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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

In case you’re interested, Dave Barry’s “2019 Year In Review” is up on the innerwebz and is, as usual, worth a read and a couple chuckles.  (I won’t link it here because I just had about a 45 minute fight with the Miami Herald’s webpage in which it kept trying to force-feed me cookies and froze up my laptop something fierce.)

I mention the article mostly as an excuse to note that I’ve always liked Barry’s humor, and also to express my admiration for the fact that he seems to have managed to maintain a light-hearted, balanced approach here, even in the face of the current uber-poisonous politickal atmosphere.  (In fact, said atmosphere is the butt of most of his jokes this time around.)

Indeed, my only real complaint about this latest installment of his annual summation is that he makes no mention of Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals’ win of the World Series.  But then again, Barry is a Marlins fan, so no doubt has simply blotted any thoughts of baseball whatever from his conscious mind.  I’ll allow it.

Oh, one thing I won’t allow:  As we all know, Wednesday is January 1, 2020.  2020 is not the first year of the next decade.  It is, instead, the last year of this decade.  Those failing to recognize this will be set upon by rabid honey-badgers.

Anyhoo, Ol’ Robbo will be pretty tied up over the next 48 hours, so I’ll take this opportunity to wish each of you a very Happy New Year!!

I’ll see you on the other side.

UPDATE:  Here’s the Barry column from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which doesn’t seem to be as predatory a site.  Because I’m a giver.  Enjoy!

UPDATE DEUX:  Link fixed, not that anybody apparently noticed.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the Family Robbo is still trying to adjust itself to our Christmas Morning fiasco.  The roast beef dinner that I was going to fix for that evening? I’m cooking it tonight.

As you can imagine, Death and the Eternal were much on my mind at Mass today.  (It wasn’t just the cat.  Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo has been dealing with another outbreak of the blues over the Mothe, as well.)  Fortunately, the musickal selections were particularly inspiring.  They included:

  • The Mass setting itself, which was the Missa “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
  • A motet also entitled “O Magnum Mysterium” by Victoria, sung after the Offertory Chant
  • Another motet, “Hodie Nobis Caelorum Rex” by Giovanni Maria Nanino (1543-1607), sung after the Communion Chant
  • Verbum Caro Factum Est” by Giovanni Croce (1557-1609), also sung after the Communion Chant, and
  • A traditional French carol, “Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle“, sung at the end of the Mass, that is to say after the Last Gospel.

It was all ravishing.

It’s through musick (primarily Renaissance and Baroque) that Ol’ Robbo imagines he feels the essence of Heaven, if you will.  I like to think that the best of what we produce here on Earth is inspired by and a faint echo of what the Eternal will be like.  I certainly hope it’s true and, of course, that I will get to find out some day.

Anyway, it had an immensely tonic effect on me.

UPDATE:  Delayed Christmas Dinner was a success.  I absolutely nailed the roast, the microwave-steamed asparagus came out very well, and these days I can  do popovers in my sleep.  The only dud was my gravy.  In past years, I’ve more or less winged it with decent, if not spectacular, results.  This year I looked up a formula on the innertoobs which produced a glop that tasted like flour-flavored paste.  Never trust the innertoobs.

But more importantly, my wimmin-folk and I had a delightful conversation, which I even managed to steer around to the subjects of God’s omnipotence, the Genesis Creation story, what possible reasons He could have had for creating and then wiping out the dinosaurs, and the matter of free will.  Eldest even got in a crack about how He, Him, and His are God’s preferred pronouns, and how dare anybody question His choices.  Heh, indeed.

Good times.


“We Can Haz Naps?”

Friends, it grieves Ol’ Robbo to have to report that this turned out to be the worst Christmas our family has ever had.  This is because on Christmas Morning Middle Gel discovered our cat Ginger lying dead in the basement, stone-cold and stiff as a board.  She was only six.

She had had some gland-blockage problems a couple weeks ago, but we took her into the vet’s and they gave her meds and a lotion to rub on her bum.  She seemed to respond well, and although she was still having some litterbox issues, she seemed quite happy, playing as usual and with a good appetite.  And indeed, when we had friends over for drinks on Christmas Eve, she came into the room and circulated as was her wont.

I didn’t realize what was going on until I got out of the shower and heard wailing downstairs. To me, the sight of Mrs. R and the Gels crying their eyes out was just as harsh as the sight of poor Ginger herself.

