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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

The other evening, Ol’ Robbo was standing at the top of the back stairs waiting for Decanter Dog to finish up her biznay in the yard and idly scanning the sky overhead when I suddenly realized that one of the stars was moving, heading calmly and steadily in a southeasterly direction.

Whatever it was, it definitely was not a meteor, nor was it any kind of commercial aircraft. My guess is that it was an artificial satellite of some sort, and my further guess is that it was the International Space Station. (Is there anything else in orbit actually visible to the naked eye?)

I’ve been poking about on the innertoobs to try and verify this. Alas, the only tracking tools I’ve found tell me where the thing is right now, not 36 hours ago. On the other hand, they confirm that the general direction and speed of what I saw makes an ISS-sighting perfectly plausible. I hope so.

Speaking of which, I was watching a program on the Smithsonian Channel last evening about the history of the planet. (The show purports to rely a lot on “new satellite evidence”, which is the link here.) It was the first episode of a series (called something like “The Life of Earth”) and sought to squash the first 4.5 billion years of Earth history into 50 minutes of programming, a very daunting task. What came across when the timeline was so sped up was how often and violently the planet’s atmosphere changes, both in terms of temperature and even composition. I had to chuckle a bit: Among massive volcanic activity, periodic asteroid collisions, and the overspreading of single-celled photosynthetic-based organisms mucking it about, our own presence in the mix, even if you buy into the worst of teh climate-alarmist rhetoric, seems comparatively tiny and insignificant.

The show was also refreshingly neutral, with no apparent politickal axe to grind. However, as I say this was the first episode. The rest of the series evidently deals with the rise and spread of Mankind. I’m sure in the end all the Bad Things will turn out to be our own damn fault after all.

UPDATE: Which reminds me, I saw this article the other day: NASA turns to religious scholars to prepare humanity for alien contact. (The tone is surprisingly unlike Oolon Colluphid’s blockbuster trilogy, Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes, and Who Is This God Person Anyway?) I suppose if you’re like the kid who lived across the street from me in my yoot who routinely brought round pamphlets “proving” dinosaur bones are elaborate fakes, such contact would be difficult to comprehend. As an ardent admirer of C.S. Lewis’s Ransom Trilogy, Ol’ Robbo says, “Moar, faster, please!”

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Once again, Ol’ Robbo finds himself with a handful of ungerminated post idea beans which, like Jack, he will fling into the ether and see if any sprout into stalks.

First, happy Feast of the Epiphany! Ol’ Robbo means to get out and chalk the Port Swiller Manor front door a little later, but only when Mrs. R isn’t looking. To her, this sort of thing is a little too close to hocus pocus, and when she notices what I’ve done she always wipes it off. UPDATED: Mission accomplished. Alas, my handwriting is so bad these days that I could plausibly explain the chalking as owl scratches.

The post-Christmas diaspora begins today with Middle Gel heading back to kollij. Alas, in an attack of foolishness her school just announced that the first two weeks of classes are going to be on-line. We’ll see if it’s only two weeks. (Magic 8-Ball says “Don’t bet the farm on it.”) The Gel’s birthday is coming up shortly and she had arranged with some of her classmates to do one of those “Escape Room” outings. That, it seems, also has been scrubbed because some of her friends won’t be back in time now. UPDATED: Youngest doesn’t go back until toward the end of the month. Her school just put out an update that they are still anticipating regular operations. Magic 8-Ball is still giving me the same reply.

Speaking of travel, it looks as if we’re gearing up for another possible Storm of the Century of the Week tonight in these parts. (The Gel will be well south of it before it hits.) Given the complete balls-up on I-95 due to the storm last Sunday (which my soon-to-be ex-governor is now saying was us rubes’ fault), you can expect the panic over this one to be that much sillier. UPDATE: I meant to mention that our last snowfall was really quite lovely; wet and heavy snow that stuck to all the trees. It’s all blotchy and uneven now, so a couple more inches would be a welcome restorative. UPDATE DEUX: HA! Ya got that? HA! HA!

Speaking of silly panics, yeah, I know what we’re all supposed to be mourning today. I still recall the breathless post an acquaintance put up on FacePlant that evening: “Just wanted to let everyone know that we’re home, 15 miles from downtown, and that we’re SAFE!” Gawd.

Bearded Spock Universe Alert: I found out this morning that Eldest Gel watched “Rebecca” (1940) last evening, the one with Olivier and Fontaine, and really enjoyed it. What was Ol’ Robbo watching at the same time? “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” (2004). Before you ask me to hand over my agonizer, I will say in my defense that I was tired. Also, it really is a funny movie.

