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!


“The Sea Hawk” – Artist unknown

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my brief review of Rafael Sabatini’s Captain Blood and my intent to go on to his The Sea Hawk?  In it, I mentioned the faithfulness of the Errol Flynn “Captain Blood” movie to the book and wondered whether his “Sea Hawk” film would be the same.

Well, my friends, I finished reading The Sea Hawk, but I’m here to tell you there is absolutely no connection between the book and the Flynn movie.

Ol’ Robbo was expecting another sea-tale of English Rovers under Good Queen Bess harrying the Dons in the New World and appropriating the loot being sent back to Spain, simply because that’s what the movie was.  It’s there, all right, but completely disposed of in the first page or two.  This is the story of a particular Cornish Gentleman which picks up after his roving days and his service against the Armada.  Through a series of events too complicated to spell out, he is wrongfully suspected of killing his intended’s brother, is kidnapped by his own half-brother (the real killer) who plans to sell him into slavery on the Barbary Coast, is captured by the Spanish at sea and sent by the Inquisition to the galleys, is captured again by Muslim Corsairs, and at that point decides to go renegade, winding up as the right-hand man of the Pasha of Algiers, shedding his name of Sir Oliver Tressilian and becoming Sakr-El-Bahr, the “Sea Hawk”.

And that’s all just in Part I of the book.

The second, longer part is about his return journey, so to speak, and involves revenge, intrigue, and Islamic power politicks, plus the very long (I’d say a bit too long) evolution of his relationship with the girl he’d meant to marry at the start of the story.  Without giving away any spoilers, there’s a very exciting rescue, plus a final scene with a few surprise twists that leads to a satisfactory conclusion.

As I said about the other Sabatini book, a good, ripping yarn.

One thing that struck me was a fair amount of hostility towards Christianity on the part of the author, who largely dismisses those who profess it as hypocrites.  Sabatini seems far more approving of Islam which, he seems to argue, may be barbarous, but at least is honest about it.  He also emphasizes its fatalistic character and the effect this has on its adherents. (I seem to recall reading somewhere that this is a big factor behind why so many prisoners convert:  If one’s fate has already been written, then one isn’t responsible for one’s actions.) I wouldn’t call it an outright embracing, but he’s certainly sympathetic in his portrayal of the Corsairs and their ways.

Anyhoo, another book that will definitely stay on Ol’ Robbo’s adventure-stories shelf.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The swirl of half-baked allegations these past couple weeks surrounding Judge Kavanaugh’s high school and college years puts Ol’ Robbo in mind of this:

Things never really change, do they?  (At least Ol’ Rossini put it to a good tune, though.)

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!

Ol’ Robbo did his time in the box yesterday afternoon.  These days, I go to confession on average about once a month or so.  (Unless, of course, I’ve been unusually naughty.  You know what a wild child Ol’ Robbo can be!  Whoa, Nellie!)

Kidding aside, I often feel a bit sheepish going in, because I usually don’t have all that much to say.  (I think my record penance – apart from my first confession when I swam the Tiber – is something like three Hail Marys and two Our Fathers.)  But I always end with a plea for forgiveness of all of my past sins, especially those that I don’t remember.

This is critical to me:  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t hold grudges or let the sun go down on his wrath.  This is a good thing, but the flip side is that I also tend to forget if I’ve done wrong by somebody else.  Even if I try to examine my conscience at the end of the day, I know that I’ll miss some of my own sinfulness.  After a while, I can feel these things building up, almost like mold or rust on my soul.  So the two alternatives are either carrying a notepad around and scribbling down all my bads in real time, which is insane, or else counting on God’s omniscience and mercy and my own sincerity when I add the catch-all.

I suspect that if I put all this to my Padre, he’d only laugh. But he’s the one who beats the drum so often about the importance of regular confession, so here I am, Father, with my sense of guilt present and ready for inspection!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No, no, not that Swamp.  I’m sure you’re all as exhausted of that wretched biznay as is Ol’ Robbo, and anyway, I try to take weekends off.

Instead, I mean the swamp I discovered the grounds of Port Swiller Manor to be when I went out to mow this morning.  The ground has never really dried out completely all summah, but we had so much rain this past week that it was mostly oozy mud under the grass.  I went ahead and mowed it anyway, even though I probably trenched things up a bit, especially in the shadier areas.  It needed it, and besides I may not have the opportunity next weekend.  Meanwhile, my never-mow neighbor is completely humped.  His lawn is up over a foot and a half now, but he has a riding mower (inherited from the previous occupant) that probably would sink out of sight if he tried to run it today.  (As a matter of fact, I now think the reason he hasn’t mown lately is that he finally managed to break the thing by running over something he shouldn’t have.  He’s pretty reckless when it comes to rocks and sticks.)

Meanwhile, a tad of color here and there in the trees, the first leaves are starting to fall, and the goldfinch are losing their summah coloring.  I also haven’t seen the hummingbirds in a week or two, and wonder if they’ve hightailed it out of Dodge already.

