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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Birthday to Young Frederick!

When Ol’ Robbo actually does remember Leap Day, he almost invariably thinks back to Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, and specifically to the Pirate King’s Chant explaining the paradox of Frederick’s birthday:

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February,
twenty-eight days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine and twenty.
Through some singular coincidence – I shouldn’t be surprised if it were owing to the agency of an ill-natured fairy –
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year, on the twenty-ninth of February;
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays,
you’re only five,
and a little bit over!

That right there is some very clever writing and makes me smile whenever it wanders across my braims, especially in the somber, ecclesiastic intonations of the King in the old Doyle-Carte Company production which is Ol’ Robbo’s gold standard.

It is, of course, very shortly after they’ve had a laugh over this that the Pirate King points out to Frederick he had been apprenticed to the pirate band until he reached not his twenty-first year but in fact his twenty-first birthday and that rather than being released from his bond that day as they’d all at first thought, he actually had rather a lot of time left to go.

Later, Frederick tells his grief-stricken Mabel that he won’t reach his twenty-first birthday until the year 1940.  If my math is right, that would make today his forty-first.  Salute!


And while I’m on the subject of G&S in general and Pirates in particular, just about every production I’ve ever seen of it couldn’t resist the urge to camp things up.  Further, since the advent of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, every Pirate King seems to mimic Johnny Depp.  When Ol’ Robbo becomes Emperor of the World, these practices will cease.  For wit and humor, res ipsa loquitur and there is no need for either rubber chickens, slurred delivery, or drunken choreography.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the weekend Mrs. Robbo and I entertained my cousin to dinner at Port Swiller Manor.  This was was a make-up date, as we had cancelled Christmas Dinner on her (to which she usually comes) after finding one of our kittehs dead that morning.

Since it was “Christmas”, we duly exchanged the presents we had previously got for each other.

Cousin’s gift to me was a copy of David McCullough’s The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.  From the book’s O-fficial website:

As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.

Certainly an interesting read about a chunk of American history that rarely gets any notice.  And from what I’ve read by McCullough in the past, I truly look forward to it.

But this wasn’t enough in and of itself.  I have mentioned a time or two here that this cousin is a genealogy shark.  She’s got stacks and stacks of documents, photographs, and memorabilia in her house, the product of years and years of research.  And it so happens that my father’s family was a part of the very movement described in the book.  (Scotch-Irish Presbyterian abolitionists on all sides.)  So what did she do?  She went through and heavily annotated my copy by hand, filling in family-specific information around the general narrative.  (My great-great-great-grandfather was in Ohio by at least 1810.)  She included a copy of her application to the D.A.R. (She applied many, many years ago based on one ancestor who was in the Sixth Pennsylvania Regiment.  Since then, she’s found a couple others in different units.)  And because she’s now working her way from the other end, so to speak, digging up our roots in the Old Country and making the critical connection, she included a map showing the locations of various feeder branches in Scotland and Ireland.  (My main tree goes through Cumberland County, PA in about 1750.  She hasn’t quite got the jump from Ireland to there sussed out yet, but she’s working on it.  Evidently, Ol’ Robbo might be related to the Paxton Boys.  Yikes.)

Now all of this is wonderful, but it comes with a price due to the monomaniacal strain that infests some of my paternal family:  You see, there will be an exam.   My cousin will be back here for Easter Dinner, and while I won’t be expected to have it all letter-perfect by then, I know darn well that I’m going to have to make a mighty strong showing of initial progress if I don’t want to disappoint/offend her.

Better go hit the book!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whelp, last evening we wrote our final check for Eldest’s college edumacation.  Hard to believe she’ll graduate in June.

Yeah, we have to start paying for Youngest this summah, so we’ll still be carrying two of them for the next two years (here’s praying the Market stays strong!), but as Mrs. R pointed out you take your milestones when you can get them.

Our rule has always been that we would cover the Gels’ undergrad studies but that if they decided to go to grad school, that would be on them.  I don’t think this is the least bit unreasonable, as it allows us to avoid beggaring ourselves and at the same time teaches them a thing or two about financial responsibility.  They are adults, after all.

So huzzay, huzzah!

UPDATE:  For Vic, and any other friends of the decanter who may be interested, in fact Eldest has been accepted into a graduate program, but she’s still in the midst of figuring out financial aid, internships, on-campus employment, and the like in order to see if she can make it fly and I don’t want to say anything until her plans have been finalized.  (Sorry to sound mysterious.)

