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Last evening your humble host handled cooking din-dins at the port-swiller residence, dishing up a prosciutto and shrimp pasta dish that is a great favorite with the family.

I have found that my cooking style may best be described as heroic, even Wagnerian.  When I add garlic, shallots, basil, lemon and sherry to a cream sauce, you’ll know it.  None of your delicate shadings here.  None of your half-measures. My creations shout from the roof-tops.

Sigh! Great fun to make and delicious to eat, but I’m afraid the after-effect is a strong desire to slither up a tree and stay there for three or four days.


Robbo was idly loitering about the parish hall during coffee hour at the RFEC yesterday when suddenly his arm was grabbed by a long-time friend.

“Rohbut,” she said (she is a native of the great Commonwealth of Virginny), “Heah ah some new peepul ah’d like you to meet!”

Now my friend knows all about my swim across the Tiber and my peculiar status at RFEC.  Indeed, she likes to gently needle me about it now and again.  Nonetheless, she promptly planted her new acquaintances on me and scuttled off, leaving me, in effect, the Face of the Parish.  Of course, as they were just visiting, I quickly decided that hospitality trumps, and I did my best to make them feel welcome.  In fact, I found myself smiling and agreeing with all the enthusiastic things they were saying about the rector and the service.  After a bit, we all got called to hear some speaker or other and I was able to detach myself and fade away.

It was an odd experience.

Thinking it over later, I couldn’t help wondering if my friend set me up deliberately just for laughs.  If so, I’m going to have to put on my revenge practical joke thinking cap…..

Over at First Things, David B. Hart has an interesting essay on what he calls Anarcho-Monarchism that touches on the basic problem of political power, which is that it is most sought by precisely the sorts of people who ought not to get it.  I like this metaphoric description of in particular:

We all have to make our way as best we can across the burning desert floor of history, and those who do so with the aid of “political philosophies” come in two varieties.

There are those whose political visions hover tantalizingly near on the horizon, like inviting mirages, and who are as likely as not to get the whole caravan killed by trying to lead it off to one or another of those nonexistent oases. And then there are those whose political dreams are only cooling clouds, easing the journey with the meager shade of a gently ironic critique, but always hanging high up in the air, forever out of reach.

Read the rest.  To the extent that I allow political philosophy to intrude on my thought, I am definitely in the latter category.  And I would also say that I have much sympathy with both the anarchic and monarchic arguments made by Mr. Hart.  (The discussion, by the way, is a development of ideas put forth in the correspondence of J.R.R. Tolkien – with a helping of snarky asides about Salvador Dali- and there’s some interesting back and forth in the comments about the governance of the Shire as a reflection of those ideas.)

Researchers have estimated how much time people spend letting their minds…..Oh, Look! Squirrel!

People spend nearly half of their waking hours not thinking about what they are actually doing, according to a US study conducted via the iPhone.

More than 2,200 volunteers downloaded an app which then surveyed them about their thoughts and mood at random times of day and night.

The Science study suggested minds wander, even from demanding tasks, at least 30% of the time.

A UK expert said other studies confirm people were easily distracted.

The iPhone was a novel research tool for researchers at Harvard University.

Participants agreed to be contacted, at which point they selected what they were doing from a menu, whether they were actually thinking about it, and how happy or sad they felt.

Remarkably, some participants were prepared to answer the survey even when making love.

While their study sample was composed entirely of people who owned the device, and were prepared to download and be disturbed by an app of this kind, the researchers said it provides an insight into how our minds can wander during the day.

After gathering 250,000 survey results, the Harvard team concluded that this group of people spent 46.9% of their time awake with their minds wandering.

Only 46.9 percent of the time?  Fly-weights.  Ol’ Robbo keeps just about conscious enough of the here and now to remember to put one foot in front of the other when he walks and not to jam his fork into his cheek, but he’s usually miles away in thought.

**Spot the quote. (UPDATE: Fixed. Sorry about that.)

Just to get the bad taste out of my mouth from overhearing the gels watch the CMA Awards tonight.  They all claim to agree with Ol’ Robbo about how old school country is good and modern pop-country is bad, but I begin to suspect that none of them really believe it.

As is my wont when the weather around here conspires to be as pleasant as it is now, I found an excuse to go over to the Navy Memorial at lunchtime and walk across the granite map of the world that is the centerpiece of the plaza.  I get a great deal of simple pleasure doing this, sometimes just admiring the handsome craftsmanship, sometimes imagining myself to be a sort of geeky Colossus striding around the planet.

At any rate, being prompted to check the Memorial’s website about something, I came across this description of the map, which seems to contain a startling secret fact:

Two shades of granite denote land and sea areas, as a reminder of the expanse of the world’s oceans.  The map aligns exactly with the earth.  The scale of the map is comparable to the view from the space ship 800 miles above the earth.

“The” space ship 800 miles above the earth? What spaceship?  Is this something we need to be concerned about?  Or did Certain Persons just leave it parked there until they’re ready to go home?

The USMC was founded this day in 1775 at Tun Tavern, Philadelphia by Samuel Nicholas.

Ol’ Robbo has always had an unswerving admiration for the Corps, considering it to be the single most awesome military force in the history of Mankind.

God bless ’em.


You know, I couldn’t help noticing the other week, when the FBI picked up that Islamofascist whannabe scoping out the Dee Cee metro with the idea of bombing it, how quick The Authorities were to assure us strap-hangers that “at no time was the public in any danger.”

