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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was busy at work on the Port Swiller Manor porch this morning** when he suddenly smelled a funny odor, that distinct odor of something burning.

I went into the kitchen to track it down (the porch doors were open) and immediately realized it was coming from the dishwasher, in which I had set a load running a short time previously.

I pulled open the door, hoping that perhaps something plastic simply had fallen on the heating element at the bottom and melted there, but no joy.  I still dunno where exactly the stench was coming from, but it wasn’t from anything I’d put in the thing.  (It smelled like burning wires, actually.)


You know you’ve been a homeowner a long time when you start thinking in terms of appliance life-spans.  The dishwasher was not among the original fixtures when we bought the place (the only one of those remaining is the washing machine****), but we put it in within about two years of moving here.  That would make it around seventeen years old, which I suppose is a pretty decent run.  It was on its last legs anyway.  Cleaning power has dropped noticeably and a number of the cross-bars in the lower basket have rusted out, making loading a tricky thing.  (And guess who’s the only one around here who seems to appreciate that?)

So, here we are.  Any pro-tips about desirable makes and models would be appreciated.  I fear that “eco-friendly” restrictions have probably rendered most current options pretty much useless.

Not that I’m in any particular hurry to cough up the dosh for a replacement.  We’re down to three occupants at the moment, and even though one of them is a seventeen year old who seems to eat about six meals a day, washing by hand is very doable.  (And a drying rack is very cheap.)


**Tele-working, that is.  And I was definitely wearing pants, as it was rayther chilly and rainy today.

**** Which Youngest seems hell-bent on destroying, as she madly overloads it despite my repeated warnings not to.

UPDATE:  Friend of the Decanter Sleepy Beth’s mention of dishwasher noise in the comments provokes a bit of reminiscence and a confession that I actually like the sound of the thing running.

You see, back in Ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot, the Old Gentleman typically toddled off to bed pretty early, but the Mothe was quite the night-owl.  Like me (and I suppose that’s where I got it), she needed a certain amount of alone time each day.  So she’d stay up late, usually reading.  Typically, the last thing she would do in the evening before heading off herself was to run the dishwa’ar (as we called it, for some reason).  I was usually still awake then, and hearing it became a sort of “Last Post” to me, a sign that all was safe and secure for the night.

Yes, I’m strange.  But you knew that already.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Michaelmas!

It’s quite disconcerting, especially on a beautiful morning like this one, to contemplate the fact of the endless war on the spiritual plane between St. Michael and all the hosts of the heavenly army on one side, and Satan and his evil minions on the other, with you and me and everyone else caught right in the middle.  But there it is.  Whether we like it or even acknowledge it or not.

By the bye, October 11, which was the old Michaelmas until the calendar got switched around, is also known as the Devil Spits Day and, according to folklore, one shouldn’t pick blackberries after this day.  (Yes, I’m writing about it two weeks early.)   The story is that the devil got kicked out of heaven on October 11 and landed in a blackberry bush, on which he vented his spleen, ruining the berries.

There’s a patch of wild blackberries out the back gate of Port Swiller Manor but you need not fear for Ol’ Robbo on this front because the things didn’t really give any fruit this year.  (Blackberries only fruit on mature stalks, not new growth.  Any winter we get any kind of reasonable snowfall usually breaks the stalks down, so the new ones coming up the following summah don’t produce.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s has been hard-pressed to find any bloggy inspiration this week, mostly because his allergies have been playing merry hob with him.  (I understand there’s a lot of ragweed in the air at the moment round here.)  But I’ll give it a try.

♦  First, a glass of wine to Robbo’s beloved Washington Nationals who, despite digging themselves a horrible hole in the first two months of the season, managed to fight their way back and clinch a wildcard berth this week.  (I watched the clinch Tuesday night and was later severely rebuked for my, um, enthusiasm.  The ladies of Port Swiller Manor do not appreciate me yelling at the teevee late in the evening.  Sad.)  I’ll be perfectly honest:  I don’t believe we’ll get very far in the post-season simply because our bullpen is still so shaky.  But I’m nonetheless proud that we made it to October ball at all.  (And that includes kudos for Manager Dave Martinez, whose head I admit having called for during the early slump.)  And as for the future? What can one say except GO, NATS!!!

♦  One of the factors fueling the pollen issue I mention above is the fact that we really haven’t had any rain in several weeks now.  I don’t think anyone’s using the “D” word yet, but I did feel compelled to drag my soaker hose out to the pachysandra bed this week.  The lawn, on the other hand, can go to hell.

