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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A bit too soggy in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor to do anything useful in the yard this Saturday, so Ol’ Robbo won’t even bother.  Instead, how about a little of this and that?

♦  Middle Gel (and Mrs. R) went to an overnight freshman orientation program this week.  I believe it was when she returned armed with her first semester schedule that I finally realized yes, she’s a college kid now.  Most….discombobulating.  It’s a very different feel from when Eldest went off, perhaps because then one was so caught up in the groundbreaking aspect but now the tempus fugit theme seems more present.  God know what it will be like when Youngest goes……

♦  While Mrs. Robbo and Self were away on holiday, I of course paid no attention whatsoever to any form of “news”.  Catching up upon my return, I was both interested and delighted to see the “OhMuhGawdTrumpHitlerIsTearingInnocentMigrantBabiesFromTheirMothersArms!!” meme launch, soar, and crash in flames, all in about 72 hours or so.  Surely there is doctoral thesis-level material there regarding the insanity of the modern nooz propaganda cycle.

♦ Oh, and if you’re interested, Ol’ Robbo is of the opinion that any “blame” that attaches in this matter lies squarely on the parents who drag their children into such a horrible situation in the first place.  Regardless of what Nancy Pelosi or the USCCB may say to the contrary, it is not a sin to refuse to aid, abet, or encourage this kind of child abuse.  So there.

♦ And one other politickal observation?  There will be no “Blue Wave” this fall.

♦ Ol’ Robbo saw quite a bit of “ink” on the beach this week.  I don’t mean a discreet little doo-dah on an ankle here or there, I mean elaborate designs all up and down legs, arms, and backs.  Call me what you will, but I simply fail to see what somebody could possibly be thinking in going for such a look.  Especially (yes, I’ll say it) a woman.

♦ Has any friend of the decanter seen the new Incredibles movie? Frankly, I’m afraid to.

Whelp, that’s about it.  Fingers crossed that thunderstorms don’t thwart my grilling plans later: what with various comings and goings (Eldest gets home from visiting grandparents this afternoon and both the younger gels are away tomorrow to separate summah camps/retreats), this evening is the only time in the next couple weeks when all five of us will actually be home together for dinner.

UPDATE:  Long-time friend of the decanter Sleepy Beth has a review of The Incredibles 2 which gives Ol’ Robbo much hope.  Go check it out.

 

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It fell on Ol’ Robbo to take Youngest Gel to swim practice this morning.  It’s in the low 70’s and raining on-again/off-again.

Gel: “OhMyGod, it is so freezing! I can’t believe they’re making us swim in this!”

Self: “You know…”

Gel: “I mean, the last time it was like this? My ears were ringing, it was so cold!”

Self: “You know, when….”

Gel: “I am so serious! I mean, it’s practically snowing!”

Self: “You know, when I…”

Gel: “And the pool isn’t even heated!”

Self: “You know, when I was a kid….”

Gel: “Wait…is this when you were in college?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel: “And you were rowing crew?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel: “And there was ice on the river?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel:  “And you had to wade in up to your thighs barefoot?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel: “And there was ice in your hair?”

Self: “Yes, but…”

Gel:  “I’ve heard it before.”

Self:  “Well, it’s true, you know. That’s cold, so you can just suck it up, buttercup.”

Dang kids!  Now they’re taking my Life Lessons right out of my mouth before I can even tell ’em!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Before heading out on his anniversary trip, Ol’ Robbo tried to pre-post a couple of entries here apropos to marriage, in order to cover his extended silence.  (You know, so that the three or four of you who actually pay attention to this blog wouldn’t come and sack Port Swiller Manor in my absence.)

Evidently, I did or did not do something I was supposed to under the harsh bloggy strictures of WordPress, because none of said pre-paid posts ever turned up on the main page.

Oh, well.

Anyhoo, I’ll resurrect the meat of just one, a very short Python sketch over which I have laughed immoderately ever since I first saw it.  (Sorry about the subtitles.)

