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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has seen a great many tee-vee commercials recently for the 23 and Me DNA genetic testing outfit.  You know, the people who, if you send them some of your spit, can peg your historickal tribal roots.  I’ve also seen a running ad for Ancestry.Com in which people are invited to plug their names (and, presumedly, other personal info) into a data port sit up in some random public place, to be regaled by revelations of the existence and achievements of their immediate ancestors.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know about all this.  On the one hand, the history geek within me applauds such research.  On the other, the innertoobs Luddite in me warns that, as with things like GPS and EZ-Pass technology, if you know this data, somebody else does, too.  Big Brother, anyone?

And that, frankly, makes me jumpy.

Speaking of ancestral research (here, the old-fashioned kind), I mentioned in my post-Thanksgiving post below the fact that my indefatigable elder cousin had established Robbo Family gunnegshuns to what is now western Virginia during colonial times.  Whelp, the woman actually did a road trip detour on her way home from the turkey feast and sent me the following on-the-ground report [interpolations in brackets are mine]:

I found several family sites in Rockbridge Co., VA, on 11/25/16.

1) The Kerr’s Creek Massacres are commemorated by a State Highway Historical Marker (title: Kerr’s Creek) about five miles west of the Washington & Lee Law School on Route 60, where there is an entrance to I-64. [Ol Robbo went to Dubyanell for law school and first met Mrs. R in an apartment complex on Route 60 just west of town.]

Kerr’s Creek was the southern border of the 1748 Borden grants of John and James Gilmore. Rt. 60 runs parallel to Kerr’s Creek, on the north side of the creek.  I must have been traveling across 18th century Gilmore property. It is pretty creek bottom land.

Our direct ancestors, John and Agnes Gilmore, Sr., were killed there in the First Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1759. Their son Thomas was killed in the Second Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1763, with the family kidnapped. [According to another of my cousin’s emails, Thomas’s wife and son were eventually repatriated by the French, who had bought them from the Shawnees.  The two daughters of the family were never heard of again.  In 1818, surviving members of the family [led, I recall, by Thomas’s brother James] joined a migration to Ohio, in large part over the question of slavery.  Another branch of my family ran a station on the Underground Railroad in southwestern Ohio and, as I’ve mentioned before, my great-great-grandfather was an officer in the 10th Ohio Light Artillery Battery during the Civil War who saw action in the Atlanta Campaign.]

2) The site of the 1746 New Monmouth Presbyterian Church, where the Gilmores attended, is marked at Whistle Creek on Rt. 60. The newer building of New Monmouth, still operating, is three miles further west.  [As I have mentioned before, the Old Gentleman’s family were just about pure-bred Scots Presbyterians.  Ol’ Robbo’s great-grandfather was a minister, in fact.  I chuckle at the idea that they are all turning in their graves over the fact that Ol’ Robbo has gone back to the Old Religion.]

3) High Bridge Presbyterian Church, where our direct ancestors Thomas and Agnes (Leech) Lackey are buried, is still operating on High Bridge Road (county route 693, at an overpass of I-81) off Rt. 11, just south of Natural Bridge, VA.  [This is another family branch. Without the chart in front of me, I can’t recall where they fit in, but I think it’s the next generation after the Gilmores mentioned above.]

4) The ruins of our direct ancestor James Gilmore’s 18th century mill can be seen by following Gilmore’s Mill Road off Rt. 130, at Natural Bridge Station. Gilmore’s Mill Road (Rt. 708) descends to and parallels the west bank of the James River. The ruins are where Cedar Creek runs into the James at the intersection of county routes 708 and 608.

5) James Gilmore’s c. 1780 brick two- story house View Mont, now Sydney Vale, is across the James from the Mill but is on private property and inaccessible.

I’ll give her credit: It’s all cool stuff, all the more so because my cousin does these things the old-fashioned way – through pouring over archives and getting out into the field.

On the other hand, her level of energy curiously exhausts me, especially when she hunts me down at family gatherings (armed with maps, genealogy tables and local historickal pamphlets) and proceeds to drill me in her most recent finds.  I mean, Ol’ Robbo is a history geek, but not that much of one. (The Gels, by the bye, have learned to flee my cousin’s very presence for fear of getting quizzed on family history.)

