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major_gowan_rat_basilGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

As is her habit from time to time, teh Eldest Gel approached me this evening with a piece of trivia she had picked up somewhere, namely, that there’s  a new theory floating about that Asian gerbils were responsible for the bubonic plague that ravaged Medieval Europe, not rats.

This was intriguing enough to ol’ Robbo’s scattershot brain that I had to look it up.  Turns out she’s right:

“What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe,” Stenseth says. The scientists used climate records to check their theory, and they found a tentative link. When the climate in Asia was good, gerbils are thought to have thrived; but when it went bad, the population crashed. And about 15 years after each boom and bust, a plague outbreak erupted in Europe. The theory is that fleas carrying plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who then brought it to European cities. The research team’s results appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, rats are still disgusting creatures.  (The jury is still out on Siberian hamsters.)

This reminds me of something:  The Left attaches all sorts of moral opprobrium to the introduction of small-pox and other diseases by Europeans to the Americas, where said diseases devastated indigenous populations who had no immunity to them.  The tone, if not the explicit argument, is that the Europeans did it on purpose as part of their eeeeevil genocidal strategy.  Have you ever, ever, heard a single similar argument made with respect to the introduction of the plague to European populations from the East and the Middle East?

No, neither have I.

But then again, consistency is hardz.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  As noted below, ol’ Robbo is back from his latest travels.  A few random thoughts, firstly travel-related:

♦   Going through airport security, I was submitted both times to the full TSA Grope Special.  In each instance, they claimed that they needed to check out something on the front of my pants picked up by the body scan.   Hey, Einsteins!  It’s called a “fly” and it’s made of metal!  (Either that or the rosary I always carry in my pocket is radioactive and left some kind of signature after I pulled it out.)  Baysterds didn’t even give me flowers or buy me breakfast afterwards.

♦   Perhaps in my bemusement over getting an unexpected hand in my crotch, or perhaps because I hadn’t yet had any coffee, on my way out Wednesday morning I managed to lose my driver’s license going through security at Reagan National.  Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this loss until I got to the car rental counter at my final destination.   Not being able to get a car proved to be a nuisance, but at least one that I was able to work round via taxis and bumming rides from people.

♦   The good news is that the airport folks not only found my license, they also called about it and then mailed it to me with a very polite cover letter.  I got it back this evening.

♦  By the bye, Ol’ Robbo has resolved that he is never again going to fly on Ash Wednesday with the expectation that he will get to Mass at the other end.  Even when I plan it all out in advance, I’m so frazzled by the time I arrive that I just can’t make myself do it, especially, as noted above, when I don’t have wheels of my own.

♦  Oddly enough, in all my years this was the first time I’ve ever flown Southwest.  I must say that their open-seat boarding policy confused me mightily at first.  On further consideration, it still doesn’t make that much sense to me:  All the early boarders naturally are going to take up the aisle and window seats.  When the tail of the line (the despised “Group C”) comes on board, there’s still going to be a lot of confusion and aisle-crowding as they seek to insert themselves into the middle seats.  I don’t see how this is superior to assigned seating with more controlled boarding groups.   (Oh, and I put Southwest’s policy of offering to put you among the “Group A” borders for an extra fee at the same contemptible level as Disney’s policy of letting you pay more to jump to the head of the ride line.)

♦  Oh, and this trip was to Texas, where regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo spent the bulk of his misspent yoot.  It’s remarkable how much at ease you can put a Texan of a certain age you’re interviewing by saying, “Oh, sure I remember Cody Carlson from high school!  He was just a year ahead of me!”

And a few non-travel thoughts:

♦  Remember when we were all told that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and that we should “Question Authority”?  Me, too.  Good times, good times.  I certainly prefer it to “Shut your whore mouthes, you rubes!”

♦  Per my previous dose of random below,  teh youngest gel got her braces slapped on today.  I have to admit that I can barely suppress my amusement at the way all her “s’s” have transmogrified into “th’s”.   And the Middle Gel, who got hers off last fall, evidently couldn’t suppress her urge to taunt her younger sister over what’s in store for her the next two years.

♦   Meanwhile, it looks as if Mrs. R and I are headed up to Harrisburg, PA this weekend to check out a used Honda CR-V for the Eldest.  It’s two years old, single owner, 30K miles, clean bill of health, moderate whistles and bells, balance of extended warranty and a pretty reasonable price.

