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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, 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!

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yep, summah is definitely here with a vengeance in the Great Commonwealth of Virginny.  But as Ol’ Robbo surmises from his traffic meter, most of you probably don’t want yet another post about mowing the lawn.  So how about a little random, some serious and some not so much?

♦  Following up on my post about mysterious calls from Mrs. R, the fons et origo of that one was our landscape guy, who has a very bad habit of not staying within the scope of work we ask him to do.  Part of this is a language barrier – he’s from Chile and still struggles with English – but part of it, I think, is shear pig-headedness worthy of Angus McAllister, Lord Emsworth’s head gardener.  We had him clear out the Port Swiller Manor gutters this week, and I notice that while he was at it he killed the Virginia creeper that was wrapped around the chimney.  We’ve been arguing about the creeper and ivy on the house for some years now, and I’m positive he took the opportunity for a little accidental-on-purpose chicanery.  Suff on him.

♦  Ol’ Robbo did not watch the Donk debates this week but did see some clips and reactions.  By all accounts they went Full Progtard.  Never go Full Progtard.***  They evidently want me dead, so why should I listen to them (or to the Never-Trumpers, for that matter).

♦  I do not wish to speak ill of the dead or for an instant suggest that the monster who did it does not deserve everything he’s got coming to him, but this Utah college girl murder has me incensed in large part because a whole lot of stupid brought it about.  (I don’t know if the rumors the kid was looking for a Sugar Daddy are true, but what possible good reason could explain meeting a stranger in a park at 3 o’clock in the morning?)  I have told the Gels time and time again: Don’t. Do. Stupid. Things.  In the twisted reasoning of the current zeitgeist, this makes me some kind of patriarchal misogynist, but dammit, this story is precisely why I continue to say so.  (They’ve taken it to heart, too, thank God.)

♦  In case you haven’t noticed, Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats have quietly pulled up over the .500 mark for the first time since, well, Opening Day almost.  I confess I feel a bit ashamed of myself for setting my hair on fire and prognosticating doom and gloom earlier on.  (Tom Paine no doubt would deride me as a “summer soldier” and “sunshine patriot”.)  Ain’t baseball just like that, though?  What else is there to say, except GO, NATS!

Whelp, as I like to say, lawn ain’t gonna mow itself.  Be back later.

**Spot the reference.

UPDATE:  Done and done.  Nasty job in this weathah.  Truth be told, I think I overdid it somewhat, as I can feel all the symptoms of my internal thermostat red-lining now.

Help me, Obi-Wan Iced Kawfee! You’re my only hope!

Speaking of which, Ol’ Robbo spotted an article some time earlier this week noting that the term “Climate Chaos” is now back in vogue among the meteorological scare-mongers.  Funny, I thought that happened a few years back.  As I recall it, they stopped saying “Global Warming” after several of their high-profile conferences got snowed out and people pointed and laughed.  Some of them tried “Global Weirding” for a while, but that didn’t seem to stick.  So they hit on “Climate Chaos” both because it’s scary and because it’s enigmatic enough to be used at all times and in all conditions.  BOOGIE-BOOGIE-BOO!!

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got all his mowing and trimming out of the way yesterday, so I was able to concentrate on other matters in the garden today.  Begun the morning glory wars have.

I’ve no problem with morning glory as such.  In my yoot, the neighbors behind us had a back fence covered in them and they were magnificent.  But I do strongly object to the ones that run wild around here, and will strangle everything else before you can say “knife”.  Some years I fight them.  Some, it’s more of an Anschluss.

This year I’m fighting.  I’ve been very good about keeping all the clutter away from around Kong and the Konglings,*** so even when the MG’s have sprouted up and started entangling them, it’s relatively easy to track them back to their base and uproot them.

Alas, ceaseless vigilance will be the watchword, because the little bastards don’t give over until the frost.

***For those of you unfamiliar, this is Ol’ Robbo’s name for the Buddleia that make up the bulk of his garden.  Kong started as a tiny little seedling under the lights in my basement nearly twenty years ago, survived transplanting, grew to enormous size and started throwing progeny all about. Today there must be between fifteen and twenty of them.  They’re just coming into bloom now, and the garden will be full of butterflies and hummingbirds for the rest of the summah.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo woke up this morning and said to himself the devil with the yard this week.  Apart from a little watering, there’s nothing that absolutely demands my immediate attention, the lawn will do for now, and the weeds in the garden remain reasonably at bay.

Furthermore, next weekend the annual Port Swiller Family summah cycle kicks in with the transportation of Youngest Gel to Bible-thumper camp.  For the six weeks following that there will be various comings, goings, and projects (including this year a life-altering office move, about which more later), and then hey, presto! suddenly it’ll be time to start getting Gels off to school again.

I reckon a Saturday in the hammock with a tall, cold glass and a good book before taking the plunge is worthwhile.  Even Mrs. R said it was a good idea.

UPDATE:  The cry goes ’round the decanter, “What book, Tom?”

