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Well, per my post immediately below, that’s done for today.  About a six hour job altogether.

Mrs. R asks why I don’t just hire somebody to clean up the leaves.  No doubt I will someday when I’m old and feeble, but while I still have my strength I believe this to be one of those things I ought to do myself.  For one thing, there’s the exercise.  For another, there’s the satisfaction of comparing before and after and knowing that I was personally responsible for causing the change.

Besides, today was bright and cool but not cold, the leaves were dry and easy to move, and it was nice to have an excuse to be outside pottering about.  My attitude admittedly might be somewhat different were the weather soggy and frigid, as happens from time to time.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned it before but we had a pretty “meh” foliage season this year.

By the way, as I shlepped up and down the hill with my tarp full of leaves, I found myself continuously mulling over this article I picked up over at the Puppy-Blender’s this morning:  Colleges struggle with protecting students without being accused of victim-blaming.   All I can say is that if we have slid so far into the pit of cultural infantilism that simple common sense is not only abandoned but is considered outright evil, then we’re in a whooooooole heap of trouble.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is loitering around this Saturday morning, drinking coffee and waiting for the temperature to get up over the freezing mark before he goes out and deals with the leaves.  As regular friends of the decanter may have read here previously, there are three big silver maples and an oak between the street and the sidewalk in front of Port Swiller Manor.  I have found over the years that it’s best to clean up under them in four stages – a preliminary sweep after the initial drop, usually at the end of October/beginning of November; a second sweep the week before Thanksgiving; a third sweep either  Thanksgiving weekend or the next one following; and a final sweep once the oak finishes shedding (it’s always last).

In the meantime, since I’ve been on my anti-”holiday” hype jag recently, I thought I would share one thing I do enjoy about this time of year, and that is hearing the Salvation Army bells ringing at the local groc store.  Especially after dark, for some reason.  I don’t really have an articulate explanation for this, but that tinkling presses a certain button of satisfaction somewhere within ol’ Robbo’s soul.

So there you are.  Regular ranting will resume almost immediately.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

There has been an usual amount of lobbying this year among teh Gels to decorate the exterior of Port Swiller Manor with lights and whatnot apropos of the Season (which, this year, seems to have started a couple days after July the 4th)

Fact of the matter is that, as I explained to them yet again,  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t do exterior lights or other fancies.  As far as he’s concerned, when the purple Advent ribbons are switched out on the front door wreaths for the red Christmas ones on Christmas Eve, his outward celebratory sign work is done.

This did not go over well.  Indeed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

To which I replied, “Look, when you are all grown up and have your own homes, you can decorate it for the holidays (or for any other reason) however you wish.  Until then?  Shut it.”

Hey, that’s me – Mr. Sensitivity.

Mrs. Robbo wants to string up some lights around the back porch ceiling this year.  As to that, I’m less inclined to kick, largely because – even though we plan to host one or more holiday shindigs this year, I doubt fairly seriously whether anyone is going to want to venture out there, what with ManBearPig bringing the freeze and all.

Stephen_Hawking_SimpsonsGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whilst watching “Air Disasters” on the Smithsonian Channel this evening (okay, while generally decrying teevee I admit that I’m a sucker for this show), ol’ Robbo saw an ad for the upcoming movie The Theory of Everything, which purports to look at “the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.”  The clips shown were from the early days before Hawking was confined to his signature wheelchair and electronic voice-box and seemed to be of the usual infatuation/disillusionment/hate/love cycle variety, with a heavy side of Scientist-Geek thrown in.

“Hmmmm,” I said to myself.  “Without looking it up, didn’t Mr. Hawking, within the past few years, chuck the Missus in favor of his nurse?  That would rayther put a damper on any ‘message’ about his earlier courtship of Mrs. H, wouldn’t it?  Plus, from all that I’ve gleaned, the fellah is something of a first-class shite to deal with.”

Well, I still haven’t looked it up.  Maybe (indeed, hopefully) I’m wrong in my recollection.  If so, apologies all around.

Nonetheless, I am no fan of Mr. Hawking and have no intention of seeing this flick.  Why?  Because he has fallen into the trap of believing that because he has (very real) insights into the physical mechanics of the Universe, he is thereby qualified to make theological pronouncements about it (to wit, essentially, asserting that there is no such thing as an originating God), and has made something of a media whore out of himself doing so.

