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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and, although I’m a day or two late about it, Happy Autumn!

As ol’ Robbo has said probably every year since he first started blogging (well, and before that, too), this is truly my very favorite season.  (Spring is a close but distinct second. While I like the start of winter, the novelty seems to wear off earlier every year.  I have always despised summah, a loathing picked up during my misspent yoot in South Texas.)

Ma Nature, getting into the swing of things, has seen fit to dish up a series of highs in the low 70’s in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor for the next week or so, allowing ol’ Robbo to spend about four hours this morning giving the grounds a good Monty without suffering from heat stroke.  (What is a “Monty” you ask? In this context it means mowing and trimming the entire yard, plus the ditch between the sidewalk and street and the little meadow between the back gate and the creek.  I also sprayed weeds, watered whiskey barrels, and cleaned the accumulated ashes out of the grill.)

While this is pleasant enough, ol’ Robbo’s ideal fall weather conditions – which won’t arrive for at least another four weeks or so – involve a temperature of about 45 degrees with a steady rain and fog.  There’s something about tramping around in it, smelling the mixture of dank, rotting leaves and chimney smoke, hearing the crows cawing off in the distance, that gives ol’ Robbo a delicious feeling of memento mori.  I’m not being morbid in this, because it also seems to focus and increase my sense of (or at least desire for) piety.  I sometimes wonder if the Church Fathers had this psychological phenomenon in mind when they set the liturgical calendar to restart in late fall.  (Of course, there’s also something delicious about coming in out of it, pouring a large glass of Lafroaig, and flopping down in front of the fire which is also highly satisfying, if perhaps for not such high-falootin’ reasons.)

Anyhoo, working around the house today brought two other things to mind.  First, this year ol’ Robbo put a couple of large urns on the patio out back, in which he planted dwarf boxwoods and surrounded them with trailing annuals.  (They really look quite nice.)  I have begun to wonder what I ought to do about them over the winter.  Boxwood is really too pricey to be treated as an annual and, for practical purposes, I really can’t move them.  It occurs to me that maybe I can somehow insulate them – you know, wrapping some kind of material around them to keep the shrubs’ roots from freezing.  Anyone have any ideas or experiences along these lines?

Second, I am resolved this year to finally start using the fire pit that also sits on the patio.  I bought it about three years ago, and for some reason have never done much more with it than use it to burn empty charcoal bags.  Why this is, I just don’t know.

(Speaking of fall, a colleague of mine at work was telling me all about the trip she and her new fiancee plan to take up to Maine in about three weeks.  She’s never been before and one of the things she said she was looking forward to was seeing all the foliage.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the leaves will be more or less down already by the time she gets up there.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Second and final day of ol’ Robbo’s employment “retreat” and it was about what I had expected, maybe even worse.  (I won’t go into details, lest I find myself posted to the happy fun reeducation camps quam celereme.  Let’s just say that, according to several speakers at least, I am a very, very bad person.)

Anyhoo, what else is there to do but come home and flush it all out with some serious sound:

I’ve read various bits and pieces on the Great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, the upshot of which is that by the time they got to this song, Benny and the Boys were in the Zone and just going flat out.  Certainly, none of the studio versions of it I’ve heard are quite the same.

By the bye, no offense to drummer Gene Krupa, but I like to imagine Animal on the skins here.  I may have mentioned it here before, but Mrs. R and I got married at Sweet Briar College, the service being in the school chapel and the reception in the campus center.  For the reception, we hired out a 13 piece big band run by one of the Science Department professors of the day, and the place absolutely jumped.   I ardently tried to get them to finish up with “Sing, Sing, Sing”, but they wouldn’t do it.  Possibly this was because they didn’t know the song.  Alternatively, it might have been because I kept requesting it in Animal Voice.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Has ol’ Robbo mentioned here before his firmly-held belief that Tuesday is the worst day of the week?  Well it is, simply due to the fact that it has absolutely nothing going for it.  Monday, for all its awfulness, is at least a bridgehead.  Wednesday is, of course, Hump…DAAAAAAY.  Thursday is down hill and Friday speaks for itself.  Tuesday is nothing more than a freakin’ hole in the week.