♦  Braces and another car, all in the same week.  Siiiigh.  I suppose I could set up as a cocaine wholesaler.  Or perhaps run guns.

♦  Of course, we’re now in Lent.  I plan to do a considerable amount of new reading, and have already started in on a series of sermons by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, recently recommended to me by a member of a Catholic FB group where I like to hang out.   However, while I am delving into the serious stuff, I am also permitting myself to take breaks with lighter reading fare, so long as it has some Christian-based theme or sensibility.  As a practical matter, this means the fiction of Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.  At the moment, I am running through the former’s Father Brown mysteries.

Guinnes Father BrownI have the ability sometimes when reading to hear in my mind specific voices for specific characters.  In the case of Father Brown, I derive infinite satisfaction from imagining his voice (and his appearance and movements) to be that of Sir Alec Guinness.  I’ve never actually seen his portrayal of the padre, but it is evident, almost obvious to me that he was absolutely perfect for the part.  (Without looking it up, I recall reading somewhere that his work on this project was one of the key factors behind Guinness’s swim across the Tiber.)

♦  Finally, my latest Star Trek: TOS comment (which may be the last until after Easter):  The Corbomite Maneuver.   A classic.  First totally space-based episode.  First battle of wits between ship’s commanders.  First gratuitous shirtless Jim Kirk shot.  And to this day my brother and I refer to adult beverages as “tranya”.

stvalentine4Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy St. Valentine’s Day!

No, I don’t mean the overly-commercialized, morally debauched one with which we are assaulted more fiercely every year by the shock troops of the so-called popular culture.  I mean the one that reminds us real love, inspired by God, is far better and beyond any of that.

One of the traditions (albeit, a disputed one) concerning the origin of St. Valentine’s feast day is that it was an attempt by the early Church to provide a wholesome alternative to the old pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia, which was essentially a three day orgy held in mid-February.

Curious, if chilling, that the circle seems to be coming back around, what with the rise of the New Gnosticism and increasing warning from the pulpit that we of the Church need to prepare ourselves for possible persecution and even martyrdom, not at the hands of foreign terrorists but at those of our own domestic “betters”.

Well anyway, here’s a more positive fact to leave with you:  Saint Valentine is the patron, among other things, of beekeepers.  I couldn’t find a satisfying explanation for this except on what appears to be a druidism website, which I’m not about to link here, but I still think it’s neat.

Saint Valentine, ora pro nobis.

UPDATE:  Dave Barry’s review of Fifty Shades (the book), which I seem to have missed at the time.  Hy. Larious.  (A glass of wine with Carl Eric Scott over at NRO, who has a nice post on this whole biznay and the proper, balanced attitude toward it which includes large quotes from C.S. Lewis.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I don’t know if this counts as an attack of bad luck or not, but it wasn’t until after ol’ Robbo got to his office this morning that he discovered he was supposed to have today off.  D’oh!  However, now that he’s back home at Port Swiller Manor, a few odds and ends for you:

♦   Idly flipping through an alumni magazine, I came across this opening paragraph:  “When I was growing up and a student at [Skool], the word “disruptive” would have had negative connotations.  Disruptive people were troublemakers: they acted in unruly and disorderly ways.  Now its meaning in business and technology has taken a 360-degree turn.  Being disruptive signifies creating innovations that improve the existing order, typically in unexpected ways.”


Growing up in Texas, I heard a lot of Aggie jokes.  One of my favorites (well, among those suitable to a family-friendly blog) was about the two Aggies who get caught in a violent thunderstorm while flying a small plane to College Station.  As the plane gets tossed about, one of the Aggies turns to the other and yells, “Let’s do a 360 and get the hell out of here!”

♦  Michael Strain has a note on Dee Cee bike lanes and the law of unintended consequences.  All that he says is very true, but I still prefer having the damned cyclists off to one side instead of clogging up the travel lanes, which they do constantly and, IMHO, deliberately.  Arrogant wankers, the lot of ‘em.

♦   It would seem that I’m a real man.  Good to know. Which reminds me:  When I went in for my physical last week and was chatting with my doc, I mentioned that all the gels are teenagers now.  She immediately said, “Wow, do you need a man cave!”  So the next time Mrs. Robbo gives me any grief about hiding out here, I’ve got my “Doctor’s orders” defense nicely teed up.