The publicity game aside, let me put it in simple terms:  Science, meaning the quantifiable observations of the physical world around us, can at best answer questions associated with the What and the How of our Universe.    It cannot answer questions regarding the Why of said Universe, nor can it answer any question regarding either that which is beyond it or the relationship between it and that which is beyond.

One of the many myths about Holy Mother Church is that she hates and condemns Science.  This is wrong.  (Indeed, the oldest functioning astronomical telescope in the world is, I believe, owned by the Vatican.)  What she actually condemns is scientists who use their observations/discoveries of the physical world as a basis for their own amateur theological pronouncements.   And if there is one thing ol’ Robbo has come to despise in his religious pilgrimage over the years, it’s amateur theology.

Anyhoo, as much as I might admire Mr. Hawking for overcoming the tremendous physical hurdles thrown in his path and for his contributions to actual science, I am very, very leery of this latest effort to bolster his pop icon status.

UPDATE:  Okay, I peeked into Mr. H’s bio.  It’s more screwed up than I recalled.   Message stands.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been down the past couple days with a bout of the ‘flu.  This has become a sort of annual drama here at Port Swiller Manor.  First, Mrs. R badgers me about getting a flu shot.  I resist because I don’t like shots.  Then, when I get the ‘flu, instead of nursing me back to health she badgers me even more about why I didn’t listen to her in the first place.

Heigh-ho.

Well, it may or may not be because of the ‘flu, but ol’ Robbo had one of his extremely rare dream-within-a-dream specials last night.  (I can only recall having maybe two or three of these before.)  In the first part, I dreamt we had some additions built on to Port Swiller Manor.  When we came to view the work, we discovered that the contractor had gone far, far beyond what we were expecting.  I found myself standing in a vast room of cherry wood floors, enormous bookcases, a ceiling far overheard, deep windows and a marble fireplace at one end.  Mrs. R and I were both pleased and puzzled and took the attitude that, so long as we weren’t actually paying more money than we had agreed to, then we wouldn’t complain about the result.

Then I “woke up” and found myself in what I thought was my real house.  It was cramped and low and made of plywood and bare sheetrock.  As I looked about, I saw the shoddiness of the “real” job the contractors did:  Everything out of plumb, cracks and crevasses everywhere and an ominous bowing in the floor.  Indeed, even as I watched, a sofa suddenly collapsed down through said floor, punching another hole in the floor immediately beneath and eventually crashing into the basement.

And with that, I finally really woke up.

Then I dreamt that I found out the Middle Gel was dating a 20 y.o. guy.  When I confronted her about it, she tried to talk me round, showing me a picture of him on her cell phone.  He looked a total brute.  I told her to break it off immediately and she went away in tears.  Somehow or other, I then became aware that she had snuck off with said fellah to some kind of SciFy convention.  I hurried there and found myself running in endless circles between a large auditorium and a foyer crammed with people in weird costumes milling about, standing in long lines and interviewing each other, but I couldn’t find her anywhere.

What do you think?  Too much Nyquil?

"Home, Sweet Home" by Winslow Homer, 1863.

“Home, Sweet Home” by Winslow Homer, 1863.

Looking back on life so far, I would say that one of the few regrets I have is that I never served in the military.   I registered for the draft, of course, but by then (’80 or ’82) it had long since been suspended (do they still require registration anymore?) and, at the time, the idea of volunteering simply never occurred to me.  Might have done me a power of good between high school and college.

It seems to me that there’s something to be said for a couple years’ compulsory service.  OTOH, it’s my understanding that the military itself really doesn’t want this, as it prefers not to be saddled with deadweight absent some pressing need for mass mobilization.

Anyhoo, when I come to think about it, rayther a lot of the Family Robbo have been in uniform at one time or another.

The Old Gentleman did his four years in the Army Medical Corp.  (I’ve still got his old field jacket somewhere.)  I don’t think he contributed much directly to fighting the Cong, but his posting to Fort Sam Houston was directly responsible for my misspent yoot in South Texas.

The Mothe’s brother was the rear-seater in a Navy fighter-bomber in Korea.  They blew up a Nork ammo train one time.  On the other hand, he was also shot down once (he was wounded bailing out).

