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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Got our tax docs back from the accountant wallahs this evening.  For the past umpteen years, we’ve always expected a modest refund.  This year, it would seem we actually owe a not-inconsiderable wodge of dosh.  Grrrrrrr…….

This is the thing.  It’s not so much the amount of the check itself, it’s the perception of value for money.  I could write a whole damn book on this subject, but in short, I don’t think we’re getting all that much.  Double grrrrrr……

Speaking of owing reminds me of an episode back in the early days of married life, 20-odd years ago.  What with one thing and another, I had been slow about putting together our returns, and the upshot was that Mrs. R and I had to make a run for the closest open Postal Service facility on the evening of April 15th in order to get our return properly post-marked.

There was a blazing thunderstorm and torrential rain that evening.  Nonetheless, the anti-tax protesters were out in force at the mail center and I tooted my horn in solidarity with them most enthusiastically.  (I love the idea, by the way, of scheduling elections round about the same time as taxes are due.  Goes right to the whole value-for-money thing.)

Anyhoo, we got the forms into the mail well before midnight, with much grumbling, and started on our way back to our apartment.  Coming up on an important intersection, we found that there had been an accident and that the cops were on the scene to direct traffic around the mess.

I will never forget this.  Having just had Uncle take a big bite out of my not-very-considerable income, I was sitting in a downpour, lightning all over the place, when I suddenly became aware of a County policeman knocking on my windshield with his flashlight and pointing at my inspection sticker.  It had expired the month before.

Ol’ Robbo is not and has never been an Ayn Rand libertarian type.  But at that moment, I wanted to cold-cock the cop, strip him of his weapons and equipment, and light out for the hills.

Youngest gel is taking what amounts to a home-ec class in 7th grade this year.  (Robbo heartily approves of this.  It beats the hell out of sexual identity politicks brainwashing, although I’m sure that’s coming, too.)  Yesterday she said, “Wow.  Mortgages and taxes and utility bills and all that…..you guys sure pay a lot of money!”

Mrs. Robbo is in Flahridah this weekend for her mother’s 70th, so Oldest Gel is driving her sistahs to their various parties and activities today.  A short while ago, after rehearsing her list of pick ups and drop offs, she said, “It’s like I’m spending the entire day in the car running around in circles!”

Bwaaaaahahahaha!!!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, Spring is finally getting her act together in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.

Late last evening, ol’ Robbo found himself loitering around the parking lot of the St. Albans School waiting around for Middle Gel to come out of the school play she’d gone to see. (A steampunk version of The Tempest, in case you’re interested.  With this particular play, given its majickal character, I’d argue that one can get away with this sort of thing so long as it doesn’t swamp the rest of the production values.)  The school is sited on a hill (Mount St. Albans, in fact) that affords a fine view southeast across downtown Dee Cee.  As I sat there, I got to watch lightning for the first time this year – a small storm way off on the horizon.  Very pretty.  (As a boy, I was terrified of thunderstorms.  Now I love them.)

A few weeks ago, perhaps a bit prematurely, I posted here about some of the signs of spring in the Port Swiller garden.  Well, I’m afraid I have to revise my earlier optimism just a bit:  The knockout rose on the porch stairs did not, in fact, make it, but appears to be dead, dead, dead.  Oh, well.  If we get another, we’ll bring it inside for the winters from now on.

In addition, I am now about 85% sure that my poor jasmine didn’t survive.  (One has what might be a single new stem coming up from the roots.  The others, nothing.)  So much for AlGore’s Globull Warminj.  I’m going to give them a couple more weeks to produce new shoots, then fall back to Plan B and replace them with wisteria which, once established, is practically indestructible.

Now for some genuine good news:  Long time friends of the decanter will know that ol’ Robbo has been griping about the poor flowering of his forsythias for years and years now.  Well, last spring, after an especially anemic showing, I went out and razed those baddies to a height of no more than twelve to fifteen inches.  This spring?  A pleasantly respectable flowering!  The one mistake I made was not doing a secondary cut in August or September to even out some of the longer and stringier branches, but I will remember to do that this summah.

