30 August 2005

Can you pass 8th grade Maths?

Here is a sample taken from the Illinois Board of Education Grade 8 Math[s] standard test. See how you go.
Then for an extra challenge go to a 6 question sample from the SAT linked at the bottom of the answers page.

(I got 10/10 and 6/6 - As Lana said "So you should! You're an accountant.)
(Link found at American Digest blog)

29 August 2005

Meanwhile the girls did...

(written by Lana)

The Scott Hogsed Memorial day was really for our boys. Girls were encouraged to join in but our girls didn't really want to participate. We knew friends there so I was able to do my cross stitch whilst our friend Angela spun wool on her spinning wheel. Clare enjoyed herself playing with Christianna - a friend about the same age as herself.
Ariel helped by taking Clare, Rose and Christianna for a walk to the colouring-in tent and generally do a small bit of exploring.
Angela and I moved from shade to shade during the day and many people stopped and asked us what we were demonstrating. Angela replied we weren't actually demonstrating, we were just making good use of our time. If they asked further she gave them quite a good explanation of how the wool was spun and how the spinning wheel worked.
One of the shade spots we had our eye on looked really good. But then we saw it just wouldn't do as the civil war guys fired the cannons in that direction!
Ariel did get a T shirt and they both shared a goodie bag at the end like everyone else, so they weren't completely left out. In this photo she stole David's hat.

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day

Yesterday we were fortunate enough to attend the first Annual "Scott Hogsed Memorial Youth Conservation Day". This is an event organised in remembrance of Scott Hogsed who died August 22, 1984 at the age of 15 in some accident on the farm. The idea had been percolating in the minds of his family and friends and this day teaching young people about hunting, shootting, fishing, wildlife and conservation is planned to become a regular event.
It started at about 8:40 with an opening ceremony including the national anthem sung beautifully by a young girl, everyone reciting the pledge of allegience, a short memorial to Scott and then the firing of 2 cannons by the Civial War society. Once the cannons went off, the car alarms rang out in chorus.
This photo is of the good old boys reloading their cannons. Between each session the cannons were fired to let each group know they were to proceed to their next stop.

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day 2

We were told to be at the site by 7:30, so that meant getting up at around 6:00. So we awoke at 6:21 and left the house by 6:40 and arrived at 7:15. I thought that wasn't too bad getting everyone awake, dressed and in the car in under 20 minutes.
Upon registering each child received a bright orange hat. This is called "Hunter orange" or "Blaze Orange". It can be seen for quite a long way. As the event was meant to begin at 8:00am and people kept arriving and it was delayed until 8:40, the children had a bit of time to play with their friends. Here Eric is giving a piggy back ride to his friend Elijah.
Each group made it's way along eight events: Turkey hunting, First Aid, Environment, Elks, Coon hunting, Fishing, Shooting, and Archery. Each event was 30 minutes, separated by two cannon shots from the Civil War guys.

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day 3

We were led by experienced turkey hunters and told the rules. A hunter can only shot a "bearded" turkey (also known as a gobbler) - a male that is old enough to have the special feathers that look like a beard. But - you can't shoot a hen, can't shoot more than one a day, can't have a house or another hunter in the line of fire. With all these rules in mind we were asked in various scenarios if we could shoot. In one scene just like this we all said "Yes" and then he said no - because a hunter was behind the turkey. Someone asked why the hunter wouldn't wear the hunter orange. Apparently the turkeys have good colour sense and camouflage is essential.
At one time, wild turkey, deer, elk and all the other wildlife that is subject to hunting in the US were depleted or almost extinct. Through wildlife management now there are an abundance and hunting season is an important method for keeping numbers down.
Young turkeys are known as "jakes" and junior turkey hunters are also known as JAKES - Juniors Acquiring Knowledge Ethics & Sportsmanship.

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day 4

We then listened to some First Aid instructions given by an Australian chap that is part of the local Ambulance/Search and Rescue unit. Lana and I enjoyed listening to this fellow that sounded a lot like us. It was fascinating. He was originally from a small Australian country town, attended school in Meblourne, joined the army and ended up in lots of places around the Pacific ending up in North Carolina. Another member of the Australian Diaspora.
The main lesson was BREATH - Be prepared/Buddy system, Relax, Environment, ABC (airway, breathing, circulation), Treatment and Help. We had forgotten the "T" word so asked one of the other crew members. He had to look it up! I thought this was supposed to help one remember!
The next station explained about how the elk are being reintroduced to North Carolina. The picture above shows the size of an elk head. The skull you can see on the left is from a cougar - one of the elk's natural enemies, but not actually a local one.