Well, that ought to be enough for now.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope all of you friends of the decanter are having/have had a joyous Christmas. For those of you agog to learn how Ol’ Robbo’s planning panned out, a brief summary:

Contrary to my goal, I didn’t wind up making it to Midnight Mass this year. When you’re the only one in your household interested, it’s extra tough to keep focused and stay up, particularly when you know what a job you’re going to have on your hands the next day. Plus, I made the mistake of eating cheese pizza for dinner that evening, which always plays havoc with my tummy.

However, because I was so far out ahead of the game with my organization and prep, I realized that I’d be able to make the noon Mass on Christmas Day and get home just in time to start the hors d’oeuvres going in the oven. I understand that our dear Pope had some particularly barbed words for us Latin Mass traddies in his Christmas address. Bless his heart. By a singular coincidence, our Padre brought up in his homily the plight of Eomer of Rohan seeking to love and remain loyal to King Theoden even while Theoden was under the evil spells of Grima the Wormtongue.*** Singular. Coincidence. (Father counsels patience and clear-sightedness.)

As for dinner itself, with all due modesty I will say that I knocked it clear over the upper deck in left-center. The roast was absolutely, perfectly, pink inside, none of the popovers stuck to the tins, and for once I didn’t over-zap the asparagus. The only glitch came when, in my zeal to clean cooking utensils as soon as I was done using them, I inadvertently got dish detergent in the pan drippings, so couldn’t make gravy. However, I made lots of Hollandaise sauce by way of compensation.

And as for its reception by my family and guests? Suffice to say that there were very, very few leftovers.

The company all behaved themselves, too. My cousin refrained from trying to spike anybody with her “superior” expertise on anything, and our friends – who it was truly great to see again – didn’t come close to starting a politickal spat. Indeed, the only trouble we had was provided by Decanter Dog, who probably due to stress at all the stranger-danger, dropped a deuce in the dining room which was only discovered when Mrs. Friend inadvertently stepped in it. Fortunately, all of us are dog people, so while it was of course an unpleasant episode, it didn’t put a damper on the evening.

So there you have it, a joyous and festive day very much like in the Before Times, and an enormous weight off of Ol’ Robbo’s shoulders once it was over and done with. I am now lolly-gagging for a few days before revving up again for New Year’s. (At least I’m not hosting that one.)

*** I’m going to guess that just about anyone who spends any amount of time here over the port and Stilton will be enough of a Tolkien Geek to get the allusion without me needing to add footnotes.

Adoration of the Shepherds” – Caravaggio (1609)

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

  • Luke 2: 1-14 (KJV)

Ol’ Robbo may say that he never reads this passage without feeling a shudder up and down his spine, particularly at Verse 13. And by that, I mean a good shudder, one of both awe and joy. And this, as much as anything else, is why I know it is real.

May all of you friends of the decanter have a most blessed and happy Christmas!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

So….is everybody ready? I’m not sure, but I think – I think – I’m ready. Well, about ready. Call it sort of ready.

In any event, I’ve at least got all the foodstuffs and gargle in. There will be nine of us altogether at the Port Swiller Manor Christmas dins, to whom I will be serving up the traditional roast beef with popovers** and two veg, preceded by bacon-wrapped water chestnuts (plus whatever other munchies the guests bring) and followed by some lemon/raspberry thing picked up by Mrs. R.***

I was clever enough to pick up the roast last weekend but didn’t get the asparagus and sundries until this afternoon. For some reason or other, I didn’t expect crowding at the store. Pretty sure I’m not in danger of having my idiot card revoked any time soon.

So, Christmas Eve day will consist mostly of cleaning the halls, setting the table with the linens and the good silver, switching purple candles and bows for red ones, and other decking operations.

Mrs. R wants to attend the way early Christmas Eve service at Robbo’s Former Episcopal Church even though it’s mostly meant for families with smaller children, so as to avoid too much crowding. Frankly, I’m somewhat surprised the parish decided to go ahead with in-person services at all, given the latest hair-on-fire “variant” panic. Good on them for deciding not to get buffaloed. (And yes, I’ll be going along, too.)

Ol’ Robbo is also determined to make Midnight Mass this year. Since I go by myself and everyone else is fast asleep by the time I get home (past 2 ack emma), I always pre-arrange my jammies and toothbrush and whatnot downstairs beforehand so as not to wake them up. But I also reward myself with a nice Early Christmas Day brandy before turning in.

Then it’s up just a few hours later, blurry-eyed and non-bushy-tailed, to feebly clutch my cuppa kawfee while the Gels open presents. And then to set to work on the dinner described above. (I wish there was more I could do to prep ahead of time, but there really isn’t: I suppose I could do up the bacon/chestnuts tomorrow, but I just don’t have any place to store them overnight.)