 

Incidentally, “Well you can’t change your bloody wife!!” is not a bad line to consider when you’re going through some of the darker patches.  Trust me on this.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo and the Missus just got home from celebrating our 25th anniversary in Bermuda.  My friends, all I can say is that it is a delightful, delightful place.

Friends of the decanter will remember that Ol’ Robbo asked some time last week about things to do and see in the place.  In the end, however, by enthusiastic mutual consent, we wound up simply loafing about for three days.  Uncle Robbo did remember to bring back a few snaps for your entertainment, however.  On reviewing them, I believe you will concur that our decision was a wise one.

We stayed at a private club at Coral Beach, located on the south side of the island at roughly the midpoint.  Here is the view from our balcony:

Room With A View

We ate breakfast here each morning, and by the time we left had collected quite the following of sparrows and kiskadees (a bird Ol’ Robbo had not seen before) through tossing breadcrumbs out on to the floor.  With a full pot of java and that kind of view, why wouldn’t I linger over it?

At night, we left the double-doors open (but not the screens) so as to catch the sound of the waves crashing and the wind rustling in the palms.  The other thing we heard all night was about a bajillion tree frogs, many of which had a call that sounded like a high-pitched sonar “ping”.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo slept very badly all three nights, but that’s because I always do so when away from home.  I could have taped this particular cacophony and made bank selling it as a soporific.

Eventually, though, we’d toddle down to the beach.  The first thing I must say is that I have never seen sea water quite like this – so clear and so luminously blue.  The second is that for all the talk of “pink” Bermudian sand (and our beach is supposed to be one of the pinkest), you’ve really got to catch it at the right time of day and without a lot of footprints and tiretracks churning it up in order to get this notion.

Life’s A Beach

Anyhoo, as I say, we’d toddle down to the beach after brekkers.  Each day, we’d set up shop under an umbrella and alternate between reading, dozing, plunging into the water (where we saw numerous schools of young Jack Permit fish fooling about), walking laps (the entire beach is about half a mile or so from end to end), and getting the nice man at the bar to bring us G&T’s and Pimm’s Cup.  Tough life.  Tough life.  (Yes, we talked about marriage stuff, too, but I won’t bore you with what is, after all, confidential.)

Actually, it was truly tough in one respect:  Ol’ Robbo, even as he types, is suffering from being thoroughly cooked by the sun.  I tried spraying on sunblock, but evidently my skills are suboptimal, because I’ve come out looking piebald, like Ransom in Perelandra.

By the bye, and still keeping on the topic of the beach, the whole time we were there, we got to watch pairs and groups of the iconic Bermuda Longtail fly up and down the shore.  An intensely beautiful tropicbird that I, of course, have not seen before. I can well see why so much of the local artwork incorporates images of this bird.

The place we were staying is set at the top of a forty foot cliff overlooking the ocean.  (Right at the top are the restored remains of an English gun emplacement from the earliest colonial times.  Idiot Robbo had forgot all about the fact that Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by Jamestown colonists under George Somers after their ship was driven ashore during a hurricane.)  During the day, as I say, we were able to get refreshments down on the beach.  In the evenings, we dined up at the top of the escarpment.

All in all, as I say, delightful.

A few random additional thoughts and observations:

♦  The Bermudians, as a rule, at least so far as I observed, seem to be friendly without fawning.  They were all of them cordial, but one was always aware of a polite but firm barrier.  I’ve no problem with that.

♦  The place is very cramped, and space is at a premium.  The roads are narrow, shoulderless, and wound about, and it’s small wonder that the island-wide speed limit is only 25 mph.  Between that and driving on the left side, Ol’ Robbo would have quickly gone insane behind the wheel had he attempted it.

♦  The place also is as expensive as hell, largely because everything has to be imported.  I’m still gulping a bit about the total damage done from our trip (not that it wasn’t completely worth it).

♦ I had not realized that the only substantial water supply on the island is rainfall, so that each resident is responsible for catching and storing as much said rain as possible via roofs and tanks.