♦  Because it’s gotten to be a thing here, two more Star Trek:TOS episodes -

Miri” – An adult-killing plague caused by scientists trying to prevent aging.  First use of the Alt-Earth scheme, although the crew seems surprisingly unsurprised to find an exact duplicate of early 60’s Earth at the other end of the Galaxy.  Also the first use of the gang of feral kids and their special words (“grups and onlies”) theme.  And I believe the first instance of Bones saying something snide about Spock’s green blood. The title character was played by Kim Darby, who was also Mattie Ross in the John Wayne version of “True Grit” where she was, unfortunately, rayther a weak link with her gosh-darn perkiness.  (Hailee Stenfield, OTOH, gets Mattie absolutely bang right in the remake, a movie I would love if the Coen brothers hadn’t felt compelled to muck about with the plot.)

hillDagger of the Mind” – Supposedly enlightened warden of a penal colony turns out to be a maniac playing God with his prisoners’ minds.  James Gregory, the warden, will always be Inspector Luger to me, no matter what movie or show he’s in.  And Marianna Hill, as a member of the Enterprise’s medical staff, is quite the cupcake.  (Which see.)

I’m finding these shows to be pretty well-written, each setting up a discrete dilemma and then deftly solving it, although the assumptions and values displayed therein seem almost archaic 50 years on and are proving to be a stark and sobering reminder of how far we’ve slid into the pit as a culture.

♦  Oh, speaking of which, I suppose tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Feh.

♦   Finally, I’m having entirely too much fun being enigmatic about whether or not eldest gel gets a car for her upcoming 17th birthday.  MWAAAA-HAHAHA!!!!! 

Whelp, that’s it for the moment.  Here’s hoping it’s going to be warmer this weekend wherever you are than it will be here!



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the dearth of posts the last couple days.  Mrs. Robbo recently has discovered the supposed* joys of Downton Abbey and is furiously catching up with things via computer streaming, thus tossing ol’ Robbo out of his recently-won man cave and forcing him to be content for his evening entertainment down in the basement with DVD’s of old Star Trek: TOS episodes.**

Aaaanyhoo, in case any of you missed it, I present what is easily the best “Hitler Rants” take on the Brian Williams Chopper Whopper story that I’ve seen so far.  (And believe me, I’ve seen a few.)  Enjoy:

Heh.  Ol’ Robbo admits to being rayther a fan of the whole “Hitler Rants” meme.  There are zillions of low-quality efforts, it’s true.  On the other hand, there are some that are damned clever, both in paying attention to the language and movement of the original “Downfall” scenes and in coming up with clever and pointed substitute subtitles capturing a genuine, informed point.  This one, in my opinion, is of the latter set.  (UPDATE:  I should say that, if you haven’t seen the original “Downfall” from which the parody arose, you really ought to.  A very, very good movie, superbly acted.  Probably a big part of why the parodies are so funny.)

Speaking of which, I was rayther saddened that nobody (at least so far as I could tell) has come up with a good Hitler Rant about Left Shark.  Oh, well.  On the other hand, the eldest gel forwarded me a funny Left Shark snark:

Left Sharknado

Heh, again, although not quite as funny as my favorite entry into the canon:

are you not (The Mothe won’t get this one.  Mom, go here.)

I love it when somebody crosses the meme streams.

* I say “supposed” because, although I know the series is very popular and I confess I’ve not watched a single episode, I am deeply, deeply suspicious of its Edwardian bona fides.   Thirty or forty years ago, one could trust period dramas to be more or less historically accurate.  These days? Not so much.

** Let’s go ahead and continue the Robbo non-geek geekery here.  In the past few days, I’ve re-watched for the first time in many years the following episodes of Star Trek: TOS:

The Naked Time” – A virus picked up on an alien planet has the effect of rendering crew members of the Enterprise drunk, thereby revealing their inner selves via the principle of “In vino veritas” and at the same time almost plowing the ship straight into the planet around which she was orbiting.    Eh, even when I first saw this as a young boy, I began to have questions about Mr. Sulu. IYKWIMAITYD.

The Enemy Within” – The first “transporter malfunction” plot and the first split-personality Kirk story.  Also, there’s a meme floating about that Bones McCoy never actually says his iconic line, “He’s dead, Jim” in the series.  Yes, yes he did.  Here.  When the split-personality horned dog doesn’t survive the rebeam through the transporter.

Mudd’s Women” – The first appearance of Falstaff-knock off, Harry Mudd.  Eh, some good stuff about inner beauty, I suppose.

