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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The schadenfreude Ol’ Robbo is seeing (and, admittedly, enjoying) on the innerwebz over the U.S. wimminz soccer team unexpectedly getting hammered by the Swedes yesterday*** reminds me that there are, in fact, Olympic Games going on.


Although keenly excited by the Games when I was a younker, I gave up on them when NBC took over the coverage in the mid-80’s and switched from actually, you know, showing the competition to wall-to-wall “human interest” stories. Bag that.****

My favorite “coverage” moment was the Miracle On Ice at Lake Placid in 1980. For reasons which I do not recollect, ABC tape-delayed showing the Game itself, but was carrying on with live coverage beforehand. The announcers were attempting to be poker-faced, but people in the background were running about in joyous frenzy, so no matter how hard the network tried to maintain the suspense, we already knew Something Big had happened.

Good times.

***I actually don’t doubt that they’ll come back and take the Gold because that’s the Narrative.

****I’m sure there are alternate sources where I could find more pristine competition coverage, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t care enough to bother looking for them.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yep, the continued string of hot, sticky days here has got Ol’ Robbo firmly in its grip. I recognize the signs.

Mrs. R has gone off up to Connect-ti-cutt to visit her folks for a few days. She messaged me, “Got here safely – only one near-miss in the Bronx!” That’ll wake you up in a hurry.

(We’ve always taken the GW Bridge and teh Cross-Bronx when headed north. The Tappen-Zee may be safer and easer but I just can’t stand the idea of going all the way up and around like that.)

I mentioned cable yesterday. Apart from the odd TCM offering and AccuWeather, the only two channels I watch at all are H&I for “Star Trek” reruns and INSP for old westerns. I noticed that these channels seem to run an inordinate number of commercials for hair-restorers, testosterone boosters, and hearing aids. “Heh,” I said to myself, “Just what sort of person do they imagine is watching…….Hey! Wait a minute!!

Oh, I suppose it’s Bastille Day. Those who wish to wipe out the past and start over at Year One should keep in mind how that little drama eventually played out.

I dunno whether the falling of the big maple in our back yard has anything to do with it, perhaps shifting territories or something, but I now have a problem with pileated woodpeckers attacking the porch supports. I confess I don’t yet know quite what to do about this.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got at the moment.

UPDATE: Ol’ Robbo used to be able to put his head down and just power through when he didn’t have time to eat all day. I find I really just can’t do that anymore.

Also, I would like to find the person who invented “Track Changes” and cause them some harm.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yes, Ol’ Robbo doesn’t have that much to say. Again. It’s getting to be that time of year. [Ed. – When has that ever stopped you before?] Quiet, you.

I gather Major League Baseball’s All-Star game is to be played this evening. Ol’ Robbo hasn’t watched a game since the Nats won the Series back in 2019. Last year I was disgusted with the COVID response and “experimental” rules changes. This year I’m disgusted with MBL’s decision to get fully involved in politicks. I haven’t gone so far as to chuck all my Nats’ team gear, but I look on it all now as a memento of the Before Times instead of active boosterism.

Sometimes our cable actually pays for itself. Last evening I caught “The Most Dangerous Game” (1932) on TCM. It’s a short, tight thriller about a crazed Russian nobleman (who for Flashman fans could easily have been Count Ignatieff’s grandson) who hunts shipwrecked castaways on his South Pacific island for sport. In this case, it’s Joel McRae and Fay Wray whom he pursues through the jungle, the latter in an ever-increasingly tattered and damp gown. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Is there nothing it can’t do? Coffee consumption linked to lower risk of COVID-19 infection. Ol’ Robbo otter be downright bulletproof.

Oh, and utterly random observation: I’d never owned a long-haired cat until we got Decanter Kitten last year. I’m amazed at how much fur she sheds in this hot weather. Her tail is about a third the thickness it was over the winter. (And somehow, we’re managing to vacuum up more fur than ever could possibly have been on her in the first place.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was pleased to spot this recent article on George MacDonald Fraser’s delightfully outrageous historickal character, Sir Harry Flashman. It’s nice to see him get some recognition, particularly in these times.

Fraser’s Flashman Chronicles is one of my very favorite light fiction series (I just so happen to be in the middle of it again) both for GMF’s clever portrayal of the licentious, unscrupulous, fraudulent Flashy, and for the overflow of historickal information jammed into each novel. (My library has substantially expanded over the years due to the original sources cited in GMF’s many footnotes.). Indeed, I’ve long suspected that Flashy himself is what Ace calls the “McGuffin”, if I’m using that term correctly: GMF uses his bawdy, outrageous behavior both as the hook to get you to read the books and to hold the plot together, but his real reason for writing them was to indulge himself in Victorian military history.

