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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The query flies round the decanter:  What does Ol’ Robbo think of the apparent semi-abdication from royal responsibilities of Prince Harry and his “wife” Meghan Markle that seems to be dominating the innertoobs this week?


Understand that while it certainly wouldn’t do here in the United States, with respect to the UK Ol’ Robbo has always been a thorough-going royalist.  And even though the monarchy has been stripped of any real politickal power there since the Glorious Revolution, there still is a legitimate argument to be made that its symbolic position as the living manifestation of the spirit of the United Kingdom is an important one.

However, when the royals stray away from this substantive charge and instead embrace mere celebrity, all bets are off.

I was initially dubious about Prince William and his middle-class bride Kate back in the day, but I have been vastly encouraged since then.  They get it.

I was even more dubious about Prince Harry and his Hollywood bride.  Those doubts have proved more than justified.  They don’t get it.

Bottom line?  He’s an idiot.  She’s trash.

And the beclowning of the House of Windsor at the hands of these two is only going to get worse, much to the detriment of the Kingdom.

And God save poor old Queen Elizabeth.  She deserves better than this.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is a bit late with his condolences, but nonetheless wanted to raise a glass in tribute to Neil Innes, who died the other day at the age of 75.  Rest in peace.

The article I link here refers to Innes as the “Seventh” (Monty) Python.  I’m not sure I’d agree with that.  Terry Gilliam was obviously the sixth, but Carol Cleveland is, to me, the seventh.  Innes, depending on your scoring criteria, probably has a claim for the eighth spot, although I think Connie Booth also has a legitimate argument for that position.  In the end, of course, it’s all meaningless, but the exercise in trotting out comparative contributions is a pleasant one.

On the other hand, Innes is the absolute co-captain, along with Eric Idle, of the Rutles, the mockumentary/parody of the Beatles that reached something mighty close to pure genius.  Put it this way: I still sing the Rutles send-ups.  I don’t much sing the Beatles originals.  (“Walkie-Talkie Man says ‘allo, allo, allo’/ With his ballerina boots you can tell he’s always on his toes…..”)

Anyhoo, the news gives Ol’ Robbo an excuse to repost a yootoob of one of my very favorite Innes bits, the closing credits background from my absolute favorite Python episode.  I love everything about this bit – the grainy texture of the film, the cheesy period song, the disconnect of the singer’s sentiment with the obviously bored WAAF, and, of course, the totally cool Hawkers Hurricane sitting behind them.  Enjoy!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy New Year!

As we have done so since we were all in school together, Mrs. Robbo and I met up with the Former Llama Military Correspondent, his lovely bride, and their family to see in the new year.  This time, it was our turn to travel down to the secured grounds of Fort LMC, there to spend the afternoon and evening sipping adult beverages, nibbling on snacks, catching up, and only turning on the teevee for about five minutes to see the Ball drop in Times Square.  (I’m not sure why we even did this.  The teevee festivities were perfectly vulgar, and the crowd in Times Square nothing more than an advertising bonanza for Planet Fitness, who evidently don’t know how to spell “judgment” in American English.)  Said five minutes aside, a good time was had by all,

But speaking of balls and planets and whatnot, Ol’ Robbo was fascinated this week by the news that the star Betelgeuse is acting bizarre and raising speculation of an impending supernova.  How seriously fantastic would it be to see that?

I say “impending”, but of course Betelgeuse is (without looking it up) something like 600-odd light years away from Earth, so whatever we’re about to see happen actually already happened a looooong time ago.  We were batting this idea around the Port Swiller dinner table the other evening, and I think I raised some eyebrows among the Gels.  Certainly when one sits down and starts to really think about the magnitude of interstellar distances, one can make oneself quite dizzy.  Indeed, think about it too much and you’ll be overcome by a strong desire to turn on all the lights, jump into bed, and pull the covers over your head.  Ask me how I know.

Anyhoo, now Ol’ Robbo is eager to go out after dark and have a look at the constellation Orion to see if he can notice for himself any change in the appearance of his left shoulder.


***Spot the reference.  You don’t get credit for this one because it’s too easy, or should be.


Just because it’s been running through my head all day now.

I ran the teevee series off again some time in the past year or so and found it to be quite enjoyable in the nerdy, low-budget, early-80’s Beeb way.  And because I got thinking about it again, I pulled out the books this afternoon, which I have not read in some time.  I’ve been chuckling for hours.  (I think I piqued Middle Gel’s interest doing so.  I hope she gives them a try, as I think they’d be right up her alley.)

