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primaveraGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s the first full day of Spring 2015, and ol’ Robbo would love to be out in the grounds this morning doing yard work.  However, it’s still awfully soggy out there from yesterday’s snow and it’s still pretty chilly and Robbo isn’t quite the young man he used to be, so instead I am parked in front of the keyboard with a cup of kawfee.  (I am looking out the window, however.)

♦   Speaking of kawfee, the G-Man has an excellent take on Starbucks’ plan to have its baristas hector their customers over race relations.  (I don’t much go to Starbucks anymore because of the cost.)  As Jonah correctly notes, it’s not the subject matter itself but instead the creeping politicization of every corner of public life, something I have been bewailing for years.  (Who was it who talked about the fundamental right just to be left alone?)  Anyhoo, for all the publicity,  I’m guessing that any actual attempts to indoctrinate caffeine-starved customers at seven ack emma will go…..poorly.

♦   And speaking of indoctrination, when She Who Must Not Be Named starts talking about adult camps – even if she’s joking, even if she says “fun” camps, even if she’s just drunk – I get a cold, cold chill down my spine.

♦  Speaking of spring, I should note again that this is a March Madness-Free Blog®.  I’ve no interest in basketball, whatsoever.  And while I can understand the whole school spirit thing, my education was all at Division III institutions (NESCAC and ODAC) and it just isn’t the same thing.

♦   OTOH, I didn’t realize until the other day that this is the 10th season of Robbo’s Beloved Nats in Dee Cee.  Where does the time go?

♦  Oh, speaking of schools, may I trumpet here the fact that my nephew has just been accepted to Virginia Tech?  I don’t know if he’s going, since it’s damned expensive for out-of-staters and he has another program lined up also, but I’m still pretty proud of him.

♦   And speaking of school,  I have managed to convince the Eldest that Woodrow Wilson was personally responsible for the disastrous end of WWI and the rise of both Lenin and the Communists, and Hitler and the Nazis.   I think my work is done here.

♦  Reread GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday this week.  This has to be the single craziest adventure story I know.  And I love it.

♦  Speaking of reading, got a subscription plea in the mail this week from “Teen Vogue”.  Gawd.  It was addressed to “Miss To The Port Swiller Family”, came in a violently pink envelope and even promised a student discount.  Thanks, but no.

♦   Also got a solicitation from the local publick teevee station threatening that if I don’t slip it some coin, it won’t be able to bring All New Episodes of Downton Abbey.  Well, I’ve never watched it, nor do I intend to, so this would be no great loss.   Back in my misspent yoot, I used to love period dramas, but what with all of the rampant politicization going on these days (which see above), I simply don’t trust ‘em for historickal accuracy anymore.

♦  OH! Speaking of art and history, do not forget that today is the 330th anniversary of the birth of the Greatest Musickal Genius of all time!  Be sure and listen to some of his output today if you can.  (Teh Middle Gel and her cohort are in the middle of rehearsals for a presentation of his St. John Passion down the Cathedral next weekend.)

Well, I hear the stirring of various gels, so I suppose I ought to leave off here and go reassert my paternalistic hegemony.  Or something.

UPDATE:  Mid-afternoon and sunny.  I went out and discovered new growth buds all over the clematis on the side of the garage. (It faces southwest and is sheltered, and thus is always the first thing to get busy in springtime.)  Happy, happy, happy!

Speaking of signs of spring, I see that Scott’s is starting to run their grass-seed/feed ads.  I don’t mind the Scots fellah they use, but it’s too bad they couldn’t have done a deal with Groundskeeper Willie:

UPDATE DEUX:  Looks like all the foundation plants we put in out front last summah after repairs to teh flooded basement also made it.  And my climbing rose by the front door is about ready to explode.  It’s an improved Blaze, and after it was done blooming last summah I cut it back to about four feet or so.  It seemed to like this and I even got a few second-growth flowers.

UPDATE TROIS:  Wow – We have a knockout rose in a bucket inside a large ceramic pot on the upstairs landing to the back porch that I thought was absolute toast this winter, being in such an exposed position.  It’s taken some battle damage, but the thing’s actually got growth buds on it.

UPDATE QUATRE:  Juuust warm enough to have dinner on the porch in celebration of the day.   Very nice.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

vixensIn case you haven’t been keeping up with the on-going struggle to save Sweet Briar College,  I must say that I am finding recent developments to be quite impressive.  The Resistance, having lawyered up, has established its own Board and filed for 501(c)(3) status.  Rumor says that even though we’ve already hit $2.6 million in pledges, a considerably larger sum of alumnae money out there is just waiting for the grant of non-profit status before it starts rolling in.  Assuming the group hasn’t somehow wound up on the President’s IRS enemies list, I hope this will happen fairly soon.  Meanwhile, current professors are starting to speak out, pols are starting to ask questions and enthusiastic alumnae foot-soldiers continue to make waves in the press.

Well done, Vixens! Holla! Holla! Holla!

hampden-sydney-college_200x200Meanwhile, in another development the gentlemen of Hamster-Squidney Hampden-Sydney College, realizing that the loss of SBC would negatively impact them, are also rallying to the flag.   (Somebody today said that the two schools ought to merge, keeping their separate identities under one management structure.  Conceptually, I think this is an intriguing idea.)

Even though I’m an alum of Dubyanell, HSC’s traditional rival, I can’t rag too much on the Squidneys here because I was only a law student there and really not much mixed up in undergrad squabbles.  However, I can relate an amusing anecdote:

Mrs. Robbo was born on Lawn-Guyland and grew up in Connect-Ti-Cutt (State motto: “Left Lane Closed Next 30 Miles”).  Prior to coming down to Sweet Briar, she had absolutely no knowledge of Southern sensibilities whatsoever.

Anyhoo, in her early undergrad days before she met ol’ Robbo and was thereby made an honest woman (I keed!), Mrs. R ventured over to HSC a few times with some of her fellow Vixens in order to frolic with teh Squids.  Apparently,  one evening she found herself at a party in some good ol’ boys’ dorm room, one with Confederate battle flags draped all over the place.  As the beer flowed and the night grew older, talk apparently circled ’round to the War (which in those parts is always short for “The War of Northern Aggression”).   Although I wasn’t a witness, I can guess well enough the major themes:  Popular misunderstanding of the real Southern cause, history books written by the damned Yankees, strategic and/or tactical decisions that could have Turned the Tide, etc., etc.….

Anyhoo, the story goes that after these themes had been hashed out for a not inconsiderable time, Mrs. R in all her sheltered, New England innocence, suddenly blurted out, “I don’t understand why you all talk about the war so much.  I mean, you lost.”

Dead. Silence.

Looking back, Mrs. R still wonders how she made it out of that room in one piece.

UPDATE:  The Roanoke Time runs a pretty good editorial pointing out the eerie parallels between the current situation and the attempted closure of Wilson College back in 1979 and suggesting that teh Vixens adopt a battle plan similar to that which eventually saved Wilson.  I’ve heard a good bit of chatter along these lines and don’t doubt that something of the same nature is probably in the works.  What I worry about, however, is whether there’s enough time and up-front money to implement it.



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.


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