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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Did you see this latest outrage in a world gone completely insane? The State Department has banned Times New Roman font from its documents, now requiring the use of Calibri instead.

Is nothing sacred anymore?

If my shop did this, I’d send in my papers. I’ve already noticed that Word on my work computer has started defaulting to Calibri, much to my intense annoyance.

What’s next? Comic Sans? Lucida Calligraphy? Emojis?


(A shot of vodka with Stephen Green over at Insty’s place.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are at the close of another Christmas.

By a fortuitous bit of timing, “Twelfth Night” arrived in my mailbox from Netflix a couple days ago and I plan to watch it this evening. This is the 1980 Beeb production. I’m sure I’ve seen it before more than once but it has been some time since Ol’ Robbo brushed up his Shakespeare and I have no real recollection. That series by the Beeb was quite hit or miss, sometimes outstanding, sometimes awful. I hope this is one of the good ‘uns.

What in tarnation is “Dry January“? I’d never heard the term before until the fellah sopping up all my Scotch at New Year’s (which see below) mentioned doing it. I’ve also heard it mentioned twice on the teevee since. Feh. Virtue-signaling wankery, if you ask me. What was that Ol’ Robbo read somewhere about hypocrites and street corners? Anybody? Anybody? Buller? (Lent begins on February 22 this year, by the bye.)

(Hey, I didn’t get a harrump!! from that guy!)

Bard-o-licious UPDATE: Yup, this “Twelfth Night” is one of the good ‘uns, And Ol’ Robbo must have seen it before because I immediately recognized the actress who plays Viola, Felicity Kendal, who looks like an intelligent and cheerful chipmunk. However, it also must have been very long ago because I did not remember Robert Hardy as Sir Toby Belch, which he did, as he did everything else, superbly and with great gusto.

Another cast-member was Maurice Roeves (as Antonio), who regular friends of the decanter will remember as Sar’n James in “Danger-UXB”. (“Clock-stoppah…….ON!”) He also had the thankless task of playing Col. Munro in that Daniel Day-Lewis version of “The Last of the Mohicans” which so irritates Ol’ Robbo with its butchery of Fenimore Cooper’s story. Not that I have any fondness for FC myself, but I stridently object to this kind of thing.

Anyhoo, a pleasant evening was had by all.

It also occurred to Ol’ Robbo that, despite being a Brit Lit major himself all those many moons ago, it’s been a very long time since I sat down and seriously read some Shakespeare. I must needs remedy this, I think.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Long time friend of the decanter rbj1 reports that Turner Classic Movies is running a “Thin Man” marathon New Year’s Eve.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo will be unable to tune in. I learn this morning that what I’d thought was going to be a quite evening’s celebration with the Former Llama Military Correspondent and family has suddenly strengthened into a Cat 3 shindig with the addition of several other guests, so I will now be spending it “entertaining”. (Mrs. R denies this, but I know perfectly well how it will play out. The good news is that it might actually be warm enough this year for the thing to spill out onto the porch.)

Don’t worry: I only say “alas” in the sense that figuring out food and drink suddenly becomes more complicated. As a matter of fact, all of the additional guests are good friends, not quite such crusty reactionaries as I am (and as is the FLMC), but within a few standard deviations thereof. Furthermore, they know me thoroughly and know to ignore most of my blather, so I needn’t worry about holding my tongue as I had to at Christmas dins.

Anyhoo, a thing about “Thin Man”. The original novel on which the films were based was of course written by Dashiell Hammett, who for many years was the slave of playwright Lilliam Hellman. (He dedicated the novel to her, and indeed Nora Charles is supposed to be a tribute.) This didn’t matter much to Ol’ Robbo until I read up on Hellman. John Zmirak, in his Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins, uses her to illustrate Envy. (He also refers to her as “Stalin’s Trollop”.) A thoroughly horrible woman. I’m not saying I’ve stopped watching these movies as a result of this knowledge, but it now lurks around the edge of them for me, emitting a faint but foul odor.

