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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spotted an article earlier this week that stated Jeep is killing off its iconic Cherokee model after 50 years, but another article that I see this morning says the Cherokee isn’t dead but just resting.

So who knows.

Friends of the decanter might think Ol’ Robbo disgruntled by this news, given his proclivity for the Old Ways, but in truth the Cherokee has been so remodeled over the years as to make it look pretty much like any other SUV, so I am largely indifferent.

Our first “family” car was a Cherokee, in fact, one of the boxier older models which we acquired when Eldest Gel came along in the late 90’s. Wracking my braims, I honestly don’t really recall much about it except that when we travelled, by the time we threw in all our luggage plus what seemed like the entire nursery, it was a pretty tight fit. I also can’t recall at what point we abandoned it in favor of something more in the supertanker class in order to accommodate all the Gels plus their attendant equipment. (People make sniffy noises at this sort of thing but you try fitting three (mandatory) car seats in anything else and then come back and talk to me.)

Incidentally, the original article – which I saw over at Insty – was pretty straight-forward. It just said Jeep was leaving the mid-size market for now and who knows what might lie ahead. The one I link up top is much more…..well, it gasses on about changing the name so as not to offend the Karens and about re-introducing the thing in an all electric version (powered by rainbows and unicorn farts, of course). Now that’s something to flip my disgruntled switch.

And speaking of such things, La Wrangler is back from her time at the spa, coolant lines replaced, engine light off, and even her emissions test done. Twenty years old as of this coming Saturday. As I’ve said here before, it is my goal to keep driving her until they won’t let me drive anymore. And Jeep can take its Cars of the Future and stuff ’em.

UPDATE: Speaking of, Teens Attempt to Carjack Murrland Man, But Can’t Drive Manual Transmission to Get Away. Heh, heh, heh. I don’t even bother locking my car at the Metro or elsewhere, in part because thieves can break into a rag-top anyway, in part because of things like this. I just make sure not to leave anything valuable in her.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s amazing what a difference a week can make at this time of year around these parts, especially when one has been out of town. Spring always seems to approach, as the saying goes, slowly then all at once.

It’s also amazing what a difference 24 hours can make. Yesterday was cold and rainy. Today the sun burst forth in a clear blue sky in such a delightful way as to make one look for any kind of excuse to stay outside pottering in the yard. Even Decanter Dog, who is starting to get on a bit, was seized with a sudden desire to gambol about with a huge grin on her face just because.

As I mentioned needing to do a while back, today I tackled the Euonymus fortunei lurking around the garden fence. As I said then, the stuff sends out horizontal runners that sneak into my roses and, if left undealt with, would cause all kinds of trouble. I don’t think I can ever get rid of the stuff altogether, but cutting off the runners at their base once a year is a pretty effective way of containing it.

I also managed to get my peony cages up in good time for a change. Not that they do that much good, as they’re now really too small and I will still need to re-enforce their support with twine. This year I absolutely, positively need to dig some of the larger peonies up and divide their roots. Friends of the decenter are invited here and now to bookmark this post: If I weasel out of it again come fall, you may then pelt me with the pixel version of rocks and garbage.

What else? I also mentioned a while back looking for a replacement for my birdbath broken when a tree limb fell on it. Well, I couldn’t find one I like, so I turned back to attempting to repair the current one again. I had glued it back together but the bond didn’t last. Now I’m seeing what a big helping of Gorilla Glue epoxy can do.

Oh, and I mentioned a couple weeks ago making a mess of my forsythia? Well, looking at it more closely today I see that my science was, in fact, pretty much right – what new growth there is seems to be flowering much more heavily than it did before I started liming assiduously. It was only the timing of my cutting it back that was the problem. So I will probably hog it all right back in, say, another month or so and then just keep it in reasonable trim going forward.

So that’s that. A lovely afternoon in the sun and I think I actually even got a bit of color for the first time this year. As I say, though, slowly then all at once: The hydrangea are all budding which means I need to put out new deer-netting pronto. There are already patches of grass that could stand a mowing. And it’s really not all that early to get the hummingbird feeder out.

And away we go.

UPDATE: Dinner on the porch for the first time this season. Just because we could.

