You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Is This Thing On?’ category.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know what a Luddite ol’ Robbo is as a general rule, so I warn you now that you may be in for a bit of a shock.  Yes, I now seem to own an iPhone.

You see, for years and years now, to the extent I have used a cell phone at all, I have relied on an old Motorola flip-phone.  Why? Because it was the one given to me when we first got cell service and I’ve never bothered to upgrade, largely because I avoid the phone whenever possible and it always seemed adequate for the few times I’ve been forced to use it.  (In fact, I still don’t even know my own cell number.)

But if you’ll scroll down a bit, you’ll see some pics I took on my recent trip out West.  There, I was using a work-issued iPhone and decided to try out the camera function.  I have to admit that I rayther enjoyed it, although I realized that with a work phone, I was very, very limited in the sorts of things I could photograph and transmit.

I mentioned this casually to Mrs. R this weekend and it proved to be all the encouragement she needed to go and raid the Apple store.   There, she got an upgrade for herself, and arranged for me to take her old iPhone as a hand-me-down.



So I’ve been fiddling with the thing off and on today.  All I really wanted above and beyond basic cell service was the ability to take pictures and post them.  And does it work?  Well, here is the scene from this evening (and, indeed, most early evenings here at Port Swiller Manor) that I took while playing with it a while ago:

I hope you like it, as I would like to make my own pics a more regular part of my blogging.  (But this is absolutely as far as I go, technologically speaking!)

By the bye, how on earth do these calling plans work?  From what Mrs. R tried to tell me, it sounded as if Verizon paid her to do this double-switch.  Either she’s pulling my leg, or there are some strange, strange metrics that go into the pricing.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers! A rainy Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor allows me to duck mowing the lawn and instead bore those two or three who still gather over the decanter with my first impressions of the great state of Wyoming, or at least of its south-easternmost parts.  (Ol’ Robbo was taken camping in Yellowstone as a toddler, but that hardly counts.)

This area is pure High Prairie, the westernmost part of teh Great Plains lapping up against the Rockies, and resembles, in large part, nothing so much as the Ocean.  George Armstrong Custer puts it rayther well in the early part of his “My Life on the Plains”:

Starting from almost any point near the central portion of the Plains, and moving in any direction, one seems to encounter a series of undulations at a more or less remote distance from each other, but constantly in view.  Comparing the surface of the country to that of the ocean, a comparison often indulged in by those who have seen both, it does not require a very great stretch of the imagination, when viewing this boundless ocean of beautiful living verdure, to picture these successive undulations as gigantic waves, not wildly chasing each other to or from the shore, but standing silent and immovable, and by their silent immobility adding to the impressive grandeur of the scene.  These undulations, varying in height from fifty to five hundred feet, are sometimes formed of a light, sandy soil, but often of different varieties of rock, producing at a distance the most picturesque effect.

The constant recurrence of these waves, if they may be so termed, is quite puzzling to the inexperienced plainsman.  He imagines, and very naturally, too, judging from appearances, that when he ascends to the crest he can overlook the surrounding country.  After a weary walk or ride of perhaps several miles, which appeared at starting not more than one or two, he finds himself at the desired point, but discovers that directly beyond in the direction he desires to go rises a second wave, but slightly higher than the first, and from the crest of which he must certainly be able to scan the country as far as the eye can reach.  Thither he pursues his course, and after a ride of from five to ten miles, although the distance did not seem half so great before starting, he finds himself on the crest, or, as it is invariably termed, the “divide”, but again only to discover that another and apparently higher divide rises in his front, and at about the same distance.  Hundreds, yes, thousands of miles may be journeyed over, and this same effect witnessed every few hours.

In fact, thanks to modern speed (80 mph speed limit, baybee!), these “gigantic waves” do seem to chase each other wildly.  I’ve been on the Plains before, mostly in Illinois and Iowa.  I’ve driven between Omaha and Lincoln.  Because I flew in and out of Denver on this trip, I got a chunk of Northern Colorado, too.  But it was only once I got into Wyoming, especially north of Cheyenne, that I really got the full effect, most of these other areas being either urbanized or else thoroughly tamed farmland.  It was absolutely humbling – wave after wave after wave of land, all under an enormous sky.  However, it was not all plain sailing, because these hills are also broken up by a succession of creeks and rivers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those two or three of you who still gather over the decanter on a regular basis, I just wanted to let you know that I will be away on biznay travel this coming week, arriving back at Port Swiller Manor some time Friday afternoon.  (Eastern Wyoming this time, in case you’re interested, an area I’ve never visited.  My plan is to fly into Denver and drive up so that I can see a bit of the country.)

