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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’m sure all of you have either experienced or heard about the big Heat Wave gripping much of the country this week.  Triple digits here at Port Swiller Manor tomorrow and not much relief in sight before early next week.

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much to say about the weather’s direct effect on him – my summah hols started today, in fact, and I plan to spend the bulk of them assiduously avoiding Outside.  The yard can go to the devil until things cool down later next week.

No, the person I feel for most is Eldest, who has to work straight through it in a very hot and crowded kitchen right at the height of Wolf Trap’s season.  She’s been coming home in the late evening positively dripping, but surprisingly cheerful and only mildly complaining.

Indeed, the Gel’s been so restrained that I haven’t even had the chance to use my “it’s character-building” and “that’s why they pay you” lines.

Darn it.

 

 

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Greetings again, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has some time on his hands this afternoon, so even though I already posted this morning (and nobody reads me on Sundays anyway), I thought I’d go ahead and get round to another matter about which I’ve been meaning to write for some time.

Back in 2001, my old father put together a book of his favorite recipes (titled “Cooking With Pops”) and distributed copies to each of us kids.  In fact, he was a pretty good cook in the robust tradition (especially Italian and some German dishes), even if he couldn’t hold a candle to the Mothe’s command of French cuisine and pastry.

I use probably eight or ten of the recipes in his collection.  (I’m a picky eater.)  One of them is for grilled chicken breast with prosciutto and blue cheese.  This one baffled me the first couple times I tried to make it because it sounds so very delicious but the finished project always came out rayther bland.  So finally I decided to tinker a bit, and I must say I believe I got it bang right.

First, the Old Gentleman’s original recipe:

Ingredients:  Chicken breasts; slices of prosciutto; 1 tbs. Worchestershire sauce; 2 tbs. lemon juice; 2 tbs. butter; any blue cheese (Gorganzola, bleu, Saga, etc.)

Preparation:  Insert a sharp knife into the thick end of each breast and cut a lengthwise pocket carefully, making it as wide as possible without puncturing the sides.  Wrap pieces of cheese in prosciutto slices and insert into pockets, sealing openings with a toothpick.  Heat Worchestershire and lemon and add butter to melt.  Grill chicken over coals, basting frequently with the sauce.

Now, Robbo’s modifications:

First, don’t fool about with cutting pockets.  Instead, butterfly the breast.  Also, use a meat hammer to (carefully) flatten each side of it out.  The advantages are that you can get a whole lot more stuffing in and that the chicken itself cooks more thoroughly through.  (If you’re grilling – see below – you’ll want to make sure and lock down the flap tightly with two or three toothpicks and to be very careful when you flip it over.)

Second, regarding the sauce, the Old Boy’s proportions regarding the ingredients are correct, but obviously you may need to adjust the actual amounts depending on how many breasts you’re doing.  Now here’s the thing:  Don’t wait until you’re cooking to start adding the sauce.  Instead, make it up a couple hours ahead of time and let the chicken marinate in it in the fridge until you’re ready to go.  You can lay the breast outer side down in the marinade and just brush some over the inner side.  I suppose because of the butter, it clings very well once brushed on.  True, things get a little messy when you’re adding layers of proscuit and cheese and folding the breast over on itself, but it’s worth it.

I think the problem with the original recipe is that it leaves the chicken to filling ratio too high, and also that the marinade has no real time to penetrate.  Hence, at least to my taste, the blandness.  (To be fair, Youngest at least thinks my modifications make the meat too strong, but she says that about all my cooking.  Snowflake!)

Oh, and a final tip:  As for actual cooking, an alternative to grilling if it’s too hot/cold/rainy outside is to bake your chicken in the oven at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes.  The only downside to this is that baked chicken never looks as aesthetically pleasing as does grilled.

So there you have it.  Easy-peasy and delicious!

UPDATED:  Definitely the right call for Robbo’s Sunday dins.  Nom, nom, nom…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is out on the back porch with a hot cuppa kawfee this early Sunday morning, watching the butterflies out in the buddleia.  We seem to have quite a few of the flittery little critters this year, mostly of the tiger swallowtail variety.

