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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This morning as he blearily scanned the headlines over his first cuppa, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught by an article from the Beeb about “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and what a hell of a time it’s having environmentally after having been smacked by a cyclone the other day.

If you had asked me, “Robbo, what is the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean?'” just a few days ago, I confess I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea.  (Probably would have guessed Rodrigues just at random because there are turtles there.)

But by one of those serendipitous little coincidences, it just so happens that I had come across the answer earlier this week as I was poking about on the innertoobs: It’s the Island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, of which I had never actually heard before.

And why on earth was Robbo looking up this particular piece of information?  Because I had just re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which is set on the fictional island of Azania (also off the coast of Yemen), and I became interested in trying to figure out if Waugh’s creation had a real basis.

Alas, no, at least not physically.  The map Mr. Wu himself provided with his novel shows Socotra to the north of the much larger Azania, but a quick check of the real map shows that there is nothing directly south of it except a whoooole lot of water.

On the other hand, there apparently are some similarities between the two in terms of flora and fauna, as well as cultural and racial history.  (Waugh’s description of the mix of primitive tribal paganism, Nestorian Christianity, and decayed Islam, overlaid on a mixed population of African and Arab, with a few scourings from the Levant, seems to echo what is said of Socotra.)  Also the general lack of interest by the Western Powers once Aden was established as a British stronghold.

So perhaps the novel’s primitive, ungovernable territory to which poor, misguided, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to bring utopian Progressivism, aided and abetted by that arch ne’er-do-well, Basil Seal, is not such pure fiction after all.  But whatever Mr. Wu had in mind, as I say, it’s serendipitous that I should have been poking around in it just before this story came to my attention.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

At our regular monthly office meeting today, one of our IT wallahs came in to give a presentation on some obscure techie matter.  After introducing himself, he asked our indulgence while he set up his electronics in order to put his talking points up on the big flat screen.***

“I’ll bet you it takes him fifteen minutes of fiddling with his wires and inputs for a presentation that will last no longer than two,” I muttered to a friend sitting next to me.

She groaned appreciatively in anticipation.

Fourteen minutes and thirty seconds later, the thing was finally ready to go.

“And they call me a cynic,” I murmured.

My colleague, to her credit, giggled.

** Any friends of the decanter remember this old comic strip? It was a great favorite among the Family Robbo in my misspent yoot.  “The Urge To Kill”, one of the stock descriptive labels of the strip, had a prominent place in our household lexicon.

*** Of course, he also had the identical presentation in paper form, copies of which were distributed around the room in something short of two minutes flat.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has noticed that the current eruption of the Kilauea Volcano seems no longer to be grabbing headlines for the moment.  I gather that, having done some damage (and what idiot builds next to an active volcano?), the lava has established its primary path to the sea and is busily heading that way without bothering anybody else.

When we were all gathered together the other day, somebody in the Port Swiller Manor household referred to this eruption in the context of the Pacific Rim of Fire.  Ol’ Robbo couldn’t allow this.

“Not so,” says I. “The Hawaiian Islands sit over a volcanic hotspot – a stationary thin point in the Earth’s lower crust – right smack dab in the middle of the Pacific Plate.  This, in fact, isn’t a tectonic thing, but a different phenomenon altogether.”

At which point the family’s collective “toxic nerd alert” alarum seems to have gone off, as suddenly Ol’ Robbo found himself talking solely to one of the cats, who was asleep anyway.


Nonetheless, the geography of Hawaii does, in fact, have a tangential connection with plate tectonics, in that it neatly maps out the drift of the Pacific Plate over this particular hotspot.  As you can see from just looking at an ordinary map, the chain runs from southeast to northwest, the islands getting progressively smaller as you go along.  This is because the Plate itself is drifting northwest:  As long as some bit of it is over the hotspot, that bit is subject to volcanic island formation and growth.  Once the islands drift away from the hotspot, they start to erode.  Eventually, the Big Island, which is now the active one, particularly on its southeast side, will slide away from the hotspot and start to crumble and shrink as well, while yet another one eventually rises up southeast of it.

Pretty neat, eh?

