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Greetings, my fellow port swillers! Teh Vic ought to get a particular chuckle out of this one:

Seems teh Eldest Gel recently was showing pics of me to some of her friends.  One of them said, “Oh, I don’t think he likes me very much.”

“Why not?” responded teh Gel.

“Well,” said the friend, “When we met, I kinda think he gave me the fish-eye.”

“Oh, that’s alright,” said teh Gel.  “He does that to everybody.”

Yes, yes I do.  Problem?

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Making his way home this evening, ol’ Robbo had his first encounter of the season with the dreaded Dee Cee bike-cab fleet.

I have ranted often here about the arrogance and lawlessness of the cyclists who plague the streets of Your Nation’s Capital, but these bike-cab wallahs are in a class of their own.

Singleton cyclists zing in and out of traffic, hog lanes and obey signs and signals only if they feel like it, but at least they (usually) keep moving  at some speed (although I still hate them).

These taxi folks, on the other hand, represent a cadre of rolling roadblocks, taking up entire lanes in the middle of rush hour, plodding along at a stately 5 mph and causing a whole series of mind-boggling jams and mergers as commuters try to get clear of them.  (Insider baseball here: This evening’s mark was on Constitution heading west and cut straight across the turn off to Virginia just after I managed to get round him.  You can imagine the results.)

I make a point of glaring as I work my way around these people, but I’m afraid the effect is lost, given that I usually wear sunglasses while driving.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me make this very clear:  The “t” in “often” is silent.  Silent, as in not spoken.

Offen.  Not Off-ten.

Dammit.

Thank you.

UPDATE:  I should have cited no less an authority than the great Sir W. S. Gilbert to back me up.  Quote:

Gen. Stanley (aside): Hah! An idea! (Aloud.) And do you mean to say that you would deliberately rob me of these, the sole remaining props of my old age, and leave me to go through the remainder of my life unfriended, unprotected, and alone ?

Pirate King: Well, yes, that’s the idea.

Gen.: Tell me, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?

Pirates (disgusted): Oh, dash it all!

King: Here we are again!

Gen.: I ask you, have you ever known what it is to be an orphan?

King: Often!

Gen.: Yes, orphan. Have you ever known what it is to be one?

King: I say, often.

All (disgusted): Often, often, OFTEN!

Gen: Eh, ah, I don’t think we quite understand one another.  When you said “orphan,” did you mean “orphan ” — a person who has lost his parents, or “often ” — frequently ?

King:  Ah! I beg pardon — I see what you mean — frequently.

Gen.: Ah! you said often — frequently.

King:  No! Only once.

Gen.:  Exactly! You said often, frequently, only once.

The Pirates of Penzance, Act I, Scene somewhere toward the end.   It’s a cheap joke, but it simply wouldn’t work if there was a “t” sound in “often”.   So there.

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.

save sweet briarGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

My apologies to those two or three of you who come together over the decanter for the silence this week.  Once I recovered from Monday, I found myself occupied with other matters and somehow just couldn’t make it to the keyboard in the evenings.

Anyhoo, the main topic of interest round here continues to be the fight to save our beloved Sweet Briar College.  Of note, the campaign is now sufficiently organized that they are able to take actual donations of moolah instead of just pledges.  (Port Swiller Manor has tossed in some coin, probably more than we can afford.  But as somebody pointed out, if it doesn’t hurt, it’s not really charity.)  Also, the majority of the faculty have now openly sided with the Rebel Alliance. 

In the meantime, a couple of interesting articles appeared on the innertoobs this week, the one penned by Jan Sheets Jones ’69, wife of Interim President Jim Jones, the other a post-bombshell interview with a Lynchburg paper by Dr. Jones himself.

First, Mrs. Jones’ screed (which appeared on a class web page but which, so I’m told, she attempted to remove, ha ha ha), which in addition to serving up the usual (and mostly false) Talking Points of Doom used to justify the closure, also demonstrates that public relations is not exactly her forte.  A snippet about us Rebel Scum:

If you have email, are on Facebook and/or have attended one of the recent regional alumnae gatherings, you know there is a movement afoot called #savesweetbriar. It is a small movement making a great deal of noise about nothing more than trying to block this closure. The group has no “vision statement,” and there is no consensus about how to change Sweet Briar College so that it will be a financially viable institution in today’s world. Their words and actions have become very ugly, spiteful, and irrational. They are ready to “fight” and haven’t yet realized that the Directors and current Administration are NOT the enemies. The “enemies” are intractable historical forces in American higher education that have now been working against schools like our beloved Sweet Briar for a half of a century.

