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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How about a little nonsense to celebrate the end of February?

Ol’ Robbo has mentioned here before how intelligent Decanter Kitten is proving to be, but now I’m starting to have some doubts. She was sleeping in my lap yesterday morning when my stomach started grumbling. This convinced her there was a mouse or something under my robe, whereupon she began to attack. That hurt.

I also mentioned rereading Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. I’d hoped to finish before Lent begins, but I find I’m just starting the last of the twelve novels and I don’t think I’m going to make it. Do I binge tonight and tomorrow night? Or just let it go for now? Decisions, decisions….

Speaking of Lent, I don’t plan to stop posting this year because I have other, ambitious, penitential plans and may need to vent a bit. (Wish me luck.)

Sooooo….Will MLB have a season or not? I guess today is “fish or cut bait” day. I guess I hope they do, but I’ve been off baseball for two years now so it won’t be the end of the world if they don’t. (One of the things Management is looking for, evidently, is to allow on-field rules changes after only 45 days’ notice instead of a full year. That’s practically Calvinball, that is.)

Finally, Ol’ Robbo reads where some of the good citizens of Ottawa are still hearing “phantom” honking, even though the truckers have now left downtown. I know I’m not meant to laugh about this…but I do. (Yes, I’m a bad man.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As part of the ongoing spring prep campaign, Ol’ Robbo had to replace the deer netting which guards the backside of his hydrangea hedge today, the old one having become quite ratty this fall and teh bushes having pushed out enough that I needed to reposition the fence stakes to give them more room.

Ol’ Robbo simply cannot recall teh last time he had to fool with this. It might be because it has been a very long time, but I’m now inclined to think maybe I’ve been suppressing some bad memories. That damned netting clings to simply everything it can lay its strands on! In fact, it seemed to have a particular, malevolent predilection for fouling itself on my shirt-sleeve buttons, several of which I ultimately lost in my growing impatience at the constant snagging. It also kept getting wrapped around my boots. (The last time I worked with the netting must have been in warmer weather, because I really don’t recall these nuisances.) Then again, the old netting, once off, proved surprisingly recalcitrant when it came to trying to stuff it into trashbags. Grrrrr…..

At any rate, I eventually got the old stuff off and bagged, cut back the more egregious growth on the bushes, repositioned the stakes and strung up the new netting. On one point, at least, I am patting myself on the back: The last time I strung it, I had it in my head that the stuff needed to come all the way down to the ground, lest the deer, finding a slim opening, would exploit it. This led to years of constant entanglements when I tried to dance in too close with the weed-whacker. Well, this time I left myself a couple inches clearance, so hopefully that will be one fewer annoyances to deal with come summah. Overall, the whole thing looks nice and neat now.

Speaking of strong fences, I see from a quick glance at FacePlant this morning that people including Our Betters are festooning their pages with blue and yellow in support of the Ukraine. So stunning. So brave. It reminds Ol’ Robbo of the heady days of hashtag diplomacy and what a tremendous tool it was in stomping out the slavers kidnapping African schoolgirls. Look, I want Putin to get a bloody nose as much as anybody else, but it seems to me that this biznay could have been stopped before it even started, and that this kind of after-the-fact rallying round is a day late and a dollar short. Still, they told me that if I voted for the Bad Orange Man, international bullyboys would try to take advantage of the lack of American strength and leadership to pursue their nefarious ends, and they were right!

Greetings again, my fellow port swillers! (No, I generally don’t post more than once a day now, but I didn’t want to head into the weekend on a purely sour note either.)

Ol’ Robbo was delayed by the recent technical unpleasantness from doing so timely, but he nonetheless wanted to raise a glass to celebrate the birthday this week of George Washington.

Mostly I wanted an excuse to again post the above painting by Charles Wilson Peale from 1772. It’s my very favorite painting of Ol’ George, dressed in his uniform as a Colonel of colonial militia.

The background is said to be Jumonville Glen, where in 1754 Washington led a deft bush-whacking of a party of French and Indians, thereby igniting the French and Indian War. That might explain the somewhat smug look on his face in the portrait.

If Ol’ George did pause to gloat a bit after that fight, it was likely the last time he did for some time to come, since he was trapped and forced to surrender to the French at Fort Necessity a few weeks later, signing a humiliating confession of murder that he didn’t even understand since it was written in French. Then, the next year, he was lucky to escape with his life from the massacre at the Monogahela when poor old Gen. Braddock stumbled into the ambush. He spent the bulk of the time after than and later during Pontiac’s Rebellion in the ultimately futile attempt to protect the Virginia frontier from repeated Indian raids. So, yes, it makes some sense that if he was to be portrayed in his military character, it would include a reference that original skirmish, even though it had taken place 18 years earlier.

Anyway, ne’er mind! Here’s to Ol’ George with three times three!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

To what depths have we plumbed with the covidiocy? Ol’ Robbo will tell you.

