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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo woke up this morning and said to himself the devil with the yard this week.  Apart from a little watering, there’s nothing that absolutely demands my immediate attention, the lawn will do for now, and the weeds in the garden remain reasonably at bay.

Furthermore, next weekend the annual Port Swiller Family summah cycle kicks in with the transportation of Youngest Gel to Bible-thumper camp.  For the six weeks following that there will be various comings, goings, and projects (including this year a life-altering office move, about which more later), and then hey, presto! suddenly it’ll be time to start getting Gels off to school again.

I reckon a Saturday in the hammock with a tall, cold glass and a good book before taking the plunge is worthwhile.  Even Mrs. R said it was a good idea.

UPDATE:  The cry goes ’round the decanter, “What book, Tom?”

Well, it’s Flash For Freedom today.  Yes, Ol’ Robbo is indulging himself again in George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman Papers for about the eleventy-billionth time.  I never seem to get tired of them.

Over the years I’ve become convinced that GMF appropriated Flashy from Tom Brown’s School Days and gave him a long career of lying, cheating, stealing, womanizing, and putting a bluff front on his inner cowardice so that he, the author, could indulge himself in Victorian history, particularly Imperial military history.  Flash’s antics are the hook that sells the books, but I think GMF’s real pleasure was indulging in all the research and sneaking history lessons into his stories.

One of Ol’ Robbo’s ambitions is to eventually collect all the original sources cited in the Flashman Papers.  (I’ve already got some of them, including materials on James Brooke’s campaigns against Borneo pirates, and early explorations of the American Southwest.)  Another is to piece together a satisfying story of Flashy’s involvement in the American Civil War: the Papers are strewn with hints and asides about it, but GMF never, alas, put them all together.  (Ol’ Robbo is in a Flashy appreciation group on FacePlant and we like to spit-ball about this every now and again.)

Anyway, ho for the hammock!


Robbo’s currently enjoying his first gin and tonic in a very long time, courtesy of his esteemed In-Laws, who brought me a large bottle of Bombay.  And what better way to serve it up than in the ol’ Sweet Briar Jigger?

This is actually a relic of Mrs. R’s time at SBC (somebody’s probably get sued for producing it these days because that’s not funny!), although I now cannot recall the occasion on which she got it. Possibly it was Junior Banquet, by which time we’d already been dating for over a year.

It’s a bit of a marvel that the thing has survived all these years intact.  (I attribute this to minimal usage and hand-washing.)

Still makes me smile whenever I get it out.

Good times.  Good times.

UPDATE:  Now that I think on it, the last G&T’s I had were in Bermuda last summah when Mrs. R and I went there for our 25th.  Which see:

Because what the heck else are you going to drink on a beach in Bermuda, right?  (Yes, that’s Thackery’s Vanity Fair, which I find more entertaining every time I reread it.)

On the other hand, it’s been some years now since I had a bottle in the house.  I really just don’t drink the hard stuff much anymore, and confine myself pretty exclusively to the grape. (To give you an idea, I bought bottles of Laphroaig and cognac for Christmas 2017, and I’m still working on both and nowhere near the bottom of either.)

By the bye, the In-Laws also gave me a bottle of Pimm’s, which I also haven’t sampled in a while.   Just to amuse myself,  I think I’m going to devote this to trying to come up with the most elaborate Pimm’s Cup recipes I can.  (When I interned in Parliament between college and law school, I found myself one weekend helping the wife of Sir Phillip Goodhart, MP to concoct a giant bowl of Pimm’s Cup for a party.  Cucumbers certainly played a role, as did most members of the citrus family.)  Any ideas friends of the decanter may have will be received gratefully and probably be written up here as well.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has no greater ambition this fine Friday morning than to toddle down the street and finally get his overdue car safety inspection dealt with. While I’m waiting for the tail end of rush hour to clear up, how about a little of this and that?

♦  Ol’ Robbo loves how the marriage-speak sentence “We need to do X” actually translates into “You need to do X”.  (The only possible response, of course, is “Yes, Dear.” They hate that.)

♦  Speaking of domestic irritants, Eldest has long had the most infuriating habit of taking glasses, plates, and silverware up to her room and squirreling them away in squalid post-meal heaps.  I’ve begged, I’ve threatened, I’ve shamed – she still does it.  Other than installing locks in the kitchen, I’m at a loss.

