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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
T’other evening, on a relatively rare date, Mrs. R and I paid a visit to the local planetarium in order to take in a show on black holes. I would guess that I was considerably younger than the youngest gel the last time I sat down under the dome.
You may snicker behind the decanter and mutter to each other under cover of the cracking of walnuts, “Sink me, do these people know how to party or what?” I will say in defense that a) Mrs. R is, as regular readers may recall, the science teacher at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and was eager to do a little recon on behalf of Teh Children®, b) Ol’ Robbo is an absolute sucker for big screen depictions of the Grandeur of the Cosmos, full of which this short film, narrated in his gravelly Aslan voice by Liam Neeson, was nicely chocked, c) we went for Chinese afterwards, and d) none of yer damned biznay.
Suffice to say, a good time was had by all.
Anyhoo, the reason I mention this is that the film, although really rayther vague and surfacey, touched on a point around which ol’ Robbo has always had trouble wrapping his braims. You see, in discussing the four known dimensions of the Universe, the presentation touched on Einstein’s noodlings about the possibility of the fourth dimension – that of time – being subjected to corruption, variation and warping.
Despite what his college transcripts in genetics and organic chem might suggest to the contrary, ol’ Robbo has always prided himself on possessing a certain logical, analytical, scientific side. Heck, in high school physics, there were few in my class better able to calculate, given a frictionless environment of course, exactly what force would be necessary to put a cannon ball fired at a given elevation right down the smokestack of an oncoming train traveling at a given speed.
But while I can grasp, at least at some level, the bending of the physical universe in three dimensions – via gravity – and even the bending of these three dimensions relative to Time, I simply cannot fathom the bending of Time itself. In other words, I can grasp a physical phenomenon proceeding faster or slower, depending upon the conditions, easily enough. What I can’t grasp is the changing of the chronological marker against which said phenomenon is measured.
Or, as Neo might have put it, “Whoa.”
Incidentally, the audience for this show was chock-a-block with small children, as might be expected. One of them, aged perhaps four or five, was to my immediate right one row back. Her commentary on teh film, produced non-stop and in a very piercing voice, consisted of the alternating phrases, “Is that the black hole?” and “Daddy, I’m really scared….” I was very tempted to wheel round on her father – who was discussing Palie vestry politicks with his neighbor throughout – and hiss, “Hey, man! I spent five whole dollars on this ticket and I want my money’s worth! So shut her, man….”
Of course, I didn’t. But I had quite a good chuckle thinking about it. Still didn’t like the kid very much, tho’.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Ol’ Robbo does not mean to go poaching in the preserve of one of the more estimable friends of the decanter, but I can’t help noting that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1682, of the Dread Pirate Roberts. Sayeth Wiki:
Bartholomew Roberts was born in 1682 in Casnewydd-Bach, or Little Newcastle, between Fishguard and Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, Wales. His name was originally John Roberts, and his father was most likely George Roberts. It’s not clear why Roberts changed his name from John to Bartholomew, but pirates often adopted aliases, and he may have chosen that name after the well-known buccaneer Bartholomew Sharp. He is thought to have gone to sea when he was 13 in 1695 but there is no further record of him until 1718, when he was mate of a Barbados sloop.
In 1719 he was third mate on the slave ship Princess, under Captain Abraham Plumb. In early June that year the Princess was anchored at Anomabu, then spelled Annamaboa, which is situated along the Gold Coast of West Africa (present-day Ghana), when she was captured by pirates. The pirates were in two vessels, the Royal Rover and the Royal James, and were led by captain Howell Davis. Davis, like Roberts, was a Welshman, originally from Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire. Several of the crew of the Princess were forced to join the pirates, including Roberts.
Davis quickly discovered Roberts’ abilities as a navigator and took to consulting him. He was also able to confide to Roberts information in Welsh, thereby keeping it hidden from the rest of the crew. Roberts is said to have been reluctant to become a pirate at first, but soon came to see the advantages of this new lifestyle. Captain Charles Johnson reports him as saying:
“In an honest service there is thin commons, low wages, and hard labour. In this, plenty and satiety, pleasure and ease, liberty and power; and who would not balance creditor on this side, when all the hazard that is run for it, at worst is only a sour look or two at choking? No, a merry life and a short one shall be my motto.”
He was killed by grapeshot in a battle in 1722 and buried at sea before his body could be captured. Or so they say.