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t know why, since they do it every year, but ol’ Robbo was surprised and shocked this morning at hearing the first bits of Christmas musick being played on the local classickal station.

Indeed, my exact words were, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no!!”

As I say, it’s the same pattern: They start by doing a little “Christmas” fill-in at the top or bottom of the hour the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Gradually, they add more and more such musick to the playlist.  By the week of Christmas itself, the stuff is wall-to-wall and one is heartily, thoroughly, totally sick of it.

And on December 26?  Zilch. Nothing. Nada.  Back to regular programming as if nothing had ever happened.

Feh.

As I grow older and crankier, I resist this whole biznay more and more.  As of yesterday, it’s Advent, dammit, ADVENT!  (Happy Liturgical New Year, by the way!)  Christmas does not start until the evening of December 24th.  Furthermore, it doesn’t end until January 6 (or February 2, if you really want to kick it).

As a matter of fact, Advent is one of my favorite seasons of the year, combining as it does a certain Lent-like repentance with an excitement over the impending arrival on earth of our Lord.  Thus, yesterday ol’ Robbo duly put up wreaths on the front doors of Port Swiller Manor swathed in purple ribbon and also built an appropriate Advent table wreath.

Sigh.  I know, I know.  The whole modern “Christmas Season” is just a secular, commercial-driven co-opting of the Christian tradition (well, at least of its more surface-y traits).  And every year, it’s more about the co-opting and less about the tradition.  (See, for example, the gradual displacement of the greeting “Merry Christmas!” with the much more anodyne and meaningless “Happy Holidays!”  Try the former at work and you’ll find yourself hauled up in front of HR for hate speech.)

Need I point out that Scrooge did have at least something of a point?  Bah, humbug!

The good news is that the Gels get this as well.  Indeed, Eldest has taken to spending the period between Thanksgiving and the Real Christmas saying to everyone, “Merry Xmas!

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are in Thanksgiving Week.  What with all the to-do coming over the next few days, Ol’ Robbo probably won’t get back to the blog much before Saturday.  I know this is hardly crushing nooz to the three or four of you who actually read this thing, but I thought I at least ought to let you know.

So, exit question:  Which was really the “First” Thanksgiving?

Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, Fall, 1621, which some argue was arbitrarily imposed on the Country because the Yankees won the Civil War and got to re-write the history books;

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, December 4, 1619, which doesn’t look so good a) because of the above-referenced Yankee bias, and b) because the colony got wiped out three years later by the Powhatans;

St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565, which..I mean….Spanish and Catholic?  Can’t have that as the standard; or

Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate and his expedition, Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, April 30, 1598.  (See immediately above.)

(And, of course, there may be other claimants.)

Have at it, if you like.  But I also will leave you with something on which I’m sure we all can agree:

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends of the decanter, and I’ll see you on the other side!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo had breakfast for din-dins this evening – eggs, sausage, and hash browns.   Yum.  My main motivation was a desire to finish up the last of the sausage in the Port Swiller Manor fridge before the Eldest Gel arrives home from school for Thanksgiving break tomorrow and noms the lot behind my back.  You’ve got to move fast with these kids.

Speaking of the rapid approach of Thanksgiving, twice today I saw mention of something called “Friendsgiving” – once on a flyer in my office lobby and once on an ad for Starbucks or something like it.

Friendsgiving?

Maybe I’ve seen this before, but so many terrible perversions of tradition have come down the pipeline in recent years that I simply do not recollect it.  Was this yet another assault? The word Thanksgiving implies, after all, a) that one has something for which thanks should be given, and b) there is Someone who must necessarily be the recipient of said thanks.  Was this new spin some kind of hipster attempt to subtly bypass those implications?  To yet again deny the existence of God and our dependency on His love? To make it All About Meeeeee?

According to the Urban Dictionary, “Friendsgiving” is:

The celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends. This usually occurs on the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, since Thanksgiving is usually reserved for family gatherings. “Hey guys, bring over your family leftovers to my house on the Friday after Thanksgiving to celebrate Friendsgiving!”

Weell…………

This explanation of the word seems fairly innocuous on its face, I suppose.  Cutesy-Stupid rayther than sinister.  And there’s nothing inherently wrong with the implied hospitality, practicality,  and friendship. On the other hand, though, a quick perusal of Google hits about it reveals a whole mess of articles along the lines of “Family sux because they’re all so problematic and they’re such a pain to get to, so this holiday is much better because it’s totes easier and you spend it with your friends instead.”

So, yes, after all: shallow, self-centered, hedonistic, subversive, and stupid.  In other words, perfectly emblematic of these wretched times.

Speaking of which, another story of the Eldest’s collegiate debut.  (It’s the gift that keeps on giving.)  Today in her history class, the prof turned the discussion on to last week’s election results.  Apparently, there are a trio of SJW types in the class who always Say The Loud Things during discussions.  This time, the Gel tells me, they were in high dudgeon:  How could Any Woman vote for Trump?  How could Any Minority vote for Trump?  How could Any Gay Person vote for Trump?  How? HOW?

Finally, the Gel said, “Why don’t you actually ask one?  After all, they’re individuals, not statistics.  You might just learn something about the complexities of other people’s outlooks and worldviews, and you certainly need to learn to deal with them.”

Heh.

After class, apparently, another student sidled up to the Gel and thanked her for speaking out.  The prof did the same when the Gel dropped by her office later to gripe about the meme that  Shrillary’s loss was somehow a message to girls that they couldn’t become President.  “Where does that come from?” the Gel demanded.  “What am I supposed to be, a sheep?  I can do whatever I damn well want, including becoming President or staying home and raising a family, and nobody can tell me otherwise.  Modern Feminism can go to hell.”

The Gel despises identity politicks, in case you hadn’t noticed.  So do the Middle and (to a growing extent as she becomes more aware) the Youngest.  I may or may not have had something to do with that.

Double Heh.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel is home from college again this weekend, and I just spent about an hour getting an earful from her over the latest doings in her history class.

I b’lieve I had mentioned here some time before that the gel is taking a class surveying various famous historickal figures and comparing the myths that have grown up around them to the actual facts?  Well, this week they got on to Saladin.  Apparently, the prof – whom the Gel actually likes – started off the section with a brief discussion of the history and beliefs of Islam.  And in that discussion, the prof said something to the effect that Christians and Moslems worship the same god.

And that, as they say, is when the fight broke out.

The Gel, from what she tells me, started laying into the prof, beginning with arguments about the mystery of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the utterly antithetical nature of Allah (which arguments actually echoed those of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, even though I know she hasn’t read either one), and then proceeded to a detailed, unvarnished  description of the position of Christians (and Jews) as set out in the Koran.  I gather the prof pushed back somewhat, although she didn’t try to shut the Gel down.  As for the rest of the class, the Gel tells me that a few of them looked uncomfortable about the prof’s position, while some of the noisier ones tried to back the prof up with arguments the Gel found utterly contemptuous. (One example: The girl sitting next to the Gel, who professed to be Catholic herself, pointed out that there are some Christian sects that don’t believe in Jesus’s divinity.  The Gel’s response?            ” Well, they’re not really Christians then, are they?”)

Smoke was still coming out of her ears as she relayed all this to me this evening, and even as I blog, she’s upstairs studying up on talking points to argue that the Crusades were defensive wars, rather than offensive ones, in anticipation of the narrative that is going to be served up.

Yikes.

About all I could do was to point out that people who believe the Christian God and Allah are the same thing (and I’ve seen this elsewhere, including among members of my Former Episcopal Church), don’t really believe in either one.

Yeesh.  At least teh Gel goes to a school where she can still take a stand against P.C.ism in relative safety.  Also, from what I gather, she is fast developing a reputation for her plain-spokenness, and not a bad one by any means.

By the bye, she’s already signed up for another course with the same prof next semester.  It’s a study of Tudor and Stuart England but begins with Richard III and the end of the Plantagenets.   From what the Gel tells me, the prof is very interested in the modern movement to reestablish Richard’s reputation.  That ought to make our Maximum Leader very happy.

UPDATE: Since the comments seem to have steered in the direction of my last tack-on thought above, an obligatory oldie but goody:

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo just got back from visiting the Eldest Gel for Parents’ Weekend at SBC.  All in all, quite the interesting experience.

