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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.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

vixensIn case you haven’t been keeping up with the on-going struggle to save Sweet Briar College,  I must say that I am finding recent developments to be quite impressive.  The Resistance, having lawyered up, has established its own Board and filed for 501(c)(3) status.  Rumor says that even though we’ve already hit $2.6 million in pledges, a considerably larger sum of alumnae money out there is just waiting for the grant of non-profit status before it starts rolling in.  Assuming the group hasn’t somehow wound up on the President’s IRS enemies list, I hope this will happen fairly soon.  Meanwhile, current professors are starting to speak out, pols are starting to ask questions and enthusiastic alumnae foot-soldiers continue to make waves in the press.

Well done, Vixens! Holla! Holla! Holla!

hampden-sydney-college_200x200Meanwhile, in another development the gentlemen of Hamster-Squidney Hampden-Sydney College, realizing that the loss of SBC would negatively impact them, are also rallying to the flag.   (Somebody today said that the two schools ought to merge, keeping their separate identities under one management structure.  Conceptually, I think this is an intriguing idea.)

Even though I’m an alum of Dubyanell, HSC’s traditional rival, I can’t rag too much on the Squidneys here because I was only a law student there and really not much mixed up in undergrad squabbles.  However, I can relate an amusing anecdote:

Mrs. Robbo was born on Lawn-Guyland and grew up in Connect-Ti-Cutt (State motto: “Left Lane Closed Next 30 Miles”).  Prior to coming down to Sweet Briar, she had absolutely no knowledge of Southern sensibilities whatsoever.

Anyhoo, in her early undergrad days before she met ol’ Robbo and was thereby made an honest woman (I keed!), Mrs. R ventured over to HSC a few times with some of her fellow Vixens in order to frolic with teh Squids.  Apparently,  one evening she found herself at a party in some good ol’ boys’ dorm room, one with Confederate battle flags draped all over the place.  As the beer flowed and the night grew older, talk apparently circled ’round to the War (which in those parts is always short for “The War of Northern Aggression”).   Although I wasn’t a witness, I can guess well enough the major themes:  Popular misunderstanding of the real Southern cause, history books written by the damned Yankees, strategic and/or tactical decisions that could have Turned the Tide, etc., etc.….

Anyhoo, the story goes that after these themes had been hashed out for a not inconsiderable time, Mrs. R in all her sheltered, New England innocence, suddenly blurted out, “I don’t understand why you all talk about the war so much.  I mean, you lost.”

Dead. Silence.

Looking back, Mrs. R still wonders how she made it out of that room in one piece.

UPDATE:  The Roanoke Time runs a pretty good editorial pointing out the eerie parallels between the current situation and the attempted closure of Wilson College back in 1979 and suggesting that teh Vixens adopt a battle plan similar to that which eventually saved Wilson.  I’ve heard a good bit of chatter along these lines and don’t doubt that something of the same nature is probably in the works.  What I worry about, however, is whether there’s enough time and up-front money to implement it.

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Welp, it’s official.  As of the conclusion of her last behind-the-wheel lesson yesterday, teh Eldest Gel was granted her provisional driver’s license.**

This morning, ol’ Robbo watched teh gel sail out of the Port Swiller Manor driveway on the way to school – in the dark and the fog – on her first ever solo flight.  Mission accomplished, she later celebrated by taking her friend to the mall and a park, and then driving herself to her tutor and stopping to pick up some dinner on the way home.

Watching her tail lights fade into the gloom, I tried to recall my own first solo.  Truth be told, I can’t.  Searching back, I recall very clearly how the Old Gentleman taught me to drive stick on the mountain trails of a ranch in northwest Bexar County when I was about twelve.  I also recall the deadly boring driver’s ed program I went through in the summah between my sophomore and junior years of high school.  Heck, I even still remember the test I had to go through with the state DMV before I got my license in January, eh, 1982?  But I don’t recall the first time I was behind the wheel all by myself.

Maybe I was so used to the idea already that it didn’t register.  I’m guessing things will be a bit different for teh gel.

One thing that is sinking in with us, albeit slowly:  Now that teh Eldest has wheels, we can, at least in terms of logistics, finally after all these years switch back from zone coverage to man.  Robbo likey.

Dahl Solo* A blatant reference to Roald Dahl’s autobiography of the same name.   You should read it if you haven’t.  Dahl entered the world just in time to witness the last gasps of teh British Empire.  His descriptions of Kiplingeque characters in East Africa are quite informative and amusing.  On the other hand, his tales of encounters with green mamba snakes there have firmly resolved ol’ Robbo never ever to set foot on that continent for any reason whatsoever.   And Dahl wound up as a fighter pilot in the RAF covering the Brit evacuation of Greece in the early days of the War.  Fascinating stuff.