And if you’ve read this far, you may be amused to know that last year I also put in a couple of new clematis by the patio.  (A variety with lovely indigo leaves and a golden center.)  Unfortunately, they’re very near the bird feeder, and in their bottom-feeding activities, the damned squirrels exposed the roots of both plants. I thought they were gonners, but each one has got new growth on it this spring.  (Tough plant, the clem.)  I’ve since put chicken wire around each one, so hopefully the tree-rat problem has been solved.  (You might wonder why I don’t just move the feeder.  Well, it is just where I can watch it from my library comfy chair.)

 

 

appomattox-surrenderGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

For all of Ol’ Robbo’s interest in historickal matters, I readily admit that I have been woefully remiss about tracking the last year and a half or so of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  My apologies.  However, I certainly am not going to allow the 150th anniversary of the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox Court House to go by without some mention here.

Chiefly, I like to think that the surrender showed the best of both men.  Grant’s relentless pursuit finally won him the complete victory he deserved, and yet with his enemy completely at his mercy he was more than generous and humane in his conquest.  Lee, recognizing check-mate, conceded like a true gentleman.  One wonders what would have happened had Lee been able to make it to Danville or Lynchburg, resupply and slip away down the rail line to join up with Joe Johnson somewhere in North Carolina.  Of course, Grant and Sherman eventually would have caught and crushed their combined force, but it would have meant more time and more blood and one wonders how much patience the North would have had with such an additional price.

Oh, speaking of which, I saw a number of posters on Facebook and elsewhere calling this day the “end of the war”.  Not true.   Lee only surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia.  Joe Johnson didn’t surrender to Sherman in North Carolina until a couple weeks later.  The last official battle of the war, at Palmito Ranch near Brownsville, Texas, wasn’t fought until May 12.  Various units of the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi didn’t surrender until late June, at which time the northern naval blockade of southern ports was finally lifted.  President Johnson didn’t declare the complete official end of the “insurrection” until August, 1866.

So I reckon I’ve actually got another year and a half or so of being able to use the word “sesquicentennial” about the Civil War.

Anyhoo, what I really wanted to talk about was this:  Ol’ Robbo began taking daily lunchtime walks last fall because his doc kept yelling at him about his lack of exercise.  Generally, I have been doing a loop on the National Mall from about the height of the Air & Space Museum west to 14th Street (just short of the Washington Monument).  Coupled with the distance from my office to the Mall, it’s two miles and change – a nice little circuit if walked briskly enough.

Well, that section of the Mall is now being dug up as part of a general refurbishing of pipes and drainage and things and is really not that pleasant a jaunt anymore. So last week, I turned the other way and started a loop from 7th Street east down to the Grant Memorial.

300px-Monument_to_GrantAlmost twenty-five years of lurking around Your Nation’s Capital and I’d never even seen said memorial before.  Perhaps this was just as well, because having spent the last ten or fifteen years reading and rereading Grant’s Memoirs and Bruce Catton’s definitive studies of the man’s campaigns, I was all the more delighted with Henry Shrady’s statue of the man.  (All images from here on down stolen from Wiki.)

You can get it somewhat from this pic, that sense of Grant’s solid, stolid, unflappable calm, coupled with his near self-depricating modesty and reserve.  The slouched hat, the lowered chin and the raised collar and cape make him look almost like a turtle snugging down in its shell.  Even from a long way up the Mall, if you know anything about the man, you look at that statue and say, “Yup, that’s Sam Grant all right.”

This is a wintery depiction, what with the bundling up and the wind at his back, so it makes me think of both the Battle of Fort Donelson and the relief of Chattanooga.   The former was Grant’s first really serious taste of big time battle.  The latter was a brilliant (but largely unsung) piece of tactical and logistical generalship which, I would argue, rivaled anything done by Bobby Lee.  In these fights, as in all his others, Grant’s key to success was the same as that popular expression flying about the innertoobs these days:  He kept calm and he carried on.

By the way, some people like to dismiss Grant by arguing that he had the North’s huge advantage in manpower and material at his back, so of course he was going to win.  Yeah, ask George McClellan how that worked out for him.

