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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, this will most likely be Ol’ Robbo’s last post of 2017.  Those regular friends of the decanter will need no explanation, I think, when I simply say “Goodbye To All That”.  A few things to get us over the hump:

♦  Ol’ Robbo watched the Cary Grant/Myrna Loy comedy “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” last evening.  I’d seen it once before years ago and thought it “meh”.  I thought it far funnier this time around, perhaps because I’ve been through several home remodeling/updating projects since then.

♦  Speaking of the joys of home ownership, we discovered this afternoon that Port Swiller Manor has been receiving free garbage pickup for the last six years.  Evidently, the company with which we originally signed up got taken over by a competitor and our account got lost in the transfer.  We simply didn’t notice because the trash continued to get picked up all that time anyway, and it was only after inquiry as to why our cans were ignored yesterday that we discovered the glitch.  To their credit, the (not so) new company admitted the error was theirs and will not charge us retroactively (not that we would have paid it, of course).

♦  Speaking of the past, this evening Ol’ Robbo finished up the novel The Horse Soldiers by Harold Sinclair.  As I’ve mentioned here previously, it is a fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid during the Civil War, and is also the book on which the John Ford/John Wayne movie of the same name is based.  I will say that the movie, of which I am quite fond, is (surprise, surprise) only very loosely based on the book (and, I suppose, on the actual historickal facts).

Overall, I think the book is worth a read if you’re a Civil War buff, especially in its details of brigade, regiment, and smaller unit tactical considerations.

♦  Dayum, it’s cold outside!  Personally, I blame ManBearPig.  I’m super serial, y’all.

♦  I can tell you all that I give not a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about the latest Star Wars installment, because the whole franchise descended into silliness a long time ago.  On the other hand, I am in dread of the evidently impending release of The Incredibles 2.  How do you top the first one for story-telling?  And even more importantly, how do you sustain the traditionalist values of the first in this day and age of cultural Marxist blitzkrieg?  My fear is that the sequel will not even attempt to resist, but instead will succumb passively to the P.C. Anschluss.

God send that I am pleasantly surprised….

Well, enough for now.  As I say, I’ll be back on the other side of the hump.  Don’t stay up too late on New Year’s Eve (I certainly won’t, if I can at all help it) and I’ll see you in 2018!




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo went back to work today after his Christmas break and found himself completely discombobulated.

For one thing, there was practically nobody on the road, and the morning commute was such an absolutely breeze that the pleasure almost made up for the fact that I had to do it in the first place.  (Alas, the evening return was marred by a nasty accident that tied up the parkway and ruined any prospect I had of making a record time coming home.)

For another, I kept forgetting it is Wednesday all day.  When Wednesday is de facto Monday, it’s disconcerting because it combines the two feelings of “Okay, tower, rotating now” and “Approaching destination…request vector to the initial descent”.

Very strange.

I understand, by the bye, that for the rest of the week, I’m actually the senior guy in my office, as all the suits are going to be out.  Heh, indeed.  My plan for tomorrow is therefore thus:  Office chair races in the hallway in the morning with intermittent breaks for Xerox-sitting contests;  pizza and kegger in the conference room for lunch; and an afternoon of hoisting the black flag and conducting a series of raids on the supply closets of other sections.  N’YAR!

UPDATE: I joked about the chair races bit to a young colleague today.  She thought I was serious and was baffled when I explained that I wasn’t.  *Thud*


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope each of you had a very merry Christmas Day?  I am grateful to say that we did, too, at Port Swiller Manor.  My only regrets were that I couldn’t summon the energy to stay up for Midnight Mass this year (I went to the first post-dawn one instead), and that owing to a miscommunication with the woman at my meat counter who, although very nice, is not very proficient at English, I wound up with a rib-roast with the bone still in.  It came out very nicely and was (and will be for several days) quite tasty, but I made rayther a hash of carving it because I’ve only ever dealt with boneless before.

Anyhoo, we had some good news on the higher education front this past week, in that Middle Gel got accepted into Roanoke College.  She’s currently waiting for a definite yes or no from Christopher Newport University and won’t make a decision until she knows her options, but as she’d be perfectly happy at either one, we really can’t lose now.  I still cannot believe she’s already a high school senior and that she’ll be gone next year.

Meanwhile, Eldest made the Dean’s List at Sweet Briar for the second time this fall.  I may or may not have mentioned it before, but she’s formally declared as a History Major and will probably concentrate on Early Modern Y’erp.  In fact, she’s already mulling an idea for her Senior Project.  You see, Robbo’s father-in-law’s family are Sephardic Jews.  Somewhere a few generations back, one of them put together a family biography.  It traces them right back to 1492 when they got booted out of Spain during the Inquisition and migrated to various other countries – Italy, the Netherlands, Scotland.  The Gel has this book in her mitts and is thinking of doing something along the lines of historickal analysis of this expulsion and diaspora.  I think that’s pretty neat.

And on the subject of the Eldest, last week she gave Ol’ Robbo a valuable lesson in being careful about what one says.

You see, having got home from school on break, she suddenly decided that she’d really like to go down to Flar’duh to visit her grandparents and especially her great-grandmother, who is 94 and in a bad way.  The Gel won’t get on a plane, and nobody was available to drive down with her, so she asked, “What if I just drive down by myself?”

“Absolutely not!” I said.  “Are you crazy? That’s a drive I wouldn’t want to do alone, and I’m a lot older and more experienced than you.  The idea of a teenaged gel out on the highway all by herself so far from home…..”  I stumped off muttering to myself, but thinking that I had put the matter to rest.


Later in the day, the Gel came at me again, this time armed with Mrs. Robbo for moral support.   She made all the same arguments again – about how she didn’t know whether she’d be able to see great-gramma ever again, about how there wasn’t really any other way to get there, about what a good driver she is, etc.  I, in turn, again said that I understood all that, but that my first, last, and only consideration was the Gel’s safety.

Then she threw down her ace.

“Well, aren’t you the one who’s always lecturing about how we shouldn’t be snowflakes?  That we should branch out and be independent-minded?  That we should grow up? And are you forgetting that I’m nearly 20?”


I had to admit that, yeah, she’d got me there.

Long and the short of it was that she went.  She split the drive over two days each way, stopping for the night in Savannah while down-bound and in Rocky Mount, NC on the way back.  Checked in with us every time she stopped for food or gas or got to her hotel.  Made sure she was inside before it got dark out.

And that was that.  In the end, no problems whatever, and the aged relatives were more than delighted to see her.  Nonetheless, I was absolutely on pins and needles until the moment she walked back through the Port Swiller front door.

The Mothe used to say that parents never stop worrying about their children, only that the specific things about which they worry change over time.  “Just wait!” she used to say in a Yiddish accent, “Some day you’ll have children of your own and you’ll understand!”

I understand.



“Nativity at Night” – Geertgen tot Sint Jans, c. 1490

Greetings my fellow port swillers!  Allow me to quote:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

– Luke 2:8-14

You know how Ol’ Robbo knew he was a religious man even in his misspent yoot?  The fact that he tears up every time he reads or hears this passage.  (I have a very, very definite, albeit completely inarticulable, vision in my head of the appearance of the heavenly host.)

Anyway, I hope that each and every one of you who drop in here from time to time have a very joyous Christmas!


**Strike that; reverse it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today starts the beginning of Ol’ Robbo’s holiday mini-vacation, but with all the running in circles with my hair on fire that I’m going to be doing over the next few days, I already feel like I’m going to need another one in order to recover from this one.  But I at least have a couple minutes in order to jot down a few odds and ends here:

♦  Our deeply-neurotic and mentally negligible spaniel has been going absolutely to pieces, what with the constant stream of holiday visitors and deliveries.  (It’s been feeling as if UPS stops by approximately every five minutes.)  She’s become such a nut that she’s taken to cooking off when the mailman stops at our neighbors’ houses.  I am thoroughly sick of her conniptions, as is everyone else here.  (UPDATE: She must have read my mind because she upchucked while I was in the middle of typing this.)

