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Watching the Nats game this evening, I see that Southwest Airlines is announcing that starting November 1 it will serve Milwaulkee. 

This got me idly wondering:  What kind of pilot preparation is necessary before a commercial carrier starts hauling passengers to a given city?  I mean, I know that what with all the computerization the planes can practically land themselves and that at a certain level one airport is the same as another, but are pilots required to do some practice runs to a new destination before they’re let loose with the paying customers?  You know, to familiarize themselves with the place?

I ask this in particular given that my own home hub (National Airport in Dee Cee) has a particularly tricky, sort of giant slalom glide slope for planes landing from the north.  A number of years ago I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about seat-of-the-pants landings at National that I must admit did not fill me with much of a sense of confidence.

(By the way, here’s a curiosity:  The airport is now o-fficially names Ronald Reagan National Airport.  As much as I love the Gipper, I’ve never been able to make myself adopt this modification, which went into effect about, what, five years ago or so.) 

Anyhoo, musing on this pilot training question brought to mind another of my old favorite YouTubes:

A veritable flood of responses to my little challenge in the last post.  (Curiously, none of them were posted in the comments, but came in via the mailbag.  Go figure.)

Alas, there were no winning entries.  Free viagra? Irish lottery winner?  Facilitating transfers of vast sums of money from sub-Saharan African banks and governments?  I mean, come onIt’s almost as if you weren’t actually reading the original post!

Or something. 

Anyhoo, here are the correct answers:

* Grant Tinker, then head-honcho of NBC, used to come on Dave Letterman’s show in the early days (when he was funny) to do little promotional bits.  Tinker invariably called Dave “Tom.”  I always found this little bit of throwaway intensely amusing.

**A few folks correctly identified Helen Hunt’s character from the mid-90’s movie Twister.  I have always said that Hunt is the Thinking Man’s Babe.  (Got a problem with that?)

*** I’m surprised nobody recognized one of the signature understatements of Captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly.  One might aptly compare it to Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti-western signature, “Yeah.”  As he also said, “Well, the time of my not taking you seriously is certainly coming to a middle.”

**** Okay, this one was a bit more obscure, but it was a little running joke from the 3rd (and last) season of Arrested Development, easily one of teh funniest shows ever to appear on teevee.  (It started bubbling up after the actor Judge Reinhold appeared in an episode as a daytime teevee judge.  Don’t ask.)

*****I would have expected regular port-swillers to recognize the line as Stanley Kowalski’s from A Streetcar Named Desire.

******Okay, perhaps this one was impossible given the medium, but the trick here was that I was not thinking of Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Kowalski in the 1951 movie version of the play.  Rayther, I was thinking of Diane Keaton’s riff on Brando in the 1973 Woody Allen film Sleeper.

So there you have it.  As I say, we have no winners this time around.  Better luck next time!

Regular port-swillers will know that – based on empirical observation – I recently have been suggesting the East Coast might be in for an especially cold and snowy winter this year.

“Sure, Tom,”*  you say, “But what do you know? Your entire meteorological credentials consist of a rayther vulgar hankering after Dr. Jo Harding.”**

Well, now.***  All I have to say to you, Judge Reinhold,**** is that the Big Money Boys have got my back:

Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Northeast may have the coldest winter in a decade because of a weak El Nino, a warming current in the Pacific Ocean, according to Matt Rogers, a forecaster at Commodity Weather Group.

“Weak El Ninos are notorious for cold and snowy weather on the Eastern seaboard,” Rogers said in a Bloomberg Television interview from Washington. “About 70 percent to 75 percent of the time a weak El Nino will deliver the goods in terms of above-normal heating demand and cold weather. It’s pretty good odds.”

Ha! You got that? Ha! Ha!*****&******

* Spot the quote.

**Who’s that?

*** Spot the quote.

****Spot the other quote.

***** Spot the other, other quote.

*******Spot the riff.

After being “helped” by the gels to plant mums and pansies this afternoon, it just seemed right.

