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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo just learned that Youngest Gel, now a high school sophomore, made varsity swim team again this year.  It’s always gratifying to see one of your kids achieve something genuinely solid as a result of her own self-motivated hard work.  Woo Hoo!

Swim meets, by the bye, are a very moderate entertainment for those of us stuck in the bleachers.  The kid is only in the water for a few seconds at a time, with loooong intervals between each of her competitions, and what with everyone wearing the same suit, goggles, and cap, most of the time I can’t even tell which one she is.

Nonetheless,  I am still very pleased and proud (as is she).

** Yeah, yeah, I know.  But I’ve got a blog and there you are.  Just wait – in a few years I’m likely to start posts with the sentence “Let me tell you about my grandchildren……”

 

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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Fortunately for Ol’ Robbo’s blood pressure, Game Four of the Nats/Cubs series (with the latter up 2-1) was postponed this evening due to rain.  I didn’t think I could stand to watch had the game gone forward.

Ol’ Robbo is sometimes haunted by apprehensions that he isn’t really a very good father, but this postponement gave him some cause for reassurance in at least one respect:  Both of the Younger Gels independently came to him this evening to argue about the merits of sticking with the planned fourth arm in our rotation versus bringing back our ace.  Surely that counts for something, am I right?

Anyhoo, and violently switching subjects:

Ol’ Robbo, as regular friends of the decanter know, is an enormous fan of the author George Macdonald Fraser.  One of Fraser’s books, written in the late 80’s, is The Hollywood History of The World, in which he compares historickal costume dramas with the “reality” of the periods they purport to represent.  The book is split up into seven sections:  The Ancient World; Knights and Barbarians; Tudors and Sea Dogs; Romance and Royalty; Rule Britannia; New World, Old West; and The Violent [20th] Century.  Ol’ Robbo has been re-reading it this week.

I don’t think this is one of GMF’s best works, as it covers an awful lot of ground at what I think is a pretty superficial pace, but it does throw out a delightful lot of references.  So, given an evening’s reprieve from the tortures of October Ball, Ol’ Robbo was seized with the idea of opening up this book to its index and dialing up Netflix in order to toss as many of GMF’s references into his queue as possible.  I’m at 90+ films in reserve now, and am pretty sure this is a record.  (Whoever at the NSA has Ol’ Robbo’s file no doubt will have kittens tomorrow morning as a result.)

You know what? GMF’s movie list stretches back to the early 30’s, but a surprising number of his cites are still available, even if some of them are only in the “save” category, which means that the odds of my seeing them are pretty slim.

On the other hand, some of them, as you might imagine, Ol’ Robbo has seen already, some many times.  But others will be new to me and I will post about them here.

Curiously enough, when I got this idea, I was already working through a patch of WWII historickal films, all of which get a nod from GMF.  Here, then, are some very brief reviews:

Sahara” (1943) – I’ve seen it before, but it stands up very well as a nice, tight, film.  An American tank is cut off from the retreat from Tobruk in 1942 and has to make it’s way across the North African desert alone.  Humphrey Bogart is the tank commander, aided by a young Lloyd Bridges and Dan Duryea, the fellah who played Waco Johnny Dean in Winchester ’73 and who, once, you’ve seen him, you’ll never fail to recognize.  Along the way, they pick up an RAMC medico and a couple of tommies, a Sudanese scout and his Italian prisoner, and a Luftwaffe pilot.  Together, they have to navigate between water holes, and also fend off the German unit coming after them.   Good stuff.

A Walk In The Sun (1945) – I cannot recommend.  It tells the story of an American platoon going ashore in Italy.  Unlike in Sahara, I found the characters to be wooden and clichéd.  The pace may very well have matched actual combat conditions, but it didn’t translate well to the screen.  Oh, and there’s a ballad.  Ol’ Robbo hates ballads.

