I may perhaps mention here that today is the 22nd anniversary of the day Mrs. R and I were first manacled together.  I’ve been quietly chuckling over this clip all day long:

I keed, of course.

In fact, I brought home flowers and Mrs. R and I quietly shared a bottle of wine.  That’s pretty damned good for a steamy Friday night in late June, especially just as school is breaking out and Mrs. R is finishing up running a short summah camp at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method.

Curiously, teh Eldest was indignant that we didn’t do any more that this.

“Geesh, Dad, you’re really romantic, aren’t you? Not!”

“Well, I used to be.”

“Yeah, right!”

“Serious.  Where do you suppose you came from?”

“Yeah, right!” [Door slams.]




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was going to stay completely off the topic of this week’s brutal mass-murder down in Charleston because the story line seemed so inevitable: psycho-monster slaughters innocents; vultures swoop in on still the warm corpses to push their various politickal agendas (race, guns, self-aggrandizement, etc.); street thugs take advantage of the situation to go wild; civilisation crumbles just a bit further.

I’ve seen this movie before.

However, what I didn’t expect was the complete awesomeness of teh victims’ families:

Relatives of the nine people shot down during a Bible study session inside their historic black church confronted the 21-year-old suspect Friday during his initial hearing. They described their pain and anger, but also spoke of love.

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson, whose relative Myra Thompson was killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

My friends, this is Christianity in action.  First, the obvious nod to the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Second, though, note the plea that the killer repent.  Repentance isn’t just an empty “Yeah, man, I’m sorry.”  It also requires suitable penance.  In this case, indeed, it may very well require submission to the full weight and penalty of the Law, i.e., a trip to teh Chair or whatever it is they use down in South Carolina these days.   But if Stormdoor (or whatever his name is) actually does this sincerely, the relatives recognize that his soul can still be saved.  These people are thinking the long game, not just our brief appearance here on Earth.

That, as I say, is a true understanding of Christian salvation.  And I tell you truly that I’m not sure, given the same set of circumstances, that I could myself measure up to these brave folks.

God bless ’em.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo finds himself a bit staggered at how quickly the academic year (which is the basic yardstick ’round these parts) has come to a close this time around.

Teh Eldest, as of the end of the week, is a rising high school senior.  She’s celebrating the end of 11th grade by driving down to King’s Dominion for the day with a friend this Friday.  Although I cringe at the prospect, I also recognize that this is part of the whole flying-the-nest thing.

Teh Middle, already, is a rising high school sophomore and is set to get her learner’s permit in a couple months.

Teh Youngest is headed for eighth grade.  I still remember changing her diapers.  Now she’s a long, tall filly.  What happened here?

Yes, of course, it’s basic math.  I’m 50, so each passing year is now 1/50th of my experience.  When I was 40, each was 1/40th.  When 30, each was 1/30th. And so on.

Still, in operation, it’s a bit overwhelming.

UPDATE:  Eldest came to me this (Thursday) evening in tears.  It seems that her friend had some kind of dust-up with said friend’s parent, the result being that friend’s trip to K-D was kyboshed.  I expressed heartfelt condolences to teh gel for her disappointment that the big trip had been broken up but, at the same time, danced a little jig of delight:  I’d never been wholly happy about the thing and now I get to slide out of it looking like one of the good guys.  Win, win.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

One of ol’ Robbo’s most fundamental virtues (or defects, depending upon your view) is his dyed-in-the-wool conservatism.  By this I don’t necessarily mean anything politickal.   Rayther, I mean to say that I love the tried and true, the time-honoured, the routine, the predictable.  In this way, I suppose I am very hobbit-like.  What was it Prof. Tolkien said of Bagginses? That one knew the answer they would give to a given question without bothering to ask it?

Anyhoo, I mention this because I have been wrestling again recently with this virtue/flaw in the context of my personal reading list.

