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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Since I already lobbed a substantive religious rant at you two days ago, I’ll just remark here that this afternoon – already a week late – I finally put together my Advent table wreath.

The pines at the entrance to our neighborhood which I usually raid for materials got trimmed some time this past fall, so I decided not to cut more off them until they get shaggy again.  Instead, I used some evergreens out of the Port Swiller Manor yard itself, mostly holly and laurel (the hollies have lots of berries this year, no doubt because of all the rain we got).  It looks pretty decent, I suppose, but I doubt it’s going to last all that long since bigger, flatter leaves dry up a lot more quickly than pine needles.  Still, it’ll do until I can go buy a couple feet of roping.

The purple-bowed wreaths went up on the front door in a timely manner, at least.  We got them at Costco this year, by the bye.  Very nicely made and quite inexpensive.  I just hope they’ll make it until Twelfth Night.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, we’ve reached that point in the year where the feeder activity goes into overdrive.  I keep two feeders year round, a main one for the general population and a thistle seed one primarily for the goldfinches.  The local flock can clean out the main one in two days.

This always produces a conundrum for Ol’ Robbo:  Do I stick to my rigid once-a-week ration filling?  Or do I give in and compensate for the increased demand?  If the former, I avoid bankruptcy (seed ain’t cheap).  If the latter, I avoid the feeling that the birds are secretly blaming me for depriving them.

As usual, I probably will wobble back and forth.

Storm of the Century of the Week UPDATE:  Those of you monitoring the big blizzard heading across the Carolinas and Virginny may be amused by this.  As of now, the thing is taunting the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor with maybe a total inch accumulation.  As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) once said, “Getting an inch of snow is like winning ten cents in the lottery.”

On the other hand, Eldest’s campus down in North Carolina is expected to get anything up to a foot this weekend.  Her last class of the semester was to have been this coming Monday, but the prof cancelled it a couple days ago and so Eldest came home for winter break last evening.  Ol’ Robbo is mighty pleased about that.

Oh, and here is as good a place to mention it as any:  Some months back, Verizon dumped The Weather Channel from its cable line-up, and instead now hosts AccuWeather.  AccuWeather is what TWC used to be back in the day – straight up current conditions, radar, and forecasts, all without Jim “Mimbo” Cantore braving the elements and lecturing us about how Mother Gaia is dying and it’s all our fault!  With this return to the Old School, Ol’ Robbo finds himself becoming a weather nerd once again.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, another one of those milestones in the life of Port Swiller Manor is now being passed:  Youngest Gel started her official behind-the-wheel road training yesterday.  If she doesn’t foozle the course, she’s scheduled to get her provisional driver’s license on the 15th.

She’s already got her first solo run planned out to the second.


Ol’ Robbo finds himself somewhat more of a doo-dah about this one than about her elder sisters.  Part of it, I’m sure, is that she’s the baby of the family.  How can she have got so old so fast? And what does that say about my own approaching mortality?

Part of it, frankly, is that she’s always displayed more of an “Oh, look! Squirrel!” character than the other two.  Such flightiness of attention is not necessarily commensurate with good driving discipline.  Ol’ Robbo has been rayther belaboring this point to the Gel for some time now.  Hopefully, she’s taking it in.

She’ll certainly need to for the next week and a half anyway.  Both of the Elder Gels did their training courses in the spring or summah months and took the first shift which basically started right after school.  I remember picking Middle Gel up afterwards while it was still very much light out, as well as quite warm.  Somehow, this lunatic signed up the second shift in December, which means not only that it’s pitch dark during the entire hour and a half drive time, but also that she’s doing it at the height of the evening rush, an intensely nasty thing in these parts.

I asked her how it went this evening.

“Boring,” she replied languidly.

Double Gah.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Remember that all-important flu shot, the stonewalling of which precipitated such a domestic crisis at Port Swiller Manor a month ago?

Yeah, well after all the sturm und drang THAT magick pinprick really worked out well.  Ol’ Robbo wound up having a pretty decent bout of it this week after all, even missing a couple days of work.

I’m on the back side of it now, thankfully.  The fever and blinding headache are all gone, but I’ve still got the nose of W.C. Fields, the cough of a three-pack-a-day guy, and the voice of Sam Elliot.

