Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three of you who occasionally forgather round the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be away for the bulk of the coming week, as he must fly out at the crack of dawn tomorrow on  biznay for Vegas.  (Vegas, beyotches!)

Actually, there’s a certain irony in this.  Ol’ Robbo is hardly a Puritan, but the fact of the matter is that the sorts of vice readily on offer out there really have no appeal to him, and without temptation there is no virtue in avoidance.  Indeed, thinking it out I realized that the greatest sin I face in “Sin City” is that of Pride, looking down on the cretins around me engaged in all manner of naughtiness and thinking myself better than them.

Tricky thing, Christian morality.  If the devil can’t hit you on the right, don’t be surprised if he tries a Stonewall Jackson-like flank march to hit you on the left.

Anyhoo, this is only my second trip to Vegas and I hope it is considerably better than my first.  That occurred 20-odd years ago and was a total disaster:  I was booked in at the last minute to speak at a bar conference and, in the age before the Internet, found myself allotted a hotel waaay off the Strip, the very name of which shocked my cabbie when I emerged from teh airport.  He advised me to be in before dark and to keep my door locked at all times.  (Then again, he also advised that if I wanted, erm, “company”, that I should dial up one of the escort services, as the street talent all had STD’s and would lift my wallet.  So there’s that.)

I spent virtually all my off-duty time barricaded in my room, reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command.  To this day, whenever I read it, I still have associations with the sunsets across the desert hills that I could see from my room back then.

So.  Because I’ll be away from the decanter for a few days and because I’ve been promising it for so long, I leave you with some pics taken this evening of the Great Basement Restoration about which I have been gassing for the past couple months.  Two things to note off the bat:  First, all pics courtesy of the Middle Gel, who knows far more about the tech side of this sort of thing than I do.  Second, when Mrs. R saw what we were up to, she asked me to emphasize that we really haven’t got anything like the full compliment of books, doodads, pictures and whatnot in yet.  So what you’re seeing really is the bare bones.

So, with that, first I give you the “main”  room:

Basement 1

This is looking from the bottom of the stairs toward the French doors on to the patio.  The red thing on the sofa in front is the teevee waiting to be rehung on the wall out of view to the right.  I don’t  have before and after pics, so I will just tell you that the biggest difference here is the fact that this room, pre-flood, featured a grey carpet.

Second, I give you  the “addition”:

Basement 2

This pic was taken from the same position as the last, only swung around over the left shoulder.  All of this, pre-flood, was cinderblock and exposed ceiling beams.  (Indeed, it was the breach of the original wall on the left -which is underground – which lead to the flood in the first place.) And although it was nominally a “workshop”, it actually functioned as a junkroom.  The bathroom at the end contains, to the right, a new shower and potty.  The closet on the right in the pic contains access to the sump pump and shelving for storage.

Third, I give you the “study”:

Basement 3

In his earliest Utopian plans, this was Robbo’s Man Cave.  It’s not that much different than it was pre-flood, except there now is a door into the new bathroom covered up here by the (empty) bookcase on the left.  The desk where the computer on which Robbo usually submits his bloggy offerings is to the right in this pic.  The laundry basket you can see contains a large chunk of Robbo’s CD collection, which he is hesitant to start repatriating to the shelves in teh background until the contractor can explain (and fix) the lack of power in teh outlets immediately behind them that renders Robbo’s stereo defunct.

Oh, you will note the funky ceiling.  Port Swiller Manor was built some 40+ years ago without a finished basement but with the option to finish it.  Evidently, this option did not extend to excavating deep enough into the hillside to allow for uniform basement ceilings high enough to enclose the plumbing from the floor above.   When we came to finishing this room, we decided to box in all the various pipes and add molding as and where we could.  The effect is quirky, I’ll grant you, but I think it’s pretty nice, too.

Oh, and because teh Gel was shooting things, I give you kittehs:

Basement 4

Main room from the doors to the study.  That’s Fiona in front and Ginger to the rear.

So there you are.

