Posts filed under ‘geekdad’

The Power of the Question

In the July 14, 2008 Chemical and Engineering News is a guest editorialby Professor Richard N. Zare.  He points out the wonder that is ‘the question’ and describes his efforts to promote ‘inquisitiveness and creativity in young people…’

Zare is the president of the Molecular Frontiers Foundation which sponsors an annual ‘kid Nobel’ the Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize.

To compete, kids 18 and under ask a question related to molecular science, one they thought was important, and one they’d investigated to unsatisfying results.

For example, why aren’t plants black to absorb more sunlight?

Zare decribes the power of ‘the question’ which ‘…organizes knowledge and directs us to the unknown.  Life is not about answers;it is about questions….’

He encourages us to visit the Molecular Frontiers Foundation website,

AND questions for the next round of Inquiry Prize can be submitted at the website!  What a wonderful opportunity to share the excitement of science with the kids.


July 22, 2008 at 8:04 am Leave a comment

GeekDad Cryptography with the kids

Rainy day challenge to the kids: solve the code, keep the treasure


I explained the basics of frequency analysis and let em go.

Not only did they solve the clue within a half hour (and claim their prize), they presented me with their own encoded clues for a treasure hunt of their own design!  Wow, that was harder than I expected, expecially since the messages were almost too short for any sort of meaningful frequency analysis.

See how well you can do.

The first one was a stumper – and it contained an error which added to the fun:


And this one was pretty tricky too:

Today you stumble upon a secret code that could lead to treasure

To whoever finds this,

26,21,24,- 25,18,6,6,- 3,18,7,2-20,16- 14,10- 10,4,16- 23,10,14,17,16- 9,21,15,19,18,7,17-21,24,10

Good luck

Other codes with kids online:


July 2, 2008 at 1:39 pm 1 comment

In the kitchen with the kids

Making dessert with the kids is something special.  My daughter came up with this truly amazing delicacy and even wrote out the recipe so the world can share in the wonder that is….  Poopie from Heaven. 

Poopie From Heaven

I guess the Geekdad parts of this post are 1. the shear innovation and obvious joy of experimentation 2. she found her handwritten notes to be too messy and took it upon herself to type them out for me:  (tricits = Triskets garnet = garnish):

Poopie from heaven recipe


May 30, 2008 at 12:54 pm Leave a comment

Shortwave Radio. The long and the short of it.

My son is working on his Radio merit badge. I’ve had a shortwave radio for years, but I’ve never figured out when to listen and where on the dial to look for stations. This gave me a reason.

This has been a lot of fun.

I’ve listened to Radio Havana Cuba – they were talking about the School of the Americas, aka the School of the Assassins (see

I learned that China has been having some trouble with snow on China Radio International.

I listened to a discussion of aboriginal displacement on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that sounded a lot like our own country’s history and Native Americans.

I listened to a couple of folks talk of the strange things they’d eaten, riffing on the upcoming Year of the Rat on Radio Taiwan International, “Rat’s not that bad.” They also noted in response to a listener’s letter, that the reason they were off-the-air the other night was due to radio-jamming by mainland China!

I heard a really really really bad cover of Radar Love on Radio Nacional de España.

Here’s a couple of really good sites for finding out what’s on:

Here’s a really detailed discussion of radio propagation and the ionosphere: Introduction to HF Radio Propagation

A good book for schedules is Passport to World Band Radio.

When you think about the radio vs. the web, it’s hard to imagine that shortwave could last. In fact many countries no longer aim their broadcasts toward the US (BBC , Deutsche Welle) and I wonder if that’s not part of it: online radio and podcasts are much cheaper than a huge antenna.

But no one can tell what you’re listening to on the radio. And you can’t get web access everywhere yet.

Combine HF with the web and Open Spectrum gets interesting? Or becomes amateur radio?

I am having a blast! My son? Not so much. What are some good ways to pique a kid’s interest in Shortwave – or should listening to static be its own reward? That is, if he’s not interested so far, will he ever be?

Interestingly, he’s way more interested in Amateur radio and actually talking to people than in simply listening. I guess this is similar to our differences in playing computer games – I like playing against bots, he likes playing with foul-mouthed wackos online.

February 5, 2008 at 3:14 pm 12 comments

Web + Carbonspace Treasure Hunt

Some ideas for clues and such for a treasure hunt:

  • Paper notes
  • geolocations using longitude and latitude and google maps
  • a compass
  • a google search using the hits somehow
  • passwords on the trail
  • use out-of-office email to respond with next clue
  • steganography using flickr
  • books, and page numbers like a one-time pad or whatever that’s called, like the Key to Rebecca
  • Simple alphabet ciphers or number ciphers
  • maps
  • maps in a puzzle
  • bury stuff
  • hidden messages in music
  • prize maybe an Amazon gift certificate in an email inbox

July 20, 2007 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

How does a (geek)dad pay allowance?

Our kids have to work to get paid an allowance. The cool thing (I think) is that they can make as much money as they want, if they keep working! When they’ve had a goal in mind they’ve cleared over $20 a week.

We have three chore lists on the fridge, one for each kid. There are tasks listed, like washing dishes, and taking out the garbage, and each task is worth an amount between 10 cents to $1. When they complete a task, they make a mark, they get paid. We usually wait until the end of the week, or until they’re strapped for cash, for payday. It’s that simple.

Chore list Chore lists on the fridge Filled out chore list

The kids are responsible for their chore list. Mom and dad don’t keep track of their chores. If they complete a task and don’t make a mark, they don’t get paid. If they make a mark and haven’t completed the task, their chore list goes in the trash (hasn’t happened yet). If they haven’t been asked to do a task before they begin, they get to mark for double!  When they are ready to get paid they add up the tasks and submit a total.  They get paid in two-dollar bills.  Just because.

The dishes are assigned to each kid on a rotation that has them doing dishes twice a week, with mom and dad doing dishes on Friday. The pets are routinely fed by two of the kids, and picking up dog leavings is usually a job for the other. Although not a specific chore right now, if their room is not kept clean a dollar is subtracted from the total.

On our computer network, each kid has a link to the Excel chore list template; when they get paid and need a new checklist, they print out their own form.

Here’s the template. It’s pretty straight-forward, and the idea would be easy to modify for other situations.

June 13, 2007 at 7:56 pm Leave a comment

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