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charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, teh youngest gel’s softball team survived a scary-close, extra-innings semi-final game this evening to advance to the City Series Championship game on Wednesday.

(And as an aside, as I walked in from the parking lot, I spotted Adam LaRoche and his family.  He has a couple of kids in our league.  Rather than accosting him, I simply made eye-contact, smiled and went on about my biznay.)

Anyhoo, the team finished their regular season at 10-2, one game back of the division winners (who were eliminated this evening on an adjacent field).   The gel has made something of a name for herself as a solid glove at 1st, although her chief delight is playing 3rd and gunning down runners.  (The other day, with bases loaded, she fielded a grounder hit to her there.  Everyone in the park thought she was going to step on the bag for the easy out, but she instead fired the ball to the catcher for the force at home.  The run she saved proved important.)

As for ol’ Robbo, I’ve been acting this season as a sort of deputy assistant coach, helping out with practices, pre-game BP and warm-ups as I’m available, and sometimes coaching 1st.  It’s a level of service with which I’m quite happy, as it allows me to be involved without saddling me with responsibilities I probably could not handle, given everything else going on.

Our record this season against the team we’re facing for the championship is 1-1, so I’ve an idea this is going to be an exciting game.  Wish us luck!

UPDATE:  Greetings again, my fellow port swillers!  I’m happy to report that not only did our team win this evening, the gel proved to be one of the heroes of the game.  Oh, you’d like details? Super, thanks for asking!  Well, it was the bottom of the 3rd and we were up 6-4 with bases loaded.  (The other team had scored all four of its runs in the top of the 3rd and looked like they were getting their mojo.)  The gel came up to the plate and hit a screaming daisy-cutter right over the bag at third.  All the base-runners came home and she boogied into second for a stand-up double, scoring herself a few minutes later.  This effectively took the mickey out of the other team and we eventually finished them off 11-4.   Ol’ Robbo is mighty proud tonight.


charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

(Who? Go here.)

Teh youngest gel’s softball practices are on Tuesdays this spring.  Ol’ Robbo serves as a kind of utility back-up coach this season, not having any official position but making himself useful where needed, both during practices and in games.

Anyhoo, this past Tuesday evening, we had as usual an intra-squad scrimmage.   Because only nine or ten gels showed up for practice, this necessitated some coaches playing in the outfield.  (At teh gel’s AAA level, the teaching emphasis is on infield execution, as the majority of hits among the 9-11 y.o. crowd tend not to travel far into the outfield.)

Playing center field, ol’ Robbo found himself squaring up against teh gel.   She has really blossomed this spring on many different fronts,  and in recent weeks has started to bear down much harder on her softball skills, which heretofore have been held hostage to what one might call the “Look – Squirrel!” frame of mind.

So, on a coach-pitched lob, teh gel smacked a long, hard shot into the left-center gap.

Ol’ Robbo is almost 50.  He’s very much out of shape and is considerably out of practice when it comes to softball.  Plus, he was still dressed in his work clothes.  Nonetheless, because the ball hung up just enough, I managed to get a good jump and executed a nifty back-handed spear at full stretch as it came down.

Lord God forgive me, but I couldn’t help juuuuuust a little bit of taunting after I robbed teh gel of her hit.

I’m paying for it now with a set of lower back pains, but it was worth it. Right?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but ol’ Robbo has been dealing with a sinus infection off and on for the past few weeks, something that always seems to happen round about this time of year.  I say “off and on” because the symptoms have waxed and wained, sometimes getting to the point where I think that yes, I probably ought to go see the doc, but then moderating again so as to encourage just toughing the thing out.  (One of ol’ Robbo’s medical maxims is the avoidance of antibiotics unless and until they’re absolutely necessary, lest trivial dosings render them ineffective when they’re truly needed.)

The past couple days, the symptoms seem to be getting worse again.  My sinus cavity feels as if it’s lined with several inches of lead, there’s a constant irritation at the back of my throat and I’ve been feeling generally run down, dizzy and beat.