** Yes, not my usual Sunday offering but nobody seemed much interest in my church gossip and I really don’t have anything to say about it anyway. This, alas, has proved to be one of my feeblest Lents in quite some time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo posting the other day about how bizzy he’s been? Well, all this week I’ve been away on my first extended biznay trip since the Plandemic lockdown. It was also the first time I’ve set foot on a plane in about five years.

Gone Away Central this time was Kansas City, MO. From what I saw, the place strikes me as mostly dumpy but with pockets of urban renewal/expansion. (Granted, nowhere looks its best at the tail end of wintah, so perhaps I am underestimating the place. Kansas City, KS, across the river, on the other hand, is a desolation no matter what the season. It just is.) We stayed on the edge of Country Club Plaza, which is supposed to be the up and coming thing in pedestrian walkabouts. I admit that, despite the weather, it was enjoyable.

What constitutes Good BBQ is one of those third-rail issues one hesitates to bring up, especially if one has only a casual acquaintance, for fear of the passions it unleashes among the cognoscenti. That said, one evening we tried Jack Stack Barbeque and Ol’ Robbo thoroughly enjoyed it. Practically everybody we talked to, from cabbies to hotel receptionist to our local colleague, recommended the place. Admittedly, this gave Ol’ Robbo a bit of pause because I’ve seen this sort of thing before with, for example, Winzell’s Oyster House in Mobile or Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island, ME. Lots of hype followed by flatness (and usually high-priced flatness at that). Granted, I know a lot about seafood, both Gulf and New England, while, as I say, I know much less about BBQ. So those friends of the decanter who do take a deeper interest in the matter may consider my satisfaction here as either my first steps into a wider universe or else as a sign of my hopeless Philistinism.

Another afternoon found us stopping for lunch (also on recommendation) at what purported to be a “Palestinian” deli. Again, there are those in the know who likely can parse out the local subtleties and variations, but in Ol’ Robbo’s mind, cuisine involving lamb, pita, yogurt, garlic sauce, and diced cucumber and onion is simply Eastern Med, stretching from Greece all the way round to Lebanon and points south. And it’s all good, as was this. To me, the name (and the decor) was both politickal and superfluous, and I simply ignored it. (Which reminds Ol’ Robbo again, albeit very laterally, that I donated some coin to get pizzas delivered to IDF troops during the Intifada back in ’04 and have been getting pledge appeals from the local Jewish Federation ever since. I admire their persistence.)

Finally, on the food front, I must share with you friends of the decenter proof of a phenomenon which has not occurred, so far as I can remember, ever before:

Yes, Ol’ Robbo actually ate at the airport yesterday before his flight home! As I say, this is completely unprecedented for me because of my usual anxiety before getting on a plane. But I was so crazed by only one meal and three or four hours’ sleep each day this week (litigation is a bear), that I was able to overcome my inhibitions and dig in. (And yes, it was Friday, and yes, that was a chicken sammich. In all fairness, I asked for fish first but they were out. My understanding of the rules of fasting and abstinence is that they are not to be followed to the point of self-incapacitation and I was pretty close to it. In fact, I had a laugh with the fellah at the next table, who was in the same boat.)

It was also just as well that I fueled up because later I found myself standing in front of the most loud-mouthed, pernicious little twerp in the boarding line. I gather he was some young techie in the Defense-contracting line, returning to Your Nation’s Capitol from some conference, and he was busily buttering up another (black) techie he’d befriended at the conference. First, he loudly announced that anybody who dares criticize the Chinese Communist government is, ipso facto, racist. Then he produced a laundry list of all the advocacy groups, politickal action committees, and other covens to which he devotes his spare time, plus the usual litany of causes: Voting rights for illegals; Basic Income; Equity! (Rant On: Let Ol’ Robbo be clear what he thinks of “equity” here. Whatever gimcrack, Utopian veneer its advocates have built over it from time to time since its ugly emergence in the mid-18th Century, the practical effect of all such sells has been to divide populations into two simple groups: Those who are dead, and those who wish they were. Rant Off.) Needless to say, his Concern had nothing to do with individual well-being, but instead with pitting Group against Group. Then the guy started in on all the places in Africa he wished to visit (“to get to really know the people”), including South Africa. Even this was too much for the other guy, who suggested it might be wiser to avoid SA (at present busy descending into chaos) until things cool down a little. Finally, the snerp said he had recently started helping out a new group of immigrants in Dee Cee. “Where are they from? Is it Morocco? No, wait, Cameroon? No, wait, somewhere in the east? Not Ethiopia, but the other one…..Oh, heck, it’s Africa. Whatever!”)

