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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conundrum solved.

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

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

So there we are.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo feels it is time to ask your collective opinion on an issue that has plagued Port Swiller Manor for some little while and now threatens to flame up into outright civil war.

You see, some time in the past couple years, we became possessed of a set of Washington Nationals Russian-style nesting dolls.  (It must have been in 2011 or the immediate offseason, because both Jason Marquis and Mikey “Beast Mode” Morse are included.)  The set occupies a shelf in the Port-Swiller library that also holds some chick lit, a porcelain fox, a miniature globe and a plaque commemorating one of the gels’ softball seasons.

Here’s the problem:  I believe that the set should be displayed in what one might call “extended” ranks, with the dolls lined up next to each other.  Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, seems to think that they are better off in the “contracted” position, all of the smaller ones nestled safe inside Jayson Werth’s belleh.

(In case you’re wondering, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche round out the quintet.)

We’ve spoken on this issue but have failed to reach an accord.  Instead, we find ourselves in a low-intensity domestic conflict.  When ol’ Robbo finds the dolls contracted, he quietly spreads them out.  When Mrs. Robbo finds them in extended order, she just as quietly stacks them again.

Am I wrong?

Incidentally, The Beast is with San Fran this year and the Giants look to grab one of the NL wildcard slots.  Morse was so beloved by us Nats fans that, even if we find him facing us at some point in the playoffs this year, I think I’m right in saying on behalf of all of us that we all wish him the very best.  Indeed, I – and I think almost all of us – would sing along lustily if, on Morse’s coming to the plate at Nats Park, we put on his old walk up musick.  Enjoy!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Earlier today, a friend of the decanter (who knows who they are) asked of ol’ Robbo, “Tom, how have the first few weeks of school worked out so far this year?”

Well, I’m happy to say that things are (touch wood) going pretty well.

Teh Eldest, now a high school junior, seems finally to have grasped that whatever her record is, she owns it.  In other words, after all those years of complaining about us nagging her, she’s finally beginning to learn to nag herself.  Laus Deo.

Teh Middle Gel, now a high school frosh, is talking much about leadership (particularly in her choir program) and is running for Class VP.   She’s an awesome kid, about whom we have very little to worry except for her apparent resistance to learning math.  (I say this here because she regularly reads this blog.  Thpppppt!! )

Teh Youngest is taking to middle school like a duck to water, loving every aspect of her new school.  One thing: she originally signed up to play cello in the school orchestra, the course description assuring that no previous experience was necessary.   Well, it turned out that a) she and one other kid were the only ones in teh whole troupe with no experience, and b) the director was not much interested in babysitting newbies.  After a couple days, teh YG decided to chuck it and I can’t say that I blame her.  The good news is that, when she went to her counselor, it turned out that a slot had become open in drama, the course the gel had wanted to take originally but was full up when she applied.  And so she switched.  Apparently, teh gel had them rolling in the aisles during an improv session this week, and her new theatre teacher is quite bananas about her.  I’m not in the least surprised.

And speaking of such things, this week teh Eldest was assigned by her Art teacher the task of snapping a photo of a family member in a “characteristic” situation, and using such photo as the model for a sketch.   In pursuit of said goal, teh gel caught me quite unawares as I was engrossed in Handel:

Attachment-1

 

 

Not the greatest pic, but nice composition.  And, I must admit, substantively quite pleasing, at least to me.

UPDATE:  In response to myriad queries as to what particular piece of Handel I was mutilating when teh gel snapped, this pic, I can tell you that it was Handel’s Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432.  Here’s a genuine performance version of it:

 

Subtract a bunch of technical errors, add a great deal of blasphemy (you can’t see it from this angle, but I’ve got a frieze of St. Cecilia on top of the piano to give me strength), and you’ve got my rendition.  Sort of.

 

 

Washington-Nationals1Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As regular friends of the decanter will know, Port Swiller Manor has been without cable teevee for about a month now due to the Great Basement Flood.

This aspect¹ of the disaster has bothered ol’ Robbo very little, for the most part, because he hardly ever watches much teevee outside of old movies anyway.  However, with respect to that one small part, it is absolutely driving him to drink² batty because he has been unable to watch his beloved Nationals working their way toward the NL East Division title.  Indeed, even as I type this post I have MLBcom’s Gameday open in another window as the team tries to put the season away against the dastardly Braves of Atlanta and it is a very, very poor substitute.³

As far as repairs go, I believe the contractor will be ready to paint downstairs before the end of this week, which means that we are making some progress.  If and when the Nats make it into the playoffs, I hope they stay alive long enough for the project to be finished and for ol’ Robbo to get in some more actual MASN viewing.

In the meantime, what else is there to do but surf the Innertoobs as best I can and say,

GO, NATS!!!

 

¹  On the other hand, the other aspects – the reduced living space, the cramming of furniture and things into half the main floor, the general grunginess and the constant stream of workmen in the house – are over time making me somewhat frantic.

²  Heck, that ship sailed a loooong time ago.

