Friday, November 29, 2013

I Have to See a Man About a Horse

Speaking of old phrases, both Sue and I are familiar with this one: "I Have to See a Man About a Horse."

(What?! Did you forget we were speaking of old idioms?! I am truly saddened.)

Both of us had English-born grandfathers, and both of us lived with them for a time. Both grandfathers used the phrase.

In my grandfather's context, at least the way that I perceived it, the saying meant: "I have something to attend to, and it's none of your business." Or at least, "I have something to attend to, and I can't be bothered getting into an explanation of just what it is."

To Sue, it was a polite way of excusing oneself to go to the bathroom.

So, who got it right?

It turns out that we both did, for the Urban Dictionary lists both definitions. Of course, I humbly note that my version is listed first. This thrills me to me end as I am not used to coming in first. Thankfully however, I am mollified to know that "the last shall be first" on that somewhat postponed meeting in the sky.

A quick internet search also revealed that the same question was asked on the English Language & Usage site where I learned a few tidbits*. These are direct quotes from the answers provided. Some of these answers referred to other internet sources.
  1. The earliest confirmed publication is the 1866 Dion Boucicault play Flying Scud in which a character knowingly breezes past a difficult situation saying, "Excuse me Mr. Quail, I can't stop; I've got to see a man about a dog.
  2.  The most common variation is to "see a man about a horse". Almost any noun can be substituted as a way of giving the hearer a hint about one's purpose in departing.
  3. During Prohibition in the United States, the phrase was most commonly used in relation to the consumption or purchase of alcoholic beverages.
  4. This has been a useful (and usefully vague) excuse for absenting oneself from company for about 150 years, though the real reason for slipping away has not always been the same. [...] From other references at the time [around 1866] there were three possibilities: 1) [the speaker] needed to visit the loo [...] 2) he was in urgent need of a restorative drink, presumed alcoholic; or 3) he had a similarly urgent need to visit his mistress.

    Of these reasons [...] the second became the most common sense during the Prohibition period. Now that society’s conventions have shifted to the point where none of these reasons need cause much remark, the utility of the phrase is greatly diminished and it is most often used in a facetious sense, if at all.
I have used the phrase from time to time, but it doesn't seem to work all that well in the present day, and I haven't used it extensively. Perhaps I will try harder though, as I like it.

Now . . . if you will excuse me, I have to go see a man . . .


*Tidbits is an interesting word, which prudish North Americans have alterred from the more British titbits. Both versions, refer to little bits of something, whether it be a little something to eat or a bit of news/gossip etc. Everywhere else they use the titbit variation. In Britain, many birds are called tits. This has sometimes led to some amusing (for puerile male minds anyway) exchanges on Flickr when Brits post bird photos.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Land O Goshen

When I checked, I was rather startled to learn that I posted my Dan to Beersheba blog so long ago, way back in December '04 to be exact, just a few months after I started blogging. The expression, From Dan to Beersheba, was one of my dad's sayings, and I had come across it again while reading Bill Bryson's history of the English language, Mother Tongue. Much of this ancient post of mine was about language in general, but I specifically mentioned my dad's "from Dan to Beersheba" phrase toward the end.

So, I don't know why nine years later,I have become intrigued by one of my mother's sayings: "My Land O Goshen," which sounded like one word, "malandagoshen," when she said it. Actually, I often thought it sounded more like, "My Lantic Ocean."

She used it as an exclamation of mild astonishment, as when she was surprised or somewhat shocked about learning a certain fact.

So, off I went to Google to discover what I could about the expression. Did others use it, or was it hers alone?

I discovered that there is a blog entitled My Land of Goshen, but I won't bother linking as there are no entries — just a blog title. Strange.

My Google search also revealed several religious posts based on the phrase.