Oh, and I may have mentioned it here before, but the more recent moovie treatment?  In Robbo’s World it simply doesn’t exist.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I’m sure will surprise no one gathered round the decanter, Ol’ Robbo is delighted at the drubbing Boris Johnson and the Tories handed Labour and the rest of the Loony Left in yesterday’s UK Parliamentary elections.  Ol’ Robbo is strongly pro-Brexit.  The older I get, the more I detest the idea of globalism in its various manifestations and the corresponding loss of national, local, and, for that matter, individual sovereignty.  Indeed, the EU and other such organizations are nothing more than the Bearded-Spock Universe antithesis of subsidiarity, a principle to which I am deeply attached.

However, Ol’ Robbo is too tired for philosophical analysis of this latest brush war in the eternal struggle between collectivist authoritarianism and individual autonomy.  Instead, at the forefront of my  braims this evening is a timely Python skit that never seems to get old.  Enjoy!


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees that Time magazine has just named Greta “Scoldilocks” Lundberg as its “Person of the Year”.

First, who knew Time was even still publishing?

Second, I happen to think it’s a good pick, although perhaps not for the same reasons as Time’s editorial board.

Think about it.  A spoiled narcissist with a list of psychiatric issues as long as her arm is using pure emotion, guilt-shaming, and grandstand stunts  to hector us over issues about which she has no actual knowledge, understanding, or experience.  And rather than telling her to shut up and go do her homework, our so-called elites are pandering to her out of one side of their collective mouths, while exploiting her out of the other.

Isn’t that just a perfect encapsulation of the state of the Post-Modern West?

I think so.  I think so.

UPDATE:  By the bye, the memes are already starting to circulate.  I saw this one over to FacePlant and just larffed and larffed:


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Since, as predicted, Ol’ Robbo’s reminiscences regarding his misspent yoot in the Texas Hill Country immediately below seem to have gone over like a lead balloon, how’s about he doubles down with a little Virginia Piedmont pedantry?

I was re-watching “The Howards of Virginia” (1940) last evening.  It’s really not a bad flick: Cary Grant as a Virginny frontiersman orphaned as a boy by Braddock’s Defeat who somehow or other grows up with Tom Jefferson, marries into Tidewater society, and has his life torn apart by the conflicting currents of the Revolution.

Anyhoo, the very beginning of the movie features a map of Colonial Virginia in which Albemarle and Amherst Counties abut one another.  This caught the Robbo attention because they don’t these days.  Nelson County sits in between them.  I’ve been driving up and down Rte. 29 among them for thirty years and know the terrain very, very well.  (It is said or used to be, by the bye, that when the moon comes over the mountain in Nelson County, it comes in quart jars. **Cue banjo musick**)

So I looked it up.  Turns out Nelson County was created out of northern Amherst County in 1807.  Amherst County itself was created out of southern Albemarle County in 1761.  (Albemarle, in turn, was created in 1744.)  Since Braddock’s Defeat occurred in 1755, then, that map wasn’t entirely accurate, at least for the beginning of the film.

But then again, the whole thing was shot in southern California on locations that look nothing on earth like Amherst, Albemarle, or the Shenandoah Valley (where the Howards take up residence) so I suppose I can let such a minor discrepancy pass.  **Flexes Nerd-Fu Powers**

Incidentally, the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Department has the distinction of being the only law-enforcement body to ever actually issue Ol’ Robbo an in-person speeding ticket.  (Photo traps don’t count.)  They popped me late on an evening way back in October, 1991 as I was making my way back from visiting Mrs. R at Sweet Briar to my then-apartment in The People’s Republic of Charlottesville.  However, I came mighty close to getting tagged in nearby Madison County a few weeks ago when we went to visit Eldest at Sweet Briar, as I sailed straight into an ambush going well over 10+ the speed limit.  However, the cop couldn’t pull out until the fellah behind me had passed him.  The fellah behind me was speeding, too, so the cop snagged him instead of me. Fortunately, Mrs. R was asleep in the seat next to me and missed the whole thing.  I never would have heard the end of it otherwise.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo – and probably only Ol’ Robbo – is delighted by this article:  State-Owned Bexar County Ranch At The Center Of Latest Warbler Fight.