Note to Mrs. J: “Eff You!” is shorter and tighter.  (When Mrs. R first read that bit to me over the phone, I blurted out (in words not really politick to my office), “Goddam hippies!”)

Dr. Jones, on the other hand, is far more of a politician:

Q: What was your reaction to finding out that there are two former members of the Sweet Briar College Board that are now members of the Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board? [They left in May and June, respectively]. They obviously came to different conclusions than you did.

Jones: “I will respect their innate rights to state anything they wish. As someone who has been running schools for a very long time, I just do not see how the sustainability of the college is even a question. … I’m surprised that people, I think, with a good sense of the data, could come to the conclusion that there is a way on this earth to save this dear old school, but I do not think there is.”

See, that’s how you present the iron fist in a glove full of Vaseline (to quote Thomas Dolby).  On the other hand, he refers to SBC as “this dear old school”, but earlier in the interview he confesses that he hadn’t even ever thought about the place between the time his wife was a student there and the time he came aboard.  Similarly, depending on which answer you read, he either thought about closing from the beginning or was surprised by the idea right at the end; either took the decision himself or left it to the board; and either did or did not discuss merger or absorption with more or fewer other schools and it’s none of your damned business anyway.

So here we are.  Rumor says that the Rebel Alliance is going to file court papers in the very near future seeking an injunction to stop the closure. Meanwhile, there is a growing demand that the current board be removed (which see the pic above) and a new one put in place.  And although there has been much emphasis among the Rebels to keep the tone professional and positive, I don’t think you would have to probe anyone’s mind very far before you reached a vision involving the Joneses, tar, feathers and some required assembly.

In the meantime, what else is there to say except

HOLLA!  HOLLA! HOLLA!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Today proved to be an unusually bad Monday here at Port Swiller Manor, as I found myself jerked out of the dreamless in the middle of the night by the Middle Gel, who was doubled over in pain.

A bleary drive to the emergency room and hours of sitting around between tests later, the docs pronounced that it was probably a kidney stone.

Regular friends of the decanter may recall my posting here before about the Eldest Gel suffering from the same condition.  To paraphrase Lady Bracknell, to have one nephrolith-ridden child, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks like carelessness.

And now, if you will indulge me, I’m going back to bed.  (Yawn.)

UPDATE:  D’OH! It just got worse.  I’m resigning from the board of St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method and I just now remembered that tonight is the dinner at which they officially cut me loose.  I wasn’t much looking forward to the thing anyway (I grow more reclusive as I age), but in my semi-zombie state it’s going to be even harder to keep from, ah, squinting.

 

savesweetbriarGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, earlier today Mrs. Robbo and teh Eldest Gel, along with Mrs. Former Llama Military Correspondent and teh Middle Gel’s godmother, joined some 600-odd other alumnae to descend on Sweet Briar College and welcome the undergrads returning from spring break.   You can go here to see some vid of the event, and here to see some pics.  I would have posted some pics here myself, but apparently, “Now be sure to send them to my email account because I can’t copy them on to the blog otherwise” is some kind of weirdo moon-man language to my bride and offspring.   (Perhaps I will be able to update.)

Anyhoo, Mrs. R and teh Eldest report that the event went off very well.  The undergrads seemed truly moved by the show of support and I think the message to the Nazgul board and president that the Vixens mean business was duly reenforced.

In the meantime, it was reported today that the Saving Sweet Briar pledges have now topped $3 million.  This evening, Mrs. R told me that something even bigger is afoot, but she couldn’t give details about it.  (Fact is, I couldn’t have reported them anyway.  Mrs. R will never believe me that I simply can’t understand her when she’s using speakerphone in her car.)  Stand by for more news on this front this week.

