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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo notes that today is this blog’s 11th anniversary.

Maybe the thing to celebrate is not that it thrives but that it survives at all.   Twenty “hits” and one or two comments is a good day for me.  I can’t even remember the last time somebody actually “linked” me.   The retirees on my blogroll far outnumber those who are still active.

But you know? So what.  As long as I still enjoy hauling out the ol’ laptop and posting whatever runs across my braims, I’ll keep doing it.  Even if it means I’m essentially just typing to myself.

In the meantime, I do feel tremendous gratitude for those of you who stick around here and take those posts in.  And if there aren’t that many here?  It just means there’s more port and Stilton for the rest of us!

So charge your glasses, pray, gunn’ls under, and here’s to 11 Years with three times three and no heel taps!

MULTI-SUBJECT UPDATE:  Thankee, friends!  Thankee muchly!   I say that I do this simply because I enjoy writing, but any blogger who claims that is, in fact, a liar.  The knowledge of making any kind of difference (hopefully for the better) in somebody else’s life and experience with my blatherings far outweighs mere pixilated wanking.

Now for a couple of things.

First, a glass of wine with Melissa Kean who writes over at Rice History Corner and may be a first time commenter here. (At the very least, an infrequent one.)  Welcome!  For what it’s worth as a small historickal nugget, back in the days of my misspent high school yoot in San Antonio in the early 80’s,  Rice was considered the in-state choice for brainiacs and eggheads, a kind of “Texas Ivy”.  I dunno if that perception still holds true.  (For myself, in a class of around 660, I believe I was one of fewer than ten who went out of state.  But then, I was both a Yankee carpet-bagger and a weirdo.)  Oh, and I recall that their marching band was famous for its unconventional performances.  Is that still the case?

Several of you mention the aging factor.  I’d thought about that as well, but the truth is I still think of this place as fairly newish because I first started blogging with the formation of the Llamas back in November, 2003.  That’s ancient history!  Ol’ Robbo still yearns for a bloggy renaissance.  Those first heady days back in the earlies were such fun and so free-spirited.  Of course, the times are considerably different now, but I had hopes that the poisonous and censorious atmospheres of platforms like Twatter and FacePlant would convince folk to come back to the Blogsphere.  (WordPress, bless ’em, have never given me any flak whatsoever for the stuff I put up here.)

Browndog mentions a discussion in the morning thread over at the Ewok’s Place today about John Boorman’s original plan to do a Lord of the Rings movie back in the late 70’s which got kyboshed because of costs.  He wound up doing “Excalibur” instead.  Yes, I did see that, although I didn’t open up the linkies because work.  It’s not unreasonable to believe that had Boorman done LOTR, Peter Jackson maybe would not have.  And long-time friends of the decanter know all about what Ol’ Robbo thinks of Peter Jackson.  On the other hand, if Boorman had carried on through with the project and “Excalibur” hadn’t been made, would we have still got a young, nekked Helen Mirren?  I think not. Just sayin’.

Finally, did somebody say….Mélissa Theauriau??!!

Yes, indeedilly-didilly! ***


*** Another Llama blast-from-the-past.  And yes, I need to get to Confession anyway……





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It was back to the grindstone for Ol’ Robbo today after his week off, with the added feature that he set foot for the first time into his new work digs, into which his effects had been moved over the weekend.

I’ve been dreading this move since it was first announced some time last year.  Not only does the new building – and it literally is brand new – require a longer commute, the promises of all the gee-whiz architectural and technological innovations packed into it have for months filled me with a jaundiced cynicism and a foreboding of doom.

So I was perfectly willing to loathe the place as I stepped off the elevator this morning.  Imagine my confusion, then, when it all turned out to be…..really rather nice.

I had heard rumor that our offices were going to be mere shoeboxes.  This turns out to be false.  I believe my new room is a couple square feet smaller than my old one, but it is so light and airy that one doesn’t even really notice the difference.  (I still think that when I get ultra-busy and have mounds of paper stacked up all over the place that I’ll notice the difference, but eh.)  Similarly, to save space, the doors don’t swing open and closed but slide back and forth.  For a long time I took this as a clue to the new horror, but the fact is that it’s really pretty cool.  (Alas, they’re not automatic and there are no Star Trek sound-effects.)  True, the furniture is what you might call Discount IKEA, but it’s perfectly adequate.  And for some reason the acoustics of the room definitely enhance the quality of the sound coming from my radio.