Nice work if you can get it.

My only regret is that GMF didn’t live long enough to finish the novel about Flashy’s adventures in the American Civil War which he plainly had in mind and about which hints are dropped throughout the rest of the series. (At one time or another Flashy served both the Union and the Confederate sides, and in one stark line from another book concedes that if it hadn’t been for his own incompetence, Lee probably would have won at Gettysburg.) Tantalizing stuff. I’ve sometimes thought of combing through the canon and seeing if I couldn’t piece together such a story myself based on the material already there. OTOH, this idea has been mentioned from time to time in a Flashy FacePlant group to which I belong, and I gather the estate is dead set against any such adventurism. Of course, even if I did put together some such work, I’d never think to try and get it published.

Anyhoo, as I say, I’m glad to see others share my appreciation.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.

**Not to be confused with Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole, which I read because it was what John Cleese’s character in teh Cheese Shop sketch had been skimming in the public library in Thurmon Street when he suddenly came all over peckish. (…..Esuriant…..E’ were all ‘ungry-like!) It’s long been a habit of Ol’ Robbo to sometimes just roll with these things and see where they go.

UPDATE: A little further digging and I think I’m mostly correct.

According to Wiki, “in fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin) is an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the motivation of the characters, but insignificant, unimportant, or irrelevant in itself.”

Just so.

If GMF’s true desire was to indulge in recounting the Retreat from Kabul, the First Anglo-Sikh War, Balaclava, Little Big Horn, the Sepoy Mutiny, the Abyssinian Campaign, and other 19th Century Anglo-American military events, and I believe it was, then Flashy’s goings-on would seem to fit into this definition. Plus, of course, they sell the books.

As I say, nice work if you can get it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Radical and subversive words, two hundred and….lessee….forty-five years ago.

Evidently, radical and subversive words again these days.

But good words and true, still.

Don’t let the bastids get you down.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A cool and damp morning gave Ol’ Robbo the opportunity to get out in the garden and do some badly-needed deadheading and weeding. You may be quite certain sure that he had his head on a swivel and both eyes wide open for any sign of the snake he encountered last weekend. Fortunately, I didn’t spot it. Perhaps it went home. I certainly hope so.

Happy Strong Vincent Day! Yes, today is the anniversary of the Battle of Little Round Top, the second day of Gettysburg. When Dan Sickles decided to go walkabouts with his Third Corp, leaving the hill wide open on the Union left flank, it was Vincent who spotted the danger and, off his own bat, pulled his brigade out of line to occupy it. Chamberlain and the 20th Maine get all the glory these days, but they wouldn’t have been there in the first place without Vincent’s foresight.

Which reminds Ol’ Robbo that he may well watch “Gettysburg” this weekend, as it’s been a while. Here’s the thing that always bothers me about that film: In his prologue to The Killer Angels, on which the film is based, Michael Shaara said very explicitly that the novel was not the story of Gettysburg, but instead of some of the men who fought there. But with its title, the movie seems to suggest it is about the entire battle, especially to audiences who wouldn’t know any better. So, for example, it depicts the fight at Little Round Top including the 20th’s bayonet charge, but virtually nothing about the desperate fighting that went on all along the line from Cemetery Ridge to Culp’s Hill all the rest of the day and on into the night. You’d think once Jeff Daniels goes hobbling back up the hill it was all over and done until Pickett’s Charge the next day. Irksome.

On the non-irksome front, La Wrangler started showing a check-engine light last Sunday, making Ol’ Robbo apprehensive that he might be about to be bit for some major repair. Fortunately, I know the trick for using the ignition to get the warning code to display on the speedometer: turns out it’s detecting a small leak in the EVAP system, which might be nothing more than a loose gas tank cap (and it does seem a little shaky). But the bottom line is that whatever the issue is, it’s small, I can still drive, and I don’t need to worry about it until inspection time, which isn’t until October.


What else? The first of Ol’ Robbo’s termaters are now nearly ripe. Time for me to start looking around for a home-made salsa recipe. (I can just hear it now: “Says here this salsa was made in Northern Virginia. Northern Virginia??!! Get a rope!)

Whelp, the afternoon is still young and those chores aren’t going to do themselves….P’raps some more nonsense later..

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Youngest Gel had to get herself fingerprinted for a summah camp counseling gig she has coming up. After a couple weeks fussing about the importance that the the prints be electronic and the printer be “FBI-approved”, she announced that she’d found a place downtown and would I please go with her to get them.

I looked the place up, realized just where downtown it was, and said, “We’re not going there.” (Just think about the sort of neighborhood where you’d expect to find a biznay that specializes in fingerprinting and drug testing. Yup.)

