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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Somewhere or other today, ol’ Robbo came across a reference on the innertoobs to going for a car ride just for its own sake.

Does anybody really do that anymore, what with gas nudging four bucks a gallon?

Anyhoo, the reference triggered my own memories of the very few times my family just “went for a ride” in my misspent yoot.

I hated them.

Even then, and much more so these days, the idea of getting into a car for any other purpose than to get from Point A to Point B  in the minimum possible time absolutely appalled me.

(Shudder.)

I got thinking about this because we are now within two weeks of the annual Port Swiller Family trek up tah Maine.  According to Mapquest, the drive is 592 miles door-to-door, which sounds about right, and 9 hours, 31 minutes, which is absolute baloney.  (We’ve only made the trip in one fell swoop once.  It took us 13 hours.)

I don’t mind the distance so much, because I know I’m aiming for a specific target.  If somebody told me I had to sit in a car for that length of time (or any length of time) just to wander aimlessly about?  I’d slit my wrists without hesitation.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my chronicling here the renovations at Port Swiller Manor last summah?  For those of you who may have forgotten the details, part of the project was the renovation of the upstairs bathrooms (which had not been touched in about twenty years).  Amongst the changes to the Mawster Bawth was the removal of the ratty old hardwood from the little dressing area and closet and the grubby tile from around the bath, and their replacement with 12×24 slabs of slate.

The effect was very nice and all seemed well for quite some time.  However, a few months ago, ol’ Robbo began to sense what seemed like a couple of faint “soft” spots in this new floor, places that felt relatively spongy compared to the rest of the surface.  At first I dismissed these sensations as nothing but neurotic fancy.  But as time went on, they seemed to become more pronounced.

By a few weeks ago, I could definitely sense a shifting in the tile under my feet, especially right around the entrance to the closet.  Shortly thereafter, in approved plate-tectonic fashion, the tiles in the area began to spit up the grout between them.   It was at that point that we called the contractor (who we had doing some other things anyway) to revisit this project and view the evidence.  He took a look, agreed that there was a problem, insisted that it was covered under our warrantee and arranged to send his flooring guy back to do a more thorough diagnostic examination.

Well, the floor guy was out this morning.  After prying up the tile and poking around beneath, he affirmed the contractor’s initial impression that the problem lay in the sub-flooring, which was not sufficiently strong enough to keep the tile and its substrata firmly in place, but was instead bouncing off the joists.   He first suggested that the plywood might not be of industry-standard thickness and then that it was not screwed down firmly enough or in enough places on the joists to hold the new, heavier floor securely.

Having said this, he called up the contractor to make his report.  I could hear both of them.  My Spanish studies only went as far as 9th grade, but age and experience allowed me to generally piece together what was being said:  After reporting his findings, the floor guy suggested that these problems – plywood thickness and screw-spacing, were “preexisting conditions” and therefore ought not to fall under warrantee.

Our contractor, bless him, went ballistic.

Amongst a stream of other verbiage, I caught a good deal about “my name” and “reputation” and “bad for business” and, in essence, “you should have got it right the first time, now fix the damned problem!

The flooring guy seemed quite chastised when he got off the phone.  Whether he knew that I understood what had happened, I couldn’t say, but he was all friendliness and helpfulness.

So they’re going to pull up the tile, double or treble the screws on the sub-flooring and try it again.  (The plywood thickness is industry standard, btw, and the joists are not too far apart.)  And yes, it’s covered under the warrantee.

Not that I blame the floor guy for floating the suggestion – I don’t know what the margin is on this kind of work, but even if maintenance/repairs is factored into the original bid I would think somebody is still going to eat some costs – but it was heartening to hear our guy arguing on principles of integrity and Good Business.

Of course, he also knows that we’re thinking of building an in-law suite over the garage a few years down the road and that we’re pleased enough with his prior work to consider him first in the running for the job, but still…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

Ol’ Robbo has so far celebrated the country’s birthday today by getting up at the crack of dawn to nip out to southwestern Pennsylvania to retrieve the younger gels from their summah camp.

