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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo and the younger gels flew down to Flahr’duh to visit grandparents this morning, leaving Self and the eldest to bach it for a few days here at Port Swiller Manor.  So eldest and I headed over to the local diner to grab some breakfast.

I recall that whenever I used to take one of the gels out to eat when they were younger, I would often intercept looks from people that in effect said, “Oh, must be his visiting weekend.  Mmmm, hmmm.  Wonder where he’s stashed the home-wrecker honey while seeing his kids, the sum’bitch.”

For some reason, I didn’t get that vibe this morning.  Is there less of a psychological instinct to pigeonhole ol’ Dad when he’s out with an older kid?  Have we become that much more permissive in the last ten years that nobody gives a damn anymore?  Is it possible some people might have thought the gel was the home-wrecker honey?  I don’t know.

Anyhoo, we talked mostly about politicks and current events, in which the gel is starting to take more and more interest.  (She’ll be able to vote in the next Presidential, which is a scary thought.)  Suffice to say, I don’t think the gel is going to join the Army of Julias any time soon.  Her summary comment was, “Gee, Dad, I wish I had grown up in the 80’s like you.”

Yeah, so do I.

UPDATE:  Despite the fact that there’s still talk of snow next Tuesday, it’s a very nice day here today and I was able to get out and continue with some of my early-early-spring cleanup, this time pruning the climbing rose by the front door.   Over the years, the thing has got to be very tall, now reaching up two stories and overtopping the gutters.  I really ought to whack it back by about a third or so but decided to let it go one more season, just lopping off the visibly dead canes (of which there were surprisingly few).

This rose, which is on a southwest-facing wall, always does spectacularly well in the spring, erupting in mounds and mounds of dark red flowers.  Alas, by mid-summah, it almost always gets sulky because of the heat and starts shedding leaves.  By Halloween, it invariably provokes snarky comments from the gels about haunted house decorations.

Ancient Roman Fresco Painting of Flora Picking FlowersGreetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Spring!

Regular friends of the decanter and former camelidophiles will know that ol’ Robbo is in the habit of regularly posting this ancient Roman fresco of Flora picking flowers on the first official day of Spring.   I have always found it to be a particularly delightful work of art, the Goddess lovingly portrayed in a graceful, dignified and yet uplifting manner, and a source of hope and inspiration.

Well, I wish that this year ol’ Flora would drop the bouquet and devote her divine powers to putting her knee to Snow Miser’s groin, as he’s  really outstayed his welcome.  We already had a mid-March snowstorm this week and now the weather-wallahs are making noise about the possibility of another one next week.  This week’s seems to have been dubbed Snow Patrick’s.  Will next Tuesday’s predicted event be dubbed the Snownunciation?   (Somehow, I doubt it, but a Catholic geek can always hope.)

Anyhoo, I know that friends of the decanter in more northerly climbs than mine will only chuckle at my frustration, but of course these things are all a matter of scale and expectation.   (Remember, I grew up in South Texas.  By this time of year down there, I’d already be sweating.)  And frankly, the mid-Atlantic in mid-March should not be experiencing the same kind of weather as teh Mothe normally gets at this time of year in Mid-Coast Maine.    It just ain’t right!

Damn you, Algore! Damn you to heeeelllll!!!!!!


On a somewhat related note, teh Middle Gel has bagged herself a ticket to go see a concert next week by an outfit I’d never heard of called  The Piano Guys.  This evening, as an example of their output, she showed me their mash-up of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with “Let It Go” from the recent Disney movie “Frozen”:

Weyeell,  I frankly think that the crossover from the one work to the other is a bit, erm, jarring.  And I, personally, would  have preferred  to take the Vivaldi neat.  On the other hand, who am I to criticize at 14 year old these days whose tastes aren’t of the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-yo-yo-yo-dawgz n’ beyotches variety?

