Category Archives: Robert Gregory Browne


by Robert Gregory Browne

“Good bye may seem forever. Farewell is like the end, but in my heart is the memory and there you will always be.” ~Walt Disney

I figure the above quote is only appropriate, because when I left Murderati a while ago, I left to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song.

When I look back over the last few years, I’m amazed at how much has changed since JT first asked me to blog for Murderati. The industry is now in turmoil, the transition from print to digital happening much faster than anyone anticipated. Publishers have dug in their heels and refused to offer better terms for midlist authors—in fact, the terms are much worse than before. I’m sure if I were still blogging for Murderati I’d be ranting about this, because more often than not my posts were a chance to get whatever was bugging me off my chest.

I admit I was surprised that Murderati survived without me. I was, after all, the heart and soul of this place and…

Okay, maybe not so much. Most of the time I was a guy in search of something to say, and I’m thankful that even when I posted nonsense, many of you came by to cheer me on and start a lively conversation in the comments.

I realize that this place has become a kind of after school playhouse for a lot of people and I know how sorely you will miss it now that the playhouse is being torn down. It’s a sad moment, but probably an inevitable one. Blogging is a time-consuming task and the authors who have remained are very busy people, indeed. I can’t blame them for deciding to move on. I did it myself. So thank you to all of the wonderful hard-working authors and readers who helped make Murderati the wonderful blog it is.

Now it’s time to say goodbye To all our company…


Hey, guys – this is Stephen here.  Just wanted to let you know that Pari will return next Monday, April 15, and then again on Monday, April 29, to finish out the month as well as the blog.  JT will be joining us on Friday, April 26, to give her farewell.  We’ll be having other past members of Murderati joining us all month, mostly on Tuesdays and weekends.  Tomorrow, Tess Gerritsen will have the floor.  Please come by and say hello!



Now it’s time to say goodbye to all our family




See you real soon.




Why?  Because we like you.






Yes, the time has come for me to say goodbye.  It’s been fun.  It’s been nice having an audience for my rants. But I’m moving on, folks, and I want to thank you for making Murderati a home.

I’m not going to say much else today.  (Thank God, some of you are muttering.) But I’ll leave you with a link to one of my earlier posts.  A favorite one.


Oh, and here’s Leila’s favorite.  And she says goodbye, too:


If you’re so inclined, give it a look.  Or not.

And as the months go on, I’m sure I’ll see you in the comments section.

Until then… Hasta.


There’s a Genre for That

by Rob (and Guest blogger SB)

As regular readers of Murderati know, I’ve been considering leaving our wonderful little blog for some time. Well, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for some), the time has come for me to finally say goodbye.  

I’ve enjoyed my time here, and all the insightful and often funny comments from readers and my fellow Murderati alike, and thank you all for putting up with me over the last few years.  It’s been fun.

I leave you in the capable hands of Stephen Blackmoore, who is subbing for me today.

Stephen is a writer of pulp, crime and urban fantasy who occasionally lapses into talking about himself in the third person.  His first novel, CITY OF THE LOST, a dark urban fantasy will be coming out from DAW Books in early 2012.

I hope you’ll all join me in welcoming him.



Ever heard of Rule 34? “If you can imagine it, there is porn for it,” and it’s corollary, “If there isn’t someone will make it.”

Cheerleaders in glasses? Sure. Guys in monkey suits? Absolutely. Cross-dressing Shriners in latex wimples? Damn straight.

Genre’s kind of like that.

Way back in the misty days of yore (late ’80s) I read an article about books that people couldn’t really pigeonhole.  They had vampires in them, but they weren’t horror novels. Or detectives, but in fantasy settings. Science fiction, but set in a future that was right around the corner.

Now we’ve got genres and sub-genres and sub-sub-genres. Everything gets a label. Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Neo-Noir, Paranormal Romance. The desperate need to identify a book’s niche is so pervasive that the labels are split ad infinitum.

I mean, NASCAR romance? Seriously?

When my first novel, CITY OF THE LOST (Out next January through DAW Books) was being shopped around I made a miscalculation. I kept thinking of it as a crime novel. Which it is.

But it also has a zombie in it, a demon in a bar that isn’t really there, a feral, psychotic midget, and a 700-year-old magician who thinks he might have figured out a way to stick around another few centuries.

