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Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Independence Day!

I suppose it’s the recent noisy outbursts of those now openly advocating the complete destruction of our national identity and its replacement with some sort of Year One Brave New World Order that have caused the mind of Ol’ Robbo to refocus on what the United States of America really is.   And it seems to him that compared with any other society on this or any other continent in the history of the entire planet, the answer is that it is something not far short of a miracle.

Have mistakes been made? Have genuinely evil things been done?  Is there still much room for improvement?  Absolutely.  And we should learn from those mistakes, reject those evils, and always be on the lookout for ways to make ourselves better.  But the perfect must never be made the enemy of the good.  And when you step back and consider that the Founding Fathers, warts and all, nonetheless forged a system of government based on the consent of the governed and protection of the inalienable, God-given rights of the individual, ideas, so far as I am aware, not put into practice anywhere else in the world before, and when you consider the actual good that has come out of this in terms of the raising of millions and millions of people to peace and prosperity, well, as I say, it kinda takes one’s breath away.  (How’s that for a Jamesian sentence structure, by the bye?)

Anyhoo, be of good cheer.  Ol’ Robbo has had to talk one or two people off the ledge in recent weeks.  The times certainly seem crazy, especially if you pay any attention to the MSM or social media, but I don’t think they’re quite as crazy as all that.  And somehow I think America will weather them.

In the meantime, have a Happy 4th!  Have some adult beverages, let loose a few fireworks, and celebrate our collective birthday!

UPDATED:  Mission accomplished!  We went over to some friends’ house, the first time Ol’ Robbo has been social in months and months (not that I am much anyway).  There we had the aforementioned adult beverages, hamburgers, hotdogs, and all good things.  Lots and lots of fireworks were shot off in the neighborhood.  There was a bit more talking-off-the-ledge among the adults, but the kids had a fine old time, with the younger gels playing beer-pong with our friends’ college-aged sons and their chums (all under the benign yet watchful eye of Ol’ Robbo, I can assure you).   Good times, good times.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Is anything going on in the world?  Lessee….

Well, Coronapalooza continues to be both a fraud and a farce.  And Francisco Franco is still dead.

I saw somewhere that somebody had labeled the Current Unpleasantness as the “1793 Project”, which made me smile.  You may argue the denizens of “Chaz” or “Chomp” or “Soymalia” or whatever it is and their ilk are more Maoists than Jacobins but hey, potato/potahto.

Ol’ Robbo didn’t get the chance to comment on the attempted disappearing of “Gone With The Wind” and “The Germans” episode of “Fawlty Towers” before the censors evidently backtracked in the face of popular outrage.  I’ve DVD’s of both so on a personal level this doesn’t affect me much, but I’m glad of the pushback anyway.  Gives one hope that the Silent Majority might really be a Thing.

On that note, Ol’ Robbo is old enough to remember a time when if I objected to somebody else’s form of expression, a crucifix in a jar of wee-wees or a photo of a fellah with a bullwhip protruding from an unlikely orifice or a burning American flag for example, I was advised by my betters just not to look at them.

Oh, and on that note, this blog supports Elmer Fudd’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.  (Not that Ol’ Robbo endorses any attempt to generate new Loony Toons.  Mel Blanc is dead and gone, peace be upon him, and anyway the whole franchise went to hell some time in the mid-60’s when it stopped being a part of the package got up for adult movie goers and deliberately became a kiddy-oriented product.  Nonetheless, the point remains.  What’s Fudd going to do now? Speak with Bugs’ manager?)

Feh.  On second thoughts, let’s not look out on the world.  It ’tis a silly place.

So what’s happening closer to home?

The big news is that Middle Gel successfully completed her scuba rescue certification this weekend.  As I understand it, this is a major milestone in the advancement of a diver.  She’ll be going for her master diver cert some time soon.

