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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’m sure all of you have either experienced or heard about the big Heat Wave gripping much of the country this week.  Triple digits here at Port Swiller Manor tomorrow and not much relief in sight before early next week.

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much to say about the weather’s direct effect on him – my summah hols started today, in fact, and I plan to spend the bulk of them assiduously avoiding Outside.  The yard can go to the devil until things cool down later next week.

No, the person I feel for most is Eldest, who has to work straight through it in a very hot and crowded kitchen right at the height of Wolf Trap’s season.  She’s been coming home in the late evening positively dripping, but surprisingly cheerful and only mildly complaining.

Indeed, the Gel’s been so restrained that I haven’t even had the chance to use my “it’s character-building” and “that’s why they pay you” lines.

Darn it.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo noticed the ballyhoo this week over the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission.

The fact of the matter is that I was only four years old at the time of the first Moon landing, so have no clear recollection of it.  Thus, this is read-about-it history to me instead of lived-it history.

I do have vague recollections of being awakened at odd times of night to see various events associated with some of the later missions.  The last two I remember following quite closely.

And the other thing I remember very clearly after Apollo 17 and the end of the program was thinking, “Oh, well.  We’ll be going back again soon, I’m sure.  Then Mars.  Then who knows?”  Even at the tender age of seven, I had some historickal sense of the Spirit of Exploration, so I figured we’d simply carry on forward with what to me was, and still is, a completely logical progression.

Fifty years after Apollo 11, I’m still tapping my foot, glancing at my watch, and waiting….

Thus, all this celebration really kind of rubs me the wrong way, as it seems rather hollow.  Just what the heck have we done since then?  Fooled about in Low Earth Orbit with a flying dump truck?  Built a couple LEO “stations”?  Lobbed some unmanned probes here and there?

I’m not saying these programs haven’t had their benefits or been technologically marvelous in their own ways.  And I’m not even complaining here about NASA nowadays frittering itself away on things like Muslim-outreach and the Globull Enwarmening scam.  I’m just saying I’m disappointed we don’t have colonies on the Moon and Mars, asteroid mining, and a high-orbit space port for deeper space missions.  Because until we do have such follow-on achievements, the Apollo Program is really something of a blind alley, isn’t it.

To this end, I really think governments should take a page out of history and allow and encourage more private space exploration.  It is, as Captain Kirk would say, the Final Frontier, after all.  And it isn’t going to be conquered by gubmint bureaucrats, but instead by adventurers, people in it hoping to make a huge profit or else just doing it because they get a kick out of it.  (Absurdly enough, the movie Star Trek: First Contact nails this idea nicely:  Zephram Cochran’s self-interested quest to develop warp drive is the wave of the future, IMHO.  Ol’ Robbo likes to think whoever wrote that story-line had Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” floating around in the back of their mind, even if I really rather doubt it.)

Ah, well.

Maybe, just maybe, the current song and dance might kindle in others that same expectation I had back when I was a boy and still do.  And on the privateering front, I continue to be impressed by the advances being made by Space-X.  Moar, please!


**Could not resist the apropos quote, although the fact of the matter is I’ve never been a Jackie Gleeson fan.  I appreciate his talent, but his brand of humor was too broad for me.  It’s just a matter of taste.

UPDATE:  Speaking of NASA and humor, an oldie that has always made Robbo laugh:








Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been busy cleaning out his desk at work, as our office is upping sticks and moving to new digs in a couple weeks.

Pawing around in the drawers today, not only did I find a bottle of Tums that expired in August 2011, I also found my old Blockbuster Video membership card and a stash of Daytimer**  monthly planners from 2004 and 2005.

Good thing nobody booby-trapped them with snakes, giant rolling rocks, or death-dealing false copies back in the day.  (My file cabinets were a different matter. Spiders and collapsing doors, y’know.)  Also fortunate that I didn’t run into a party of Nazis competing to find them.  (What, you think Hitler wouldn’t have been interested in my movements for August 2004? Ha! “Vot ist in zis miserable diary?” Nothing goose-stepping morons would understand!)