You see, ol’ Robbo has a rayther substantial shelf of books which he loves to read over and over again.  Were time not a factor, nor some of the authors on the list less, ah,  worthy,¹ this would not be a problem.  However, every time I start in yet again on a favorite author/book/series, a voice in the back of my head starts to nag that I really ought to be trying other undiscovered countries.  Memento mori and all that.

I believe that said nag has a legitimate point.  On the other hand, I can’t help admitting that I also get new insights every time I reread even the oldest of my stable.²  (That’s the definition of a classic after all, isn’t it?)

What to do?

Is there a magic formula? One new book out of every three read, for example?  Is there a temporal solution?  Nothing but new books for a month or six weeks?  I simply don’t know.

All this becomes acute because my membership in an FB Aubrey/Maturin appreciation group is tempting me to set sail again for yet another cruise through the canon, while my first viewing of the rayther lame “The Charge of the Light Brigade” last evening strongly tempts me to plunge yet again into the Flashman papers.

That’s thirty-three books between the two series, each of which I’ve read at least a dozen times.   By my math, that’s 396 books.  As I say, I gain more and more each time I reread them, but at the same time, that’s nearly 400 other books I also could digest.

As I say, what to do?

¹ These include Tom Clancy, Bernard Cornwell and Jeff Shaara, all of whom I consider to be creators of entertaining trash.

² The sole exception here is the Harvard Lampoon’s “Bored of the Ring“.  It’s still tear-inducing funny, tho’.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, the area around Port Swiller Manor has been under the dreaded “orange” air-quality alert the last few days – highs in the 90’s, heavy humidity, Lady Summah giving of her early best (or worst, depending on how you look at it).

♦   Yesterday afternoon, caught up in the ebullience of having got my hair cut and my oil changed (finally), I decided to get a hop on the weekend’s chores by going out and mowing the yard.  Yeah, maybe not such a good idea.  By the time I was done, my muscles were cramping up and I was feeling woozy.  When I woke up this morning, I at first had the odd idea that there was a small bale of hay stuck in my throat.  Evidently, I am not 30 anymore.

♦   We put up a couple of fuchsias in hanging baskets on the porch this year, just by way of variety.  For those of you who have not dealt with them before, I’m here to tell you that they take a whoooole lot of watering.  I’m not so sure I’d bother with them again.

♦    Saw a hummingbird zipping about last evening, so this afternoon I put up a feeder to see if I could get the little blighter to stick around.  Mucking about for something by which to hang it, I came across some chain from an old flower basket that must have been sitting in the back of its cabinet for a good ten years or so.  This reaffirms one of ol’ Robbo’s rules:  Never, ever throw anything away unless you absolutely have to.

♦  We have a lot of goldfinch around here and I have always set out a second feeder full of Wagner’s nyjer seed for them.  At peak times, it’s not at all uncommon to see ten or a dozen goldfinch flitting about the feeder.  However, a few weeks ago I had to substitute a generic thistle seed.  The result was that the birds promptly vanished.  After letting the substitute thistle sit around for a while, I recently went back to the Wagner’s.  The birds were back in within a day or two.  I guess they really like the stuff.

♦  And last, I finally got around to reseeding a bare patch of about 450 square feet in the back yard.  I dutifully spread potting soil, seed and fertilizer and covered it all up with straw (which, by the way, you can actually order from the devil’s website).  Of course, within 48 hours we had a torrential downpour, which carved large channels through the newly-seeded patch (which sits on a gentle slope).  The new grass is actually beginning to spring up (I seeded it a week ago), but the area is taking on the look of an archipelago.  I suppose the only thing to do is to let the surviving patches establish themselves, while having another go at the bare spots as they are defined.  Or just go with sod and be done with it.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ace picked up on a story this afternoon about some hipster-doofus preening over his company establishing a “penalty” jar for anyone using the expression “you guys” in the workplace.  Because sexist, non-inclusive micro-aggresion.  Or something.  G’wan over and read it.

