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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust you all had a very happy Thanksgiving? The Family Robbo certainly did, traveling from various and sundry points to rendezvous at my brother’s place in North Carolina. The Gels and their three cousins, all around the same age, get on very well with each other. So, now that they’re all independently mobile, it’s very easy to let the young persons amuse themselves while we older folk just sit about and gossip.

My eldest niece is a first year law student and in the midst of furiously studying for her upcoming exams. (I love the gel dearly, but the fact of the matter is that she’s a consummate nerd of the first order.) When we first arrived she told me she had “tons of questions” for me, so I spent the whole time under a cloud of fear that she’d catch me out in ignorance of something I ought to know but had forgot. Fortunately, I only made one bloomer, saying off-hand as I looked over her civ pro outline that I hadn’t seen the name of a certain Supreme Court case since I graduated, only to have it pointed out that the case wasn’t actually decided until after 9/11, ten years after I left school. I covered with, “Well, I just meant it had been a long time, that’s all.” Fortunately, the gel let it go. Whippersnapper.

I hadn’t seen my brother’s grandson (my nephew’s boy) in a couple years. He’s six now, and smart as a whip. Evidently “Great-Uncle Robbo” was too much of a mouthful for him to bother with, so he settled for calling me “Uncle Grandpa”. I think it might stick.

As for the meal, us men-folk managed to get the turkey bang right this year, because of (or, in my opinion, despite) my brother’s shiny, new Williams-Sonoma digital thermometer. You plug the probe into the bird. It links to a base unit with an electronic temperature display. Fair enough. But there’s also an “app” that goes with it, allowing you to monitor things from your phone. It has all sorts of whistle and bell readouts about estimated completion time and the like. My brother spent all kinds of time fiddling with this to make it work, going so far as to download a “how to” yootoob video. Far more effort than I would have considered worth it: Seat-of-the-pants dead reckoning has always been much more my speed. Plus, I pointed out to him, Bob from the NSA now knows exactly how long we cooked the bird. Who knows how that might be used at our show trials.

The various car trips home were, I am happy to say, totally uneventful. Ol’ Robbo never completely unclenches until all the Gels report in safe and sound from their destinations.

And now, suddenly, we’re in Advent. Why this always seems to catch Ol’ Robbo by surprise I couldn’t tell you, but it does. I duly dug out our creche, and managed to clip some high greens off the pine in our yard without breaking my neck in order to do the first table wreath of the season. Now begins the annual scrimmage over when the “Tree” goes up. (As regular friends of the decanter will know, Ol’ Robbo always kicks over premature decoration, especially as everyone else in the family seems to forget that Christmas is twelve days, not one, and that Advent Must Come First. But that’s a rant for a different time.) Middle Gel will be coming through with her Young Man in two weeks and has requested that she get to decorate it then. The more I consider this, the more I think it’s probably a reasonable compromise.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

70 degrees on the Port Swiller Manor back porch today, but after a bright start the clouds are rolling in and the temperature will plunge tonight. I’ve a feeling it’ll be a while before we get to enjoy this weather again.

The big oak out front is throwing its first batch of leaves at the moment, just in time for tonight’s rain. Guess who gets to pick them up tomorrow?

Ol’ Robbo finished Brideshead Revisited yesterday. It’s been some years since I read it last but I find my previous opinion that it lays on the melodrama too thick remains entirely valid. Maybe Waugh had no choice but to go this way to get out what he wanted to say, but I’m awfully glad he only did it with this one novel.

I have the BR teevee series with Anthony Andrews and Jeromy Irons in my Netflix queue somewhere. That, as far as I recollect, was an excellent screen adaptation and I’m looking forward to seeing it again.

I also have the movie “Harriet” (2019) in the ol’ queue. This on the advice of Eldest, who tells me it’s quite a good film. Speaking of which, something I never understood: Among her other Civil War efforts, Tubman worked with Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts in their ill-fated assault on Battery Wagner outside Charleston, South Carolina in 1863. You would think, then, that she would have got at least a cameo in the movie “Glory” (1989), but such was not the case.

But what does Ol’ Robbo know of the workings of Hollywood.

Well, we’re a week out from Thanksgiving and the logistics of getting the entire Family Robbo to my brother’s house for the holiday are beginning to take on the complexity of the Berlin Airlift. Sigh. But I guess it just wouldn’t be my family if things were otherwise.

