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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The current iteration of the Family Robbo does not generally have dinner together throughout the week the way we did in my misspent yoot, but we do manage to foregather pretty consistently on Sundays.

This evening was a sort of send-off for Eldest, who goes back to school Tuesday.

We talked about Homer.  (Eldest has to read some new feminist translation of the Odyssey and is not enjoying the manipulation.)  We talked about Dante.  (A lively game of “Which Circle of Hell Do You Belong In” was instigated by Youngest.)  We compared 1984 with Lord of the Flies in terms of suitable middle school reading.  (This in the general context of whether it is better to expose yoot prematurely to literature they won’t understand or to risk their never being exposed to it at all.  Shakespeare got mixed up in this discussion, too.)  Somehow or other, we even talked about pernicious and politically-driven enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.  (Mrs. R still endearingly believes that said Act was promulgated and is enforced for purely altruistic reasons, bless her heart.  It’s a curious thing that, although she has had so much more direct contact with the Gels over the years, they all seem to have adopted my own far more skeptical opinion of those who would seek to rule us.  (Yes, I work for Uncle.  But I also believe gubmint to be nothing more than a necessary evil.  Try living in my braim for a while.))

Anyhoo, the point of the matter is that I found myself quite full of pride regarding both the Gels’ scope of knowledge as well as their sensibilities.  (Middle Gel, who is already back at school, would have gone toe-to-toe here.)

Good times.  Good times.

No doubt Ol’ Robbo has made many, many mistakes regarding his progeny.  But the one thing I’m sure of, and the one thing for which I take at least some credit, is that they’re not fools.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A nasty hot and humid day here at Port Swiller Manor and far too unpleasant for any heavy outdoor lifting.  Instead, after cutting back the wisteria on the porch stairs that was threatening to eat the bird-feeder whole, I just slapped down a layer of weed n’ feed on the lawn and called it a day.  A pro-tip about weed n’ feed:  If you’ve got some left in a bag and hope to use it in the future, make sure you clamp the bag shut very tightly.  I had some left over from this spring but moisture had somehow got in and it was like trying to spread used clumping kitty-litter.  (Fortunately, I had another unopened bag.)

Who else here finds a true pleasure in using a Scott’s rotary spreader?  To me there is something eminently satisfying about watching the thing cast its load about.  And it’s also satisfying to flip on the edging lever and dance in right up next to the garden beds, secure in the knowledge that they will remain unaffected.  (There’s no good reason one couldn’t use the thing to spread ice-melt on the driveway, right?)  Perhaps I’m just a weirdo.

By the bye, I take back my reservations about the kawfee-maker Eldest brought home.  Based on her recommendation, I stopped fooling about with the more  zipped up options and tried brewing just a regular cuppa.  It was actually quite good.  Also based on her recommendation, after getting done outside today I tried the “brew over ice” option which slows down the drip rate so as not to overwhelm the ice and melt it.  It made a very nice glass of iced kawfee, indeed, which I am sipping even as I type.  (For those of you interested, the Mayorga Café Cubano is the house kawfee at Port Swiller Manor.  It’s da bomb.)

UPDATE:  As I described the weather earlier as “nasty hot and humid”, a voice in the back of my head was saying, “Self, if this doesn’t gin up a thunderstorm later, then it’s just not fair.”  Well, Ma Nature teased all afternoon, but now in the gentle evenfall we’re getting just that.  And the really nice part is that the sun is almost down so there’s no chance of things hotting back up once it’s over.  The storm doesn’t seem to be moving very much at all, but rayther simply bubbled up right over us.  Sometimes one gets a bit o’ luck.

UPDATE DEUX:  Stopped by AccuWeather on my way to catch the Nats’ game and my analysis was confirmed by radar.  One stationary cell right overhead and not another echo for a hundred miles.  Considering how many storms miss Port Swiller Manor, sometimes seemingly deliberately, I feel perfectly justified in gloating just a bit.  And no, I’m not a nerd.  Why do you ask?

UPDATE TROIS:  Sunday afternoon, I counted no fewer than forty butterflies – mostly, but by no means exclusively, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails – messing about in my Buddleia garden.  That’s got to be worth something.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I mentioned in a previous post, Youngest Gel has been at camp these past two weeks.  Ol’ Robbo went to fetch her today.  The camp, for those of you who may have forgotten, is in southwest Pennsylvania maybe an hour from Pittsburgh.

It occurred to me on the way home that if the Gel does wind up going to school in Ohio as is currently being noodled, she’d be driving the same route we take back and forth between camp and Port Swiller Manor nestled away in Northern Virginny.  The idea of the Gel dealing with the Alleghanies, the mysteries of the Breezewood, PA interchange, South Mountain, I-270, and miles and miles of lunatic Murrland drivers does not give me much of a warm feeling inside.  (Nor does the fact that the first time she’d likely try it solo** would be coming home for Christmas.  I’ve been in the Laurel Highlands on I-70 in a snowstorm and it ain’t fun.)


