Category: Random

DeFender of the Faith – Andy Mooney, @Fender

It must be tough building a business whose core products were launched in the 1950s. Fender is best known for its solid-body guitars and electric basses: the Telecaster (1950), the Stratocaster (1954) and the Precision Bass (1951).

The Times this week has a profile of Fender’s CEO, Andy Mooney, who took the reins in 2015. It’s a fascinating read both for gear-heads (I’m a life-long Fender fan) and strategy gurus.

Among the insights are Fender’s lack of customer research when Mooney arrived – “I didn’t know who was buying or using the guitars.” – what the subsequent research showed, and how Fender responded.

First-time players were a much larger segment than expected (45% of guitars sold) and 90% abandoned playing within a year. The response? Fender Play is a new subscription service bringing online video lessons to learners with a goal of reducing the churn

If we could reduce the abandonment rate by only 10 per cent, we could double the size of the industry.

An insightful article.

By coincidence (or marketing success), I posted a video a couple of months ago that originated with Fender Play.

Mooney was first inspired to pick up the guitar by Ritchie Blackmore, so it’s only fair to also share…

Image: Fender

Plants hear bees buzz

Here’s an interesting piece from the National Geographic on how plants respond to the vibration of buzzing bees to sweeten their nectar.

To test the primroses in the lab, Hadany’s team exposed plants to five sound treatments: silence, recordings of a honeybee from four inches away, and computer-generated sounds in low, intermediate, and high frequencies. Plants given the silent treatment—placed under vibration-blocking glass jars—had no significant increase in nectar sugar concentration. The same went for plants exposed to high-frequency (158 to 160 kilohertz) and intermediate-frequency (34 to 35 kilohertz) sounds.

But for plants exposed to playbacks of bee sounds (0.2 to 0.5 kilohertz) and similarly low-frequency sounds (0.05 to 1 kilohertz), the final analysis revealed an unmistakable response. Within three minutes of exposure to these recordings, sugar concentration in the plants increased from between 12 and 17 percent to 20 percent.

But then, thinking of plants “hearing” is maybe a case looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Isn’t it possibly how hearing evolved in animals?

Read the article, here.

 

Photo by Stefano Ghezzi on Unsplash

Save our cappuccino – Ben Macintyre in The Times

Ben Macintyre has a sobering column in Saturday’s Times:

Most wild coffee species are under threat, with 60 per cent facing possible extinction from shrinking natural habitat, deforestation and climate change, according to researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. Wild arabica, the original of the world’s most widely used coffee, has in the past few years been classified for the first time as endangered.

Read the full column, here.

 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Death of Venice

The Times has a couple of sad pieces on Venice.

Kneeling, he touches the foundation of one of the marble columns holding up St Mark’s Basilica, which symbolised Venetian power for a millennium. Fragments come away in his fingers.

“Water now enters the church 200 times a year,” said Mr Tesserin, administrator of the 11th century Italo-Byzantine masterpiece overlooking St Mark’s Square. “The marble is literally crumbling thanks to the corrosive salt.”

Continue reading “Death of Venice”

The sovereignty of the Ouija board

We sovereign professionals are a strong-willed lot, always completely in control and aware of the forces acting on us. So, I love this psychology study on Ouija users.

Psychologists at Aarhus University tracked the eye movements of users in the normal, involuntary, spirit-driven state and when using the planchette (pointer) to deliberately spell out words in a “voluntary” state.

Spoiler alert!

The experimenters found that:

when looking to see whether at least one participant in a pair made a predictive eye movement, the rates of prediction were just as high as for individuals in the voluntary condition (i.e. for any given move of the planchette, at least one person usually knew where it was going); second, rates of prediction increased in the Ouija board condition, but not the voluntary condition, presumably as the participants became increasingly aware of the diminishing number of meaningful options available.

Read the full spookiness, here.

 

Photo by dragonoak on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

A place to live and work – late addition

A late, but essential,  addition to the previous post.

Apparently, singer Tori Amos is selling her Ballywilliam House, her home in Kinsale, Ireland.

I feel I could both live and work quite happily there.

I love Georgian architecture and this looks amazing. I particularly like how the lawn rolls up to the front door.

The asking price is €1.45 million. More details here.

According to Neil Gaiman, in a recent tweet, “This is where I finished American Gods, where I wrote a lot of Anansi Boys, and where I got flu and completely failed to write any of the Graveyard Book. It’s the most peaceful and magical place. I hope it finds a new person who cherishes it.”

Beyond Binary – Ipsos MORI on Generation Z

Ipsos MORI publishes a fascinating new report on Generation Z, specifically the 5-15 year-old age group: Beyond Binary – the lives and choices of Generation Z.

It summarises seven findings:

  1. Increasingly fluid – “What we mean is that things are more open, less set, because people do have more ways to connect, see and experience more things.”
  2. No turning point on trust – “Our new analysis shows no real differences in levels of trust among the young with regards to all sorts of traditional institutions.”
  3. Just as caring – “But this does not mean that Gen Z are a cohort of activists.
    Neither are they selfish snowflakes, too busy watching YouTube videos of people eating Tide Pods. The evidence suggests they are just as active in social causes as previous generations, sometimes in different ways (using technology), but just as often in traditional ways, such as volunteering.”
  4. Inflection point on health – On obesity: “it’s not getting better either. A lot of this is arguably to do with the environment around young people which is shaped to make it harder to keep a healthy weight – the people they see, the shops they shop at, the food they have available, all create a social norm, and are often geared to make them fat.”
  5. Importance of digital skills – “In some ways, Generation Z already have an
    innate advantage over other generations, just through growing up fully integrated with technology – they are much more discerning of online sources than Millennial children ever were.”
  6. Danger is different – “Generation Z are not the teenage rebels of ages past. Generational declines in youth crime, smoking, drinking and sexual activity reflect a significant behavioural shift.”
  7. And digital is double-edged – “There is a growing body of evidence of the downsides from unfettered use of technology, prompting more strident statements from politicians and officials, including the head of the NHS in the UK. Social media use has correlations with anxiety, bullying, peer pressure, lower self-esteem, alongside much more positive outcomes.
    We’re only in the infancy of understanding the full impact.”

Also, some fascinating data points (in no particular order):

  • In 25 EU countries, the number of young people detained by the police dropped by 42% between 2008 and 2014.
  • In the US in 2015, 22% of high schoolers had been in a physical fight that year compared with 36% in 1999.
  • 66% of Generation Z think of themselves as exclusively heterosexual
    compared with 71% of Millennials, 85% of Gen X and 88% of Baby Boomers.
  • Just 30% of teenagers feel the things they own say a lot about how well they are doing in life, compared with 42% in 2011.
  • Only 39% of teens prefer to buy gender-specific shoes, compared with
    57% of Millennials.
  • 40% of 12-15 year olds in 2010, felt that things they saw on social media were either entirely or mostly true; just 24% of Gen Z 12-15 year olds think that now.

The full report is here.

The Register has a (typically styled) summary here.

 

Photo by David Calderón on Unsplash

Settled science – the Cultural Offering of @HardenKurt

Pressed for time but eager to keep pace with the latest scientific developments?

Cultural Offering brings you Settled Science:

All this plus inspiration and more music than you can shake a stick at (as they say, but as I’ve never quite understood).

And, via Cultural Offering, here’s Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs:

 

Photo by Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash