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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yesterday afternoon, a young colleague of mine asked if I had any plans for the weekend.

“Well,” I said, “I’m getting a haircut this evening, and tomorrow I’m mowing the yard for the first time this season.”

“Wow,” she answered, “That sounds real exciting.”

“Hey,” I said, “I’m a middle-aged suburbanite.  These things are important to me.”

They are, too.

So I hauled out the old mower this morning, and despite the fact that it’s sat idle and neglected since some time last November, it started right up on the first pull.  Always a good sign at the start of the season.  (Maybe it means the Nats will win a division series this year?)

As I tooled about the yard, it seemed to me that I was running over an usually large number of twigs and sticks.  Then I remembered that somebody on the radio yesterday reported that this has been the windiest March and April in these parts for many years.  I can well believe it.

I also planted some jasmine today. I’d tried this three or four years ago, but put them in spots where they simply didn’t get enough light to thrive.  This time around I’m adhering better to the laws of nature.  Ol’ Robbo really wants himself some lovely, sweet-scented jasmine about the place.

Speaking of nature, a thought occurred to me today:  As often as not, Ol’ Robbo is awake in the pre-dawn when the birds first begin singing.  Almost invariably it seems that the robins start up before any other species.  Is this the basis of the line about the early bird getting the worm?  Perhaps.  (Incidentally, I don’t care if the notion that robins cock their heads like that to listen for worms is wrong – I’m going to keep believing it anyway, dammit.)


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo realizes that he double-posted this week about rather morbid topics, so how about something a bit more light-hearted?

Yesterday, as it turns out, was National Bat Appreciation Day.  According to the linked site, a few fun facts:

  • Some species of bats can live up to 40 years.
  • There are over 1,200 known species of bats.
  • The United States is home to an estimated 48 species of bats.
  • North America’s largest urban bat colony is found on the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. It is home to an estimated 1,500,000 Mexican Free-Tailed bats. This colony of bats eats approximately 10,000 to 30,000 lbs of insects each night.  It is estimated 100,000 tourists visit the bridge annually to watch the bats leave the roost at twilight.
  • Three U.S. states have an official state bat. Texas and Oklahoma have named the Mexican Free-Tailed bat their state bat, and Virginia has dubbed the Virginia Big-Eared bat their state bat.

I actually knew about the famous Congress Avenue Bridge colony because it occasionally made the papers in the San Antonio of my misspent yoot.  I did not know that the Great Commonwealth of Virginny has a designated state bat. Go figure.

Ol’ Robbo actually is quite fond of bats. Once, in said misspent yoot, I recall going along with my high school girlfriend and her parents on a Sierra Club outing to some caves out in the desert southwest of San Antonio.  As evening began to gather, bats (I have no idea what sort, but prob’ly Mexican Free-Tails) started to emerge.  Quickly, a long, black ribbon formed up and gradually snaked its way to the horizon.  I forget how many jillion bats were supposed to live in this colony, but it was a very large number.  They took at least an hour or more to empty themselves out of the cave.  Most impressive.  (As was the stench of guano coming up out of the cave’s mouth.)

I’m also reminded of the time my family and I went to see a production of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the concert hall downtown.  That same evening, Ozzie Osborne was playing the arena next door.  (And by the way, there was common parking for both events.  I leave the compare and contrast audience spectacle to your imagination.)  At some point during the graveyard scene in Act 2 of Don G, a bat started flying about the concert hall stage.  Not only did it heighten the creepy effect of the Statue of the Commendatore accepting the Don’s invitation to dinner, there were also muted whispers about the one that got away from Ozzie.

More recently, Ol’ Robbo loves to sit out on the Port Swiller Manor porch in the evening and watch the local bats flittering around the yard, presumably eating lots of nasty bugs.  (I haven’t seen one yet this year due to the very late arrival of spring, but expect to very soon.  Again, I’ve no idea what species they are. Perhaps Big-Ears?)  Indeed, I’ve toyed off and on for some time with the idea of putting up a bat house – perhaps under the porch – just to encourage more of them to flitter round here for my enjoyment.

In fact, the only thing that gives me pause is the fact that Mrs. Robbo hates bats, apparently as the result of an invasion by them of her home in Connecticut when she was a little gel.  In any event, she can’t stand ’em, and hates it even when I point them out on the other side of the porch screen.  (I’m not saying I won’t eventually put up a bat house, but I sure as heck won’t tell the Missus about it…..)

One time, many years ago now, a bat somehow got into our bedroom. (I believe it must have come down the chimney and then made its way upstairs.)  You can imagine what Mrs. R’s reaction was to that.  Me? I simply closed the bedroom door to box it in, opened all the windows, and with the aid of a tennis racquet eventually, ah, persuaded it to leave.  Easy-peasy, and Ol’ Robbo was the Hero of the Day.

(I don’t say this to brag.  If it had been a snake, I’d have been the one freaking out.)

Anyhoo, here’s a glass to our flying mammalian friends!

UPDATE:  Nope, whatever I’m looking at is not a Virginia Big-Eared bat.  According to Wiki, they’re very rare and live way down in the southwestern part of the Commonwealth, as well as in West Virginia and Kentucky.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

What a lovely day here at Port Swiller Manor!  After many weeks of lingering Winter, my porch thermometer reports we made it all the way up to 85 degrees this afternoon.  I opened all the windows in the Manor to air out the accumulated fug of the last six months, and we had dinner out on the porch this evening for the first time this season.  Lovely.  Lovely.

There’s a dark side to all this, of course.

Early this afternoon, a large rig from Home Despot pulled up on the street in front of the house (much to the extreme annoyance of other drivers who had to get round it as best they could), there to drop on our driveway 216 bags of mulch.  Something over half of them are designated for a large, shady patch under the maples at the back of our yard, under which nothing (except onion grass) actually grows.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t happen to possess a wheelbarrow at the moment, nor could he expect any help from his women-folk (who all go remarkably delicate when there’s heavy lifting to do), so his only real choice was to hoist each individual bag on to one or the other of his shoulders and trudge down the hill to dump it on said patch.

“Don’t over-do it, now!” said Mrs. R.

“I won’t,” I replied breezily.

Reader, I over-did it.

This evening, even after a glass or two of (purely-medicinal) vino, Ol’ Robbo is a solid mass of aches and pains (to say nothing of the lungs-full of pollen I inhaled that make me sound like a three-pack-a-day man when I try to speak).  I shudder to think of how I’m going to feel in the morning.

The punch line is that the rest of the bags have to be moved out tomorrow to the holly hedge and maple trees along our frontage.  Mrs. R says she will do that, but I know perfectly well that it’s going to be up to me in the end to deal with most of them.  Why? Because that’s what I do.

If any friends of the decanter are looking for a good stock tip, I’d suggest investing in aspirin futures immediately.

UPDATE: Whelp, Ol’ Robbo got up early this morning and moved all the rest of the bags himself in order to spare Mrs. R the burden of having to do it.  Then I went out back to spread about the bags I had hauled out there yesterday.

By the time I was done, I was a mass of sores and aches even worse than yesterday.  To quote Dr. Smith, “Oh, William! The pain! The pain!”

Ol’ Robbo ain’t 33 any more, I guess.

By the bye, did you know that there’s an industry Mulch and Soil Council? I didn’t until I saw its certificate of approval on the side of all those bags.  According to the blurb, the MSC’s purpose is to make sure you get only the highest-quality mulch in the bags you purchase, free of rusty nails, cat poop, human remains, and other contaminants.  And anybody who suggests that it’s nothing more than another example of a cabal of Big Industry colluding with Big Government to keep out – via extremely expensive regulation – any upstart competition can shut their whore mouths.

(That last part isn’t actually printed on the bags.  It’s just Ol’ Robbo’s hunch.)


“Affability” – James Gillray, 1795

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent a pleasant Saturday morning trimming up the wisteria which abounds at Port Swiller Manor and otherwise cleaning up round the yard in impatient anticipation that warmer weather may finally arrive here soon.  Looking about me, I sense that the local flora and fauna share my impatience and at the first sign that Spring actually is here to stay will take off with a whoop and a holler.

It’s too bad that the cold is hanging around so long this year.  We’re hosting Easter Dinner next Sunday and will have about a dozen people for it.  I can’t fit that many into my dining room comfortably, but I could have had us all out on the porch together if only it were warm enough.  Barring something unforeseen this week, doesn’t look like we’re going to quite make it, so the kids will have to be banished to their own table in the kitchen.  (Which is a real pity, because they’re all old enough to be enjoyable table companions now.)

