In a prefatory note to her husband’s novel Kidnapped, Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson copies out some samples of records from a murder trial used by him as background in constructing the story.  One of these passages says, in part,

“Duncan Campbell, change-keeper at Annat, aged thirty-five years, married, witness cited, sworn, purged and examined ut supra, depones, That in the month of April last, the deponent met with Alan Breck Stewart….”

I’ve been familiar with legal terms since I started studying them in 1988, but I have never in all that time come across the verb “to depone”.  But when you think about it, what else would a deponent be doing?

And is there a linguistic relationship between depone and depose?  A sort of yin and yang capturing the interrelation between witness and advocate as the latter seeks to draw evidence from the former?  Merriam-Webster on-line gives the history of depone thusly:  Middle English, from Medieval Latin deponere, from Latin, to put down, from de- + ponere to put.  It also says that “depose” comes from the same root, so this seems likely.

I must say that the word tickles my fancy.  Perhaps I’ll figure out a way to start working it into my vocabulary.  As it happens, I’m prepping for some depositions coming up in a couple weeks, so I ought to have some opportunities.

Scottish-flagGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Being mighty near pure Scots himself on his father’s side, Ol’ Robbo has been watching the build up to the referendum on Scotland’s independence from Great Britain with some interest.

Frankly, I’ve thought it a bad idea from the beginning simply based on what I believe to be unsurmountable economic realities.  (Very broadly speaking, these boil down to the fact that some enormously large portion of Scotland’s population is now pure economic deadweight – on the dole, in state housing, deadbeat.  GB as a whole has enough resources to carry them, at least for the moment.  Scotland, on her own, wouldn’t.)

Now, having read this article in the Telegraph profiling a group of “Yes” voters,  I’m convinced that it’s a bad idea.  Why?  Because it’s obvious that there is no one vision of what an Independent Scotland will actually mean, but instead a jumbled collection of alternate ideas, many of them extremely contradictory to each other and some quite separated from reality.  Frankly, the thing smells like a cult movement to me.  And by now I think we all know how political cults work out.

Friends of teh decanter might argue that this is something for teh Scots to sort out for themselves and that an independent, localized debate is surely the best way to do it.  Well, if the biznay were merely an academic exercise devoid of real world consequences, I might agree.   The trouble is that it wouldn’t be, and my fear is that when people realize that they’re not, in fact, getting William Wallace riding in at the head of  a herd of rainbow-colored unicorns, things will get ugly.

The West is crumbling already.  Why speed up?

UPDATE:  Over at NRO, Andrew Stuttaford has a round up of the doings of what might be called the MacJacobins of the “Yes” side.  This is a what I mean about things getting ugly.

 

st michaelGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, tomorrow is the anniversary of 9/11.

I can’t give you specific details, but ol’ Robbo’s concern monitor is beeping more this year than it has in the past.

Maybe I’m foolish, maybe I’m prescient.  I dunno.  What I do know is this: whatever may or may not happen, St. Michael, ora pro nobis.

I’ll raise a glass of wine with you on the other side…..

UPDATE: Well, apparently nothing happened.  Deo gratis.  But, despite my general inclination not to comment on politicks these days, I will say this about teh Administration’s public response to the ISIS threat over the past 48 hours: What the @(@*#*(@&(%&!!!  Are you deliberately advertising yourselves as the weaker horse?  Are you deliberately bending over?  Or is it just working out that way?

God help us all.

storkGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening, still without cable service with which to watch his beloved Nats try to put the kybosh on the hated Braves of Atlanta, ol’ Robbo found himself pulling a rayther unusual entry out of the ol’ Netflix queue, a 2001 movie titled “Winged Migration“.

The film is a documentary, shot over three years, tracking the travels of several kinds of birds (mostly ducks, geese, cranes and storks) from their winter grounds in various parts of the world to their summah residences nearer the Poles.