The other day, the Gel requested and required, in her straightforward way, that Mrs. R and I try not to make conspicuous fools of ourselves while visiting.  Overall?  I’d say we were roughly 60% compliant with that request order.  (At least we didn’t bring baby photos to show the Gel’s friends.)  Our first fault – which I should have spotted and more forcefully deterred – was that Mrs. R kept forgetting that she was a visiting parent and not a visiting alumna, so she spent large amounts of time glad-handing faculty, administration, and other students, trying to set up networks, offer suggestions, and generally rallying to the flag.  All worthy endeavors, of course, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  When Mrs. R was going at Maximum Shmooze, I could see faint puffs of smoke coming out of the Gel’s ears.  (Not just because Mom Wouldn’t Stop Yakking, but also, I believe, because there’s a kind of territorial thing developing here:  The Gel has so quickly taken to the place that she now assumes it’s her turf and that Mrs. R is an intruder.)

Also, Mrs. R indulged in her favorite pastime of trying to jam Too Many Events into Too Little Time (something which has driven me absolutely batty the last quarter century).  This culminated in an ill-advised late movie date with the Gel after her theatre production was finished last evening, leaving the Gel an extremely irritable zombie this morning.   I’m not so sure it wouldn’t have been better for all involved if we hadn’t simply slipped off for home after the show instead of staying for brunch today.  (The production of “The Trojan Women” was, by the bye, quite well done for all my critique in the linked post.  Great leads, well-staged, and pretty gruesome all around.)

Ah, well.

A few other things:

The Gel may have been an irritable zombie this morning, but so was Ol’ Robbo.  This was because last night was the second night in a row in which I got virtually no rest.  Now, long-time friends of the decanter may recall that Ol’ Robbo does not do well sleeping in beds other than his own in the first place (e.g., on travel), but this was somewhat worse.  For one thing, there was something going on with the pipes at the inn where we stayed.  Do you remember that sound the sabotaged reactor plant made in “The Hunt For Red October” that forced the crew of the October to shut it  down? That metallic ka-clang! ka-clang! ka-clang!?  We got that, off and on, all night.  For another, this weekend happens to have been Homecoming at the Younger Gels’ high school.  We had allowed them to stay and go to the game and dance provided that  they stayed with approved friends and that we worked out security understandings and arrangements with said friends’ parents ahead of time.  So last evening, we couldn’t even think about going to bed until we had received confirmation from home that the Younger Gels were safe, sound, and not in requirement of bail money.

(The above paragraph is, by the bye, an apologetic explanation to long-time friend of the decanter Old Dominion Tory for why I didn’t appear at his church for Mass this morning.  I had thought to tool over the mountains, in part because ODT’s church was one of the nearer available options, in part because we’ve been blog-friends for years on end but had never met in person.   But I was so wiped out that I simply couldn’t get myself up in time.  Mea culpa!)

The Gel’s operating procedure during most of our visit was to deal with us until she’d had about enough and then dismiss us until she was ready to reengage.  This left some time on our hands, so yesterday Mrs. R and I decided to walk round the campus on the traditional loop known as “The Dairy”.  It’s a farm road that, starting behind the performing arts theater, passes over some fields, climbs up the backside of Monument Hill, passes through the stables, and then dips down into the dell where the graphic arts program is housed in the buildings and barn that used to hold the working dairy back in the day – hence the name – before climbing back up toward the main campus.  (The Dairy – which supplied fresh milk and ice cream to the dining hall when Mrs. R was there – was forced to close in the early 90’s because of the added costs associated with complying with strict new EPA regulations championed by AlGore.  Of course, Big Dairy – cosy with the gubmint – could afford to swallow such regs while all the little operations like SBC’s were run out of the market, so from the point of view of both the Bureaucracy and the Major Players, everybody won.  And that, boys and girls, is what we call Crony Capitalism or, to put it more succinctly, Fascism.)  The loop is something in the neighborhood of three miles all the way around.  (The Gel walks it at least twice a day.)

Anyhoo, as we tramped along outbound across the fields, I suddenly stopped.

“What is it?” said Mrs. Robbo.

“You’re going to think I’m completely mad,” I replied, “But I’d swear I heard the skirl of bagpipes coming down the wind.”

We continued walking.  A few moments later, I stopped again.

“Yes?” said Mrs. R.

“I heard it again!” I answered.  “Are the Campbells coming?”

A few more yards and there could be no doubt:  Somewhere up ahead, a piper was doing his thing.

As we tramped along up the hill and the musick got clearer, I couldn’t help feeling a certain chill, even a romantic urge.  (My father’s family is almost purebred Scots, you know.  It must be something in the blood.)

