Author Archive for Merriweather Page 2 of 21



Nettie’s Clever Case

A few years ago, Nettie created this case for her Nintendo DS using duct tape. Today, Treehugger recognized it as #19 in their 20 Clever Uses for Duct Tape list. See Nettie’s original story here. There are a bunch of great ideas in the Treehugger article, but of course #19 is my favorite!

Aboard the USS Spruance

This morning we visited the USS Spruance which is in San Francisco for Fleet Week. The ships gunnery officer, she’s the one in charge of the 5-inch gun behind Peabody, guided us through the ship which is the Navy’s newest guided missile destroyer. Most of the crew was on shore leave which gave us the opportunity to visit the Combat Information Center, the heart of the Spruance’s operations. It’s tight and dark with seat-belted chairs and monitors everywhere. Two big screens provide a video feed from the deck. It reminded us of the screen from Star Trek’s Enterprise. The mess hall holds the bell from the original Spruance, a destroyer that served from 1973-2005. Babies born to crew members can be baptized in the bell. We’ll be looking out for the Spruance as she raises anchor and heads out under the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow. And if you wondered what the proper procedures for abandoning ship are, read this ship’s sign.

Building da Vinci’s Catapult

This week, Peabody assembled the da Vinci Catapult model from Marbles: The Brain Store. The working model is based off of Leonardo’s Renaissance redesigns of medieval catapults. It comes with everything you need, even glue and clay ammunition. The instructions and illustrations are very well done. With only a little help, Peabody had it going in a little over an hour. We recommend it for 10 year-olds and up who are interested in laying siege to the living room.

Cooperative Board Games

I came to cooperative games with a healthy dose of skepticism. The exhilaration from out-smarting an opponent is a big part of what makes gaming fun. A relatively new batch of cooperative board games, though, doesn’t skimp on the challenge and tension found in traditional competitive games. Games like Flash Point, Pandemic and Forbidden Island succeed by offering a clear opponent and win/lose conditions against a simulated threat. In Flash Point, a team of firefighters must rescue the occupants of burning building before it collapses. In Pandemic, the team travels the globe, battling a rampant disease. And in Forbidden Island, the team sets off to save treasures from a tropical paradise before it sinks beneath the oceans. We like how each game allows players to take on a role with unique skills and bonuses. If you want to encourage family teamwork, try out one of these games. All three are suitable for gamers eight and up. We like Flash Point for its theme and action. Pandemic is harder and the theme a bit more mature, but the consequences and scale make it feel epic.

The Derringdos Return

Where have we been? Well let me tell you. Back in the spring Nettie moved to Urinetown for a few months while Peabody explored Rock City. We welcomed a new member to the family while mourning the loss of another. And this summer, we saw dragons in St. Louis, drank from the waters of Aquae Sulis, took the helm of the Cutty Sark, and met a master bell founder. Now we are getting ready for fall; back in school and preparing for more projects at home and in the field. Our new house/headquarters is undergoing a major fixing up. Excitement (and quite a bit of dust) is in the air! But we are here! So stay tuned for more on our exploits in the lab, on the road and maybe even in the air!

Into the Hills

After years of searching for a new home and headquarters for the Derringdos, we finally discovered it this winter in the Berkeley Hills. Peabody and Nettie now have their own rooms. Annabelle has studio with a swing chair. And I have an office with a display case for relics and mementos from our adventures. Our neighborhood’s “sidewalks” are paths that take us by waterfalls and deer. From our home, we have an incredible view of Berkeley and the Bay. Flying outside our windows are turkey vultures, falcons, and the America’s only working zeppelin. Even though we’ve only been here a couple months, it already feels like home.

End of Summer

We wrapped our summer up with a visit to the Mar Vista cabins near Point Arena. As usual, we spent time at the beach, reading, playing games and visiting the goats, chickens and bunnies living near the cabins. There was also a nest of baby swallows living on our porch. Their mom fed them from morning until dusk. We watched them as they took their first few steps out of their nest only to scooch back in at night. On the day we headed back home, the little birds had vacated…off for new adventures in the fall. And here we go too!

Maker Faire 2011

Despite the crowds, the trip to Maker Faire was fun and inspirational. Nettie enjoyed the felt and jewelry crafts and Peabody liked the Lego and miniature steam trains. While Annabelle took in a couple lectures, we watched RC warships fight in the battle pool. After we get through the bedroom re-making project, we’ll need to get to some serious making this summer.

Bedroom wall restoration

We’ve started repairing some of the walls in our 120 year old cottage. The bedroom has some nasty bulges where the plaster has separated from the wooden lathe. Annabelle started stripping the walls this week. Peabody and I joined her for a full day of work on Saturday while Nettie organized her room. We had to break through two layers of paint and five layers of wallpaper to find the plaster beneath. Here is some of Peabody’s handiwork. We still have a bit more stripping to do before we begin repairing the walls later this week.

Nettie in Pippin this weekend

The Berkeley Playhouse Conservatory for Teens is presenting the 70’s rock musical Pippin May 14 and 15 at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts in Berkeley. Tickets are on sale at berkeleyplayhouse.org. Nettie has been coming home from the theatre late, exhausted, but enthusiastic!  Look for her as the Newscaster, Kind of Woman Woman, and a hoolahooping Circus Performer. We can’t wait to see the results of the their hard work!