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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, fourteen years ago today, Ol’ Robbo decanted the port, set out the Stilton, and invited you all to take a pew. Hard to believe it’s been that long. (Those of you who remember my prior gig at the Llama Butchers will know that place only lasted for about five years, yet it still seems like I blogged longer there than here. Go figure.)

Stumping along behind the lawnmower this morning, to keep my mind off the long, wet grass with which I had to deal due to all the rain we’ve had lately, Ol’ Robbo got noodling about the years this place has seen, and what has changed.

Certainly it’s been witness to the Gels growing up. Back in 2008 we were on the leading edge of the terrible early teen years. Somehow or other, as reported here from time to time, we managed to weather them, and now the Gels are all in their 20’s and on the cusp of starting their next chapters.

On this day in 2008, Ol’ Robbo was still a newbie Catholic, too. I haven’t really blogged about that very much in more recent years, prolly because my Convert Derangement Syndrome has been steadily wearing off and I’ve realized what a crashing bore I must have been. But I got a whiff of a rumor this morning about a potentially Very Bad Thing that will directly impact on my worship, so I may start giving vent to such issues again soon. One thing I will say if I have not made it plain before: I do not care for Pope Francis.

Also on this day in 2008, I expect I still believed that the G.O.P. Establishment had my best interests in mind. Ol’ Robbo was a big fan then of writers such as George Will, Peggy Noonan, and the gangs at National Review and The Weekly Standard. Whelp, that’s gone completely out the window: It’s become crystal clear in recent years that the only thing the GOPe cares about is the GOPe. (Ol’ Robbo has a small collection of books by these authors. Just on principle I can’t bear the idea of throwing them (or any other books) away, but I have moved them to the Shelf of Shame in my basement.)

Finally, Ol’ Robbo was in his early 40’s back then, and of course due to math, is now in his later 50’s. I’m happy to report that I’m still in good shape and about the same weight, but I was somewhat surprised when I started my plague-beard last year just how much white there is in it.

So! What do the next fourteen years hold?

Well, on the domestic front my obvious hope is marriages and grandkids.

As far as Holy Mother Church goes, a priest friend of mine likes to quote an Italian proverb that “after a fat Pope comes a thin one”. Things will change again.

And on the politickal front? I begin to see signs that the pendulum has reached the top of its arc and is starting to swing the other way. For all its self-protective fecklessness, I doubt the GOPe remains relevant very much longer.

Anyhoo, thankee to all of you who have dropped in here over the years, whether on a daily basis or just every now and again! Bumpers all round, ladies and gentlemen, gun’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heal taps! Huzzay! Huzzay! Huzzay!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s periodic rantings about the ongoing water issue at Port Swiller Manor: Heavy rain causes the field drains on the driveway to clog, the water backs up into the garage, and, by a still-undiscovered process, makes its way down into the basement.

The study, where it usually collects, now has an imitation-wood ceramic floor, so it’s usually just a case of waiting for it to dry out, but the main room is covered in Pergo.

Well, as I’ve mentioned, it’s been a very rainy summah around here, sooooooo………

Yes, we had a downpour last week that wound up flooding the main room good and proper. The rugs were soaked, the water got under the Pergo and warped up all the edges, and mold started sprouting up everywhere.

No more. Never again. I think this is the second Pergo floor we’ve lost down there, and it has finally sunk in on me that this is a mug’s game. Yesterday, Mrs. R and I simply ripped it all out.

Eventually we’ll finish the main room in the same fake-wood ceramic tile as the study, but in the meantime I’m perfectly content to live with the bare concrete slab. (The good nooz? No visible cracks in it, so at least we’ve got that going for us.)

As far as the leak goes, I still have no real clues. I know which wall the water comes through because of the sediment it leaves, but I still don’t know how it gets there in the first place. All I’ve got is that the flooding starts when the water reaches a certain depth in the garage, but that may just be correlation with it getting high enough somewhere else to get in. I dunno. We’ve had handymen and remodelers have a go at fixing it over the years with no real success. I think we may need to find an engineer at this point.


Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean They’re Not Out To Get You UPDATE: So there’s a card in the mail today from some outfit called The Tile Company inviting us to take out one of their credit cards and get 20% off our first purchase! Did Mrs. R’s iPhone thingy tip them off that we were doing tear-down yesterday? Ol’ Robbo would not be at all surprised. *Adjusts tinfoil hat*

G’day, my fellow port-swilling Sheilas and Bruces! **

Well, the Great Australian Semester is officially under way. Mrs. Robbo and I dropped Youngest (and, apparently, her collection of lead ingots) at the airport Saturday afternoon. She reached her final destination late last evening. Thirty or so hours of travel time, including a 15 hour leg from San Francisco to Melbourne that would have had your humble correspondent gibbering and clawing at the windows before it was half done. I can’t even imagine what that must be like.

Anyhoo, she’s now safely in Cairns, which is way up in the far northeast corner of the continent***, for a week’s orientation, which I gather includes some snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. After that she tools down to Brisbane, where she’ll be at the Queensland University of Technology. Fair dinkum!

Of course, it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere now, and Ol’ Robbo was fretting about the Gel packing enough warm clothing. But when I looked up the weather in Brisbane, I discovered that it really doesn’t change much over the year – 80’s in summah, 70’s in wintah. “Huh,” I said to myself, “Rayther like San Diego, innit?” Out of curiosity, I checked: The two cities are within about 5 degrees of latitude of each other north and south of the Equator. So there you go.

The Gel is now 14 hours ahead of us, so we probably won’t speak much while she’s away, but the WhatsUp account I mentioned below is alive and kicking, so we’ll get regular updates. As is well known here, Ol’ Robbo is not generally a fan of whistles and bells technology (especially when it claims to be “free”), but in this instance it definitely has its advantages. (Even the ticket lady at the airport asked if we had set up a chat.) Should the Gel send along any interesting pics, I’ll be sure to post them here.

** Given the dystopia Australia has become, I would guess “Sheila” and “Bruce” are probably hate-speech by now.

*** Do NOT ask Ol’ Robbo why the Gel had to go all the way to Melbourne before turning north to Cairns, another three-and-a-half hour flight. I didn’t buy the tickets. It was all arranged through the program, so I assume they have their own nefarious reasons. If the jump across the Pacific hadn’t killed me, the thought of having to go that far round Robin Hood’s Barn would have.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A couple weeks ago, my office started using Microsoft Teams for its daily electronic sign-in sheet.

Even in the midst of banging on my desk and pulling out my hair in my frustration and disgust over having to deal with this wayward, cussed platform, I have to laugh a bit over the fact that I’m pretty sure everyone else is united with me in my opinion of it.

“Teams” indeed.

UPDATE: Oh, speaking of technology, Youngest Gel sets off tomorrow for her semester abroad in Australia. Research revealed that keeping in contact via Verizon text messages would be prohibitively expensive, so a family WhatsApp chat has been established. (One of the Gels said “It’s free!” I said, “No, there’s no such thing as ‘free’. Value is being extracted out of us somehow.”) Testing it out, we’re already falling into Aussie slang. I expect this will continue. Fair dinkum! G’day, mates!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As Ol’ Robbo made his way down to the office yesterday, it suddenly occurred to him that he was the only person on the Metro, as far as he could see, reading a genuine dead-tree book.** Everybody else had their noses stuck in their personal electronic devices.

It made me feel like an outright dinosaur.

I would assume that some given percentage of said devices were running e-books, but a glance around those in my immediate neighborhood took in only games, chat, and videos.

I mention all this not to sound like a thnob, but instead because the paperless phenomenon has never struck me so hard before. (Then again, I haven’t ridden the Metro consistently for years, so there’s likely been a gradual process while I wasn’t paying attention.)

I know I’ve said it here, perhaps many times, but I could never get comfortable with an e-book. I already get more screen time than I should. (My eyes are usually streaming by the end of the day.) And I just can’t stand the idea of being dependent on a bunch of electrons that can be lost, corrupted, deleted, edited, or taken away from me at a whim. (**Gives WordPress the side-eye**) Give me good, solid ink and tree pulp every time.

I’m just waiting for the day when some little kid on the train points at my book and says, “Mommy, what’s that?

** P.G. Wodehouse, Money in the Bank. One of Plum’s best, in my humble opinion.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see it’s been a few days since my last harrumph here. No need for concern: I simply haven’t had much to say. Well, maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Lawd knows there’s more and more insanity out there to talk about every day. Say, rayther, that I’ve simply kept my thoughts to myself.