Ol’ Robbo hates to throw anything away, so in order to overcome my reluctance to chuck these and many, many other bits of long-expired garbage, I just kept imagining the voice of Sean Connery in my mind saying, “Let it go, Robbo, let it go….”


** Looking up the link just now, I’m astonished the company is still in biznay, what with everybody typing everything into their iWhatevers and their email calendars.  Paper organizers in leather cases is very old school.  I like it!

Greetings again, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has some time on his hands this afternoon, so even though I already posted this morning (and nobody reads me on Sundays anyway), I thought I’d go ahead and get round to another matter about which I’ve been meaning to write for some time.

Back in 2001, my old father put together a book of his favorite recipes (titled “Cooking With Pops”) and distributed copies to each of us kids.  In fact, he was a pretty good cook in the robust tradition (especially Italian and some German dishes), even if he couldn’t hold a candle to the Mothe’s command of French cuisine and pastry.

I use probably eight or ten of the recipes in his collection.  (I’m a picky eater.)  One of them is for grilled chicken breast with prosciutto and blue cheese.  This one baffled me the first couple times I tried to make it because it sounds so very delicious but the finished project always came out rayther bland.  So finally I decided to tinker a bit, and I must say I believe I got it bang right.

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.  Hence, at least to my taste, the blandness.  (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!

UPDATED:  Definitely the right call for Robbo’s Sunday dins.  Nom, nom, nom…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is out on the back porch with a hot cuppa kawfee this early Sunday morning, watching the butterflies out in the buddleia.  We seem to have quite a few of the flittery little critters this year, mostly of the tiger swallowtail variety.

Watching them fool about, I’m reminded of a theory that was fashionable some years ago (string theory, maybe? chaos theory?) concerning the interconnectedness of all things.  It posited something to the effect that the beat of a butterfly’s wings in Africa could affect the course of a typhoon in the Pacific.  If I recall correctly, whoever it was who was pushing this theory (somebody on a book tour, I think) was using it to argue, in the end, that Mankind is a cancer on Mother Gaia.  (Environmentalist Gnostics are, to me, both the most annoying and the most dangerous variety of that cult.)

Of course, the observation of cause and effect and the ultimate interrelationship of all things goes straight back to Aquinas’s Five Proofs.  But this biznay about the African butterfly flattening Hong Kong always struck me as absurdist wanking.  I’m an organic being, just like the world at large, with a similar interrelationship among all my parts.  But a blister on my heel isn’t going to give me prostate cancer.  It seems to me that most localized phenomena are just that.  Besides, there isn’t just one butterfly, there are billions of them.  Surely all those minute impacts together make up a sort of white noise which, somehow, the world manages to muddle through.

Same with Mankind, I’m inclined to believe.

Anyhoo, it’s a lovely Sunday morning, I’m watching the butterflies in appreciation of God’s Creation, and I’m happy.  Hong Kong will just have to take care of itself.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has nothing of interest to report in a normal Saturday Gardening Post.  It was the usual round of mowing, trimming, and clearing off the driveway, and the only notable thing is that I didn’t exhaust myself doing it because, despite the fact that it’s very warm here, it was also very dry today, and I deliberately guzzled water by the quart.

So that’s that.

But what post-worthy activity did Ol’ Robbo engage in today?  Tell ’em, Johnny Olson:

Robbo bought a new toilet!


You see, some months back, the loo in the Port Swiller Manor Mawster Baath started weeping water out of the bottom of the tank.  It got so bad that a towel placed strategically underneath would quickly become sodden.  Ol’ Robbo surmised that, given the age of this particular thunder-box, it was likely that the seals around the bolts anchoring the tank to the base had probably gone duff.

So Ol’ Robbo duly investigated.  I shut off the water, undid the line, unscrewed the bolts holding on the tank, and pulled it off.

Yes, the bolts looked pretty cruddy, and so did the washers underneath.

Ah ha! says I.  And since we were going over to Lowe’s the next day to buy a parcel of spring plantings anyway, I deviated over to the plumbing section to pick up some replacement bolts and washers, figuring I could dazzle Mrs. R with a seeming miracle fix that would only cost a couple bucks.

