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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.
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! 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.
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!
Well, the renovation of the flooded basement at Port Swiller Manor has now achieved official “Port-o-John on the Driveway” status, which in an odd way makes ol’ Robbo feel like a grown-up.
They’ve taken out all the flooring and drywall now, plus clipped off the bottom part of the framing (which, we found, was built with non-pressure treated wood by our old handyman) and dug a hole in teh floor for the sump pump. They’ve also dug a trench outside parts of the house to come at the non-exposed exterior walls in order to repair them. With a certain amount of imagination, it looks something like a moat. At least it would work as a serviceable defense against the Underpants Gnomes.
Hopefully, they’ll be ready to start actually building things shortly.
And speaking of medieval military practices, I note that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field, fought this day in 1485. I must say that for all I know of the battle’s political importance, I am almost completely ignorant of its actual tactical unfolding. If memory serves, the recent exhumation and autopsy of Richard III revealed that he had died of blunt trauma to the skull and also suffered several other wounds, suggesting that he was in the thick of the fighting as a good king ought to have been in those days. (C.S. Lewis, in The Horse and His Boy, has one of his characters remark that the King should be first in the charge and last in the retreat.) Anybody know any good sources on this battle in particular and/or on 15th Century warfare in general?
By the way, the word “medieval” nowadays of course has negative connotations, suggesting that which is ignorant, crude, superstitious and cruel. I’m increasingly of the opinion championed by Lewis and others that the High Middle Ages were far, far better times than now commonly supposed in terms of sophistication of thought, richness of life and spiritual balance and health, and that the negative slur comes from those Enlightenment Humanists and their modern spawn who thought and think they could build an earthly Paradise based on Reason only.
Take a good, hard, honest look at the state of Western Civilization and tell me there’s not something to this.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Recently, ol’ Robbo found himself with a hankering for some straight-from-the-shoulder adventure books. To this end, he absolutely devoured P.C. Wren’s French Foreign Legion trilogy, Beau Geste, Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal (together with numerous short stories relating to the Family Geste), as well as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
I admit that in my nearly fifty years on this earth I had read none of these books before this current summah. And yes, I denounce myself.
What fun! What absolute fun! On the other hand, what an almost pathetic sense of nostalgia for a former time, for an era in which Western Civilization – and specifically, Anglo-Saxon Western Civilization – was unapologetically muscular and self-confident. Ironical, ain’t it, that I’m just now coming to them in the last embers of said civilization. Rayther like a mid-5th Century Roman stumbling across the works of Virgil and Horace and Livy, I suppose.
Anyhoo, what can one do but play the hand one is dealt? I am indulging myself further with Stevenson’s Kidnapped and its sequel, Catriona, and would be delighted with any other suggestions for similar works that any friends of the decanter may care to offer. (I should note that any recommendations of the works of James Fenimore Cooper will be met with cold but polite silence.)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
In teh past few weeks, ol’ Robbo can’t help but have noticed seeing a number of videos on the Innertoobs of various people – not just celebs, pols, athletes and whatnot, but real people he actually knows – having buckets of ice water poured on their heads.
Yesterday, teh youngest gel came home from her friend’s house, grinning ear to ear and carrying on her iWhateveritis a film of her friend pouring a bucket of ice water over her head.
“Okay, look,” I said, “Just what the heck is all this about anyway?”
“Um,” she said, “Well, there’s like this guuuy? And he’s really rich? And he, like, is challenging people to film themselves, like, pouring iced water on their heads? And, like, if you post the video and he, like, sees it? He’ll give $100 to study some disease nobody’s ever heard of!”
(On further review, I see she got it about half right.)
“Well,” I said, “If he wants to give a lot of money to some worthy charity, why doesn’t he just do it instead of asking people to make fools of themselves in public?”
“DAAAA-aaad!” she replied, “That’s not the way it works these days!”