Also, I heard this morning regarding the elderly retired dining hall employee I mentioned below who is being thrown out of her on-campus cottage, that a number of alumnae have volunteered to step up and ensure that, if she can’t in the end stay there, they will take care of her and ensure that she’s not left out on the street.

Perhaps not altogether by coincidence, Father McA’s homily at Mass today centered on the felix culpa, the “happy fault”.  Wiki has a pretty good explanation of this:

The Latin expression felix culpa derives from the writings of St. Augustine regarding the Fall of Man, the source of original sin: “For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.” (in Latin: Melius enim iudicavit de malis benefacere, quam mala nulla esse permittere.)  The phrase appears in lyric form sung annually in the Exsultet of the Easter Vigil: “O felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habere redemptorem,” “O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer.” The medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas cited this line when he explained how the principle that “God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom” underlies the causal relation between original sin and the Divine Redeemer’s Incarnation, thus concluding that a higher state is not inhibited by sin. The Catholic saint Ambrose also speaks of the fortunate ruin of Adam in the Garden of Eden in that his sin brought more good to humanity than if he had stayed perfectly innocent.

 (Just as an aside, anything that cites Augustine, Aquinas and Ambrose is almost automatically going to get ol’ Robbo’s hearty endorsement.)

That these alumnae are (reportedly) willing to step up and help out the poor dining hall lady is, I believe, an illustration of this principle.  So, too, in a different way, has been the threatened closure of the school on teh Eldest Gel.  This is one of the first serious blows in her life, and she’s learned from it a thing or two about rolling with the punches.  Also, she’s never gotten actively involved in a movement like this before, so the lesson in civic participation is a good one.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, from our conversations about it I’m convinced that she truly understands she’s not just in this thing for her own future, but also for all the other alumnae, undergrads and potential Vixens out there.

Felix culpa, indeed.

Also,

HOLLA! HOLLA! HOLLA!

UPDATE:  Reportedly, the number of participants was closer to a thousand.  Nice teevee piece in the link.

Pi_pie2Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy 3.14.15!

Teh gels celebrated the curious date by having some pie with breakfast.

I, not caring much for pie in the morning, instead went out in the garden in the rain and cut back my butterfly bushes, (known around here as teh Children of Kong) while Mrs. R stood on the porch sounding like Estelle Costanza.  (“Georgie! What are you doing?”)

Not really a celebration, of course, more just something that needed to be done.  Buddleia is supposed to be cut back in late winter but it’s been so cold and snowy this year that I haven’t had a chance before today.  And given that it’s already mid-March, there’s more than a decent possibility that the growing season is going to come on eftsoons and without warning here in the great Commonwealth of Virginny.

Sweet Briar Update:  I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow hopefully (see below), but things are starting to get warmer and warmer.  This morning’s Roanoke Times is calling for the school’s Board to resign.  There’s a lot of interesting new financials, but here’s the money quote:

College President James Jones has said: “To save Sweet Briar we would need $250 million into the permanent endowment tomorrow morning.”

Really?

To put that figure in context: Hollins University has an endowment of $180 million and seems to be doing just fine. Ferrum College has an endowment of only $50 million and it’s been increasing enrollment — which also seems to run counter to Jones’ other assertion that small colleges in rural areas are having trouble attracting students. He also said the nearest Starbucks was 30 minutes away and that was a problem in recruiting; it’s really about 20 minutes.

You know who does have an endowment of $250 million? The University of Maryland.

Does it really take a Maryland-sized endowment to save a school of 500 or so students when the rest of the balance sheet doesn’t look completely out of whack?

If the Sweet Briar trustees are so absolutely convinced that closing is the only responsible option, here’s what they could do: Resign.

Sweet Briar’s alumnae are now actively engaged in trying to raise money to save the school. Let them take over. If the existing board is right, then a new board would surely come to the same, sobering conclusion.

At worst, a new board would spend down some more of the endowment, but at the rate things have been going, the college’s overall net value might still increase as it has in the past year.

But if the existing board is wrong, well, there is that risk of being proven wrong.

