30 November 2004

Go ahead. Make my day.

Guns and Thanksgiving

One of the biggest holidays of the year, almost rivaling Christmas and surpassing Easter is Thanksgiving. This is set for the fourth Thursday of November, since President Lincoln first pronounced it during the American Civil War (also known as the war between the States). It is to remind all Americans that they should give thanks to God for all the blessings they have been given. Of course, the public schools and modern books erase any mention of God and give an interesting rewrite of history. The first thanksgiving was by the Spanish and Indians in the 1500's in St Augustine in Florida. 100 years later, the Pilgrims were saved from extinction by some assistance from the local Indians. Once they abandoned their socialized economy and went to a free market, production boomed and they never went hungry again.

David firing an Assault Rifle at defenceless bits of wood.

In modern day America, giving thanks to God is still overwhelmingly the case with almost everyone getting together with family, sharing tables full of delicious food, and giving thanks for the blessings we have. Then every family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. This year we spent our Thanksgiving with the Morris family. After turkey, ham and all the trimmings, as well as Pavlova (the Australian connection!) we went shooting. A very nice dessert was pumpkin log.
Donald has a great collection of guns and after first doing a safety lesson we then had turns shooting a selection of his weapons. David, Ariel, Eric, James and Peter all got to fire the 22 rifle (at bits of wood as targets) and they all did pretty well. The older ones then fired the 22 pistol, and then David was able to fire the Assault rifle, and 44 Magnum.
First Donald fired the Magnum at a water bottle, demonstrating to all watching how dangerous guns were as the bottle exploded and the water vaporised. It didn’t look too hard firing the gun the way Donald did it, so David had a go. However, when he fired the Magnum, the recoil was much stronger than he expected. As his hand flew back from the force, he let out a loud and enthusiastic "Bloody Hell", much to amusement of Donald and his family.
They still laugh when they think of the depth of feeling one can get into that colourful Australian expression.

Donald Morris instructing Peter in the finer arts of marksmanship.
In case you were wondering, he can see under that hat.

Our First experience of Halloween.

Lots of people have expressed surprise that Australia doesn't really DO Halloween. More children try, but most people resist the temptation..
To understand the phenomenon, Lana asked a lady we met in Walmart "How does Halloween work?" The lady mentioned that one could find where to go collecting by asking around about "Hot spots" - neighborhoods that are "good". These are basically safe places to go that have really good candy. She also mentioned precautions and safety measures after just door-to-door stuff. Safety tips include: Before you let your kids eat any lollies check that they are wrapped. Don't take anything unwrapped. If you get fruit cut it in small pieces. You can also take it to the local hospitals - they will scan it for you to look for anything metal. The Union County Hospital and one in Murphy were offering this service.
Going to the town squares, with all the shops, police station, restaurants and supermarkets is good too. We went to the Blairsville town square. There were lots of people walking around with their children, teens and Grandparents. One older man in a wheelchair was having a great time being pushed around and giving away candy. The costumes were varied, although there were not too many home made ones, mostly store bought that started to repeat the longer you stayed.

Even the baby unborn gets to join in Halloween!

One unique costume was by a pregnant lady - she had opened her shirt from the bottom to over her belly and painted a large pumpkin covering her belly. David knew her from a restaurant near his work and mentioned that he had seen her costume. She replied, "Well, the baby should have a costume too!". She mentioned she had mixed reactions, but overall it was a very clever costume.
There were a lot of princesses, Spiderman, Batman, witches, pirates, clowns, pumpkins and brides. There were very few "evil" characters - probably indicative of the area in which we live. The little children were very cute in their animal costumes, dragons, bumblebees, chickens, pony, and fairies. A lot of the community joined in, the police station, ambulance, the supermarket, pizza places and even the local pool hall.
It was celebrated on Saturday, rather than the actual day because Halloween fell on a Sunday. In this area there are certain things that are appropriate to Sundays, and Halloween is not one of those things.

Thanksgiving Traditional Bargains

The next day was another new experience - Walmart on the Thanksgiving Friday. This is also part of the American tradition of Thanksgiving - joining millions of fellow shoppers at 6:00 am on a cold day hoping to get some amazing bargains. David Floyd felt this was important for me to experience, but we wisely decided to leave the women and children behind.
As it was, David Floyd was able to get his bargains but we were both surprised that there weren’t as many people as we (or Walmart) expected. However, considering that it was only 6:00 in the morning the carpark was almost full.
Phew! The things we go through to report in Bruggie Tales!

David Floyd surprised at David’s photo of this amazing parking.
This fellow took up four car places nearest to the Walmart entrance
on the busiest day of the year. Now that’s the holiday spirit!

Shared Experiences

By David
I was talking with Eric the other day and asked him if he would do something by starting with, "Would you, could you?" and he responded with "Join the dance." This was a reference to a scene in Alice in Wonderland involving the Griffin and the Mock turtle. I thought he may have responded with "Eat green eggs and ham" from the Dr Seuss book, but his response led me to think about shared experiences.
Much of our time with anyone involves lots of different experiences together. Most of these are not trips to exciting places or exotic locations or sports events. Many are just doing "stuff" at home. But it seems to me that the glue that keeps a relationship together is shared times whereby a comment or phrase or look brings back memories that no-one else would know.
Lana and I often reply to an inaudible question with the answer "Eight Thirty". The person asking then realizes we couldn't hear what they were saying and comes closer or speaks clearer. Who else would understand this answer? It isn't so much a code, as an answer based on shared times spent together.
Also, the children will often put something on their head and ask, "Do you like my hat?" referring to the children's book "Go Dog Go", and the correct response is, "I do not!"
I suppose that is one of the benefits of spending so much time with the children and each other, our lives become so much more inter connected and more full of life as each little experience adds to the rich tapestry of each relationship.

