For your Labor Day viewing pleasure, the birth of a thunderstorm:

I never, ever get tired of this sort of thing.

Actually, we had a hell of a storm come over Port Swiller Manor last evening, right about the time I would otherwise have been grilling out.  I anticipated the weather and instead went with a lemon-and-garlic shimp pasta dish.  As I stood in self-satisfaction chopping up garlic in the kitchen at about sixish, the sky went absolutely pitch-black, and for about twenty minutes or so the house was shaken by a series of ffzzzt-BOOOM!!! lightning strikes in the immediate neighborhood, the rain meanwhile coming down in torrents.   Fortunately, no basement flooding this time around.

Curiously, we didn’t get that nice sense of refreshment after the storm had rolled away.  The temperature did drop about ten degrees, but the atmosphere remained water-logged and unsettled.  It still feels pretty nasty today and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if we got another dose this evening.  That said, I’m still planning to grill, because ol’ Robbo has himself a big ol’ strip steak sitting in the fridge that’s just begging me to eat it.  Begging, I tell you!   UPDATE:  Well, we did get another round, but it looks like Ma Nature shot her bolt too early to affect dinner plans.

A glass of wine with the Capital Weather Gang for the video.  Go on over there to see more coo-el T-storm shots.

 

** Spot the quote.

danger uxbOl’ Robbo has been taking a break from his Netflix new-to-me movie campaign in order to indulge in an old favorite, “Danger UXB”.  We were firm enthusiasts when it first appeared on Mawsterpiece Theatre back in ’79 or ’80, and it’s held up really well since then.  (That was your high quality tee-vee, that was.)  I find myself even now cringing and squirming as the chaps set about defusing Adolph’s presents, waiting for something to go Ka-BOOM.

I mentioned this to the mater yesterday.  “Oh, aye,” she replied.  “Whatever ‘appened to that nice Anthony Andrews, anyway?  ‘E just seemed to oop and disappear, din’ ‘e?  I hope ‘e’s still keeping fine.”

Well, of course I had to look him up, and the good news is that he does, in fact, appear to be doing just fine on the stage and in the occasional tee-vee or movie part. (I also like that he’s been married to the same woman for north of 40 years and has three children.)

One thing that surprised me is the fact that Andrews actually played Stanley Baldwin in “The King’s Speech“.  I say “surprised” because I have no recollection of that, and being an Andrews fan, I should think it would have registered with me.

Still, I only saw TKS the once and that under very trying circumstances.  We got to the theater late and the place was packed.  The only two seats left were right down in the front row.  Those friends of the decanter who have seen this film will recall that there are a great many extreme close-ups, so you can imagine what it was like getting Colin Firth’s mouth and nose at point-blank range.  No wonder I missed Andrews.

Close-talkers, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Labor Irony Day!

Ol’ Robbo thinks little of this particular holiday.  On the one hand, although I am willing to admit the argument that the Labor Movement served a useful and humane role in the early days of industrialization, these days unions are nothing more that wretched hives of scum and villainy.  (As to the matter of honest and honorable labor itself, I prefer to ask St. Joseph the Worker to pray for us.)  On the other, despite the name, ol’ Robbo doesn’t plan to do a damned thing today except lie back and listen to the sweet, sweet lamentations of his women-folk over having to go back to school tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s some News You Can Use:  Uncle Sam’s Big Brother’s tips on roasting marshmallows.  Yes, your betters have been doing some extensive research into this topic.  Not only are they amazed that you cretins haven’t let your children go up in flames from standing too close to the fire, they’ve also determined that you’re placing an undue burden on the health care system by poisoning yourselves with s’mores.  Changes will be made at once!

[T]here are some innovative ways to roast the little white treats that can help cut down on the amount of sugar intake by the kids, thus making bedtime a little more doable.

Think fruit.

Even if the kids – including us older ones – insist on more traditional s’mores, there are some healthy tricks. Grill thin slices of pineapple and substitute chocolate for the sweet, warm fruit. You will still get a tasty treat but by substituting with fruit, it is healthier – as long as you watch the amount of marshmallows used. If you want to cut down even more on calories, try using slices of angel food cake instead of graham crackers.