UPDATE: I should clarify that the eleven year old never made it outside at all, and that the nine year old was, indeed, helpful until she decided it would be more fun to start an earthworm collection.  It’s the seven year old who is an entire Benny Hill chase in and of herself.

Peej O’Rourke reviews a raft of new Boomer-nostalgia books:

What with one thing and another, I was always touchy on the subject of Woodstock. I’m over it now, thanks to various books celebrating the 40th anniversary of too many people in bad haircuts going to an upstate New York dairy farm for no good reason. I’ve counted three of these books so far. Since counting to three was as much as most Woodstock attendees could manage on goof butts and silly pills, three is where I stop.


UPDATE: And speaking of goddam hippies, heeeeere’s Mr. FLG!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Mark Steyn:

Half a decade or so back, I wrote: “It’s a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice-cream and a quart of dog feces and mix ’em together the result will taste more like the latter than the former. That’s the problem with the U.N.”


Absolutely right, if I do say so myself. When you make the free nations and the thug states members of the same club, the danger isn’t that they’ll meet each other half-way but that the free world winds up going three-quarters, seven-eighths of the way. That’s what happened in New York last week. Barack Obama is not to blame for whichever vagary of United Nations protocol resulted in the president of the United States being the warm-up act for the Lunatic-for-Life in charge of Libya. But it is a pitiful reflection upon the state of the last superpower that, when it comes to the transnational mush drooled by the leader of the free world or the conspiracist ramblings of a terrorist pseudo-Bedouin running a one-man psycho-cult of a basket-case state, it’s more or less a toss-up as to which of them is more unreal. To be sure, Colonel Qaddafi peddled his thoughts on the laboratory origins of “swine flu” and the Zionist plot behind the Kennedy assassination. But, on the other hand, President Obama said: “No nation can or should try to dominate another nation.”

Read. It. All.  Domestic policy mistakes can be painful, even devastating.  But foreign policy mistakes are the kind that tend to go BANG!  I don’t want to go BANG!

Pocock Ships“Nelson’s Flagships at Anchor” by Nicholas Pocock (1807)

Last evening I watched a pretty good movie about life aboard a Royal Navy frigate during the Napoleonic Wars.  No, I haven’t had a sudden Road to Portsmouth conversion on the matter of  Russell Crowe’s Captain Aubrey.  Instead, it was  a 1962 film called Damn the Defiant  that I had stumbled across recently while flipping through the Netflix catalogue looking for Alec Guinness pictures.   

Guinness plays Captain Crawford, commander of the frigate Defiant, which is sent on a mission to the Med in 1797 just at the time the Spithead Mutiny is breaking out.  Captain Crawford is firm but humane.  His first officer Lt. Scott-Padget (played by Dirk Bogarde), however, is a sadist and a well-connected schemer.  The bulk of the plot centers around Scott-Padget’s efforts to undermine Crawford’s authority, while at the same time brutalizing the crew, who themselves are meanwhile working their way up to join in the general mutiny of the fleet.

All in all, I thought the movie did a very good job at exploring the microcosm of  one of HM’s ships at this period, and furthermore was able to do so without Russell Crowe’s 800-pound-gorilla ego getting in the way.  So far as I could tell, both the history and the period detail were pretty good (if not quite as “gritty” as current films), the dialogue wasn’t over the top, and even the battle scenes (there are a couple of them) were intelligently done.

The movie also does a pretty good job explaining the Spithead Mutiny, which I have always found to be a fascinating episode.  It wasn’t a mutiny in the Bounty or Hermione sense at all, or even a revolutionary movement a la the recent unpleasantness in France, but rayther something more closely akin to a general strike:  The Admiralty had been horribly inefficient and tight-fisted in its treatment of the sailors – there hadn’t been a pay raise in decades, for instance, and food and other supplies were very, very bad.  The sailors simply couldn’t take it any more, and so they organized.  But even at the height of the crisis, they maintained tight discipline aboard, did no harm to their officers (many of whom openly sympathized), and conducted their negotiations with the Admiralty calmly and reasonably.  And indeed, almost all of their demands were recognized as perfectly just, and duly granted.