At this point I naturally was going to put in the clip of Wesley explaining to Buttercup how he had become TDPR, but YewToob doesn’t seem to carry that scene. Oh, well. In poking about, however, I did come across this bit, which should provide some mild Friday afternoon amusement:
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Were you to sit yourself down in Robbo’s favorite comfy chair in the library at Port Swiller Manor, you would find to your immediate right, just beyond a small occasional table loaded to overflowing with books and covered in hot beverage rings, a large window. This window looks out into the back yard of the Manor’s demesne and generally takes in the flower garden, the tree line and the gels’ rope swing. In the immediate foreground, it offers a view of the patio one floor down and the side of the back deck at eye level. If you were to slouch down just so to look under the table, you would be able to see both the lower bird feeder hanging from the underside of the porch and a bird house attached to one of its supporting pillars (one of those Williamsburg – or, as we like to say for reasons too complicated to explain here, “Weeeyamsburg” - glazed bottles).
As I say, this is Robbo’s favorite chair, in which he spends as much of his leisure time as possible. One of the primary reasons why he likes it so much is the view described above, to which he often turns in contemplation of the sky, the light, the clouds, the various flora and fauna that visit from time to time and other manifestations of the Maker’s handiwork. (We are also very close to the outer marker for air traffic coming in to Reagan National from the North, and I confess that teh little boy inside me never gets tired of seeing the coo-el jets powering down overhead.)
I mention the bird bottle. We put it up when we first moved in thirteen years ago. (I’ve a hazy recollection that it was a housewarming present from somebody.) In that time, I have seen multiple broods of chicks raised in it, usually either wrens or sparrows. However, the other morning as I sat idly gazing down, I suddenly spotted what had heretofore not been much of a regular visitor to the immediate vicinity of the porch and patio, a bluebird. He was sitting on the deck railing looking indignant, and every now and again would jump off to go after other birds trying to get at the feeder. (Truth be told, it really is a bit too close to the bottle, but numerous onslaughts by deer, squirrel and raccoon had left its corner the only viable spot to hang it.) He also started flying up and perching in the ivy around the windowsill no more than two feet from me, fluttering up every now and again to attack his reflection in the glass.
Peering more closely, I suddenly spotted the reason for Mr. BB’s actions; peeping out from the neck of the bottle was Mrs. BB.
This genuinely surprised me. I’ve often seen bluebirds in the yard. But it’s always been my understanding that they like to nest right on the edges of open spaces. (Indeed, there are several birdhouses in the neighborhood – including one of our own in the little area behind the back hydrangea hedge- that they have inhabited over the years.) But I never thought they would take up residence in what is a comparatively confined space and one so close to the house.
On the one hand, I was delighted. I love bluebirds, considering them to be amongst the handsomest of the local native species and also admiring their self-contained, aggressive attitude toward the world.
On the other, I was disturbed. You see, within the next couple of weeks, the support to which the bird bottle is attached will be no more: This evening, we signed the contract for the construction of the new porch, and the process is rayther going to involve first getting rid of the old, rotty one.
At the moment, I’m not really sure what (if anything) I can do about the bluebirds. I’m virtually certain that no chicks have been hatched yet (it’s far too early), but I don’t know if any eggs have been laid.
I know that Nature is red in tooth and claw and that things happen to nests of eggs or chicks all the time – branches falling down, lightning strikes, invasion by predators and so forth. But I also feel the tug from that part of Man’s soul that is above Nature. (No, it’s not Bambi-like anthropomorphic sentimentality. More like the responsibility of stewardship.)
Not so much as to halt construction, you understand. The bird bottle has to come down one way or another. But enough to do a little research to see whether there is any way to transfer it to another spot within the immediate vicinity without damaging or harming its content. I think I’m going to call around to some local pest control outfits and see if they have any recommendations. Who knows? “Humane” transfers have become all the rage these days. Why, my own Sistah, rayther than summarily tossing the foxes that have been caught having a go at her hen coops straight into Casco Bay in brick-filled sacks, has ponied up the dosh to have them transported and released somewhere inland (where they are no doubt free to plague some other unfortunate shmucks). Why not the “humane” relocation of widdle birdies?
I think I’m going to do this even if there’s no realistic way to save the nest. The last thing I want is to try and take the thing down myself with a furious pair of bluebirds going for my head. Sparrows I could deal with: they seem to be fairly placid. Wrens are more aggressive, but tend to hover around the perimeter making lots of sound and fury but taking little practical action. Bluebirds, on the other hand, are more into the pecking and scratching thing, which I, frankly, can do without.
I’ll keep you posted.
Can you believe it? Two whole posts in one day! When was the last time ol’ Robbo pulled that off?