Eventually, we tramped up to the top of Monument Hill and there he was, a Lone Piper (albeit in t-shirt and jeans) solemnly striding back and forth and puffing away.  At first I had thought it was some kind of honorary tribute to the spirit of the school embodied in the Monument.  However, as the fellah kept starting and stopping and repeating certain phrases, I realized he was just practicing, and probably doing so at such a remote location because he couldna’ do it anywheer else fer yon dozy knippits who dinnah unnerstan teh pipes!

Made my day, however.

The other get-rid-of-parents activity in which Ol’ Robbo participated was the fly-casting clinic held by a couple of profs down by the boat house.  Now, the Old Gentleman taught me how to fly-fish when I was a kid, but I haven’t picked up a fly-rod in twenty years and wanted to see if I still have the touch.  Well, my friends, it seems that I do.  However, I also have something that I didn’t have back in the day:  A maximum pitch-count.

So there you have it.  Mrs. Robbo and I are home again after a reasonably entertaining weekend, the Younger Gels are safe and sound, and the Eldest can breath a sigh of relief and unclench.

UPDATE:  For your delectation:

 

Although I’m mighty-near purebred Scots on my father’s side, my family were not true Highlanders, having held lands primarily slightly south of the line between Glasgow and Edinburgh, so I dinna know where we stood re pacification and relations with the Brits.  But I know ye ne kin trust the bludy Campbells!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Filched from Wiki

Filched from Wiki

As I’m sure some of the more history-nerdy friends of the decanter are aware, today is the 445th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, the pivotal Renaissance sea battle in which a combined fleet of Spanish, Venitian, and Papal warships beat the living daylights out of a far larger Ottoman fleet, thereby saving the Med from a Muslim takeover.

In honor of the day, I recently started reading Niccolo Capponi’s Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto.  These days, most people (who have actually even heard of the battle, that is)  seem to believe that the “miracle” associated with Lepanto was the actual victory itself.  Me?  Reading this book about the hot mess that was 16th Century European politicks, I think the real miracle was that the Spanish, the Venitians, the Genoans, and the Holy See managed to cobble together a fleet in teh first place, and that said fleet was able to operate efficiently and cooperatively. (Capponi is very cynical about the horse-trading surrounding this combination.  To his credit, though, he is unflinching in his respect for St. Pius V, the Pope who put it all together.)

And largely based on this victory, today is also the Feast of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  On his lunchtime walk, ol’ Robbo stumbled across a group of somewhere between 150 and 175 people praying the Rosary.  It was gratifying to toss in a couple decades myself as I circled round them.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

It’s been rayther a long time since ol’ Robbo has reported one of his signature bizzarro dreams here.  Well, guess what? That drought is over.

It seems I found myself in a long, long procession or pilgrimage of people, a surprising number of whom I actually know in real life or via the innertoobs.   They seemed to be searching for The Way or The Light or some sort of Answer.  It became clear to me after a time, however, that there was nothing holy about what I was seeing, and that it was, in fact, some kind of cult of personality presided over by an evil spirit.  (The people themselves, however, were not evil, just deluded.  Don’t ask me how I knew these things.  I just did.)

It seemed that every now and then a dissenter would be singled out in a kind of cat-and-mouse game played by the forces of evil.  The dissenter would be put to an impromptu show trial and then carted off to the executioner for torture and/or beheading.

It also seemed that there was some kind of underground movement that sought to save such dissenters.  Apparently, it was very good at getting them away from the captors but didn’t really have a clue as to what to do with them afterwards, and the freed dissenters typically were re-caught.

At some point in my dream, the scene shifted from a broad, rolling upland to the interior of an impossibly large railroad car.  As I stood in the crowd, I suddenly realized that people were quietly slipping away from my sides and that all at once I was quite alone.  I found myself facing a woman lounging on a sofa.  I don’t think she was the actual guiding force of the cult, but believed she was one of the senior lieutenants.  I don’t remember what she or I said specifically, but the upshot was that I was accused of Crimes Against The Body and sentenced to death.