In any event, I hope all you friends of the decanter had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend? When not laboring in the yard, Ol’ Robbo spent most of his binge-reading Rider Haggard and P.C. Wren. Just because. (BTW, there’s a passage in Beau Geste where John describes a long journey across Saharan Africa. He says he saw many wonderous things, but no, no lost civilizations of Egyptian origin or beautiful, mysterious sorceress. It occurs to me this might have been a bit of a dig at Haggard.)

What with last evening’s blowout, Robbo’s hapless Nats have fallen to 18-32 which, without looking it up, I believe to be the worst record in MLB. (UPDATE UNO: No, not the worst but pretty damn close.) Over the weekend, the broadcasters and social media people were making much of the fact that the team had fallen to 19-31 back in 2019 before igniting and rocketing to the World Series win. I can’t say I blame them for this “Spirit of ’19” effort, but I just don’t see a repeat happening here, not with this crew. (If Ol’ Robbo is wrong, he’ll happily eat his words smothered in humble-sauce.)

We happen to have a full house at Port Swiller Manor, with all the Gels home for the present. (I can always tell Youngest is home even without seeing her because the milk suddenly vanishes.) It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that this has become the exception rayther than the rule and, especially this fall when everybody goes back to school, it will start to become downright rare. Tempus fugit.

Speaking of which, Mrs. R will be out of town this coming weekend for a tennis tournament. Ol’ Robbo was fool enough to casually mention something about how it would be an excellent time for me to repaint our bedroom, as well as paint the upstairs hall (which has never been painted in all the years we’ve lived here). Me and my big mouth.

Well, endeavor to persevere.

UPDATE DEUX: Speaking of home improvement, Ol’ Robbo invested in a bug-zapper for the porch this morning, the screens not holding back as many gnats and flies as one could wish anymore. (Rotten stinker cats and their claws!) First one I’ve ever owned. Is it childish of me to look forward so much to snap, crackle, and pop?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall that as recently as yesterday Ol’ Robbo was mentioning his suspicion of modern communications technology. Well, damme if another piece of evidence hasn’t fallen into my lap to enforce said suspicion.

The latest exhibit comes in the form of couples’ long distance “touch bracelets”. (Just go to the devil’s website and search for same.) Evidently, when one half presses their bracelet, the other half’s vibrates or glows or otherwise responds. (I gather it works through Bluetooth, which is something else I don’t really understand but believe to have almost infinite range.)

The Young Person who informed Ol’ Robbo of the existence of these gadgets thinks they’re a great idea, being on the cusp of a long distance relationship herself. I suppose that when I was young and gooshy (stop laughing, I was, once upon a time), I’d have thought the same. Now in my wiser years, however, I agree with Admiral Akbar: It’s a trap!

“I touched you but you didn’t respond! What’s wrong?”

“You’re not touching me as much as you did at first! What’s wrong?”

“You keep saying you’re busy with work. You can’t even press a button on your wrist? What’s wrong?”

“You weren’t wearing your bracelet? What’s wrong?”

You get the idea.

The potential capacity of this kind of 24/7 electronic hovering gives Ol’ Robbo a case of the screaming heebee-jeebees, and I know what I’m talking about because Mrs. R is an incessant, compulsive texter herself. At least with that there’s usually some kind of actual content. Usually.

Ah, give me the days when people separated by circumstances wrote letters to each other. The effort of composition, the anticipation of response. Does anybody even do that anymore? (Yes, this is my lawn.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much in him by way of profundity at the moment, but he did get to touch this weekend on two of the little things in life that he thoroughly enjoys: useless movie trivia and the weather.

As to the first, Eldest Gel and I ran off “Land of the Pharaohs**” (1955) Saturday evening, Howard Hawks’ lavish tale of Ye Olde Egypt, with a screenwriting credit to William Faulkner. I’ve seen it a number of times before and already knew that it was, if not the first, at least one of the very first roles of Joan Collins, and also that it holds some kind of record as to numbers of extras involved. What I did not realize before (until Eldest pointed it out) is that the part of the Captain vamped by Collins into betraying Jack Hawkins’ Pharaoh was played by Sydney Chaplin, Charlie’s son. Indeed, Ol’ Robbo knows little to nothing of Charlie Chaplin’s biography and didn’t even know he had children. Once seen, however, the resemblance is obvious. (It’s in the eyes.)

