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  • September 19, 2006

Today is Primary Election Day in Redmond, Washington and there is a new kind of Democracy at work. A Democracy where only the technologically savvy are allowed to vote. And the best part is that we have managed to keep the plebs out surreptitiously rather than using any high profile methods that might attract attention to this new world order that is under construction.

Back when I was a kid growing up in suburban San Diego, California, I would often confuse Election Day with Flag day because you would see homes, churches, schools, or libraries absolutely littered with flags and signs that read “Vote Here.” It was exciting, and you could hardly miss it. All you had to do was stop by the Polling place nearest your home and vote, or register to do so in the future. Any old 18 year old, no matter how bright, could easily get involved in the democratic process.

Here is a picture of my polling place today taken from my cellphone across the street.

The polls from the street

No flags, no signs, no nothing! Here is a picture standing right in front of the main entrance.

In front of the polls

The only hint is a tiny litte sign on the inner left pillar that says Vote and then something asian underneath it. To find this polling place I had to search Google for this website and find the link that says “King County polling places” where I could download a PDF that you must be fairly proficient with Adobe Acrobat Reader or Foxit Reader to read since the font is microscopic. The PDF contains the locations in order by district. (a 6 digit number with a hyphen between the second and third digit) You can decode this number from the mailing address label on your voters pamphlet if you were luck enough to have kept it.

Isn’t that sneaky? If they had instead asked people to complete a computing and internet competency test before allowing them to vote, there would be a riot. But not this way, no one will ever suspect. I fgiure this makes my vote count more since untold numbers of potential voters will never know or suspect that this day was any different from any other Tuesday.


I came across two interesting sites today. The first sells a soap that teaches children how to wash their hands while they are washing their hands. Kind of a learn by doing approach. The trick is that the dispenser has an ink blotter on top that will dispense an ink mark on your childs hand when they dispense the soap. The ink is designed to come off after 15-20 seconds of scrubbing.

The second site I found from an article about using a timer to help your children learn to concentrate. Perhaps I should consider this technique as opposed to the lecture approach that tends to get abstracted and abstracted and overly generalized.

Lisa says:
I just overheard Micah tell Hannah that he’s got girls figured out…..
SeanK says:
Lisa says:
they all just try to distract boys.
Lisa says:
“Daddy told him so, and he’s a professional!”
SeanK says:
Lisa says:
I thought you’d appreciate that.
Lisa says:
Your influence knows no bounderies.
Lisa says:
SeanK says:
I’m blogging this
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  • September 4, 2006

White Elephant

Almost every Labor day weekend for that last 4 years, we have gone over to the Spokane, WA area. One of the places we always make a point of going to is the White Elephant. Essentially a toy store for kids of all ages. It’s also located two blocks from a Salvation Army Thrift store so mom is happy too.

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  • September 1, 2006


I read a lot! I started reading (for pleasure) in College when I had a job working in a gas station booth on the swing shift during the summer with no good Calculus homework to occupy my time. I picked up one of Issac Asimov’s Foundation books to keep from going bonkers. Ever since, you can usually catch me half way through several different books. I’m reading about 5 right now. Consequently, my kids having acquired a love of books and can often be found throughout the house buried in some book. 

Anyway, I just finished reading a really good book. So good that I wanted to recommend it to others. David Bodanis, has written an awesome book titled, Electric Universe – The Shocking True Story of Electricity. David has selected some key discoveries (certainly not all) that have formed what we have come to know about electricity and how to harness it. Then drawing on the research he has done on the details of the people and places behind the events, David presents an extemely engaging narrative that draws you in as the story unfolds. David does a great job of describing the electronic processes involved in simple approachable terms that makes it an easy read for someone who is not an electrical engineer.

Anyway, I went ahead and subscribed to the Amazon Associate program to create the link on the sidebar so you can check it out if want. If enough of you buy it through the link I’ll get a gift certificate from Amazon to help feed my habit.

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  • July 17, 2006

Microsoft announced this morning that it is pulling support for private folders, which it had just recently released on the web. This seemed like a good time to mention a free software product that I have been using for a while that I believe is many times better.