♦  Speaking of kitchens, any friends of the decanter ever tried this Beyond Meat thing?  It sounds revolting on several different levels to Ol’ Robbo.  I’ve got a work colleague, an avid vegan, with whom I’m occasionally forced to eat lunch.  The trouble is that when she’s eating, about the only thing she can talk about is her veganism, and this fake-meat thing often comes up.  She won’t come out and call me a murderer to my face for my own carnivorous preferences, but you can tell she’s thinking it.  (I just smile thinly.)

♦  Speaking of work colleagues, I’ve another one, a college history major no less, who didn’t realize yesterday was the 75th anniversary of D-Day.  **Thud**

♦  Speaking of history, Ol’ Robbo re-watched “The Death of Stalin” last evening.  I enjoy this film more and more each time I see it.  The trouble was that this time I also watched the special features commentary.  I swear the director said something about how important it was to make a film about dictatorship in the age of Trump and Brexit.  Seriously?  Wanker.

♦  And speaking of films, the other evening I also re-watched “Lost Horizon“, which I hadn’t seen since my misspent teens.  I guess Ol’ Robbo has got old and crusty, because I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I remembered it.  Frank Capra is, for the most part, just too gooshy for me.  (“It Happened One Night” is, of course, a notable exception.)  Think I’ll just stick to the book going forward.

Well, I suppose I had ought to be shifting and go take La Wrangler for her checkup.  Do you know, she’s sixteen years old now and I’ve still only put a little over 99K miles on her?  Reckon she’ll last me a good while longer.

UPDATE:  La Wrangler is just fine.  Seems the Great Commonwealth of Virginny has changed the inspection sticker: It used to be yellow but is now smaller and blue. What would we do without bureaucrats?

Took a walk with Eldest this afternoon to get her some pick-me-up cofevve before her evening work shift.  When I mentioned the vegan thing to her (there’s no shame in using the same materials for blogging and meatspace conversation), she rolled her eyes and started to laugh.

“Veganism is vegetarianism turned up to eleven,” she said.  “It’s its own whole level of crazy, and for some reason they simply can’t shut up about it.  Eat your pretentious goop if you like but leave me out of it, I say.”

That’s my Gel – both for the sentiment and the nifty reference!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo tried to start several different posts on various topics this evening and couldn’t seem to get any of them to fire.   One was about how staggeringly beautiful Melania Trump is, one was about a kerfluffle at a local mega-church, and one was about the dynamics of having all three Gels home for a few days, a thing that has become something of a rarity now that the older two are off at school.  All interesting topics, I should think, but the words just wouldn’t come.


Ol’ Robbo is quite used to sailing into the compositional doldrums come summah, but none of the usual factors seems to be at play here.  The weather has been pretty cool and I’m not yet suffering my chronic heat exhaustion brought on by commuting in a jeep with no A/C.  I’ve no major distractions or troubles at the moment.  I’m perhaps more aware than usual of the dangers relevant to my professional standing from hitting the wrong hot-button topics, but while I often have to bite my tongue about those, this doesn’t usually prevent me from blathering about other things.   No, it seems I’ve just got the Block.

Heigh-ho.  It happens.

Whelp, Time the Great Healer, and all that.  Rayther than waste any more of your valuable time on it, I’m instead going to go watch “Lost Horizon” (1937) which turned up in my Netflix queue today.  I first saw this film some time in my early teens, and I think it was the first Civilized Westerner meets Exotic East adventure tale to really fire up my imagination, and to eventually lead me to authors such as Rider Haggard, P.C. Wren, Anthony Hope, R.L. Stevenson, C.S. Forester, and, of course, Kipling.  And yes, I read the James Hilton novel on which the movie is based not all that long ago and enjoyed it, too.

Maybe a little escapism will do the trick, eh?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust that all y’all (as they say in Texas) had a pleasant Memorial Day weekend, taking some time, of course, to reflect on why we have the holiday in the first place and to honor the fallen.

Anyhoo, as he climbed back into the Innerwebz this morning, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was taken by an article which makes him, at least potentially, very happy:  French Senate says Notre-Dame must be restored exactly as it was.

On Monday evening, the French Senate approved the government’s Notre-Dame restoration bill – but added a clause that it must be restored to the state it was before the blaze, striking a blow to the government which had launched an international architecture competition to debate ideas on the restoration.