Shopping this as a crime novel was, duh, not working. Nobody knew what to do with it. People liked it, but they weren’t sure how they were going to market it, where they could put it on the shelves, how to push it.

Hell, I didn’t even know how to describe it. After several lame attempts the best I could come up with was, “It’s like The Maltese Falcon meets Night of The Living Dead,” which really doesn’t cover it.

And then we got back from an editor, “Great urban fantasy novel.”


Urban fantasy is a genre that covers a lot of territory. Mystery, romance, historical. There’s some damn good stuff out there.  Everything from Emma Bull‘s WAR FOR THE OAKS to Seanan McGuire‘s LATE ECLIPSES.

It’s a real world setting, more or less, but within a fantasy context. Maybe hyper-realized, maybe not. The San Francisco of LATE ECLIPSES is our San Francisco.  The Seattle of Kat Richardson‘s GREYWALKER is our Seattle.

To say I was surprised was a bit of an understatement. 99% of my writing is straight crime fiction. I write about vengeful strippers with mommy issues, ethically challenged private eyes, homeless junkies.

And so I wrote CITY OF THE LOST as a pulp crime novel set in modern-day Los Angeles. I just happened to have a protagonist with a slight rotting problem.

Even though I hadn’t realized it there was already a genre for the book. You’d think, being the lifelong geek that I am, that I would have recognized it for what it is. Turns out not so much. Took me something like three months to wrap my brain around the idea that I had written a fantasy novel. I don’t have a problem with that, far from it, I just wasn’t expecting it.

Now I don’t mind my books being labeled. Otherwise how the hell would anybody find them? Urban fantasy is a great place to be.

But I don’t think I want to be labeled. I’ll keep writing about a mythical Los Angeles, and about homeless junkies and about psychotic cops who gun down kids. One of these days I’ll tackle a western (with Lovecraftian overtones), or historical (with aliens), maybe a romance… though god only knows what sort of twisted shit I’d come up with for that.

I like the idea of writing all over the place. And no matter what I write I know this, there will always be a genre for it.

And if there isn’t then goddamn it I’ll make one.


I’d like to first thank Allison Brennan for stepping in for me two weeks ago.  Her excitement about Justified is infectious and I can hardly wait for the day I can finally start watching Season II.  Not only did she do a kick ass post but she was gracious too.  She said that I allowed her to take my blog turn because I was in deep deadline.

Allison, it was more like I was in deep doo-doo up to my eye bags, and you provided a straw through which I could breathe.  Thank you, friend.

Although The End of this latest book is in sight, it’s still pages away so I ask that you permit me to rebroadcast in part a post (edited) from nearly 2 years ago.  It’s not as clever as Pari’s PSA from last Monday but I’m hoping it might persuade some of my fellow 50-ish friends to get off their butts, literally, and take action. In the past several weeks, the importance of good health has been made painfully clear to me.

100 Feet of Joy

I had been putting it off for several years. 

Not that I was afraid, mind you. Such things don’t really scare me a whole lot. But most of the people I spoke to who had been through it told me that the truly awful part was not even the event itself.

No, they said, it’s the preparation that will kill you…

I went for a check-up several months ago and was ordered by my doctor to get a blood test.  A few days later, my doctor’s office calls and the nurse says, “Your tests were all fine, except you’re anemic. The doctor wants you to get a colonoscopy.”

Oh, joy.

But I was overdue. As I said, I’d been putting it off for several years.

I went in to see the gastroentronologist and he described the procedure to me, and for those who don’t know, a colonoscopy is basically when the doctor sticks a camera up your ass and takes movies of your colon. All of it. From top to bottom.

But no sweat, right? I’ve known people who have had one, and they all said they were put to sleep. Didn’t feel a thing.

“We won’t be putting you to sleep,” the doctor tells me.

“Say what?”

“You’ll be given a mild sedative that will calm you and make you a little drowsy, but I’d prefer you to be awake so we don’t have to worry that you’ll stop breathing.”

“Say what?”

“Oh, and don’t worry. I very, very rarely puncture the colon wall. My track record is quite good.”

“Say the fuck what?”

That isn’t the conversation verbatim, but that’s pretty much how it felt. 

