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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

(Professor Farnsworth voice) – Good NEWS, everyone!

O-fficial word came forth this afternoon that, after much holding of cards very close to the vest, Youngest’s skool has decided to proceed with letting freshmen move on to campus for the balance of the fall semester.  (She started online classes about two weeks ago.)  Furthermore, although we were originally scheduled to move in on September 14, she’s now wangled permission to do so even earlier than that.


The Gel and Mrs. R, like many frosh and their parents, have been near frantic for some weeks now fretting over whether this was actually going to happen.  (Ol’ Robbo didn’t fret, but simply grumbled a bit.  It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s just that I recognized it was out of my hands and therefore setting on fire what hair I have left would have been pointless.)  This evening they are springing about in relief and renewed excitement.  Those are feelings in with which I can readily join.  (Not so much the springing about part, however.  I’d get wine all over myself and I wouldn’t be able to type.)

So Ahia, here we come!

The other thing teh Gel decided in the past couple days after we talked it over is that she’s not going to bother taking her car to school.  This doesn’t bother me a bit.  As she herself said, she’ll only be there for about two months, during which she realizes she’s not going to have time for much joy-riding.  Also, she’d have to leave it over break since she plans to fly down to  Columbia to visit her cousin at USC when classes are done, the two of them driving up to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving, where we’ll meet up with her and bring her home for exams and Christmas break.  By leaving it, she’ll save money on parking.  (We’re also going to see if USAA will put her insurance on hiatus.)  Besides, there’s really no place in Oxford you can’t get to on foot, and her car won’t sit idle, exposed,  and unguarded over the winter months.  (What we’ll do next spring, I haven’t even begun to think about.)

Of course it also means cramming ourselves, Youngest, and her junk into the Honda Juggernaut for the Big Trip, but I think we can manage.  After all, she’s moving into a dorm room, not an apartment like Middle Gel, and has significantly fewer items she needs to take with her.  Also, I was never particularly keen on having to convoy all that way, constantly keeping one eye on the road and the other on my herd, especially as about two-thirds of the drive will be new to me.  It’ll also mean that my original plan to split the drive out over two days (because I didn’t think Mrs. R and Youngest between them could put in an eight or nine hour drive all at once) has been scratched, and Ol’ Robbo now is going to do the whole thing in one fell swoop.  I don’t mind: It’s a long day but not the longest I’ve done, and I was planning to do the return trip all at once anyway.

The Gel’s been champing at the bit ever since this spring to get out on her own and start the next phase of her life, and now it’s actually going to happen.  Good to go.

“Don’t Put That Kerosene Away!” UPDATE:  The Skool issued another email this evening that had Mrs. R (and, apparently, other folks on the FacePlant parents’ page) reaching for the matches.  It was all about this being “a critical week in our implementation schedule” and had a lot of phooforall (a legal term) about testing and masks and whatnot, and the potentially dire consequences if everyone didn’t rally to the cause.  (“Don’t make us pull this college over to the side of the road!”)

Having just now read it, I believe it to be, at most, a piece of bet-hedging and covering of the posterior.  But then I’m a lawyer as well as a skeptic.  As I told Mrs. R, even an educational institution couldn’t be idiotic enough to try and screw a single incoming class out of its full tuition and room-and-board dash, and expect to survive going forward.

Nobody’s told us not to come.  So far as Ol’ Robbo’s concerned, that’s all that matters.

UPDATE DEUX:  Now Ol’ Robbo is being told that the definitive word has not been given, and that the decision is still up in the air.  Grrrrrrr…… But as I say above, at least nobody’s told us not to come.  So at least we’ve got that going for us.  (Down in the comments, I vent my spleen a little more and offer my armchair analysis of the current situation.)



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

At Mass today, Father announced that next week we will be installing in our parish church a first-class relic of St. Teresa of Calcutta, thanks to an Albanian connection of one of our flock.

I mentioned this at dinner this evening, upon which Eldest said, “Oh, in one of my classes I brought up Mother Teresa and my prof started ranting about her ‘corruption'”. ***


A woman who dedicated her life – and struggled at it – to  ministering to the very dregs of humanity was…..corrupt.

I did a little innerwebs digging this evening.  It would seem the primary source of said criticism was….Christopher Hitchens.


I like much of what the late Hitch wrote about current events, but on this front? Naw, dog.

St. Teresa, ora pro nobis.