Now to be perfectly honest, I’ve no idea what the “French Senate” actually is.  Nor do I know how it interacts with “the government”  (although I expect the latter is something akin to our own Executive Branch).  If you read the article in full, it also hints that the final authorization still has to be ironed out with yet another legislative chamber, so despite the headline, this apparently is not a done deal yet.

Nonetheless, I am encouraged.  I dismissed as so much fluff all those ideas about rebuilding the place with a glass ceiling, a minaret, a roof-top garden, and other modernist sacrilegious tweeks the other day, but I confess that I still had a Nameless Fear that something of the sort might happen.  Matter of fact, I still do, and will continue to harbor it until I see the actual construction start.

Mind you, I doubt this move by the Frog Senate has much to do with religious motivation or preservation as HMC would see it.  Instead, I believe it is more in line with what I’ve read about a draconian obsession amongst the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys** with historick preservation of Things Uniquely French.   After all, I believe there still exists an Academy which lays down the law about such things as cluttering up the French language with bastard English (the law being that you can’t).

But hey, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, amirite?

Of course, this assertion of orthodozy brings Ol’ Robbo round to wondering again how on earth that rat-bastard Mitterand ***  managed to swing the construction of I.M. Pei’s pyramid slap in front of the Louvre.  That thing went up 30 years ago.  I remember thinking at the time that it was nothing more than a giant flipping of the bird to Western (and more specifically French) Tradition.  Nothing since then has given me any reason to change my mind.

Howsoever, that’s an aside.  I am still cautiously optimistic about this week’s nooz regarding Notre Dame.


** Okay, how could I write a post about the French without slipping that in?

*** One of my favorite modern Catholic Apologists, John Zmirak, uses Mitterand as a case study in Gluttony for Power in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins.  Well worth a read.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As the more lynx-eyed Friends of the Decanter may recollect, Ol’ Robbo’s employment unit is upping stakes and moving to a brand new building in just about two months now.

This week saw the selection of individual offices within our new space.  We’re up on a higher floor in our new digs, and there are only a certain number of window offices available, not nearly enough for our entire attorney crew.

The selection lottery was based on service seniority.  Ol’ Robbo was mildly surprised to see that I came second in the entire bunch.  I guess I have been around for a while!  (In fact, some day I’ll tell you all about it, one way or another.  I’m thinking along the lines of John Mortimer’s Rumpole as a model.)

I couldn’t participate in the selection process myself, owing to a bout of Bechuana Tummy***, so I asked my immediate supervisor to make my choice for me.  “Oh, a window office for sure, please, and on the west side of the building,” I said.

Why the west?  Well, because that’s where the weather comes from.  And Ol’ Robbo loves to watch the weather coming in.

Not that I’ll really see that much since we’ve got another equally tall building right across the courtyard on that side, but I reckon I’ll be able to see enough overhead and round the corners.  Plus, I understand I get to graduate up to two computer screens now, so I’ll always be able to keep a Doppler loop radar open in a corner of one of them to coordinate with my observations.

If all this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.


**Even though I may or may not be dressed as one.  Spot the *almost* quote.  Hint: It involves wood.

***Spot the reference.  I actually picked up a nasty chill/fever on Monday and there’s something going about, but I couldn’t resist plugging it in because I enjoy it so much.





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As most of you Friends of the Decanter probably already know, a new movie about J.R.R. Tolkien opened this weekend.  Ol’ Robbo inadvertently saw an ad for it yesterday (no thanks to Microsoft, which makes me look at ads when I want to play Free Cell on my laptop).  It looked…strange.

The movie is supposed to be all about the real-life inspirations for Tolkien’s great fantasy world.  However, the buzz Ol’ Robbo has been hearing in the corners of the Innertoobs  he haunts is that there is almost no mention whatsoever of a dominant factor in his life, namely his religion.  Tolkien, as I’m sure you all know, was a devout Catholic.  And while the story of Middle Earth isn’t allegory, it is most definitely shaped in many different ways by his Christianity.  How any purported ” inspirational biography” can ignore that is quite beyond me.