And then to entertain. In addition to my inevitable cousin, we’re also having some friends over whom I haven’t seen in a couple years now. Fingers crossed that he (in particular) doesn’t start off on some politickal rant and accuse me of being a Nazi. He does such things from time to time, but I gather she has given him about eleventy-thousand talkings-to about behaving himself, so we shall see.

Ol’ Robbo will admit that by the time Christmas Night rolls around, he’ll be pretty tuckered out. But ne’er mind, it’s worth it.

(Oh, and I’ll also put up my usual Christmas Card to all of you friends of the decanter tomorrow.)

**Of course, a Yorkshire pudding would be even more old-school, but I don’t have a souffle dish. It’s all the same thing, anyway.

***I have no sweet-tooth whatsoever and therefore no interest in desserts, as a rule, so I’m perfectly happy to delegate this to Mrs. R.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

By now you may be aware that the other day (just in time for Christmas!) Rome released a “Questions & Answers” document about its ongoing effort to clamp down on obliterate celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass. I’ve not read the document myself yet, but Father Z is on it here and here.

We got a somewhat oblique earful about how to respond in today’s homily, consisting of two parts. The first was something of a course in Canonical Law on Papal authority and respectful communication: It’s okay for me to speak in good faith about my genuine needs and concerns to my Priest or Bishop, but I should refrain from acting on the urge to go on social media and call the Pope a poopy-head. The second was about the importance of keeping our eyes on the long prize, i.e., salvation, and not letting the worldly bastards get us down.

I don’t know what’s actually going to happen. Our parish has had a rayther unique role in the TLM movement since the beginning. Our Bishop has always been sympathetic and is certainly not itching for an excuse to put the kybosh on us, but at the same time I just don’t know how strongly he’s willing to try and protect us.

Frankly, I still don’t even know why this fight was picked in the first place. (Well, I kinda do, actually. What I mean is why would anyone of good faith within the Church do so. This all just seems like plain spite to me.)

Funny, today I was looking about and it really struck home how young the TLM crowd are at my church. Lots of families with small children, young singletons and couples, and new faces all the time. Heck, there was a teenaged girl there all by herself today who evidently had bicycled over for the thing. (She nearly ran me down on the sidewalk afterward.)

Well, we shall see what happens.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Feast of St. Nicholas! (Have you punched a heretic yet today?) UPDATED: As I mentioned elsewhere this morning, there is no documentary evidence that St. Nicholas was heard to mutter “Yippee-kai-ay, pal” before landing one on Bishop Arius at the Council of Nicea, but I nonetheless choose to believe it happened.

Flipping through the headlines, Ol’ Robbo is reminded of the joke from around this time last year: If you thought 2020 was bad, just wait till it turns ’21 and starts drinking. In hindsight, that seems downright prophetic, don’t it? (I had thought that sooner or later common sense would reassert itself, but I believe I saw where it’s just been outlawed.)

Speaking of psychotic, we go from the upper-60’s today to mid-30’s and snow on Wednesday and then back to mid-60’s by Friday. Wheeeee!!! (I pat myself on the back, by the bye, because I actually went out and bought a new snow shovel this weekend.)

On the literary front, a couple weeks back I remarked that Brideshead Revisited was Evelyn Waugh’s only first-person narrative novel. This is incorrect, as I had forgotten about his Work Suspended until I came across it in his short stories. He only completed a couple chapters, though, before the War started and, as it were, broke things up. Just to set the record straight.

And as long as I’m on the arts, I happened to catch “The War Wagon” this weekend, so far as I know the only western John Wayne and Kirk Douglas made together. It’s not a good movie, in part because I sense no chemistry whatever between the Duke and Douglas. The only explanation that comes to mind is that when Douglas and his ego are on screen, there’s just not really any room for anyone else.

So there you are. (Wherever you go.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope and trust you all had a very happy Thanksgiving? The Family Robbo certainly did, traveling from various and sundry points to rendezvous at my brother’s place in North Carolina. The Gels and their three cousins, all around the same age, get on very well with each other. So, now that they’re all independently mobile, it’s very easy to let the young persons amuse themselves while we older folk just sit about and gossip.

My eldest niece is a first year law student and in the midst of furiously studying for her upcoming exams. (I love the gel dearly, but the fact of the matter is that she’s a consummate nerd of the first order.) When we first arrived she told me she had “tons of questions” for me, so I spent the whole time under a cloud of fear that she’d catch me out in ignorance of something I ought to know but had forgot. Fortunately, I only made one bloomer, saying off-hand as I looked over her civ pro outline that I hadn’t seen the name of a certain Supreme Court case since I graduated, only to have it pointed out that the case wasn’t actually decided until after 9/11, ten years after I left school. I covered with, “Well, I just meant it had been a long time, that’s all.” Fortunately, the gel let it go. Whippersnapper.