* Well, yes it does give me a warm feeling, but that’s just my ulcer acting up.

** Assuming the Gel couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to bum a ride, would it be reasonable for a parental unit to fly out and then ride home with her, at least the first time?  Or is that both extravagance and helicoptering?  These are questions which will need to be debated, and probably sooner rather than later.

UPDATE:  Oh, I forgot to mention.  The obvious answer is that the Gel doesn’t really need a car at school, but that’s not part of the conditions under which Ol’ Robbo is playing out this no-win scenario.  (You don’t know Mrs. R.)  Were I able to somehow get this option incorporated into the menu, it would be the equivalent of Kirk reprogramming the computer so that he could rescue the Kobayashi Maru.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on the chin-wag we were having in the comments to the coffee post regarding childhood luncheon meat memories, this article seems to be at once timely and nightmarish:  Brace Yourselves: Pumpkin Spice Spam Is Coming This Fall.

“True to the brand’s roots, SPAM® Pumpkin Spice combines deliciousness with creativity, allowing the latest variety to be incorporated into a number of dishes, from on-trend brunch recipes to an easy, pick-me-up snack,” Hormel’s publicist said to NBC in a statement.

Of course, the annual autumnal scourge that is Pumpkin-Spice Mania is a well-worn meme around the Innertoobs.  But this seems to take it to a whole new level of, well, depravity.  We tolerated things as long as we could, but if this doesn’t prove that it’s time for Common Sense Pumpkin-Spice Control now, then I can’t possibly think what would.

Do nothing and they’ll be putting out Pumpkin-Spice Chili next year.  Bank on it.


The only positive side I can see regarding this announcement is that it just might get those bloody Vikings to finally shut up.  Because even Nordic Barbarians draw the line at some point:




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo saw this article early this morning:  Burlington (VT) City Council Opposes F-35 Fighter Jets At Airport.

WCAX-TV reports the council voted unanimously on Monday in favor of a resolution that opposes the basing of any nuclear-capable aircraft at the airport in South Burlington. The resolution also requests that Mayor Miro Weinberger, Gov. Phil Scott and Vermont’s congressional delegation tell the Department of Defense that the F-35s are not welcomed in Burlington.

The article actually filled me with a weird sense of nostalgia.  Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember the “Nuclear-Free Zone” fad back during the Reagan years, with numerous city councils and other bodies feeling that with a mere paper resolution they could somehow opt out in the event the Cold War went hot. (Virtue-signaling is, of course, really nothing new.)

Indeed, we even had a movement at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  A wave of hysteria swept over the campus, the fear being that if Ivan had a go at the sub pens over to New London, one of their missiles might come down on us inadvertently, or else we might get caught in the fallout even if they hit their target.  Hence, somebody organized a petition to have Dear Ol’ Wes declared a No-Nukes Zone.  (There was a concurrent petition to demand that the campus clinic stock cyanide capsules, because if the Russkies dropped the Big One, what was the point of living any longer?  They got that idea from the kids over at Brown.)

Because everybody knew that a Strongly-Worded Resolution would shield the place from attack.  Because reasons.  Because that sumbitch Ronnie “Ray-Gun”. Because shut up.

I mocked the whole silly biznay with gusto.  (You could still do so back then without fear of getting hauled up before a campus “hate-crime” tribunal.)  As a matter of fact, as staff cartoonist for the lone conservative paper on campus, I created a panel the upshot of which was that a brown paper bag placed over one’s head made every bit as effective a Personal Nuclear-Free Zone as did any campus-wide resolution in fending off the realities of any actual exchange with Ivan.

I was rather proud of the thing, although as you might imagine it didn’t win me many friends.

Don’t remember whether anything came of the anti-nuke resolution.  I do recall that the administration, very sensibly, declined to stock suicide pills.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that if wine is Ol’ Robbo’s omega, kawfee is also his alpha.

Today I’m trying out a Ninja Hot n’ Cold Brew System.  Eldest bought it for her dorm a year or two ago but finds she doesn’t use it, so she brought it home.

The thing has all sorts of buttons to regulate brew strength and cup size, and also has a milk frother attached to the side.  It also comes with a recipe book for all sorts of specialty concoctions.

For all that, you have to clean out the grounds out after each cup,  (It’s a single-serving machine.)  And I have to say after my second or third cuppa that I’m really not all that overly-impressed with the taste.

I benched my Mr. Coffee 12-cup pot in order to give the Ninja a try.  Not so sure he’s going to stay there.

UPDATE:  Eldest informs me that I didn’t have the settings right and that I need to hit the “Café Forte” button to truly appreciate what the thing can do.  I’m a fair-minded fellah, so will withhold judgment until I can check it out.

