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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apology for my silence the past day or two, but ol’ Robbo seems to have caught his first bout of the ‘flu this cold winter, and I’ve spent most of the past 48 hours or so in bed.

These outbreaks of illness always result in the same basic exchange between Self and Mrs. R:

Self:  I’m staying in bed today.  I feel awful.

Mrs. R:  You should go to the doctor!

Self:  Why?  She’d tell me that I have the ‘flu and that I should rest up in bed, which is what I’m doing already.

Mrs. R:  Grrrrrrr……..

 My old father was doctor, as is my brother, so I grew up absorbing a basic sense of the interrelationship of health and medicine, as well as the extent to which the physician’s powers actually reach.¹   I would not go so far as to suggest that Mrs. R  attributes almost shamanistic powers to our medical professionals,  but I do confess to a certain amusement at her incredulity that I would not automatically head for the doc, especially since, as I say, I already know said doc’s prescription.


¹ Indeed, it was assumed for most of the years of my misspent yoot that I would follow in teh Old Gentleman’s footsteps.  Well, Organic Chem in college put teh final kybosh on that idea.  It was just as well, as I have since discovered that I have very little tolerance for the sight of blood.  To give but one example, some years ago teh Middle Gel was bitten in the face by the parental fox terrier when we were visiting up to Maine.  We had to take her to teh local emergency room to get stitches.   I was so overcome by the sight of watching her get sewn up that I got very woozy myself, and had to be tended to lest I collapse on the floor.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of teh decanter will get the title, knowing ol’ Robbo’s opinion that Tuesday is the emptiest day of all.  With that, how about a few, well, empty thoughts?

♦   Ol’ Robbo teh English major is something of a hide-bound reactionary traditionalist when it comes to matters of language and grammar, but even I must acknowledge the text-driven power of the modern acronym to encapsulate profound meaning in minimal expression.  As an example, consider the following:  SOTU? STFU!

No, I did not watch tonight’s State of the Union address.  Nonetheless, I think I can condense however many minutes of verbiage it lasted into two words:  We’re humped.

♦   This past Sunday happened to be Robbo’s 49th birthday.  This one came and went with very, very little fanfare or festivity, in part because I’ve ceased to care that much and in part because I was so busy with church  (early Mass for me, followed by shepherding teh Middle Gel down the Cathedral for both the 11:30 eucharist and 4:00 evensong), that by the time I got home, all I wanted was a glass of wine and some solitude.

♦  Speaking of gels, teh eldest had her key snap in the garage door at Port Swiller Manor this afternoon as she came home from school and tried to get in out of teh 18° cold.  Not panicking, she called Mrs. R at work and went up on to the porch to grab a blanket from one of the chairs to keep herself warm.  Mrs. R arranged for a neighbor to rescue said eldest.  I am very proud that she did not panic.

Obviously, we’re going to need a back-up entry method.  Any hackers out there?  Don’t look under teh garden gnome!

Nonetheless, if she tries to pull a “Oh, Father! I’ve caught a chill and can’t go to school today” tomorrow as a result: I will do such things,–
What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be
The terrors of the earth!

♦   Ab über-random thought:  I much prefer the ’86 re-recording of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by The Police to the original.  I think the broody, nightmarish quality of the latter version to be much more effective.

♦  Oops.  I just finished posting a longish random tidbit trying to link Brother Anastase Douay, the only surviving witness of the murder by some of his own men of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle in 1687 in East Texas, with the great Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible.   (We’ve reached the depth of post where, on teh Mac, I can’t figure out how to linky.  If you are interested, I suggest google.)  Alas, there seems to be no direct connection.  Cliff Clavins of the world unite in weepage.

♦   Those friends of teh decanter who spotted teh quote from King Lear just above (Act 2, Scene IV) may be interested to know that ol’ Robbo saw Anthony Hopkins offer up those lines on teh stage in London in 1987.  It’s been a great many years now, but I can still say with confidence:  Tony completely blew it.   I dunno whether it was his idea or his director’s, but his interpretation was an utter fail.

Well, on that note, I suppose I will pack it in so that I can get myself reading for Hump Day.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo noticed this afternoon the release across teh innertoobs of teh first pics of the newest incarnation of  Doctor Who (the 12th, if you’re keeping track), a fellah named Peter Capaldi (of whom I know nothing).  Here he is, ladies and gentlemen,  your latest incarnation of the baddest of teh Time Lords:


I’ve two things to say about this.  (Well, 2 ½.  The ½ is that the fact that Doctor Who has been on teevee since 1963 is, in itself,  pretty amazing, and I raise a glass in tribute to the Beeb.)