However, while watching the video together, I was reminded suddenly of a yootoob I had seen several times of the third movement of ol’ Antonio’s flute concerto “The Goldfinch”, RV 428*.  I could not immediately find it but promised teh gel that I would do so this evening and post it here for her pleasure.  And here it is:

I hope teh gel takes me up on this and actually watches the durn thing.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo is something  of a purist himself when it comes to art musick, disdaining “multi-media” stunts to get people interested in it, but I can’t deny that this is an excellent performance.

* There’s an old joke about Vivaldi in musick geek circles.  We have a catalogue of approximately 500 concerti credited to him.  The joke goes that he really only wrote two but that he wrote each one 250 times.  N’yuk, n’yuk.n’yuk.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friend of the decanter Diane dropped a comment linking to a story this week about a recent minor kerfluffle between Robbo’s beloved Nationals and the FAA over the former’s use of unlicensed drones to snap pics of their spring training games.

I’d seen this story myself and I guess my first reaction was bemusement over the Nats’ droll, “Yes, it’s true…This man has no dick” response.

My broader feeling about drone technology is still evolving and is colored primarily by my general distrust of centralized control and oversight.  On the one hand, I can see the immense advantages in a military or defense setting of having such devices spying out enemy positions or going in first to analyze bombs or booby-traps.  On the other, I am troubled by their potential applications in domestic, civilian scenarios.

I suppose my initial attitude with respect to the latter is this:  If people want, on a private basis, to survey their spring training (as in the above case) or their delivery routes or whatever else, well then fine.   However, if teh Gubmint wants to drone someone or something for its own purposes, I want to see that warrant and I want to see it well in advance.

More generally, I want a clear understanding that drones, purposed for whatever use, are fair targets.  If I see one of those things hovering outside the front door of Port Swiller Manor, whether in service of Amazon or the IRS,  I have every right to dash inside, grab a 12-guage, run back out and blast that thing out of the sky.  Period.   Pure assumption of the risk on the part of those who want to employ ’em.

Heh.  Pre-21st Century:  “Git off’n my lawn!”

21st Century and beyond:  “Git out’n my airspace!”

latticeGood news, everyone!

According to the devil’s website home office, my order of lattice panels for stringing up the jasmine and clematis under teh porch is on its way and should be here within the next two weeks!

Yeah, buying garden supplies from Amazon.  Is there nothing they don’t sell?  Frankly, I don’t much understand the anti-monopolistic bed-wetting I read about their omnipresence.  Almost all of the books I buy from them are “remaindered” stock from local sellers hither and yon.  And when I buy other stuff like, oh, ten-packs of 4 x 8 yellow-pine lattice panels, their ultimate source is some local outfit (in this case, a lumber supplier down around Raleigh).   So Amazon is really more of an aggregator of products than anything else.  Why is this bad?

Aaaanyhoo,  here’s why I post about this.  I ask those of you gathered ’round the decanter:  What is the best method for nailing up lattice?  Should one drive in flat-headed nails in the nooks and crannies at the far corners of  the lathes, spread-eagling them as it were to the foundation, or should one drill directly into the lathes themselves?  I’m guessing the former, but I have no experience in these matters.

Any pro-tips wood, ah, be appreciated.

UPDATE:  Thankee to our commenters.  I was drifting in that direction and am glad of the confirmatory trend.   The panels are 8×4 and made of 3/4″ thick pine, so they’re already pretty hefty in and of themselves.  Toss some (hopefully) thick vine on them and they’re going to need the full-bore anchorage.  Pre-drill and screws it is.  (Also, how far along do you space the mounts?  I’m thinking that with sufficiently deep screws, every two feet would be ample.)

Now my bleg:  I’m really not much of a power tools guy and only have one old, dead Black & Decker electric drill with “so-called” rechargeable battery-packs which, in reality, are nothing of the sort, so I find myself in the market for a new drill.  As I say, I don’t do that much work with such tools, so I don’t think I’m looking for a lifetime relationship.  Also, I’ve no objection to extended electric cords, as opposed to batteries.   Any recommendations of a cheap and sturdy nature?  They’d be greatly appreciated.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

O-fficial Word got about this afternoon that Disney is in the process of putting together a sequel to the Pixar classic, “The Incredibles”.  I haven’t seen any substantive details except that the second installment is being written by Brad Bird, who helmed the first.