I report all this not in an attempt to to garner cheap sympathy or to worry teh Mothe, but to lay the foundation so that friends of the decanter will understand the dread with which I faced the prospect of attending teh youngest gel’s recorder and choral concert at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method this evening.   Nineteen 4th, 5th and 6th graders, of (shall we say) varying degrees of talent,  playing about fifteen different tunes, from “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple” through some Mozart, some Stravinsky and a couple of Irish jigs to “Amazing Grace”, all tutti ensemble and maybe 20 feet from where I was sitting would have been a tall order even were I in perfect health.

So, pardon me a second while I close my weary eyes just remembering it.

Anyhoo, I did a bit o’ research this evening to try and discover who had the bright idea of championing the modern, plastic recorder as the grade-school musickal instrument of choice but, after a whole five minutes on the Innertoobs, drew a blank.  The closest relevant information I could find came from the ‘recorder’ entry at “Simple English Wikipedia”, which seems to be a dumbed down version of Wiki prime.  The relevant paragraphs:

Plastic recorders were invented in the 20th century. They are cheap and vary greatly in quality (that is often not related to the price) depending on the manufacturer. They are easy instruments to play simple music. Many elementary schools use plastic recorders to teach music to children.

The head joint of the recorder is used as a noise, rhythm and effect instrument, and as a toy musical instrument with children. Because the recorder head works like a whistle, it can be used as such. With a bit practice, it is easy to play all kind of rhythms. Effects are made by opening and covering the lower end of the head joint with the hand while blowing. Many players blow harder like “normal” recorder playing (like with a pea whistle), to get a very shrill and loud sound. Professor Agnes Dorwarth of the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg argues this is an attractive way to get children to play with part of the instrument, which can make playing the entire instrument more inviting.

Yeah.  Whenever I’m subjected to this particular “shrill and loud sound”, I renew my resolve to track down the originator of the bright idea of mixing school kids with recorders and doing something to him or her with one or more of the latter quite unprintable on a family blog.  If nobody else comes forward, Professor Dorwarth better not let me catch her alone in a dark alley.

At any rate, I survived.  So I got that going for me.

Still, it’s slowly sinking in that after fourteen years (if my math is right) of having one or more of the gels at St. Marie, we are down to our final semester of student participation there (although Mrs. R will continue to teach and I’ve a feeling they won’t let me resign from the Board no matter how much I want to).  Somehow, that makes these little events – however teeth-gritting they may be in themselves – all the more important in a symbolic sense, the back markers (as it were) of a particular stage of the life of the Family Robbo.  Next year, teh youngest will go off to middle school, while her elder sisters will both be in high school with the eldest eyeing her collegiate options (prayers, please).    This nostalgic reflection provides at least a bit of  armor and is allowing ol’ Robbo to treat these things with something approaching good will.  Why, I might even go so far as to attend the annual spring fair without becoming enraged by the inevitable clown’s refusal to confess, confess!, that wearing thick face paint, a heavy wig and a polyester suit while making balloon animals under a bright sun and in humid, 90 degree heat makes her happy-go-lucky air a complete put-on.

Lousy, rotten clowns…..

But that’s a topic for another post.  In the meantime, as I say, as much discomfort as this evening’s concert caused on one level, on another I’m glad I went.






charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, this evening saw the first softball practice of the Robbo Family Spring 2014 little league softball season, with the youngest gel’s Triple-A squad assembling for their inaugural meeting down the local elementary school diamond.    I expect the eldest gel’s senior squad will hold their first practice very shortly as well.   As has been the case the past few years, I will be contributing my little bit to the cause by serving as an assistant coach on both gel’s teams.

Counting Fall Ball and the Spring Season separately, a quick calculation on ol’ Robbo’s fingers indicates that this is his 14th half-season of coaching and/or managing gels’ softball in some capacity or other.   I must say that at this point I still know next to nothing about the job, either in terms of teaching technique or in terms of what they call personnel management.  But give me a leader who knows what he or she is about, and I flatter myself that I’m a pretty decent second fiddle.  With that role I am quite content.

Still, what I love most about the experience is just being out at the diamond.  There’s just a certain feel about the grounds, the weather and the whole attitude that appeals to me.  Also, I love the repeated marvel of watching twelve random gels starting a season not knowing each other or their coaches from Adam but gradually coalescing into a genuine “team”.

As for the youngest gel, she’s the oldest player on her team and is somewhat hacked that she didn’t make Majors this spring.   I have pointed out to her that she has no right to make Majors, but has to earn it, and that her try-out performance a couple weeks ago was somewhat, ah, lackadaisical.   Perhaps the lesson was learned, because she was throwing the ball around mighty crisp this evening.  Let’s hope it continues.



I VotedGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, ol’ Robbo skootched into teh voting booth with about 15 minutes to go this evening.  I needn’t bother recounting which candidates on the ballots for general office in teh Great Commonwealth of Virginny I picked, I believe.  Most regular friends of the decanter no doubt can figure things out easily enough.  Nor need I acknowledge  that I am likely to be disappointed in the gubernatorial results, even though Drudge is still teasing (as of shortly before 9 PM) that an upset might be in the works.

Actually, I made teh dash (and it was a dash, given the traffic I had to fight) for two basic reasons.  For one, I felt I had to contribute at the top of the ballot:  if my choice for governor was not going to cross the finish line first  and was to lose to some loathsome, grifting slime bag,  I was damned if it would be because of me.  Also, were my preference to pull an upset, I would forever kick myself at not being in on it.

Second, because I have a far more personal interest in seeing my local delegate to teh Virginny House win re-election.  She’s a fellow parishioner at my church and an all-around solid presence in teh local community.  (Among other things, she’s heavily involved in our little league program and sponsored the youngest gel’s softball team a couple seasons ago.)  It is widely supposed that she intends to take a shot at Congress when our long-time local rep decides to hang ‘em up.    So there’s all that.  The fact that, for a woman in her mid-50’s, she’s very easy on the eyes plays absolutely no part in my consideration.

Anyhoo,  I don’t know if this is a precinct-by-precinct thing or not, but for our polling place it was strictly paper ballots this evening.   One colored in the little ovals on teh O-fficial form and then fed it into a big, black scanner box.  Apart from a little counter window, there was no acknowledgement, no verification that the machine understood and accepted my selections.

Eh.  I am not much of a conspiracy-theorist type by nature, my inclination being to believe that human fallibility and the tendency to blab render any but the smallest-scale operations impracticable.    Still, as I shoved my ballot into the machine, I couldn’t help wondering…………

UPDATE:  Well, I see my delegate won by 404 votes, so I like to think I did my part.

charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening at teh eldest gel’s softball practice, owing to distractions and miscommunications one of our better players got hit in the eye with a pretty hard thrown ball.  Almost instantly it was plain that she will be sporting a rayther severe shiner for the days to come.

After the initial alarum and excursion surrounding the poor girl’s evident pain, which featured various and sundry coaches, players and parents scrambling for cloths, water and ice, I eventually found the victim sitting on the bench with a compress held against her inflamed cheek.

“So,” I said, “You know what you need to say when anyone comments on that bruise, don’t you?”

“No,” she answered, still in pain,”What?”

Hey,” I said, “You shoulda seen what I did to the other guy!”

Teh girl was game enough to giggle.

Nice to feel that I helped a bit.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yep, your host finds himself still kicking his heels this Monday morning, waiting for Uncle to unlock the doors and switch the lights back on.  I hope things get resolved sooner than later.  Among other reasons, Mrs. R is starting to get that honey-do look in her eyes when she catches me lounging in the hammock.

So a few odds and ends to while away the time:

♦  Ol’ Robbo got into an almost-fender-bender this morning coming home from dropping off teh elder gels at school.   A doofus (with, naturally, Murr’land plates) stuck in the left lane behind a bus waiting to turn, decided to go around him to the right, cutting over just as I was coming up past him.  Fortunately, I spotted him just in time and was able to jam on my brakes and get over toward teh curb.  The result was that his front bumper just grazed my driver-side door.   I leaned out and inspected the contact, looked up and gave the guy a very poisonous look while mouthing “Thank you, ya jack-wagon”, and drove away.  Somebody told me that driving in Dee Cee results in an average of one accident every four years.  Perhaps this was mine for the foreseeable future.

♦  I am convinced that my wisteria are related to Tolkien’s Huorns.  They have reached out their tendrils and snagged the throttle control on my lawnmower so many times that it must be deliberate.  They also delight in tangling my weed-whacker.

♦   Speaking of the garden, every year about midsummer, I say to myself, “Self, you really need to dig up and divide the peonies this fall.”  And every year come fall, I say to myself, “Aw, the heck with it.  Maybe next year.”