Perhaps it would have made things too complicated, but the movie does a poorer job in dealing with the Nore Mutiny, which broke out about the same time.  This was a somewhat different affair, involving hotheads who did have revolutionary ideas, attempting to blockade London and threatening to sail their ships off to France.  Here, there was some brutal treatment of officers (as well as non-mutinying crews), too.  But the mutineers were badly organized and therefore much less efficient in keeping up their front.  So when the Admiralty settled with the Spithead people, the Nore Mutiny pretty much fizzled out.  And while nobody at Spithead suffered any punishment, a number of Nore leaders were hanged at the yardard, no doubt with the “Rogue’s March” being played by the fifers and drummers. 

Of course, all of this was played out with the threat of an invasion by That Napoleon hovering in the background.  I am reminded of what Earl St. Vincent said to the House of Lords in 1801, however:  “I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea.”

The Allegro from Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, performed by Café Zimmermann.

Not that I can do much more than thump and bang and use a lot of bad language whilst at the keyboard, but I have made a distinct effort in recent times to model my own renditions of Bach closely on the style of groups like C.Z.  This is in marked contrast to the manner in which I was taught to play him originally, that is to say, slow and staid and stuffy.

I must say that I infinitely prefer the livelier approach.  And if I’m wrong, I don’t especially want to be right.

(BTW, the name Café Zimmermann comes from the coffee house where both Bach and Telemann hung around and played concerts.  I have raved here before about their recording of Charles Avison’s orchestrations of Scarlatti’s keyboard musick.  They’re well worth some coin if you’re thinking of expanding or switching out your Baroque collection.)

It’s a rainy Friday morning here at the Port-Swiller’s residence, and you know what that means.  Here we go:

♦  You know, I have always believed American exceptionalism to be more or less self-evident from any honest survey of the history of Mankind.  Thus, I am having a mighty hard time wrapping my brain around the concept of a president who does not share such belief

Just saying.

Oh, and here’s a prediction: We’re going to bail on Afghanistan.  Then we’re going to have to go back.

♦   Speaking of history, for those of you scoring at home I might mention that in my long, on-again off-again slog through Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, I have finally reached the coronation of Charlemagne.  This reminded me that although I have had a copy of Bulfinch’s The Age of Chivalry and The Legends of Charlemagne ever since I was a boy, I’ve only ever read the former but not the latter.  Why not? Pure Anglophilic Arthurian snobbishness, I suppose.   Well, the good news is that I feel I’m finally ready to broaden my horizons.  (And by the way, any recommendations for a good biography of Charlemagne would be appreciated as well.)

♦   Speaking of broad horizons, nip on over to Ace’s and watch this fascinating video of a wounded lion charging a group of hunters.  (It’s a wonder they didn’t manage to shoot each other when the cat got in amongst them.)  This reminds me that the other evening, as we watched one of our own housecats staking out a corner of the kitchen where she believed there to be unauthorized mouse activity, I casually remarked to Mrs. Robbo that she (the cat) was, after all, a predator.  “No she isn’t!”  Mrs. R exclaimed in alarum.  Well, yes she is. And if she were the size of a lion, she’d cheerily eat either one of us.

Oh, heck, as long as we’re on the subject:


(Sorry about the poor quality of the second vid.)

 Frankly, I’ve come to actively dislike this movie, but I still think the Tiger in Africa bit pretty funny.

♦   And speaking of les chats, one of the better cat story I know of is Saki’s “Tobermory,” in which a feline of that name is taught to speak, much to the discomfiture of a house party.  Sooner or later I’m sure we will introduce another cat into the Port Swiller household.  I’m thinking of insisting that we name it Tobermory in honor of Saki’s supercilious nine-liver.  Mrs. R may not get the reference, as she doesn’t read him, but I’ll know.  