³   I suppose I could dial up the radio coverage, which I understand is very good.  I’ll certainly do that if we get to the playoffs before Verizon comes back on line.

UPDATE:  NATS WIN!  N.L. EAST, BAYBEE!!!!!

Second title in three years!  Not. Bad.

Friends of the decanter will forgive me my enthusiasm, especially as they will know that ol’ Robbo is no summer soldier, no sunshine patriot, but has stuck with his beloved Nats from the very beginning, through both the Bad Years and the Good.   So, ladies and gentlemen, pray charge your glasses, gun’ls down, and allow ol’ Robbo to propose once again:

GO, NATS!!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor found ol’ Robbo up early to go labor in the fields.  Mow, trim, spray and in before the thunderstorms!

As I marched back and forth behind the ol’ mower across the collection of weeds and native grasses that I jokingly refer to as the “lawn”,  the steady, gentle breeze that played o’r my sit-upon suggested to me that yes, perhaps it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans.

Ol’ Robbo is really a khakis and cords sort of fellah, so over the years I have developed the habit of only owning one pair of jeans at a time.  I have also developed a little game I play with myself of seeing just how long I can wear them before they (sometimes literally) fall to pieces on me.  I’ve even worked out a kind of scoresheet that runs from “suitable for public view” through “suitable for home view” to “suitable for yard work if nobody gets too close” to “get the gasoline and a match”.  The current pair is well on into the third phase now and approaching the hazy boundary with the fourth, with completely frayed leg seams, permanent grass stains, holes opening under both back pockets and fly coming apart.  The third phase is always my favorite simply because it is always the most comfortable.  This fact, together with my dislike of having to start again with something new, has several times caused me to refuse to believe it was over, much to the distress of my nearest and dearest.  (I recall Mrs. R finally threw away one pair when I wasn’t looking)

One thing I haven’t done is kept track of how long each pair has lasted.  (I’ve no recollection whatever of where or when I bought the current incumbents, except that it’s been a number of years anyway.)  Nor have I tracked the differences in the way each has worn out, although they have varied greatly.  I’ll bet a chart containing those pieces of information would show something about ol’ Robbo’s changes in physical activities as he has begun to age a bit.

One thing I have kept track of is the fact that, despite my impending 50th birthday, my waist has not changed one jot or tittle since I was 19.  Still size 33, thankee.  Granted, I’m rayther flabbier now than I used to be, but not expansive.  I don’t claim any particular virtue in this, by the way.  I’m simply built like the Mothe’s father.  Nonetheless, it pleases me.

So that’s that.  On reflection, I think I’ll toss this pair into the washing machine one more time…..just to see if we can keep going a bit further.

 

With the ongoing basement renovations at Port Swiller Manor, we continue to cope with the loss of a third of our living space.  As I may have mentioned before, we had to pull everything upstairs on the day of teh flood, jamming it in wherever we could.  The dining room is completely blocked with sofas, tables and the like, while the library and living room are full of stacks of books, CD’s, DVDs’s, boxes, trunks and other assorted flotsam and jetsam.

In fact, the place is a right shambles.

On reaching adult status, ol’ Robbo shook off the slovenliness of his misspent yoot and became rayther finicky about cleanliness and neatness in both his person and his surroundings.   So living under these conditions got very old for him very quickly, and the prospect of getting everything cleaned up and squared away occupies an increasingly large part of his thoughts.  If we can’t get back to normal some time soon, it’s going to become an obsession.

First World Problems, I know, but there it is.

And on the subject of making things ship-shape, take a dekko at this thing, the Dyson 360 Eye robotic vacuum:

Now you might think that a gadget like this would appeal to ol’ Robbo, given what I say above.  But regular friends of the decanter will also recall my deep suspicion of technology, especially “smart” technology.  With that kind of circuitry don’t tell me that Skynet couldn’t corrupt it and turn it into a killer.  And just think how embarrassing it would be if, on Judgement Day, instead of getting taken out by a missile or some Gatling-toting cyborg, one awoke to find one of these things sitting on one’s face, sucking out one’s lungs.

No thanks.

UPDATE:  A few minutes after I posted this, an inspector-wallah from the County showed up to check on the doings downstairs.  While he was satisfied with things inside, it would appear that the contractor never got the proper permit for external wall waterproofing, the detritus of which is still plainly evident.  So they may very well need to stop what they’re doing, get the proper bumf and redig the ditch out front so the work can be inspected.  Pardon me while I practice my Chief Inspector Dreyfus eye-twitch……

peasant2

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After sorting out the gels’ various traffic-control homework issues (which, I suspect, are going to be a major theme this school year), Ol’ Robbo found himself listening this evening to the Monty Python album “Matching Tie & Handkerchief“, into which I have not dipped for several years now.

One of the tracks on this album that, so far as I know, was never replicated on teevee or in the movies was the skit about the Background to History that featured the Open Field Farming songs, and its follow-on bit about the fellah at the record store who wishes to hear a track from “The Ronettes Sing Medieval Agrarian History“.