To quote a recurring line from another line of films recently acquired by Disney, I’ve got a baaaaad feeling about this.

Why?  Well, two reasons.  First, a general gripe.  Sequels (and their cousins, remakes) signal to me a cynical desire to pull more golden eggs out of the same goose combined with an admission of imaginative defeat.   Hollywood, unable to come up with any really new ideas, hits on the solution of repackaging the old ones.  Yes, you can throw “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Toy Story 2” at me in refutation of the latter part of the formula.  And you’d be right about them and other individual examples.  But the exception doesn’t disprove the rule, the examples of which I could site being Legion.  However, as this is a more generic grumble, it’s not quite so heartfelt, and if this was my only objection, I’d probably just shrug and say p’ffft.  (Well, I might kick the cat, too.  But that wouldn’t really be going out of my way.)

However, in this specific case I have to ask: Are you kidding me?  “The Incredibles” was an almost pitch-perfect film about the strength of the family bond holding out against the buffets of parental midlife crisis,  the blitzkrieg of adolescence and assault from the outside world.  (Buh-leave me, I know exactly what I’m talking about here.  In re the second element, I get teary at that scene of Violet coming to grips with herself in the cave every time I see it.)  It was also a glorious celebration of individual talent and merit, a refutation of corporate-think  and a take-down of the politicks of envy.

But the movie was made in 2004.  Since then, in case anyone has failed to notice, Syndrome actually won!  I’m not naming any names here, but read the headlines and for ten points spot the fly-weight, delusional narcissist hell-bent on imposing his ersatz vision of teh “super” on the land.  Go ahead.  I can wait.   Under these conditions, aided and abetted by Hollywood itself, how on earth could a sequel maintain the spirit that made the original so great?

In just the ten years since the original came out, the drift of the so-called “Popular Culchah” toward the brink of the the nihilist abyss has accelerated into something equivalent to “Ramming speed!”  While it’s a relatively minor concern in comparison to the broader implications of this headlong plunge, I very much fear that any new story about the Family Parr will get swept over the brink with it.

Better, in my opinion, to leave the original unsullied.

Greetings, me fellow port swillers, and a happy St. Patty’s Day to ye!

Well, ol’ Ma Nature has delivered yet again, dumping (as reported by the NWS) something like 7 inches of snow in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor and, of course, bringing  Your Nation’s Capital to a screeching halt once more.  At the moment, I’m loitering around waiting for her to finish up so that I can go out and get cracking on the driveway, after which I intend to spend the afternoon gently dozing in front of the fire in well-earned sloth.

This is the first big late season storm we’ve had in ages, as I ought to know.  For one thing, the Eldest Gel turns sixteen this week (YIKES!) and  weather has never been an issue round about the time of her birthday before.  Also, I happen to remember the last mid-March blizzard (in 1993) because I was moving from one apartment to another that weekend in anticipation of my June wedding to Mrs. R.  When you have to haul heavy boxes around in the snow, it tends to stick with you, even if you have as porous and fluffy a memory as I do.

So anyway, here we are.

I was musing this morning on the bizarre transmogrification of the Feast of St. Patrick into the modern, secular “holiday” which seems to have no other function than to give  people an excuse to get blotto and to provide a forum for vicious public spats over whether Gay Pride groups should march in parades.   Of course, many of our major modern holidays are similar corruptions of Church originals, but at least with most of the rest of them there is still recognizable some faint image of their religious intent and meaning.   For the vast majority, St. Patty’s seems to me simply an excuse for self-indulgence, no matter how much green one is wearing.


Then, of course, there’s the whole leprechaun biznay.   If you’re looking for an example of the real Irish attitude toward the Little People and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, may I recommend to you a short story of Patrick O’Brian (yes, of Aubrey/Maturin fame) entitled “The Happy Despatch”?  It’s part of a collection called The Rendevous and Other Stories, all of which I would recommend and, without giving anything away, is really quite terrifying.