♦  Somebody remarked here previously that landing at Bermuda was like landing on an aircraft carrier.  I dunno about that, since I don’t look out the window until the rubber meets the tarmac, but I can tell you that because of that comment, and because the flight out was rather bumpy, Ol’ Robbo found himself repeatedly muttering under his breath, “Next time, Jack, write a goddam memo!” **

** A nifty-gifty of a spotable quote.

Anyhoo, long story short, we had a lovely time and will definitely go back if and when we can.

UPDATE: My apologies if any friend of the decanter feels this post is a bit too Robin Leach-ish.  Ol’ Robbo did not in any way wish to appear as if sticking on dog about “Champaign wishes and caviar dreams” here.  This was the first vacay Mrs. R and I spent together alone and in some style in God-knows how many years and we worked like dammit to plan, save, and wangle so that we could enjoy it without worry.

By the bye and speaking of which, my favorite Robin Leach quote? “There was one room in her house that was always kept locked.  It was….the garage.”  Anybody spot the quote?

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For whatever reason, perhaps because the summah heat has set in and my intellect is correspondingly evaporating, Ol’ Robbo has started whipping through Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series again.

I may provoke some ire over the decanter and walnuts here, but I’m going to say it anyway: By golly, is this stuff trash.

So why do I read it?  Because I’m a (casual) student of the Napoleonic Wars and I enjoy what I believe to be Cornwell’s gift for accurately explaining and describing the purely military side of things, from strategic objectives to logistics to tactical maneuverings to the nitty-gritty of hand-to-hand combat.

But as for the rest? Aw, Jeez.  The characters are cardboard bordering on caricature, the dialogue is preposterous, Sharpe’s up-from-the-gutter story is clang, clang, clang, and the love interests come and go like Bond Girls.

For what it’s worth, I have nearly identical opinions – both good and bad – about the novels of Tom Clancy, which I also read from time to time, although I don’t really venture much beyond Clear and Present Danger.  Also Jeff Shaara, Derek Robinson and, for that matter, C.S. Forester and Charles Kingsley.

On the other hand, I have no such misgivings about reading and rereading similarly-themed works by the likes of Patrick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser, P.C. Wren, Erskine Childers, Conan Doyle, and Rider Haggard.  (Yes, I know one of you is going to mention John Buchan, but I still haven’t read him yet.  And of course, Kipling is beyond question. )  One of these days, I’ll put my mind to analyzing the differences.

Anyhoo, getting back to the Sharpe stories, I savor the battle scenes, cringe at the personal interest stuff, and feel vaguely ashamed about it all afterwards.  And yet, as I say, I keep coming back.

Who are some of your secret or not-so-secret favorite trash authors?

UPDATE: Of, I forgot.  The other evening as I was reading one of the Sharpe books, Eldest Gel came in the room and asked me about it.

“Oh,” I said, “It’s historickal fiction about the Napoleonic Wars.”

She looked at me cock-eyed and exclaimed, “Who on Earth else but you would read something like that?”

Kids these days.  Even mine.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Believe it or not, this month marks the 25th anniversary of the day on which Ol’ Robbo and Mrs. R were first manacled together.

In celebration, we are going to spend three nights in Bermuda, to which island neither of us has been before.

There’s a particular reason for this choice of destination: We had wanted to go to Bermuda for our honeymoon.  Only in those days, just out of law school in the midst of a legal market collapse, Ol’ Robbo couldn’t possibly afford it.  Plus, my phobia about flying back then was so bad that I really didn’t think it would be a good basis on which to start our life journey together.  So we made other plans.

Things are much different now, twenty-five years later.  We have the readies, and although I’ll never actually enjoy flying, I’ve got my fears sufficiently under control through experience that we’ll be fine on the plane.

So we’re looking on this jaunt as a sort of deferred gratification.

