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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.

Pi_pie2Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy 3.14.15!

Teh gels celebrated the curious date by having some pie with breakfast.

I, not caring much for pie in the morning, instead went out in the garden in the rain and cut back my butterfly bushes, (known around here as teh Children of Kong) while Mrs. R stood on the porch sounding like Estelle Costanza.  (“Georgie! What are you doing?”)

Not really a celebration, of course, more just something that needed to be done.  Buddleia is supposed to be cut back in late winter but it’s been so cold and snowy this year that I haven’t had a chance before today.  And given that it’s already mid-March, there’s more than a decent possibility that the growing season is going to come on eftsoons and without warning here in the great Commonwealth of Virginny.

Sweet Briar Update:  I’ll have more to say on this tomorrow hopefully (see below), but things are starting to get warmer and warmer.  This morning’s Roanoke Times is calling for the school’s Board to resign.  There’s a lot of interesting new financials, but here’s the money quote:

College President James Jones has said: “To save Sweet Briar we would need $250 million into the permanent endowment tomorrow morning.”

Really?

To put that figure in context: Hollins University has an endowment of $180 million and seems to be doing just fine. Ferrum College has an endowment of only $50 million and it’s been increasing enrollment — which also seems to run counter to Jones’ other assertion that small colleges in rural areas are having trouble attracting students. He also said the nearest Starbucks was 30 minutes away and that was a problem in recruiting; it’s really about 20 minutes.

You know who does have an endowment of $250 million? The University of Maryland.

Does it really take a Maryland-sized endowment to save a school of 500 or so students when the rest of the balance sheet doesn’t look completely out of whack?

If the Sweet Briar trustees are so absolutely convinced that closing is the only responsible option, here’s what they could do: Resign.

Sweet Briar’s alumnae are now actively engaged in trying to raise money to save the school. Let them take over. If the existing board is right, then a new board would surely come to the same, sobering conclusion.

At worst, a new board would spend down some more of the endowment, but at the rate things have been going, the college’s overall net value might still increase as it has in the past year.

But if the existing board is wrong, well, there is that risk of being proven wrong.

Read the whole thing.  It dovetails nicely with that Powerline article Capt. Ed dropped in the comments here yesterday, especially with respect to the role of interim president Jim Jones:

But of course Jones is your typical mediocre liberal. This fragment from the Slate story gives away the whole game in one compact sentence:

Speaking with IHE, Sweet Briar College President James F. Jones Jr. lamented the closing of the college as a part of a broader change in “the diversity of American higher education.” Jones added, “The landscape is changing and becoming more vanilla.”

“Becoming more vanilla”? This is beyond idiotic even by the low standards of college presidents. When Jones offers the telltale magic incantation “diversity of American higher education,” he means of course exactly the opposite: ritual conformity to the stifling doctrines of campus PC. If he wanted true “diversity” for Sweet Briar, he’d have broken from the crowd, and offered a different flavor than vanilla.

Yep.  I learned what “diversity” really meant to a leftist within 15 minutes of first setting foot on the campus of the People’s Glorious Soviet of Middletown, CT back in August, 1983.

Again, read it all, especially about the intriguing rebranding possibilities.

The narrative that seems to be emerging is of an incompetent board that sputtered along for a few years without really knowing what it was doing and too afraid to let on to anyone about it.  Along came Jones, with a record as a hatchet-man, who rather than looking beyond the blinkers of his own worldview, instead bullied the board into liquidation.

Pathetic.

Oh, and speaking of which, regular friends of the decanter may recall ol’ Robbo mentioning the impact that closure would have not just on students and faculty, but also on staff and the surrounding community.  There is a rumor breaking on FB this morning concerning an elderly lady (around 80) who spent her entire career working in the SBC dining hall.  She retired six or seven years ago and lives alone in a small cottage on campus.  The arrangement had been that, in gratitude to her devotion to the school, she could remain in the cottage for the rest of her life.  Apparently, she was handed an eviction notice this week.

