My Apple Watch: First Impressions

I am a very lucky young lady. I have a fiance who loves to cater to my whim and desire, and so when he found me drooling over the Apple watch on launch day, it was only a matter of time before he got me one. I held out though. I’m not some crazed Apple fan-person who will buy the latest product for the sake of it. I didn’t like the iPhone 6 when it came out (although I am warming to it). Instead, I love Apple products for their beautiful and thoughtful design, intuitive interfaces, and impressive processing power.

So, this week I got my Apple watch. 38 mm, black leather strap with a traditional buckle. Because I’m a traditional kind of gal.
Before D bought it, I’d spent hours watching and reading the various promos and reviews, which on the most part, seemed to come up good and bad in equal measure. I’m no tech expert, but I wanted to share a few of my first impressions after a couple of days with this bad boy on my wrist.

My Apple Watch


Ohmygosh I just love the iPackaging. I think it must appeal to my stationery fetish – its a petit mort as every sheet of plastic is peeled away, and every tab lifted. And the packaging for the Apple watch is the jewel in the crown. It took me five whole minutes of quivering over the box before I got it out. Yum yum yum. Oh, and I was very pleased that it came in a squarish box, as opposed to the long ones I’ve seen on other videos. Much better form factor. Yum. 5/5 Would unbox again

On my wrist
I’m not used to wearing a watch. In fact, I rarely wear bracelets because I’m conscious that anything there makes my hand look fat. Vain I know, but there you go. Anyway, I just love the look of this watch on my wrist. Its sleek, and stylish, and fits well, although I am still adjusting to how tight it needs to be. I’m just not used to something so black and shiny and so very much fixed on the top of my wrist. Also, by the end of day 1, I’d got a very clammy upper wrist. I think is very much a personal thing, and it will take time to feel completely comfortable. I’m hoping, too that the leather will soften a bit. 4/5 Cool but clammy

Showing off 

Oh wow! Is that the Apple watch?! Why, yes, yes it is. I’m among one of the first of the people I know to have one, and it has attracted the expected amount of green admiration. I’ve felt a combination of guilt of having one, the need to justify it, and the desire to show it off. If you’re not impressed by the face of a clock, the Apple watch doesn’t really do itself any favours. There’s not a great deal to show off, and the functionality really does shine when you’re just using it. It’s just a pretty thing that is pretty good at doing a job that people don’t really think they need. And one more pet peeve: its an Apple Watch, not a bloody iWatch!  3/5 Beautiful but boring

The Interface

Like I said before, I love Apple products because of their intuitive interfaces. I’m an intuitive kind of person, and I’ve always found it relatively straightforward to adapt to new iDevices. Not so with the watch. It is a completely new, and relatively steep learning curve that deviates considerably from the normal way of doing things, and it just feels strange. Take, for example, the force touch. An amazing piece of engineering and very clever way to add functionality to such a small screen, but do you know what it feels like? It feels like a right click. It feels like, whenever I’m force touching, I’m accessing a little-used menu or changing a setting that shouldn’t really be fiddled with that often. It doesn’t feel natural or easy, and in most of the watch apps, it’s not immediately obvious what I’m going to get from a force touch. Again, I know it’s all about getting used to it, but I was shocked at how tricky it seems.  3/5 Force touch my what, now?!

Watch Apps

I’m going to be honest. I’m pretty disappointed with what I can do with my watch. And I’m pretty sure that’s down to the functionality of the apps. I’ve explored to the greatest possible extent the force touches, wheel turns and etherial gestures that the apps could possibly be demanding, and have still found the majority of them lacking. Oh, I’ll happily get the notifications from my phone “Arch Enemy has liked a photo you are tagged in!”, but there’s no native Facebook app for me to check which photo. I’d like to look again at that important email I received minutes ago, but I have to navigate through the bubble menu to get at it – no glances for mail. I can’t reply to an email, not even with a standard ‘OK’ or ‘Great!’. I can’t add an item to my calendar, I can’t send my watchless fiance a picture of a comedy penis, I can’t review my whole Wunderlist to do list, I can’t easily review the forecast for when I get home from work, I can’t add f*cking punctuation to my texts (that deserves a rant of its own), the map navigated me to a Priory Road in London, instead of my home street. And why oh why is Activity buzzing me incessantly to say “Well Done! You’ve achieved 43% of your standing goal!”, like I’m supposed to be pleased with myself?!

am impressed by the speed and the neatness of a lot of the apps, and especially by Siri, but I just find that the functionality has been pared down waay too much for my lifestyle. I want to interact with the world, not just be aware of it.  2/5 Why can’t I just reply?!

