S.G. Browne

10 Books That Have Affected Me

There’s a meme on Facebook to list 10 books that have affected or stayed with you. You’re not supposed to dwell on your answer but just list the first 10 books that come to mind that have meant something to you for one reason or another. Perhaps they inspired you. Or terrified you. Or resonated with you in some manner that is personal.

I may have done this list previously. I’m sure it varies depending on my mood, or if I’ve read anything recently that became embedded in my DNA, so here is my current list of 10 Books That Have Affected Me (in no particular order):

*      *      *

1) Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk

2) Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

3) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

4) St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

5) Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

6) The Stand by Stephen King

7) Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

8) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

9) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

10) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

*      *      *

That’s my list. Feel free to share yours.


Douchebag Nation

douche·bag (doosh´bag) n. [L ductio saccus] 1. a small syringe having detachable nozzles for fluid injections, used chiefly for vaginal lavage and for enemas; 2. [Slang] a contemptible or despicable person. Also, douche bag

While “douchebag” or “douche bag” has come to have multiple meanings to different people in different situations, the most common use is synonymous with people (usually men) who self-consciously try a little too hard to be hip or cool, such as overgrown frat boys, guys who wear muscle shirts, and anyone who has ever been on Jersey Shore.

The Urban Dictionary lists numerous variations of meanings for douchebag, including jerk, asshole, moron, and anyone who wears wife-beaters or sun visors on backwards. But the definition from Urban Dictionary  that best describes a douchebag is someone who has “an inflated sense of self-worth, compounded by a lack of social grace and self-awareness and who behaves inappropriately in public, yet is completely ignorant to how pathetic he (or she) appears to others.”

The key wording here is the lack of social grace and the inappropriate behavior in public. More specifically, the lack of courtesy given to others that, in my opinion, defines a douchebag. And in today’s society of self-absorption and technological distraction, you don’t have to look far to find a douchebag.

There are cellular douchebags, checking their smart phones in movie theaters or talking at the table in restaurants while ignoring the people who are actually present. There are cyber douchebags (aka trolls) posting inflammatory and off-topic messages. There are cycling douchebags, blowing through stop signs and traffic signals or refusing to drop into single file to allow others to pass. And there are picnic douchebags who can manage to cart all of their crap to the beach or public park but can’t seem to cart their garbage back out.

Douchebags here. Douchebags there. Douchebags, douchebags everywhere!

It’s almost like they belong in a Dr. Seuss rhyme.

I do not like them in a park, or when they’re texting in the dark.
I do not like them on a bike, or when they litter on a hike.
I do not like them on my blog, or when I step in poop from their dog.
I do not like douchebags who spam, I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

Over the past few years douchebags have begun to proliferate at an alarming rate, creating a culture of courtesy criminalsa large percentage of whom are addicted to their smart phones. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 10 people living in the United States today are douchebags. With all of the new technology being developed that will enable us to spend more and more time in our own little cyber bubbles of self-absorption, that number is expected to increase to 3 in 10 people by 2020.

We are becoming a nation of douchebags.

So the next time you’re on a bus or in a movie theater or at the beach, look around and try to spot the douchebag. Once you find him or her, let them know that their behavior is inappropriate  and displays a complete lack of courtesy to their fellow man.  If for any reason you can’t find the douchebag in the crowd, then perhaps you need to take a closer look.

Maybe the douchebag is you.

Filed under: Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 9:07 am

The Break-Up Blog Post

We had broken up for good just an hour before
Ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah, aaah

Every relationship comes to an end.

Sometimes it’s due to incompatibility. Or lack of inertia. Or smart people making stupid choices. Even the strongest relationships eventually reach their mortal ends at the hands of death.

But sometimes, relationships end because of a bad clutch.

IMG_3778My 1997 VW Jetta and I have been together for nearly fourteen years. That’s longer than my marriage, which lasted eight years, plus another four in the preamble to matrimony, making the entire length of the relationship with my first and only wife an even dozen years.

By the way, I’m still friends with my ex. I’m friends with nearly all of my exes. I’m even friends with some of my ex-wife’s exes. I know some people find that weird but unless someone completely fucked you over or is a complete douche bag, why purposely cut someone out of your life who you love?

Life is too short for grudges, people.

But when it comes to my Jetta, I’m not sure we’re going to be Skyping or messaging each other on Facebook. Not because I have any ill-feelings toward my VW or because it’s a douche bag, but because it’s a car and it lacks a DSL connection and opposable thumbs.

First of all, let me explain that my Jetta has over 200,000 miles, a leaky air conditioner that constantly causes the windows to fog up, and a driver’s side door lock that no longer sets or disarms the alarm so I have to lock and unlock the car from the passenger’s side. It has also had one or the other of the front wheel bearings replaced at least twice over the past six years, most recently four months ago.

IMG_3787In other words, my car had some inherent problems and I knew it was just a matter of time before those problems became difficult for me to ignore. Like alcoholism or a lack of good dental hygiene. Eventually you realize the partying and the halitosis are symptoms of a deeper-rooted issue.

But when your clutch goes out, just gives up and the pedal goes right to the floorboards, you start to lose trust in your partner. And trust is an important part of the car/driver relationship when you drive a manual transmission in San Francisco and you think about what could have happened had your clutch gone out while you were driving up a hill.

