You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Home Fires’ category.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers and good news!
Regular friends of the decanter will recall ol’ Robbo’s post of t’other day about the pair of bluebirds that seemed to have taken up residence in the birdhouse attached to the porch support that is soon to be done away with and his fretting over what to do about it?
Well, this past weekend, I noticed that said bluebirds did not seem to be hanging around anymore. Perhaps they reckoned the neighborhood a wee bit too crowded, as I had surmised.
Instead, I spotted a Carolina wren messing about in the birdhouse and its immediate environs. (As an aside, I positively adore wrens for their perky, chipper demeanor and liquid song.)
Late on Sunday, as I fired up the Weber in preparation for grilling some burgers, I wandered up to the birdhouse – which plainly had a nest in it – and gently tapped on the side with a long stick.
I tapped again, somewhat more vigorously.
Still, nothing happened.
I gave the house a fairly substantial whack with the flat of the weapon.
It maintained its obstinate passivity.
Finally, I unhooked the house from teh pillar and peered in.
The nest, based on the dry, crackly state of its component twigs, obviously was not fresh, but was of one or more years’ vintage. Furthermore, there was nothing in it. Not a hint of recent occupation.
I heaved a sigh of relief over having dodged an ugly conflict and quickly moved the birdhouse to a quiet corner of the fence.
There is much to be said for problems that take care of themselves.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
T’other evening, on a relatively rare date, Mrs. R and I paid a visit to the local planetarium in order to take in a show on black holes. I would guess that I was considerably younger than the youngest gel the last time I sat down under the dome.
You may snicker behind the decanter and mutter to each other under cover of the cracking of walnuts, “Sink me, do these people know how to party or what?” I will say in defense that a) Mrs. R is, as regular readers may recall, the science teacher at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and was eager to do a little recon on behalf of Teh Children®, b) Ol’ Robbo is an absolute sucker for big screen depictions of the Grandeur of the Cosmos, full of which this short film, narrated in his gravelly Aslan voice by Liam Neeson, was nicely chocked, c) we went for Chinese afterwards, and d) none of yer damned biznay.
Suffice to say, a good time was had by all.
Anyhoo, the reason I mention this is that the film, although really rayther vague and surfacey, touched on a point around which ol’ Robbo has always had trouble wrapping his braims. You see, in discussing the four known dimensions of the Universe, the presentation touched on Einstein’s noodlings about the possibility of the fourth dimension – that of time – being subjected to corruption, variation and warping.
Despite what his college transcripts in genetics and organic chem might suggest to the contrary, ol’ Robbo has always prided himself on possessing a certain logical, analytical, scientific side. Heck, in high school physics, there were few in my class better able to calculate, given a frictionless environment of course, exactly what force would be necessary to put a cannon ball fired at a given elevation right down the smokestack of an oncoming train traveling at a given speed.
But while I can grasp, at least at some level, the bending of the physical universe in three dimensions – via gravity – and even the bending of these three dimensions relative to Time, I simply cannot fathom the bending of Time itself. In other words, I can grasp a physical phenomenon proceeding faster or slower, depending upon the conditions, easily enough. What I can’t grasp is the changing of the chronological marker against which said phenomenon is measured.
Or, as Neo might have put it, “Whoa.”
Incidentally, the audience for this show was chock-a-block with small children, as might be expected. One of them, aged perhaps four or five, was to my immediate right one row back. Her commentary on teh film, produced non-stop and in a very piercing voice, consisted of the alternating phrases, “Is that the black hole?” and “Daddy, I’m really scared….” I was very tempted to wheel round on her father – who was discussing Palie vestry politicks with his neighbor throughout – and hiss, “Hey, man! I spent five whole dollars on this ticket and I want my money’s worth! So shut her, man….”
Of course, I didn’t. But I had quite a good chuckle thinking about it. Still didn’t like the kid very much, tho’.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Numerous recent conversations with the gels, all of whom are now very much either teens or pre-teens, produces in ol’ Robbo a sense of paradox.