Read the whole thing.  It dovetails nicely with that Powerline article Capt. Ed dropped in the comments here yesterday, especially with respect to the role of interim president Jim Jones:

But of course Jones is your typical mediocre liberal. This fragment from the Slate story gives away the whole game in one compact sentence:

Speaking with IHE, Sweet Briar College President James F. Jones Jr. lamented the closing of the college as a part of a broader change in “the diversity of American higher education.” Jones added, “The landscape is changing and becoming more vanilla.”

“Becoming more vanilla”? This is beyond idiotic even by the low standards of college presidents. When Jones offers the telltale magic incantation “diversity of American higher education,” he means of course exactly the opposite: ritual conformity to the stifling doctrines of campus PC. If he wanted true “diversity” for Sweet Briar, he’d have broken from the crowd, and offered a different flavor than vanilla.

Yep.  I learned what “diversity” really meant to a leftist within 15 minutes of first setting foot on the campus of the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT back in August, 1983.

Again, read it all, especially about the intriguing rebranding possibilities.

The narrative that seems to be emerging is of an incompetent board that sputtered along for a few years without really knowing what it was doing and too afraid to let on to anyone about it.  Along came Jones, with a record as a hatchet-man, who rather than looking beyond the blinkers of his own worldview, instead bullied the board into liquidation.

Pathetic.

Oh, and speaking of which, regular friends of the decanter may recall ol’ Robbo mentioning the impact that closure would have not just on students and faculty, but also on staff and the surrounding community.  There is a rumor breaking on FB this morning concerning an elderly lady (around 80) who spent her entire career working in the SBC dining hall.  She retired six or seven years ago and lives alone in a small cottage on campus.  The arrangement had been that, in gratitude to her devotion to the school, she could remain in the cottage for the rest of her life.  Apparently, she was handed an eviction notice this week.

Because Progress!

Anyhoo, Mrs. R and the elder gels are headed down to SBC tomorrow for the first major public alumnae demonstration to save Sweet Briar.  The undergrads are coming back from Spring Break and the alumnae plan to line the driveway and cheer them on.  Mrs. R promises to try and send me some photos, which I will post here along with her report.

 

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.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Welp, it’s official.  As of the conclusion of her last behind-the-wheel lesson yesterday, teh Eldest Gel was granted her provisional driver’s license.**

This morning, ol’ Robbo watched teh gel sail out of the Port Swiller Manor driveway on the way to school – in the dark and the fog – on her first ever solo flight.  Mission accomplished, she later celebrated by taking her friend to the mall and a park, and then driving herself to her tutor and stopping to pick up some dinner on the way home.

Watching her tail lights fade into the gloom, I tried to recall my own first solo.  Truth be told, I can’t.  Searching back, I recall very clearly how the Old Gentleman taught me to drive stick on the mountain trails of a ranch in northwest Bexar County when I was about twelve.  I also recall the deadly boring driver’s ed program I went through in the summah between my sophomore and junior years of high school.  Heck, I even still remember the test I had to go through with the state DMV before I got my license in January, eh, 1982?  But I don’t recall the first time I was behind the wheel all by myself.

Maybe I was so used to the idea already that it didn’t register.  I’m guessing things will be a bit different for teh gel.

One thing that is sinking in with us, albeit slowly:  Now that teh Eldest has wheels, we can, at least in terms of logistics, finally after all these years switch back from zone coverage to man.  Robbo likey.

Dahl Solo* A blatant reference to Roald Dahl’s autobiography of the same name.   You should read it if you haven’t.  Dahl entered the world just in time to witness the last gasps of teh British Empire.  His descriptions of Kiplingeque characters in East Africa are quite informative and amusing.  On the other hand, his tales of encounters with green mamba snakes there have firmly resolved ol’ Robbo never ever to set foot on that continent for any reason whatsoever.   And Dahl wound up as a fighter pilot in the RAF covering the Brit evacuation of Greece in the early days of the War.  Fascinating stuff.

**According to local rules, she doesn’t get her O-Ficially license until she (and we) appear before the local state magistrate in a hearing at which he or she makes it so.  Frankly, I approve of this kind of formality, as I think it hammers into teh kids’ heads the gravity of their new-won responsibilities.  More on this as it unfolds.

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