Because Progress!

Anyhoo, Mrs. R and the elder gels are headed down to SBC tomorrow for the first major public alumnae demonstration to save Sweet Briar.  The undergrads are coming back from Spring Break and the alumnae plan to line the driveway and cheer them on.  Mrs. R promises to try and send me some photos, which I will post here along with her report.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

My brother-in-law posted this up over at FaceBook and I thought it too silly not to share:

 

I seem to recall a story that Winston Churchill once had an idea about training seagulls to poop on U-boat periscope lenses.  Doesn’t seem so far-fetched if a toucan will go after a traffic camera, now, does it.

By the way, it may just be wishful thinking, but the goldfinches at Port Swiller Manor seem to be getting just the earliest hint of their summah plumage.

Ol’ Robbo was parked in his favorite comfy chair in front of the fire in the Port Swiller Manor library late this afternoon, rereading C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, when he suddenly became aware that Bella, the eldest of the household cats, was fooling about with something with more than her usual energy.

At first I thought she was just on a catnip high and was playing with one of her toys.  After a moment, though, I noticed that whatever she was batting around appeared to be able to move under its own steam.  Furthermore, as she repeatedly pounced on it, it seemed to make a high, squeaky noise.

“Ah,” I thought to myself, “a mouse.  Well, that’s her job, isn’t it.”  I registered a note to dispose of the corpse once she was done playing it and went back to my book.

(Incidentally, in terms of pure, anthropomorphic cruelty, there is nothing, nothing, in nature to match a cat dealing with its prey.   I know they don’t have any such actual thoughts, but they sure as hell look as if they’re enjoying torturing their victims.)

carolina-wren-wikipediaHowever, as she continued to chase the thing about, I suddenly became aware that it wasn’t a mouse, but in fact was a bird.  A Carolina wren, to be exact.  How the heck it got into the house, I still don’t know, but there it was.

Ol’ Robbo loves wrens, both for their stubby appearance and also for their bold demeanor.  He couldn’t let this one succumb.  So, after shooing Bella away, he set about to catch it and put it outside himself.

This proved…..difficult.  Some years ago, a bat managed to make its way into Robbo’s bedroom.  Opening a window and whisking it out with the aid of a tennis racket was really fairly easy, because bats prefer open air and this one spent all its time swooping around near the ceiling.  Wrens, on the other hand, are denizens of the ground and of brush.  This one displayed such character trait by repeatedly getting under sofas and chairs and hiding behind various kitchen appliances.

Eventually, however, I managed to lay hands on the thing and to take it back outside.  Upon release, it made straight for the hedge, where I hope it is now bedded down for some much needed rest.

Bella was…displeased.

UPDATE:  I’ve seen the male in and out of the feeder today but not the female (which was the one that got in).  I hope the poor thing didn’t succumb to shock.

UPDATE DEUX:  Saw her this afternoon at the feeder looking none the worse for wear.  Huzzay!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening (this morning, really), ol’ Robbo had a dream in which he was peeling a cantaloup on the back porch of Port Swiller Manor.  (I don’t know why.  It had skin like layers of an onion, with all kinds of elaborate patterns.)  At some point, I accidentally dropped the peeler over the rail, so I scurried down the stairs to fetch it.

At the bottom of the stairs, I suddenly found myself in the midst of a garden.  It was green and lush and all the plants were loaded down heavily with flower buds.  “Wow,” I thought, “Spring came and I didn’t even notice it!”

And then, as they say, I woke up.

Sigh.  More snow and freezing rain this morning.

The good news is that we actually are entering that transitional period in which the weather in these parts turns psychotic.  (March doesn’t come in like a lion, it comes in like Norman Bates.)  The high’s supposed to hit 60 mid week before dropping back down into the mid 30’s by next weekend.

