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Robbo is quite intrigued by the unveiling of the Planetary Resources plan to mine asteroids for natural resources on a commercial basis.  Indeed, the shear coo-el goodiness of plan can be said to awaken every ounce of the schoolboy within him.

It also awakens the history geek.  All of the great exploratory movements – the discovery of the Americas, the opening of the West, African and Pacific ventures – basically involved the relevant government of the time giving its blessing and then getting out of the way, allowing adventurers and entrepreneurs to take the risks in the hope of cashing in on the big gains.  I see no reason why space exploration ought not to follow exactly the same model.

Shoot for the stars?  If there’s a way to make a buck out of it, somebody’ll figure out how.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had been under the impression that the rain we got over the past couple days would have a positive impact on the amount of pollen floating about, i.e., get rid of some of it.  Evidently, this is not the case. My throat and ears feel even worse today than they had last week.

A couple weeks ago, in musing on a search request for “silliest hymn” that showed up on the port-swiller dashboard, I noted that one of the most ridiculous within my own experience is the unfortunately-named Lesbia Scott’s “I Sing A  Song Of The Saints Of God.”

Yesterday, whilst sitting with the family at RFEC, I was reminded of another, namely “God of the Sparrow, God of the Whale.”  Here’s the first verse:

God of the sparrow,
God of the whale,
God of the swirling stars,
How does the creature say Awe?
How does the creature say Praise?

The next five verses are of the same ilk.  Add a vapid, treacly tune and hey, presto! You’ve got yourself an Icky-Poo Special.

Over the years of having occasionally to endure this bilge, I have developed the game of introducing my own lyrical alternatives.  A few examples:

God of the windshield, God of the bug…..

God of the hammer, God of the nail……

God of the tonic, God of the gin…..

God of the Hardy, God of the Laurel……

God of the sand-wedge, God of the iron……

God of the boxers, God of the briefs…..

And so on.

Then, you’ll also want a closer.  May I suggest:

How does the Icky say Poo?  How does it say “I Wuv Oo”?

It’s good, clean fun and a useful exercise in improv.  Feel free to borrow it the next time you find yourself in this situation, and thank me later.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Every couple years, ol’ Robbo pulls out his Herodotus just for the shear pleasure of rereading his gossipy, opinionated travel guide/history of the ancient Greek world.

Amongst the various natural phenomena that he discusses, Herodotus is notorious for getting some things badly wrong.  For example, he swallows and repeats a story about certain desert ants that collect grains of gold.  And he dismisses the idea of the Nile rising from snow melt as nonsense.  So it’s a delight to come across a piece presenting evidence that he got things right, too:

German geologists believe a tsunami recorded by the ancient historian Herodotus did indeed protect a Greek village from Persian invaders.

They say they have found evidence in northern Greece that the event in 479 BC saved the village of Potidaea.

Herodotus recorded that huge waves had killed hundreds of Persian soldiers during the siege of the village.

Sediment on the northern Greek peninsula where Potidaea and the modern town of Nea Poteidaia are located shows signs of massive marine events, such as large waves, the Aachen study found.

Excavations in the suburbs of the nearby ancient city of Mende uncovered sea shells likely to have been lifted from the ocean bed and tossed about during a tsunami.

The findings were presented at the annual conference of the Seismological Society of America in San Diego, California.

Herodotus records: “Then there came upon them [the Persians] a great flood-tide of the sea, higher than ever before, as the natives of the place say, though high tides come often.

“So those of them who could not swim perished, and those who could were slain by the men of Potidaia who put out to them in boats.”

I’ve always had a mental picture of the Potidaians rowing about, spearing the hapless Persians like so many flounders.



A sultry afternoon coupled with a line of thundershowers coming in juuuuuust after ol’ Robbo finished grilling the evening cheeseburgers put this particular piece in mind.  I am not, as a rule, particularly fond of programmatic musick, but sometimes it is the note juste.

This is an outstanding performance, by the bye, and illustrates an argument Robbo was recently making to the Mothe about Baroque musick in general.  There are people of a certain age (mostly seniors, although there are also those younger persons who have never actually heard the musick but are willing enough to ape conventional disdain) who often say that they don’t like Baroque musick because it’s too stuffy, lifeless and la-di-dah, and doesn’t have enough feeling about it.  (Or, to put it in another, more cringe-worthy way, isn’t authentic enough.)  I firmly believe this is because of the performance practices of the mid-20th Century, which, when dealing with the Baroque, were stuffy, lifeless and la-di-dah, and which were, often, either the only or the primary source of exposure to such musick for these people.  (Can one even imagine, say, Furtwangler dealing with Bach? The thought is unbearable.)  Said performances were, almost invariably, over-instrumented, slow, stodgy and, for lack of a better word,  lifeless.  If that’s the way I was exposed to it, I probably wouldn’t have liked it either.

Fortunately, such was not the case.  I consider myself positively blessed to have grown up with the period instrument movement, to have been exposed to the Baroque as performed by this and other historickally informed groups.   I often say (well, to myself at any rate) that I would much rayther listen to the most ordinary, conventional Baroque musick than all but the best of any other genre.

Ol’ Robbo does love him some  closely-reasoned polyphony.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo spent his Saturday morning out working in the yard and is now sitting down to a tall, cold glass of iced coffee (aka the Sweet, Blesséd Nectar of the Gods), smug and complacent in the knowledge that he got all of the mowing, weed-whacking, raking and blowing over and done before the rains come in later today and tomorrow.   There’s still some weeding to be done, but we’ve been suffering a bit of a drought ’round here and the ground is getting rayther hard, so I feel it’s best to blow off put on hold the weeding until after the skies let loose.  At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The port swiller yard has, I’m afraid, deteriorated a great deal over the course of the years, now consisting more of weeds – clover, dandelion, that little low-growing, round-leafed, blue-flowered thing – than of grass.   However, I have become quite comfortable with this: So long as the stuff is green and can be cut neat and trim, I no longer really give much of a damn what it’s composition may be.