Short story, the State of Texas buys up a ranch in far northwestern Bexar County, with plans to develop it for residential use as an outer luggshury burb of San Antonio, the profits going into the state’s public educational funds.  Reasonable enough, especially when real estate is booming.  The plans are kyboshed, however, when it is alleged that said ranch contains a micro-environment crucial for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.  As of the date of the article, the state was trying to unload the property and recover its initial investment.  The bulk of the article describes the debacle and the resultant finger-pointing, due-diligence claims and counter-claims, and questions whether said warbler is even really endangered.

A ridiculous enough situation and one that may be snark-worthy in and of itself, but the reason it got Ol’ Robbo’s special attention is this:  The ranch involved is the one on which we used to hunt back in my misspent yoot!

Yes!  It’s referred to as “Rancho Sierra” in the article, but back in the day it was the Karsch Ranch, the name of the then-owner, a hell of a nice fellah.  (It’s been better than 35 years since I was last there.  I don’t know if Mr. Karsch or his heirs sold directly to the state or whether there have been intermediate owners.)  He sold something like twenty or twenty-five deer leases for hunting the bulk of the ranch during the season, although we also went for wild turkey and Russian boar.  We held a lease for maybe twelve or fifteen years altogether.

The tallest peak in Bexar County (located on the ranch) also gets mentioned, although the article calls it Mt. Smith.  To us, it was known as Flag Top.  I have no idea where the “Smith” came from – I’ve seen the marker at the summit and although this was a loooong time ago, I’m reasonably sure our name was the right one.

Flag Top, then, contained two deer stands.  One was called “Flag Top Road”.  It was a tree-blind on the main trail across the mesa.  (The view out the back over the valley was pretty amazing.)  I helped the Old Gentleman overhaul it when it started falling apart, and indeed it was from that blind that I bagged my first buck.  I was eight at the time.  (I save this little factoid for only the very specialist of my snowflake acquaintances.)  The other one was called “Flag Top North”.  I cannot recall if it was simply a box on the ground or if it was a small tower, but I know it wasn’t in a tree.  It was on a spur from the main track, maybe a couple hundred yards off and right near the summit.  In all our time there I do not recall ever hunting that blind, although we did drive up to restock its feeder now and again and to have a look at the marker I mentioned.

And speaking of driving, it was on this ranch that the twelve-year-old Robbo learned how to drive.  (There are a couple photos in the article that give a sense of the terrain and trails.)  The Old Gentleman got hold of a VW Beetle.  He had the shell, the dashboard, and the back seat removed, and put on a roll-bar, a plywood rear platform and engine box, and oversized tires.   Reasoning that if something happened to him when we were way out in the back of beyond, he insisted that my brother and I learn the trails and, when we were big enough to reach the pedals, how to drive the buggy.  Once I grasped the mysteries of driving a stick, it was loads of fun.

Good times.  Good times.

Incidentally, I myself never saw one of these warblers, but I gather they only visit the old ranch during the nesting season and I was really only there during the winter, so there’s that.

Oh, one other piece of nostalgia?  The article quotes a good bit from one Gene Dawson, an engineer who did some assessment work for the state.  His parents were our next-door neighbors in San Antonio and his mom often invited us to use their pool.  (We did.)  Gene is probably eight or nine years older than me and we never had much contact, but his younger brother Sam, who I think graduated high school a year or two before I entered, was infinitely patient and good-humored about playing with us younger kids in the neighborhood.

Small word, ain’t she?

And you never know when the past is going to come bubbling up again.

A glass of wine with my brother, who stumbled across this article recently and mentioned it to me over Thanksgiving.

UPDATE:  As long as Ol’ Robbo is thinking about it, a few more fun facts about the old Karsch.

The article mentions a couple of springs on the ranch.  I knew one of them and indeed sipped water out of it more than once.  It was located in a small, deep valley known as Wolf Hollow.  The story went that Texas Rangers once got the drop on some desperado camped out there and shot him down, burying him in his boots.

Whether that was true or not, this is: Nestled up against one side of the hollow are or were the remains of an old settler homestead, a hearth built out of stone.  I knew one or two others scattered around the ranch as well.  There was also said to be a settler graveyard, but I never saw that.

An old stagecoach road runs across the ranch, linking Leon Springs and Boerne in the east with who knows what to the west.  I remember one section of it in particular that, instead of trying to go up and over the top of a small hill, followed a contour line on one side around it.

Shortly after WWI, a single-engine plane carrying mail ran out of fuel and crashed on a hillside deep inside the ranch.  When a search party arrived, they found the pilot had broken his neck in the crash.  We hiked in one time to find it.  Of course the canvas had long since rotted away, but the iron framework was still there and remarkably intact.  I kept a piece of rusty aileron as a souvenir.

