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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I will not keep you long on this post.  However, I thought it appropriate to enter my two cents here on a subject of long debate.   To wit, that of Nature versus Nurture in re raising children.

Here are my empiric observations:

As regular friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo has three daughters, now all of whom are teens or pre-teens.

For scientific purposes, I can assure you that all of them have been exposed all their lives to what can safely be described as the Same Environment.

For all that, I find myself in charge of three wildly divergent personalities, specifically , a crank, a sweet-heart and a looney.

The bottom line I reach from my dealings with them is best expressed in nautical terms:  Their personalities are subject to the prevailing winds (i.e., the way they were born.).  As family captain, I can’t do more than trim the sails to alter their courses a few points towards where I think they should go.  Beyond that, I am fairly helpless.

I offer this observation for what it’s worth.   A calm sea and prosperous voyage to those of you dealing with the same thing!  (And, of course a glass of port!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Or, at least, those of you who still drop in….

This afternoon when I was chatting with the Mothe, she asked, “Have you given up blogging?”


Here’s Robbo’s predicament:  A variety of issues have boiled up around Port Swiller Manor in the past couple months that have forced themselves on Robbo’s attention but have not – owing to issues of confidentiality and propriety – been blog-worthy in and of themselves.

I don’t wish to appear cryptic here.  It’s just that  this is the trap of a semi-autonymous bloggy identity and a generally domestick blogging theme.   As teh kids like to say, or at least did so ten minutes ago, one must guard against the disclosure of TMI.  But don’t worry – we’re all alive and well.

(And, of course,  there is the matter of Robbo’s employer’s recent responses to my attempts to dial into WordPress, which could be summed up in the single word: Que?  Who am I to contact tech support and bitch about my sudden inability to post whatever drifts across my so-called mind during bizness hours?  As I have often, bitterly, noted, I’m not paid for my artistic expression.)

The long and the short of it is that I have simply been too busy and too distracted and too inhibited to concentrate on the Important Things, such as the gratuitous blathering that constitutes about 99.999999% of what you will find here at Port Swiller Central.

But please, do not drain your glasses and start fumbling for your hats and brollies as you mutter about important engagements that you must get to!   Ol’ Robbo promises that he has not abandoned his position at the head of the table and that he will keep the decanter circulating – by means of trained squirrels if necessary – and that the walnuts are always on the table and the Stilton is always on the sideboard.

Of course, it would not hurt if somebody out there gave me a lead.  Back in school, I used to hate assignments when I was invited to write about “whatever I wanted” regarding a given text.  I used to beg the profs:  For goodness sake, tell me WHAT to write about! You lot could to the same.


Father Z ruminates on the theological  ramifications of a sudden death in the wake of the Marathon bombings, complete with Hobbesian pics.  (Relax – they’re pics of an owl and a mouse.)

I often have thought of this point, not just for myself but also for all the selves around me.  That is why one of the lines I always include in my own personal morning prayers is: “Lord, have mercy on those sinners who are to die today.”

You never know, after all……

Nats HatGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

A bit of cross-talk from one of ol’ Robbo’s favorite movies:

Hysterium:  Ruh! Buh!  Whu!……

Pseudolus:  Calm…

Hysterium: Er! Buh! Whu!…

Pseudolus: Caaaalm….

Hysterium: Ooh! Buh! Whu!…

Pseudolus: Calm yourself! I’ll tell you when it’s time to panic!

Miles Gloriosus: I smell mischief here!

Pseudolus: [beat] It’s time.

Okay, it isn’t really.  I hope.  But after Robbo’s beloved Nats dropped their series opener against St. Lewee this evening by a score of 3-2, a game they really could have should have won, thereby falling to a record of 10-9, well…..I confess I’m getting nervous.

I freely admit that I half fell into that breezy, delirious fandom trap wherein I dreamed the Nats would  go 162-0 on the year.  Okay, you folks know from past years that I’m no summah soldier, no sunshine patriot.  Nor am I a baseball idjit.  I know cruising to a repeat NL East championship is unrealistic.  I know that it’s a different dynamic with everyone’s gunning for us this year.  I know the season is young, that it’s only mid/late April.

