by Rob


I feel a little better now.

As I write this it’s yesterday.  The title is an expression of my complete and utter frustration.  My uncontrolled fury.

At what?


Normally, I’m a pretty easy going guy.  And I’ve been a power user on computers for a couple decades now. There is very little in the world of technology that gets me frustrated.

But today (yesterday for the rest of you) I had a very simple technological task to take care of and everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong.  Of course.

Let me explain.

About a week ago, I received my first pass proofs of my fourth book, DOWN AMONG THE DEAD MEN (ready for pre-order on Amazon and B & N!!!).  In general, I hate going over galleys.  By the time I get them I’ve been through a US rewrite and copy edit, as well as a UK rewrite and copy edit.  Which means I’ve already read the book in question about eleventy billion times.

After you’ve read a book that many times, the words tend to look like mud before your eyes and that’s probably not a great thing to be seeing when the galleys arrive.

Anyway, I was given a “return by” date and once I had some other chores taken care of, I sat down and started in on the galley corrections.  As usual, however, I pushed it up to the deadline because, like I said — eleventy billion times.

My plan was to mark up the pages that had typos, then scan them all, export them into a pdf file and email them to my editor.

Nice plan.


Three hours before my deadline, I finished the corrections.  Time to scan.  But for some reason the scanner wouldn’t work with the computer I normally use with it.  I didn’t have time to deal with fixing it, so I took the scanner to another computer.

It wouldn’t work with that one either.

Okay.  I checked the scanner and it looks fine.  Just having driver issues, apparently.

So I hook it up to my Mac, thinking, Apple makes everything easy, right?


My Mac saw the scanner as a printer only.  I couldn’t scan anything if my life depended on it.  And since a couple hours have passed by now, my life probably does.

Okay.  One last try.  I hook it up to a Windows 7 machine.  Success!  I scan all the pages into a single file and save it as a pdf.

One problem.  The pdf is 18 megabytes in size.  Too big to email.


So now I have to download a special program to reduce the file size.  This takes forever, but when I finally do the reduction, the pdf looks like crap.


Ten minutes before deadline.

I spend the next THREE HOURS trying to get that pdf down to a size I can actually email.  I won’t go over all the hoops I had to jump through, but let’s just say it was a colossal bitch of a project.

In the past, it has taken me about twenty minutes to do this.  And I honestly don’t know why it was so diffcult this time.

Needless to say, by the end of this whole process, I was literally SCREAMING AT MY COMPUTERS.  All of them.

If I had had a sledge hammer at that moment, I would have smashed every single one of them AND half of my house.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten that angry and frustrated and, honestly, the only way to vent was to scream bloody murder.  I’m sure all the neighbors heard me.

I know my family did.

But I really needed those screams.  They were the only thing that kept me from imploding.

So now I sit here, my file has been sent, all is well — except that I’m completely drained and rather than do a decent blog post today I’m merely venting my frustration.

And I ask all of you — how often do you find yourself angry or frustrated enough to scream.  Or, if not a scream, what do you do to vent?

Mad man out.


36 thoughts on “AAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!

  1. Zoë Sharp

    I used to have a punchbag hung up in the garage – beating the crap out of it in times of need was always very satisfying.

    But I’m glad it’s not just me who throws things when it comes to computers. Very little frustrates me as much.

    Except spring compressors – Andy still cringes when he recalls me beating the crap out of a pair of spring compressors with a mallet, trying to change the front shock absorbers on my Triumph many years ago. Eventually – inevitably – they let go with an explosive boing and went bounding across the workshop, narrowly missing a Mercedes he had in there at the time …

    Now, Rob. Eyes closed. In through the nose, out through the mouth – erm, that’s air, not expletives. And relax.

  2. PK the Bookeemonster

    Yesterday must have been a universal computer stuff won’t work day. At work (unemployment insurance) all documents are scanned and available via computer program on the network. The network blew a part and the IT guys said they ordered a new one, it would be that very same morning. It did. That wasn’t the problem. More parts are ordered. We are completely reliant on the documents — returned benefits requests, employer docs, statements, etc. Many frustrated people yesterday.
    I used to have a flash temper (it flashed and then was gone) until I got married when I really had to take a look at it. I’m not saying I don’t get angry, but I don’t do it as often and I understand it’s elements and it doesn’t really work anymore.
    Computer stuff, though, yeah, THAT is often the culprit.

