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charlie_brown3I understand that she has become the informal patron of baseball.  I know that she’s the patron of hopeless causes.  In either case, I may need her help tonight.

You see, we have a rematch with the team that beat us last week.  They’re still undefeated, too.  The trouble is that I’m starting the game with only ten gels and, owing to a school concert, I lose two of them half-way through (including my own eldest child).

So far as I can see, the only way we’re going to win is if we can run up a cushion early and then hang on for the later innings.  (There’s a five run per inning maximum, so the thing is mathematically possible.)

But you know what?  I can’t shake a very peculiar feeling that we just might do it.

Wish us luck!

UPDATE:  Well, we had to forfeit the game for failing to have the minimum number of players.  So we’ve dropped to 2-2 in the standings and currently are in third place in our division.  The especially maddening part about it is that we went ahead and scrimmaged the other team and proceeded to clean their clocks.


hannahdustonI mentioned a day or two ago that I am again reading Francis Parkman’s magnum opus of the French and British colonization of North America.  I had mentioned the same thing to the Mothe over the weekend, remarking on the carnage and brutality of the frontier in what is now Southern Maine in the 1690’s, as place names familar to us such as Kittery, Wells and York, and outposts such as Fort Loyal – located on what is now India Street in Portland, were successively ravaged by French raiders and their Abenaki allies.

The Mothe in turn mentioned the story of the settler woman captured in one of the raids who, on forced march back north, rose up against her captors, killed several of them and brought their scalps back to Boston.

By a singular coincidence, I came across Parkman’s description of this incredible scene just after the Mothe mentioned it.  The woman in question was named Hannah Dustan.  Here is the story as told by Parkman:

Early in the spring [1697] that followed the capture of Pemaquid, a band of Indians fell, after daybreak, on a number of farm houses near the village of Haverill [now off I-495 near Boston]. One of them belonged to a settler named Dustan, whose wife Hannah had borne a child a week before, and lay in the house, nursed by Mary Neff, one of her neighbors.  Dustan had gone to his work in a neighboring field, taking with him his seven children, of whom the youngest was two years old.  Hearing the noise of the attack, he told them to run to the nearest fortified house, a mile or more distant, and, snatching up his gun, threw himself on one of his horses and galloped toward his own house to save his wife.  It was too late:  the Indians were already there.  He now thought only of saving his children; and, keeping behind them as as they ran, he fired on the pursuing savages, and held them at bay until his flock reached a place of safety.  Meanwhile, the house was set on fire, and his wife and the nurse carried off.  Her husband, no doubt, had given her up for lost, when, weeks after, she reappeared, accompanied by Mary Neff and a boy, and bringing ten Indian scalps.  Her story was to the following effect.

The Indians had killed the new-born child by dashing it against a tree, after which the mother and nurse were dragged into the forest, where they found a number of friends and neighbors, their fellows in misery.  Some of these were presently tomahawked, and the rest divided among their captors.  Hannah Dustan and the nurse fell to the share of a family consisting of two warriors, three squaws, and seven children, who separated from the rest, and, hunting as they went, moved northward towards an Abenaki village, two hundred and fifty miles distant, probably that of the mission on the Chaudiere.  Every morning, noon, and evening, they told their beads, and repeated their prayers.  An English boy, captured at Worchester, was also of the party.  After a while, the Indians began to amuse themselves by telling the women that, when they reached the village, they would be stripped, made to run the gauntlet, and severely beaten, according to custom.

Hannah Dustan now resolved on a desparate effort to escape, and Mary Neff and the boy agreed to join in it.  They were in the depths of the forest, half way on their journey, and the Indians, who had no distrust of them, were all asleep about their campfire, when, late in the night, the two women and the boy took each a hatchet, and crouched silently by the bare heads of the unconscious savages.  Then they all struck at once, with blows so rapid and true that ten of the twelve were killed before they were well awake.  One old squaw sprang up wounded, and ran screeching into the forest, followed by a small boy whom they purposely left unharmed.  Hannah Dustan and her companions watched by the corposes till daylight; then the Amazon scalped them all, and the three made their way back to the settlements, with the trophies of their exploit.

