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Well, friends of the decanter, ol’ Robbo will be knocking off posting (among other things) until after Easter Day, the better to focus on Higher Matters.

After Palm Sunday Mass tomorrow, we will be toddling down to the National Cathedral to hear the Middle Gel perform Bach’s St. John Passion.  (I met her for lunch between rehearsals today and caught the first part of the afternoon session.  Exquisite.)

This year I also intend to do the full Tenebrae and Paschal Triduum.  And by great fortune, I was able to arrange so that I can go to the Easter Vigil Mass this year, having had to miss it for other commitments the past couple years.

So all in all, it’s going to be a mighty full week.  Hope you all have a blessed one.

I’ll see you all on the other side.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening while I was chatting with the Eldest Gel, she said apropos her new driving privileges, “Now that I’m seventeen, I can see any movie I want!”

“No you can’t,” I replied, “Legally you can see R-rated movies now, but just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right and I don’t want you filling yourself up on a lot the trash that’s out there these days.  It rots the soul.  You know my standards:  If I find out you’ve snuck off to something inappropriate, I’ll take your keys.”

She looked at me like Cortez’s men with a wild surmise for a few moments, and then went into her latest rant to the effect that she believes I’m really a vampire born in the 18th Century who refuses to conform to the modern world.

Well, it’s certainly a theory……


Greetings, my fellow port swillers! Teh Vic ought to get a particular chuckle out of this one:

Seems teh Eldest Gel recently was showing pics of me to some of her friends.  One of them said, “Oh, I don’t think he likes me very much.”

“Why not?” responded teh Gel.

“Well,” said the friend, “When we met, I kinda think he gave me the fish-eye.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” said teh Gel.  “He does that to everybody.”

Yes, yes I do.  Problem?


The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of the Annunciation!

Ol’ Robbo is going with this rendition of the Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898) this year because he recently reread C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy and Tanner’s image of an angelic presence closely matches Lewis’s descriptions of the same thing.  (I’m guessing Lewis probably saw it.  As a general matter, angels are not cute n’ cuddly, but tend to scare the daylights out of people when they come visiting.)

I was wondering today why the Annunciation is not a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church (and, apparently, never has been).  The Immaculate Conception is, as is the Assumption of the Virgin, but arguably today, the day of the great “Yes”, is far more important theologically than either of those days:

  And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

-Luke, 1:26-38 (KJV – Yes, I swam the Tiber but I still appreciate the beauty of the language so deal with it.)

My question is completely honest, by the way, and is not meant to be snarky or flippant.

Incidentally, it was only a few years ago that I came to realize the significance of J.R.R. Tolkien placing the destruction of the Ring and the downfall of Sauron on March 25.  If I recall correctly, my exact response was, “Oooooooooooh…..”

Relatedly, ol’ Robbo has had a very good Lent so far.  I have been less concerned with denials (which I will focus on during Holy Week) and more concerned with reflection and really feel that I’ve dug deeper into the Faith, particularly with respect to the matter of charity.  I don’t believe I posted it here, but I had a dream a week or two ago in which I was surrounded by a group of utterly selfless people and was keenly aware of my own shortcomings compared to them.  I woke up with both the shame of this comparison and the resolve to do something about it.  I like to think I’m already making a bit of progress.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Making his way home this evening, ol’ Robbo had his first encounter of the season with the dreaded Dee Cee bike-cab fleet.

I have ranted often here about the arrogance and lawlessness of the cyclists who plague the streets of Your Nation’s Capital, but these bike-cab wallahs are in a class of their own.

Singleton cyclists zing in and out of traffic, hog lanes and obey signs and signals only if they feel like it, but at least they (usually) keep moving  at some speed (although I still hate them).

These taxi folks, on the other hand, represent a cadre of rolling roadblocks, taking up entire lanes in the middle of rush hour, plodding along at a stately 5 mph and causing a whole series of mind-boggling jams and mergers as commuters try to get clear of them.  (Insider baseball here: This evening’s mark was on Constitution heading west and cut straight across the turn off to Virginia just after I managed to get round him.  You can imagine the results.)

I make a point of glaring as I work my way around these people, but I’m afraid the effect is lost, given that I usually wear sunglasses while driving.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me make this very clear:  The “t” in “often” is silent.  Silent, as in not spoken.

Offen.  Not Off-ten.


Thank you.

UPDATE:  I should have cited no less an authority than the great Sir W. S. Gilbert to back me up.  Quote:

Gen. Stanley (aside): Hah! An idea! (Aloud.) And do you mean to say that you would deliberately rob me of these, the sole remaining props of my old age, and leave me to go through the remainder of my life unfriended, unprotected, and alone ?

Pirate King: Well, yes, that’s the idea.

Gen.: Tell me, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?

Pirates (disgusted): Oh, dash it all!

King: Here we are again!