  3. JD Rhoades

    Well, console yourself with this, if you can. I woke up this morning in a cold sweat,unable to remember whether this was my week to post or not, but suddenly convinced I’d lost track and I’d dropped the ball. I let the dog out, poured some food for the cats, and clicked…and there you were. Whew.

    how often do you find yourself angry or frustrated enough to scream?

    No more than two or three times a day. I tend to throw things. Not AT anybody, mind you.

  4. Twist

    I don’t know how to type quickly; I dictate my books and short stories. Usually DragonSpeak is near perfect–until my voice goes hoarse. Then it starts to misinterpret words.
    I was on deadline for a story last week. When DragonSpeak screwed up a character’s name for the sixth or seventh time, I lost my temper. (I apologize for the bad words.)
    “It’s Barry, you goddamned f*ckin’ piece of sh*t. BARRY!”
    Swearing didn’t really make me feel better. Then I looked at my screen.
    "Barely you God ram plucking pizza ship barely."
    I changed the character’s name to Gerald.

  5. Alafair Burke

    Much to my husband’s profound disappointment, episodes like the one you suffered through make me insane. I have literally screamed at my computer, usually because the wireless signal suddenly becomes unavailable at the very moment I’m using the interwebs for something that, you know, actually matters. If I’m especially tired, I’ve had complete, sobbing meltdowns (usually involving either something I can’t control like a canceled flight or the loss of precious time, such as a blog post suddenly disappearing into thin air). I get stressed even thinking about this stuff. Unplugging and going to the gym usually helps. So does dumping everything at Kinko’s whenever possible.

  6. Dana King

    How long does it take you to scan en entire book, page by page? Since you already have a paper copy, there’s this cool new thing called Express Mail. They’ll zip that bad boy to your agent overnight. That’s right, you drop it off Monday afternoon, and it’s there Tuesday morning. It’ll cost you about fifteen bucks, but your time’s worth something, right? What’s that, three triple mocha frappucino Andalucian cafecito twists?

    Of course, that means you’re going to have to pretend the deadline’s a day earlier, which, from the sound of this post, could be a deal breaker.

    There’s always fax.

  7. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I’ve gotten a little less screamy since having kids. They don’t like to see me upset – it freaks them out that anything can cause that kind of blow-up. So, I simply internalize the explosion, which, as you can imagine, does wonders for my heart and blood pressure.

  8. Allison Davis

    Rob, next time call me and I’ll get someone from the run office to run over, pick it up and get it scanned. It’s really one of the blessings of having a day job where you’re in charge.

    I had a blow up yesterday. I have a fairly new case — new to my client. It’s been going on three years and 10 million documents have already been produced by the defendants. Yes, 10 million. My IT people have rebeled and told me they are not working on the case, takes up too much space (?? — this is what we do for a living, too much space??) and I have to take it to an outside vendor (read, zillions of dollars for the client). We are having a pow wow today so the IT people can vent on me. And I won’t understand a word they are saying, as they speak in "tech" — makes me crazy. The more we get into this tech thing, the more dependent we become, the more frustrating the breakdown!

    Twist, you get the prize. I want to get one of those voice thingys just to talk to it and see what it spits out. I’m always screaming at the United computer voice who never seems to be able to understand me when I call.

    Rob, we feel your pain. When you scream, you are not alone.

  9. Barb Goffman

    I have an electronic whac-a-mole game in my office. Yes, it’s designed for little kids, and it’s not as good as the real ones at carnivals, but boy it works well for frustration. I turn it on to one player and just bash the heck out of those damn moles. Very satisfying. Highly recommended.

  10. toni mcgee causey

    Twist, that cracked me up–I’m like Allison now, I want to get one of those programs just to see what it’ll do.

    Rob (and Dusty and Zoe and…)… I love you people. I am so glad I am not the only one to swear, scream and/or throw things when frustrated, particularly (and especially) at technology which is supposed to make it easier.

    For future reference, Rob, if you ever have a document to share that’s large, even big pdf files, you can open a free Dropbox account, save that file in the Shared folder, and then send an invitation to whoever you want to share that file with. They can go in and open and then print the file on their end. It’s easy, it’s free, and there’s not a lot of delay in uploading/downloading.