– From Count Frontenac and New France, Chapter XVII.   

Parkman goes on to note that the story was told by Cotton Mather, among others, who heard it from the women themselves.  They received a bounty of £50 for the ten scalps, and the Governor of Maryland sent them a present when he heard what had happened.

Truly an amazing tale from a remarkable time.   I suppose that years ago it was quite familiar even to school children, especially those living in the North.  Of course, these days nobody would dream of telling it them.

“IT IS DONE” UPDATE:  A glass of wine with the Irish Elk, who steers me to the most marvelous piece of historickal kitsch I have ever seen:


damianlewis One of the things I gave up for Lent was my Netflix addiction.  Once Easter came and I went back to reload the ol’ queue, one of the flicks I tossed in was Band of Brothers.

I suppose I’m out of practice, because I forgot to space out the discs and intermingle them with other selections, the result being that I suddenly found myself with six solid episodes to slog through.  I did it, too.  But perhaps because I’m getting impatient in my old age, somehow I haven’t yet come up with the energy to watch the remaining four, which currently sit atop the DVD player.  It isn’t that the series is not as good as I remembered, because it is.  It’s just that I got my fill sooner than I expected.  Wasn’t it MTV that used to say “Too much is never enough?”  They’re dead wrong, of course.

Oh, and I’ll say again what I said a long time ago elsewhere:  Damian Lewis looks like a constipated cat.

UPDATE:  Groovy Vic asks exactly how I know what a constipated cat looks like anyway.  Well, to quote Mal Reynolds, “Look, you can’t open the book of my life in the middle and jump in.”


Sorry for the lack of posties but the pollen in Your Nation’s Capital is mighty bad today and my head feels about forty pounds heavier than it really is.  (And no snarky questions about my excuses on other days, please!) 

There’s a change coming in the weather that I hope will blow some of this stuff out, so hopefully my Muse, currently doped on Day-Quil, will get back to work soon.

edward-gibbonI see that today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1737, of Edward Gibbon.

As I believe I mentioned the other day, I have picked up again on my long wade through his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.   And I must say that at times I find Gibbon’s style – very often arch, snarky and superior – to be somewhat tarsome.  Heresy, I know, especially as his writing was admired by authors such as Waugh and Churchill, but there it is: After a while I simply want to slap that smug smile off his face.

Coincidentally, I also happen to have jumped back into my reading of Francis Parkman, currently making my way through his France and England in North America.  (At the moment I’m deep in his description of the hell the French and their Abenaki allies played in southern Maine in the 1690’s trying to throw out the New Englanders.)  Parkman could be every bit as critical of what he saw as institutional and individual vice, folly and shortcoming, and yet his style of presenting such criticism over the course of several thousand pages is much more pallatable to me than Gibbon’s.

This isn’t to say that I’m not going to finish Decline and Fall, because I am.  But I sometimes look on reading it as a chore rayther than a pleasure.  I’ve never had that sensation with Parkman’s works.

suit What with the temperature cranking up to the 90 degree mark the past few days, I started thinking again about summah suiting and the perennial question: Is this the year Robbo goes seersucker?

I confess that for many years, as much as I liked both the look and the comfort of seersucker, I simply could not work up the nerve to wear it.  For one thing, I have long been of the opinion that one must either be of a certain age or else possessed of a certain natural, physical flair in order to pull it off successfully.  Having neither of these attributes, I always feared that I would simply come across as a first class dork.

For another thing, the fact of the matter is that decked out in such suiting, one is going to stand out.  And although I seem to have no trouble handling attention here in the blogsphere, in the Real World I have never enjoyed standing out, preferring instead to make my way through life in quiet anonymity.     

This year, though, I find that I am much more open to the idea of donning the ol’ blue and white.  I’m not sure I’m ready to start appearing on the Metro for the morning commute in such a rig, but I certainly can see myself wearing it for Church and social do’s.  Perhaps if I don’t see people pointing at me and snickering in such settings, I can gradually work my way up.

charlie_brown2I am delighted to report that after a buggy and stifling morning shuffling around and waiting to take our team picture, Team Robbo came out swinging at our noon game today and positively crushed our opponents, 23-4.  (We are now 2-1 on the year.)

