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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:
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.
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,
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:
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.
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……
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.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
The appearance of buses doing dummy runs on the streets round Port Swiller Manor, coupled with the rash of “Let Me Show Off My Kids” posts on Face Book and elsewhere, reminds ol’ Robbo that the balloon is just about to go up for yet another school year. That being the case, kindly indulge me in my own LMSOMK post here.
This year the gels will be in 11th, 9th and 7th grades. Yes, I now O-fficially have two high schoolers and a middle schooler. (Funny, because it seems like just yesterday that I was posting about diapers and Wiggles concerts.) And not just high and middle schoolers, but female high and middle schoolers. As I remarked to Mrs. Robbo the other day after breaking up yet another cat fight, “You know, boys just punch each other and have it done with.”
Anyhoo, the breakdown:
Along about the last quarter of last year, the Eldest Gel decided that for college she’d really like to attend Mrs. Robbo’s alma mater. At the same time, the penny dropped that if she actually wanted to get in, she’d better start doing something about it academically and extra-curricularly.¹ As a result, she started exerting some effort, and her grades began to climb. She goes into this year knowing exactly what she needs to do, and I think having a concrete goal will help her achieve it.
The Middle Gel moves to the Upper School on her campus and also is now a Senior Chorister down the Cathedral. Between the additional school work at the former and the many more practices and performances at the latter than she had in middle school, her life basically won’t be her own until next June. (For example, she’ll be singing “The Messiah” at Christmas. They’re also scheduled to perform during the year at Strathmore and Carnegie Hall.) Perhaps that’s why she’s been cramming in as many reruns of “
Dr. Dok-Tor Who” as possible these last few weeks.
The Youngest Gel is bouncing off the ceiling with excitement to begin middle school. She tested into the local G/T program and also is planning to take up both the cello and cross-country running (moving on to crew in high school). Recently she’s been consumed with getting herself organized to take it all on. She and the Eldest Gel have a bad case of Sibling J. Rivalry, and her chief motivation to excel seems to be an overwhelming desire to wipe the Eldest’s eye. Hey, whatever works, right?
So, as the late, great Johnny Olson used to say on “The Price Is Right”, “Heeeeeere we goooooooo…….”
¹Legacies ain’t what they used to be. However, it certainly can’t hurt that not only is Mrs. R a Vixen, so are Robbo’s Sistah, Robbo’s Sistah’s Mother-in-Law, the Eldest Gel’s godmother and the Middle Gel’s godmother. And ol’ Robbo himself is an honorary member of the school’s theatrical tap club, Paint & Patches. So we got that going for us.
Earlier today ol’ Robbo found himself hobnobbing with the youngest gel (who starts middle school in a week) about seasonal preferences. It turns out that we agree, ranking them from best to worst thusly: Fall, Spring, Winter, Summer.
We seem to have arrived at several of our preferences based on very different criteria (for instance, questions of wardrobe possibilities heavily influence teh gel’s thinking while mine not so much), but we agree about summer. It’s too darn hot.
Now long time friends of the decanter will recall that one of Robbo’s stock summah memes involves bitching about the iron fist of Heat Miser and all the misery it causes round here. However, as I reminded the gel, you certainly couldn’t level such criticism at the Summah of 2014, at least as experienced in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. Indeed, it’s been almost ridiculously pleasant, with relatively few 90+ degree days and, so far as I can recollect, absolutely no triple-digit heat. And at the moment, we are experiencing weather more typical of the second half of September than August.
Indeed, if summah were always so pleasant round here, I would have no cause to complain whatsoever.
Of course, I know that hasn’t been and isn’t going to be the case, and that my tradition of griping posts will resume at some point in the future. Indeed, we are being told these days by Top Men that all that Global Warming hasn’t gone away, but instead is just hiding at the moment – somewhere in the Marianas Trench or under Mt. Everest or in Birnam Wood or the Bermuda Triangle or Area 51 or something, I don’t quite recall – and is only waiting the psychological moment to burst forth again, shouting, “Boo! Ha, ha,ha! Should have listened to Al Gore and Michael Mann, you selfish, ignorant wing-nuts! You are so toast now!”
Eh, we’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m just enjoying the moment.
Speaking of which, here’s a question for you Tolkien sharks out there. There are several instances in the Lord of the Rings (I refer to the books, of course) in which it is suggested that Sauron at least influences, if not specifically directs, the weather. The snow storm at the Red Horn Gate comes to mind, as does the big thunderstorm at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. But I’ve always wondered about the extremely pleasant summer in the Shire in the first part of The Fellowship of the Ring that contributes to Frodo’s stalling around before he finally sets out on his initial journey. Just coincidence? Or is some malevolent force at work? And if so, why? Keep Frodo at home long enough for the Nazgul to get there? Is the Ring doing it? Can Sauron influence the weather that far away and does he have sufficient information (from Gollum’s torture) to make such specific arrangements? And can he create conditions that seem fair without feeling foul? There’s no hint of anything evil about that summer in the Shire. Then again, perhaps nobody was looking for it.
I throw all this out just by way of musing. And speaking of which, if you are both a Tolkien Geek and a Weather Nerd like ol’ Robbo, you’ll probably want to read this article.