Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and welcome to Day One of Ol’ Robbo’s Chuckie Schumer Shutdown Staycation!

Kind of a pity it’s Saturday and all.

Well, we shall see what happens.

Aaaaanyway, I have increasing reason to believe that Daisy, the Port Swiller special-needs pooch, is in love.

With a fox.

There’s a big fellow who’s been hanging about the neighborhood for the past couple weeks.  I’ve seen him gliding around from time to time, including several trips through the Port Swiller back yard.  Indeed, the other day I watched him for a good ten minutes as he tracked back and forth across the lawn, obviously sniffing along Daisy’s scent.

She, meanwhile, every time she goes out now – and she’s always wanting to go out, tracks his scent up, down, and around, as well.  Furthermore, she’s taken to sitting herself down in the middle of the yard, looking about expectantly, and barking.  And although I don’t necessarily speak fluent dog language, I’ve been around them long enough to know the difference between, “Hey, get out of here!” and “Hell-O, Sailor!”

Are these things even possible?  I know that coyotes sometimes mate with domestic dogs, but do foxes as well?  And would a middle-aged lady who was fixed eons ago still feel her heart start to go pitter-patter at the scent of a hunky male in her territory?  Science might say no, but I see what I see.

Ol’ Robbo always assumed he’d have the Gels’ boy troubles to deal with, but I must admit I never imagined something like this.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo drove Mrs. R to the airport in his pajamas this morning.  (How she got in my pajamas, I….oh, never mind.)

No, really. She had a very early flight and I didn’t feel like getting dressed, so I just threw on my robe and a coat over it.  It was only after we were under way that I realized just how ridiculous a position I’d be in if I got pulled over or in a fender-bender.  (Ol’ Robbo’s 11th Commandment is “Thou shalt not make a fool of thyself in public.”)

Of course, I say this now.  Give it another couple years I’ll probably be turning up at the supermarket in such a rig. (Not that I haven’t done so before, but it’s different when it’s 3 ack emma and you’re only there because the baby needs some Pedialyte.)

Once the rush hour traffic dies down, I have to go over to the DMV and get my license renewed.  For some reason, I’m just a bit spooked about the eye exam.  I dunno why they ever bother, since paying attention to what’s going on around you on the road seems to be strictly optional these days.  Still, it would be mighty embarrassing to get dinged for that.  (Which see 11th Commandment above.)

And speaking of getting older (which is really what the eye biznay is about, I suppose), here’s a jaw-dropper for you:  It just occurred to me this week that Eldest Gel is now the same age Mrs. Robbo was when she and I met. (January 27, 1990, as a matter of fact.) Gah!  (The Gel landed a gig as assistant stage manager for her school spring theatre production this week, by the bye. They’re doing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. She wasn’t too interested in getting a part this time and decided to concentrate on the tech side.  The production is being directed by the head of the Theatre Department, who just so happened to be Mrs. R’s major advisor 25 years ago.  (Her spring show her sophomore year was The Dining Room.) Double Gah!

UPDATE:  Three hours of mostly sitting about and twiddling my thumbs later, renewal successfully completed. Eye exam turned out not to be a problem a tall.  I’m almost fifty-three years young, dammit!

I have other day-off things too do – haircut, oil change, etc., but I’ve had about enough for now.  Anyway, as things look at the moment, I may have some unexpected free time on my hands next week, so I can take care of that sort of stuff then.  (Although how anyone could possibly imagine “We care more about illegals than about you pond scum” constitutes a winning political message is quite beyond me.)

Going to go walk the dog instead.  (It’s the first really nice day around her in the last week and a half.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening Ol’ Robbo caught most of Chimes at Midnight over on TCM, which I’ve never seen before.  Orson Welles basically lifts all the Prince Hal/Sir John Falstaff bits out of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2.  It’s actually a pretty good film, even though the sound quality was such that half the lines were less than intelligible.  Welles makes quite the credible Falstaff, although since he’s playing a drunken old letch, it really wasn’t much of a stretch for him.  John Gielgud, who I’d watch in anything, was satisfying as Henry IV.  And there were plenty of familiar faces among the secondary characters.  Perhaps my very favorite geek moment was realizing that Andrew Faulds, who played Westmorland, was the Roman officer who brought back the runaway Pseudolus to the house of Senex early on in A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.  “Citizens! We caught your runaway slave, and now he dares challenge our right to execute him!”  (When I watch movies, I like to point these sorts of things out.  Mrs. R cannot stand this practice. We don’t watch many movies together anymore.)

