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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!


Ol’ Robbo thought he was going to get some relief from the doldrums yesterday afternoon. The sky went black to the west, thunder started coming down the wind, the air started to smell of rain, and then…..nothing. The storm lifted its skirts and slid by to the south of Port Swiller Manor.


I’m not saying we’re in a drought just yet, but this summah has definitely been warmer and drier than the last few we’ve had in these parts. The trees and shrubbery are starting to get cranky about it.

Also getting cranky is my work computer. I had a time of it yesterday getting thrown off both the work network and my wifi connection. But when I unplugged the laptop from its docking station, it seemed to work just fine. Ol’ Robbo knows nothing of these things. There’s never been an issue before. Is this change significant? And what is the root cause, the office, Verizon, or, as Eldest assures me, Mrs. R’s recent efforts to upgrade her wireless teevee viewing?

Speaking of Mrs. R, she’s normally in charge of distributing treats to Decanter Dog. In her absence, I’m pretty sure I’m being hustled. (It’s funny how I am impervious to the cats’ attempts to pry treats out of me but I can’t resist DD’s big eyes. Alas, she knows it.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo received an early Father’s Day present this past weekend in the form of a new phone.

For some years now I’d been using Mrs. R’s old hand-me-down.** The actual phone part of it had conked out a while back, but the text and email worked perfectly fine and that was good enough for me. The family finally decided that enough was enough and I am going to start answering phone calls whether I like it or not.


I see their point, of course, especially as the Young ‘Uns are flying the nest. But I also hate feeling like a slave to the phone. What with everything being so portable, there’s an implied expectation these days that one have the thing at hand 24/7/365. More than once, when answering a query about why I didn’t pick up with the reply that I just didn’t have my phone on me, I’ve been met with looks of stark incredulity.

I don’t see that as convenience of communication so much as an invasion of privacy. (I won’t even put on my tinfoil hat here and rant about domestic espionage, but there’s that, too.)

All this got me thinking about the days of my misspent yoot when it was all landline limited by the length of the phone cord and it didn’t matter anyway because my sistah was always hogging the thing yapping with her friends.

Good times.

** May I just say here also that the system of “plans” and equipment swaps and upgrades courtesy of Apple and Verizon is now completely beyond my comprehension.

UPDATE: I meant to raise a glass to Youngest Gel. When I got the phone, I stared at it blankly and said, “Well, what about all the stuff on my old phone?”

“Give it to me,” she said, and in about five minutes had transferred everything over to the new one. She even made me my own “contact page” because I admitted I didn’t actually remember what my phone number is.

It’s good to have somebody around who understands all the doohickies and gizmodoes, ‘cos I sure as heck don’t.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A wet and downright chilly (low 50’s) day here at Port Swiller Manor puts the kybosh on Ol’ Robbo’s pottering about the demesne. I can report, however, that my very first termater plant now has about half a dozen little green globes on it and promise of more to come. I’ll have to start hunting up salsa recipes some time soon.

The retrograde late winter/early spring conditions have also temporarily halted all cicada activity. I don’t think the Brood is having a good cycle this time around. Their initial emergence was hampered by a series of cool nights. Last week they seem to have gone finally into hyperdrive, but now they’re shut down for the next few days again. I imagine that once an individual pops out of its larval stage, it only has a given period of life left to get busy and reproduce and that these delays represent time they’ll never get back. Certainly the corpses of the early risers are starting to mount up in considerable number now.

I am sure that the life cycle of the 17-year cicada serves some purpose in God’s universal economy, but damme if I can grok the math on it.

(And by the bye, if Decanter Kitten doesn’t stop climbing the porch screens trying to get at the little blighters on the other side, there’s going to be a felinecide in the family.)

Anyhoo, on to other things.

–I mention Youngest Gel in the post below. By measurement this morning, I discovered that she grew two and a half inches her freshman year and is now well over 5′ 7″. This rayther astounds me, as I’d always believed that girls got most of their growth in relatively early in adolescence and were done by about 18 years. (Something similar happened with Middle Gel, although she only went from short to not quite so short. It grinds her gears to be the smallest one in the family. Eldest seems to have followed the more traditional sprout schedule.) Go figure.

