Adventures into the Madness

The Kindle Experience meets the iPhone


I seem to have reached a bit of a peak in my consumer electronics frenzy. My kids gave me a Nintendo DS for Christmas (son got tired of me stealing his to play Brain Age II). After deciding to change our cell plan, I have also ended up with an iPhone of my very own.  So every night I go to bed with the big 3 on my nightstand: Kindle, DS & iPhone.

What I am finding amusing is the overlap of uses between the devices. The Kindle (see previous posts) is pretty much a pure reading device, and excels at that narrow task. The DS is pure gaming, of course. It does offer my favorite version of Sudoku. The iPhone has surprised me with how much I love the constant/remote access to email and twitter, etc. Here is where it gets muddled though – the iPhone has a Kindle reader on it, so I have already logged into my Amazon account and flipped through a few chapters. The iPhone is also a pretty wicked gaming device with a lot of gaming choices (if admittedly not what a gaming fanatic would find acceptable). It is the “mashup” of devices, jack of all trades, master of none.

So here’s my summary of the big three:

DS will probably fall through the cracks and get passed on to the youngest. I don’t play it enough to invest in the expensive-by-comparison games and it’s bulky enough that I don’t just carry it around for when I have a spare minute.

I want to “learn” to really get the most out of the iPhone and understand the impact this type of device is going to have on future culture, technology, etc. It’s around for the duration. I’ll play games on it and occasionally read my kindle literature when I’m bored and find  myself without it. I’m extremely interested in the genre of “augmented reality” that this little guy has brought to the consumer level.

I love my Kindle. It’s kind of an irrational thing. It’s one of those devices that generates loyalty (like my TiVo). I spend the most time, by far, with this device. Although its focus is narrow, it’s hit a sweet spot that fits me very well. When I started taking it to the gym this winter so it could “read” to me when I run on the treadmill, that early “crush” became absolute “True Love”. It will be hard to replace, simply out of appreciation for the ground it has broken.

Now.  Any other devices out there I’m lacking? Anything? Anything new or fruity coming our way…? Oh…right.  That!

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Akasha’s Pebble


Akasha’s Pebble by Tepring E Crocker

Please enjoy this audio recording of my short story, Akasha’s Pebble.  This was performed at a public reading of the Dead Horse Society in Kansas City in August.

Tepring’s Frant about Serial TV


This journal entry was written more than two years ago and has suddenly become relevant all over again with the wacky buzz around Sy-Fy’s newest spinoff in the Stargate franchise, Stargate: Universe.   As a (big fat) fan of the previous incarnations (SG-1 & Atlantis) and as a very amateur student of fandom (I read Henry Jenkins, my single claim to expertise), I have been fascinated by the fan tizzy and ‘blog wars’ that have ensued.

Insert SG:U for BSG in the below, and you’ll see why I decided to dig up this old frant.

Frant: Serial vs. Standalone (June, 2007)

Since I’ve been in an “input” stage, rather than an “output” stage, I’ve been clearing out the Tivo of those episodes of shows I like, but not well enough to care about keeping up with, or even know what day of the week they are on. So far, I’ve worked through 4 Battlestar Galacticas in the last couple of days, which always makes me wonder: So why *don’t* I like it more?
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Tepring’s Review of SG:U


I rather enjoyed myself at last night’s Stargate: Universe premiere party.  There were great snacks (a lovely zinfandel, courtesy my husband’s already open bottle) and three awesome die-hard SG fans.  Me, Laurie, and Erin snarfed up the goodies and settled in for a long winter’s nap – I mean two hours of new SG.  Erin had us all beat on the SGU trivia and clarified things along the way.  As a TIVO baby, I’m not used to watching “live” and found these things called “commercials” to be rather intrusive, but they did surprisingly offer opportunities to chat along the way.

So, here’s my review of the SGU premiere but first, where I’m coming from in offering it:

– I’m a longtime SG fan, starting with the movie.  I picked up SG-1 several years into the series, but happily caught up.
– Atlantis will always and forever be my favorite of the franchise.  As super-Daniel-thunkers and SG-1 preferrers, Laurie and Erin have been helping (laughing at?) me through the trauma of losing the favorite – they’ve done it already and just looked at me with snarky sympathy when I’d randomly blurt out “but where’s SHEPPARD????”
– I’m a critic.  Meaning, I have read a lot about screenwriting and TV production, even taken a writing class (woohoo, take them credentials!)  I spent years in college and graduate school learning to analyze art and do have an ability to separate “I like” from objective quality evaluations – they’re not necessarily the same.  I can like something that’s kitchy and poor quality.  I can be completely uninterested in something I recognize as high quality and well produced.  I usually try to make that opinion distinct.  Mostly.  At least a little.

