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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall Ol’ Robbo mentioning a week or two ago the monstrously expensive generator we had installed last year seeming to go duff the very first time we actually had any real need of it?

Well, the installer came out today to take a dekko.  He pushed a few buttons, twiddled with some of the bits, and took some readings on others.  In the end, his prognosis was, “Well, it’s working now.  Can’t really say why it wasn’t working then, as it should have been.”

How’s that for reassurance?

As it happens, he’s coming back next week to do an annual service.  I hadn’t realized before today that the thing keeps a digital status log which records, essentially, everything that happens to it: when it turns on; when it turns off; when something goes blooey.  One of the things the fellah’s going to do when he returns is install a wireless gizmo that allows the on-board computer to send these flags to any email we choose, including the installer.  That way, he’s got a real-time alert in case a problem comes up and can respond accordingly.

I can see the usefulness of this, but I can also very much see the dangers in terms of data-based totalitarianism.

Now you folks may think that Ol’ Robbo is wandering into tinfoil hat territory here.  Mebbe, but mebbe not.

I see more and more articles about this evolving Chinese social credit system, whereby “citizens” may be rewarded or punished in terms of access to basic goods and services based on their adherence to Party-approved behavior.  Frankly, this scares the willies out of me, because I know our own Leftist Elites would dearly love to impose such a system here.

Heck, it’s already happening, with, for example, banks taking steps to limit access to credit for firearms purchases. (And yet, you still have to bake the damned cake.) The rapid digitization of everything makes such manipulation infinitely easier, as all that data can be centralized, collated, and evaluated.

A wireless generator diagnostic alert system may seem harmless, but Ol’ Robbo can just imagine, in the midst of a massive blizzard-related power outage, getting a notice from Washington Gas (which powers the thing) stating:

“Dear valued customer: Our central database indicates that you are a practicing Roman Catholic.  Furthermore, according to records obtained from Netflix, you appear to watch a great many John Wayne movies.  Your vehicular travel patterns indicate that you do not take full advantage of available public transportation resources.  Your social media activities demonstrate that you are not sufficiently woke.

These data have a direct, negative effect on your social credit.  Because of this and because of our limited resources during the current emergency, this is to inform you that we are temporarily suspending the supply of natural gas to your location, and redirecting that supply to other customers with higher credit.

Have a nice day.”

I only hope that this is just crazy talk.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry, but my Muse is absolutely, stonily silent this evening.  Several ideas have popped into the Robbo braims, including thoughts on radical environmentalist headlines this week and their relationship to Gnosticism; the end last evening of Youngest’s school softball season; and today’s birthday anniversary of Johannes Brahms.  Try as I might to woo her assistance, however, she’s just not having anything to do with translating them into coherent posts.  (Hell, it’s taken me twenty minutes to suss out just this paragraph!)

Blame pollen, I guess.

I suppose I’ll go and see what new ways my beloved Nationals can find to lose ball games.  That’ll free up my tongue, probably, although not in ways suitable to a family blog.








Just a quick word to let those friends of the decanter who may wish to contact Ol’ Robbo that I have changed my email for this place.  (I’m tired of fighting with Yahoo.)  Going forward, back-channel traffic may find me at portswillers  I’ve updated this information in the “About” section, too.



Mrs. Robbo’s iPhone developed some kind of internal problem and stopped working this morning.  Because of scheduling issues, it fell upon Self to toddle off to the Apple Store at the mall to see what could be done about it.  I took Youngest Gel along to act as guide and interpreter.  (She served as chauffer as well.)

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t been to the mall in ages for a very good reason:  I can’t stand them. Especially when, like today, they’re full of people milling about in random, entropic shoals and continually either bouncing off of one or blocking one’s path.  It brings out the misanthrope in me.

As for Apple, that place gives me the creeps just from the sheer volume of information they must be sucking in every time a customer brings a gadget to them.  Also from the long con on the technology they offer.  Even the Gel knows it:  “They rig iPhones to break just when the new models come out so you have to buy one, don’t they?”  she said.

Yes, yes they do.

Bringing the Gel along was an inspiration, by the bye, and was the only thing that let me succeed in getting Mrs. R’s  problem resolved:

Technician: “Okay, now go ahead and enter your Apple ID…”

Self: “My whu-?”

Gel: “Give me that..” [Types in relevant code]

She also showed me and explained in words of one syllable how to backup all of Mrs. R’s data into “the Cloud” and then bring it back once the phone was working again, something that would have been far beyond my own skills.

I bought her some complicated strawberry drink and a cup full of pretzel bites after we were done with genuine gratitude.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo must hit the road bright and early tomorrow morning for a quick biznay trip that will get him back to Port Swiller Manor very late Thursday evening.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will bother bringing along my personal laptop.  If I don’t, this post is meant to explain my silence for the next few days.

