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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, with last week’s unseasonable heat round here, ol’ Robbo found himself out this morning mowing the Port Swiller Manor lawn, hopefully  for the last time this year.  (In what may be a little bit of wishful thinking, I let the mower run down to empty the gas tank at any rate.)  The grass, in addition to being fairly high, also had a layer of early leaves covering part of it.  Why is there so much pleasure in running a mower over leaves?  Is it the smell (especially when the fragments start to singe on the inside of the blade chamber)?  Is it the visual pleasure of cutting a nice, sharp, green path through the sea of yellows and oranges?  Maybe it’s both.  In any event, I most definitely enjoy it.

Yes, the leaves are starting to fall, and I had to haul one load down from the end of the driveway today, but we really haven’t got started yet.  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, my main autumnal task is dealing with a row of three silver maples and an oak (all about 40 ft tall) that overshadow the sidewalk fronting P.S.M.  The row runs from northwest to southeast and the maples never drop all their leaves at the same time, but rather in order from NW to SE.  I think it has something to do with exposure – as one tree denudes, the next in line is subject to more wind.  The oak spreads out the cleanup job even longer, because it won’t drop all at once, but instead takes its sweet, sweet, time, often several weeks longer than the maples.  Generally, it takes me about four Saturdays through November and early December to finally get things squared away.

Anyhoo, this year we did a goodish bit of landscaping out front which is going to have an impact on make more laborious the way I go about moving all those leaves (a process that involves rake, blower, wheelbarrow and tarp).  I find the technical questions of the most efficient way to compensate to be interesting and challenging, but nobody else around here seems to have much sympathy:  Yard work (and things like trash removal) is strictly Ol’ Dad’s problem because Ol’ Dad is a man, and only men should have to do it.  (Yes, Mrs. R taught the gels that.  It was the same thing in my own misspent yoot:  My brother and I were out slaving away for the Old Gentleman every weekend, while Sistah spent all her time in her room listening to Adam Ant records.  It was (and is) infuriating.)

Speaking of technical questions, I went ahead and ordered rolls of burlap and bubble wrap from the devil’s website pursuant to the plan to winterize the boxwood urns I mentioned a couple weeks ago.  Between the random items and the eccentric assortment of books and musick I get from those people, I’m hoping one day to cause their marketing algorithms to suffer a complete nervous breakdown.  (I don’t doubt, though, that when I go check my Facebook feed, ads for wrapping materials will already be there.  This, I don’t like.)

I mentioned the heat up above.  It was 85 degrees here on Thursday.  Today we’ll top out in the mid-50’s with a strong NW wind.  I love this sort of thing.  Curiously, it’s autumn days like these that always make me want to reread Tolkien, especially the Fellowship of the Ring, since Frodo and his party set out on their adventure about this time of year and Tolkien pays such close attention to the shifting weather as they travel from the Shire to Rivendell.  Years ago I read a paper somewhere on the innertoobs that presented a meteorological analysis of Tolkien’s weather pattern descriptions for this trip and found that they were absolutely sound for the time of year and the part of England with which Tolkien was most familiar.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo just got back from visiting the Eldest Gel for Parents’ Weekend at SBC.  All in all, quite the interesting experience.

The other day, the Gel requested and required, in her straightforward way, that Mrs. R and I try not to make conspicuous fools of ourselves while visiting.  Overall?  I’d say we were roughly 60% compliant with that request order.  (At least we didn’t bring baby photos to show the Gel’s friends.)  Our first fault – which I should have spotted and more forcefully deterred – was that Mrs. R kept forgetting that she was a visiting parent and not a visiting alumna, so she spent large amounts of time glad-handing faculty, administration, and other students, trying to set up networks, offer suggestions, and generally rallying to the flag.  All worthy endeavors, of course, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  When Mrs. R was going at Maximum Shmooze, I could see faint puffs of smoke coming out of the Gel’s ears.  (Not just because Mom Wouldn’t Stop Yakking, but also, I believe, because there’s a kind of territorial thing developing here:  The Gel has so quickly taken to the place that she now assumes it’s her turf and that Mrs. R is an intruder.)

