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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

From the Beeb:  Have we reached peak prosecco?

Ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize it was a “thing”.

Curiously enough, Mrs. R has become something of a prosecco fan recently, going so far as to sample various labels.  She says she much prefers it to champagne, as I believe it is generally sweeter. (The Mothe was something of a fan as well.)

Myself, I dislike the sparkling stuff.  Gives me quite the headache (as do most whites) and I also feel all bloated.  I’ll stick to my reds and leave zee bubbly to the Missus.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A bit late, perhaps, but Ol’ Robbo would like to raise his glass to the Washington Capitals for making the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, after being left playoffs bridesmaids seemingly for the last umpteen years now.  Well played, gentlemen, and best of luck!

I have to confess, though, that hockey really has never meant much of anything to me.  After all, I grew up in South Texas.  Back in those days – before this absurdist trend of placing franchises in cities like Vegas and Tampa Bay which I would quickly quash if I were Emperor – it was very much an alien, northern sport, and so simply never established itself in my developing braims.  I don’t dislike it (as I do basketball), I’ve just really got nothing one way or another.

Nonetheless, as I say, it’s nice that the boys made it and I hope they take it all.

Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals (who are getting back into form, by the bye) have been getting into the rah-rah swing of things, too, wearing caps and jerseys and doing the pro-Cap P.R. biznay.  On the one hand, a lot of this seems to be genuine camaraderie and good will, which Ol’ Robbo quite likes.  On the other hand, there are some who seem to be suggesting that if the Hockey Gods have allowed the Caps into the Stanley Cup for the first time this year, perhaps this is an indication that the Baseball Gods also will let the Nats finally win their first post-season series.  To me, this is deeply troubling.  Sports Gods (all of them) are fickle and capricious, and the fastest way to get them to turn against you is to in any way make them believe that you think they “owe” you any kind of action one way or another.  (And don’t tell me it’s all just fun and games.  Baseball Gods are real.  And dangerous.)  I wish these people would just cut this kind of talk right out.

Indeed, let’s just sit back, relax, and concentrate on the contests at hand.  And if I may say it even as an admitted non-hockey guy:


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you are all having a good Memorial Day weekend.

Ol’ Robbo spent the morning helping Eldest Gel reform her bedroom.  In addition to being an almighty packrat (and a notorious thief of plates, glasses, and silverware from the kitchen), she’s also got far too much furniture in what is Port Swiller Manor’s smallest sleeping chamber.  (Indeed, my main task was the disassembly and removal of a massive wooden bedframe which took up way too much space, although I also helped her move some other things around and remove both bags of trash and my accumulated kitchen valuables.)  For whatever reason, she seems to have grown tired of living in such cramped squalor and is bent on cleaning and simplifying.

As we talked about organizing books and clothing, rearranging furniture, and maybe even repainting the walls, it occurred to me that it has not yet sunk in on the Gel that her time of living at home is now within very measurable distance of coming to an end.  That thought came into my mind because I still have a very vivid memory of my own realization that my old life was ending and a new one beginning:  I was home Christmas Break of my junior year in college.  My then-girlfriend had come to visit from Bahston, so one day I took her out to see the sights of San Antonio.  When we got back later in the afternoon, it suddenly hit me like a 16-ton weight.  This wasn’t really my home anymore, it was my parents’ and I was just visiting.  Of course I’d always be welcomed and all that, but the “Shadow of Parting”, as Galadriel put it, had suddenly and definitely fallen.

I went to the Mothe and bawled like a baby.

The memory often makes me wonder what it will be like when my brood strike out on their own.  (And yes, they’re leaving.  None of this thirty-something living in the basement stuff for us.)  Do other people get hit by such a shock? Can it be more gradual? I suppose it’s a matter of personality and circumstances.


The Port Swiller Porch, Clean and Reassembled

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After much procrastination, Ol’ Robbo finally propelled himself to get up early this hot Saturday morning and power-wash the back porch and stairs.  (We built the porch four or five years ago and this is, in fact, the first time I’ve done it.)

You may label me as hopelessly bourgeois for it, but I must say that I absolutely enjoyed the job.  Moving all the furniture and brick-a-brack back and forth was something of a nuisance, but how many other maintenance tasks are there that produce such immediate, gratifying results for such comparatively little labor? (And for that matter, how many other places are there in one’s house in which one can spray water all over the place?)