Anyhoo, to fill that hole, a few stray thoughts:

♦  Before I forget it, and in connection with the Wednesday link above, I have to say that ol’ Robbo is continually impressed with the consistent brilliance of Geico’s teevee advertising (which I see through watching my beloved Nats play on MASN).  Campaign after campaign after campaign – from cavemen to geckos to bad ideas – whoever comes up with this stuff is truly gifted.  It’s one thing to get an occasional home run, but these people hit for the freakin’ cycle.   And speaking of which, for some reason ol’ Robbo finds their latest amusing enough to repost here:

(Full disclosure, by the bye, ol’ Robbo is not a Geico customer or paid shill.  We’re USAA through the Old Gentleman’s military stint and quite content with it.)

♦  And speaking of ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats, they just dropped their fourth straight to an out-of-it NL East team playing for nothing but pride tonight.  I know the odds of us not clinching the pennant at this point are in the SMOD 2016 range, but come on, guys!

♦   Speaking of sports, last Sunday ol’ Robbo was asked by one of his Mass buddies who doesn’t pay much attention to the current so-called “culture” to explain the whole NFL national anthem kerfluffle.  Whelp, I was able to give her a brief description just based on what I see on the Innertoobs, but the fact of the matter is that ol’ Robbo really hasn’t watched pro football at all since Dan Marino retired in 1999.  This was partly because the ‘Fins were the only team I ever followed and they have gone to hell since then, and partly because NFL Sunday afternoon advertising is raunchy enough that I didn’t want the gels seeing it.  Overall, I don’t think I’ve really missed very much.

♦   It would be extremely foolish of ol’ Robbo to comment on the state of the Presidential race at this point, at least so far as endorsements go.  But one thing strikes me as peculiar:  Normally, my corner of NoVA and my commuter route into the Imperial City are, by this point, wall-to-wall with yard signs and bumper stickers.  This year?  Almost nada.  Just about the only signs I see in the immediate neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor are for the local incumbent House member.  Make of that what you will.

♦   Good thoughts would be appreciated:  The next two days ol’ Robbo is being forced to go on “retreat” with his office colleagues.   Usually, I’m pretty good at being able to dodge work-related functions, but I gather there’s no getting out of this one barring accidental amputation of a limb or kidnapping by Boko Haram.  Sigh.  In my experience, “retreats” are both boring and dangerous, and the only thing to do is to keep one’s head down, one’s mouth shut, and one’s most political smile firmly nailed to one’s face.

♦  Speaking of face, ol’ Robbo is trying out a new prescription set of gas-permiable hard contact lenses this week.  (My venture into disposable soft lenses proved an abject failure.)  They seem to work reasonably well for my near-sightedness.  The trouble is that they also bring my far-sightedness into, er, very sharp focus: wearing them, I can’t make out much within a four or five foot radius without a pair of store-bought 2X reading glasses.  I’m having trouble here understanding why I go to the bother of contacts in the first place.

♦  Relatedly, while getting fitted for the new contacts, I also got a prescription for a new pair of glasses.  My current pair is about four years old and I’ve had nothing but grief about them (in terms of aesthetics) from Mrs. R.  This time, I got the Missus to come down to the Hour-Eyes with me.  “Here,” I said, “You pick out the frames!”  And she did.  Despicable pre-emptive surrender? Or ingenious seizure of the high ground?  Your answer may very well depend on your marital status. (Hint: “Yes, dear” can be a double-edged weapon.)

Whelp, I suppose that’s enough hole-in-the-week plugging for now.  Pass the port to the left as you take it in, if you please.

UPDATE:  Day One of Robbo’s retreat featured the predictable “team-building challenges” and a lot of middle-management level blether from an HR consultant (what a racket that is!) about effective communications with different personality types.   Forehead? Meet table!  As a colleague of mine put it sotto voce, “Here’s an idea: You’re all grownups…Act like it.”