On the one hand, the gels go to great length, each in their own fashion, to suggest that Dad is some kind of combination of dinosaur, nerd, snob, misfit and Looo-sah. The phrase, “Your problem is that you live in the 18th Century” has more than once wafted into Robbo’s shell-like.
Well, what can I say? Guilty as charged.
Curiously, though, although these charges are served up in the je accuse style, I can’t help noticing behind the bluster a certain sentiment that may be roughly described as, “Um, thanks.”
At least, that’s my perception and I’m sticking to it….
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Were you to sit yourself down in Robbo’s favorite comfy chair in the library at Port Swiller Manor, you would find to your immediate right, just beyond a small occasional table loaded to overflowing with books and covered in hot beverage rings, a large window. This window looks out into the back yard of the Manor’s demesne and generally takes in the flower garden, the tree line and the gels’ rope swing. In the immediate foreground, it offers a view of the patio one floor down and the side of the back deck at eye level. If you were to slouch down just so to look under the table, you would be able to see both the lower bird feeder hanging from the underside of the porch and a bird house attached to one of its supporting pillars (one of those Williamsburg – or, as we like to say for reasons too complicated to explain here, “Weeeyamsburg” - glazed bottles).
As I say, this is Robbo’s favorite chair, in which he spends as much of his leisure time as possible. One of the primary reasons why he likes it so much is the view described above, to which he often turns in contemplation of the sky, the light, the clouds, the various flora and fauna that visit from time to time and other manifestations of the Maker’s handiwork. (We are also very close to the outer marker for air traffic coming in to Reagan National from the North, and I confess that teh little boy inside me never gets tired of seeing the coo-el jets powering down overhead.)
I mention the bird bottle. We put it up when we first moved in thirteen years ago. (I’ve a hazy recollection that it was a housewarming present from somebody.) In that time, I have seen multiple broods of chicks raised in it, usually either wrens or sparrows. However, the other morning as I sat idly gazing down, I suddenly spotted what had heretofore not been much of a regular visitor to the immediate vicinity of the porch and patio, a bluebird. He was sitting on the deck railing looking indignant, and every now and again would jump off to go after other birds trying to get at the feeder. (Truth be told, it really is a bit too close to the bottle, but numerous onslaughts by deer, squirrel and raccoon had left its corner the only viable spot to hang it.) He also started flying up and perching in the ivy around the windowsill no more than two feet from me, fluttering up every now and again to attack his reflection in the glass.
Peering more closely, I suddenly spotted the reason for Mr. BB’s actions; peeping out from the neck of the bottle was Mrs. BB.
This genuinely surprised me. I’ve often seen bluebirds in the yard. But it’s always been my understanding that they like to nest right on the edges of open spaces. (Indeed, there are several birdhouses in the neighborhood – including one of our own in the little area behind the back hydrangea hedge- that they have inhabited over the years.) But I never thought they would take up residence in what is a comparatively confined space and one so close to the house.
On the one hand, I was delighted. I love bluebirds, considering them to be amongst the handsomest of the local native species and also admiring their self-contained, aggressive attitude toward the world.
On the other, I was disturbed. You see, within the next couple of weeks, the support to which the bird bottle is attached will be no more: This evening, we signed the contract for the construction of the new porch, and the process is rayther going to involve first getting rid of the old, rotty one.
At the moment, I’m not really sure what (if anything) I can do about the bluebirds. I’m virtually certain that no chicks have been hatched yet (it’s far too early), but I don’t know if any eggs have been laid.
I know that Nature is red in tooth and claw and that things happen to nests of eggs or chicks all the time – branches falling down, lightning strikes, invasion by predators and so forth. But I also feel the tug from that part of Man’s soul that is above Nature. (No, it’s not Bambi-like anthropomorphic sentimentality. More like the responsibility of stewardship.)
