Greetings, my fellow port swillers and an ambiguously happy Palm Sunday! **

First off, let me finish off an item that I raised in the post immediately below but that I don’t want to get buried: Last evening, I watched “The Case for Christ”.  Frankly, I didn’t much like it, and not just because it’s set in the horror that was the late Carter Era.  The theology and scientific overlap are, as somebody here said, solid.  But the film itself is pure Hallmark Pablum.  Your results may vary, but if somebody was trying to bring me in to Christianity and showed it to me? I’d get the willies.  (On a more microcosmic level, this same thing happened when I was swimming the Tiber and somebody gave me some Scott Hahn to read.  Better to get a sober grounding first, then to turn to the enthusiasts.  Otherwise, the “flight” instinct might kick in.)  Nonetheless, I was moved enough to order Lee Strobel’s book.  Hopefully, it probes the thing a bit deeper than the film.

That out of the way, Ol’ Robbo has had what, at least to me, seems to have been a very good Lent this year, both cleansing and enlightening.  I’ll tell you about it some time if you’re really interested, but for now I’ll just say that I truly hope, in the words of Alfred, Lord Tennis Court, that after all that work and introspection I will be able to rise on the stepping stones of my dead self to higher things instead of (as usual) going splat some time shortly after Easter.

In any event, Holy Week is now upon us, and I intend to do the whole cycle this year: Tenebrae on Wednesday, the Mass of the Last Supper on Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday evening.  (I always attend the Vigil in order to cheer on fellow converts coming in to Holy Mother Church.  This will be the 11th anniversary of my own swim across the Tiber.) Sunday itself is reserved for riding herd on my somewhat Christianity-and-water family.  (And I talk about enthusiasts! Physician, heal thyself.)

Anyhoo, as I think I mentioned previously, I’ll be going dark here for the week and will be back after it’s all over and done.  Feel free to keep commenting on this and all the more recent posts, as I’ll still be keeping track and am very, very grateful for all your input.

In the meantime, God bless you all!


** Because it is, isn’t it?  The mob showered Jesus with praise and adoration because they thought when He entered Jerusalem that He was going to turn Pilate into a pumpkin and the Roman garrison into a bunch of white mice.  Quite wrong, of course.  How do we deal with this?

UPDATE:  Bumpers all round, Ladies and Gentlemen, because Ol’ Robbo has finally achieved a long-time dream! I give you my first and second ever successful palm frond crosses:

Nobody ever taught me how to do one and I always felt a twinge of regret watching some seven year old folding them up in nothing flat.  So this afternoon I dug up this how-to YooToob video (actually and coincidentally put out by my own diocese), and hey presto!

Yes, it may be silly, but it actually means quite a bit to me.  Huzzay, huzzah!

MORE:  I just did a bunch of them for practice and left one on each of the Gels’ pillows (Mrs. R included) for when they come home for Easter.  Heh.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on my previous post, Ol’ Robbo spent a large chunk of last evening and this morning watching all the nearly four hours of “Ben-Hur“.  Although I recollect bits and pieces of it from various teevee airings in the past, I do believe this was the first time I sat down and watched the whole thing right the way through.  Is it wrong that I got pretty choked up during the Good Friday finale?

Next on my Netflix DVD list is a movie called “The Case for Christ” (2017).  I can’t tell if it’s a comedy, a drama or a documentary: the blurb says its the story of an investigative reporter who sets out to debunk the claims of Christianity in order to spike his wife for converting (charming fellah), and finds some surprising results.  I’ve no recollection where I read or heard about this film, but I doubt I’d have tossed it in my queue if I thought it was going to be bad.  I’ll let you know.

Then there’s “Unplanned“.  I’m torn about this one:  I don’t need to see it because I hardly need convincing of its message, and I don’t want to because, well, I’m squeamish.  But should I buy a ticket in support and then just not use it?  On the other hand, I hear it’s playing to packed theatres: Would occupying a seat in absentia, as it were, keep that seat from somebody else for whom it might be more beneficial?  I just don’t know.

OFF-TOPIC UPDATE:  Okay, this is really getting out of hand:  After dropping off Mrs. R and Youngest at the airport for their trip to Flahrduh to visit Mrs. R’s parents this morning, and before sitting down to watch B-H, Ol’ Robbo got out in the yard and reseeded several bald patches in the lawn with some Scott’s Turf-Builder I bought a couple weeks back.  I was just now over at Insty’s place and the sidebar ad was for….Scott’s Turf-BuilderStop it, Surveillance State! Go away! Go away!!

UPDATE DEUX:  Thankee for all the input on “The Case for Christ”.  I looked it up on IMDB and noticed Faye Dunaway, of all people, is in the cast, which probably should have been a tell.  (I didn’t even know she was still alive.)