UPDATE DEUX:  Not really related, but Ol’ Robbo had himself a deviled ham sammich for lunch today.  They used to be a regular in the school lunch rotation of my misspent yoot, but I haven’t had one in years now, and I was seized with a sudden curiosity while shopping yesterday.

Maybe it’s just a childhood conditioning thing, but I still thought it was kinda tasty.

UPDATE TROIS:  Speaking of childhood lunches, and possibly saving this post from utter banality, friends of the decanter may recall my mention of redepositing Youngest at camp for the second time last weekend, there to serve a two week turn on the kitchen crew.  Last week we had a note from her saying she was rather homesick.  This isn’t surprising.  While she had many, many returning friends her first term (kids generally go to the same term every summah), she knew hardly anybody this time around.

Well, we got another note today, in which she announced she’s having a blast.  Her cabin have got very tight very quickly, and she loves working the kitchen.  (I don’t doubt that she’s hamming it up for the diners for all she’s worth.)

And if that doesn’t make you smile, how about a kitteh?

“I can haz napz?”


Greetings, fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been out of town the past couple Sundays, so hadn’t been to his home parish for a few weeks.  Thus, I was greatly surprised yesterday when I pulled up to discover the vestibule all boarded over and fenced off.

It seems the Powers have decided to modify and expand the vestibule.  On the one hand, this is very welcome, as the current one can be a real log-jam.  On the other, it also signals that Ol’ Robbo’s fond dream that they knock the whole building down and start over is even less likely to happen now than before.

Robbo’s church is truly ugly, I’m afraid, and there’s no getting around it.  For one thing, it’s in the style of what might be called ’50’s Modernsky, – all inward-leaning columns, exposed brick and tacky stained glass, and a weird wrought-iron steeple- the kind of thing that James Lileks likes to ape in his Bad Nostalgia books.  For another, it’s in the round, a thing I loathe.  There’s a cupola set dead-center in the ceiling (which rises from all around the walls).  It used to have a sort of spider-web fretwork at its base.  They got rid of that a few years back, opening up the inside.  This was painted deep blue with stars and a dove at the very top.  It’s nice to gaze at, but doesn’t save the rest of the building.

A third thing which irks me is that the altar is oriented not east but south-southeast.  So Mass is celebrated Ad Orientem sort of.  I don’t know why this is.  The old church, which is now the parish office, is both solidly four-square and properly aligned.

You’ll tell me that what goes on inside is far more important than the physical setting and of course you’ll be correct.  And in fact, I’ve got so used to things that I don’t pay any attention to my surroundings while worshipping.  I bring up my old grumble here simply because the new development reminds me of it and because it is (after all) useful blog material.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The surprisingly cool weather I referred to in the post below last evening stuck around Port Swiller Manor today.  According to my porch thermometer, it’s only in the upper 70’s at the moment, the air is nice and dry, and there’s a lovely breeze.  I shall grill out in comfort this evening, oh, you betcha.

I was reading up on how to overseed one’s lawn this afternoon, something I really think I should do, as I haven’t done much more than mow it in nearly twenty years and it’s got quite elderly.  Alas, the steps one seems to need to take just to get the thing ready to receive new seed seem pretty daunting.  Mine is pretty overrun with weeds, which would need to be got rid of first.  Then there’s the biznay of hogging back the current grass and dethatching it.  Then there’s the biznay of going over the thing with an aerator (which I’d have to rent).  Only after that are you supposed to actually put the seed down.  Then you have to put down a thin layer of mulch and spend the next few weeks constantly watering it.

It’d be one thing if I didn’t have anything else to do with myself.  But there’s that whole “earning money so the wimminfolk can spend it” thing getting in the way.  I suppose I could call around to some local lawncare companies and price out the job.  But every time I start considering that, my Scots Presbyterian ancestry kicks in and tells me the yard is green enough as it is and I shouldn’t be throwing away money on vanities.

I guess Ol’ Robbo will just have to toss this idea back into the “pending” tray in his braim and perhaps revisit it another time.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A delightful evening here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, especially considering that we’re sitting dead red in the center of August.  Loafing out on the porch, Ol’ Robbo thought he might provide you a few dainties on which to nibble as the sun goes down:

♦  Today was Ol’ Robbo’s second telework day of the new regime.  I think I can get used to this.  And yes, I’m finding it to actually be quite productive.  The question no doubt flies around the decanter, “So, was he wearing pants?”  Well, if you ask the Magic 8-Ball, you’ll only get the answer, “Reply hazy, ask again later“.

♦  I’m sorry, but as dearly as I love both Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, “Bringing Up Baby” is just not a funny movie.  “Holiday” is funny.  “Adam’s Rib” is funny.  But “Baby”? Just too manic and cutesy.  I don’t care what anybody else says. (I tried to re-watch it the other evening and couldn’t stick more than about half an hour.)