♦   At least this year I have some plausible excuse.  What an odd October weather-wise it’s been in the environs of Port Swiller Manor.  After a very cool August and September, the temperatures this past week have been right up near 90.  It’s all changing today, however, as a front blows through, bringing heavy rain and more seasonal air.

♦   There is still a good deal of enmity between our elder cat and the two new kittehs.  In general, they all try to avoid each other, Bella spending most of her days in the basement and the younglings playing about upstairs.  When they do meet, they keep a weather eye on each other.  We are down to about one or two screeching dustups per day, which usually come when Bella stumbles across one of teh kittehs unexpectedly.

♦   I notice that I have not said anything about my beloved Nationals since their season ended.   The bad news, of course, is that we didn’t live up to the pre-season “World Series or Bust” hype (including my own hype) this year.  The good news is that, despite all the heartache, we did win only twelve fewer games this year than last.   We’ll get ‘em next time.

♦    Speaking of such things, the eldest gel is playing in a senior girl’s softball league this fall and ol’ Robbo is acting again as one of the coaches.  The girls in this league range between 13 and 16, and some of the pitchers can deliver the ball very, very hard.  T’other day I got tagged to help our ace warm up.  Without any kind of padding or protection other than a strategically-placed knee, I found myself catching bullets.  It was quite unnerving.

♦   Oh, and today is the anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, fought in 1571.   Make sure and sink one of the Sultan’s galleys today by way of commemoration.






Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the Middle Gel left this morning for choir camp somewhere down around Richmond, thus kicking off the O-fficial Port Swiller Manor academic year.  (Regular classes resume after Labor Day for all three gels. 10th, 8th and 6th grades, respectively.  Yikes.)  If I may borrow a hoary cliché, where in Heaven’s name did the summah go?  For that matter, where did the entire past year go?  I know I’m starting to get a bit older and I also know that we had more than the usual number of alarums and excursions this past twelve months, but I simply cannot remember another one that blew by so very quickly.

Speaking of summah,  either Heat Miser got furloughed under the Sequester or else AlGore has taken up residence in the vicinity, because this year has been for the most part absolutely delightful in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.

Also speaking of summah, as in “boys of”,  I can’t help noticing that Robbo’s beloved Nats are on a 5-game winning streak.  As Ace likes to say, is this a thing?  Because I think it might be a thing.   I won’t even touch the playoff math here, but instead just wanted to say how nice it is to see the guys playing the way we know they can.  Also to say, of course, GO, NATS!!!

And finally, speaking of team chemistry, we have not yet found it among the feline population here at teh Manor.  The two new kittehs, even though they were from separate litters, get along like Damon and Pythias.  However, the elder cat has decided she absolutely hates the pair of them and will attack if not watched.   I’m not quite sure what to do about this.  If the younglings were a bit bigger, I’d simply let them fight it out until a balance is struck, but as it is they’re really too small to defend themselves.   Just what ol’ Robbo needs – more female squabbling.

Well, off to Mass.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Friday!

A drop o’ random for you?

♦     I’m still chuckling over Sharknado this morning.  (If you didn’t catch the premier last evening, I’m sure it will be rerun.)  I expect this movie will be the gold standard of Truly Bad Films for some time to come.  Indeed, perhaps “sharknado” will even enter the vocabulary as both noun and verb.  E.g., “I assigned the account to Johnson but he made a real sharknado out of it and the client walked.”  Or, “Progressive statism is sharknadoing what’s left of Western Civilization.”  I encourage all friends of the decanter to make a practice of incorporating the word into daily use.  Lord knows, you’ll have plenty of opportunities.

♦     What a lot of rain we’ve had in the environs of Port Swiller Manor this summah!  (It’s coming down again even as I type.)  A landscaping glitch that I’ve not yet got round to dealing with causes rainwater and mud to pond up on the driveway in front of the garage when it rains heavily enough.  There’s a small field drain, but it often gets blocked with debris.  The only thing to do is go out with a shovel, a rake and the hose and clear it off.  I doubt that many other people include bailing out the driveway on their list of domestic chores.

♦     I had forgotten how much puppies and kittehs like to chew on fingers.  Yowtch!

