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As has become our custom in recent years, the Family Robbo will be heading to my brother’s house in North Carolina for the holiday festivities, there to eat, drink, gossip, drink, argue, drink, watch football and drink, the feast hopefully being capped off with the arrangement for the gels to have a sleepover with their cousins while Mrs. Robbo and I sneak back to the hotel on our own for the night.  (Lest you think we’re unfairly taking advantage, I should note that we reciprocate when Brother & Family come up for Easter.) 

I will confess that although I am very fond of Thanksgiving as a holiday, I take no especial pleasure in the traditional menu.  It’s not that I dislike  turkey dinner (except, of course, for the green beans), but I certainly don’t put it in the same class of culinary delight as the Christmas roast or the Easter lamb.  In fact, the part of the turkey dinner I’ve actually enjoyed most has always been the leftover sammiches and the turkey soup that the Mothe used to make.   

Ah, well.  It’s not a big point.

Anyhoo, in case I don’t sneak in another post before we head off, a bumper to all of you, my fellow port-swillers!  Your thoughts and ideas and humor and kindness are definitely among those things for which I am truly thankful.

Look up in the sky!

Is it a carbon credit?

Is it a locally-grown, certified organic and cruelty-free tomato?

No! It’s Matt Labash as Low Impact Man!

I don’t want to brag [……] but we did it! We No Impacters went zero-carbon for a week! We erased our carbon footprint! Well, we didn’t erase it exactly. It’s impossible to leave no footprints. I mean human exhalation leaves 1 kg of carbon dioxide a day, which traps heat in the atmosphere, which warms the polar ice caps, which drowns polar bears, which makes Al Gore weep. So we can’t be no impact strictly speaking, unless we hold our breath until the Climate Bill passes and President Obama goes to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December and invents green jobs and finds green solutions to intractable problems like human breathing. So let’s just say I went Low Impact. If my Low Impact week was an aerobics class, it’d be the kind where I jog in place on a mini-trampoline while wearing a decorative headband.

Read the whole thing, which is an hysterical tribute to the absurdity of the self-loathing Gaia-worship that is the modern environmentalist movement.

(BTW, I haven’t had anything to say about this week’s news of climate-change scientists manipulating data, but I’m hoping that perhaps that and other signs indicate the Greenies are about to jump the shark.)

Today is the anniversary of the birth of the Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch de Spinoza, in 1632.

I tell you truly that I know next to nothing about Spinoza’s philosophies.  According to Wikipedia, he believed:

God exists only philosophically and that God was abstract and impersonal.  Spinoza’s system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for prevailing against “received authority.” As a youth he first subscribed to Descartes’s dualistic belief that body and mind are two separate substances, but later changed his view and asserted that they were not separate, being a single identity. He contended that everything that exists in Nature (i.e., everything in the Universe) is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which surrounds us and of which we are part. Spinoza viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality,  namely the single substance (meaning “that which stands beneath” rather than “matter”) that is the basis of the universe and of which all lesser “entities” are actually modes or modifications, that all things are determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect is only understood in part.

Well, that’s as may be.   But here’s my question:  In P. G. Wodehouse, the great gentleman’s personal gentleman Jeeves makes reference more than once to his own partiality to Spinoza.  (Indeed, it is Bertie’s kind-hearted but hapless attempt to buy a collection of Spinoza’s works for Jeeves that lands him in a fearful misunderstanding with Florence Cray.)  In this emphasis, is Plum trying to make some kind of philosophical point?  Or is he just tagging his character with a partiality to a particular intellectual fad of the day?

I strongly suspect the latter.  On the other hand, Plum could be pretty egg-headed when he wanted, so I am not yet prepared to dismiss the former out of hand.

(Now that I come to think of it, many books have been written analyzing Plum’s writing, but I cannot remember coming across one examining Jeeves’ philosophical make-up.  As I say, he is obviously fond of Spinoza.  Marcus Aurelius, too.  Perhaps there’s room for another study here.  (Copyright note to potential scholars – Dibs!))

Do parents’ white lies hurt children?

[A] new study suggests that most parents lie to their children almost as a matter of routine — and its authors claim that this could cause serious harm, weakening trust between children and adults.

The study, in the Journal of Moral Education last month, suggested that even those parents who placed most value on honesty used lies to control their children.

Professor Gail Heyman, of the University of California, questioned 130 students and their parents about parental lying. She was surprised to find that more than 80 per cent of parents lied at some point, even those who insisted to their children that it was never OK to lie. There was a danger, she said, that children could receive mixed messages at a time when they were learning how to function in the social world.