Also, Mrs. R indulged in her favorite pastime of trying to jam Too Many Events into Too Little Time (something which has driven me absolutely batty the last quarter century).  This culminated in an ill-advised late movie date with the Gel after her theatre production was finished last evening, leaving the Gel an extremely irritable zombie this morning.   I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have been better for all involved if we hadn’t simply slipped off for home after the show instead of staying for brunch today.  (The production of “The Trojan Women” was, by the bye, quite well done for all my critique in the linked post.  Great leads, well-staged, and pretty gruesome all around.)

Ah, well.

A few other things:

The Gel may have been an irritable zombie this morning, but so was Ol’ Robbo.  This was because last night was the second night in a row in which I got virtually no rest.  Now, long-time friends of the decanter may recall that Ol’ Robbo does not do well sleeping in beds other than his own in the first place (e.g., on travel), but this was somewhat worse.  For one thing, there was something going on with the pipes at the inn where we stayed.  Do you remember that sound the sabotaged reactor plant made in “The Hunt For Red October” that forced the crew of the October to shut it  down? That metallic ka-clang! ka-clang! ka-clang!?  We got that, off and on, all night.  For another, this weekend happens to have been Homecoming at the Younger Gels’ high school.  We had allowed them to stay and go to the game and dance provided that  they stayed with approved friends and that we worked out security understandings and arrangements with said friends’ parents ahead of time.  So last evening, we couldn’t even think about going to bed until we had received confirmation from home that the Younger Gels were safe, sound, and not in requirement of bail money.

(The above paragraph is, by the bye, an apologetic explanation to long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory for why I didn’t appear at his church for Mass this morning.  I had thought to tool over the mountains, in part because ODT’s church was one of the nearer available options, in part because we’ve been blog-friends for years on end but had never met in person.   But I was so wiped out that I simply couldn’t get myself up in time.  Mea culpa!)

The Gel’s operating procedure during most of our visit was to deal with us until she’d had about enough and then dismiss us until she was ready to reengage.  This left some time on our hands, so yesterday Mrs. R and I decided to walk round the campus on the traditional loop known as “The Dairy”.  It’s a farm road that, starting behind the performing arts theater, passes over some fields, climbs up the backside of Monument Hill, passes through the stables, and then dips down into the dell where the graphic arts program is housed in the buildings and barn that used to hold the working dairy back in the day – hence the name – before climbing back up toward the main campus.  (The Dairy – which supplied fresh milk and ice cream to the dining hall when Mrs. R was there – was forced to close in the early 90’s because of the added costs associated with complying with strict new EPA regulations championed by AlGore.  Of course, Big Dairy – cosy with the gubmint – could afford to swallow such regs while all the little operations like SBC’s were run out of the market, so from the point of view of both the Bureaucracy and the Major Players, everybody won.  And that, boys and girls, is what we call Crony Capitalism or, to put it more succinctly, Fascism.)  The loop is something in the neighborhood of three miles all the way around.  (The Gel walks it at least twice a day.)

Anyhoo, as we tramped along outbound across the fields, I suddenly stopped.

“What is it?” said Mrs. Robbo.

“You’re going to think I’m completely mad,” I replied, “But I’d swear I heard the skirl of bagpipes coming down the wind.”

We continued walking.  A few moments later, I stopped again.

“Yes?” said Mrs. R.

“I heard it again!” I answered.  “Are the Campbells coming?”

A few more yards and there could be no doubt:  Somewhere up ahead, a piper was doing his thing.

As we tramped along up the hill and the musick got clearer, I couldn’t help feeling a certain chill, even a romantic urge.  (My father’s family is almost purebred Scots, you know.  It must be something in the blood.)

Eventually, we tramped up to the top of Monument Hill and there he was, a Lone Piper (albeit in t-shirt and jeans) solemnly striding back and forth and puffing away.  At first I had thought it was some kind of honorary tribute to the spirit of the school embodied in the Monument.  However, as the fellah kept starting and stopping and repeating certain phrases, I realized he was just practicing, and probably doing so at such a remote location because he couldna’ do it anywheer else fer yon dozy knippits who dinnah unnerstan teh pipes!

Made my day, however.