Here’s something to ponder in the meanwhile:  Friends of the decanter may have come to sense over the years that Ol’ Robbo is something of a nut about planning and punctuality.  True enough.  (In this, I highly approved of Middle Gel’s former high school choir director’s iron rule that if you’re early, you’re on time; If you’re on time, you’re late; If you’re late, don’t bother showing up.  My college crew coach held the identical view.)

Yet for all that, I have never been able to bring myself to pack for an early morning trip the evening before, but instead typically fill up the ol’ suitcase in a fog and haze at Oh Dark Thirty.  I almost always find myself scrambling to beat the clock in my packing so that I can make it to the airport the obligatory two hours before my flight leaves.

I suppose part of this is sheer laziness, part evidence of a reluctance to leave.  Also, I admit getting a certain kick, after all the kerfluffle, of sitting about in the departure lounge and kicking my heals because I’m always way early.

Yes, I’m weird.

Anyhoo, back later.  Unless I check in sooner.  We’ll see.

FLYING THE UNFRIENDLY SKIES UPDATE:  Brought the laptop after all.  Which is just as well because Ol’ Robbo can now kvetch about his flight out this morning.

Not only did it prove to be one of the most beastly, choppy, turbulent flights of my experience.  (Three hours, about two thirds of it with the seatbelt sign lit and the stewardesses sitting down.  At one point, I swear the pilot rammed the throttle wide open just to try and get through the next patch of very bad sky as quickly as possible.)

Not only was I worried that the very large man in the seat in front of me was going to cause it to collapse into my lap by all his heaving around in it.

No, the cherry on top of the ice cream was that I was seated next to a young mother who had both an infant who couldn’t have been more than a month or two old and a toddler somewhere in the 2 y.o. range.  When the infant wasn’t being nursed (at least the mother brought along a covering for that), he screamed his bloody head off.  When the toddler didn’t feel she was getting all the attention she deserved, she screamed her bloody head off.

Part of me thought the mother quite brave for juggling this pair and all their accoutrements all by herself in a (for the most part) calm manner.  The other part of me heartily wished she were being brave somewhere else.

Of course, listening to all this rather took my mind off the plane being tossed about so much, but in the end, even when two such irritants cancel each other out to some extent, it’s still a mighty exhausting time.



Robbo’s Potential Son-In-Law?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the Decanter may recall Ol’ Robbo mentioning the other day that Middle Gel was going through rush this weekend?  Well, mission accomplished:  She was accepted into Delta Gamma this afternoon.  The chapter at her school seems to be very big on charitable works, which is just nuts to her, so it seems like a good fit.

There was a “Bid Day” to-do earlier this evening in which all the sororities lined up around one end of the gym.  The newbies appeared at the other end in squads, and on cue sprinted across to join up with their respective houses.  In one of those only-possible-in-the-21st-Century twists, the whole thing was broadcast on the campus teevee station, and Mrs. R and I watched via Facebook.  There was much screaming and cheering, but we did at least get a glimpse of Middle Gel being taken in by her new sisters.

Back when Ol’ Robbo was in law school at Dubyanell, I recall that the DG motto was “Catch the Wave”.  Fortunately, they seem to have dropped that, as the local wags used to parody it rather brutally.  (Yes, even worse than what was said of Delta Delta Delta:  “Can’t get a date by Eight? Tri-Delt!”)

By the bye, did I ever mention here that I was kinda, sorta in a frat in my misspent undergrad days at The People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT?  Yes, indeedy:  Alpha Delta Phi.

I say “kinda, sorta” because while I was inducted right enough, the chapter there was in a state of open rebellion against the national HQ in that it, along with four others, had arbitrarily gone co-ed.  At the time, Ol’ Robbo was, if not exactly sympathetic, at least intrigued by the question from a sort of states’ rights versus federalism standpoint.  (Also, the house itself was pretty awesome.  And the parties?  Those files, my friends, are sealed.)

I didn’t keep up with things after I graduated, but I b’lieve the chapter’s charter eventually was revoked.  Certainly the old Alpha Delt house on campus is now designated as an eating club.  So I honestly don’t know if I’m technically a member anymore or not.  (I’ve never received a single piece of mail asking me to pony up some coin in all these years, so I’m guessing the answer is “not”.)

Not that it matters all that much.  Besides, while I gave my pin to Mrs. R when we got to dating seriously, she promptly lost it somewhere on the grounds of Sweet Briar College.

Heigh-ho.  But I hope the Gel has lots of fun and builds up some good long-term relationships.