And again yesterday.  A missile suddenly leaps out of the sea near Los Angeles and nobody seems to be able to explain why.  But we are assured again by The Authorities that “at no time was the United States in any danger” while at the same time being told by them that they really don’t know what’s going on.

Um, excuse me.  I would suggest that any terrorist plot in one of our cities or unexplained apparent missile launch off our coast is inherently dangerous.  True, one could argue plausibly in each of these cases that the danger might, in fact, be quite small.  Apparently the good guys were all over that would-be bomber before he could get anywhere near anything that went boom.  And for that matter, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that this rogue missile will actually turn out to be one of ours, but that the biznay is being kept hush-hush for some reason or other.

But the rush to reassure and the seeming tone of these reassurances from The Authorities, the soothing, sugar-coated, “See? Daddy looked under the bed and there are no monsters” air about them puts my nose out of joint.  Is this really a time in which Uncle ought to be lulling the public into a false sense of security?

Look, I’m not suggesting we should go into panic mode or that The Authorities should be creeping us out unnecessarily. (Indeed, I think the whole DHS color-coded terror threat alert scheme is really about as childish as pretending that All is Well.)   But these are bad times and bad things are happening.  I think The Authorities should be a little more realistic in their pronouncements to us about them, that’s all.  This is partly because I believe we, the public, deserve to be treated like adults.  But it’s also because I’m pretty certain that, sooner or later, something very bad really is going to happen.  And if The Authorities have been babying us up until that point, how much trust do they expect we’ll put in them afterwards?

Ha!  Urban lefty do-gooders in G.B. are discovering the repercussions of their Bambi-based effort to ban fox hunting:

It is hard to believe that an animal so blessed as Charlie Fox could, so casually, have chucked away his burnished image. Yet this summer he managed to do just that.

Seven hundred hours of parliamentary time in the first half of this decade was devoted to saving the bushy-tailed carnivore’s skin. He was viewed as lovable as Basil Brush, as cute as a Disney character. He was protected by an army (the Animal Liberation Front), fawned over by animal charities and bunny-huggers, and finally saved from further persecution by the law.

Then, in June, he bit and mauled baby twins as they slept in their cot in east London. And suddenly it dawned on the urban population of Britain that Basil Brush had a beastly side. He was, indeed, nothing more than a feral chav, squabbling, breeding indiscriminately and feeding off discarded buckets of KFC.

Last month it was revealed that he had crept into London Zoo and killed 11 penguins. For fun. Worse, he had exhumed the corpse of a baby’s body in a cemetery in Battersea, decapitated the Queen’s flamingos at Buckingham Palace and killed a number of pet rabbits owned, rather unfortunately for him, by the children of various newspaper columnists who let rip in print.

It has not deterred him, and his charge sheet grows weekly: a 46-year-old woman in Fulham, south-west London, had her ear savagely bitten while sleeping in her bedroom. In Dartford, Kent, a baby boy was attacked. In Islington, north London, youngster Jessica Brown had her arm mauled as she slept.

Across the metropolis, cries for the curbing of Reynard are mounting. Even liberal maven Sandi Toksvig, host of Radio 4’s News Quiz, has called – in jest, of course – for urban hunts to be introduced.

It is hard for anyone in the countryside not to feel a smidgen of schadenfreude – well, quite a lot of schadenfreude, actually – towards the townies, particularly if you were one of the half million who marched through London in 2002 to demonstrate against a proposed ban on foxhunting.

This year, the start of the foxhunting season (I suppose one should no longer prefix hunting with the word “fox’’) will mark five years since that 2004 Act came into effect. And in that half decade the fox has metamorphosed from Charlie to Chas. To bastardise Oscar Wilde’s aphorism, the inedible has become the unspeakable.

Repeat after me, my anthropomorphizing, bubble-wrapped metropolitan friends, “Nature is red in tooth and claw.”  Now write that out fifty times, please.

Actually, we have a fair number of foxes in the port-swiller neighborhood.   (I remember once watching a vixen doze in the sun while her four kits scrambled and scampered round about her.)  Sometimes they will come right up to the back door as they nose about looking for chipmunks, careless birds or other snacks.

While the foxes can’t get into our gubbage cans like our resident raccoon keeps doing, I do worry sometimes about the possibility of bitten gels and rabies.  (There was such a case reported in, I believe, Arlington within the past couple years.)   Unfortunately, the heavy street traffic in the neighborhood would make a genuine hunt fairly impossible, but on the other hand the cars seem to do a pretty good job themselves keeping the fox population under control.

Heights and snakes are my worst phobias, but spiders aren’t very far behind.  Which is why this gives me the heebie-jeebies:

A study of 20 people with a medium to low fear of spiders found the human brain responds to threats based on proximity, trajectory and expectations.

Dr Dean Mobbs, a neuroscientist from Cambridge University, said: “There are several regions of the brain that are triggered when we see a tarantula – particularly the panic area which is situated in the centre.

“The UK has one of the highest rates for phobias about spiders and snakes because we don’t come across them very much.”

Dr Mobbs hopes to develop an aversion therapy to prevent the “cascade of events in in the brain” which causes spider-induced terror.

During the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, participants placed their foot into a box and rated their level of fear as they watched via a video link as a tarantula was placed closer and closer to them.

Brrrr.  I can’t think of anything that would increase my fear of tarantulas better than sticking my foot in a box with one.  Furthermore, I don’t much see the point in developing an “aversion therapy” for arachnophobia if there simply isn’t a spider problem in G.B.

No, it strikes me that this whole “study” is nothing more than thinly-veiled sadism.  Stay away from me, Dr. Mobbs!



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