Professor Heyman says that she tries to avoid lying to her children — a point of view influenced perhaps by her experience, at the age of 6, of mounting a defence of the existence of the tooth fairy in a speech to her classmates. How does she cope if one of her children has a screaming fit in a supermarket without telling him or her that a crocodile lives under the freezer and comes out to eat naughty boys and girls? “I do the hard thing,” she says. “I leave the shopping and go home.”

The study looked at straightforward lies intended to control children’s behaviour.  These ranged from the old stalwart that I use with my daughter — “If you don’t wear your shoes when you go out, a policeman will tell you off” — to threats of leaving screaming children on the street to be kidnapped, to the insistence that “baby Jesus will find out”.

Unlike the US researchers, Dr Jack Boyle, a Glasgow-based psychologist, is not surprised that so many parents resort to lying. “Only 80 per cent?” he says. “Well, I’d say the other 20 per cent are lying, too. Everyone lies all the time.” This, he says, is no bad thing: “If you don’t tell them that the dog has gone to Heaven, if you say he died, you share your worries and fears with them. Children don’t have the capacity to handle that. We lie to spare them.”

Well, now.  

I won’t go into the debate on the wisdom of employing the little white lie.  In general, I agree with Dr. Boyle – one pitches the message to the level of understanding of the audience.  One also seeks to allow one’s children to remain, well, children, before they’re forced to grow up.  And as far as that goes, I would note my experience that as they get older, the kiddies seem to figure out Santa and the Tooth Fairy (and the Birds and the Bees, for that matter) for themselves, thank you very much, with minimal questioning about how Mummy and Daddy could have perpetuated such myths over the years.   (Not to be cruel about it, but I am deeply suspicious of any anecdote about “mounting spirited defenses” of the Tooth Fairy against presumably hostile classmates at the tender age of 6.   To me, the reference to this in the article is at least prima facie evidence that Prof. Heyman is probably some kind of nut to begin with.)

No, what strikes me as most amusing about this article is Professor Heyman’s anecdote about the supermarket meltdown.  Does she really believe that a retreat from her planned schedule in the face of a child meltdown is the “hard” thing to do?   Sounds positively Vichy to me  – and don’t think Child isn’t taking very careful notes.  Very careful notes.

No, the “hard” thing to do in such a situation is to adopt a policy that says, “Look, you little bastard, I need to buy groceries and I’m going to.  So knock it off or I’ll staple your mouth shut.” 

 Buh-lieve me – In the long run, a stern front and a few fabrications are much more healthy than appeasement.

Much Ado About Nothing, Act II, Scene 3.

Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, patron of musick in general and Church musick in particular, and, as you can probably imagine, perhaps my very favorite of the entire communion. 

Alas, although I’m sure she is joyful at the closeness to God I so frequently feel when listening to musick, I’m afraid she’s also heard a great deal of blasphemy from me over the years as I’ve feebly stumbled and stuttered my way across the keyboard.  I hope she understands.

Ora pro nobis.

This afternoon I split up some logs from a tree we had chopped down this past summah into cord wood.  (Regular port-swillers might be surprised to learn that I even know how, given the sort of esoteric blatherings in which I indulge here.  Well, the truth is I learned an awful lot of basic guy skills in my yoot: I am (or used to be) a pretty good wing shot, I can field-dress a deer, I can handle a horse, build a rock wall and clear brush.   And, more to the point, split and stack wood.  Auto mechanics? Well, there you lose me.)

When I was a kid, I used to have to help the Old Gentleman with this task.  I would hold an axe steady while he whacked it with the sledge.   I still remember how much that used to make my hands sting.  Like getting jammed with an inside fastball.

These days, I have found that those split-o-matic wedges work even better than an axe-head, although the sledge is, of course, still of the essence.

These are the trees (photographed during the halcyon days of summah) that line the street in front of the Port-Swiller residence.  The two on the ends are silver maples, while the one in the middle is an oak.  This pic was taken from the driveway.  On the other side of it is another silver maple.  Each of these trees is a good 45 to 50 feet tall.

Robbo and family have occupied their current residence for just over nine years now.  We were very fortunate to be able to buy the house for a number of reasons, none of which are relevant here.  However, another reason very relevant was the fact that we appeared on the scene at exactly the moment a prior sales contract had fallen through.