UPDATE: Well, now that’s odd. I’ve never noticed ads running here before. Has WordPress looked at my sitemeter lately? Waste of perfectly good pixels.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is still on summuh hols this week. I can’t remember the second Monday of vacation in a row in, oh, I dunno how many years.

An interesting setting of the Mass yesterday by a composer I’d never heard of, the Messa in onore di San Luigi Gonzaga by Oreste Ravanello (1871-1938). It was scored for only two voices and continuo. Very intimate and also very melodious, and had that quality wherewith it contributed to the worship without drawing undue attention to itself (which quality I couldn’t possibly put into words). Ol’ Robbo is no great fan of the romantic style in musick (which is what this was), but I liked it.

Speaking of which, despite the fact that the sheeple are all masking up again at the stores, hardly anybody had one on at my church. But then we TLM sharks are already bad, no good people. So I’ve been told by my Betters.

I read the nooz today, oh boy. Did anybody really expect anything else out of a John Gill administration?

On a different note, I believe both the Younger Gels start their kollej classes today. Meanwhile, Eldest and Mrs. R go back to their teaching jobs next week. So the cycle begins again.

Speaking of such things, I’ve recently noticed that change in the sunlight on the trees which signals summah is beginning to wind down. (It’s the shift in the angle at which the light hits them in the middle of the day. Once you know what to look for, you can’t miss it.) I suppose I’ll be getting to my annual griping here about raking up leaves before I know it.

And on that note, the yard isn’t going to mow itself, so I suppose I’d better get off my backside and get to it. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, I spent the first week of my hols just loafing. But I promised myself I’d get back to doing things this week. Time to start.

UPDATE: Done! While I was at it, all kinds of bloggy material floated through my braims, material which would have made you laugh, made you cry, made you think, made you pray.

Alas, despite the fact that I slathered myself with Deep Woods Off, the gnats ate me alive and I was so distracted by the Itchy & Scratchy show by the time I was done that I clean forgot about everything else. Durn it!

UPDATE DEUX: After several glasses of water and a long shower, I now recall that I was ranting to myself about smiley-face collectivist totalitarianism. Aren’t you glad the gnats got to me now?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had himself a small adventure today, going into his office for the first time since they chucked us out back in March of last year. (I was just there to pick up some files I need.)

It was strange to see the place “frozen in time” as it were, with long-outdated calendars on the wall and things pretty casual on my desk. (When we originally left, Ol’ Robbo naively believed we’d be out for a week or two, tops.) I’d even forgotten which pictures of the Gels I had displayed on the windowsill.

Another surprise was that somebody (I assume on the cleaning crew) has been watering the small ivy I have in a pot. I figured it long dead and gone by now. That’s nice of them.

Nonetheless, I can’t say that I’ve really missed the place at all.

Now I hope that I’ve posted my skepticism about Covid-palooza here sufficient times that friends of the decanter will not lump me into what Ace calls the let-them-eat-cake Laptop Class when I say this, but if I never have to go back on a regular basis for the rest of my career, I won’t mind it one tiny bit. Not because of scaredy-cat lockdowns or distancing nonsense, which I often mock, but instead simply because I’ve found technology allows me to do my work from home just as well, and not having to schlepp back and forth has saved a ton of wear-and-tear, not to mention money. Heck, Mrs. R is even beginning to talk about moving out of the area altogether and remoting in from some more idyllic location.

I guess we’ll see what happens. From a strictly selfish point of view, the only good thing about the successive waves of panic over the latest “variant” is that it kicks any future return farther down the road.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you keeping tabs on Ol’ Robbo’s whereabouts this week will be pleased to learn that I made it successfully through the crunch down the virtual office which I mentioned t’other day. Vaycay is now definitely visible on the horizon ahead (wherein I get to, among other things, fix not one but two leaking faucets and repaint our bedroom and the upstairs hall. Yay, me.)

And speaking of “virtual”, this was the very first time Ol’ Robbo has appeared in court via video. Fortunately, I myself did not experience any technical glitches, but the judge kept having to yell at people to mute their dang microphones. (There were also a couple folks dialed in on their phones and simply wandering about their homes, oblivious to what anybody else might see in their background. It was strange.)

I may say that in getting dressed this morning, the “pants-optional” approach drifted through my braims for a moment or two. But just for a moment or two.

In the end, I would up going with a biznay coat and tie but also wearing jeans. Because Ol’ Robbo’s such a Bad Boy. (UPDATE: Oh, I also kicked off my shoes. Baaaaaad Boy!)

Anyhoo, Now that this is out of the way, I might actually find it in me to post something worth reading again.

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.


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January 2022