So here goes:

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Tepring and the 30 Day Challenge


Ok, there’s a nice symmetry here in blogging about the 30 Day Challenge, but it probably requires explanation!

The 30 Day Challenge is a teaching, marketing seminar organized around making an online business.  The lessons and coursework are spread out over – you got it – 30 days and each day includes a set of video presentations and, presumably, a task or two.  I say presumably, because as of now, Day 3, I am still looking for the “action” statements at the end of each lesson.  It took me the first three days to figure out that the daily email rants showing up in my inbox are actually “pep talks” and designed to encourage the “classmates” to show initiative and persistence.  So perhaps the lack of specific “go do this” at the end of each day’s assignment is an homage to the idea that the entrepreneur just seriously needs to <insert the phrase “get off your ass”> and go DO it.

I must have passed the test, because I’ve dutifully spent time with each of the concepts and tools being taught. I’ll conveniently ignore the fact that it took me 2 days to complete Day 2.

For me, the exercise is partly to test out their theory that “anyone can make money on the web” and partly to learn some of the basics of SEO and marketing that is very well presented in this course.  Those basics will be applicable to several personal projects, whether they turn into “businesses” or not.  The course is free and so are the basic tools one needs to set up the site.  My husband’s business does tons of SEO and small business websites, so this also may provide a way for me to get more involved in his work.  Or not.

My main interest is in writing and spending the next year exploring ways I can earn some income for my family doing it.  As I understand it, a big part of the 30 Day Challenge revolves around product and market niche blogging, so…  There’s the lovely symmetry: Blogging about learning to blog.  And hopefully someday making a little money doing it.  The 30 Day Challenge sets a goal of making your first dollar online by the end of the 30 days.  It may be ONLY one dollar, but the process is the key.

I’m going to spend my dollar on gum.

The Kindle Experience – Love of books


I love books.  While I’ve described myself as a reader, but not an avid reader, I do admit that I simply love books.  I have shelves packed full and stacks on dressers that are waiting to be read.  I love to go into bookstores and soak up the titles.  When I buy a book, it’s the coolest thing in the world, even if I don’t get around to reading it for…um, ever.  So when I was thinking about getting the Kindle, I really wondered if I’d get that giddy ‘gotta have that book’ feeling when I was browsing Amazon or the Kindle store from the device.  I truly didn’t know if my love was linked to the “having” of the physical thing I could hold and carry home, or if there was some other fascination that would carry into the Kindle Experience.

After several months now of reading and buying books on and through the Kindle, I can say with absolute certainty (for me) that shopping for ebooks is just as cool and heady and inspiring as walking into a bookstore.  For me, a book is about potential.  What I adore is all that information just sitting there waiting for me to soak it up.  Sometimes, just knowing I have a book with an answer in it is enough, even if I don’t read the thing from cover to cover.  I know it’s there, I know I can draw upon the knowledge when I need it.  I know I can enter the story-world when I want to.

In some ways, having the store available anytime, anywhere through the device is temptation bordering on torture!  I’ve taken to putting books I just really can’t afford to invest in (financially or timewise) into my wish list so I can keep a little of that potential within my grasp should I need it.  It is very easy to make an impulse buy in a weak moment.  I almost wish the thing didn’t have quite so much memory so that I could have the excuse of storage space to rein things in.  As it is, I’m doing OK by allowing myself to get a new book only when I’ve finished another one.  Sort of.  Not really.

There may be those who truly associate reading with the physical, tactile experience of touch and smell and sight.  But reading e-books doesn’t have to mean that you will give up being a book lover.  A book is so much more than paper or e-ink.  A book is an experience, an idea, and an escape all at once.  It might adapt to a new venue, but it does not lose its potential.

In other, much more mundane Kindle experience news, some daringness has been achieved with my beloved toy and I acutally read in the bathtub for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  It was a major step.  While I have never actually dropped a paper book in the tub, there have been enough damp pages and close calls that I was wary of getting the Kindle close to the water.  And even having managed it, I was nervous enough as I was reading that some of the bubbly relaxation was negated.  A friend who is Kindle-hostle declared that bathtub reading was absolutely imperative for acceptance, so I got curious and looked up accessories that might make water reading more palatable.  Sure enough, there are a few water-proof case/covers to choose from!  Problem solved.

Even more daring has been my Kindle’s trip to the pool this week.  Last week, I took a hardcover book to wade through while my children were wading in the kiddie pool and sat too close to the sand box.  Some enthusiastic digger managed to fling an entire shovel full of sand over my shoulder and onto the book (and neck and hair and lap, etc.)  So now, I’m careful to pick where I sit when reading.  And I certainly worry more about leaving my bag by the chairs, etc. when I have the Kindle with me.   In both these cases, cost of the device is the barrier to my being comfortable with it in the same settings I am quite comfortable taking a book.  Hopefully someday, that will change, too.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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