Not so much as to halt construction, you understand. The bird bottle has to come down one way or another. But enough to do a little research to see whether there is any way to transfer it to another spot within the immediate vicinity without damaging or harming its content. I think I’m going to call around to some local pest control outfits and see if they have any recommendations. Who knows? “Humane” transfers have become all the rage these days. Why, my own Sistah, rayther than summarily tossing the foxes that have been caught having a go at her hen coops straight into Casco Bay in brick-filled sacks, has ponied up the dosh to have them transported and released somewhere inland (where they are no doubt free to plague some other unfortunate shmucks). Why not the “humane” relocation of widdle birdies?
I think I’m going to do this even if there’s no realistic way to save the nest. The last thing I want is to try and take the thing down myself with a furious pair of bluebirds going for my head. Sparrows I could deal with: they seem to be fairly placid. Wrens are more aggressive, but tend to hover around the perimeter making lots of sound and fury but taking little practical action. Bluebirds, on the other hand, are more into the pecking and scratching thing, which I, frankly, can do without.
I’ll keep you posted.
Can you believe it? Two whole posts in one day! When was the last time ol’ Robbo pulled that off?
Anyhoo, I happen to be online because I’m over at teh Weather Underground site checking the local radar. Ma Nature and I are currently engaged in something of a struggle. I want to fire up the grill for my steaks and she’s responding by sending a series of isolated but intense storms over the rooftops of Port Swiller Manor. It’s bucketing at the moment, but I believe that once this one rolls through, I should be able to get back out there and get cooking.
Nothing to do but crank up the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, pour myself another glass of sherry and wait it out……
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, another Saturday dawns at Port Swiller Manor and finds Robbo staring at the radar and wondering whether he has time to spritz the weeds with Round-Up before the thunderstorms move in. Probably not. At least I got the grass cut last evening, so that’s something.
♦ I mentioned the Gels of MASN in the post immediately below. Now I will tell you something about my own gel of summah. The eleven year old has inserted herself in a rotation of two or three regulars playing catcher for her softball team this season. T’other evening I was watching her in action behind the plate when it suddenly occurred to me why she enjoys the position so much: It’s a spotlight. The catchers are constantly complimented by coaches and crowds for their handing of what can be quite eccentric pitching at this level. There’s also great satisfaction in staring down a runner at third who’s thinking of stealing. However, she especially loves dramatically sweeping off her face-mask when pursuing a pop foul. What a ham. (To her credit, she is good at it, too.)
♦ Speaking of ball clubs, ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats find themselves on a little five-game winning streak and look to be settling back into their true form. My blood pressure has dropped several points over the past week or so as a result. Go, NATS!!
♦ I look with horror and revulsion at the information coming to light about what happened in Libya. (Well, not just that, of course.) But I am all the more horrified by my feeling that nothing will really come of it. Why? Because if you ask the opinion of the average low-information voter, you’re likely to get the answer,”Ben Ghazi? Who? Isn’t he that NFL player who just came out? Or is he the one dating a Kardashian?”
♦ Speaking of such things, I don’t usually read much political or social science, but by happenstance two new books have seized the Robbo attention. The first is Roger Kimball’s The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia. Jay Nordlinger has been quoting and reviewing the book extensively over at NRO, and much of what he cites goes right to ol’ Robbo’s heart. The other book, by another NRO writer, is Kevin Williamson’s The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure. I believe that I’ve written here before of my belief that we, as a nation, are hurtling toward catastrophe. But I also said that, however hard it’s going to be, there isn’t reason just yet to save that last round for yourself. Williamson’s theme, from the blurbs and interviews I’ve seen, appears to follow this same line. Anyway, I like his writing style. (UPDATE: Here is The Czar’s review. Makes me all the more eager to dive in.)
I’ll let you know what I think.
♦ Some might suggest that ol’ Robbo spend his valuable reading time not with works that reenforce his own world view but with those that challenge it. To them, I respectfully reply: Get stuffed. Through some horrid process of social evolution, I seem to have become a bona fide member of the counterculture. I look out from the redoubt and see the “challenge” swirling around it continually. No need to unlock the gate and let them in.