Whilst laboring in teh vinyard, so to speak, I heard my first catbird of the season.   As much as I like catbirds (and they are among my favorites), I can never compute how the expression “sitting in the catbird seat” can possibly mean the same thing as sitting pretty or being on top of things.   To me, catbirds sound fussy and neurotic, and always seem to be working themselves up into some kind of tizzy.  “Eeeeeh! EEEEEEeeeeh! EEEEEEEEEeeeh!!” they say.  After a while, I find myself answering.  What? What do you want? What can I do?  I can only think that the expression “sitting in the catbird seat”  is a bit of mellifluous nonsense and was never meant to be any kind of observation on the bird’s apparent character.

Now, had it been mockies, then it would make sense.  But I suppose “sitting in the mockingbird seat” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Speaking of sitting in catbird seats, how does the paterfamilias properly reply to the eldest gel’s, “Dad! Can I take my friends to see the Nats game this afternoon? Pleeeease!!”?  Like this: “While I’m out working in the yard, I want this house cleaned top to bottom, or not a smell of the game do you get, even if it means calling your friends at the last second to tell them your dad banned you.”   That’s how.  And it works.  Leverage.  It’s all about leverage.

 So Mrs. R and teh gels, together with their friends, are off to Nat’nals Park even as I blog.  I’ve got a few more jobs to take care of and decided to stay behind, but will probably flip the game on teevee myself later.

Speaking of ballgames, may I just note here that the younger gels’ softball team has roared out to a commanding 4-0 record to start their spring season?   Last evening, the middle gel got two doubles, a walk and 4 ribbies.  And these weren’t your little league Keystone Kops defense doubles either, but a pair of ropes that she positively crushed to deep center.   Then she ended the game by deftly one-handing an awkward grounder to short and gunning down the runner at first.   Proud? Moi?

Well, I suppose I had ought to go and finish up my chores so that I can spend the shank of the afternoon loafing in good conscience.   And I do need a bit of R&R.   Although I normally don’t post much about politics these days out of prudence, I must say that my nasal passages have been rubbed absolutely raw by the volume of beverages – hot and cold – I’ve been snarfing up over all those Dog Wars photoshops that have been appearing around the intertoobs.  Hi. Larious.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo received in the mail yesterday a magazine commemorating the 25th anniversary of his graduation from the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  It did so by printing a copy of everyone’s senior picture, current contact information and, if supplied, updated bios and pictures.  (I had thrown away the form for this when I received it and forgotten all about it.)

I noticed three interesting things:

First, in my own senior picture, I look like Justin Bieber. Yikes!  In the two and a half decades since, how did I get so jowly?

Second, I know that what with rowing crew and being naturally stand-offish, I confined myself to a pretty small social circle, but there were only 650 kids in the class.  As I flipped through the pages, there were plenty of pictures and names of people I would swear I have never seen nor heard of before in my life.

Third, of those who did submit updated biographical material (maybe a third total), a surprisingly large proportion of them seem to have settled down to remarkably conventional lives: marriages of 17-20 years, three or four kids, steady employment.  This from a pack of kids who, in their misspent yoot, boasted of their boho rejection of “the system”. 

Gives one hope for the future.

The Vatican announces that it’s kicking asses and taking names:

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Citing “serious doctrinal problems which affect many in consecrated life,” the Vatican announced a major reform of an association of women’s religious congregations in the U.S. to ensure their fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle will provide “review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work” of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the Vatican announced April 18. The archbishop will be assisted by Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., and draw on the advice of fellow bishops, women religious and other experts.

This is a bit outside my day-to-day ken, but I look forward to watching the, er, fur fly.

A guy I used to know in high school who recently looked me up on Facebook had this to say in reaction to the NYTimes article on the matter:

I had to laugh because the bishops sound so completely out of touch with reality while the nuns sound much more sane. I’ll be surprised of Catholicism in America does not completely implode in the next few years. It’s amazing to me that it has continued for so long. Maybe the nuns will split and form their own religion.

The variety of answers to this assessment is, well, huge.  One thing I’m tempted to point out is the fact that it’s the mainline Protestant churches which have spent the past thirty years trying to get in touch with “reality” which are the ones currently hemorrhaging members.   Strikes me that he’ll get his surprise.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I note with some glee that scientists have discovered what ol’ Robbo has known for a very long time:  Being yourself at work is not good for your career.

Dr Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich in London, said: “You hear self-help gurus say that the secret of happiness is ‘being yourself’ or ‘expressing your true feelings’, but that doesn’t seem to apply in the workplace.”

It’s not clear from the article, which is very short, what exactly the harm of “being yourself” at the office is, but a short list of obvious perils is not hard to imagine.  Especially in the sort of political minefield in which I labor.

For myself, over the years I have learned the true pleasure of working up a reserved, enigmatic, almost deadpan persona.   Call it Office Robbo.   When the office political firebrand comes round trying to pick a fight, when the neighbor starts trying to flirt, when the manager tries to get one to “open up” and “bond”,  a polite smile, a blank expression and a murmured, “Urm,”  prove to be a most efficacious and enjoyable spike.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I provoke fear in anybody with my attitude, but I think it’s fair to say, based on some of the looks I’ve gotten and comments I’ve overheard, that it generates a sort of uneasy respect.

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


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April 2012