This little throwaway has long made Robbo laugh and laugh, not only because of its absurdity but also because of its erudition.  This is what I’ve always loved most about the Pythons, that they were able to come up with, for lack of a better description, educated crass humor.  (I believe Terry Jones is the medievalist amongst them, but I know that most of the others had particular fields of learning on which to draw.)

Did I ever mention the Chaucer class I took in college? Wonderful stuff taught wonderfully by a wonderful professor who was not the slightest bit interested in post-modern critical-theory deconstruction of the texts, but instead was passionately concerned to get us young idjits to appreciate them, in their style and content, for what they actually were.  (Yes, back in the day such profs could be found even at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown.  I also had this prof for several Tudor and Stuart lit courses.  His readings of Prospero from “The Tempest” were pure magic.  Betcher you couldn’t find his ilk there now.)

Conversely, my Real Property course in law school, which started with a very thorough examination of feudal Norman land rights regarding, among other things,  transfer and inheritance,  was taught by a card-carrying Marxist who evidently thought the whole system contemptible.

Somehow, when I revisit this particular Python sketch, both of those contrary memories come back to me.  And perhaps, in a weird way, they increase my appreciation of the humor of the thing.

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I may have mentioned that one of the casualties of the Great Port Swiller Basement Flood of a couple weeks ago was our old printer, which had sat on the floor and did not react a-tall well to sitting in several inches of water.

Well, what with today being the kick-off of the new school year and knowing that all three gels were going to need to start printing things instanter, Mrs. Robbo brought home a replacement this afternoon, an Epson Expression XP-410.  One of the advantages the thing has over our old one is that it can use WiFi to hook up not only with the home iWhatevz, but also with the gels’ laptops.

“Oh,” she said casually, “Can you set it up for me?”

In the words of Professor Farnsworth,

It may come as no surprise to friends of the decanter that, although a generally clever and able fellow, I have very little understanding of all this computer gadgetry and these innertoob connector thingies.  (On the other hand, I at least have enough sense not to take nekked pictures of myself and launch them into cyberspace.)  So when Mrs. R tasked me with this task, I was taken aback.

Whelp, the good news is that after about an hour of trying to download software, punching in invisible-to-my-failing-eyes passwords and swearing at the little Verizon router box thingy, I actually got the contraption to work.  This marks the very outer bounds of ol’ Robbo’s computer tech savvy, and the whole experience left me feeling drained.

I believe such a success calls for  splicing the mainbrace.   (And having stumbled across this link for this post, if you think I’m not going to order this set of flags for the porch, you’ve got another thing coming!)  So bumpers all round, gunn’ls under, and no heel taps!

 

For your Labor Day viewing pleasure, the birth of a thunderstorm:

I never, ever get tired of this sort of thing.

Actually, we had a hell of a storm come over Port Swiller Manor last evening, right about the time I would otherwise have been grilling out.  I anticipated the weather and instead went with a lemon-and-garlic shimp pasta dish.  As I stood in self-satisfaction chopping up garlic in the kitchen at about sixish, the sky went absolutely pitch-black, and for about twenty minutes or so the house was shaken by a series of ffzzzt-BOOOM!!! lightning strikes in the immediate neighborhood, the rain meanwhile coming down in torrents.   Fortunately, no basement flooding this time around.

Curiously, we didn’t get that nice sense of refreshment after the storm had rolled away.  The temperature did drop about ten degrees, but the atmosphere remained water-logged and unsettled.  It still feels pretty nasty today and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if we got another dose this evening.  That said, I’m still planning to grill, because ol’ Robbo has himself a big ol’ strip steak sitting in the fridge that’s just begging me to eat it.  Begging, I tell you!   UPDATE:  Well, we did get another round, but it looks like Ma Nature shot her bolt too early to affect dinner plans.

A glass of wine with the Capital Weather Gang for the video.  Go on over there to see more coo-el T-storm shots.

 

** Spot the quote.

UPDATE:  No guesses? Geez, what’s wrong with you guys?  That was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty in “Twister“.

 

(Yes, I was a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman before it was cool.  Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself contemplating what a hopeless dinosaur ol’ Robbo is.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just off to do yard work.

As part of the basement repair at Port Swiller Manor, the workmen had to tear out all the foundation plantings along the front of the house.  Among the victims were a couple of azaleas, which they dug out whole and left sitting on modestly substantial root balls.

Well, it seems after a week or more that these azaleas are no worse for their experience, but continue happy.  So one of the things I’m doing today is wrapping their roots up in trash bags, watering them and moving them around to another location, to be replanted once external construction is over and done with.

Thus, I have learned something about transplanting azaleas.

Labor Day weekend is also the traditional start date for my annual resolve to finally dig up and separate the peonies out back.  Every year I tell myself that this is the year I will do it.  And every year, I reach a point after a few weeks of thinking, eh, maybe next year.  It’s just a thing.

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