I was really not looking forward to prep night. The worst thing, I was told, is that the stuff you have to drink tastes so awful that it’s nearly impossible to choke it down. And you have no choice but to drink it. The doc needs you COMPLETELY cleaned out or he can’t go forward with the procedure.

Finally, prep night came and I dutifully mixed up a liter of MoviPrep and, as instructed, I downed a glass of it every fifteen minutes until it was gone.

And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all. I’ve tasted much worse, believe me. Hell, a gin and tonic tastes worse to me.

So I had no trouble at all downing the liquid other than the simple fact that I felt like a bloated buffalo. The last glass was chugged in one gynormous gulp and I gagged a little toward the end, but a quick mouth rinse and I was fine. It was certainly not even close to being as bad as everyone said it was.

The next morning, at 4:30 am, I had to drink another liter of the stuff and spend more alone time. Then around noonish, feeling clean as a whistle, it was off to the clinic for my date with destiny.

I wasn’t really nervous. The nurse who took my blood pressure will attest to that. For some reason hospitals and clinics and the like don’t really scare me. I figure I’m there for something that could potentially save my life, so what’s to be nervous about?

A few minutes later, they finally wheeled me into the operating room (or whatever the hell you call it) and hooked me up to a couple machines. Then the nurse gave me a couple shots of some stuff that was supposed to make me sleepy.

Which it didn’t. Not one bit. And as I turned, I saw this technician walk into the room carrying a coil of what, I swear to God, looked like about a hundred feet of black garden hose.

And that’s when I REALLY got scared. Holy shit, I thought. THAT’S what’s going up my ass.

It’s a miracle I didn’t faint. But what’s even more of a miracle is that, despite the fact that I was wide awake, I did not feel a thing.

Oh, a slight bit of cramping and discomfort when they had to turn a corner or two, but for the most part, it was the proverbial walk in the park and — get this — I watched it all on TV.

I don’t know what drug they gave me, but it was certainly made by someone who knew his stuff. And I can say, without hestitation, that I have one of the most handsome colons I’ve ever seen.

The whole thing was completely fascinating.

And, fortunately, I was given a clean bill of health.

So, what, you may ask, does any of this grossness have to do with writing? Well, I can guarantee that this material will, at some point, wind up in one of my books. I don’t know when or where, but it’s bound to work its way into a story somehow.

That night, I started thinking about possible scenarios. Imagine if they hadn’t given me any drugs before uncoiling that 100 feet of joy?

Anyone remember the dentist scene from Marathon Man?

What if, instead of a dentist, the interrogator was a gastroentronologist?  I can just see him hovering over the hero, the nozzle of that hose poised and ready to make entry as he says:

“Is it safe?”


To the Murderati community
Pre-published, published, no plans to ever publish
Under the skin, we’re readers all 

As you may know from the many times I’ve said this here, when I was a young man, I wanted to be a rock star. I could write songs, play the guitar and sing.  I had long hair.  I even perfected my autograph.  I was ready to go. But the world wasn’t ready for Rockstar Rob and eventually those arena stage dreams gave way to reality. 

A wife, a child, another child, a house, dogs & cats.  A different type of dream. 

But all along, in the background of everything called life, I was preparing myself for one of my biggest-come-trues:  writer. 

Being read to (OK technically I wasn’t in control of that).  Reading. Writing. Writing. And then Writing More. From songs to a 7th grade short story writing assignment.  From the tentative beginnings of more than one novel to teleplays (including a Movie of the Week!), to screenplays, and to completed novel. 

When that novel got me an agent, I was thrilled.  When that agent got me a book deal, I was on a high like no other.  Editing, copy editing, galleys, ARCs.  I had no idea what to expect–everything was exciting, shiny and new.  During the copy edit phase, there were two pages inserted into the manuscript.  One for the acknowledgements, the other for the dedication. And while I knew that just about every book is dedicated, I honestly hadn’t thought about to whom mine would be. 

The first person who came to mind was my father because he was my biggest supporter, and died when I was twenty, before ever seeing any hint of success, career- or family-wise.  But my mother had also been a big supporter and often financially backed my dreams.  But if I included my parents, how could I exclude my sister? 