Now there she was spot on. (I couldn’t help thinking of an old Bill Cosby bit in which he said, “Can you BELIEVE ‘Let’s Make A Deal?’ And that the people on that program are AMERICANS?” Yes, yes I can.)
Iced water on the head is just the latest notch up, but in fact I’ve never been much of a fan of what one might call “public displays of charity” – the ribbons and the t-shirts and the this and that showing one’s concern for some cause or other. Indeed, I seem to recall that a Certain Somebody didn’t think much of such displays either.
I know my viewpoint is in the minority these days, but I’m certainly not alone:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Please pardon the post-hols silence from your humble host, but we’ve been having another outbreak of the Joys of Home-Ownership here at Port Swiller Manor this week. Would you like to hear about it? Super! Thanks for asking!
Whelp, ol’ Robbo had gone down the office Tuesday as per usual, leaving teh gels home to squander some of their last remaining summah vacation time. (Mrs. R had stayed up in Connecticut for a couple extra days to visit with her parents and grandmother.)
If you will recall, Tuesday was a day of torrential rains throughout much of the South-East and Mid-Atlantic. The area immediately around the port swiller demesne was no exception.
About midday, I got a call from the Middle Gel.
“Daaaaaad, there’s a puddle in the [basement] study!” she said.
“Well,” I replied, thinking it was just some wet coming through a window frame,”just drop a towel on it for now.”
“Okay,” she said.
A bit later, she called back.
“Um, Dad, the puddle is getting bigger.”
“Well, put down some more towels.”
This back and forth went on for a while. Finally, I suggested she call Mrs. X, a friend of ours who was on stand-bye babysitting duty in case the gels needed immediate assistance while I was off at work.
A short while later I learned that what had originally been described to me as a mere “puddle” was, in fact, a couple inches of water spreading rapidly across the entire basement floor. At this point, I did what any sensible husband would do and called Mrs. Robbo.
“Mooommy!” I said.
Mrs. R then leapt into action from afar, getting hold of our contractor, who in turn immediately sent a crew along to start damage control.
It was only when I got home that evening that I learned of the full scope of the thing: Carpet ruined. Pergo in my study ruined. Baseboards gone. Bottom of drywall saturated. In addition, I found that the Internet servy-routy-thingamajig was dead (as was the printer), which is why I have not had access to the Webz until this evening.
Oh, and a consultation with our soon-to-be-former homeowner’s insurance revealed their attitude that once rain hit the ground, it was our problem, not theirs. (I picked a hell of a week to quit moonlighting as a drug mule.)
It was also only when I got home that I learned the youngest gel had been trying to unplug things while standing in the flood. I believe I aged several years right about then.
So what was the cause, you ask? The rain was coming down so heavily that it overwhelmed all the drainage measures out front and ponded up against the house directly above the basement wall. It then found its way down between the cinderblocks (which have been showing signs of age, wear and tear for some time) and bled out into the basement at a rate far, far greater than anything I’ve ever seen in 14+ years of residence here. I blame Manbearpig.
So you lot know what all this means, of course? That’s right, MOAR RENOVATIONS!
For one thing, they’re going to have to excavate at the side of the house to come at the leaky basement wall and repair it. They”re also going to put in new floors in the basement (Pergo all the way this time), replace the two feet of drywall they had to cut out all the way around and install a sump pump. Mrs. R, seeing an opportunity, has also declared that what was once nominally my workshop is going to be converted into another bathroom for the use of houseguests who stay at the Manor. (The study doubles as a guest room, you see, and to date lodgers have been forced to endure the horrors of the gels’ bathroom upstairs if they wanted to shower up.)
In the meantime, of course, we’ve had to move all the furniture and things out of the basement and are presently working out places in which to stuff them for the duration of the project. Also, although I got Verizon to run a cable up to a new router in the living room, we won’t have access to the teevee downstairs until it’s all put back together again.