So what the heck’s a curmudgeon supposed to do?

I guess I’ll just have to wait until all the little flaws start revealing themselves, which they certainly will over time.  Oh, yes.  They will.

Oh, I mentioned stepping off the elevator.  The elevators are going to be a problem.  In order to whistle one up, you tap in your desired floor on a keypad in the lobby.  The screen then directs you to one of the bank (labeled A through G).  Once you step inside the thing you’re trapped, as there is no internal control panel.  What could possibly go wrong?  Also, when an elevator is arriving at a floor, there’s no simple “Ding!” but a kind of sparkly theme, of which I’m sure I will get quite sick before the week is out.  It isn’t exactly Sirius Cybernetics Corporation-grade awfulness, but it ain’t far off.  (I’m sure that at some point in the not-too-distant future I’ll find myself muttering, “Go stick your head in a pig.”)

So since I can’t gripe about the new digs themselves, I have to fall back on the commute.  And even that is a challenge.  As I may have mentioned here before, the location of the new digs is such that Ol’ Robbo is abandoning his drive downtown and instead is reverting to taking the Metro.  On the one hand, this means I have to surrender my autonomy and my solitude.  On the other, what with the transit subsidy I get, I’m saving a considerable amount of dosh.  Also, I get to go back to commuter-reading.  (Today I started John Buchan’s The Leithen Stories.  The first is called “The Power House” and is all about the eeeevil machinations of a Globalist Cabal.  It was published a hundred years ago but seems pretty durn apropos these days too, what?)

And although my average commute time will be a bit longer than it was previously, there are also some advantages.  For one thing, my route from my home Metro stop back to Port Swiller Manor goes straight past the Ger-may Giyont and Total Bev, whereas previously I had to detour coming out of downtown to get to them.  For another, and this one may seem completely silly, because of the direction I take getting home from the Metro, I’m able to see the Moon rise in the evenings.

Finally, in large part because the commute is going to be longer, Ol’ Robbo was actually motivated to put in the paperwork for teleworking on Mondays and Fridays.  I mentioned this to Eldest the other day, and her response was a bit surprising.   “Good,” she said.  “I’m glad you won’t have to go in so much.  You’re starting to look kind of worn out.”

Yimminy, I’m not that old yet!  Am I?

That regime kicks in next week.  To celebrate, I may work in my jammies on Monday just because I can work in my jammies.  We’ll see.

(And related to that, although I can no longer enjoy my lunchtime walkies around the National Mall, I’ve no excuse whatsoever for not hitting the treadmill and rowing-erg at home on my non-commute days.)

Anyhoo, a definite sea-change in Robbo’s work life.  We’ll see what happens.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This weekend Ol’ Robbo watched a new-to-him movie courtesy of Netflix, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2006)

I have no recollection whatsoever how this flick wound up in the ol’ queue, but there it was.

The movie is billed as a “mockumentary” of an attempt to film the impossible-to-film mid-1700’s novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne, at least parts of which Ol’ Robbo has managed to read with some enjoyment.  (It’s very hard work.  The thing wraps itself in layers which continue to fold, spin, and mutilate, and very, very careful attention is necessary.)


Ol’ Robbo generally enjoys mockumentaries, but frankly this one couldn’t hold a candle to the great Christopher Guest and his quintet of beauties.  There seemed to be no real plot arc, one idea being picked up and then tossed in favor of another, and in the end it just sort of stopped without any kind of conclusion.  (I watched it twice just to make sure I wasn’t missing something.)  There were bits and pieces of funny here and there certainly, but it it just didn’t really seem to sustain itself all the way through.

On the other hand, the film’s about a 1700’s costume piece, so at least it had me there.

All in all, I think I’d give it two glasses out of five and probably wouldn’t bother again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No gardening to report at Port Swiller Manor today because Ol’ Robbo cleverly got it all done yesterday and Thursday.