    I use dropbox constantly because it backs up my work to their site which is password protected for me. So every time I save a draft, if I originally opened that draft from my dropbox folder, it saves the draft both on my computer and offline. Dropbox also saves every version for the last 30 days, so if you wrote something three days ago and you saved over it on your own computer, Dropbox still has it on their end. Once it’s installed, I just go to my dropbox folder (on my computer, which on my mac, shows up right below my Documents folder) and open the document from there.

    Go here to get it:


  11. Laura K Curtis

    I don’t often get mad enough to scream, but when I do it’s LOUD. And frequently filled with four letter words. Even my husband is impressed.

    He, on the other hand, lets off steam by screaming and punching things much more often. Once, he put his fist through the base of an iBook. It wasn’t the Mac’s fault–he was using a whole series of programs that were never meant to work together, but it was the only way to rig the thing he wanted to do–but in frustration he pounded his fist on the computer. This required them to replace:
    the case
    the trackpad
    the harddrive
    the dvd drive
    and the cpu

    The only things unaffected were the screen and keyboard. Amazingly, they didn’t charge us for this repair. Oh, sure the thing was still under AppleCare, but that’s not meant to cover beating your computer into an early grave. But the Genius who took it when I took it in to the Apple store never asked me how the computer had "stopped working", so….

  12. Robert Gregory Browne

    Thanks for the rec, Toni. I’ve used dropbox in the past (now I use Microsoft sync) to store and retrieve documents, but never thought to make the folder available for download. I think I’ll go set up an account specifically for that purpose.

    Of course, the end user will have to be able to figure it out, too.

    Laura, I’m told that at some point during my tirade I apparently broke the dishwasher. I do remember slamming it closed when — in the midst of my frustration — the pan on the bottom rack got caught on the sprayer mechanism. I’ve always hated that dishwasher. Fortunately, the fix was easy.

    Sigh. Anger management, anyone?

  13. anonymous

    Thanks toni!!! I am going to tell my son about the dropbox as his printer is invariably broken or out of ink when he goes to print out a term paper in the wee hours of the morning before it is due.

    But isn’t there a way with a Mac account where you can store and send documents to any computer? Used to be .Mac or something and now it’s MobileMe? Maybe I am talking out of my a..

  14. Cornelia Read

    I had the file size problem last summer, trying to email a bunch of photos of the Adirondacks to my film-option friend. Took me two fucking days to split them up and do a zipfile thing and it was utterly aggravating, but finally finally go them sent off, and then Peter couldn’t figure out how to open the file. Nightmare.

    I should probably scream more. Good for the soul if not the neighbors.

  15. anonymous

    Twist. James O. Born posted about using DragonSpeak last year on The Naked Author’s blog. Lee Lofland’s comment was pretty cute:

    I, too, use Dragon. And I must caution you to turn it off when doing anything other than working on your project at hand.

    Here’s why. I got a call from my editor one day asking why I’d written, "Do you need to go out?" in the middle of a section about the morgue.

    Apparently my dog was doing the bathroom dance and I had forgotten to turn off Dragon when I asked her if she needed the break. The software typed my words into the manuscript and I never caught it.

  16. Tom

    Yesterday was absolutely, positively a bad day in the computer universe, Rob. Somewhere a binary star system was having zodiac convulsions.

    Now, I married into an IT family of geniuses. They’ve seen it all and told me the tales. I should never be surprised by this world of digital blowback and unintended consequences. And yet . . .

    Put finishing touches on a sensitive communication just before 6 pm. Called home to say I’d leave soon. Tried to send the comm to the project manager. "Outlook can’t open." Again. Again. Again. Help desk couldn’t understand the problem. It made no sense. We escalated. The more experienced support guy said, "Let me check . . . yeah, your mail server is offline for maintenance. It was supposed to happen over last weekend, but, ahh . . . you know."

  17. Judy Wirzberger

    I think what you described wasn’t anger – it was rage – so much more delicious

    I don’t think I scream enough – hence the high blood pressure – need to find a way to vent

    I used to cry, maybe I should take that up again – but what the good is crying alone.
    I’d kick the stuffed dog, but I don’t have one and the cat is just too fast
    I’d throw something but I’d have to clean it up
    And I must have dragon in my fingers because some of the stuff I type looks like crap
    Dragon must have been on my phone when I ordered cupcakes shaped like a St. Patrick’s day cake. It was delivered and looked like a sick, crooked cross. Now what did St. Patty do to piss off the Baker?