Anyhoo, if any friend of the decanter has inside information on things to do and see in Bermuda, I’d be grateful for the information.  We’re absolutely solid for accommodations, but suggestions regarding food and drink, together with touristy activities, would be most appreciated.

Of course, I’ll tell you all about it (mostly) when we get back.

UPDATE: Thankee, friends, for the well-wishes and pro-tips.  Curiously enough, when I asked Mrs. R this evening what she thought she might like to do while we’re there, she said that she’s so worn out that she really just wants to spend a lot of time loafing on the beach. (We’re staying right on it.  I believe you might even be able to get drinks brought to you on the sand.)  Indeed, she even talked about what books she might like to bring with her.

Twist. My. Arm.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days (and maybe the next few, too).  It’s High School Graduation Week here at Port Swiller Manor and unlike her elder sister, who shunned as much of the hoopla as possible, Middle Gel is intent on taking in as many of the activities as she can.  So we had an academic achievement awards ceremony yesterday, I think there’s a parents’ breakfast tomorrow (which I am missing because work), the Big Shoo is Thursday, the school choir has its own awards picnic Friday, and Mrs. R and I are co-hosting the Gel’s  graduation party with another couple on Saturday (not at our house, thank God).

Plus, the Port Swiller In-Laws rolled into town Sunday and are staying for the week.  So there’s that.

Busy times.

Anyhoo, all that aside, I just wanted to note that I saw my first firefly of the season last evening.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here more than once how fond I am of fireflies and of watching them fool about on the edge of the woods on these warm and humid spring evenings.    Sometimes, when it’s very still, I even fancy I can hear a faint *phah* every time one of them lights off.

Always makes me happy.

Ace was talking about “news fatigue” this afternoon, the 24/7 bombardment of outraged shrieking by politickal pundits and talking heads and how so many people are increasingly sick and tired of it all.  He asks the Moron Horde how they cope with it in their various ways.

Me? Well, one method is to sit on the porch in the evening and look for the fireflies.  Another is to watch the clouds (we may get a thundershower this evening).  A third is to contemplate the trees in their yearly cycles.  A fourth is to read a piece of fiction or listen to some musick.  And of course, all of these involve not watching or listening to the MSM.

See how easy that is?  And I haven’t even got to God or Family yet.

One specific act of defiance:  The local classickal station runs three-minute NPR nooz updates at the top of the hour.  Although I listen to the station all day down the office, I’ve got into the habit of shutting it off for those three minutes, just to preserve my blood-pressure.

That, too, is pretty easy.

Really, they can only get you in the end if you let them.

Or perhaps I should say, “[They] can’t take the sky from me.” **

 

** I hope footnotes are not required for the references.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you are all having a good Memorial Day weekend.

Ol’ Robbo spent the morning helping Eldest Gel reform her bedroom.  In addition to being an almighty packrat (and a notorious thief of plates, glasses, and silverware from the kitchen), she’s also got far too much furniture in what is Port Swiller Manor’s smallest sleeping chamber.  (Indeed, my main task was the disassembly and removal of a massive wooden bedframe which took up way too much space, although I also helped her move some other things around and remove both bags of trash and my accumulated kitchen valuables.)  For whatever reason, she seems to have grown tired of living in such cramped squalor and is bent on cleaning and simplifying.

As we talked about organizing books and clothing, rearranging furniture, and maybe even repainting the walls, it occurred to me that it has not yet sunk in on the Gel that her time of living at home is now within very measurable distance of coming to an end.  That thought came into my mind because I still have a very vivid memory of my own realization that my old life was ending and a new one beginning:  I was home Christmas Break of my junior year in college.  My then-girlfriend had come to visit from Bahston, so one day I took her out to see the sights of San Antonio.  When we got back later in the afternoon, it suddenly hit me like a 16-ton weight.  This wasn’t really my home anymore, it was my parents’ and I was just visiting.  Of course I’d always be welcomed and all that, but the “Shadow of Parting”, as Galadriel put it, had suddenly and definitely fallen.

I went to the Mothe and bawled like a baby.