OK. Texts. 

I’m a bit of a grammar nerd. I truly believe that if something’s worth saying at all, it’s worth saying well, with a well-worded sentence and appropriate punctuation. Since I had my first phone, I’ve been writing texts, even short ones, as sentences. My iPhone made that even easier – it spell-checked, it autocorrected, it put lovely full stops and capital letters in. And now, my watch, which is exceptionally good at understanding what I’m saying is hurting me with its cold lack of expression.


Me (via siri on watch): How are you feeling

D: “A bit better. Did you use your watch for that last message?”

Me: Absolutely

Me: Not sure I can handle this

D: “I know, right?!”

D: “Wait. Are you ok? Was that about the texting or something else”

Me: I’m fine

D: “Are you ‘fine’? Or really fine? Like, fine fine, or not fine?”

Me: Stop teasing me

D: ; )

Ok I know I can put in punctuation if I say “What time are you home question mark” – but really? Am I expected to be comfortable with telegrammatic dictation in 2015? Surely those clever people in Mountain View can come up with a way of recognising my tone of voice, or at least giving me options for sentence construction. I feel as though this has all been rushed, and in Apple’s desperation to get a functional voice-driven personal assistant, we are being expected to abandon the niceties of text-based communication, which is something I resent. Is it going to learn from me? Are my common messages going to be remembered (I send D a lot of “I love you”‘s, to remind him that I appreciate my expensive gifts)? How is it going to deal with homophones?  2/5 It’s fine


So this has turned into more of a rant than a review, but with such high hopes, I think it’s inevitable that the first impressions will be niggles and disappointments. Don’t get me wrong, I’m seriously impressed by the power, design and potential of this watch. But it has left me wanting more. More functionality, more intuition, more intelligence.

I’ll write something else in a couple of weeks, when I’ve had chance to acclimatise to the sheer newness of this gadget. Overall, I’m extremely happy that I have a beautiful and powerful game changer on my wrist. But it’s not going to change any games right now, at least not for me. I can’t make the best use of a ‘smart’ watch until it is smart enough to know what I want, or at least offer the opportunity for me to tell it.


Sketches from Hastings

I’ve lived in Hastings for nearly eight months now, and I am still continually struck by how beautiful it can be. Travelling around, and coming home, I welcome the sight of the sea, and the rise and swell of the East and West hills.

Not had much time to do anything but work and catch up with life, but here are a couple of quick drawings I did months ago and have just got round to finishing off. The first is Pelham Crescent, the street where I live, and the second is what used to be Broomham Hall, now Buckswood School, where I work. More to come, hopefully.

Pelham Crescent, Hastings. Leila Battison, 2013.

Pelham Crescent, Hastings. Leila Battison, 2013.

Buckswood School, Guestling. Leila Battison, 2013

Buckswood School, Guestling. Leila Battison, 2013

Some Saucy Studies

The science making the news this weeks has taken a sexy turn, with some eyebrow raising complimentary studies, and something else maybe a little more contradictory.
Firstly, you’ll all be glad to hear that, as msn reported, sex and alcohol make you happier than kids and religion. Well no shit Sherlock. It doesn’t take a bearded academic to realise that we live in a world of hedonism and pleasure-seeking. Anyone with opportunity is a fool not to take advantage of the modern luxuries available to them, and even those more disadvantaged are likely to seek solace in the bottom of a bottle, or the reckless abandon of a romp between the sheets.
But I found the reports a little misleading. According to the study from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, which used ‘experience data’ gathered from text messages and digital media, sex and alcohol indeed top the pleasure list, but religion and children far from make us unhappy – they’re numbers four and five of the top bestest things what make us happy, just after volunteering at number three. A little misleading reporting there msn, tsk tsk. An entirely different list was compiled of those things that make us unhappiest including at number one, predictably, being ill. Also on the list are ‘Facebook’ and ‘texting’. So people are using Facebook and texting to moan about Facebook and texting. The profundity of it all staggers me.
So why do we get so much pleasure from sex? Well a study, from the State University of New York, and appropriately reported in The Sun and the Daily Mail, says its all in the semen. Apparently seminal fluid has been found to contain antidepressants and ‘mood altering chemicals’, that are actively good for women’s cognitive health. Not particularly helpful in advocating protected sex, and part of me is surprised that we’ve only just found this out (after all, men have been advocating the dietary benefits of the stuff for decades), but it’s a fascinating perspective on our sexual evolutionary adaptations.  I feel a book coming on, really I do.
So, given that we’re evolutionarily predisposed to relish a little rumpy-pumpy and would sooner clutch at a bottle than a prayer, it might come as a surprise that a study published in Current Anthropology found that we are more cooperative and community minded than our ancestors ever were. Contradictory though these findings may seem, the new theory proposed by Michael Tomasello and others from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, on the basis of psychology experiments and studies of human development, explains altruism in a whole new light. Altruism poses a bit of a problem for group evolution, going against the grain for survival of the fittest – but our developing culture and the need for ecological balance may just have forced us into bed with one another, so to speak, and ensured our mutual and cooperative interest in continuing that culture.
And what better way to secure that trusting cooperative relationship necessary for the continuation of the species, than to open that bottle of wine, put on a little Barry White, and to sneak attack her with some antidepressants where she least expects it…