It’s been such a cold winter ’round here that I am growing increasingly dubious about whether a lot of perennials I put in last spring made it through.  I’ll be especially crabby if my so-called cold-tolerant jasmine perished.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Well, per my post immediately below, that’s done for today.  About a six hour job altogether.

Mrs. R asks why I don’t just hire somebody to clean up the leaves.  No doubt I will someday when I’m old and feeble, but while I still have my strength I believe this to be one of those things I ought to do myself.  For one thing, there’s the exercise.  For another, there’s the satisfaction of comparing before and after and knowing that I was personally responsible for causing the change.

Besides, today was bright and cool but not cold, the leaves were dry and easy to move, and it was nice to have an excuse to be outside pottering about.  My attitude admittedly might be somewhat different were the weather soggy and frigid, as happens from time to time.

Oh, and I may not have mentioned it before but we had a pretty “meh” foliage season this year.

By the way, as I shlepped up and down the hill with my tarp full of leaves, I found myself continuously mulling over this article I picked up over at the Puppy-Blender’s this morning:  Colleges struggle with protecting students without being accused of victim-blaming.   All I can say is that if we have slid so far into the pit of cultural infantilism that simple common sense is not only abandoned but is considered outright evil, then we’re in a whooooooole heap of trouble.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is loitering around this Saturday morning, drinking coffee and waiting for the temperature to get up over the freezing mark before he goes out and deals with the leaves.  As regular friends of the decanter may have read here previously, there are three big silver maples and an oak between the street and the sidewalk in front of Port Swiller Manor.  I have found over the years that it’s best to clean up under them in four stages – a preliminary sweep after the initial drop, usually at the end of October/beginning of November; a second sweep the week before Thanksgiving; a third sweep either  Thanksgiving weekend or the next one following; and a final sweep once the oak finishes shedding (it’s always last).

In the meantime, since I’ve been on my anti-“holiday” hype jag recently, I thought I would share one thing I do enjoy about this time of year, and that is hearing the Salvation Army bells ringing at the local groc store.  Especially after dark, for some reason.  I don’t really have an articulate explanation for this, but that tinkling presses a certain button of satisfaction somewhere within ol’ Robbo’s soul.

So there you are.  Regular ranting will resume almost immediately.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

There has been an usual amount of lobbying this year among teh Gels to decorate the exterior of Port Swiller Manor with lights and whatnot apropos of the Season (which, this year, seems to have started a couple days after July the 4th)

Fact of the matter is that, as I explained to them yet again,  Ol’ Robbo doesn’t do exterior lights or other fancies.  As far as he’s concerned, when the purple Advent ribbons are switched out on the front door wreaths for the red Christmas ones on Christmas Eve, his outward celebratory sign work is done.

This did not go over well.  Indeed, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

To which I replied, “Look, when you are all grown up and have your own homes, you can decorate it for the holidays (or for any other reason) however you wish.  Until then?  Shut it.”

Hey, that’s me – Mr. Sensitivity.

Mrs. Robbo wants to string up some lights around the back porch ceiling this year.  As to that, I’m less inclined to kick, largely because – even though we plan to host one or more holiday shindigs this year, I doubt fairly seriously whether anyone is going to want to venture out there, what with ManBearPig bringing the freeze and all.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Mrs. Robbo informed me this morning that I’m not allowed to do yard work today since I’ve been down this week with the stomach bug, so I’m just having a cup o’ joe and noodling around here.

♦   As a matter of fact, I feel considerably better.  Yesterday I had a massive headache all day, which was actually good news because that always seems to be one of the last stages of these things for me.  Indeed, I like to imagine them in terms of  nor’easters that first form off Cape Hatteras (my stomach) and then roll up the East Coast (shoulders, neck, head) before heading on out to sea.

Yes, I’m a weirdo.

♦   Speaking of nor’easters, hello Polar Vortex!  (The Port Swiller thermometer hit 32 degrees for the first time this morning, but the kerpow is scheduled for later next week here.)  AlGore could not be reached for comment – I understand he has a hot new lead on the whereabouts of ManBearPig.