(The pic of Belushi ties into all this, incidentally, because I believe “Animal House” actually was based on the Alpha Delt house at Dartmouth.  Mrs. R’s grandfather was a “Drunken DKE” there back in the day, but that’s another story.)



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Like John Valuk, Ol’ Robbo’s iPhone is dead.  It fell on its head. ***

Mrs. R duly took the remains into the Verizon store a couple days ago.  “Want a new one? 500 jimmy o’ goblins.”

So she went to the Apple store a couple spots down in the mall.  “Oh, the battery’s gone all ‘spoldy.  50 bucks to replace and we’ll give you a new phone to go round it.”

I’m not complaining, but I simply do not understand these things.

And speaking of incomprehension, my phone was Mrs. R’s old hand-me-down iPhone 7  (UPDATE: Actually, I’m told it’s a 5), which the family forced on me when they took away my old Motorola flip-phone.****  Admittedly, over the years I’ve got used to using it for checking emails, texting, and taking the odd photograph.  When Mrs. R explained to the Verizon guy that I just wanted a replacement, not an upgrade, he was positively gob-smacked.


** Classical reference in the headline.

*** If you don’t get this, you’ll never be a Hong Kong Cavalier.

**** Which remains a great mystery to me, considering that most of my incoming calls and now texts over the years have been from Mrs. R during my evening commute and have had to do with the picking up of various items from the store or various childs from this or that outing.  Between a stick-shift and my need for reading glasses, while I could easily answer my flip-phone en route, dealing with the iPhone is out of the question until I come to rest.  To this day, I don’t think she gets this.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy New Year!

We wound up having rather a larger New Year’s Eve to-do at Port Swiller Manor than Ol’ Robbo had been expecting, Mrs. R slyly waiting until the last minute to mention all the people she had invited over.  Fortunately, we rang in the new year on Greenwich Mean Time, meaning we popped the corks at 7:00 pm local.  As mentioned below, Ol’ Robbo has been in the clutches of a really nasty cold he picked up last week, and in bed throughout the weekend, but I was nonetheless able to clean myself up, put on something of a smile, and hobnob for a few hours in the early evening.  Then I went back to bed.  Yee Haw.

And so we enter 2019.  I won’t make any specific predictions about it, but I’m guessing in general that it’s going to be even more insane than 2018 was.  And following on that, my chief resolution is not to let the insanity get to me, but to treat it with the cheerful contempt that it deserves.  (My iPhone committed suicide the other day, so I haven’t even really been looking at headlines.  It’s been heavenly.)  UPDATE:  I am speaking here about the World In General, of course.  Closer to home, I’ve had no real complaints and some true gratification.  Hopefully, that trend will continue, too.

Meanwhile, today is the first day that Ol’ Robbo was supposed to be back down the office after his Christmas hols.  I’ve no idea how long Uncle will continue to dispense with my services, but at least it will be a while before I need to start considering Domino’s pizza delivery routes.  In the meantime, I couldn’t help noticing that Mrs. R has put together what amounts to a furlough “honey-do” list.  I’m sure I’ll have more on that because one of the tasks involves reorganizing my library and initial skirmishing indicates that Mrs. R and I have very different views on what that actually entails.

And speaking of insanity, Mrs. Robbo’s EZPass stopped working some weeks back, meaning we were running tollbooths without paying.  Recently, we received a polite letter from the toll authority telling us that they’d been charging our account manually, but to cut it out.  When Mrs. R called them and explained the circumstances, they said that the transponder had failed and that they would ship another one.  They also told us that when we throw the old one away send the old one back (no doubt so they can keep a Permanent Record on our travels) we should be sure to wrap it in tinfoil first.  I am never going to make a joke about tinfoil hats ever again, because this advice convinces me that people who wear them may be on to something.

Anyhoo, here we go round again.

**One of the very few Kinks songs I actually know, but I’ve always liked it.

UPDATE DEUX: Speaking of the “honey-do” list, my first task for tomorrow just now dropped down on me:  Youngest’s new computer desk just arrived at the front door.  (It was her main Christmas present by request.)  Now comes plainly back to my mind my airy assertion that I could assemble it myself when Mrs. R was ordering it a couple weeks back.  I peeked into the box just now and there are many, many bits and pieces.  Better brew an extra-large pot of kawfee in the morning because this thing is going to take a while.

UPDATE TROIS:  Ol’ Robbo went to move the desk box this morning and immediately broke into a dizzy sweat.  Mercifully, Mrs. R suggested that since I’ve not got my strength back yet, I should leave it for now. “Instead,” she said, “You can hang up a couple of pictures in the basement stairwell.  I’ve left them out for you.  You can choose where to put them because you’re so good at that sort of thing.”

