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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I see where the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies are on a collision course, indeed may already be faintly brushing each other’s outer haloes, and will merge into a giant elliptical galaxy in about 5 billion years.

No worries about adjusting yourselves, however, because our own sun will have gone Red Giant and cooked Earth to a cinder a billion years earlier. (I blame glowbull enwarmening.)

But the article doesn’t give up hope:

But by that time, maybe some earthly inhabitants will have become space-faring. Perhaps we’ll have left Earth, and even our solar system. We may still get the view of Andromeda crashing into the Milky Way, just from a slightly different perspective.

Professor Reynolds, is that you?

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that Ol’ Robbo likes to make himself dizzy from time to time pondering interstellar distances and geological time. Here, I get to do both. Win, win!


By the bye, some pretty nice “artist’s renditions” in the article.

UPDATE: Speaking of which, Ol’ Robbo is still waiting for Betelgeuse to go nova, as was teased about three years back now.

**Glares at watch**

I suppose we can blame that disappointment on the covids.

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!

(First, my apologies for the rayther intemperate choice of words in the post below. Regular friends of the decanter will know that Ol’ Robbo doesn’t usually use such language here, but sometimes there’s no other way to express scorn and contempt.)

Anyhoo, on to more pleasant subjects.

January is a big birthday month here at Port Swiller Manor, with no fewer than three fifths of the Family Robbo starting yet another orbit round the Sun.

This year is of particular note because Youngest – youngest – Gel is turning 21 this coming week. It’s funny how when the two Elder hit a given milestone I think of it in terms of their advancement in life, while when Youngest brings up the rear I also see it in terms my own self getting older and older. Heigh-ho.

As she is clearing out to head back to school next weekend, we are celebrating this marker this weekend. The lovely and talented bride and daughters of the Former Llama Military Correspondent are coming in to town and I gather there is an agenda for a Girls’ Day Out tomorrow. (The elder LMC daughter may very well be at the same school as Youngest next year, by the bye.)

All in all, Ol’ Robbo is well pleased with Youngest: Her academic performance is steadily improving, her devotion to her job over this break has been impressive, and she’s finally realizing that it’s going to be up to her to make her own nest, as it were, without somebody else handing it to her prefabricated.

My only slight concern at the moment is some of the politickal arguments she’s been bringing up at the dinner table recently. I hardly expect her to be as cranky and skeptical as I am at her stage of life, but I detect in at least a few of her statements the evil influence of the mainstream media, which in my humble opinion is pure poison. I suppose it can’t be helped, and can only hope that I’ve brought her up sufficiently well not to be taken in and stop thinking for herself. On the other hand, she has a reputation as the family practical joker and she may very well just be trolling me in order to get a rise.

At any rate, here’s to Twenty-One: The next great step for the Gel, and the end of an era for her parents! Huzzay, Huzzah!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t have much to say about the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s trial-balloon concerning the banning of gas stove-tops except to invite the CPSC to sod off.

In the meanwhile, as a Christmas present to ourselves, Mrs. R and I recently chucked our rackety old toaster/oven and replaced it with a NuWave Bravo XL Air Fryer Oven. It’s rapidly proving to be da bomb. Big and versatile enough that it will be a real aid to me when cooking larger, more complicated dinners. Plus, the “air fry” option makes things like frozen fries and chicken nuggets wonderfully crisper and more tasty.

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!

Well, here we are, staring a fresh anno Domini in the face. I hope you all had pleasant times celebrating the turn.

As for Ol’ Robbo’s own fete, which lynx-eyed friends of the decanter will recall mushroomed at the very last minute, it went quite well, all in all, although from here on out I am never, ever again watching the televised ball-drop from Times Square. I have my reasons.

At some point in the evening, after he had cleared about two thirds of my bottle of Laphroaig, one of my guests started arguing loudly that Union soldiers on Sherman’s March to the Sea and Sheridan’s Valley Campaign systematically raped women and children. Don’t ask me how we got there: the fellah’s an ex-Marine himself and, so far as I can recollect, has never displayed any particular pro-Southern sentiments before. If I recall correctly, we had been debating the wisdom of Pickett’s Charge when he suddenly threw down on this.

I replied that while I was sure there were some instances of such behavior, I have read many, many accounts of these campaigns and did not recall it being flagged as a widespread, much less systematic, issue. What were his sources, please?

Well, he couldn’t really give an answer other than “Well, of course they did.” Scotch mist, I suppose. The argument ended amiably enough in a vague agreement to go tour Gettysburg in April.

So I guess it really was my kind of party after all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo sees the news this final day of 2022 that dear Pope Benedict XVI has passed. The warnings of his rapidly declining health started going out a few days ago, so I’m saddened but not shocked.

