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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I may have mentioned the other day that Mrs. R was after me about getting a flu shot.

In the past, Ol’ Robbo has been able to dispose of this annual nuisance with a mumbled “Yes, Dear” or two, after which she drops it and I go on my merry, non-pierced way.

This year is different, however.  She hasn’t dropped the matter yet, but is actually ramping it up to the point of it becoming real “Carthago delenda est” time.  Had a downright fit when I wouldn’t stop by the pharmacy when we were at the store together yesterday.  She’s even gone so far as to try and enlist my brother and his wife as allies in the Cause, they being medical people, and is hinting at the Lysistrata Treatment if I don’t get in line.

If this situation keeps up much longer, I’m thinking about getting a band-aid and slapping it on my shoulder myself, just to get some peace back.  (And don’t any of you dare tell her I said so!)

Why the vehement insistence this year, I really couldn’t say.  My best guess is that I was down a good bit last winter and she thinks it could happen again.  (For some reason, she either can’t or won’t believe that I was sick so much last year because of grief over the Mothe’s passing.  That won’t be a factor this year.)

You may be asking yourself, “Self, why doesn’t he just get the dumb shot and humor her?”  Well, first off, I really hate needles.  Second, I hate being nagged and there’s a certain principle about this at stake here.  Third, I’ve never put much faith in the efficacy of these flu shots to begin with: What with the way the virus mutates, it’s a crap-shoot at best whether the strain is going to be right.  Finally, if it can help, I’d rather some little old lady got the dose than I did.

So, there.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, time to cut back the peonies, I guess.  Every single year I tell myself, “Self, we ought to dig these puppies up, divide the root balls, and plant them out.  We could easily have three times as many shrubs as we do now.”

And every year I respond, “Eh…maybe next year.”

I also need to cut back the ferns hanging on the porch in preparation for bringing them inside for the winter.  To actually bring them in today would be to concede a kind of seasonal defeat.

UPDATE:  Done and done. Ol’ Robbo also had to make a hardware store run.  Somehow my reading glasses slipped off my collar without my noticing as I walked out to the mailbox beforehand.  I then squashed them flat while backing out of the garage.  That made me feel old. On the other hand, the gal running the register at the store flirted with me.  That made me feel young.  Until I reflected that she was probably the same age as my own Youngest.  That made me feel old again, plus a little bit creeped out.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo can’t seem to tape out a fully-formed post on any single subject this evening, so how about a this-n-that fondue?

♦  Start with the fact that I can’t spell “fondue” without looking it up.  And I dislike the whole concept because of some childhood incident, the specifics of which I can no longer recall.

♦  The Local Classickal Station is doing their annual fall pledge drive and I have finally become so sick of hearing the same pitches over and over and over again that I’ve actually turned off my radio until it’s done, a practice I usually reserve for Lent.  (Yes, I do contribute.)

♦  I recently read Robert Graves’ Goodbye To All That again for the nth-time.  With each reading, I find I become even more fascinated by his experiences in the trenches in WWI, but also more repelled by his character.

♦  And on the subject of books, I have a very real feeling that it’s time for me to revisit Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, which I reread every couple years.  I remember a meme some blog-friend posted years ago:  Pamela Flitton or Brenda Last?

♦  Today was the first day of the season that I was able to do my lunchtime walkies without breaking a sweat, something I’m sure my office mates appreciated.  I also was able to keep up a spanking pace – my habit is to leave my building at the same time each day and to wind up near the Grant Memorial at about 12:45 pm.  There’s a nearby bell tower that strikes quarterly, and where I am when it goes off tells me how good my pace is.

♦  Obsessive-compulsive? Moi? Say rather that my mind is quite scattershot, so I need to build as many routines as possible – walking the same route at the same time, parking in the same space every day, keeping my keys, wallet, etc., in the same spot.  Otherwise, I would become disoriented very quickly.

♦  Speaking of the season, the annual Flu Shot Wars have flared up at Port Swiller Manor.  Mrs. R has begun badgering me about getting one and I have already stuck in my heals and balked.  Ol’ Robbo has a deep aversion to needles.  It’s as simple as that.