Cor lumme, stone the crows.

As I say, it’s as well I had eaten something. Otherwise, I likely would have whirled round and throat-punched the little bastard. As it was, I briefly fantasied at the idea. (Ol’ Robbo tries to live and let live and to turn the other cheek, but these people want me dead so it’s hard to avoid such daydreams from time to time.)

The flight back, by the way, was beastly, not only very late but also the sort where even the stewardesses have to remain seated most of the time. Oddly enough, turbulence at night doesn’t bother Ol’ Robbo as much as it does during the day, partly because the darkness creates the illusion that I’m not 37,000 feet up, partly because, as I say, I was exhausted. Nonetheless, I didn’t check the wings for gremlins until we were firmly on the ground back home when I was sure they’d gone elsewhere.

So that’s that.

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo was hoping to get a little time to relax and recover today, but even as I typed this, the new blinds for the Gels’ bedrooms turned up at the door, so I guess I have my afternoon’s work cut out for me now.

UPDATE: Done and done, although the job took longer than I expected. Perhaps out of pique that we didn’t order installation but I said I would do it myself, they didn’t include instructions in the package. That’s okay – instructions are for sissies. Meanwhile, Mrs. R has taken umbrage at the fact that the company seems to take its own name of “3-Day” to mean something more like “3-Week”, and plans to hector them accordingly, especially after what they socked us for the things.

However, they look very nice.

UPDATE DEUX: It occurs to Ol’ Robbo after the fact that he often blogs in the short-hand of the day. So to be clear, please do not confuse “equity” with “equality” (although proponents of the former would wish that you did). Equality is the idea that everyone should get a fair shake, that we’re equal before the law and that we are not denied the opportunity to make something of ourselves based on artificial barriers. Equity, despite the similarity of root, is the antithesis. It demands the same outcomes in life for everybody, robbing the individual of all personal responsibility and abolishing all effort, luck, chance, and circumstance, and, of course, confiscating all wealth for “fair distribution”. Granted, this has a certain appeal about it – if you’re six years old. But what its proponents won’t tell you is that a) such a system can only work through a totalitarianism completely at odds with reality, and b) history shows again and again that such a system can’t work. I mentioned this idea to my old pal Kipling one time and he said he thought there might be a poem in it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had a long chat with his car guy this afternoon. First of all, I love being able to refer to my “car guy” – it makes me feel In The Know. This fellah, who we discovered a year or two ago, is a retired engineering muckety-muck with one of the Big Three auto manufacturers (I think) who simply loves to work on cars. He’s extremely honest and reasonable, too, unlike those bloodsuckers down to the dealership. A lot of his practice seems to involve looking over that second-hand SUV to see what needs doing before Junior takes it off to college. (It was friends having him do just that who tipped us off about him, and indeed we took Youngest’s used Jeep Patriot to him for the same purpose.) However, he also seems to have some antiques and sports cars parked at his place, too.

Anyhoo, the subject of our chat was La Wrangler, more specifically some troubleshooting of both a coolant leak and an EVAP warning, plus a few other minor matters. Turns out all the ailments traced back to the same root cause: Anno Domini. She turned 20 years old this month and even though I’ve only put slightly over 100K miles on her, things are simply starting to wear and rust out. So we discussed both immediate care plus other projects which will need to be addressed later if, as I had told him, I want to keep her running for another 20 years.

It hit me a bit later that there might be a parallel here between La Wrangler and Ol’ Robbo his own self. Regular friends of the decanter will know that I’ve been whinging here recently about my slowness in getting back up to speed post-WuFlu. With all due modesty, I’ve always looked and felt rayther young for my age. But I had a birthday just recently and am now officially closer to 60 than to 55. Is Time suddenly catching up with me, too? Yikes.

Ol’ Robbo has been, as it were, “in between” doctors for some time now. (My old one moved and her replacement both over-diagnoses and over-prescribes, a practice style I can’t abide.) Maybe it’s time to get on the stick and find one with whom I can have the same kind of intelligent discussion I did today with my car guy. After all, I’d like to hang around at least another twenty years myself!

