jobs] was the most remarkably focused person I ever met in my life,” Apple’s senior vice president of design Jonathan Ive told Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter during the closing event of Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco.

“The thing with focus is that it’s not this thing you aspire to, like: ‘Oh, on Monday I’m going to be focused,’” said Ive, who rarely gives interviews. “It’s every single minute: ‘Why are we talking about this when we’re supposed to be talking about this?’”…

In addition to learning from Jobs about the importance of focus and of prioritizing the product over emotions, Ive said he “learned the whereabouts of a lot of rubbish hotels when we traveled…”

The wide-ranging conversation also touched on the size of Apple’s core design team (just 16 people, and they still begin their process with drawings), the new iPhone (Ive said its rounded edges make the bigger screen feel “less wide”) and the new Apple watch, which Ive described as the culmination of hundreds of years of function-first thinking.

“Why a watch and why not a pendant?” asked Carter.

Over the years, Ive replied, people learned that time pieces work best when they’re worn on the wrist. “It’s a really great place to glance quickly, for information,” Ive continued. “When we started working on it, it seemed like a natural, obvious place for the technology to end up…”

Ive said his team was focused on the here and now. “I don’t think we think about designing for a point in time. We hope that if it is truly simple, and we do a good job, then it will endure…”

I guess I’ve cared about design going back to early years as a motorhead. I followed Formula One racing, gran premio, since the early 1950’s – through the transition from pre-war concepts of engineering and aeronatutics into the grace and function of the Mercedes Silver Arrows. The same happened with sports cars in the period starting with Cisitalia and the bodywork of Bertone.

I still own an early aluminum-framed Olivetti portable typewriter. There are other examples. It starts as simply as looking at something made by human design, respecting functionability, understanding the blending of the two as design.

There’s lots of crap masquerading as industrial design. It falls by the wayside over time. Most of what’s discussed in the article stems from the interaction of Ive and Jobs. Some, of course, goes back to school days and beyond. It’s all of interest.

Richard Dawkins & Neil deGrasse Tyson in a dialogue about alien life

I’ve been fortunate over a number of segments in my life to witness – even take a small part in – conversations like this. Not in front of an audience. Not as part of a public dialogue; but, in the context of what historically has been called a “salon”.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away. Well, New England, actually. Where the talent pool for discussions like this is more accessible than most of the country.

Thanks, Mike

Beancounter heading University of Missouri to shut down university press

A tide of anger has been swelling here since May after the new University of Missouri president, Timothy M. Wolfe, disclosed plans to close the university’s publishing house, stoking arguments over the institution’s priorities and fueling an escalating national debate over the necessity of university presses and their future in the digital world…

Such disagreements are playing out on campuses around the country, as tightening budgets have complicated efforts by university presses to keep up with the changing publishing marketplace.

Half a dozen universities have closed or suspended their presses over the past three years. Utah State’s press had to join a consortium of university presses in Colorado to survive. Another press, at Louisiana State, was spared after cutting the staff and making other organizational changes…

Scholars argue that university presses are vital for academic discourse. They publish erudite texts that commercial presses do not, giving scholars a forum to share and further research. Professors often rely on them to publish the works they need for tenure and promotion. But they are usually money-losing operations. The presses at the University of Chicago, Oxford and Cambridge are the only ones widely believed to be profitable.

In their early decades the bottom line did not matter. Cornell started the first university press in the United States in 1869, and the presses were set up to publish the research results of faculty. As time passed, however, presses were increasingly asked to generate revenue for their institutions. Now their future at many campuses revolves around two questions: Are presses part of a university’s core mission, akin to an academic department? Or are they business investments, expendable if they fail to draw profit?…

Before becoming president in February, Mr. Wolfe spent his entire professional career in business. When he announced in May that he would eliminate the press’s subsidy, detractors said he did not appreciate its value. Mr. Wolfe defended the decision-making process, saying he relied on the university’s chancellors and vice presidents who have lifelong backgrounds in academia.

But Mr. Wolfe acknowledged that he had never spoken to or consulted employees of the current press, and none of them were involved in the creation of the new model. Many critics said the new plan was vague and full of corporate jargon.

Putting beancounters in charge of an enterprise that serves a university as a marketing arm as much as a profit center for the institution is about as useless as picking a creationist minister to head the science department. Something that might also happen in Missouri.

Cutting academic functions on the basis of profit is as historically corrupt as placing many of the expenses of headline sports into the budgets of other departments to make those sports appear profitable. Universities, after all, are presumed to give primacy to education not the almighty dollar.

That should be the direction of fundraising.

More stringent definition of autism may exclude many

Proposed changes in the definition of autism would sharply reduce the skyrocketing rate at which the disorder is diagnosed and might make it harder for many people who would no longer meet the criteria to get health, educational and social services…

The definition is now being reassessed by an expert panel appointed by the American Psychiatric Association, which is completing work on the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the first major revision in 17 years. The D.S.M., as the manual is known, is the standard reference for mental disorders, driving research, treatment and insurance decisions. Most experts expect that the new manual will narrow the criteria for autism; the question is how sharply.

The results of the new analysis are preliminary, but they offer the most drastic estimate of how tightening the criteria for autism could affect the rate of diagnosis. For years, many experts have privately contended that the vagueness of the current criteria for autism and related disorders like Asperger syndrome was contributing to the increase in the rate of diagnoses — which has ballooned to one child in 100, according to some estimates.

