Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo currently is sitting with his morning cuppa on the back porch, looking out on his wet, dripping yard, complacent – and indeed, almost smug – in the knowledge that he got the grass cut yesterday before the rains moved in.

(Yes, these little victories are important.)

My main task today is the transplanting of Mrs. R’s Mother’s Day rose.  Every year since we rebuilt the back porch, I’ve bought her a rose bush for said day, which we keep in a pot on the top landing of the porch stairs.  Come fall, I move the thing out to the front border of teh garden.  I’ve a spot picked out for this year’s, but I’m running out of room.  Next year, I’m going to have to get creative.

I suppose I’ll also cut back the peonies today, as their leaves are starting to turn brown.  These are another of my kick-the-can-down-the-road issues.  Every fall for the last few years, I’ve said to myself, “Self, you really need to dig up the peonies and divide their root balls.”  And every time I’ve answered, “Wellllll….maybe next year.”  Maybe next year.

In other seasonal news, the goldfinch are rapidly losing their summah coloring.  It’s really rayther amazing how quickly they change over from yellow to dun and back again.

Ol’ Robbo idly wonders how much longer the resident hummingbird is going to hang around before packing it in and heading south.  (I’ve seen her within the past week.)  Again, when you think about it, the shear logistics of such a migration are truly amazing.  I keep the feeder up until the frost hits, but obviously they need to clear out sooner than that in order to ensure a continuous food supply.  But what triggers this?  What urge or instinct substitutes for the (I assume) non-existent conscious thought of, “Oh, the nectar supply in my summer haunt is about to fail, so today I will undertake the 900-plus mile migration to the Gulf or beyond in order to ensure my continued existence over the next seven months”?

It’s almost as if a Higher Power has planned all this out.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been facing (by which he means avoiding) an ongoing work problem ever since the plague lockdown started, in that he hasn’t been able to get his Zoom to work properly.

Our system is hosted by the office admin.  Every time she sent out a link for a meeting, I’d duly click on it, only to be informed that my computer wasn’t running the latest version of my browser, and therefore that audio and/or video were not available.  I’d get into the meeting alright, but all I would see were gray boxes representing the other attendees.  I tried cutting and pasting the link into my other browsers but got the same result.  Inevitably, I’d have to call into the meeting instead.

Well, Ol’ Robbo is a bit of a hermit as well as an admitted technophobe, but even I finally got tired of this.  So this week I called into our help desk and explained in somewhat more detail the problem I describe above.

There was a short silence.

“Um,” said the IT guy, “are you using the app?”

“There’s an app?” I said.

“Um….yeah.  You should be using that,” he said.

“Ooooookay,” I replied.  “Er….how do you find the app?”

He very patiently explained, sticking with me until I eventually realized that when he said “search function” he meant the little magnifying glass doohickey on the menu bar.  Finally, I found it and made my way to said “app”.  (I hate that word, by the bye.)

I tried it out yesterday and it worked like a charm.

Last evening, I jokingly related all this to Eldest Gel.  “I’ll bet that guy thinks I’m a world-class idiot,” I said.

“You are an idiot,,,,,Boomer,” she replied.

I suppose I had that one coming.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy first second day of Autumn!

(As regular friends of the decanter will know, this is my very favorite season of the year.)

As Ol’ Robbo gazes out at the wood line behind Port Swiller Manor, he notes that some of the maple leaves are already starting to turn at their tips.  I hope we have good color this year, as it seems to me that we’ve had a whole string of distinctly meh years recently.

I dunno why this is.  Supposedly, there’s some formula involving rainfall rates and the rapidity and timing of temperature decline which brings about peak reds, yellows, and oranges, but I’ve never learned what it is.  Perhaps the age and maturity of the tree has something to do with it, too.  Heck, perhaps it’s ManBearPig.

As I’ve mentioned here from time to time, this has been an unusual year here, weather-wise.  (Well, it’s been unusual altogether, but that’s a different matter.)  Perhaps this pattern will carry on in to autumn and result in a real color-blaze for a change.

As I say, I certainly hope so.

Oh, I should mention that as long as we remain in plague exile, my challenge to myself is to see how long I can go on working from my porch before the weather drives me inside.  So far, I find that a space heater at my feet and multiple layers are good down to about the mid to lower forties.  I suspect the final decider will be when my fingers get too cold to type.

UPDATE:  I should clarify that I know all about why the leaves change – withdrawal of green chlorophyll unmasking other tints within the leaves.  My question is what factors impact the vibrancy of those remaining tints from year to year.

UPDATE DEUX:  Just for fun, I went and poked about on this Blue Ridge Fall Foliage Guide.  It mentions the combination of moisture and cold as determinants of color vibrancy, but also says it’s hard to predict from year to year.  Eh. The latest update seems to say that a) the Blue Ridge is about on schedule, and b) that it’s going to be a good year.