And want to hear something even neater?  Go look at Google-Earth on “satellite view” setting:  Not only will you see the Hawaiian chain continue trailing away to the northwest under water, eventually you’ll see it hook sharply north and trail all the way up nearly to far eastern Russia.  That north-south section – the remnant of long-ago passage over the very same hotspot – is known as the Emperor Seamounts, and shows that the Pacific Plate at one point was drifting due north before taking a turn northwest.

And don’t just take my word for this: John McPhee writes at some length about it (and provides an illustrative map) in his Annals of the Former World, which Ol’ Robbo plugs here from time to time (and, I guess, is plugging again), and which I cannot recommend too enthusiastically.  I don’t pretend to understand it at more than a surface level, but the makings of the Earth – from plate tectonics to continental drift, volcanic hotspots to glacial gougings, erosion to geologically-driven shifts in weather patterns – never ceases to amaze and delight me.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo currently is enjoying a lovely Monday evening on the Port Swiller back porch.  The air is still and heady with the fragrance of the wisteria that opened this week (and Ol’ Robbo has a lot of wisteria in his back yard).  The temperature is just right in the mid-70’s. The catbird is riffing away in the nearby branches.  Ol’ Robbo has a nice glass of wine at his elbow.  And since I haven’t yet toddled off to the basement to turn on the Nats game, I have no knowledge of whether or not they’re winning or losing yet, so anything is still possible.  (I call this period of uncertainty before I pick up the game – typically in about the 5th inning – “Schrödinger’s Box-Score”.)

So what better time to set down my thoughts about some of the movies that have recently come through my Netflix queue, right?  Here we go:

Shane“(1953) – Ol’ Robbo has seen this before several times, but each time I seem to have forgotten what a God-Almighty annoying film it is.  “Shane? What are you going to do, Shane? Shane? Can I come with you, Shane? Oh, Shane, do be careful….Shane!”  There are the seeds of an extremely lethal drinking game there.

Also, as much a fan as I am of Jean Arthur, she was a bit too long in the tooth by then to be making goo-goo eyes at Alan Ladd.

Still, it does have Jack Palance as the psychotic gun-slick.  Ol’ Robbo’s first experience of Palance was his guest appearance in one of the very first episodes of “Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century” in 1979, in which he played some sort of Messianic villain.  I recall asking the Mothe about him then and her giving me a rayther dismissive reply, but since then I’ve come to enjoy what I can only call his exuberant eeevil on screen.

Nonetheless, I have made a mental note that I really, really don’t need to see “Shane” again.

One Million Years, B.C.” (1966) – I’ve seen clips of it before, but never the whole thing at once. Yes, I watched it primarily because it features Rachel Welch in a fur bikini.  Shut up.  For what it’s worth, Ol’ Robbo thinks Ms. Welch was one of the single loveliest beauties ever to grace the screen.

Funnily, as I was watching, I couldn’t help recalling the Mothe’s summation of the book Clan of the Cave Bear, which she somehow got roped into reading for one of her book clubs one time: “Woman tames fire, Woman has roll in the hay.  Woman domesticates horse, Woman has roll in the hay.  Woman discovers principles of agriculture, Woman has roll in the hay. Woman founds civilization, Woman has roll in the hay.”

The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957) – See below.  And especially see ODT’s link in the comments. “Here’s to Puh-resident Taft” is another standard line of Ol’ Robbo’s misspent yoot.

The Prince and the Pauper” (1937) – Just exactly how many movies are there altogether in which Errol Flynn goes toe to toe with Claude Rains? (Not that I’m complaining, you understand.)  This one – based on the Sam Clemens story – was okay, I suppose, except that I found the twin boys who played the young Edward VI and the street rat to be rayther annoying.  And damme if that wasn’t Alan Hale, Sr., as the captain of the palace guard.  Have you ever stopped to consider just how much he and his son look alike?  Every time I watch one of these Flynn films (and Hale, Sr. seems to be in just about all of them), I keep expecting to hear the interjection, “GILLIGAN!”

Scaramouche” (1952) – (“Will you do the fandango?” Heh.)  Love and revenge shortly before the French Revolution, a very formulaic (and ultimately dull) swashbuckler.  I’m sorry, but as the Mothe would have said, I just don’t have the genes to think much of Stewart Granger.  Also, I didn’t care for the way the film portrayed Marie Antoinette as a debased social schemer.  And no, the presence of Janet Leigh was not enough to save it for me.  It contains a famous six minute-long swordfight, which I’m glad I saw, but I don’t think I’d bother again.

