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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Regular friends of the decanter will recall that I posted earlier this week about going up to Harrisburg, PA to check out a used Honda CR-V with an eye to giving teh Eldest Gel her first set of wheels?   Well since then things have proceeded with rayther alarming speed, the upshot being that said car was delivered to the Port Swiller Manor driveway this morning.

I’ve never bought a car this way before – first online, then via email and phone, and a signing at our kitchen table that took maybe twenty minutes, tops.  Never set foot on the lot.  Never met the sales rep in person.   Very strange but pleasant experience because I’ve always loathed the old method of car-buying.

I mentioned this to the gel and her only response was, “Welcome to the 21st Century….Daaad!!”

Whipper-snapper.

Anyhoo, you can imagine how excited she is.  You can also imagine how much leverage ol’ Robbo is going to get out of this.  “Want those keys to stay in your hands?  Then don’t cross me.”  Indeed, she’s even readily agreed to get a job in order to pay for gas and to chip in on the insurance.

major_gowan_rat_basilGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

As is her habit from time to time, teh Eldest Gel approached me this evening with a piece of trivia she had picked up somewhere, namely, that there’s  a new theory floating about that Asian gerbils were responsible for the bubonic plague that ravaged Medieval Europe, not rats.

This was intriguing enough to ol’ Robbo’s scattershot brain that I had to look it up.  Turns out she’s right:

“What we are suggesting is that it was gerbils in Central Asia and the bacterium in gerbils that eventually came to Europe,” Stenseth says. The scientists used climate records to check their theory, and they found a tentative link. When the climate in Asia was good, gerbils are thought to have thrived; but when it went bad, the population crashed. And about 15 years after each boom and bust, a plague outbreak erupted in Europe. The theory is that fleas carrying plague jumped from dead gerbils to pack animals and human traders, who then brought it to European cities. The research team’s results appear in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, rats are still disgusting creatures.  (The jury is still out on Siberian hamsters.)

This reminds me of something:  The Left attaches all sorts of moral opprobrium to the introduction of small-pox and other diseases by Europeans to the Americas, where said diseases devastated indigenous populations who had no immunity to them.  The tone, if not the explicit argument, is that the Europeans did it on purpose as part of their eeeeevil genocidal strategy.  Have you ever, ever, heard a single similar argument made with respect to the introduction of the plague to European populations from the East and the Middle East?

No, neither have I.

But then again, consistency is hardz.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Wednesday!

Just a little something for the Middle Gel.  It’s become something of a (bad) joke between us:

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!  As noted below, ol’ Robbo is back from his latest travels.  A few random thoughts, firstly travel-related:

♦   Going through airport security, I was submitted both times to the full TSA Grope Special.  In each instance, they claimed that they needed to check out something on the front of my pants picked up by the body scan.   Hey, Einsteins!  It’s called a “fly” and it’s made of metal!  (Either that or the rosary I always carry in my pocket is radioactive and left some kind of signature after I pulled it out.)  Baysterds didn’t even give me flowers or buy me breakfast afterwards.

♦   Perhaps in my bemusement over getting an unexpected hand in my crotch, or perhaps because I hadn’t yet had any coffee, on my way out Wednesday morning I managed to lose my driver’s license going through security at Reagan National.  Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this loss until I got to the car rental counter at my final destination.   Not being able to get a car proved to be a nuisance, but at least one that I was able to work round via taxis and bumming rides from people.

♦   The good news is that the airport folks not only found my license, they also called about it and then mailed it to me with a very polite cover letter.  I got it back this evening.

♦  By the bye, Ol’ Robbo has resolved that he is never again going to fly on Ash Wednesday with the expectation that he will get to Mass at the other end.  Even when I plan it all out in advance, I’m so frazzled by the time I arrive that I just can’t make myself do it, especially, as noted above, when I don’t have wheels of my own.

