Adventures into the Madness

Tepring’s Review of Star Trek 2009


People keep asking, (as if I have some sage, inside wisdom) “What did you think about the new Star Trek movie?”  Well, here goes.  My long considered, long overdue review of Star Trek 2009.


With one, tiny exception:  THEY KILLED ME OFF!

Ok (spoilers be damned), in the new timeline created by crazy Romulan Nero, Vulcan is destroyed.  A mere handful of Vulcans in the universe survive.  The odds that Spock’s two-timing betrothed has somehow survived the holocaust are somewhat slim.  In the face of sheer probability, T’Pring is a clump of atoms cozying up with the rest of the planet inside the improbably small black hole that is all that remains of Vulcan.

When I have bemoaned this likelihood to friends, however, I have been overwhelmingly reassured that no good story can go unplagiarized.  With the unwavering faith of fans and skeptics alike, I have been told that surely some way will be found to explain T’Pring’s survival, ensuring that she can, yet again, dump Spock at the altar.  The notion tickled me.  Were I to put myself in her place (my place?)  I would most likely find myself vexed that Spock risked life and limb to rescue mummy and daddy, but didn’t even bother to drop his bride-to-be a text message.  A simple “Hey Babe, plnt 2 mplde.  Get 2 shp.  L8r.” would have been nice.  Do we not have to repopulate the species here?

Namesake musings aside, I found Star Trek 2009 thoroughly entertaining.  It is, by far, the best looking and best acted of all the Star Trek movies.  The scripting and storytelling rate right up there with “Voyage Home” (the one with the whales) and “Wrath of Khan” (the one with the wrath of Khan).  There were oodles of inside jokes and homages to satisfy the most devout of fans.  My very clever friend caught several nods that I missed in the first viewing.

A work of art it was not:  The bugs in the snow were stupid.  Kirk hanging from the edge of <insert scary high place> was overused.  The Nero plot was puzzling and it took a second viewing and watercooler conversation to get it sorted out.  Some of this confusion may have stemmed from the expectation that they would sort things out in the end, set the timeline right.  So when the story kept veering from that solution, it felt wrong somehow.

The worst scene of the whole movie was the Spock mind-meld explanation of his events in the future.  Spock-prime’s line “The unthinkable happened.  Romulus was destroyed.” was the biggest cop out in plot complication history.  At least give me “The Supernova was more unstable than had been predicted” or some technobabble to make it sound more like a tragedy.  As written, I sort of wondered if Spock had simply stopped at the QT and dawdled a little too long over the “magazines” on his way to the nova.  I’m still wondering how a supernova could be a “Threat to the universe/galaxy” whichever it was.

Ultimately, the flaws were resoundingly overshadowed by great dialog, fantastic acting and the prettiest special effects Star Trek has ever seen.  The Enterprise never looked so good – I really want a poster of the moment when it comes screaming out of warp to attack Nero’s ship, phasers blazing.

I laughed out loud many times.  I liked all the young versions of my favorite characters.  And best of all, Abrams and the writers somehow managed to capture that Star Trek at its best feeling:  Enemies can be conquered, and heroes are “well-adjusted and altruistic”.  (10 points for naming the reference…)

I just hope I’m not dead.

posted under Frants | No Comments »

Twitter has Tipped


Ok, it’s not just me.  A month ago I posted a comment about Facebook being taken over by the unwashed masses and glibly commented that Twitter was the place to be for the “cool” early adopters who don’t like their coolness messed up by a bunch of whiny housewives and fathers-in-law.  (yeah, my Dad joined Facebook a couple weeks ago…)

Cue “marketing event of massive proportions” and suddenly Twitter has “tipped” into the mainstream consciousness.  My poor husband.  When a website hits the front page of the KC Star, the coolness gets sucked out of it like a prom queen at a vampire convention.  Just when he’d figured out how to market his new technical book on Twitter, he’ll have to start explaining to all the housewives what “SEO” means.  Again.

My prediction is that the Twitter frenzy is a flash.  It’s a tool that a lot of people just won’t get.  A lot will, but unlike Facebook, it’s true purpose is disturbingly nebulous.  Facebook was founded from the start with “friend” type relationships and social rules in mind.  The tools and applications one finds themselves spending way too much time playing with are all oriented around ‘getting to know you when I already know you’.  The accepted practices do not include marketing and advertising – nor even work-related shop talk for the most part – among one’s friends.

Twitter has grown to become a strange mix of connections to people I know only casually and those I don’t know at all.  The Ashton Kutcher/CNN contest has only reinforced the idea that twitter is for making connections to people you don’t actually know, and probably never will.   But what’s the point of that?  I follow an actor or two I like, and have enjoyed seeing them tweet about projects they’re working on.  I’ll look for those shows to appear when they air.  I followed my husband on his camping trip and it was quite a relief to see his “I’m off the river” tweet each afternoon.  (He’s still alive!)