And if I included my initial nuclear family, how could I ignore my current one?  My kids–young adults with very busy lives–could not have cared less.  But this was something my wife made clear was important to her, and Leila is always right (this is why we’ve been together for 35 years, folks) so the dedication of Kiss Her Goodbye reads:

For my father, mother, and sister,
who always supported the dream

And for Leila, Lani, and Matthew,
who long ago fulfilled it 

I’ve had seven more books published since (two will be out by mid-year). Dedications vary from a single person to multiple names, all family or close friends.  But I don’t have that large of a family and my circle of close friends is small, so at some point–should I be so lucky–I may run out of people. 

So, Murderati community, do you read the dedication?  Wonder who those people are to the writer? 

If you’re writing your first-to-be-published novel (whether it’s your first or your fourth, fifth, sixth completed novel), have you already thought about your dedication? 

If you’ve been published, to whom did you dedicate your first book and why?  Was it written before you made your deal?  For those out there who have multiple books (I’m talking Tess & Allison numbers), do you start the cycle over once you’ve hit, say, twelve books?  I think Leila would like to have me dedicate every book to her.  ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

And if you thought from the title of this post that I was going to tell you to Write, Write and then Write More–yeah, well, that too. 

Write, Write, and then Write More.  Whenever you can.  However you can. Because you can.  

The Secret Life of Jack the Bear

by Rob

After months of indecision our family finally said goodbye in October to our 17-year-old chow-schipperke mix Jack. 

And while we know putting him down was the right thing to do, there remains at times a bit of doubt and a fair amount of guilt.  

After all, was it really that hard to get up several times a night to pick him up off the floor because his hind legs were essentially useless?  Was it really that hard to pick him up a dozen more times during the waking hours, even if he was usually atop Jack-poop or Jack-pee that needed to be cleaned up?  Was it really that hard to jump up to run and carry him outside when we could tell he was about to go potty yet again?  

No, that part–while absolutely no fun and definitely not missed–wasn’t that hard.  After all, he needed us to help him do these basic things.  

What was tough was knowing how much pain he had to be in.  While he still ate and seemed happy to be alive, what kind of life was it, really?

But what was especially heartbreaking was looking into his eyes knowing that although he wasn’t our old Jack, he was “still Jack.” 

The Jack who loved to have his ears rubbed. 

The Jack who–when told to “take care of Betty,” our black lab who loved to escape through our apparently useless fence and roam, roam, roam–went galavanting with Betty instead of making sure she stayed home.  (In his defense, our instructions weren’t clear–he did take care of Betty while they were adventuring.) 

The Jack who led a secret life for years before we discovered the truth. 

While talking to our elderly neighbor several years ago, my wife learned that Jack would go to the neighbor’s house, where they’d visit with each other until she told him it was time to go home.  Then he would get up and leave.  Every day.  For years.  

Were it not for that chat, we would never have known, because Jack was always home when we came home. Every day.  For years.  Lying around.  Usually asleep. 

Then there was the time we came home to find a child’s handwritten note that said, “Your dog saved my life!!! He ran across the street and chased away a big dog that was scaring me!”  Jack the Hero.  Jack the Hero who was home that day when we came home.  Lying around.  Asleep. 

Like Jack, we all have a secret or two.   

Mine?  I write under a couple of pseudonyms.  And because a man has to keep some mystery about him, I won’t tell you what they are.  I know, I’m a bastard. 

Now it wouldn’t be fair to ask you to give up your secrets since I didn’t. But if you are so inclined, how about telling us something about yourself that we don’t know?  Hidden talents?  Most embarrassing moment?  Your pseudonym?  

It’s OK, you’re among friends.  We won’t tell anyone.  ๐Ÿ˜‰

Perchance to Dream

by Rob

Okay, so I know it’s the new year and folks here on Murderati are thinking about what’s to come, and making resolutions—or plans—for the future. 

But being the contrarian I am, I thought I’d take a look backwards.  Not at this past year, however, but waaaaay back, to the point in time when this photo was taken. 

Yes, believe it or not, that’s me.  Somewhere around 1974 or 75.  I can’t be sure.  The photo was taken by my future bride, although at the time no proposals had been made or accepted and the two of us were simply trying to enjoy life as much as two people in their waning teenage years can. 

When I look at the guy in that photograph, I remember all the dreams he had.  They were elusive, like most are, rooted in a kind of deluded optimism that youth seems to provide us in massive quantities. 