A few months back, Ol’ Robbo’s employer took away his Blackberry and wished on him an iPhone.  Although I generally hate change, and although I particularly hate the zombie-like stare that seems to come over so many iPhone users, it occurs to me that at least said iPhone has a camera, and that there’s really no good reason I perhaps can’t take some snaps on it and post them here.  (Teh Middle Gel promised to show me how.)

So start looking out next weekend for some pics.  I ‘ll see what I can do.

In the meantime, as always the port stands before you along with the walnuts and, as always, the Stilton is on the sideboard.  Feel free to tuck in.

UPDATE:  Wake the kids and phone the neighbors, ol’ Robbo has arrived home safe and sound.  And yes, I did take some pics and yes, I will put up a post this weekend incorporating them. (Not that I’ve been exactly inundated with requests, but I put nearly 700 miles on the rental car this week traveling about terra incognita, so  you’ll get Uncle Robbo’s slideshow, and you’ll like it!)

In the meantime, a couple travel notes:  I find that my irrational fear of flying grows steadily weaker for some reason.  Alas, all that brain capacity freed up now finds itself contemplating the more mundane hardships of commercial aviation, the crowds, the petty indignities, the endless blaring of CNN.  I’m not sure if the trade-off is worth it.

Coming back this afternoon, the fellah sitting next to me – who I gathered was from abroad – tried to give the stewardess his cup and napkin, inadvertently putting them in the wrong bag.  “We recycle,” she snapped.  “Some people don’t….but we do.”

After she passed, I let out a snort.  The fellah turned to me and shrugged.

“Let that be a lesson to you, young man,” I said, waiving my pen ponderously.

He shrugged again and muttered, “Nobody has ever been that rude to me here.”

Friendly Skies, indeed.

Oh, and on a more serious note, because I avoid CNN and USEless Today, I only got some of the details of the Marine massacre in Tennessee this afternoon.  God help the victims and their families.  One question:  Has anyone checked to see if the shooter had a Confederate flag?



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo left this morning to go visit her parents for a couple days, teh younger gels are off at summah camp and I hardly ever see the eldest anymore, so this weekend is effectively just your host and his menagerie.  Woo Hoo!

♦   Thanks to what was a pretty strong consensus here, I ordered a new set of headphones for my musickal evenings this morning.  Thankee muchly for your recommendations.  It only took me two months to get around to it.  Procrastinate we much?

♦    Speaking of electronics, I find myself hating smartphones more and more.   I especially despise the zombie-like way everyone seems to stare at them, oblivious to their surroundings.

♦    I see where Phil Austin, who played Nick Danger for Firesign Theater, died this week.  My college roommate first put me on to these guys and I wound up buying a couple of their albums.  True, it’s dirty hippy stream-of-consciousness drug humor, but it was still pretty durn funny.  (I say “was” because I had cassette tapes, now long gone, and it must be close to twenty years since I last listened to them.)

♦  I also see where the Vegas odds-makers are betting Robbo’s beloved Nationals are going to win it all this year.   I dunno, but since we just got done sweeping both the Bucs and the Braves, I’m starting to get excited.  [Insert obligatory “Great kid, but don’t get cocky” here.]  We’re supposed to start a series against the despicable Phillies this evening, but I don’t know if the weather is going to cooperate.

♦  Fence guy is coming tomorrow to slap up some wire on the fence in the Port Swiller backyard, thereby allowing us to literally let Daisy off the leash on occasion (under supervision, of course, in case she proves a digger).  We decided against the whole Invisible Fence thing because of the price and the complexity and because I’m unwilling to try training her on it when she’s already so skittish around me.  The squirrels and the woodchucks are in for a nasty surprise.

♦   Speaking of the back yard, ol’ Robbo demonstrated his apparent genius for stumbling across yellow jacket nests yet again the other evening.  I was throwing up a tarp against a corner of the house where we think water is getting into the basement again and thumped down a paving stone literally within two inches of one of their burrows.  Fortunately, a storm was rolling in and it was already quite dark, so even though I disturbed them, they only came out sluggishly and I got away without being stung this time.

Well, also speaking of the back yard, time to go mow it before the rain rolls in.  Whatever terrible nooz comes out today, I’m not going to let it ruin things for me.  Don’t you let it, either.

UPDATE: Done and done.  Everything’s mown, trimmed and blown so it can rain now ’til its eyes bubble for all I care.  And, Eldest Gel, who has been working all week at her church’s vacation bible school, is bringing me home an egg, cheese and bagel sammich.  FTW!

Funny PortOl’ Robbo hadn’t checked the port-swiller email account for a long, long time, in part because it filled last summah with musick and religion spam, in part because I forgot all about it and in part because it took me a long time to recall the password once I remembered the account.

Well, I just overcame all that and clapped eyes on some very important stuff for the first time, some of it months old – those of you who sent it will know who you are and (I hope) now understand why I didn’t respond earlier.  I’m not a calloused jerk, just a bit of a doofus.