There has been a whole method developed by marketers on Twitter that drive followers to products and media for profit.  (see aforementioned technical book)  This seems like a valid “point” for those who use it this way but it doesn’t make me that interested in setting myself up as a potential customer.  I’m still trying to ‘get it’.  I’m still annoyed I didn’t get the user name ‘tepring’.  A poignant lesson for the slower-to-adopt users out there.

Meanwhile, hubby is resignedly tweeting and looking for the next “cool” social networking tool.  I think I’ll make him give me a list so I can go register my name early.

(Title refers to Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point:  How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference , kindle ed.)

posted under Frants | No Comments »

It’s Official – I’m in the facebook demographic


I’m usually about 18 months behind the internet trendy curves, but in some twist of the space-time continuum, I managed to catch on to Facebook at exactly the moment it “tipped” into my demographic.  That is “The female, mid-thirties” demographic.  Kids not required, but significant other seems to be.  The four friend invitations in a single day from old classmates and long-lost-track-of friends sealed the deal.  But that’s what makes Facebook great.

For my part, I have greatly appreciated the peep into my friends’ lives (hey, sorry you’re sick today) and catching up with far away friends (oh, hey, I didn’t know so and so had 3 kids!).  In some ways, it’s become like a wierd class reunion.  I just don’t have to lose 20 pounds and dye the hair for a weekend of pretending to still be 18.

Instead, on Facebook, I can convey my image in a single icon on my homepage – that carefully chosen picture that just happened to be in great lighting on a day my hair wasn’t doing its usual frizzy thing.  And apparently, that little picture is a big deal.  I have a friend (also on Facebook) who works at a photography studio that is doing “Facebook” sessions where women can go spend an evening, get a makeover then get a picture taken.  My first thought was BRILLIANT.  My second thought was (but what if my hair is doing its frizzy thing that day?  Better not risk it.)  I expect there will be much more marketing targeted my way over the coming months.  It will be interesting to see what advertisers think I’m interested in.

In the meantime, my husband is running for the hills, bemoaning that all coolness that facebook ever had has been sucked into the black hole of “popularity”.  I’m sure the teens agree.  I’m going to have to go get a Twitter account just to annoy him.

posted under Frants | No Comments »

Do you Like it? – The Kindle Experience or “iPhone vs. Kindle”


I’ve been dragging my Kindle2 around with me everywhere and everyone who figures out what it is I’m reading on and poking at asks me the same question:  Do you like it?

To which I enthusiastically answer, “Yes!”

But the question I feel like everyone is actually asking is:  Should I get one?

“Do you like it?” is a good place to ask someone who has one, but here’s the thing – who is “you”?  Because the Kindle is one of those tools that isn’t quite for everyone.

“I” am a person who enjoys gadgets and has no trouble figuring out UI quirks and how to make things work.  I am also a big reader, although I would not describe myself as “avid”.  I also possess the quirky trait of liking to read my favorite books and stories over and over and over.  There are several books on my shelf that have been worn out and replaced not once, but twice.  I read a lot of word documents and have very much enjoyed being able to import them.  I like newspaper articles, but hate, hate, HATE the giant, dead tree format.  The Kindle is a good fit and a good tool for how and what and why I read.

The thing I have been most surprised by is how well the Kindle mimics the book reading experience.  The page width, fonts and screen tones feel so familiar that I actually found myself lifting my hands to “turn” a page several times before I remembered that the button turns it instead.  My brain was tricked into that familiar pattern.  Observations like this have changed my assumption that the Kindle is for early adopter, geeky types who aren’t necessarily avid readers.  I would now, firmly, say that the people who would like it best are avid readers who are just techy enough to appreciate the storage capabilities and savvy enough to download books (which is easy).  Its target market really is the devoted “reader”.

This is probably why there are negative reviews out there that bemoan the Kindle’s lack of multi-functionality and internet features.  While these are valid comments, they are features that aren’t important to the target market, and in fact would sabotage some of the “experience” that Amazon is deliberately imitating.  Amazon has it’s work cut out because its target market are bookworms who are also probably the most resistant to changing their reading habits.  The techy folks who are most likely to adopt new tools for the fun of it are also going to be looking for the most multifunctionality and be disappointed by the Kindle.

It’s sort of a cat-person or dog-person kind of thing with the Kindle existing in the marketing equivalent of that creepy Nickelodeon character Catdog.  Which are you?