And even if you just shake your head and mutter something about Godless Hollywood and airbrushing history,  from a pure financial perspective the thing doesn’t make much sense to me either.  Ol’ Robbo may be just a simple country doctor, but I can’t help thinking that a movie like this, which is not at all the same thing as one of Peter Jackson’s LOTR extravaganzas, likely would appeal mostly to an audience who are already Tolkien Nerds to begin with., a laShadowlands” and the C.S. Lewis crowd.  And as Tolkien Nerds, they’re likely already pretty familiar with his biography.  And familiar with that biography, they’d be mighty put out by such a glaring omission and would sit on their hands.

But heck, what do I know?

Not that I ever do go to the movies anyway, but I’m not planning to bother with this one.  Of course, if any of you see it, feel free to drop a comment.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Unlike Arthur Dent, Ol’ Robbo generally is quite fond of Thursdays.  (If Douglas Adams had set the demolition of Earth on a Tuesday instead, I would have been much more in sympathy.)

Today proved an exception, however, as I got caught good and hard in the backup from an accident on the Gee-Dub, and literally wound up taking two and a half hours to  make the trip from Port Swiller Manor to my office this morning.  The bulk of this involved standing absolutely stock-still on the Parkway for about an hour and a half.

Fortunately, Ol’ Robbo is blessed with a keen sense of humor and a quick eye for the absurd.  As time wore on, I amused myself in part by noting the steadily-increasing stream of guys who got out of their cars and scuttling into the woods for a quick pit-stop.  (How the ladies afflicted with the same urge coped, I can’t imagine.  In this, we fellahs definitely have the advantage.  A “biological conspiracy” as I saw somebody put it once.)

Perhaps more fortunately, Ol’ Robbo typically doesn’t have his first cup of cofevve until after he gets to work, so I was able view the scene in relative serenity.  I readily admit that, had I been in the same boat, I doubt if I’d have found it s’damn funny.  (I wouldn’t have jumped out myself.  Not because I have any objections to a bit of au natural relief, but because of the neurotic fear that traffic would have broken up while I was away and everyone would have honked and yelled at me until I got moving again.)

It turned out, by the bye, that some yo-yo had careened off the road and slammed into a tree, why I do not know.  The car was gone by the time I passed the accident site, but you could see the spot fairly high up the trunk where the car had hit, and the whole area was blackened because it had also caught fire.  The only nooz report I can find claims that no injuries were reported, but that doesn’t quite mesh with the fact that no fewer than three ambulances picked their way through the backup and passed me as we sat there.  (Obviously, my observations were irrelevant.  If the Press tells us there were no injuries, then there were no injuries!)

Anyhoo, enough to throw anybody’s day out of kilter, I think.

Ah, well.  As I’ve said before, if you’re going to get stuck somewhere on your commute, at least the Gee-Dub is a pretty place.  It’s now just under six weeks before Ol’ Robbo’s office moves from its present downtown Dee Cee location to somewhere deep in tiger country northeast of Union Station and I have to go back to riding the Metro.  Ask me if I’m going to enjoy that.  [Narrator: He isn’t.]

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is sitting on the back porch this dank morning, enjoying an early cup of cofeve and contemplating the day’s chores.  The grass has reached the stage where it really could stand to be cut twice a week, it’s growing so fast, so skipping even the once a week cut is not an option.  Alas, it rained last night (indeed, it’s still sort of drizzling now), so this is going to be an irksome job today.

Ol’ Robbo’s push mower has an optional rear-mounted clippings bag.  I never use the thing because you have to stop about every five minutes to empty it, but instead am content to just let the clippings mulch back into the turf.  This works fine most of the time, but when it’s wet out like this I have to stop about every five minutes anyway in order to dig all the clippings out of the blade well where they’ve got all jammed up.  Most annoying.  (I’m also convinced that one of these days I’m going to slip and fall and accidentally shiv myself with the weed-sticker I keep in my back pocket for this purpose.)

Speaking of mower blades, in true middle-aged fashion my brother and I got talking about them when he and his family were here for Easter. It turns out he has a rather elaborate system of switching out his – while one is in use, the other is off being re-sharpened.  I gather he switches them fairly frequently, too.  I’ve never done this in my life, and my immediate thought was that it would be a waste of money.  Am I, in my ignorance, violating some provision of the Guy Code here?  I can’t say I’ve noticed anything particularly wrong with the cut I get but now I’m starting to feel a bit paranoid.

Well, enough of both rambling and cofeve.  As the Constable of France says to his colleagues in Act III of Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt, “Now is the time to arm.  Come, shall we about it?”


