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major_gowan_rat_basilGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

As is her habit from time to time, teh Eldest Gel approached me this evening with a piece of trivia she had picked up somewhere, namely, that there’s  a new theory floating about that Asian gerbils were responsible for the bubonic plague that ravaged Medieval Europe, not rats.

This was intriguing enough to ol’ Robbo’s scattershot brain that I had to look it up.  Turns out she’s right:

“What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe,” Stenseth says. The scientists used climate records to check their theory, and they found a tentative link. When the climate in Asia was good, gerbils are thought to have thrived; but when it went bad, the population crashed. And about 15 years after each boom and bust, a plague outbreak erupted in Europe. The theory is that fleas carrying plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who then brought it to European cities. The research team’s results appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, rats are still disgusting creatures.  (The jury is still out on Siberian hamsters.)

This reminds me of something:  The Left attaches all sorts of moral opprobrium to the introduction of small-pox and other diseases by Europeans to the Americas, where said diseases devastated indigenous populations who had no immunity to them.  The tone, if not the explicit argument, is that the Europeans did it on purpose as part of their eeeeevil genocidal strategy.  Have you ever, ever, heard a single similar argument made with respect to the introduction of the plague to European populations from the East and the Middle East?

No, neither have I.

But then again, consistency is hardz.

KingcakeGreetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Mardi Gras!  (I hope you all behave yourselves.)

Ol’ Robbo will be flying out on biznay tomorrow.  This will be the second time I’ve done so on Ash Wednesday.  The first time was back in 2006, the spring after Hurricane Katrina had flattened Noo Orleans, and my destination was Mobile, Alabama.

I was unaware of it until I visited Mobile the first time, but the city maintains the claim that it was the first to organize a Mardi Gras celebration and that Noo Orleans was a mere usurper of the tradition.  (Rayther like the ongoing squabble over who held the first Thanksgiving.  The local lawyer with whom I was working was quite sniffy about it.)  And since Noo Orleans was still a mess that year, many people who would have gone there went to Mobile, instead.  

By the time I got there on the Wednesday, downtown was an absolute cesspool, covered in trash and smelling to high heaven of beer, vomit and pee despite a very strong and blustery wind. 

I don’t think there’s any danger of the same sort of thing happening this time, as I am headed to a completely different kind of place. 

Peale-Washington_1772Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Washington’s Birthday!

I take the opportunity to repost what has long been my very favorite portrait of ol’ George, painted by Charles Wilson Peale in 1772 and showing Washington in uniform as Colonel of the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War.

Ol’ George wasn’t a brilliant man, either on the battlefield or off it, but he had two outstanding qualities:  He never gave up* and he was absolutely incorruptible.

*Yes, yes.  Fort Necessity and all that.  But you know what I mean.

UPDATE: Diane’s comment reminds me that I meant to point out that calling today “Presidents’ Day” is not acceptable usage according to the Port Swiller stylebook because I don’t see why any of the others, especially the more miserable ones, ought to be allowed to ride ol’ George’s coattails.  (I leave it up to you friends of the decanter to decide for yourselves who should be considered the more miserable ones.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the dearth of posts the last couple days.  Mrs. Robbo recently has discovered the supposed* joys of Downton Abbey and is furiously catching up with things via computer streaming, thus tossing ol’ Robbo out of his recently-won man cave and forcing him to be content for his evening entertainment down in the basement with DVD’s of old Star Trek: TOS episodes.**

Aaaanyhoo, in case any of you missed it, I present what is easily the best “Hitler Rants” take on the Brian Williams Chopper Whopper story that I’ve seen so far.  (And believe me, I’ve seen a few.)  Enjoy:

Heh.  Ol’ Robbo admits to being rayther a fan of the whole “Hitler Rants” meme.  There are zillions of low-quality efforts, it’s true.  On the other hand, there are some that are damned clever, both in paying attention to the language and movement of the original “Downfall” scenes and in coming up with clever and pointed substitute subtitles capturing a genuine, informed point.  This one, in my opinion, is of the latter set.  (UPDATE:  I should say that, if you haven’t seen the original “Downfall” from which the parody arose, you really ought to.  A very, very good movie, superbly acted.  Probably a big part of why the parodies are so funny.)