In fact, I did have one project planned for this morning.  As I have mentioned here from time to time, the Manor sits on a hillside, downhill from the street and sidewalk, and run-off has been an on-going issue ever since we got here.  When the rain gets heavy enough to overwhelm the field drains in the front, the water cuts across the yard and goes round the side of the house down a short, steep drop.  In order to limit the erosive effect of this, a few years back we cleared out the area and put in a bed of river stones.

The bed works well enough for any normal rainfall, but that insane downpour (three inches in an hour, I’m told) we had a couple weeks back actually made a mess of it.  A lot of the stones were rolled to the bottom while others were shoved in under seams in the underlying liner, which itself got pulled off its anchors at the top of the slope.  (It’s scary what waterpower can do when it wants to.)

So Ol’ Robbo has to fix it up again.  Unfortunately, the stones are of such a size that they can’t be raked or shoveled conveniently, so the job is going to involve literally tossing them about.  Also, I have to pick out the larger ones with which the bed is framed and put them back in their place, which will be a tedious biznay.

In fact, my plan was to hire a kid, a friend of the family looking to make a little extra pocket money, to help me out.  Unfortunately, he had to go to an unexpected funeral today, so understandably bailed on me.  Given that, and given that I’m still technically on hols until Monday, I just said the hell with it.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest has been making noises for some time about wanting to repaint her bedroom.

A younger, more fire-brand Robbo would have had a fit about this, citing all kinds of logistical and technical difficulties to put the kybosh on the project in order to cover the fact that he simply didn’t want her to do it.

The older, more laisse-faire Robbo simply said, “Fine.  Do what you want.  Whatever happens, though, you’re stuck with it.  Just don’t get me tangled up in it all.”

And there, at least for a couple months, the matter rested.

Whelp, the Gel actually went out and followed through on it this week.  She collared one of the young men she holds in thrall, toddled off with him to Home Despot, got the doings, and went to work.  (I suspect said young man actually wound up doing a good bit of the painting himself.  She did treat him to ice cream afterwards.)  Ordinarily, Ol’ Robbo has an ironclad rule that males are not allowed upstairs at Port Swiller Manor except those related to us by blood or marriage, but I reckoned this was a special case.

And you know?  They actually did a pretty decent job.  (The walls are a sort of lavender blue now.  She still needs to go back and touch up the white trim around the windows but, hey, who doesn’t?)

And the Gel cleaned up afterward all by herself.

And Ol’ Robbo didn’t have to be involved or untangle anybody else’s mess.



Friends, Ol’ Robbo confirmed this afternoon that long-time friend of the decanter Diane, aka Quilt Babe, posting her own material over at Ginosko, passed away some time toward the end of May.

She’d been posting fairly sparingly on her own blog for a while, but commenting here now and again and was pretty active over on FB.  A few weeks back, noticing that she seemed to have vanished there, too, I sent her a message, but never heard back.  Today I hunted up her home FB page and learned the news via comments posted by other friends.  So far as I can gather, there were no warning signs.  She last reported going into hospital for some surgery and then…..nothing.

I’m late coming to this news simply because one somehow never actually expects this sort of thing to happen.


Diane and I became blog friends way back in the Llama days, as I recall, and she was one of the stalwarts who stuck with Ol’ Robbo when he set up on his own here.  Her online comments were always wise and entertaining, and she and I had a number of behind the scenes discussions which brought me great comfort with their compassion and insight, she being a religious lady of some considerable depth.  I never got the chance to meet her in person, and I regret it all the more now.

Diane lived alone, having neither husband nor children, but I know she had a very close network of family and friends who loved her dearly.  She will be missed by many, including me.

Requiescat in pace.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is still enjoying his summah hols (as apparently, from my traffic meter and comment silence, are many of you!), but nonetheless thought he would toss up just a little bit of random here:

♦  Got myself in a bit of trouble on FacePlant yesterday.  My Beloved Nationals have been en fuego ever since the end of May and after an apparently suicidal first couple months are now only four games behind the Braves for the NL East lead.  (This may change since we’re playing the Dodgers this weekend.)  Anyhoo, their FB fan page keeps touting the fact that the Nats are “the Best Team in Baseball” since May 24.  All I said was that this sort of thing carries the danger of awaking the wrath of the Baseball Gods and that maybe there’s a better, less apparently boastful, way to put it.  For this I was rebuked.  I’m not wrong.