Again, my apologies and I promise to be more diligent in the future!

Well, fellow port swillers, as I type this post teh Middle Gel is off at her school’s Winter Formal (or “WinFo” as teh kids seem to call it), hopefully having a grand time.  I only got to see her for a second earlier this evening – Mrs. R had her out getting her hair and face done and she only had, literally, five minutes to dash back into Port Swiller Manor, throw on her dress and dash out again – but she looked grand.

Fortunately, through a horse-trade too complicated to explain here, Mrs. R is tasked with tonight’s chauffeuring duties, so ol’ Robbo finds himself sitting in front of his Mac, a glass of the Laphroaig 10 y.o. at his side and a set of trio sonatas by Johann Baptist Georg Neruda (1707-1780) on the ol’ CD player.

If this isn’t Blog Nirvana for a traditionally-minded fellah on the eve of hitting the big 5-0, I’ll be damned if I know what is.

Anyhoo, some observations:

♦   We’ve had the Mac on which I’m typing this post for a couple years now and I say again: I. Hate. Apple.  For reasons completely incomprehensible to me, whenever I touch the mouse I enter into a zone of random chances that the screen is going to enlarge or shrink or shift left or right or vanish altogether, usually with absolutely no hope of getting back to where I started without losing what it was I was doing.  Damn that.  Technology should be absolutely clear and deliberate, not vague and anticipatory.  This is how SkyNet is going to kill us all.

♦   Yet another story today on a familiar theme:  Multi-billionaire who gave a lecture about American’s ‘needing to have less things and live a smaller existence’ owns a staggering FIVE mansions… including the nation’s most expensive home.  Of course.  As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, when the people who tell us there’s a crisis start acing like there’s a crisis, I will, perhaps, start to listen.

♦   Yes, it’s properly “fewer things” instead of “less things”.  However, pointing out such sloppy errors these days probably constitutes “grammarian micro-aggression” and therefor constitutes a hate crime.

♦  Speaking of which (the GloBull Warming bullet, not the grammar-Nazi one), go check out this link at Ace’s.  Yes, indeed.

♦  Ol’ Robbo made himself get on the elliptical this afternoon for the first time in quite a while.  45 minutes, 3.25 miles, 400+ calories.  I’m afraid that I’ve got rayther flabby in the last year or two – both physically and mentally –  and have decided to use my impending milestone birthday as a reason to get back in the game.  I must say that the endorphin rush, first acquired back in my college varsity days, feels mighty good.

♦  Good friend of the decanter Diane mentions that she recently has cleaned up her own blogroll.  This reminds me that, really, I ought to do the same here, as many entries on the port swiller lists have gone dark or moved.  It’s hard, though.  In part, Robbo hates change and will cling to old clothes, old shoes, old books and old blog friends long after they have fallen apart, and doesn’t like to accept the fact that they’ve done so.  Indeed, there’s a specific, individual reason why I linked to most of these blogs in the first place, and I am frankly saddened to see each of them end.  In part, also, I’m also too damn lazy to fiddle with the workings.

♦  On the other side, I again remind those two or three of you who gather here that if you think there are other blogs out there that might tickle the port swiller fancy, you are invited to send them along.  Always more room on the ol’ blogroll for them, and we welcome as many voices as care to chime in.

♦  Maybe it’s just an age thing, but despite the fact that we have not had all that bad a winter so far in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, ol’ Robbo pines for spring this year much more than he can remember doing so in the past.  On the other hand, another Alberta Clipper is set to hit the area tomorrow night and into Monday.  Ol’ Robbo is not so trenchant in his desire for warmer weather that he wouldn’t mind a delay or closing on his birthday….

Yes, I am kinda shallow.

 Welp, it’s getting latish, so I should wrap this up and go check my, ah, firepower.  Just in case Middle Gel’s date did not adhere to the standards one would expect of a young gentleman.  You know:








Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies, to those two or three of you who come round here, for the lengthy absence.  Verizon guy just left after installing the new outlet in Robbo’s upstairs study/eagle’s nest.  We’re back, baybee!

Regular posting will resume shortly, so watch this space…….


cathedral choirGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I mentioned in one of the posts below, this past weekend Mrs. R and I went down the Washington National Cathedral to hear its combined choirs (including the Middle Gel, in her first year as a senior chorister) and orchestra serve up Handel’s Messiah.  Oddly enough, although I have heard the piece many, many times in various recordings and have seen live performances of parts of it, this was the first time I’d seen it live all the way through.