The bad news is that I may have inadvertently killed the washer.  About three quarters of the way down the stairs, I swung the wand around and sprayed the outlet into which it was plugged.  There was a pop and the motor went dead. I don’t know if I tripped the power cord, the circuit-breaker or both.  I’ll look into that later.  For the time being, I just detached the hose, got a bucket of Mr. Clean and a sponge, and did the rest by hand.  (Don’t tell Mrs. Robbo.)

My next trick will be to take on the garage floor.

UPDATE: To quote Professor Farnsworth, “Good news, everyone!”  After hitting the reset on the washer plug, I went and tried it on another outlet and it’s fine.  (It’s almost as if the designers anticipated morons like me.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the past two days, Ol’ Robbo has attempted to leave comments in responses to posts by long-time lovely and talented friends of the decanter Sleepy Beth and Diane, both of whom use Blogsplat.  In each instance, after foiling the fiendish “I am not a robot” security picture challenge (which reminds me of something out of an Indiana Jones adventure – “But in the Latin, ‘Jehovah‘ starts with an ‘I‘”), I keep coming up against the demand that I identify myself by my “Google User” account.

Well, I haven’t got a “Google User” account. And furthermore, I don’t want one.  (Evidently, Middle Gel does and also has accessed it from Ol’ Robbo’s laptop, because that’s the default to which the thing keeps running back. Rayther than getting caught in that potential quagmire, Ol’ Robbo has simply abandoned said attempted comments.)

Previously, Blogsplat had been perfectly happy to recognize me as a simple, country WordPress blogger.  What the heck is going on now?

UPDATE: Wow! Speaking of Blogsplat brought back to Ol’ Robbo the memory of the old Llamabutchers, with whom I started blogging on said platform way in November, 2003.  I had thought those archives long lost, but just now (on a whim) I punched them up to discover…...they’re still there! (By the way, rereading it after fifteen years, I’m still very proud of my first substantive blogpost, in which I thoroughly trash Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings movie.)

UPDATE DUEX: Additional Wow! I had also thought the Llamabutcher bloviations over at MuKnew, to which we transferred, had also been sent back to the primordial pixel slime (like in “Waterworld”), to be lost forever.  Again, I was wrong!




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This morning as he blearily scanned the headlines over his first cuppa, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught by an article from the Beeb about “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and what a hell of a time it’s having environmentally after having been smacked by a cyclone the other day.

If you had asked me, “Robbo, what is the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean?'” just a few days ago, I confess I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea.  (Probably would have guessed Rodrigues just at random because there are turtles there.)

But by one of those serendipitous little coincidences, it just so happens that I had come across the answer earlier this week as I was poking about on the innertoobs: It’s the Island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, of which I had never actually heard before.

And why on earth was Robbo looking up this particular piece of information?  Because I had just re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which is set on the fictional island of Azania (also off the coast of Yemen), and I became interested in trying to figure out if Waugh’s creation had a real basis.

Alas, no, at least not physically.  The map Mr. Wu himself provided with his novel shows Socotra to the north of the much larger Azania, but a quick check of the real map shows that there is nothing directly south of it except a whoooole lot of water.

On the other hand, there apparently are some similarities between the two in terms of flora and fauna, as well as cultural and racial history.  (Waugh’s description of the mix of primitive tribal paganism, Nestorian Christianity, and decayed Islam, overlaid on a mixed population of African and Arab, with a few scourings from the Levant, seems to echo what is said of Socotra.)  Also the general lack of interest by the Western Powers once Aden was established as a British stronghold.

So perhaps the novel’s primitive, ungovernable territory to which poor, misguided, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to bring utopian Progressivism, aided and abetted by that arch ne’er-do-well, Basil Seal, is not such pure fiction after all.  But whatever Mr. Wu had in mind, as I say, it’s serendipitous that I should have been poking around in it just before this story came to my attention.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

At our regular monthly office meeting today, one of our IT wallahs came in to give a presentation on some obscure techie matter.  After introducing himself, he asked our indulgence while he set up his electronics in order to put his talking points up on the big flat screen.***

“I’ll bet you it takes him fifteen minutes of fiddling with his wires and inputs for a presentation that will last no longer than two,” I muttered to a friend sitting next to me.

She groaned appreciatively in anticipation.

Fourteen minutes and thirty seconds later, the thing was finally ready to go.

“And they call me a cynic,” I murmured.

My colleague, to her credit, giggled.

** Any friends of the decanter remember this old comic strip? It was a great favorite among the Family Robbo in my misspent yoot.  “The Urge To Kill”, one of the stock descriptive labels of the strip, had a prominent place in our household lexicon.

