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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three of you who occasionally forgather round the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be away for the bulk of the coming week, as he must fly out at the crack of dawn tomorrow on  biznay for Vegas.  (Vegas, beyotches!)

Actually, there’s a certain irony in this.  Ol’ Robbo is hardly a Puritan, but the fact of the matter is that the sorts of vice readily on offer out there really have no appeal to him, and without temptation there is no virtue in avoidance.  Indeed, thinking it out I realized that the greatest sin I face in “Sin City” is that of Pride, looking down on the cretins around me engaged in all manner of naughtiness and thinking myself better than them.

Tricky thing, Christian morality.  If the devil can’t hit you on the right, don’t be surprised if he tries a Stonewall Jackson-like flank march to hit you on the left.

Anyhoo, this is only my second trip to Vegas and I hope it is considerably better than my first.  That occurred 20-odd years ago and was a total disaster:  I was booked in at the last minute to speak at a bar conference and, in the age before the Internet, found myself allotted a hotel waaay off the Strip, the very name of which shocked my cabbie when I emerged from teh airport.  He advised me to be in before dark and to keep my door locked at all times.  (Then again, he also advised that if I wanted, erm, “company”, that I should dial up one of the escort services, as the street talent all had STD’s and would lift my wallet.  So there’s that.)

I spent virtually all my off-duty time barricaded in my room, reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Mauritius Command.  To this day, whenever I read it, I still have associations with the sunsets across the desert hills that I could see from my room back then.

So.  Because I’ll be away from the decanter for a few days and because I’ve been promising it for so long, I leave you with some pics taken this evening of the Great Basement Restoration about which I have been gassing for the past couple months.  Two things to note off the bat:  First, all pics courtesy of the Middle Gel, who knows far more about the tech side of this sort of thing than I do.  Second, when Mrs. R saw what we were up to, she asked me to emphasize that we really haven’t got anything like the full compliment of books, doodads, pictures and whatnot in yet.  So what you’re seeing really is the bare bones.

So, with that, first I give you the “main”  room:

Basement 1

This is looking from the bottom of the stairs toward the French doors on to the patio.  The red thing on the sofa in front is the teevee waiting to be rehung on the wall out of view to the right.  I don’t  have before and after pics, so I will just tell you that the biggest difference here is the fact that this room, pre-flood, featured a grey carpet.

Second, I give you  the “addition”:

Basement 2

This pic was taken from the same position as the last, only swung around over the left shoulder.  All of this, pre-flood, was cinderblock and exposed ceiling beams.  (Indeed, it was the breach of the original wall on the left -which is underground – which lead to the flood in the first place.) And although it was nominally a “workshop”, it actually functioned as a junkroom.  The bathroom at the end contains, to the right, a new shower and potty.  The closet on the right in the pic contains access to the sump pump and shelving for storage.

Third, I give you the “study”:

Basement 3

In his earliest Utopian plans, this was Robbo’s Man Cave.  It’s not that much different than it was pre-flood, except there now is a door into the new bathroom covered up here by the (empty) bookcase on the left.  The desk where the computer on which Robbo usually submits his bloggy offerings is to the right in this pic.  The laundry basket you can see contains a large chunk of Robbo’s CD collection, which he is hesitant to start repatriating to the shelves in teh background until the contractor can explain (and fix) the lack of power in teh outlets immediately behind them that renders Robbo’s stereo defunct.

Oh, you will note the funky ceiling.  Port Swiller Manor was built some 40+ years ago without a finished basement but with the option to finish it.  Evidently, this option did not extend to excavating deep enough into the hillside to allow for uniform basement ceilings high enough to enclose the plumbing from the floor above.   When we came to finishing this room, we decided to box in all the various pipes and add molding as and where we could.  The effect is quirky, I’ll grant you, but I think it’s pretty nice, too.

Oh, and because teh Gel was shooting things, I give you kittehs:

Basement 4

Main room from the doors to the study.  That’s Fiona in front and Ginger to the rear.

So there you are.

I’ll be back, God willing, on Halloween.  In the meantime, help yourselves to the port.  The walnuts are on the table and the Stilton stands on the sideboard.

 

*  Spot the reference.  And I’d be very interested in commentary on the source from which it comes, because I have very mixed feelings about it.

 

Did Bach’s wife write his finest works?

Well, how do I put this subtly?  No.

I vaguely recall reading something about this theory a couple years ago.  Although it got laughed at, it seems to have raised its head once again.

At least according to the article, the only “proof” that Anna Magdalena Bach, a known copiest and musically intelligent herself, is that (get this) some of Bach’s manuscripts appear in her hand and at certain points she seems to have fiddled with them a bit. 

Iron. Clad. Case.

Not.

But of course, in the world of modern academics, which thrives on adolescent-level emotion, sensationalism and identity-driven politicks, inconveniences such as the need for objectivity and lack of proof simply get tossed aside.

Then there is the “impact” of this supposed revelation:

[Sally] Beamish [a British composer who will be presenting a documentary on this "discovery" in the near future] said the theory raised important questions about female composers, and had huge implications that could “transform” the confidence of young women hoping to make it today.

“What I found fascinating is the questions it raises about the assumptions we make: that music is always written by one person and all the great masters were male by definition,” she said.

I simply cannot conceive how wretched it must be to have a mind that occupies itself with such hobgoblins.  Is Mizz Beamish really so insecure that she can’t contemplate the transcendence of musick by, for example, Bach and Mozart without worrying about such “assumptions”?  Can she not appreciate said musick for what it is in itself without raising such questions?

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

And as for “huge implications”, as regular friends of the decanter will know, teh Middle Gel is a young woman who has very real aspirations to “make it” in the musick business some day.  I can promise Mizz Beamish that teh gel has no need of such half-penny sociological twaddle in order to achieve the confidence that she has.  Instead, she’s got to where she is through talent, dedication and hard work.

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.

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