After standing about in shock for a bit, I eventually collected myself and found a sheet and a box.  The two elder Gels and I then took her to the vet for disposal.  (They have a communal site in an apple orchard where they scatter the ashes.)  We also got an impression of her front pawprints.

As you can imagine, we cancelled everything else for the day.

I didn’t ask for an autopsy.  From research on-line, my suspicion is that Ginger probably had heart-disease.  Maybe the extra straining in the litter box set it off, maybe not.  What I do know from the way we found her was that it happened very, very quickly.  Also, as I note, she had not been exhibiting any other signs of illness or wasting away.  Had we spotted anything out of the ordinary, of course we would have done something about it.

Sigh……Unfortunately, this is the very worst part of having pets, and is absolutely unescapable.  But it’s doubly-hard this time because she was so young and the thing was so unexpected.  At least we have the consolation of knowing that she was a happy cat who had a very good life, and that she likely never felt a thing when it happened.

Rest in peace.

UPDATE:  I switched the photo to one I like better.  Ginger is on the left with her cousin, Fiona.  Although they grew up together, so far Fiona is not weirding out, although I’m convinced she knows Something Has Happened.  Decanter Dog, on the other hand, to whom the kittehs were practically invisible, could not care less.


“Adorazione Dei Pastori” – Antonio da Correggio (1530)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

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

9 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.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

      • Luke 2:1-20

A very merry Christmas to all friends of the decanter!  God bless you all!  Bumpers all round and gunn’ls under! Here’s three times three and no heel taps!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

There’s a throwaway bit in the movie “The Italian Job” in which Mahky-Mahk is playing a little one-on-one basketball with one of his crime team members.  As he sets up to drive on the basket, he asks the guy, “You ready? You ready?”

He then makes a feint but immediately backs up, laughingly saying, “You’re not ready.”

I feel the very same way about Christmas from both a temporal and a religious aspect.

I’m not ready.

Prayers that tomorrow’s scrambles make me ready. Both ways.

UPDATE:  I should have made it clearer that the source of my unreadiness was a dose the Holiday Blues. (Yes, I still am not quite over the loss of the Mothe.)  Tough to get out of bed this morning, but I did it.  I’ve been pretty busy since then and it seems to help.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself hiding in the Port Swiller Manor basement this Saturday morning, calming an hysterical Decanter Dog as the maids give the upstairs a pre-holiday going over.  What better time for a little Seasonal Random?

♦  I was compelled to put up the Tree last Sunday.  If I actually had any say in this house, it wouldn’t get decorated until Christmas Eve itself, but I’m just the “Hey, you!” around here and ten days out is about the best compromise I can usually swing.  At least I’m able to insist on purple ribbon on the front door wreaths until such time and keeping the Creche Child-less until I get home from Midnight Mass.

♦  I was flipping through the pile of X-mas cards this morning and noticed two things:  First, not a single one of them might be styled “religious” in any sense of the word.  The vast majority are of the family photo montage variety, with one or two Santas thrown in.  (To be fair, we sent the family sort ourselves this year.  As usual, I had resolved to do a separate set of Christian cards myself, and as usual, I never got around to it.)  Second, the ratio of “Just who the heck are these people?” cards seems unusually high this year.

♦  Middle Gel and I went to her old high school’s Winter Choral Concert Thursday evening.  She wound up sitting with a bunch of her alumni chums while Ol’ Robbo loitered around in the background, but it was still a lot of fun, as the singing is always high quality and the offering is always a good balance of the serious (e.g., a Vivaldi Magnificat) and the silly (e.g., a boys’ a cappella rendering of the “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy”, complete with zany choreography.)  They have a nice tradition of always ending this concert with the same piece, a medley of “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” (both of which I actually like, even though they’re modern and secular).  The director invites all the choir alums in the audience to come up on stage and join in.  There was an enormous number of them this year for some reason.

♦  Speaking of Middle Gel, she and Mrs. R are off this afternoon to some town down on the Northern Neck where this same director had asked the Gel to join with a professional sextet to do a Lessons and Carols service at the local church tomorrow.  (One of his regular sopranos couldn’t make it.)  I thought it was very nice that he thought of her, and she’s even getting paid for it!

