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N.C. Wyeth, "One More Step, Mr. Hands" - Illustration for Treasure Island.

N.C. Wyeth, “One More Step, Mr. Hands” – Illustration for Treasure Island.

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:

I Don't Like This Guy

I Don’t Like This Guy

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?

sandeman port sherryGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

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.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo, on his daily commute in and out of Your Nation’s Capital, can’t help noticing that the bumper stickers reading “Dissent is the Highest Form of Patriotism” and “Question Authority” that were so very popular ’round here, oooh, about six years ago, seem to have vanished completely from the back bumpers of teh Volvos, Priuses (Priii?) and weirdo-box abominations that they formerly had graced with such, ah, liberality.

Funny, that.

Go figure.

Just saying.

UPDATE:  Speaking of bumper stickers, I find this one pretty damned funny:

im_ready_for_oligarchy_2016_car_magnet_10_x_3

I’m considering putting it on my own bumper, and why not?  I haven’t yet had my tires shot out for sporting a Vatican flag, so how could this be any worse?

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The latest “Weird” Al Yankovich bit-o’-silly is making its way around the Innertoobs.  I repost it here for those of you (yes, Mothe, I’m looking at you) who haven’t seen it elsewhere already.  Enjoy!

 

I gather this is a parody of some other song (as most of Big Weird Al’s stuff is), but I don’t know the other song so that part is lost on me.   Nonetheless,  I find the piece amusing because by today’s sub-sea level standards of literacy ol’ Robbo is considered something of a Grammar Nazi and it is, if you will, musick to my ears.

It’s really rayther horrifying when you think about it.  The basic rules touched on by Al are the sort of thing one was expected to master in grammar school just a generation ago.  (Personally, I adored sentence diagrams.)  These days?  Cor lumme, stone the crows!  I work with other lawyers, holders of graduate degrees who depend on their literacy for their livelihoods.  Nevertheless, again and again and again I find myself having to detangle badly-written documents – everything from emails to court pleadings to peer-reviewed academic studies.  Indeed, I’ve actually developed an informal office consulting practice, as several of my colleagues routinely send me drafts of their work product and ask me to look them over.

Well, that’s “Progress” for you.

Oh, and speaking of past generations and grammatical education for the masses, let me just point out that many, many of the grammar ditties from the Schoolhouse Rock series aired on Saturday mornings during Robbo’s misspent yoot are still tattooed to his brain.  Let’s jump in the Wayback Machine and enjoy one of Robbo’s favorites, shall we?

 

 

UPDATE:   Thinking further on on the subject of SHR, I’m reminded of a different, non-grammar-themed one that I don’t actually recall ever seeing when I was a kid, but which certainly seems apropos today:

 

UPDATE DEUX:  Oh, I forgot to mention this bit o’vanity.  The fellah in the “Conjunction Junction” song pronounces “either” and “neither” as “ee-ther” and “nee-ther“.  One of my affectations developed a long time ago was to adopt the Hanovarian pronunciations of “eye-ther” and “nye-ther“.   Pretentious? Moi?

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has finally had enough.  He has tried for a long time to stifle his sensibilities, to bite his tongue, to be tolerant and to otherwise keep his head down and not rock the boat, but he simply can’t stand to see such decadence, debauchery and moral anarchy anymore:

Yes, I’m talking about marzipan. The word is NOT pronounced, “MAR-ZEE-pan“, dammit.  It’s “MAR-zə-pan“.

Oh, I know that as soon as I hit the “publish” button I’m going to be inundated with insults, threats and howls of outrage from the tiny but very vocal “Pro-Zee” crowd.  There’ll be Facebook rants, boycotts, petitions for my banning from these Innertoobs and, probably, even hate-crime prosecution.  I’ll become a hissing and a byword, just one more example of the eeeeevil, reactionary haters that must be expunged from Society before the Brave New World can properly get down to business.

But you know what?  Truth is Truth and even where Right becomes unfashionable, it’s still Right.  If I must needs go to the gallows or the wall for it, I will.

Vive le Schwa! 

seven elevenGreetings, my fellow port swillers!  And happy Feast of the Overpriced Convenience Store!

Sorry about the dearth of posties this week – it may be that ol’ Robbo’s brain has passed into the doldrums as it so often does this time of year.  At any rate, here are a few odds and ends to make up for it.

♦  I took advantage of a day off from work today to get an early start on my weekend yard work, my main task being to slap a coat of wood sealant on the inside surfaces of the porch posts.  (The outer surfaces are faced by some kind of weatherproof poly stuff but the other three are bare PTL.  They’ve been up for almost a year now and are nice and seasoned.)  For about 30 seconds or so I flirted with the idea of maybe staining them, but at the last regained my sanity and went with a clear sealant with a light gloss instead.   It turned out to be a much easier and faster job than I had originally feared, as I found I could easily get around the railing and other edges without all that tedious taping up biznay.

♦   While I was going about my task, I noticed something I had not known before:  A woodchuck will climb a chicken wire fence if it’s feeling greedy enough.

♦  The middle gel sang at a funeral down the Cathedral this morning for a woman whose son had himself been a chorister there many years ago and thought it would be a fitting thing for her, if any of the current crop were available and interested.  About a week ago, therefore, a request for volunteers went out and the gel, being the kind of gel she is, stepped up along with two or three others.  They sang Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desire.  I thought the gesture was really very, very sweet.

♦  One of Mrs. Robbo’s nieces is flying down from Baahston on Monday to spend a week with us and see the sights.  Yesterday, Mrs. R’s sistah sent her a copy of the gel’s plane ticket, on which Mrs. R noticed that her sistah had paid for two checked bags.  Mrs. R immediately got on the phone and said, “Look, I don’t do checked bags.  We’ve got a washing machine and, in an emergency, the gel can borrow whatever she might need from my lot.  Carry-on only.”  I thought that very amusing.

♦  Speaking of gels, within the past month or two, I have heard several very different women in very different geographical locations using the phrase, “get her big girl pants on” or “get her big girl britches on”.  Is this a thing?  It must have some common source, but I work so hard to disassociate myself from pop “culchah” that I just don’t know what this might be.

♦  And speaking of hearing things, one of the most chilling things I’ve heard in recent memory was a colleague of mine down the office this week using the expression “Brave New World” without irony.   Telephone call for Gods of the Copybook Headings.  Will the Gods of the Copybook Headings please pick up the white courtesy phone.  Thank you.

♦  Finally, speaking of Kipling, I am deep into P.C. Wren’s Beau Geste for the very first time.  I won’t review it here since I’m not done but I will say that I’m enjoying it very, very much.

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