Returning to Port Swiller Manor, in full Mike Rowe mode I put the tank back on the base, switched in the new hardware, re-attached the water line, and turned on the water.

The tank still leaked, maybe worse than before.


Completely un-Mike Rowe-like, I then said the devil with this, I’ll get a pro to deal with it.  In the meantime, I cut off the water again and instructed Mrs. R not to use this potty until we got it fixed.

And time rolled on.

This past week, growing sick of using the Gels’ loo, Mrs. R made an appointment with My Plumber to have one of their bravos come out and take a look.  He arrived this afternoon.

As we climbed the stairs, I explained the above history to him.  It took him about ten seconds after he’d taken the lid off the tank to say, “Oh, yeah.  There’s a hair-line fracture trending out from one of the bolts.  There’s your trouble.  See it?”

I saw it.

And I remembered guiltily back to when I tried to fix the thing myself and half-wondering whether I had maybe heard or felt a faint crack as I was tightening down the new bolts.  Porcelain is a real bitch to deal with and must be handled delicately.  I put this to the fellah.

“Well,” he said, “Look at it this way.  If the thing was leaking already, it’s probable you didn’t do anything to make it worse.”

Ol’ Robbo is perfectly willing to go with that.  If it weren’t broke, I wouldn’t be trying to fix it in the first place.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyhoo, the new unit eventually was installed and all is now well save the unexpected money involved.  Godfrey Daniel, these things are expensive!

By the bye, the whole time, I had this old Electric Company bit running through my braims.  Any friends of the decanter remember it?





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo snapped this pic this morning upon arriving at work.  Yes, La Wrangler has cracked the 100K mark.  (I could have tried to capture the actual rollover, but a) I was whizzing down the Parkway at the time, and b) I’m not a Maryland driver.  So I waited until I reached my garage.)

And it’s only taken me…..sixteen years and three months in order to get there.  (I bought her brand new in April, 2003.)

She’s always been great fun to drive.  And so far she’s been quite dependable, with only a few signs of early middle age creeping in lately.  (Although I’ve an idea I’m going to need a new clutch in the not-so-very-distant future.)  Plus, she has absolutely none of that on-board computer techno-garbage that I so heartily loathe.

Of course I’m going to go for another 100K, and why not?  Bet she’ll make it, too.  (Unless our Neo-Totalitarian Overlords ban her for Gaia-hate, that is.)

Huzzay, Huzzah!

UPDATE:  Friends of the decanter may notice rayther a lot of pollen on some of the surfaces in this photo.  Meh.  All I can say is that the old girl gets a bath twice a year whether she needs it or not.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was delighted to see this post by Gail Heriot over at the Puppy-Blender’s place this morning:  Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1920, of Ed Lowe, the inventor of kitty litter (which he came up with in 1947).  G’wan over and read the story of how this now-seemingly-must-need product came about.  (It’s a true Yankee Ingenuity/entrepreneurial tale.)

To be perfectly honest, although Ol’ Robbo loves this kind of obscure information (an actual sin according to some theologians – a kind of gluttony, I b’lieve), and although I’ve been knee-deep in cats most of my life, I can’t say that I’d ever thought about the origins of Tidy-Cat and its ilk.  Now I know.

We’ve three litter-bins at Port Swiller Manor, one for each floor.  (This was somewhat more necessary when we had three cats, the eldest of which hated her much younger fellows.  With the eldest’s passing last fall, I suppose we really don’t need that much sand anymore but we’ve never got round to cutting back.  And cats, after all, are creatures of habit just like Ol’ Robbo.)

There’s supposed to be a regimen vis a vis who is assigned to clean out which litter.  Somehow, that regimen is never maintained, and the whole biznay devolves into a sort of last-across-the-tracks game of chicken as to who will be first to break down in disgust and start digging.  (A similar game is played regarding emptying the kitchen trash.  I usually lose that one, but when I complain I get a lot of “You’re the man so it’s your job” pushback.)  And even when a Gel can be compelled to do the litter, I notice they don’t go very deep, but merely skim the surface.