♦  I have to cut some fresh greens tomorrow with which to spruce up the wreath on the dining room table.  Since the one in our yard more or less gave up the ghost, the only pines from which I can get boughs in the neighborhood are those which stand at the main entrance into it.  I maintain to myself that I only prune them a very little bit, and that I always make sure to do so on the sides nobody sees, but I still feel very slightly like I’m doing something I ought not to do.

♦ Alas, I’ve received a couple of Christmas cards addressed to the Mothe from friends who evidently did not get the news of her passing.  I’ve felt obligated to write back to them and explain things.  It’s not at all a pleasant thing to have to do, and I feel bad for them.

♦  Speaking of which, I also keep getting surveys and questionnaires addressed to her from Medicare.  (In fact, I got one yesterday that referred to her primary doctor by name and invited her to rat him out if she believed he wasn’t giving her good service.)  Wasn’t it the Gipper who said something to the effect that government-run medicine would combine the efficiency of the post office with the compassion of the IRS?

♦  In case you’re wondering, no, Ol’ Robbo did not participate in his office “holiday” party this year.  I did, however, make a point of wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as I went out the door yesterday.  (Let them make of that what they will.)

♦  Also in case you’re wondering, Christmas Dinner at Port Swiller Manor will feature roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and two veg as always.  Why? Because that’s The Way Things Ought To Be.

Whelp, I had better clean up the dog’s mess and get on with my other tasks, too.  I’ll not wish you all a Merry Christmas just yet because I think I’ll have time and opportunity to do so more fully later.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Your Nation’s Capital

Ol’ Robbo happened to have his phone in his pocket when he went for his lunchtime walkies today, so he took this snap just for the fun of it. (Not pictured, of course, are the shriveled corpses of all those hundreds of children who have already starved just in Our Fair City alone under Trump’s tax overhaul.  The Park Service is under strict instructions to whisk them away as soon as they drop.  True!)

You’ll note how all the shadows are on the left (or north) side of the building, marking the sun’s farthest southward point of transit for the year.  I’ve walked past here literally hundreds of times on my lunch breaks, and I’m nerd enough to take note of such things as the progression of the sunlight back and forth across the dome.  (I do the same thing at Port Swiller Manor, too.  You’d be amazed -or not – at the glassy stares I’ve gotten from contractors, yard men, guests, and spouses when I’ve started gassing on about it.)

The other end of my walk brings me just short of the Washington Monument, which I also study each day.  Indeed, although I’m really not the creative type, from time to time I’ve mulled the idea of taking a picture of it from the same spot at the same time each day and then putting them together as a kind of “Year In The Life Of” display.

Eh, it’s an idea.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those of you who bet on Tuesday, December 19 as this year’s date by which Ol’ Robbo could no longer stand listening to the endless stream of Christmas musick on the local classickal station may now go to the window and collect your winnings.

Apart from the fact that it’s still Advent and not Christmas, there simply is a limit to the number of different arrangements of “The Holly and the Ivy”, “Oh, Holy Night”, and the Schubert “Ave, Maria” that Ol’ Robbo can stand listening to before he is overwhelmed with the urge to find a sharpened screwdriver and puncture his own eardrums.

I am also again deeply embittered by the foreknowledge that, come midnight on December 25, the Christmas playlist will stop dead.  Christmas will be dead and gone. It’s won’t be pinin’ for the fjords! It’ll be passed on! This sacred holiday will be no more! It will have ceased to be! It’ll have expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! It’ll be a stiff! Bereft of life, restin’ in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ‘it to the metaphorical perch ‘it’d be pushing up the daisies! It’s metabolic processes will be ‘istory! It’ll be off the twig! It’ll have kicked the bucket, It’ll have shuffled off it’s mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS WILL BE AN EX-HOLIDAY!!

**Quickly takes a swig of port**

I know, I know….I should be grateful that a publick radio station even plays such blatantly Christian musick in the first place and that it dares to acknowledge such a triggering hate concept as “the Christmas Spirit”.

But still.

I usually leave the radio on all day down to the office.  Today, there was only silence.  Tomorrow I must remember to toss a fist-full of CD’s into my briefcase before heading out.