*** Of course, he also had the identical presentation in paper form, copies of which were distributed around the room in something short of two minutes flat.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the current eruption of the Kilauea Volcano seems no longer to be grabbing headlines for the moment.  I gather that, having done some damage (and what idiot builds next to an active volcano?), the lava has established its primary path to the sea and is busily heading that way without bothering anybody else.

When we were all gathered together the other day, somebody in the Port Swiller Manor household referred to this eruption in the context of the Pacific Rim of Fire.  Ol’ Robbo couldn’t allow this.

“Not so,” says I. “The Hawaiian Islands sit over a volcanic hotspot – a stationary thin point in the Earth’s lower crust – right smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Plate.  This, in fact, isn’t a tectonic thing, but a different phenomenon altogether.”

At which point the family’s collective “toxic nerd alert” alarum seems to have gone off, as suddenly Ol’ Robbo found himself talking solely to one of the cats, who was asleep anyway.


Nonetheless, the geography of Hawaii does, in fact, have a tangential connection with plate tectonics, in that it neatly maps out the drift of the Pacific Plate over this particular hotspot.  As you can see from just looking at an ordinary map, the chain runs from southeast to northwest, the islands getting progressively smaller as you go along.  This is because the Plate itself is drifting northwest:  As long as some bit of it is over the hotspot, that bit is subject to volcanic island formation and growth.  Once the islands drift away from the hotspot, they start to erode.  Eventually, the Big Island, which is now the active one, particularly on its southeast side, will slide away from the hotspot and start to crumble and shrink as well, while yet another one eventually rises up southeast of it.

Pretty neat, eh?

And want to hear something even neater?  Go look at Google-Earth on “satellite view” setting:  Not only will you see the Hawaiian chain continue trailing away to the northwest under water, eventually you’ll see it hook sharply north and trail all the way up nearly to far eastern Russia.  That north-south section – the remnant of long-ago passage over the very same hotspot – is known as the Emperor Seamounts, and shows that the Pacific Plate at one point was drifting due north before taking a turn northwest.

And don’t just take my word for this: John McPhee writes at some length about it (and provides an illustrative map) in his Annals of the Former World, which Ol’ Robbo plugs here from time to time (and, I guess, is plugging again), and which I cannot recommend too enthusiastically.  I don’t pretend to understand it at more than a surface level, but the makings of the Earth – from plate tectonics to continental drift, volcanic hotspots to glacial gougings, erosion to geologically-driven shifts in weather patterns – never ceases to amaze and delight me.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo currently is enjoying a lovely Monday evening on the Port Swiller back porch.  The air is still and heady with the fragrance of the wisteria that opened this week (and Ol’ Robbo has a lot of wisteria in his back yard).  The temperature is just right in the mid-70’s. The catbird is riffing away in the nearby branches.  Ol’ Robbo has a nice glass of wine at his elbow.  And since I haven’t yet toddled off to the basement to turn on the Nats game, I have no knowledge of whether or not they’re winning or losing yet, so anything is still possible.  (I call this period of uncertainty before I pick up the game – typically in about the 5th inning – “Schrödinger’s Box-Score”.)

So what better time to set down my thoughts about some of the movies that have recently come through my Netflix queue, right?  Here we go:

Shane“(1953) – Ol’ Robbo has seen this before several times, but each time I seem to have forgotten what a God-Almighty annoying film it is.  “Shane? What are you going to do, Shane? Shane? Can I come with you, Shane? Oh, Shane, do be careful….Shane!”  There are the seeds of an extremely lethal drinking game there.

Also, as much a fan as I am of Jean Arthur, she was a bit too long in the tooth by then to be making goo-goo eyes at Alan Ladd.

Still, it does have Jack Palance as the psychotic gun-slick.  Ol’ Robbo’s first experience of Palance was his guest appearance in one of the very first episodes of “Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century” in 1979, in which he played some sort of Messianic villain.  I recall asking the Mothe about him then and her giving me a rayther dismissive reply, but since then I’ve come to enjoy what I can only call his exuberant eeevil on screen.

Nonetheless, I have made a mental note that I really, really don’t need to see “Shane” again.

One Million Years, B.C.” (1966) – I’ve seen clips of it before, but never the whole thing at once. Yes, I watched it primarily because it features Rachel Welch in a fur bikini.  Shut up.  For what it’s worth, Ol’ Robbo thinks Ms. Welch was one of the single loveliest beauties ever to grace the screen.