The Desert Fox” (1951) – I also can’t recommend.  Although James Mason is rightly cast as Erwin Rommel (whom I respect as a principled warrior, by the bye), I think the movie tries to do too much in too little time, short-changing Rommel’s skillfulness in fighting in North Africa, his frustration in trying to hold the Atlantic Wall, and his (questionable) complicity in the attempted assassination of Hitler.

Well, there we are.  Game Four? (Sigh.) Bring it on.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last fall (I believe), the Family Robbo won a set of primo tickets to a Nationals game from an auction at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method – about seven or eight rows right behind the Nats’ dugout and a parking pass.  Ol’ Robbo was looking mighty forward to going to the game.

Whelp, that game was today.  And it was a sweet, sweet win.

Alas, Ol’ Robbo didn’t wind up going after all.  Because he is head honcho on one side in a trial coming up in a couple weeks with a wicked pre-trial schedule in front of it, he instead found himself spending most of the day moodily pouring over deposition transcripts and other legal falderal.  (And if you don’t hear much from me between now and August, now you know why.)

At least it was a genuinely pleasant day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor – warm, but not too hot, quite dry, and comfortable enough that I could sit out and do my work on the porch.  Also, Middle Gel (who did go to the game, along with Mrs. R and a couple of family friends),  was sweet enough to give me the Nats tee-shirt she snagged when they were being thrown into the stands.

So I got that going for me….

Anyhoo,  a few things:

♦ One break I took was to go to Mass, of course.  We had a guest priest today, a padre from somewhere else in the Diocese.  He mentioned that he had a brother who is a Brother at Clear Creak Abbey out in the Diocese of Tulsa.  Co-incidentally, ever since I swam the Tiber, I have bought rosaries, books, CDs, and calendars from this abbey, but I don’t recall that I have ever explicitly plugged it here.  For those of you who are interested, consider it plugged now.

♦ Another, somewhat more earthy break was to fool with the Port Swiller Manor clothes-dryer, which after 17 years of service suddenly is producing no heat whatsoever, although it still tumbles and blows air.  My suspicion is that we have been less than diligent about clearing out the overflow from the lint trap and that some accumulation of same has probably shorted out the heating element.  (Mrs. R is going to see if we can get this replaced before we go plunking down dosh on a new dryer.)  Anyhoo, this afternoon found Ol’ Robbo digging around in the space below the lint trap slot with an old coat-hanger (surely there’s a better way to do this?), and dredging up all kinds of things.  In addition to the accumulated lint, I discovered a $5 bill, another $5 in loose change, several hair twisties, a couple lost earrings, innumerable old “Hi, My Name Is…” nametags, and a pair of miniature keys to what I believe was an old locket.  I would not have been the least surprised to find the bones of Piltdown Man in there, too. UPDATE: Mrs. R had a repair guy out today. It was just the thermostat.  He replaced it and cleaned the whole thing out.  MUCH cheaper than plunking for a new one.  Ol’ Robbo is happy.

♦  Regular friends of the decanter will recall that Ol’ Robbo had a duff steering damper replaced on La Wrangler a couple weeks ago in order to alleviate a bad case of the “death wobble”.  Whelp, as I feared, the fix appears to be more of a Band-Aid than anything else.  The wobble is gone, to be sure, but I can still feel the front wheels fighting with each other.  Also, in the past couple days, the right front has begun making an ominous howling noise that is definitely linked to rotation velocity.  I believe an alignment check is in order, but I now fear that the fellah who recommended the damper replacement may not have actually checked the rest of the steering mechanism.  I don’t want a ball-joint going as I swing down the G-Dub some fine morning, thereby flipping me into the Potomac.

♦  In re culchah-related matters, I’ve been on a bit of a John Wayne toot this weekend, watching back-to-back, “Hondo” and “The Comancheros“, two of my favorites.  (I confess that I also have “The High and the Mighty” at home.  It’s pure cheese, but I like to think that Robert Stack was gamely parodying his performance in it years later when he did “Airplane!“.)

Whelp, that’s about all that occurs to me at the moment and is suitable for discussion over the Stilton and walnuts.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A conversation from this morning:

Self:  What on earth are you doing up at 6:30 am on a Saturday?