I may have to toss this one in the Nexflix queue and take another look.

And speaking of said queue, up this evening is The Return of the Pink Panther, which I haven’t seen in years.  Another of those movies that couldn’t possibly be made today. (“CATO!”)  Be back later……

UPDATE: What fun! I don’t think I’d seen it since I was a teenager, but somehow I remembered all the sight-gags and prat-falls perfectly.  And Herbert Lom really should have been arrested for being that slyly funny.

You know one thing I dislike about The Pink Panther? The theme musick.  And I’ll tell you why: That theme is a favorite of piano teachers to use on beginner students, especially the youngest.  I suppose the reasoning is that it is an easily-recognizable and popular tune, and that this will encourage the little darlin’s to practice.  In any event, I’ve been forced to endure it many, many times at recitals.  And every time, the kiddies make the same damned mistake – they go blazing through the first line of the melody and then crash and burn on the first chord progression in the left hand.

Every. Damn. Time.

After awhile, it’s enough to make you start twitching like Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Here’s a proposition for you: the terms “[fill-in-the-blank]-phobe”, “[whatever]-ist” and “hater” are to today’s cultural Marxism what the terms “wrecker”, “horder”, and “saboteur” were to the economic Marxists of Stalinist Russia, in terms of philosophical goals, tactical semantics, and intended targets, as well as their utter, willful  disassociation  from reality.

Hardly an original thought, I daresay, but it wandered into my braims this week when I was reading some article or other about the latest diatribes of the Socialist Juicebox Wankers against the nekulturny,  and I’ve been delighting (in a historickal geeky way, of course) in the parallels.

If and when the Cultural Revolution actually takes place and Ol’ Robbo gets hauled off to the camps (or, more realistically because of his age and uselessness, the bullet in the back of his head in the police station basement), I’m sure I will have on at least some part of my mind that tag attributed (apparently wrongly) to Mark Twain to the effect that history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As long time friends of the decanter will know, historickal trivia is pure catnip to Ol’ Robbo.  So you will not be a-tall surprised that I find this article fascinating: Salmonella May Have Caused Massive Aztec Epidemic, Study Finds.

See? See? What has your mother always told you? Don’t eat that human heart after it’s been sitting out in the sun all day!

Oi, vey!

Seriously, though, I love this sort of thing.  According to the article, new technology is providing the forensic advances to figure out the nuts and bolts:

A new algorithm allowed [Kirsten Bos, a molecular paleopathologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and her team] to identify fragments of ancient salmonella DNA with extreme specificity.

“It was an analytical technique that was really the game-changer for us,” Bos explains. While scientists have been able to extract ancient DNA from bones and other tissue, until recently it was impossible to compare that extracted DNA to a wide variety of potential matches.

But a new computer program called MALT allowed them to do just that. “The major advancement was this algorithm,” Bos says. “It offers a method of analyzing many, many, many small DNA fragments that we get, and actually identifying, by species name, the bacteria that are represented.”

Bos and her team used MALT to match up the DNA fragments extracted from teeth of epidemic victims with a database of known pathogens…….

In the end, they found evidence of the deadly Salmonella enterica Paratyphi C bacteria.

Surprisingly, the new information does not appear to pin this epidemic on the eeeeeevil European invaders.

The study does not pinpoint the source of the bacteria, which is an area of great interest for biologists and archaeologists alike. The authors note that many epidemics of the period are believed to originate with European invaders who arrived in the region in the early part of the 16th century, but the new research doesn’t present biological evidence for or against that.

A previous study suggested the pathogen responsible for the epidemic originated in Mexico, and that the epidemic was exacerbated by drought. And, Bos notes, “the Europeans who were observing the symptoms didn’t know what it was, and Europeans got it as well,” which suggests it wasn’t a disease endemic to Europe.