UPDATE DEUX:  Absolutely nothing to do with the above, but as this is Saturday and I usually try to post something garden-related, I will just say that the robins are out in force at Port Swiller Manor this afternoon and that I don’t care if the idea that they cock their heads like that in order to listen for tasty worms has been exploded as false, I choose to believe it anyway. N’yah.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo noticed this week that the days are definitely beginning to get a bit longer as it is now not quite dusk when I get home in the evening.  That we are finally emerging from what I have long called the Time of the Mole-People is a Good Thing.

(As an aside, I saw another round of articles about Betelgeuse possibly getting ready to go supernova recently, so I stopped last evening to have a good look at Orion.  His left shoulder is definitely smaller and more indistinct.  I found myself thinking “What if it actually did blow 600 years ago and the light from that explosion gets here right now?  Say, is that a faint halo I see expanding around it?”  It was only through sheer willpower that I pulled myself away from gawping.  I could easily have stood there staring into the sky until a passing rainstorm drowned me, as is said to happen to domestic turkeys.)

Alas, with the increasing light comes the increasing occurrence of people neglecting to turn on their headlights, no doubt because they figure they can see just fine and it never occurs to them that the other purpose of such illumination is so that other drivers can see them.  And it has often occurred to me that this seems to happen far more often with cars of a color difficult to spot in the twilight than mere chance would explain.  Why, I don’t know.  I do know that it is a Bad Thing.

As for Ugly.  You want ugly?  I’ll give you ugly.  I found out just yesterday that Metro is going to spend the next nine months playing merry hell with both my parking lot and my trains.  My parking lot capacity will be cut in half, meaning I’m going to have to start getting up before 5 ack emma if I hope to get a spot.  Further, the trains are going to be spun out at much longer intervals, which will mean long waits and much crowding.   They’re refurbishing all four above-ground stations on my end of the line and for some insane reason they feel compelled to do most of it at the same time, thereby causing massive disruptions and displacements in commuter flow.  But that’s just public transportation for you, isn’t it:  Use us, so that we may kick you in the teeth.  Ol’ Robbo is mighty crabby about this, and no doubt will spend many pixels here over the course of spring, summer, and fall griping.  Grrrr….

Well, to finish out the theme and also to snap me from brooding on that last item, let’s pull out an oldie-but-goodie YooToob, which I myself haven’t pulled up in years.  Enjoy!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and Happy Arbitrary Monday Federal Holiday!

Ol’ Robbo thought it fitting, in a nod to Mr. Washington’s encounter with the cherry tree and Mr. Lincoln’s rail-splitting, to honor their birthdays by spending the morning doing his very first bout of yardwork this season.

Fortunately, Ma Nature was in complete accord: a beautiful blue sky with just a trace of cirrus cloud, no wind, and air that feels warmer than it actually is.  (My porch thermometer says 46 degrees at the moment, but I was actually working up a sweat out in the garden.)

My first task, which I believe I mentioned the other day, was to thwack back the wisteria that infests my fence and back porch pillars.  It had been a while since I last did this and the stuff was pretty over-grown.  I believe the main reason I’m reluctant to prune is that when I actually do it I tend to go into berserker mode and lay waste all about me.  Today I was good, however, and it all looks much neater.

Next job was taking on my garden full of Buddleia, known to me for years as Kong and the Konglings.  With butterfly bush, there’s no fear of overdoing it whatever, as the proper method is to raze it back to about ten inches off the ground.  It’s just as well I did it now, by the way, because the stuff is already well on in putting out new growth.  I missed this year’s Groundhog Day prognostications, but it’s evident my garden doesn’t believe Spring is going to be much delayed.

And maybe not just the garden.  I was watching a goldfinch at the thistle-seed feeder a little while ago and I’d swear there’s a first, faint, yellow sheen just beneath his outer feathers.

And speaking of birds, at the moment I’m watching a red-bellied woodpecker at the other feeder.  He’s got into the habit of digging for a specific kind of nut he likes in the  mix I use and tossing seed all over the place in his efforts to find it.  (I suppose this would irk me more if it didn’t cause a great crowd of bottom-feeders to congregate immediately underneath.)  I bring him up because I recently got to wondering why he is called “red-bellied”, when in fact it is his head and nape that are red, while his belly actually is nothing of the sort.  Go figure.

So that’s Robbo’s holiday, that is.

Speaking of Prezdints by the bye, or rather of those who wish to be one, I dunno what friends of the decanter might think about them but Ol’ Robbo is sick to death of the barrage of ads Mini-Mike Bloomberg is plastering all over teevee and social media.  Granted, I think he’s a nasty little troll to begin with so am perhaps biased, but I just don’t see their appeal to the average non-politickal junkie.  Even if it’s purely a push to build up name-recognition, I really think he’s overdoing it.  (And if, as it seems, he is suddenly becoming the darling of the Donk Establishment now that Slow Joe is spinning in, I’ve a very hard time imagining the BernieBots are going to simply sit still and allow a plutocrat to buy the nomination this time around.  Milwaukie is going to be……interesting.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo generally does the cooking at Port Swiller Manor on the weekends.