♦ Oh, since I am posting so sparsely these days, let me get this out of the way: Happy Mother’s Day.
♦ Tomorrow is also Ascension Sunday. Or, as Father Z rants about it, Ascension Thursday Sunday. Go on over and enjoy if you like this sort of thing (which I do).
♦ Speaking of rants, alert friends of the decanter may have noticed the absence here of complaints about tourons, a subject which in past years has consumed so much of Robbo’s thought. This is simply due to teh fact that I have been driving into work since last August instead of taking the metro, so just don’t have that much personal contact with them anymore. However, this change in commuting practice has not done away with the touron menace so much as transformed it into another shape. Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded tour busses. As the weather warms, these behemoths are starting to seriously jam up my afternoon drive. (And when it takes me an hour to go ten city blocks, I have every right to be cranky about it.) As a rule, I try to be a courteous driver – giving people room to merge in, for instance; stopping to let somebody pull out of a driveway. Not so with these busses, from which I use every method, legal or otherwise, to dodge, cut off or otherwise distance myself. Grrrrrrr…….
♦ And may I just remark here (perhaps again) on what a wonderful city car the Jeep Wrangler really is? Its small size, quick pickup and sweet maneuverability make it ideal for nipping in and out of traffic.
Well, I glance out the window and here’s the rain. Too bad. Everything was probably too wet to begin with anyway.
UPDATE: In re the low-information voter above, I should have noted that their next sentence would have been, “Hey, when do I get all my free shite?” ”Low-information voter” is one way to describe them, but I think “Bread-and-Circuses voter” is even more apt.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
My name is Robbo and I’m a moron.
As noted in the post below, yesterday saw the annual razing of the forsythia, a long-standing tradition at Port Swiller Manor.
Unfortunately, as became clear after the fact, yesterday also saw another long-standing tradition at the Manor, that of Robbo succumbing to heat exhaustion.
Now it just so happens that the weather at the moment is very bright and sunny but still a bit on the cool side. That’s where my moronism comes in because in all these years I’ve never seemed to learn that one can overdo it in such conditions. Indeed, they’re really rayther a trap. One instinctively knows to pace oneself and drink lots of fluids when it’s hot and nasty out. Not so much when it’s this pleasant – then one is far more likely just to keep powering through whatever it is that needs to get done, without taking any precautions.
Hence the resultant dizziness, headache, shaking, cramp, nausea and mental torpor. (One year, after a weekend very much like this one, I actually fainted on the Metro going into work on the Monday morning.)
Mrs. R said I ought not to be doing so much work. I pointed out that we don’t happen to have a Guatemalan yard crew handy, so if I don’t do it, nobody will. I did promise to be more careful, however. One of these years, I will remember that promise before the fact.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo has been busy with all kinds of grown up stuff lately.
Yesterday found him and Mrs. R in the offices of an estate attorney putting our signatures to a complete set of new wills, trusts, powers of attorney, medical directives – indeed, the whole ball of wax barring funeral instructions. Not that we’re expecting anything to happen to us any time soon, you understand, but it’s nice to get these things out of the way.
Then this morning we had yet another meeting with our building contractor. Regular friends of the decanter may recall my mentioning a few weeks ago our plan to replace the porch at Port Swiller Manor which has now come close to the end of its useful life? Well, our idea was to put up a new covered and enclosed one. When first we explained what we wanted to the contractor, he came back with a plan for what was really a genuine room – with siding and windows – that would be indistinguishable from the rest of the house except that it would not have heat or air-conditioning. This was far more than we wanted, both in terms of “room” -iness and (needless to say) price. So today we had him back to explain in greater detail exactly what we wanted, which is essentially something far closer to a screened-in porch than a genuine room. I think we’re on the same page now. Whether I did not sufficiently explain myself the first time around or whether he was trying to hustle us into an upgrade we didn’t want, I couldn’t say. But he took our restated desires in good stride. We like the guy and he comes highly recommended, so I’m eager to see what he comes back with this go around.