Oh, and on the subject of yard work, it looks like Ol’ Robbo finally is going to have to swallow his pride and invest in one of those abdomen braces.  I’ve noticed recently that my lower back gets awfully sore when I drag or carry heavy things about in the yard.  My old neighbor wore one habitually, even for the lightest gardening tasks.  In my youthful arrogance, I used to chuckle about it, but now it looks like the laugh is on me.  (And yes, you can get off my lawn.)

UPDATE:  For Tubbs.  I couldn’t find a fellah in a truss, but how about Farmer George?  (History of the cartoon, including the caption, here.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo noted this comment from the Puppy-Blender in the light of all the Face Book privacy violation crap that’s suddenly (yet not surprisingly) surfacing:

I hope a lot of people will move back to blogs and away from big corporate platforms. As I wrote a while back: “I think that the old blogosphere was superior to ‘social media’ like Twitter and Facebook for a number of reasons. First, as a loosely-coupled system, instead of the tightly-coupled systems built by retweets and shares, it was less prone to cascading failure in the form of waves of hysteria. Second, because there was no central point of control, there was no way to ban people. And you didn’t need one, since bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs.”

Maybe I should start featuring people who move back to blogs.

Yeah, that would be really nice.  (And can I just note that I’ve been blogging for fifteen years now and although the old Llama Butchers got Insta-lanched a couple times, none of them were actually my posts?  Can ya’ help a retro-buddy out?  Just saying…….)

I still remember those days and the great satisfaction I derived in putting together (well, helping to at any rate) a decent blog and then gradually building up our own unique network of friends and gunnegshuns.  Back then, it felt more like a spirited conversation, free from any sense of restraint by The Man.

Now, I feel I’m more or less mumbling at the clouds, largely because most of the old bloggers I knew have either dropped out of social media altogether or else have gone over to Face Book.

(I’ve got an FB account myself, but I try to keep what I say there rigidly separated from my meanderings here.  And at least on my “personal” page, I’m pretty much reduced to “liking” things like my niece’s prom photos.  The only response I dare there to outbursts of SJW nonsense is to quietly “mute” whoever puts up the post.)

Here’s hoping the exposure of the ugly face of Big Social Media brings about a return to those better times.

___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ___

Totally off-topic, I was out a little while ago inspecting the Port Swiller Manor driveway to gage what kind of icing I’m likely to have to deal with tomorrow morning when this puddle image caught my eye:

Single candles, don’t you know.  I thought it was neat enough to capture on my phone and share.  Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’ll start with the obligatory grumbling about having to put the clocks forward, but that hasn’t really hit Ol’ Robbo just yet.  The Mass I go to on Sundays isn’t until noon, so an hour one way or the other doesn’t have any impact on me the first day.  I’ll pay for it tomorrow, however, when I once again have to get up for work in the dark.  (Grumble, grumble.)

Ol’ Robbo spent a pleasant Saturday morning doing his first yardwork of the season, which consisted of cleaning up the debris from last weekend’s nor’easter.  I’m just a leetle alarmed at how stiff and sore I am from dragging about tarps full of branches and then throwing them (the branches) out on the brush pile. Damned maples – they’ll drop wood if you say “Boo!” at them.

I also fertilized the hollies and azaleas. Want a good test of whether somebody’s a garden nerd? Ask ’em what they think of the smell of Holly-Tone.  If they like it, they’re definitely of the green-thumb brotherhood.

Finally, may I present the English Major’s landscaping friend? Yes, it’s the Mulch Calculator!  Good thing I double-checked my own feeble math against it, because I would have waaaay over-bought.

Next week it’s Robbo vs. the Butterfly Bushes

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo likes to believe that he keeps up with things in general, so he was somewhat surprised that his first inkling that a nor’easter was inbound came last Thursday evening when the local schools started making noises about cancelling the next day due to “high wind warnings”.

Without any other source of information, I pretty much poo-pooed the “high wind warning” stuff.  Imagine my surprise, then, to wake up in the middle of the night and hear it blowing like a real summbich.  I also woke up just in time (about 3 ack emma) for the power to go out.