In addition to the mechanical problems and sixteen years of wear and tear, the trade-in value for my Jetta is a whopping $250. And since fixing the clutch best-case scenario would cost $300, getting the car fixed to trade in doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I could try to sell it on Craigslist and make some money out of the deal, but that just feels wrong. Kind of like prostitution. And I don’t want to be a car pimp.

Instead, I’m donating my Jetta to Car Donation Services, with the proceeds going to Pets Unlimited, my local animal shelter where I volunteer once a week socializing cats. This way my car, which ferried my cats to the vet and transported my poodle on countless fun rides, can hopefully help to make a small difference for other cats and dogs.

IMG_3785In the meantime, I brought home another car and parked it in the currently vacant space next to my Jetta, which is waiting for Car Donation Services to tow it away. It’s like bringing your new girlfriend home to live with you while your ex-girlfriend sleeps on the couch while looking for a new place to live.

Still, it’s hard for me to let go. I’m kind of a sentimental guy, even when it comes to inanimate objects, so I got very sentimental cleaning out my Jetta and transferring all of the relevant items into the Mazda3. After all, we’ve been through a lot together.

A divorce. A move to San Francisco. Three trips to Burning Man. Multiple trips to San Diego and Los Angeles for book signings. Trips to Napa and Tahoe and Carmel. Driving one of my cats to the peninsula for eye surgery and another of my cats back and forth for chemotherapy. Transporting both cats to their final resting place. And all of the drives to the beach in Santa Cruz with my since-departed standard black poodle, Camille, in the backseat, her head hung out the open window and a grin on her face. Sometimes I still see her in the side view mirror.

IMG_3780In spite of its flaws, my Jetta was a good partner and had a lot to offer along with its own little quirks. Hell, it not only supported my writing career by getting me to all of my signings, but it even sported a bumper sticker promoting my first novel. Now that’s dedication.

But when it comes to the small things, I’ll miss the sunroof. I’ll miss the single beep whenever I set the alarm. I’ll miss the Euro police siren warning that would remind me to buckle up. I’ll miss the Alpine single CD stereo that was installed when we bought the car. I’ll miss the trunk that I always told everyone was big enough to hold three dead bodies. Not that I ever tested out the theory but it was nice to know it was there just in case things ever got out of hand.

It’s never easy to admit that your relationship doesn’t work anymore and you have to let go. And while I know it’s time to move on, I still feel bad about the way things ended. I wish it could have been different. Ended on our own terms. But then, it’s never easy to say goodbye.

(*Author’s note: Lyrics at the beginning of this post © The Greg Kihn Band)

Filed under: Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 8:08 pm


A tweet by a friend about paper and ebooks inspired me to take the traditional game of Rock-Paper-Scissors and put my own spin on it, including ebooks as part of the game. Admittedly, my version is a bit skewed toward paper, but to paraphrase Lesley Gore: “It’s my blog post and I’ll do what I want to.”


Rock beats scissors

Scissors beats paper

Paper beats ebook

Rock beats ebook

Scissors beats ebook

Hammer beats ebook

Baseball bat beats ebook

Golf club beats ebook

Tire iron beats ebook

Water beats ebook

Water beats paper but paper dries out

Fire beats paper

Fire beats ebook, too

Gravity beats ebook

Uncharged battery beats ebook

Prolonged power outage beats ebook

EMP beats ebook

DRM beats ebook

And, of course, paper beats rock

(*Note: EMP stands for Electromagnetic Pulse, while DRM stands for Digital Rights Management. If you don’t know what DRM is, you might be surprised to find out that you don’t own any of those ebooks you bought. You just bought a license for the right to read them.)

Filed under: E-Books,Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 9:29 pm

Goodbye Twinkies: Another Mayan Calendar Omen?

Photo by Larry D. Moore

For most of my adult life I’ve believed that when human civilization ended via nuclear weapons, biological warfare, or reality television,  intelligent alien life would arrive thousands of years later to view the aftermath of our hubris and discover boxes and boxes of Twinkies, still fresh and filled with radioactive resistant preservatives.

More often than not this scenario included cockroaches, kind of a post-apocalyptic Hostess orgy, but the Twinkies were definitely going to be in the money shot. And you’re welcome for that image that is now embedded in your brain.

But with Hostess filing for bankruptcy and ceasing operations, I have to wonder if this isn’t another omen that the Mayans were right and the world as we know it will end on December 21, 2012. After all, the tell-tale signs of the end of the world have been coming fast and furious.

First, everyone started wearing Crocs. Then Snooki got pregnant and Dick Clark died. Dick Clark has been overseeing the New Year since the McKinley administration, for crying out loud. Natural disasters hit everywhere: tsunamis and tornadoes and superstorms. Finally, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo debuted on TLC. If that’s not enough to convince you that a giant pile of you-know-what is about to hit the proverbial fan, I don’t know what is.

And now this. The end of Twinkies. The Twinkpocalypse. Twinkiegeddon. Call it whatever you want. But if even Twinkies are doomed to extinction, then what hope does that leave for humanity?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m buying up all the Twinkies I can and building a bunker out of them. Or maybe I’ll just eat as many as I can and pack myself so full of preservatives that I’ll be impervious to whatever is coming. But I know one thing for sure: my birthday is on December 20, so I’ll be throwing a big party. Just don’t expect me to share my Twinkies.

It’s a BYOT event.

Filed under: Just Blogging — S.G. Browne @ 2:43 pm