Whelp, enough for now.  Ol’ Robbo is off to revisit the early-80’s tee-vee version of “Ivanhoe” with Anthony Andrews, who was at his peak star power in those days.  I can’t help thinking that Andrews didn’t really have the brawn to play a medieval knight, not like Robert Taylor. But ne’er mind.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall how a couple months back Ol’ Robbo was praising Washington & Lee University for holding fast in the face of pressure to disappear its history?

Yeah, not so much.

Renaming a couple buildings and replacing military portraits of the school’s namesakes with civilian ones may seem pretty innocuous, but that’s only if you think this is all that will happen.

And if you think that, Ol’ Robbo’s got some beachfront property at Cemetery Ridge you may be interested in purchasing.

Not that I give them a lot of alumni coin to begin with, but I think I’ll stop now.

(Short post this evening.  The Family Robbo spent a good chunk of last night at the vets with the dog after she had a case of bloody diarrhea.  Ol’ Robbo was positively cringing, especially after what happened last week:  An elderly cat who was nobody’s favorite was one thing, but the Port Swiller Puppeh is the apple of everyone’s eye here and Mrs. Robbo’s baby, and if something happened to her, I’d be scraping the family off the floor with a spatula.  Fortunately, after many hours and many (expensive) tests, they found she doesn’t have cancer (as I feared) or other major issues but probably just a bacterial infection.  She’s better today and eating boiled chicken and rice, but I’m still a bit zombied.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo found himself doing double-duty this morning, first going along with the family for the first time in several years to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, and then later toddling off to Mass on his own.

I used to do this pretty consistently after I first went to Rome until Mrs. Robbo told me to stop it.  She didn’t like it when, while everyone else was going up to the altar rail for communion, I remained in the pew and stared at the ceiling.  On the other hand, she began to miss worshipping together, plus there’s the whole pour encourager les autres thing as far as Youngest’s spiritual development goes.  (Plus, to be honest, I still do loves me some Anglican hymnody.)

So today, I in fact got up and went to the altar rail myself.  However, I didn’t take communion, but simply crossed my hands and bowed my head.  The rector gave me a blessing instead.

I’m sure nobody on either side of the Tiber could have any strong objections to that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sad news on the Port Swiller Manor front: Early yesterday morning, the eldest of our three cats shuffled off this mortal coil.

She was nearly fifteen.  Apart from an unusual amount of yacking up this summah, which we attributed to hairballs, she’d seemed fine.  And her checkup in July revealed nothing out of the ordinary.  But a couple weeks ago, we realized that she’d suddenly lost a great deal of weight, and that instead of a brindled meatloaf, she’d become a rag and a bone and a hank of hair.  Also, her breathing started to get rather snuffly.  Some quick research on the innerwebz suggested to Ol’ Robbo that she might have had leukemia.

For all these changes, she didn’t appear to be in any pain or distress.  She still leapt up on the arm of my chair for pets as soon as I sat down, she didn’t shy away from being touched in any particular place, and even though she didn’t eat much of it, she was still demanding to be fed at 5 ack emma each morning.   So we let it go:  If we took her to the vet, in exchange for the stress and strain of a car ride, we’d only be told either that she should be put down or else that we should spend jillions of dollars on treatment that might stretch her time out a bit.  Neither option seemed particularly appealing.

Then, early Tuesday evening, Youngest Gel came to me and said, “Dad, Bella is curled up in a corner of the fireplace.  She went there to die, didn’t she.”

Yes, yes she did.

When she hadn’t shifted spots by mid-evening, Ol’ Robbo went to be with her.  I knew what was coming, so I decided to try and make things as comfortable as possible.  So I just sat there, gently scritching her ears and repeating her name softly.

She and I both dozed on and off, and she moaned softly now and again, but overall things were pretty quietly.  Then, at around 3:30 a.m., she reared way back, her head slid sideways, and she slumped down.  I thought she had gone in that moment, but a few seconds later she started breathing again.  This went on for about half an hour – short, shallow breaths (although not labored), each one ending in a sort of click.  Her eyes were open, but I knew she couldn’t see anything.  Then, around 4 a.m., she stopped breathing and quickly subsided into a deflated heap.  I sat on for a little and then gently put her in a small box, wrapped in a tea-towel.  Mrs. Robbo took her to the vet later in the morning.