Gen.: I ask you, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?

King: Often!

Gen.: Yes, orphan. Have you ever known what it is to be one?

King: I say, often.

All (disgusted): Often, often, OFTEN!

Gen: Eh, ah, I don’t think we quite understand one another.  When you said “orphan,” did you mean “orphan ” — a person who has lost his parents, or “often ” — frequently ?

King:  Ah! I beg pardon — I see what you mean — frequently.

Gen.: Ah! you said often — frequently.

King:  No! Only once.

Gen.:  Exactly! You said often, frequently, only once.

The Pirates of Penzance, Act I, Scene somewhere toward the end.   It’s a cheap joke, but it simply wouldn’t work if there was a “t” sound in “often”.   So there.

Funny PortOl’ Robbo hadn’t checked the port-swiller email account for a long, long time, in part because it filled last summah with musick and religion spam, in part because I forgot all about it and in part because it took me a long time to recall the password once I remembered the account.

Well, I just overcame all that and clapped eyes on some very important stuff for the first time, some of it months old – those of you who sent it will know who you are and (I hope) now understand why I didn’t respond earlier.  I’m not a calloused jerk, just a bit of a doofus.

Again, my apologies and I promise to be more diligent in the future!

primaveraGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s the first full day of Spring 2015, and ol’ Robbo would love to be out in the grounds this morning doing yard work.  However, it’s still awfully soggy out there from yesterday’s snow and it’s still pretty chilly and Robbo isn’t quite the young man he used to be, so instead I am parked in front of the keyboard with a cup of kawfee.  (I am looking out the window, however.)

♦   Speaking of kawfee, the G-Man has an excellent take on Starbucks’ plan to have its baristas hector their customers over race relations.  (I don’t much go to Starbucks anymore because of the cost.)  As Jonah correctly notes, it’s not the subject matter itself but instead the creeping politicization of every corner of public life, something I have been bewailing for years.  (Who was it who talked about the fundamental right just to be left alone?)  Anyhoo, for all the publicity,  I’m guessing that any actual attempts to indoctrinate caffeine-starved customers at seven ack emma will go…..poorly.

♦   And speaking of indoctrination, when She Who Must Not Be Named starts talking about adult camps – even if she’s joking, even if she says “fun” camps, even if she’s just drunk – I get a cold, cold chill down my spine.

♦  Speaking of spring, I should note again that this is a March Madness-Free Blog®.  I’ve no interest in basketball, whatsoever.  And while I can understand the whole school spirit thing, my education was all at Division III institutions (NESCAC and ODAC) and it just isn’t the same thing.

♦   OTOH, I didn’t realize until the other day that this is the 10th season of Robbo’s Beloved Nats in Dee Cee.  Where does the time go?

♦  Oh, speaking of schools, may I trumpet here the fact that my nephew has just been accepted to Virginia Tech?  I don’t know if he’s going, since it’s damned expensive for out-of-staters and he has another program lined up also, but I’m still pretty proud of him.

♦   And speaking of school,  I have managed to convince the Eldest that Woodrow Wilson was personally responsible for the disastrous end of WWI and the rise of both Lenin and the Communists, and Hitler and the Nazis.   I think my work is done here.

♦  Reread GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday this week.  This has to be the single craziest adventure story I know.  And I love it.

♦  Speaking of reading, got a subscription plea in the mail this week from “Teen Vogue”.  Gawd.  It was addressed to “Miss To The Port Swiller Family”, came in a violently pink envelope and even promised a student discount.  Thanks, but no.

♦   Also got a solicitation from the local publick teevee station threatening that if I don’t slip it some coin, it won’t be able to bring All New Episodes of Downton Abbey.  Well, I’ve never watched it, nor do I intend to, so this would be no great loss.   Back in my misspent yoot, I used to love period dramas, but what with all of the rampant politicization going on these days (which see above), I simply don’t trust ’em for historickal accuracy anymore.

♦  OH! Speaking of art and history, do not forget that today is the 330th anniversary of the birth of the Greatest Musickal Genius of all time!  Be sure and listen to some of his output today if you can.  (Teh Middle Gel and her cohort are in the middle of rehearsals for a presentation of his St. John Passion down the Cathedral next weekend.)

Well, I hear the stirring of various gels, so I suppose I ought to leave off here and go reassert my paternalistic hegemony.  Or something.

UPDATE:  Mid-afternoon and sunny.  I went out and discovered new growth buds all over the clematis on the side of the garage. (It faces southwest and is sheltered, and thus is always the first thing to get busy in springtime.)  Happy, happy, happy!