The other get-rid-of-parents activity in which Ol’ Robbo participated was the fly-casting clinic held by a couple of profs down by the boat house.  Now, the Old Gentleman taught me how to fly-fish when I was a kid, but I haven’t picked up a fly-rod in twenty years and wanted to see if I still have the touch.  Well, my friends, it seems that I do.  However, I also have something that I didn’t have back in the day:  A maximum pitch-count.

So there you have it.  Mrs. Robbo and I are home again after a reasonably entertaining weekend, the Younger Gels are safe and sound, and the Eldest can breath a sigh of relief and unclench.

UPDATE:  For your delectation:


Although I’m mighty-near purebred Scots on my father’s side, my family were not true Highlanders, having held lands primarily slightly south of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, so I dinna know where we stood re pacification and relations with the Brits.  But I know ye ne kin trust the bludy Campbells!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In comments to the post below about this past weekend, Mr. G. Hand asks: “But, how was the visit of Eldest Gel after the freedom of the dorm? Enquiring minds want to know!”

Well, as the farmer interested in the enormous commercial possibilities of ovine aviation said, “A feer quistion, and one that in recent weeks ‘as been mooch on moy moynd.”

You see, as the date of The Homecoming got closer and closer, the Eldest began talking about it more and more, going on at great length about how ready she was to get away from school and how glad she was to be coming back to Port Swiller Manor.  Indeed, last week she spoke of almost nothing else (aside from the elections, that is).  I won’t say that she became obsessive, but I will say that Mrs. Robbo and I were only mostly joking when we agreed we’d better have a contingency plan ready to go in the event the Gel announced she was going to move back in, transfer to community college, and get a job at Robek’s.  (That plan, as it turned out, was simply to say, “Oh, no you’re not.”)

Well, when the Gel rolled in Wednesday evening, she certainly was excited to be home.  For about the next 48 hours or so, she fully indulged herself in all of her old favorite activities – fooling with the dog, swinging on the rope swing out back, looking up HS friends, and so on.

But by Saturday morning, I couldn’t help noticing something of a change coming over the gel.  She started to seem a bit….antsy.  Fidgety, if you will.  Standing on one foot or the other with impatience.  This gradually got more noticeable as the day went by.  Indeed, she also started getting a bit testy with us.  At one point, when Mrs. R was fussing at her about something, the gel snapped, “You know, there are times when I like the concept of you guys much more than the reality of having to deal with you.”

By Sunday, the Gel also was making jokes about how she had to go back to school because she just couldn’t stand being under the same roof as her sisters any longer because of all the noise and hubbub.

On the other hand, another thing was that the Gel started talking to me about the things she likes at school.  You can’t get this stuff out of her if you ask – she just goes contrary and clams up.  But if you sit very still and let her bring it up herself, she’ll let it out – the friends she’s making; the clubs and activities she’s joined (including her favorite Friday evening trips to VMI for ball room dancing – she even volunteered to drive a carpool); her classes (except French).  As for the “freedom of the dorm”, that’s definitely part of it too, although not the way you might think.  What she enjoys most, I think, is the responsibility of running her own life.  (She despises those girls who have gone off the deep end of of debauchery now that they’re out from under the parental thumb.  There’s a lot of Scots Presbyterian blood running through that kid’s veins.)

In short, I think the Gel realized this weekend that already there is a part of her that likes being at college even more than it likes being at home.  I also think she surprised herself in this discovery, since she had been so eager to visit beforehand.

The final clue?  Not once did I hear her say anything about not wanting to head back Monday morning.  She was up at 5 ack emma, and after a big hug and a perfunctory “see you”, she was off to arm herself with coffee and donuts, pick up her classmate who was catching a ride back with her, and head down the highway.

This makes ol’ Robbo very happy.   Leaving home certainly can be hard on a kid, but it is absolutely critical if you expect them ever to really grow up.  And after some initial bumps and shudders, it seems to me as if the Gel now “gets” it.

Incidentally, Mrs. Robbo and I will be headed down to see the Gel in her newly naturalized habitat for Family Weekend in a few weeks.  (I don’t think they call it “family” as opposed to “parents” weekend because of political correctness.  Instead, I think they want to encourage younger sisters to check the place out.  I know for certain that the Director of Admissions would love to get her hooks into the Middle Gel if she could.)  I wonder if we will look as hopeless a pair of doofuses (doofii?) in that environment as the Old Gentleman and the Mothe did to me when they came to visit me my freshman year.