But still……

This is the first year ol’ Robbo has really had to deal with Expectations.  So you’ll forgive his heartburn, warranted or no.  Having said that, allow me to blather:

The only starters that are producing are JZimm and National Det.  Haren is looking more like an expensive lemon at every outing, and both Stras and Nat-Geo are floundering.  The bullpen is starting to pick up, true, but what difference does that make if your starter blows it and you have positively no offense?  The team seems to be possessed by a kind of malaise that I don’t understand.  Good God Almighty, people!  What the hell do you suppose you’re doing out there? Lollygagging?

Let’s just hope that skipper Davy Johnson, even as I post, is working his Big Magic to wake these guys up.  Mr. Rogers-like happy talk or branding irons and the cat-o-nine-tails, I really don’t care which, so long as it works.

It was bad enough to be a laughing stock when we truly were a bad team and nobody expected anything else.  After all the preseason hype, I don’t know how I will handle it if we become a laughing stock despite the fact that we’re a good team.

What a game.  What a freakin’ game.

What else is there to do except say:


UPDATE:  Second verse? Same as the first!  Guys? That piece of wood in your hands? It’s called a “bat”.  You use it to hit the ball.  Try it some time.  Just saying.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

You know, the women-folk of Port Swiller Manor have long professed to be great fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the spirit with which she faced frontier life.  Yet let ol’ Robbo absent-mindedly forget to turn the heat back on after a cold front comes through, making the house perhaps a tad chilly overnight, and see what kind of reaction he gets.  Hot house orchids ain’t in it.

Speaking of flowers, I was musing about what needs doing around the grounds after I get home from Mass today.  It’s actually a short and sweet list:  The annual stringing of new deer netting for the hydrangea hedge, the placement of supports for the peonies, some weeding on the garden path.

Somewhere or other I have seen an illustrated Examination of Conscience.  For the Commandment about keeping the Sabbath, one of the pictures is of somebody sweating over an old-fashioned push-mower.  Now I personally feel that mowing the lawn does come under the definition of unnecessary Sunday labor, which is why I always try to take care of it on Saturday.    But I don’t classify fooling about in the garden the same way.  To me, it’s more a sort of hands-on appreciation of God’s glory.  (At least until the weather turns beastly hot.)

UPDATE:  Speaking of Flower Power:  Legalized weed, “Earth Day” counterculture and Colorado hippie pot-heads. What could possibly go wrong?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My name is Robbo and I am the sometime host of this blog.

My apologies for the sporadic posties of late.  The fact is that Mrs. R had to go in for some emergency surgery two weeks ago and things have been rayther at sixes and sevens since then.  (She’s fine, btw, but just now getting back up to speed.)  Also, Mr. Pollen has been putting the hurt on me over the past couple days.

Thus, my Muse, instead of sitting proudly on my shoulder and inspiring me to heights of erudition and eloquence, has instead been cowering in the corner in a fetal ball, whimpering and muttering, “No hablo Ingles, senior…”.


Anyhoo, good God Almighty what a week it’s been, no?  As I type, Drudge is suggesting that they may have nailed have captured the second Marathon bastard bomber bastard.  And all the usual suspects are already starting the crimination/recrimination games.   I positively swear that I heard a few seconds of somebody on NPR this evening suggestion that the younger brother was a “victim” himself, a troubled yoot that our cold, crass system had allowed to “slip through the cracks”.

And so we navel-gaze while the barbarians undermine the wall.