♦  Oddly enough, in all my years this was the first time I’ve ever flown Southwest.  I must say that their open-seat boarding policy confused me mightily at first.  On further consideration, it still doesn’t make that much sense to me:  All the early boarders naturally are going to take up the aisle and window seats.  When the tail of the line (the despised “Group C”) comes on board, there’s still going to be a lot of confusion and aisle-crowding as they seek to insert themselves into the middle seats.  I don’t see how this is superior to assigned seating with more controlled boarding groups.   (Oh, and I put Southwest’s policy of offering to put you among the “Group A” borders for an extra fee at the same contemptible level as Disney’s policy of letting you pay more to jump to the head of the ride line.)

♦  Oh, and this trip was to Texas, where regular friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo spent the bulk of his misspent yoot.  It’s remarkable how much at ease you can put a Texan of a certain age you’re interviewing by saying, “Oh, sure I remember Cody Carlson from high school!  He was just a year ahead of me!”

And a few non-travel thoughts:

♦  Remember when we were all told that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism” and that we should “Question Authority”?  Me, too.  Good times, good times.  I certainly prefer it to “Shut your whore mouthes, you rubes!”

♦  Per my previous dose of random below,  teh youngest gel got her braces slapped on today.  I have to admit that I can barely suppress my amusement at the way all her “s’s” have transmogrified into “th’s”.   And the Middle Gel, who got hers off last fall, evidently couldn’t suppress her urge to taunt her younger sister over what’s in store for her the next two years.

♦   Meanwhile, it looks as if Mrs. R and I are headed up to Harrisburg, PA this weekend to check out a used Honda CR-V for the Eldest.  It’s two years old, single owner, 30K miles, clean bill of health, moderate whistles and bells, balance of extended warranty and a pretty reasonable price.

♦  Braces and another car, all in the same week.  Siiiigh.  I suppose I could set up as a cocaine wholesaler.  Or perhaps run guns.

♦  Of course, we’re now in Lent.  I plan to do a considerable amount of new reading, and have already started in on a series of sermons by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, recently recommended to me by a member of a Catholic FB group where I like to hang out.   However, while I am delving into the serious stuff, I am also permitting myself to take breaks with lighter reading fare, so long as it has some Christian-based theme or sensibility.  As a practical matter, this means the fiction of Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.  At the moment, I am running through the former’s Father Brown mysteries.

Guinnes Father BrownI have the ability sometimes when reading to hear in my mind specific voices for specific characters.  In the case of Father Brown, I derive infinite satisfaction from imagining his voice (and his appearance and movements) to be that of Sir Alec Guinness.  I’ve never actually seen his portrayal of the padre, but it is evident, almost obvious to me that he was absolutely perfect for the part.  (Without looking it up, I recall reading somewhere that his work on this project was one of the key factors behind Guinness’s swim across the Tiber.)

♦  Finally, my latest Star Trek: TOS comment (which may be the last until after Easter):  The Corbomite Maneuver.   A classic.  First totally space-based episode.  First battle of wits between ship’s commanders.  First gratuitous shirtless Jim Kirk shot.  And to this day my brother and I refer to adult beverages as “tranya”.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is back from his most recent travels safe and sound and has some choice vignettes about them to relay to you friends of the decanter in the near future.  First, however, I must do a bit of gratuitous Proud Papa-ing.*

As regular friends of the decanter know, teh Middle Gel is a chorister at the Washington National Cathedral, now in the middle of her third year and her first as a senior chorister.

Last night saw the debut of the Cathedral Choir at Carnegie Hall in New York.  Today’s NYTimes gives this review.   First, the players:

For these works, Mr. [Julian] Wachner, who is also a composer, assembled some 300 performers: the excellent Choir of Trinity Wall Street; the Trinity Youth Chorus; the Washington Chorus, an award-winning ensemble that Mr. Wachner also directs; the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir; and Novus NY, the Trinity Wall Street’s contemporary music orchestra, its ranks fortified for this demanding concert with extra players.

 The pertinent meat re the choral work goes thusly:

For sheer terror in music, however, not much matches the most intense moments of [Alberto] Ginastera’s passion, which put all the evening’s performers onstage. Like the Bach passions, this one has a solo Evangelist who tells the story, not in recitative, as Bach does, but in Gregorian chant. (Thomas McCargar sang the Evangelist here, along with Geoffrey Silver as Pilate and Judas, and Scott Allen Jarrett as Jesus.)