This is what’s known as the Great Trap.  If I could hang them once and be done with it, I wouldn’t mind.  But I’m certain sure that wherever I put them, Mrs. R will want them moved.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it seems The Weekly Standard has slid beneath the waves.

Lynx-eyed friends of the decanter may have noticed that Ol’ Robbo threw TWS off his blogroll (along with NRO, The Telegraph, and several other nooz and opinion sites) some time ago.

If the election of OrangeManBad has done nothing else, it has ripped the masks completely off the Establishment “Conservatives”, revealing them for the uniparty corporate globalists that they really are, with their allegiance pledged to the power structure instead of to the people on whom it is imposed.

Feh.  I’ve got a goodish number of books from back in the day by Beltway types such as George Will, Peggy Noonan, Jonah Goldberg, and TWS’s own Matt LaBash. I used to look up to such people as champions against Leviathan, but the past two years have really opened my eyes.

(Not that I’ll toss their books, since Ol’ Robbo cannot abide tossing books, but at least I’ll banish them to my “Not likely to read again” shelves.)

Anyhoo, good riddance.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over at Ace’s place this morning,**** one of the Moron Horde, in response to a link put up by Sefton in his Morning Report about some whizz-bang new piece of technology, commented, “I would say anything prefixed with the word ‘smart’ is bad news for individual liberty.”

I was impressed enough with this comment to scribble it down (in good, old-fashioned ink on a good, old-fashioned note pad), in part because I think there is much in it, and in part because it reminded me of a funny thing that happened just yesterday.

As far as the general validity of the comment goes, Ol’ Robbo is routinely horrified by “smart” technology such as Alexi and the various GPS driver-direction aids.******  (Self-driving cars are right out.)  I haven’t seen it myself because I don’t watch much teevee, but I read just recently about an Alexi ad in which I gather some new Dad asks Alexi for baby-care tips and at the end Alexi is complimented as being the “best” parent.  Hello?  And regular friends of the decanter will know Ol’ Robbo has long held the view that when Skynet goes active, one of its first moves will be to steer every GPS-dependent yo-yo driver straight into an ambush.  On a more serious note, I am continually conscious that every time I interact with “smart” technology and give it some piece of personal data, that data – however small – is being collected by whoever is behind said technology.  And you may make all the tinfoil hat jokes you want, but I don’t like it.

As to the funny thing, Ol’ Robbo got trapped in a meeting yesterday morning with half a dozen of his work colleagues.  Before we got down to the (completely useless) agenda, talk circled round to the new building currently under construction into which we will be moving some time next year.  (It’s going to be hell.  The offices, so I understand, are half the size of our current ones, my daily lunchtime walks will be at an end,  and I’m going to have to go back to using the Metro because its location will entail simply too much damned downtown driving.  On the other hand, the move will be enough to finally prod Ol’ Robbo into signing up for teleworking twice a week, so at least it’s got that going for it.)

Anyhoo, there was much cooing amongst my colleagues about all the sooper-smart whistles and bells with which the new digs will be equipped, especially the “eco-friendly” ones.  “Did you know?” said one of them, “The lighting in the new office will automatically brighten or dim….based on the amount of sunshine coming in through the windows?”

Oooooh…aaaaahh!” enthused the others (all wymminz) in that smug, self-satisfied, virtue-signaling tone that Ol’ Robbo can’t stand.

“That’s all well and good,” I replied, “But I hope the system has manual overrides.  I don’t mind considering suggestions from the technology around me, but I’ll be damned if I take orders from it.  I’m not quite ready to surrender my autonomy to robots or their overlords, however benevolent their alleged intent.”

It suddenly got awfully quiet.  As if Ol’ Robbo had farted in church.

“Well,” one of them eventually said, “You can always bring in a lamp if you think you need to.”

Lor’ lumme, stone the crows.


** Spot the reference.  Hint: “Blood…..blood…..”

**** I can’t linky to Ace’s place in the body of a post, although it’s in my blogroll and I hope all of you are regulars there.  The last couple times I’ve gone over there on my laptop, I’ve gotten this weird pop-up, complete with very loud audio, claiming to be from Microsoft.  The pitch is that there is something deathly wrong with my software, and that I need to call them right away with my credit card in hand so that they can fix it.  (The scam doesn’t affect my phone or work computer, perhaps because I only use them to read.)

****** Dumb technology, on the other hand, appeals deeply to Ol’ Robbo.  For instance, recently I’ve been thinking that it would be a really cool idea to come up with a tire that has a brightly-colored layer of rubber embedded in the tread.  When you start to see that color coming through, you know it’s time to buy new tires.  (They already do this with toothbrushes, so why not?)  I’ve been thinking about this again since the Elder Gels left for school and I can’t eyeball the tires on their cars anymore.



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