Well, it appears looking out the window that Ma is just about done, so I suppose it’s time to get dressed and get busy.

UPDATE:  Well, it was closer to 4 inches than 7 on Robbo’s driveway, so shoveling didn’t take that much time after all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t care that it’s going to snow again tomorrow night.  (Actually, I do care.  I just can’t do anything about it.)  The fact is that it was a bee-ootiful day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor and I was able to get out and get to work on some early spring projects.

First, per my ongoing jasmine-posting, I went out and measured the space under the porch for lattice installation.  (I’m actually getting rather excited about this project.)  I then went and ordered some 4X8 panels which should be here in a week or two.  Once I’ve nailed them up, I’ll probably put some framing around them just to make them look nice and neat.   By then, I also reckon that I can go ahead and plant the vines.  I can always cover them up in case of any late-season frosts, I suppose.

Then, I went and cut back the clematis on the wall by the garage.  It’s already starting to show a few buds and I wanted to clear out all the dead stuff before it starts its growth spurt.  Last year it got hit pretty badly by spider-mites so I also had a lot of cobwebs to get rid of.  Anybody know a good spider-mite preventer/eliminator?  (By the way, in addition to the jasmine I’m putting in on the porch front, I’ve decided I’m going to plant some more clematis on the patio side, the deer be damned.)

Having spent a solid hour on these tasks, I then went and threw myself in teh hammock and alternately read Chesterton’s biography of St. Thomas Aquinas and watched the kittehs drooling at the birds on the feeders.  (By the way, the goldfinch are starting to show their summah plumage, so spring really can’t be all that far away, right?)

So that was that.  I can’t remember being this impatient for spring weathah before, so I’m trying to take full advantage of even these little teasers.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Trouble Last evening, ol’ Robbo watched a movie which, if you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path, you might consider tossing into your Netflix queue, “Trouble Along The Way” (1953).  The movie stars John Wayne (yes, the Dook) as Steve Williams, a once-great-but-now-down-on-his-luck college football coach hired by Father Burke (played nicely by Charles Coburn), head of a small and failing Catholic college, who gets the idea that if he can field a good football team, he might generate some doubloons and save dear old St. Anthony’s  from being kiboshed by the Diocese.   (In a way, then, this flick is somewhat akin to both “Horsefeathers” and “The Blues Brothers”.  Good company, that.)   Because he sincerely wants the Padre’s scheme to succeed, Steve uses every recruiting trick he can think of – legal and illegal – to turn St. Anthony’s squad into world-beaters.  (Chuck Connors is one of Steve’s coaching minions.)  Trouble ensues.

Steve lives with his 11-year old daughter/sidekick Carol (Sherry Jackson), only issue of Steve and his ex-wife Anne (Marie Windsor) on whom Steve had walked out five years previously after leaving an elite game early only to catch her hootchie-cooching in his bower with some high-end toff.    As the film opens, Anne has just unleashed the long arm of the law on Steve in the person of Alice Singleton (Donna Reed), a Probation Court investigator determined to prise Carol out of Steve’s loving arms because, on first impression, she thinks Steve is a bum and  a bad influence.   More trouble ensues.

While not the greatest movie ever made, “TATW” is really not bad.  A lot of people make the mistake of dismissing the Dook as a real “actor” because a) of his politics, and b) they’ve only caught snippets of him costumed either as a cowboy or a soldier.  Fact of the matter is, his range was a lot greater and more subtle than such people might imagine, and here he really had the opportunity to show a side that you won’t normally see in the standard western or war flick.  He used it, too.  His interactions with little Carol were especially endearing and his approach to Father Burke and the other priests was both reverent and dignified, while at the same time preserving a certain worldly knowingness.

I may say, by the bye  that, overall, the film is very respectful of HMC and whoever wrote it knew exactly what he was about in terms of the Mass, Church politicks and the bailing-wire-and-bubble-gum plight of so many Church -affiliated places of learning.  I couldn’t help wondering if making this film had anything at all to do with the Dook’s later conversion to Catholicism.  Why not?  Alec Guinness has said that his swimming of the Tiber was influenced, at least in part, by the work he did filming Father Brown.