Here is what I found in the Urban Dictionary, which is pretty well how my mother used the term — at least the amazement part if not the frustration part.
Land O Goshen is a Southern expression of amazement or frustration. The Land of Goshen is a place referred to two times in the Bible, once as a province of Egypt (in the time of Joseph) and another time as a Canaanite land renamed Goshen in the book of Joshua. After Moses led the Jews out of Egypt (Goshen) and Joshua finally led them into Canann, they named a portion of the Promised Land, Goshen. This may be why the phrase is used as an exclamation of amazement and frustration, as the Land of Goshen was the place of the Israelites bondage, and later a place in the Promised Land.
1. Land O Goshen, I just saw a shooting star!
2. Land O Goshen, if I have to tell you to close that front door again I'm gonna tan your hide, boy!
3. Land O Goshen, that apple pie is the tastiest I ever et, Ma!

Just as Dad seemed to have picked up a archaic New England phrase, apparently, Mom appropriated a southern expression. It's an odd thing in both cases as neither of them were Americans nor travellers, but both of my parents were quite religious and knew the bible really well, so perhaps it isn't such a big leap after all.

The Free Dictionary defines it as a mild oath much equivalent to saying, "My goodness gracious!" which was also a Mom phrase.

This is part of what the Perspective Sun Journal replied to a query about the term. You can link for the whole article if you like, but these are the key parts. Perhaps, she did learn the phrase from the Barney Google comic strip mentioned in the quote. Who knows?

"Land o' Goshen" is an old-fashioned expression that is rarely heard these days, although it has not dropped entirely out of use. We have found some evidence of its continuing occurrence (in one form or another) in recent years . . .

There isn't really a "story" for the phrase - other than that it was a favorite usage of the cartoon character Loweezy, wife of Snuffy Smith, in the comic strip Barney Google . . .

. . . "Goshen" is from the Hebrew "Goshen," the name of the land allotted to the Israelites in Egypt, and is found in the Bible at Genesis, chapter 45, verse 11: "And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen ... and there I will nourish thee."
So, there you have it. The definitions that I found were consistent with how she used the idiom. I cannot know where, exactly, she picked up the expression, but she was certainly a religious woman, and I think she also would have been at least somewhat familiar with the Barney Google comic strip. Those two things probably sealed the deal for her, and I think both her, Land O Goshen and Dad's Dan to Beersheba idioms were quite wonderful expressions.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Photographic Effect

Some of my Flickr mates posted some motion blur photos, and being a copycat, with no original thoughts of my own, I decided to try it too. You can capture this effect in camera by moving the camera up/down during a longish exposure. I don't mean a time exposure but a shutter speed just long enough to capture the camera movement. You can also accomplish this using the motion blur filter in Photoshop. For me and probably most people, it's easier in Photoshop where one can immediately see the results on a large monitor, and if you don't like them, you simply start over.

In this one ↓ I duplicated the original after blurring it. I then flipped it to create a mirror image.

For the next one ↓ I masked some of the original foreground back in as it would have been almost lost in the blurring.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Danica Does Photography from both Ends of the Camera

One day, I took a few photos of Danica trying out our new chairs. She kind of hammed it up.

Then, she decided to take control of the camera. I didn't mind because it was Sue's little camera and not my big one which I am always afraid that she'll drop. She did pretty well.

Friday, November 22, 2013

He Didn't Live to be 100

Last night, as we went to bed, Sue and I compared bodily aches, pains, stiffness of joints and whiplash injuries. I said what seems to be becoming a common phrase in my repertoire:"Don't worry, a hundred years from now it will all be over."

This phrase was often spoken by my Uncle Charlie, who was my only uncle as I come from a small family — small at least in recent generations.

Uncle Charlie and me one Christmas getting close to fifty years ago.
He didn't live to be 100, and in fact, didn't last much past 50. He was dwarfish in a way. I don't think he quite reached 5' tall, and he didn't have the most robust of tickers. But he was a great and funny guy. I always appreciated his sense of humour.

It's strange to me to think that I am a fair bit older now than he was when he passed on, but it's odd how I still picture him as older than I.

He was a good guy, and his funeral was almost the first that I attended, so I was quite broken up about his passing. I don't know if it's good or bad that we get more accustomed to funerals as time goes on.

Since I was already in the [digital] family album to retrieve this photo, I thought I might as well post a picture of his dad: my maternal grandfather. I was likely 4 or 5 at the time of this snap. He lived for about another 5 years.