Speaking of signs of spring, I see that Scott’s is starting to run their grass-seed/feed ads.  I don’t mind the Scots fellah they use, but it’s too bad they couldn’t have done a deal with Groundskeeper Willie:

UPDATE DEUX:  Looks like all the foundation plants we put in out front last summah after repairs to teh flooded basement also made it.  And my climbing rose by the front door is about ready to explode.  It’s an improved Blaze, and after it was done blooming last summah I cut it back to about four feet or so.  It seemed to like this and I even got a few second-growth flowers.

UPDATE TROIS:  Wow – We have a knockout rose in a bucket inside a large ceramic pot on the upstairs landing to the back porch that I thought was absolute toast this winter, being in such an exposed position.  It’s taken some battle damage, but the thing’s actually got growth buds on it.

UPDATE QUATRE:  Juuust warm enough to have dinner on the porch in celebration of the day.   Very nice.

save sweet briarGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies to those two or three of you who come together over the decanter for the silence this week.  Once I recovered from Monday, I found myself occupied with other matters and somehow just couldn’t make it to the keyboard in the evenings.

Anyhoo, the main topic of interest round here continues to be the fight to save our beloved Sweet Briar College.  Of note, the campaign is now sufficiently organized that they are able to take actual donations of moolah instead of just pledges.  (Port Swiller Manor has tossed in some coin, probably more than we can afford.  But as somebody pointed out, if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not really charity.)  Also, the majority of the faculty have now openly sided with the Rebel Alliance. 

In the meantime, a couple of interesting articles appeared on the innertoobs this week, the one penned by Jan Sheets Jones ’69, wife of Interim President Jim Jones, the other a post-bombshell interview with a Lynchburg paper by Dr. Jones himself.

First, Mrs. Jones’ screed (which appeared on a class web page but which, so I’m told, she attempted to remove, ha ha ha), which in addition to serving up the usual (and mostly false) Talking Points of Doom used to justify the closure, also demonstrates that public relations is not exactly her forte.  A snippet about us Rebel Scum:

If you have email, are on Facebook and/or have attended one of the recent regional alumnae gatherings, you know there is a movement afoot called #savesweetbriar. It is a small movement making a great deal of noise about nothing more than trying to block this closure. The group has no “vision statement,” and there is no consensus about how to change Sweet Briar College so that it will be a financially viable institution in today’s world. Their words and actions have become very ugly, spiteful, and irrational. They are ready to “fight” and haven’t yet realized that the Directors and current Administration are NOT the enemies. The “enemies” are intractable historical forces in American higher education that have now been working against schools like our beloved Sweet Briar for a half of a century.

Note to Mrs. J: “Eff You!” is shorter and tighter.  (When Mrs. R first read that bit to me over the phone, I blurted out (in words not really politick to my office), “Goddam hippies!”)

Dr. Jones, on the other hand, is far more of a politician:

Q: What was your reaction to finding out that there are two former members of the Sweet Briar College Board that are now members of the Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board? [They left in May and June, respectively]. They obviously came to different conclusions than you did.

Jones: “I will respect their innate rights to state anything they wish. As someone who has been running schools for a very long time, I just do not see how the sustainability of the college is even a question. … I’m surprised that people, I think, with a good sense of the data, could come to the conclusion that there is a way on this earth to save this dear old school, but I do not think there is.”

See, that’s how you present the iron fist in a glove full of Vaseline (to quote Thomas Dolby).  On the other hand, he refers to SBC as “this dear old school”, but earlier in the interview he confesses that he hadn’t even ever thought about the place between the time his wife was a student there and the time he came aboard.  Similarly, depending on which answer you read, he either thought about closing from the beginning or was surprised by the idea right at the end; either took the decision himself or left it to the board; and either did or did not discuss merger or absorption with more or fewer other schools and it’s none of your damned business anyway.

So here we are.  Rumor says that the Rebel Alliance is going to file court papers in the very near future seeking an injunction to stop the closure. Meanwhile, there is a growing demand that the current board be removed (which see the pic above) and a new one put in place.  And although there has been much emphasis among the Rebels to keep the tone professional and positive, I don’t think you would have to probe anyone’s mind very far before you reached a vision involving the Joneses, tar, feathers and some required assembly.

In the meantime, what else is there to say except




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today proved to be an unusually bad Monday here at Port Swiller Manor, as I found myself jerked out of the dreamless in the middle of the night by the Middle Gel, who was doubled over in pain.

A bleary drive to the emergency room and hours of sitting around between tests later, the docs pronounced that it was probably a kidney stone.

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my posting here before about the Eldest Gel suffering from the same condition.  To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, to have one nephrolith-ridden child, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks like carelessness.

And now, if you will indulge me, I’m going back to bed.  (Yawn.)

UPDATE:  D’OH! It just got worse.  I’m resigning from the board of St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and I just now remembered that tonight is the dinner at which they officially cut me loose.  I wasn’t much looking forward to the thing anyway (I grow more reclusive as I age), but in my semi-zombie state it’s going to be even harder to keep from, ah, squinting.



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March 2015