Remember how in M*A*S*H* Alan Alda often delivered that smug and smarmy line, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”  Well, either through idiocy or willfulness (or probably both – see Jonah Goldberg’s Tyranny of Cliches), he never finished the thought, and thereby skewed it exactly wrong.  The  line is from a poem called “What If?”, usually attributed to Bertolt Brecht and criticizing pacifism.  It runs in full:

What if they gave a war and nobody came?
Why then the war will come to you!
He who stays home when the fight begins
And lets another fight for his cause
Should take care:
He who does not take part
In the battle will share in the defeat.
Even avoiding battle will not avoid Battle,
since not to fight for your own cause really means
Fighting in behalf of your enemy’s cause.

I am not (yet) of the camp that attributes our confused and self-destructive response to Jihad to a deliberate ploy by Libs to ruin this country.  Instead, I still believe it is a matter of naiveté, fecklessness, hubristic posturing and a vague desire that it will all somehow just go away by itself.

Well, it won’t.


Speaking of battles, I ran off the movie Red Tails the other evening, a film that purports to tell the story of the famed Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.  I won’t say much about the film itself, as it turned out to be a horridly cartoonish thing, indulging in cliche and caricature  and doing absolutely nothing to actually honor or, more importantly, EXPLAIN these remarkable pilots and their stunning record of success.  Instead, I use it as yet another exhibit in support of a policy I intend to implement upon becoming Emperor of the World.  Under my wise and benevolent reign, CGI-created machines (in this case, WWII-era fighters and bombers), will not be permitted to act in ways physically impossible for their real-world counterparts.

Do you hear, George Lucas (who was behind this movie)?  If you make a P-51 Mustang act like one of your freakin’ X-wings on MY watch, you are going to be subject to a public flogging.  You’ve been warned.


Speaking of warnings, the youngest gel, now aged 11 and quite full of herself, has taken to calling me “Dude” lately.  Each time she does it, I promptly correct her.  She just as promptly apologizes.  But that doesn’t seem to prevent her from doing it the next time.  Grrrrrr.


One of my resolutions this Easter season is to dip into various authors I’ve not read before.  To this end, I recently acquired the collected works of Flannery O’Connor.  I also procured Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.   Two other authors who have appeared on my radar are Walker Percy and John Buchan (of 39 Steps fame).  Any suggestions re these two would be appreciated, although I must warn you that I gather Buchan is mostly a whodunnit kind of fellah and detective stories (even those concerning Sherlock Holmes himself) have never really grasped my interest that much.  Oh, and  friends of the decanter are always welcomed to suggest other authors and books.  Regular readers probably know ol’ Robbo pretty well at this point, so you know what might interest me.

Of course, if you were to ask what I’m reading at this very minute, for all my talk of expanded horizons I would have to confess that I’m working my way through the Waugh cycle for the umpteenth time and thoroughly enjoying myself.


Speaking of expanding, we are in the initial steps of doing away with the weather-beaten and code-violating back porch at Port Swiller Manor and replacing it with a three-season room.  The building guy and architect were out this morning to take measurements and discuss ideas.  I kept an eye on the architect as he free-handed a sketch of the existing and proposed structures in his notebook.  It was absolutely fascinating to watch the virtual blueprint emerging from his squigglings.   I suppose it’s routine when you’re in the biz, but as a layman I was deeply impressed.


Well, not much else to say at the moment.  This was one of those horrid evenings in which Mrs. R and I were required to transport the gels to and from various activities in a logistical scheme that made Operation Overlord look like a game of pickup football.  I loathe such days.  To add to the fun, the area has been subject to torrential rains off and on all evening.  The poor visibility, coupled with my rotten night vision,  had ol’ Robbo tooling about the highways and byways muttering under his breath about “driving by Braille”.

The upside of such an evening’s toil and travail is that when everyone finally returns to base safe and sound, that extra glass of wine tastes especially good.  I invite you to join me!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo seems to have shaken the bout of the blues that informed the post immediately below.  It’s not that I don’t still believe any of my prognostications of doom.  Rayther, I seem to have come back to that normal equilibrium of temperament that allows me to snap my fingers at the incoming wall of Numenor-foundering water with cheerful contempt.

Which allows me to bring up an utterly trivial matter.