On the way home this afternoon, cresting the various heights of the Allegheny, Blue Ridge and Catoctin ranges, we could actually see Hurricane Arthur on the far eastern horizon, a solid bank of cloud with smaller, darker strata scudding around its edges and that incredibly vibrant blue sky above which, I read somewhere, has something to do with the enormous amounts of ozone that a hurricane flings into the upper atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the wind has been whipping out of the northwest all day – straight toward the thing.  One could almost see the air being dragged in by that enormous low pressure vacuum.  These macro moments always give ol’ Robbo a bit of a shiver.

Just thought I’d share.

Anyhoo, I am now taking a break with the help of Dr. Pimm before I set about getting ready to grill burgers and dogs for a few friends we’re having over to Port Swiller Manor.  I gather the idea is for some of us to go on over to the local high school to see our municipal fireworks display afterward.   I hope all y’all have an equally festive day today!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the spotty posting over the past few days.  Port Swiller Manor currently is undergoing the traditional transformation from School Year to Summah Break with all the attendant activities and commitments.  Indeed, Ol’ Robbo spent the majority of the day today transporting teh younger gels to camp at Summer’s Best Two Weeks (about which I have written before) and only returned home a little while ago.  Give it another day or two and the more relaxed summah schedule may allow me more quality posting opportunities.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Arriving home at Port Swiller Manor in the gentle e’en yesterday, ol’ Robbo noticed a large sign taped to the mailbox that read, simply, “Bad Wolf”.

I’d seen teh middle gel making this sign the day before.  When I tasked her with what, exactly, it was supposed to mean, she started in on a long and convoluted story-plot surrounding The Doctor. 

Sic transit nerdii, I suppose.   I tuned out of her explanation after about the first twenty seconds or so, since I pretty much lost interest in that particular series after Tom Baker left.

I can’t complain much, however, considering I wasn’t much older than her when I had a tee-shirt custom made which read, “Nowhere Else But Minas Tirith”.

Anyhoo, in teh spirit of such things, I can’t help reposting this:

Yep.  Welcome to your future, young padawan.

Oh, and by the way?  Teh principle nerd in the black glasses in ROTN is an actor named Robert Carradine.  Back in ’72, he played Slim Honeycutt in The Dook’s second-to-last movie, “The Cowboys”.

Think about that for a minute:  Working with Wayne as an up-and-coming young cattle driver, and then later playing a four-eyed geek.

But then, isn’t that where we are as a culture?

liebster2Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As fellow parents are no doubt well aware, the last weeks of May and the first weeks of June are times of seemingly endless brouhaha.  Recently ol’ Robbo has found himself attending all kinds of end-of-school-year activities, including awards ceremonies, picnics, talent shows and the like.  Plus, teh Middle Gel was confirmed into TEC on Sunday.  With all this going on, opportunities and energy for any kind of substantive posting have been correspondingly curtailed.

In teh midst of all these alarums and excursions, ol’ Robbo discovered that he had been nominated by long time friend of the decanter  Zoopraxiscopean Don for the highly coveted Liebster Award this year.  A glass of wine with you, sir!  And subsequently, during the time this post has half-finishedly hung fire, I also seem to have got tapped by our Maximum Leader.   A glass of wine with you, sir!  (And note to self: Extra aspirin tablet before bed, since we still have work in the morning.)

Anyhoo, ol’ Robbo’s been blogging for nearly eleven years now altogether and it seems to me that I haven’t seen a meme like this one floating around the ‘toobs for some time now.  Takes me back to the Earlies, it does, when every new meme was fresh red meat.  (Indeed, I’ve a vague recollection that we might have done this one back at Llama Central.)

So, obligatory “You love me! You really love me!” acceptance speech aside, here we go.  First off, the instructions:

The Quasi-Official Rules of the Liebster Award

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:
1. thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
3. answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.
5. nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. list these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

*****

PART THE FIRST, QUESTIONS TO ME:

Eleven questions.  Don was here first, but the wise minion does not provoke our Maximum Leader to acts of villainous retribution via needless snubs.  Therefore, I’ll take six of Don’s questions and five of Maxy’s:

1.     Cameras on every single portable electronic device. Blessing or bane?  Pfft.  Portable electronic devices are a bane themselves.  I love disconcerting people by sitting in quiet, self-contained contemplation in, say, an airport gate while they furiously fumble with their i-Whatevahs.