During WWII, a heavy bomber got lost in a fog and slammed into another hillside, blowing up on impact.  I knew approximately where this happened but never tried to find the actual site.  It was said there was nothing left to see anyway.

Finally, the article also mentions a ranchhouse.  I wonder if it’s the same one we used back in the day?  It was a little house set a bit aside from the rest of the compound and served as the hunters’ HQ.  There was a kitchen, a bedroom with bunks (we never stayed over), and a main room.  In the main room was a large wall map of the ranch with all the deer blinds marked and named on it.  (There were maybe twelve or fifteen altogether.)  The map was overlaid with a clear piece of plastic and a grease pencil was tied to a string next to it.  When you went out, you circled which blind you were going to and wrote your name in the circle.  Not only did this ensure two different parties didn’t try to get the same blind, it also acted as a sort of buddy-system to ensure everybody came back in at the end of the day.  (I think somebody from the ranch came round late in the evening to check the map to ensure the last party got in okay.)

I suppose that if the place does eventually get overrun with McMansions, all this history will be wiped out.  So maybe the golden-cheeked warblers aren’t such a bad thing after all.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Both the Elder Gels are home from college for Thanksgiving Break now, bringing the roster at Port Swiller Manor back up to full strength for the first time in months.  We’ll see how long the peace can be maintained.

Over the weekend Eldest and I were chatting of this and that when the topic came round to chess.  “Did you know,” she said, “that the Queen was originally restricted to moving only a single space at a time?  The rule changed because of the rise of powerful queens like Catherine of Aragon during the Renaissance.”

I must admit that I had never heard of this, so this evening I hied me to the innertoobs, where everything is true, and found that at least somebody has put forth an argument that this was, in fact, the case.

There actually are a couple different articles on line, but they all seem to go back to a single source, one Marilyn Yalom’s Birth of the Chess Queen: A History (2001).  I’ve no idea if the argument that this fundamental change in the game of royal warfare was indeed made in recognition of the likes of Elizabeth I and Isabella of Castile, but it’s at least plausible as well as highly interesting.  Plus, it would seem to kick the stuffing out of the notion that all wymmnz in the West were treated like doormats and chattels before 1968.

Has any friend of the decanter ever read this book?  I’m somewhat curious about the argument, but at the same time I don’t want to repeat the mistake I made in wasting several valuable hours, based on a brother-in-law’s recommendation, reading a hopeless trainwreck of a book about how the Chinese actually discovered and colonized the Americas in the 1450’s.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

So Ol’ Robbo sees this article this morning: W&L Students Demand Right To Strip George Washington And Robert E. Lee From Their Diplomas.

As regular friends of the decanter know, Ol’ Robbo did his undergrad studies at The People’s Glorious Soviet Of Middletown, CT, a hard left outlier back in the mid 80’s.  After that, I specifically chose Dubyanell for law school because it was then such a conservative school and I wanted to get back some of the traditional college experience of which I felt I’d missed out at Wes, and because I so loved the rich history of the place.

Well, the school obviously has gone to Stalinist hell now.  Not another dime do they get from me, even the nominal amounts I’ve been giving just to pump their class participation rates.  I know this is just a student petition, but even if it gets turned down, I guarantee you the very name of the school is going to change within the next couple years.

When my office moved to a new building a couple months ago, I brought my diplomas home.  I’ve had little inclination to go through the bother of taking them in to the new place, but now I find myself more tempted to do so, just to put Ol’ George and Bobby Lee up on the wall in defiance.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s return to Metro commuting means that, on his way to his local station, he now drives up a long hill on one of the principal local arteries.  A couple years back, Capital One built a tall, shiny skyscraper in the neighborhood.  It dominates the horizon as I climb said hill.

Evidently, the exterior lighting of the top four floors of this tower is changeable.  So, for instance, during Robbo’s beloved Nats’ post-season run, they were all picked out in red after our more clutch wins.

This morning, I noticed a scheme which I suppose was a left-over from Veterans’ Day yesterday.  It was an attempt to recreate the American flag.  For some reason, however, the lighting system evidently can’t get all that detailed.  Instead of thirteen red and white stripes, they could only manage four.   So the thing looked far more like the Confederate Stars & Bars.

I must admit I smiled malevolently when I noticed this.  Not out of disrespect for veterans or due to pro-CSA sympathies, of course, but just because I loathe corporate idiocy.

Stupid Capital One.  What’s in my wallet? What’s in your braims!



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