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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!

Nats HatWell, on further reflection ol’ Robbo doesn’t have much to say about his beloved Nats’ elimination in teh first round of the playoffs.   He could point out that each of our three losses to the Giants was by a single run and that two of them arguably were the direct result of rookie manager pitching decision mistakes (the first one questionable, the second one insane).  He also could point out that the Nats had the best National League record during the regular season, and could argue that a team’s results over 162 games are far more demonstrative of its quality than said team’s results over any four games.   But nobody would listen.   All anybody cares about post-season (and, arguably, for any given season) is who advances and who goes home.   At this point?  I really don’t even care anymore, but am thinking ahead to what is likely to happen over the off-season and into next spring.  (My prediction?  Not much.  LaRoche is likely done at 1st so that we can bring Ryan Zimmerman back into the starting lineup, Soriano is gone, but most of the rest of the team stays, I think, pretty much as it is.  Oh, and I’m calling it Right Now:  We win next year.)

Regular friends of the decanter will tolerate ol’ Robbo going through the math here because they understand that this is only the second post-season venture in his nearly 50 years in which he’s had a genuine vested interest.  (I grew up in a non-baseball town and could never consider myself more than an interested sympathizer for any team until the Nats came to Dee Cee in ’05.  How lucky are the Gels, by the bye, that they get to experience all of this in their yoot.)   I must say that I find the experience…….bittersweet.

Anyhoo, it’s over and done and I now can turn my attention to other things, such as the fact that the Great Post-Flood Port Swiller Manor Basement Renovation of 2014 is almost complete! (A mere two months after the original disaster, but who’s counting?) Flooring (Pergo or its equivalent) went in yesterday, baseboards were tacked on today and now pretty much all that’s left is the bathroom fixtures and some wiring.   In fact, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his lovely family are coming in this weekend for an overnight stay and I had been fretting the past week or so about where on earth we were going to put them all.  Thanks to this week’s work, the basement is now at least habitable.  This gives ol’ Robbo a happy.

If you’d like me to post pics of the finished product, let me know.   (I’ve never been able to decide whether that sort of thing is looked on favorably by readers or is considered showing away.)

Final observation:  Last evening I watched Enemy at the Gates, the 2001 dramatization of the duel between a Russian and a German sniper (based  somewhat, I believe, on “actual events”) during the Battle of Stalingrad, that I almost automatically think of as Saving Private Ivan.  I’ve seen this movie maybe three or four times and still cannot quite put my finger on what makes it an okay flick but not really a good one (even though it features the lovely and talented Rachel Weisz, which fact alone ought to carry it).

hoskins krushchevOne positive thing I forget each time and am delighted to rediscover is Bob Hoskins as Khrushchev.  I love how he continually refers to Stalin as “duh Boss”.  This is exactly right.  Uncle Joe was as much as or even more of a thug than was Hitler.  Appallingly, the typical Modern, to the extent they have even heard of WWII, thinks the Soviets and the Nazis were diametric opposites.  The truth, of course, is the reverse.  Fascism and Communism (and, I may add, Progressivism and, for that matter, the Mafia) are close cousins, all of which argue for the sacrifice of individual freedoms to the alter of collective, centralized authority and for the elimination of said individuals who either can’t or won’t comport with the Plan.

 

10420This reminds me that I’ve never read Solzhenitsyn but have been meaning to the past few years.  Any friends of the decanter have any suggestions on the best place to start?  Ol’ Robbo would appreciate such tips greatly.  From what I gather, it’s not so much of a stretch to call the man a Saint.   And yet, after all he’d been through under the Soviet regime and all the effort he had put forth to speak (if I may) Truth to Power, he is these days a hissing and a byword among those who claim to champion liberalism.   (This is just one of the million and one reasons, or perhaps more accurately one of the million and one pieces of evidence of the general reason, why ol’ Robbo detests Leftists.)

 

 

 

davebarry03Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the light posting this week.  The bug that has been wandering around Port Swiller Manor recently finally decided to pay me a personal call.  It’s an odd one this time.  One minute you say to yourself, “Self, I think I’m getting better!”  The next, your head suddenly feels ten pounds too heavy, your entire body aches, you break out in a sweat and your knees threaten to fold the wrong way.

Rinse and repeat.