Well, it’s Flash For Freedom today.  Yes, Ol’ Robbo is indulging himself again in George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers for about the eleventy-billionth time.  I never seem to get tired of them.

Over the years I’ve become convinced that GMF appropriated Flashy from Tom Brown’s School Days and gave him a long career of lying, cheating, stealing, womanizing, and putting a bluff front on his inner cowardice so that he, the author, could indulge himself in Victorian history, particularly Imperial military history.  Flash’s antics are the hook that sells the books, but I think GMF’s real pleasure was indulging in all the research and sneaking history lessons into his stories.

One of Ol’ Robbo’s ambitions is to eventually collect all the original sources cited in the Flashman Papers.  (I’ve already got some of them, including materials on James Brooke’s campaigns against Borneo pirates, and early explorations of the American Southwest.)  Another is to piece together a satisfying story of Flashy’s involvement in the American Civil War: the Papers are strewn with hints and asides about it, but GMF never, alas, put them all together.  (Ol’ Robbo is in a Flashy appreciation group on FacePlant and we like to spit-ball about this every now and again.)

Anyway, ho for the hammock!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A very buggy morning here at Port Swiller Manor.

I recall reading somewhere that “scientists” believe there actually might be something to the old saying that flies bite more before a storm.  If I recall correctly, the thinking is that they (the flies, not the scientists) are sensitive to drops in air pressure and act accordingly.

Not that I’ve been bitten much in my first rounds this morning and I don’t think it’s actually supposed to rain today, but the number of flying varmints prompts me to hunt up the bug spray before venturing to go out and mow.

In fact, the yard is right at that in-between stage re needing a haircut, and on any other weekend I’d probably just let it go.  But we’re having the In-Laws over for a BBQ this evening before they hit the road for points north tomorrow.  They probably don’t much care, but Mrs. R assuredly does even without my asking, so here we are.

UPDATE:  Of course, the above was written on the assumption that there is some bug spray in the house.  Another old saying is that one should never assume because it makes an “ass’ of “u” and “me”.  Chomp, chomp.

GRRRR-INDUCING UPDATE DEUX: Remember that extremely expensive and so far useless generator Ol’ Robbo was talked into installing last year?  Well for the past couple weeks I’ve fancied, although couldn’t be quite sure, that it hadn’t cooked off for its automatic Saturday noon five-minute exercise.  Today I deliberately sat out and waited for it.  No dice.  I opened the hood and found an error code on the digital display.  I looked that up in the owner’s manual and it gave me two possible definitions plus two possible sets of instructions, neither of which really mean anything to me.  Time to call the techs, I guess.  (Ol’ Robbo doesn’t do home repair that involves electricity, and I don’t mind admitting that’s because I’m afraid of it.)

We actually lost power for a couple hours a few weeks back and the thing had kicked in.  I had had to run an errand at the time and the power was back on by the time I got home.  Eldest told me she thought the generator had cut out before the power came back on, but she wasn’t sure.  Seems more likely now.

Somebody tell me again why I agreed to this thing?

Grrrrr…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall all the elbow grease Ol’ Robbo expended over Memorial Day weekend to tackle various clean-up and touch-up tasks?  Well today it was the yard’s turn, with extra-detailed mowing, trimming, and cleaning off of driveway and sidewalk, together with massive deadheading (the peonies are done as are the first round of roses) and a clearing out of the weeds around the butterfly bush in the garden.

Why all the spit and polish? Well, Mrs. R’s ‘rents arrive tomorrow for a week’s stay and she has been in a particular doodah this time around to put her best foot forward.  Why she imagines this visit is something akin to an admiral’s inspection I really couldn’t say, but I’ve been humoring her with all this extra effort nonetheless.  As long as I receive proper, ah, credit, I really don’t mind at all.

In any event, Port Swiller Manor is looking pretty durn good this evening, which is a pleasant thing in and of itself.  Let’s hope the place can hold its breath long enough to weather the visit with honor and allow Mrs. R to unclench once it’s over.

By the bye, how the heck did it get to be June already?  Ol’ Robbo has a lot of wisteria round about the yard, and for the past couple weeks we’ve been enjoying their collective scent, but their blooms are now quite gone.  On the other hand, my oak-leaf hydrangea hedge is coming out in flower nicely this week, the aforementioned butterfly bushes are starting to bud, and I popped a few early raspberries into my mouth as I passed back and forth in front of their bed today.  Also, the jackmanii clematis by the garage is going great guns now.

I wish I could be easier in my mind about the pair of jasmine I planted in a very sunny spot along the front of the garden fence.  They both definitely made it through the winter, but they’re only leafing out right now very close to their bases: If they’re going to vine out and start throwing batches of heavenly-scented flowers, it seems to me they’d better get busy.  I still fear we’re somewhat too far north for them, but then again I only put them in last year, so we’ll see what happens.

Oh, and on the birding front, I think I forgot to mention that I saw my first hummer two weeks ago.  I refreshed my feeder, but so far no additional sightings.  This one might just have been a pass-through.  The hen that I’m convinced has been coming back here consistently for the past few years usually turns up a little bit later.

 

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