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Well, my fellow port-swillers, ol’ Robbo and Mrs. Robbo are off to the wilds of western Murrland, there to have a couple nights’ rest and relaxation before reassembling the family later in the week.

Posting should resume some time over the long 4th o’ July weekend.  In the meantime, feel free to help yourself to the decanter and the walnuts.  The Stilton is on the sideboard.

Pip! Pip!

“Welcome Happy Morning.”

Well, not listening to it as such, but I’ve had Sir Arthur Sullivan’s sprightly tune running through my head all day.  This is probably because the heat finally broke, giving us a lovely, almost Easterish, morning here in Northern Virginny, and also because I was thinking about the gels, whom we will be retrieving from camp on Friday.  The middle gel, now aged 10, has become a mainstay of the yoot choir at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church, and when she is not on duty, so to speak, we have taken to singing hymns together (including this one) with much mutual delight.

Sigh. I’m afraid that when RFEC finally reaches the point of apostasy where I cannot in good conscience darken its doors even for the sake of the family, and there are signals at both the national and the parish level that this may happen sooner rather than later, I’m going to miss the hymnody more than anything else.

This will interest Mr. FLGThe works of Plato appear to contain a hidden musical code, a British academic has claimed.

Researchers claimed they cracked “The Plato Code”, the long disputed secret messages hidden in some of Ancient World’s most influential and celebrated writings.

Dr Jay Kennedy, an historian and philosopher of science at the University of Manchester, found Plato used a regular pattern of symbols to give his writing a “musical” structure.

In his five year study, Dr Kennedy found Plato, who died around 347BC, used the symbols inherited from the ancient followers of Pythagoras.

His findings, published in the American classics journal Apeiron, suggested Plato was not only a secret follower of Pythagoras but also shared his belief that the universe’s secrets lay maths and its numbers.

The study, which has created excitement in the academic world, also suggests he anticipated the scientific revolution of Galileo and Sir Issac Newton by about 2,000 years after “discovering its most important idea (that) the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics”.

Dr Kennedy said the key to unlocking the code came from the 12 notes of the Greek musical scale, which he said was popular among followers of Pythagoras.

Using computer technology, he restored contemporary versions of Plato’s manuscripts to their original form, which he said consisted of lines of 35 characters, with no spaces or punctuation.

Dr Kennedy discovered that some key phrases, themes and words occurred during regular intervals throughout, which matched the spacing in the 12 note scale.

Personally, I’m inclined to lump this into the same category as the claim a few years back that the Bible contained secret encrypted prophesies.  But since I’ve never read much Plato, my opinion on the matter really isn’t worth much of anything.

A nice science article in the Times discussing (and defending!) the virtues of the wandering mind.

In the past, daydreaming was often considered a failure of mental discipline, or worse. Freud labeled it infantile and neurotic. Psychology textbooks warned it could lead to psychosis. Neuroscientists complained that the rogue bursts of activity on brain scans kept interfering with their studies of more important mental functions.

But now that researchers have been analyzing those stray thoughts, they’ve found daydreaming to be remarkably common — and often quite useful. A wandering mind can protect you from immediate perils and keep you on course toward long-term goals. Sometimes daydreaming is counterproductive, but sometimes it fosters creativity and helps you solve problems.


I daydream all the time almost constantly.  Indeed, I frequently find myself wandering along three or four different mental tracks simultaneously, often with some piece of musick running through my head as well.  I believe it’s an internal defense mechanism against boredom, since a) I get bored very, very easily and b) I hates being bored.

I believe it’s also the reason I blog the way I do, preferring a sort of ad hoc, conversational approach to a more formal structure, and simply sounding off on whatever happens to seize my attention at any given time, rayther than attempting to focus on one particular topic.   (If I were to go with the latter approach, I would undoubtedly get quite bored with that quite quickly.)   For whatever physiological reason (discussed somewhat in the article), having the ability to throw out these asides when they come to me actually helps me focus on whatever more important task I happen to have at hand.

I learned a new term last evening: Fascia board.

Most of my fellow port-swillers probably already know that this is the horizontal board that caps off the bottom edges of the rafters and to which the gutters are attached.   I can now assure you that when said board rots out and detaches itself from the rafters on the corner of the house during a violent rainstorm, it will take the gutter right along with it, as I discovered upon my return to the port-swiller residence after work yesterday.

The good news is that I also found a note attached to the front door.  A handyman who lives in the neighborhood had spotted the twisted and hanging gutter as he passed, turned in, and wrote out a diagnosis and price quote on the spot.   I appreciate that kind of enterprise.

UPDATE: The WaPo snapped some coo-el pics of the storm that blew through my neck of the woods yesterday and caused the fascia board swan dive.

I would love to get hold of some of this:

The public has a chance to buy rye whiskey made from the same recipe George Washington used.

The first public tasting will be held Thursday at a reconstructed version of Washington’s original distillery near his Mount Vernon estate. Bottles are being sold for $85 apiece and the proceeds will benefit Mount Vernon’s education programs.

The Virginia General Assembly previously approved the sale of limited quantities of the whiskey.