That brings up a perpetual debate about proper litter depth.  Mrs. R likes to say you don’t need a beach.  Oh, yes you do, I always argue.  Skimp on depth and much more of the, er, doings remain at or near the surface.  And stop to think about where the kittehs put their delicate little feet  after making a pit stop.  (Kitchen counter? Dining room table? My lap any time I sit down?  Anybody? Bueller?)

Anyhoo, those of you who have feline companions and who, without Mr. Lowe’s brainstorm, would still be fooling about with dirt and sawdust if not just kicking the little brutes outside, will be more than happy to join me in raising a glass in salute to his birthday!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I see that MLB’s “All-Star Game” is being played this evening.  As fond as I am of baseball, I have no intention of watching.  To me, the game – and the week’s worth of hoopla that surrounds it – is really just a meaningless stunt.

Ol’ Robbo is happy to see that the two Nationals selected to the NL team, pitcher “Mad” Max Schertzer and third baseman Anthony “Tony Two-Bags” Rendon, have chosen to sit this one out.

I spent a good bit of time here early in the season bewailing my beloved Nats’ dreadful start, but in case you haven’t noticed, they’ve got the best record in MLB since the end of May, are now in 2nd in the NL East, and are furiously chasing the Braves.  I’m glad that they’ve been honored and all, but Max and Tony simply decided that they’re better off avoiding the risk of injury in a worthless show game, and instead concentrating on the Team.  I like that a lot.

So I’ll simply wait out tonight and the rest of the week watching old “Star Trek” reruns and catching up on my Netflix queue, and look forward to the second half race, which I think could be a real humdinger.

What else is there to say except


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt many friends of the decanter have heard of this morning’s torrential downpour in the area of Your Nation’s Capital.  Indeed, I believe a number of you got to experience it first-hand yourselves.  Four inches in two hours is what I understand, causing flooding in the White House basement, the National Archives, the Metro, and various tunnels and underpasses.

And of course my basement study flooded, because my basement study always floods when it rains heavily enough to cause water to seep into the garage.  (Must I fess up to this when we eventually go to sell the place?)  But at least it’s in exalted company this time around.

Although the storm hit right during the height of rush hour, I was actually already at my office and missed out on the commuter fun.  And although I keep the local doppler radar up on my desktop whenever there’s any weather in the area and was watching the thing, I had no idea just how heavy the downpour was until all my various electronic devices started chirping at me with flood warnings.

It was only when I returned to Port Swiller Manor in the gentle evenfall that I discovered Ma Nature had left me a personal calling card.  The water had come down the hill in front of the house so fast that it scooped out a lot of large gravel from a little parking spot to one side and flung it all over the driveway.  It also transported a good bit of the mulch we put on the front beds just last week.  So I’ll have to come home early tomorrow in order to shovel it all back into its proper spot and clean up the mess.  Heigh, ho.


Speaking of deluges, Ol’ Robbo is getting mighty tired of this Wimminz Soccer Championship biznay being hurled at him from all sides.  I am completely indifferent to soccer (no matter who’s playing), plus I gather that the stars of the American team are complete jerks.  Plus, the whole thing reeks of lefty identity politicks (Grrrrrl Power and OrangeManBad, mostly), with a side of Globalist Chic.

And the fans whose self-congratulatory preening I kept overhearing today? Somebody made an excellent point:  Such fans are basically the Vegans of the sports world.  They won’t shut up about it, ooze personal sanctimony, and, if you fail to express sufficient enthusiasm, look down their noses at you as if you were some kind of knuckle-dragging deplorable.  I laughed when I read that.

Anyhoo, I’m glad the tourney is over.

UPDATE:   Whelp, the mess was somewhat worse than I’d at first thought.  Not just the driveway, but various other spots needed cleaning up.  Also, the basement flooding was worse than I’d expected.  My study, which usually floods, is floored with ceramic tiles.  The larger room, however, is floored with Pergo, which does not react well to having water run all over it, which happened this time.  Yuck.


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