Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Back in the day Ol’ Robbo had a standing joke with one of his chums of lampooning Jacques Cousteau. In outrageous accents which sounded more like John Cleese’s French K-niggit from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, one of us would suddenly say, “Zah seas!  Ze are die-EEEENG!

To which the other would reply, “But not fast EE-NOOF!!

Oh, we were real cards.

This bit of flotsam recently rose to the surface of Ol’ Robbo’s braim because for the past several days I have been passing an odd protest/exhibition display during my lunchtime walkies, the Ocean Plastics Lab sponsored by our friends at NOAA.  It’s a set of about half a dozen open-sided metal cargo containers full of displays of facts and figures on the amount of junk floating about in the world’s oceans and the harm it is supposedly doing to sea-life.  (Birds and fish getting hung up in plastic bags, dolphins swallowing water bottles, octopi stealing shopping carts – that sort of thing.)

This sea-garbage biznay seems to have become a Thing with the Greenies over the past few months, or at least they’ve started beating the drum about it more vigorously in that time.  On the one hand, I’ve no problem with it.  Unlike airy-fairy Globull Enwarmening theory, this is something that at least has a tangible and measurable cause-and-effect relationship between human action and resultant Bad Things.  If so inclined, you can go look at the damn stuff yourself (and presumably all the marine corpses floating about in it as well).

On the other, I’m pretty sure that I saw a piece within the past couple weeks that points out this is really a Third World problem:  The junk tossed into five specific rivers in Africa and Southern Asia is supposed to account for some gigantic portion of the total oceanic pollution.  So why are busloads of teenaged tourists from Indiana and your humble host being scolded about it down on the National Mall?  Why isn’t NOAA setting up its displays in, say, Chittagong, or gently hectoring the good people of the Congo?

I think the answer to both questions probably lies in the trailer marked “Solutions”.  I haven’t looked in, but I don’t need to be Carnac the Magnificent (boy, am I dating myself!)  to know that what it boils down to is this:  Gimme a dollar, America.

You’ll forgive Ol’ Robbo for his cynicism, but Wealth-Transfer-As-Solution-For-Third-World-Problems hasn’t exactly got a stellar track record.  (The problems tend to remain, while the wealth is only transferred as far as the coffers of the people demanding it.)  So I will politely refuse to get involved so far as sticking my hand in my pocket is concerned.

On the other hand, I will take a step similar to what I did in response to the bombardment of solicitations I was receiving at one point from the Save the Whales people.  After the umpteenth appeal from them, I  wrote back on the pledge card something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for bringing to my attention the heart-wrenching travesty of whale hunting.  Because of your informed concern, I hereby pledge going forward never to personally kill a whale.  You have my promise.”

I never heard from them again.

Likewise, I hereby pledge never to throw any non-biodegradable garbage into the oceans.  Who’s with me on this?





Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Sorry for the lack of posting the past few days (and maybe the next few, too).  It’s High School Graduation Week here at Port Swiller Manor and unlike her elder sister, who shunned as much of the hoopla as possible, Middle Gel is intent on taking in as many of the activities as she can.  So we had an academic achievement awards ceremony yesterday, I think there’s a parents’ breakfast tomorrow (which I am missing because work), the Big Shoo is Thursday, the school choir has its own awards picnic Friday, and Mrs. R and I are co-hosting the Gel’s  graduation party with another couple on Saturday (not at our house, thank God).

Plus, the Port Swiller In-Laws rolled into town Sunday and are staying for the week.  So there’s that.

Busy times.

Anyhoo, all that aside, I just wanted to note that I saw my first firefly of the season last evening.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned here more than once how fond I am of fireflies and of watching them fool about on the edge of the woods on these warm and humid spring evenings.    Sometimes, when it’s very still, I even fancy I can hear a faint *phah* every time one of them lights off.

Always makes me happy.

Ace was talking about “news fatigue” this afternoon, the 24/7 bombardment of outraged shrieking by politickal pundits and talking heads and how so many people are increasingly sick and tired of it all.  He asks the Moron Horde how they cope with it in their various ways.

Me? Well, one method is to sit on the porch in the evening and look for the fireflies.  Another is to watch the clouds (we may get a thundershower this evening).  A third is to contemplate the trees in their yearly cycles.  A fourth is to read a piece of fiction or listen to some musick.  And of course, all of these involve not watching or listening to the MSM.