And sitting in the bowl on the kitchen counter? “The Seven Samurai” (1954). Ol’ Robbo has seen this once before and really enjoyed it, but it’s three and a half freakin’ hours long.  Last time I watched it was on an afternoon back in the earlies before we had kids when I’d pulled an all-nighter at work the day before, it was raining out, and Mrs. R was out of town.  I don’t want to try again unless and until I can block out a similar un-mortgaged period of time (and also one in which I’m not likely to doze off), so I’ve a sneaking feeling already that I’m eventually going to return it without watching.

Whelp, speaking of which, I suppose it’s time to go collapse those uncertainty waves and see how the Nats are actually doing this evening……


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well it’s Junior/Senior Prom Night here in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, and although Ol’ Robbo got a bye the first time around because Eldest Gel was never interested in that sort of thing, both Middle and Youngest are out on the tiles tonight.  (Youngest got asked to fill in a spot in some of her older friends’ group.  She says she feels like chopped liver, and almost backed out this afternoon except that she’d already invested time and money in the thing.)

In a moment of weakness a couple weeks ago, Ol’ Robbo agreed to let the MG host an “after party” here at Port Swiller Manor. So, somewhere about midnight tonight, the limo is going to drop off her and some proportion (which seems to be changing hourly) of her group to continue their revels into the wee hours.

When we agreed to host, we basically read the kids the Riot Act:  Only members of their group are allowed here.  If we catch anyone drinking, we call their parents to come retrieve them.  If we catch anyone smoking or vaping, ditto.  If we catch anyone doing drugs, we call the cops.  Party is done by 3 ack emma at the latest: Girls can stay in MG’s room upstairs, boys in the basement.

Not that I expect any trouble: MG is a quiet, responsible type, not given to debauchery.  Nor, so far as I know them, are her friends.  They’ll probably spend most of their time playing Mario-Cart (at which the Gel will thrash anyone who dares go up against her) or watching cheesy movies.  I heard from somebody else that her party was already being pre-labeled as “lame” by the Cool Kids, but that’s just musick to Ol’ Robbo’s ears.

As for Youngest, she will need to be fetched after the dance is over, as she has no interest whatsoever in going on to her own group’s after party, which from what she tells me will be downright Babylonian in its excesses.

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo’s most challenging task is going to be managing just to stay awake long enough to keep an eye on things. (Mrs. R doesn’t know it yet, but no way is Ol’ Robbo going to be shanghaied into being the one to go fetch Youngest.)

I’ll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE:  Done and done.  It went about the way we thought it would, and both Gels seem to have had a good time. The after party was a pretty subdued affair, and even Eldest Gel admitted this morning that she couldn’t complain about the noise level. Of course, we’re all zombies today.

BTW, I heard that the dance for the other high school across town from us (which also had its prom last evening) was shut down in mid-festivity because some kids tried to bring pot in.  Apparently both police and fire were called to the venue and the authorities cleared everyone out.  Dumb kids.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had not realized until today that this weekend will see the “wedding” of Prince Harry to that Megan what’s-her-name person.

I use the quotation marks deliberately. Sorry to be so harsh, but he’s an immature playboy idiot and she’s got “reality tee-vee trash” stamped all over her.  As I mentioned to Mrs. R this evening, I’m astounded HRH is even allowing the biznay to go forward, much less actively participating in it.

Ol’ Robbo happens to be a Constitutional Monarchist at heart:  I can easily see the benefits of a Royal Family, with a King or Queen as the Personification of the Country.  But in order for this to work, the Royals have to live up to a very high standard of behavior.  Her Majesty and Prince Phillip get this.  Charles does not.  (And Diana was too crazy to keep up the pace.)  William and Kate, much to my initial surprise, surely do.  Harry, so far as I can tell, never has.  And I doubt it even enters into what’s-her-name’s mind.

I give the whole thing, which will be the gift that keeps on giving to our tabloid writer friends, a year and half tops.  Mrs. R says she’ll get a baby out of him first.

And with that, I will say no more about it. Except that I hope I am proven completely and utterly wrong.  Not for their sake, but for Britain’s.