For the record:

As most friends of the decanter know, ol’ Robbo is the sole male entity at Port Swiller Manor, his wife, his children, his cats and his dog all being members of what used to be called the Fairer Sex.  I address the various combinations of them as “you guys” all the time.  They, at least the ones who speak English, do the same.  To date, none of them have burst into flames, turned into pillars of salt or otherwise been reduced to quivering jellies of oppressed helplessness by my thoughtless, patriarchal labels.  I get tagged for all kinds of Bad Dad infractions these days, but this ain’t one of them.

And for bonus points?  One of my very best friends (besides Mrs. Robbo, of course) is a woman.  We’ve known each other a quarter century.  We call each other “dude” in homage to our mutual liking of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”.  Again, no psychological scarring that I’m aware of.

So I’m going to file this one under “passive-aggressive bullying”.

What I wonder is this:  In part because of my job and in part just because, Ol’ Robbo is pretty up on teh Innertoobs and all the newz and memes and whatnot that get flashed across them, so I’ve got what amounts to bench seats in the current social wars.   Of course I’m going to see things like this.  But how much farther out does it travel?  How far into what one might call, resorting to classical thinking, the res publica does this kind of virus spread?

My hope, when I find myself feeling overwhelmed from time to time by the SJW assault on Civilisation, is that the majority of people simply ignore such things, either intentionally or else simply because they’re too busy focusing on other matters.

Yes, that’s my hope and I’m sticking to it.

Oh, hang on….I just got a message that there’s a “Mr. Odoacer” at the door who wants to have a word.  Be right back.  I’m sure he’s just distributing pamphlets or looking for petition signatures.

In the meantime, speaking of Bill and Ted and “Dude!”, one of my favorite bits from the movie:




royal-navy-flag_10928Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo apologizes for the lack of posting this past week – this and that have imposed themselves upon his limited free time.

However, since the Nats dropped a winnable game to the Yanks rayther early this evening, I at least have a few minutes to get in a little gratuitous Aubrey/Maturin posting now.  (For those of you who know what this means, read on.  For those of you who don’t, pray follow the link, read up on things, and then visit the devil’s website to order up your copy of Master and Commander, the first book of the series.  You won’t regret it.)

Firsto, I should mention that I have been a member of an Aubrey-Maturin Appreciation Society over on teh FaceBooks for some time now, much to my edification and satisfaction.  A few months back, one of my fellow members (who happens to be a professional historickal artist) began offering our crew a bumper sticker.  I have not received permission to post a screen-shot of it, but I can describe it:  Against a background of the Royal Navy flag, it says in bold “AUBREY/MATURIN ’16” with an underlying text of “There’s not a moment to lose, for all love…”  I slapped said sticker on the back of La Wrangler a couple days ago, and the puzzled expressions that I’ve seen in my rear-view mirror since then have been priceless.

Secundo, I should mention that in the summah I generally drive with all the back panels off said (soft top) Wrangler, since she has no A/C.

Anyhoo, yesterday, as I left teh office, a violent thunderstorm was bearing down on my particular corner of Your Nation’s Capital.  In order to get from my garage to teh  route out of town toward Port Swiller Manor, I first have to travel about half a block east before swinging about to pick up the primary westward artery.  I did this just as the main blast of teh storm hit, which meant that for a couple moments solid packets of rain were being blown straight in through the backside of La Wrangler, dousing the dashboard, the inside of the windshield, and the back of my head and arms.

My only response? A shrug and a muttered, “Yes, a right dirty commute, mate.”

Eh, I amuse me.

Speaking of which, another source of amusement that will only make sense to local friends:  That “primary westward artery” of which I speak is Constitution Avenue, which, of course,  eventually empties out on to the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge.  The ramp for the northbound George Washington Parkway (which I need to take) is on the far side of said TR Bridge, but in order to get to it from Constitution, one must merge over to the right several lanes.  This is a major pain at rush hour.  In order to avoid it, I have found it makes sense to break off from Constitution just past the White House on Virginia Avenue, take Virginia up past GWU, hit the I-66 on-ramp just opposite the Watergate, and run in on the TR already in the far-righty lane.