A Dad is...

... someone who carries pictures where his money used to be
Seen in travels

Lana's birthday

The most important thing about the end of October was Lana's Birthday. And David wasn't even around to celebrate as he was back in Australia helping a client upgrade to Greentree. To make it up, David called from the client's office in Sydney, and once Lana had answered the phone, the whole office sang "Happy Birthday" to her. That certainly surprised Lana!
In America the "Happy Birthday" song stops after the final "Happy birthday to you". In Australia it is customary to add, "Hip Hip - Hooray" three times, and we even add in a good old "Hoorah Hoorah Hoorah" for good measure. We get a few odd looks from locals when we do this, but now they all join in. It is just too odd for the song to just finish without a hooray.

Banks - an update

Our story about US Banks generated the most feedback of any story so far. We just thought we would add another story about customer service.
Lana wanted to fill in time between appointments, so after getting the mail for the post office, she dropped in to the bank to see if they had the State Quarters missing from our collection. The teller Lana first went to didn't have any, then they checked with the other tellers and then went to the drive through teller as well. Whilst this search was on, the children enjoyed some free lollipops as well as some cookies (biscuits) and even some apples. If Lana had visited on a Friday, popcorn would have been available.
On the other hand, there is a reason that checking accounts are free. Most people use checks for almost everything. As both husband and wife frequently have separate checkbooks, and few use Quicken or similar to track the current balance, it isn't difficult to become overdrawn. As each overdrawn check fee is $30 or so, this means that those $2.00 checks and "free" checking account adds up quickly! Also, the government has just introduced a new law regarding check clearing making it much faster. The papers are now full of complaints that you can no longer write checks expecting to cover the amount with a deposit a day or so later! I would have thought writing a check when the balance couldn't cover it was just asking for a fee.

A drive through bank in Douglas Georgia. The one next to
the building is a human teller, the rest are ATMs.


If you have a reasonable Internet connection, you can make audio calls via a free program called Skype.

When you are online, Skype sits in the bottom of your screen and lets you know who else is online as part of the Skype network. If you want to call someone, you just double click on their name and their computer “rings”. They click the Skype phone button and you are talking to someone else using your computer speakers and microphone.
Alternatively you can use instant chat to share text.
You can even call land line phones for a fee. This can be a lot less than your normal phone lines, but the quality varies.

We have used it a number of times to call Lana’s sister in Australia, as well as some of David’s clients in Australia and around the US.

David visits Australia

David was once more able to visit Australia for a very quick two-week trip in early November. His mission was to assist one of his long time clients upgrade to Greentree Accounting software. Although it was a very busy time, the client was up and running and getting lots of benefits from the new system.
As a further benefit, last time his trip timed perfectly with the marriage of his sister Colette to Tim. This time he was able to attend his father's birthday and even more importantly, was able to see the newborn daughter Lauren of his brother Philip and his wife Michelle. She is a very cute little lady and should grow up pretty tough with two active older brothers. The children were very excited to have a new cousin.
A secondary mission was to bring back important supplies to the family. Both of his bags were very full of goodies, including a cricket set, some Dream Angel Spring Pillows, Australian Jigsaw puzzle and ice block tray, Australian DVDs, and lots of good food such as Vegemite, Caramello Koalas, Turkish elight, Violet Crumbles, Crunchies, Pucnics, Snow flakes, Smarties, Clinkers, Cherry Ripe, Fruit Tingles, Snakes, Jelly babies, a variety of Cadbury's chocolates, Sultanas, Jersey Caramels, Chocolate Bullets, Vita Brits and a few more. The bags were VERY heavy.
When he arrived in Atlanta, only one bag popped on the carousel. After the plane had finished unloading her reported the missing bag, and waited for the next two flights from Los Angeles to make sure it hadn't just been missed. After about 2 hours, he had a phone call that they had found my bag. It had lost it's Airline tag, but my address tag was there and they had called Lana who told them I was there looking for it. After going to four different places they found the person who had called David and our goodies were safe.

The hunter gatherer returns from his trip abroad with exotic treasures.

Cool Lego Links

In looking for Lego to purchase online, we came across a whole lot of great Lego links by fans.
How Lego is made
Interesting mechanical creations
Star Wars Trilogy in Lego
Honda made from Lego
Lego Megachurch

The Incredibles

Just a quick plug. We all saw The Incredibles at the new local cinema in Hiawassee. A great film. It may be a little scary for little ones in some bits. We go to Decent Films for all our movie reviews.

The Tooth fairy

Amazon.com is hosting a series of short films on it's web site. Although most are just weird, one is about the Tooth fairy and is excellent. You can watch it online, or download it for an even better quality picture.

(You can also go the main www.amazon.com page and browse to the short film page)

Family Tid Bits

We brought a paper roll containing all the children's height history from Australia, including the heights of David and Lana's parents. Ariel has just passed David's mother by about an inch. All of the children have grown between 2 inches or more in the last 18 months. No wonder their clothes are not fitting so well!

Clare (3.5) has taken to hiding things. We heard Ariel ask where her book was, and then Clare said, "It's in Dad's cupboard in the study." Ariel had a look and couldn't find it. Then with a sigh, Clare said, "I'll get it" and she opened David's cupboard and the book was hidden behind some CDs. The same place where one of James' toys was "found" a little while later.

We occasionally ask Clare to pronounce a word or phrase correctly, and she responds with, "I can't say it." We urge her a bit more and with a serious expression she counters with, "I have to get bigger."

Rose is now sitting herself up. Lana had a bit of a worried squeal when she saw Rose lift herself up against a box. Time to move the smaller things up a bit higher!