That kid was determined to be a rock star.  Or, more accurately, a singer-songwriter of the James Taylor/Dan Fogelberg variety.  He was rarely without a guitar in his hands, was constantly writing angst-filled songs, and girls would sometimes swoon when he played and sang. 

He probably also drove his neighbors crazy at four in the morning. 

My dreams back then weren’t limited to music, however.  I also wanted to write.  After reading the work of Donald Westlake and Richard Brautigan, I tried my best to emulate both, and probably failed miserably.  I don’t know, because I no longer have the manuscripts I attempted to write. 

There was a third dream, too.  Movie director.  The Rob of those days was a rabid movie fan with a Super Eight camera who thought he knew what it took to put together a film—even though those cameras didn’t have sound. 

But the only real strategy I had to achieve any of these dreams was to take each day as it came and try not to worry too much about the future.  It would all work out, I thought, and for the most part it did.  I obviously never became the next James Taylor, and the whole movie director thing seemed more trouble than it was worth, but when I finally grew up enough to know that I actually had to do something in order to make any of these dreams come true, I actually succeeded in getting noticed as a writer. 

Now, thirty-something years after that photo was taken, I’m making a living writing novels. So I can look back at that young man and say, hey, kid, at least you got part of it right.   

It’s quite possible that I might never have achieved my dreams.  And you know what?  That would be okay, too. 

So my question to all of you today is, what dreams did you have when you were nineteen, and did you manage to achieve them?  Do they even matter to you anymore? 


I want to thank those of you who took the time to comment in my last post to give me reasons to stick around.  I approached today from a different POV, so maybe I’ll be around for a while…

Hey, Hon, What Should I Write About On Murderati?

by Rob

“I don’t know,” she said.

Believe it or not, I almost stopped posting right there.

Here’s the thing.  I am very fortunate to be working my ass off these days.  I recently completed two books, have now started on a new one, due March 1st, and also have another due April 15th.

Because of this, I’m very seriously considering leaving Murderati.  I haven’t decided yet.  Haven’t even TALKED to anyone about it other than Leila—who thinks I should keep going—but the thought is definitely there.

While I’ve enjoyed my time here, and am constantly amazed by the great posts my fellow Murderati contributors put up here every day, I find myself pretty much stymied when it comes time to post.  

Which is probably pretty evident, lately.

I don’t tell you this because I want everyone to say, “No, Rob!  Don’t go!”  Because the truth is, if I were to leave, Murderati would thrive without me, just as it did before I came along.

You’d think that coming up with a new blog topic every other week wouldn’t be that difficult, but I honestly really struggle to find something halfway interesting to say, and only succeed half the time.

So I’ve been thinking about the pros and cons of leaving.


1.  No looming deadline every other week.

2.  No pressure to come up with an interesting post.

3.  No disruptions of the paying work.

4.  Murderati gets fresh blood.


1.  No longer having a blog.

2.  Missing my colleagues and the many great people who comment.

3.  No longer being part of the “in” crowd.

4.  I vanish into obscurity.

So, if I make the decision to leave, is it a mistake?  I’d love to hear from you guys.  And AGAIN, I’m not looking for any ego-boosting “No, Rob, don’t go!” comments.  Just some solid reasons why I should, or shouldn’t, pull the plug.

Today’s Trivia:  The phrase Merry Christmas comes from Dickens and only became popular after the publication of A Christmas Carol.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that stuff.

P.S.  One of my family traditions is to watch THE REF as well, Alafair.  We absolutely love that movie.

They Drove Me to Drugs

by Rob

I blame it all on Costco.

You, see, there was a time when I didn’t need drugs to survive.  Yes, I smoked pot when I was younger—but who didn’t?—and I may have dabbled a bit with chemical substances, but for most of my life I’ve been pretty straight. I can’t stand cigarettes and I’ve consumed enough alcohol in my life to maybe fill a bucket.

But, you see, my wife Leila and I go to Costco almost every Sunday (our big romantic getaway) and that damn snack bar drew me in with their Mocha Latte, which pretty much amounts to a coffee milkshake.

Drinking those ML’s every week became a ritual for us. We’d do our shopping, then swing by the snack bar and pick up a couple and head on over to the next shopping center, sucking on our straws as we drove.

The next thing I knew I was buying those coffee milkshake drinks at places like Starbucks, and pretty soon I was breaking out the blender to make my own, using the mocha latte mix I bought from—guess where?