Speaking of which, I was rayther saddened that nobody (at least so far as I could tell) has come up with a good Hitler Rant about Left Shark.  Oh, well.  On the other hand, the eldest gel forwarded me a funny Left Shark snark:

Left Sharknado

Heh, again, although not quite as funny as my favorite entry into the canon:

are you not (The Mothe won’t get this one.  Mom, go here.)

I love it when somebody crosses the meme streams.

* I say “supposed” because, although I know the series is very popular and I confess I’ve not watched a single episode, I am deeply, deeply suspicious of its Edwardian bona fides.   Thirty or forty years ago, one could trust period dramas to be more or less historically accurate.  These days? Not so much.

** Let’s go ahead and continue the Robbo non-geek geekery here.  In the past few days, I’ve re-watched for the first time in many years the following episodes of Star Trek: TOS:

The Naked Time” – A virus picked up on an alien planet has the effect of rendering crew members of the Enterprise drunk, thereby revealing their inner selves via the principle of “In vino veritas” and at the same time almost plowing the ship straight into the planet around which she was orbiting.    Eh, even when I first saw this as a young boy, I began to have questions about Mr. Sulu. IYKWIMAITYD.

The Enemy Within” – The first “transporter malfunction” plot and the first split-personality Kirk story.  Also, there’s a meme floating about that Bones McCoy never actually says his iconic line, “He’s dead, Jim” in the series.  Yes, yes he did.  Here.  When the split-personality horned dog doesn’t survive the rebeam through the transporter.

Mudd’s Women” – The first appearance of Falstaff-knock off, Harry Mudd.  Eh, some good stuff about inner beauty, I suppose.

What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – Now we’re getting somewhere.  A cautionary tale about progressivist dystopias, it also features the first Red-Shirt deaths and the first seriously  skimpily-clad alien babe.  It was also the second split-Kirk story, albeit the fake one being an android.  Ol’ Robbo would have been around seven or eight when he first was this episode, but even then I recall thinking that Majel Barrett was a piece of all right.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me start this post by assuring you again that ol’ Robbo is not a geek!

Having said that, on a whim a few weeks back I tossed Star Trek: TOS into the ol’ Netflix queue.  The first of them showed up in the Port Swiller mailbox this afternoon.

Ol’ Robbo’s first encounter with ST:TOS was in elementary school in the mid 70’s, where he watched it in reruns on weekday afternoons in the school cafeteria while waiting of the bus to show up.  Suffice to say, he was enamored of the whole space-exploration genre in general and of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in particular.  Hey, you can’t blame a kid for dreaming of the stars.

I watched the series again in high school, when it ran on a late night weekend scify program on one of our local broadcast stations, (obviously, I didn’t date much back then.) and enjoyed it again, with much the same reaction.

Anyhoo, this is the first time I’m going through the series as anything approaching an adult.  And the new perspective, well, interests me.

I watched the first two episodes of Season One this evening, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”.

As to “The Man Trap”:  I had not before realized that this was the very first episode.  Back in the day, the salt monster scared the willies out of me.  Now? Well, I rayther see her way of thinking.  If I had suction claws, I’d be all over the local supply, too.  Indeed, I like the cut of her jib and would subscribe to her newsletter.

As to “Charlie X”:  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  My own dealings with  a dumbass, headstrong 17 y.o. (but I repeat myself) have been bad enough.  Were she equipped with cosmic powers?  Yeek!   As Count Floyd would say, “Really scary, huh kids?”

So there’s that.  More observations as the series progresses.

Oh, I should mention also that the Netflix DVD’s are of the cleaned-up series, not the original broadcast.  Frankly, I think this is cheating.  Not quite akin to the whole Han Shot First thing, but of the same nature.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been amused this week by some of the Left’s reaction to  the P.C. Police starting to shoot their own fellow travelers.  The panic reminds me of the scene in “Young Frankenstein” where Gene Wilder is locked in the room with the Monster when it wakes up.  “Get me out of here, get me the hell out of here! What’s the matter with you people? Can’t you take a joke??!!”