Couple that with the fact that it’s a bachelor weekend for me and that it’s supposed to rain all afternoon and I’m sure all you friends of the decanter will agree that there’s nothing for it but to make this a robe and jammies day and say to hell with the yard.

Not that there’s much to do – a little mulching here, a few sticks to pick up there – but that can wait until next weekend.  The bottomless cup of coffee, the large stack of books, and the fireplace are the thing for me today.

(By the bye, I am not going to hesitate for a second faking the flu shot the next time Mrs. R gets after me about it.)

UPDATE:  Since this is basically a content-free post, I invite you all to nip over to this thoughtful article on Science and Religion at Yard Sale of the Mind.  It discusses at length the brainwashing of the yoots these days through crypto-Marxist academic pandering to “Muh Feelz”, a subject of keen interest to Ol’ Robbo.  One line particularly caught my attention on a personal level:

I love adolescence. Having had 4 of our kids pass from childhood to adulthood, and having one 14 year old now, I can say that one of my greatest joys as a dad has been witnessing the intellects of my own children awaken.

Bumpers all around and three times three!  I thank God Almighty that I seem to have been able to steer my own Gels through this passage successfully.  This came to mind yesterday when I was chatting with Eldest.  Apparently she finally got fed up with some snowflake in her history class who was virtue-signaling about Cortez’s treatment of the Aztecs and said loudly and coldly that our own feelings about it didn’t matter a damn and that the only way to interpret the Conquistadores historickally was in the context of late 15th and early 16th Century Spanish politicks, including the Reconquista, the Inquisition, and the developing imperial economy.  “How the hell do you think they’d treat the Aztecs?” she said.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope all you friends of the decanter had a happy – or at least an uninteresting in the Chinese curse sense –  Thanksgiving.  I can certainly say that the Family Robbo’s was one of the best I can remember: Thirteen of us sat down to dinner on Thursday, and it was a positive joy to see the Gels, along with my nephew and two elder nieces, really taking their places as the next adult generation of the family.  No harsh words, since every single one of us except my elder cousin and my four-year-old grand-nephew (it’s a long story) are more or less of the same socio-politickal frame of mind.  Instead, lots of rapid-fire banter and general jollity.  Plus, they all ate like wolves.

A few odds and ends:

♦  As they have for many years now, Robbo’s brother and SiL hosted.  Brother likes to roast his turkey on the grill, so we two always wind up spending several hours outside on T-Day afternoon, fiddling with the coals, adding wood chips now and again, worrying about whether the thermometer is giving accurate readings, and generally kibitzing.  (The adult beverages, of course, may be taken as a given.)  This year he did such a good job of it that Ol’ Robbo is beginning to think about doing his Christmas roast beef the same way.

♦ I notice that hotels seem to take great liberty with the use of the word “suites” in their names.  To me, a two bed double is a two bed double, whether it has a small reception area attached to it or not.  “Suite” means separate bedrooms.  I had to share with Mrs. R and the two Younger Gels this year.  (Eldest goes to school nearby and just stayed in her dorm.)  They’re all slobs.

♦  Another tradition Brother and I have is to go hiking on the Friday after T-Day, in part to work off our overindulgences of the day before, in part to flee the madness that is “Black Friday”.  This year, however, it was much colder and danker than we had anticipated.  We took one look at the sky, said, “Nah, Brah”, and instead spent all afternoon watching college football.  First was the Texas-Kansas game, about which we cared not much except for a residual fondness for the Longhorns from our misspent yoots in Texas.  Second was the Virginia Tech-UVA game, about which we cared a great deal since my nephew is a junior at Tech.  Woah, what a game.

And all the Hoos in Hooville went boo-hoo-hoo!

♦  Speaking of traditions, the other day Ol’ Robbo had seen a clip for the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special featuring the Peanuts gang all around the table and said to himself, “Self, I see that Franklin is sitting all alone on one side.  Perhaps somebody will yell RAAAAAYCIIISSS!!!”  I was only joking, but evidently in the Brave New Dystopia, nothing is funny.

Sigh.  On the drive home this morning, Mrs. R was rattling off talking points about how Charles Shultz was, in fact, quite enlightened about race relations for his time, how he insisted on having Franklin in the show despite others’ objections, and how one has to look at these things in context.