***Eldest was indignant.  This fuels my ultimate hope that she, along with her sisters and Mrs. R, may some day swim the Tiber as did Ol’ Robbo.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As the outer bands of what remains of ex-Hurricane Laura begin to roll into the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, Ol’ Robbo finds himself bordering on outright smugness this evening in that he got himself out this morning and dealt with the lawn ahead of time.  As far as I’m concerned, it can rain all it wants now, and good luck to it!  (**Snaps fingers at the sky**)

The latest forecast has us receiving anything between two and four inches tonight and tomorrow.  I hope we get a few pyrotechnics to go along with that.

Ol’ Robbo still remembers Hurricane Isabel, which came through here in 2003, the closest thing to a direct hit I’ve experience in the time we’ve lived here.**  Specifically, the evening it struck I remember sitting in the same comfy chair in which I am right now, staring out the window. The wind was howling and the cloud-base seemed to be scudding by not much above tree-top level.  There was lots and lots of lightning.  When it stayed up in the clouds, it had a distinctly copper color, but when it broke through for a ground-strike, it was an unearthly electric blue.  The thunder had a weird quality about it, too, although I can’t recall now what was different.  I do not recall having ever seen another display quite like that one.

I’m not expecting anything of the kind this time around, of course.  But a few booms would be nice.


**I was at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT when Hurricane Gloria came storming up the valley in 1985.  We all duly taped up our dorm windows and camped out in the hall during the worst of it.  So far as I can recall, that was the only day I ever started drinking at seven o’clock in the morning.  A rumor went around campus that a math professor refused to cancel an exam he had scheduled for that day and that students had to slog to his classroom during the height of it.  Different times.

I also dimly remember the effects of Hurricane Celia when it hit the South Texas of my yoot in 1970.

The Family Championship, however, goes to my brother, who was in Charleston, S.C., when Hurricane Hugo hit it head-on in 1989.  I believe that was the only instance when I was genuinely frightened by such a storm.  Brother was in med school there at the time and the authorities drafted all the med students to help out in the hospital.  After the fact, he reported seeing a transformer blow up but otherwise never was too concerned.  That was a relief, but not much comfort at the time when we didn’t know what was going on.

UPDATE:  Another dud with nothing near the predicted rainfall.  Oh, well.  The good news is that it’s turned into a rather lovely afternoon with coolish temperatures, a nice breeze, and dropping humidity.  I believe that the Ace of Spades Northern Virginia Moron Meetup (the “NoVaMoMe” to insiders, is this evening and is set to take place outdoors.  They should have perfect weather.  (No, Ol’ Robbo is not going.  Every time they hold one I toy with the idea but I never get around to signing up.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo has alluded here several times to the new kitteh which has been foisted upon him by the unpredictable currents of Life at Port Swiller Manor.   Well, here’s the story behind it:

We have some friends, an older couple, the female half of whom Mrs. R first met through one of her social clubs.  This couple have a very elderly cat who is on the verge of joining the bleedin’ choir invisible**, and have decided that the best way of dealing with the loss will be to bring in a replacement immediately.  Fair enough.

Our friends decided they wanted a kitten.  So Mrs. Friend duly got in touch with one of the many local adoption agencies.  I’m not totally clear on what went on in this conversation, but the upshot was that the agency refused to let Mrs. F have a kitten on the grounds that they thought she, Mrs. F, was too old.  As far as they were concerned, kittens are for young homes, not for ones where there is a chance they’d outlive their potential new owners.

Somewhat mortified, Mrs. F turned to Mrs. Robbo with her problem.  And between them they concocted what I have come to think of as the Great Kitten Fence Scheme of 2020.  Under their plan, Mrs. R would adopt said kitteh herself and quietly slip her over to Mrs. F.  No problemo!  Mrs. R applied, was interviewed, was accepted, and cheerfully signed the adoption papers.

Needless to say, it was only after all this occurred that Ol’ Robbo gained any inkling of what was going on.  And I only found out about it when Mrs. R shoved the signed contract in front of me and asked if, in my professional opinion, I thought it would hinder her handing the kitten on to Mrs. F.

I’d be willing to bet that within a 15 mile radius of Port Swiller Manor there are probably at least 50 kittens available free to a good home, no questions asked.  But the Mrs. F and R had gone to some Crazy Cat People somewhere just off Capital Hill, and Mrs. R had signed a four-page contract chock-a-block with provisos and prohibitions.

Scanning it, I said, “Aside from the fact that this contract specifically forbids you to hand the kitten over to a third party without permission?  Aside from this clause allowing the agency to come around and spot-check the kitten’s location and condition at any time, and even shields them from charges of trespass?  Aside from the bit that says any monkey-business will result in the immediate confiscation of the kitten and no questions asked?  Why, no! I don’t seen any problems!”