Those who know Ginastera, who died in 1983 at 67, only from his earlier South American nationalist style work may be stunned to hear this passion, essentially a 12-tone score of gnashing dissonance and multilayered complexity. Yet much of the harmonic language sounds lushly chromatic, in an Expressionist vein. The piece’s most audacious element is its shrieking cinematic realism. Sometimes the choirs speak and sputter the lines; sometimes the music breaks into free-for-all bouts of hysteria.

Mr. Wachner led a viscerally dramatic performance. With this concert he signaled that next year, the centennial of Ginastera, Trinity Wall Street will present an extensive survey of the composer’s works. Adventure and ambition go hand in hand at Trinity Wall Street.

For what it’s worth, teh Middle Gel, who is, after all, ol’ Robbo’s child, despised the piece, which they also performed last week at a gala at the OAS for the strategic benefit of exposure to Big Shots at the Kennedy Center and the Washington Performing Arts Society.  Although I would much rayther see her take the Emma Kirkby route, and have long thought that she was born to sing Susanna, all I could do was to remind her that Show-Biz often demands the performing of personally distasteful works and to point out that there are very, very few 15 year olds (or anyone else for that matter) who can boast that they’ve played Carnegie Hall.

Anyhoo, as noted, ol’ Robbo is one seriously proud papa.

 

* I hope that regular friends of the decanter will know by now that ol’ Robbo does not stick on side and that his enthusiasms for the successes of his progeny are genuinely heart-felt.

UPDATE:  Teh Gel, who reads this blog even before the pixels dry, came in just now to correct me on one point:  Teh Choristers did not perform this Carnegie Hall piece at the OAS last week, but instead served up some Mendelssohn there.   Sounds to me like the OAS johnnies caught themselves a break!

Well, it looks as if Ma Nature finally is going to send some of that sweet, sweet white stuff to Port Swiller Manor.  Current prediction is for 5 to 9 inches overnight.   (UPDATE:  As I look out the window, I see the flakes are starting to come down already.)   Look, if it’s going to be this damned cold anyway, we might as well get something to show for it.

♦   Ol’ Robbo is off on his biznay travels on Wednesday, so in anticipation of things being shut down tomorrow, he tooled into the office (otherwise closed for the hol) mid-day today in order to retrieve some things he’ll need.  We hates driving downtown during the middle of the day.  Most of the people on the road then are a completely different kettle of fish from your morning/evening commuter types, generally of a much poorer quality.  Indeed, as I left the Port Swiller neighborhood and started in, I got caught behind an old duffer in a late-model Caddy doing about 15 mph.  As I returned, damme if I didn’t get stuck behind the same guy coming back the other way.

♦   Speaking of driving, teh Eldest currently is out doing her mandatory road work in anticipation of getting her license next month.  When she learned that she would be in a car with an instructor and two other students, she became extremely trepidatious, worrying that one of what she delicately described as “those idiots” would wind up wrapping her around a tree on the Beltway.  We assured her that the course would start out on the quieter back streets and that the instructor would be unlikely to let anybody do anything they weren’t capable of handling.  (UPDATE:  She just got home, alive and in one piece and very pleased with herself.)

♦  And yes, it looks like Ol’ Robbo soon will be digging into his jeans and ponying up for a set of wheels for the gel.  Anybody have any suggestions?  I’m thinking smaller SUV.

♦    Not related to anything but as I type, one of teh kittehs is slowly tormenting a stink bug to death behind my chair.  Pew.

♦   Oh, and speaking of Robbo digging into his jeans, the orthodontist said this morning that it’s time to get those braces on teh Youngest’s teeth.  Sigh.  On the way home, she started squabbling with the Middle Gel (who got hers off last fall) about what color rubber bands she ought to get.  Double sigh.

Well, I better go deal with that stink bug.  I’ve flicked it on the head several times, but the thing still seems to be alive.