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day 5

The Coon hunting lesson was interesting. They have regular competitions where points are awarded for catching raccoons ("coons"). He showed us all the equipment one needs to hun coons: Hound Dogs ("dowgs"), lights ("larts"), boots, snake chaps, chains for dowg, tracking collar and a hat. It was interesting hearing how it was all organised.
Then we had the fishing where the pond (which we would call a dam in Australia) had been filled with fish and lots of fishing rods were ready for use. The worm fell off James' rod, so here he is concentrating on tying a poor worm into a knot onto the hook.

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day 6

Next up was shooting. Each child had the option of firing a BB gun, a 4-10 or 20 guage shotgun. Each child had a fellow from the National Parks service assisting and was provided with eye and ear protection. It was well controlled and the children enjoyed their experience. The target was a picture of a turkey. All the boys succeeded in hitting the target.
James and Eric fired the 4-10 shotgun which only had a slight kick (unlike the one that I fired last time or the time before). The cartridge in James' gun stuck and the man said to James he would need pliers. "I have some!" said James and took out his pocket knife/pliers. The man reacted with surprise and said "Thanks" and took the cartridge out. James was quite happy that his being prepared with his McGyver kit paid off! (This photo is Peter looking at the targets whilst he is waiting for the fellow helping him to get ready)

Scott Hogsed Memorial Day 7

After all the sections were completed by about 12:40 everyone was able to participate in a fine wildlife lunch. The fellow behind the table pointed to each meat tray commenting, "Deer, elk, bear, turkey ..." and so on. I suggested that he could be just making it all up and we wouldn't know any better. He replied, pointing to the tomatoes and said, "Well that's tomatoes, and ... " pointing to the spaghetti, "that's spaghetti meat!"
The event had at least 412 children registered, their families, helpers and others and there was food left over. There was no charge and they even had lots of door prizes at the end. The children learned about hunting and wildlife conservation and we all enjoyed a fun - and tiring - day out.
As the fellow giving the opening prayer ended, "God bless all y'all."

27 August 2005

The cookies are on us.

Our local bank has lots of free things avilable for their guests - lollipops, popcorn, cookies (biscuits), coffee, etc.

You may think they are free because you don't have to pay for them. But there is always a catch with little 'uns.

This is Rose after "eating" her free choc chip cookie and popcorn. Note her lips. She was approaching to give me a kiss.

(Update: I changed the title to something more appropriate)

26 August 2005

Can you spot a fake smile?

I discovered this quiz by the BBC to test your accuracy in spotting a fake or genuine smile. This is a good test for the family to try.
I correctly picked 13 out of 20. I'll try it later with the rest of the family.

Update: Lana, Ariel and Eric got 15, and Lana's sister got 18 right!
Tell us your score in the comments.

Update2: James 14, Peter 18, Clare 12. However we are suspicious of Peter's results as he overheard the post results discussion with James and when we asked Clare if she knew what "fake" meant, she said, "No".
(Link found at American Digest blog)

25 August 2005

Did the earth move for you?

Lana and I just felt the house shake. It was only a little nudge, but it wasn't the washing machine or dishwasher as they weren't on. It wasn't big enough to affect anything in the house, but the house definitely wobbled.
We looked up the US Government earthquake site and there was a small earthquake in Eastern Tennessee not too far from here (about 60 miles) last night. It was only a 1.6 magnitutude quake.
Perhaps this was a distant rumble of that one?
It was odd having the floor wobble.

Update: It was an earthquake! An earthquake of magnitude 3.8 about 90 miles from here at 11:09pm local time. Exactly when we felt the house jiggle. This map shows where people felt the earthquake. (You can click the picture for a larger version.)

Modern little girls

Clare was listening to Ariel reviewing integers as part of her maths lesson and Ariel said, "... dot, dot, dot.." (referring to a line sequence) when Clare said, "dot com"
What a modern little girl!

Meanwhile Rose has taken to walking around with the DVD remote control placed against her ear and jabbering into it - just like a telephone.
What a modern little girl!