As you can imagine, everything is all ahoo at the moment and probably will be for some time.
At any rate, there you have it. Seeing as I will not be able to watch my beloved Nationals on the teevee or listen to my stereo in the evening for the foreseeable future, I imagine I may spend rayther more time hanging around here than usual.
UPDATE: Spent much of the morning moving things out of the basement and trying to jury-rig something close to normalcy. Not much hope of that, but at the least I managed to set up my stereo and CD player in a corner of the living room so I can listen to musick (with headphones, of course). I also found a place for the little teevee and DVD player, so I can carry on Netflixing. So I’ve got that going for me.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Yes, Daddy is home from Peru. (Spot the riff, if you can. I’m actually back from Maine, of course.)
All in all, a fairly relaxing week staring at the bay, marred only by the fact that ol’ Robbo neglected to pack his tummy medicine before setting out, in part out of 4 ack emma sloth, in part because he figured that the absence of the usual workaday stresses would render said meds unnecessary.
Well, I was wrong about that. After the last dosage had cleared the ol’ system, the Port-Swiller tummy began to do a thoroughly unpleasant buck-and-wing, in turn rendering your host somewhat, shall we say, dyspeptic to those around him. After a few days, Mrs. R got so tired of it that she went into town herself, found some more meds, returned to teh cottage and shoved them at me with a curt, “Take them, dammit!”
Ah, middle age……
Anyhoo, a few odds and ends:
♦ Made the run from Westport, CT to Port Swiller Manor in the wilds of NoVA in 4 1/2 hours yesterday morning, including two Indy-like pit stops. Not that I’ve ever kept a log or anything, but I believe this to be a personal medal run. I’m not a reckless driver, but I’ve always been somewhat lead-footed, especially when traffic is relatively light, as it was Sunday morning. (Note, however, to that red van with Indiana plates: If you insist on doing 65 mph on the south end of the Jersey Turnpike, do it in the right-hand lane, for Heaven’s sake! You’ve no idea how many near-accidents I saw involving hot-heads trying to get around you.)
♦ We had a friend come in and house-sit for us while we were away. I was delighted to see that all the porch plants survived and thrived in our absence and that none of the cats was killed by the others. Oddly, it seemed to me that the two kittens (a little over a year old now) appear to have grown in our absence. I always thought cats reached full stature in about a year, but teh gels insist that their growth cycle is longer than that. Any of you know?
♦ Speaking of growth, I also was delighted to note that the jasmine I planted earlier this year – about which friends of the decanter may recall my blathering at length – all have new leaves on them, a sign that they like where they have been put. And while we’re on the subject of gardening, I would also note that I have a climbing rose out front, an Improved Blaze. For some years I have not touched the thing, and it gradually got so tall as to start getting tangled in the second-story gutter. This would be fine, except that every year after its glorious bloom and when the weather started hotting up, it would promptly shed all its leaves, rendering me open to snide remarks from teh Middle Gel about putting out the Halloween decorations too early. Well, this year I decided on radical action: After it was done blooming, I cut the thing way, way back (to about four feet high, in fact). For a number of weeks I had nothing but a handful of canes left and thought I might have killed it, but this morning I noticed new shoots on each and every one of them. Yay.
♦ I read four books while loafing about the Port-Swiller summah cottage:
- Hercules, My Shipmate by Robert Graves, a rendering of the tale of Jason and the Argonauts in the form of an historickal novel. I’ve read this book many times before. Once you get past Graves’ paganism (I think he really believed his carryings-on about an ancient, all-encompassing Mother Goddess usurped by the followers of more recent fraudulent religions – including Christianity), it’s a jolly fun and rayther lusty adventure story.
- Haydn’s Visits to England by Christopher Hogwood, a delightful little book (an extended essay, really) giving a day-to-day overview of Papa’s doings in Blighty. One thing I learned (this was my first time reading it) was that the Prince Regent was very, very attentive to Haydn during his visits. Good. I think very little of George IV in the main, but credit where it is due.
- Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. Just to keep my ire up against that rat-bastard Jean-Jacques Rousseau and all of his ideological spawn who have dedicated themselves to establishing Heaven on Earth, even at the need of putting millions of said Earth’s inhabitants to fire and sword for their own good. The book came out in January 2008 but seems all the more timely now. (Incidentally, I’ve decided to devote a deal of time this fall to rereading Locke, Smith and Burke and to finally introducing myself directly to Hayek.)
- The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. I’ve long been a fan of the movie (which I’ll probably pop in when I’m done with this post), but this was my first time reading the novel, which Mrs. R picked up for me somewhere for a dollar. What a lot of fun! And how refreshing to find a young author (he was about 29 when he wrote it) who isn’t a first-class, self-absorbed, whiney wanker. I’m curious about how those more Doyle-conscious than me think about the differences between book and movie: The latter, while, I think, adhering nicely to the tone of the book, did turn Joey The Lips inside out as a character, and its soundtrack had very, very little overlap with that of the former, but most of the differences strike me as de minims. Was Doyle involved in teh movie?
♦ Didn’t look at the Innertoobs a single time while on hols, so I’ve much on which to catch up. What did I miss? (I see this evening that Robin Williams killed himself. Depression, apparently. I despised much about him during his career, but you hate to see something like this happen to anybody.)
♦ To be honest, however, I did ask teh gels to keep me posted on my beloved Nats’ doings while we were away. From what I see at this point, I am (touching wood) pretty confident that we are going to win the NL East. On the other hand, I also think the Dodgers are going to win the NL pennant and that the A’s will beat them in the Series.
♦ Whelp, now that the summah hols are over and ol’ Robbo turns his attention to the impending start of school and other fall activities, I have to ask: Just where the hell did this year get to?
Ol’ Robbo is jumping the gun by a couple hours but to modify a common truism, it’s midnight somewhere. Therefore, allow me to note that July 30, 2008 was the birthday of this blog and that it turns six today.
Three cheers and a tiger for me!
Of course, things aren’t what they were back then in terms of freedom of expression, and prudence has dictated that I curtail a good deal of what I would like to say concerning our sinking civilization, so discussions over the decanter have centered on the realm of the arcane, the trivial and the unobjectionable, but still, here I am.
And here you are. Or at least those of you who are still here. “Not near as many as there where a while ago,” as that song about the Battle of New Orleans would put it, but still very much welcome and appreciated. (Besides, there’s more port, Stilton and chestnuts for us what’s left, right?)
And so, if I may, I ask that you all charge your glasses, gunn’ls under. Here’s to TPSAYE with three times three and no heel-taps! (And don’t forget to tip the dancer!)
UPDATE: Mayun, I didn’t just jump the gun when I first put this post up, I got a hundred yards downrange and then took a bullet right between the shoulder blades! Calendars. What can you do? Personally, I blame the Patriarchy.
Anyhoo, I’m now reposting to reflect the correct date of our little anniversary. Any of you still in a more or less upright position should feel free to recharge your glasses and toast it again.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Over the last couple weeks, teh gels have been descending on teh local malls, ammo’d up with their baby-sitting earnings, allowances and birthday monies, to seek new fall school clothes. Because they are all their mother’s daughters, Ol’ Robbo has found himself treated to numerous narrations of the details, one might say the painful details, of many of their purchases.
On the one hand, I’m delighted that they seem to be internalizing the basic concepts of math and self interest: “Dad! This sweater from Macy’s was originally $100! But there was a 70% standing discount, plus a 10% special discount, plus another get-it-the-hell-out-of-here discount. I only paid ten bucks for it!”
On the other, I’m rayther appalled at the evident desperation among the retailers on which teh gels are feasting. How can such things be when Our Betters assure us that the economy is doing just fine and dandy?
The world wonders.