Frankly, it’s beautifully done – amazingly detailed shots of tight formations of birds winging their way over breath-taking landscapes that would make Stephen Maturin swoon- and the producers have every right to proudly note at the beginning that none of this was CGI special effects, but was instead genuine film footage.  (In the “Making Of” track, we see how the producers trained the subject birds from chickhood to “imprint” on some Johnny in an ultralight, so that when they grew up they had no problem whatever in flying about with said ultralight in their midst, camera rolling.  I seem to recall reading something about this at the time.)

And yet…..and yet….well, after an hour and a half of mostly just watching birds fly around, I found myself thinking “This is it?”

You see, the film is almost nothing but said footage, accompanied by Enya-like New Age yodeling (or so I would suppose based on what a friend has told me about Enya albums).

Yes, there are a few captions of the “Species Such-and-Such migrates so many miles from its winter grounds in Whereverland to the Arctic.”  One of these referred to the “central american plains”, which caused ol’ Robbo some consternation, considering there are no plains in Central America.  It was only after a minute that he realized the caption was referring to the central United States, specifically the Platte River, which he knew to be the winter grounds of the Sandhill Crane.

Yes, there is the occasional narration ( by a Frenchman in a voice that reminded me of that NSA agent in “True Lies” who helps Der Ahnold set up Helen for her fake op with his “Do eet ducimo…Do eet verrah slowly “), but the comments are few and far between and generally of a platitudinal variety, as in “Weeth de onset of weenter, de birds must haid south, their wan objecteeve, survivail.”   

Early Sunday evenings in Robbo’s misspent yoot usually involved Marlin “I’ll stand downstream while Jim wrestles the tiger to the ground” Perkins and “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom“.  Since then, he always has had an interest in good quality nature documentaries and series, and has learned a great deal from them.   So as an aficionado, I have to say that I found this film vastly lacking in substance.   Where were the maps?  Where was the narration about feeding and mating habits?  About predators?  About the damned geographical and meteorological logistics of those jaw-dropingly long flight patterns?   (Aaaand, not to be pedantic, but the film was broad to the point of sloppiness about some of its basic premises.  First, not all birds migrate.  Second, even among species that do – for example, the Canadian Goose and American Bald Eagle cited in the movie – only a given percentage of the population migrates, while others stay year-round in certain locations.)  It seems to me that this movie was long on the surface but very, very short on the depth and complexity of Nature’s wonder.   And for that, despite the whiz-bang cinematography, it’s really not all that good.

Then again, the film was released in 2001 in the last days of the post-Cold War False Peace.  Among the obligatory shots of the birds interacting with Man (usually to the former’s detriment), we get a clip of a group of geese winging their way along the East River in Manhattan, the Twin Towers looming up on their right.  I’m really not trying to make a direct connection between a lack of quality theatrical presentation of ornithological information and the Collapse of the West, but…..you know?

Anyhoo, two glasses of port out of five.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor found ol’ Robbo up early to go labor in the fields.  Mow, trim, spray and in before the thunderstorms!

As I marched back and forth behind the ol’ mower across the collection of weeds and native grasses that I jokingly refer to as the “lawn”,  the steady, gentle breeze that played o’r my sit-upon suggested to me that yes, perhaps it’s time to buy a new pair of jeans.

Ol’ Robbo is really a khakis and cords sort of fellah, so over the years I have developed the habit of only owning one pair of jeans at a time.  I have also developed a little game I play with myself of seeing just how long I can wear them before they (sometimes literally) fall to pieces on me.  I’ve even worked out a kind of scoresheet that runs from “suitable for public view” through “suitable for home view” to “suitable for yard work if nobody gets too close” to “get the gasoline and a match”.  The current pair is well on into the third phase now and approaching the hazy boundary with the fourth, with completely frayed leg seams, permanent grass stains, holes opening under both back pockets and fly coming apart.  The third phase is always my favorite simply because it is always the most comfortable.  This fact, together with my dislike of having to start again with something new, has several times caused me to refuse to believe it was over, much to the distress of my nearest and dearest.  (I recall Mrs. R finally threw away one pair when I wasn’t looking)

One thing I haven’t done is kept track of how long each pair has lasted.  (I’ve no recollection whatever of where or when I bought the current incumbents, except that it’s been a number of years anyway.)  Nor have I tracked the differences in the way each has worn out, although they have varied greatly.  I’ll bet a chart containing those pieces of information would show something about ol’ Robbo’s changes in physical activities as he has begun to age a bit.