As Basil Fawlty says, “Just trying to enjoy myself.”

♦   Oh, speaking of Nature’s jolly old tooth and claw redness, I can’t help noticing that the goldfinches seem to be losing their summah coloring mighty early this year.  Another sign of what I believe is going to be a long and cold winter? Could be.

♦  In my last round of random, I mentioned the chant we use at Mass and the fact that I didn’t know much about it except that it was medieval.  Well, in the comments, our dear friend Jordana gently hinted that it is, in fact, Gregorian.  Well, of course it is, and I feel like a moron for not making that connection earlier.  

Guess it’s not quite time to take off the training wheels yet.

♦   Speaking of musick, the local radio station has been on an Ignaz Pleyel kick lately.  Who he? Well, he was an Austrian-born  protegé of Haydn’s who later moved to Paris and got into the musick publishing and piano manufacturing businesses.   Mozart (who was only a year older) referred to Pleyel as his generation’s Haydn, which coming from Gangerl is pretty durn high praise.   Pleyel was immensely popular in his own day, but quickly sank into historickal obscurity.  Funny how these things work.

By the bye, Pleyel moved to Paris in 1795.  What kind of a lunatic makes that choice?  I mean, the place was still in the grip of the Terror and its backlash!

♦   Well, I suppose I better go pour another cuppa.  We recently bought a big ol’ bag o’ Mayorga beans from Costco and I must say that this is some seriously good joe.  Apparently, Mayorga is some kind of niche marketer.  Mrs. R tells me they come ’round to Costco every now and then and roast the beans up on the spot.

Once again I ask: Is there anything Costco can’t do? They’re like WD-40, duct tape or bacon!

♦   Speaking of bacon, I see that Ford is promoting a glass roof option on its 2010 Mustang.  I certainly hope the thing has some kind of sliding cover.  I well remember what it was like driving my old ’66 hardtop around in the Texas summah – it strikes me that with nothing but a sheet of glass between one and the sun in such conditions, it would feel like sitting in a microwave.

♦   Speaking of promotions, as I watched the Verizon commercials that pepper the Nats game broadcasts last evening, it occurred to me that I didn’t have the faintest idea what on earth they were talking about.  Family plans? Roll-over minutes? Texting? All the whistles and bells on the phones?  This is all jibberish to me.

♦  And speaking of commuting, either I am losing my mind or else the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority is quietly cutting back on its metro car cleaning schedule, because it seems to me lately that the ick-factor of the poles in the cars is getting markedly more pronounced.   I don’t especially worry about catching diseases, I just hate the sensation of getting slimed.  

♦   And speaking of disease, no I am not getting a swine flu vaccine.  I must say that I find the mass hysteria over this whole business to be downright shameful.

♦   Finally, speaking of health, I see that Jennifer Love Hewitt is back in shape.  I’ll have to do some, ah, further research on this topic before I say anything, of course.  (One wants to be fully informed, after all.)

I see where the Moo-Knewvian universe has exceeded its bandwidth limitation again, thus temporarily putting the ol’ Llamas, ah, out to pasture. 

Since I do all of my baseball posting over there, I suppose this might let me off having to acknowledge that the poor Nats racked up their 100th loss of the season last evening, losing a close one to the Dodgers, but I’m not going to take such an easy out.  You know, it’s a real pity and also a perfect illustration of the maxim about baseball being a game of inches:  The fact is that the team is a lot better than its record might indicate.  I’ve watched a whooooole lot of Nats games this season, and the vast majority of their losses have been like last night’s – one play, one break going the other way and they would come out on top.

So as far as I’m concerned, fixing things for next year is more a matter of tweeking than wholesale reorganization.

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

No? Well so long as you’re in merry mood, I’ll also pass on this:  I don’t know whether there’s any connection to the MooKnoo crash, but there seems to have been a renewed outbreak of viagra spam in the past day or so.  This reminds me of what the Mothe says: “If you need a pill, it’s time to get a new hobby.”


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September 2009