The Nissan car company is one of this year’s sponsors of the MASN teevee broadcasts of Nationals baseball.  (And just as an aside, you don’t know how much of a psychological relief it is that they spanked the Fish this evening after having been humiliated by the Braves over the weekend.  I’m starting to take this game waaaaaay too seriously.)  Anyhoo, in an ad that already has aired far too often this young season, the good people of Nissan flog one of their new models with, among other things, a claim that the featured automobile comes equipped with “NASA-inspired zero-gravity seats”.

My friends, I ask you candidly:  Just what the good Godfrey Daniel isNASA-inspired zero-gravity seats” supposed to mean?

The way-back machine in ol’ Robbo’s brain suddenly started humming and he was transported back to a treasured time of his misspent yoot in which he was instructed by a different car company to dream of reeech, Corinthean leatheeer…….


Nothing new under the sun, and all that….


Greetings my fellow port swillers!

Well, I think there can be no doubt that Spring has finally got her act together and begun operations in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  There’s greenage on the trees, the bleeding heart in the front bed is in bloom and the windows are wide open.  Also, today was the first day that ol’ Robbo had to pull out his mower and weed-whacker.  Always a nice thing when they start right up after sitting idle in the garage all winter.  (I would mention that I also put the hammock out today, but since I seem never actually to get the chance to use the durn thing, this is an annual milestone of much less actual importance.)

Of course, this being Spring means that the weather has turned schizophrenic, with temperatures yo-yoing all over the place and extremely fast-changing conditions.  Indeed,   Friday morning we had our first thunderstorm of the year.  The middle gel and self were sitting in the ol’ Wrangler down to school, waiting for it to be time for her to go in for choir practice, when suddenly a bolt of lightning hit one of the towers above us.   Scared the bejaysus out of both of us, I assure you.

This morning saw the annual parade and opening ceremonies of our local Little League.  The opening pitches were thrown out this year by none other than Robbo’s beloved Nats’ right-fielder, Jayson Werth.  (He and 1st baseman Adam LaRoche both have kids in the program.)  For all his alleged ball-handling prowess, Werth managed to put two out of the three pitches into the dirt.

At any rate, as the “Star-Spangled Banner” was sung at the ballpark, I found myself musing sadly.  It seems that every day the headlines become more and more horrible, filled with bread and circuses, bald-faced lies and behind-the-scenes Orwellian power-grabbing.  There can be little question that we are and have been on social and economic paths that are simply unsustainable.    (Of course, we’ve done this to ourselves through softness and lack of vigilance and our failure to drown all the Baby-Boomers in buckets at birth, and a lot of people still somehow don’t seem to understand how deep the trouble is that we’re in.)  But now, I think, we’ve finally reached the point where it’s all coming to a head one way or the other.

Personally, I don’t believe that the country is actually doomed.  What I think is going to happen is that those trying to finish up installing the Brave New World are going to overreach in a way that finally makes the citizenry wake up.  (No, strike that.  I actually think they already have.  Now we’re just waiting for the math to catch up.)  It’ll make ’em wake up because it’ll hurt like hell.    Collapse of the dollar?  Food shortages? Riots a la Cyprus?  Persecutions and scape-goatings? Oh, you betcha.

But you see, I also think there is something that sets up apart from late-Republican Rome or Paris in the Terror or early 20th Century Russia or Germany or, for that matter, Modern Europe.  I think that although, as I say, we’ve got lazy and complacent, there is still a seed of autonomy and self-reliance in our national character.  When push comes to shove, I think, I think, that we will remember what we’re made of.  (You see that, for instance, in the public resistance against draconian gun-control.  And the Tea Party.)  It’ll be ugly, to be sure, but I believe that in the end we will come out intact on the other side, without either Caesar or Big Brother and hopefully wiser and stronger for the experience.  (Do you know that I actually had a conversation with the Mothe a week or two ago about what the military would be likely to do in the event they were ordered to turn on trouble-making citizens?  And that it was a conversation in earnest?  We agree, by the bye, that it is extremely unlikely they ‘d cooperate in any such strong-arm tactics.)  At least, that’s my hope and I’m sticking to it.