Watching them fool about, I’m reminded of a theory that was fashionable some years ago (string theory, maybe? chaos theory?) concerning the interconnectedness of all things.  It posited something to the effect that the beat of a butterfly’s wings in Africa could affect the course of a typhoon in the Pacific.  If I recall correctly, whoever it was who was pushing this theory (somebody on a book tour, I think) was using it to argue, in the end, that Mankind is a cancer on Mother Gaia.  (Environmentalist Gnostics are, to me, both the most annoying and the most dangerous variety of that cult.)

Of course, the observation of cause and effect and the ultimate interrelationship of all things goes straight back to Aquinas’s Five Proofs.  But this biznay about the African butterfly flattening Hong Kong always struck me as absurdist wanking.  I’m an organic being, just like the world at large, with a similar interrelationship among all my parts.  But a blister on my heel isn’t going to give me prostate cancer.  It seems to me that most localized phenomena are just that.  Besides, there isn’t just one butterfly, there are billions of them.  Surely all those minute impacts together make up a sort of white noise which, somehow, the world manages to muddle through.

Same with Mankind, I’m inclined to believe.

Anyhoo, it’s a lovely Sunday morning, I’m watching the butterflies in appreciation of God’s Creation, and I’m happy.  Hong Kong will just have to take care of itself.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has nothing of interest to report in a normal Saturday Gardening Post.  It was the usual round of mowing, trimming, and clearing off the driveway, and the only notable thing is that I didn’t exhaust myself doing it because, despite the fact that it’s very warm here, it was also very dry today, and I deliberately guzzled water by the quart.

So that’s that.

But what post-worthy activity did Ol’ Robbo engage in today?  Tell ’em, Johnny Olson:

Robbo bought a new toilet!

Yes!

You see, some months back, the loo in the Port Swiller Manor Mawster Baath started weeping water out of the bottom of the tank.  It got so bad that a towel placed strategically underneath would quickly become sodden.  Ol’ Robbo surmised that, given the age of this particular thunder-box, it was likely that the seals around the bolts anchoring the tank to the base had probably gone duff.

So Ol’ Robbo duly investigated.  I shut off the water, undid the line, unscrewed the bolts holding on the tank, and pulled it off.

Yes, the bolts looked pretty cruddy, and so did the washers underneath.

Ah ha! says I.  And since we were going over to Lowe’s the next day to buy a parcel of spring plantings anyway, I deviated over to the plumbing section to pick up some replacement bolts and washers, figuring I could dazzle Mrs. R with a seeming miracle fix that would only cost a couple bucks.

Returning to Port Swiller Manor, in full Mike Rowe mode I put the tank back on the base, switched in the new hardware, re-attached the water line, and turned on the water.

The tank still leaked, maybe worse than before.

D’oh!

Completely un-Mike Rowe-like, I then said the devil with this, I’ll get a pro to deal with it.  In the meantime, I cut off the water again and instructed Mrs. R not to use this potty until we got it fixed.

And time rolled on.

This past week, growing sick of using the Gels’ loo, Mrs. R made an appointment with My Plumber to have one of their bravos come out and take a look.  He arrived this afternoon.

As we climbed the stairs, I explained the above history to him.  It took him about ten seconds after he’d taken the lid off the tank to say, “Oh, yeah.  There’s a hair-line fracture trending out from one of the bolts.  There’s your trouble.  See it?”

I saw it.

And I remembered guiltily back to when I tried to fix the thing myself and half-wondering whether I had maybe heard or felt a faint crack as I was tightening down the new bolts.  Porcelain is a real bitch to deal with and must be handled delicately.  I put this to the fellah.

“Well,” he said, “Look at it this way.  If the thing was leaking already, it’s probable you didn’t do anything to make it worse.”

Ol’ Robbo is perfectly willing to go with that.  If it weren’t broke, I wouldn’t be trying to fix it in the first place.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Anyhoo, the new unit eventually was installed and all is now well save the unexpected money involved.  Godfrey Daniel, these things are expensive!