Then, after getting a publishing deal, I suddenly had to write a new book and work a day job, and every morning I wound up dragging myself into the office feeling like crap warmed over. So what did I do?

Since I worked in a conference center, I started drinking the free coffee. Twice a day. Morning and afternoon.

Problem was, that coffee tasted like something that had been scraped out of the garbage can after sitting there moldering for a few days, and I knew I had to find something better.

I stopped buying the fancy latte drinks altogether and invested in a very cheap coffee maker. A four-cupper that made a halfway decent pot. And when you have a coffee maker, you have to have coffee, so I went to Trader Joe’s and started buying their beans and grinding them in the store grinder.

But, of course, why grind them at the store when you can grind them at home? So I bought a cheap burr grinder and a bag of beans and started making my own grinds.  Sometimes I would blend beans to get the taste just the way I liked it.

Medium roast. Cream. Sugar. That’s what I craved.

Until my buddy Bill Cameron mentioned that the best cup of coffee you can get is by using a French press. I had no clue what that was, but I went in search of one anyway, carefully followed the instructions and—

—oh my god, it was amazing. Bill had not lied. There was even a little bit of grit at the bottom that I just loved. And say goodbye to medium roast, this shit was strooooooong.

So now it was French press on weekdays and an Americano (a shot of cappuccino with hot water) when I was out and about, and I finally had to admit it to myself:

I was a full-fledge coffeeholic.

Problem was, Americano’s were expensive and that French press was just a pain in the ass to wash. All those coffee grounds everywhere? Yuck.

I needed another solution.  So, there I was in Costco and I see they have a special price on the machine Alafair talked about a few days back, a super duper deluxe Keurig one-cup coffee maker.  Just pop in the pre-made cup, pour in some water (and you don’t have to pour it in every time!) and presto! you’ve got… well… you’ve got…

…a perfectly bland cup of coffee. Unless you set the thing on the lowest setting for the smallest cup, your coffee tastes like an Americano without the cappuccino.

I tried the boldest of bold coffees in that damn machine and just could not find a cup I liked. It was useless to me.

Not only that, Leila hated it, too. Not the coffee so much as the machine itself. The water light was always flashing, asking for the reservoir to be filled, and she was also concerned with the pure waste of using those tiny plastic cups every time you wanted coffee.

But we stuck with the machine. I used the little MyCup device that let you use your own grind. Unfortunately, it was messy as hell and just not worth the effort. I still couldn’t get a cup of coffee I liked out of it. I even tried some other contraption the Internet suckered me into buying and it was worthless.

Now I know there are a lot of people out there who absolutely love their Keurigs. But the Brownes? No so much. So after a month of experimenting—and a crapload of lousy coffee—back to Costco it went.

Now it was back to the French press while I hunted online for the perfect coffee maker. I found one for $250 at the Everything’s Kitchen website that uses the “steam” method of brewing, just like many Japanese coffee makers.  

That was the one for me! So I ordered it, only to discover that they were out of stock and I’d have to wait a month or so to actually get one. Sigh.

Then a few days later I was tooling around Fry’s when I came across a unit on sale.  

It was a Cuisinart 12-cup “on demand” model. Meaning it has no pot. The carafe built in and all you have to do is push a little lever on the front and fill your cup as if you’re using a watercooler.

I took this baby home and Leila and I instantly fell in love with it. Easy to use, easy to clean, makes lots of coffee and is actually kind of fun. Plus the coffee stays hot without sitting on a burner, so there’s no burnt taste after a couple hours.

Every morning, when I fill my cup, if I close my eyes and pretend, I kinda feel like I’m in a restaurant.  

Until the cup overflows and I burn myself.

In the end, of course, I remain a diehard coffee addict. I still only drink two cups a day, but I couldn’t do without them—even though my day job is now sitting right here at this desk and writing ten hours a day.

In the morning, I grind my beans (dark roast, thank you), brew the coffee, draw a cup, put in two teaspoons of sugar and a dollop of half and half and I’m good for the morning.

And it’s all because of you, Costco.

Thank you.


So what about you guys?  Coffee drinkers?  Strong?  Sugar?  Cream? And what kind of coffee maker do you swear by?



by Rob Gregory Browne

If you believe Wikipedia—and I generally do—the first Thanksgiving or harvest festival was held by the Spanish on September 8, 1565 in Saint Augustine, Florida.