As to the second, regular friends of the decanter will recall Ol’ Robbo’s deep suspicion of modern communications technology, but I must confess that it assisted*** me in defying Ma Nature last evening. Keeping a close watch on the weather “app” on my iPhone thingy, I was able to perfectly time dashing outside to grill din-dins between two thunderstorms, getting the coals going just as the first rolled off (indeed, an afterthought of a lightning bolt came down pretty near me) and scurrying back in with the meats just as the next arrived. HA! (Of course, Bob at the NSA probably noticed, too, and I’m sure the incident will be brought up at my show-trial when the Truth and Reconciliation Board eventually gets its claws on me.)

So there you have it.

**For some mysterious reason, “Pharaoh” is one of those words Ol’ Robbo has the dickens of a time spelling correctly. After swearing at WordPress for repeatedly redlining me, I sheepishly had to go and look it up.

***Emphasis on “assisted” – my own eyes are still my primary information source.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those friends of the decanter who spent all day yesterday fretting about a lack of posties here can be of good cheer: Ol’ Robbo has neither been eaten by bears nor dragged to the dungeons of the new Disinformation Governance Board Ministry of Truth. Yet. Instead, he’d simply had his first full day back in the office since the whole covidiocy lockdown thing started over two years ago.

I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the slightest bit worth the effort.

For one thing, I had not a single task that I couldn’t have done just as easily from my home work station.

For another, hardly anybody else was there anyway.

For a third, as I will only be going in once a week, I’m now sharing an office with two other fellahs, which means that personalization is dialed back to the minimum. My Hannah Duston bobblehead has been quietly retired to the Port Swiller Manor basement.

Were Ol’ Robbo a skeptical sort, he might suspect that the only reason he’s compelled to make such a token appearance is to justify his department’s footprint in the building.

Then there’s the commute. I haven’t missed riding the metro at all, at all, and yesterday reminded me exactly why. At least I didn’t have to wear a mask, although most of the sheep on the trains did. (Oh, and I also spent 70 bucks filling up my gas tank. Sweet Fancy Moses.)

And to cap it all off, I got ticketed for the very-expired safety inspection sticker on La Wrangler. I know the cops cruise the metro parking lots looking for exactly this sort of thing but had hoped I could get away with it just this once. In Ol’ Robbo’s opinion, this practice of the Thin Blue Line is unsportsmanlike, the equivalent of shooting a sitting bird. (Shouldn’t they be out stopping the rent-a-mobs instead?)

Anyhoo, there it is: Away from the ol’ laptop all day and too tired to type by the time I got home.

*** Spot the riff

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, this is one of those days when Ol’ Robbo pats himself on the back over his decision to abandon breaking-nooz politickal posting. How about some more wholesome nonsense instead?

Returning to Port Swiller Manor late Sunday, I observed that in my absence Spring had switched from “slowly” to “all at once” mode in these parts and that no, mowing couldn’t wait until next weekend. Heigh-ho.

Speaking of not waiting, Eldest Gel had been pulling her hair out because of some glitch in its computer system was sending her automated emails to the effect that she hadn’t yet accepted her grad school invitation and if she didn’t respond instanter, she’d be out permanently. This morning she finally tracked somebody down who could help her sort things out. Isn’t technology wonderful? Those who loudly complain that we don’t yet have flying cars ought to think twice about what they’re wishing.

Speaking of technology, why is it that nobody else in the Port Swiller Manor household understands the concept of putting a cap back on a pen? Is this process really that much of a challenge? You might say this is a very small thing, but so is a sesame seed stuck in one’s gum. Highly irritating.

Speaking of irritation, construction on the Versailles-wannabe across the way seems to have picked up again. They had dug a large hole, presumably for a new basement, and then left things for several weeks. Now there is a renewed outburst of banging and shouting going on, and Ol’ Robbo has seen several near-accidents over the past couple days as work rigs roll in and out of the driveway. (Actually, I enjoy watching the process. It’s mostly irritating simply because it cranks up Decanter Dog.)

Well, that’s about all for the moment. Told you it was nonsense. But then again, it didn’t spike your blood-pressure, did it?


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October 2022