Along these lines, Hit & Run has a relevant little piece up entitled What the Hell Does ‘Politically Correct’ Mean?: A Shorty History.   It traces the various forms P.C. has taken over the years and examines some of the aims and attitudes of those who have practiced it.  (It also gives a shout out to the comic strip “Thatch”, of which I was quite fond back in the day.)  Go on over and have a read.

As I’ve probably mentioned here before, the first time ol’ Robbo heard the expression used was in August 1983, during frosh orientation at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  (Yes, “frosh”.  One couldn’t say “freshman” because “man” because seeeeeexiiiiist!!!  I took to saying “freshperson”.)  A special issue of the school paper had been published for the benefit of the new class, a large section of it being given over to what was and what was not considered politically correct on campus.  (One thing I recall from the guide was that “politically correct people say enthusiastic things about the John Anderson presidential campaign.”

During my time at dear old Wes, I saw this phenomenon manifest itself in various and sundry ways – the various Causes of the Week, the correct buttons and bumper stickers (this was before ribbons became a fad), the attitudes and positions one was presumed to have until one said otherwise.   Because I am, well, what I am, I took it upon myself to spend my four years there mocking the whole biznay, pointing out logical inconsistencies and disconnections from reality, historical misstatements and, in general, the complete oxymoronic absurdity of lockstep “diversity”.  Apart from a few nasty notes pinned to my door regarding certain satirical cartoons I drew for the campus conservative newspaper, and from a fellah who (I heard) wanted to break my nose the night Reagan buried Mondale but was too drunk to find my room, I didn’t really suffer for it.  True, I didn’t have all that many friends, but I was pretty much left alone.  Indeed, a few people actually told me that, although they disagreed with my opinions, they respected them.

Of course, while there were a few genuine Junior Maoists on campus, they didn’t hold any real levers of power in those days.  The Administration was tolerant but inert, while most of the faculty (at least the ones with whom I had courses) were pretty old-school.  As for the kids, the majority were simply fellow travelers who went along with the various fads and causes because it was hip and cool and made them feel Enlightened.

These days?  Well, I think the balance is very much different, with the hardcore element firmly established in both administration and faculty.  Now I’d probably be pilloried, expelled, sued and possibly arrested for the way I carried on back then.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, twenty-five years ago this evening, ol’ Robbo met Mrs. R.

You see, at the time I was in my second year of law school at Dubyanell.  That evening, I had gone over to a buddy’s apartment to borrow his VCR while he and his girlfriend – a student at Sweet Briar College, 45 minutes across the Blue Ridge – went out on a date.

When I got there, my friend was on the phone with his GF discussing logistics.  “Hey,” he said, “GF is hitching a ride over from Future Mrs. R (“FMR”). Want to meet her?”

Understand that I had been out on another blind date the night before (my birthday), set up by this same friend.  It had been an utter flop.  Not ugly, you understand, just completely without chemistry.  (Indeed, the young person involved, and her family, are now members of Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church and I speak with her from time to time.  I’m pretty sure she has no recollection that we went out on said date.  That’s how complete the lack of chemistry was.)

Anyhoo, I was pretty disgruntled re the whole dating/relationship thing that night.  I said, “Look, I’m going to watch my movie.  If she wants to join me, fine.  If she doesn’t, also fine.  Doesn’t matter.”

My friend conveyed this to his GF, who replied that FMR had no problem with that.

A short while later, there was a knock at my friend’s door.  GF walked in, followed by FMR.  Curiously, because I forget so many other things, I still remember the look on her face as she crossed the threshold.

Ironically, it was because I didn’t really care that I didn’t try to put on a face.  And because I didn’t try to put on a face, we hit it off immediately.

Go figure.

What keeps this from being a totes aaaawwww story? My choice of movies that evening.  Yes, long before I had any idea there might be any social interaction involved, I had settled on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, one of the more unfortunate entries in the canon.  (In my defense, I had not seen it before, so did not know how rotten it was.)

Whelp, to her credit, Mrs. R stuck it out with a smile on her face.  And the rest, as they say, is history, although so far as I know, she has never since clapped eyes on anything Star Trek related.