♦  Ol’ Robbo was excited to try out his brand new pair of running shoes this afternoon.  My previous pair was so old that I can’t even remember when I bought them.  They were so worn out that the heels were literally crumbling, causing my ankles and knees to corkscrew when I walked on the treadmill in them.  Not good.  I try not to fling my gold about more than necessary on personal items, but this purchase seemed to me quite justified.

♦  The consolation of having to go back to the Metro to commute to my new office is that I get a little extra reading time in.  Obviously, in such conditions one can’t get into anything too heavy or profound, so I’ve circled back round to my shelf of adventure stories.  At the moment, I’m revisiting H. Rider Haggard, specifically King Solomon’s Mines.  (I plan to read the rest of the Quartermain stories in turn.)  I half-hope that some SJW witnit will spot it and give me grief for my un-wokeness, but I’m not terribly optimistic.  These people are just too pathetically ignorant.

♦  Some fascinating conversations with Eldest Gel this week.  The other day we discussed God’s omniscience and existence outside of Time as it relates to Fatalism and Free Will. “Look,” she said in her direct way, “God knows what you’re going to do, of course.  But you’re still the one who makes up your mind to do it! Otherwise, you’re just a slave or a robot!”  Today, it was Schrödinger’s Cat.  I tried to suggest this was just a thought experiment, but she was having none of it. “The damned cat is either alive or it isn’t!” she said.  “It doesn’t matter at all whether you know it or not!  It’s like that tree in the forest – of course it makes a noise when it falls!”  It seems to me that a Gel who can avoid both the Scylla of Calvinism (and Islam) and the Charybdis of hipster quantum-theory navel gazing ought to go far.  Heh.

And yet this same Gel can’t seem to put her blasted dishes in the gorram dishwasher, no matter how much I rant.  Go figure.

Whelp, that’s about enough “filling up the corners” for now.***  Think I’ll toddle downstairs and see how my Beloved Nationals are doing.

See you in the Gardening Thread tomorrow.


***Spot the quote.  This ought to be an easy one.

UPDATE:  Ugh. Blown save.  Ol’ Robbo hates blown saves.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s mother passed away two years ago this week.  (August 5, to be precise.)

In what was actually a completely random coincidence, Ol’ Robbo found himself stopping by his local Wells Fargo branch today to finally close out the estate checking account he had set up as executor a couple months after her death.

The sensation was….strange.

I don’t think I’ve written a whole lot about it here (correct me if I’m wrong), but the Mothe’s demise hit me very, very hard, she being just about my closest friend in this world and my never  getting the chance to properly say goodbye, a long story with which I will not bore you.  As far as I can recollect now, after an initial period of shocked numbness, I spent the better part of a year plunged in grief and mourning and functioning, at best, robotically.  After that, while starting to get better generally, I still suffered occasional attacks of the blue devils, usually around holidays or significant anniversaries.

The real “coming out from under” moment occurred earlier this year, when Uncle had temporarily thrown all of us bureaucratic wage-slaves on the beach.  Having time on my hands, I went round to Father M’s parish.  Father M is good people.  He used to be a regular contributor at Mrs. P’s now-defunct Patem Peperium blog and a fairly frequent commenter here, although he now spends most of his social media time over on the FacePlant.  Anyhoo, he sat me down, shoved a cuppa kawfee in my hands, and invited me to open up.  Which I did.  I probably gassed and vented at him for a couple hours, while he very patiently sat by, dropping the occasional word of consolation and encouragement.   I left that day feeling infinitely better.

Which isn’t to say that I haven’t had bouts of grief since then.  But they’ve been shorter and shallower.  And I stopped being a mere robot.

Anyhoo, recently Ol’ Robbo has been feeling pretty durn good about things in general.  The office move has proved surprisingly refreshing, I’ve got back into regular exercise with gusto, and there are no major fires to put out on the home front at the moment.  (**Touches wood**)  Nonetheless, as I sallied forth today to do my bit of banking, I could feel again the tug of those same blue devils.  Pretty weak it was, but a tug nonetheless.

I know for a fact that the Mothe’s passing has forever changed me and that these occasional tugs will never go away completely.  But it’s got to the point where they surprise me when they happen.  And also where they have no real power over me.  Well, at least more than temporarily.  (There’s a passage in a book I’ve read about this phenomenon that I just can’t recall, unfortunately.  It’s going to drive me nuts now.)

Incidentally, being the good steward that I am, having cleared all the estate debts and distributed the bulk of the residue equitably among brother, sister, and Self, the princely sum that remained in the account today was a whopping $73 and change.  I pocketed that by way of an administrative fee (totally appropriate) and used it to buy a new pair of day-to-day shoes, my old ones having become noticeably ratty.  Call them the Mothe Memorial Top-Siders.

I think she’d probably like that.





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August 2019