All these new experiences typically act to unsettle ol’ Robbo. So it was with a sense equivalent to that generated by snacking on comfort food that he toddled out into the garden this afternoon to perform an annual (or at least biennial – I don’t seem to recall doing it last year) task familiar to long-time friends of the decanter, that of razing the forsythia hedge. I know that in past years this doesn’t seem to have had the slightest effect in producing more enthusiastic blooms the next spring, but dum spiro, spero and all that.
Perhaps I was a little more jangled and preoccupied this year, or perhaps I’m just aging, because although this job is always a nuisance, I don’t recall it previously giving me such a physical beating. Several times I managed to knock both my hat and my glasses off with wayward limbs. I also went after too thick a stem with the cutters and was rewarded by a very serious cramp in my ribs. And once, while trying to dig out a stubborn root, I fell backwards and landed on my hand at a very awkward angle.
This year, I cut them waaaaaay back – to within 18 inches of the grounds or so. As I made my way along the hedge, I couldn’t help imagining losing my balance and falling backward on one of the relics, thereby impaling myself on five or six cut stalks. (What do you call those traps the Viet Kong used to set? Pungee sticks?) What an idiotic way to cop it, I found myself thinking.
The root that I mention belonged to a giant weed of some sort that bedevils my planting. Imagine a cross between a carrot and a potato, put it on steroids, and you’ve got one of these things. If left undisturbed, it will eventually produce an eight-foot tall plant with red stem, long, smooth, skinny, horizontal limbs and small, black, shiny berries. I’ve no idea what it is, but it’s quite common in this neck of the woods. If you get it early enough, you can dig the whole root out, which is very satisfying. Past a certain point, you’re likely simply to shear through the thing with your spade. That’ll slow it down, but won’t stop it.
Then there’s the wild grapevine, which sneakily gets itself into the hedge and the trees when my back is turned, and has a root system so vast and complicated that no power in the ‘verse seems to be able to stop it. If you have any suggestions for dealing with said vines, I’d love to hear them.
At any rate, mission accomplished.
UPDATE: Behold the all-seeing, all-knowing power of the Innertoobs!: The mystery weed I have in mind turns out to be American Pokeweed. According to Wiki, the berries are poisonous, something I could tell just by looking at them. The catbirds and mockies chow down on them, though.
Voice on Telephone [amidst incessant giggles and background voices]: Um….Mr. [Port Swiller]?…..Um…. This is “Jane” from PNC Bank….
Self: Uh, huh…
VoT: Um….We were, shhh, just calling, um, to confirm your transfer of, um, one million dollars from, um, your account, to, um, your, um, hee-hee (stop it!), um, [Middle Gel]….
VoT: Um…sshhh… so, you approve?
Self: Oh, sure. Er, you know that my phone has Caller ID, don’t you?
Self: Yes. And you might want to lose the giggling.
Later that evening:
Self: Ah, [Middle Gel]? You know that phone call this afternoon?
SD: Er, yes…..
Self: Worst. Prank. Evah.
SD: DAAA-aaad! You know I can’t keep from laughing!
Self: Yes, yes I do. And here’s a piece of advice: Don’t take up poker.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I will not keep you long on this post. However, I thought it appropriate to enter my two cents here on a subject of long debate. To wit, that of Nature versus Nurture in re raising children.
Here are my empiric observations:
As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo has three daughters, now all of whom are teens or pre-teens.
For scientific purposes, I can assure you that all of them have been exposed all their lives to what can safely be described as the Same Environment.
For all that, I find myself in charge of three wildly divergent personalities, specifically , a crank, a sweet-heart and a looney.
The bottom line I reach from my dealings with them is best expressed in nautical terms: Their personalities are subject to the prevailing winds (i.e., the way they were born.). As family captain, I can’t do more than trim the sails to alter their courses a few points towards where I think they should go. Beyond that, I am fairly helpless.
I offer this observation for what it’s worth. A calm sea and prosperous voyage to those of you dealing with the same thing! (And, of course a glass of port!)