In my house, we have one of each of the above.  I’m the Kindle-type, who loves the classy screen and is happily adapting my “curling up with a book” moments into “curling up with the Kindle”.  My husband is uber-geek, techno of the day type.  His love affair with his iPhone prompted the creation of family rules about bringing it to the dinner table which the four year old happily enforces.  (DADDY!  NO TOYS AT SUPPER! <insert ferocious glare and hands on hips>)

While I would enjoy an iPhone, I would waste most of its capacity for geekdom with simple indifference.  Hubby admits that he is very impressed with the Kindle as a reading tool and loves the idea of finding another way to fill his brain with stuff.  But since all of the content he digests on a daily basis is produced (almost) exclusively on the internet, the Kindle would need to beef up its web browsing and blog downloading UI.  In truth, it may get there, but is not so now for the likes of him.  (And it doesn’t have a LOL Cats app.)

So…does this mean I like it?  Yes.  I like it.  Should you get one?  I can’t tell you that.  Hopefully the above will point you towards the followup questions you should ask of yourself.

posted under Frants | 1 Comment »

Week 1 – The Kindle experience


So, the first week has come and gone.  I admit to falling in increasing love with my little toy.  After several nights of reading my required bedtime-story on it, I branched off into newspaper articles and tried out the spiffy magazine subscription option.  I have uploaded several of my own documents to read.  I went shopping at the Amazon store directly from the Kindle and found it surprisingly easy to buy stuff although the UI needs some work.

The best thing so far is the screen.  The text is truly beautiful and very easy on the eye.  After months of reading mostly on a standard laptop monitor, I found that reading on the Kindle was stunningly easier and my reading was much faster.  Hubby was quick to point out that the Kindle does not have the many distractions that my laptop does.  That is definitely a point, but then he picked it up and read through the newspaper.  Before I wrestled it back out of his grabby hands, he was lamenting that the ink-technology wasn’t available in full size screens and was making plans to try to tweak his fonts and contrast so that his monitor settings are more like the Kindle.  Score 1.

I am also enjoying the content.  The magazine and newspaper subscriptions offer trial periods and the newspaper navigation is well done – at least on the newspaper I’m trying out.  One of the magazines I have downloaded is not so easy to navigate and I suspect that the Kindle is dependent upon the publishers to provide the nav.  UI may be hit or miss.

Another nice discovery was that the Amazon Daily newsletter offers free downloads and 99cent deals.  With room for 1000 books, I’m finding it easy to take advantage and try out the offers.  The sample chapters from new books are fun too.

So far I’m finding that I drag my Kindle along everywhere.  A new purse was required and happily acquired.  I find all my paper books that have been stacked in piles around my room looking at me with expressions of disappointment.  They will be ignored for a while while the shiny new toy gobbles my reading attention.

posted under Frants | No Comments »

Day 1 – The Kindle2 Experience


After four days of constantly refreshing the USPS package tracking site, my freshly minted Kindle2 arrived with a very unceremonious plop in the mailbox up the street.  Didn’t they know they were supposed to ring the doorbell?!!!  My husband had been ringing the bell all day just to watch me race to the door and then laugh at me.

So, the first 24hrs were mostly spent pining over the fact that I’ve got a crazy weekend with company in town and a writing project in the cliffhanger stage.  I did manage to open the box and plug it in right away.  My very first e-book that had been sitting in my Amazon cart for days, just waiting for my kindle to wake up, popped into the menu on my screen and I happily re-read the first chapter of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.  A dubious honor, but an honor none-the-less that I’m sure John Scalzi will quite appreciate. ahem.  He’ll appreciate the royalty check at the least.

First impressions:  the e-ink thing is crazy.  I’m a gadget user, but don’t care much about how things are built or programmed, so I wasn’t expecting such a different screen.  Once I was convinced that the flash between pages was perfectly normal, I found myself quite able to ignore it completely.  The text is crazy good, with a very soothing eye.  Take this though, as from someone who reads too much on very old computer monitors.  I used the kindle for bedtime reading and found it very relaxing to look at, even in cozy lighting.

The other aspect I have played with a lot over the course of the day has been the document transfers.  Part of my interest was the ability to put my own documents on the kindle and I have uploaded several to my @free.kindle.com address.  The conversions were very quick, the link to the document download was in my mailbox in about five minutes.  My Word story documents tend to get sloppy as they are often hybrid monsters of formatting from google docs, two computers, different venues, and whatever caffine I was on the day I created them.  So I realized after the first couple, that some formatting would be required to get them to look like “stories” on the Kindle screen.  Find/Replace magic has taken care of most of those issues, in my particular cases.  Transferring to the kindle through the USB cable was very easy.

I have lots to explore, and lots to learn, so that is probably enough for now.  I have only been frustrated by a couple of things that I am willing to write off as learning curve.  So far, I’m quite pleased.

The ONLY truly truly frustrating issue has nothing to do with the Kindle itself.  As a tool designed to facilitate reading, I just really with I HAD SOME MORE DAMN TIME TO READ!  Send me a beach and a babysitter and Kindle, I’m all yours.

posted under Frants | No Comments »

Tuesday muse: Why is it that…?