Free Open-Source On-The-Fly Encryption

download: http://www.truecrypt.org/

TrueCrypt is really simple to use. After installing (which is optional for all you no-install fans) You merely create a new true crypt volume. The first decision you need to make is the encryption alogorithm. There are several to choose from. (AES, Blowfish, CAST5, Serpent, Triple DES, Twofish, AES-Twofish, AES-Twofish-Serpent, Serpent-AES, Serpent-Twofish-AES, Twofish-Serpent). Luckily TrueCrypt provides a detailed description of each so you can pick one that’s right for you. Next, you need to choose the size. Finally you need to specify a password. TrueCrypt will then format your volume with randomly encrypted data.

After you have created the volume you can mount it to any available drive letter. From there you just drag and drop the files you want to encrypt onto the drive. That’s all there is too it. When the volume is unmounted there is no way to get to the data until you mount it again. (which requires the password)

One of the neatest features of TrueCrypt is “Plausible Deniability.” I know that sounds kind of cloak and dagger but practically it means this. You can name your volume anything you want with any extension you want. So call it setup.exe or something common like that. If someone tries to run it it won’t work. If someone more savvy looks at a hex dump there is nothing in the file that would clue you into the fact that its an encrypted volume. If I kept sensitive customer data on my laptop in a TrueCrypt volume and my laptop was stolen. A hacker might figure out my administrator password (There are plenty of cracking programs available to do that) but they probably won’t notice a temporary file, or a bad setup.exe and think, hey there is probably secret data in there!

Moon from Celestia

I saw a post on Make today of a collection of high-resolution (2750×2300) image scans of the 30 color plates from Alexander Jamieson’s 1822 (almost 200 years old!) star atlas. Couresy of the United States Naval Observatory Library. I’m sure many can think of lots of ways to use this beautiful antique art.

Anyway, while perusing antique star charts it reminded me that I had come across a really cool little application recently that I haven’t heard much about. Celestia, written by Chris Laurel, is like Google Earth for space. Even if you are not an astronomer, this little graphics application offers the opportunity to see the galaxy in a totally different way.

This year, the first thing we did to celebrate Independence Day was complete our bunkbed project. During the last part of last year we bought outstanding online plans to build our own triple bunkbed for our three girls. We bought the wood using gift certificates we received over the holidays. On Saturdays in January and February we cut, routed, sanded and drilled the wood. In early March we primed it. Just last week we painted it and this morning we assembled it amidst much celebration.

Triple Bunkbed

For now we are using sleeping bags and camping pads, but we will get real mattresses eventually. Now we are heading over to have steak and shrimp with the family and then toward dark we are planning to go to the Chris’ home in unincorporated King County where we will “light the night fantastic.”

Recently we have had signs that a mole had made his home in our yard splitting his time between our vegetable garden and mom’s flower garden. Yesterday morning, Micah surprised us when he came to the door holding a live mole. Apparently the mole had come out of his hole and before he could get back in, Micah grabbed him.

Micah and the mole

Since then we have learned all kinds of things about mole. They squeak when you hold them. They eat their weight in earthworms everyday. If you are bit by a wild animal you need to call the state health department to see if that species is on the rabies list. The big one in Washington is bats! Luckily moles currently are not on the list.



Finally, we learned this morning that a mole can escape a 5 gallon bucket filled halfway with dirt. I didn’t think they could jump or climb vertical surfaces twice their body length, but I was wrong. So the mole is on the loose again, but we have an experinced hunter!

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  • June 6, 2006

Whilst perusing my favorite homepage I came across 2 stories that are really interesting. I feel the ich to post something today, probably because it’is sunny in Seattle and I am trying to avoid work.

First, scientist believe they have discovered the oldest astronomy computer. How cool is that. I’ve often wondered how different life would be for me if I had be born out of time. Would I have been a mediocre farmer with an incredible untapped talent? It’s reassuring to know that computers, in one form or another, have been around for a long, long time.

Second, a different set of scientists believe figs were likely humans’ first crop. Now fig newtons have always been one of my favorite kinds of cookies so this doesn’t really surprise me. However, the article stated:

“These figs, however, do not produce seeds and can’t reproduce on their own. Reproduction can occur only if humans plant shoots. Thus, the existence of the figs means that husbandry was taking place.”

What I really wanted to know was how a plant that can only reproduce with human intervention can exist billions and billions of years while humans evolve to the point of being able assist them in reproducing. Does anyone else worry about these kinds of things?