23 August 2005

Marie Bellet

We have just purchased the three albums of Marie Bellet. I heard her being interviewed by Steve Wood of dads.org and they played a few of her songs.
Marie is a mother of eight or so children and her songs center around life, family, love and faith. Each CD came with a CD slip containing the words for the songs, so Ariel wanted to listen to them all and read along.
I made this task a lot easier when I remembered to turn off shuffle and play them in album and song order! Previously Ariel was listening carefully to the opening words and hurriedly flipping through the three booklets to find the right song.

The lyrics and music are uplifting and refreshing.
On her CD "What I wanted to say" the title song had these lines:

She said: Excuse me please, are these all yours?
You've really got your hands full, that's for sure
Tell me, when do you get time for you?
You know there's so much more that a woman can do.

Lana and I just laughed at hearing this. We get these questions all the time and to hear it in a song was good to hear.

22 August 2005

The Winner is Syd - Er - Ney!

Woo hoo!
Sydney has been announced as the host for World Youth Day 2008. This is the 10th International World Youth Day where anywhere from 1 to 10 million young people gather and celebrate their faith as Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI announced Sydney at the World Youth Day currently being held in Cologne Germany.

Go here for more WYD photos from Yahoo.

We should be home by then and so I expect we may be having a few international visitors!

Today's nature study

"I was downstairs and in the darkest part of the concrete and I was about to go into the dirt when the dark spot moved. It went squiggling real fast. It was a snake! So I ran inside up the stairs - barely touching them - and told Dad and Mum." narrated by James
After he rushed in warning everyone not to go outside because of the snake, we all went out and had a look. The snake was huddled in the corner not far from the downstairs door and was about just over one metre (4 feet) in length. Not knowing whether it was a good or bad snake I called our friend Donald who told me that up here in the mountains you need to see the snake's eyes. If they are round it is non poisonous, if slanted poisonous. I hesitated. To get that close seemed a bit silly if it was a poisonous snake! But Eric had his binoculars and was glad to be able to put them to good use.
The eyes were round, and I was told it was probably just a grass snake that likes to eat mice and small creatures. So, with a VERY long stick I encouraged it to "nick off" and it went away from the house, probably happy to be away from all this fuss and bother.

Nigerian email scam with a twist

There is a famous (infamous) email scam whereby a deposed Nigerian minister or one of their relatives has a stack of cash that he needs to transfer via someone's bank account. As with any offer received via email you need to check the facts. Snopes.com and Scambusters.org are two sources of checking up these emails. In fact, if you get any email that asks you to pass it on, odds are it is a hoax. To check go to Google and type "email hoax xxxx" replacing the xxxx with some unique bits from the email.
Anyway, today I received an email from a "parkinson yew", supposedly a lawyer who was acting for an "Andrew Bruggeman" whose relatives all died in some plane crash. He has 19 million dollars to give to his next of kin. If I wanted to act as the next of kin, this friendly chap would organise everything and we could share the proceeds.
Keys to knowing this is a con:
1. His email is barrister_yew@hotmail.com. Real professionals do not use a hotmail account as their email address.
2. He is offering me money for nothing.
3. A search for "email hoax next of kin" finds lots of other examples such as the Ethiopian Airline Letter hoax. This is obviously just a variation of the theme.

If you get an email offering something for nothing, it is time to be wary. Also, is this the price you would be willing to be paid to sell your honour? Lie about your family ties to get a possible share of the money?
The solution to this email? Delete it and get on with real life.

21 August 2005

Road Games for Squares

The children have just been introduced to the game of Squares.
With a pen or pencil they compete to get the most squares on the paper. If you click here you can download a copy of the squares game.
This is an old game but the children reckon they've discovered something new.

Road Games

Many people have been surprised that we look forward to travelling with six children across the country. Some mentioned “American Vacation” with Chevy Chase as an example for us. They expected our children to nag and fight for thousands of miles!
We have been travelling as a family for some time and children are pretty used to driving. We enjoy playing played the “Spotting” game, with winners calculated for each day's play. Some would think the driver would have the advantage being up front and involved in the road, but the driver tends to concentrate on the road and driving conditions and misses many of the non road points.

We created a spreadsheet for each person with a column for each day and a row for each item to spot. David, Lana, Ariel, Eric, and the other three were grouped. Rose’s scores were with Lana’s. As you can see here, Eric is taking it all quite seriously.