♦  Youngest Gel starts training for a side-gig over at Starbucks next week.  I generally avoid giving any money to Starbucks because, well, Starbucks.  But I’ve no qualms at all about taking money from them.  (The Gel took the initiative to get a job on her own, by the bye.  We’re very proud of her for that.)

♦  As for all the headlines?  Res ipsa loquitur.  I think what stops the Neo-Maoists from totally implementing their Great Leap Forward here at the moment is that we’re neither Chinese peasants nor Russian serfs, and cannot be so easily brainwashed or buffaloed.  Of course they’re trying to change that through the schools (and open boarders, and gun confiscation), but again, I don’t think they’re quite there.  Yet.  I’m not worried about my kids.  I am worried about my grandkids.

Well, perhaps that’s enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo has to get himself to the store, as I am cooking dinner for Mrs. R’s ‘rents, who are passing through town on their semi-annual migration along the Eastern Seaboard.  Fortunately, they really seem to like the way I grill salmon.

UPDATE:  The salmon was a success.  The In-laws heaped great praise upon it and, more to the point, they ate all of it.

It’s funny because I don’t do anything special.  I simply coat the filets with olive oil and cook them over charcoal in a Weber fish basket.  To the extent there’s any art involved, it consists of making sure they’re cooked all the way through (the thought of underdone fish revolts me) without scorching them.  It’s just a question of turning them about and flipping them from time to time and not getting them too close to the hottest part of the coals.

What’s even funnier is that I personally loathe fish unless it’s fried.  (And even then, it’s not my favorite.)  But in keeping with my mackeral snapper practices, I pulled a spicy shrimp BBQ recipe off the innertoobs at random which turned out to be pretty durn good.  I pass it along (with my personal modifications) for your consideration:

First, the coating:

Garlic – the recipe calls for one clove only, Vasili,** but this is nonsense.  I used the majority of a head.  In the Robbo lexicon, there is no such phrase as “too much garlic”.

1 teaspoon course salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons lemon juice (I used four – see my comment above re garlic)

Mash up the garlic (I used a press) and add all the other ingredients.  Beat into a paste.

The recipe says this is enough for 2 1/2 pounds of shrimp, which I think is wildly optimistic.  But then I like my coatings heavy.  I found these amounts just enough to cover half a pound.

Next, the preparation and cooking:

The recipe also says to “toss” the coating with the shrimp, but that’s messy.  Instead, I skewered the shrimp flat-wise and painted the paste on both sides with a brush.  I also let it all marinate for about two hours.

Then, grill on the barbie until cooked all the way through.  When I marinated the skewers, I did so in a disposable aluminum baking pan.  When ready to cook, I simply put the pan on the grill.  The heat is distributed very evenly, the shrimp stay moist, and clean-up is a breeze.

Serve on a bed of rice.

Enjoy!  But do not count on being kissed by your spouse afterwards.  (See my comment above re garlic.)


** Spot the reference



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

Yes, as friends of the decanter probably well know by now, Fall is Ol’ Robbo’s very favorite season.  The gradual crispening of the air (although you wouldn’t know it by today’s forecast), the turning of the leaves (although they’re a pain in the arse to pick up), the shortening of the days (although I do get tired of commuting in the dark), and the general sense of Ma Nature’s calling it a year and preparing to go night-nights….all of these things give me great pleasure.

In the South Texas of my misspent yoot, there really was no such thing as Fall (or Spring, for that matter).  It stayed hot right up into December.  Then, after easing off for a few weeks, it went right back to being hot.  Nor was there anything like “foliage”: All of the local trees had either small, round leaves (like the live oak) or very thin ones (like the mesquite).  They wouldn’t flame up in brilliant colors, but simply turn brown.   So I never really got to experience Fall until I went away to school in Connecticut.  But I’ve loved it ever since.

My very favorite kind of Autumn day? Forty-five degrees with rain and fog.  The smell of dank, dead leaves underfoot.  The sound of crows in the distance.  The thought of a nice, hot cup of kawfee and a fire when I’m done doing whatever I’m about.  Ol’ Robbo usually takes considerable pains to squash any tendencies toward romanticism.  This is one of the very few times when I actively indulge it.


On a less idyllic note, one odd thing I’m noticing this year is the stink bug population.  For the past few years we really haven’t had all that many of them.  This year? They’re all over the place.  By way of comparison, where I’d usually expect to see maybe four or five on the screens of the Port Swiller Manor back porch, last evening I counted forty.

What does this mean?  Just evidence that they got real busy this year?  A mere temporary spike before they disburse elsewhere? Predictor of a harsh winter?  Harbinger of the coming of Gozer the Gozerian?

Who knows.