♦   Speaking of seasonal changes, we got all the ferns and potted palms moved in off the porch last week.  They look so nice inside I think we’re going to keep them here and just get new ones for outdoors next spring.

♦   RIP Tom Magliozzi of NPR’s “Car Talk”.  I used to listen to him and his brother Ray every Saturday morning, especially back in school, and regularly found myself rolling on the floor in laughter.   Indeed, his stock “Aww, Jeez” has become a staple of the Port Swiller lexicon.   (As a matter of fact, I stopped listening to Click and Clack out of protest when they got on the “SUV’s are Global Warminz!! Eleventy!!!” bandwagon, but I still remember the old days fondly.)

♦   Speaking of people in the nooz, just who the hell is this Lena Dunham person?  (I’ll take pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists for a thousand, Alex.)  As the father of three daughters, I simply cannot conceive how any one of them would wish to grow up emulating that.

♦  Speaking of pathetically spoiled, hyper-politicized narcissists, it may just be my imagination coupled with wishful thinking, but I’m beginning to get the impression that people have had just about enough of that sort of thing and that the tide may be beginning to turn.  I hope so.  I hope so.

♦   Somewhat related, Scott Hahn, the popular Catholic convert and apologist, writes very insightfully and I’ve learned a great deal from him, but the fact of the matter is that his over-use of exclamation points and catch-phrases puts me off his books.

♦   Finally, speaking of books, I’ve started through the Charles Portis cycle for the umpteenth time.  (If you don’t read Portis, you’re really, really missing out.)  Allow me to quote a small piece from the beginning of his first novel, Norwood:

Norwood and Vernell did not live right in Ralph but just the other side of Ralph.  Mr. Pratt had always enjoyed living on the edge of places or between places, even when he had a choice.  He was an alcoholic auto mechanic.  Before his death they had moved a lot, back and forth along U.S. Highway 82 in the oil fields and cotton patches between Stamps, Arkansas, and Hooks, Texas.  There was something Mr. Pratt dearly loved about that section of interstate concrete.  They clung to its banks like river rats.  Once, near Stamps, they lived in a house between a Tastee-Freez stand and a cinder-block holiness church.  There had been a colorful poster on one side of the house that said ROYAL AMERICAN SHOWS OCT. 6-12 ARKANSAS LIVESTOCK EXPOSITION LITTLE ROCK.  On the other side of the house somebody with a big brush and a can of Sherwin-Williams flat white had painted ACTS 2:38.

I just love that.  Love the style, love the substance, love the little quirks.  Portis is from the Ark-La-Tex area and captures its details lovingly, not snarkily.

There really is a Hooks, Texas and a Stamps, Arkansas – they’re a few miles the opposite sides of Texarkana.  And U.S. 82 really does run through them.  Alas, I cannot find a Ralph, Texas.  I think it must be a stand-in for either Leary or Nash, both of which are between Hooks and Texarkana.  (If you’re into this sort of geekery, you can read Portis’s True Grit with google-map open at your side and very easily trace Mattie Ross’s journey from Yell County, Arkansas into the Eastern Oklahoma badlands, and in fact to the mountain hideout of Lucky Ned Pepper, which I believe is a state park now.)

Acts 2:38, by the way, reads: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Good advice for anyone.

UPDATE:  Well, I got one home-improvement project done anyway, namely running the cables behind the basement wall between the teevee and the Verizon box.  I used a fish tape to bull up through the insulation between the two holes, then ran a loop of line through, splicing the heads of the various cables to it and pulling them through more or less on the capstan principle.  Turned out to be rayther more difficult than I had anticipated, at least so far as getting at the tape head the first time.  Luckily, I have small hands so was eventually able to grapple it and get it out.  I even had the sense to leave the line in place (the end discretely coiled behind the teevee) in case the gels need another one of their infernal video contraptions hooked up.

A small matter, but nonetheless something from which I can draw satisfaction.

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