UPDATE DEUX: Nats’ Magic Number now down to, er, deux.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Next month marks the sixteenth anniversary of the Family Robbo’s setting up shop here at Port Swiller Manor.  With each passing year, as is inevitable, major appliances and fixtures have come to the end of their useful lives and have had to be replaced – the furnace, the water heater, the InSinkErator, the oven (well, that was more of an upgrade than a needed replacement), all of the potties, and so on.  In fact, the only three such items which I can recall being part of the original equipment we bought with the place are the Kenmore washer/dryer combination, the garage door opener, and the Maytag dishwasher.**

The first two items are still going strong, but the dishwasher is beginning to show its age.  One sign of this is that, recently, the lower dish rack has started rusting in spots.  (When that rust gets on the rims of the plates during a wash cycle, it’s a major pain to get the stains off again.)  So ol’ Robbo began to noodle around in his braims about what he could do short of replacing the whole thing (which seems absurd since it still runs perfectly well).

My first idea was to look for a replacement part.  As I say, it’s an old Maytag but I can’t seem to find any model number or other identification on it.  Nonetheless, at first I figured I could do a little measuring and a little eye-balling and a little detail comparison, and come up with something that would fit.  I found such parts readily available on-line, but also found that they’re a lot more expensive than I had imagined – a couple hundred bucks in some places.  That’s a bit too steep a gamble for me.

But as I hunted around, I also noticed another option in the form of some goop that you can put on the rust spots to seal them over.  Six bucks a bottle.  It has the consistency of liquid paper and you apply it by slapping on multiple layers every half hour or so and then letting the patches dry overnight.  (It also has some right powerful fumes that take me back to the hours and hours I spent in my misspent yoot putting together and painting model airplanes.  Duuuuuude...)

Anyhoo, that’s what I’m amusing myself with this afternoon and I must say that it’s giving me no end of enjoyment.  I guess it says something about ol’ Robbo’s station in life that such a homeowner’s short-cut can give so much satisfaction.  Unless, of course, it’s just the fumes.  (Duuuuuuude….)

By the bye, I’ve no doubt that there are many friends of the decanter saying to yourselves “Self, I wonder how ol’ Robbo’s Eldest Gel is taking to college life?”  Well, the short answer is that, despite the predictable bounces and shakes, overall tolerable well, tolerable well.  I put together a post this week listing all the activities and whatnot she’s got herself involved in, but it wound up reading like one of those awful family “news letters” that go out with the Christmas cards, so I chucked it.  Instead, I’m reviewing my more general thoughts about the overall shift in family dynamics caused by her absence and may have something to say about that.  Also, she’s coming home for the weekend in a couple weeks and it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes the first six weeks of school have made in her.

** Mrs. Robbo says that we put the dishwasher in our first year here, but I have no recollection of that.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It's Dead, Jim

It’s Dead, Jim

Ol’ Robbo may be in for a baaaaad day today if his attempt to grind up his coffee beans a while ago is any indication of things to come:

Yes, my at least 17 y.o. Krups simply blew up on me.  As you can see (and which I hadn’t noticed), the wires had become frayed where they pass into the base and I guess it was finally just a cut too far.  I plugged in, there was a resounding POP!, sparks flew everywhere, and now…..Die Krups ist kaput!

Guess it’s off to the devil’s website to see about getting a replacement.  I hope I can refrain from slaughtering my family in the meantime.  Twitch! Twitch!

Speaking of coffee, it has long been my policy to refuse to order for Mrs. Robbo when we hit a Starbucks on one of our road trips because she’s the sort who pimps her cup with all those extra frills and special instructions.  I do so partly because I think this is heresy, partly because I can never remember all the things she wants, and partly because I feel embarrassed reeling off such a litany to some snot-nosed barista.