The first thing is that I was a big fan of the Doctor back in the day.  Although I didn’t see much of him, I tipped my hat to Jon Pertwee, who I liked anyway.  (He had a bit-part in one of Robbo’s favorite movies, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.)  However, my “main” or “true” Doctor was, and is always going to be, Tom Baker.  In teh late 70’s of my misspent yoot, teh local PBS affiliate ran the Baker series at (IIRC) 10:00 on Saturday nights, and I very rarely missed them.

I also liked Peter Davidson, Baker’s successor,  mostly because I had enjoyed his portrayal of Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great And Small, but you know?  Davidson’s manifestation occurred in the early 80’s, right about the time girls ceased to be a theoretical issue and instead became a distinct possibility.  So I rayther lost interest in teh franchise about then.

Despite the fact that some people, both on the Innertoobs and in Real Life, seem to think that ol’ Robbo is some kind of SciFi geek, the truth is that I’m really not.  Thinking on this, it occurs to me that what interest I have in the genre is really a kind of memento to the impressions and joys of my childhood and adolescence:  Bill Shatner is, and always will be, James Tiberius Kirk.  Dirk Benedict is, and always will be, Starbuck.  June Lockhart is, and always will be, Maureen Robinson.   And so on.   The upgrades and next generations and reboots and what-all really have no attraction for me because, truth be told,  Grown Up Robbo has no real interest in teh genre as a whole.

Of course, I’m not so old that I can’t say with perfect sincerity that Han Shot First!

So I suppose the first point I’m trying to make is that all of these things, while impinging on cherished childhood memories, don’t make much of an impression on what St. Paul would have called the adult Robbo thinking like an adult Robbo.

Oh, and the second thing? That Capaldi’s pic reminds me of nothing so much as an aged version of George Oscar (“G.O.B.”) Bluth, Jr.’s, magic shtick:

I know, I know.  Heresy.  Send in the Daleks………

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was flipping through teh headlines this morning – which seem to include more statist thuggery than usual – when he came across this little item from the Telegraph:

The Guide to the CBBC Audience outlines gender differences in a section entitled “girls will be girls and boys will be boys.”

It states: “[Girls] have a tendency towards manipulation and can be over emotional. Girls have a keen interest in fashion and enjoy listening to popular music.

“Boys are activity and task focused. Most enjoy achieving goals and completing physical challenges.”

The commissioning guide is put together by the BBC’s Marketing, Communications and Audiences research department to show what CBBC children audience members “care about”, and their interests related to age and gender.

Now I suppose that we are meant to be enraged that such blatant stereotyping still exists in this Brave New World of ours and to demand loudly that the PC Police descend on the Beeb with billy-clubs and handcuffs and frog-march the offending authors off to the reeducation camps.  Me?  I burst out laughing,

Girls over-emotional and manipulative?  G’waaaan, geddoudahere!!  Hey, pull the other one – it’s got bells on it!!  Oh, ha ha ha ha!!!

Ah, me.  I laugh because otherwise I would have to weep.

Speaking of which, the youngest gel is part of a very tight-knit little quartet of friends at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and she’s having them all over for a sleepover tomorrow night in celebration of her recent birthday.   I have to go out and buy a padlock today so I can barricade them all in the basement while I slink away to the farthest possible corner of Port Swiller Manor with my book and my decanter.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter may recall that this past summah’s posting here was dominated largely by ol’ Robbo’s experiences in dealing with the addition of a new covered porch to Port Swiller Manor.  One of the things I wasn’t able to do was to post pictures of said porch in order to illustrate what I was on about, despite the requests of a few of you.

Well, it just so happened that today Mrs. R spotted a couple shots of the work posted on Facebook by the builders in an attempt to drum up more biznay.  (We had said they were welcomed to do so.)  Therefore, in order to satisfy the curiosity of those friends of teh decanter who had previously requested that I do so, and more particularly to show teh Mothe (who has not visited recently), I post said pics for your consideration.  (These were snapped just after construction was completed.  Since then, the grass has mostly grown back in the spots covered with hay.)

Teh first is the long view from the north (clicky for enlargenment):


The second is from the reverse angle, taking in the new patio as well:


Alas, I don’t have any “before” pics on file.  So you’ll have to take my word for how delighted we have been with the upgrade.  Indeed, we have found so far that said porch is a natural point of gravitation in all but the most extreme of weathers.   (We have since put a free-standing fire pit on the patio, where we had hoped to do s’mores this weekend as part of teh youngest’s birthday sleep-over.  Alas, I fear it’s going to be too damn cold.)