That doesn’t mean, in NPR’s view, that said European invaders aren’t guilty as hell of biological warfare anyway:

But even if Europeans did not introduce the pathogen, they may still be responsible for its profound deadliness among indigenous people. “We know that Europeans very much changed the landscape once they entered the new world,” Bos says. “They introduced new livestock, [and] there was lots of social disruption among the indigenous population which would have increased their susceptibility to infectious disease.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that said “social disruption” might actually have been the revolt against the Aztecs of the surrounding tribes, greatly bolstered by the arrival of Cortez and his men, who were sick and tired of being carted off en masse to serve as human sacrifices to the Aztecs’ Sun God.

Incidentally, Eldest is taking a Latin American history class this semester.  She told me they watched a video today about early European contact that was, to her, surprisingly balanced in its presentation.  One of the things that was emphasized was the fluidity of societies among “native” Americans even before the Europeans turned up.   Empires rose and fell.  (I haven’t looked it up, but according to the Gel, the Aztecs had only recently established dominance over the Valley of Mexico when the Spanish first appeared.)  Tribes gained ascendency and then lost it.  Others were wiped out or subsumed. Territories changed hands.

This is important factual ammunition in the war against bloody Jean-Jacque Rousseau and his pipe-dream “Noble Savages”.  Ask the average hipster-doofus SJW what the Americas were like pre-Columbus and xhe’ll probably say something about how wonderful and peaceful and static it all was in its pristine harmony.  Utter rubbish.  I don’t deny the beastliness of Spanish colonialism in the New World for an instant.  What I do deny is the idea that the locals were any less beastly than their own means permitted.  As a general rule, Bad Things happen and people are shites wherever and whenever you go in history.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Eldest Gel went back to Sweet Briar yesterday.  It rather boggles the mind that she’s a second semester sophomore already, and that in just a few short months she’ll be…halfway done with college!

She made Dean’s List again last semester (my apologies if I’ve already mentioned this) and has officially declared as a history major with a concentration in Early Modern Europe.  (We happened to be watching the Monty Python episode with the sketch in which Cardinal Richelieu is called as a character witness in a parking offense trial, and I noticed that she was chuckling deeply at the actual historickal facts about the man woven into the script.)  She’s also considering a theatre minor or possibly even a musickal theatre minor.

There’s a big change at SBC this semester, by the bye, in that they’ve taken on a new food services contractor.  This really is a big deal.  I tried never to agree with the Gel that the old service was no better than “prison food” because I don’t like to encourage complaining but, yeah, it really was pretty awful.  The few times I’d eaten on campus in the past year and a half, the food was typically ill-prepared, of scanty variety, and usually stone-cold when served.  In fact it was so bad that the Gel almost never ate in the dining hall, but instead bought instant mac-n-cheese in bulk,** and, when she wanted some variety, headed out to Sheetz or Hate-Fil-A.***  Not only did this involve extra money and travel, it also meant that she ate in her room a lot instead of socializing over to the dining hall.

Mrs. Robbo and other alums had been banging on this issue ever since they organized up to save the school a couple years ago.  How was SBC supposed to recruit students if it offered such a poor service?  Again, I didn’t want to agree publicly because this sort of thing can quickly deteriorate into what I think of as competitive pampering, but they did have a point.  As for the new Administration, they acknowledged that they were running with a cut-rate caterer and that the results showed, but they said they had more important priorities to nail down first, and counseled patience.

Well, it now seems the patience is paying off.  If you click on the linky, there’s lots of blather about the new caterer being grrrrl-powered and eco-friendly and whatnot, but the bottom line is that everyone I know of who has had any experience of them raves about the actual food quality.  When I asked the Gel about her first dinner under the new regime, her one word reply was “fantastic”.

So this is a Good Thing. Hopefully, not only will she get a better diet, she’ll also hob-knob during meals instead of skulking in the dorm.