UPDATE:  Four or five inches of very dry, powdery stuff.  A bummer for those hoping to build snowmen but a real boon for the poor shlub who had to get up at dawn this morning and shovel it off the driveway.  [Raises hand, waives.]  Plus, the power didn’t go out.

220px-Viola_tricolor_LC0041Greetings, my fellow port swillers and a good Quinquagesima Sunday to you!  A balmy six degrees above zero with a howling northwest wind were waiting for ol’ Robbo this morning when he went out to clear off the snow dumped by last evening’s squalls on the Port Swiller driveway.  Although the sky was clear and the sun out, these conditions did not encourage me to dawdle at my work.

Ol’ Robbo had another of his bizarro dream specials last evening.  The story shifted around a lot, but at its climax I found that I was Lt. Worf and I had just discovered irrefutable proof that the proprietress of an English seaside hotel had attempted to poison my friends and me by putting arsenic in our tea.

However, as I swept through the door of her office in a towering wrath and prepared to deliver my devastating J’accuse!, I suddenly realized the absurdity of the situation and burst into laughter.  Indeed, I laughed so hard that I woke myself up, and even kept laughing for a few moments after I was awake.

This happens to me every now and again and is without a doubt one of the most delightful sensations I know.  I like to think of it as an echo of the joy one must experience in Heaven.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I don’t know if this counts as an attack of bad luck or not, but it wasn’t until after ol’ Robbo got to his office this morning that he discovered he was supposed to have today off.  D’oh!  However, now that he’s back home at Port Swiller Manor, a few odds and ends for you:

♦   Idly flipping through an alumni magazine, I came across this opening paragraph:  “When I was growing up and a student at [Skool], the word “disruptive” would have had negative connotations.  Disruptive people were troublemakers: they acted in unruly and disorderly ways.  Now its meaning in business and technology has taken a 360-degree turn.  Being disruptive signifies creating innovations that improve the existing order, typically in unexpected ways.”

Sigh.

Growing up in Texas, I heard a lot of Aggie jokes.  One of my favorites (well, among those suitable to a family-friendly blog) was about the two Aggies who get caught in a violent thunderstorm while flying a small plane to College Station.  As the plane gets tossed about, one of the Aggies turns to the other and yells, “Let’s do a 360 and get the hell out of here!”

♦  Michael Strain has a note on Dee Cee bike lanes and the law of unintended consequences.  All that he says is very true, but I still prefer having the damned cyclists off to one side instead of clogging up the travel lanes, which they do constantly and, IMHO, deliberately.  Arrogant wankers, the lot of ‘em.

♦   It would seem that I’m a real man.  Good to know. Which reminds me:  When I went in for my physical last week and was chatting with my doc, I mentioned that all the gels are teenagers now.  She immediately said, “Wow, do you need a man cave!”  So the next time Mrs. Robbo gives me any grief about hiding out here, I’ve got my “Doctor’s orders” defense nicely teed up.

♦  Because it’s gotten to be a thing here, two more Star Trek:TOS episodes -

Miri” – An adult-killing plague caused by scientists trying to prevent aging.  First use of the Alt-Earth scheme, although the crew seems surprisingly unsurprised to find an exact duplicate of early 60’s Earth at the other end of the Galaxy.  Also the first use of the gang of feral kids and their special words (“grups and onlies”) theme.  And I believe the first instance of Bones saying something snide about Spock’s green blood. The title character was played by Kim Darby, who was also Mattie Ross in the John Wayne version of “True Grit” where she was, unfortunately, rayther a weak link with her gosh-darn perkiness.  (Hailee Stenfield, OTOH, gets Mattie absolutely bang right in the remake, a movie I would love if the Coen brothers hadn’t felt compelled to muck about with the plot.)

hillDagger of the Mind” – Supposedly enlightened warden of a penal colony turns out to be a maniac playing God with his prisoners’ minds.  James Gregory, the warden, will always be Inspector Luger to me, no matter what movie or show he’s in.  And Marianna Hill, as a member of the Enterprise’s medical staff, is quite the cupcake.  (Which see.)