♦  Speaking of pay, Eldest bagged a job taking care of a couple dogs for the next two weeks or so.  It’s kind of astounding what kind of coin a gig like that can generate in these parts, and I find myself pondering whether I went into the wrong biznay myself after all.

♦  We do not have much planned this year in terms of festivities.  “A few people in for Christmas Eve drinks” threatened at one point to mushroom into something hideously complicated, but I put the kybosh on that one.  Christmas Dinner will only be the immediate family plus my older cousin.  She’s a card-carrying Globalist.  She’s also an atheist and a liberal elitist.  We sort of horrify her, but family loyalty wins out. and she pretty much behaves herself.  She won’t dare say anything about the Impeachment, for example, but I guarantee she’s going to get a jab in about Brexit.

Whelp, the dog continues to have hysterics, so perhaps despite the fact that it’s freezing out, Ol’ Robbo better go take her for walkies.

UPDATE:  The Lessons and Carols service went very well, and the Gel’s old choir director already has invited her to do next year’s service.  The Gel had taken this semester off from singing because she had a lot of other things on her plate (read: a killer bio class), but I got the sense that between the Thursday high school concert and this she’s been rediscovering how much she likes performing.  She’ll be doing her school choir again next semester.  She’s never going to be a Met headliner, but I don’t doubt that eventually she’ll find some kind of pro or semi-pro gig or gigs like this one that will satisfy this itch for her.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has a question for you friends of the decanter, prompted by a commercial he saw while watching a classic Star Trek rerun this evening.  (“I, Mudd“.  Norman! Coordinate!)

Is Carshield a legitimate thing?  Is any other automotive maintenance insurance plan?

I ask simply because La Wrangler is now almost 17 years old and at better than 100K.  Things are gonna give soon.  And Ol’ Robbo hates being rooked by the local Jeep dealership every time he brings her in.

Any thoughts would be appreciated, thankee.

(Yes, I’m ignoring the Impeachment.  So far as Ol’ Robbo is concerned, Nanzi and the Red Guard just guaranteed The Donald’s reelection, and probably also the flipping of the House next fall. Buh bye!)






Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A light snowfall overnight here at Port Swiller Manor, with a “wintery mix” still coming down early this morning.

Normally, our local school district panics at the first sign of a snowflake, but today we didn’t even get a delay.  This despite the fact that both counties immediately to the west of us closed down their schools entirely.

Youngest Gel was livid.  And as she stumped out to her car with an ice-scraper, I’m sure she was even more embittered by the knowledge that her elder sisters, both of whom got home for winter break this weekend, were fast asleep still and not likely to fall out of bed until very late in the morning. (In fact, that’s exactly when they did fall out.)

I kept chuckling about this to myself all day.  But then I’m a bad man.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the big oak out front has left a mess in the yard, so Ol’ Robbo needs to get out his rake today.  I feel no obligation to do so, however, until it stops raining later on.

In the meantime, 2+2 will never equal 5 no matter how much our lords and masters insist otherwise, and the words “Hilary Clinton”, “youthful”, and “radiant” will never, ever belong in the same sentence.

I’ve never understood this Botox biznay.  Every single person I can think of who’s had this kind of cosmetic treatment winds up simply looking like a freak.  I also object in general to the notion of trying to hide aging instead of treating it with dignity and respect.

Whole thing reminds me of Katherine Helmond’s character in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.  I would remind people once again that the film was supposed to be a dystopian satire, not a how-to guide.

Go figure.

A glass of wine with the Puppy Blender.

UPDATE:  For those of you keeping track, leaves successfully rounded up despite the fact that they were very wet.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I’m sure will surprise no one gathered round the decanter, Ol’ Robbo is delighted at the drubbing Boris Johnson and the Tories handed Labour and the rest of the Loony Left in yesterday’s UK Parliamentary elections.  Ol’ Robbo is strongly pro-Brexit.  The older I get, the more I detest the idea of globalism in its various manifestations and the corresponding loss of national, local, and, for that matter, individual sovereignty.  Indeed, the EU and other such organizations are nothing more than the Bearded-Spock Universe antithesis of subsidiarity, a principle to which I am deeply attached.

However, Ol’ Robbo is too tired for philosophical analysis of this latest brush war in the eternal struggle between collectivist authoritarianism and individual autonomy.  Instead, at the forefront of my  braims this evening is a timely Python skit that never seems to get old.  Enjoy!



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December 2019