You absolutely HAVE to go to the grocery store TODAY or the children will start gnawing on the furniture but then there’s no room in the refridgerator when you’re putting the groceries away?

posted under Frants | No Comments »



I want a Kindle.

The interesting thing about this device goes far beyond the fancy screen and electronic books.  What caught my eye a year ago was the whispernet instant access to the library and the availability of newspapers, magazines and blogs.  Not to mention the ability to put my own documents and stories on it.  With the backing of powerhouse Amazon.com behind it, the experiment has a chance to ride out the early adopter cycle and push boundaries of publication and media.

I can see young authors self-publishing to the kindle and finding an audience in better analogy to indie film and music than the current vanity press system offers (which tends to exploit rather than encourage).  I can see blogs and litererary writing merging.  I can see my nightstand with a few less stacks of dead trees threatening to topple my waterglass onto  my clock radio in the middle of the night and shorting it out.

Right now, the price is a hefty barrier for going mainstream.  And while I see the broader idea taking off, it may or may not be the Kindle that ends up the physical device of choice.  But, like the advice to wait a year before getting a tatto,  I’ve waited my year in considering the Kindle, and I want to do it.  I would have bought one before Christmas, but they’ve been sold out for months.  Today’s gizmodo scoop predicts an announcement for the launch of the Kindle 2 on Feb 9.  I don’t know whether that means they’ll go on sale that day, but I hope so.

Because if it doesn’t come out soon, I may have to get a tattoo instead.

posted under Frants | 1 Comment »

How to pick a WordPress Theme


Since I worked up the courage to post my first post, I have been thinking more about the blog and what it should be, do, look like as I devote more attention to it in the months to come.  I have dabbled with wordpress.com on a group blog project, and was familiar enough with blog style and layout to have an inkling of what role a theme plays on a site.

So this is what I did.  First I asked a professional (aka web developer hubby who snapped up my domain on a lark and has been bugging me to blog ever since).  He tells his clients to look at competitors and come up with a list of sites that they like.  I did this by actually clicking through to the several blogs I read daily.  Then I started looking at free themes, one at a time.  I made a list of any that appealed to me for any reason, keeping in mind the other blogs .  After looking at dozens, I realized that my favorites had at least one of three consistent elements:  blue color palette, swirly graphics, and a two colum, right nav layout where the posts were distinct and prominent.

Once my preferences were more specific, I skimmed several more sites until I found this one.  It’s blue with pretty, swirly designs, and a clean layout for posts.

And MOST importantly?  Writing about picking themes pushes out the moment when I have to write about something actually interesting!

posted under Frants | No Comments »

August, 2007


(This is a copy of a post I wrote in 2007 on another blog. Transferred to tepring.com for reference!)

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting upon the realization that I’M A BIG FAT CHICKEN!

The epiphany occurred during our vacation last month in CO. A large group of people that we camp with planned an aggressive 18 mile hike earlier in the year and I wanted/want to do that hike. I even joined a couple of the training walks that happened through the spring, and did a lot of walking on my own time. Summer and kids, though, killed my walking routine and the short story ends with when the time came, during the week of our trip: I chickened out. I didn’t do the hike. I was even OK with the decision UNTIL: My husband joined the group and did the walk instead.

The second he announced he was hiking, (Mr. back trouble, foot trouble, not even sure if he’d make it around the block) I was pissed. At me. Myself. I. My husband’s only crime in the situation was that he was brave. He just decided to do it, and did it. I’m sure he thought I was mad at him for a couple of days, and I was, but only as the symbol of my own chicken-ness.

Once I got past blaming him for stealing my victory (which he didn’t, I’m just still feeling a bit vindictive, hee hee) I started to wonder when I got to be such a coward. When I think back to my High School days, I remember myself as a big dreamer and bold achiever. I signed up for and took college classes as a Sr., just for some pre-college experience. I left for college that was literally across the nation from home and never looked back. I grabbed responsibility like it was nothing, and earned more in the process.

But at some point, I’ve lost that daring, that go for it and see attitude. I’m too cautious, and afraid of rocking the boat. I got weary of fighting for the road less traveled, and habitually choose the smoother path.

In my case, I think that there are 100 little reasons (2 big *little* reasons, ages 7 & 3) and 100 little compromises rather than a single cowering event. The 18 mile hike that I’d talked about and even prepared for a year has served as a useful wake-up call, because, you see, I hadn’t even realized the pattern of choices I’ve been making. With fresher eyes, I’m seeing quite a bit about those patterns that bother me and I’m finding myself taking steps along a bumpier road. I think this is a good thing, because if I want to pursue new career options or dream big again, I need to find the part of me that will take risks again.

In short, I need to cook the chicken!

posted under Frants | No Comments »
Newer Entries »