See how easy that is?  And I haven’t even got to God or Family yet.

One specific act of defiance:  The local classickal station runs three-minute NPR nooz updates at the top of the hour.  Although I listen to the station all day down the office, I’ve got into the habit of shutting it off for those three minutes, just to preserve my blood-pressure.

That, too, is pretty easy.

Really, they can only get you in the end if you let them.

Or perhaps I should say, “[They] can’t take the sky from me.” **


** I hope footnotes are not required for the references.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Those friends of the decanter who have a taste for Royal Navy history will of course remember that today is the anniversary of the Glorious First of June.  Confusion to the Jacobins!

In token, Ol’ Robbo decided to dial up a performance of this favorite shanty of Nelson’s Navy:

If you care to follow along, the lyrics:

Farewell and adieu to you, Spanish ladies, (alt: “…to Spanish ladies”)
Farewell and adieu to you, ladies of Spain; (alt: “…to ladies of Spain;”)
     For we have received orders (alt: “…’re under orders”)
     For to sail to old England,
But we hope in a short time to see you again. (alt: “And we may ne’er see you fair ladies again.”)

We’ll rant and we’ll roar, like true British sailors,
We’ll rant and we’ll roar across the salt seas; (alt: “We’ll range and we’ll roam all on the salt seas;”)
     Until we strike soundings
     In the Channel of old England,
From Ushant to Scilly ’tis thirty-five leagues. (alt: “34” or “45”.)

Then we hove our ship to, with the wind at the sou’west, my boys, (alt: “We hove our ship to, with the wind from sou’west, boys,”)
Then we hove our ship to, for to strike soundings clear; (alt: “…deep soundings to take;” “…for to make soundings clear;”)
     Then we filled the main topsail (alt: “‘Twas 45 (or 55) fathoms with a white sandy bottom”)
     And bore right away, my boys, (alt: “So we squared our main yard”)
And straight up the Channel of old England did steer. (alt: “And up channel did make.” or “…did steer”)

So the first land we made, it is called the Deadman, (alt: “The first land we sighted was callèd the Dodman”)
Next Ram Head, off Plymouth, Start, Portland, and the Wight; (alt: “Next Rame Head off Plymouth, Start, Portland, and Wight;”)
     We sailèd by Beachy, (alt: “We sailed by Beachy / by Fairlight and Dover”)
     By Fairly and Dungeness,
And then bore away for the South Foreland light. (alt: “Until we brought to for…” or “And then we bore up for…”)

Now the signal it was made for the grand fleet to anchor (alt: “Then the signal was made…”)
All in the Downs that night for to meet; (alt: “…that night for to lie;”)
     Then stand by your stoppers, (alt: “Let go your shank painter, / Let go your cat stopper”)
     See clear your shank painters,
Hawl all your clew garnets, stick out tacks and sheets. (alt: “Haul up your clewgarnets, let tack and sheets fly”)

Now let every man take off his full bumper, (alt: “Now let ev’ry man drink off his full bumper,”)
Let every man take off his full bowl; (alt: “And let ev’ry man drink off his full glass;”)
     For we will be jolly (alt: “We’ll drink and be jolly”)
     And drown melancholy,
With a health to each jovial and true hearted soul. (alt: “And here’s to the health of each true-hearted lass.”)

Ol’ Robbo loves the nautical jargon, but I get an especial nerdy delight from the litany of geographical points as the ship sails up the Channel.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

From the Beeb:  Have we reached peak prosecco?

Ol’ Robbo didn’t even realize it was a “thing”.

Curiously enough, Mrs. R has become something of a prosecco fan recently, going so far as to sample various labels.  She says she much prefers it to champagne, as I believe it is generally sweeter. (The Mothe was something of a fan as well.)

Myself, I dislike the sparkling stuff.  Gives me quite the headache (as do most whites) and I also feel all bloated.  I’ll stick to my reds and leave zee bubbly to the Missus.

A glass of wine with the Puppy-Blender!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

A bit late, perhaps, but Ol’ Robbo would like to raise his glass to the Washington Capitals for making the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, after being left playoffs bridesmaids seemingly for the last umpteen years now.  Well played, gentlemen, and best of luck!