UPDATE:  Felicitously enough, my movie for this evening (since the Nats have been rained out again) is The Prince and the Showgirl.  The first half is one of the funniest films out there. (“So amusink, how you vill laff” is a long-time part of the Family Robbo lexicon.)  Alas, the second half turns mushy and maudlin.  At least I can cut the thing off when it grows tarsome.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s finally done: After what Ol’ Robbo considered to be far too much fuss and bother (and in my books, any fuss and bother is far too much), and a mere two months along, the Port Swiller Manor generator is all hooked up and good to go.

Yes, once we finally coordinated with Washington Gas about getting somebody out to install a “bigger” meter out front and inspect the hookup out back, the generator-wallah was out yesterday to test-fire our newest home-improvement gadget.  Sounded just like a lawnmower.  Musick to Ol’ Robbo’s ears.*

So now, knowing what resources I’ve got as my back, I feel completely confident that the next time the Storm of the Century of the Week bears down on Port Swiller Manor, I can stand outside in my robe, shake my fists at the heavens, and cry, “BLOW, winds, and ker-ACK thy cheeks!”**

I may even stick straws in my hair.  You know – just to get in the proper mood.

On second thought…..better not, what with daughters and all.  Wouldn’t want any would-be Gonerils and Regans to get any funny ideas.

Anyhoo, we’re in the midst of quite the stormy spell, so perhaps we’ll get to put the thing to use rather sooner than later.


* Ol’ Robbo loves the sound of a mower in the distance, especially when I can smell the new-cut grass.  Conversely, back in college I often heard the sound of the leaf-vacuums during fall classes.  To this day, whenever I hear one I start to doze off.

** Did I ever relate this story before?  Sophomore year in college, I was dating a fellow Brit-Lit shark.  For Thanksgiving, I and a couple other fellahs were invited by another classmate down to their home in Darien, CT for dinner.  On the way back to the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, up I-95 to I-91, it poured buckets the whole way.  Pitch black, zero visibility, construction all over the place, and ill-tempered 18-wheeler drivers.  Ol’ Robbo was quite frightened, perhaps more-so because I was a passenger and not the driver.  In any event, I arrived back on campus thoroughly exhausted, only to discover that my G.F. had left a message to go see her as soon as possible.

Alarmed, I raced over to her room and found her surrounded by candles and in tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Oh,” she replied.  “I’m re-reading King Lear.  And it’s all so…...tragic!”

“Good night,” I said coldly.

It was right about then that I realized that Diane Chambers, although theoretically good, was in practical life disastrous.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where Sweet Briar College has become the scene of another skirmish in the culture wars due to the blunt comments of this year’s graduation speaker:

Students and alumni of Sweet Briar College are expressing outrage after the school’s commencement speaker said she has only “partial sympathy” for the #MeToo movement.

“I do intend to change your view of yourselves and your world just a little if I can,” Nella Gray Barkley, who graduated from Sweet Briar in 1955, began her speech on May 12. “I do not intend to suggest you put on your armor and ride into battle in a man’s world. In fact, I do not believe it’s a men’s world; we women just need to claim the part of it we want and claim that with high expectations and no ambivalence.”

Barkley went on to say that her sympathy for women claiming to be victims of sexual harassment or assault depends in part on the woman’s role in the encounter.

“I applaud the woman coming forward who was cornered in a locked wine cellar by a man who was her superior,” Barkley explained, but added that “I have little patience with the woman who arrives breathlessly at her boss’s hotel room for a so-called conference. What did she think was going to happen?” 

Reminding graduates that “it is you who makes the ground rules, and you who enjoys the consequences of them,” she asserted that it’s “only natural for men from Mars to follow the shortest skirt in the room.”

I became aware of this largely due to the hissy-fit it provoked on the Vixen Facebook pages I still frequent even though Eldest Gel has finished up her time there and is transferring this fall.

For what it’s worth, the President of SBC issued a statement a few hours after the speech and resulting kerfluffle, basically suggesting that everybody grow the hell up.  Good on her.