What Are Little Girls Made Of?” – Now we’re getting somewhere.  A cautionary tale about progressivist dystopias, it also features the first Red-Shirt deaths and the first seriously  skimpily-clad alien babe.  It was also the second split-Kirk story, albeit the fake one being an android.  Ol’ Robbo would have been around seven or eight when he first was this episode, but even then I recall thinking that Majel Barrett was a piece of all right.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo took advantage of a bit of warmer air in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor to get a jump on the spring preparation out in the yard this morning.  (Actually, cutting back the peonies was something I should have done last fall, so I suppose I’m in part technically playing catch up instead of getting a jump, but we’re going to go with “jobs created or saved” accounting here.)  We really haven’t had much snow so far this winter, but it’s been quite cold and I’ve been feeling a touch of cabin fever.  Any excuse to get outside is nice.

And speaking of this time of the year, friends of the decanter may have seen this Valentine’s Day gift suggestion from the Vermont Teddy Bear people:  The “Fifty Shades of Grey” Teddy Bear.

90 bucks.  And I’ll bet they sell like hotcakes.  Because nothing says “I love you” like a tribute to bondage and a good flogging, amirite?

VTB is just going where the market it, of course, but the popularity of this whole “FSoG” thing (especially among women) continues to baffle me.  So far as I can tell without having read the book myself, it’s nothing more than pretty straight-forward S&M with a thin top dressing of psycho-babble through which the heroine convinces herself (and her audience) that her degradation is somehow a good thing.  Now ol’ Robbo is no prude, but really?

The other thing that puzzles me is that I haven’t heard or seen much Feminazi pushback against the franchise.  It may be there, but I’ve missed it.  One would think they’d be shrieking from the rooftops.  Unless, of course, calling out this sort of  perversity is now considered a form of slut-shaming and is therefore taboo.  I can’t keep up.

I gather the movie version opens either on or right around Valentine’s Day itself.  I shudder to think how many people are going to go see it in order to celebrate.

We live in depraved times.  We really do.  This sort of thing has always existed on the margins.  What’s horrifying is how mainstreamed it’s suddenly become. Ol’ Robbo’s going back out into the garden.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I see the innertoobs have gone wall to wall with the story of NBC Anchor Brian Williams being called out for fibbing about coming under fire in Iraq (and apparently about some other claims as well).

I suppose that if I were a member of the military I would feel some ire over this biznay, as I understand falsely claiming this sort of thing is hugely frowned upon in the Service (and justly so).

Otherwise? Meh.  The guy’s a member of the Boomer Establishment.  Do you really, truly, expect integrity?

If so,  you haven’t been paying attention.

Indeed, I suppose the only thing that angers me is that the rest of said Establishment is shocked, shocked, that one of its members is a liar.

Whelp, ol’ Robbo is off for his annual physical.  Anybody care to lay odds on whether, now that he’s 50, the dreaded “C-word” is going to come up for discussion?

* A glass of wine with Ace, who was the first I saw to coin the expression.

UPDATE:  Back from the doc.  Yes, indeed, ol’ Robbo officially has been requested and required to take one up the tailpipe.  Almost the first thing out of the doc’s mouth when I got there.  (She then spent a lot of time bitching about how the practice of internal medicine is going to hell in a hand basket, sounding remarkably like my brother who is also in the trade.  Talk about morale problems.)  All I can say is, given that this will be my first time, I hope somebody at least buys me breakfast or sends me flowers afterwards.

Oh, and another point about the Chopper Whopper is that it’s simply a matter of Williams being caught trying to macho himself up, and is therefore really nothing more than a squirrel.  Meanwhile,  the NPR nooz blurb on the radio was gushing over all the new jobs “created” last month and claiming that the economy is getting stronger all the time.  You want a big lie?  That’s a big lie.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me start this post by assuring you again that ol’ Robbo is not a geek!

Having said that, on a whim a few weeks back I tossed Star Trek: TOS into the ol’ Netflix queue.  The first of them showed up in the Port Swiller mailbox this afternoon.

Ol’ Robbo’s first encounter with ST:TOS was in elementary school in the mid 70’s, where he watched it in reruns on weekday afternoons in the school cafeteria while waiting of the bus to show up.  Suffice to say, he was enamored of the whole space-exploration genre in general and of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in particular.  Hey, you can’t blame a kid for dreaming of the stars.