As it turns out, all of the teams in the league are named for MLB teams, a fact that I had not known.  Due to some kind of administrative oversight, our team didn’t receive their MLB-logo visors along with the rest of our uniforms.  Well, we got ’em this morning.  Turns out that we are the Indians, as in Cleveland.

I tell you truly, friends, there is nothing that brings a pack of ten and eleven year old gels together like teaching them all the war-whoop.   I can safely say that even if we don’t win our division this season, we will certainly get the prize for noisiest dugout.

Go Tribe!


The Entire Ground Floor of Duttenhofer’s Bookstore (2004)


Inventory I

Last evening I attended one of Mrs. R’s fundraising do’s down at the small art gallery in our local community center.  Most of the exhibitions at this place leave me cold, but this time around among the works displayed were eight or ten large pieces by a fellah named Franz Jantzen.  According to the brief bio given by the gallery ladies, Jantzen began as a straight-forward photographer, but when digital technology came along he started fiddling around with a technique he calls “assemblage”, which is the taking of hundreds of photos of a place or scene and putting them together in a collage, transposing camera angles and messing about with detail to produce what almost looks like photographic cubism.

The bottom pic gives you a much better idea of this effect than the top one, but I wanted to include the latter to give a sense of the scope of some of these pieces.  (You can go to his page at the Hemphill Gallery in Dee Cee here to see a few more examples.)  Once you start examining the details, the lovely crinkly bits as Slartibartfast would say, you become totally absorbed in them.  Or at least I did.

And for me, that’s saying quite a bit, given my general dislike of abstraction.

charlie_brown1Alas, Team Robbo dropped its second game last evening, succumbing to what will probably turn out to be the division champeens.  We hung tough through four innings, but in an outburst of collective mental collapse, panicked ourselves into a critical fielding error in the 5th that blew the game open.

As Charlie Brown would say, “Raaaats!”

Oh, well.  Per ardua ad astris, or whatever it is.  Our next game is at noon tomorrow on what is forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures near 90.  We’ll be playing the team that got absolutely crushed by the gels who beat us last night, so I’m hoping we’ll bounce back.

Meanwhile, I find myself in a logistical swamp, dealing with uniform distribution glitches, fundraising bumf, team picture organization and a host of other ministerial duties.  It’s a good thing they’re paying me the big money for this!

Over the years I have steadfastly refused the suggestion that I get my eyes lasick’d. 

My primary objection is that the technique of sculpting the cornea in order to correct its defects was an idea originally pioneered by the Soviets and there is no way in hell I’m subjecting my vision – however poor it may be – to the gentle hand of Ivan.   Indeed, I confidently expect that in about another five years’ time, the original lasic patients are going to find that their eyes suddenly start swelling up and bursting like balloons in much the same way that Ahnold Schwartzenegger’s did in the dream sequence on the surface of Mars after he smashed in his space helmet in Total Recall.  When this happens, I shall be sure to sing the Internationale.

I bring this up because now that spring has come to NoVA and the air is thick with pollen, I have once again entered my annual period of walking around with eyes nearly locked shut and streaming tears from all the bits that get under my contacts.  Indeed, between the red, teary eyes and the runny nose, I look like a coke addict who’s just heard that his puppy died.  And on top of all that, getting bits of pollen under your lenses hurts.

Anyhoo, it’s about this time of year that I don’t exactly start thinking that lasic would be a good idea, but at least I stop making cheap Soviet jokes out of it.  So if you don’t see another post like this one for a while, you’ll understand why.

UPDATE: Mrs. P suggests I stick with glasses.  Of course, I own a pair, but I very rarely wear them in public.  For one thing, they’re about eight years old and the prescription is long out of date.  For another, they tend to make me look like this:

georgewill I mean, if you can live with it, so can I.  But be forewarned.


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April 2009