As the father of three girls, of course, Ol’ Robbo is hardly sympathetic to a laissez-faire  “Oh, well, Boys will be Boys” attitude.  (I am, in fact, in favor of the strong restraints placed on male behavior by that obnoxiously patriarchal and antiquated Code of Chivalry.)  On the other hand, I fail to see why opposition to such a position is incompatible with basic common sense.  My advice to the Gels is and always has been simple:  Don’t. Do. Stupid. Things.  Don’t go to a frat party and get drunk.  Don’t walk around without a basic plan for your own self-defense.  Don’t, as the speaker suggests, go alone to a hotel room with your boss (or any other man not related to you by blood or marriage, for that matter).  Indeed, I would think that if you know men can be louts, this is exactly the practical path to take to avoid such problems.

But no, under the tortured reasoning of Third Wave Feminism, such an attitude is so much double-plus ungood wrongthink.  It’s “slut-shaming” and “victim-blaming”.  How dare anyone suggest that if the wimminz take the power and authority of their own lives, they also take responsibility for them?


Oh, for what it’s worth, the Gels have all internalized my common sense approach very thoroughly.  And they all loathe modern feminism.   So there is that.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sad news today about the death of Tom Wolfe at age 88.

I’ve got a good many of his essays and all of his novels, and while at times I think some of his plots and characters a bit overblown, the underlying satire is consistently deadly.  May I call him late 20th Century America’s Evelyn Waugh? Yes, I’ll go ahead and do that.

Coincidentally, I had been mulling a Wolfe post this week anyway because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein – a man I thoroughly loathe on many levels – including the musickal – and the local classickal radio station is already in full (if you’ll pardon the expression) knob-gobbling mode.  I had thought of mentioning Wolfe’s famous essay “Radical Chic” about the Maestro and his wife hosting a loft party for the Black Panthers, which was a fundamental part of the shaping of Ol’ Robbo’s politickal sensibilities back when he was a teenager.  (I’ve no use for Limousine Liberalism whatsoever.)

Wolfe, by the bye, was a graduate of Dubyunell and quite active as an alum.  Indeed, he gave the graduation speech for my class at the law school back in ’91.  It was a brutal take-down of P.C-ism and its (then) close ally, multiculturalism.  The grads, who as a class were pretty conservative, ate it up.  The faculty, who were considerably more lefty, were mortified.  Good times.

I say that multiculturalism was an ally of political correctness back then.  Funny how it isn’t any more:  What was once encouraged as the shelving of one’s own nativist preferences in exploration of other points of view, tastes, and experiences, has recently morphed – at least in the eyes of the Politically Correct – into the sin of “cultural appropriation” and is now strictly verboten.  (If Wolfe ever addressed this morphing in any of his more recent writing, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know about it.  But I’m sure he was aware of it.)

Anyhoo, he’s now beyond these petty earthly tribalisms and hopefully on his way to a Better Place.  Godspeed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo got to experience his first late-day squall line of the year this evening, as he raced (and lost to) a band of thunderstorms bearing down on Port Swiller Manor from the northwest during his afternoon commute.  I’d been tracking the thing on radar all afternoon, and figured it would be a damn near-run thing.  As it happens, I took the metro today, and when I emerged at my home station and scanned the horizon, I still believed I had time enough in hand.  But when I came out of Total Bev after making a stop for supplies and saw a gorgeous (and awe-inspiring) wall cloud looming, I realized I had miscalculated:  The last twenty minutes of my drive home (with all side panels off La Wrangler) were in pitch-darkness, driving rain, and howling wind.  And Ol’ Robbo bore a certain resemblance to the proverbial drowned rat once he finally scootched into the Port Swiller Manor garage.

No mind. It’s only water after all, and I was already hot and sweaty and nasty from hoofing it to the metro anyways.

It’s now later in the evening, and as I type, I’m sitting on the Port Swiller back porch, listening to the dripping all about me and the rumble (still) of thunder off in the distance.  As Mr. Rabbitt croons, I do rightly love this.

UPDATE: The Puppy-Blender links to the Capitol Weather Gang’s round up of the Thunderstorm of the Century of the Week. After-the-Fact analysis?  Meh.

Which reminds me, though, that the installation of the Port Swiller Manor back-up generator is nearly complete.  (I had no idea it would be so complicated.) The Washington Gas wallah was out last week to install a new, bigger, gas meter, and this morning his mate appeared to check the meter and confirm the linkage of the gas line to the generator.  So far as I understand it, the last step is for the generator people to come out and test-run the thing. Get ‘er done, says I.)



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