**Spot the quote.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last week Ol’ Robbo mentioned the emerging fallout from his forsythia-pruning mistake of last summah. Well, I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop on another such mistake.

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that we put a bed of pachysandra along the Port Swiller Manor street-front a few years ago. Most of it is doing very well and is, in fact, in bloom at the moment.

However, last fall Ol’ Robbo got a bit carried away trying to clear the fallen maple leaves out of one section, taking his leaf-blower to it at full thrust. I got a few maple leaves, it is true, but I also managed to blow off the pachy leaves themselves, leaving a bunch of denuded stalks.**

So far this spring nothing has happened yet and I wait with some impatience to see if they managed to survive. You will know how anxious I am by the fact that I’m even clutching at that line of Chauncy Gardner’s in “Being There” to the effect that if the root is unharmed then all will be well. (And Ol’ Robbo loathed that movie.)

We shall see if I have to replant.

**In my defense, I was put up to the attempt by Mrs. R, who is of the belief that every last fallen leave Must Be Picked Up. I argued that this is unpossible when dealing with a pachy bed, in which all one can do is clear the fallen leaves off the top, not the ones that winkle their way down. If nothing else, I hope this episode proves my point.

UPDATE: Well, in my morning rounds I took a closer look and perhaps there’s more room for optimism than I had thought. Certainly at least some of them look kaput, but even many with naked, brown stalks are showing leaf buds closer to their base. As I say, we shall see.

On a completely different note, Mrs. R asked me to clean out the vacuum-cleaners this morning, a task which seems to me to have something of a quis custodiet air about it. I duly took apart hoses and pulled out filters and such, and must confess that by the time I was done not only was I covered in dust, but had also removed enough cat hair to make up a new one. Ah, what W.S. Gilbert called “the felicity of unbridled domesticity”!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of daily posting this week. Ol’ Robbo has been pretty bizzy. Plus, I’m still dragging somewhat from the Coof.

Then there’s the fact that if I were to comment on how many of my tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories seem to be transmogrifying into “I told you so” moments all at once, They’d probably come and put me away.

But don’t worry, I’ll think of something to say at some point.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

You know, there are some Saturday mornings when I’d swear the birds are deliberately loitering around the feeder, just waiting for me to fill it up.

Ol’ Robbo was able to get himself out into the garden today, finally finishing up his late-winter pruning back of the butterfly bush and the roses. The latter really should have been done three or four weeks ago, as they are already growing aggressively. I hope leaving it this late will not lead to any permanent damage. If it does, chalk them up as yet more casualties to a certain virus that absolutely didn’t come from a Chinese bioweapons lab except that (Oopsie!) it did.** Anyhoo, while there’s still plenty more raking and cleaning to do, those were my chief worries.

Meanwhile, things proceed apace. The peonies have all broken ground and I noticed the buds forming on the pear tree. I also noticed that the big hedge of oak-leaf hydrangea which lines the back of my garden has sent colonists to try and establish themselves in the interior. In some ways, Ol’ Robbo is too soft-hearted: Said OLH have no biznay whatsoever anywhere other than the hedge, and to leave their invasion alone would cause all sorts of problems. And yet, I just couldn’t bring myself to dig them out today. I must needs strengthen my resolve and think of the Greater Good. (Chorus: “The Greater Good!”)

I further noticed that a mistake I made last year is coming back to bite me. Long-time friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s ongoing and generally fruitless efforts to get his forsythia to bloom more heartily. Conventional wisdom says to cut them way back just after they’ve finished flowering each spring, as they only flower on new growth. But when I do that, the stalks grow so monstrously tall over the course of the year that they’re too stringy come the next bloom season. So I’ve been experimenting with delaying the pruning in order to leave more compact bushes. Whelp, last year I didn’t get around to it until Labor Day weekend, which proved far, far too late: Even with a gentle and wet fall, they put on barely a few inches of new growth. And now, of course, they look ridiculous. (Further, there’s no telling whether my campaign of liming them heavily has had any effect.) Oh, well.