Oh, and remember how Ol’ Robbo was griping about the Gel’s car having another attack of the vapors?  Well, she picked it up from the dealership in Newport News this morning.  On her way back up to Port Swiller Manor, some piece of debris hit her in front, causing a strip of plastic lining the front, right wheel-well to pop out.  Grrrr.  Sensibly, she stopped at a gas station, bought a roll of duct tape, and triaged the thing back into place.  That’s my gel!  (Fortunately, looking it over, I believe I can anchor the thing back down myself without the Volkswagen bandits rooking me for even more money.  But still…Grrrrrrr)

Meanwhile, Youngest got laid off from her Starbucks gig last week due to crashed sales.  Absurdly enough, I think she’s actually going to make more coin over the next six weeks from unemployment than she otherwise would have working.  As this is supposed to be her pocket money for shipping off to college this fall (and things are now a go for that), Ol’ Robbo is not complaining.

Decanter Dog goes in for her check-up this week and we’re seriously going to enquire into anxiety meds.  As everybody in the house has noticed, she seems to have got markedly more neurotic recently, and cooks off at every little sound or movement.  Damme if I know why she’s suddenly ramped it up to eleventy, but it’s a real pain.

And on the subject of pets, I recently uncovered not so much a conspiracy as an exploratory committee into the idea of bringing another kitten into Port Swiller Manor.  I stomped on this immediately.  In the first place, I pointed out, the remaining Decanter Cat, after having spent years quietly skulking in the shadows of her companion kittehs, far from feeling lonely has blossomed in her solo spotlight in the past six months.  In the second place, while Decanter Dog was willing to accept the fact of the then-current kittehs when she first came to us, I’ve every confidence she’d kill any new intruder.  Harsh, but so is Life.

Ol’ Robbo made a DYI attempt at cutting his own hair this evening, a first in my fifty-five years on this planet.  Specifically, I took a pair of scissors to my four-month-old ducktails, cutting them in as near a straight line as I could.  None of the wimminz-folk at dinner broke out in howls of derisive laughter, Bruce, so I guess I didn’t butcher the job too badly.  (There is No…RULE…SIX!!)

Finally, I offer you a picture of a single jasmine cluster.  Regular friends of the decanter will know of Ol’ Robbo’s jasmine-related woes.  As dearly as I love the stuff, and despite all the “hearty variety” flim-flam served up by various nurseries, it just doesn’t survive this far north.  I’ve planted a dozen different specimens the past few years, but of them all only one has survived.  Absurdly, it’s the one that has the greatest exposure and least sunlight compared to all the others, and only grows a couple feet during the season.  And yet, it managed to put out this cluster this year.  A metaphor for Hope in our debased times?  A freak of glowbull enwarmening?  A one-off to be wiped out the next really cold wintah?  I dunno.

Enjoy it nonetheless.









Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s main gardening task this Saturday before Memorial Day is to give the lawn a weed n’ feed treatment and, honestly, I can’t bring myself to inflict a post on you just about that.

Instead, a little Hollywood History of the World musing.

Last evening Ol’ Robbo watched “The 300 Spartans” (1962).  For a war movie, it seemed to me fairly bland and wooden, but appeared to be a reasonably accurate (at least according to tradition) depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae and the run-up to it.  I guess Richard Egan (Leonidas) was something of a minor beefcake back in the day but I found him sleazy-looking.  (UPDATE DEUX:  No, that’s the wrong adjective.  Sorry.  What I mean is that he just didn’t project Ancient Greek royalty to me.  He looks more the hard-bitten sergeant in a WWII film, or perhaps the bad-guy hired gun in a western.)  I also suppose poor Ralph Richardson (Themistocles) just needed the money.  David Farrar (Xerxes) looked too much like Vincent Price to really be taken seriously.

Here’s the thing:  The film makes much of the alliance and dalliance between Xerxes and Queen Artemisia of Halicarnassus (the lovely and talented Anne Wakefield).  As the story develops, it becomes increasingly clear that while outwardly supporting him, she is actually trying to manipulate Xerxes into calling off his invasion of Greece.  Indeed, according to the movie, she had just persuaded him, after his forces’ initial defeats, to turn around and go home when news of the secret goat track to the rear of the Spartans’ position came in, causing Xerxes renewed hope of Persian victory.  The show goes on after all and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s been a while, but I don’t remember this from my historickal readings.  That Artemisia (in good faith) warned Xerxes not to commit his naval fleet to battle at Salamis and then saved her own neck in that fight by pretending to turn traitor and then escaping, yes.  But I don’t recall her coming into the tactical story of Thermopylae.

