Apple Watch? Next product, please.

The prices grate. And they grate not because they’re so expensive, but because they’re gratuitously expensive. The Apple Watch Sport (which starts at $350) and the high-end Apple Watch Edition have the same innards. Their internal computer is the same; they will have the same effect on a user’s life. The only difference is that Apple is manufacturing a status symbol with the Edition. Instead of telling users to pay up because they’ll get a better quality experience, it’s telling them to pay up because they can, and because a more expensive watch is inherently preferable.

To many commentators, this is unsurprising. It’s good business sense, really. Apple has made its world-devouring profits by ratcheting up profit margins on iPhones. There is no better target for these massive margins than the super-rich.
The Atlantic: With Its $10,000 Watch, Apple Has Lost Its Soul

I view Apple’s $10k watch through the same lens as when I saw a 100-disc CD changer back in 199-whatever: it’s something bored, rich idiots purchase to impress other bored, rich idiots. If you have to even look at the price, you aren’t the target demographic for a $10k watch.

I’ve seen posited that Apple is using the $10k watch to anchor the justification of the $350 watch, but I don’t think that’s entirely it. Apple is genuine in their pricing because there is an entire luxury watch market that is completely out of reach for the majority of people in the world, but Rolex makes a tidy profit on the 600k watches it sells per year. I think where the idiocy comes in is that the guts of the $10k watch is exactly the same as the $350 watch, and those guts will be completely obsolete in two years. The purchaser does not get any nifty, new, complicated schemes with their $10k watch vs the $350 like they would with a Rolex, and those schemes will last a lot longer than two years. The scheme will simply just work. (See what I did there?) The $10k watch is simply “new packaging, same great taste.” But, then, the people who have $10k to throw at a new watch really don’t care. Thus, bored, rich idiots.

All of this makes sense to those that sees watches as a status symbol, which is true for a significant number of people, even those who can’t afford even low-end Rolexes. But if you, like me, view them more as functional devices—when I travel or have an occasion where a watch would help, I wear the same model Casio digital watch I wore in high school; good in a pinch and easily replaceable should I lose it—then there is little to no appeal in even the $350 Apple watch, and we’re waiting to see what Apple has up its sleeve to appeal to us. How about fixing Yosemite’s waking from sleep problems? I’d pay good money for that.

Inflated

First, the NFL could reveal today that the whole thing is rigged these days like professional wrestling has always been, making “spy-gate” and “deflate-gate” all part of the act, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I have my suspicions on this, but nothing to back them up. So, whatever.

Second, even if the Patriots did, in fact, intentionally cheat by deflating the balls to make them easier to play, that still doesn’t explain how the Colts did so poorly in the game. Simply saying a deflated ball is easier to play implies that everyone on the field would have benefited one way or another, and not just one team. There is evidence out there in the commentary that incorrectly-inflated balls is fairly common.

Finally, if the balls were unintentionally deflated because of simple physics (Boyle’s pressure law, anyone?), the amount of press this is getting outside of the sports pages is bordering on the asinine. In other words, the NFL is entertainment. No spectator’s life is directly affected by this the same way it is for those directly involved in the league; spectators have team integrity as affectation, not as career choice. So, if the game changes such that blatant cheating becomes a part of the story, and I, as a viewer, find that unpalatable, there are other options.

Comics and the Kids

. . . where were the superheros for girls that weren’t quite so overdeveloped and under-dressed? When the guy behind the counter was asked, he smiled at me knowingly, and said “Your daughter’s…seven?” I said yes. “Same here,” he continued. “I always bring her home these.” . . Hello Kitty and Monster High.
IT in the D: What Taking My Daughter to a Comic Book Store Taught Me

I took my daughter to a comic book store for the first time a few weeks ago. I haven’t been to one regularly in ages—definitely not in the past ten years or so—though I am picking up some of the Moebius reprints from time to time. The store offers a better collection of kid-appropriate, and girl-specific comics, than those mentioned in the article. There are kids’ versions of Superman and Spider-Man (who knew? And they’re funny, too), and there’s actually Powerpuff Girls and Archie, both of which were always personal favorites. So, we picked up a couple issues of each. The kids are hooked on comics now, as I had hoped, and I enjoy reading them to the kids. So we’re going back tomorrow, and will likely make going to buy comics a regular thing for a quick and easy one-on-one activity that isn’t going to cost me a ton of money (yet).