Youngest Gel:  Dad, it’s Friday.

Dang extended weekends.  I’m getting old and confused.

Anyhoo, the big nooz last evening was that Youngest made her school swim team.  She just made the cut time and apparently the coach likes her attitude and enthusiasm.

I must say that I’m quite proud, particularly because I had nothing to do with this.  The Gel had swum for our pool club team for a number of years but then dropped out this past summah.  A couple months ago, however, she decided that she really wanted to get on the school team, so she started training again  (she’d worked with this program in the past, but stopped after swimming head-first into the wall and suffering a concussion), and now here we are, all because of her own efforts.

Think she’s pleased?  She spent all last evening walking around saying, “That’s right….Youngest Port Swiller, varsity athlete – believe it, baybee!”  (There’s no freshman or jayvee team at her school.  You’re either in the Show or you’re not.)

I expect a major outlay in purchases of sweatshirts, t-shirts, window decals, and the like, but so what.  If she’s on the team, working hard, and pulling her weight, let her have her fun.  (Ain’t ol’ Robbo getting indulgent in his old age?)

She also mentioned the benefits to her resume.  “Do you think I could wind up swimming for UVA?” she asked me.

“Well,” I said, “competition to get into UVA from around here is wicked fierce.  Yes, you almost absolutely need a varsity sport, so this is an excellent start.  But you also need a GPA of about eleventy-billion and a Nobel Prize in astro-physics, so get cracking on those books, too.”

I think that gave her some food for thought.

Since the gel’s only a freshman and is at the tail of the team, I don’t know how many meets she might actually make this year.  Frankly, the fewer the better, at least from my standpoint:  Swim meets are amongst the dreariest and most boring of all sports events, at least from the parental point of view – hours of sitting around on cold, hard benches just to see your kid in the drink for about 30 seconds at a go.  (That is, of course, unless your wife has secretly volunteered you to man a shift at the snack bar.  Then it’s even worse.)

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t get out very much, in part because it gets expensive very quickly and in part because, once I’m done shlepping down to the shop and back every day, I’d really rayther stay home of an evening.

This weekend, therefore, was quite out of the ordinary.

First, as mentioned in the weirdo post immediately below, Friday evening saw the Family Robbo trek down to Nats Park to watch our beloved Nats take on the Fish.  We got there around 5:30 pm.  The game was supposed to start at 7 pm.  It didn’t actually start until 8:50 pm.  Here’s what ol’ Robbo had to look at during the wait:

"It's a tarp!"

“It’s a tarp!”

Yeehaw.

So why stay, you may ask?  After all, the Division Title was already locked up, the shakiest starter in the rotation was pitching (he actually lasted about 2 innings), and it was cold and rainy.  (Indeed, it never really stopped raining all evening.)

Well, I’ll tell you.  For one thing, Eldest Gel was home visiting from school and really wanted to go.  For another (related) thing, it’s rare that all of us do anything together as a group now that the gels are growing up.  For a third, I hadn’t been to an actual game all year.  And fourth? Look again at the pic.  We had bought seats in the upper deck, but the Gods of the Ticket Office decided to smile upon us and upgraded us to about 20 rows behind 1st Base.

I couldn’t pass that up.

Last evening, in turn, the Middle Gel and I went down the Kennedy Center to catch their production of Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro.

Curiously enough, while I have heard the piece many, many times, owning 2 CD versions and a pretty good DVD recording of it as well, I’d never seen it performed live before.  Go figure.  Anyhoo, we had a thoroughly delightful time.  It was well staged, most of the singers did very well and were obviously having fun, and the orchestra was good, too.

However, get a load of where we wound up sitting.

Photo credit: Middle Gel

Photo credit: Middle Gel

Yep, the Bob Uecker Front Row.  We’re talking real nose-bleeders here.  Indeed, we weren’t even sitting in one of the affixed rows, but in a couple chairs brought in at the very back.  (Thus the wages of putting off to the last minute trying to get tickets to a very popular production.  On the other hand, I was able to slip off my loafers without anyone noticing.)