I have to confess, though, that hockey really has never meant much of anything to me.  After all, I grew up in South Texas.  Back in those days – before this absurdist trend of placing franchises in cities like Vegas and Tampa Bay which I would quickly quash if I were Emperor – it was very much an alien, northern sport, and so simply never established itself in my developing braims.  I don’t dislike it (as I do basketball), I’ve just really got nothing one way or another.

Nonetheless, as I say, it’s nice that the boys made it and I hope they take it all.

Ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nationals (who are getting back into form, by the bye) have been getting into the rah-rah swing of things, too, wearing caps and jerseys and doing the pro-Cap P.R. biznay.  On the one hand, a lot of this seems to be genuine camaraderie and good will, which Ol’ Robbo quite likes.  On the other hand, there are some who seem to be suggesting that if the Hockey Gods have allowed the Caps into the Stanley Cup for the first time this year, perhaps this is an indication that the Baseball Gods also will let the Nats finally win their first post-season series.  To me, this is deeply troubling.  Sports Gods (all of them) are fickle and capricious, and the fastest way to get them to turn against you is to in any way make them believe that you think they “owe” you any kind of action one way or another.  (And don’t tell me it’s all just fun and games.  Baseball Gods are real.  And dangerous.)  I wish these people would just cut this kind of talk right out.

Indeed, let’s just sit back, relax, and concentrate on the contests at hand.  And if I may say it even as an admitted non-hockey guy:


Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you are all having a good Memorial Day weekend.

Ol’ Robbo spent the morning helping Eldest Gel reform her bedroom.  In addition to being an almighty packrat (and a notorious thief of plates, glasses, and silverware from the kitchen), she’s also got far too much furniture in what is Port Swiller Manor’s smallest sleeping chamber.  (Indeed, my main task was the disassembly and removal of a massive wooden bedframe which took up way too much space, although I also helped her move some other things around and remove both bags of trash and my accumulated kitchen valuables.)  For whatever reason, she seems to have grown tired of living in such cramped squalor and is bent on cleaning and simplifying.

As we talked about organizing books and clothing, rearranging furniture, and maybe even repainting the walls, it occurred to me that it has not yet sunk in on the Gel that her time of living at home is now within very measurable distance of coming to an end.  That thought came into my mind because I still have a very vivid memory of my own realization that my old life was ending and a new one beginning:  I was home Christmas Break of my junior year in college.  My then-girlfriend had come to visit from Bahston, so one day I took her out to see the sights of San Antonio.  When we got back later in the afternoon, it suddenly hit me like a 16-ton weight.  This wasn’t really my home anymore, it was my parents’ and I was just visiting.  Of course I’d always be welcomed and all that, but the “Shadow of Parting”, as Galadriel put it, had suddenly and definitely fallen.

I went to the Mothe and bawled like a baby.

The memory often makes me wonder what it will be like when my brood strike out on their own.  (And yes, they’re leaving.  None of this thirty-something living in the basement stuff for us.)  Do other people get hit by such a shock? Can it be more gradual? I suppose it’s a matter of personality and circumstances.


The Port Swiller Porch, Clean and Reassembled

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

After much procrastination, Ol’ Robbo finally propelled himself to get up early this hot Saturday morning and power-wash the back porch and stairs.  (We built the porch four or five years ago and this is, in fact, the first time I’ve done it.)

You may label me as hopelessly bourgeois for it, but I must say that I absolutely enjoyed the job.  Moving all the furniture and brick-a-brack back and forth was something of a nuisance, but how many other maintenance tasks are there that produce such immediate, gratifying results for such comparatively little labor? (And for that matter, how many other places are there in one’s house in which one can spray water all over the place?)

The bad news is that I may have inadvertently killed the washer.  About three quarters of the way down the stairs, I swung the wand around and sprayed the outlet into which it was plugged.  There was a pop and the motor went dead. I don’t know if I tripped the power cord, the circuit-breaker or both.  I’ll look into that later.  For the time being, I just detached the hose, got a bucket of Mr. Clean and a sponge, and did the rest by hand.  (Don’t tell Mrs. Robbo.)

My next trick will be to take on the garage floor.