2. Who should direct the movie version [of your biography]?  Terry Gilliam.  I’m more Walter Mitty than Baron Munchausen, but his knack for cinematic dancing back and forth between reality and fantasy seems to match my thought patterns better than anyone else I can think of off hand, not that I pay any real attention to cinematic directors.

3. Who should do the musical score for the movie?  Hrrrrmmm…..I would prefer a compilation of classickal works, involving at least one chase scene set to one of the more intense minor-key concertos by Vivaldi.

4. Please tell a favorite joke (keep it tasteful, thank you).  Well, I heard a good one recently:  It seems that a father up ta’ rural Maine  questioned his son one morning about whether the son had anything to do with the family out-house having been tipped over the night before.  The son, after a moment’s hesitation, decided to come clean and admit that he had been the perpetrator.  The father then proceeded to chastise the son.  When he was done, the son said, “But Dad, when George Washington’s father asked if George had been the one to cut down the cherry tree and George had told the truth, HE wasn’t punished.”  “Maybe,” replied the father, “But I doubt his father was sitting in the cherry tree at the time George cut it down.”

5.  Assume that everyone has an ability that they could call their “superpower” what would yours be?  The ability not to draw attention to myself.  You may call it “Stealth” if you like.  

6. What is the earliest memory you have?  Playing with some toy army trucks.  This would have been in Rochester NY when I was no more than 3 y.o.  I also have a very vague memory of being in a car crossing a long bridge.  This would have been when we crossed the Mississippi at St. Louis on our way from Rochester to set up in South Texas when I was about 3 1/2.

7. Do you have a battle song, i.e., a tune that you hum, sing or stomp your feet to while on the way to a difficult day at work or an unpleasant appointment?  Well, nothing in particular for the office itself.  However, I still use the Star Wars scene of the Millennium Falcon’s escape from Mos Eisley for airplane takeoffs.  Indeed, when the pilot first hits the throttle and we start rolling, I always mutter to myself in a clipped British accent, “Oh, dear.  I’d forgotten how much I hate space travel!”

8. What fictional character do you particularly identify with?  Not one in particular, but I love Evelyn Waugh’s stable of anti-heroes:  Paul Pennyfeather, poor old Tony Last, William Boot and Guy Crouchback.  All of them are decent, traditionally-minded men caught up in the absurd and appalling whirligig of the Modern World, tossed about and, with the exception of Last, eventually set back down on their feet, somewhat dizzy but still intact.  (Please note that Basil Seal, Charles Ryder and Dennis Barlow are not included in this group.)

9. Tell me about one deeply held belief of yours that has evolved or changed over time.  Well, regular friends of the decanter will already know that this is a gimme and involves ol’ Robbo’s swimming of the Tiber back in ’08.  Indeed, that was probably the principle reason I set up this blog in the first place.  

10. What neglected writer, composer or performer deserves rediscovery?  Well, I’ll go with a painter:  N.C. Wyeth.  Yes, he was really an “illustrator” in the same sense that Norman Rockwell was, and yes, the sorts of stories he illustrated – which centered around subjects like pirates and swashbucklers, Indians and frontiersmen – are considered nekulturny under the current ethos.  But I think his use of color and shadow and his sense of dramatic groupings and action were superb.

11.  Your favorite word? “Defenestration”, of course.  In actual practice, we could use a bit more of it these days, don’t you think?

PART THE SECOND, TEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT OL’ ROBBO:

1.  I am punctual to the point of obsession and absolutely cannot stand being late for anything.  On the other hand, I am the titular head of a household of wimminz to whom this is a completely alien concept.