You can also get a little inventive and move away from s’mores.

Grab a small bag of chocolate or peanut butter chips – or a combination of the two. Take a banana and slice one side open, exposing the fruit but leaving the peel intact. Slice the banana, add a few chocolate chips then top with tiny marshmallows. Or substitute the chips for blueberries from the local farmer’s market. Place the banana in aluminum foil and wrap tightly. Place the foil-wrapped fruit next to but not on the flames. Wait five to 10 minutes or enough time for the chips and marshmallows to melt. Open and enjoy with a spoon.

Your tax money at work.  (Apart from everything else, ol’ Robbo can’t help noting that the author of this piece appears not to understand the proper use of the word “substitute”.  Nor does she seem to know the difference between “amount” and “number”.  And in going for extra credit with the gratuitous plug for local farmers’ markets, I would suggest she misplaced the apostrophe, since one must assume more than one farmer would be selling there.  But never mind.)

My advice to friends of the decanter is to print out this article.  Learn it. Live it.  Why? Well, remember that the Forest Service is as heavily weaponized as most other gub’mint agencies these days.  Failure to adhere to these, ah, suggestions might very well get you an armored personnel carrier crashing into your campsite.  Remember, it’s all for your own good.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just off to do yard work.

As part of the basement repair at Port Swiller Manor, the workmen had to tear out all the foundation plantings along the front of the house.  Among the victims were a couple of azaleas, which they dug out whole and left sitting on modestly substantial root balls.

Well, it seems after a week or more that these azaleas are no worse for their experience, but continue happy.  So one of the things I’m doing today is wrapping their roots up in trash bags, watering them and moving them around to another location, to be replanted once external construction is over and done with.

Thus, I have learned something about transplanting azaleas.

Labor Day weekend is also the traditional start date for my annual resolve to finally dig up and separate the peonies out back.  Every year I tell myself that this is the year I will do it.  And every year, I reach a point after a few weeks of thinking, eh, maybe next year.  It’s just a thing.

From The Telegraph:  Retired Doctor Attacks Taxi Driver With Stick Over Fears He Would Miss The Opera.

An opera lover beat a cabbie over the head with his ornate walking stick and swore at him because he feared he would miss a performance of Puccini.
Peter Williamson, a retired doctor, swore at the cab driver as he shouted at him and asked where they were going because he feared he would be late for the open air show in Holland Park, west London.
The physicist, who is a fellow with the Royal Institution, was turfed out of the taxi after launching a tirade of abuse at driver Kevin Johnson.
After dropping Williamson at a cash point on Kensington High Street, Mr Johnson saw Williamson walk past the machine, so climbed out of the car to point him in the right direction.
But Williamson raised his stick above his head and struck his head with the handle, leaving him bleeding and needing stiches.

At a hearing at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court Williamson admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
The court heard he had been keen to see a performance of one of Puccini’s lesser known works, ‘The Girl of the Golden West.’

Mozart or Monteverdi, I perhaps could understand.  But Puccini?  Really?

Incidentally, the fellah was trying to get to the open-air opera center in Holland Park.  I don’t even know if this place existed when I spent a year in London back in ’87-’88, but I used to go to the open-air theater in Regents Park no great distance away to see performances of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson and others, and the shows were more than once disrupted by air traffic going in and out of Heathrow.  When it got bad, the actors would simply stop and wait for the roar to subside.  How do you do that with an opera?

UPDATE:  As long as I’m on bombastic, diva-driven 19th Century opera (of which I am not a fan, in case you haven’t cottoned yet), let me just stick in this extremely short clip from the Marx Brothers’ A Night At The Opera.  (It became something of a Thing in the Robbo Family Household in my misspent yoot.) In the immortal words of the New Yorker’s review, “doing to ‘Il Trovatore‘ what ought to be done to ‘Il Trovatore‘”.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The appearance of buses doing dummy runs on the streets round Port Swiller Manor, coupled with the rash of “Let Me Show Off My Kids” posts on Face Book and elsewhere, reminds ol’ Robbo that the balloon is just about to go up for yet another school year.  That being the case, kindly indulge me in my own LMSOMK post here.

