Geek Dad Busts Teen Daughter's Party Via Energy Monitoring App


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"Your sin will find out out."
Numbers 23:23, New American Standard Bible.

More posts need epigraphs.

Privacy is dead. Period. I mean, we may be able to slip unnoticed through the cracks every once in a while, or even get lost in the noise of all the data around us, or turn off the lights, draw the blinds, and leave our phone and computer in the other room. But plainly and simply, all our actions anymore are inevitably tied back into the great power and information grid that powers developed life in the 21st century. Even when you'rr offline, some server somewhere is probably busy noting the signficance of your offline-ness.

When I say privacy's dead, I'm not just talking crooks that get caught because they bragged on Facebook. Nor the government listening in to all your tweets. Nor Google recording your search history. Nor geotracking on your smart phone. Nor any of these that either invade your privacy or let you compromise it yourself. I'm saying that even if you think you're covering your tracks, even if nobody knows or cares your location according to the GPS in your phone or your foursquare check-ins, even if there are no silent, unblinking, all-seeing cameras watching your every movement -- even if these things are so, your geeky dad just might remotely check your house's power consumption ... and figure out you're throwing a party.

Anyway, this is David Rowe's story, as published on his blog last month. Rowe (who will be playing the dad in today's episode) is an electronic engineer living in Adelaide, South Australia, who is currently sharing his talents with the world through free hardware designs and open-source software. He apparently also has a passion for energy conservation, to the point of monitoring his household energy use on a Fluksometer app loaded onto his android phone.

Rowe writes that this past New Year's Eve he was hundreds of miles from home and his kids were ostensibly staying elsewhere while he was away. It was really hot (c. 104 Fahrenheit) that day, though (remember, Northern Hemispherians, it's summer down there when it's winter here), so Rowe decided to check his Fluksometer and see how the heat was affecting his appliances.

But what he saw was unexpected. The chart showed the house running at about 1000 watts of consumption, the range normally only reached when the air conditioning was on. And the air conditioning would only be on if someone were home.

Fortunately for him, Rowe was out dining with friends, and among those friends were a pair of expert intelligence analysts [read: teenagers]. They smelled a party.

Rowe says he called his "beloved 16 year old daughter Amy" to find out what she knew. She denied any knowledge of the situation, saying "that she was at a friends house but would go around and check my house," writes Rowe. "She was not keen on using her grandmother to resolve the issue. Exactly 30 minutes later I received a text from her saying the air con and TV was on but she had switched them off." Shortly thereafter, Rowe and a small crowd of his fellow diners watched the power consumption drop to 180 Watts.

Next day, Rowe says he found his house very clean, but with the trace elements of a proper teenage shindig: "disposable cups with sticky red liquid in them in one of the bins, a trace of the same red sticky stuff on my sink, and post it notes accidentally left on my fridge saying things like 'Molly, you may have to open up another bottle'." Amateurs. When I was in high school that stuff would have been a town away and wiped clean of fingerprints. At least that's how I esteemed my capacity for subterfuge back then.

Papa Rowe must be a good and understanding dad, because he reports being more curious than mad about the situation. "I actually enjoyed the detective work side of guessing what was going on and finding supporting evidence," he writes. "Bart, the inventer of the Fluksometer, was rolling on the floor laughing when I told him the tale." Amy fessed up a week later.

“All my friends who didnt know Dad said ‘How could he do that? Who measures power from across the country’?," she said.

"Those that did know Dad said ‘He knows. Dont worry!’” Said one of her friends: “You gotta get dumber parents Amy.”

[Story and Graph via Rowetel, H/T: The Huffington Post, The Atlantic, Image Source: ThinkStock]