BUMPED UPDATE TROIS:  RJB’s comment about economic warfare re “Unplanned” is well-taken.  I went ahead and ordered two tickets for a showing this afternoon at a fairly empty theatre in darkest-blue Bethesda. (Bwahaha…..)  It was all the easier because my Bishop’s Lenten Appeal invoice came in the mail today so I had my credit card out and the innertoobs activated already.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A soggy Saturday morning here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor after a night of steady, and at times heavy, rain.  Despite that, Ol’ Robbo heard not a single clap of the thunder my phone “app” had been promising all day.  (And believe me, I would have heard it:  I’ve been sleeping terribly these past few weeks.)  In this, I am quite disappointed.  Back in the days of his misspent yoot, Ol’ Robbo used to be quite frightened of thunder and lightning, but now I revel in them, and get excited whenever they turn up in the forecast.  (And no, unlike G. Gordon Liddy, I didn’t need to lash myself to a tree to overcome my fears.  It just happened.)


I gather we get to try again tomorrow but I’m not getting my hopes up too high.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of last night’s said rain,  Ol’ Robbo was out yesterday with his new spreader reseeding some of the sketchier patches in the Port Swiller lawn.  I am not by any means one of those suburbanite warriors who slaves away over each individual blade of grass in perpetuation of an unacknowledged but nonetheless vicious neighborhood struggle for status and prestige.  (This isn’t just a hipster, bourgeoisie-hating urbanite meme, by the bye. My old next-door neighbor was one of those fellahs and kept his lawn immaculate.)  But there reaches a certain point where the creeping bare patches and weed to grass ratio demand that I do more than just mow every week or two.  I determined I’d crossed that threshold this spring, so steps are now being taken.  We shall see what happens.  Truth be told, I fear I’ve already left it too late for my feeble amateur ministrations and that professional help is going to be needed, but I’m just not ready to start spending coin on that just yet.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees that the weather-reporting section of the press has its knickers in a twist this week over a series of “bomb cyclones” churning over the upper Midwest.

It’s my understanding that “bomb cyclone” has been weather-nerd shorthand for an extratropical low pressure area of a given intensity for quite some time, but as best I can recollect, the term has really only been latched onto and popularized by the mainstream press within the last few years or so.

Part of this is just click-bait and ratings-whoring, of course, like the Weather Channel’s arbitrary decision to start naming winter storms.  But I believe there’s more to it.

If you report “Early Spring Snowstorm Sweeps Rockies, Upper Midwest” the average person will shrug and say, “So what’s new?”

But report “Bomb Cyclones Pound Great Lakes Region” and the message becomes completely different.  The same person will begin to wonder.  “Bomb” cyclone? That sounds violent….and unnatural…As if Planet Earth’s balance is somehow out of whack.  Could it be that we really are destroying the atmosphere with our way of life?

And I don’t think Robbo is entering tinfoil hat territory here.  First, I truly believe that the whole “debate” over “Climate Change” or “Global Warming” or whatever term it goes by today has nothing to do with science and everything to do with politics (i.e., the push for globalist, technocratic collectivism).  Second, as I’ve said countless times to anyone who will stand still long enough, who controls the language  controls the debate.  (Hence the tussle over whether the people pouring across the Southern Border are “illegals” or “undocumented”.  Hence the branding by the Left of anyone who dare challenge its pogrom against Judeo-Christian teaching on marriage and the family as “phobes” and “haters”.)  It’s the same deal here: Make ordinary atmospheric phenomena sound scary enough and who in their right mind would dare challenge the assertion that Steps Must Be Taken?

Speaking of which, I notice that Insty recently took steps to clean up the trash ads in his sidebar, but before he did, one of the ads carried a banner headline that read something like, “SCIENTISTS URGE ONLY TEN YEARS TO PREVENT CATASTROPHIC GLOBAL WARMING”.  The illustration? A dark, steamy, rain-foresty place full of…..dinosaurs.  You know, you all remember reading in your history books about the First Industrial Age on this planet that was taken out by that giant asteroid 65 million years ago, right?




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Pray let us raise our glasses in honor of Lew Wallace, born this day in 1827.  I bring this up for a felicitous reason I’ll get to in a moment.

Wallace had quite the life.  Starting out as a lawyer, he enrolled in the U.S. Army and served in the Mexican War.  In the Civil War, he served primarily in the Western Theater as a brigadier general.  He did well at the Battles of Forts Henry and Donelson, but owing to garbled communications, was out of position at a critical moment on the first day of Shiloh, thereby invoking the wrath of Grant, who thought it was Wallace’s fault.  (It wasn’t, and Grant rather grudgingly admitted the error later in his Memoirs.)