All I can say is that even though we eventually started to succumb to altitude sickness, we could hear and see well enough.  I also found myself musing that this was just about the position we would have been in the night before if our ballpark seats hadn’t been changed.

Anyhoo, ol’ Robbo didn’t make it to bed until past one ack emma on either night, so I am in something pretty close to zombie mode now.  Which is another reason why I don’t much care for the night life.

In these cases, tho’, I think it was worth it.

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’Robbo spent the bulk of today traveling to and from the wilds of southwestern Pennsylvania, there retrieving the Middle Gel from camp. (She and the Youngest did their usual term earlier in the summah, but she had gone back for a second term to work on the kitchen crew.)

As I tooled along I-70, something occurred to me: Back in the day, the standard was “slower traffic keep right” and the general rule was “lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way”. Oh, sure, there were those who ignored this, but at least it was the expectation.

Not so much, anymore. People seem to float all over the lot, driving at any damned speed and oblivious of all around them.

What happened? Were these old-fashioned, common sense measures suddenly deemed “speedist”? The outworn privilege of an acceleration-centric patriarchy? Is it now a thought crime not to respect whatever speed the other driver now identifies with? Am I just a hater?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I mentioned immediately below, Mrs. R spent the day yesterday running the younger gels up to their summah camp, carpooling with a friend of ours and her son.  It was only upon her return to Port Swiller Manor rayther late in the evening that I learned the party had got somewhat lost on the way there.

“How on earth did that happen?” I asked.

“Well,” said Mrs. R, “the GPS steered us to the wrong highway and then it took a while for us to realize it and get back going in the right direction.”

Eh, whaaaa…..?” I said.  “Never mind the fact that the camp directions specifically say not to rely on GPS to get there.  We’ve been running the gels up to that camp and back for something better than eight years now.  Do you mean to tell me that you still don’t know the way?”

“Well,” she said, “You know I’m not very good with directions.”

But, but….,” I said, “amongst the five of you in the car, you must have made that trip fifty times in the aggregate.  Are you telling me nobody knew how to get there?”

“Well, no,” she answered.

At this there was much eye-rolling and hair-pulling by your host.  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  Ol’ Robbo is a complete shark for geography, directions and what might be summed up as general self-orientation/awareness and it absolutely flabbergasts me that the people around me can be so…. cavalier about such things and also so increasingly dependent on technology to tell them where to go.  Regular friends of the decanter will know that I speak the truth when I say that I have been on about this for years and years.  As sure as Shire-talk, this is part of Skynet’s plan: condition people to become utterly dependent on their GPS systems and then, on Judgement Day, steer them straight into pre-arranged ambushes.

Do not tell me I didn’t warn you.

Grrrrrr…..

I also mentioned in the post below that teh Eldest Gel and a friend took a jaunt down to King’s Dominion yesterday.  Apparently head-swollen by her successful completion of this trip, she announced today that she wished to drive down by herself to Virginia Beach this coming weekend in order to meet up with her godmother and attend some sort of Sweet Briar College celebratory do.

Mrs. R hemmed and hawed about it, but when I learned of said Eldest’s plan, my one-word response was NYET!

Honest to God: A 17 year old novice driver trying to negotiate the worst beach traffic in the Mid-Atlanatic alone? I. Don’t. Think. So.  Hell, I hate making that run and do everything I can to avoid it.

Teh Eldest and I spoke about the biznay this evening.

“Daughter,” I said, “You know I’m sorry, but I can’t let you do this.  Period.”

“You mean you won’t let me do this, not that you can’t, DAD.  You’re the lawyer, DAD.  Be clear about your word choice, DAD.”

“Can’t, won’t.  Whatever floats your boat. Bottom line is that it isn’t happening.”

Hmmph!” she said, stalking off to her room, “You’re awful, DAD.”

“Yes,” I replied, “I’m a mean old man.”**

And there it ended.