God bless him. He wasn’t the reason for my own swimming of the Tiber, since any cult of personality is pernicious, but his scholarship and orthodoxy represented exactly what I was looking for, and I can at least say that his example gave me a solid foundation to endure everything that has happened since.

Who can say, in the end, but I like to think that Papa Benny will not have much time in Purgatory.

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!

Ol’ Robbo hopes all you friends of the decanter had/are continuing to have a joyous Christmastide! Because it is in my nature to do exactly the same thing over and over again each holiday, I have been able over the years to generate qualitative statistics regarding my own celebration. Overall, I’d say this year’s has been average to above-average (so far). Some highlights for your consideration.


Musickal Musings: Early Christmas Eve, I duly went along with the fam to Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church. They had a wind quartet to accompany the choir this year, and a pretty good one at that. During the musick before the service proper began, this quartet played a Canzone by Giovanni Gabrieli which Ol’ Robbo does not recall ever having heard before but is now prepared to swear Aaron Copeland stole lock, stock, and barrel for his “Appalachian Spring”. The theme was unmistakable.

They also played a “La Folia” by Arcangelo Corelli, which I also had not heard before. I know Vivaldi’s Folia pretty well and myself play the very short one Handel worked into one of his keyboard suites. If ever I take to composition in any way, one of my first projects would be to try and do one of my own. Nevertheless, it seemed to me an odd choice to include in a Christmas ceremony.

The difference in opinion regarding the musick of John Rutter between Ol’ Robbo and Middle Gel, while amiable, remains irreconcilable. I can only surmise that there is some pleasure in actually singing it for choristers such as herself that is lost on those of us who only listen.


Worship: Alas, Ol’ Robbo did not make Midnight Mass at his own church this year. I knew this was a foregone conclusion very early on Christmas Eve as my eyes were already swelling shut by 7:30 pm. A major problem with being the only Catholic in my family is that I have no support to help me get to finish lines like this and when I stumble, I fall. Oh, well.


Christmas Morning: Ol’ Robbo was well pleased at the care and consideration the Gels put in this year choosing gifts for each other. Mrs. R and I must have been doing at least something right after all.


Christmas Dinner: You would think that after all these years of getting his roast beef with Yorkshire pud and two veg down pat, Ol’ Robbo might unclench a little bit about the biznay, but you would be wrong. I spent most of last week fussing and fuming and worrying, running over and over again the itinerary of what goes on or in which cooking platform when, repeating it all anew Christmas afternoon convinced that Something was Missing, only to turn out a great performance once again. Because of or in spite of such clenching, I don’t know, but it’s exhausting.

I say “great performance” with all due modesty. A marker was that there really weren’t many leftovers at all.


Company: In addition to my widowed cousin, the past couple years we’ve more or less adopted some friends of ours for holiday dinners. It’s always a bit delicate because He, at any rate, is one of those people who read articles from Slate like “How to Talk to Your Backwards Uncle about Democratic Socialism” or “Ten Worst Climate Crimes of 2022”, and one must take care not to give him an opening to go off on a politickal screed. (I know for a fact that She scolds him heavily beforehand to behave himself, but sometimes he slips his leash anyway.) This year, in spite of our care, he somehow got on the topic of WW2 Japanese interment camps and how they demonstrate that the American Dream is a Big Lie. Ol’ Robbo, despite having consumed a goodish amount of vino, did not take the bait. (Not that I defend the internments themselves, you understand, but his premise was ridiculous.) Instead, at a pause I simply remarked to the table in general that of course our system has its flaws, as does every other human system because all humans are themselves inherently flawed and no power under Heaven will ever change that. Then I abruptly switched the discussion to the dismal prospects of Robbo’s Beloved Nationals, always a safe topic. His look of bafflement at being headed off was most satisfying. Heh.

As I walked my cousin out to her car later, she said, “I’m a Democrat, but that was too far left even for me.”


Apres le Deluge: Psychologists no doubt have a word for it, but Ol’ Robbo takes a very keen enjoyment in cleaning up and locking down from Christmas Dins before going to bed, however late, so that when he wakes up next morning…..everything’s already done. Thus, I spent Boxing Day mostly flat on my back and see how you like it. Last evening, it was Domino’s and “Home Alone 2”, which I’ve never seen before. (Spoiler: It’s exactly the same as the first one, except set in New York City and with twice as many pratfalls.)

And so, another one in the books. We will be hosting the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his family for New Year’s Eve, but that’s a very relaxed, no-worries event and Ol’ Robbo can spend the rest of his vacay this week not having to think too much about it.

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.


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January 2023