Washington was the nation’s most successful whiskey maker in the years after his presidency.

By 1799, he was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year. Washington died that year, and soon after the business fell off. In 1814, the distillery burned to the ground.

I never knew that about ol’ George.  And I’m not sure that I’ve ever drunk rye before.

Obviously, some historickal field research is called for here.

I feel sorry for the poor shlubs who have come to Dee Cee for vacation over the past week or so (I also question their intelligence) because we’ve been having exactly the sort of vile weather we always have at the end of June/beginning of July: Disorientingly hot and humid weather with a miasmatic, stinky atmosphere that hunts you down and smothers you in itself.

It may interest you to know that despite living here for many years, I have never ever been to the 4th o’ July celebration down the National Mall, and furthermore never intend to go.  This weather is why: The idea of being jammed together in a steamy, sweaty, stinky mass of people in it  – just to see D list stars like Tony Danza – would cause me to run positively amok.  (And we all know how painful that can be.)


Well, anyway.  Mrs. Robbo got the bright idea of taking a couple of nights on our own at a B&B up in the Appalachians before picking up the gels from camp.  It’s a good twenty degrees cooler up there, so that’ll be some serious relief.

UPDATE: Oh, I should point out to the leggy young lady who was sitting next to me at Mass yesterday that a church is no place for a miniskirt no matter what the weather.  (Lest my fellow port swillers fret that Robbo’s soul was in any kind of danger, I can assure you that I myself was so discombobulated by the heat that not even a smidgen of temptation presented itself to my par-boiled brain.  But still.)

Ol’ Robbo was thinking about picking up some fireworks in order to celebrate the 4th of July this year.  Indeed, with a Phantom Fireworks outlet on I-70 in southern Pennsylvania right on the way to and from their camp, he got thinking about just how popular he would be with the gels if we pulled in on the way home this coming Friday and got some.

But you know, perusing the various state fireworks prohibitions in effect up and down the East Coast, I am thoroughly dismayed at the paucity of options available.  When I say “fireworks,” what I mean is the lady-fingers, bottle-rockets and Roman candles of my own yoot.  What’s allowed in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania? Sparklers.  Yes, that’s pretty much it.  Sparklers.

Big. Freakin’. Whoop.  Dee.  Do.

Now as far as setting them off, I’m enough of a libertarian not to give a damn what the laws are.  (Fortunately, I happen to live in a neighborhood where nobody else much cares either.)  But it’s the getting of them that may prove tricky:  I imagine that if bottle-rockets are prohibited for use in Pennsylvania, then nobody’s going to be selling them there, either.

And so the dilemna: If I don’t stop, I’ll never know.  If I do stop, I’ll most likely be outrageously disappointed.

What I really need, of course, is a boot-legger.  My brother in North Carolina picks up the good stuff somewhere down South.  Perhaps I should ask him to grab some for me next time he’s at it.  In the meantime, if anyone has any practical advice, I’d appreciate hearing about it.

Robbo spent most of his child-free Saturday perusing Tony Horwitz’s A Voyage Long and Strange, a sort of travelogue-cum-history lesson about the European exploration and settlement of the Americas from the voyages of Columbus at the end of the 15th Century, up through the English colonization of the early 17th Century. (Horwitz claims to have hit on the idea of writing the book when it occurred to him that he had no clue as to what happened between Columbus landing in the Bahamas in 1492 and the Pilgrims hitting Plymoth in 1620.)

I don’t have much to say about the political slant of the book.  It was, after all, written in the early 21st Century.  In fairness to Horwitz, I will say that he seems to make something of an effort himself not to get too caught up in political correctness.  On the other hand, based on some of the interviews he relates, it is safe to say that the calibration of ethnic sensitivities and the fanning of 500 year old grievances are both alive and well in this so-called melting pot of ours.

No, what I really wanted to mention was two factoids about which I am currently, well, geeking out.  The first has to do with the Conquistador Francisco Vasques de Coronado.   I have always associated his name with the Spanish exploration of northern Mexico and the American Southwest, and rightly so.  But what I didn’t know about him was that his journeys took him as far as the middle of Kansas, of all places (in search of a supposedly wealthy civilization known as Quivira).

The other was the fact that the Conquistador Hernando de Soto not only wandered all over Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, he even made it into the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.

As Ted “Theodore” Logan would say, “Whoa.”

“Tom,” you’re no doubt saying to yourselves, “Who cares if the Spanish explored the Great Plains and the Appalachians?”

Well, I do.

UPDATE: Finished the book.  Curiously enough, aside from a story about a Huguenot settlement in what is now Jacksonville, Florida that got wiped out by the Spanish coming up from St. Augustine (and yes, there are people who still have grievances about that), there is practically no mention of French exploration whatsoever.  No Samuel de Champlain? No René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle? I’m not normally much of a Francophile, but it seems to me that somebody was robbed here.)

One can never truly have absolutely nothing to say because at the very least one can always say that one has absolutely nothing to say, which is to say that one will always have something to say, even if that something is simply to say that one has absolutely nothing to say.



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June 2010