A great uncle on the Old Gentleman’s side was a Commander in Naval Intelligence in WWII.  Don’t know if he spent any time at sea, but he wound up at the Pentagon and later served in the Ike administration.  I also recently found out that I am related to a fighter ace who flew in the European theatre (P-51′s, I believe).  Mrs. Robbo’s grandfather also flew a B-24 there, dropping supplies to the Resistance behind German lines.

So far as I know, nobody in my family participated directly in WWI.

As I’ve mentioned here before, my great-great grandfather was a Union artillery officer who fought in the Atlanta Campaign.

Finally, although I don’t have the information directly in front of me, I know of at least three ancestors from the Revolutionary War – one was in the Continental Army, one in a state militia and one had horses commandeered for military service.

So here’s a glass to all of them and to all others who have served.  Thank you!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo informed me this morning that I’m not allowed to do yard work today since I’ve been down this week with the stomach bug, so I’m just having a cup o’ joe and noodling around here.

♦   As a matter of fact, I feel considerably better.  Yesterday I had a massive headache all day, which was actually good news because that always seems to be one of the last stages of these things for me.  Indeed, I like to imagine them in terms of  nor’easters that first form off Cape Hatteras (my stomach) and then roll up the East Coast (shoulders, neck, head) before heading on out to sea.

Yes, I’m a weirdo.

♦   Speaking of nor’easters, hello Polar Vortex!  (The Port Swiller thermometer hit 32 degrees for the first time this morning, but the kerpow is scheduled for later next week here.)  AlGore could not be reached for comment – I understand he has a hot new lead on the whereabouts of ManBearPig.

♦   Speaking of seasonal changes, we got all the ferns and potted palms moved in off the porch last week.  They look so nice inside I think we’re going to keep them here and just get new ones for outdoors next spring.

♦   RIP Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s “Car Talk”.  I used to listen to him and his brother Ray every Saturday morning, especially back in school, and regularly found myself rolling on the floor in laughter.   Indeed, his stock “Aww, Jeez” has become a staple of the Port Swiller lexicon.   (As a matter of fact, I stopped listening to Click and Clack out of protest when they got on the “SUV’s are Global Warminz!! Eleventy!!!” bandwagon, but I still remember the old days fondly.)

♦   Speaking of people in the nooz, just who the hell is this Lena Dunham person?  (I’ll take pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists for a thousand, Alex.)  As the father of three daughters, I simply cannot conceive how any one of them would wish to grow up emulating that.

♦  Speaking of pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists, it may just be my imagination coupled with wishful thinking, but I’m beginning to get the impression that people have had just about enough of that sort of thing and that the tide may be beginning to turn.  I hope so.  I hope so.

♦   Somewhat related, Scott Hahn, the popular Catholic convert and apologist, writes very insightfully and I’ve learned a great deal from him, but the fact of the matter is that his over-use of exclamation points and catch-phrases puts me off his books.

♦   Finally, speaking of books, I’ve started through the Charles Portis cycle for the umpteenth time.  (If you don’t read Portis, you’re really, really missing out.)  Allow me to quote a small piece from the beginning of his first novel, Norwood:

Norwood and Vernell did not live right in Ralph but just the other side of Ralph.  Mr. Pratt had always enjoyed living on the edge of places or between places, even when he had a choice.  He was an alcoholic auto mechanic.  Before his death they had moved a lot, back and forth along U.S. Highway 82 in the oil fields and cotton patches between Stamps, Arkansas, and Hooks, Texas.  There was something Mr. Pratt dearly loved about that section of interstate concrete.  They clung to its banks like river rats.  Once, near Stamps, they lived in a house between a Tastee-Freez stand and a cinder-block holiness church.  There had been a colorful poster on one side of the house that said ROYAL AMERICAN SHOWS OCT. 6-12 ARKANSAS LIVESTOCK EXPOSITION LITTLE ROCK.  On the other side of the house somebody with a big brush and a can of Sherwin-Williams flat white had painted ACTS 2:38.

I just love that.  Love the style, love the substance, love the little quirks.  Portis is from the Ark-La-Tex area and captures its details lovingly, not snarkily.