Yesterday, Eldest came home from work at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method with the report of one of the younglings becoming sick and throwing up. In and of itself, this is nothing, but here’s the thing: The kid was too terrified of the possible consequences to take off his damned mask! And, in fact, he was so panicked, confused, and embarrassed that he actually pulled the face-diaper up higher to cover his eyes.

You can imagine the results. Eventually one of the staff was able to talk him down (like a potential jumper), pry the thing off, and clean up the mess.

It doesn’t get a lot of attention apart from tinfoil-hat loonies like Ol’ Robbo, but what they’ve done to the kids during this ersatz crisis, physically, mentally, developmentally, amounts to nothing short of outright child abuse.*** And of all the foolishness in which we’ve been forced to wallow, this is the aspect of it that fills Ol’ Robbo with the most outrage.

The less-charitable side of me would like to see somebody pay dearly for this, but I seriously doubt that will ever happen. Even if it did, the damage has already been done, and it’s something with which we’re going to have to deal for a very long time.

***Yes, yes, the above story is just anecdote. But it happened. And I see too many other stories and reports along these lines to dismiss it all as mal-information spread by traitorous wreckers and saboteurs. (And now Ol’ Robbo supposes his web-browser is going to mysteriously crash again.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Still no joy on my laptop browser. Pages are loading but not completely, showing mostly images but no text. Beats me if the problem is systemic or just lil’ ol’ Robbo’s.

Typing one-thumbed on my phone, you’ll understand if I’m terse and largely substance-free, but I can’t stand the idea if going dark altogether and this is the best I can do right now.

Expect it very short and sweet, indeed epigrammatic, until this is all sorted out.

UPDATE: Give me joy, fellow port swillers!

After a little troubleshooting, Ol’ Robbo was able to deduce that whatever the problem was with Microsoft Edge, it seemed confined to my laptop. (It works fine on my work computer.) So, all by my own self, I downloaded Chrome onto my laptop. This is very much the extreme outer edge of my technical skillz, but I still managed it without the help of Eldest, who would have made me pay for her aid with endless mockery of my Luddite-like stature. Wait’ll I tell her!

Of course, I still don’t know what the original problem is, but in this instance, figuring out a workaround is just as good as solving it.

Now, back to Full Monty babbling!

Forehead-Slapping UPDATE DEUX: I forgot to mention the really clever part! No doubt the lynx-eyed among you were thinking, “But, Tom, didn’t you say Edge wasn’t working? How did you get on the innerwebz to find Chrome, then?” Well, when I was messing about and poking random buttons, I discovered that a copy of Internet Explorer was also tucked away in a very obscure folder. So I used that.

Again, this may sound like the village idiot figuring out how to use a wall switch to some, but I’m pretty durn proud of myself anyway.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is having browser issues – nothing loads all the way up, so I am literally typing this blinds. Hopefully, things will get back to normal soon.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, today Ol’ Robbo was up bright and early to undertake that annual late-winter chore, the clearing out of the garden.

As regular friends of the decanter will recall, this consists primarily of whacking back the butterfly bush from its average 7-foot tall, 7-foot wide maximum to a set of stumps a foot or two high. As there are currently 32 of these bushes in the garden (I counted to be sure), you can imagine that’s quite a bit of whacking, indeed. Took me about four hours, altogether, but I sit here now patting myself on the back because I got it done before the latest cold front swept in this afternoon, bringing with it gusty winds and dropping temperatures.

(Ol’ Robbo takes no credit whatever for the proliferation of his butterfly bush, by the bye. Buddleia is pretty much a weed, after all. But I still do take credit for their original progenitor, Kong, the sole surviving seedling of a tray I started under fluorescent light in my basement years and years ago.)

Some years this job seems a colossal pain in the backside, others not so much. Happily, this was one of the latter. I suppose it’s just a matter of clearing the ol’ braim of irritants and finding something pleasant or productive on which to meditate. I seem to have achieved that this time. Oommmmm……..**

Once I raked up and removed all the debris, the place seemed clean but forlorn. It’s always hard to imagine that in just five months it’ll be covered with flowering bushes and swarming with birds, butterflies, and moths again. It’s the wonder of nature, baybee!***

I plan to take advantage of the ersatz holiday Monday to tackle the roses and wisteria.

** I’ve long been on the lookout for a small statue of St. Benedict to put in but have never found anything I liked and am now toying with the idea of maybe just a small sign for the gate reading “ora et labora“.

***Of course, this isn’t all I have in there. The famous disappointing hedge of forsythia at one end is showing itself to be waking up now and there’s the colony of foxgloves at the other which provides lovely mid-spring color. Plus the hydrangea hedge behind and the peonies and roses in front. But it definitely dominates from about late June all the way to the first hard frost.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo read the news today. Oh, boy. Eldest Gel remarked this morning, “This isn’t Clown World. Clowns are fun and harmless.*** This is way, way beyond Clown World.”

I made a trip to my meatspace office yesterday, only the second time since the onset of covidiocy, to pick up some upgraded equipment, including a fancy-shmancy hi-def webcam. It’s now perched on top of my work monitor, looking at me. The rational part of me insists it’s not on if it’s not plugged in, but my gut is now telling me to throw it in a drawer except when I actually need to use it.