Just an observation. I suppose if one goes digging far enough one can find many, many instances of this sort of thing but this one in particular sticks in Ol’ Robbo’s braims.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sometimes the sight of Ol’ Robbo lounging in his comfy-chair with his nose contentedly stuck in a book seems to give Mrs. R the heebie-jeebies. At any rate, she interrupted me in my worming this morning to make me go drop something off to Youngest Gel at work.

It was very strange. The Gel works at the same animal hospital we took our first three cats to between twenty-five and thirty years ago – their files are still in the system – and yet I have no recollection whatsoever of having set foot in the place before. None.

I mentioned this to Mrs. R when I got home. “Oh,” she said, “They’ve remodeled the building since then.”

That might well be true, but not only did I not recall the building itself, I also did not recall having been in that specific location, either. (And, as I say, we’ve lived in the area and haunted the biznays round there for thirty years.)

I’m one who prides myself on my geographical memory: Once I’ve been to a place, it generally remains tattooed on my brain and I can recall how to get back to it without having to look up the directions again. So it’s a bit disconcerting that I couldn’t pull this one up out of the depths.

Oh, well, one of life’s little mysteries, I suppose.

(Back to book-worming….)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself with no particular place to go and nothing in particular to do today, everything being already teed up for the celebrations. Indeed, I could have spent the whole day loafing in robe and jammies. However, I’ve never been able to stand that: At a certain point I must get showered and dressed. Otherwise, I start to get the heebie-jeebies.


The Storm of the Century of the Week blew through the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor this morning, dropping heavy, non-sticking snow for about twenty minutes. The skies are clearing out now but the wind continues to howl and the temperature plummet. It occurs to Ol’ Robbo that he needs to up the birds’ rations today – they look like they could use them.

Middle Gel remarked that she’s happy she’s not out in Indiana today, as the low in Bloomington was -7. Oh, she’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience the joys of a Midwest Wintah soon enough. My personal record low was -17, together with a screaming wind, experienced one morning in Cheyenne. That was the first time I ever felt the cold as an entity that would actually kill me if I gave it half the chance.


Speaking of which, this is the first vacation in which it feels like the Elder Gels are visiting rayther than coming home. Most interesting. As I recall, I felt the same sort of dynamic from the other side, as it were, my first year of grad school. (The first time I felt that the change was coming was Christmas my junior year in college. It hit me one day while I was sitting and talking with the Mothe. I admit I burst into tears.)


Tonight, in the spirit of things, I gather we’re all going to watch “Home Alone” together. Ol’ Robbo confesses he hasn’t actually seen this film since it was in the theatres however many years ago. (Don’t tell me.) Another time maybe I can get them all to watch “Scrooged” with Bill Murray, an inexplicably under-rated movie in my humble opinion. (I mean, it’s got John Houseman, Robert Mitchem, and Bobcat Goldthwaite in it. What more could one ask?)

Also in the spirit, it would seem Mrs. R found a little indoor mini-s’mores making device. Hard pass on that for Ol’ Robbo, who has never liked sweets and grows more and more intolerant of them as the years go by. (Perhaps I’ll break into the Laphroigh instead.)


Speaking of the spirit, somehow Ol’ Robbo managed to come through without getting thoroughly browned off by premature Christmas musick this year. Don’t ask me how, but there it is. (I thought hearing Willie Nelson sing “Holly, Jolly Christmas” right after Thanksgiving was going to get me, but I managed to weather it.)


“I Read the News Today, Oh Boy” Dept. Why has it suddenly become double-plus ungood wrong think to raise questions about Ukrainian President Zelensky, or indeed to treat him as anything other than a Hero?*** Hard pass on that, as well. I know a gal who declared the other day “Zelensky Day” on FacePlant after he spoke to Congress. Of course, this is the same gal who on the day of the January 6th protests felt compelled to inform her FacePlant audience that she and her family were “all safe home and sound”. She lives twenty miles from downtown Dee Cee. Wanker. Do you wonder why Ol’ Robbo grows daily more skeptical of and disgusted with the current state of things?

