Fool me once …

Last summer I was leaving RTP for the flight home to the Cape and did my obligatory 3:30 pm quick stop at the Shell station on the corner of Rte 54 and Miami Blvd. to top off the tank and spare myself the $9 per gallon gouging the rental car agencies hit the clueless with when they return with less than a brimming tank.

I popped into the mini-mart for a bottle of water. On my return to the car a nice looking lady towing a forlorn looking six-year old came up to me and told me a roadside story of woe.

“I hate to bother you but my son and I are traveling to Fayetteville to see my husband who is home on leave and our car has broken down and AAA would only tow us as far as this gas station and we need money to get the alternator replaced but Traveler’s Aid won’t give anything but a reference to a battered woman’s shelter….”

She started crying. Honest to sadness tears of frustration and heat. She totally convinced me. Nailed me. Me, the man who knows how to repel Manhattan bums with Churbuckian mind bullets. A guy who tells panhandlers on the subway: McDonalds is Hiring.

I gave her a twenty. Her face lit up. She was happy. I was happy. I’ve never parted with more than buck in the past, but a twenty? I drove away thinking: “Dude, you just got taken down.” But I felt Christian and all eelemosynary and Mr. Pay-It-Forward-Like. It felt good. I felt special.
Tonight, same Shell Station. Get out of the car. See a van that looks like rolling squalor. Think immediately of last summer’s charitable act and think, “Nah. Not twice. No way.”

Get a bottle of water, pay, come out. Dawdle a little bit in opening the water, swallow an Advil, tempting the fates to bring out the Ambrose Bierce that runs deep within us all.

I’m standing right next to the van of squalor and nothing happens. I unlock the door. Get it, start up, turn around to back out and …

There she stood. Same kid. Same face. Only this time the window between was closed and was going to stay closed.

I flipped her the bird, let her read my lips, and drove away. She didn’t bat an eye, just moved onto the next mark, knowing she had hit the same well twice.
And I was twenty dollars poorer none the same and vowing to launder my charitable contributions through the United Way from now on.

Burning Questions • A 360 Degree View of Audience Engagement

Burning Questions • A 360 Degree View of Audience Engagement

FeedBurner just implemented a big improvement to their already excellent feed management service. I intend to play with this tonight.

“As promised, site statistics are now live. Our architecture conversion work after the BlogBeat acquisition is complete, and our free StandardStats service now enables any of our publishers to track both feed and site audience, all from the comfort of your FeedBurner account. There is a lot to discuss, so this post will cover how to get started, what you get when you activate site statistics, what’s coming next, and our vision for how the pieces all fit together.”

SanDisk rolls out flash hard drives for laptops | CNET

SanDisk rolls out flash hard drives for laptops | CNET

I think this is important. A solidstate, diskless hard drive, with faster data access and near to no crash risk. I’d buy one.

“SanDisk on Thursday released a 32GB drive for commercial notebooks that stores information on flash memory chips rather than the magnetic platters that make up a traditional hard drive. The drive is available only to manufacturers, and the company declined to give out pricing or identify any notebook makers that will adopt it, but SanDisk said notebooks sporting the drive could come out in the first half of 2007.”

What I’m Reading — Beowulf

Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, landed under the Christmas Tree (which has been stripped and now lies in the burn pile behind the tin shed), courtesy of my mother-in-law who has excellent taste in literature.

Everyone knows the story. Warrior Beowulf comes to the aid of the Danes who have been getting raided by a nocturnal monster that invades their gilded mead hall and eats everyone up. Beowulf steps off his longboat, tells the Danes to chill, settles down with his men, the Geats, and awaits the evil beast. Beast arrives, chows down on one of Beowulf’s Geats, Beowulf wrestles the beast, one Grendel, and manages to rip its arm out of its socket.

Grendel limps off, to die in the swamps, and the Danes party down and give Beowulf his due and lots of bling. Ah, but Grendel’s mom isn’t pleased with the affair, so she pays a visit and kicks some more butt, taking off with Grendel’s amputated claw and depriving the Danes of their trophy.  Beowulf shrugs it off, puts on his chain mail and helmet, tracks mom down in the bogs, slays a nasty bog monster in a pool of water, and dives into that same pool to sink down and have it out with mother.

Mom dies, loses her head, the blood corrodes the blade, and Beowulf pops back for more a party with the Danes who tell him he ought to be the king of the Geats.


But wait, there’s more ….

Heaney pulls off a magnificent translation — his introduction is worth reading on its own for its discussion of language and the role the legendary story played in the development of Nordic and ultimately Anglo-Saxon literature. This is a creepy campfire story the told around the peat fire to freak out the kids — a Dark Ages version of Three-Fingered Willy — and is well worth a good read. It’s not every day one of the touchstones of modern literature gets translated by a Nobel Prize winner in Literature, so go to it and really bum out your seatmate who is reduced to reading the SkyMall catalogue. If you want to know where Tolkien got his inspiration (Tolkien was the critic who “discovered” Beowulf) then this is the source.

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