This evening I decided to do a taco bar, in part because of simplicity, in part because it’s something everyone will actually eat.  (Eldest is home visiting, so there are four of us.)

Alas, I just now discovered that the package of taco spice I picked up earlier is meant for chicken or fish, not the hamburger I intend to use.

How do you like that?  Not only cultural appropriation, but incompetent cultural appropriation!

Well, the devil with it.  The spices must flow!

(By the bye, when I become Emperor of the World, fish tacos will be banned permanently.  What a revolting idea.)

UPDATE:  Huzzay! Huzzah!  Poking about in the back of the pantry, Ol’ Robbo came across an only partially-used packet of the correct spice.  (Although, truth be told, after sampling both I’m not sure I could tell you any real difference between them.)

My mother used to comment now and again about the apparently large dollop of Fool’s Luck with which I seem to have been born.  I guess I haven’t maxed out on it yet.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other evening while at loose ends, Ol’ Robbo found himself watching a show on the Military Channel.  It was about Joshua’s prowess as a great warrior at the battles of Jericho and Ai.

The show itself, which featured a lot of cheesy, cut-rate, 300-style semi-animation, was a disappointment, albeit not surprisingly.  But it prompted Ol’ Robbo to remember a book he bought long ago and squirreled away somewhere unread, Battles of the Bible by Chaim Herzog and Mordechai Gichon.  My curiosity piqued, I dug it out and cracked it open.

I’m very glad I did.  And props to the MC at least for leading me to do so.

Ol’ Robbo has now and again had a go at reading the historickal books of the Old Testament – Judges, Samuel, Chronicles, Kings, and so forth – but I always get lost and bogged. Battles takes all of that and sets it down in a clear, concise, and illuminating style.

The first part by Gichon begins with an overview of the ancient Middle East.  It discusses the strategic geological importance of the land bridge between Africa and Asia, as well as the topography of the region and its effect on everything from travel to fighting style (e.g., the coastal plains’ suitability for chariot warfare vs. a mountainous interior that favored ambush and the sword), to agriculture and sustainability. It then lays out the general geopolitical struggle between Egypt, on the one hand, and the various Asian Powers on the other for control of the region.  It also speaks to the early Semitic migrations including Abraham’s removal from the north and the appearance of Joseph and others in Egypt, as well as to the gradual formation of various groups and tribes into a coherent people recognizable as The Jews. (I’d never really thought about where the Philistines actually came from before, either.)

After quickly coming down through Moses and the Exodus to the eve of the Jewish invasion of Canaan, it then plunges into detailed discussions of the various campaigns of the Old Testament, from Joshua, Deborah’s defeat of Sisera, and Gideon’s battles against the Midianites through the wars of Saul and David, Solomon’s infrastructure, the division of the Kingdom into Israel and Judah, the Assyrian conquests, the last defenses of Judah, and finally the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple.  The constant, constant fighting and maneuvering of this historickal arc is downright exhausting.

The second, shorter part by Herzog is an account of the Maccabee Revolt against the Hellenistic Seleucids in the 160’s B.C.  Finally, finally after all these years, Ol’ Robbo gets the full meaning of Hanukkah and the rededication of the Second Temple after its Greek defilement. (And while the book doesn’t cover it, I was impressed at how similar this episode is to the later Jewish Revolt against the Romans put down by Vespasian and Titus in 68-70 A.D.)

In the course of its narrative, the book is also a history of the politics, culture, social structure, and economy of the Jews (and their neighbors) during this period, since these are all relevant to not only the why of the battles, but also to the who, what, how, and where.  As for the religious aspect, it stays away from what one might call the miraculous side of things (i.e., whether God stopped the sunrise for Joshua at Ai) and only discusses Judaic Monotheism as a cultural identity bond and a motivating factor in the fierceness of their military campaigns of both conquest and defense.  It also mentions several of the Prophets, but only in the context of their contribution to the strategic debate.  While obviously relying much on Old Testament narrative, it also looks to contemporary accounts from Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon, as well as archeological evidence.

The book is extremely well written in its clarity of explanation, dispelling virtually all of the fog I encounter when attempting to read the OT descriptions myself.  And the multiple strategic and tactical maps included in it are invaluable.  It’s unlikely Ol’ Robbo will ever make it to the Holy Land himself, but I feel like I know it a whole lot better now.

And the really chilling thing?  As you read it, you become increasingly aware of the fact that hardly a single thing has really changed in that part of the world in all these thousands of years.