***Rhetorical question. Ol’ Robbo knows perfectly well why.


“And Robbo Wept, For There Were No More Wu’s to Conquer” Dept. Speaking of such things, I’ve just about finished my latest cycle through the complete works of Mr. Evelyn Waugh, having only his collected correspondence with Nancy Mitford left to go. Each time I read him, I become more firmly convinced that he really is my favorite author of all time.


Well, that should be enough for those two or three of you who gather together here. (I truly hope you enjoy these musings – just as I went to hit “post” the first time I discovered my wifi had cut out on me and only my first sentence had been saved, so I had to retype the whole dang post from memory. D’oh!) I will duly put up a Christmas Card tomorrow here as I decorate the rest of Port Swiller Manor, too.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over at AoSHQ yesterday, the Moron Horde started discussing the works of Patrick O’Brian. Always one to try and move a conversation along, Ol’ Robbo was prompted to mention another nifty little set of Royal Navy stories set during the Napoleonic Wars entitled Dr. Dogbody’s Leg by James Norman Hall. At such prompting, it occurred to me that I hadn’t read these stories myself in a while and that maybe the whole biznay was a Sign that it was about time to do so again.

So Ol’ Robbo shuffled into the Port Swiller Manor library, only to find that his copy……was not there.


Ol’ Robbo hates it when this happens. And happens it does: The Four Feathers by A.E.W. Mason, Piece of Cake by Derek Robinson….the list goes on. Random events pull up a particular card in my mental catalog, I go to find the volume: Nothing.

I can’t possibly imagine where they get to, either. Nobody borrows books from me that I can think of. None of the Gels is especially interested in the sort of thing I read. Mrs. R has an evil reputation in the house for throwing things away without realizing it, but when it comes to my library she mostly misplaces volumes instead of chucking them. (When she does try to throw away my books, as she is currently trying to do with my law school texts on the grounds that they are “moldy”, she does so on the grand scale, distaining singletons.)


I suppose it’s hie to the devil’s website to look for another copy. My chief fear, given the sort of reading I enjoy and the increasingly horrible and censorious times into which we’re descending, is that one day I’ll go to look and books like this won’t be there anymore, either.

UPDATE: Speaking of sea stories, Ol’ Robbo watched “Blackbeard, the Pirate” (1952) last evening. I can’t recommend it. The sets and effects are cheesy and unpersuasive, the history it thoroughly botched, and Robert Newton’s Edward Teach is a cartoon character better placed in one of the old Disney films. True, the film does feature the lovely and talented Linda Darnell, but that’s not enough. Nor is the nerdy fact that the hero, Robert Maynard, is played by Keith Andes, who was Akuta, leader of the worshippers of Vaal, in the Star Trek TOS episode “The Apple”. (And yes, I’m thoroughly ashamed that I recognized this and even more so that I can cite the cross-reference without looking it up.)

UPDATE DEUX: Went and ordered the three volumes mentioned herein. Thank goodness, they’re still available. (Merry Christmas to me!)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sits comfortably in the Port Swiller Manor library this very rainy Saturday morning, sipping his kawfee and smugly patting himself on the back at having got up the latest batch of leaves yesterday afternoon while it was still dry out. Unlike Sir Winston, I’m now far beyond the beginning of the end of the beginning, or whatever it is, but instead am now within sight of getting the whole bloody biznay over with for the year. Huzzay, huzzah!


“Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” as the delightful song from one of my favorite musickals says. We’ve gone back and forth on such service over the years here, alternately indulging it when we can and chopping it when the well begins to run a bit dry. After a long hiatus, we’ve now taken it up again and had a crew in yesterday doing a deep clean for nearly three hours. Just where the heck does all that dust come from?


