Archive for August, 2007

Total Eclipse of The Moon

A total lunar eclipse will be visible during the early morning of Tuesday, August 28. The event will be widely visible from the United States and Canada as well as South America, the Pacific Ocean, western Asia and Australia. If you’re interested in catching it, check NASA’s eclipse page for local viewing times.

You Should See the Chicken

Kinder Surprise

While I didn’t make it back from Leipzig with Schultüte, I was able to gather some gifts during my layover at the Frankfurt airport. The shopping at Frankfurt’s airport is pretty dismal, but even there, I was able to get some unusual magazines for Annabel and some Kinder Surprise Eggs for Nettie and Peabody. Each Kinder Surprise contains a toy inside a plastic shell. Because they are not legally sold in the US, they’re a special treat.

Back to School in Leipzig

A window full of Schultüte

I’m in Leipzig, Germany this week for the annual Games Convention. About 150,000 kids will be converging on the city shortly to play the latest video games. Before heading to the convention hall, I took a short walk around the town center. One shop that caught my eye was a stationary store with a window full of paper cones. Called “Schultüte,” the cones are filled with school supplies, treats and small toys and given to kids on their first day of school. I’m going to see if I can make it home with a couple of these. Empty cones can be ordered through Magic Cabin.

Lego Adventurers in Thebes

Archaeologists in Thebes

We love the game Thebes, but Nettie doesn’t identify with the male archaeologist figures that come with the game. So we’ve swapped them with some Lego mini-figs. From L to R: Nettie, Merriweather and Peabody. We haven’t convinced Annabel to join us in a game yet.

Little Yellow Postauto on the Road Again

Postauto in Berkeley

Taking our own advice from Dare 1, we headed off on a geocaching excursion today with the Little Yellow Postauto, a Travel Bug we picked up in Vienna. Travel Bugs are small trinkets with coded tags that are moved from cache to cache by geocachers and tracked on geocaching.com. They come in all shapes and sizes; many have missions. Postauto hopes geocachers will send his German family a postcard.

In Vienna, we put our first Travel Bugs into the field. Annabel made miniature eye portraits and wrote a mission on the back: to return to Berkeley. After three weeks, our eyes have begun the journey:

  • Merriweather’s eye is hidden in a cache in Oresin, Czech Republic
  • Annabel’s eye is at the University of Iceland
  • Nettie’s eye is with the Brown family in Raymore, MO
  • Peabody’s eye is at a park outside of Tulsa, OK

A Board Game for Would-Be Archaeologists

Thebes

I dropped into our favorite game shop this afternoon and ran across a new arrival called Thebes. With an archaeologist and Egyptian ruins on the cover, the box instantly caught my eye. The description promised a game of travel, exploration, excavations and exhibitions. According to the shop owner, Thebes had just come in the day before and had been played that night with much enjoyment. In fact, the box I held was the shop’s last. I bought it, brought it home and quickly had Nettie and Peabody popping out cardboard pieces.

Thebes puts players in the roles of turn-of-the-century archaeologists competing to uncover treasures from around the ancient world. Players travel through

Europe acquiring support and knowledge about five ancient cultures. Once prepared, they head off to the dig. The more knowledge, support and time they bring to their excavation, the more likely they are to uncover valuable treasures. When a player excavates at a site, he or she pulls tiles from a bag, but some may only be worthless trash instead of historic artifacts. Thebes has a number of little details that enhance the fun: a zeppelin can speed you across the Mediterranean, locals can pass on secret legends and exhibitions can be held to showcase what you have uncovered.

Thebes is easy to learn and can be played by two to four players in 60 to 90 minutes. After just one game it has become a Derringdo instant favorite. Nettie simply loved the game. And while Thebes’ strategy is too advanced for Peabody, with some help he managed an archaeologist and had a great deal of fun excavating for treasure.

How to go Geocaching

Peabody locates a hidden cache.

Geocaching is a treasure hunting game where participants look for hidden caches in their neighborhood (or pretty much anywhere in the world). Caches are hidden by volunteers who enter the location of their cache into a free database at geocaching.com in the hopes that treasure hunters will find them. Once found, users leave a note in the logbook, exchange a treasure, return the cache to where they found it and then return home and note their find on Geocaching.com. Chances are there are dozens of caches near you at this moment and you didn’t even know it.

Geocaching was developed with GPS users in mind. A GPS (Global Positioning System) unit is a handheld gadget that can determine your position on the Earth to around 5-20 feet. Geocachers download the coordinates of the cache they are hunting to the system and use the GPS to point them in the right direction. But while you’ll know approximately where the treasure is hidden, getting there is the challenge. For those who don’t have a GPS unit and don’t want to invest the $100 to $300 to purchase one, there is a cheaper alternative. Load the cache coordinates into Google maps and print out the location. It’s almost as accurate as using a GPS unit.

Kid Tips: When choosing your first cache on Geocaching.com, note the size of the cache, the difficulty level of locating it and the challenge of the terrain. As we are typically geocaching as a family, we look for caches that aren’t too difficult to find or get to. We also recommend choosing a regular or large cache so your kids can exchange a treasure hidden in the cache with one they bring with them. Parents can also print out the encrypted hints often placed at the bottom of the cache description page. These are handy if you’re having trouble locating the cache. Have several caches’ mapped out in advance. We typically find two out of three on an afternoon outing. And as always, bring water, snacks, a notebook and a camera for the hike.

For more information, head over to Geocaching.com.

Giant Lego Man Mystery Solved

Ego Leonard on the Dutch coast

As if to mark Friday’s 75th anniversary of the founding of the Lego Group, an eight foot tall Lego man washed up on a Dutch beach on August 7. The origins of the giant “mini-fig” weren’t reported by news sources. One witness noted that it came “from the direction of England.” The only clue to his origin was his shirt which read “NO REAL THAN YOU ARE”. A quick Google search on that phrase led me to a Dutch site: egoleonard.com. The giant is Ego Leonard, last seen in the UK at an event called Dance Valley. You can see pictures of him dry and posing with attendees. According to the site, Ego is “here to discover and learn about your world and thoughts.” We suspect his creators released him into the North Sea as part of his quest.

Travel Journals for Kids

Agenda and journals from our Summer tripto Austria and Hungary.

Nettie has been keeping a diary since she was six. In addition to her everyday diary, she has separate journals for weekends, special days, science, math, and writing stories. And she never leaves on an expedition without her travel journal, tape, glue stick and an assortment of pencils. This summer, Peabody, who isn’t writing yet, kept a journal by gluing postcards, candy wrappers and beer coasters into a small notebook. Journal writing (or gluing) is a great activity for a long train ride, waiting for a snack at a cafe or winding down at the end of the day.

Where’s George?

Where has this buck been?

I came across this dollar bill yesterday at Peet’s. The red ink caught my eye as the familiar marking of a bill being tracked in the US currency project, Where’s George. If you’re interested in knowing where your money has been or where it will go in the future, you can enter the serial number and follow its journey around America. This bill was entered into the database on October 1, 2006 in Conover, NC and traveled 2,257 miles at an average speed of 7.5 miles per day before ending up as change for my ice coffee. Over the years we’ve tracked 40 bills, 4 of which have been recovered and entered into the database by other Where’s George users.