—Speaking of gears, Ol’ Robbo is going to be very, very happy when we finally rid ourselves of our Honda Juggernaut and put Mrs. R in something smaller and sportier, as she has started hogging garage space again. She doesn’t do it on purpose, but only forgets about it from time to time and leaves me crowded way over to one side. It’s fortunate that I’m pretty thin, as when this happens I often find myself having to writhe sideways to get in and out of La Wrangler.

–Speaking of thin, Ol’ Robbo had a really solid set of workouts this week. My problem with exercise has long been that I go at it hell for leather for a number of days, get burned out, and then fall off completely for some length of time. I’m trying to work on this yo-yoing by giving myself more consistent days of either rest or light sessions between the heavier ones. (At least, that’s my excuse for taking today off. My story. Sticking to it.)

–Speaking of problems, Mrs. R is (as I type) in the middle of an online seminar about Makey-Makey, an electronic package for do-it-yourself lil’ inventors which she hopes to incorporate into her science classes next year. Our efforts earlier to get her hooked up, plugged in, and on-line looked more like something out of the Marx Brothers than anything else. Our non-5G innerwebz service suddenly isn’t working for whatever reason (Thanks, Verizon!) and Mrs. R’s dinosaur work laptop can’t handle the 5G kind we still have. So there was much running about with hair on fire trying to find one which did all she needed. After several false starts (my own laptop’s mic doesn’t work for some reason) the only one with full bells and whistles available was Youngest’s and it’s a Mac. Mrs. R has never dealt with a Mac before. You can judge for yourself the level of panic in that people were actually asking me technical questions!

Whelp, that’s about it. I see the forecast seems to have just been revised so that the rain might hold off long enough for me to grill dinner after all. Woo, Hoo! Better go check and see that I have enough charcoal after all.

UPDATE: The grilling was a success, although what the Iron Duke might have described as a damn near-run thing: It wasn’t sprinkling quite hard enough to affect the coals, but it was enough to prevent me from taking out the rolls to be toasted as I do not care for soggy bread. The rain kicked in more forcefully just as I was finished cooking.

On the wireless front, Mrs. R discovered that her streaming service was out as well. After a few minutes of her asking me questions I couldn’t possibly answer, I suggested she call up Verizon and yell at them. After she had a completely one-sided conversation with an automated system, everything came back on again. I guess we’re in the very best of hands with our robot lords and masters.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently the Password Gods, evidently vexed by Ol’ Robbo’s accumulated failed attempts to get the liturgy right, cast him into the outer darkness, where there is wailing, gnashing of teeth, and denial of access to his work computer system. When Ol’ Robbo consulted his Help Desk for the proper remote penance, he was cheerfully informed that They Couldn’t Do That, and that he would have to physically schlepp into the Temple ID Office in order to make the appropriate mea culpas.

Ol’ Robbo had not been into the depths of downtown in nearly fourteen months. I went yesterday.

I wish I had a more lively report to relate of my journey there and back again, but the chief characteristic of said trip was……the emptiness.

First, I metroed in from my usual station. Said Metro has made much noise about the importance of keeping one’s mask on while in the system. But as I stood on the above-ground platform, trying to read my book through the fog on my glasses, I realized the platform was completely empty and asked myself, “Self, what are you doing?” In answer, I pulled it down. I noticed Metro recently has installed a lot of platform security cameras. No doubt one of them spotted me, and with facial recognition technology being the latest vogue in Big Brotheriness, I’m sure I’ll shortly get something in the mail demanding I pony up for my transgression.

Both inbound and outbound, I had Metro cars entirely to myself.

Downtown was outright spooky. I’d had no real idea what to expect. Guard troops all over the place? Barbed wire everywhere? Boarded up biznays? Piles and heaps of garbage? Roving gangs of neo-Marxists?

Well… At least not where I was.

As I looked about me, everything seemed to be open, including some new eateries. The sidewalks and gutters were clean far beyond my past experience. But the thing is……nobody was there. There was a certain minimal amount of car traffic, but the sidewalks? Virtually empty.

The rational part of Ol’ Robbo’s braims can process and understand this. The other parts retain memory of almost 30 years of what late April in Dee Cee usually is like and were appalled. This time of year, especially on a beautiful day, the sidewalks in this particular quarter should be chock-a-block with tourons, shoals of high school kids, shoppers, office folk, and street hucksters and entertainers, and Ol’ Robbo should be starting his traditional grumbling about them.. (I suppose that the shock of it all hit me more so because, apart from the damned masks, things in my part of the ‘burbs have been more or less back to normal for some time now.)