We’ll see.  Or rayther, Ol’ Robbo won’t see because he isn’t driving out there to look.  For one thing, everybody else and his baby brother round here does, so if you get up on the Parkway, you’re going to spend a lot more time watching other people’s bumpers than actually looking out at the trees.  For another, I’ve always loathed taking “rides”.  When I get into a car, there must be a definite destination, to which we proceed as quickly as possible with the minimum number of distractions.  This precludes random wanderings about to look at leaves (or Christmas light displays, or new construction, or whatever else).  It also precludes spontaneous detours and anything more than absolutely necessary stops.  (My family, for some reason, doesn’t  agree with me.  I’ve never heard the term “Car Nazi” used, but I know they sometimes think it.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo recalls a dinnertime debate from his misspent yoot provoked by teh Old Gentleman’s  pronouncement regarding the foundation of humor.*  Dad’s position was that all humor is based on making fun of the misfortune of others.**  In essence, Schadenfreude.

Ol’ Robbo’s instinctive reaction then, as it still is, was that this is wrong. Or at least incomplete.  Schadenfreude certainly is a type of humor, but surely*** it can’t be the basis of all humor.  One of these days, I’ll do the leg-work to prove my gut reaction.

One of these days.

I bring this up by way of prelude to my own assertion about comedy:  There is nothing, nothing, funnier than watching somebody else try not to laugh.  But does this only prove the Old Gentleman’s point?  Is our mirth based solely a malignant pleasure in that other person’s failure to contain theirs?  Or is it more a sympathetic upwelling?

I dunno.

In any event, when Ol’ Robbo is Emperor of the World, one of his first decrees will be that all movie DVD’s will be required to include outtake and blooper-reel menu options.  I can get through a whole feature merely somewhat entertained, only to find myself rolling on the floor in helpless paroxysms while watching the flubs, blubs, and general collapses into hysteria as things get out of hand in the bits that were left out.****

Most satisfying.


* We had family dinner debates virtually every night, debates that, between the flow of the needful and strong personalities, almost inevitably became rayther sporty.  Over the years, this became a matter of course to us, but it often horrified the young people my siblings and I brought home:  Why Mrs. Robbo and my sister-in-law didn’t run screaming into the night remains one of the great mysteries.

** I still don’t know if the Old Boy really believed this.  Sometimes he would posit genuinely-held positions, sometimes I think he was just trying to spike us out of divilment.  You never knew which was which.  And he wasn’t telling.

*** Don’t call me “Shirley”.

**** I experienced this once in person, too.  I’ve posted before about a collegiate production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I was in.  In one rehearsal, we tried to do a walk-through with the understudies.  It proved a total disaster, given some of the tricky physical humor.  After a short time, we found ourselves staggering across the stage helpless with laughter.  The whole thing culminated with my counterpart collapsing on me and breaking one of my toes.  Good times.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

First off, Ol’ Robbo has nothing to say about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg except rest in peace.  I disagree quite strongly with her judicial philosophy, but I’ve always understood her to be a good and decent person.  As to the politickal fallout of her death, I will leave the tongue-swallowing to others.

Anyhoo, glancing out of doors this cool, crisp morning, Ol’ Robbo was pleased to note that his lawn doesn’t need mowing this week.  It turns out that this is just as well, as an article just came to my attention arguing that maintaining a neat yard is a sign of a vestigial colonialist mentality that needs purging in the flame of wokeness.

Because of course it is:

“What is a lawn but a statement of control over nature?” asks John Douglas Belshaw, a Canadian history professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C.

“That’s a huge part of settler culture. You see that river there? We can dam that. We can organize that water, we can make that water work for us. It’s essentially the same mindset. I can reorganize this landscape, flatten it, plant lawn, find a non-indigenous species of plant, of grass, and completely extract anything that’s not homogenous, that doesn’t fit with this green pattern and control it … A backyard with a big lawn is like a classroom for colonialism and environmental hostility.”

Yes, Ol’ Robbo enjoys nothing more after a long afternoon mowing the lawn and weeding the garden than to stand on the back porch drinking sundowners, gloating over his imperial refashioning of half an acre of Ma Nature’s good, green, earth, and dreaming of the hill of indigenous plant skulls he heaped in order to make his vision come true.  Sometimes I put on a pith helmet just to heighten the kink.

A glass of wine with Not The Bee.  G’wan over for additional arguments about letting the jungle creep back in.  The NTB author labels them Marxist, but in this case I’m detecting something closer to Jolly John-Jacques Rousseau and his crackpot primitivism.  Natural Man would never keep his yard in shape.  (Nor would he bother much about house maintenance or personal hygiene.)  Who wouldn’t want to live in that paradise?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees this morning where the Kansel Kulture Kidz are now gunning for George Bernard Shaw, trying to get a theatre named after him to change its moniker because of his deeply obnoxious views about eugenics and his praise of the collectivist totalitarians of his era.  (The latter charge especially, it seems to me, demonstrates an astounding lack of self-awareness on the part of said kidz, but never mind.)

For myself, I’ve long known about Mr. Shaw’s politicks, but they’ve never elicited much more than a bit of eye-rolling from me.  For one thing, I’ve always suspected that the old goat didn’t even believe half of what he said, but instead  engaged in a kind of armchair divilment for fun, profit, and notoriety.