Items to Spot:
New VW Bug (1 pt)
Old VW Bug (1.5 pts)
Silver Mack Truck Dog Mascot (1)
Gold Mack Truck Dog Mascot (2)
Mini (3)
Police Car (1)
Ambulance (1)
Fire Engine (1)
Sheriff Car (2)
Flashing lights (1)
Interesting thing (2)
Martian Tripod (Water tower) (1) *
New State licence plate (Tag) (2)

We have a blank map of the US with state borders. When a new state vehicle tag (licence plate) is spotted it is added to the map. This is a fun way to learn the states.
* The water tanks that provide water pressure for lots of towns and suburbs look a bit like Martian Tripods from "The War of the Worlds".

19 August 2005

Why I like Macs

Look what I can press Dad!

See the big button.
It's bright and blue.
It's right at my height.
Flashing lights are on both its sides.
What happens if I press here?

This photo was just after Rose pressed the reset button on the UPS (Uninterruptible [except Rose] Power Supply), shutting off all power to the computer. That has a lovely little red button, slightly recessed so it feels fun to press.

On the Mac Mini the power button is at the rear of the box, the box is small enough to sit on the table and it needs a little more oomph than just a casual press. And it is out of sight of enquiring fingers. The CD/DVD drawer has no button and all the cables are at the rear. PC World listed the power button at the rear as a fault. They obviously don't have young children.

By the way, the photo wasn't set up. Whilst I was at the other end of the room she went for the button. I quickly grabbed the camera and snapped. Then we discussed the situation with her.

Oh the joy to see!

We picked up James' glasses yesterday and today was his first school day using them.
"Everything's closer!" he exclaimed.
In this photo he is reading his McGuffey's Reader and finding it a lot easier.
The glasses are only for reading and close in work, but he is not as reluctant to get into it now.
Today's lesson VII from the Second Eclectic Reader:


1. Once there was a little kitty,
White as the snow;
In a barn he used to frolic,
Long time ago.

2. In the barn a little mousie
Ran to and fro;
For she heard the little kitty,
Long time ago.

3. Two black eyes had little kitty,
Black as a crow;
And they spied the little mousie,
Long time ago.

4. Four soft paws had little kitty,
Paws soft as snow;
And they caught the little mousie,
Long time ago.

5. Nine pearl teeth had little kitty,
All in a row;
And they bit the little mousie,
Long time ago.

6. When the teeth bit little mousie,
Mousie cried out "Oh!"
But she slipped away from kitty,
Long time ago.

I just thought this was an interesting poem. I like verse 5 - it shows that is was written some time ago.

18 August 2005

The importance of being earnest

It is vital to always check your credit card transactions regularly. I have online access to all my accounts and every few days confirm what is going through them. The other day I noticed a transaction I didn't recognise. The company name was there with a 1800 number so I called and discovered someone had used my credit card details - and had my correct address and phone number, but had used a temporary email address. The company quickly cancelled the transaction. I then cancelled the card and had it re-issued.
Many times credit card thieves will try a small transaction to see if it goes through. If it does, then they can keep using the card often as a free credit source.
They could have gotten my credit card details from many places - restaurants, gas/petrol stations, small shops. Then with the name and card details, they look up the internet for address details and they have enough information to get the charge through.
The only way to guard against this is vigilance. Make sure you have internet access to all of your accounts and check the transactions often. Not just when the statement arrives but regularly during the month. Compare it to your records - either matching the receipts or your Quicken or accounts records.
I just suffered the inconvenience of a replacement credit card. If I had waited for my statement, I may have missed the transaction and had a lot more charges put through before I caught on.
I just thought I would pass on the warning.

Farmer in the Sky

I read a lot of science fiction when I was younger. A lot! It has been interesting reading/listening to some of these stories again. Farmer in the Sky is another Robert A Heinlein story written in the 1950's. Bill is an only child living with his father, still grieving over his mother's death a few years earlier. They live in California in an overpopulated world where food is rationed based on calorie counts. People must keep receipts to match their calorie allotment each month.
Bill and his father emigrate to Ganymede to take up farming and Bill grows up and becomes more mature as the book develops.
I have always remembered one scene where Bill is given an envelope containing 8 apple seeds as if it was worth a fortune. On a planet where trees were extremely rare and tree fruit rarer still it struck me what we take for granted.
Once more Heinlein's view of the future includes slide rules and advanced atomic power and space flight. His worries about overpopultaion were incorrect. Since the 1950's, the calories per person in every country has actually increased. The current threat facing us is actually under population with the majority of countries - even third world countries - having children below replacement level. It just goes to show that one can never tell what the future may bring.
This is another fine tale enjoyed by all our family. It leads to interesting discussions about the world around us and personal relationships. This version was also well read.