But as I say, I am saddened by all this.  Not so much for myself, but for my children.  I’m betting that the Crisis hits in the next five to ten years, right in the midst of their young adulthoods.   I figure that I can face whatever comes with a kind of resigned stoicism and a sense that if I get caught in the crossfire, at least I’ve already had my turn.   But it pains me to think about what they’ll have to go through when their world is turned upside down.

Ah, well.  Better go jump in that hammock while I’ve still got the chance…..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Perhaps because I’m out of practice, I completely forgot to add an item to yesterday’s randomness that linked many of the other items together.  Specifically, I had meant to say that I only recently learned that this summah will see another outbreak of periodical cicadas in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  This time, it seems we will be visited by Brood II.

I well remember the last infestation, which occurred in 2003.  The first intimation of what we were in store for manifested itself one hot, hazy Saturday morning when, standing on the back deck having a kahfee, I realized that the sound I was hearing was not a car alarm going off in the neighborhood, but the combined croonings of a whooooole lotta bugs.  After the novelty wore off, the constant ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh began to get quite tedious.  Oh, how sweet the day was when I was able to do the old Alan Alda gag from MASH whenever the artillery barrage was over: “Do you hear that?” “I don’t hear anything.” “Exactly!  They’ve stopped!”

And then there were the damned things themselves, clustering all over trees, smacking into windshields, turning up in unexpected and unwanted places.  And once you’ve run over your first batch with a lawnmower, you really don’t care to repeat the process.

Back then, I was still driving a Toyota Camry.  I remember one day passing a fellah in an open convertible on the Gee-Dub and wondering idly how he dealt with all the bugs.  (He was so tall that his forehead actually protruded over the windscreen.  I didn’t half like to think what it would be like to take one of those things between the eyes.  They’re big.)  I suppose I’m going to find out this year, since the ol’ Wrangler doesn’t have A/C and it is essential to keep the sides off during hot weather.

When I relayed the nooz to the gels, there was a storm of outcry and protest, together with much criticism of God for devising such an annoying and yet apparently pointless form of life.  Sleep for seventeen years and then emerge just long enough to mate and die?  I duly chided them for questioning the Almighty’s wisdom, but I confess that I can’t really see the math on this one myself.

Well, after my mini-hiatus (assuming it’s over) and the condolence/reminiscence post below that more or less wrote itself, I thought I’d try dipping the port swiller toe back in the water with a little bit of randomness.  Here goes:

♦    After a very late dose of cold, Spring has finally and truly come to the environs of Port Swiller Manor.  Today was the first day of the year that I took the top off the ol’ Wrangler.  Spring and fall are, of course, the optimal times for this, the days of High Summah being too darn hot to lose all that valuable shade.

♦     I’ve decided that when we get our next cats, one of them is definitely going to be named Mr. Joyboy.   There are few names in liddershur that make me snigger quite so much.  Now all I need is a suitable companion name, since we’re probably going to wind up getting a couple.   The leading candidate at the moment is Tobermory, although I fear that might be too phonetically similar and cause some feline confusion.

♦     We had a bit of a medical scare over the weekend at Port Swiller Manor that involved Mrs. R having to rush to the hospital for emergency surgery.  All is well now and she is resting, but your humble host is in the doghouse just a bit for having dismissed the preliminary symptoms as nothing more than “too much Chipoltle”.

♦     Whoever it was who recommended to ol’ Robbo last year, thanks again.   After my second year with it, I have to confess that it is superior to my flailing about with pencil, calculator and foolscap.

♦     Well, so much for Robbo’s beloved Nats going 162-0 this year, which is what I think we fans were secretly hoping/expecting.

♦     On the other hand, the youngest gel’s team is 2-0 after this past weekend’s battles.  So we’ve got that going for us.

Enough to start?


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April 2013