I’ll be back, God willing, on Halloween.  In the meantime, help yourselves to the port.  The walnuts are on the table and the Stilton stands on the sideboard.

 

*  Spot the reference.  And I’d be very interested in commentary on the source from which it comes, because I have very mixed feelings about it.

 

Did Bach’s wife write his finest works?

Well, how do I put this subtly?  No.

I vaguely recall reading something about this theory a couple years ago.  Although it got laughed at, it seems to have raised its head once again.

At least according to the article, the only “proof” that Anna Magdalena Bach, a known copiest and musically intelligent herself, is that (get this) some of Bach’s manuscripts appear in her hand and at certain points she seems to have fiddled with them a bit. 

Iron. Clad. Case.

Not.

But of course, in the world of modern academics, which thrives on adolescent-level emotion, sensationalism and identity-driven politicks, inconveniences such as the need for objectivity and lack of proof simply get tossed aside.

Then there is the “impact” of this supposed revelation:

[Sally] Beamish [a British composer who will be presenting a documentary on this "discovery" in the near future] said the theory raised important questions about female composers, and had huge implications that could “transform” the confidence of young women hoping to make it today.

“What I found fascinating is the questions it raises about the assumptions we make: that music is always written by one person and all the great masters were male by definition,” she said.

I simply cannot conceive how wretched it must be to have a mind that occupies itself with such hobgoblins.  Is Mizz Beamish really so insecure that she can’t contemplate the transcendence of musick by, for example, Bach and Mozart without worrying about such “assumptions”?  Can she not appreciate said musick for what it is in itself without raising such questions?

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

And as for “huge implications”, as regular friends of the decanter will know, teh Middle Gel is a young woman who has very real aspirations to “make it” in the musick business some day.  I can promise Mizz Beamish that teh gel has no need of such half-penny sociological twaddle in order to achieve the confidence that she has.  Instead, she’s got to where she is through talent, dedication and hard work.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Returning home in the quiet e’en-fall to Port Swiller Manor yesterday, ol’ Robbo was gratified to observe that the port-o-potty that has resided on the driveway lo! these many weeks had been removed, thus indicating that the contractor is of the opinion that all there is left to do in the Great Basement Restoration that has dominated our domestic economy since August are a few minor odds and ends.

(Allow me to take a breath after that sentence.)

So this morning, after doing my first round of leaf removal of the year, Mrs. R, the Eldest Gel and I lugged all the sofas, chairs and bookcases back into their usual spots, and since then I have started excavating the piles of books, pictures, doo-dads and electronic devices and removing them by armfuls from the living room and library to their proper homes.

It’s all remarkably like moving.  And just so you know, ol’ Robbo hates moving.

One thing that gives me more and more of a case of the heebie-jeebies as the years go by is all the cords and wires that are involved with things like stereos, teevee accessories and computers.  It’s not that I can’t eventually figure out which plug goes in which port and things like that, it’s just that they seem to go out of their way to get tangled up, to get snagged on things and just generally to add to teh chaos.

Speaking of which, when I went to reassemble the stereo components, I discovered that one of my Bose cube speakers seems to have gone missing.  I dimly remember that it didn’t come upstairs with the other cube and the big bass, but I cannot recall exactly what I did with it.  My fear is that I left it on a shelf in the basement and that it might have got swept up with the general refuse.  (These guys aren’t always exact in their cleanup.  When they were rebuilding our porch last summah, they threw away a perfectly good outdoor thermometer and a brass ship’s bell.)

Actually, it turns out not to matter very much at the moment, because I discovered that half the outlets in the study don’t seem to be carrying any current, so I can’t use the stereo anyway.  (Add that to the final punch list.)

Anyhoo, I’d say we’re about 95% of the way there now.

I’m going to be out of town on biznay most of this coming week (Vegas, baybee!), so I’ll try to get the Middle Gel to help me post some pics tomorrow afternoon or evening in order to keep you amused in my absence.

