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davebarry03Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the light posting this week.  The bug that has been wandering around Port Swiller Manor recently finally decided to pay me a personal call.  It’s an odd one this time.  One minute you say to yourself, “Self, I think I’m getting better!”  The next, your head suddenly feels ten pounds too heavy, your entire body aches, you break out in a sweat and your knees threaten to fold the wrong way.

Rinse and repeat.

Anyhoo, I’ve spent most of the past 56 hours, at least the ones in which I’ve been awake, rereading a stack of old Dave Barry books, of which I have 6 or 7.  (Today it was Dave Barry Turns 50 and Dave Barry in Cyberspace.) It’s been a while since I last clapped eyes on any of them and, while it might just be the ‘flu talking, I must say that while I’ve always liked his stuff, ol’ Dave is a hell of a lot funnier than I remember.

Just thought I’d throw that out there.

By the way, Wandering Bug would be a pretty good name for a rock band.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo usually spends this time on Sunday afternoons getting in a little tickling of the ivories.  Today, however, Port Swiller Manor is full up with people taking much needed naps, so he finds himself at the Mac instead.

What with all the hubbub over the past few days, ol’ Robbo is only now getting around to commenting on a story several folks forwarded him last week that the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, his old alma mater, is insisting that all on-campus fraternities become coed.  Delicious money quote:

The decision was announced in a letter to the university community from President Michael Roth and trustees Chairman Joshua Boger. It requires Greek organizations with houses on campus to have both male and female members and to have each gender “well represented” in their organizational leadership to qualify for housing on campus and the use of university spaces.

“Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That’s why all our students should be eligible to join them,” Roth and Boger wrote. “Although this change does not affect nonresidential organizations, we are hopeful that groups across the University will continue to work together to create a more inclusive, equitable and safer campus.”

In other words, Loyalty, Community and Independence are not a matter of individual, localized, choices and values, but instead are what we SAY they are, bitchez!  So get in line!  

Ah, the sweet, sweet, oxymoronic goodiness of authoritarian freedom.  Taste the boot heal-generated tears, Mikey! TASTE them!

As a matter of fact, ol’ Robbo was a member of Alpha Delta Phi during his time at Wes, and in those days Alpha Delt already was a coed establishment, at least on that campus.  (I believe we were one of four such coed chapters around the country, the others being at Brown, Reed and Chicago.  I don’t recall what our status was vis a vis the national organization, but somebody told me the chapter lost its charter a couple years after I graduated.)

I remember being torn about the whole biznay at the time.  On the one hand, I held a sympathy for the idea of local autonomy based on campus realities.  On the other, I could understand the need for certain boundaries and principles mandated by the central authority.   (God only knows what I would have done during the Revolution or the Civil War.) In the end, I suppose it was the fact that my then-girlfriend wanted me to join that made me overcome my hesitations, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyhoo, as I say, that was a matter for the fraternity itself to debate, not for the administration to meddle in.

Alpha Delt was known, by the way, as the Wine and Cheese house because we fancied ourselves as artistic.  Beta Theta was the Milk and Cookies house because they were all nice guys.  Psi-U was Psi-Mo because they played a lot of Motown at their parties.  Chi Psi was Neanderthal house because it was mostly hockey players.  DKE?  Well, Deek was just Deek.  Nuff said.

 

Friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo feels it is time to ask your collective opinion on an issue that has plagued Port Swiller Manor for some little while and now threatens to flame up into outright civil war.

You see, some time in the past couple years, we became possessed of a set of Washington Nationals Russian-style nesting dolls.  (It must have been in 2011 or the immediate offseason, because both Jason Marquis and Mikey “Beast Mode” Morse are included.)  The set occupies a shelf in the Port-Swiller library that also holds some chick lit, a porcelain fox, a miniature globe and a plaque commemorating one of the gels’ softball seasons.

Here’s the problem:  I believe that the set should be displayed in what one might call “extended” ranks, with the dolls lined up next to each other.  Mrs. Robbo, on the other hand, seems to think that they are better off in the “contracted” position, all of the smaller ones nestled safe inside Jayson Werth’s belleh.

(In case you’re wondering, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche round out the quintet.)