“You’re wasting your time, you know,” I said.  “For the people screeching, this is about the will to power.  You can’t reason or argue with it.  It consists totally of ego and emotion and has no goal other than destroying absolutely everything outside of itself.”

♦  Actually, the character I’d hate getting stuck next to is Pigpen.  Blech.

♦  And speaking of the drive home, it simply poured all the way from west-central North Carolina to Northern Virginia.  Middle Gel had driven herself to the Feast from the Tidewater area on Wednesday, and the whole way home today I was thanking Heaven that at least all this muck is supposed to blow out overnight and that the Gel would have a nice day to get herself back to school tomorrow.  It was only a short while ago that I learned the stinker had herself lit out this morning to go stay with her roommate (who lives near campus) overnight and thereby save herself the slog tomorrow when traffic gets bad.  So what am I gonna do with all this pent up worry?

Anyhoo, a good time was had by all, everyone is back where they ought to be, and Ol’ Robbo has the indulgence of another full week before I need to get myself in an Advent frame of mind.



** Words of Wisdom from the Old Gentleman in reference to work and career.

Eldest is taking a course on non-profit biznay this semester, as she toys with minoring in same.

Her current assignment is to interview somebody who works in the non-profit sector, asking them questions about motivation, mission, oversight, etc., etc.

Naturally, the Gel picked Mrs. R as an interviewee, since the latter has been a private school Montessori teacher for better than 20 years now.

Ol’ Robbo overheard bits and pieces of the interview this evening (at least Mrs. R’s part of it) and had to smile.  Back in the earlies, Mrs. R was such a zealous acolyte of the Montessori method, easily able to enthuse about it for hours on end, that I frequently twitted her about her devotion to St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method.  (She never, ever, thought that was s’damn funny, by the bye.)

Now? Well, I won’t say she’s fallen into apostasy, or even agnosticism.  I will say that she sounds…tired.  Like 20+ years tired.

I mean no criticism.  Indeed, I think this perfectly natural.  Hence the quote of the Old Gentleman’s wisdom in the title.  Indeed, it’s the ones who don’t burn out who give Ol’ Robbo the most pause.

As for myself, Ol’ Robbo passed the bar in 1991, so you can do the math.  I never had any “passion” about practicing law, but simply recognized that my talents for reading, writing, and argument made the profession  a natural one for me.  Maybe I wasn’t a young zealot, but on the other hand, I’m really not feeling any burnout at this point.

This is why I have always loved the quote from “Lawrence of Arabia” in which, Prince Faisal says, “With Major Lawrence, mercy is a passion.  With me, it is merely good manners.  You may judge which is the more reliable motive.”

(By the bye, I think Eldest is ultimately going to wind up in law school herself.  She has a real gift for legal and evidentiary analysis – from what I could hear this evening, she was basically taking a deposition like a pro.  And given her rayther Cromwellian personality, she’d make a terrifying district attorney.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Following up on the addendum  to my storm-of-the-century-of-the-week post of the other day, I left the trash cans out by the street overnight just in case the trash people made a run today to make up for their absence during Thursday’s storm.

They did.

I also put the mailbox back on its post this morning and lashed it down temporarily with a bungee cord just in case the mailman dropped off what he wasn’t able to put in it Thursday after it was knocked to the ground.

He did.

And tomorrow morning, my main chore will be to re-attach the mailbox in a more permanent fashion.  Hammer, nails, and replacement boards are at the ready.

All of this brings Ol’ Robbo much satisfaction.  It’s petty and mundane, I know, but the joy of dealing with and resolving Life’s little concrete domestic problems is real.

SATURDAY GARDENING POST UPDATE:  Mailbox successfully remounted.  There was no actual damage to box or post, so all I needed to do was straighten out some bent nails and reattach it to its base.  Easy-peasy, and nobody hit me while I had my back turned to oncoming traffic!

On another note, I have been informed that “mailman” is not acceptable usage.  The correct term is “postal worker”.  Strong Steps will be taken if I continue to demonstrate such insensitivity in my blogging.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was chatting with Eldest this afternoon (she calls me most days) and she got to fuming about some of the kids in her pre-Columbian American history class.  They’re just beginning on the Spanish contact with the Incas and there are those who wish to signal their virtue by making clear from the get-go that they think the Spanish bad and the Incas good.