16 August 2005

Lego Star Wars game with real Lego

Yesterday afternoon we played the Lego Star Wars game and so did Mum. She played Episode Three, Chapter Four "Defence of Kashyyk". In this game the Clones have turned into bad guys so Mum has to kill Droids and Clones. They both have Commanders which take two shots to kill and the Clones have Walkers which take about five shots to kill, which makes it tricky. Mum was in free play mode and she was Obi-Wan Kenobi, trying to get some coins but she kept on getting attacked and dying because she kept getting shot. In the end she had to run away. James made a Walker out of Lego and showed Mum and Dad. Dad said to make a scene with Obi-Wan in bits with coins everywere (blue=1,000 gold=100 silver=10 - Mum lost two blue coins, 2,000) and a Walker standing over her.
Written by Eric

15 August 2005

Eric's reading

The reason we weren't overly concerned with James' reading is the way Eric started reading. He also avoided reading like the plague and it wasn't because he couldn't read - he just didn't want to.
Through judicious use of audio books, bribery and compulsion Eric started to read more and found he actually like it! Having to read the rules for Lord of the Rings wargaming helped too. Boys seem to need more of a reason before they get into something.
Here he is reading Christ the King Lord of history (as part of schoolwork) in the middle of the loungeroom. So long as he found this a comfortable position in which to read, we weren't going to stop him!

Glasses are cool

For some time we have been concerned with James' reading level. It wasn't where it should be, but it appeared as though the reason was more of James' wilfulness and avoidance. I was working from home and heard Lana discussing it with James and called James into my office and asked him to read to me.
James tended to guess a word after reading the first letter or two and then had a quite irrelevant guess at others. I stopped him on one word and asked, "Are the letters moving around?". He admitted they did and the letters weren't always clear. Aha! We finally worked out why he wasn't up to par. He couldn't focus on the words. We organised an appointment with a local Optometrist for yesterday.
We discussed with James why he hadn't mentioned anything. He told us he didn't want glasses and didn't want to be different. Once we started going over the situation more and pointed out other children we knew that had glasses, and I told him what it was like once I could really see when I had glasses he started noticing LOTS of people with glasses. Then he became more interested in getting glasses and not so much "being different" as "being special".
The Optometrist discovered that James sight is actually OK (20/20 vision) but his focussing is not as good as it could be. This meant all he needed was some reading glasses and he may well grow out of it. Special eye drops were placed in James' eyes as part of the tests. This made James eyes very sensitive to light and made everything blurry. But the doctor was supposed to help his sight - not make it worse! He was quite upset.
The optometrist office gave James some plastic sunglasses to wear whilst he was outside for the next day until his eyes returned to normal. James didn't mind the cool sunglasses. Next week we will be getting his reading glasses.

14 August 2005

The Rolling Stones

On our last trip we listened the "The Rolling Stones" by Robert A. Heinlein. This tale covers the adventures of the Stone family - Roger Stone ex Mayor of Luna town and currently author of soap opera episodes, Dr Edith Stone a retired doctor who cares for the children and occasionally goes to medical conferences, Mead the 17 year old daughter, 15 year old Pollux and Castor (the "unheavenly twins"), Lowell the 4 year old baby that beats his Grandma at Chess and Hazel the wily and tough grandma. They all live together in Luna City on the moon and decide to go on an adventure. This is a great tale of family values and accurate science.
We found one fascinating aspect was Heilein's vision of the future. This was written in 1952, well before computers could be made the size of a thumb. He envisages large computers with limited capabilities. The Stones often have to calculate and recalculate trajectories and vectors and velocities manually. This is then cross checked with planet based larger computers for clarification, but manual adjustments are still required. Education materials were via books or spools - like microfilm. As we heard this on our iPod and tracked our progress via the satellite tracking GPS we realised that the computing power in these two devices combined was a smaller size than the novel when it was published.
However technology has changed, Heinlein recognised that the core human values wouldn't change. Although many may experiment with human relationships, the core values persevere.
We all enjoyed the book so much that when we arrived home and it wasn't finished, we rushed inside, plugged in the iPod and listened until the end. I suppose that tells you our evaluation - Excellent!