After a little more research, I found that she could get them done at a much closer county sheriff’s office (and at a lot lower cost, I might add). So she went over yesterday.

I am very happy to say that my children have virtually no knowledge of the world of law enforcement in any of its manifestations. Indeed, the only time any of them has set foot in a court complex has been to pick up their driver’s license. So this was a very new experience for Youngest.

She came back slightly shaken.

“It was so weird,” she said, “I felt like everybody was eyeing me and wondering what I was in for. I wanted to yell ‘It’s just for a JOB!!'”


This brought back to mind a dim recollection of being taken on a tour of the county lockup when I was a kid, perhaps on a school field trip, but more likely with my cub scout troop. (I couldn’t have been older than maybe 5th grade?) I remember them putting us in a cell for a few minutes and I remember the general tone of the tour being, “If you don’t want to end up here, you do what your momma and daddy tell you to do!” Not that I needed the advice myself but yes, it left an impression.

I wonder if anyone does that anymore? Different times. Different times.

(I also remember a deathtrap of an elevator that jerked and swayed and even free-fell down a floor while we were in it. Gave me a phobia it took me a long time to get over.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo received an early Father’s Day present this past weekend in the form of a new phone.

For some years now I’d been using Mrs. R’s old hand-me-down.** The actual phone part of it had conked out a while back, but the text and email worked perfectly fine and that was good enough for me. The family finally decided that enough was enough and I am going to start answering phone calls whether I like it or not.


I see their point, of course, especially as the Young ‘Uns are flying the nest. But I also hate feeling like a slave to the phone. What with everything being so portable, there’s an implied expectation these days that one have the thing at hand 24/7/365. More than once, when answering a query about why I didn’t pick up with the reply that I just didn’t have my phone on me, I’ve been met with looks of stark incredulity.

I don’t see that as convenience of communication so much as an invasion of privacy. (I won’t even put on my tinfoil hat here and rant about domestic espionage, but there’s that, too.)

All this got me thinking about the days of my misspent yoot when it was all landline limited by the length of the phone cord and it didn’t matter anyway because my sistah was always hogging the thing yapping with her friends.

Good times.

** May I just say here also that the system of “plans” and equipment swaps and upgrades courtesy of Apple and Verizon is now completely beyond my comprehension.

UPDATE: I meant to raise a glass to Youngest Gel. When I got the phone, I stared at it blankly and said, “Well, what about all the stuff on my old phone?”

“Give it to me,” she said, and in about five minutes had transferred everything over to the new one. She even made me my own “contact page” because I admitted I didn’t actually remember what my phone number is.

It’s good to have somebody around who understands all the doohickies and gizmodoes, ‘cos I sure as heck don’t.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Just thought I’d say it.

I’ve flown our flag at Port Swiller Manor 24/7 ever since the 9/11 attacks. There have been times since during the gathering storm of existential crisis in the Country when I’ve been tempted to take it down again in protest, anger, or disgust. But each time I remind myself of what it truly stands for, no matter what, and reaffirm my determination to keep it flying.

God bless Old Glory!

UPDATE: Well, if you’re feeling inclined to raise a glass to the Stars & Stripes, apparently you’re in real luck, as my spies inform me that today is also National Bourbon Day.

Ol’ Robbo knows little or nothing about bourbon. I drank Beam now and again in school but that was just because school, and I honestly wouldn’t know good quality from bad if I tripped over it. Still, Slainté!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ah, Virginny!

Just two posts ago Ol’ Robbo was grumbling about failed storm promises. Now Port Swiller Manor is in the midst of a genuine soaker which started yesterday evening and is forecast to go through tomorrow afternoon.

(You just need to know the right people, I guess. Heh.)

It’s said of many places that if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it’ll change. That’s certainly been my experience here.

Of course, it works the other way round, too. Our wedding anniversary is coming up in a week or two. Twenty-eight years ago at about this time, Ol’ Robbo recalls it being, like today, quite cool. (It was a late spring that year.) And I also recall very distinctly hoping that the run would hold out until the Big Day.


Even as the shackles were being applied, the temperature in Central Virginny was cranking up to near triple digits. Fortunately, we had scotched the idea of an outdoor reception way early in the planning. However, I still retain a grudge against the photographer for making us stand around outside far too long, boiling to death, for the formal group pics. (I still think he did so out of spite because I earlier point-blank refused to do some goofy posed shots that he wanted.)

But there it is. As P.G. Wodehouse’s French chef Anatole put it, I can take a few smooths with a rough.

In the meantime, I’ll just open the windows and enjoy this soggy Friday. (Better start thinking about an anniversary present, too.)


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July 2021