I then found myself in a field, apparently awaiting execution.  There was a group of people near me who seemed to be praying.  I asked them if I could borrow a Bible.  One of the group immediately handed me what turned out to be a missal instead of a Bible.  But he also (accidentally, I think) handed me a wallet, which I immediately turned over the wrong way, spilling out all the contents.  I hastily tried to gather up a large number of credit cards, paper receipts and cash, and was much distressed that I couldn’t seem to get them all back into the wallet.  I don’t recall how the affair ended.

Next, I found it was Time.  A group of people gathered around me and started hustling me off to the place of execution.  Some of them were taunting me, but others slipped in close and muttered things like, “We’ll get you out,” “We haven’t got a plan yet, but we’re working on it,” “Just keep your eyes open and watch for opportunities,”  and the like.  Curiously, I found I had no faith that they could spring me, but also was not greatly distressed about it.  My overall feeling was of calm resignation.

I arrived at the execution spot, where I understood I was to have my head chopped off.  It was just an open place in the field with a square marked off in yellow paint.  Apparently, somebody had forgotten to build a proper platform, so there was going to be another delay while they sorted things out.  Meanwhile, a major league umpire was standing nearby, kicking his heals as he waited to officiate.  For some reason, St. Thomas More suddenly wandered into my braims, so I sidled up to the ump and said, “I understand this axe-man is a seasoned pro.  Well, I’m just rookie meat.  So will you please be generous with the strike zone?”

And then, as they say, I woke up.

(The only part of this dream I can explain in absolutely concrete terms is the presence of the fuming ump.  The Family Robbo went to see our beloved Nationals play last evening and there was an almost two hour rain delay before the game began.  The rest seems to be a bad mash-up of Msrg. Robert Hugh Benson’s The Lord of the World and Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil“.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and, although I’m a day or two late about it, Happy Autumn!

As ol’ Robbo has said probably every year since he first started blogging (well, and before that, too), this is truly my very favorite season.  (Spring is a close but distinct second. While I like the start of winter, the novelty seems to wear off earlier every year.  I have always despised summah, a loathing picked up during my misspent yoot in South Texas.)

Ma Nature, getting into the swing of things, has seen fit to dish up a series of highs in the low 70’s in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor for the next week or so, allowing ol’ Robbo to spend about four hours this morning giving the grounds a good Monty without suffering from heat stroke.  (What is a “Monty” you ask? In this context it means mowing and trimming the entire yard, plus the ditch between the sidewalk and street and the little meadow between the back gate and the creek.  I also sprayed weeds, watered whiskey barrels, and cleaned the accumulated ashes out of the grill.)

While this is pleasant enough, ol’ Robbo’s ideal fall weather conditions – which won’t arrive for at least another four weeks or so – involve a temperature of about 45 degrees with a steady rain and fog.  There’s something about tramping around in it, smelling the mixture of dank, rotting leaves and chimney smoke, hearing the crows cawing off in the distance, that gives ol’ Robbo a delicious feeling of memento mori.  I’m not being morbid in this, because it also seems to focus and increase my sense of (or at least desire for) piety.  I sometimes wonder if the Church Fathers had this psychological phenomenon in mind when they set the liturgical calendar to restart in late fall.  (Of course, there’s also something delicious about coming in out of it, pouring a large glass of Lafroaig, and flopping down in front of the fire which is also highly satisfying, if perhaps for not such high-falootin’ reasons.)

Anyhoo, working around the house today brought two other things to mind.  First, this year ol’ Robbo put a couple of large urns on the patio out back, in which he planted dwarf boxwoods and surrounded them with trailing annuals.  (They really look quite nice.)  I have begun to wonder what I ought to do about them over the winter.  Boxwood is really too pricey to be treated as an annual and, for practical purposes, I really can’t move them.  It occurs to me that maybe I can somehow insulate them – you know, wrapping some kind of material around them to keep the shrubs’ roots from freezing.  Anyone have any ideas or experiences along these lines?

Second, I am resolved this year to finally start using the fire pit that also sits on the patio.  I bought it about three years ago, and for some reason have never done much more with it than use it to burn empty charcoal bags.  Why this is, I just don’t know.