There really is a Hooks, Texas and a Stamps, Arkansas – they’re a few miles the opposite sides of Texarkana.  And U.S. 82 really does run through them.  Alas, I cannot find a Ralph, Texas.  I think it must be a stand-in for either Leary or Nash, both of which are between Hooks and Texarkana.  (If you’re into this sort of geekery, you can read Portis’s True Grit with google-map open at your side and very easily trace Mattie Ross’s journey from Yell County, Arkansas into the Eastern Oklahoma badlands, and in fact to the mountain hideout of Lucky Ned Pepper, which I believe is a state park now.)

Acts 2:38, by the way, reads: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Good advice for anyone.

UPDATE:  Well, I got one home-improvement project done anyway, namely running the cables behind the basement wall between the teevee and the Verizon box.  I used a fish tape to bull up through the insulation between the two holes, then ran a loop of line through, splicing the heads of the various cables to it and pulling them through more or less on the capstan principle.  Turned out to be rayther more difficult than I had anticipated, at least so far as getting at the tape head the first time.  Luckily, I have small hands so was eventually able to grapple it and get it out.  I even had the sense to leave the line in place (the end discretely coiled behind the teevee) in case the gels need another one of their infernal video contraptions hooked up.

A small matter, but nonetheless something from which I can draw satisfaction.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and stand back – I don’t want to infect you.

Yes, ol’ Robbo spent most of the day today in bed, down with a stomach flu which seems to have come a’calling at Port Swiller Manor.   And in that time he had a couple of his patented bizarro dreams, which frankly seem to have been on sabbatical for a while.  I can’t remember the one, but the other is very clear still in my mind.  Would you like to hear about it?  Oh, good….

Well, it seems that I was on an airliner, a wide-body, flying to some resort destination or other.  It was a long flight and people around me seemed resigned just to hunker down and tough it out, when all of a sudden the stewardess appeared at the front of the cabin, determined to turn the situation into a flying party.

I recognized the woman:  About four or five years ago I found myself making numerous trips back and forth to Cleveland on biznay.  At one point, we were flying out every week, sometimes twice a week, and it got to where we knew the flight crews pretty well.   (It was a Continental regional jet and there was only the one attendant  each time.)  This woman was one of them, and the reason I remembered her was that she started her pre-flight safety routine every time with a lame joke about us being en route to Honolulu.  (Nobody ever laughed.)

Anyhoo, in my dream she got up and announced that she and a golf pro who was onboard were going to have a driving contest, hitting from tees just behind the cockpit and aiming at targets on the aft bulkhead.  Once again, nobody laughed.  Indeed, they didn’t even seem to react.

I happened to be sitting right up front and to one side, so I knew the stunt wouldn’t affect me directly, but I thought it pretty hard cheese on the people sitting in the potential flight paths.

Go figure what all that might have been about.

Oh, the other thing I recall is that the flight was a bit bumpy, but it didn’t bother me.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of the traditional ceremonies of All Saints’ Day here at Port Swiller Manor is the disposal of the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern.

We do this by taking it out the back gate and to the edge of what is identified on local topographical maps as “an unnamed tributary of Bull Neck Run” but which we simply call “the creek”.   It’s a good twelve feet from the top of the bank down to the water, very steep on our side but of a somewhat softer slope on the other.

Anyhoo, at the edge of the creek, after thanking him for his services of the night before we give ol’ Jack a mighty heave-ho.

Depending on various factors such as size, weight, slipperiness and the like,  Jack might do just about anything on landing.  Sometimes he will hit a rock or a log and blow apart like a bomb.  Sometimes he will just catch the lip of the bank and then roll back down the slope.  One year, he made it all the way across and wound up in a bush on the far side, facing back across the defile and looking positively indignant.  As fall went on and he kept sitting there glaring, it got rather creepy.

Speaking of which, yes, ol’ Robbo once again did the traditional triangular eyes and nose and toothy grin.  In the matter of pumpkin carving, I am the oldest of old-school, and I positively loathe all this fancy-pants “sculpturing” tommyrot.

UPDATE:  Well, Jack didn’t quite make it all the way across this year.  He face-planted at the top of the bank and rolled back down into the streamed, losing his crown in the process.  He’s sitting there now, moodily looking downstream.

Trick or treat?  Why not both?
Halloween Delight

 

Hey, I’m a giver.  And who really wants candy anyway.  (Unless, of course, her name is Candy.)

Now go read my travel post directly below that I stomped just to give this to you early.

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