Constitution runs due west to the TR.  So in order to take my alternate route, I literally run northwest and then southwest.  At the critical point where I swing round to pick up the highway over teh bridge, I always say “helm hard over“.

Yes, I amuse me more.  But it’s harmless.




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For those of you who do not follow ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals, I should preface this post by noting that the Nats have a lot of new faces in their bullpen this year and, as of the first week of June, are still trying to figure out who are going to be their go-to set up men in the 7th and 8th, ahead of Drew Storen in the 9th.

JanssenAmong the mix of said faces is Casey Janssen, a pitcher with the Blue Jays of Toronto for some years before coming over to Dee Cee this year.  He had some injuries, and has only recently started to appear in our games on a more regular basis.

The few times I’ve seen Janssen whilst watching games on tee-vee, I’ve found myself saying, “Self, who is this guy? Wait! I know! Something to do with heresy…..Arianism? No.  Manichaeism?  No.  Wait! Now I remember! Jansenism!

(I will not even attempt to summarize Jansenism here.  Suffice to say that it is a heresy focused on the fault line between free will and predestination.)

Anyhoo, that’s what I use in order to remember him.  Crossing streams, I know.  However, should he make a good name for himself pitching, that problem goes away.

UPDATE: Oh, I forgot to mention this.  After thinking it over, I have self-identifed as Napoleon.  In future, I expect all of you friends of the decanter to address me as “Sire“.  See to it.

UPDATE DEUX:  Most friends of the decanter probably will pick up on the Monty Python riff in the title of this post.  (Well, I hope you will.)  I should note here that I think this sketch was far funnier in record form than it was in the original tee-vee series.  Ol’ Robbo has long-standing opinions on the effectiveness of various Python bits.  Some worked best on film, some worked best in studio, some worked best in audio.  It all had to do with timing,  inflection, and chemistry.  Not sure that I can come up with a grand unification theory to explain all my opinions, but they’re definite nonetheless.  Go ahead and ask me about a given sketch and I’ll give you my analysis.  Go on, I dare you.


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, ol’ Robbo hasn’t much postie material to work with this evening.  Historickally speaking, particularly for Royal Navy sharks, this is the anniversary both of the Glorious First of June in 1794 and of the celebrated frigate action between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon in 1813, but I’ve done those before and am not feeling ready to recycle them.

In re current events, much of today’s nooz cycle was taken up with the Supremes’ decision in the case of the Muslim gel who was denied a job at Abercrombie because of her head-scarf.  Alas, although I have a very deep professional interest in that decision, I can’t possibly talk about it here.  (And my opinion might not be what you think.)

Additionally, the ball game scheduled for this evening between Robbo’s beloved Nats and the Blue Jays of Toronto was postponed due to the monsoon-like conditions that descended on the Dee Cee area this evening and resulted in a right drenching on my commute home.

HOWEVER, for the benefit of those of you stationed about the decanter, now that a dog has joined the strength of the Port Swiller Manor establishment, I have a terrific, automatic fallback whenever I need something about which to write.  I mean, who doesn’t like posts about dogs, amirite?

DaisyAnyhoo, an update about our dear Daisy, who really is a complete sweetheart.

First, she went to the vet this week for a check-up.  The vet thinks she’s actually younger than the seven years we were told by the rescue people.  Perhaps five or six.  Teeth good, ears good, eyes good, heart and lungs good, she’s in fine shape.

Second, she definitely has warmed up to me.  Indeed, I spent much of this evening rereading my McAuslan with Daisy flopped out on my lap.  I don’t know her actual weight but I would guess it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 lbs.  Thus, she’s on the heavy, but still plausible, end of lap-dogdom.  She certainly thinks so at any rate.

Third, from our walks together I have noticed that she has an interest in and  hatred of Jacobin squirrels that would receive the stamp of approval from Jonah Goldberg’s late, lamented Cosmo.  One needs to be careful to keep a firm grip on the leash whenever she gets the idea that these secular-Utopianist tree-rats might be in the immediate area.