I’m finding these shows to be pretty well-written, each setting up a discrete dilemma and then deftly solving it, although the assumptions and values displayed therein seem almost archaic 50 years on and are proving to be a stark and sobering reminder of how far we’ve slid into the pit as a culture.

♦  Oh, speaking of which, I suppose tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Feh.

♦   Finally, I’m having entirely too much fun being enigmatic about whether or not eldest gel gets a car for her upcoming 17th birthday.  MWAAAA-HAHAHA!!!!! 

Whelp, that’s it for the moment.  Here’s hoping it’s going to be warmer this weekend wherever you are than it will be here!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, I see the innertoobs have gone wall to wall with the story of NBC Anchor Brian Williams being called out for fibbing about coming under fire in Iraq (and apparently about some other claims as well).

I suppose that if I were a member of the military I would feel some ire over this biznay, as I understand falsely claiming this sort of thing is hugely frowned upon in the Service (and justly so).

Otherwise? Meh.  The guy’s a member of the Boomer Establishment.  Do you really, truly, expect integrity?

If so,  you haven’t been paying attention.

Indeed, I suppose the only thing that angers me is that the rest of said Establishment is shocked, shocked, that one of its members is a liar.

Whelp, ol’ Robbo is off for his annual physical.  Anybody care to lay odds on whether, now that he’s 50, the dreaded “C-word” is going to come up for discussion?

* A glass of wine with Ace, who was the first I saw to coin the expression.

UPDATE:  Back from the doc.  Yes, indeed, ol’ Robbo officially has been requested and required to take one up the tailpipe.  Almost the first thing out of the doc’s mouth when I got there.  (She then spent a lot of time bitching about how the practice of internal medicine is going to hell in a hand basket, sounding remarkably like my brother who is also in the trade.  Talk about morale problems.)  All I can say is, given that this will be my first time, I hope somebody at least buys me breakfast or sends me flowers afterwards.

Oh, and another point about the Chopper Whopper is that it’s simply a matter of Williams being caught trying to macho himself up, and is therefore really nothing more than a squirrel.  Meanwhile,  the NPR nooz blurb on the radio was gushing over all the new jobs “created” last month and claiming that the economy is getting stronger all the time.  You want a big lie?  That’s a big lie.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Let me start this post by assuring you again that ol’ Robbo is not a geek!

Having said that, on a whim a few weeks back I tossed Star Trek: TOS into the ol’ Netflix queue.  The first of them showed up in the Port Swiller mailbox this afternoon.

Ol’ Robbo’s first encounter with ST:TOS was in elementary school in the mid 70’s, where he watched it in reruns on weekday afternoons in the school cafeteria while waiting of the bus to show up.  Suffice to say, he was enamored of the whole space-exploration genre in general and of the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise in particular.  Hey, you can’t blame a kid for dreaming of the stars.

I watched the series again in high school, when it ran on a late night weekend scify program on one of our local broadcast stations, (obviously, I didn’t date much back then.) and enjoyed it again, with much the same reaction.

Anyhoo, this is the first time I’m going through the series as anything approaching an adult.  And the new perspective, well, interests me.

I watched the first two episodes of Season One this evening, “The Man Trap” and “Charlie X”.

As to “The Man Trap”:  I had not before realized that this was the very first episode.  Back in the day, the salt monster scared the willies out of me.  Now? Well, I rayther see her way of thinking.  If I had suction claws, I’d be all over the local supply, too.  Indeed, I like the cut of her jib and would subscribe to her newsletter.

As to “Charlie X”:  Jesus. Mary. Joseph.  My own dealings with  a dumbass, headstrong 17 y.o. (but I repeat myself) have been bad enough.  Were she equipped with cosmic powers?  Yeek!   As Count Floyd would say, “Really scary, huh kids?”

So there’s that.  More observations as the series progresses.

Oh, I should mention also that the Netflix DVD’s are of the cleaned-up series, not the original broadcast.  Frankly, I think this is cheating.  Not quite akin to the whole Han Shot First thing, but of the same nature.

 

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