This year the gels will be in 11th, 9th and 7th grades.  Yes, I now O-fficially have two high schoolers and a middle schooler.  (Funny, because it seems like just yesterday that I was posting about diapers and Wiggles concerts.)  And not just high and middle schoolers, but female high and middle schoolers.  As I remarked to Mrs. Robbo the other day after breaking up yet another cat fight, “You know, boys just punch each other and have it done with.”

Anyhoo, the breakdown:

Along about the last quarter of last year, the Eldest Gel decided that for college she’d really like to attend Mrs. Robbo’s alma mater.  At the same time, the penny dropped that if she actually wanted to get in, she’d better start doing something about it academically and extra-curricularly.¹  As a result, she started exerting some effort, and her grades began to climb.  She goes into this year knowing exactly what she needs to do, and I think having a concrete goal will help her achieve it.

The Middle Gel moves to the Upper School on her campus and also is now a Senior Chorister down the Cathedral.  Between the additional school work at the former and the many more practices and performances at the latter than she had in middle school, her life basically won’t be her own until next June.  (For example, she’ll be singing “The Messiah” at Christmas.  They’re also scheduled to perform during the year at Strathmore and Carnegie Hall.)  Perhaps that’s why she’s been cramming in as many reruns of “Dr. Dok-Tor Who” as possible these last few weeks.

The Youngest Gel is bouncing off the ceiling with excitement to begin middle school.  She tested into the local G/T program and also is planning to take up both the cello and cross-country running (moving on to crew in high school).  Recently she’s been consumed with getting herself organized to take it all on.  She and the Eldest Gel have a bad case of Sibling J. Rivalry, and her chief motivation to excel seems to be an overwhelming desire to wipe the Eldest’s eye.   Hey, whatever works, right?

So, as the late, great Johnny Olson used to say on “The Price Is Right”, “Heeeeeere we goooooooo…….”

 

¹Legacies ain’t what they used to be.  However, it certainly can’t hurt that not only is Mrs. R a Vixen, so are Robbo’s Sistah, Robbo’s Sistah’s Mother-in-Law, the Eldest Gel’s godmother and the Middle Gel’s godmother.   And ol’ Robbo himself is an honorary member of the school’s theatrical tap club, Paint & Patches.  So we got that going for us.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  Via the Puppy-Blender, ol’ Robbo found himself reading this fascinating article today:  The Kennewick Man Finally Freed To Share His Secrets.

Remember Kennewick Man?  He was a 9000 year old skeleton that turned up on the banks of the Columbia River during the Bubba Clinton years.  When the remains were first discovered, they produced a good deal of consternation among forensic anthropologists because he didn’t seem to look anything like the usual ancestral “Native” American.  The Army Corp of Engineers and several local tribes sought to get him put right back in the ground P.D.Q. without further study, but the scientists who got their mitts on him pushed back.

The kerfluffle, about which I read a couple articles in the WSJ at the time,  sank beneath the surface after a short while and I had more or less forgot about it myself, but it seems that the scientists actually won.  And get this:  Kennewick Man looked different because he was different:

As work progressed, a portrait of Kennewick Man emerged. He does not belong to any living human population. Who, then, are his closest living relatives? Judging from the shape of his skull and bones, his closest living relatives appear to be the Moriori people of the Chatham Islands, a remote archipelago 420 miles southeast of New Zealand, as well as the mysterious Ainu people of Japan.

“Just think of Polynesians,” said [anthropologist Douglas] Owsley, [of the Smithsonian Institution].

Not that Kennewick Man himself was Polynesian. This is not Kon-Tiki in reverse; humans had not reached the Pacific Islands in his time period. Rather, he was descended from the same group of people who would later spread out over the Pacific and give rise to modern-day Polynesians. These people were maritime hunter-gatherers of the north Pacific coast; among them were the ancient Jōmon, the original inhabitants of the Japanese Islands. The present-day Ainu people of Japan are thought to be descendants of the Jōmon. Nineteenth-century photographs of the Ainu show individuals with light skin, heavy beards and sometimes light-colored eyes.