I hadn’t seen my brother’s grandson (my nephew’s boy) in a couple years. He’s six now, and smart as a whip. Evidently “Great-Uncle Robbo” was too much of a mouthful for him to bother with, so he settled for calling me “Uncle Grandpa”. I think it might stick.

As for the meal, us men-folk managed to get the turkey bang right this year, because of (or, in my opinion, despite) my brother’s shiny, new Williams-Sonoma digital thermometer. You plug the probe into the bird. It links to a base unit with an electronic temperature display. Fair enough. But there’s also an “app” that goes with it, allowing you to monitor things from your phone. It has all sorts of whistle and bell readouts about estimated completion time and the like. My brother spent all kinds of time fiddling with this to make it work, going so far as to download a “how to” yootoob video. Far more effort than I would have considered worth it: Seat-of-the-pants dead reckoning has always been much more my speed. Plus, I pointed out to him, Bob from the NSA now knows exactly how long we cooked the bird. Who knows how that might be used at our show trials.

The various car trips home were, I am happy to say, totally uneventful. Ol’ Robbo never completely unclenches until all the Gels report in safe and sound from their destinations.

And now, suddenly, we’re in Advent. Why this always seems to catch Ol’ Robbo by surprise I couldn’t tell you, but it does. I duly dug out our creche, and managed to clip some high greens off the pine in our yard without breaking my neck in order to do the first table wreath of the season. Now begins the annual scrimmage over when the “Tree” goes up. (As regular friends of the decanter will know, Ol’ Robbo always kicks over premature decoration, especially as everyone else in the family seems to forget that Christmas is twelve days, not one, and that Advent Must Come First. But that’s a rant for a different time.) Middle Gel will be coming through with her Young Man in two weeks and has requested that she get to decorate it then. The more I consider this, the more I think it’s probably a reasonable compromise.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and happy Guy Fawkes Day!

Yes, this is one of those things where my entrenched Anglophilia wins out. Sneaking St. Edmund Campion and other priests in to England to say Mass on the sly is one thing. Blowing up Parliament is another.

First frost of the season last night here at Port Swiller Manor. Ol’ Robbo had better get his ferns off the porch instanter if he wants to keep them. We’ve now also reached the time of year in which Decanter Kitten reproaches me constantly because I won’t keep the porch door open all the time for her.

I’m not sure, but I think we had an election here this week. Heh. I think, I think, that the pendulum may have hit its maximum arc endpoint and is starting to swing back the other way. We shall see.

A public service reminder: Clocks go back this weekend. Why do we do this nonsense, again? Pick a time and stick with it already!

UPDATE: This was supposed to be Ol’ Robbo’s Friday off but at the last minute a filing needed to be made. No problem, I said I’d log in long enough to get ‘er done and then take the shank of the day for myself.


A job I could have handled on my own in an hour or two wound up spinning out all day. I hate writing by committee, even when it’s with people I like professionally. Especially with everyone working from home, even the simplest document takes for ever to go its rounds of edits and sign-offs. Grrrrrrr.

On the other hand, I just pulled in the ferns. One of the drawbacks of the season is that the porch starts to look rayther barren without its summah greenery. Now we’ve got to figure out what to do with them over the wintah. Mrs. R is seeing if she can foster them off in some of the classrooms at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method. I told her she should make it a science project challenge: the class that takes best care of a plant gets a prize.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

First, let Ol’ Robbo offer a blessed All Souls Day to all you friends of the decanter.


Oh, you betcha. (This despite my feeling pretty hellish after getting jabbed yesterday.)

Ol’ Robbo has seen lots of moaning and groaning about ballot fraud, the insidious rigging of the system, and the hopelessness of expecting an actual honest election result.

Personally, I believe there are likely shenanigans being committed to one degree or another, but I don’t see where sitting on my hands and sulking is going to aid in beating all that.

At any rate, Eldest and I went over and cast our ballots this morning. Mrs. R voted early over the weekend. And I hope the Younger Gels got their absentee ballots in properly.

We shall see what happens.

UPDATE: Well, now. Ol’ Robbo thought something might be brewing when a very worried-looking campaign flunky showed up on the Port Swiller Manor doorstep late in the afternoon. Nobody ever hustles us since the old gentleman down the street died a few years back.

Before she could get going, I calmly assured her that yes, we’d all voted already, thank you, and good day.

“But what about…”

“I said good day!


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January 2022