The next phase is to do some landscaping in order to hide the boney knees of the support pillars.  One part of me leans toward putting a shrubbery all the way around.  (“NI!”)  The other part suggests some trellises against which to plant some jasmine or honeysuckle, leaving a couple of arched entrances to the space underneath.   Frankly, I’m leaning toward the latter idea.

Also, I’ve hung up a feeder full of nyger seed for the goldfinches on the stair landing, and another full of regular seed outside the door at the top, which you can kinda see if you embiggen the pic.  You can’t see it from this angle because of the camilla, but Robbo’s library window is directly to the left and Robbo’s favorite comfy chair is just inside teh window.  I love to sit there and watch teh birds.

Well, there you have it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is, if nothing else, a creature almost slavishly bound to habit, something readily apparent to anyone of more than minimal acquaintance with me, much less anyone who interacts with me over an extended period of time.

One of my practices, upon my weekday arrival home at Port Swiller Manor somewhere in the seven o’clock neighborhood, is to jump in the shower in order to wash away the day’s accumulated grit and grime.  Indeed, I often think of the hobbits’ bath song from Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring:

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing! 
O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.
O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.
O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!

A noble thing, indeed.  I may mention that, owing to the after-effects of yesterday’s wintry storm, all teh gels and Mrs. R had the day off today.  I may also mention that they are all aware of my evening ablutionary practice.

So imagine my….surprise when, upon returning home this evening, I discovered that teh youngest gel, who had all day to clean herself up, had chosen that very same moment to shower, thereby hogging all the hot water to herself.

My reaction, which involved a peremptory ejection of said gel from her shower coupled with some fairly fruity language arguably was, perhaps, less than charitable.  But I hope that, given teh circumstances, it was at least understandable.


At dinner this evening, the Port Swiller Family fell into a discussion of books of interest to us.

Teh gels seem to be primarily attracted to various teen-lit series that appear to have to do with time travel, mystical powers, otherworldly possession and other fantasy/sci-fi themes.

marquette_and_joliet“Oh,” I said, trying to bring the conversation back to a more reality-based level, “Well, I just finished reading up Parkman’s description of the exploration of the Ohio and Mississippi River basins by the French in the mid-1600’s.  You know, Marquette and Joliet, La Salle? Amazing stuff.”



Falling back, I brought up Rosemary Sutcliff’s series of novels about the last days of Roman influence in Britain and the likely historickal basis of the Arthur legend in the last defenses against the oncoming Saxons.  There’s adventure and romance for you, I said, there’s nobility and the fight for Civilization in the face of barbarous evil.

They immediately started quoting bits from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Double sigh. 


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it looks like the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor may get its first serious snowfall in three years today.  They’ve been bumping up the anticipated totals steadily since yesterday afternoon and are now forecasting anything between 5 and 10 inches.

This storm seems to have caught the wonks on the hop, because prior to yesterday morning nobody was saying anything about snow.

We don’t generally get much out of clippah systems around here, but this one seems to have spawned a secondary low off the coast.  And as I was telling teh Mothe just the other day, those are your big-time white stuff machines in these parts, mistah.

The radar currently (as of about 8:45 a.m.) has the stuff still out in the Shenandoah, but it looks like its headed this way.  True to form, everyone has preemptively closed down, so ol’ Robbo and family will probably spend the day in their pajamas.  (Hmmm….”pajama-blogging”.  That has a certain ring to it.)

Given the timing of the snow – anticipated to be heaviest this afternoon and evening – I’ll bet everything’s shut down tomorrow, too.  Who knows – by that point we might be down to outright cannibalism in order to survive.

One thing I’ll have to think about is a possible name if it gets serious enough.  I know TWC has already dubbed this storm Judy or something like, but that doesn’t count.  We have our own special naming tradition in these parts.  The gigantic blizzard we had about four years ago was dubbed “Snowpocalypse” and the next one after it “Snowmaggedon”.  Then we had a couple of outright duds that got branded “Nopocalypse” and “Snowquester”.

Anyhoo, I may add liveblog updates, assuming I have anything useful to say and the power doesn’t go out – both rayther poor assumptions, btw – so be sure to check back.

UPDATE:  Snow started just after nine and the ground is already covered.  They’s still expecting the worst this afternoon and evening.  I pity anyone trying to make their way home then.  Okay, so I fibbed about the peejay thing.  I can’t stand staying in my peejs once I’m up – either it’s directly throwing on clothes to go work in the yard or else hitting the shower.