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

It may seem like small beer, and I can’t see where even if we were caught out illicitly handing the kitten over we would be opening ourselves up to any kind of deep-pockets (HA!) liability.  But Crazy Cat People are Crazy Cat People.  And if we were detected fencing the kitteh, at the very least it would be deeply embarrassing, and probably a pain in the neck to unwind.  And after all, even though Ol’ Robbo works in the Swamp, he’s not of the Swamp if you know what I mean, and certainly doesn’t want to be embroiled in even the tiniest smidgen of impropriety that might possibly cause trouble with either his job or his Bar membership.

After I explained all this, even though she had gone into town and scooped in the kitteh anyway, Mrs. R duly contacted Mrs. F and told her the show was off.  (This, and secondary strategy sessions, in a series of insanely complicated phone conversations which drove me nearly batty to overhear.)  I don’t know what Mrs. F is doing now, but I hope Mrs. R passed on to her my advice, which was basically, “For Heaven’s sake, just read the classifieds in the WaPo!  There’s always kittens being given away there!”  (In fact, we procured our own first pair nearly thirty years ago via this route from an apartment handyman somewhere in Rosslyn.  He didn’t give a damn where they went.)

And as for the kitteh?  You probably already see the checkmate:  “Oh, she’s here already! And she’s soooo cute! And the Gels already love her! And we promise we’ll do everything that needs to be done to help Decanter Dog and Decanter Cat accept her into our home!”

Sigh.  It’s not as if she’s a bad thing in and of herself.  She’s a cheerful little orange tabby, friendly and energetic, and of somewhat longer hair than any other kitteh we’ve owned.   But as I’ve written before, I fear her assimilation into Port Swiller Manor will be more difficult, and possibly more dangerous, than any of my wimminfolk seem to think.  I sincerely hope that I’m flat wrong.

We shall see.


**Spot the quote.  This one’s a gimme and I’ll be ashamed if you don’t spot it.

UPDATED:  I suppose I should clarify my fears, which now really only concern Decanter Dog.  (We’ve introduced the kitteh to Decanter Cat, and while the latter plainly isn’t happy about things, I don’t think she’s actually going to prove a bully.)  When DD first came home, she seemed to take in the three cats we had then as part of the landscape, and pretty much completely ignored them.  But she positively hates all outside intruders, human or otherwise, and she once actually went for my In-Law’s dog when they came to visit.  (That was fun!)  My worry is that if and when she actually notices the kitteh, she might behave the same way.  Ol’ Robbo simply can’t afford all the therapy that would be needed amongst his wimminz were that to happen.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel’s college diploma turned up in the mail yesterday.  (Ol’ Robbo is proud to note that she graduated magna.)  If you’d told me as late as this past May that she’d receive it this way or that Youngest would have had her high school diploma handed to her through the car window, I’d have told you to go home because you were drunk.

The times, they are crazy.

At one point, Eldest’s school had been planning to hold a delayed graduation ceremony for her class in October, but that plan got the kybosh earlier this summah.  I gather the present plan is some kind of “virtual” ceremony, about which the Gel said, “Yeah, no.”  (She’s never been much of one for pomp and circumstance. She’d have done the delayed graduation, mostly to humor Mom and Dad, but an on-line event spikes her absurd-o-meter.)

It’s really too damn bad.

Those friends of the decanter with kidz in school will know that, what with the current rolling return to campuses, the Innerwebz and social media are full of stories now about colleges attempting to impose draconian social distancing policies and their students’ almost inevitable flouting of same.  Indeed, Ol’ Robbo got a breathless email from Youngest’s school just this morning announcing that “twenty-seven student-athletes tested positive for COVID-19.  Many, but not all, had attended an off-campus social gathering over a week ago.”  (Emphasis added.)


Given that the real-world chances of a college kid actually dying of the WuFlu are something astonishingly close to “nil”,  I can only assume that the current pig’s breakfast is motivated primarily by cowardice.  From both a politickal and a market standpoint, which university wants to be known as “that school where they let all the kids get the COVIDZ”?  And which state school wants to lay that mess on its governor’s doorstep?  Then, of course, there are the potential lawsuits brought by Joe College’s parents when he comes down with the sniffles.

Were it up to Chancellor Robbo?  I’d say, “We’re open for business. We all know there’s a nasty bug going round.  Use common sense.  If it’s too much of a risk for you, then stay home.  (We’ll even let you dial in remotely.)  Otherwise, you pay your money and you take your chances.  Have a nice semester.”

Probably why I’m not Chancellor Robbo.