Funnily, as I was watching, I couldn’t help recalling the Mothe’s summation of the book Clan of the Cave Bear, which she somehow got roped into reading for one of her book clubs one time: “Woman tames fire, Woman has roll in the hay.  Woman domesticates horse, Woman has roll in the hay.  Woman discovers principles of agriculture, Woman has roll in the hay. Woman founds civilization, Woman has roll in the hay.”

The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957) – See below.  And especially see ODT’s link in the comments. “Here’s to Puh-resident Taft” is another standard line of Ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot.

The Prince and the Pauper” (1937) – Just exactly how many movies are there altogether in which Errol Flynn goes toe to toe with Claude Rains? (Not that I’m complaining, you understand.)  This one – based on the Sam Clemens story – was okay, I suppose, except that I found the twin boys who played the young Edward VI and the street rat to be rayther annoying.  And damme if that wasn’t Alan Hale, Sr., as the captain of the palace guard.  Have you ever stopped to consider just how much he and his son look alike?  Every time I watch one of these Flynn films (and Hale, Sr. seems to be in just about all of them), I keep expecting to hear the interjection, “GILLIGAN!”

Scaramouche” (1952) – (“Will you do the fandango?” Heh.)  Love and revenge shortly before the French Revolution, a very formulaic (and ultimately dull) swashbuckler.  I’m sorry, but as the Mothe would have said, I just don’t have the genes to think much of Stewart Granger.  Also, I didn’t care for the way the film portrayed Marie Antoinette as a debased social schemer.  And no, the presence of Janet Leigh was not enough to save it for me.  It contains a famous six minute-long swordfight, which I’m glad I saw, but I don’t think I’d bother again.

And sitting in the bowl on the kitchen counter? “The Seven Samurai” (1954). Ol’ Robbo has seen this once before and really enjoyed it, but it’s three and a half freakin’ hours long.  Last time I watched it was on an afternoon back in the earlies before we had kids when I’d pulled an all-nighter at work the day before, it was raining out, and Mrs. R was out of town.  I don’t want to try again unless and until I can block out a similar un-mortgaged period of time (and also one in which I’m not likely to doze off), so I’ve a sneaking feeling already that I’m eventually going to return it without watching.

Whelp, speaking of which, I suppose it’s time to go collapse those uncertainty waves and see how the Nats are actually doing this evening……


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well it’s Junior/Senior Prom Night here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, and although Ol’ Robbo got a bye the first time around because Eldest Gel was never interested in that sort of thing, both Middle and Youngest are out on the tiles tonight.  (Youngest got asked to fill in a spot in some of her older friends’ group.  She says she feels like chopped liver, and almost backed out this afternoon except that she’d already invested time and money in the thing.)

In a moment of weakness a couple weeks ago, Ol’ Robbo agreed to let the MG host an “after party” here at Port Swiller Manor. So, somewhere about midnight tonight, the limo is going to drop off her and some proportion (which seems to be changing hourly) of her group to continue their revels into the wee hours.

When we agreed to host, we basically read the kids the Riot Act:  Only members of their group are allowed here.  If we catch anyone drinking, we call their parents to come retrieve them.  If we catch anyone smoking or vaping, ditto.  If we catch anyone doing drugs, we call the cops.  Party is done by 3 ack emma at the latest: Girls can stay in MG’s room upstairs, boys in the basement.

Not that I expect any trouble: MG is a quiet, responsible type, not given to debauchery.  Nor, so far as I know them, are her friends.  They’ll probably spend most of their time playing Mario-Cart (at which the Gel will thrash anyone who dares go up against her) or watching cheesy movies.  I heard from somebody else that her party was already being pre-labeled as “lame” by the Cool Kids, but that’s just musick to Ol’ Robbo’s ears.

As for Youngest, she will need to be fetched after the dance is over, as she has no interest whatsoever in going on to her own group’s after party, which from what she tells me will be downright Babylonian in its excesses.

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo’s most challenging task is going to be managing just to stay awake long enough to keep an eye on things. (Mrs. R doesn’t know it yet, but no way is Ol’ Robbo going to be shanghaied into being the one to go fetch Youngest.)

I’ll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE:  Done and done.  It went about the way we thought it would, and both Gels seem to have had a good time. The after party was a pretty subdued affair, and even Eldest Gel admitted this morning that she couldn’t complain about the noise level. Of course, we’re all zombies today.

BTW, I heard that the dance for the other high school across town from us (which also had its prom last evening) was shut down in mid-festivity because some kids tried to bring pot in.  Apparently both police and fire were called to the venue and the authorities cleared everyone out.  Dumb kids.




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May 2018