Ol’ Robbo needs to pull out his Herodotus again, I guess.  Not that I mind:  I reread him probably every three or four years and evidently this is a sign it’s time to do so again.


Ol’ Robbo mentioned last week that he might be able to give you some foxgloves today.  Over the years I’ve encouraged them to seed themselves in one corner of my garden, with various results.  The past few years have been rather lean, but for some reason, possibly the very mild winter we had, this spring they’ve really taken off.  Ol’ Robbo truly loves foxglove, and hopes you do, too.  Enjoy!


I believe there are a couple of yellow ones on the way up as well.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely, lovely Mid-May-The-Way-It-Ought-To-Be day here at Port Swiller Manor had Ol’ Robbo out doing the Full Monty around the demesne** this morning.  This is our expression for a complete top-to-bottom mowing, trimming, and blowering from the ditch by the road all the way to the little glade between my back gate and the tree line.  I also threw in cleaning all the leaves and dead camellia flowers off the patio plus a little tree-pruning.  It took me about four hours altogether and I’m counting it as my day’s exercise.

In the meantime, as I predicted last week the warmer temperature has started to bring out some more of my flowers in earnest, so I snapped some pics for your consideration:


Say Hello To The Peonies! (These are Japanese-type flowers, I think, but don’t hold me to it)


Another Peony, of the “bomb” flower variety



Patio Clematis juuuust starting to wake up

Finally, some more azaleas for those who want a reminder of the smell of Holly-Tone

Enjoy! (I should be able to do you some foxgloves and wisteria next week, plus a couple other varieties of peony.)

** A leftover vocabular word from Robbo’s Property Law class back in the day.  We had to learn English feudal land rights because our modern legal concepts of land use and land ownership are based on them.  Ironically, the course was taught by a professed Communist who didn’t actually believe in any of it.









Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

How about a few odds and ends not related to The End Of The World As You Know It?

♦  Happy Birthday to HRH Queen Elizabeth II!  She’s a good Sheila, Bruce, and not a’tall stuck up.

♦  Today is the traditional anniversary of the founding of Rome by Romulus in 753 B.C.

♦  Somebody on a comment thread somewhere yesterday made mention of the fact that “Ctrl +” will enbiggen your computer screen.  I had not known that.  My tired old  eyes have been thankful ever since.

♦  Speaking of computers, I become increasingly convinced that my work Skype is spying on me.  Sure, I’ve got a piece of duct tape over the camera lens, but how do you shut off the mic?

♦  Of course, the only thing it would hear, mostly, is my streaming of the local classickal musick station.  The past day or two, I’ve had Schubert’s Symphony No. 6 (the “Little C-major”) running through my braims.  I’m reasonably positive that the “Da-Da-Da-Dum” motif he uses in the 3rd movement Presto (especially at the section closes) is a direct nod to Ol’ Ludwig Van.

♦  I must confess that I’ve been indulging in Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series of late.  This is a sort of masochistic exercise for me, as I consider his characters to be cardboard and his style sensationalist.  But he’s so very, very good at describing Napoleonic battle maneuvers…..

So I’ve got that going for me.

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, 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!

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!

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!

Ol’ Robbo was mildly amused at the pearl-clutching amongst the likes of George (“Mr. Sulu”) Takei that OrangeManBad stole the design of the new logo for the United States Space Force directly from “Star Trek”.

These folks are aware that Gene Roddenberry stole the name of the U.S.S. Enterprise and all the other starships in her class from WWII-era United States Navy aircraft-carriers.  Aren’t they?

Seems to me to be a reasonable trade-off.

I think the design is pretty cool, too.

Oh, and speaking of “Star Trek”, and yes there is a link, tonight is the 30th anniversary of my meeting Mrs. R.

That evening, I had planned to go over to my friend’s apartment and borrow his VCR to watch a “Star Trek” movie.  My friend’s girlfriend wanted to come over the mountains to Dubyanell from Sweet Briar, but she didn’t have a car, so she persuaded Mrs. R to give her a ride on the promise of introducing Mrs. R to me.

I really wasn’t much interested when the idea was first pitched to me, having had a perfectly lame blind date the night before, but said that if she (Mrs. R) wanted to come and watch the movie with me, that was fine.

Well, she turned up and the rest is history.


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July 2020