As for battle honors, I knew based on her relatively token protest and her resorting to semantics that she knew I was right about this one.   But really, it was a no-brainer.

**Spot the quote.

UPDATE: Sheesh, you guys!  It’s Mal Reynolds from the pilot episode of “Firefly“:

Kaylee: [sounding weak, but cheery] Oh, don’t you worry none. Doc fixed me up… pretty. He’s nice.
Mal: Don’t go working too hard on that crush, mei-mei. Doc won’t be with us for long.
Kaylee: [big smile] You’re nice, too.
Mal: [smiles] No, I’m not. I’m a mean old man.

Now I know there are Browncoats among the friends of the decanter, because I’ve talked here before about the fact that Joss Whedon was a classmate of mine in college and how amazed I am that such a typical Hippy Progressive Fascist could have turned out such a Libertarian teevee show.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Nats HatWell, on further reflection ol’ Robbo doesn’t have much to say about his beloved Nats’ elimination in teh first round of the playoffs.   He could point out that each of our three losses to the Giants was by a single run and that two of them arguably were the direct result of rookie manager pitching decision mistakes (the first one questionable, the second one insane).  He also could point out that the Nats had the best National League record during the regular season, and could argue that a team’s results over 162 games are far more demonstrative of its quality than said team’s results over any four games.   But nobody would listen.   All anybody cares about post-season (and, arguably, for any given season) is who advances and who goes home.   At this point?  I really don’t even care anymore, but am thinking ahead to what is likely to happen over the off-season and into next spring.  (My prediction?  Not much.  LaRoche is likely done at 1st so that we can bring Ryan Zimmerman back into the starting lineup, Soriano is gone, but most of the rest of the team stays, I think, pretty much as it is.  Oh, and I’m calling it Right Now:  We win next year.)

Regular friends of the decanter will tolerate ol’ Robbo going through the math here because they understand that this is only the second post-season venture in his nearly 50 years in which he’s had a genuine vested interest.  (I grew up in a non-baseball town and could never consider myself more than an interested sympathizer for any team until the Nats came to Dee Cee in ’05.  How lucky are the Gels, by the bye, that they get to experience all of this in their yoot.)   I must say that I find the experience…….bittersweet.

Anyhoo, it’s over and done and I now can turn my attention to other things, such as the fact that the Great Post-Flood Port Swiller Manor Basement Renovation of 2014 is almost complete! (A mere two months after the original disaster, but who’s counting?) Flooring (Pergo or its equivalent) went in yesterday, baseboards were tacked on today and now pretty much all that’s left is the bathroom fixtures and some wiring.   In fact, the Former Llama Military Correspondent and his lovely family are coming in this weekend for an overnight stay and I had been fretting the past week or so about where on earth we were going to put them all.  Thanks to this week’s work, the basement is now at least habitable.  This gives ol’ Robbo a happy.

If you’d like me to post pics of the finished product, let me know.   (I’ve never been able to decide whether that sort of thing is looked on favorably by readers or is considered showing away.)

Final observation:  Last evening I watched Enemy at the Gates, the 2001 dramatization of the duel between a Russian and a German sniper (based  somewhat, I believe, on “actual events”) during the Battle of Stalingrad, that I almost automatically think of as Saving Private Ivan.  I’ve seen this movie maybe three or four times and still cannot quite put my finger on what makes it an okay flick but not really a good one (even though it features the lovely and talented Rachel Weisz, which fact alone ought to carry it).

hoskins krushchevOne positive thing I forget each time and am delighted to rediscover is Bob Hoskins as Khrushchev.  I love how he continually refers to Stalin as “duh Boss”.  This is exactly right.  Uncle Joe was as much as or even more of a thug than was Hitler.  Appallingly, the typical Modern, to the extent they have even heard of WWII, thinks the Soviets and the Nazis were diametric opposites.  The truth, of course, is the reverse.  Fascism and Communism (and, I may add, Progressivism and, for that matter, the Mafia) are close cousins, all of which argue for the sacrifice of individual freedoms to the alter of collective, centralized authority and for the elimination of said individuals who either can’t or won’t comport with the Plan.