So if you’re interested in Ancient Jewish military history – and just who the heck isn’t? – I’d heartily recommend reading this book.


Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those friends of the decanter who keep up with such things (Hi, Bob from NSA and the Chinese Central Government!) will recall that Middle Gel drives a Volkswagen Tiguan.

This morning Ol’ Robbo learned that her brakes were squealing ominously, so I advised she take her car in to get the matter checked out.

A short time later, I learned from the local VW dealer that her pads were shot.  I was also informed that it was not enough to just replace the pads themselves.  The rotors also needed to be switched out.  Because VW-Euro reasons.  Because shut up.  That this quadrupled the repair cost was unfortunate but, hey, there it was.

I agreed to the suggested repairs.  Daughter. Safety.  Personal mechanical ignorance.  No position to question, really.

I hope that the dealer wallah was speaking in good faith, but I can’t shake the feeling that I got hoorawed.


Grumble, grumble, grumble…….

Incidentally, I bring up the make and model of Middle Gel’s ride because I can’t help noticing that her VW seems to have more attacks of the vapors than all the rest of the Robbo Family fleet of Jeeps and Hondas combined.  You might take that into consideration if you are in the market for a new set of wheels.  German engineering.  Feh.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry about the dearth of posties here recently.  I seem to have some kind of mild but slow-rolling bug that’s left me rather fatigued and mush-minded.

(Somebody suggested the other day that it might be “Seasonal Affective Disorder”, but Ol’ Robbo doesn’t do disorders.  Or syndromes.)

So by way of making up, how about some quick thoughts?

♦  Ol’ Robbo did not watch the Oscars last evening.  I just don’t care.  I haven’t seen a single one of this year’s movies and I have no interest in being lectured about today’s “issues” by a pack of self-absorbed tinsel-heads.

♦  Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday.  Now that I’m excited about!  What else is there to say except “GO, NATS!!!

♦  Mrs. R loves the sound of Decanter Dog snoring, as do I.  But when I snore? I get banished.  Does that seem right to you?

♦  I know I’m repeating myself but this happened again on a biznay trip last week.  The problem with eating with vegans is that all they ever talk about is their veganism.  Shut up about it already!

♦  Ditto drivers of hybrid cars who leave their virtue signal on continuously.  (Did you see what I did there?)

♦  It’s getting time to replace my electronic porch thermometer, as the readout control buttons are starting to wear out.  I have the simplest La Crosse Technologies model now, but would like to upgrade to something a little fancier.  (Specifically, I’d like something that shows actual barometric pressure.)  Anybody have any recommendations?

♦  The expression “lying, dog-faced pony soldier” seems to be making the rounds of the innerwebz at the moment.  I’ve seen the term “pony soldier” on the lips of Indians in books and film and simply meaning “U.S. Cavalry”.  What I wonder is whether this is just the stuff of modern writers or is it authentic frontier gibberish.

♦  It occurs to me that I haven’t grilled out in months.  (I had thought of setting up a good lighting system on the porch but never got around to it.)  Happily, it’s just another few weeks until, at least on a clear evening, I ought to be able to get back to it. Exciting.  One simply can’t do justice to a really good steak except over an open flame.

♦  Which reminds me that I must take a machete to the wisteria next weekend.  I have it all over the back fence and the porch pillars.  Ol’ Robbo seeks that classic look of thick, bare trunks with a fine profusion of growth just along the top of the fence.  My wisteria have other ideas.  Gorram hippies!

♦  Finally, regular friends of the decanter will recall that we lost one of the Port Swiller kittehs to heart disease Christmas morning.  I’ve been watching the other one very carefully since for signs of excessive grief or loneliness.  Fortunately, it appears I need not worry.  She seems quite content with the new dynamic.  Which is just as well, because I’m convinced Decanter Dog would absolutely not tolerate the introduction of another kitteh into the house.  She accepted all of the current occupants when she herself was a newcomer, but now? NYET!!

Well, there you go…..





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Not that the question is liable to enter your mind, but no, Ol’ Robbo does not plan to watch the Game this year.  I don’t have any tie whatsoever to or even knowledge of either team, and all those woke commercials I’ve heard tell will be airing would just spike my blood pressure.

I reckon I’ll pass.

UPDATE:  Well, I see from the headlines that the Chiefs came from behind to beat the 49ers.  Ol’ Robbo is pleased by this, since I’m still smarting from the Dolphins’ Super Bowl loss to the 49ers back in 1985.  At the time, I figured that was just going to be the first of many SB appearances by Dan Marino, but as the years rolled on and the ‘Fins never made it back, I got increasingly bitter.

Probably why I largely dropped pro ball when Marino retired.

And first commenter to say “Laces out, Dan!” spends a night in the box.


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February 2020