One thing I have kept track of is the fact that, despite my impending 50th birthday, my waist has not changed one jot or tittle since I was 19.  Still size 33, thankee.  Granted, I’m rayther flabbier now than I used to be, but not expansive.  I don’t claim any particular virtue in this, by the way.  I’m simply built like the Mothe’s father.  Nonetheless, it pleases me.

So that’s that.  On reflection, I think I’ll toss this pair into the washing machine one more time…..just to see if we can keep going a bit further.

 

With the ongoing basement renovations at Port Swiller Manor, we continue to cope with the loss of a third of our living space.  As I may have mentioned before, we had to pull everything upstairs on the day of teh flood, jamming it in wherever we could.  The dining room is completely blocked with sofas, tables and the like, while the library and living room are full of stacks of books, CD’s, DVDs’s, boxes, trunks and other assorted flotsam and jetsam.

In fact, the place is a right shambles.

On reaching adult status, ol’ Robbo shook off the slovenliness of his misspent yoot and became rayther finicky about cleanliness and neatness in both his person and his surroundings.   So living under these conditions got very old for him very quickly, and the prospect of getting everything cleaned up and squared away occupies an increasingly large part of his thoughts.  If we can’t get back to normal some time soon, it’s going to become an obsession.

First World Problems, I know, but there it is.

And on the subject of making things ship-shape, take a dekko at this thing, the Dyson 360 Eye robotic vacuum:

Now you might think that a gadget like this would appeal to ol’ Robbo, given what I say above.  But regular friends of the decanter will also recall my deep suspicion of technology, especially “smart” technology.  With that kind of circuitry don’t tell me that Skynet couldn’t corrupt it and turn it into a killer.  And just think how embarrassing it would be if, on Judgement Day, instead of getting taken out by a missile or some Gatling-toting cyborg, one awoke to find one of these things sitting on one’s face, sucking out one’s lungs.

No thanks.

UPDATE:  A few minutes after I posted this, an inspector-wallah from the County showed up to check on the doings downstairs.  While he was satisfied with things inside, it would appear that the contractor never got the proper permit for external wall waterproofing, the detritus of which is still plainly evident.  So they may very well need to stop what they’re doing, get the proper bumf and redig the ditch out front so the work can be inspected.  Pardon me while I practice my Chief Inspector Dreyfus eye-twitch……

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over on teh Fazebukes, ol’ Robbo is a member of a group calling itself the Aubrey-Maturin Appreciation Society, a roving band of sea-dogs devoted to the A-B canon (or is it cannon?) itself, together with more general themes, nautical and otherwise, somehow related or referred to therein (debauched sloths being an example of the latter).

As is usual in these chat groups, the posts range from long discussions/arguments to quips, jokes, videos and pictures.  Among the last category was one I thought worthy of sharing here:

keep calm beat to quarters

 

I know the meme has got rayther old, but this made me chuckle.

A glass of wine with you!

peasant2

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After sorting out the gels’ various traffic-control homework issues (which, I suspect, are going to be a major theme this school year), Ol’ Robbo found himself listening this evening to the Monty Python album “Matching Tie & Handkerchief“, into which I have not dipped for several years now.

One of the tracks on this album that, so far as I know, was never replicated on teevee or in the movies was the skit about the Background to History that featured the Open Field Farming songs, and its follow-on bit about the fellah at the record store who wishes to hear a track from “The Ronettes Sing Medieval Agrarian History“.

This little throwaway has long made Robbo laugh and laugh, not only because of its absurdity but also because of its erudition.  This is what I’ve always loved most about the Pythons, that they were able to come up with, for lack of a better description, educated crass humor.  (I believe Terry Jones is the medievalist amongst them, but I know that most of the others had particular fields of learning on which to draw.)