Jōmon culture first arose in Japan at least 12,000 years ago and perhaps as early as 16,000 years ago, when the landmasses were still connected to the mainland. These seafarers built boats out of sewn planks of wood. Outstanding mariners and deep-water fishermen, they were among the first people to make fired pottery.

The discovery of Kennewick Man adds a major piece of evidence to an alternative view of the peopling of North America. It, along with other evidence, suggests that the Jōmon or related peoples were the original settlers of the New World. If correct, the conclusion upends the traditional view that the first Americans came through central Asia and walked across the Bering Land Bridge and down through an ice-free corridor into North America.

Sometime around 15,000 years ago, the new theory goes, coastal Asian groups began working their way along the shoreline of ancient Beringia—the sea was much lower then—from Japan and Kamchatka Peninsula to Alaska and beyond. This is not as crazy a journey as it sounds. As long as the voyagers were hugging the coast, they would have plenty of fresh water and food. Cold-climate coasts furnish a variety of animals, from seals and birds to fish and shellfish, as well as driftwood, to make fires. The thousands of islands and their inlets would have provided security and shelter. To show that such a sea journey was possible, in 1999 and 2000 an American named Jon Turk paddled a kayak from Japan to Alaska following the route of the presumed Jōmon migration. Anthropologists have nicknamed this route the “Kelp Highway.”

“I believe these Asian coastal migrations were the first,” said Owsley. “Then you’ve got a later wave of the people who give rise to Indians as we know them today.”

He goes on to theorize that these early migrants, never large in number, were possibly swamped by the later, larger waves of immigrants coming over the Bering Land Bridge.

How cool is that?

We have no problem with theorizing about waves of emigration into Europe and Asia out of Africa, or even with speculation about the relations between Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal.  Why should early human migration into the Americas be any less mosaic?

Read the whole thing for a discussion of teh research and a history of the attempts of the Powers That Be to repress it.  As you might imagine, it’s a story of politicks poisoning science.

YeahGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Per the recommendation of one of you friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo popped  Tampopo  into his DVD player this evening.

This was the first time I’d seen this movie.

I got the whole “noodle western/ Seven Samurai” vibe.  Indeed, so far as these things went, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And I loved the whole cooking theme.  Fact, it made me downright hungry.

What I didn’t get was the whole voluptuary playboy side story.  Lots of gratuitous salt n’ lemon, and passing back and forth of egg yolks, but where, exactly, was the connection to the main plot?  I kept waiting for some kind of showdown between Voluptuous Boy and Tampopo’s cowboy-hatted backer, but no such dice.  Voluptuous Boy [SPOILER ALERT!!] dies in a hail of bullets which, unless I’ve missed something, are completely irrelevant to the plot.

Also, I missed the relevance of the Rich Old Lady who went about putting her thumb-prints in various delicacies.

Never mind, an enjoyable evening and a glass of wine with whomever of you suggested this flick!

HobbitonGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Earlier today ol’ Robbo found himself hobnobbing with the youngest gel (who starts middle school in a week) about seasonal preferences.  It turns out that we agree, ranking them from best to worst thusly:  Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer.

We seem to have arrived at several of our preferences based on very different criteria (for instance, questions of wardrobe possibilities heavily influence teh gel’s thinking while mine not so much), but we agree about summer.  It’s too darn hot.

Now long time friends of the decanter will recall that one of Robbo’s stock summah memes involves bitching about the iron fist of Heat Miser and all the misery it causes round here.  However, as I reminded the gel, you certainly couldn’t level such criticism at the Summah of 2014, at least as experienced in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  Indeed, it’s been almost ridiculously pleasant, with relatively few 90+ degree days and, so far as I can recollect, absolutely no triple-digit heat.   And at the moment, we are experiencing weather more typical of the second half of September than August.

Indeed, if summah were always so pleasant round here, I would have no cause to complain whatsoever.