** She’ll have plenty of opportunity to do that once she’s out of school and struggling.

*** A running joke in the Port Swiller household.  We’ve been calling Chick-Fil-A (which we love) by this name ever since the Socialist Juicebox Wankers tried to mau-mau it a couple years back because of the owners’ unabashed Christianity.  We always speak of “hate sammiches”, “hate shakes”, and “fries of intolerance”, and it’s a running gag that every time the Gel comes home from there, she says, “You know what those intolerant bastards did?  They told me to have a nice day! Who the hell do they think they are!!”  I, personally, never get tired of this joke.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of Ol’ Robbo’s little delights in life is noticing links and gunnegshuns among things that, at first sight, don’t appear to have that much in common.  This came to me today regarding several books I have just finished or am currently reading.

To wit:

First, I may have mentioned it already but a week or two ago I finished The Horse Soldiers by Harold Sinclair.  It’s a fictional dramatization of Grierson’s Raid, a Union cavalry expedition through the heart of Mississippi in 1863 during Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign, and is the basis of the John Wayne movie of the same name (which I re-watch frequently).

Second, at my brother’s behest, I read Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson, which tells the story of the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, largely through the eyes of Isaac Cline, the resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau who lived through the thing.  (Pretty good book. The science was fascinating and the depictions of carnage horrifying.  I was less impressed with the author’s attempts to get into the head of the man Cline himself.)




Third, as should not be any surprise to regular friends of the decanter who know that recently Ol’ Robbo has been reading novelisations of the French and Indian War, I’ve started off on my latest re-reading of Volume One of Francis Parkman’s great France and England in North America and am currently in the midst of the third book of that set, La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West.

Now, anyone want to know what the Three Degrees of Separation are here?  Well, I’ll tell you:

First, the fictional hero of The Horse Soldiers is one Colonel Marlowe.  Marlowe is (very) loosely based on the real life Col. Benjamin Grierson.  Grierson, who had been a professional musician and band-master before the War, took the unusual step of staying in the Regular Army afterwards, much to the distain of the West Point crowd.  Among his other post-War assignments, Grierson served for a while as commander of Fort Concho in what was then the frontier town of San Angelo, Texas (where he was a great proponent of the so-called “Buffalo Soldiers”, again, much to the distain of his fellow officers).

This Fort Concho becomes the second literary link, because it just so happens that Isaac Cline was posted there in the early days of his meteorological training program with the Army Signal Corp (albeit not when Grierson was in command, but a few years later).

The third link comes in to play because, although Isaacs’ Storm is primarily about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, it also touches on Indianola, Texas, an up-and-coming 19th Century port farther southwest along the Texas Gulf Coast that got hammered by a pair of hurricanes in 1875 and 1886 and, as a result, was pretty much abandoned.  Now Indianola is (there are still a few houses there) located on Matagorda Bay, which is the same bay in which the great René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle’s attempt to sail up the Mississippi eventually foundered in 1685, and on the shores of which he established his ill-fated French colony before meeting his untimely death at the hands of mutineers in East Texas while going for help on foot.  Matagorda Bay also happens to be the water in which Ol’ Robbo did all of his salt-water fishing in his misspent yoot (at Pass Cavallo, largely, at which point La Salle came ashore and not very far from the resting place of his expedition’s sunken supply ship La Belle, as it turns out), so that makes it all the more personal for me.

So there you have it, you see?  Grierson to Cline to La Salle.

(This, by the bye, is an example of why Ol’ Robbo doesn’t get invited to many parties.  Seems pretty exclusive and hurtful, now that I think about it.  Aren’t we bores people too?  Why do you have to be so borephobic, you haters?)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It isn’t often that Ol’ Robbo can sit out comfortably on the Port Swiller back porch on a Friday evening in the middle of January, but that’s exactly what I’m doing now.  Much to the delight of the kittehs, it’s still in the mid-60’s tonight and perfect for leaving the door open.  (Of course, it’s all going to go to hell in another six hours or so, as that big cold front is on its way in and will drop us back down below freezing for the next few days.  We may even see a thunderstorm beforehand.)

Ol’ Robbo found himself admiring a beautiful effect today:  The river is still frozen over, as are the various reflecting pools down on the Mall.  Because of the unusually warm air, both of them were throwing off fog all day.  The one on the river was low and very thick, while the one on the pools was more wispy and subject to being blown away by the breeze.  Each was lovely in its own way, and I only wish I could have snapped a photo of the former as I made my way home this afternoon.