You see, the previous owners were a nice, easy-going pair of empty-nesters, selling off the old homestead to go live in a condo on a beach somewhere down south.  They had contracted (so the story goes) with a young, childless couple, both lawyers and first-time house purchasers.  I’ll call them Mr. & Ms. Litiganti.

From what the previous owner subsequently told me, the Litigantis were both neurotic, and Ms. Litiganti in particular was quite mad.  She supposedly showed up with a list of demands for this or that alteration or repair, a list that kept growing like the heads of the Hydra as Mr. & Mrs. Previous Owner complied.  What finally broke the camel’s back was her demand that the previous owners cut down all four of these trees (although they’re actually on County property).  Ms. Litiganti’s reasoning was that the trees were an attractive nuisance, that some kid was going to climb one and break his damned neck, and that she would then be saddled with a lawsuit.

At that point, Mr. Prior Resident told Mr. & Ms. Litiganti to go to hell.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now.  I’m not saying I agree with Ms. Litiganti’s concerns, and I appreciate greatly that this sylvan quartet can be said to be the reason why we were able to get the house, but I will say that each fall, after spending hours and hours rounding up all the leaves these trees drop and hauling them into the woods out back, that I find myself sympathetic to her desire to do away with them.

Oh, and although I cleaned up all the maple leaves today, I’ll be back out again in another few weeks because the oak, I find, drops its leaves much later than the maple.  Ours still has about 65% of its leaves.  From a botanical standpoint, this is quite interesting, but in terms of yard maintenance, it’s a royal pain in the neck.

Mink Monica sends along this Onion piece that’s too good not to share:

NEW YORK—Inside the Montessori School of Dentistry, you won’t find any old-fashioned cotton swabs, or so-called periodontal charts, or even any amalgam fillings. That’s because at this alternative-learning institution, students are being encouraged to break away from medical tradition and discover their very own root canal procedures.

“At Montessori, we believe dentistry is more than just the medical practice of treating tooth and gum disorders,” school director Dr. Howard Bundt told reporters Tuesday. “It’s about fostering creativity. It’s about promoting self-expression and individuality. It’s about looking at a decayed and rotten nerve pulp and drawing your own unique conclusions.”

“In fact, here at Montessori, dentistry is whatever our students want it to be,” Bundt continued.

Founded in 1981, and tailored after the teaching methods first developed by Italian-born educator Maria Montessori, the three-year academy offers a fresh and innovative approach to learning seldom found at more conventional schools of dentistry.

Teachers—or “roving dental facilitators,” as they prefer to be called—can be difficult to spot: They often choose to stay out of the way of their inquisitive pupils, and only make gentle suggestions as to how an infected root chamber should be drained.

“When performing a root canal, there’s no such thing as right or wrong,” said Montessori educator Vanessa Perrin, who added that she doesn’t so much teach her students how to treat an inflamed nerve, as lead them to an open mouth and then stand back. “Sure, we could say to our students, ‘The enamel here has completely eroded and needs to be addressed immediately.’ But what’s more satisfying, what’s more dynamic, is to just let them slowly develop an ‘impression’ of why a patient might be screaming.”


Regular port-swillers will of course know that Mrs. Robbo’s patron saint is St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method.  Mrs. Robbo claims that she never drops in here for a glass.  I reckon that between this post and the gratuitous jab at “Twilight” (of which she is, alas, a fan) below, we’re going to test that assertion p.d.q.

Well, today is the sixth birthday of that crazy corner corral of the blogsphere known as the Llama Butchers.

I’d been planning a special surprise party for my fellow bloggers there – Mr. LMC, Gary the Ex-Donk and, of course. Steve-O (aka “El Jeffe Con La Little Debbie“).  Unfortunately, due to a recent tendency of the Moo-Knew homeworld to burst its bandwidth breeches before the end of the month, we’re all closed out of the shop for the moment.

As you can see, the pièce de résistance was to be Melissa Theuriau singing us the traditional birthday salute.  I may as well tell you that this pic is just a still taken from the rehearsal.  What you can’t see from it is that the actual plan is for her to serenade us while bursting out of a large cake wearing a naughty French maid rig.

Pity my comrades will will miss that.  Guess it’s just me and Meliss, then.

Oh, and what do you know? I see it’s actually time for the party to start. 

Well….sorry fellahs.   Gotta go.  Love that cake, y’know.  

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Oh, and Yip! Yip! Yip!

I’ve been seething about the whole Twilight New Moon release thing all week.  This spoof, however, almost makes it all worth it:

Oh, ha ha ha!!!!


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November 2009