Speaking of which, I’ve been invited by long-time friend of the blog NOVA Curmudgeon to go catch a game against said Braves next week.  My first time in the ballpark all season.  I’m really looking forward to it.

♦  For the steak-lovers here, I can heartily recommend Blackstones Grille in Southport, CT as a fine place to dine.  Their idea of how to cook a piece of meat comports exactly with mine.  I would only recommend that you bring a yuge appetite and, if possible, a wealthy benefactor.

♦  Last evening the Elder Gels and I watched “Con Air” together.  It was the first time for both of them even though they’re Nick Cage fans.  Hy-Larity ensued.

♦  Ol’ Robbo was complaining about the heat wave here last week.  What a lovely, lovely change a few days have made.  Cool and crisp this morning.  Is this Globull Enwarmening or the New Ice Age?  I’m confused…..

♦  Finally, I haven’t been up and down I-95 north of Dee Cee for a while, so it was only this week that I discovered the Delaware service center has been renamed the Biden Welcome Center.  Personally, I think “Creepy Uncle Joe’s Truck Stop” is more le mot juste, but that’s just me.

Well, that’s enough for now.  Time to go deal with weeds…….


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Much against every fiber of his better judgment and overcome by curiosity, Ol’ Robbo actually let himself watch the new trailer for the movie “Cats“.

According to ancient myth, Pandora opened the forbidden box and released all the evils into the world.  I opened the Yootoob and unleashed on my braim a collection of CGI-enhanced abominations it will never now be able to unsee.

Once Pandora acted, Hope remained left in her box.  All Robbo got were some stinky clumps of litter.

Jesus. Mary. Joseph.

I always though the stage “Cats” was bad enough.  Being compelled to watch an Andrew Lloyd Webber production to me is something akin to being forced to chug a 55-gallon drum of bubble-gum flavored cough syrup.  I simply thought it couldn’t get any worse.

This is.

I saw the thing, incidentally, over at the Hitler Rants Parodies reaction (which is why I saw it, as I do like those things so), and I think Mein Failüre has a salient point.  The original musical premiered back in 1981.  In those days, the line between reality and imagination was much more clearly defined, and the vast majority of people (who go in for that sort of drek) could enjoy the show while recognizing at the same time that It. Was. Being. Put. On. By. People. In. Cat. Suits.  I fear with the current state of insanity into which we seem to have plunged as a culture, coupled with the whiz-bang techno-animation, that a lot of folk will look at this train wreck, like it, and decide that they are cats as well, and furthermore demand that the rest of us respect this.

Think Ol’ Robbo is exaggerating? Wait for it.

So the normalization of “furries” will kick up another notch.  Deliberate Hollywood social engineering?  Or the by-product of another tired retread by an industry out of ideas.  I’d probably say that we should embrace the power of “and” here.

Anyhoo, I’ve seen enough already to send me close enough to the edge of insanity for my taste, so won’t look on it again.

By the bye, anybody got any tuna?  I’m kinda hungry.

UPDATE:  Ol’ Robbo might have added that, the newest abomination aside, his ire at the whole damn franchise runs miles deep.  This is because one of his cherished memories (ack!) from his misspent yoot was the Mothe’s bedtime readings from Mr. T.S. Eliot’s original materials.  “The Old Gumbie Cat”, “The Rum-Tum Tugger”, and “Macavity: The Mystery Cat” remain implanted in the lumber rooms of my mind even today.

Indeed, so much did these poems impress Ol’ Robbo that he made a point of naming the third cat of his adult life (after Bertie and Jeeves, our original pair), Jennyanydots (shortened to Jenny for everyday use).  Friends of the decanter have no idea how aggravated I got having to explain to people that no, no, no, her name had nothing to do with A.L. Bloody Webber, but instead with the poem.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is just checking in this fine Monday Morning (if there is such a thing) to see if the world has got any more insane over the first few days of his summah hols.

Let’s just say I’m not surprised by what I find.

This is definitely one of those do-nothing vacations for me.  At the moment, Ol’ Robbo is ensconced at his in-laws, largely that they may indulge themselves in grandchildren.  Mercifully, they’ve learned over the years that the best thing to do with me on these visits is to leave me be in a corner somewhere and forget about me.  Thus left, I have spent the past few days wallowing in bottomless cups of kawfee, a few glasses of wine, and some good summah reading, mostly P.C. Wren (Beau Geste and Beau Sabreur) and Kipling (Puck of Pook’s Hill, which I’ve not read before).