In a perfect world, each signal year I would honor the anniversary of our meeting  by, say, a bottle of champaign and an airing of the same movie.  However, I’m sure fellow friends of the decanter will understand why we, um, don’t.

Related, here is the one (almost) redeeming scene in that whole wretched movie:

What does God need with a starship, or with a centralized bureaucracy, indeed?



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, not to be self-congratulatory, but today ol’ Robbo turned the big 5-0.

Because this is a school night and some of the family are down with a bug, plus the fact that I’ve never really been one much of one for Robbo-centric hype, celebration this evening was fairly muted, just some take-out Chinese followed by a chocolate mousse-y cake.

I try to think what it means to hit this particular mark, but to tell you the truth I really can’t.  On the one hand, I just don’t feel old.  [Mothe – “That’s because you’re not!”] In fact, apart from the fact of a gray hair or two, a bit of arthritis in my fingers and my ever-worsening eye-sight, I feel pretty much the same as I have since I first got out of school.  On the other, I don’t feel any memento mori-based anxiety at hitting the milestone because, honestly, at least at this point the thought of my own mortality simply doesn’t frighten me.  (This does not appear to be universally the case among old high school classmates over on FB.)

In fact, I’m rayther looking forward to the next few years.  As I joked to Sistah today, various people have been accusing me of having a 50 year old mentality ever since I was a teenager.  (Indeed, one college flame, shortly before she became an ex-flame, said that I must have been born sixty.)  I guess my body is just finally catching up age-wise with my mindset and people will stop having attacks of cognitive dissonance trying to put them together.

Actually, no.  No they won’t.  This is because our wretched so-called “culture” has largely abandoned St. Paul:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 

- 1 Corinthians 13:11

Instead, it has adopted the Peter Pan quest for perpetual adolescence, a frame of mind which I utterly detest.  So the bafflement will continue.  Too bad.  Damned Boomers.

On a better note, this morning teh Middle Gel asked me what I would like as a birthday present. Well, I told her, what I always wanted more than anything else growing up was some day to have a family and a comfortable home of my own.  Thanks largely to a healthy portion of fool’s luck (or the overtime work of my guardian angel, if you like), plus at least some effort of my own, I seem to have wound up with exactly that, and for this birthday present, I am profoundly grateful.

(Not being satisfied with this answer and looking for something more material, she pressed me a bit further, so I had to admit that I would also like to have a harpsichord and a horse, but I don’t think either of those is likely any time soon.)

Anyhoo,  a glass of wine all round!

UPDATE:  Oh, the one thing I did want to mention was the curious acceleration of temporal perception I’ve started to feel over the past couple years.  Time seems to be running faster the older I get.  Well, it occurs to me that this is simply a matter of math.  When I was ten, a year constituted one tenth of my life, amirate?  So parse it out accordingly: when I was 20, a year was 1/20th of my life; when I was thirty, 1/30th.  And so on.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was idling around the innertoobs this soggy Saturday morning when his eye fell on this article over at the Telegraph: Warriors Suffered From Post-Traumatic Stress ‘3,000 Years Ago’.  The lead:

Warriors in ancient Iraq more than 3,000 years ago could have been the first people to suffer from post-traumatic stress, researchers have found.

It has long been believed that the first account of PTSD was in 490 BC following the Marathon Wars between the Greeks and the Persians.

The understanding was based on Herodotus’ account of the Athenian spear carrier Epizelus who began to suffer from mutism after the conflict.

But researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have now discovered texts that suggest PTSD could have existed as far back as 1300 BC.


Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, director of Anglia Ruskin’s Veterans and Families Institute, said the texts references conflicts in the same region as the current Gulf Wars.

He said: “This paper, and the research on which it is based, demonstrates that post traumatic psychological symptoms of battle were evident in ancient Mesopotamia.

“Well before the Greek and Roman eras, before the time of Abraham and the biblical Kings, David and Solomon, and contemporarily with the time of the Pharaohs.”