Well, it was glorious.  No other word.  Canon Michael McCarthy, who helmed the thing, is a veteran of John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir and of The Sixteen and knows his period performance stuff from soup to nuts, and it definitely showed in the snappy tempi, the crisp sound and the subtlety and intimacy that can be found even in such a big piece.  (My introduction to Messiah was an old record of a performance from some time in the early 60’s by some big Irish orchestra and choir that the Old Gentleman would play for us every Christmas season.  It was a super-sized dirge compared to this and other more recent historically-informed recordings and performances.)  Of the professional soloists, I didn’t care all that much for the soprano but the other three were quite solid.  And the professional men – who take the counter-tenor, tenor and bass parts of the choruses – were as reliable as they always are.  (They regularly sing with the girls for Sunday services and weekday Evensong.)

But the focus for me, of course, was on the boys and girls who handled the soprano part of the choruses and on the Middle Gel in particular.

We sat four rows back from the stage and on the Gel’s side, so I could see her quite clearly behind the bassist.  And I was enchanted.

I had already noticed this fall that, after a couple years’ experience at the Cathedral, the Gel was really beginning to step up, to transition from just getting through without audibly screwing up to really beginning to make her presence felt.  Her performance here did nothing but confirm this impression to me.  She positively radiated confidence and engagement, and I could distinctly pick out her voice more than once.  And on top of all that, she was obviously enjoying herself.  Indeed, at the end of many of the choruses, our eyes would lock, I would nod and she would grin.

All in all, a wonderful thing.

On a somewhat unexpectedly bittersweet note, from time to time during the performance I found myself regretting that the Old Gentleman didn’t live long enough to see his grand-daughter blossoming in this way.  (Friends from the old Llama days** may recall that he commented there under the tag “O.F.” and that he had much to say on musickal topics.)  I get most of my own musickal talent from him and I’m sure that a substantial part of that flowed down to the Gel.  I’m sure he would have been beside himself with pride in her, as was I.

Oh, and to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it?  The performance ran about three hours altogether.  To me, it felt more like around twenty minutes.  That’s how much.


*  I hope that friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo well enough to understand that this post has nothing to do with pretentious, inside-the-Imperial-Beltway-Bubble sticking on side, but is solely concerned with musick in general and teh Gel’s achievements therein in particular.   Pretentious? Moi?

**  I see that Pixy has returned the old Llama Butchers Moo Knew site to the primordial ooze and therefore that all that was written there is gone.  Same deal with the earlier Blogsplat version.  Pity.  I had often thought of printing out each entry and all its attached comments for the sake of posterity.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry to leave you lot hanging about with what I will admit you probably thought a dreadfully obscure and boring post for a couple days, but the box which brings Verizon’s bundle of communication services into Port Swiller Manor decided to commit suicide Tuesday evening and we only just now got it replaced.

For me this was just a minor annoyance, but for others in the family it had a much greater impact.  More and more these days, teh gels are being given web-based school assignments and requirements to file things with their teachers electronically.  So when the system goes down, you can imagine the consternation.

We managed to limit the disruption somewhat thanks to our neighbor who graciously allowed us to borrow his Wi-Fi signal, but it was still pretty chaotic for a while.

Old and Busted:  “The dog ate my homework.”

The New Hotness:  “The server crashed my homework.”

Anyhoo, back to biznay now.

(BTW, as I was typing this post teh Middle Gel came wandering in to crow a bit about her new, autographed, Piano Guys CD and, being incurably nosy, started reading it over my shoulder.  She attests to the troof of my observation.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I may have mentioned that one of the casualties of the Great Port Swiller Basement Flood of a couple weeks ago was our old printer, which had sat on the floor and did not react a-tall well to sitting in several inches of water.

Well, what with today being the kick-off of the new school year and knowing that all three gels were going to need to start printing things instanter, Mrs. Robbo brought home a replacement this afternoon, an Epson Expression XP-410.  One of the advantages the thing has over our old one is that it can use WiFi to hook up not only with the home iWhatevz, but also with the gels’ laptops.

“Oh,” she said casually, “Can you set it up for me?”

In the words of Professor Farnsworth,

It may come as no surprise to friends of the decanter that, although a generally clever and able fellow, I have very little understanding of all this computer gadgetry and these innertoob connector thingies.  (On the other hand, I at least have enough sense not to take nekked pictures of myself and launch them into cyberspace.)  So when Mrs. R tasked me with this task, I was taken aback.

Whelp, the good news is that after about an hour of trying to download software, punching in invisible-to-my-failing-eyes passwords and swearing at the little Verizon router box thingy, I actually got the contraption to work.  This marks the very outer bounds of ol’ Robbo’s computer tech savvy, and the whole experience left me feeling drained.

I believe such a success calls for  splicing the mainbrace.   (And having stumbled across this link for this post, if you think I’m not going to order this set of flags for the porch, you’ve got another thing coming!)  So bumpers all round, gunn’ls under, and no heel taps!


Blog Stats

  • 418,907 hits
November 2015
« Oct    

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.