Anyhoo, I’ve spent most of the past 56 hours, at least the ones in which I’ve been awake, rereading a stack of old Dave Barry books, of which I have 6 or 7.  (Today it was Dave Barry Turns 50 and Dave Barry in Cyberspace.) It’s been a while since I last clapped eyes on any of them and, while it might just be the ‘flu talking, I must say that while I’ve always liked his stuff, ol’ Dave is a hell of a lot funnier than I remember.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

By the way, Wandering Bug would be a pretty good name for a rock band.

UPDATE:  Long-time friend of the decanter Cap’n Ned brings up an important (and I suppose apropos, given the pic of Dave I chose) issue,  that of appropriate bathroom reading.

This is a subject to which ol’ Robbo has dedicated some study over the years.  What is it that makes a given book appropriate to the library of the loo, the bibliotheca of the bog, the repository of the depository, the athenaeum of the ass-can?  (I’m so very sorry about that last one but I needed a closer.  If you imagine Robin Leach saying it, it’s not so bad.)

Well, I’ll tell you.  Said book must be both granule and lightweight.  It must be something on which you can nibble at will, taking it and leaving it as suits your biznay.  At the same time, it must be something for which less than full concentration is required, IYKWIMAITYD.   So both War and Peace and Quotations of Chairman Mao are right out.

Of course, the downstairs W/C at Port Swiller Manor has its own basket of reading materials.

As a sort of substratum, said basket always contains the latest alumni magazines from our various schools, together with copies of the local fish-wrapper and of Modern Luxury: DC magazine, which continues to show up in our mailbox despite the fact that we’ve never subscribed, much less shown any interest in it.

The real meat, though, is in the books.

Before sitting down to type out this update, I stepped into the downstairs W/C and rummaged around the reading basked in order to ascertain the current Port Swiller reading list and see if it complies with ol’ Robbo’s criteria.  It includes:

- Two compendia of Calvin & Hobbes cartoons;

- Two compendia of FoxTrot cartoons;

- Several volumes of Down East humor by noted Down East humorist John McDonald, including his Maine Trivia: A Storyteller’s Useful Guid To Useless Information; his A Moose and a Lobster Walk Into A Bar; and his Maine Dictionary (also the Boston Dictionary by John Powers, the success of which caused the publishers to hustle McDonald into producing the Maine version);

- The Devious Book for Cats, which styles itself as a parody but which is actually too close to the truth to be funny and is really rayther depressing;

- An evolution of the Darwin Awards; and

- James Lileks’ Mommy Knows Worst.  

I may admit that the last one is my current favorite, and it surprises me that no one has asked any questions about why Dad is locked in the loo, giggling, snerking and snorting.

Now certainly, as Ned suggests, Dave Barry would qualify for inclusion in a reading list of this sort based on substance.  The problem is that the guy is prolific, having something north of forty titles to his name.   Were I to introduce one or two of his books to the loo basket, pretty soon it would be three or four.  And then six or eight.  And then a round dozen.  At that point,  I’d start talking about a need for more space, perhaps a series of shelves, in which to deposit all of Dave’s words.  And in a bathroom?  That’s too weird for me.

No, at least at Port Swiller Manor, Barry gets confined to what I call the Bookcases of Misfit Authors.   These are the ones down the basement to which ol’ Robbo bans books that he deems not appropriate for his “library proper”.  At the moment they’re all sitting in stacks scattered about the house and awaiting the post-flood restoration of said basement which the contractor promises is less than two weeks out now, but once that’s done, they’re going back downstairs where they belong.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo usually spends this time on Sunday afternoons getting in a little tickling of the ivories.  Today, however, Port Swiller Manor is full up with people taking much needed naps, so he finds himself at the Mac instead.

What with all the hubbub over the past few days, ol’ Robbo is only now getting around to commenting on a story several folks forwarded him last week that the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, his old alma mater, is insisting that all on-campus fraternities become coed.  Delicious money quote:

The decision was announced in a letter to the university community from President Michael Roth and trustees Chairman Joshua Boger. It requires Greek organizations with houses on campus to have both male and female members and to have each gender “well represented” in their organizational leadership to qualify for housing on campus and the use of university spaces.

“Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That’s why all our students should be eligible to join them,” Roth and Boger wrote. “Although this change does not affect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus.”

In other words, Loyalty, Community and Independence are not a matter of individual, localized, choices and values, but instead are what we SAY they are, bitchez!  So get in line!  