Anyhoo, I happen to be online because I’m over at teh Weather Underground site checking the local radar. Ma Nature and I are currently engaged in something of a struggle. I want to fire up the grill for my steaks and she’s responding by sending a series of isolated but intense storms over the rooftops of Port Swiller Manor. It’s bucketing at the moment, but I believe that once this one rolls through, I should be able to get back out there and get cooking.
Nothing to do but crank up the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, pour myself another glass of sherry and wait it out……
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Well, another Saturday dawns at Port Swiller Manor and finds Robbo staring at the radar and wondering whether he has time to spritz the weeds with Round-Up before the thunderstorms move in. Probably not. At least I got the grass cut last evening, so that’s something.
♦ I mentioned the Gels of MASN in the post immediately below. Now I will tell you something about my own gel of summah. The eleven year old has inserted herself in a rotation of two or three regulars playing catcher for her softball team this season. T’other evening I was watching her in action behind the plate when it suddenly occurred to me why she enjoys the position so much: It’s a spotlight. The catchers are constantly complimented by coaches and crowds for their handing of what can be quite eccentric pitching at this level. There’s also great satisfaction in staring down a runner at third who’s thinking of stealing. However, she especially loves dramatically sweeping off her face-mask when pursuing a pop foul. What a ham. (To her credit, she is good at it, too.)
♦ Speaking of ball clubs, ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats find themselves on a little five-game winning streak and look to be settling back into their true form. My blood pressure has dropped several points over the past week or so as a result. Go, NATS!!
♦ I look with horror and revulsion at the information coming to light about what happened in Libya. (Well, not just that, of course.) But I am all the more horrified by my feeling that nothing will really come of it. Why? Because if you ask the opinion of the average low-information voter, you’re likely to get the answer,”Ben Ghazi? Who? Isn’t he that NFL player who just came out? Or is he the one dating a Kardashian?”
♦ Speaking of such things, I don’t usually read much political or social science, but by happenstance two new books have seized the Robbo attention. The first is Roger Kimball’s The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia. Jay Nordlinger has been quoting and reviewing the book extensively over at NRO, and much of what he cites goes right to ol’ Robbo’s heart. The other book, by another NRO writer, is Kevin Williamson’s The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure. I believe that I’ve written here before of my belief that we, as a nation, are hurtling toward catastrophe. But I also said that, however hard it’s going to be, there isn’t reason just yet to save that last round for yourself. Williamson’s theme, from the blurbs and interviews I’ve seen, appears to follow this same line. Anyway, I like his writing style. (UPDATE: Here is The Czar’s review. Makes me all the more eager to dive in.)
I’ll let you know what I think.
♦ Some might suggest that ol’ Robbo spend his valuable reading time not with works that reenforce his own world view but with those that challenge it. To them, I respectfully reply: Get stuffed. Through some horrid process of social evolution, I seem to have become a bona fide member of the counterculture. I look out from the redoubt and see the “challenge” swirling around it continually. No need to unlock the gate and let them in.
♦ Oh, since I am posting so sparsely these days, let me get this out of the way: Happy Mother’s Day.
♦ Tomorrow is also Ascension Sunday. Or, as Father Z rants about it, Ascension Thursday Sunday. Go on over and enjoy if you like this sort of thing (which I do).
♦ Speaking of rants, alert friends of the decanter may have noticed the absence here of complaints about tourons, a subject which in past years has consumed so much of Robbo’s thought. This is simply due to teh fact that I have been driving into work since last August instead of taking the metro, so just don’t have that much personal contact with them anymore. However, this change in commuting practice has not done away with the touron menace so much as transformed it into another shape. Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded tour busses. As the weather warms, these behemoths are starting to seriously jam up my afternoon drive. (And when it takes me an hour to go ten city blocks, I have every right to be cranky about it.) As a rule, I try to be a courteous driver – giving people room to merge in, for instance; stopping to let somebody pull out of a driveway. Not so with these busses, from which I use every method, legal or otherwise, to dodge, cut off or otherwise distance myself. Grrrrrrr…….
♦ And may I just remark here (perhaps again) on what a wonderful city car the Jeep Wrangler really is? Its small size, quick pickup and sweet maneuverability make it ideal for nipping in and out of traffic.
Well, I glance out the window and here’s the rain. Too bad. Everything was probably too wet to begin with anyway.
UPDATE: In re the low-information voter above, I should have noted that their next sentence would have been, “Hey, when do I get all my free shite?” ”Low-information voter” is one way to describe them, but I think “Bread-and-Circuses voter” is even more apt.
Voice on Telephone [amidst incessant giggles and background voices]: Um….Mr. [Port Swiller]?…..Um…. This is “Jane” from PNC Bank….