By the bye, the whole time, I had this old Electric Company bit running through my braims.  Any friends of the decanter remember it?

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was delighted to see this post by Gail Heriot over at the Puppy-Blender’s place this morning:  Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1920, of Ed Lowe, the inventor of kitty litter (which he came up with in 1947).  G’wan over and read the story of how this now-seemingly-must-need product came about.  (It’s a true Yankee Ingenuity/entrepreneurial tale.)

To be perfectly honest, although Ol’ Robbo loves this kind of obscure information (an actual sin according to some theologians – a kind of gluttony, I b’lieve), and although I’ve been knee-deep in cats most of my life, I can’t say that I’d ever thought about the origins of Tidy-Cat and its ilk.  Now I know.

We’ve three litter-bins at Port Swiller Manor, one for each floor.  (This was somewhat more necessary when we had three cats, the eldest of which hated her much younger fellows.  With the eldest’s passing last fall, I suppose we really don’t need that much sand anymore but we’ve never got round to cutting back.  And cats, after all, are creatures of habit just like Ol’ Robbo.)

There’s supposed to be a regimen vis a vis who is assigned to clean out which litter.  Somehow, that regimen is never maintained, and the whole biznay devolves into a sort of last-across-the-tracks game of chicken as to who will be first to break down in disgust and start digging.  (A similar game is played regarding emptying the kitchen trash.  I usually lose that one, but when I complain I get a lot of “You’re the man so it’s your job” pushback.)  And even when a Gel can be compelled to do the litter, I notice they don’t go very deep, but merely skim the surface.

That brings up a perpetual debate about proper litter depth.  Mrs. R likes to say you don’t need a beach.  Oh, yes you do, I always argue.  Skimp on depth and much more of the, er, doings remain at or near the surface.  And stop to think about where the kittehs put their delicate little feet  after making a pit stop.  (Kitchen counter? Dining room table? My lap any time I sit down?  Anybody? Bueller?)

Anyhoo, those of you who have feline companions and who, without Mr. Lowe’s brainstorm, would still be fooling about with dirt and sawdust if not just kicking the little brutes outside, will be more than happy to join me in raising a glass in salute to his birthday!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt many friends of the decanter have heard of this morning’s torrential downpour in the area of Your Nation’s Capital.  Indeed, I believe a number of you got to experience it first-hand yourselves.  Four inches in two hours is what I understand, causing flooding in the White House basement, the National Archives, the Metro, and various tunnels and underpasses.

And of course my basement study flooded, because my basement study always floods when it rains heavily enough to cause water to seep into the garage.  (Must I fess up to this when we eventually go to sell the place?)  But at least it’s in exalted company this time around.

Although the storm hit right during the height of rush hour, I was actually already at my office and missed out on the commuter fun.  And although I keep the local doppler radar up on my desktop whenever there’s any weather in the area and was watching the thing, I had no idea just how heavy the downpour was until all my various electronic devices started chirping at me with flood warnings.

It was only when I returned to Port Swiller Manor in the gentle evenfall that I discovered Ma Nature had left me a personal calling card.  The water had come down the hill in front of the house so fast that it scooped out a lot of large gravel from a little parking spot to one side and flung it all over the driveway.  It also transported a good bit of the mulch we put on the front beds just last week.  So I’ll have to come home early tomorrow in order to shovel it all back into its proper spot and clean up the mess.  Heigh, ho.

 

Speaking of deluges, Ol’ Robbo is getting mighty tired of this Wimminz Soccer Championship biznay being hurled at him from all sides.  I am completely indifferent to soccer (no matter who’s playing), plus I gather that the stars of the American team are complete jerks.  Plus, the whole thing reeks of lefty identity politicks (Grrrrrl Power and OrangeManBad, mostly), with a side of Globalist Chic.

And the fans whose self-congratulatory preening I kept overhearing today? Somebody made an excellent point:  Such fans are basically the Vegans of the sports world.  They won’t shut up about it, ooze personal sanctimony, and, if you fail to express sufficient enthusiasm, look down their noses at you as if you were some kind of knuckle-dragging deplorable.  I laughed when I read that.