I watched the series again in high school, when it ran on a late night weekend scify program on one of our local broadcast stations, (obviously, I didn’t date much back then.) and enjoyed it again, with much the same reaction.

Anyhoo, this is the first time I’m going through the series as anything approaching an adult.  And the new perspective, well, interests me.

I watched the first two episodes of Season One this evening, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”.

As to “The Man Trap”:  I had not before realized that this was the very first episode.  Back in the day, the salt monster scared the willies out of me.  Now? Well, I rayther see her way of thinking.  If I had suction claws, I’d be all over the local supply, too.  Indeed, I like the cut of her jib and would subscribe to her newsletter.

As to “Charlie X”:  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  My own dealings with  a dumbass, headstrong 17 y.o. (but I repeat myself) have been bad enough.  Were she equipped with cosmic powers?  Yeek!   As Count Floyd would say, “Really scary, huh kids?”

So there’s that.  More observations as the series progresses.

Oh, I should mention also that the Netflix DVD’s are of the cleaned-up series, not the original broadcast.  Frankly, I think this is cheating.  Not quite akin to the whole Han Shot First thing, but of the same nature.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, we’re again entering that time of year in which both morning and evening commutes for ol’ Robbo occur round about dusk, and again I find myself asking the same question:  Is it just random chance, or is it some kind of malignant force, that causes the vast majority of moron drivers who either forget to turn on their headlights or think they don’t need to, to be driving dusk-colored cars, thereby rendering themselves damn near invisible in such conditions?

I wonder.  I really do.

UPDATE:  Somewhat related, Rumor (or at least the gal who cuts my hair) says one of the local gangs has an initiation test in which the candidate is supposed to drive around at night with his lights out.  If another motorist makes any kind of demonstration or protest, said newbie is supposed to hunt them down and kill them.   I’m reasonably sure that none of the knuckleheads I encounter are involved in this practice.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has been amused this week by some of the Left’s reaction to  the P.C. Police starting to shoot their own fellow travelers.  The panic reminds me of the scene in “Young Frankenstein” where Gene Wilder is locked in the room with the Monster when it wakes up.  “Get me out of here, get me the hell out of here! What’s the matter with you people? Can’t you take a joke??!!”

Along these lines, Hit & Run has a relevant little piece up entitled What the Hell Does ‘Politically Correct’ Mean?: A Shorty History.   It traces the various forms P.C. has taken over the years and examines some of the aims and attitudes of those who have practiced it.  (It also gives a shout out to the comic strip “Thatch”, of which I was quite fond back in the day.)  Go on over and have a read.

As I’ve probably mentioned here before, the first time ol’ Robbo heard the expression used was in August 1983, during frosh orientation at the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT.  (Yes, “frosh”.  One couldn’t say “freshman” because “man” because seeeeeexiiiiist!!!  I took to saying “freshperson”.)  A special issue of the school paper had been published for the benefit of the new class, a large section of it being given over to what was and what was not considered politically correct on campus.  (One thing I recall from the guide was that “politically correct people say enthusiastic things about the John Anderson presidential campaign.”

During my time at dear old Wes, I saw this phenomenon manifest itself in various and sundry ways – the various Causes of the Week, the correct buttons and bumper stickers (this was before ribbons became a fad), the attitudes and positions one was presumed to have until one said otherwise.   Because I am, well, what I am, I took it upon myself to spend my four years there mocking the whole biznay, pointing out logical inconsistencies and disconnections from reality, historical misstatements and, in general, the complete oxymoronic absurdity of lockstep “diversity”.  Apart from a few nasty notes pinned to my door regarding certain satirical cartoons I drew for the campus conservative newspaper, and from a fellah who (I heard) wanted to break my nose the night Reagan buried Mondale but was too drunk to find my room, I didn’t really suffer for it.  True, I didn’t have all that many friends, but I was pretty much left alone.  Indeed, a few people actually told me that, although they disagreed with my opinions, they respected them.

Of course, while there were a few genuine Junior Maoists on campus, they didn’t hold any real levers of power in those days.  The Administration was tolerant but inert, while most of the faculty (at least the ones with whom I had courses) were pretty old-school.  As for the kids, the majority were simply fellow travelers who went along with the various fads and causes because it was hip and cool and made them feel Enlightened.

These days?  Well, I think the balance is very much different, with the hardcore element firmly established in both administration and faculty.  Now I’d probably be pilloried, expelled, sued and possibly arrested for the way I carried on back then.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender.



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