Self: Uh, huh…
VoT: Um….We were, shhh, just calling, um, to confirm your transfer of, um, one million dollars from, um, your account, to, um, your, um, hee-hee (stop it!), um, [Middle Gel]….
VoT: Um…sshhh… so, you approve?
Self: Oh, sure. Er, you know that my phone has Caller ID, don’t you?
Self: Yes. And you might want to lose the giggling.
Later that evening:
Self: Ah, [Middle Gel]? You know that phone call this afternoon?
SD: Er, yes…..
Self: Worst. Prank. Evah.
SD: DAAA-aaad! You know I can’t keep from laughing!
Self: Yes, yes I do. And here’s a piece of advice: Don’t take up poker.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
I will not keep you long on this post. However, I thought it appropriate to enter my two cents here on a subject of long debate. To wit, that of Nature versus Nurture in re raising children.
Here are my empiric observations:
As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo has three daughters, now all of whom are teens or pre-teens.
For scientific purposes, I can assure you that all of them have been exposed all their lives to what can safely be described as the Same Environment.
For all that, I find myself in charge of three wildly divergent personalities, specifically , a crank, a sweet-heart and a looney.
The bottom line I reach from my dealings with them is best expressed in nautical terms: Their personalities are subject to the prevailing winds (i.e., the way they were born.). As family captain, I can’t do more than trim the sails to alter their courses a few points towards where I think they should go. Beyond that, I am fairly helpless.
I offer this observation for what it’s worth. A calm sea and prosperous voyage to those of you dealing with the same thing! (And, of course a glass of port!)
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
Or, at least, those of you who still drop in….
This afternoon when I was chatting with the Mothe, she asked, “Have you given up blogging?”
Here’s Robbo’s predicament: A variety of issues have boiled up around Port Swiller Manor in the past couple months that have forced themselves on Robbo’s attention but have not – owing to issues of confidentiality and propriety – been blog-worthy in and of themselves.
I don’t wish to appear cryptic here. It’s just that this is the trap of a semi-autonymous bloggy identity and a generally domestick blogging theme. As teh kids like to say, or at least did so ten minutes ago, one must guard against the disclosure of TMI. But don’t worry – we’re all alive and well.
(And, of course, there is the matter of Robbo’s employer’s recent responses to my attempts to dial into WordPress, which could be summed up in the single word: Que? Who am I to contact tech support and bitch about my sudden inability to post whatever drifts across my so-called mind during bizness hours? As I have often, bitterly, noted, I’m not paid for my artistic expression.)
The long and the short of it is that I have simply been too busy and too distracted and too inhibited to concentrate on the Important Things, such as the gratuitous blathering that constitutes about 99.999999% of what you will find here at Port Swiller Central.
But please, do not drain your glasses and start fumbling for your hats and brollies as you mutter about important engagements that you must get to! Ol’ Robbo promises that he has not abandoned his position at the head of the table and that he will keep the decanter circulating – by means of trained squirrels if necessary – and that the walnuts are always on the table and the Stilton is always on the sideboard.
Of course, it would not hurt if somebody out there gave me a lead. Back in school, I used to hate assignments when I was invited to write about “whatever I wanted” regarding a given text. I used to beg the profs: For goodness sake, tell me WHAT to write about! You lot could to the same.
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
You know, the women-folk of Port Swiller Manor have long professed to be great fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the spirit with which she faced frontier life. Yet let ol’ Robbo absent-mindedly forget to turn the heat back on after a cold front comes through, making the house perhaps a tad chilly overnight, and see what kind of reaction he gets. Hot house orchids ain’t in it.
Speaking of flowers, I was musing about what needs doing around the grounds after I get home from Mass today. It’s actually a short and sweet list: The annual stringing of new deer netting for the hydrangea hedge, the placement of supports for the peonies, some weeding on the garden path.
Somewhere or other I have seen an illustrated Examination of Conscience. For the Commandment about keeping the Sabbath, one of the pictures is of somebody sweating over an old-fashioned push-mower. Now I personally feel that mowing the lawn does come under the definition of unnecessary Sunday labor, which is why I always try to take care of it on Saturday. But I don’t classify fooling about in the garden the same way. To me, it’s more a sort of hands-on appreciation of God’s glory. (At least until the weather turns beastly hot.)
UPDATE: Speaking of Flower Power: Legalized weed, “Earth Day” counterculture and Colorado hippie pot-heads. What could possibly go wrong?
Greetings, my fellow port swillers!
My name is Robbo and I am the sometime host of this blog.