The memory often makes me wonder what it will be like when my brood strike out on their own.  (And yes, they’re leaving.  None of this thirty-something living in the basement stuff for us.)  Do other people get hit by such a shock? Can it be more gradual? I suppose it’s a matter of personality and circumstances.

 

The Port Swiller Porch, Clean and Reassembled

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After much procrastination, Ol’ Robbo finally propelled himself to get up early this hot Saturday morning and power-wash the back porch and stairs.  (We built the porch four or five years ago and this is, in fact, the first time I’ve done it.)

You may label me as hopelessly bourgeois for it, but I must say that I absolutely enjoyed the job.  Moving all the furniture and brick-a-brack back and forth was something of a nuisance, but how many other maintenance tasks are there that produce such immediate, gratifying results for such comparatively little labor? (And for that matter, how many other places are there in one’s house in which one can spray water all over the place?)

The bad news is that I may have inadvertently killed the washer.  About three quarters of the way down the stairs, I swung the wand around and sprayed the outlet into which it was plugged.  There was a pop and the motor went dead. I don’t know if I tripped the power cord, the circuit-breaker or both.  I’ll look into that later.  For the time being, I just detached the hose, got a bucket of Mr. Clean and a sponge, and did the rest by hand.  (Don’t tell Mrs. Robbo.)

My next trick will be to take on the garage floor.

UPDATE: To quote Professor Farnsworth, “Good news, everyone!”  After hitting the reset on the washer plug, I went and tried it on another outlet and it’s fine.  (It’s almost as if the designers anticipated morons like me.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the current eruption of the Kilauea Volcano seems no longer to be grabbing headlines for the moment.  I gather that, having done some damage (and what idiot builds next to an active volcano?), the lava has established its primary path to the sea and is busily heading that way without bothering anybody else.

When we were all gathered together the other day, somebody in the Port Swiller Manor household referred to this eruption in the context of the Pacific Rim of Fire.  Ol’ Robbo couldn’t allow this.

“Not so,” says I. “The Hawaiian Islands sit over a volcanic hotspot – a stationary thin point in the Earth’s lower crust – right smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Plate.  This, in fact, isn’t a tectonic thing, but a different phenomenon altogether.”

At which point the family’s collective “toxic nerd alert” alarum seems to have gone off, as suddenly Ol’ Robbo found himself talking solely to one of the cats, who was asleep anyway.

Hmpph!

Nonetheless, the geography of Hawaii does, in fact, have a tangential connection with plate tectonics, in that it neatly maps out the drift of the Pacific Plate over this particular hotspot.  As you can see from just looking at an ordinary map, the chain runs from southeast to northwest, the islands getting progressively smaller as you go along.  This is because the Plate itself is drifting northwest:  As long as some bit of it is over the hotspot, that bit is subject to volcanic island formation and growth.  Once the islands drift away from the hotspot, they start to erode.  Eventually, the Big Island, which is now the active one, particularly on its southeast side, will slide away from the hotspot and start to crumble and shrink as well, while yet another one eventually rises up southeast of it.

Pretty neat, eh?

And want to hear something even neater?  Go look at Google-Earth on “satellite view” setting:  Not only will you see the Hawaiian chain continue trailing away to the northwest under water, eventually you’ll see it hook sharply north and trail all the way up nearly to far eastern Russia.  That north-south section – the remnant of long-ago passage over the very same hotspot – is known as the Emperor Seamounts, and shows that the Pacific Plate at one point was drifting due north before taking a turn northwest.

And don’t just take my word for this: John McPhee writes at some length about it (and provides an illustrative map) in his Annals of the Former World, which Ol’ Robbo plugs here from time to time (and, I guess, is plugging again), and which I cannot recommend too enthusiastically.  I don’t pretend to understand it at more than a surface level, but the makings of the Earth – from plate tectonics to continental drift, volcanic hotspots to glacial gougings, erosion to geologically-driven shifts in weather patterns – never ceases to amaze and delight me.

 

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