As you can tell, I am an enormous admirer of Grant, not just for his prowess in battle, but also for his character as a whole.  In addition to the books I mention above, another good one is H.W. Brands’ The Man Who Saved The Union:  Ulysses Grant In War And Peace.   If you read Grant himself and Catton, you probably can skip the first part of this book because it’s just a condensed version of them.  The second part, though, is an informative study of Grant’s presidency and his efforts to impose Reconstruction on the South.  Grant is maligned for the corruption that characterized his administration but this is really unfair.  He did his best to fight it, but he simply wasn’t a politician.  As for Reconstruction,  considering the bad blood and teh forces (cough, Southern Democrats, cough) fighting against it, he really did about as good a job as one could hope for.

Grant_Memorial - cavalrygrant memorial - artilleryOh, back to the Memorial.  As I say, I love the statue of Grant.  I also love the contrasting, highly dramatic statues of the cavalry charge and the artillery team that flank it.   However, I think I don’t especially care for the overall effect.  The flanking groups are done on a smaller scale.  Also, I think they’re spaced too far apart from Grant’s statue.  The overall effect is to make the thing too wide and, in my opinion, disjointed, the whole idea of Grant’s calm above the chaos being lost a bit through distillation.

Of course, what the heck do I know about sculpture.  Also, most days when I walk by, I’m busy trying to navigate shoals of high school tourons, so perhaps this causes me to become a tad jaundiced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James-BestGreetings, my fellow port swillers!  A toast, if you please, to the memory of actor James Best, whose death at the age of 88 was announced today.  Requiescat in pace.

Best is, ah, best known for his portrayal of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane in the teevee series The Dukes of Hazzard, but anyone who spends any time at all watching old westerns will also remember that back in the day he seemed to have had an awful lot of minor parts in them, always playing one of the bad guy’s henchmen or a member of the posse or a ranch hand.  From what I know, Best never had much by way of dialogue, but he was a predictable part of the ensemble.   Frankly, I admire workaday actors of that sort much more than I do the sooperstar snowflake types.

As a matter of fact, I never much bought Best as one of the baddies.  He always came across as so…..nice.  Which is why I think he worked so well as Sheriff Roscoe, who was bumbling and corrupted,  but ultimately good-hearted.

And yes, I watched them Duke boys loyally  in my misspent yoot.  And no, I didn’t just watch so to see Daisy sporting cut-offs.  (That was a mere bonus.) Got a problem with that?  Remember:  For all ol’ Robbo’s crankiness about matters of High Art, he also has an earthier side free of condescension and snobbery.  After all, for all I am on about Bach and Handel, Mozart and Haydn, I also derive great pleasure singing along to Joe Diffie’s “Pickup Man”.

Eh.  As Popeye says, I ams what I ams, and that’s what I ams.

Speaking of Sheriff Roscoe, a bit of Duke Boy trivia for you:  John “Bo Duke” Schneider bought the house my parents built in the (then) exurbs of San Antonio.  Not from them, but (I think) from the people who bought it from the ‘rents when the Old Gentleman retired and they moved away.

 

* Those who know will know.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening while I was chatting with the Eldest Gel, she said apropos her new driving privileges, “Now that I’m seventeen, I can see any movie I want!”

“No you can’t,” I replied, “Legally you can see R-rated movies now, but just because something’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right and I don’t want you filling yourself up on a lot the trash that’s out there these days.  It rots the soul.  You know my standards:  If I find out you’ve snuck off to something inappropriate, I’ll take your keys.”

She looked at me like Cortez’s men with a wild surmise for a few moments, and then went into her latest rant to the effect that she believes I’m really a vampire born in the 18th Century who refuses to conform to the modern world.

Well, it’s certainly a theory……

 

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

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

“Why not?” responded teh Gel.

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

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

Yes, yes I do.  Problem?

 

primaveraGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, it’s the first full day of Spring 2015, and ol’ Robbo would love to be out in the grounds this morning doing yard work.  However, it’s still awfully soggy out there from yesterday’s snow and it’s still pretty chilly and Robbo isn’t quite the young man he used to be, so instead I am parked in front of the keyboard with a cup of kawfee.  (I am looking out the window, however.)