  18. Robert Gregory Browne

    "Dragon in my fingers" — I like that.

    Sometimes I’ll be typing away, going like gangbusters, then I look down at what I’ve typed and not only are some letters screwed up, but entire words are wrong. Things like "He woke slowly toward the book" when I meant to write "He walked slowly toward the bank."

    My brain is mush.

  19. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Rob

    Yeah, it was a Triumph Spitfire, not a bike. My bikes have all been rice-burners. Quite fancy a Ducati next, but I may still be banned from owning anything Italian Ever Again after what I’ll just refer to as the Lancia Incident. I’ll have to check that one with Andy.

    Oh, and Cornelia, it’s very easy to reduce large JPEGs to an easily emailable/web optimised size. I’ve just spent the last half an hour downloading some pix someone’s sent to me, which are all huge, and I’ve converted them into 60-80KB files with very little discernible loss in onscreen quality, and will email on in a fraction of the time. Argh!

    And Laura, your iMac story reminds me of the last piece of Sony equipment that I owned, which was a memo recorder I used for doing interviews. Only it Didn’t. Actually. Record. Eventually, after no joy whatsoever from Sony’s so-called ‘Customer Service’ department, I took it out into a field, shot it, then packaged up the bits and sent them back to Sony. Very satisfying…

  20. Nancy Laughlin

    I feel your pain, Rob. I’ve had your day all week but with people, not machines. I think I’d prefer the machines. I wanted more than anything to scream yesterday, but I also wanted to keep my job (though yesterday, I wasn’t quite sure why).

    When I get that angry, I either: 1) call my parents or sister and rant, which makes me feel better anyway. LOL or 2) eat comfort food (hamburger or tacos). That generally ends with a stomach ache, so I should probably quit that.

  21. BCB

    You all are hilarious. Thanks, I needed some laughter today.

    I have yet to encounter a computer problem that couldn’t be fixed by turning everything off and unplugging it for a while. The unplugging part is important. Especially if there’s a modem involved. And then, you know, turning it all back on again. Yeah, I’m so high tech NASA has me listed on speed dial under troubleshooting.

    Rob, I haven’t met you, but I really can’t picture you loosing your temper. I’m still giggling.

    I know, not funny.


  22. Jemi Fraser

    I don’t laugh out loud when reading on the computer too often, but my hubby wants to know what the heck I’m reading! 🙂 My daughter’s oft-repeated line is "Technology hates me". I’m not far behind her. We have a wireless printer that printed exactly once wirelessly. It worked for a bit when we hooked it up, now it’s an ornament. The manufacturer claims nothing is wrong with it.

    I love Zoe’s idea!!

    I use the Dragon program with some students at school. We’ve had some mess ups, but nothing quite that funny, Twist. Too bad I can’t share that with them 🙂

    Thanks for the other tips too everyone 🙂

  23. Ed Marrow

    Boy, I must be a geek. I read the post, and the fiirst thing I thought was, "Yay Windows 7!" Occupational hazard of being in IT, I suppose.

  24. Gretchen Jones

    I always have some location on the internet to upload a file to where I can give specific permissions to another person to download whatever document etc. from there. Google documents, a private yahoo group, there’s lots of options to upload your file to. I sometimes use my own website but I’m geeky that way, loving nothing better than an excuse to log into a linux server and twiddle with the bits. The perl (a scripting language) geeks have the motto, "TIMTOWTDI" There is more than one way to do it.

    When I come across a situation like that I take the perl mongers motto to heart, and consider it a challenge, sometimes going to great lengths (and occasionally ridiculous expense) to make sure my computer knows who wears the pants in this relationship.

    I generally try to avoid devices, peripherals are Satan’s work (printers and scanners are the WORST). Fie on the zip drive, the usb thumb drive, the CD or DVD burner. Any time you add a new device to the equation the probability of success decreases exponentially. If it attaches by a cable it shouldn’t be trusted. Worse case? Find a geek to do your bidding, they’re remarkable pliable and will work for cookies, beer, used paperbacks, a kind word.

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