Whatever the explanation, they’re quite the nuisance and I hope I’m not going to have to spend all winter constantly knocking the things on their heads.

UPDATED:  Speaking of such things, Ol’ Robbo is laughing heartily at this:  Video of Greta [St. Joan of Bark] Thunberg Crossing Paths With Trump Goes ViralBwahahahaha!!!  The punch line is that they didn’t cross paths.  He simply blew past by and completely ignored her.  As is completely proper when dealing with know-nothing sixteen year olds.  (Trust me on this.)

Oh, and if you don’t want to stomach MSNBC, our favorite Ewok has got it covered here.



Ol’ Robbo mentioned that he has gone back to taking the Metro to work, and therefore that he has about half an hour of time on his hands each way to read.

This past week or so I have been revisiting an old, old favorite of mine, The Irish R.M. by E.Œ. Somerville and Martin Ross.  I found that each story was just about of sufficient length to cover one day’s round trip.  (How’s that for commuter nerdism?)

I’ve been reading these stories for well over thirty years, in fact ever since they were republished in connection with the Mawsterpiece Thee-aye-ter dramatization that came out in ’83.  (I link to that republication, which now seems to be out of print, because so far as I know it’s the only complete set of the stories, which were originally published in three volumes.)  And in all that time, they’ve never, ever got old or stale.  (Friends of the decanter are probably already familiar with the general plot, but to steal the recap from the back cover, “Set in 1895, The Irish R.M. comically depicts the curious affection and mutual misunderstandings that develop between a transported Englishman and his Irish neighbors.”)

I’ve got in the habit in recent years of pulling up Google Maps in association with whatever book I happen to be reading and taking a dekko at places or areas described therein.  This is most handy with histories and the like, but is also perfectly applicable to fiction, and can even present something of a challenge when an author is using fictionalized places.  TIRM is a perfect example.  The stories are set in County Cork in the far-southwest of Ireland.  The town closest to the residence of Major Sinclair Yeats, the hero of the stories, is called Skebawn.  Based on descriptions given here and there of distances, geographies, and history, plus the name similarity, I’m reasonably certain that Skebawn is based on the real town of Skibbereen.  I also believe this to be the case because Somerville and Ross resided in the village of Castletownshend, about five miles away from Skibbereen, so they would have known it well.  (Interestingly, the house they occupied was called Drishane.  Major Yeats’ house in the stories is called Shreelane.  I doubt this is a coincidence.  Shreelane, by the bye, is implied in one story to be five miles inland from the sea.  As it is also within bicycling distance of Skebawn, the geographical range for its probable, if mythical, location can be narrowed considerably.)

I also have my suspicions that with a little more work I can probably track down and identify some of the original sources for rivers, mountains, castles, mines, and other towns mentioned in the stories, but that’s a level of forensic scholarship probably best reserved for retirement, and not for the odd half an hour here or there that I currently enjoy.  UPDATE: I should make clear that I’m not necessarily looking for one-to-one correspondences, like E.F. Benson’s fictional town of “Tilling” closely based on Rye in Sussex in his “Mapp & Lucia” stories.  My working premise is that there are plenty of embroideries, cross-placements, and the like.  But I do firmly believe that they have discoverable roots underneath them.

Anyhoo, there it is.  The stories are terrific even on the umpteenth read, and the backstory becomes increasingly interesting to me.  (As Basil Fawlty said, “Just trying to enjoy myself.”)

Oh, and just because I know it will come up, no, I didn’t much care for the teevee series, even if I did think Peter Boyle was perfectly cast as Major Yeats.  First-person narrative (which is what these stories are) never, ever translates satisfactorily to the screen, simply because their merit lies not just in what’s being told but how it’s being told.  Plus, the screenwriters took some liberties inventing non-canonical plots, which I never care for.  I did rather like the title musick, however, because it captures something of the Anglo-Irish cross-culture which is at the base of the book’s humor:





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No landscaping work for Ol’ Robbo this week.  I contrived to catch the flu the other day and am still feeling its effects, so am taking it easy today.  (It was a funny thing.  I cannot recall before such a definitive onslaught.  I was literally standing on the Metro Tuesday morning when all of a sudden I felt myself getting sick.  An hour later, I was coughing and sneezing to beat the band and my eyes were practically swollen shut.)

With fall O-ficially starting Monday, I suppose it’s time to plant chrysanthemums in the half-barrels in front of Port Swiller Manor.  Why, exactly, is there such an association between mums and fall?  In fact, I don’t even like the things very much. They don’t smell very nice and I’m no fan of that kind of heavy, multi-petalled flower.

But it’s fall, so it’s mums.  That’s just the way things are, I suppose.