Of course, I know that hasn’t been and isn’t going to be the case, and that my tradition of griping posts will resume at some point in the future.  Indeed, we are being told these days by  Top Men that all that Global Warming hasn’t gone away, but instead is just hiding at the moment – somewhere in the Marianas Trench or under Mt. Everest or in Birnam Wood or the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51 or something, I don’t quite recall – and is only waiting the psychological moment to burst forth again, shouting, “Boo! Ha, ha,ha!  Should have listened to Al Gore and Michael Mann, you selfish, ignorant wing-nuts!  You are so toast now!”

Eh, we’ll see.  Meanwhile, I’m just enjoying the moment.

Speaking of which, here’s a question for you Tolkien sharks out there.  There are several instances in the Lord of the Rings (I refer to the books, of course) in which it is suggested that Sauron at least influences, if not specifically directs, the weather.  The snow storm at the Red Horn Gate comes to mind, as does the big thunderstorm at the Battle of Helm’s Deep.  But I’ve always wondered about the extremely pleasant summer in the Shire in the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring that contributes to Frodo’s stalling around before he finally sets out on his initial journey.  Just coincidence?  Or is some malevolent force at work?  And if so, why?  Keep Frodo at home long enough for the Nazgul to get there?  Is the Ring doing it?  Can Sauron influence the weather that far away and does he have sufficient information (from Gollum’s torture) to make such specific arrangements?   And can he create conditions that seem fair without feeling foul?  There’s no hint of anything evil about that summer in the Shire.  Then again, perhaps nobody was looking for it.

I throw all this out just by way of musing.  And speaking of which, if you are both a Tolkien Geek and a Weather Nerd like ol’ Robbo, you’ll probably want to read this article.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Rain and fog all day today allowed ol’ Robbo to duck his usual Saturday task of laboring in the demesne with a clear conscience, that and the detritus of basement reconstruction scattered over so much of it.  So instead, I spent the day lounging in the hammock and rereading a couple of old favorites.

Uncle FredOne was P.G. Wodehouse’s Uncle Fred In The Springtime, which I believe to be the first full-length novel (although he had appeared in at least one earlier short story) concerning the exploits of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, Fifth Earl of Ickenham who, although mature in years, continues to maintain the outlook “of a slightly inebriate undergraduate”.  The book was published in 1938 and I have often argued that Plum was at the very top of his form in the 30’s and early 40’s.  Not only is this one from that period, but so are such standouts as Hot Water, Heavy Weather, The Code of teh Woosters (the best Bertie and Jeeves story, IMHO) and Money In The Bank.

BelisariusThe other was Robert Graves’ Count Belisarius, which tells the story of the famous Byzantine general who won back great chunks of the Roman Empire under Justinian the Great, only to be blinded and beggared at the end of his life.  It’s very well written and the campaigns are quite exciting, but the court intrigue gets to be a bit much and Graves also seems to take a grim pleasure in sneering at Christianity as it struggles to sort out orthodoxy from the various heresies that plagued the age, suggesting that most of the True Believers involved were either hypocrites or lunatics or both.  (Graves, in many of his writings, was very keen on the notion that Christianity stole many of its elements and symbols from older and somehow more “authentic” pagan worship, particularly that of an all-encompassing three-in-one White Goddess native to the Eastern Mediterranean.)

So there was that.

On a different note, because our basement is still all ahoo, we still don’t have cable in the house.  This has been causing some consternation on the part of the Middle Gel because this evening is the premiere episode of the newest incarnation of the Doctor and the gel has this year become an almost rabid Whovian.   However, being the resourceful type that she is, she solved this problem by diplomatically getting herself and Mrs. Robbo invited to a friend’s house for pizza and the big screening.  (It was diplomatic because, prior to the gel working her Big Magic, I don’t believe the friend was even aware of being a Dr. Who fan.  On the other hand, teh gel has been showing Mrs. R reruns in an effort to, ah, indoctrinate her.  I don’t know how successful this effort has been.)

Me, since I’ve been being cultured and stuff all day, I think I’m just going to hold the fort here at Port Swiller Manor and probably indulge in some “Arrested Development” reruns.

 

 

 

 

 

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