I mention Eldest’s absurd-o-meter above.  She, along with her sisters, got that from me.  I’ve also got a contempt-o-meter.  It’s spiking, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all have had a pleasant weekend.  Ol’ Robbo’s got a few minutes before he needs to pull out the butterflied chicken breast marinating in the fridge and stuff it with prosciutto and bleu cheese before popping it on the grill, so how about a little of this and that?

♦  Yesterday as I was mowing the back yard, I noticed where a section of bark had crumbled away from the trunk of the largest of the maples back there, revealing some rayther heavy termite damage.  What does one do in such situations?  Can “tree doctors” get rid of the pests?  Do I just need to go ahead and have the thing taken down?  I know I need to do something, otherwise Ma Nature will take care of things in her own messy way.  (It can’t quite hit the house if it falls, but it very much would hit our fence and the neighbor’s shrubbery.)

♦  Reading a story about the California Gold Rush, I came across a quote from a letter by one Louisa Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe, the wife of a doctor who moved out to the gold-fields in the earlies.  Writing under the pen-name of “Dame Shirley”, she sent a series of them to family and friends Back East in 1851-1852.  Just on a hunch, I checked over to the devil’s website and found that, indeed, they are readily available.  I’ll let you know what I think of them.  (I just love this kind of thing – original source material, that is.)

♦  I’ve already received an email circular from my cousin decrying any resistance to taking whatever WuFlu vaccine is shoved on the public as the work of unpatriotic, psychotic “anti-vaxxers” who selfishly care nothing for the health of the people around them.  Sigh.

♦  I drive so little these days that I keep forgetting La Wrangler’s registration and inspection are now way overdue.  I hope the cops are understanding if and when they pop me for it.  (I still am travelling on the same tank of gas I put into her back in early March, by the bye.)

♦  Remember the kitten Ol’ Robbo somehow got saddled with recently?  (I’ll tell you how it came about in a separate post.)  We’ve started bringing her out on the porch in the presence of Decanter Cat, who so far as made growling noises but has shown no disposition to attack.  The kitteh is still pretty skittish but today let me hold and pet her.  (It has been noted many times that Ol’ Robbo has a singular talent for attracting cats and crazy people, and this just seems to support that.)  Perhaps assimilation will go more smoothly than I feared, but we still need to see what happens when Decanter Dog takes notice of her.

Whelp, I reckon that’s enough for now.  Time to go see about dins.

Post Nom-Noms UPDATE:  I haven’t made that stuffed chicken recipe in a while, for some reason or other, and had forgotten how good it is.  I put it up here last summah but cut n’ paste the relevant part of the post below for your convenience.  For those who don’t recall, the original recipe comes from a cookbook the Old Gentleman put together back in the day, to which Ol’ Robbo has made a few modifications.  I present you both the prototype and my upgrades.  One new addendum – If you’re grilling, you can prepare the thing on a sheet of tinfoil with the sides rolled up and then just put the tinfoil down on your grill.  It’ll save you a lot of cleanup.

First, the Old Gentleman’s original recipe:

Ingredients:  Chicken breasts; slices of prosciutto; 1 tbs. Worchestershire sauce; 2 tbs. lemon juice; 2 tbs. butter; any blue cheese (Gorganzola, bleu, Saga, etc.)

Preparation:  Insert a sharp knife into the thick end of each breast and cut a lengthwise pocket carefully, making it as wide as possible without puncturing the sides.  Wrap pieces of cheese in prosciutto slices and insert into pockets, sealing openings with a toothpick.  Heat Worchestershire and lemon and add butter to melt.  Grill chicken over coals, basting frequently with the sauce.

Now, Robbo’s modifications:

First, don’t fool about with cutting pockets.  Instead, butterfly the breast.  Also, use a meat hammer to (carefully) flatten each side of it out.  The advantages are that you can get a whole lot more stuffing in and that the chicken itself cooks more thoroughly through.  (If you’re grilling – see below – you’ll want to make sure and lock down the flap tightly with two or three toothpicks and to be very careful when you flip it over.)

Second, regarding the sauce, the Old Boy’s proportions regarding the ingredients are correct, but obviously you may need to adjust the actual amounts depending on how many breasts you’re doing.  Now here’s the thing:  Don’t wait until you’re cooking to start adding the sauce.  Instead, make it up a couple hours ahead of time and let the chicken marinate in it in the fridge until you’re ready to go.  You can lay the breast outer side down in the marinade and just brush some over the inner side.  I suppose because of the butter, it clings very well once brushed on.  True, things get a little messy when you’re adding layers of proscuit and cheese and folding the breast over on itself, but it’s worth it.

I think the problem with the original recipe is that it leaves the chicken to filling ratio too high, and also that the marinade has no real time to penetrate. When I tried it that way, it seemed to me to turn out rayther bland.  (To be fair, Youngest at least thinks my modifications make the meat too strong, but she says that about all my cooking.  Snowflake!)