13 August 2005

The Australian Diaspora

Did you know that 5% of Australia's population is living overseas at the moment? That is over 1 million Australians that live in other countries out of a total population of 20 million.

The Australian government has realised that 5% of their voters should be recognised and so are doing more to treat them as part of the general population. No one really knows the reasons why so many Australians live away from home, but the majority are only away temporarily and intend to return home one day. The massive displacement of a population away from their home country is called a "diaspora" - such as Israel's diaspora after Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and from that time the Jewish people lived all over the world.

Normally a diaspora is caused by war, or tyranny at home, or poverty, starvation and so on. But the Australian diaspora is different. This is primarily a voluntary and temporary departure from home for opportunities and experience overseas with the intent of returning later. In the process many millions of people around the world are able to know Australians resulting in a much higher recognition of Australia than similar sized countries. Considering that Australia is many thousands of miles away from the majority of the world, a lot of people have met Australians in their travels.

Passports - part 3

Success! Despite our mistakes filling out the form and the photo which didn't exactly match official requirements, we received Rose's passport. It's good to see common sense in the public service. The consulate obviously realized that getting a one year old to sit still, with a closed mouth and no shadows is a challenge.

9 August 2005

On a mission

Lana wants to complete her collection of DMC needlework threads so she can then complete all her unfinished cross stitch patterns. First, I created a spreadsheet which listed all the colours with the relevant DMC numbers and then Lana entered what each pattern required from the relevant patterns obtained from the appropriate web site. Then I loaded this into my organiser for when we were next at the store.
As the threads are only 24 cents per skein at Walmart that was the best place to buy them, but they are scanned through the checkout ONE at a time. I was at the checkout for about 30 minutes, with some useful assistance from some boys from the family next in line, getting 362 skeins of thread scanned. The receipt was 50" (127 cm) long!

Update: Added the photo of all the DMC skeins piled up in the middle of the long receipt. The pile of threads caused interesting looks on the face of the checkout lady, and the customers behind me in the line. After all, my trolley/buggy/cart looked pretty empty, then I unloaded the stash!

8 August 2005

Basement baseball

After dinner, the children like to play a new game they have invented, "Basement Baseball". The have this red plastic baseball bat and some balloons. The balloons get thrown ("pitched") and they play a game of baseball using the bed, lounge chair and bench as bases. All the children are invoved and encouraged to do their part, with Rose (1) playing interference, running around occasionally intercepting the balloon with a high pitched squeal of laughter.
Although Lana and I are upstairs we can hear them laughing, yelling, singing (!) and generally playing together. When we call them up for prayers, they will be all sweaty and tired from running around.
The children play together very well.

7 August 2005

Our quick trip is over

We had planned on visiting the Huntsville Rocket and Space Center but it was just too hot. So we went home after EWTN. It must have been hot as the GPS started being silly again. It thought we were in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and travelling 1,933mph. We turned it off and let it rest for a while.
After a spot of rain it was a little cooler and this time the GPS and I agreed on our location and speed.
For only a short trip we were pleasantly surprised at the number of compliments we received about the children. The consulate, customers and owner of the bakery, visitors at the hotel, a customer at the restaurant and a few people at EWTN all made a point of complimenting us on our family and how the children were so well behaved. It's gratifying to know that something seems to be working.
It was really nice sleeping in our own beds in the cool and quiet house.


After the McWane Center we visited EWTN. EWTN stands for Eternal Word Television Network and has a huge operation spreading Catholic programming via Satellite television, radio and the Internet. You can watch EWTN TV via the internet for free and the children like watching the children's programming on weeknights at 4:00pm (in Sydney it would be at 6:00pm) and on Saturday mornings from 9:00am to 11:30am (Sydney it is only 6:00pm to 7:00pm). The children do not always get to watch the shows, but they do learn a lot of faith related material in an entertaining format when they do.
They enjoy "Adventures in Odyssey" and lots of special shows and segments including one called "Hey Brother Leo!". Brother Leo points out how ordinary things demonstrate the existence of God and order in the universe. Today he had a box containing all the pieces of a car and tipped them all out. He said all these pieces are combined to make the car. The Church is the same - needing all it's parts to make the whole. He referred to St Paul's teaching of us all being members in Christ's body. These segments may be short and sweet but the children often surprise us repeating the contents and showing us their understanding of the concepts.
Brother Leo led us on the daily tour which begins at 2:30pm each weekday and we were able to see the production rooms, computer and editing areas and the satellite control rooms. The transmissions are beamed up to the Satellite 24 hours a day in multiple languages simultaneously. (Ironically they share the same satellite as MTV.) After the tour the children took the opportunity to say "Hey Brother Leo" and ask for a photo.
If you get the chance to visit Birmingham Alabama, it is worth your time to see how a little nun (Mother Angelica) with a big faith in God was able to grow a 24 hour a day television and radio network broadcasting around the world from a converted garage and a $400 stake. "The faith of a mustard seed ..."