No doubt.  No doubt.

But that’s good, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s been rayther a long time since ol’ Robbo has reported one of his signature bizzarro dreams here.  Well, guess what? That drought is over.

It seems I found myself in a long, long procession or pilgrimage of people, a surprising number of whom I actually know in real life or via the innertoobs.   They seemed to be searching for The Way or The Light or some sort of Answer.  It became clear to me after a time, however, that there was nothing holy about what I was seeing, and that it was, in fact, some kind of cult of personality presided over by an evil spirit.  (The people themselves, however, were not evil, just deluded.  Don’t ask me how I knew these things.  I just did.)

It seemed that every now and then a dissenter would be singled out in a kind of cat-and-mouse game played by the forces of evil.  The dissenter would be put to an impromptu show trial and then carted off to the executioner for torture and/or beheading.

It also seemed that there was some kind of underground movement that sought to save such dissenters.  Apparently, it was very good at getting them away from the captors but didn’t really have a clue as to what to do with them afterwards, and the freed dissenters typically were re-caught.

At some point in my dream, the scene shifted from a broad, rolling upland to the interior of an impossibly large railroad car.  As I stood in the crowd, I suddenly realized that people were quietly slipping away from my sides and that all at once I was quite alone.  I found myself facing a woman lounging on a sofa.  I don’t think she was the actual guiding force of the cult, but believed she was one of the senior lieutenants.  I don’t remember what she or I said specifically, but the upshot was that I was accused of Crimes Against The Body and sentenced to death.

I then found myself in a field, apparently awaiting execution.  There was a group of people near me who seemed to be praying.  I asked them if I could borrow a Bible.  One of the group immediately handed me what turned out to be a missal instead of a Bible.  But he also (accidentally, I think) handed me a wallet, which I immediately turned over the wrong way, spilling out all the contents.  I hastily tried to gather up a large number of credit cards, paper receipts and cash, and was much distressed that I couldn’t seem to get them all back into the wallet.  I don’t recall how the affair ended.

Next, I found it was Time.  A group of people gathered around me and started hustling me off to the place of execution.  Some of them were taunting me, but others slipped in close and muttered things like, “We’ll get you out,” “We haven’t got a plan yet, but we’re working on it,” “Just keep your eyes open and watch for opportunities,”  and the like.  Curiously, I found I had no faith that they could spring me, but also was not greatly distressed about it.  My overall feeling was of calm resignation.

I arrived at the execution spot, where I understood I was to have my head chopped off.  It was just an open place in the field with a square marked off in yellow paint.  Apparently, somebody had forgotten to build a proper platform, so there was going to be another delay while they sorted things out.  Meanwhile, a major league umpire was standing nearby, kicking his heals as he waited to officiate.  For some reason, St. Thomas More suddenly wandered into my braims, so I sidled up to the ump and said, “I understand this axe-man is a seasoned pro.  Well, I’m just rookie meat.  So will you please be generous with the strike zone?”

And then, as they say, I woke up.

(The only part of this dream I can explain in absolutely concrete terms is the presence of the fuming ump.  The Family Robbo went to see our beloved Nationals play last evening and there was an almost two hour rain delay before the game began.  The rest seems to be a bad mash-up of Msrg. Robert Hugh Benson’s The Lord of the World and Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil“.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the big nooz around Port Swiller Manor this week is that the Eldest Gel is coming home tomorrow for the first time since we dropped her off at college almost six weeks ago.  (It’s end of quarter reading days, which she’s been planning to make an extended at-home weekend from the very beginning.)

It will be fascinating to see what effect a month and a half of having been booted out of the nest will have had on her.  Certainly I’ve noticed a change in her tone over the phone, especially since she got some pretty good grades on her first essays in English and history.  More mature, more task-oriented.  Also, she seems to want to go and visit with all the adults round here who helped her make the transition, and is insistent that we have Family Dinners during her stay (something she always hated while in previous residence here).

Yep, I think teh Gel is growing up.  And while it worried ol’ Robbo somewhat early on, at least now I’m satisfied that we won’t have any trouble about her going back to school come Sunday.