2.  We had a pet raccoon when I was a boy, an orphaned cub (or is it pup?) who we eventually had to let go when he grew up and got too wild and rough.  I was about eight at the time.  A year or two later, I stumbled across Sterling North’s classic novel of boyhood, “Rascal”.  It was the story of exactly the same scenario:  Boy finds cub.  Boy raises cub.  Boy has to release cub because Call of the Wild.  I used to read that book over and over and the ending made me tear up every single time.

3.  I dislike bivalves (clams, oysters, etc.) but like crustaceans (lobster, shrimp, crab).

4.   I played cello in elementary school and took private lessons for a year or so afterwards but eventually dropped it because I had got as far as I could as a soloist and was too afraid to join the middle school orchestra out of shyness.    Now the youngest is going to start middle school this fall….learning cello for her school orchestra.

5.   The farthest west I’ve been is Dillingham, Alaska, on Bristol Bay.  (It’s also the only place at which I’ve ever landed in a commercial jet on a gravel strip.)  The farthest north I’ve been is Anchorage.  The farthest south is Brownsville, Texas.  The farthest east is Richborough Castle (ancient Roman fortification) in Sandwich, England.

6.   When I was a kid, my brother and I used to chase armadillos in the Texas Hill Country.  Once they got into their burrows, their tails always stayed within hand’s reach but it was no good trying to pull them out because they had very strong claws that dug tenaciously into the ground and proved too strong an anchor.

7.   I once unwittingly insulted Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., by ranting at length to a law school classmate about fence-sitter, swing-vote justices without realizing that Powell was standing directly behind me.  (Powell was an alum of my law school and frequently visited for guest lectures and the like.)  On the other hand, I have more than once almost been run down in the parking lot of my church by Justice Antonine Scalia (who is a member of my parish and often attends the Tridentine Mass at which I am a regular).

8.   Bill Cosby was my college commencement speaker.  Tom Wolfe was my law school commencement speaker.  Both of them were excellent.

9.  I have a talent for picking up local accents and, without consciously trying, adapting to them.  Although I spent most of my misspent yoot in South Texas and arrived at college in Connecticut with a subtle but noticeable twang, by the end of my senior year somebody once said to me, “Oh! I always assumed you were from Boston.”

10.  I have no sweet-tooth whatsoever.   Candy, donuts, cake, anything sugary – their siren song falls on deaf ears.  Indeed, I find them quite repulsive.  On the other hand, salt is practically a food group to me.

11.   I once made it from the American Legion Bridge over the Potomac (on the Dee Cee Beltway) to the end of teh Mass Pike in Boston in seven and a half hours.   The Need for Speed, baybee!

12.  BONUS!  I hate Apple and its freakin’ iMac platform.  I could have had this post done in 1/8th the time it’s taking me to drag and click and copy and paste and whatnot.  And  every time I twitch the mouse the wrong way, the screen goes all a-hooey and I have no idea how to get it back to where it was.  How the hell am I supposed to quaff from the true, the blushful Hippocrene when goddam Apple keeps slipping me a dribble glass?  GRRRRRRRR……..

PART THE THIRD, PASSING THE TORCH:

M’kay.  First, a selection of victims (in which I pass up all those friends of the decanter who appear to have been tapped already by someone else):

Diane, the Quilting Babe

Fiddle-Dee-Dee (Release the Vic!)

The Lovely and Talented Sarah of Life At Full Volume 

Mr. Nightfly - Because I can guarantee hockey will be involved.

Mr. Obscurorama – because we’ve traded memes back in the day.  And, no doubt, will do so again.

Second, a list of very random questions for them.  Are you ready?  Here we go:

1.  Let’s play Desert Island Disks.  Singles or albums.  Pick your five and explain.

2.  Who shot first?  (Understand that the wrong answer here will doom you straight to the appropriate circle of hell.)

3.  In baseball, what is your opinion of the DH rule and the introduction this year of the replay review challenge rule?  (See above.)

4.  When the light turns green and the fellah sitting in front of you obviously fails to notice it, how do you remind him?  (Please include horn technique, appropriately-censored vocabulary and body language.)