Who knew?

It wasn’t until the 20th century that the November observance became customary, and the fourth Thursday wasn’t written in stone until Franklin Roosevelt made it a national holiday in hopes of giving the country an economic boost.

Maybe he was thinking of all the things he’d be able to get dirt cheap on Black Friday.  

So do we blame him for the crowds?

But I’m not here to talk about Thanksgiving.  I only threw that in because my wife said I should, considering tomorrow is the big day.  I’m becoming increasingly convinced that she should be the one writing these posts—but that’s not something we’ll get into right now.

What I want to talk about is something you might be able to buy on Black Friday at a reduced price.  So if you loathe technology, now’s the time to his the door marked EXIT.


I have always been a gear slut. When I was younger and trying to figure out how to build my own recording studio, I was the first guy in line for the latest gear, sometimes spending more money than I should have.

I don’t know why on earth my dear wife allowed me to do that, but I suppose she must have loved me or something and wanted to see her insane husband happy, even if it meant dipping into the savings account.

I was the same way with computers.  I bought my first one back before hard drives even existed and have bought a couple new ones every couple years.  I think I’m on my fifth or sixth laptop as we speak, and thinking about getting a new one.

But for some reason, there’s one piece of hardware I didn’t jump on when it first came out.  While the technosphere and the world were all abuzz about the iPad, my response was meh.

I have an iMac that I love.  I have an iPhone that I love.  And I have to admit that the iPad is a gorgeous piece of hardware.  But while I can put up with the limitations of the iPhone—because it’s a phone, for crissakes—it seemed to me that the iPad was nothing but a giant iPhone and didn’t attract me.

Had Apple put OSX on the iPad, I would have been first in line.  I think OSX is one of the finest operating systems going.  It’s elegant, runs apps beautifully, is virus-free, and is a great and robust experience for the user.

Unfortunately, Apple chose to use the iPhone operating system for their pad, and that makes it extremely limited in what it can do and how it can be used.  So, again, it didn’t attract me.

Now, if all you want is a device that allows you to surf the web, watch some movies, send a few emails, then the iPad is a great device, if you’re willing to except the fact that a large number of websites will not be viewable, because iPads don’t play Flash.  You also have to forego any kind of file system, and there are limited ports on the thing.

The iPad isn’t the first tablet to show up in the marketplace, of course.  But like the iPod, it’s the first of its kind to capture the imagination of the buying public.  Apple’s products may not be the best or most powerful devices you can buy, but the company does do two things very well:  1) make stuff look pretty; and 2) convince people they have to have it.

The iPad is also ideally suited to people who are new to computing.  Especially older people who are still trying to figure out how to adapt to the 21st Century in a rapidly changing world.

And thanks to competition of the marketplace, the iPad isn’t the only touchscreen tablet that will be available this Christmas season.  There are a number of competitors for the iPad, with more to come next year.  And the great thing about this new crop of computer tablets is that they run on Google’s Android operating system, which is open source.  And because it’s open source, it’s not under Apple’s draconian restrictions and anyone who can write code can create new and powerful versions of the operating system—and the applications that go along with it—which opens a whole new world of possibilities for these devices.

While I’m not all that attracted to the iPad, I have seen a couple of new tablets that I find very compelling.  So before you make the plunge into Apple territory, I consider looking at these alternatives.  You may find them more suitable to your needs.

First up is the Archos 70 Internet Tablet, which retails at a considerably lower price than the lowest priced iPad, coming in at $275:



Next we have the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which retails at around $600:



And this is only what’s available now.  The future will bring even more.  Of course, we could wait forever for the least expensive, most powerful device to come along, but at the rate technology changes, anything you buy today is obsolete tomorrow, so if you’re interested, you might as well take the plunge.  

Despite the beauty of these products, I’m still left wondering if I would be able to find a use for them. I have a netbook, which I love, and it allows me to not only browse the web, watch movies, etc., but to write on it as well, a task I know is not that easy with these devices.

But then I see myself lying in bed with one of these things, watching a movie or reading a book and suddenly the possibilities seem endless…

And being the technonut I am, I’m bound to have one in my hands before the year is out.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.