 

*Verified by the Royal Society For Putting One Thing On Top Of Another And Ebola Evaluation

 

Big BrotherGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

This week the phones in ol’ Robbo’s office are being switched out for some new, fancy-pantsy VoIP jobs.   Among the many features of the new units is the promise of televideo.  To this end, the things feature 4×4 inch vid screens and embedded cameras.

When I was a kid, I probably would have thought this sort of thing pretty durn neat in a Star Trekkie way.

Now?  No way.  No. Freakin’. Way.

Even when I’m on the phone with somebody, I don’t want them eyeballing me.  Furthermore, and this may sound a bit tin-foiled hat-like (but then again, it may not in these horrible times), I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit at my desk all day with a camera aimed in my direction under the potential control of God-knows-who somewhere else in the system.

Just about the first thing I did when I got my new phone was to slap a piece of masking tape over the camera lens, coloring it over with a sharpie just to make sure.  (I’ve already done the same thing with the Port Swiller Manor iWhatever on which I am typing this post.)

Curiously, in the conversations I’ve had with some of my considerably more lib colleagues, I find they are similarly dubious about this “innovation” being planted on them.  At last, some common ground.  Invasive communications technology’s a real beyotch, ain’t she?

UPDATE:  You’re welcome -

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has duly noted all day that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, one of the most decisive engagements of the Napoleonic Wars.  Obligatory  illustration:

J.M.W Turner, "The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory"

J.M.W Turner, “The Battle of Trafalgar, as seen from the starboard mizzen shrouds of the Victory”

 

I’ve not much to say this year except to urge my fellow port swillers to raise your glasses to Lord Nelson and the stout British Tars who believed in him.  Three times three and no heel taps, Ladies and Gentlemen!

And for those of you of a somewhat more pious bent, I give you Papa Haydn’s “Nelson Mass“:

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Teh Middle Gel mentioned this evening the fun she and her choir mates have in singing an 8-voice setting of the “Ave Maria” by Gustav Holst.   Ol’ Robbo had had no idea that Holst, who is a bit out of his normal musickal grazing grounds, had ever done such a setting.  Indeed, beyond “The Planets”, I’m not sure I would know a work by Holst if I tripped over it.   So I of course had to dial the thing up and listen.   Here you go.  It certainly will never replace my favorite Renaissance and Baroque settings, but it is pleasant.  And I can understand why a bevy of young singers would enjoy it:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is pleased as punch this afternoon because the Port Swiller Manor dining room has finally been restored to active service after having spent the last two months seconded as an emergency storage shed for the basement furniture.

Yesterday afternoon, a couple of the contractor guys came out and man-handled the stuff (mostly sofas and comfy chairs) back down stairs, and I’ve just finished putting back the table and rugs, and generally giving the room a dust and a sweep.  Yes, there are still minor odds and ends shoved into corners and all over the sideboard, but we can definitely take meals there again.

In celebration, I plan to whip up a batch of my highly popular popovers as part of the re-inaugural dins tonight, thus assuring that teh gels spend a little extra time at table.

Bumpers all around, if you please!

 

*Verified by Ed’s Ebola Verification Service.  “If we’re wrong, your funeral is comped!”

While he was flipping through the local fish wrapper this afternoon, ol’ Robbo’s eye fell on this item from the public safety notes:

A resident living in the 600th block of Oak Street told Portville police on October 6 at 4:45 pm that he had received a telephone message from someone claiming to be with the Internal Revenue Service.

The resident, knowing this to be a scam, returned the telephone call in an attempt to gain information from the caller.  However, he only was able to obtain the caller’s name and return telephone number.  The resident did not provide any money to the caller, police said.

Police remind local residents to be on the alert if they receive a call from someone who claims to be employed by the IRS and states that they have committed tax fraud or filed improper tax returns.  Such callers usually imply that the victims will be arrested unless they send a Western Union payment or provide money using a prepaid debit card, police said.

This type of call is a scam and residents never should send a payment unless they have verified the caller’s validity, police said. 