Well last evening I mentioned that I was going to stop at Chopt on the way home from work to pick up a salad for dinner and did Mrs. R want anything?  “Oh, yes,” she replied, “I’ll text you my order.”  A few moments later, ol’ Robbo’s iPhone (yes, I was finally forced to get one) received the single-most complicated salad order I’ve ever seen – a dozen different ingredients (one or two of which I couldn’t even pronounce properly), instructions on how chopped up she wanted it, and three different dressings.   I actually had to read it all off my phone to the counter guy after making abundantly clear that this was the missus’ idea and that all I wanted was a plain Caesar myself.

Won’t be doing that again any time soon, I can tell you.

I suppose I had better clean up and nip on over to the local not-Starbucks coffee shop and get an emergency fix before the withdrawal sets in and I begin slitting throats……

UPDATE:  Done and done (the new grinder, I mean, not the slaying).  I’m going with the fancier-shmantzier “burr” grinder, which I’m told gives a better quality than the old rotor-blade model.

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Labor Day!  (Ol’ Robbo celebrated in his traditional manner by spending the day in the ol’ hammock.  Marxist/Collectivist class-warfare “holidays” give me the pip.  Besides, today was the last day of my summah hols.)

Anyhoo, this morning I learned that the Middle Gel had got a gig with a friend of hers today helping out as chaperones/baby-sitters at a 6 y.o.’s birthday party here in our part of the suburbs of Your Imperial City.

She got back four hours later to announce that not only had the family brought in a giant water slide (which caused several injuries, apparently), but that they had also hired out a petting zoo for the celebration.

A petting zoo.  Hired out.  At your own home.

Any friends of the decanter hear of this sort of kiddy birthday entertainment before?

I just googled “petting zoo parties at home” and got something north of 2 million hits so it must be a thing, but such an entertainment option is certainly news to me.  Back in the day we had a few magicians and one-man-bands drop by Port Swiller Manor for various Gel birthdays, but it simply never occurred to me to put a couple cages of rabbits and chickens, plus a staked goat and sheep or two, out on the grounds.

I’m reminded by all this of a friend of my misspent yoot back in South Texas.  His father was a veterinarian and he was big in 4-H.  Their suburban lot was basically a farm yard, with flocks of sheep, herds of goats, and hutches full of rabbits.  (I think he even had a calf at one point.)  My friend would often come to school with long, hideous scratches down his forearms from where the rabbits had got him and big, ugly bruises on his legs from kicks and butts by the goats.   I know he’d been hard at work tending these various beasts since he was a small lad and, although he appreciated them from an animal husbandry standpoint, had no illusions whatsoever about their cuteness or cuddliness.

Wonder what my old friend would make of this kind of entertainment?

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo just got home from attending freshman orientation with the Youngest Gel.  What with all the hubbub over the Eldest going away to college this year, it has been quite easy to overlook the fact that the Youngest is transitioning up to high school, too.  (That’s the way it is, I suppose.  The trade-off is that she’s got the collective experience of her older sisters and of us to help ease her in.)

The Gel has been worried that she won’t know anybody in her class since she was in the AAP program at the middle school across town from us and not at the one which feeds into our high school.  I pointed out to her a) that she’ll already know a number of kids from church, the pool and girl scouts, and b) that she has her mother’s gift for striking up acquaintances very easily (unlike her rayther misanthropic old dad), so there’s no need for concern.

And I was right.  She met another girl within about two minutes after getting to the gym and hung around with her for the whole program while Ol’ Robbo sat in the auditorium with the other parents, quietly dozing through the pleas for volunteers and money.

The Gel’s ambitions this year are to make the swim team and get in on the fall theater production.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Finally, finally, for the first time since about mid-May, ol’ Robbo is once again posting over the family Mac in the comfort and convenience of his basement lair.

The power! THE POWER!! THE POOOOWERRRR!!!!

Mwahahahaha…..

