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©

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Surrender_of_General_BurgoynePray allow ol’ Robbo to draw the attention of all you Revolutionary War geeks out there to the fact that on this date in 1777, British General Burgoyne surrendered to American General Gates after the Battle of Saratoga, and on this same date in 1781 Lord Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at teh Siege of YorktownSurrender_of_Lord_Cornwallis

I don’t have much specifically to say about either fight, really.  I just like the coincidence.  Plus, I’m a fan of the works of John Trumbull and like having an excuse for putting up a couple of them.

Oh, and just to add a bit more, it is said that at Yorktown the Brit fifers played a tune called “The World Turned Upside Down” to show what they thought of the biznay.  Here’s a rendition snapped up more or less at random:

 

When ol’ Robbo was a lad, his grandmother gave him a collection of Revolutionary War songs put out by, I think, National Geographic.  (I still sing a few of them in the shower.)  One was a more folksy version of TWTUD (in point of fact, it was a different tune altogether from this) and had lyrics that went, IIRC:

“If buttercups buzzed after the bees/If boats were on land and churches on seas/If ponies road men and the grass ate the cows/If cats should be chased into holes by the mouz/If mammas sold their babies to gypsies for half a crown/If summer were spring, t’other way round/Then all the world would be upside down.”

I know nothing about these lyrics except they were what the man sang on the record.

*Verified by the CDC.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry to leave you lot hanging about with what I will admit you probably thought a dreadfully obscure and boring post for a couple days, but the box which brings Verizon’s bundle of communication services into Port Swiller Manor decided to commit suicide Tuesday evening and we only just now got it replaced.

For me this was just a minor annoyance, but for others in the family it had a much greater impact.  More and more these days, teh gels are being given web-based school assignments and requirements to file things with their teachers electronically.  So when the system goes down, you can imagine the consternation.

We managed to limit the disruption somewhat thanks to our neighbor who graciously allowed us to borrow his Wi-Fi signal, but it was still pretty chaotic for a while.

Old and Busted:  “The dog ate my homework.”

The New Hotness:  “The server crashed my homework.”

Anyhoo, back to biznay now.

(BTW, as I was typing this post teh Middle Gel came wandering in to crow a bit about her new, autographed, Piano Guys CD and, being incurably nosy, started reading it over my shoulder.  She attests to the troof of my observation.)

 

IrishRM-picPg136-BGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friends of the decanter may recall in the past ol’ Robbo going on from time to time about his fondness for the three volumes of short stories by E.O. Somerville and Martin Ross, Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1899), Further Experiences of an Irish R.M. (1908) and In Mr. Knox’s Country (1915), now known collectively as The Irish R.M.  They tell the story of Major Sinclair Yeats, ex-British Army, who takes up a position as a Resident Magistrate in the wilds of Southwestern Ireland around the turn of the 20th Century and finds himself dealing with the idiosyncrasies of the locals.  Much hilarity ensues.  Indeed, Somerville and Ross, members of the Anglo-Irish gentry themselves, delighted in noting the contrasts between their class and the native culture, often with much sympathy towards the latter.

I’ve read these stories dozens of times and never get tired of them.  In preparation for tackling the gloom and doom of Solzhenitsyn, I thought I would run through them again just by way of cleaning my palate.  This time around, though, thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I find myself not only enjoying the stories but also doing a bit of what one might call geographical detective work, too, trying to figure out specifically where some of them might have taken place.

Well, okay, I’ve simply been messing around with Google Earth.  But I think I’ve figured out a thing or two.

For instance, I’m almost positive that the principle town in the stories, called Skebawn, is actually a place called Skibbereen, the farthest southwest town of any size in County Cork.  (I’m not the first to draw this conclusion, by the way.)

Major Yeats and his family live in Shreelane, a country house which we know is within bicycling distance of Skebawn.  We also know that the shimmer of the sea can be seen behind the hills when one stands on the roof of Shreelane.  We further know that one can hear the Fastnet gun away to the southwest warning off shipping during foggy weather.   So I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere to the south of Skebawn, perhaps in the Curravally district.  (There is a Curranhilty district which plays a part in some of the stories which may be a play on this name, by the bye.)  Another clue is that it is within walking distance of what is called Corran Lake in the stories and what I think is really Lough Hyne.  Not only is said lough connected with the sea like Corran Lake, it also holds a small island (two, in fact) that would account for said lake’s Holy Island in the story of that name.