I pass this on because just this week we received such a message at Port Swiller Manor.  The caller, who had a vaguely Subcontinental accent but used a very vanilla American name, said he was calling regarding action against us by the U.S. Treasury.  He also said that if we ignored the message, we would be subject to a contempt ruling by a magistrate judge and possible grand jury indictment.  He finished with some line about us calling as soon as possible so he could help us to help ourselves.

We ignored the threat.

Curiously, a day or two later somebody reported a similar incident in a FB group to which I belong, so it seems to be trending.

Thinking about it, I found myself chuckling because the message reminded me of that passage in Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe when the waiter at Milliways informs Zaphod Beeblebrox that he has a phone call:

“Maybe somebody here tipped off the Galactic Police,” said Trillian.  “Everyone saw you come in here.”

“You mean they want to arrest me over the phone?” said Zaphod.  “Could be.  I’m a pretty dangerous dude when I’m cornered.”

“Yeah,” said a voice from under the table, “you go to pieces so fast people get hit by the shrapnel.”

“Hey, what is this, Judgement Day?” snapped Zaphod.

“Do we get to see that as well?” asked Arthur nervously. 

Heh.

Anyhoo, if you get a call like this, either ignore it or let the police know.  We’re not at the point where Uncle reaches out and touches someone over the phone like that.  Not yet, anyway.

*Verified by Chip “Remain calm! All is WELL!!” Diller.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Welp, two hallmarks of autumn’s arrival are here:  The start of the slow bleed of leaves off the maples in front of Port Swiller Manor, and the local classickal station’s annual fall pledge drive.

I’m not sure which is more irritating.

Oh, and teh Eldest Gel is out getting her first taste of driving on I-95 this morning.  Your prayers would be appreciated.

*Verified by the Comité de salut public.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that this is also the time of year when the ground (at least in these parts) never completely dries out, so every time you go to mow the lawn you also trench it.  Plus, it’s when bees and wasps start going after you for no reason other than pure, fin de siecle cussidness.  Youch.

UPDATE DEUX:  First flight on the Beltway/I-95 was a success.  (She drove down to Fredericksburg for a pumpkin festival and back.)  No problems, although she was eager to recite the litany of driving sins she observed in those traveling around her when she got back.

Relatedly, when the gel started out and was still rayther unsure of herself, she said several times that she had no interest in a car.  Now that she’s gained confidence, it’s remarkable how radically that position has changed.   Indeed, she’s recently started lobbying for one as a birthday present.   Funny, that.

The contractors are at Port Swiller Manor this afternoon messing around with the basement stairs.  The door at the top is closed, but there are some serious fumes coming from under it of a sort that take me back to my teenaged model-making days.   Whoa.

They must be permeating the whole house, too, because the Eldest Gel is up in her room belting out “Yesterday” at the top of her lungs, which is a bit weird.

Mrs. R had me pick up the Middle Gel at school this afternoon with the plan to take her to the doctor for a follow up from her appendectomy of a couple weeks ago.  What I didn’t discover until too late was that she scheduled the appointment for half an hour after the pick up.  Jeesh.  In Friday afternoon traffic in these parts it takes at the least an hour to get from her school to the doctor’s office.   I can’t bear being late to things, especially appointments.  So when I realized the situation, I had the gel ring up the office to cancel and reschedule.  Next time, I’ll work out the logistics.

Speaking of teh Middle Gel, allow me to test out a .gif I stole from Groovy Vic:

anew

Over/under says she’ll spend a good twenty minutes staring at it when she next comes nosing around here. (Enjoy!  But get your homework done, too.)

So here’s a science-y question for you:  Is it possible for the same mug with the same beverage zapped for the same length of time in the same microwave to come out with its handle at different temperatures?  Made myself the usual cuppa tea just now and the handle was so hot I couldn’t hold it.   This doesn’t usually happen, or else I haven’t been paying sufficient attention.

Oh, speaking of the basement, the plan is to start moving furniture back in this weekend.  Hopefully, they’ll also finish hooking up the lights and the sink.  So pics will come hopefully in a few days.

* Verified by the new Ebola Czar©

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