Anyhoo, I’m glad the tourney is over.

UPDATE:   Whelp, the mess was somewhat worse than I’d at first thought.  Not just the driveway, but various other spots needed cleaning up.  Also, the basement flooding was worse than I’d expected.  My study, which usually floods, is floored with ceramic tiles.  The larger room, however, is floored with Pergo, which does not react well to having water run all over it, which happened this time.  Yuck.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

We all know that to hibernate means to pass the winter in a torpid or resting state.  It’s rooted in Latin hiburnare, meaning “to spend the winter”.

Ol’ Robbo found himself musing this afternoon that there ought to be an equivalent for this time of year, as this sticky, sultry heat invariably sends me into a torpor.  And by golly, there is:  Estivate.  (The Latin noun for summah is aestas.)

What a language!

UPDATE: My various teachers always insisted that using a new word in context is critical to understanding its meaning. Thus:  “Ol’ Robbo estivated for the summah in his basement study, provisioned with a large pitcher of G&T’s and the Aubrey/Maturin series of Patrick O’Brian, and did not reemerge from his restful hiding until the first cool fronts of early September announced the impending change in seasons from summah to fall.”

If only.

Well, I was going to commit a few random thoughts and observations to pixels here, but all that research seems to have drained my powers, so I’ll just let it go at that for now.

(Here’s hoping the thunderstorms and cool front being promised for tonight and tomorrow aren’t just a lie being made up by Big Weather to raise and then dash my hopes for at least a day’s relief.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust you all had a festive and patriotic Fourth, and that you didn’t have to pay for it too badly when you woke up yesterday morning.

For myself, Ol’ Robbo had to roll out of bed at Oh-dark-thirty in order to get on the road first thing to fetch Youngest Gel from Summah Camp. (It’s about a three hour drive from Port Swiller Manor and I have always had a morbid fear and hatred of possibly being late for all the closing awards ceremonies and whatnot.  Punctuality is one of my neurotic obsessions.)  What with very light traffic yesterday, however, I wound up getting there wicked early, but there’s no harm in that.

As regular friends of the decanter know, this camp has been an annual ritual for the Family Robbo for quite a long time.  This was Youngest’s tenth year as a camper and our twelfth year there overall.  It occurred to me that for all I’ve talked about it here, I don’t believe I’ve ever employed visual aids before.  Since I happened to have my phone with me, a couple of illustrations.

First the lake.  (Clicky to enlarge.)

This is Lake Quemahoning (sensibly shortened to “the Que”)  up in the Laurel Highlands of Southwest Pennsylvania. The camp is on a little promontory on the northwest side, and the lake curves on out of view to the right.  Back to the left, it goes on for quite a way.  

Then the cabins.

Two-story wooden affairs with indoor plumbing and electricity but only screen windows.  (Frankly, I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in one of those things when one of the many, many thunderstorms that seem to cook up right over the lake itself strikes.)  This is the girls’ side.  The boys’ cabins are on the other side of camp and don’t have as nice a view of the lake, I believe.

For the rest of it, there’s a big, screened dining hall, a covered basketball court cum assembly area with rafters full of barn swallows, a few admin buildings, and a campus covered with sports fields, a pool, zip-lines and ropes courses, and such.  The lake is heavily employed for various water sports, and the kids also do field trips out into the surrounding countryside for rock-climbing, caving, white-water rafting, and the like.

Three things about the place make it almost unique these days.  First, it is unabashedly Christian in every single aspect of its program. Second, no electronics – the only communication with the outside world is through cards and letters.  Third, it takes campers all the way up through the summer after their high school graduation.

As a rising senior, Youngest technically could camp for one more year.  But as we drove away yesterday, she said, “I’m done.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because we had such a good time this term and so many of my cabin mates aren’t coming back that I don’t want to ruin the memory.  I’d feel too old and out of place if I got put in a cabin with younger girls next year.  It just wouldn’t be the same.”