(Incidentally, ol’ Robbo was never all that happy about the idea of the Gel driving three hours each way through the Virginny countryside all by herself.  As it turns out, however, she discovered a classmate the other day who lives the next town over and who was looking to bum a ride home.  So it’s all good.)





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Has ol’ Robbo mentioned here before his firmly-held belief that Tuesday is the worst day of the week?  Well it is, simply due to the fact that it has absolutely nothing going for it.  Monday, for all its awfulness, is at least a bridgehead.  Wednesday is, of course, Hump…DAAAAAAY.  Thursday is down hill and Friday speaks for itself.  Tuesday is nothing more than a freakin’ hole in the week.

Anyhoo, to fill that hole, a few stray thoughts:

♦  Before I forget it, and in connection with the Wednesday link above, I have to say that ol’ Robbo is continually impressed with the consistent brilliance of Geico’s teevee advertising (which I see through watching my beloved Nats play on MASN).  Campaign after campaign after campaign – from cavemen to geckos to bad ideas – whoever comes up with this stuff is truly gifted.  It’s one thing to get an occasional home run, but these people hit for the freakin’ cycle.   And speaking of which, for some reason ol’ Robbo finds their latest amusing enough to repost here:

(Full disclosure, by the bye, ol’ Robbo is not a Geico customer or paid shill.  We’re USAA through the Old Gentleman’s military stint and quite content with it.)

♦  And speaking of ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats, they just dropped their fourth straight to an out-of-it NL East team playing for nothing but pride tonight.  I know the odds of us not clinching the pennant at this point are in the SMOD 2016 range, but come on, guys!

♦   Speaking of sports, last Sunday ol’ Robbo was asked by one of his Mass buddies who doesn’t pay much attention to the current so-called “culture” to explain the whole NFL national anthem kerfluffle.  Whelp, I was able to give her a brief description just based on what I see on the Innertoobs, but the fact of the matter is that ol’ Robbo really hasn’t watched pro football at all since Dan Marino retired in 1999.  This was partly because the ‘Fins were the only team I ever followed and they have gone to hell since then, and partly because NFL Sunday afternoon advertising is raunchy enough that I didn’t want the gels seeing it.  Overall, I don’t think I’ve really missed very much.

♦   It would be extremely foolish of ol’ Robbo to comment on the state of the Presidential race at this point, at least so far as endorsements go.  But one thing strikes me as peculiar:  Normally, my corner of NoVA and my commuter route into the Imperial City are, by this point, wall-to-wall with yard signs and bumper stickers.  This year?  Almost nada.  Just about the only signs I see in the immediate neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor are for the local incumbent House member.  Make of that what you will.

♦   Good thoughts would be appreciated:  The next two days ol’ Robbo is being forced to go on “retreat” with his office colleagues.   Usually, I’m pretty good at being able to dodge work-related functions, but I gather there’s no getting out of this one barring accidental amputation of a limb or kidnapping by Boko Haram.  Sigh.  In my experience, “retreats” are both boring and dangerous, and the only thing to do is to keep one’s head down, one’s mouth shut, and one’s most political smile firmly nailed to one’s face.

♦  Speaking of face, ol’ Robbo is trying out a new prescription set of gas-permiable hard contact lenses this week.  (My venture into disposable soft lenses proved an abject failure.)  They seem to work reasonably well for my near-sightedness.  The trouble is that they also bring my far-sightedness into, er, very sharp focus: wearing them, I can’t make out much within a four or five foot radius without a pair of store-bought 2X reading glasses.  I’m having trouble here understanding why I go to the bother of contacts in the first place.

♦  Relatedly, while getting fitted for the new contacts, I also got a prescription for a new pair of glasses.  My current pair is about four years old and I’ve had nothing but grief about them (in terms of aesthetics) from Mrs. R.  This time, I got the Missus to come down to the Hour-Eyes with me.  “Here,” I said, “You pick out the frames!”  And she did.  Despicable pre-emptive surrender? Or ingenious seizure of the high ground?  Your answer may very well depend on your marital status. (Hint: “Yes, dear” can be a double-edged weapon.)

Whelp, I suppose that’s enough hole-in-the-week plugging for now.  Pass the port to the left as you take it in, if you please.