UPDATE:  On a completely different note, what the heck happened to NoSalt? It vanished from my supermarket shelves, and when I look it up over to the devil’s website, it’s mighty pricey.  Has it gone out of production?  Killed too many lab mice? Elbowed out by Mrs. Dash?

Ol’ Robbo has been mighty fond of the gunpowder-y potassium chloride flavor over the years.  Sad! if I can’t reasonably get it anymore.

UPDATE DEUX: Well, a further look at the innertoobs suggests the stuff is still available elsewhere, but I still wonder why my Giant deep-sixed it.  Strange.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo got detoured by the po-po as he made his way home this evening and had to navigate through several neighborhoods to get back to a main artery.

I may be completely delusional in this, but it seems to me that many more people are keeping their outdoor Christmas (excuse me, Holiday) light displays out later this year.  I’d like to think it has something to do with a heightened spirit of the season, but the skeptic in me suggests that it probably has more to do with the deep freeze that blanketed the area for the past couple weeks keeping folks indoors.

Heigh ho.

Speaking of such things, Ol’ Robbo took down the Port Swiller Christmas tree last weekend after Epiphany.  I’m happy to report that there were no successful ornament suicides this year, although I caught several of them lurking deep within the bows round back, just waiting for the opportunity to hurl themselves to the floor.

As is my wont, once I had stripped it, I hauled the tree round back and tossed it on the brush heap within the verges of the wood outside my back gate.  Interesting observation: It seems to take a fir about two years to fully decompose.  I tossed this one next to the brown and needleless hulk from last year.  The one from the year prior to that has completely vanished.

So long as it doesn’t go up too early, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t really care that much when the Christmas tree comes down.  On the other hand, I am delighted that this year Mrs. Robbo has agreed to let me keep my wreaths (front door and dining room table) and my new crèche out until Candlemas, (February 2nd).

(Also, although she doesn’t know it, I chalked the front door of Port Swiller Manor with Epiphany chalk this year.  20 + C + M + B + 18.  One of Ol’ Robbo’s goals this year is to quietly insert more and more of these little sacramentals into the daily routine of Port Swiller Manor.  I figure it will soften the blow when I eventually pull down on Mrs. R and start advocating for a Crucifix in the front hall.)

Oh, and continuing with this general line of thought, a glass of wine with staunch friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory, who recently sent Ol’ Robbo a couple of CD’s of Medieval Christmas Musick.  Since I’m going hard-core this year, they’re still perfectly seasonal and appropriate for the next few weeks!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is still shaking his head over the fact that Port Swiller County public schools were closed today because of a remote possibility that the roads might have iced up around rush hour this afternoon due to moisture that was supposed to move in, possibly in the form of a mixture of freezing rain and sleet.  (I’m looking out the window at around 8:30 pm – it’s wet, certainly, but that’s all it is.)

Even the younger gels were somewhat disgusted at this poltroonery, even though it meant they got a freebie.

I suppose the County is still smarting over an incident that occurred three or four years ago: The Superintendent kept the schools open one day despite a slight chance of light afternoon snow.  Whelp, the snow freakishly proved a lot heavier than anyone expected and all hell broke loose trying to get the kiddies home.  (I think there might have been a few injuries from slips and falls, and possibly some traffic accidents.)  To make matters worse,  Teh Kids subsequently tracked down the Sooper on various social media platforms and subjected him to a heavy stream of abuse, lampoon, and general bile.  (I remember this because Eldest Gel was in on it, cackling with glee.)

Thus, the current panic to protect the snowflakes on the ground from the remotest possibility snowflakes drifting down from the skies.  Feh.

On a different note, despite the fact that we’ve been subject to a pretty brutal couple of weeks of arctic chill, Ol’ Robbo still hasn’t closed off the rear window on his beloved Jeep.  Even in near-zero temperatures, I find that if I bundle up well and give the heater a chance to kick in, I’m perfectly comfortable with the back wide open.  And I don’t have to put up with that boxed in feeling which I really dislike, but can instead continue to enjoy the sense of openness which was why I bought a ragtop in the first place.  Winning!




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