Speaking of cameras, Ol’ Robbo has been hearing off and on that the Tolkien Estate sold out to Amazon, which is now in the process of doing a reboot of the history of Middle Earth chock-a-block with, how shall I put it, the latest sensibilities. I find this biznay of wearing the carcass of a beloved classic as a skinsuit to push an agenda to be depraved. Say whatever you like but build your own damn platform to do it! (Of course, I’ve no intention of watching the thing. And it’s too bad, really, because I’ve long thought LOTR would make excellent material for a mini-series.)

Speaking of classics, I may have mentioned that I’m rereading Anthony Powell’s great cycle A Dance to the Music of Time. I’ve again come across the passage in The Soldier’s Art in which the narrator, Nick Jenkins, purchases a military greatcoat at the beginning of WWII. In describing it, he states that it has a “shot at dawn cut”. Ol’ Robbo has puzzled over what this means for some years now, but I’m still no closer to a satisfactory answer.

Ol’ Robbo attended a very interesting meeting the other day: A couple of the alums of my old rowing team at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown CT came up with the idea of starting an endowment fund to purchase boats for the program to be named after the coach my junior and senior year who completely transmogrified the crew from a down and out mediocrity to a truly elite program (and transmogrified all of us in the process). When they announced a general interest zoom call, I only expected a handful of participants. As it turns out, thirty-seven folks dialed in, practically the whole damn squad from those two years. Says something about this coach’s influence. (By the bye, I hadn’t seen most of these guys in 35 years. Let’s just say age approaches each of us in very different ways.)

As a matter of fact, I’m meeting with the ringleader of this plan next week one on one. I’ve already warned him that with my modest salary and kids in school, Port Swiller Manor isn’t exactly awash in doubloons these days, but he’s eager to talk, nonetheless. That’s something Ol’ Robbo never could stand, trying to squeeze money out of people. Way, way back in the day, when I was on the vestry of my former Episcopal Church, pledge-drive time always filled me with dread and loathing, and I always felt hideously embarrassed cold-calling folks, even people I knew, at dinner time and urging them to pony up. Some other folks actually enjoy it, I guess.

Finally, to tie back to the title, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t “do” Presidents’ Day. I’ll celebrate in honor of Ol’ George next Tuesday, but most of the rest of them? Nah.

*** I actually disagree. Clowns are evil. But I understand what she was getting at. And if you ask, “Tom, what particular current events item was she discussing?” I’d say “pick one”.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I’m sure that most friends of the decanter by now have heard the news of the passing, yesterday, of P.J. O’Rourke. He was only 74 but considering the abuse through which he put his body over his life, I can’t say I’m all that terribly surprised.

Ol’ Robbo owns, I believe, every one of Peej’s books. Indeed, I binged my way through them not all that long ago, and their wit and shrewdness remain as fresh as ever. Alas, in the last six or seven years, in the great tumult that is sweeping over Your Nation’s Capital in the wake of the complete radicalization of the Establishment Left, Peej revealed himself to be more interested in keeping his spot on the GOPe cocktail circuit than actually taking a stand. This has happened with a number of other authors Ol’ Robbo used to admire: George Will (Just what the hell did happen to him?) and Peggy Noonan immediately come to mind. I can’t stand the idea of actually throwing books away, but I have banished these two plus some other Weekly Standard and National Review types to the Shelves of Shame in my basement. It is a personal tribute to the quality and humor of Peej’s writing that I still keep him up in my library.

Incidentally, one time years ago Ol’ Robbo was out driving when a little sportscar came bombing up behind me, blew past on my left, and cut me off. It was Peej. Bastard.

On another front, Ol’ Robbo is also sure that fans of his Washington Nationals have heard by now that Ryan Zimmerman has announced his retirement from baseball. What a guy. A friend pointed out not long ago that when you look at his actual stats, he really was just an average-to-good player, but there’s just something about his character that pervaded the entire team and made it something special. They don’t call him “Mr. National” for nothing.

Thank you, Zimm, for your sixteen years here. And a glass of wine with you!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is a mere armchair historian, but it seems to me pretty obvious that the root of the current unpleasantness in the Great White North most likely traces directly back to the abandonment of the Red Ensign in 1965.

I mean, chuck a perfectly good, historickally-rooted national flag and adopt a new one with a dead leaf on it and what would you expect to happen, eh?

Just saying.

Non-Snarky UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo’s only been to Canada once, when the Old Gentleman took me salmon-fishing in New Brunswick. I’d be very hard pressed to say how it was any different than Maine. Mrs. R sometimes makes noise about taking a vacay in Quebec City, which I suppose would be okay, but what Ol’ Robbo would really like to do is go round the Great Lakes, visiting teh sites/reconstructions of the old French and British colonial outposts and forts. Which reminds me that it’s getting on time to revisit my Francis Parkman, as it’s been some time now since I last perused his interesting histories.


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February 2022