For another, he was simply too damn good a playwright to condemn or ignore.  Back in his own kollej days, Ol’ Robbo took a course on Ibsen and Shaw.  After reading a half dozen of Ol’ Henrik’s works, I was more than ready to toddle out to the barn and hang myself.  But then we got to Shaw, and it was as if a huge breath of fresh air blew through the classroom..  (Arms And The Man was always one of the Mothe’s very favorite plays.  If I had to pick one, I think I’d go with Caesar and Cleopatra.)

Anyhoo, the proper way to deal with Mr. Shaw’s blatherings is to read G.K. Chesterton’s responses to them, not to try and disappear the man.

(A glass of wine with J.J. Sefton.)

UPDATE:  Oh, and speaking of theatrics and totalitarianism, I watched a rather forgettable Cary Grant movie on TCM last evening.  (So forgettable, in fact, that I can’t even recall its title now.)  At the end, host Ben Mankiewicz assured me that there were never any Commies in Hollywood and that the whole “Red Scare” was a fraud.  Good to know.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

So if Ol’ Robbo understands the headlines correctly, his love of classickal musick and his abhorrence of child pronography make him a Bad Person.

Okaaaaay, then.

UPDATE:  For those of you wondering what Ol’ Robbo is nattering about, I refer first to an article I saw today on the upcoming celebration of Beethoven’s 250th birthday.  It argued that listening to Beethoven (and, by extension, any Western Art Musick), is exclusive and elitist (and probably all the other fashionable “-ists” as well).  Secondly, I refer to the current attempts to defend Netflix’s indefensible show “Cuties”, about twerking 11-year-olds.  Apparently, crotch-shots of writhing pre-pubescent girls are not filth if viewed in the right “context”, and I’m some kind of knuckle-dragging goon for believing otherwise.  (No, no linkies for this stuff.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It got cool enough last night that Ol’ Robbo felt compelled to fire up the Port Swiller Manor heater.

And as I sit out this morning, breath condensing in clouds before me, I have both a coat on my back and a space-heater at my feet.

On September 16.

So much for Glowball Enwarmbling.

(Which, by the bye, I’m now being told by my Betters is responsible for all those wildfires out West.  I find it interesting that Mama Gaia seems to be such a stickler for respecting international boundaries.  I guess she just loves Canada more than us.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, fall is genuinely starting here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, as I’ll have to put on jeans and a sweatshirt if I’m to set up my workstation out on the porch today.

The mailbag has been overflowing recently with queries from friends of the decanter along the lines of, “Tom, how is the new kitteh working out?”

Well, I’ll tell you.

Overall, much better than I had feared.  Decanter Cat hates her, of course, but pretty much confines herself to hissing.  (She also occasionally throws me a look that says as plainly as if she were speaking the Queen’s English, “You son of a bitch.”)  Decanter Dog, much to my relief, seems largely indifferent.  Only once has DD snarled, and that was when she was lying on a sofa when the kitten suddenly popped up on the arm – enough to startle anybody.

As for kitteh herself, she’s a lively, curious little ball of energy, and is steadily working her way into the Port Swiller Manor routine.  By the bye, remember how Ol’ Robbo got saddled with kitteh in the first place because he was worried that the Crazy Cat People from whom we got her would check up on us and discover Mrs. R’s illicit plan to hand her over to a friend?  Well the Crazy Cat People did check up.  I’m very glad we didn’t have to lie to them.

Oddly enough, because cats usually take to me so easily, Ol’ Robbo seems to be the only person or pet here of whom kitteh’s still afraid, flitting off if I come anywhere near her.  Eldest Gel says that if I want kitteh to like me, I must go and lie down on Youngest’s bed (because kitteh spent her first week or two here in Youngest’s room) and wait.  Eventually, kitteh will summon up the nerve to join me, whereupon I must give her lots of pets.

Well, no.  “After twelve years in the minors, I don’t try out.”  Eventually, she’ll come round, but Ol’ Robbo isn’t going to tap-dance to make it happen.  So there.

All in all, however, assimilation seems to have been a success.  Perhaps I’ll even post a pic of her here.  If and when she lets me get close enough to take one, that is.

UPDATE:  Courtesy of Mrs. R.  (This pic is several weeks old and Kitteh has already grown noticeably.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo bookmarked this story last week but didn’t have time to get back to it until now:  Amid Riots, Washington & Lee University Offers A Class On ‘How To Overthrow The State’

Well, I guess that’s one more institution from my past on which I can hang up with a clear conscience when they call to pester me about contributing to the annual fund.**  And I’ve no doubt that one or both of the Generals are going to be disappeared from the school’s name and legacy soon.  Mrs. R asked what the new name might be.  “Long March U.” seems to me to have the proper ring to it.


** Not that they need my 25 bucks, as they’re rolling in endowment monies, but for some reason they make a big deal about class participation percentages.  Sorry, boys, not gonna do it.





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September 2020