Finally, I think this is the oldest photo from that line of the family: his mother with one of grandpa's brothers (I think), back in England.

I am pretty sure that I have posted these photos before, or at least the first two, but I am likely saying something different. Besides, old folk are known to repeat themselves. It's almost the norm. lol

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter

There is an area of scrub bush out behind the kids' house.

Two autumns past, on a walk with the kids, we came upon a large pile of leaves that had been dumped there. The kids had a fine time playing in them.

Last year, we went back, and  we did it again . . . oops . . . almost two weeks ago already.

We were minding the kids on a PA Day, and visiting the leaf pile was our last item on the day's list. It was rather cold, but we bundled well, and the kids enjoyed themselves once again. One simply must enjoy the thrill of lying in a leaf pile. In fact, two should enjoy the thrill if at all possible.

She had a wonderful time tossing leaves this way and that way and over her head way.

She even took it upon herself to empty some that were stilled bagged and then kick them about. Indeed, what a kick life can be.

He quite enjoyed carrying handfuls hither, thither and yon.

And it's always the right time for a boy to pick up sticks.

Grandma supervised form a safe distance in her colourful way.

And that just about wraps up autumn for this year.

I'm serious. It snowed the next day.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Christmas Card Shoot

Yesterday, Sha asked me to see if I could take some photos of the kids that might be suitable for Christmas cards.

It was quite the task. For one thing, I didn't really have the setting nor the equipment to do a proper job, but it is always interesting to try. For another thing, the kids were pretty giddy, so it was kind like trying to photograph chickens under fox attack in the hen house. Anyway, we gave it a shot, and here are some of the results.

I think this ↑ was my preference, but we have more choices. ↓

Here's another (before and after) when I experimented with replacing the background. I'm not sure I like either variation for a card, but I love that laugh.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Post in which I Confess to Systemic Brain Malfunction

I think I have a bipolar brain although I am not using bipolar in its common sense. What I mean is that my head seems to function on two planes at once while, unfortunately, truly functioning on neither.

Permit me to try to describe what I am driving at.

A few years ago, I decided to try to learn how to play the fiddle. I made some progress but did not have much talent.

A lot of fiddlers play by ear, never reading music. In fact, some fiddlers like the highly acclaimed Natalie McMaster confess that they don't read music very well despite their virtuosity. There are other fiddlers (but usually not the good ones) who play mostly by note. I was somewhere between the two. I needed the music to sort of keep me on track but I played largely by ear at the same time. I found myself often playing the tune the way my brain wanted it to go instead of the way it was written. So, I would follow the notes in some vague way but also be in my own head space at the same time. My teacher more than once admonished me thusly: "No, that's the way that Beethoven would have composed it, but that's not the way this piece is written."

I experience the same sort of phenomenon when I read orally to Sue as I sometimes do at bedtime. (I know that orally is somewhat redundant because I could hardly read silently to her, even though she reads me pretty well after all of these years.) Frequently, when I begin a sentence, my brain somehow interprets where it is going and constructs its own version. I find myself interposing my own word order and saying it out loud that way before I realize that the author's order is different. I sometimes rearrange sentences completely, but they usually come out right for some reason.

It's somewhat the same when I type on the keyboard (where else would one type, he asks). I am most definitely not a touch typist although my brain somehow has an idea where most of the keys are generally located. I could not begin to describe the keyboard to you, but somehow, my fingers tend to reach in the right direction almost all of the time. However, because I am not a trained typist, I really have no ability to hone in precisely on the keys. So I sort of look at the keyboard. But I sort of also don't look at the keyboard. I guess it's usually in my field of view, but I am also not seeing it all that well, and I can barely type three words without making a mistake. Sometimes, it fair near drives me to distraction.

So ... I know this isn't bipolarity in the common sense, but I don't know what else to call it. Yes, I do. Weirdness. Yup, that's it. I'm just plain weird.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Frost in the Garden

Last week (oops, two weeks ago already — this one kind of got lost in the queue), we had the deepest frost of the year when it went down tp -6°C/21°F at night. Somewhat miraculously, I engaged both my brain and willpower long enough of take the camera out to the front yard. I had recalled that I left a single echinacea flower blooming when I cut down the garden on the previous week, and I thought it might deserve a photo or two.