McWane Science Center

The McWane Center is part of the Association of Science Technology Centers, which has reciprocal visitation rights with the Huntsville Space and Rocket Center. This meant FREE entry! All we had to do was pay $3 for the parking. There are a lot of different exhibits demonstrating lasers, weight, light, mirrors, electricity and lots more.
This photo is Eric lying on a bed of nails. It demonstrates how lots of nails close together spread the center of gravity enough so no nail pierces the skin. I suggested to the children that we may get some of these for their new beds. Perhaps a new line of products?

The next few posts are further examples of some of the exhibits.

McWane Science Center 2

Another exhibit at the McWane center is a digitised game. Visitors stand in front of a blue sceen and point to one of four games available to play. In this game Lana and Ariel played as soccer goalies and had to move around knocking back all the soccer balls thrown at them. It was all virtual reality.

This first picture shows the girls moving around swatting Virtual soccer balls.

The second shot shows the large screen which onlookers were able to see. Note how Lana and Ariel are reversed? Ariel is reaching out to swat away a soccer ball. The girls did well and received the Top score.

McWane Science Center 3

We attended the "Combustion show" at the McWane center which explained about combustion - fire and what it takes for combustion to occur.
The examples and demonstrations were very effective, showing how a US $1 note wouldn't burn after a short wave over the flame (it is cloth not paper), so the demonstrator soaked it in an alcohol solution. As it wasn't the demonstrator's money (he had borrowed it from an audience member) he wasn't concerned.
He then placed the note above the flame and it was surrounded by fire. The fire went out and the note was unharmed. Why? The alcohol solution was 70% alcohol and 30% water. The alcohol burned, and the water soaked into the note.
There were four floating balloons attached to weights. The first was filled with helium. As an audience member placed a flame near the balloon, it popped but there was no flame or explosion. The next was filled with Hydrogen. Remember the Hindenberg? The same happened here - flame and explosion. The last two balloons had gasses which when combined would also explode. James volunteered to assist and had quite a surprise at the loud explosion.
The photo is of Peter playing with the electricity ball that was on as we came in. Peter's shoes have lights in them, but they only flash when he walks or jumps. When he placed his hands on the ball and the electricity connected to his hands, his shoes lit up. Feel the power!

McWane Science Center 4

This display demonstrated how an arch is constructed using gravity to put enough pressure on each block. No mortar or glue is required. Each block is numbered and the starting spot is marked.
But it takes a team to hold the partly constructed sides and gather the correct blocks in sequence until the capstone is put in at the top. Here everyone is doing their bit.

Hot Hot Hot again

The Suburban's air conditioning failed again. :-( Obviously something is lurking in the complicated airconditioning system which is stopping the flow of the cool air and building up pressure to blow the compressor, or the seals. At least we are learning lots about how air conditioning systems work. (or should work, anyway)

We had to go to Atlanta and were glad to get out after a two and a half hour drive. Then it was only a short 10 minute drive to the bakery. But now we were taking some time off to visit Birmingham, Alabama to visit the EWTN television station.
You may recall last time when the system first failed and stranded us in Chatanooga, and how the children were very hot. So if it didn't work, we weren't turning it on. So all we had was 4WD air conditioning (4 Windows Down).

Perhaps they are more used to travelling in the heat this time but the children handled it very well. They had plenty of water and nibblies like grapes and some lollies (candy). This photo is Rose after some lollies (therefore sticky) with grapes stuck to the outside of her nose. We will have to show this at her 21st birthday party one day.

We stopped at the Alabama visitor's center and found out about a science museum with lots of hand on exhibits for the children. The Vistor's Centers are normally staioned just across each State's border on the main interstate highways - roads that start with and I such as I24, I75, I20 and so on. The staff are always helpful and some have special activities for the children to do in the car. Ariel has learned to just go right up and ask them, as the activities are rarely on display.