It finally came back on again just about 20 minutes ago (and it’s now about 7 pip emma Monday evening).

We weren’t quite reduced to burning the furniture and eating the cats, but it was not a pleasant weekend.

This is about the third or fourth extended power-outage (meaning more than 24 hours) that I can recall experiencing in our 18 years in Port Swiller Manor.  At least with the summah storm ones, I can hide from the heat in the basement in relative comfort.  In the winter? One really can’t escape the cold.

UPDATE:  Greetings, again, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, friends of the decanter, it’s two posts in one!  Ol’ Robbo had meant to write more last evening when the lights first came back on, but he was so tired he simply slapped up the above and let it go at that.  Therefore, a few more details:

Eldest Gel’s spring break began on Friday, which meant she had to drive home in the teeth of the storm. You can imagine how I felt on having to welcome her back to a house with no power and no heat.  FWIW, she was an awfully good sport about it.

Skimming the nooz articles, I see that, at least in terms of winds and damages, the press are comparing this storm to the great Derecho  of 2012, the summah storm about which I was thinking when I wrote the above.  The big difference is that this time around, the wind blew like hell for a good 48 hours, while the derecho was over and done in about ninety minutes.  (Interesting that the destruction – from what I’ve seen – was more or less the same: Some respectable limbs down in the Port Swiller yard and a healthy number of whole trees elsewhere.)

The lovely and talented Diane mentions the Great Port Swiller Generator Debate in the comments.  Yes, Mrs. R was on the phone getting quotes as early as Saturday afternoon, but I counseled a cooling off period before we think about this investment again.  Honestly, I would be happy if we could find something just powerful enough to keep the HVAC operational, and maybe the fridge.  The rest (lights, laundry, oven, etc.) we can do without until whatever the situation is over.

Speaking of which, at one point over the weekend Youngest Gel said, “This is SO like living in the Middle Ages!”  I replied, “Middle Ages,  hell!  This is the way most people (including most Americans) lived not much more than a hundred years ago.  So stuff it.”  Ain’t I the Greatest Dad?

Situations like this ultimately remind Ol’ Robbo of the sobering fact that in the event of a real catastrophe – say a North Korean EMP burst or the Yellowstone Caldera cooking off – we are, to put it simply, doomed.  I guess I’m just not…passionate enough to go all Prepper and stockpile the basement with five years’ worth of food, supplies, and ammunition.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As you might gather from the posts immediately below, Ol’ Robbo was hither and yon on biznay this week.  A remarkably stressful trip, given that it was only two nights and the work itself was relatively straight-forward.  For one thing, the stormy weather seemed to chase me all over the place, especially while I was in the air.  For another, owing to various factors including my inability to eat while flying and a counted-on lunch break that never happened, between Tuesday evening and this morning I managed to get only two full meals.

I am now quite wiped out.  Ol’ Robbo ain’t as young as he used to be.

Anyhoo, just a few things:

♦  Ol’ Robbo is fascinated by this Florida shootings biznay.  Not the horror of the massacre itself so much, but the meta-issue behind it regarding the relationship between the governed and governing in a representational democracy in which sovereignty is derived from the consent of the People.  If the Government for whatever reason either can’t or won’t uphold its duty (in this case) to ensure domestic tranquility – and it appears from what I’ve seen that there was a complete top-to-bottom failure to both prevent and limit the scope of the killings – at what point does it become not only the People’s right (which is inherent) but its responsibility to say “Enough is enough.  Your services are no longer required and your authority is revoked.  We’ll do it ourselves.”

♦  Or, if I may borrow a favorite expression from our long-haired hippie friends, “Power to the People, man!”  (Depends on who’s ox is being gored and who’s doing the goring, don’t it?)

♦  Oh, and as long as I’m at it, the gun-grabbers on the Left and their establishment media buddies can take their fake Children’s Crusade and stuff it.

♦  There! If all that doesn’t get me a bullet in the back of my head when the Socialist Justice Wanker Revolution comes, I don’t know what will!

♦  And finally on that note, I’d also mention that after many years of opposition due to a vague fear of firearms, Mrs. Robbo has now come around and said that she thinks it actually would be a good idea if I saw to arming up Port Swiller Manor.