Overall, I think she went very peacefully.

So that was how it was.

I’m saddened, of course, but not crushed.  Partly this is because she was never a favorite of mine – in addition to the above-mentioned breakfast pestering, she shed all over everything and bullied the other two cats.  Partly it’s also because she’s the fourth cat we’ve lost in 25 years now and I’ve simply become more philosophical about what is obviously the worst part about pet ownership.  The Gels took it pretty calmly too, although we made sure to wait until after the two Elder ones had finished their midterm exams before telling them.

We won’t replace her, but will be content to stick with our other two, who are about four years old.  And when they go? Well, who knows what Ol’ Robbo will think about getting another kitteh ten or fifteen years from now.











Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Columbus Day!  Did you know that ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize this was a holiday weekend until last Friday?  The relief I felt when I found I had an extra day after all the silly running about behavior I had to do Saturday and Sunday was immense.

So on to this and that:

♦  In the spirit of the day, I recommend to you once again a trilogy of books by Hugh Thomas, sent to me by long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory.  They are Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire from Columbus to Magellan, The Golden Empire: Spain, Charles V, and the Creation of America, and World Without End: Spain, Phillip II, and the First Global Empire.  What I really like about these books is the way Thomas sets Spain’s American ventures in the context of its home politicks and culture – the Reconquista, the Inquisition, the relations of Castile and Aragon, and the larger Hapsburg connections between Spain and the Holy Roman Empire.  It all wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

♦  Speaking of which, Eldest is taking a course this semester on pre-Columbian American empires, specifically the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas.  She’s really enjoying it, in part because her prof refuses to paint them as Rousseauian utopias and is careful to include the uglier aspects as well.  (She recently watched “Apocalypto” in connection with the course.  Her review? “It was weird.”)

♦  And speaking of ugly, is Melania Trump really getting flak for wearing a “colonial” pith helmet on her tour of Africa?  Do these fookin’ people honestly have nothing better to do with themselves?  Or is this just aggression-transfer resulting from last week’s Pickett’s Charge effort to sink Justice Kavanaugh?

♦ On a completely different note, our trip to CNU to visit Middle Gel this weekend was very nice.  We saw her perform in a pan-musick department concert Saturday afternoon, and then went to a BBQ picnic out on the lawn.  While we were eating, the marching band came, well, marching by on their way to the football stadium for the evening’s game.  I understand they are the second largest Division III marching band in the country.  They were really strutting their stuff, too.  I dunno why, but Ol’ Robbo has always been a sucker for school marching bands.  I like both the sound and the razzmatazz.  (And no, I was never a Band Geek myself.)

“Ah, Ha, Ha, Haaa…”

♦  Pulling out of the parking garage at the hotel yesterday morning, Ol’ Robbo was able to make a turn in our Honda Juggernaut that missed a neighboring car’s fender by inches but saved me having to back up again.  As I did so, I laughed in the voice of Snake from “The Simpsons”.  Mrs. R looked at me and said, “You are so strange.”  But I was happy.  Is this just a guy thing?

♦  And speaking of happy and driving, friend of the decanter Tubbs remarks in a comment below on the slog that is I-95 and the Dee Cee Beltway.  In fact, we didn’t do too badly coming up I-64 from the Tidewater and then I-95 from Richmond yesterday.  And I have to confess that ever since they’ve completed the EZ-Pass express lanes on the Beltway and dropped them down to around Stafford on I-95, the last 45 minutes or so of my trips home from south of The Swamp have become downright pleasant.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Ol’ Robbo needs to go mow the lawn now and feel appropriately guilty about historickal European destruction of Indigenous Peoples, but mostly go mow the lawn.

UPDATE: Yardwork status? Done.  I forgot to mention earlier that we took Youngest with us on our visit this weekend.  She got very mad at Ol’ Robbo because I point-blank refused to let her practice driving on the interstates.  I did, in fact, let her drive when we were in Newport News, but even then she almost ran a red light because she got distracted by something.  No way is she ready for bumper-to-bumper at 80 MPH.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Friends of the decanter may recall that the Port Swiller microwave committed suicide nearly a month ago now.