I had sensed something like this was coming.  It had been pretty obvious to me, when we went to their final cabin meeting, that a lot of the girls (including the two counselors) had been crying, and the whole atmosphere was heavy with a distinct end-of-an-era feel.  It’s terribly bittersweet, and given the intimacy of the group (a dozen gels who’d all been together last year and most of whom had been there for many years previously as well), as intense or even more so in its way than, say, leaving high school.  Ol’ Robbo found himself getting a bit misty-eyed in sympathy.

For all that, I’m pretty sure she made the right call.

The good news is that we may not be campers there anymore, we haven’t yet severed our connections with the place.  Ol’ Robbo will be driving Youngest back in August when she will be doing a term on the kitchen crew.  (No way am I going to let her drive up into the Alleghanies all by herself.  No. Way.)  Further, she and some of her cabin mates are talking about coordinating a term on the crew next summah.  Indeed, she’s even begun talking again about possibly returning as a counselor (as has Middle Gel).

So I certainly haven’t seen the last of the place yet, which is fine by me since, despite my gentle ragging over the years, I really, really like it.  And is it too early to start daydreaming about some day down the road maybe seeing grandchildren there?

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pray, Ladies and Gentlemen, fill your glasses, bumpers all round and gunn’ls under, and bless the anniversary of Our Country’s establishment with three times three and no heel taps!

Huzzah Huzzah Huzzay!!

As it happens, Ol’ Robbo will be spending the day on his own, a general diaspora of his wimmin-folk hither and yon this week not ending until the first of them returns tomorrow.  I had thought of undertaking the very patriotic duty of cleaning out the garage today, but the forecast calls for a constant threat of thunderstorms and the last thing I want is to haul everything outside just to have it get caught in a downpour.

So I plan to just chill with the dog and the cats.  My beloved Nats have an early game today in which they’ll go for a sweep of the Fish, so I’ll probably watch that.  Perhaps some exercise later on.  I do have a nice big strip-steak for dins, so there’s that.

Fireworks? Ol’ Robbo loves him some fireworks.  Back in my misspent yoot, we used to shoot off bottle-rockets by the gross. (Of course, that’s verboten now.)  I suppose I could go to the local publick display but it would be hot and crowded and I’d feel like an idiot going on my own.  There’s the “Capital Fourth” on teevee, I suppose, but I don’t care to encourage PBS.  As a matter of fact, I’ll probably just sit out on the porch with an adult beverage and listen to them going off in the distance, as I usually do.

‘Murica!

UPDATE:  Getting the grill ready for my steak (pray the storms hold off just a little while longer), I looked up and beheld a B-2 bomber power by overhead.  I’ve never seen one in person before.  Looked like a giant bat.

Either that sumbich Trump has got us in a war, or else it has something to do with the festivities downtown (and Ol’ Robbo is enjoying bigly the Lefty bed-wetting over this year’s military display).

Either way, my reaction was, “Oh, hellz to the yes!”

‘MURICA!

UPDATE DEUX:  Prayers answered.  The rain (which is starting now) held off, and Ol’ Robbo cooked that steak to absolute perfection.  There is simply no other way to do proper respect to a good cut of meat than to give it the bare minimum time over as hot a charcoal fire as you can manage.  No. Other. Way.

UPDATE TROIS: Oh, and the Betsy Ross flag up top? I’ve been doing that for years and years.  I know all about the Nike Corporation/Colin Kaeperbottom kerfluffle this year, but see no reason at all to change my ways.  They are invited to take their Stalinist airbrush virtue-signaling campaign, roll it into a cylinder, shove it up their collective backsides, and set it alight.

Oh, and Nike? I need a new pair of running shoes. Take a wild guess at where I’m not going to buy them.  Kisses!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on my post immediately below, shortly after Ol’ Robbo updated it mid-day Saturday, the heat-exhaustion did indeed set it.  (I’m something of a martyr to it.)  My muscles cramped up, my head split, my ears started ringing, and my chest got all froggy.  I consequently spent the next 36 hours pretty much flat on my back sucking down water and Gatorade.