Strange days, indeed.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo dialed in last evening to watch Middle Gel’s school chorale put on their spring concert.

The piece they performed was Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. Honestly, it’s sonorous enough but not really Ol’ Robbo’s cup of tea. The Gel, however, really likes it, and as she is infinitely more schooled in choral musick than Self, I will conceded that I may just be being a knuckle-dragging Philistine here.

I’ll also concede that I really couldn’t give it a fair hearing: Between everyone being masked up and the sound equipment seemingly inadequate to compensate, even with my volume turned all the way up to eleven, I could barely hear it.

Still, the fact that they were even able to perform at all, and even in front of a live audience at that, was gratifying and I was hoping that they’d take the approach of “Keep Calm and Carry On Singing”.

Alas, no such luck.

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! When the director came out, he started in on a little spiel which would have made one think the Black Plague is ravaging the lands and there’s a guy out front with a cart yelling, “Bring out yer dead!” And even worse, between each section of the piece there was imposed on the superscript screen a question like “How did you feel at first?” or “Who did you turn to?” Followed by individual choristers silently putting on masks with answers written on them. I know my skepticism is somewhat out of tune with many people (did you see what I did there?) but I found the display both distracting and irritating and tap-danced with increasing impatience as the piece proceeded. (I don’t remember what the Gel’s question was and couldn’t read the response on her mask anyway.)

Ol’ Robbo finds it deeply depressing and frustrating that so many people have allowed themselves to be hoorawed into cowering in place and giving up their individual liberties without question simply because Our Betters claim it’s for the Greater Good. (Chorus: “The Greater Gooood!“) I could understand it for the first week or two when nobody really knew what was going on, but over a year later? Shouldn’t we be be reassessing what is now obviously our massively unnecessary over-response? Given their track record, shouldn’t we be seriously questioning everything coming out of Our Betters’ mouths now? Shouldn’t we be alarmed (and frankly furious) at the facility and eagerness with which tinpot tyrants have moved to centralize and expand their power under the cover of “Science”?

I bring this up with Mrs. R every now and then. She believes people are sick and tired of it all and also that they won’t be fooled again. I believe the first part but not so much the second. A hundred quatloos says “Climate Emergency” is going to be the next bogus crisis used to justify keeping us sheep under lock and key, and it’s coming sooner rather than later.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

**Looking out the window, the maple pollen strings are coming down like heavy snow flurries. Ugh. There are times when Ol’ Robbo wishes that he, like the dog in the old joke, had no nose. (Of course, I would smell terrible.)

**But at least I don’t have to pay my taxes today, so I got that going for me. True, the bite is only deferred, not cancelled, but still. Frankly, given that Uncle is printing trillions and trillions in phony Monopoly money anyway these days, I no longer see why I should have to chip in at all.

**Speaking of such, where does one even begin with the headlines these days? When the Babylon Bee has the most honest and level-headed take on things, you know we’re in a world of hurt.

**Of the burgeoning collusion between gubmint and big biznay to bully and hustle people into getting the Vaccine in order to be allowed out and about, we’ve developed a new game here at Port Swiller Manor. Whenever somebody comes into the room, somebody else says, “Your papers, pliz” in a thick German accent.

**And finally circling back to missing body parts, last night’s Star Trek: TOS was “Spock’s Brain”. The iconic line “Brain and brain! What is brain??!” never fails to make Ol’ Robbo chuckle. There are some who argue this was the worst episode of the series but I don’t agree. IMHO, the very worst episode was Season One’s “Shore Leave”.

UPDATE: The local classickal station is doing another one of its pledge-drives this week and Ol’ Robbo was in no mood to listen to solicitations so he took (for him) the unusual step of going out into the innerwebs to see if he could hunt up an alternative. Whelp, with but a few clicks I stumbled across Your Classical. It has not one but fourteen different streams from which to select. I’ve been listening most of the day and so far the selections are pretty well balanced and the commentary not unintelligent. I’ll probably check out the other streams, too. Heck, since I recently cut my sustaining donation to the LCS (I decided the money was better spent on St. Jude’s Research Hospital), I might not even bother going back at all!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo attended his “virtual” law school 30th (!) class reunion last evening. As cynical and dismissive as I normally am about on-line “events”, and after a preliminary scuffle trying to get my mic to work, I found that I genuinely enjoyed myself. About 28 former classmates turned up (roughly 25% of the class), almost none of whom I’d seen since graduation. It didn’t take long to generate an atmosphere very much like what it was back in the day. (We were a very close-knit, hard-partying group then.) Good times.