UPDATE:  Day One of Robbo’s retreat featured the predictable “team-building challenges” and a lot of middle-management level blether from an HR consultant (what a racket that is!) about effective communications with different personality types.   Forehead? Meet table!  As a colleague of mine put it sotto voce, “Here’s an idea: You’re all grownups…Act like it.”

UPDATE DEUX: Nats’ Magic Number now down to, er, deux.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Next month marks the sixteenth anniversary of the Family Robbo’s setting up shop here at Port Swiller Manor.  With each passing year, as is inevitable, major appliances and fixtures have come to the end of their useful lives and have had to be replaced – the furnace, the water heater, the InSinkErator, the oven (well, that was more of an upgrade than a needed replacement), all of the potties, and so on.  In fact, the only three such items which I can recall being part of the original equipment we bought with the place are the Kenmore washer/dryer combination, the garage door opener, and the Maytag dishwasher.**

The first two items are still going strong, but the dishwasher is beginning to show its age.  One sign of this is that, recently, the lower dish rack has started rusting in spots.  (When that rust gets on the rims of the plates during a wash cycle, it’s a major pain to get the stains off again.)  So ol’ Robbo began to noodle around in his braims about what he could do short of replacing the whole thing (which seems absurd since it still runs perfectly well).

My first idea was to look for a replacement part.  As I say, it’s an old Maytag but I can’t seem to find any model number or other identification on it.  Nonetheless, at first I figured I could do a little measuring and a little eye-balling and a little detail comparison, and come up with something that would fit.  I found such parts readily available on-line, but also found that they’re a lot more expensive than I had imagined – a couple hundred bucks in some places.  That’s a bit too steep a gamble for me.

But as I hunted around, I also noticed another option in the form of some goop that you can put on the rust spots to seal them over.  Six bucks a bottle.  It has the consistency of liquid paper and you apply it by slapping on multiple layers every half hour or so and then letting the patches dry overnight.  (It also has some right powerful fumes that take me back to the hours and hours I spent in my misspent yoot putting together and painting model airplanes.  Duuuuuude...)

Anyhoo, that’s what I’m amusing myself with this afternoon and I must say that it’s giving me no end of enjoyment.  I guess it says something about ol’ Robbo’s station in life that such a homeowner’s short-cut can give so much satisfaction.  Unless, of course, it’s just the fumes.  (Duuuuuuude….)

By the bye, I’ve no doubt that there are many friends of the decanter saying to yourselves “Self, I wonder how ol’ Robbo’s Eldest Gel is taking to college life?”  Well, the short answer is that, despite the predictable bounces and shakes, overall tolerable well, tolerable well.  I put together a post this week listing all the activities and whatnot she’s got herself involved in, but it wound up reading like one of those awful family “news letters” that go out with the Christmas cards, so I chucked it.  Instead, I’m reviewing my more general thoughts about the overall shift in family dynamics caused by her absence and may have something to say about that.  Also, she’s coming home for the weekend in a couple weeks and it will be interesting to see what, if any, changes the first six weeks of school have made in her.

** Mrs. Robbo says that we put the dishwasher in our first year here, but I have no recollection of that.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It's Dead, Jim

It’s Dead, Jim

Ol’ Robbo may be in for a baaaaad day today if his attempt to grind up his coffee beans a while ago is any indication of things to come:

Yes, my at least 17 y.o. Krups simply blew up on me.  As you can see (and which I hadn’t noticed), the wires had become frayed where they pass into the base and I guess it was finally just a cut too far.  I plugged in, there was a resounding POP!, sparks flew everywhere, and now…..Die Krups ist kaput!

Guess it’s off to the devil’s website to see about getting a replacement.  I hope I can refrain from slaughtering my family in the meantime.  Twitch! Twitch!

Speaking of coffee, it has long been my policy to refuse to order for Mrs. Robbo when we hit a Starbucks on one of our road trips because she’s the sort who pimps her cup with all those extra frills and special instructions.  I do so partly because I think this is heresy, partly because I can never remember all the things she wants, and partly because I feel embarrassed reeling off such a litany to some snot-nosed barista.