It turns out that I don't adore either photo, but as is so often also the case, I do like some other photos that I took at the time. When I cut down the garden, I did leave a few plants standing. One was the penstemon or beardtongue. This plant produces divine little blossoms in spring, but is rather pleasing even afterward for its burnished leaves.

At the time, I also left the salvia or sage because the bees were still active, and there was little else for them to work on. Of course, a week later by the time of this frost, the bees had disappeared for the winter. You can barely see the frost in this photo, but it's there.

I took the two subsequent photos an hour or so afterward when the sun had come out in greater fullness. The changing light gave a whole different colour to the garden.

An attempt at artiness.

Before heading in, I snapped this one of a mailbox that Sue had painted many years ago. We hadn't put it up in this place until lately when the box that came with the house began to succumb to the elements and look a bit under the weather (so to speak). If you look carefully, you might espy a few bits of frost on this too.

I just took a look at the timestamp, which informs me that this set was taken on October 29 2013. Dad would have turned 101 that day had he remained with us. As it was, he lived to see his 86th birthday, which is not bad at all.

Monday, November 11, 2013


Frequently, after school, the kids will sit around the table after snacking and do crafy/arty/writing things. JJ was so cute the other day, concentrating so fiercely on his project.

When family members observe his facial expressions and particularly his tongue-work, they snicker, nudge each other, and look at me knowingly because they say this is just like me. Of course, I resent resemble this remark.

When all is done, one can be very pleased with oneself.

A while ago, when I posted his hockey pics, I forgot to include this one, which has nothing to do with the rest of the post.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

How the Lowly Bagel Ruined My Life or at Least My Breakfast

When was the last time you had a good toaster? Its been a long time for me.

The problem for me is that my toasters of recent times toast unevenly. My main complaint is that they all seem to overtoast one side but undertoast the other.

Notice how the right slice is toasted more than the left slice.
Also notice how that side is not toasted evenly — burnt at the top, barely toasted at the bottom.

As far as I can tell, we are not just talking about my toaster, for this predicament seems to be the same in other houses where I have visited.

I blame the bagel.

Nowadays, toasters are made with wide slots to accommodate bagels. This is fine and dandy if your are a bagel sort of person. But, while I have nothing too very personal against these round edibles, I prefer ordinary toast.

But you see, the slot to accommodate the bagel wider that it needs to be for the bread. So . . . the bread leans to one side or t'other and, consequently, toasts unevenly. The tendency is for one side gets toasted, but not the other. Not properly anyway.

I know that the internal grabby things are meant to keep the bread aligned and in check, but THEY DON'T WORK! In point of fact, toasters don't work as well as toasters did 60 years ago. About how many things can you say that?

This has pretty well ruined my life . . . or at least my breakfast. (Not seriously: I wish Blogger would get with the times and support favicons such as winkies. This is another thing that diminishes my enjoyment of life. Not really. Geez, I need a winky again!)

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Star Gazing

Here is one more look at the tent, this time under the stars. I didn't see the meteor when I was taking the 30 second exposure because I was trying to light the tent with a flashlight. How neat to see it later.

I took two different turns (on different nights) wandering about trying my hand at star photos. It's pretty dark out there in the country, and the fact that we were having moonless nights, also helped.

I know very little about the stars, but I do know the Big Dipper. It stands out so clearly every time I visit. I always know exactly where to look for it.

You can see some of the lights from the cottage catching the edge of the trees. You can also see a bit of the Milky Way.

An absolute plethora of stars.

Here's another with a bit of light painting on the barn.

Shortly after taking that photo I began to wend my way to take a similar photo of the planer mill. It was then that I heard the wild yipping of a pack of coyotes coming from the direction in which I was walking. I could tell they were a little way away, but the image of a pack of coyotes hurtling my way caused me to do an about fact and head back to the safety of cottage. It was a good thing, not because any coyotes appeared but because I then took the first shot of this post and caught that meteor.

Note: you can see the photos a little bigger is you click on you and then advance thru the frames.