One paradox that imposed itself: On the one hand, when the host put up a copy of our first year face book, my immediate reaction was, “Who the heck are all these children?” On the other, looking at them thirty years on, my thought was, “I dunno what happened to all these people, but I look the same as I did the day I graduated, right? RIGHT??

There are preliminary plans to do a genuine in-person reunion in August, assuming house arrest is finally lifted. (A big assumption, IMHO.) After seeing the folks last evening, I definitely plan on going.

UPDATE: Yes, Ol’ Robbo is aware of today’s nooz of the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh, but I put together this post this morning before I heard about it and I’ve been too goshdarn busy today to attend to my acknowledgement.

Requiescat in pace.

Prince Phillip was one of the Good’uns. Our Maximum Leader has a very fitting little tribute which lays out just why.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Reason # Eleventy-billion why Ol’ Robbo believes his presence in this day and age is some kind of cosmic slip-up.

The FedEx package to which I refer in the post below was a new laptop sent to me from the employment hive. (They claim my old one was “at its end of life” and needed replacing. Seemed perfectly okay to me but what do I know.)

Anyhoo, I duly plugged the thing in and connected all the external bits……..and then spent forty-five minutes unsuccessfully trying to access my work system. I unplugged and replugged. I restarted and rebooted. I checked on my work phone to see if maybe the system had coincidentally crashed while I was setting up.

And I was thiiiiiiiis close to breaking down and calling the Help Desk for assistance when a still, small voice in the back of my head said, “You know, you have to dial this thing into the Port Swiller Manor wifi first.”

I’m very glad I didn’t call the Help Desk after all. They’re pretty patient as a rule but I’m pretty sure they would have laughed at me for that one. (Eldest Gel certainly did when I told her about it.)


Incidentally, WordPress seems to be tinkering with their dashboard set-up once again (for the worse, I might add). They’re now inviting me to Get MOAR Traffic by setting up a podcast. No, thankee. Ol’ Robbo may have a face for radio, but he has a voice strictly for print.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Recently, finally, Ol’ Robbo broke down and ordered up the necessary equipment to transmogrify his work laptop (with which he has been shlepping along for almost a year now) into something closer to a home office computer. This included a docking station, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a large monitor, together with all the bits necessary to put them all together.

It took me a few false starts (like getting the wrong monitor cable) and a bit of puzzling things out, but today I finally got the whole thing up and running. My last hurdle was the keyboard, which came with a whole booklet of safety and environmental warnings but no actual setup instructions beyond three crude hieroglyphs on the box. It took me a loooong time to finally deduce that the third one was meant to represent pulling the lithium battery out, flipping it over, and reinserting it.

I was really quite pleased with myself. While I’m mechanically inclined, computer technology is way out of my wheelhouse, and this kind of set-up represented just about the limits of my ability. But when I showed my work to Eldest Gel, what was her response? “Awww, Da-DEE! I’m so pwoud of you! Plugging in those mean ol’ cables all by your widdle self!”

(I tell ya, I don’t get no respect!)

Anyhoo, it’s nice to be able to finally getting back to working on documents without having to squint so bloody much.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt most of my fellow mackerel snappers out there have heard of Bishop Robert Barron. I sometimes think he fancies himself as a sort of latter-day Abp. Fulton Sheen, in that he’s keenly aware of the current state of communications technology and seems to do everything in his power to take advantage of it to spread the Word. Certainly, after Ol’ Robbo signed up for his daily Lenten reflection emails and bought a set of DVD’s a few years ago, he hasn’t let go of me at all, at all.

But I just noticed something odd: Recently, Bp. Barron started advertising a new book on the Rosary on FacePlant. A couple days in a row now, I’ve seen it very early in the morning and thought to myself, “Self, you really need to pick that up.” But when I went back a little later to follow the link, the FB post had disappeared. (I just did order the book, but had to hunt it down via another innertoob outlet to do so.)

Is this a thing? Ol’ Robbo knows little or nothing about advertising, much less the ins and outs of putting plugs on social media. Perhaps there is some reason for running ads of limited time duration on FB, although if there is I can’t really see the advantage. Why is it, then, that other posts stay in my feed forever while these vanish so quickly?


**adjusts tinfoil hat**


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July 2021