(Speaking of fall, a colleague of mine at work was telling me all about the trip she and her new fiancee plan to take up to Maine in about three weeks.  She’s never been before and one of the things she said she was looking forward to was seeing all the foliage.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the leaves will be more or less down already by the time she gets up there.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Has ol’ Robbo mentioned here before his firmly-held belief that Tuesday is the worst day of the week?  Well it is, simply due to the fact that it has absolutely nothing going for it.  Monday, for all its awfulness, is at least a bridgehead.  Wednesday is, of course, Hump…DAAAAAAY.  Thursday is down hill and Friday speaks for itself.  Tuesday is nothing more than a freakin’ hole in the week.

Anyhoo, to fill that hole, a few stray thoughts:

♦  Before I forget it, and in connection with the Wednesday link above, I have to say that ol’ Robbo is continually impressed with the consistent brilliance of Geico’s teevee advertising (which I see through watching my beloved Nats play on MASN).  Campaign after campaign after campaign – from cavemen to geckos to bad ideas – whoever comes up with this stuff is truly gifted.  It’s one thing to get an occasional home run, but these people hit for the freakin’ cycle.   And speaking of which, for some reason ol’ Robbo finds their latest amusing enough to repost here:

(Full disclosure, by the bye, ol’ Robbo is not a Geico customer or paid shill.  We’re USAA through the Old Gentleman’s military stint and quite content with it.)

♦  And speaking of ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats, they just dropped their fourth straight to an out-of-it NL East team playing for nothing but pride tonight.  I know the odds of us not clinching the pennant at this point are in the SMOD 2016 range, but come on, guys!

♦   Speaking of sports, last Sunday ol’ Robbo was asked by one of his Mass buddies who doesn’t pay much attention to the current so-called “culture” to explain the whole NFL national anthem kerfluffle.  Whelp, I was able to give her a brief description just based on what I see on the Innertoobs, but the fact of the matter is that ol’ Robbo really hasn’t watched pro football at all since Dan Marino retired in 1999.  This was partly because the ‘Fins were the only team I ever followed and they have gone to hell since then, and partly because NFL Sunday afternoon advertising is raunchy enough that I didn’t want the gels seeing it.  Overall, I don’t think I’ve really missed very much.

♦   It would be extremely foolish of ol’ Robbo to comment on the state of the Presidential race at this point, at least so far as endorsements go.  But one thing strikes me as peculiar:  Normally, my corner of NoVA and my commuter route into the Imperial City are, by this point, wall-to-wall with yard signs and bumper stickers.  This year?  Almost nada.  Just about the only signs I see in the immediate neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor are for the local incumbent House member.  Make of that what you will.

♦   Good thoughts would be appreciated:  The next two days ol’ Robbo is being forced to go on “retreat” with his office colleagues.   Usually, I’m pretty good at being able to dodge work-related functions, but I gather there’s no getting out of this one barring accidental amputation of a limb or kidnapping by Boko Haram.  Sigh.  In my experience, “retreats” are both boring and dangerous, and the only thing to do is to keep one’s head down, one’s mouth shut, and one’s most political smile firmly nailed to one’s face.

♦  Speaking of face, ol’ Robbo is trying out a new prescription set of gas-permiable hard contact lenses this week.  (My venture into disposable soft lenses proved an abject failure.)  They seem to work reasonably well for my near-sightedness.  The trouble is that they also bring my far-sightedness into, er, very sharp focus: wearing them, I can’t make out much within a four or five foot radius without a pair of store-bought 2X reading glasses.  I’m having trouble here understanding why I go to the bother of contacts in the first place.

♦  Relatedly, while getting fitted for the new contacts, I also got a prescription for a new pair of glasses.  My current pair is about four years old and I’ve had nothing but grief about them (in terms of aesthetics) from Mrs. R.  This time, I got the Missus to come down to the Hour-Eyes with me.  “Here,” I said, “You pick out the frames!”  And she did.  Despicable pre-emptive surrender? Or ingenious seizure of the high ground?  Your answer may very well depend on your marital status. (Hint: “Yes, dear” can be a double-edged weapon.)

Whelp, I suppose that’s enough hole-in-the-week plugging for now.  Pass the port to the left as you take it in, if you please.

UPDATE:  Day One of Robbo’s retreat featured the predictable “team-building challenges” and a lot of middle-management level blether from an HR consultant (what a racket that is!) about effective communications with different personality types.   Forehead? Meet table!  As a colleague of mine put it sotto voce, “Here’s an idea: You’re all grownups…Act like it.”

UPDATE DEUX: Nats’ Magic Number now down to, er, deux.

 

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