Archive for November, 2007

Carrying-on: Holiday Flying

Boeing Dash 80 and an Air France Concorde.

Our flight on “the busiest travel day of the year” was surprisingly stress-free. We booked well ahead to secure a direct flight. After spending a night at the Denver airport last year, flying non-stop has moved up in our priorities. Booking ahead also allowed us our choice of seats. On more than a few occasions, we’ve had to negotiate with other travelers to get a seat next to our kids. And to avoid waiting at the airport, we checked-in online and printed our boarding passes at home. We also packed everything into carry-ons. Annabel and I each had a duffel, while Nettie and Peabody had backpacks. All of our bags fit under our seats. I put mine under Peabody’s as he doesn’t need the leg room. We need to fine-tune our gear and packing list, but we’ve converted to carry-on travel.

Whittle Shortline Railroad

Metra passenger train

During Thanksgiving break, Uncle Dave brought back a stash of wooden trains from Whittle Shortline Ralroad. Whittle is a small family owned toy maker in Valley Park, Missouri. Their handcrafted, “Made in the USA” trains are compatible with Brio and Thomas sets. Uncle Dave’s favorite is the small version of the Metra passenger train he commutes in. In addition to trains, Whittle also makes trucks, tracks, and railway buildings.

Lewis & Clark: Lego Adventurers

Ocian in View!

Andrew Becraft of The Brothers Brick, one of our favorite Lego blogs, recently posted a great flickr photo set of Lewis and Clark Minifigs exploring the Long Beach Peninsula. I like the idea of bringing a couple Lego traveling companions with us on our trips to provide a silly perspective on the journey.

Nettie’s Top 5 Daring Kids Magazines

Nettie’s favorite magazines.

I love magazines. Some of my favorites (in order) are:

  1. Ask – An interesting science magazine that always picks good topics.
  2. Spider – Even though it’s for younger kids, I like the stories.
  3. Muse – Really good, but sometimes they pick bad subjects, so I look through it at the book store before I buy it.
  4. National Geographic Kids – Not as great as the others, but the pet issues are really silly.
  5. I Love Cats – We don’t have a cat, but I’m trying to persuade my parents that we need one.

What’s the Longest Name in the World?

Isolation Booth: What’s the Longest Name in the World

Our first Isolation Booth question (#72 in the 50 year old Topps series) was chosen by Peabody. The clue, on the back of the card, states that the name comes from the Indian saying “You fish on your side, we fish on our side, nobody fish in the middle.” The card’s answer, revealed through our secret decoder, is Lake Chargoggcgoggmonchanggagoggchaubuwagungamaug. How accurate it this 50 years after the card’s printing?

First, the folks at Topp’s got the spelling wrong. It should be Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg, also known as Lake Webster in Webster, Massachusetts. The translation is in dispute, but this hasn’t stopped the locals from using it on T-shirts.

According to the BBC, the city the rest of the world knows as Bangkok has the longest name. However it isn’t recognized by the Guinness Book of Records because the name is not used on a regular basis. The place with the longest name in common usage is a hill in New Zealand. Taumata whaka tangi hanga koauau o tamatea turi pukakapi ki maunga horo nuku poka i whenua kitana tahu translates as “the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as land-eater, played his flute to his loved one.”

Merriweather Gets His Own Helmet

Merriweather’s pith helmet and goggles.

When I was 10 and saw Sean Connery in The Man Who Would be King, I wanted a Pith Helmet. I got this one online at The Village Hat Shop. It’s a little snug, but well constructed. The goggles, for driving through desert sandstorms, were found on eBay. It’s a good start to a steampunk explorer costume.

How to Make a Cell

My gelatin cell.

For a biology project at school, we were supposed to make a model of a cell. I used gelatin as the cytoplasm which worked pretty well to hold the other cell parts (organelles). I used jelly beans beans as mitochondria; pepper corns as ribosomes; lasagna noodles as endoplasmic reticulum; Altoids as lysosomes; and a knot of rubber bands as the golgi apparatus. A gallon freezer bag was the plasma membrane. For the nuclear membrane I used a snack-sized plastic baggy with a piece of clay as the nucleolus. And lastly, I wrapped another plastic baggy around some crocheted string and taped it onto the cell as the flagellum. The only problem was that the gelatin absorbed a couple of the peroxisomes. An annotated picture is on Flickr here.

Tom Sawyer’s Steps

Weatherproofing the front steps

A couple weekends ago, Peabody burst into tears when I told him we had to skip weatherproofing the steps until he was over his cold. Our kids dislike chores as much as other kids, but painting falls into the category of “fun chores.” This category also includes cleaning the sink trap, turning over the compost heap, oiling the bike chain, and washing the car. Most require tools, involve water under pressure or have the potential to be gross. They’re usually non-routine and require adult supervision. That last ingredient is probably the most important. Peabody and Nettie know they’ll get to spend dedicated time with Annabel or me if they help out.

Happy Birthday Cheeseboard

Blue cow dressed for the party.

The Cheeseboard Coop celebrated its 40th anniversary yesterday. We headed to the party, expecting a small open house, and found a block party with dozens of fans eating salad and pizza. The Cheeseboard, an anchor of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto, has been part of our family diet for years. At least twice a week Nettie and I drop by on the way to school for Chocolate Things and cherry-cornmeal scones. Annabel will visit in the afternoon to pick up cheese and bread. And after work, I’ll listen to live jazz while waiting in line to pick up whatever pizza they are making that day. You can look at upcoming pizzas here. Happy Birthday Cheeseboard!

That’s Life

The Game of Life

I’m a game snob. I like games that take hours to play, call for deep strategies and have obscure themes. Most of our games are European. So when I broke out a copy of The Game of Life I picked up at Hasbro’s HQ, I was surprised how much we all enjoyed playing. It’s by no means perfect. The components are cheap. Nettie doesn’t like the amount of luck involved. Peabody gets frustrated late in the game if it’s clear that he has no chance of winning (as his debt piles up). But even with all of this we eagerly come back to Life for its simple and fast gameplay, constant interaction between players and the overall silly experience of seeing a life unfold in less than an hour.