My apologies for the sporadic posties of late. The fact is that Mrs. R had to go in for some emergency surgery two weeks ago and things have been rayther at sixes and sevens since then. (She’s fine, btw, but just now getting back up to speed.) Also, Mr. Pollen has been putting the hurt on me over the past couple days.
Thus, my Muse, instead of sitting proudly on my shoulder and inspiring me to heights of erudition and eloquence, has instead been cowering in the corner in a fetal ball, whimpering and muttering, “No hablo Ingles, senior…”.
Anyhoo, good God Almighty what a week it’s been, no? As I type, Drudge is suggesting that they
may have nailed have captured the second Marathon bastard bomber bastard. And all the usual suspects are already starting the crimination/recrimination games. I positively swear that I heard a few seconds of somebody on NPR this evening suggestion that the younger brother was a “victim” himself, a troubled yoot that our cold, crass system had allowed to “slip through the cracks”.
And so we navel-gaze while the barbarians undermine the wall.
Remember how in M*A*S*H* Alan Alda often delivered that smug and smarmy line, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” Well, either through idiocy or willfulness (or probably both – see Jonah Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches), he never finished the thought, and thereby skewed it exactly wrong. The line is from a poem called “What If?”, usually attributed to Bertolt Brecht and criticizing pacifism. It runs in full:
What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why then the war will come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid Battle,
since not to fight for your own cause really means
Fighting in behalf of your enemy’s cause.
I am not (yet) of the camp that attributes our confused and self-destructive response to Jihad to a deliberate ploy by Libs to ruin this country. Instead, I still believe it is a matter of naiveté, fecklessness, hubristic posturing and a vague desire that it will all somehow just go away by itself.
Well, it won’t.
Speaking of battles, I ran off the movie Red Tails the other evening, a film that purports to tell the story of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of WWII. I won’t say much about the film itself, as it turned out to be a horridly cartoonish thing, indulging in cliche and caricature and doing absolutely nothing to actually honor or, more importantly, EXPLAIN these remarkable pilots and their stunning record of success. Instead, I use it as yet another exhibit in support of a policy I intend to implement upon becoming Emperor of the World. Under my wise and benevolent reign, CGI-created machines (in this case, WWII-era fighters and bombers), will not be permitted to act in ways physically impossible for their real-world counterparts.
Do you hear, George Lucas (who was behind this movie)? If you make a P-51 Mustang act like one of your freakin’ X-wings on MY watch, you are going to be subject to a public flogging. You’ve been warned.
Speaking of warnings, the youngest gel, now aged 11 and quite full of herself, has taken to calling me “Dude” lately. Each time she does it, I promptly correct her. She just as promptly apologizes. But that doesn’t seem to prevent her from doing it the next time. Grrrrrr.
One of my resolutions this Easter season is to dip into various authors I’ve not read before. To this end, I recently acquired the collected works of Flannery O’Connor. I also procured Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory. Two other authors who have appeared on my radar are Walker Percy and John Buchan (of 39 Steps fame). Any suggestions re these two would be appreciated, although I must warn you that I gather Buchan is mostly a whodunnit kind of fellah and detective stories (even those concerning Sherlock Holmes himself) have never really grasped my interest that much. Oh, and friends of the decanter are always welcomed to suggest other authors and books. Regular readers probably know ol’ Robbo pretty well at this point, so you know what might interest me.
Of course, if you were to ask what I’m reading at this very minute, for all my talk of expanded horizons I would have to confess that I’m working my way through the Waugh cycle for the umpteenth time and thoroughly enjoying myself.
Speaking of expanding, we are in the initial steps of doing away with the weather-beaten and code-violating back porch at Port Swiller Manor and replacing it with a three-season room. The building guy and architect were out this morning to take measurements and discuss ideas. I kept an eye on the architect as he free-handed a sketch of the existing and proposed structures in his notebook. It was absolutely fascinating to watch the virtual blueprint emerging from his squigglings. I suppose it’s routine when you’re in the biz, but as a layman I was deeply impressed.
Well, not much else to say at the moment. This was one of those horrid evenings in which Mrs. R and I were required to transport the gels to and from various activities in a logistical scheme that made Operation Overlord look like a game of pickup football. I loathe such days. To add to the fun, the area has been subject to torrential rains off and on all evening. The poor visibility, coupled with my rotten night vision, had ol’ Robbo tooling about the highways and byways muttering under his breath about “driving by Braille”.
The upside of such an evening’s toil and travail is that when everyone finally returns to base safe and sound, that extra glass of wine tastes especially good. I invite you to join me!