At sunset tonight an owl landed on the tree right outside our dining room. It was there for ten minutes before swooping after some prey below. A good omen as we prepare for a weekend of Halloween prep.
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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.
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.
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.
For last year’s term paper, I wrote about John Snow and how he discovered how cholera was spread through water during the Soho cholera outbreak of 1854. John Snow was the first person to disprove the miasma theory (the idea that disease is spread through bad air), though Pasteur is often wrongly credited with this discovery. During our trip to London this summer we visited a replica of the Broad Street Pump, which helped Snow in finding the cause of the disease. There is a nearby pub named after John Snow, and nearby is the former site of his house. It was so exciting to walk around in the neighborhood where Snow made his incredible discovery!
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!
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.
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!
This weekend, my friend and I decorated cupcakes to look like our favorite characters from the webcomic Girl Genius (which recently won the Hugo award for best graphic novel). On this plate are six of the twelve cupcakes we made (clockwise from top left: Gil, Violetta, Klaus, Tarvek, Oggie, and Agatha). We had so much fun! To see the whole cast in cupcake form, go here. If you want to see more of my people cupcakes, go here.