I’m not one to boast but…

…I’m a Doctor!  Don’t worry, not a useful one, unless you want someone to look over your ancient fossils (not your grandmother). On Monday I passed my viva voce, a three hour examination that marked the end of the four year trial by science that was my DPhil. Given leave to supplicate, you can apparently now call me ‘Dr Leila Battison’.

The last few months have been completely crazy.  After my last post, I spent another month at NASA, made some truly unforgettable friends in San Francisco, then skipped town with a friend from England to tour around the western USA.  I came home at the beginning of October, and sat still for just over a week before I skipped of to tour the UK and Ireland with a friend from the US.  It’s just been one long adventure, and the date of the viva completely crept up on me.  Best way probably, as I didn’t have time to get worried about it until about half an hour before!
Anyway, with all of that out of the way, I’m finally starting to catch up with the many things that I’ve abandoned over the last 2 months of adventuring.
Also expect a flurry of updates over here.  Having travelled around ten thousand miles in the last month in the name of adventuring, I have stories to tell and photos to share.
a very relieved Dr Leila.
(here’s a picture of me looking drunk and happy with my lovely friends who celebrated the day with me)
me being drunk and looking smug

me being drunk and looking smug

F*ck yes! Curiosity lands on Mars!

It was spectacularly ambitious and terrifying complicated, but at 10:31pm Pacific time, the MSL rover, Curiosity, touched down softly on the surface of Mars, and sent back its first thumbnail image of the horizon through a fisheye lens.

First thumbnail image returned to Earth from MSL/Curiosity after its landing on Mars.  Courtesy of NASA.

First thumbnail image returned to Earth from MSL/Curiosity after its landing on Mars. Courtesy of NASA.

I watched the rover’s launch in November from my bedroom and shed a private tear of pride and hope. Tonight I was at NASA Ames in California, sharing many tears of happiness and relief.  Nearly ten thousand people packed out the parade ground inside Ames, watching the two huge screens as mission control checked off each automated stage from NASA’s JPL in Pasadena.  Ripples of applause at the switching of antennae and data feeds turned to hearty cheers and then whoops and shouts of delight as entry began, the parachute was deployed, the retro-boosters set in, and finally, MSL touched down on Mars.  It’s hard to believe any image has caused such universal joy as that first 64×64 thumbnail of the Martian surface.

Mission control for MSL/Curiosity Landing at NASA JPL via the big screens at NASA Ames.

Mission control for MSL/Curiosity Landing at NASA JPL via the big screens at NASA Ames.

Over the last few weeks I had become increasingly tired of watching NASA’s cinematic ‘7 minutes of terror’ trailer, and explaining the to best of my knowledge the intricacies of the upcoming landing.  But the event tonight, experienced not only by the scientists involved, and the thousands packed into NASA centres across America, but by the whole world through unrivalled live streaming, is something that can not be easily explained or forgotten.  Watching the landing, I had chills that had nothing to do with the coolness of the night, and seeing its success, there is a warmth and elation that is nothing to do with the celebratory swigs of fizz.

We have landed toys on Mars before, small rovers the size of remote control cars, and barely better equipped.  In comparison, the behemoth we have just lowered out of the sky from a freaking jet pack, is a fully equipped geochemical and geological laboratory.  It’s the size of a small car and weighs nearly a tonne, and we’ve just airlifted it from 500,000 miles away.  It’s going to tell us more about the geological and habitable history than we’ve ever known before, and I get to work with that data to look for traces of past life. It’s going to be an unbelievably exciting couple of years.

But first, I’m just going to bask in scientific glory and pride.  Today we touched Mars with curiosity, and Curiosity survives to tell the tale.  What a fucking awesome time to be here.

Beers to fit the Mars landing theme...

Beers to fit the Mars landing theme…