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

No doubt such a group as you friends of the decanter will be heartened by this story: Beer, Wine, and Chocolate Are Key to Living a Long Life, Study Says.

Working with more than 68,000 participants, [Warsaw University’s Professor Joanna] Kaluza and a team of scientists found that those with diets rich in fruit and vegetables, as well as beer, wine, and chocolate, which have anti-inflammatory properties, were up to 20 percent less likely to die prematurely [of heart disease and cancer] than those who ate a lot of red meat, sugary sodas, and processed foods.

“It is known that fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee, red wine, beer, and chocolate are rich in antioxidants,” Kaluza told Metro.

What would we do without studies?

As a matter of fact, Ol’ Robbo’s own diet cuts almost perfectly at right angles across these statements.  Coffee and wine are basically the alpha and omega of my dietary day.  On the other hand, I’m not really a beer drinker (it makes me feel bloaty), and I have no sweet-tooth whatsoever (so avoid both chocolate and soda).  Meanwhile, I am a dedicated carnivore, am mildly indifferent to fruits (except pineapple, which I loathe), and am very picky about vegetables (read: nothing beyond a green salad and an artichoke every now and again).  I dunno what “processed foods” actually means, but I suppose I eat some of them, too.   Result? So far into my now firmly middle age, neither my waistline nor my weight have changed very much since my college days, and although my doc has tsk-tsk’d at me about these dietary confessions, she’s never yet been able to pin specific medical consequences to them.   So there.

Indeed, Ol’ Robbo has long suspected that the real allocation of overall health and longevity is, in fact, genetically-based.  Diet, exercise, mental well-being – in fact the whole concept embodied in the old tag mens sana in corpore sano – are important, of course, and can’t be ignored, but I suspect that their impact (beyond outright abusive behavior) is mostly at what one might call the margins:  If you’re pre-programmed to last somewhere between 75 and 85 years, attention to these things may land you at the top of that range, but it won’t really help you hit your century.  For contra-examples, consider these stories that turn up every now and again of somebody who smokes cigars prodigiously, knocks back whiskey every day, and lives to be 115.

Go figure.

At any rate, a glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender, from whom I lifted this story, although I actually find objectionable his oft-repeated enthusiasm for the notion of extending human life through Science!  Where he sees good in technological breakthroughs that could extend the average lifespan to 150 years or even preserve each of our “essences” indefinitely, all I see is the devil shouting at God, “Non serviam!”   We all die to this life, whether we like it or not.  Properly centered in Faith, we shouldn’t mind it.

UPDATE:  Ol’ Robbo should clarify re that last bit that I am neither talking smack because I happen to be in good health at the moment nor am I suggesting cancers and other illnesses should not be fought vigorously.  God alone knows how I’ll react if and when I get that call from the doc’s assistant telling me I need to come in for a “talk”.  Instead, I’m objecting to the broader notion of significantly changing our natural parameters, or even outrunning Death altogether, through science and technology.  This includes everything from artificially growing “spare” parts to downloading our consciousness into some sort of computer bank to sticking our heads in jars a la “Futurama”.

Also, I meant to mention that J.R.R. Tolkien thought this idea important enough to touch on it in his writings.  In The Simarillion, Man’s natural death originally was called “the Gift of Eru ” but Morgoth, through lies and whispers, convinced Men it was an evil thing, so it became know as “the Curse of Eru”.  This served to diminish Men’s character and to estrange them from both Eru Himself and from the apparently immortal Elves.  Both the Kings of Numenor and then later (in the back story to The Lord of the Rings) those of Gondor became so obsessed with escaping it that they caused their own ruin.  Of course, Middle Earth, as Tolkien insisted, is not an allegory, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t weave his own worldview into it both in theme (as here) and specific actions. (It’s no coincidence, for example, that the Ring goes into the Fire on March 25.)

And speaking of Ol’ J.R.R., I understand there’s a new biopic coming out about him, but I also understand (at least from FacePlant sources) that it contains virtually no reference whatsoever to his deeply-held Catholic Faith.  How anyone could expect to truly understand his character formation and development without exploring that aspect of it, I simply can’t imagine.  Of course, the keyword in that sentence is “truly”, so there you go.  Unless somebody convinces me otherwise, I do not plan to see it.




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