♦     Mrs. Robbo and the younger gels are off for a few days at a dude ranch, of all places, in Eastern Tennessee.  (Mrs. R is overtaken periodically with bouts of wanderlust.  In this, we are very, very different.)  Anyhoo, not being an experienced horsewoman, she was quite pleased to report to our little circle that she came through her first trail ride yesterday without mishap.  I couldn’t help responding that one isn’t a real rider until one has been thrown, kicked or bitten.  (I’ve had all three happen in my time.)   Mrs. Former Llama Military Correspondent also chimed in that since Mrs. R is using a western saddle, this probably does not count.    We’re kind of a cruel lot.

♦     Oh, speaking of summah wanderings, I must give official notice here that teh Robbo brain has gone into its annual state of vapor-lock and, until I go on hols next month, most likely will spew out posts even more sparse, random, disjointed and shallow than normal.  It’s been a relatively stressful year around here and it just hit me this week how absolutely exhausted I am.  Anyhoo, my apologies in advance.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

And welcome, NSA!  Here’s the decanter.  There are walnuts on the table and the Stilton is over on the sideboard.

And now, a little Sunday random….

♦   Friday saw the annual student talent show at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method.  Among the offerings was an a capella rendition of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Do You Believe In Magic?” by the youngest gel and three of her friends.  They hit the notes somewhat in the manner of regimental volley fire – by saturation rayther than precision accuracy, but they were clearly enjoying themselves.  The final act of the afternoon featured a kid cutting dance steps to “Dynamite”.  (For those of you who don’t know it, this is a standard techno dance tune featuring lots of thump-thumpa and synthesizers.  It’s pretty awful, but at least it’s not rap, which I can’t stick at any price.)  About half way through, most of the rest of the elementary kids suddenly rushed the stage and joined in.  The spontaneity was quite pleasing.

♦   Did I mention before how amazingly fast this school year seems to have blown by?  I think I did.  So far as I’m able to keep track, we’ve got about a week and a half left until all three gels are over and done.   They all keep expressing wonder that I don’t get a summah vacation.  I’ve not made up my mind whether this is naiveté or just a little parental needling.

♦    Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals continue to hover around the .500 mark, and it’s not a pleasant thing.  One could blame this on a number of key injuries we’re currently suffering, but I begin to suspect that it has a deeper root in all the pre-season hype.  I’ve never been comfortable with what the Baseball Gods must think of the whole “Natitude” campaign and I begin to think they’re now showing their displeasure.  For whatever reason, the team has definitely taken on the feel – as I saw somebody put it the other day – of “Flatitude”.

Oh, well.  GO, NATS!!

♦     Thanks to Friday’s tropical storm, when ol’ Robbo emerged from the talent show mentioned above he discovered several inches of water sitting in the well of the ol’ Wrangler.  Even with the back off, I can usually avoid this even during heavy rain by remembering to park facing into the wind, by “heaving to” as sailors would say.  Forgot this time.  Idjit.  Now the carpeting is going to smell moldy again until it’s been thoroughly aired out.

♦    I read Roger Kimball’s The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy In An Age of Amnesia yesterday.  The overall theme is right up ol’ Robbo’s alley:  a defense of traditional Western culchah in the face of the effort of utopian progressivists to wipe it all out in order to start afresh molding the Brave New World.   Kimball illustrates some of the permanent values by devoting chapters to various authors – Chesterton, Hayek, Kipling and Muggeridge, for example.  One of teh chapters considers John Buchan (author of The Thirty-Nine Steps and other spy thrillers), whom I have never read although I’ve always heard good things about him.  This is the second time in the past two weeks that Buchan’s name has turned up on Robbo’s radar.  I like to take these things as signs.  So I think it’s time to take a trip over to the devil’s website and sample him.

♦    Speaking of the devil’s website, I was over there this week purchasing a new biography of Grant recommended by the Mothe when, much to my horror, I discovered that I had inadvertently grabbed the kindle version.   It felt like turning over a rock and discovering a tarantula.   I’m glad, at least, that I was able to get a refund once I discovered my mistake.

♦     Well, I suppose I had better be about it.  Off to Mass and then an afternoon getting ready for the builders  (who start tearing down the mawster bawth and the deck tomorrow morning) and then cooking din-dins for my in-laws who are stopping over on their way back north for the summah.  Never a dull moment round here.

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