Speaking of the story “Holy Island”, it tells of a shipwreck on what is called Yokahn Point and of the anarchy that breaks out as the result of barrels of rum being washed ashore on Tralalough Strand.  I believe these places are modeled on the real-life Gokane Point and Tragumna Strand.  They’re both immediately to the east of Lough Hyne and within carriage-driving distance of where Shreelane would stand.

Speaking of Shreelane, there actually is a Shreelane district to the east-northeast of Skibbereen, from which I’m sure Somerville and Ross borrowed the name for the house, but which is too far away from the sea to fit with the narrative description.  On the other hand, it might be the location of Temple Braney House, seat of the horrible McRory family.  I say this because there is a series of small, interconnected lakes associated with Temple Braney in one of the stories and this district sports just such an aquatic feature, the Shreelane Lakes.

I haven’t placed other important points so far.  Tory Lodge, home of Mr. Florence McCarthy “Flurry” Knox, is said to be an hour or two’s walk over teh hills from Shreelane and the sea is visible from its terrace.  Aussolas Castle, home of Flurry’s grandmother Mrs. Knox, is some little distance away, but it’s unclear which direction.  Castle Knox, home of Flurry’s distant cousins the Sir Valentine Knoxes, is near enough to Aussolas that a fox can be chased from one to the other in a morning’s hunt.   I also can’t place Drumcurran, a secondary town in the Curranhilty country in which some scenes are played.

Later, if I’m able to get a reliable map in my head, I may strike out further afield and try to track down the secluded lair of Lord and Lady Derryclare, the chicken-farm of Meg Longmuir and Dr. Cathy Fraser and the Lug-Na-Coppal copper-mines formerly presided over by the late Mr. Harrington.

Anyhoo, I know that Somerville and Ross were just liberally borrowing rayther than trying to give accurate if disguised portrayals.  Still, it’s lots of fun to try and figure out what they were thinking when they put together the geographical boundaries of Major Yeats’ stage.

 

 

older-columbusGreetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!

I noted this morning the Puppy-Blender’s recommendation of Samuel Eliot Morrison’s outstanding Admiral of the Ocean Sea:  A Life of Christopher Columbus.  Indeed, I believe it was his recommendation of this book a year or two ago that prompted me to buy and read it.  You should, too.

This afternoon, while she was driving me up to the store, teh Eldest Gel asked me why so many people seem to treat Columbus Day as a Bad Thing.  “Because they’re uneducated, preening morons,” I cheerfully replied.

What else is there to say?  Ol’ Robbo is sick and tired of the idiocy.

(Actually, I did say a bit more, explaining to her the myth of the Noble Savage and the corrosive effect its false sentimentalization has on historickal clarity.  I think she got it.)

By the bye, I have a map of the United States in my office (on which I mark cities to which I’ve travelled for biznay with pins). Way down in the lower right corner sits the island of San Salvador, where Columbus first landed.  I always feel a little bit of an historickal shiver when I look at it and contemplate his fleet coming in from off the edge of the map.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is shocked, shocked at the depth of corporate duplicity in the decaying West and is thankful that at least a handful of legal vultures champions of teh Little Guy are still doing their best to fight it:  $13 million lawsuit proves Red Bull doesn’t give you wings.

Benjamin Careathers, a regular consumer of the fizzy drink, sued the company for false advertising, arguing that after 10 years drinking Red Bull he neither had wings nor any enhanced athletic or intellectual performance.

According to the complainant, the Austria-based firm deliberately misled unsuspecting customers to spend millions of pounds on the premium drink in the hope of gaining an edge on their competitors.

To be perfectly fair, it seems from the balance of the article that most of the claim has to do with allegations regarding claims of “enhanced athletic or intellectual performance”.  I’d have thought that anybody with an IQ breaking double digits would be able to figure out that a combination of caffeine and carbonation isn’t going to do much enhancing in said areas, but that’s just me.   I believe it was H.L. Mencken who observed that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Anyhoo, let’s go to the math:

Drinks giant Red Bull GmbH must pay $13m to settle the suit, $6.5m of which will go into a fund that will be paid out to an estimated 1.4 million consumers, who can apply for the refund through a specially created website.

That $6.5 mil is estimated to work out to about $10 per “victim” although higher demand might cause this figure to drop since the pool is finite.  That leaves, by ol’ Robbo’s math, another $6.5 mil.  Anybody care to guess who gets that?  Anybody?  Anybody? Bueller?

By the way, ol’ Robbo really rayther liked some of the Red Bull teevee ads, which tended to be witty.  On the other hand, he has only actually sipped the stuff once.  It’s vile.

 

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