Finally, as far as that clock-change thing goes, the most beneficial aspect in Ol’ Robbo’s opinion is that I will be able to grill out tomorrow evening in plenty of light as opposed to the Braille method I must use over the winter. Am I looking forward to it? Oh, you betcha!

**I was out about two hours and it was only light labor but I can still feel my lack of reserves. I continue to hope this goes away relatively soon.

UPDATE: Those of you keeping track at home will be pleased to learn that despite Ma Nature serving up an evening of drizzle and light rain, Ol’ Robbo got his Sunday leap forward grill in nonetheless.

I have said before but will say again because this is my blog that there is only one way to correctly cook a strip steak or ribeye. One must find a cut at least an inch thick (or more). One must cover it with garlic salt (or other seasoning of choice) and let it sit for an hour or two. One must build the hottest possible charcoal fire. And one must cook one’s steak for just a very few minutes on either side, so that it’s blackened on the outside but still kicking, as it were, on the inside. Pure bliss.

And those who would take away my grill and my meat, and instead have me eat bugs and think myself fortunate, are invited to go to the devil.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo blinked twice when he saw this headline today: Asteroid the Size of 112 Camels Zoomed by Earth on Wednesday.

112 camels? And not just any camels at that:

“For comparison, the average Dromedary camel, meaning the large single-humped camels, can grow to be around 2.4 meters in height. This means that the diameter of this asteroid is as much as over 112 Dromedary camels stacked atop one another foot to hump.”

Oh-kay, then.

Ol’ Robbo wonders what that works out to in units of coconuts, Bechstein grand pianos, or the Albert Hall. Now where did I put my calculator?

After I got the blinking bit our of the way, I decided the author is probably just having a bit o’ fun here. And why not?

I very vaguely recall a story I heard nearly forty years ago about something like this happening at MIT. As I remember it, some students found a drunk bum who I will call Fred, although I don’t think that’s quite right. Anyhoo, they measured him and then went about marking off various buildings (and I think a bridge) in units of Fred. Just because. The story was meant to be an illustration of the extreme geekiness of MIT students. (Apologies to any friends of the decanter attached to or associated with MIT. But you knew what people think of you already.)

Anyhoo, I suppose we should smile while we can before somebody decides that using animal height for comparative measurement is speciesist and therefore a hate-crime.

Precision UPDATE: Ha! Because the Innerwebz Knows All, I found the true MIT measurement story. (My recollection was only slightly off, which is not bad for half-remembered forty-year-old useless trivia.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Judging from the frozen response to the post below, it appears Ol’ Robbo is very much in the minority in his views regarding Easter baskets. Eh.

So on to something completely different.

Those friends of the decanter who keep track of the night sky will know that we’re now just past the full of the moon. At this time of year (and its correspondent in the fall), the angle of the moon’s orbit is such that, at the full, in the last of the night and the very early morning it shines directly on to Ol’ Robbo’s bed. As has been the case the last couple nights, on occasion I will wake up to this, and invariably find it both delightful and comforting.

But then, I’ve always enjoyed the moon in all its phases. (No, I don’t sprout claws, fangs, and fur.) It’s never felt all that cold or harsh to me, but really rayther more….companionable (although I do recall as a kid sometimes thinking that the crescent was laughing at me). It seems all the more so when, at 4:30 in the morning, I find it shining in my eyes.

That’s all, really. A simple pleasure.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo spent last evening industriously putting together Easter baskets for the two Elder Gels. You may wonder why she is doing this now, a whole month ahead? Well, neither of the Gels will be home for Easter itself this year, however Eldest is coming home this weekend for spring break. It is Mrs. R’s intention that Eldest take the baskets back to school when she returns.

Meanwhile, Youngest will be home for Easter and, I learn, will be bringing along a young gentleman. (You needn’t raise your eyebrows: I understand that they are strictly just friends.) Not only does Mrs. R plan to make a basket for Youngest, she’s also going to make one for the young gentleman.

Now I suppose the argument can be made that this is all perfectly amiable and harmless. Being the churlish curmudgeon that I am, however, I think it’s a bit much. The Gels are far too old for baskets of candy and Heaven only knows what the boy, a perfect stranger, will think.

As Mrs. R flung fake grass all around, I pointed out to her that she’s a loony.

“Well,” she said, “You knew that when you married me.”

True. True.


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March 2023