For this black mark, Wallace was banished to second line command positions, where he eventually wound up in charge of a small force along the Monocacy River outside Frederick, Murrland that, in 1864, suddenly found itself the only organized military unit between Washington D.C. and a flank move by Jubal Early out of the Shenandoah Valley.  Hopelessly out-gunned, Wallace nonetheless deployed his small force, which deployment delayed Early’s move by a day and bought enough time for re-enforcements to be rushed to the Washington defenses.

As Wiki notes, Wallace also served on the military commission for the trials of the Lincoln assassination conspirators, and presided over the trial of Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of the Andersonville prison camp (who I believe was the only Confederate war criminal ever hanged by the Union).

Later, Wallace became governor of the New Mexico territory and personally met Billy the Kid.

But what makes today’s birthday especially apropos are the facts a) that Wallace became a writer in later life and was the author of Ben-Hur, which was an insanely popular novel in its day, and b) that Netflix just delivered the 2-DVD set of the Heston movie version of the book, which I plan to watch over the weekend, as Mrs. R and Youngest Gel will be out of town visiting her parents and I’ll have Port Swiller Manor to myself.

I’ve never read the novel, although I am tempted to check it out.  However, reviews I’ve seen suggest it is somewhat overwrought and ponderous in style, and I’m a little hesitant to tackle it even for historickal purposes until I get some better feedback.

As for the movie, it’s been ages, and I think the last time I watched it I dozed off somewhere around Heston’s visit to the leper colony.  Fortunately, as I say, it came in two disks this time, so I have a natural way by which to split up my labors.

Anyhoo, with the coincidence of Wallace’s birthday and the arrival of the flick, why not celebrate?


**Obligatory, because that’s exactly what’s popped into your head, isn’t it.







Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was most surprised to learn of the passing this week of former Senator Earnest F. “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina at the age of 97, because I hadn’t even realized that he was still alive.

I actually met Ol’ Fritz one time.  My newly-retired parents were living in South Carolina while I went to law school, and through writing to his office I snagged a summah internship with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, on which he was, I believe, the Ranking Member at the time, with McCain in the Chair.  Or perhaps the other way round, I can’t remember.  (It was, by the bye, an utterly useless gig from a substantive point of view., but it gave me my first up-close-and-personal peek at the Swamp.)

Anyhoo, one afternoon Hollings came round the office to say an official “thank you” to those of us there for the summah.  As I shook hands with him, he asked me where in South Carolina I was living.  When I told him, he said, “Ah, big CO-caine bust ’round theyah a few weeks back.  Lotta drugs confiscated…lotta money…some cars and guns…..You weren’t mixed up in any of that now, were ya?”

“Noooo…..” I replied, “But I haven’t heard from Mom and Dad for a while now….”

He was good enough to laugh.

Somewhere or other I’ve still got the autographed photo of us shaking hands, Hollings looking every inch the politico, Self looking like a depraved moron.

Anyway, rest in peace.




Just a quick word to let those friends of the decanter who may wish to contact Ol’ Robbo that I have changed my email for this place.  (I’m tired of fighting with Yahoo.)  Going forward, back-channel traffic may find me at portswillers  I’ve updated this information in the “About” section, too.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had considered putting up a post about the new four-handed “consent” condom as the latest example of the disaster that is “sexual liberation”.  When, I felt like asking again, are the feminist crowd finally going to admit that separating sex from procreation was a huge mistake, that the whole thing was actually cooked up by dudes as a way to get the milk without buying the cow, and that they (the feminists) got seriously, seriously scammed.  (It was a brilliant sell.  Completely evil, but brilliant nonetheless.)  My guess is no time soon and that they will continue to apply these Rube Goldberg-like band-aids to the insoluble problems of “casual” sex.

But it’s such a lovely day today that I really don’t have the heart to rant.  [Ed. – Except it looks like you already did.]  So instead, I give you a recent article  about a new study which claims to have established experimentally that cats understand some words.

Atsuko Saito of Sophia University in Tokyo says there’s no evidence cats actually attach meaning to our words, not even their own names. Instead, they’ve learned that when they hear their names they often get rewards like food or play, or something bad like a trip to the vet. And they hear their names a lot. So the sound of it becomes special, even if they don’t really understand it refers to their identity.

Well remember, that’s what cats let on to knowing.  What secrets they harbor inside remain unfathomable.

We’re on our fifth and sixth cats now.  Certainly, all the kittehs we’ve owned (“His cat he calls her but she owns him not”)** have known their names, plus a few other words.  “Mouse” and “treat” are among the terms that have meaning for our current pair. “Mouse” refers to the little plastic toys Ginger loves having thrown for her, while “treat” means Fiona has once again hypnotized Mrs. R into going to the pantry.