Well last evening I mentioned that I was going to stop at Chopt on the way home from work to pick up a salad for dinner and did Mrs. R want anything?  “Oh, yes,” she replied, “I’ll text you my order.”  A few moments later, ol’ Robbo’s iPhone (yes, I was finally forced to get one) received the single-most complicated salad order I’ve ever seen – a dozen different ingredients (one or two of which I couldn’t even pronounce properly), instructions on how chopped up she wanted it, and three different dressings.   I actually had to read it all off my phone to the counter guy after making abundantly clear that this was the missus’ idea and that all I wanted was a plain Caesar myself.

Won’t be doing that again any time soon, I can tell you.

I suppose I had better clean up and nip on over to the local not-Starbucks coffee shop and get an emergency fix before the withdrawal sets in and I begin slitting throats……

UPDATE:  Done and done (the new grinder, I mean, not the slaying).  I’m going with the fancier-shmantzier “burr” grinder, which I’m told gives a better quality than the old rotor-blade model.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo just got home from attending freshman orientation with the Youngest Gel.  What with all the hubbub over the Eldest going away to college this year, it has been quite easy to overlook the fact that the Youngest is transitioning up to high school, too.  (That’s the way it is, I suppose.  The trade-off is that she’s got the collective experience of her older sisters and of us to help ease her in.)

The Gel has been worried that she won’t know anybody in her class since she was in the AAP program at the middle school across town from us and not at the one which feeds into our high school.  I pointed out to her a) that she’ll already know a number of kids from church, the pool and girl scouts, and b) that she has her mother’s gift for striking up acquaintances very easily (unlike her rayther misanthropic old dad), so there’s no need for concern.

And I was right.  She met another girl within about two minutes after getting to the gym and hung around with her for the whole program while Ol’ Robbo sat in the auditorium with the other parents, quietly dozing through the pleas for volunteers and money.

The Gel’s ambitions this year are to make the swim team and get in on the fall theater production.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Finally, finally, for the first time since about mid-May, ol’ Robbo is once again posting over the family Mac in the comfort and convenience of his basement lair.



So just a small sample of this and that to get back into the feel of things:

♦   Regular friends of the decanter may be wondering how the Eldest is doing her first week of college?  Well, as to be expected, the barometer has swung pretty wildly between “Stormy” and “Set Fair” as she begins to internalize just what she’s got herself into.  She reports that she took her first road trip over to Hamster-Squidney Friday evening and hated it. “Nothing but beer and pot,” was her dismissive summary.  (Scots Presbyterian roots run deep.)  Somehow or other, this rejection doesn’t bother ol’ Robbo very much.

♦  Do you know what a “tiguan” is?  Neither did ol’ Robbo.  Neither did the Volkswagen salesman from whom we bought a used one yesterday for the Middle Gel, who will be a high school junior this year.  He thought it had something to do with wind.  Turns out that it was just the idea of some German marketing-wallah who thought it would be hip to blend together the words “tiger” and “iguana”.  I’ve no idea why.

♦  In case you missed it, Tom Wolfe has a new book coming out entitled The Kingdom of Speech.  From the ad copy over at the devil’s website, it doesn’t sound like another one of his sledge-hammer social satires, but instead something of a more academic nature:

Tom Wolfe, whose legend began in journalism, takes us on an eye-opening journey that is sure to arouse widespread debate. THE KINGDOM OF SPEECH is a captivating, paradigm-shifting argument that speech–not evolution–is responsible for humanity’s complex societies and achievements.

From Alfred Russel Wallace, the Englishman who beat Darwin to the theory of natural selection but later renounced it, and through the controversial work of modern-day anthropologist Daniel Everett, who defies the current wisdom that language is hard-wired in humans, Wolfe examines the solemn, long-faced, laugh-out-loud zig-zags of Darwinism, old and Neo, and finds it irrelevant here in the Kingdom of Speech.

Whatever you want to call it, I plan to pick up a copy.

Well, that’s enough to start.  As I mentioned below, ol’ Robbo is starting his summah hols, and since I’m not planning on going anywhere, I’ll probably spend a fair bit of time flittering about on the innertoobs, catching up with a bunch of blogs I haven’t been able to conveniently get too in my forced exile.

In the meantime, I’m off to Netflix to charge up the ol’ queue, which has been dry as a bone for about a month.  See you soon!

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