Anyhoo, I say not the greatest because this film definitely has its weaknesses.  The character development is rather uneven. (Anne is such a two-dimensional villainess that you practically need a razor blade to scrape her character off the screen.)  The plot gets somewhat wobbly here and there.  (Why Steve chucks big-time college ball because of Anne’s infidelity in the first place escaped me.)  And Donna Reed was….well, a disappointment.  Don’t get me wrong – Ol’ Robbo has always been a fan of The Donna.  Here, though, she starts out as a clueless and bloodless bureaucratic busybody (I, ah, am familiar with the type (heh)) but, to me, never really warms up under the Dook’s sunny smile the way I think she might have done.  I was left wondering what Steve really could have seen in her, apart from a nice pair of legs.

Eh, not a deal-breaker, but this isn’t exactly a film I’d want to watch over and over again.  Still, as I say, worth a dekko.

trouble 2One other thing about Sherry Williams, who played Carol.  She was quite endearing here, both in her loving joshing of Steve and in her wretched miserableness at being forced to miss St. Anthony’s opener at the Polo Grounds and instead being dragged off to Evil Anne’s apartment for some high-end bacchanal.   11 y.o. herself at the time, Williams reminded me rayther of my own youngest gel in both spunk and looks.  Although my own gel has almost dramatically larger eyes and a somewhat leaner face, there is definitely a certain resemblance. ===>

Looking Williams up on IMDB, I found that this role was one of the first of many over the course of her career.  She apparently specialized mostly in “guest” appearances on various tee-vee series and seems to have hit all the major ones from the 50’s through the early 80’s, including “The Rifleman”. “Maverick”, “The Twilight Zone”, “Gunsmoke”, “Perry Mason”, “Gomer Pyle”, “My Three Sons”, “Batman”, “The Wild, Wild West”,  “The Rockford Files”, “Starsky and Hutch”, “Barnaby Jones”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Alice”, “Charlie’s Angels” and “CHiPs”.  In other words, barring “The Love Boat”, “The A-Team” and “The Dukes of Hazzard”, damn near every series that formed ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot.

"You call THAT the 'Captain's Log'?"

“You call THAT the ‘Captain’s Log’?”

Oh, I almost forgot, she also had a (to me, at any rate) very memorable gig as one of the myriad space babes in “Star Trek: TOS”.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that I recently mentioned the purchase of some confederate jasmine to plant along the bottom face of the back porch this spring?  In an update to that post, I mentioned that I had found a nursery down in Georgia (the Nursery at Ty Ty, as a matter of fact) that sold the stuff and had placed an order.  In doing so, I somehow had a dreamy idea that I had only set the preliminaries in motion and that it would be some time before I had to worry about the actual doings.

Well, so much for that.  The damned things appeared on the doorstep of Port Swiller Manor yesterday.  Four plants, bare-roots with long tendrils, wrapped up in water-soaked Reynold’s Wrap.  All very well, but it’s a good month until I can even think about putting them in the ground even in normal conditions.  What with Algore’s current reign of GlowBull Worming, God alone knows when it will be safe this year.  And so, the first gardening panic of the season occurred:  What to do with the bodies?  I hastily had to scrounge four pots to stick them in, while sending Mrs. R to pick up a couple bags of potting soil.  She did, but the bags have been outside down the local hardware store, and it’s going to be at least 24 hours until they thaw out enough to be of use.

In the meantime, the plants, still bundled in their Reynold’s Wrap, sit in one of the pots, watching me even as I type this.  I must say that they are fine, hardy-looking vines, very tough,  woody and grasping.  One gets the impression that once they get themselves established, it’ll take nothing short of napalm to get rid of them.  This is, to me, a Good Thing.