We’ve spoken on this issue but have failed to reach an accord.  Instead, we find ourselves in a low-intensity domestic conflict.  When ol’ Robbo finds the dolls contracted, he quietly spreads them out.  When Mrs. Robbo finds them in extended order, she just as quietly stacks them again.

Am I wrong?

Incidentally, The Beast is with San Fran this year and the Giants look to grab one of the NL wildcard slots.  Morse was so beloved by us Nats fans that, even if we find him facing us at some point in the playoffs this year, I think I’m right in saying on behalf of all of us that we all wish him the very best.  Indeed, I – and I think almost all of us – would sing along lustily if, on Morse’s coming to the plate at Nats Park, we put on his old walk up musick.  Enjoy!

 

jollyrogerWell, mateys, I see where today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Arrr, have at it!

Some random pirate-related observations, me buckoes:

♦   A month or two ago, Ol’ Robbo finally got around to reading Treasure Island for the first time and found it a right ripping yarn.

♦   I know the entire score of The Pirates of Penzance by heart.  “We seek a penalty fifty-fold for General Stanley’s story.”***

♦   I’ve never made it all the way through any of the Pirates of teh Caribbean series without dozing off.  (Too much rum, probably.)

♦   You can imagine for whom ol’ Robbo cheered during the semi-final between the Bournemouth Gynaecologists and the Watford Long John Silver Impersonators. (No link, mates.  Them’s what gets it, gets it.)

♦  Historickal Fact:  This be Lancelot Blackburne, Anglican Archbishop of York (1658-1743).  In his misspent yoot, he was a buccaneer.

Lancelot_Blackburne_(1658–1743),_Archbishop_of_York

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yo, Ho!

***The last line of that delightful little throw-away chorus, sung offstage, heralding the arrival of the Pirate King and his band for the big climax in the last act.  Full verse:

“A rollicking band of pirates we/who, tired of tossing on the sea/are trying our hands at burglaree/with weapons grim and gory.

We are not coming for plate or gold/A story General Stanley told/We seek a penalty fifty-fold for General Stanley’s sto-ree!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Earlier today, a friend of the decanter (who knows who they are) asked of ol’ Robbo, “Tom, how have the first few weeks of school worked out so far this year?”

Well, I’m happy to say that things are (touch wood) going pretty well.

Teh Eldest, now a high school junior, seems finally to have grasped that whatever her record is, she owns it.  In other words, after all those years of complaining about us nagging her, she’s finally beginning to learn to nag herself.  Laus Deo.

Teh Middle Gel, now a high school frosh, is talking much about leadership (particularly in her choir program) and is running for Class VP.   She’s an awesome kid, about whom we have very little to worry except for her apparent resistance to learning math.  (I say this here because she regularly reads this blog.  Thpppppt!! )

Teh Youngest is taking to middle school like a duck to water, loving every aspect of her new school.  One thing: she originally signed up to play cello in the school orchestra, the course description assuring that no previous experience was necessary.   Well, it turned out that a) she and one other kid were the only ones in teh whole troupe with no experience, and b) the director was not much interested in babysitting newbies.  After a couple days, teh YG decided to chuck it and I can’t say that I blame her.  The good news is that, when she went to her counselor, it turned out that a slot had become open in drama, the course the gel had wanted to take originally but was full up when she applied.  And so she switched.  Apparently, teh gel had them rolling in the aisles during an improv session this week, and her new theatre teacher is quite bananas about her.  I’m not in the least surprised.

And speaking of such things, this week teh Eldest was assigned by her Art teacher the task of snapping a photo of a family member in a “characteristic” situation, and using such photo as the model for a sketch.   In pursuit of said goal, teh gel caught me quite unawares as I was engrossed in Handel:

Attachment-1

 

 

Not the greatest pic, but nice composition.  And, I must admit, substantively quite pleasing, at least to me.

UPDATE:  In response to myriad queries as to what particular piece of Handel I was mutilating when teh gel snapped, this pic, I can tell you that it was Handel’s Suite No. 7 in G minor, HWV 432.  Here’s a genuine performance version of it:

 

Subtract a bunch of technical errors, add a great deal of blasphemy (you can’t see it from this angle, but I’ve got a frieze of St. Cecilia on top of the piano to give me strength), and you’ve got my rendition.  Sort of.

 

 

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.

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……

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