One of the half-whiskey barrels out front has reached the end times: Its metal bands have snapped and the slats are buckled at the breakpoint.  Mrs. R had already planted the fall mums, and we only need the thing to last us a month or two more, so I am thinking that maybe I can just bind it up with something for the time being.

“What will you use,” asked Mrs. R.

“I don’t know yet,” I replied, “But I promise I won’t try to duct-tape it.”

Mrs. R had the goodness to laugh heartily.

UPDATE:  In re the barrel, I went with a couple turns of manila rope.  It doesn’t especially stand out, and lends a subtle, rustic air.  (Mrs. R probably won’t like it, but too bad.)

Also, my neighbor must be a friend of the decanter, because he got out this evening and chopped back the savannah after all.

UPDATE DEUX:  Nope, hummingbird spotted this (Sunday) morning.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long-time Friend of the Decanter, the lovely and talented Groovy Vic, mentioned Tom Hanks in a comment below.  By a singular coincidence, I see today that he’s set to play Fred “Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” Rogers in an upcoming movie.


Ol’ Robbo thinks Hanks is a pretty decent actor, especially when he’s playing a Middle-American Everyman kind of character, so I suppose he’d do okay.

As for his subject? Well, we watched “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” on a pretty regular basis in my misspent yoot, but we did so mostly to jeer it, egged on in this by the Mothe.  We’d speculate, for instance, about what was being done to Ol’ Fred behind the scenes to give him his King Friday voice.  We’d wonder what else Mr. McFeely, the Speedy Delivery guy, was carting about the neighborhood.  (And his name wrote its own jokes, of course.)  And Lady Aberlin was known as “Crunchy-Girl” to us because of her Lefty-looking face.

Although it happened long after we stopped watching, I recall the rumor that Rogers was dabbling in sex-education.  We therefore produced a little ditty that we imagined he might sing: “Everybody’s fancy/ Everybody’s fine/ You’ve got your thing/ and I’ve got mine!”

Good times.  Good times.

I believe the Mothe encouraged us in our mockery because she detested Rogers’ treacly pablum and feared any young lad who took it seriously would turn into a sniveling, easily-manipulated, gender-conflicted soy-boy.

Wise woman, my mother.



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.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over at Ace’s place this morning,**** one of the Moron Horde, in response to a link put up by Sefton in his Morning Report about some whizz-bang new piece of technology, commented, “I would say anything prefixed with the word ‘smart’ is bad news for individual liberty.”

I was impressed enough with this comment to scribble it down (in good, old-fashioned ink on a good, old-fashioned note pad), in part because I think there is much in it, and in part because it reminded me of a funny thing that happened just yesterday.

As far as the general validity of the comment goes, Ol’ Robbo is routinely horrified by “smart” technology such as Alexi and the various GPS driver-direction aids.******  (Self-driving cars are right out.)  I haven’t seen it myself because I don’t watch much teevee, but I read just recently about an Alexi ad in which I gather some new Dad asks Alexi for baby-care tips and at the end Alexi is complimented as being the “best” parent.  Hello?  And regular friends of the decanter will know Ol’ Robbo has long held the view that when Skynet goes active, one of its first moves will be to steer every GPS-dependent yo-yo driver straight into an ambush.  On a more serious note, I am continually conscious that every time I interact with “smart” technology and give it some piece of personal data, that data – however small – is being collected by whoever is behind said technology.  And you may make all the tinfoil hat jokes you want, but I don’t like it.

As to the funny thing, Ol’ Robbo got trapped in a meeting yesterday morning with half a dozen of his work colleagues.  Before we got down to the (completely useless) agenda, talk circled round to the new building currently under construction into which we will be moving some time next year.  (It’s going to be hell.  The offices, so I understand, are half the size of our current ones, my daily lunchtime walks will be at an end,  and I’m going to have to go back to using the Metro because its location will entail simply too much damned downtown driving.  On the other hand, the move will be enough to finally prod Ol’ Robbo into signing up for teleworking twice a week, so at least it’s got that going for it.)

Anyhoo, there was much cooing amongst my colleagues about all the sooper-smart whistles and bells with which the new digs will be equipped, especially the “eco-friendly” ones.  “Did you know?” said one of them, “The lighting in the new office will automatically brighten or dim….based on the amount of sunshine coming in through the windows?”

Oooooh…aaaaahh!” enthused the others (all wymminz) in that smug, self-satisfied, virtue-signaling tone that Ol’ Robbo can’t stand.

“That’s all well and good,” I replied, “But I hope the system has manual overrides.  I don’t mind considering suggestions from the technology around me, but I’ll be damned if I take orders from it.  I’m not quite ready to surrender my autonomy to robots or their overlords, however benevolent their alleged intent.”

It suddenly got awfully quiet.  As if Ol’ Robbo had farted in church.

“Well,” one of them eventually said, “You can always bring in a lamp if you think you need to.”

Lor’ lumme, stone the crows.


** Spot the reference.  Hint: “Blood…..blood…..”

**** I can’t linky to Ace’s place in the body of a post, although it’s in my blogroll and I hope all of you are regulars there.  The last couple times I’ve gone over there on my laptop, I’ve gotten this weird pop-up, complete with very loud audio, claiming to be from Microsoft.  The pitch is that there is something deathly wrong with my software, and that I need to call them right away with my credit card in hand so that they can fix it.  (The scam doesn’t affect my phone or work computer, perhaps because I only use them to read.)

