You are currently browsing the daily archive for December 14, 2011.

In case he’s looking for field trip ideas for the Misses FLG:

A rare 18th Century red Jolly Roger pirate flag has gone on display at Portsmouth’s navy museum.

The flag was captured in battle off the North African coast in 1780 by Lt Richard Curry, who later became an admiral.

Pirates used skull and crossbones flags to frighten passing ships into surrendering without a fight.

The flag is on show at the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN) at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

The red background – rather than black – signified the pirates intended to spare no life if a battle broke out during a ship’s capture.

When it was restored at the Winchester School of Art’s Textile Conservation Centre in 2007, gunpowder and small holes with charred edges were found on the flag.

The Jolly Roger has been loaned to the museum by its current owner Pamela Curry, a descendant of Lt Curry.


Via the Anchoress comes this fantastic post:  Ten Myths About Introverts (together with the author’s rebuttal of each).  A sample:

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.
Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

It’s seldom that I come across anything so comprehensively descriptive of the way ol’ Robbo’s brain works, but I tell you truly that every single one of the items in this list (both the public perception and the inner explanation) fits me like a piece of Savile Row tailoring.

And anyway, it’s not as if being an aloof nerd is a bad thing, right?

Every year I am astounded by the number of holiday cards we receive in the port swiller mailbox from people whose identities are a complete mystery to me.  And I can’t help noticing that the ratio of unknowns to knowns seems to be increasing as time goes by.

I also can’t help believing, based on the general trend of the kind of cards we’re getting, that Shutterfly must be making money hand over fist.  (Wish I’d bought stock in it.)  So far, I would estimate roughly ninety percent of the cards we’ve received feature some kind of family photo (again, people I can’t remember ever seeing before).  To my knowledge, we haven’t received a single “traditional” card as of yet, i.e., one depicting choiring angels, the manger scene or some other religious motif.

Sign of the times, I suppose.

Today is the anniversary of the birth, in 1775, of Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, Rear Admiral of the United Kingdom, & c.  As some friends of the decanter no doubt already know, Lord Cochrane’s naval career served as a primary source for several of the adventures of Patrick O’Brian’s “Lucky” Jack Aubrey in the Aubrey/Maturin novels (including the capture of the Cacafuego by the Sophie, the stock-market rigging trial and Jack’s service with South American rebels).  On the other hand, there is virtually nothing in common between Cochrane and Aubrey in terms of personality, as Cochrane was a political radical and manic self-publicist with an ego as wide as the Channel.

I was chatting with somebody the other day about Aubrey and Maturin, specifically about the difference between Maturin as described in the novels and as presented on screen in the Russell Crowe movie about which I will not get started again here since most of you already know what I think about that.

Where was I? Oh, yes.  My fellow chatter remarked that in the books she was uncomfortable with Maturin’s dark side – the spying, the lying, the treachery and what-not.  I said that it was always my belief that O’Brian himself identified with Maturin.  I also said that it was my understanding O’Brian was, in reality, really rayther a nasty piece of work.  Not only did he treat his first wife very shabbily, there are also long-standing rumors of other shifty shenanigans swirling about his life and career.  Now in the books, O’Brian likes to harp on two themes regarding Maturin: the nobility of his causes (the downfall of Bonaparte, Irish and Catalan independence) and the personal anguish he goes through from burdening himself and those nearest and dearest to him with the ugly biznay in which he engages as a means to those ends.   It makes me wonder if, in a delusional way, this wasn’t some sort of exercise in self-justification on O’Brian’s part.

I don’t know, of course, and am just typing off the top of my head.

One thing that I do know is that, for whatever reason, O’Brian cracked up in the end and that crack up is reflected in the later novels in the series, which is why I never read past The Wine Dark Sea anymore.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I must confess to experiencing a certain sense of schadenfreude when I read nooz stories about the European Union, um, going down the loo.   And that sense rises to a level of raucous derision when I read stories like this one:  Prunes Are Not A Laxative, Rules EU.

It comes after the organisation was mocked last month a ruling that led to a ban on claims that drinking water can prevent dehydration.

Despite a long held belief that prunes, traditionally served with custard, are good for improving bowel function, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has ruled this is not the case.

Its experts said there was “insufficient” evidence of a link between the dried plums and normal bowel function after looking at three studies of prune consumption.

Sir Graham Watson MEP has now challenged an EU Commissioner to a prune-eating contest after his food safety committee ruled that prunes do not have a laxative effect.

Sir Graham, the Liberal Democrat member for South West England and Gibraltar, raised the issue in Strasbourg after the EU refused to recognise the high fibre content of fruits like pomegranates, berries and prunes.

“The European Commission’s advisory panel which does this work has rejected 95 per cent of claims for plant-based foods, maybe in many cases with good reason, but among the claims rejected is the claim that prunes have a laxative effect,” he said.

“I have asked the Commission if it is satisfied with the criteria and the methodology used for testing such claims because I know that prunes contain two substances sorbitol and dihydrophenylisatin, which have laxative effects. But most of our constituents do not require a scientific test.

“I have also invited the Commissioner responsible for health and consumer policy, John Dalli, to a prune eating contest to see for himself.”

Last February, an EFSA paper reported: “The Panel concludes that the evidence provided is insufficient to establish a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of dried plums of ‘prune’ cultivars (Prunus domestica L.) and maintenance of normal bowel function.

The authority had been asked to investigate claims that prunes ensure healthy digestion and bowel function.

In two studies, it was claimed there was no significant difference to participants after eating prunes.

Sir Graham added: “Consumer advice and food labelling is an important aspect of the single market. Having one set of clear guidelines on nutritional advice across 27 countries improves efficiency, saves taxpayer’s money and brings an even playing field to food manufacturers.”

Hence the metaphor in my introduction.

So here we are at the end of the appalling pan-European socialist experiment.  Brussels, figuratively speaking (at least for now), is burning.  And what are the mandarins squabbling about? Whether prunes really help with plop-plops.

Little -known historickal fact:  When Odoacer the Barbarian wrested control of the Western Roman Empire from Romulus Augustulus in 476 A.D., he was able to do so because the Praetorian Guard were distracted by a debate over whether dates had a genuine laxative effect.  True!




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December 2011