The psychiatrists’ association is wrestling with one of the most agonizing questions in mental health — where to draw the line between unusual and abnormal — and its decisions are sure to be wrenching for some families. At a time when school budgets for special education are stretched, the new diagnosis could herald more pitched battles. Tens of thousands of people receive state-backed services to help offset the disorders’ disabling effects, which include sometimes severe learning and social problems, and the diagnosis is in many ways central to their lives. Close networks of parents have bonded over common experiences with children; and the children, too, may grow to find a sense of their own identity in their struggle with the disorder…

The new analysis, presented Thursday at a meeting of the Icelandic Medical Association, opens a debate about just how many people the proposed diagnosis would affect…

That the qualitative expansion in diagnoses of autism mostly reflects doctors and parents and a culture growing in parallel that found itself able to get federal and public support for difficult behavioral problems – by defining those problems as autism – ain’t new. That quantifying levels of impairment and reviewing the premises of diagnosis is finally happening is the only surprise.

Doesn’t make the needs of parents and offspring any less or diminish society’s responsibility. It’s just that that, too, has become a political question in 21st Century America.

Define liberal brains by complexity, conservative brains by fear

This is going to sound sort of obvious, but here we go: A study from University College London published this week in Current Biology has discovered that there are actually differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives. Specifically, liberals’ brains tend to be bigger in the area that deals with processing complex ideas and situations, while conservatives’ brains are bigger in the area that processes fear.

According to the report: “We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala.”

People with larger amygdalae respond to perceived threats with more aggression and “are more sensitive to threatening facial expressions.” The anterior cingulate cortex, however, “monitors uncertainty and conflict.” “Thus,” says the report, “it is conceivable that individuals with a larger ACC have a higher capacity to tolerate uncertainty and conflicts, allowing them to accept more liberal views.”

The question remains about sorting the cause-and-effect relationship between ideology and brain structure. Could be that liberal open-mindedness helps the brain grow in complexity – and conservatives habit of cowering behind ideology bloats their right amygdala.

Thanks, Mary Lupin

Your left and right nostril work differently, just like a pigeon

Science News. When pigeons sniff their way home, the right nostril comes in much handier than the left, a team reports January 27 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Previous evidence of this asymmetry led an international team of researchers to investigate using 28 homing pigeons outfitted with GPS devices. The team plugged either a bird’s left or the right nostril and then released the birds about 40 kilometers from home. While all birds headed out in the right direction, pigeons with a blocked right nostril took a more circuitous path, stopping and exploring more en route, suggesting that the right nostril is important for processing navigation-related odors. The team notes that humans also favor the right nostril when detecting and evaluating the intensity of odors, hinting at a broader olfactory asymmetry.

What a relief to have this question settled.

Rising price of maintaining arks in France’s shrinking parishes


Gesté’s church reflected in a shop window

The soaring steeple, airy flying buttresses and steep slate roof of the 19th-century parish church that dominates this town in western France is — like many other village churches in France — scheduled for demolition, a victim of its size, its condition and, ultimately, municipal budget concerns.

Although the church, dedicated to St. Peter, is arguably the sole architectural jewel in this town of 2,400 people, the town has decided to tear it down and replace it with a new one that will be far cheaper to keep up.

Erected in stages to accommodate 900 people, the formidable stone building has stood sadly empty since 2006. Completing the picture of dereliction, it is surrounded by a wire fence to protect visitors from the very real threat of crumbling stonework.

“Because of its size and complexity it will always be costly to maintain,” said Jean-Pierre Léger, 61, a retired engineer who is Gesté’s part-time mayor. “It is a victim of its considerable size. It is too big.”

The mayor and the town council voted, 17 to 16, two years ago to demolish the church, saying it would cost $4.4 million to renovate, against $1.9 million to demolish it and erect a new one…

The struggle is not unique to Gesté. Across France, villages are being forced to ask hard questions about their churches, many of them deteriorating, as the number of parishioners and priests dwindles and the cost of upkeep mounts.

Béatrice de Andia, the founder and president of the Religious Heritage Observatory, in Paris, estimates that there are about 90,000 church buildings in France, of which about 17,000 are under government protection for their historic or architectural value, giving France the greatest density of religious buildings of any European country. About 10 percent of the protected churches are in perilous condition, she says, because of a lack of government financing for their preservation, as are a far larger percentage of the remaining churches.

“The Church may be eternal, but not the churches,” said Ms. de Andia, a retired government cultural official who founded the observatory in 2006 to raise awareness of the parlous state of the country’s religious heritage. “In the past, these buildings were sacred, but today there is no sense of the sacred.”

And even less need.

Logitech cranks out one billionth mouse

A Silicon Valley company has hailed as a major landmark the production of their one billionth computer mouse. Logitech’s description comes at a time when analysts claim the days of the mouse are numbered.

Absurd!

“It’s rare in human history that a billionth of anything has been shipped by one company,” said Logitech’s general manager Rory Dooley. “Look at any other industry and it has never happened. This is a significant milestone,” he told the BBC.

The fundamental functionality of the mouse has not changed for 40 years and that is one of the keys to its success. We do not envisage unlearning all those years of learning but that doesn’t mean to say there will not be a place for touch interfaces.

“Touch will augment the things you can do today with the mouse and keyboard interface,” he added.

Dooley puts talk of the death of the mouse down to hyperbole. I would not be quite as polite.

Recognizing the limitations of other technologies for input – makes them something less than alternatives, rather supplements.