We decided just to go ahead and replace it, and at the time I noodled briefly about doing the installation myself.  However, after checking out the set up more closely (it’s a top-mounting one over the stove), I realized that I am simply physically incapable of unbolting and safely lowering the thing all by myself, must less hoisting a new one up, so I said what the hey, let’s pony up a little more to get the installation.

So Mrs. R did a little research, went over to Best Buy to pick up the new one, and made what she thought were arrangements through BB with GeekSquad to come out and put it in.

Whelp, as I say, it’s nearly a month later and the damned thing is still sitting in the hall where I deposited it after Mrs. R brought it home.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t often use his mighty interwebz voice to bad-mouth a biznay, but in all my years I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything to match the experience of trying to deal with GeekSquad.  First, they assigned us a “case manager” whose lack of communications skills and reluctance to return calls resulted in two blown appointments.  Then, when a guy finally did appear this morning, he informed Mrs. R that he was only authorized to install the new microwave, not take away the old one.  Somebody else, apparently, is supposed to do that.

Honestly, it’s as if these people learned their management and customer-service standards from the Soviets.

Well, the hell with that.

We had thought of going with our regular odd-jobs contractor at first, but he wants more for the job.  We’re ready to go along with that now, because at least we know he’ll do it when he says he’s going to.

I suppose you get what you pay for.


Oh, and speaking of culinary matters (and the Soviet mindset), did you see the story today about the Brit coffee shop that got its radio ad banned because it disparaged avocados?  I swear I’m not making this up:

A radio advert for Costa Coffee has been banned for discouraging people from buying avocados, in saying they should head to the coffee chain for a bacon roll or egg muffin instead.

It comes after two listeners complained about a commercial, broadcast in June, featuring a voiceover that said: “There’s a great deal on ripen-at-home avocados. Sure, they’ll be hard as rock for the first 18 days, three hours and 20 minutes, then they’ll be ready to eat, for about 10 minutes, then they’ll go off.”

The advert advised people to choose the “better deal” of a roll or egg muffin.


Any advert that appears on radio or TV must follow the UK code of broadcast advertising (BCAP) which states that comparisons between foods must not discourage fruit and vegetables. The ASA ruled that the advert should not be broadcast again.

Full disclosure: Ol’ Robbo can’t stand avocados and refers to guacamole as “the Green Death”.  But even if the comparison was to yummy blueberries, which I adore, this is absurd.  (And now I’m all hungry for bacon and eggs, too.  Mmmmmm………)

And yes, empty animal-headed food-trough wiper ASA with your UK Code of broadcast advertising, ah fart in your general direction!  Your father was a hamster, and your mother smelled…of avocados!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, Ol’ Robbo isn’t going topless himself.  (You wouldn’t want that.  Trust me on this.)

Instead, I’m referring to La Wrangler.  This next few weeks – when it isn’t raining, of course – is why God invented the convertible.  And if I do still have to slog back and forth to work, at least I have the pleasure of doing so in a wide-open cockpit.

So I’ve got that going for me…..

UPDATE:  By the bye, on’t-day ell-tay oungest-Yay bout-ay is-ay ost-pay.  She’s been after me to buy her a Wrangler for her first car, but I absolutely refuse to let a first-time driver loose in a few pieces of flimsy metal around a roll-cage.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Checking the mailbox this evening, Ol’ Robbo found four fliers from the County Election Board addressed, respectively, to Self, Mrs. Robbo, and the two Elder Gels.  The fliers contained information related to this November’s mid-term elections, including confirmation of our polling place and details on where, when, and how to pick up and send in absentee ballots.

The usual stuff, yes, but it was neat to hold the fliers in my hand and contemplate the fact that Port Swiller Manor is now a four-vote household.  (Youngest will be old enough to vote in 2020.)

Ironically, up until a week or two ago, I don’t think any of the ladies had all that much interest in this November.  Let’s just say that with all the recent Supreme Court nomination shenanigans, that attitude has changed.  Emphatically.  And probably not the way those responsible for said shenanigans would have liked.



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