UPDATE:  Okay, that was a stupid question, I admit, but as I say, I’m still getting over being sick and I also posed it before getting outside my second cup of covfefe, so I hope you’ll just let it pass without throwing derisive walnuts at me.  I maintain my point about not being fond of mums, however.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Is it, or is it not, ironic that the Babylon Bee hits far closer to the Truth with its satire than does the MSM (yeah, I’m looking at you, Gray Lady and WaPo) with its alleged “reporting”.

I was going to save comment on the story about seminary students confessing their “climate sins” to houseplants until Sunday, but this from the Bee had me spraying coffee all over my monitor this morning.


UPDATE:  The original Union Seminary confession-to-houseplants story.  Who was it said something to the effect that every nature-worship cult eventually winds up with human sacrifice?  These people can go first.

Also, I didn’t know about it till this morning, but evidently there’s supposed to be some global kid school walkout today to protest, you guessed it, Glowball Enwarmening.  Because concerns.  A pro tip for these mush-minded young innocents:  History teaches that Childrens’ Crusades don’t turn out very well for the kids.

UPDATE DEUX:  And on this theme, Environment apocalypse predictions have failed for half a century.  I’m actually old enough to remember all of these.  I’m also old enough to remember that the proposed solution to diverting such apocalypses always somehow involves more tax, more gub’mint control, and less personal freedom (at least for us Little People).  As I’ve said many times, this whole biznay has nothing to do with science and everything to do with power.

UPDATE TROIS:  Yup.  Government That Wants You To Take Climate Change Seriously Invites Foreign High School Kid To Testify Before Congress.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel was telling me this evening about a classmate of hers in government who was having a hissy-fit today because some Congress-Critter referred to our “God-given rights”.

“They can’t say that!” the kid purportedly sputtered.  “That violates separation of Church and State! REEEEEEE!!!!

The Gel basically told her not to be a fool, but I gathered she did so more instinctually than rationally.

So I explained a little bit about the Founders’ understanding of individual rights being inherent to our nature as human beings, based on the Divine spark within us, and their further understanding that government is supposed to serve us, not the other way round.   I explained that the whole purpose of the Constitution is to set up a system of government that is functional in that purpose without undermining those rights.  I explained that once one gives up the idea that rights are both individual and inherent and concedes to a system wherein they are collective and doled out or taken away by the State, one has basically surrendered to tyranny, however dolled up in “The Public Good” rhetoric it might be.

Oh, and I also explained what the Establishment Clause actually means, that there is no “Separation” Clause, and why her friend is, in fact, a fool.

She got all this, and was also able to tie it in to her studies (she showed a real knowledge of the Amendment process, for example, and had intelligent things to say about Federalism), but I could see that I’m going to need to do some more ‘splainin’.  Being able to retail the history and mechanics of the system is all well and good.  But without understanding the underlying “why” of it, even a bright kid like the Gel is always in danger of skidding off into the pit.

On the other hand, being able to articulate a rational, historickally-informed position on these matters these days may be of little practical use to the Gel, since from what I can see the debate on this as well as on just about every other issue seems to be almost exclusively centered on “muh feels”.

Further, according to the New York Times and its “1619 And All That” Project, all of my points are completely illegitimate, the American system is morally null and void, and I am committing wrong think here.  So there is that.


** Spot the quote.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Rumors have started circulating that Gary Larson may be about to bring “The Far Side” cartoons out of retirement.

Ol’ Robbo was a great fan of TFS back in the day, but I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about this.  Way back when, Larson was an absurdist, plain and simple.  But that was before the culture turned into the wretched, polarized, hyper-politicized, Jacobin hate-fest that it is these days.  Can Larson return with a wit enjoyable to a vast and variegated audience?  (So far as Ol’ Robbo recalls, he rarely, if ever, got mixed up in politicks.)  Would he even want to?  Or will he swallow the virtue-signaling Kool-Aid?  (And if you think the latter can’t happen, I’ve got two words for you:  Berke. Breathed.)

We shall see, I guess.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was saddened to see the news of the death of “Cars” frontman Ric Ocasek  yesterday.

Not that I was a yuge fan of The Cars, but even Ol’ Robbo had their first album, as did practically every other teenager in the late 70’s/early 80’s, and it’s always a bit of a jolt to see a piece of one’s misspent yoot pass through the veil.

I also post about this because one of the strangest things I ever beheld – it might have been when I was dragged to Disney World in 2005 – was a video of Ocasek singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-Ay” accompanied by cartoon birds.   I remember thinking at the time that the guy must really have needed the money.

Nonetheless, rest in peace.


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September 2019