Most of the rest of my vacay will be spent back at Port Swiller Manor doing pretty much the same thing, with the addition of my various chores about the house and mense.

All in all, pretty restful.

Speaking of glasses of wine, t’other day, Ol’ Robbo was questioning here why America’s manned space program hasn’t pushed on further out since the end of the Apollo Program but has instead frittered itself away in low earth orbit.  So it was with some amusement that I noted this story this morning:  Red Wine could be Secret to Keeping Us Fit for Life on Mars: Study.

Now Ol’ Robbo has always pushed the manned space exploration angle strictly from the comfort of his armchair.  Frankly, I’d be too terrified to ever actually go up myself.  (Heck, regular friends of the decanter are well away of the hard time I have just dealing with commercial aviation.)  But if they need middle-aged fellahs to follow up on this research?

Hey, NASA.  I’m your huckleberry!

Moar holiday posting later…..

(A glass of wine with Sarah Hoyt over at the Puppy-Blender’s place.)

UPDATE:  Finished off all the Wren I have with me.  Starting in on the Kipling, I suddenly remembered why I have the book:

As regular friends of the decanter may recall, one of the small hobgoblins that haunts the mind of Ol’ Robbo is a possible literary reference in the works of Mr. Evelyn Waugh.  In his Handful of Dust, poor old Tony Last repeatedly refers to a story he read as a child about a Viking longboat showing up beneath the walls of Constantinople.  That image has always appealed to me and I’ve wondered for a long time where it could possibly have come from.

I think it was the last time I mentioned this here that somebody suggested Puck of Pook’s Hill as a likely candidate, and it at least seems plausible.  In the story, two children meet Puck (yes, that Puck) in a quiet corner of the English countryside.  By the power of oak, ash, and thorn, Puck invites them to travel back in time to meet the various historickal persons who have crossed the same piece of ground.  (The first story, which I’m currently reading, involves a young Norman knight who came over with the Conqueror.  A couple days after Hastings, he has to deal with settling his authority on a Saxon manor.)  I’ll let you know if Norsemen are spotted in Byzantium.

Even if the story referred to by Mr. Woo isn’t in this book, I already find it’s raising themes which I’ve long known and loved in the works of other traditional Brit writers:  Merlin and the Pagan Times; Roman occupation; Arthur; the Saxons; the coming of Christianity; the Conqueror.  (And that C.S. Lewis chose to name the children in the Narnia Chronicles ‘Pevensey’ is no accident.)  And so on.  (Even Hy-Brasil, which I first learned of, of all fool things, from the Python movie “Eric the Viking” gets a mention.)  Ol’ Robbo loves to wallow in this rich literary and historickal tradition, probably even more so these days since it’s been almost completely wiped out from contemporary conscience by those who would establish their Brave New World.

To such people, I say Puck Off!

UPDATE DUEX:  Well, we’ve had a longboat adventure in which both a Norman and a Saxon participate, but they go to the Bight of Benin and fight gorillas for gold instead of Constantinople.  Perhaps we’ll get another chance later.  At the moment, I’m headed for Hadrian’s Wall.

UPDATE TROIS: Finished.  No more longboats.  It must have been some other source.  BTB, here’s a link to the two hundred (not single) Viking longboat attack on Constantinople in 860 A.D.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’m sure all of you have either experienced or heard about the big Heat Wave gripping much of the country this week.  Triple digits here at Port Swiller Manor tomorrow and not much relief in sight before early next week.

Ol’ Robbo hasn’t much to say about the weather’s direct effect on him – my summah hols started today, in fact, and I plan to spend the bulk of them assiduously avoiding Outside.  The yard can go to the devil until things cool down later next week.

No, the person I feel for most is Eldest, who has to work straight through it in a very hot and crowded outdoor concessions right at the height of the season.  She’s been coming home in the late evening positively dripping, but surprisingly cheerful and only mildly complaining.

Indeed, the Gel’s been so restrained that I haven’t even had the chance to use my “it’s character-building” and “that’s why they pay you” lines.

Darn it.




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July 2019