Oh, and a final tip:  As for actual cooking, an alternative to grilling if it’s too hot/cold/rainy outside is to bake your chicken in the oven at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes.  The only downside to this is that baked chicken never looks as aesthetically pleasing as does grilled.

So there you have it.  Easy-peasy and delicious!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel came downstairs yesterday afternoon laughing heartily.

She’d just had her first on-line bio class.  Evidently, the profs were having some problems setting up something or other.  One of the other kidz in the class, apparently unaware that she had unmuted herself, started bitching about the delay in rayther strident, indeed vulgar, language to somebody else on her end of the line.

After a moment or two, one of the profs looked up and said, “Please, don’t let us hold you back!  Carry right on talking!”

The Gel thought this hy-larious.

Ol’ Robbo always goes into calls and on-line meetings with the assumption that the mute button is never really on.  I think this is a reasonably prudent practice.  I’ll bet that girl in Youngest’s class thinks so now, too.

UPDATE:  The query flies round the decanter: “What about video, Robbo?”  Yes, I assume the laptop camera is always on, too.  But I also have faith in the thick swatch of duct tape over the lens.  Besides, I’ve got used to the pantsless virtual workspace and am willing to run a few risks for it.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got momentarily excited by this headline over at the Puppy-Blender’s place yesterday:  Betelgeuse Is Dimming Again.

I recall when the story originally surfaced last fall, complete with click-bait speculation that the Red Giant is on the cusp of going supernova.

Indeed, I even went outside on several evenings, looking up at Orion, and thinking. “Maybe,,,,,now!  Maaaaaybe,,,,,,,,now!”

You have to admit it would be a seriously spectacular thing to behold.

So, as I say, the headline caught my attention.

Alas, although the article reaffirms the speculation that Betelgeuse is, in fact, in its end-game, the article also has this to say:

But, although dramatic dimming is expected just before the Great Kaboom, this time is not quite yet upon us. It will be, astronomers predict, a few tens of thousands of years yet.

Aaawww, maaaan……

Scratch that one off the ol’ bucket list.

By the bye, I also recall the dinner conversation we had about this when it first bubbled up, in which I explained the concepts of “light speed” and “light-years” as a measurement, and the fact that the light we see from Betelgeuse now actually left it 700 years ago.  I don’t think I achieved Total Perspective Vortex status, but I do remember the looks of somewhat dizzy bewilderment as the Gels began to contemplate the staggering awfulness of interstellar distances.  (It seems to have made a particular impression on Youngest, and I can always tell when she’s thinking about it because of the particular way her eyes bug out.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A cool and rainy morning here at Port Swiller Manor as I set up my work things out on the porch.  I was dressed in Bermuda shorts and a polo.  Within less than an hour, I was chilled and shaking, so much so that I had to go put on a sweatshirt and wrap a blanket round my legs.

Now at lunchtime, it’s clear and sunny and the temperature has come up some.  I’m not shaking anymore but I still feel chilled.  And still have on the sweatshirt.

It seems to me, thinking about it, that it takes me much longer to warm up than it does for me to cool down after I’ve got hot.  I wonder why that is.  Normal human physiology?  A function of BMI?  Other factors like a full or empty stomach?

I dunno.

Oh, well.  Just one of those things that wanders into the Robbo braims now and then.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Youngest Gel is O-fficially a college student now.

Granted we haven’t got her parked in a dorm just yet, but it made Ol’ Robbo’s morning to see her up early for a change getting ready for class.

Money quote:  “Aw, it’s going to be video! Now I have to make my bed, sit at my desk.”

She happened to be wearing a Hooters t-shirt at the moment.  (The Gel likes to cruise thrift stores and eBay to find odd, quirky tees.  It’s just one of her things.)  “I think I better change this, too,” she said.


UPDATE:  As friends of the decanter may recall, Ol’ Robbo recently mentioned getting saddled with a new kitteh he doesn’t especially want due to the issues it will cause with Decanter Cat and Decanter Dog.  Kitteh currently is living in Youngest’s room.  I still don’t especially want her, but I understand she is proving quite the ice-breaker in Youngest’s online video classes, as she has developed the habit of launching into the Gel’s lap as she sits at the computer.  I guess.

UPDATE DEUX:  I meant to mention what an enormous satisfaction it was to delete my county public skool email account recently.  Thank Heaven Youngest finished high school when she did because I hear the County’s attempt to deal with teaching through the WuFlu lockdown is turning out to be a complete pig’s breakfast.


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August 2020