On the literary front, Ol’ Robbo is once again binge-reading his Evelyn Waugh. Currently, I’m about halfway through Brideshead Revisited and will say this: Although I mostly like this novel, I’m awfully glad it’s the only one Mr. Wu wrote in this fashion. Mawkish melodrama has little appeal for me. Plus, I’ve always thought Charles Ryder something of a shite.


Speaking of such things, although I don’t blog about it these days (a glass of wine with Bob from NSA!), I am pretty deep into the weeds on current events social, politickal, economic, etc., and I can only pray for one of two things: Either things are not actually as awful as I believe they are, or else they’ve always been this awful without most people realizing it and we’ve managed to stagger through anyway. Otherwise, night is coming. (I mention Waugh above. Love Among the Ruins comes to mind.)


Well, who wants to end a post, especially a lazy Saturday one, on a note of doom and gloom? Not Ol’ Robbo. I plan to get the rest of my Advent greenery up today. Yes, I’m a week late but this seems to be a pattern for me over the years, not just in these outer trappings but also on the more theological level. I can only think that the fact we always travel for Thanksgiving and the Sunday after is typically a “crash” day for me is the culprit. I’ve mentioned this a few times in the Box, but Father tends to be understanding, especially given that the reason for my T-Day travels is family. Heigh-ho. (And shoot! I’ve lost the link now but was reading someone’s rant yesterday about the eeeevils of “Christmas” presents. Because yucky Christianist oppression or sumpin’. Without seeming to realize it, Xer was really ranting about “X-mas” and the rampant commercial exploitation of the season, and to that extent Ol’ Robbo found himself agreeing. If, as I fear, the Church is about to be driven back underground, at least it will be a lot purer.


Oops, that one got a bit dark, too. Let’s see…….Speaking of presents, my gift from my family arrived early. It’s a new power-washer. I suppose it says something about my age and station in life that I’m really happy about this, even if I can’t actually use it on the porch and patio for another five or six months.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Trafalgar Day! Ol’ Robbo was trying to imagine how Lord Nelson’s “England expects” signal would go over nowadays, even translated into authentic post-modernist gibberish, but couldn’t come up with anything that wouldn’t have landed him in the HR office before he could say, “Kiss me, Hardy!”

I realize that I’ve tailed off on my historickal posting here a great deal since the old days. I’m not sure why, except that coming up with original insights for annual celebrations of births, battles, and deaths gradually changed from pure pleasure to something closer to work. I keep waiting for it to feel fresh again. We’re not quite there, yet.

Anyhoo, speaking of fresh, my eye was caught this morning by a side note by Professor Mondo, who writes:

[Side note: I occasionally encounter people who are puzzled by my habit of re-reading books — particularly fiction. “You know what happens; you know how the story turns out, who lives and who dies. Why do you read them again?”

I often ask in return, “Do you only talk to your friends once in your lives?” End of side note.]

Robbo approves of this sentiment. Indeed, I wish I could borrow it and the Way-Back Machine to revisit the partner at the law firm for which I worked twenty-five years ago who was astonished that I had read some fictional piece or other more than once.

As it happens, I also possess a curious quirk in that no matter how many times I’ve read a given story, there’s always a tiny part of my brain that thinks things might turn out different this time. For example, what if the Black Riders actually capture Frodo in the Eastfarthing? What if the Waakzaamheid doesn’t broach to, but instead sinks Jack Aubrey’s horrible old Leopard? What if Dr. Messenger doesn’t go and get himself drowned, leaving poor Tony Last alone and delirious with fever? I actually find myself feeling a sense of relief when things turn out the way the rest of my mind knew perfectly well they would.

Perhaps this makes me a bit of a nut, but I knew that anyway. It also lets me read a book twenty or thirty times, taking some new insight away each time without getting bogged down by boredom.