So just a small sample of this and that to get back into the feel of things:

♦   Regular friends of the decanter may be wondering how the Eldest is doing her first week of college?  Well, as to be expected, the barometer has swung pretty wildly between “Stormy” and “Set Fair” as she begins to internalize just what she’s got herself into.  She reports that she took her first road trip over to Hamster-Squidney Friday evening and hated it. “Nothing but beer and pot,” was her dismissive summary.  (Scots Presbyterian roots run deep.)  Somehow or other, this rejection doesn’t bother ol’ Robbo very much.

♦  Do you know what a “tiguan” is?  Neither did ol’ Robbo.  Neither did the Volkswagen salesman from whom we bought a used one yesterday for the Middle Gel, who will be a high school junior this year.  He thought it had something to do with wind.  Turns out that it was just the idea of some German marketing-wallah who thought it would be hip to blend together the words “tiger” and “iguana”.  I’ve no idea why.

♦  In case you missed it, Tom Wolfe has a new book coming out entitled The Kingdom of Speech.  From the ad copy over at the devil’s website, it doesn’t sound like another one of his sledge-hammer social satires, but instead something of a more academic nature:

Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate. THE KINGDOM OF SPEECH is a captivating, paradigm-shifting argument that speech–not evolution–is responsible for humanity’s complex societies and achievements.

From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard-wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zig-zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in the Kingdom of Speech.

Whatever you want to call it, I plan to pick up a copy.

Well, that’s enough to start.  As I mentioned below, ol’ Robbo is starting his summah hols, and since I’m not planning on going anywhere, I’ll probably spend a fair bit of time flittering about on the innertoobs, catching up with a bunch of blogs I haven’t been able to conveniently get too in my forced exile.

In the meantime, I’m off to Netflix to charge up the ol’ queue, which has been dry as a bone for about a month.  See you soon!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As of this afternoon, Ol’ Robbo finally got to start his summah vacation.

Two (three?) weeks ago, I had planned to join the family, along with the family of the Former Llama Military Correspondent, at beautiful Smith Mountain Lake in Ol’ Virginny, but was compelled instead to fly out to a court hearing in the Mountain West.

So much for that.

I also considered taking last week off, but again got kyboshed by court biznay.

Grrrrr..,.

Finally, though, I drew the line. I’m taking next week off, dammit, and that’s that. Perhaps it was the crazed look in my eye, but nobody down the office objected.

I’ve known I was worn out this past month, but I perhaps didn’t realize just how much until I came home early to Port Swiller Manor this afternoon and immediately fell asleep.

So what does Ol’ Robbo plan to do with himself until after Labor Day? Oh, the fun never ends! Monday, I finally get my contacts updated. (The eye-strain lately has been something fierce.  Probably should not be driving.). I also plan to whack back the forsythia to encourage better blooms next spring. And if I’m REALLY feeling wild, there’s probably an oil change in the near future.

Woo. Hoo.

As for posting, the long saga of the Port Swiller man cave floor ended this morning, so Ol’ Robbo will be re-connecting the House iMac tomorrow and can finally say goodbye to this iPhone thumb-blogging nonsense. Expect….blather.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo is officially a college dad now after a dropping off of the Eldest Gel that went far, far less stormily than I had feared might be the case. Certainly there were some tears and flares of temper, but once the Gel got over her initial jitters, she grew quite happy. And when it was time for Mrs. Robbo and Self to leave, she didn’t exactly shoo us away, but she trooped off with her roommate to an assembly rather quickly. My last sight of her was when she turned, smiled, and waved before disappearing around a corner. (That one’s going straight into my file of special memories.)

I admit to feeling a knot in my throat a few times over the weekend, but the truth of the matter is that I’m so excited for the gel that I find it very difficult to feel any more than a passing sadness at her leaving us. I know Mrs. Robbo is taking it harder. Whether this is a typical father/mother split reaction or whether I’m just a cold, heartless bastard, I leave to your considered judgment.

Anyway, touching wood and all, but I’ve a hunch that the Gel is going to blossom wonderfully in her new environment.

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