UPDATE DEUX (2:05 PM):  Looks like the heavier stuff is starting to kick in as advertised.   I hope that the power doesn’t go out.  Well, actually, I expect the power will go out.  What I hope is that the outage doesn’t last long enough to start Mrs. R agitating to go check into a hotel room.   This sort of thing has happened before, both in frigid cold and blazing heat.  My philosophy is that we should simply hunker down and tough it out as best we can.  Mrs. R does not see things in the same way.

UPDATE TROIS (5:00 PM):  Well, despite the continued parade of plows up and down the street, the Port Swiller mailbox, a traditional target, remains standing.  No doubt they’ll wait until after dark before attacking.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I think Mrs. Robbo has some vague notion that to commemorate Dr. King’s birth, I’m going to spend the afternoon painting the upstairs hall.  Silly Mrs. R!

Just got home from teh grocery store.  We’re expecting maybe half a foot of snow tomorrow, so the place was mobbed with panicky shoppers stocking up on T.P., batteries, bottled water and candles.   Ol’ Robbo drifted up and down the aisles with a gentle smile on his face:  I love this local tradition.  Indeed, it was in honor of it that I originally coined the phrase “Storm of the Century of the Week”.

The gels, even while enjoying today off from school, are, needless to say, already calculating the odds of bagging a snow day tomorrow.  Lazy slugs.  This is why we’re losing the Republic.   In case the power goes out, the Port Swiller Manor larder is stocked with plenty of cans of Spaghetti-O’s, ravioli and other range-top provisions.  When the Middle Gel informed me this morning that she has “issues” with products like these, I simply replied that she could look forward to a slow and agonizing death by starvation then.

Not that I much follow pro football anymore, but it gladdened my heart to see New England eliminated yesterday.  I have long noticed that Bahston sports fans don’t handle success very well.   When the Sawx or the Pats are down, said fans are suitably humble and respectful.  Give them victory, however, and they turn into super king kamaya-maya Massholes.   Same thing with the teams themselves.   And I especially think that Tom Brady is an arrogant prick.

Anyhoo, it is a tradition watch the actual Sooper Bowl at Port Swiller Manor.  I suppose I’ll be rooting for the Broncos, in part because I like Peyton Manning, in part because I dislike the Seahawks.  And why do I dislike them, you may ask?  Well, I will tell you:  In January 2000, when Robbo was still following the Dolphins, they played their hearts out to come from behind and beat Seattle in the wildcard.  The next week, they were still so exhausted by the effort that they got absolutely thrashed by Jacksonville by a score of 62-7.  That thrashing was the great Dan Marino’s last ball game before he retired and I’ve always been saddened that he should end his career on such a down note.  I lay the blame at the feet of the Seahawks.

Well, teh gels are off to see “Frozen” again this afternoon, so ol’ Robbo is going to make himself a cup of tea and settle down to read about the Jesuit martyrs in Canada.  Speaking of movies, I am proud to say that I have not seen a single one on the list of Oscar nominees this year and have no interest in doing so.  Indeed, I’ve never even heard of half of them.   My contempt for so-called “popular culchah” grows ever deeper as I get older.

But then again, if you’re a regular friend of teh decanter, you already knew that.  Cheers!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A few weeks back I noted that I was reading Samuel Eliot Morison’s biography of Christopher Columbus.  In that post, I remarked that Morison’s style reminded me somewhat of the great Francis Parkman.

Ol’ Robbo reads Parkman’s outstanding history of the French and British colonization of North America every couple of years or so with keen relish.  I suppose it was mention of him in the Morison post that got me hankering for another go round, because this week I’ve taken him up again.  So far, the French Huguenot  ventures of the mid 1560’s at what are now Jacksonville, Florida and Parris Island, South Carolina have been wiped out by the implacable Spanish under Mendoza (founder of St. Augustine, Florida) and we are about to turn our attention northward to the doings of the great Champlain.

I bring this up simply to relate a fact that either I did not know before or had forgotten – that Parkman was cousins with Robert Gould Shaw, the hero of the 54th Massachusetts at Battery Wagner.  (Parkman dedicated  his France and England in North America to Shaw and two other kinsmen killed in the Civil War.)   A little googling shows that this is hardly surprising, as they both came out of the same Boston Brahmin set, all of whom were linked by blood or marriage to each other one way or another.

I throw this out because, well, because this is my blog.


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January 2014