Of course, most of our communication with them is non-verbal – body language, facial expression, and the like.  Somebody ought to study that.  With a little practice and discernment, there’s a vast wealth of signals a cat can shoot at you just by the way she cocks her ears or flicks her tail.  And in fact, that language is far, far subtler than anything our dog is capable of communicating.

And, of course, obligatory to a post touching on feline sneekiness:


**Spot the quote

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are, rounding into the final stretch.  It’s hard to believe it’s only two weeks until Easter.

This has turned out to be what Ol’ Robbo is calling a very “tactile” Lent for me.  I’ve done little reading or otherwise pursuing what you might call the academic side of things this time around.  Instead, I’ve been focusing on fasting and abstinence, and really (as I mentioned a few weeks back) on prayer – and trying to live the thing rather than just thinking about it.  And this practice has proved good, I believe, in ways that are harder to describe than I can do in a mere slapped-off post done to kill a few minutes before its time to shove off for Mass, but are nonetheless real and substantial.  (Maybe, having made this step, I can now go back and combine the hands-on bits with the more egg-heady side of my faith.  Who knows what results that might bring?)

By the bye, just so you know (and I’m sure you’ve been on knife-edge wondering), I plan to keep up regular posting through Palm Sunday next week, and then to go dark after that until after Easter Sunday.

UPDATE:  I swear I sometimes think my Padre is a secret lurker ’round here.  His homily today was on the Gospel passage in John, Chapter 8 where Jesus starts mixing it up with the Sanhedrin. He’s speaking about His divinity, in fact revealing it, but the words are sailing right past their ears.  Our Padre expounded on this “hiding in the open”, talking about how He is with us in our lives too, but that we have to look and listen for Him in order to recognize His presence.  Not that I don’t try to discern anyway, but the practices I mention above have greatly aided in that.  This is what I mean by “hands-on”.  Thankee, Father!  Have some Stilton!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s Ol’ Robbo’s considered opinion that Old Man Winter has blown his last, icy breath in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor for the year.  Therefore, today’s project is to move all the plants we brought inside last fall back onto the porch.  These include four ferns and a potted palm, all of which are currently strewn about the house.

Remarkably, all of them survived this winter, even the one squirreled away on top of the freezer in the laundry room.  We’ve tried this stunt before, with inconsistent results. Why we got complete success this time (*hastily touches wood*), I really couldn’t tell you because I’m unaware of anything we’ve done differently this year.

Anyhoo, I’m going to move them out today and let them sit for a week or so to acclimatize, then I’m going to cut them back in anticipation of their spring growth.  (Some of them are a bit lopsided from being jammed in corners.)

Also, if I can summon the energy to do so, I may toodle over to the local nursery to pick up this year’s double knock-out rose.  A few years back, I brought one of these home for Mrs. Robbo for Mother’s Day.  We put it in a big pot at the top of the stairs to the back porch, where it flourished all summah.  In the fall, I took it out back and planted it in my garden among the peonies and the legacy roses I had brought down from my parents’ house in Maine.  I’ve done this every year since.  It’s a terrific rose, ridiculously easy to maintain and blooms like a maniac all summah long, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone interested.

One other thing I need to do is find some shade-loving specimens that look good in pots to place on the porch.  (The ferns mentioned above go in hanging baskets.)  I tried hostas last year, which I quite liked, although Mrs. R didn’t think much of them.  The porch (which is covered) faces northeast so its front gets minimal direct sunlight.  It would be nice to find something flowery, but I know that probably won’t work out.

Meanwhile, it’s juuuust a bit too early still to assess what made it through the winter outside.  While the clematis are already shooting out, I don’t yet know if my jasmine survived.  As I mentioned a few weeks back, at least part of my new pachysandra plantation out front is mort, but percentages are as yet unavailable, although I’ve a feeling it’s going to be worse than I thought.   On the other hand, the boxwood and ivy I have in urns on the patio look just fine, even though I never got round to wrapping them in insulation last fall or even pulling them in to a sheltered corner.

We have other spaces to fill, too – the half-whiskey barrels out front, the pots down on the patio, a new round of herbs for the porch, but I’ll let that wait another week or so.  (And it’ll be only a week or so – my brother and his family are coming here for Easter and if I know Mrs. R at all she’ll insist that everything be locked down beforehand.  It was only with a supreme effort that I convinced her that no, it’s still too early for power-washing the outside spaces.)

UPDATE: Garn! Duly toodled, but the nursery doesn’t have roses in yet.  It’s still mostly perennials and groundcover at this point.  (You may say that perhaps Ol’ Robbo should have called first.  To which I say call? CALL?  I’m a guy! That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!  You’ll be telling me I should ask for directions next.)

UPDATE DEUX:  Good news, everyone!  Pottering about, I stopped to have a good look at the jasmine.  The old bark on the main stems is starting to split, which indicates to me that all is well.  Huzzay, huzzah!


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