**According to local rules, she doesn’t get her O-Ficially license until she (and we) appear before the local state magistrate in a hearing at which he or she makes it so.  Frankly, I approve of this kind of formality, as I think it hammers into teh kids’ heads the gravity of their new-won responsibilities.  More on this as it unfolds.

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!  A regular pajama day here at Port Swiller Manor, as we’re expecting 5 to 8 inches of global warming over the course of the day in what will most likely be our most significant snowfall of the year.

However, ol’ Robbo is stocked up on wine, coffee and TP and “A Bridge Too Far” showed up in the mailbox just last evening, so it’s all good.

Ironically, the one person in teh family who is not happy about the snow is Teh Eldest Gel.  Normally, she adores school-cancelling weather.  However, at the moment she is within just a couple hours’ road work of receiving her provisional driver’s license and she really, really wants the thing.   This storm will probably keep her off the road at least until Saturday, and maybe even into early next week, and she’s not a-tall happy about it.

HA, ha!

Speaking of Teh Eldest, I continue to be impressed with her handling of the news about Sweet Briar going belly-up.   Heretofore, she has not always rolled with life’s punches very well and I was expecting some serious lashing out.  But, no.  After her initial shock she simply said, “Okay, what’s the next move?”  Also, we had a very good talk last evening about what she needs to do in terms of her present grades, tests, etc., now that she’s lost her legacy card.  I think she has a very good idea of how things stand.

Growing up I think she may be.

As for all that, we’re now turning our attention to smaller schools in Virginny and perhaps North Carolina.   We’ve already scheduled a trip to Roanoke College and are also planning to touch on Randolph Macon and Christopher Newport.   I was only joking when I said she should apply to Hampden-Sydney and then sue them when they refused her.

UPDATE:  Ugh! Checking voicemail just now, I came across one from the Sweet Briar admissions office canceling an overnight stay we had arranged for Teh Gel next month.  The poor woman could barely contain herself.  At least the faculty have a couple month’s warning, but I bet they’re chucking a lot of folks almost immediately.  Now I’m all angry again.

UPDATE DEUX:  Vixens Unite!  Looks like the alumnae are rallying to try and save SBC.  Nearly 400K raised in the first, what, 24 hours.  I was dubious about this when I first heard of it yesterday, but stranger things have happened.

sbc sealGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo’s world was rocked by the thunderbolt announcement this morning that Sweet Briar College is shutting its doors at the end of this academic year.  Done. Finito.  Seniors will graduate, undergrads will have to transfer elsewhere.

Many people first learned the news from a Facebook post.  The immediate, overwhelming reaction was that somebody must have hacked SBC’s account and be playing a cruel hoax, but apparently not.  According to the official release, the Board of Directors decided the school, despite holding a $94 million endowment, was rapidly running out of money.  Rather than trying to extend its life, they voted this past weekend just to put a bullet in their collective brainpan.

This is especially astonishing given that the school finished a massive renovation of its library literally within the past month.  And it was only a couple years ago that the athletic center was revamped and expanded.  So far as I know, there has been not a single note, not one, of such dire financial danger in anything made available to parents, students or alums up until this morning.  Nada. Zip.

One rumor I heard this evening was that there was some bad mismanagement of the school’s investment portfolio a few years back which has finally come to bite them in the behind.  But some commenters at this Forbes article smell a rat.  We shall see.

This is doubly sad for us.  As many friends of the decanter probably recall, Mrs. Robbo is a Sweet Briar alum.  (Indeed, we were married in the chapel there.)  So is Robbo’s sistah, as are several Port Swiller family godmothers.   And one of my oldest friends is on the faculty.  It’s bad enough for them. [UPDATE – I should mention that I also know a number of people, real and pixilated, who have daughters there.  My condolences to all of you.]

Worse, the Eldest Gel had been planning to apply early decision this fall and had really set her heart on following in her mother’s footsteps.  I haven’t spoken to her since the nooz came out.  She’s out with Mrs. Robbo right now, who is no doubt breaking it to her as gently as some P.F. Chang’s can make it.  [UPDATE DEUX: She took the news remarkably calmly.  Teenagers.  Go figure.]

Sigh.  Guess we’re looking at Hollins now.  At least while it’s still there.  [UPDATE TROIS:  She’s not interested. Looks like we’ll be doing the Spring Break college road show after all.]

UPDATE QUART:  There were conference calls Tuesday evening with the president of the board for alums and parents.  I understand they went very badly, as the fellah couldn’t understand why people are so angry and got very defensive.  Jerk.  Also, there is a rumor swirling around that the actual purpose of all the recent construction was not to make the school more competitive, but to make it a more attractive buy.  If so, this is bad.  Very bad.  Further, I’ve heard at least two people suggest that Liberty University, Jerry Falwell’s joint, might pick it up.   Falwell once famously referred to Sweet Briar girls as those “Harlots on the Hill”, so irony if this is true.

 

*Spot the reference

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