UPDATE: To quote Professor Farnsworth, “Good news, everyone!”  After hitting the reset on the washer plug, I went and tried it on another outlet and it’s fine.  (It’s almost as if the designers anticipated morons like me.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Over the past two days, Ol’ Robbo has attempted to leave comments in responses to posts by long-time lovely and talented friends of the decanter Sleepy Beth and Diane, both of whom use Blogsplat.  In each instance, after foiling the fiendish “I am not a robot” security picture challenge (which reminds me of something out of an Indiana Jones adventure – “But in the Latin, ‘Jehovah‘ starts with an ‘I‘”), I keep coming up against the demand that I identify myself by my “Google User” account.

Well, I haven’t got a “Google User” account. And furthermore, I don’t want one.  (Evidently, Middle Gel does and also has accessed it from Ol’ Robbo’s laptop, because that’s the default to which the thing keeps running back. Rayther than getting caught in that potential quagmire, Ol’ Robbo has simply abandoned said attempted comments.)

Previously, Blogsplat had been perfectly happy to recognize me as a simple, country WordPress blogger.  What the heck is going on now?

UPDATE: Wow! Speaking of Blogsplat brought back to Ol’ Robbo the memory of the old Llamabutchers, with whom I started blogging on said platform way in November, 2003.  I had thought those archives long lost, but just now (on a whim) I punched them up to discover…...they’re still there! (By the way, rereading it after fifteen years, I’m still very proud of my first substantive blogpost, in which I thoroughly trash Peter Jackson’s first Lord of the Rings movie.)

UPDATE DUEX: Additional Wow! I had also thought the Llamabutcher bloviations over at MuKnew, to which we transferred, had also been sent back to the primordial pixel slime (like in “Waterworld”), to be lost forever.  Again, I was wrong!




Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

This morning as he blearily scanned the headlines over his first cuppa, Ol’ Robbo’s eye was caught by an article from the Beeb about “the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean” and what a hell of a time it’s having environmentally after having been smacked by a cyclone the other day.

If you had asked me, “Robbo, what is the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean?'” just a few days ago, I confess I wouldn’t have had the slightest idea.  (Probably would have guessed Rodrigues just at random because there are turtles there.)

But by one of those serendipitous little coincidences, it just so happens that I had come across the answer earlier this week as I was poking about on the innertoobs: It’s the Island of Socotra off the coast of Yemen, of which I had never actually heard before.

And why on earth was Robbo looking up this particular piece of information?  Because I had just re-read Evelyn Waugh’s Black Mischief, which is set on the fictional island of Azania (also off the coast of Yemen), and I became interested in trying to figure out if Waugh’s creation had a real basis.

Alas, no, at least not physically.  The map Mr. Wu himself provided with his novel shows Socotra to the north of the much larger Azania, but a quick check of the real map shows that there is nothing directly south of it except a whoooole lot of water.

On the other hand, there apparently are some similarities between the two in terms of flora and fauna, as well as cultural and racial history.  (Waugh’s description of the mix of primitive tribal paganism, Nestorian Christianity, and decayed Islam, overlaid on a mixed population of African and Arab, with a few scourings from the Levant, seems to echo what is said of Socotra.)  Also the general lack of interest by the Western Powers once Aden was established as a British stronghold.

So perhaps the novel’s primitive, ungovernable territory to which poor, misguided, Oxford-educated Emperor Seth attempts to bring utopian Progressivism, aided and abetted by that arch ne’er-do-well, Basil Seal, is not such pure fiction after all.  But whatever Mr. Wu had in mind, as I say, it’s serendipitous that I should have been poking around in it just before this story came to my attention.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

At our regular monthly office meeting today, one of our IT wallahs came in to give a presentation on some obscure techie matter.  After introducing himself, he asked our indulgence while he set up his electronics in order to put his talking points up on the big flat screen.***

“I’ll bet you it takes him fifteen minutes of fiddling with his wires and inputs for a presentation that will last no longer than two,” I muttered to a friend sitting next to me.

She groaned appreciatively in anticipation.

Fourteen minutes and thirty seconds later, the thing was finally ready to go.

“And they call me a cynic,” I murmured.

My colleague, to her credit, giggled.

** Any friends of the decanter remember this old comic strip? It was a great favorite among the Family Robbo in my misspent yoot.  “The Urge To Kill”, one of the stock descriptive labels of the strip, had a prominent place in our household lexicon.

*** Of course, he also had the identical presentation in paper form, copies of which were distributed around the room in something short of two minutes flat.

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