Did I ever mention the Chaucer class I took in college? Wonderful stuff taught wonderfully by a wonderful professor who was not the slightest bit interested in post-modern critical-theory deconstruction of the texts, but instead was passionately concerned to get us young idjits to appreciate them, in their style and content, for what they actually were.  (Yes, back in the day such profs could be found even at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown.  I also had this prof for several Tudor and Stuart lit courses.  His readings of Prospero from “The Tempest” were pure magic.  Betcher you couldn’t find his ilk there now.)

Conversely, my Real Property course in law school, which started with a very thorough examination of feudal Norman land rights regarding, among other things,  transfer and inheritance,  was taught by a card-carrying Marxist who evidently thought the whole system contemptible.

Somehow, when I revisit this particular Python sketch, both of those contrary memories come back to me.  And perhaps, in a weird way, they increase my appreciation of the humor of the thing.

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I may have mentioned that one of the casualties of the Great Port Swiller Basement Flood of a couple weeks ago was our old printer, which had sat on the floor and did not react a-tall well to sitting in several inches of water.

Well, what with today being the kick-off of the new school year and knowing that all three gels were going to need to start printing things instanter, Mrs. Robbo brought home a replacement this afternoon, an Epson Expression XP-410.  One of the advantages the thing has over our old one is that it can use WiFi to hook up not only with the home iWhatevz, but also with the gels’ laptops.

“Oh,” she said casually, “Can you set it up for me?”

In the words of Professor Farnsworth,

It may come as no surprise to friends of the decanter that, although a generally clever and able fellow, I have very little understanding of all this computer gadgetry and these innertoob connector thingies.  (On the other hand, I at least have enough sense not to take nekked pictures of myself and launch them into cyberspace.)  So when Mrs. R tasked me with this task, I was taken aback.

Whelp, the good news is that after about an hour of trying to download software, punching in invisible-to-my-failing-eyes passwords and swearing at the little Verizon router box thingy, I actually got the contraption to work.  This marks the very outer bounds of ol’ Robbo’s computer tech savvy, and the whole experience left me feeling drained.

I believe such a success calls for  splicing the mainbrace.   (And having stumbled across this link for this post, if you think I’m not going to order this set of flags for the porch, you’ve got another thing coming!)  So bumpers all round, gunn’ls under, and no heel taps!

 

For your Labor Day viewing pleasure, the birth of a thunderstorm:

I never, ever get tired of this sort of thing.

Actually, we had a hell of a storm come over Port Swiller Manor last evening, right about the time I would otherwise have been grilling out.  I anticipated the weather and instead went with a lemon-and-garlic shimp pasta dish.  As I stood in self-satisfaction chopping up garlic in the kitchen at about sixish, the sky went absolutely pitch-black, and for about twenty minutes or so the house was shaken by a series of ffzzzt-BOOOM!!! lightning strikes in the immediate neighborhood, the rain meanwhile coming down in torrents.   Fortunately, no basement flooding this time around.

Curiously, we didn’t get that nice sense of refreshment after the storm had rolled away.  The temperature did drop about ten degrees, but the atmosphere remained water-logged and unsettled.  It still feels pretty nasty today and I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if we got another dose this evening.  That said, I’m still planning to grill, because ol’ Robbo has himself a big ol’ strip steak sitting in the fridge that’s just begging me to eat it.  Begging, I tell you!   UPDATE:  Well, we did get another round, but it looks like Ma Nature shot her bolt too early to affect dinner plans.

A glass of wine with the Capital Weather Gang for the video.  Go on over there to see more coo-el T-storm shots.

 

** Spot the quote.

UPDATE:  No guesses? Geez, what’s wrong with you guys?  That was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty in “Twister“.

 

(Yes, I was a fan of Philip Seymour Hoffman before it was cool.  Keep that in mind the next time you find yourself contemplating what a hopeless dinosaur ol’ Robbo is.)

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