****** Dumb technology, on the other hand, appeals deeply to Ol’ Robbo.  For instance, recently I’ve been thinking that it would be a really cool idea to come up with a tire that has a brightly-colored layer of rubber embedded in the tread.  When you start to see that color coming through, you know it’s time to buy new tires.  (They already do this with toothbrushes, so why not?)  I’ve been thinking about this again since the Elder Gels left for school and I can’t eyeball the tires on their cars anymore.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was delighted to see, upon returning to Port Swiller Manor this cool and rainy evening, that Mrs. R had removed all the summah annuals from the half whiskey barrels out front and substituted multi-colored clusters of chrysanthemums.  I don’t much care for mums in and of themselves, but I do love what they represent, namely the onset of my very favorite season of the year.

Coming inside in a cheerful mood, then, I found Mrs. R and Youngest lounging about in the mawster bedroom, spit-balling about possible college choices for the Gel.  After chatting with them for a few moments, I turned to Youngest and told her to scoot, as I wished to take a shower.

“Oh, just close the doors.  She won’t come in,” said Mrs. R.

Well, I figured that.  But we have French doors between the bedroom and our bathroom, and from certain angles….well, Robbo is pretty draconian when it comes to his Personal Space.

Grumbling, I began to gather clothes to change into after my ablutions.  For several minutes, I looked about for my favorite light pull-over, as the evening seemed to cry out for it.  Baffled in my search through my sweater shelves, I went back into the bedroom, only to discover that Mrs. R was wearing the thing herself.

“I got cold,” she explained.

“So,” I said, “I don’t get any privacy, and people are stealing my clothes.  What do I take from that?”

“It means you’re home,” said Mrs. R.  Youngest snorted in mirth.


Related to that, have friends of the decanter ever experienced that weird sensation where you’ve never heard of a term before and then you suddenly hear a bunch of references to it all at once?  For Ol’ Robbo, the term in question is “lawnmower parents”.  Until this weekend, it was completely unknown to me.  I’ve seen it half a dozen times from half a dozen different sources since then.

The Great Big Book Of Everything*** defines lawnmower parents thusly:

Parents who try to remove all the difficulties that their children might have to deal with:  She criticized lawnmower parents, who try to come in and literally smooth out an obstacle in a child’s path.

(If you ask Ol’ Robbo how this term is different from “helicopter parents“, I confess that I’d be stumped.  Apparently, though, there is some kind of subtle distinction.)

At any rate, this kind of behavior is one of the great current traps in parenting raising children, as far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned.  Of course you want your child to have the Good Things and be spared the Bad Things.  But that’s Emotion talking.  Reason points out that the world is full of Bad Things, that they are unavoidable, and that the Best Thing you can do for your child is to ensure that he or she has the equipment for dealing with them him or herself.  And nothing endows a kid with said skills-set better than good, old-fashioned experience.

I was thinking about this today, because both the Elder Gels called me to say hello, and in each conversation I heard horror stories about new college kidz who, confronted with their apparent first doses of adversity, freaked out and did very stupid, self-destructive things.

What a generation.

I also thought back to my own misspent yoot.  My parents were of the Silent Generation, and although they did everything they could to both pull themselves up and provide my siblings and me a better life, they hadn’t the least notion of exempting any of us from attendance at the School of Hard Knocks.

I remembered my time in Middle School (a horror for anybody).  In particular, I recall getting into a fight with a psychopathic kid who was trying to bully me in the bus line after school.  After he’d been at it for a bit, I hauled off and clocked him.  He was both bloodied and dumbfounded (I’d spent a lot of time doing landscaping work for the Old Gentleman and was somewhat stronger than anybody expected), but came back at me, and we mixed it up unto the long arm of the law descended and marched us off to see Mr. Roach (yes, really), the Assistant Principal.

This was 1978 in South Texas, and paddling was still a valid disciplinary action.  I got sent home with a note seeking permission for Mr. Roach to apply five of the best to my backside for fighting.

I showed the note to my parents and explained what happened.  They looked grave and said that although I had done the right thing in defending myself, rules were rules and I’d have to take the official consequences as well.  But I knew that they were proud of me, too.

How many modern lawnmower parents would take that stance?

The result?  Ol’ Robbo felt good about sticking up for himself and whupping that punk.  (The credit I gained amongst my classmates didn’t hurt much, either.)  As for the paddling? I knew my parents were right, and faced the consequences of my actions, well, like a Man.

Again, how many snowflake children of lawnmower parents would experience that kind of personal growth?

(In the end, though, I must confess that I only got one swat, while the punk got the Full Monty. This was even after Mr. Roach asked me if I would ever do it again.  I said that if some bastard started something, of course I’d defend myself, rules be damned.  I think he also appreciated my position – unofficially, of course.)


***If you had small younglings round about the turn of the Millennium, you probably get this reference.



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