The Gel can’t stand this sort of thing.

“It’s not a matter of whether this was good or bad….it happened!  Just learn about it and keep your fashionable pieties to yourselves!  And anyway, why is it so hard for these people to understand that most of human history – throughout the world -is simply a question of which tribe has the bigger sticks?   Hell, if the Incas had been the ones with the ships and guns, they’d have been over in Spain doing the same damned thing!”

I can’t imagine where she picked up this attitude.

*Whistles, stares off into the distance*



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the first wintry** nor’easter of the season is set to descend on Your Nation’s Capital later on tonight.  The forecast calls for a rain/sleet/flurries mix plus very high winds most of the day tomorrow.

It’s just possible that during his commute tomorrow Ol’ Robbo is going to regret the fact that he hasn’t yet got round to putting back up the rear seat side windows on La Wrangler.***  The cold doesn’t actually bother me much.  Indeed, I really rayther like the interplay of my remarkably efficient dashboard heater in the enclosed front seats with the chill coming in from behind.  But when Ma Nature starts throwing rain into the cockpit, too? That’s not as pleasant.

No doubt some of you would ask, “Tom, why aren’t you putting up the back windows now instead of blogging about it?”

The answer is that the panels have been lying in a heap in a corner of the Port Swiller Manor garage since early last April, that they need to be cleaned, and that I need to bring them into the house for a few days before zipping them back in so as to warm them up.  (Cold canvas is a cast-iron beyotch to try and work with.)

So, there.

In the meantime, I see that people are already beginning to set their collective hair on fire and run around in panicky circles over this first suggestion of a snowflake.  (It’s a time-honored tradition round these parts. My advice is go long on toilet paper and batteries.)  Youngest’s school has already announced a two-hour delay tomorrow morning.  Even Mrs. R, who tries to be as understanding as possible in almost all circumstances, dismissed this move with a disgusted “Jeesh!” this evening.


**We had one a few weeks back that was practically tropical in nature.  Indeed, I b’lieve it was the remnants of a tropical system.

***What I really may regret is the fact that I need a new set of tires, but have to wait until property taxes have been dealt with.  (Pro Tip:  Congrats on paying off that mortgage, but understand that you’re still on the hook for this.  And it comes not buried within your twelve monthly payments to the lender, but in twice-yearly brutal demands from the local gub’mint.  Ol’ Robbo would love to see the elimination of payroll taxes and the installation of a single April 15 income tax payment requirement for exactly this shock value.)  After noticing recently a definite change in La Wrangler’s handling, I did that penny test.  Ol’ Abe is getting pretty close to breaking the horizon all the way around, especially in front.

UPDATE:  Well, that was fun.  Woke up this morning to sleet, freezing rain, and a surprise inch of snow on the ground.  That may not seem like very much in itself, but it evidently caught VDOT completely by surprise because they hadn’t treated the roads at all, nor had they positioned their plow fleet.  Result? One hell of a wild ride down to the office, slip-slidin’ away all over the place.  Knuckle status? White. (I guess even hair-on-fire panic can be right sometimes.)

Oh, and when I got home this evening, I found that the trash hadn’t been picked up and our mailbox had been knocked into the ditch.

Good thing the Left is vowing to save us all from this Globull Enwarmening, isn’t it.  Wait, what?

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doubts very seriously whether, “Well, I raked some leaves off the driveway this morning” counts as really riveting blog material, but that’s pretty much all I did viz a viz yardwork today.

As a matter of fact, this particular chore is a bit of a fetish for me.  Our driveway goes uphill to what is, especially during rush hour, rayther a busy street.  Leaves, especially wet ones, can be as slippery as ice and the last thing you want to have happen as you’re trying to jackrabbit into an open slot on our road is to have your slicks start to spin, as the Beach Boys might put it.**

(As an aside, the Gargle-Earth street view of Port Swiller Manor was filmed a couple years back during the height of the fall leaf-drop during a time when I was less than diligent about this.  The place looks a mess.  I wish they’d update it.)

Our first freeze warning of the year is up for tonight.  I suppose it’s time to do a little mulching and also to insulate the boxwood planters out on the patio.

** Obligatory (and fun) Beach Boys reference:


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December 2018
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