We ended up the day at the McWane Center and we were all very happy to get into somewhere cool and airconditioned.

I had left the GPS in the car whilst we visited the Science Center and when we returned it must have been too hot. Once it found some satellites, it kept telling us we were about 30 miles North or just below Atlanta or anywhere but where we actually were. Luckily we knew where we had to go but it was interesting seeing my GPS calculated speed - over 400mph. Even the GPS didn't like the heat!

Australian Bakery Cafe

As we were in Atlanta anyway, we made sure we popped in to the Australian Bakery Cafe. We had visited their other store in Marietta but this time we were able to meet the other business partner, John McLaughlin - and eat some yummy meat pies, sausage rolls and some cakes and desserts.

Our chap from the Australian Consulate told us to tell John to give us a 15% discount because he goes there all the time. John did give us a good deal and we had a great time.
Lana spent some time explaining ALL of the Australian chocolates sitting on the shelf to an American visitor. He looked at Lana in amazement at her knowledge - and obvious enjoyment - of the chocolates and said, "You should go into selling Aussie candy on the side! You know all about them"
The store is adjacent to a driveway leading to rear parking. Faced with a long blank wall, he thought of doing a mural. An aboriginal artist was visiting and John asked if she would like to design the mural. She did and the mural has lots of Australian themes including over five hundred hand prints - all from local children, visitors and even a dog or two.

Passports - part 2

We have been away for the last couple of days.
Now that Rose is an Australian, she needs an Australian passport. This means filling in a long form, gathering lots of original documentation together and visiting the closest consulate - in our case in Atlanta.

We experienced the difference between Australian vs most US bureaucracy. On arriving at the Consulate and being let in our interviewer stepped out and immediately said with a smile, "Is that all? Or are there more of you?" I answered, "That's it for the moment." He said that he had been going to use the interview room but it was too small so we did the interview in the lobby.

He was very personable and typically Australian. The children, who have not really heard any Australian accents for some time other than ours, listened carefully. Our paperwork was mostly correct, but the interviewer had his white correction pen ready to sort out most of the errors. I suspect he had no doubt about the authenticity of the claim considering we were all there and had enough original documents to sink a ship. (At least it seemed that many.)

This photo is the one we finally settled on as it had the correct face size as required. But we forgot that the mouth cannot be open! They may end up using the earlier photo (shown here). We'll see.

At the end of the interview, he asked Lana whether "the children were allowed these", and showed Lana a pack of Arnott's Butternut Snaps. (These are based on a crunchy ANZAC/oatmeal biscuit (cookie) recipe). Lana mentioned, "They like chocolate too!" and he smiled and answered he had to save them.

The children enjoyed the biscuits (cookies) and we enjoyed the friendliness and professional of the Australian Consulate staff. Hopefully in due course Rose will be properly accredited!

2 August 2005

Prayer Time

Each night we gather to pray as a family and thank God for His blessings and ask for His help for friends, family and those for whom we wish to ask Him to help.

We all kneel down, except for Rose. It is her time to have an audience that is not allowed to notice her. She is very distracting. She runs around between each of us, jumps into nearby cupboards, stands on her head, puts her hands in the air and spins around and tries to push some of the children over. The rule is for the children to pretend Rose isn't there - we don't want to give her the attention she wants at this time.

But it doesn't work. She is too funny. It is hard to describe what she does so we had our camera ready tonight. In this photo Rose fell down trying to push Clare over. I did the "Dad pointing thing" and she grabbed my finger - obviously very concerned at the scolding! (Not really)

Lana asked me why we bother with nightly prayers when it is such a hassle and we can't possibly concentrate - even if Rose was asleep. My answer was simple. When we get "too busy" for prayers, niggling and frustration increases and family harmony decreases. So something must be working.

I figure that our laughter at Rose and other things that happen during prayer time are just part of our prayers. After all, one of the reasons to have children is because they are funny. It's a bit hard to stay serious when your youngest child suddenly puts her head on the floor, her bottom in the air and looks at you through her legs in the midst of trying to concentrate.

1 August 2005

Growing Lads

Two years ago Eric and James served as altar boys. They serve regularly now, but it is worth seeing how they have grown over the last two years. Compare to this photo taken in 2003.

If you compare their heights against the window frame you can see how much they have grown.