And speaking of establishing, I have been surfing around the innertoobs looking for suitable trellises on which said jasmine can climb up.  What with the dimensions and elevations of the space with which I am dealing, so far I have not found any ready-made products that seem to suit.   (See the link above.  My idea is to cover over the three central pillars and leave arcades on either side but covering the corners.)  It was only this evening that the thought occurred to ol’ Robbo:  Why not just build them yourself?  After all, a trellis is really nothing more than a frame with mitered lathes criss-crossed inside it, right?  How hard can that be?

Can we fix it?  Yes, we can! (Um, I hope….)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo hopes that he will be able to get this post up but fears that Ma Nature may put the kybosh on it.¹  Even though it was balmy enough for softball practice a mere 24 hours ago, at the moment the wind is howling something fierce, the temperature is plummeting and already the power to Port Swiller Manor has flickered off and on a couple times.  But that’s the Great Commonwealth of Virginny in March for you, a true psychopath, meteorologically-speaking.

Proscribed.  Sorry, old girl.

Proscribed. Sorry, old girl.

Anyhoo, the latest issue of the alumni magazine from the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT arrived in the Port Swiller Manor mailbox t’other day.  Idly flipping through it, and also mindful of the launch this week of a new movement to ban the use of the word “bossy” when speaking of girls (said to have been masterminded by friends of She Who Must Not Be Named in anticipation of a presidential run in ’16, although I can’t imagine why), a sobering thought again occurred to me.

You see, the ol’ rag is full of the same sort of Progressivist twaddle I dealt with on campus thirty-odd years ago: the lockstep and jackbooted faux “diversity”, the Orwellian interpretation of “tolerance”, the abandonment of common sense and practical experience regarding human nature, the loathing of Western Civilization,  the willful ignorance of real history in favor of customized personal constructs, the faculty-lounge Marxism.

Once I got over my initial shock in encountering all of this as a freshman (Ed. – That’s freshperson, hater),   I actually didn’t mind it so much.  Constantly arguing against it was kinda fun and actually made me a much better debater because it forced me to dig deeper into the roots of my own beliefs.  Plus, returning to the world of sanity during holidays and sunmahs, I told myself that it was all just a load of idjit college kid bullshite that my fellow students would jettison once they had to go out in the Real World and actually work for a living.

Now, however, it seems I mislead myself.   What was then just the bloviations of a bunch of spoiled-brat campus radicals has somehow become the ethos of the land.   Hence the above-referenced exercise in linguistic coercion.   They used to say that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged by reality.  I still believe this to be by and large correct.  However, through a series of historickal accidents too complicated to suss out here, the present batch of ex-campus rads holding the levers of power have been shielded so far from the said enlightening mugging.  Unfortunately, this means that the Hurt, when it comes (and it WILL come – Oh, Yes, it will), is going to be all that much more vengeful for having been denied for so long.  And I’m afraid we’re all going to suffer for it.

As for the “bossy” thing itself?  Pffft.   The argument of the campaign, from what little attention I’ve spared it, seems to be that to call a female person “bossy” is to attack her leadership qualities, unfairly smearing them with such a pejorative adjective in an attempt to push her back toward barefoot n’ pregnant status.

In the first place, I can tell you from firsthand experience and observation that there’s a world of difference between a “bossy” woman and a woman who actually leads, and that to conflate the two is a willfully false exercise designed to do nothing more than provide politically-correct shielding for a certain screeching harridan who still must not be named.    (And to the argument that nobody ever says, “John is a really bossy vice-president,” I would answer, “True: what we say is, “John is a real a-hole.”)**

In the second place, couching this thing as some kind of brave stance against the “War on Girlzz” (as the campaign photos seem to suggest) is a piece of exploitative cynicism beneath contempt, and as the father of three girls myself, whose lives I am trying desperately to keep from being politicized and therefore ruined, I spit on it.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go get a glass of milk.

¹Of course, if you’re actually reading this, then I suppose my fears will have been groundless.

**UPDATE:  I just remembered the exchange from that most excellent movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, that was floating around at the back of my mind as I typed this:

Bill:  You ditched Napoleon?  Deacon, do you realized you’ve stranded one of history’s greatest leaders?

Deacon:  He was a dick!

So there you go.


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