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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 -

 

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.

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.)

 

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.

 

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.)

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Late last Saturday afternoon, as ol’ Robbo drove teh Middle Gel to a friend’s house downtown for a birthday party sleepover, he found himself listening to an excruciatingly beautiful performance of one of Vivaldi’s Opus I trio sonatas on teh local classickal station.   (The fact that Robbo drives a Wrangler while listening to classickal musick, by the bye, will tell you much about what a weirdo he really is.)

vivaldi trio sonatas opus 1Anyhoo, so moved was I – Baroque trio sonatas are perhaps my very favorite form of art musick – that this evening I hunted up the playlist from that afternoon and tracked down the CD from which the election came.  It’s Vivaldi’s Sonate Da Camera a Tre Opus 1, performed by L’Estravagante, a fairly new group which, it would seem, has not yet recorded very much.  (Yes, the cover art on the CD is somewhat cheesy, but I’m afraid that’s a reality of modern marketing, even for high art.)  Of course I nipped over to the devil’s website and bought a copy for myself.

This is a perfect example of what I was on about the other day regarding the glorious Golden Age of historically-informed performances in which we are fortunate to live.   It may not seem like much when one considers all the signs of the intellectual, spiritual and moral collapse of Western Civilisation that  dominate the headlines these days, but it is at least something.

You can insert a “fiddling while Rome burns” joke here if you like, but I prefer to think of it as lighting a single candle instead of cursing the Darkness.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Waiting around for the dew to dry up a bit before mowing the lawn this morning, ol’ Robbo finds himself sampling a track recommended by the Middle Gel, who is a huge fan of the Piano Guys.

“Evolution”  – There’s that word again.  Just the other day I believe I was ranting here about the whiggish implication in its use that Newer means Better.  When teh Gel told me about this video,  which (if you aren’t going to click it) is a mash up of the principle Batman themes going back to the old 60’s teevee series, I could not resist pointing out that the only real Batman among them all was, of course, the legendary Adam West.  (Okay, I’ll also give you Olan Soule, who voiced Batman on the old Super Friends cartoons.  BTW, did you know that Ted Knight was the narrator for those shows?)  In my opinion, once an actor and a role have reached a certain level of association, it becomes downright heretical to let somebody else play the part.  See Kirk, James Tiberius.

Not that I’ve really paid any attention to Batman’s later manifestations – I never saw any of the Dark Knight movies, for instance.  All of this fantasy/sooperhero stuff that seems so en vogue these days strikes me as extremely juvenile.  (Ducks.)

As for the musick?  Eh, it’s a nice sound and I can see why teh Gel likes these guys.  At her age, I probably would have, too.  But you know what Paul says about thinking as a child.**  These days, the stuff is really too fluffy for my taste.  (Ducks again.)

 

** [Ed. - Um, you put up a picture of a guy sitting on a potty in the post just below this one.]

UPDATE:  Aaaaand, in before the rain!

 

Well, my fellow port swillers, it’s been an interesting 24 hours here at Port Swiller Manor, to say the least.

Flipping through the archives, I can’t see that I posted about it at the time (because HIPAA or sumpin), but last fall teh Middle Gel lost a lot of school time due to a malaise that manifested itself in fatigue, frequent intestinal discomfort, acid reflux and general blah.

Over the course of a couple months, we made frequent trips to our local GP.  Then we started seeing specialists and counselors.  Finally, she had an endoscopy and a CAT scan done.  Nobody could find any definitive physical cause of these symptoms.

We went through a whole punch list of theories:  Maybe it was Mono.  Maybe it was an ulcer.  Maybe it was stress over her demanding schedule.  Maybe she was just a hypochondriac and there really wasn’t really anything wrong with her.  We tried all kinds of therapies and drugs, but none seemed to make much difference.  Eventually, after about 8 weeks or so, the symptoms seemed to die down on their own.  We finally reached the conclusion that she must have been whanged by an especially bad stomach flu, and that it simply took her a longer time than usual to get back on her feet.

I may say that I was never really satisfied with this explanation – not that I’m a doctor or that I play one on teevee – but I had to accept it because no better ones had been offered by anybody.

Fast-forward to yesterday afternoon.  In the middle of working out with her teammates at school, teh Gel was suddenly stricken with pain in her lower right abdomen.  The trainer took her in hand, noted that her BP was all a-hooey, and recommended that we get her to the ER, which we did.

Well, I won’t detail all the diagnostic steps taken last evening and this morning, but bottom line:  Acute appendicitis.

The Doc went in and took out teh Gel’s appendix this afternoon.  In doing so, he also noted that there was considerable scarring, as if the thing had enbiggened itself previously and been beaten back by teh Gel’s system.

Conundrum solved.

Now Mrs. R and I had always supposed that once the appendix goes dicky, it commits itself to an automated buildup to detonation like the Genesis Device and it’s only a matter of days or maybe weeks before the thing ruptures.  Not necessarily so, said the Doc this time (who seemed a heck of a lot more competent than the G/E doc we consulted last time around).¹   The body sometimes can, in fact, fight it off.  At a price, of course.

Now naturally we had considered the Gel’s appendix as a possible villain last year and had sonogrammed it then, but had found nothing.  Turns out that it’s a difficult organ at which to get a good dekko, and the Doc’s theory is that last year’s flare up probably was just not quite severe enough to be spotted, even if it was the culprit which spawned all the Gel’s reactions.

So there we are.

The Gel is resting at the moment, worn but in good spirits.  She may come home from teh hospital this evening, but more likely tomorrow morning.  Of course I’m happy that the operation was a success (which, it being routine, I didn’t seriously doubt), but I think I’m even happier that we hopefully seem to have put this whole biznay to bed once and for all.

I hate the word “closure” but, well, you know…..

So speaking of medical mysteries, did I ever tell you about my college roommate my last two years at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT?  We couldn’t have been more different had the matter been designed by a committee.  I was a hidebound conservative from South Texas and, by then, a varsity oarsman.  He was a skinny little pot-smoking, left-wing Jewish kid from New Jersey.   We disagreed with each other in almost everything.  Except perhaps the most important thing:  We had nearly identical senses of humor.

One of the ways in which this sense of humor manifested itself was in our practice of watching Quincy, M.E. reruns on weekday afternoons.  We quickly got into the habit, when finding fault in something around the dorm room, of falling into our best Jack Klugman impersonations and yelling, “What kind of a CRUMMY doctor would let this happen??”  Good times.  Good times.

I mention this memory because it was just about the first thing that flashed across my mind today when considering all the song and dance we went through a year ago while failing to spot the Gel’s problem then.

 

¹  Now no gratuitous swipes at doctors as a class in the comments, please.  The Old Gentleman was one (a pathologist) and my brother is another (an internist), so I know a goodish bit about the profession from the inside, as it were.   Of course they’re not infallible, but, as in all fields, some are better than others.

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