♦  On a completely different note, to which the title of this post is tied, it’s a warmish and foggy day here at Port Swiller Manor, not much in keeping with late February weather round these parts.  I noticed this morning that the maples are already starting to blossom and the daffodils are coming up.  I seem to recall a similar “False Spring” last year, after which it turned cold again  (although I believe it was a bit later).  Barring a late-season nor’easter, looks like we’re going to be spared any serious snowfall again this year, too.  Somehow, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t mind very much.

♦  This weekend is the spring theatre production down to Eldest Gel’s school.  As I may have mentioned before, they’re doing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.  Eldest is serving as an assistant stage manager.  She’s enjoyed doing the work, but in her opinion the play itself is not half so clever or funny as it thinks it is.  I’ve never seen it on stage although I have seen the movie, and I rather tend to agree with her.  (Pretentious? Moi?)

Well, that’s enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo’s off to get some more kawfeh and then settle down in his favorite chair to watch the bird feeders for a while.  Very restful occupation when one needs to recharge.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It isn’t often that Ol’ Robbo can sit out comfortably on the Port Swiller back porch on a Friday evening in the middle of January, but that’s exactly what I’m doing now.  Much to the delight of the kittehs, it’s still in the mid-60’s tonight and perfect for leaving the door open.  (Of course, it’s all going to go to hell in another six hours or so, as that big cold front is on its way in and will drop us back down below freezing for the next few days.  We may even see a thunderstorm beforehand.)

Ol’ Robbo found himself admiring a beautiful effect today:  The river is still frozen over, as are the various reflecting pools down on the Mall.  Because of the unusually warm air, both of them were throwing off fog all day.  The one on the river was low and very thick, while the one on the pools was more wispy and subject to being blown away by the breeze.  Each was lovely in its own way, and I only wish I could have snapped a photo of the former as I made my way home this afternoon.

UPDATE:  On a completely different note, what the heck happened to NoSalt? It vanished from my supermarket shelves, and when I look it up over to the devil’s website, it’s mighty pricey.  Has it gone out of production?  Killed too many lab mice? Elbowed out by Mrs. Dash?

Ol’ Robbo has been mighty fond of the gunpowder-y potassium chloride flavor over the years.  Sad! if I can’t reasonably get it anymore.

UPDATE DEUX: Well, a further look at the innertoobs suggests the stuff is still available elsewhere, but I still wonder why my Giant deep-sixed it.  Strange.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got detoured by the po-po as he made his way home this evening and had to navigate through several neighborhoods to get back to a main artery.

I may be completely delusional in this, but it seems to me that many more people are keeping their outdoor Christmas (excuse me, Holiday) light displays out later this year.  I’d like to think it has something to do with a heightened spirit of the season, but the skeptic in me suggests that it probably has more to do with the deep freeze that blanketed the area for the past couple weeks keeping folks indoors.

Heigh ho.

Speaking of such things, Ol’ Robbo took down the Port Swiller Christmas tree last weekend after Epiphany.  I’m happy to report that there were no successful ornament suicides this year, although I caught several of them lurking deep within the bows round back, just waiting for the opportunity to hurl themselves to the floor.

As is my wont, once I had stripped it, I hauled the tree round back and tossed it on the brush heap within the verges of the wood outside my back gate.  Interesting observation: It seems to take a fir about two years to fully decompose.  I tossed this one next to the brown and needleless hulk from last year.  The one from the year prior to that has completely vanished.

So long as it doesn’t go up too early, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t really care that much when the Christmas tree comes down.  On the other hand, I am delighted that this year Mrs. Robbo has agreed to let me keep my wreaths (front door and dining room table) and my new crèche out until Candlemas, (February 2nd).

(Also, although she doesn’t know it, I chalked the front door of Port Swiller Manor with Epiphany chalk this year.  20 + C + M + B + 18.  One of Ol’ Robbo’s goals this year is to quietly insert more and more of these little sacramentals into the daily routine of Port Swiller Manor.  I figure it will soften the blow when I eventually pull down on Mrs. R and start advocating for a Crucifix in the front hall.)

Oh, and continuing with this general line of thought, a glass of wine with staunch friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, who recently sent Ol’ Robbo a couple of CD’s of Medieval Christmas Musick.  Since I’m going hard-core this year, they’re still perfectly seasonal and appropriate for the next few weeks!

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