By the bye, I see on their website that the station is doing one of those What Classical Composer Are You quiz things.  I got Mozart:

You are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You epitomize the work hard-play hard philosophy. You excel in your chosen field through a combination of exceptional talent and crazy hard work. (People have probably had to force you to take a vacation more than once.) Yet, you’re also the life of the party wherever you go – you’ve got a great sense of humor and a distinct sense of style. While this means you can occasionally come off as a bit stuck-up or irresponsible, pretty much everyone wants to be your friend.

I must say, quite frankly, that this is completely and utterly wrong.  I am none of these things (apart from the coming off as a bit stuck-up bit).  And I can’t quite figure out from the questions and responses posed how it came up with the suggestion that I am.

But what do I know?  If it’s on the innertoobs,  it must be true, amirite?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

“The Siege of Fort Detroit” by Frederick Remington

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that I posted a couple days ago about my first impressions of  the French and Indian War historickal narratives of Allan W. Eckert sent to me by Old Dominion Tory.  In that post, reviewing specifically his Wilderness Empire, I noted Eckert’s character-based approach to narration, and the pros and cons of using this device in trying to summarize the North American front of what many people consider to be the real First World War.

Well, I’m now deeply into his next volume, The Conquerors, which tells the story of Pontiac’s Rebellion immediately upon the close of hostilities in Canada between the French and British.  Eckert uses exactly the same narrative form in this book, and I’m here to tell you that – at least so far – it works absolutely beautifully here.

Why?  Because Pontiac’s Rebellion was not a large-scale movement of armies.  It began, instead, as a series of attacks against a dozen or so small British forts scattered around the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley.  The source materials for practically all of these events are the reports and recollections of a handful (or in some cases, the sole) survivors of these attacks, so it is absolutely natural to zero in on the point of view of a few individuals.  (We’ll see how this holds up later in the book when the coordinated British counterattack starts and the story necessarily moves away from the strictly personal level.)

One thing else I can say:  Eckert has no love whatsoever for Lord Jeffrey Amherst and his ham-fisted, tone-deaf approach to dealing with the Indians, together with his utter refusal to listen to the warnings being screamed at him by men in the field such as Johnson and Croghan.  The fact of the matter is that the British colonial model of aggressive agricultural development and large-scale settlement was incompatible with Indian occupation of the same lands, and the Tribes would have been assimilated, driven out, or eliminated sooner or later anyway, but Amherst surely could have finessed things in a way that did not provoke an irruption that killed so many people (on both sides) so brutally.

(Comparative colonial models is an interesting study, by the bye.  The French primarily wanted two things: pelts for trade and Catholic converts.  Thus, their physical footprint in New France was really rather small, and the most friendly to the Indians.  The Brits, on the other hand, wanted the land. Period.  The Indians could deal with it or go someplace else.  Neither of these, of course, compares to the Spanish model, which was basically to plunder everything that wasn’t absolutely nailed down, and to enslave everyone they could get their hands on.)

Oh, one other thing about this book:  Mention is made now and again of the Shawnee chief Cornstalk.  This grabs Ol’ Robbo’s attention because it was Cornstalk who allegedly led – or directed – the attacks on Kerr’s Creek in what is now western Virginia in 1759 and 1763 which led to the murder and kidnap of several of Ol’ Robbo’s own ancestors.  (People named Gilmore, specifically.  They eventually removed to southwestern Ohio and married into the family of my father’s paternal grandmother.)

** Yes, I forgot to include a title when I first put this up.  Sorry.  I was probably distracted by the thought of all those children who are going to die because of that bastard Trump’s tax cut for his sooper-rich buddies.  Oh, I’m so triggered!!!!!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo learned two interesting facts viz the wonderful world of home appliances this weekend.

The first fact is that there is a difference between a three-prong electrical outlet for an oven, and a three-prong electrical outlet for a dryer.  The former consists of three straight slits set in a triangular pattern.  The latter features two straight slits and a sort of L-shaped one.

The second fact is that this piece of divergent evolution must have taken place some time in the last fifteen years or so.