“Maybe it’s time you hired somebody to mow!” said Mrs. R in her most quarter-century-plus wifely voice.

Damme if I do.

Anyhoo, between my extended rest and the fact that it has been cooler and drier the past 48 hours, Ol’ Robbo is back to normal enough to say a thing or two about the Battle of Gettysburg which began this day in 1863.

Or rather, not so much about the battle itself, but about its most famous recent cinematic depiction, which I may or may not re-watch for the eleventy-millionth time again in the course of the next few days.  We’ll see.

Ol’ Robbo has some beefs about this film, some major, some minor.***   But my biggest has always been this:  Michael Shaara, who wrote The Killer Angels, the novel on which the movie is based, was very careful to state explicitly in his introduction that the book was not a story about the Battle of Gettysburg itself.  Instead, he said, it was the story of some of the men who fought in that battle.

Fair enough.

But the movie, in taking the title “Gettysburg”, by implication spools the story back out to encompass the entire battle.  And even though that may not be it’s intent, the average movie-goer, assuming they haven’t read up their history independently, and aren’t completely pedantic nuts like me, come away thinking that the story presented in the movie is pretty much the whole story of the Battle.*****

What irks me about this is that so much which ought to be celebrated (at least if you’re a Unionist) or at least acknowledged, gets swept aside. (Yes, I know it’s a drama and not a history. Make that clearer, is all I’m saying.)

Doubleday: “By the way, what the hell is this ‘designated hitter'” rule? Find out who called for it and have them shot immediately!”

Which brings me to the portrayal of the action on July 1.   The movie faithfully follows the book’s description of the initial clash between Federal and Confederate forces through the eyes of Buford, Heth, Reynolds, and, farther back, Lee.  But once Reynolds is killed, you get about five minutes of Heth telling Lee the Confederate forces are coming down in flank from the north, a bunch of Yankee soldiers panicking and running away, and then another officer telling Lee the Yankees have fallen back through Gettysburg and are reforming on the hills behind.  The fact of the matter is that Abner Doubleday, taking over the 1st Corp in place of the fallen Reynolds, and Oliver O. Howard, with his much-maligned 11th Corp, spent the rest of the First Day putting up a hell of a spirited defense against the overwhelming numbers and flanking movements of the Confederates.  Without additional support they had no chance of actually winning, but they were able to hold their forces together, give the Rebs several local bloody noses, and withdraw without going completely to pieces (although it wasn’t pretty).

Oliver O. Howard: “Yeah, I know Stonewall got the jump on us at Chancellorsville, but that wasn’t really our fault. We stopped him in the end, didn’t we?”

The Second Day could not have been fought at all without their (and their Corps’) gallant efforts on the First.

So when Sam Elliot leans against the caisson wheel at the close of the First Day in the movie and says, “Well, General Reynolds, we held the high ground,” Ol’ Robbo gets a bit miffed on the part of those others who helped make it happen.

Harumph! Harumph! Harumph!

(Okay, maybe I’m not quite completely over the effects of the heat.)

 

***I’ll give you an example of a minor one.  When C. Thomas Howell, as Tom Chamberlain, stops to chat with a trio of Confederate prisoners, the staging of the scene is lifted straight from Winslow Homer’s painting, “Prisoners From The Front”.  In the movie, Howell (in an ungodly accent that wouldn’t have been heard within a thousand miles of Maine), talks with the Reb on the left, who in the painting is a slack-mouthed bumpkin.  Were the scene faithful to the painting, he more likely would have exchanged courtesies with the cavalier officer on the right.

Another egregious borrowing is the scene in which Reynolds dies.  It ends with a blatant nod to “The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West.  Ol’ Robbo will be generous and assume that this is tribute and not plagiarism.

*****People often say, when I argue this sort of thing, “You may be right, Tom, but the movie will encourage people to read further and become more informed.”  I’ve yet to see any real evidence that this is the case except far out on the margins.

 

 

 

 

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