Despite the increased selection—easily eight feet of kids comics—the point still stands. The kids’ selection equate to maybe 5% of the overall selection in the store, and the girl-specific selection is maybe 5% of that. The rest of the gear is clearly geared towards demographics that will never be her at any age. While my daughter didn’t ask any of the questions posed in the article the last time we went, she will at some point. This is only a matter of time. My horizons were broadened widely when my daughter was born, and will continue to be until the day I die, and I’m not sure of what my response is going to be. Like so much of parenting, I’ll probably just wing it. The rest of the store is rather uncomfortable as a parent, however, not just of a daughter but of a son as well because the men in comics tend to be just as impossibly over-developed as the women in many cases.

“The Open-Office Trap” Revisited

Speaking of the New Yorker article I posted just now:

With everything we know about open plan offices, why are these mega-rich companies knocking themselves out to hire the very best and brightest minds from the world’s best universities, paying them huge salaries, tapping world-class architects to design artisanal office spaces in the most expensive place in the country, and then cramming desks together in noisy bullpens?
Matt Blodgett: But Where Do People Work in This Office?

Great question. The other thing I think of when I see open office plans like this the fact one person with the cold or flu will easily wipe out the entire floor. I’ve witnessed that event myself, especially in those environments where the desks are really just an eight-foot (if that) stretch of work bench. At least if I have a cold, I can close myself in my office and just call into meetings, sparing everyone else around me.

The Open-Office Trap

But the most problematic aspect of the open office may be physical rather than psychological: simple noise. In laboratory settings, noise has been repeatedly tied to reduced cognitive performance. The psychologist Nick Perham, who studies the effect of sound on how we think, has found that office commotion impairs workers’ ability to recall information, and even to do basic arithmetic. Listening to music to block out the office intrusion doesn’t help: even that, Perham found, impairs our mental acuity. Exposure to noise in an office may also take a toll on the health of employees. In a study by the Cornell University psychologists Gary Evans and Dana Johnson, clerical workers who were exposed to open-office noise for three hours had increased levels of epinephrine—a hormone that we often call adrenaline, associated with the so-called fight-or-flight response. What’s more, Evans and Johnson discovered that people in noisy environments made fewer ergonomic adjustments than they would in private, causing increased physical strain. The subjects subsequently attempted to solve fewer puzzles than they had after working in a quiet environment; in other words, they became less motivated and less creative.

I have an office. One wall is completely glass, but an office, nonetheless. I have told HR they can pry it from my cold, dead hands. The walls here are thin—two sheets of drywall and a metal stud to hold them up—but I can put in a pair of 3M disposal industrial earplugs, and my office is quieter than the Widener Library during summer break.

Bold

The front cover of Wednesday’s edition of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, the first since last week’s attack on its Paris offices that left 12 people dead, is a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad.

The cover shows the prophet shedding a tear and holding up a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” in sympathy with the dead journalists. The headline says “All is forgiven”.

Bold on all levels.

Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech

Seeing as how there are so many different beliefs in the world, and as it would be virtually impossible for all of us to agree on any one belief, you may begin to realize just how important an idea like ‘freedom of speech’ really is. The idea basically states ‘while I don’t agree or care for what you are saying, I do support your right to say it, for herein lies true freedom’.
Letters of Note: Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech

Bill Hicks clearly got it.

Apple needs to rein it back in

We don’t need major OS releases every year. We don’t need each OS release to have a huge list of new features. We need our computers, phones, and tablets to work well first so we can enjoy new features released at a healthy, gradual, sustainable pace.
Marco.org: Apple has lost the functional high ground

Hear hear. I love Mac OS because it has a style and feature set that just “clicks” with the way I think. Yosemite looks cool and all, but it doesn’t work nearly as smoothly as past iterations of Mac OS. I have things to do for both work and school. I would prefer an OS that is simple and reasonably bug-free over some new, arguably flashy feature or tool. One could make the argument that I just move to Unix, but then the “click” is lost. Apple needs to get its collective head back on straight and get us back to a paradigm where upgrades prioritize stability over other considerations.