Ask me how I know these interesting facts.  Go on, ask away!

Well, I’ll tell you.

Last week our old Kenmore Series 80 dryer broke down for the second time in a couple months. Since the cost of having an electrician out to fix the same dryer twice would already come mighty close to the cost of just buying a new one, we decided to go with the latter option.  Mrs. R duly found a new Whirlpool model on line and ordered it from Home Despot.

Now this old Kenmore dryer, along with its companion washing machine which is still going strong, are the last major appliances left from when we originally bought Port Swiller Manor 17 years ago.

Home Despot duly delivered the new dryer on Saturday.  However, when the delivery guy unplugged the old Kenmore, he looked at the outlet and sadly shook his head.

“That’s a range outlet,” he said.  “You need a dryer outlet.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

He explained.  This was when I learned the first interesting fact mentioned above.

Later, I sat down and looked up dryer outlets on the innertubes.  There is all sorts of argle-bargle in the how-too links about three and four prong dryer outlets, how you’re not supposed to go from four to three, but that you can replace a three pronger with another three pronger, and other pieces of arcana.

This was when I deduced the second interesting fact mentioned above.  I also asked myself a question;  “Our old dryer seemed to have been perfectly happy with the range three-pronger all these years.  What bureaucratic busybody or outlet-industry tycoon decided that this just isn’t good enough anymore, and why?”

The world wonders.

The upshot of it all was that, after all that,  I eventually had to whistle up our electrician anyway.  Ol’ Robbo is a keen do-it-yourselfer when it comes to most home improvement projects, but I simply will not do jobs that involve electricity.  I’m not quite so bad as that aunt of James Thurber who believed it leaks out of light sockets, but I am sane enough to know that fooling about with it without knowing exactly what I’m doing is a shortcut to all kinds of hurt.  He came out and put in the proper wall outlet, and then I hooked up the dryer to the external vent.  (I’ll also eventually patch up the drywall around the new outlet, which our electrician had to get a bit rough with trying to winnow out the old one.)

The new dryer, by the bye, is providing excellent service so far.  It finishes up a load about twenty minutes faster than our old one.   And yes, I have reached that station of life where such things give me genuine pleasure.  Lawn.  Off.

** Taken from one of W.S. Gilbert’s more clever tongue-twisting lyrics, of course, the moment when the Pirates first ambush the daughters of Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance:

Here’s a first-rate opportunity
To get married with impunity,
And indulge in the felicity
Of unbounded domesticity.
You shall quickly be parsonified,
Conjugally matrimonified,
By a doctor of divinity,
Who is located in this vicinity.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, Ol’ Robbo finally broke down and bought the Christmas tree yesterday evening and we decorated this afternoon.  I consider having been able to hold out until just a week before Christmas actually, you know, begins this year is pretty good going.  (As I have probably mentioned before, in my misspent yoot, we always decorated the tree on Christmas Eve.  The Old Gentleman would buy it a week or two prior and put it out in the garage in a bucket of water.)

This year’s is about a foot shorter than our usual, owing to the fact that the shorter ones were all that was left in the lot at Robbo’s church by the time I got there.  This was due partly to so many people buying them Thanksgiving weekend, partly (so I’m told) because this was a bad year.  (We had a pretty bad drought a year ago November in these parts.  Perhaps that had something to do with it.)  There was some grumbling in the family about this, but as a matter of fact, now that the decs are on, I think it has a certain petite grace about it and am quite pleased.

Away In A Manger

Another thing that pleases Ol’ Robbo is that, after years of discouragement, I finally stumbled across a new crèche that I really like.  It’s from Nazareth, made out of olive wood by the local Christian population there, who run a whole cottage industry around this sort of thing.   They occasionally show up at Robbo’s church to sell their wares: icons, figurines, and various other religious doodads.  In addition to liking the simplicity of the design, I like to think I’m helping out a Good Cause.

Hopefully you can see that the cradle is empty.  Of course, it stays that way until Robbo gets home from Midnight Mass next Sunday night.  Also, the bows on the door wreaths remain Advent purple, as do the candles in the wreath on the dining room table.


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December 2017