♦   Speaking of kawfee, the G-Man has an excellent take on Starbucks’ plan to have its baristas hector their customers over race relations.  (I don’t much go to Starbucks anymore because of the cost.)  As Jonah correctly notes, it’s not the subject matter itself but instead the creeping politicization of every corner of public life, something I have been bewailing for years.  (Who was it who talked about the fundamental right just to be left alone?)  Anyhoo, for all the publicity,  I’m guessing that any actual attempts to indoctrinate caffeine-starved customers at seven ack emma will go…..poorly.

♦   And speaking of indoctrination, when She Who Must Not Be Named starts talking about adult camps – even if she’s joking, even if she says “fun” camps, even if she’s just drunk – I get a cold, cold chill down my spine.

♦  Speaking of spring, I should note again that this is a March Madness-Free Blog®.  I’ve no interest in basketball, whatsoever.  And while I can understand the whole school spirit thing, my education was all at Division III institutions (NESCAC and ODAC) and it just isn’t the same thing.

♦   OTOH, I didn’t realize until the other day that this is the 10th season of Robbo’s Beloved Nats in Dee Cee.  Where does the time go?

♦  Oh, speaking of schools, may I trumpet here the fact that my nephew has just been accepted to Virginia Tech?  I don’t know if he’s going, since it’s damned expensive for out-of-staters and he has another program lined up also, but I’m still pretty proud of him.

♦   And speaking of school,  I have managed to convince the Eldest that Woodrow Wilson was personally responsible for the disastrous end of WWI and the rise of both Lenin and the Communists, and Hitler and the Nazis.   I think my work is done here.

♦  Reread GKC’s The Man Who Was Thursday this week.  This has to be the single craziest adventure story I know.  And I love it.

♦  Speaking of reading, got a subscription plea in the mail this week from “Teen Vogue”.  Gawd.  It was addressed to “Miss To The Port Swiller Family”, came in a violently pink envelope and even promised a student discount.  Thanks, but no.

♦   Also got a solicitation from the local publick teevee station threatening that if I don’t slip it some coin, it won’t be able to bring All New Episodes of Downton Abbey.  Well, I’ve never watched it, nor do I intend to, so this would be no great loss.   Back in my misspent yoot, I used to love period dramas, but what with all of the rampant politicization going on these days (which see above), I simply don’t trust ’em for historickal accuracy anymore.

♦  OH! Speaking of art and history, do not forget that today is the 330th anniversary of the birth of the Greatest Musickal Genius of all time!  Be sure and listen to some of his output today if you can.  (Teh Middle Gel and her cohort are in the middle of rehearsals for a presentation of his St. John Passion down the Cathedral next weekend.)

Well, I hear the stirring of various gels, so I suppose I ought to leave off here and go reassert my paternalistic hegemony.  Or something.

UPDATE:  Mid-afternoon and sunny.  I went out and discovered new growth buds all over the clematis on the side of the garage. (It faces southwest and is sheltered, and thus is always the first thing to get busy in springtime.)  Happy, happy, happy!

Speaking of signs of spring, I see that Scott’s is starting to run their grass-seed/feed ads.  I don’t mind the Scots fellah they use, but it’s too bad they couldn’t have done a deal with Groundskeeper Willie:

UPDATE DEUX:  Looks like all the foundation plants we put in out front last summah after repairs to teh flooded basement also made it.  And my climbing rose by the front door is about ready to explode.  It’s an improved Blaze, and after it was done blooming last summah I cut it back to about four feet or so.  It seemed to like this and I even got a few second-growth flowers.

UPDATE TROIS:  Wow – We have a knockout rose in a bucket inside a large ceramic pot on the upstairs landing to the back porch that I thought was absolute toast this winter, being in such an exposed position.  It’s taken some battle damage, but the thing’s actually got growth buds on it.

UPDATE QUATRE:  Juuust warm enough to have dinner on the porch in celebration of the day.   Very nice.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

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

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

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

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

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

 

savesweetbriarGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Felix culpa, indeed.

Also,

HOLLA! HOLLA! HOLLA!

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

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