Fourth, speaking of walks, in my yoot in the South Texas exurbs, the idea of picking up one’s dog’s, er, output would have been met with howls of derisive laughter.  (Of course, we didn’t really “walk” our dogs.  Our yard was a couple acres and they mostly did their biznay along the tree-line at the edge.  When they dropped closer in, well, you just remembered it and avoided the spot until Ma Nature had disposed of it.)  I have not yet got used to this task.

Fifth, the other morning I had my first dog-walking social encounter, spending ten minute chatting with a complete stranger as our pooches got to know each other.  I can well see why college boys keep dogs when they can.

Sixth, I am delighted at the way Mrs. R and Daisy have come together.  The whole reason I have been without doggy companionship since the early 90’s is that Mrs. Robbo insisted she was not a “dog person”.  Daisy has, I think, been an eye-opener for her.  Granted, starting from scratch with a puppy is a whole different ball-game, but I already can see that this “starter dog” biznay, i.e., dealing with one that has already been broken in, was the right initial step.

Either ol’ Robbo is getting more efficient in his yard work or else I’ve finally moved the goalposts sufficiently, but I find that I’m getting a heck of a lot done out in the grounds of Port Swiller Manor this year.  Here it is the end of May and I’ve got the garden thoroughly under control weed-wise and the lawn up to date, with time left over to get at some other projects that have hung fire for a while.

One of these is the lone pine tree in a yard otherwise given over to a fringe of maple and oak.  It’s something between fifty and sixty feet tall and has been the source of greens for my Advent and Christmas table wreaths for years.

Two or three years back, however, I noticed that the lower limbs of the thing were starting to look aged and worn out, losing their needles and starting to die off.  I don’t know if this is just a thing with pine trees, whether the ivy that was starting to work its way up the trunk was somehow choking them off, or if some other ailment was involved.

This weekend, deciding that the thing was getting decidedly ratty in the knickers, I determined to go out and do something about cleaning it up.  So I pulled out my trusty little hand saw and, starting low, proceeded to start lopping off dead limbs.  (I also yanked the ivy, just in case.)  For each, I left a short stump protruding from the trunk, in part because the diameters were a bit smaller several inches out and I’m not as young as I used to be, and in part because I recognized that they would make an excellent ladder by which to get myself to the ones higher up.  The top dead branches were maybe twelve to fifteen feet above the ground.

Now I must sidestep here for just a second.  For those of you who don’t know, ol’ Robbo’s chief physical defect is his very bad eyesight.  (We’ve no space to go into his mental defects here, which are Legion, and anyway they’re beside the point.)  I’ve worn corrective lenses since third grade.  My sight is so feeble now that my fingers go blurry five inches from my face.   Things farther than a few feet away are mere colored blobs.  It’s that bad.

Normally, I wear contacts.  But on the weekends, unless I’m corralled into some kind of social event or off to Mass, I usually give my eyes a rest and wear my glasses.  Despite all the sooper-modern lens-thinning technology, these are right coke bottle bottoms.  If they’d have been made the old-fashioned way, they’d probably break the bridge of my nose.

So any road, there I was, about fifteen feet up the tree, busily sawing away at a limb with one hand while clinging to another with the other hand, when my glasses, spotting an opportunity, decided to make a bolt for it and fell off my face.


I’ve had them fall off before, of course, but never in a situation quite like this one.  It’s wonderfully humbling, a gentle reminder of how frail and fragile we really are.

As I slowly made my way down, largely by the Braille method, all sorts of thoughts about Ma Nature’s ways of dealing with the old, the hurt and the sick wandered through my brain.  I had visions of being easy meat for a velociraptor or a sabre-toothed tiger, an Iroquois scalp-hunter or a mugger.  And this was just in a suburban yard.  I can’t imagine what it would have felt like had I been in some inner-city hell hole or on a cliff-face or in the middle of the Serengeti or at sea.

Anyhoo, I eventually got myself down in one piece and, after scrabbling about in the undergrowth for a bit, found the damned things.  Slapping them back on, I quickly looked round to make sure there were no inbound red toothes or claws and then got on with the job.

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