“Especially significant is that this evidence comes from the area known as the cradle of civilisation and, of course, the site of much recent conflict including the recent Gulf and Iraq Wars in which many British service personnel were involved.”

Now, I’ve never served in uniform, much less combat, but I have studied history and human nature.  My first reaction to the story was, “Well, duh.”  But that last little bit got me wondering.  Why, exactly, is it “especially significant” that this evidence comes from the “cradle of civilization”?  Is the suggestion that such stress is a by-product of psychological developments associated with such civilization and, by implication, that it has not been experienced by, say, hunter-gatherer savages populating other parts of the world?  Because that would be an interesting idea, if rayther daringly politically incorrect.  UPDATE: Or, now that I think about it more, what about civilizations parallel to the one which rose in Mesopotamia?  Is there any evidence of PTSD in warriors among, say, the Aztecs or the Incas?

On the other hand, is it just an excuse to adopt an arched eyebrow and an ironic smirk while saying “cradle of civilization” when discussing Iraq?

I don’t know.

UPDATE: Oh, why not?  Like I say, soggy Saturday.  Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now, most friends of the decanter (by which I mean everyone except teh Mothe) will know that the New England Patriots professional football team seems to have been caught out illegally deflating footballs during the course of last weekend’s rout of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game, thereby ensuring the Pats’ advancement to the Sooper Bowel a week from Sunday.  (For teh Mothe, a softer ball is easier to catch, especially in the cold.)

For my part, I totally believe the Pats used such subterfuge in order to give themselves any and every advantage they could get.  Why?

First, because ol’ Robbo has been a fan of the Miami Dolphins – who share membership in the AFC East with the Pats – since his misspent yoot¹, and has felt nothing but fury in recent years as the Pats have taken up their dominant position in that division (and been complete A**-holes about it²) and the ‘Fins have hovered somewhere between mediocrity and pathos since Marino retired.

Second, because Bill Belichick, the Pats’ coach, is a fellow alum of Robbo’s of the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT, a radical prog institution on which I spit these days³ and whose alums, with very limited exceptions (i.e., some of those with whom I rowed crew), I would not trust any farther than I can throw.

Anyhoo, there’s been much debate about all this – and what ought to be the fallout – over the past few days, but I was particularly intrigued by The Head Ewok’s take on it this evening:

I’m not a huge moralist when it comes to cheating. I accept that many athletes cheat, such that a dark bit of wisdom has become popular: If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.

But here’s the thing: If cheating is a part of sports, so is not getting caught.

By getting caught, the Patriots have failed at cheating — even if you want to credit cheating as “clever play” or “aggressive competitiveness.” Even if you want to cynically count cheating as the Winner’s Edge, The Patriots still failed at it, and should therefore suffer the consequences of failure.

Which is disqualification.

See, ol’ Robbo, being the stuffy moralist that he is, thinks the Pats ought to get the ban hammer because they cheated.  Ace, on the other hand, thinks they ought to get it because they got caught.  In other words, I think he’s applying a Darwin Awards analysis to the situation.

I can’t say that I agree with him completely, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

New England delenda est.

¹ When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I bought and read the book Griese/Csonka: The Miami Dolphins’ One-Two Punch.  Good times.

²  What the hell is it about Boston sports teams?  Back in the day when the Sawx struggled, I had nothing but admiration for the franchise and their die-hard fans.  And I cheered heartily when they came back from the brink of destruction to win the ’04 Series.  Since then, however, they and their fans have been complete jerks.

³ Even though I stuck it out myself and a) through careful course selection earned a very good English major and, b) seriously honed my debating skills and personal values through my immersion in the moon bat left,  I completely refuse to subject teh Gels to the same treatment, especially as the price tag these days is north of $60K per year, all of which would come out of my pocket.

UPDATE:  I forgot to mention that apparently Tom Brady, the Pats’ QB, held a press conference over the whole biznay yesterday afternoon (I didn’t see it) and managed to suggest that, what with the world going up in flames (and, I myself might add, the collapse of Judeo-Christian morality and Constitutional republicanism here at home), the MSM really ought to find something better to do than worry about deflated balls.  Yes, but this is deliberate.  Bread, circuses.  Some assembly required.


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