Ah, the sweet, sweet, oxymoronic goodiness of authoritarian freedom.  Taste the boot heal-generated tears, Mikey! TASTE them!

As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo was a member of Alpha Delta Phi during his time at Wes, and in those days Alpha Delt already was a coed establishment, at least on that campus.  (I believe we were one of four such coed chapters around the country, the others being at Brown, Reed and Chicago.  I don’t recall what our status was vis a vis the national organization, but somebody told me the chapter lost its charter a couple years after I graduated.)

I remember being torn about the whole biznay at the time.  On the one hand, I held a sympathy for the idea of local autonomy based on campus realities.  On the other, I could understand the need for certain boundaries and principles mandated by the central authority.   (God only knows what I would have done during the Revolution or the Civil War.) In the end, I suppose it was the fact that my then-girlfriend wanted me to join that made me overcome my hesitations, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyhoo, as I say, that was a matter for the fraternity itself to debate, not for the administration to meddle in.

Alpha Delt was known, by the way, as the Wine and Cheese house because we fancied ourselves as artistic.  Beta Theta was the Milk and Cookies house because they were all nice guys.  Psi-U was Psi-Mo because they played a lot of Motown at their parties.  Chi Psi was Neanderthal house because it was mostly hockey players.  DKE?  Well, Deek was just Deek.  Nuff said.

 

Friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo feels it is time to ask your collective opinion on an issue that has plagued Port Swiller Manor for some little while and now threatens to flame up into outright civil war.

You see, some time in the past couple years, we became possessed of a set of Washington Nationals Russian-style nesting dolls.  (It must have been in 2011 or the immediate offseason, because both Jason Marquis and Mikey “Beast Mode” Morse are included.)  The set occupies a shelf in the Port-Swiller library that also holds some chick lit, a porcelain fox, a miniature globe and a plaque commemorating one of the gels’ softball seasons.

Here’s the problem:  I believe that the set should be displayed in what one might call “extended” ranks, with the dolls lined up next to each other.  Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, seems to think that they are better off in the “contracted” position, all of the smaller ones nestled safe inside Jayson Werth’s belleh.

(In case you’re wondering, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche round out the quintet.)

We’ve spoken on this issue but have failed to reach an accord.  Instead, we find ourselves in a low-intensity domestic conflict.  When ol’ Robbo finds the dolls contracted, he quietly spreads them out.  When Mrs. Robbo finds them in extended order, she just as quietly stacks them again.

Am I wrong?

Incidentally, The Beast is with San Fran this year and the Giants look to grab one of the NL wildcard slots.  Morse was so beloved by us Nats fans that, even if we find him facing us at some point in the playoffs this year, I think I’m right in saying on behalf of all of us that we all wish him the very best.  Indeed, I – and I think almost all of us – would sing along lustily if, on Morse’s coming to the plate at Nats Park, we put on his old walk up musick.  Enjoy!

 

jollyrogerWell, mateys, I see where today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Arrr, have at it!

Some random pirate-related observations, me buckoes:

♦   A month or two ago, Ol’ Robbo finally got around to reading Treasure Island for the first time and found it a right ripping yarn.

♦   I know the entire score of The Pirates of Penzance by heart.  “We seek a penalty fifty-fold for General Stanley’s story.”***

♦   I’ve never made it all the way through any of the Pirates of teh Caribbean series without dozing off.  (Too much rum, probably.)

♦   You can imagine for whom ol’ Robbo cheered during the semi-final between the Bournemouth Gynaecologists and the Watford Long John Silver Impersonators. (No link, mates.  Them’s what gets it, gets it.)

♦  Historickal Fact:  This be Lancelot Blackburne, Anglican Archbishop of York (1658-1743).  In his misspent yoot, he was a buccaneer.

Lancelot_Blackburne_(1658–1743),_Archbishop_of_York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yo, Ho!

***The last line of that delightful little throw-away chorus, sung offstage, heralding the arrival of the Pirate King and his band for the big climax in the last act.  Full verse:

“A rollicking band of pirates we/who, tired of tossing on the sea/are trying our hands at burglaree/with weapons grim and gory.

We are not coming for plate or gold/A story General Stanley told/We seek a penalty fifty-fold for General Stanley’s sto-ree!”

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