 

10420This reminds me that I’ve never read Solzhenitsyn but have been meaning to the past few years.  Any friends of the decanter have any suggestions on the best place to start?  Ol’ Robbo would appreciate such tips greatly.  From what I gather, it’s not so much of a stretch to call the man a Saint.   And yet, after all he’d been through under the Soviet regime and all the effort he had put forth to speak (if I may) Truth to Power, he is these days a hissing and a byword among those who claim to champion liberalism.   (This is just one of the million and one reasons, or perhaps more accurately one of the million and one pieces of evidence of the general reason, why ol’ Robbo detests Leftists.)

 

 

 

charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, teh youngest gel’s softball team survived a scary-close, extra-innings semi-final game this evening to advance to the City Series Championship game on Wednesday.

(And as an aside, as I walked in from the parking lot, I spotted Adam LaRoche and his family.  He has a couple of kids in our league.  Rather than accosting him, I simply made eye-contact, smiled and went on about my biznay.)

Anyhoo, the team finished their regular season at 10-2, one game back of the division winners (who were eliminated this evening on an adjacent field).   The gel has made something of a name for herself as a solid glove at 1st, although her chief delight is playing 3rd and gunning down runners.  (The other day, with bases loaded, she fielded a grounder hit to her there.  Everyone in the park thought she was going to step on the bag for the easy out, but she instead fired the ball to the catcher for the force at home.  The run she saved proved important.)

As for ol’ Robbo, I’ve been acting this season as a sort of deputy assistant coach, helping out with practices, pre-game BP and warm-ups as I’m available, and sometimes coaching 1st.  It’s a level of service with which I’m quite happy, as it allows me to be involved without saddling me with responsibilities I probably could not handle, given everything else going on.

Our record this season against the team we’re facing for the championship is 1-1, so I’ve an idea this is going to be an exciting game.  Wish us luck!

UPDATE:  Greetings again, my fellow port swillers!  I’m happy to report that not only did our team win this evening, the gel proved to be one of the heroes of the game.  Oh, you’d like details? Super, thanks for asking!  Well, it was the bottom of the 3rd and we were up 6-4 with bases loaded.  (The other team had scored all four of its runs in the top of the 3rd and looked like they were getting their mojo.)  The gel came up to the plate and hit a screaming daisy-cutter right over the bag at third.  All the base-runners came home and she boogied into second for a stand-up double, scoring herself a few minutes later.  This effectively took the mickey out of the other team and we eventually finished them off 11-4.   Ol’ Robbo is mighty proud tonight.

 

charlie-brownGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

(Who? Go here.)

Teh youngest gel’s softball practices are on Tuesdays this spring.  Ol’ Robbo serves as a kind of utility back-up coach this season, not having any official position but making himself useful where needed, both during practices and in games.

Anyhoo, this past Tuesday evening, we had as usual an intra-squad scrimmage.   Because only nine or ten gels showed up for practice, this necessitated some coaches playing in the outfield.  (At teh gel’s AAA level, the teaching emphasis is on infield execution, as the majority of hits among the 9-11 y.o. crowd tend not to travel far into the outfield.)

Playing center field, ol’ Robbo found himself squaring up against teh gel.   She has really blossomed this spring on many different fronts,  and in recent weeks has started to bear down much harder on her softball skills, which heretofore have been held hostage to what one might call the “Look – Squirrel!” frame of mind.

So, on a coach-pitched lob, teh gel smacked a long, hard shot into the left-center gap.

Ol’ Robbo is almost 50.  He’s very much out of shape and is considerably out of practice when it comes to softball.  Plus, he was still dressed in his work clothes.  Nonetheless, because the ball hung up just enough, I managed to get a good jump and executed a nifty back-handed spear at full stretch as it came down.

Lord God forgive me, but I couldn’t help juuuuuust a little bit of taunting after I robbed teh gel of her hit.

I’m paying for it now with a set of lower back pains, but it was worth it. Right?

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