5.  Are you better off than you were six years ago?

6.  Name a historically significant point in your life and tell us how it affected you personally.  (I ask this because, owing to an assignment in her history class in which teh eldest gel has been asked to broach the same question to some member of her family, I learned that Mrs. R’s grandmother (who is still with us and is visiting this weekend) was so upset by the news of the death of FDR that she went into labor several weeks prematurely and bore Robbo’s MIL the next day.  I reckon teh gel is going to get some extra points for that  story.)

7.  Brush with Greatness.  Go.

8.  Cats or dogs and why?  (See Nos. 2 and 3 above re incorrect responses.)

9.  If you had to pick an historickal epoch in Western History with which you have the most sympathy, which would you choose?  Why?  If you don’t identify with any given period, why not?

10.  Charcoal or gas?   Why?  (See Nos. 2, 3 and 7 above.)

11.  How has the experience of blogging influenced you over the course of your time dabbling in the innertoobs.  Best positive?  Worst negative?  How has your approach/attitude towards blogging changed as you’ve gained experience and as your personal circumstances have changed.  Tell us about the crossing of the streams between your bloggy life and your real-world existence.  (Okay, I’m cramming a bunch of questions into one, but they’re all interrelated.)

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This afternoon ol’ Robbo attended the annual “Father’s Day” pick nick and elementary class talent show at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method, his very last, in fact, given that teh youngest gel graduates next week.

All in all, the talent show was somewhat above average, considering the available, um, talent.  It was the usual array of piano recital pieces, tin-whistle Irish jigs and teeny-bopper choreography, leavened with a few odd-ball acts such as a demonstration of origami and a stand-up routine of Spoonerisms.

Indeed, it could have been a lot worse.

Nonetheless, I have to say this:  If I hear the song “Let It Go” too many more times, I feel I may well reach that point famously identified by H.L. Mencken at which I spit on my hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats.

See if I don’t.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It probably says something about ol’ Robbo’s time and station in life that today’s excitement was the deposit of a large dumpster on the driveway of Port Swiller Manor.

We’re taking out the old swing set and tree house this weekend, as they are both rotting and the gels have long outgrown them anyway, so we decided to go whole hog and get rid of a large chunk of the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated round ye olde demesne over the years.

I’ve just spent an hour or two in the garage, getting my exercise hurling large chunks of wood, old bags of grout, broken gardening tools and the like into the maw.  We’ll probably spend the better part of the next couple days filling the thing to the Plimsoll Mark.   What is it that makes chucking on this scale so much fun?

It occurs to me, though, after reading about the kybosh the EPA is planning to put on the utilities, that we might be better off hoarding all that wood against the coming winter instead.   I actually heard some flak on NPR this morning arguing that higher electricity costs are good for the economy because people won’t use as much energy.

Figure out the logic behind that one if you can.

I suppose that when fixed-income granny can’t afford to heat her place under the new regime, we can remind her that she’s always got thoughts of Mother Gaia to keep her warm.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What a frabjous day (Callooh! Callay!) this has been, my friends!  Why?  Because our Dear Leader, having solved all other domestic and foreign problems, has today taken the opportunity to turn his mighty intellect to the tragic and heartbreaking scandal of  youth sports concussions.

At last! Praise be.

As a matter of fact, this nooz resonates in the very heart of the Port Swiller family.  You see, about two years ago, while teh youngest gel was enrolled in a winter swim training program, she was practicing her backstroke one evening, lost track of her stroke count, and sailed head-first into the wall at the rate of knots.

When ol’ Robbo got to the pool, he found teh gel sitting slumped against the wall, weeping and babbling.  (All fooling aside, the trip to the emergency room was truly an exercise in parental anguish.)  The docs diagnosed mild concussion, but since the treatment seems to have involved nothing more than sitting about in the ER waiting for her to snap out of it, I’m not sure just how valuable that information actually was.

Anyhoo, I’m hoping that this new initiative, in its understandable emphasis on contact sports like football, rugby and boxing, will not leave out consideration of this aquatic peril.  At the least, I expect a Federal mandate for swimmer helmets and/or styrofoam lining in all pools.

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