Now pardon Ol’ Robbo – he needs to go make sure that the Brits still won this time.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A lovely day here in teh neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor. The trees are definitely turning now and it seems to Ol’ Robbo that there is more color this year than for some time past.*** As I’ve mentioned here, we’ve had quite a bit of rain pretty consistent throughout the year, so perhaps this does, indeed, have something to do with it. We’re in for a cold snap this coming week, so that ought to really bring things along, too.

Certainly the leaves are starting to come down, too, and Ol’ Robbo had his first bout of genuine raking this morning, although all I did was clear the wet ones off the driveway. We live downhill from the street and what with the traffic, have need of making jack-rabbit starts when leaving. Wet leaves can be as slippery as ice, so I never let them build up if I can help it. The only other outdoor chore was giving the grass another liming.

It’s as well that my yard list was short and sweet. Yesterday evening, Ol’ Robbo casually asked Mrs. R, “Do we know when they’re coming to start working on the basement?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, “They’re starting Monday. I told you already.”

For the record, I don’t believe she did, but I can’t prove it and I didn’t want to push the point for fear of being accused of fogeyism.

Still, grrrrrrrrr……

That meant Ol’ Robbo had to get everything out of the way so that the fellahs have unobstructed access to two of the walls. This entailed a good bit of pushing around furniture and stacking things up in corners. It is entirely too much like moving for my taste.

It also entailed emptying numerous bookcases. Mrs. R has been after me for years to simply throw most of the books in these cases away, arguing that they’re dusty and moldy, and that I never read them anyway. I’m not saying she’s wrong, necessarily – the basement library consists mainly of my old law school texts, duplicates, and the “Shelves of Shame” to which I’ve banished all those Establishment Republican authors I used to believe in good faith. But I’m a packrat by nature and ten times so when it comes to books, and I just can’t bring myself to do what Mrs. R wants.

We have a loo in the basement, the walls of which being among those subject to repair, which also meant that fixtures had to be moved (except the tub, fortunately). The project manager had suggested that I hire an electrician and a plumber to do so. I definitely took his advice regarding the former, a cardinal rule of Ol’ Robbo’s handy-man activities being that I don’t fool with electricity. But the latter? Even I’m not so dim that I don’t know how to disconnect water and drain lines, and as to detaching the vanity from the wall, it was simply a matter of brute force.

It’s estimated the project will take two weeks. The implications of having people banging around in the basement and Decanter Dog going ballistic non-stop while I’m trying to concentrate on work during that time are really just now beginning to sink in on me.

***I understand the colors are at or near their peak out in the Blue Ridge. The thought of a relaxed spin along Skyline Drive to take them in is, in itself, lovely. The problem is that it occurs to so many people at the same time that one would spend the entire drive with his eyes locked on the cars in front and behind , thus squashing flat any urge Ol’ Robbo would have to take such a trip.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had an enjoyable Columbus Day weekend.

For Ol’ Robbo’s part, I have little to report. Per my post below about Mrs. R’s nesting activities, I spent a goodish bit of time moving some furniture out and other furniture in, thoroughly whacking my shins in the process.

I over-seeded the yard. Whether this has any effect is up to Ma Nature now. I’ve done my part.

The Former Llama Military Correspondent (remember him, anybody?) was in town for the annual Army Ten-Miler on Sunday, so of course we put him up at Port Swiller Manor. It’s probably not the best race prep to stay up way late the night before jawing, but the LMC was a good sport about it.

It’s also not the best thing when one has to haul oneself out of bed for early Mass, but Robbo’s in-laws are in town on their annual snowbird migration to Flariduh and that meant Sunday Brunch, so there it was. As it happened, the padre’s homily focused on an issue that has been much on my mind recently, so it all worked out. (I love when that happens.)

And that’s about it other than the fact that I spent every spare moment I could with Parkman’s epic account of North American colonial history. Frontenac has faced down the Iroquois. Queen Anne’s War has passed, as has the War of the Austrian Succession. It’s now 1754 and France and England are about to square off for the final showdown. Stay tuned.


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January 2023