The Monster Book

Sophie keeps a picture on her desk of me reading her a story when she was about two years old.  The book featured was Nancy Hazbry’s How to Get Rid of Bad Dreams: a traumatic story offering graphic detail on a variety of bad dreams children might have, with advice on how to counter them.

For example, one page offers this sample of a delightful childhood lark:

If you dream you are being attacked by one-hundred-and-ninety-nine billion black, scary, hairy bugs with green eyes and red stingers, don’t worry.

All you have to do is…

An illustration of an enormous, hideous black ant fills the page.  Fortunately, by turning the page, the reader can find the solution to such a dream:

whip out a can of silver paint and spray it all over the bugs, then take a deep breath and blow them into the sky . That will make one-hundred-and-ninety-nine billion new glittering stars.

I found it rather disconcerting, but at the time Sophie was too excited to have me reading her a story to register any of its content.  Since then, the story has become legend in her world, and when I asked what story she wanted to read tonight, she announced “The Monster Book” as her preference.

Unfortunately, her collection of books is large, and The Monster Book was nowhere to be found.  I offered alternatives:

Me:  How about the Green Eggs and Ham book we read yesterday?

Sophie: I want The Monster Book!

Me: What about one of these new books you got for Christmas?

Sophie: I really want The Monster Book!

Me: Ooh!  You have The Princess and the Frog! You loved that movie!  Should we read this book?

Sophie: (fake tears pouring out) I really want The Monster Book!

We searched through her bookcase, one book  at a time.  She even insisted that we consult the picture of me reading it last time to be sure we’d recognize it today.  About halfway through her collection, we found it.

She jumped eagerly into bed (one of the few times this has ever happened), and curled up to hear the legendary story, her level of excitement waning with each frightening new scenario.

And when I turned the last page, she sat silent for a moment.  And then:

Sophie: (incredulously) Why did you read me The Monster Book?  Now I’m gonna have bad dreams!

As a software developer — essentially a trained logician — I really can’t formulate a good rebuttal to that.

How Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Apparently the citizens of Longmont, Colorado have been having some trouble crossing streets.  This massive sign sits beside a crosswalk on Main Street:

Crosswalk Instructions

Crosswalk Instructions

“To cross street wait for break in traffic; then cross to middle island.  From middle island, wait for traffic in other direction; then finish crossing.  Note: Do not walk out in front of oncoming traffic.”

I love a city that needs formal signs warning its residents not to step in front of moving cars.

Sophia Enchanted

Sophie just discovered Enchanted, the 2007 Amy Adams movie in which a cartoon character is transported to the real world.

Her thoughts when she saw the animated princess transformed into an actress?

Mommy, you put your movie inside my movie!  Now it’s a Sophie movie and a Mommy movie!

You got animation on my live action!  You got live action on my animation!

The Robotic Waggle Dance Phenomenon

I’m reading You Are Here: Why We Can Find Our Way to the Moon, but Get Lost in the Mall by Colin Ellard.  It’s a fascinating study of how humans and other animals navigate, from simple tasks like moving across a crowded room to complex feats of worldwide and celestial navigation.

One section describes Karl von Frisch’s research with bees in the 1920s.  After finding food, bees return to the hive and perform a “waggle dance,” which von Frisch deduced was a way of communicating the food’s location to other bees.  Perhaps understandably, some skepticism met this claim.  Ellard writes:

[O]nly very recently have advances in technology enabled researchers to provide what seems like ironclad evidence for the key role of the waggle dance in bee navigation.

In 1989 a team of researchers at the University of Odense in Denmark built a dancing robotic bee.

I love my chosen profession, but I do sometimes think meetings would be more fulfilling if, when someone disagreed with my point of view, I could say something like, “You’re wrong, as I shall now demonstrate with this dancing robotic bee.”

Binary Borders

I made a typo while doing some paired programming with a colleague, writing “border: 1px” where I actually meant “border: none;”  I joked:

Me: (indignantly) I know the difference between one and none!

Colleague:  That’s good… since that’s what binary is…

The man’s got a point…

Citizen Soldiers

I recently finished Stephen Ambrose’s Citizen Soldiers about World War II.  It’s an interesting read throughout, but my absolute favorite story comes from the introduction.  Ambrose describes the Lieutenant Waverly Wray of Company D, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Colonel Ben Vandervoot.

Lt. Waverly Wray

Lt. Waverly Wray

After jumping into Normandy, he began crawling through the sunken lanes to reconnoiter the German positions surrounding them.  He came upon a group of eight German officers surrounding a radio — officers who turned out to be leading the counterattack.  Wray jumped through the hedgerow and ordered them to surrender.

Seven instinctively raised their hands.  The eighth tried to pull a pistol from his holster; Wray shot him instantly, between the eyes.  Two Germans in a slit trench 100 meters to Wray’s rear fired bursts from their Schmeisser machine pistols at him.  Bullets cut through his jacket; one cut off half of his right ear.

Wray dropped to his knee and began shooting the other seven officers, one at a time as they attempted to run away.  When he had used up his clip, Wray jumped into a ditch, put another clip into his M-1, and dropped the German soldiers with the Schmeissers with one shot each.

Wray made his way back to the company area to report on what he had seen. At the command post he came in with blood down his jacket, a big chunk of his ear gone, holes in his clothing.  “Who’s got more grenades?” he demanded.

Vandervoot later recalled that when he saw the blood on Wray’s jacket and the missing half-ear, he had remarked, “They’ve been getting kind of close to you, haven’t they Waverly?”

With just a trace of a grin, Wray had replied, “Not as close as I’ve been getting to them, Sir.”

Ambrose’s Band of Brothers (on which the HBO series of the same name was based) is more compelling overall, but because it tells the story primarily of a single company of paratroopers it necessarily offers a limited view of the war.  Citizen Soldiers gives a more complete overview, but naturally at the cost of some finer detail.  Clearly the only reasonable plan is to read both.

The picture of Lt. Wray comes from The U.S. Airborne During WW II, which came up in a Google search for Wray’s name, and which I now must absolutely explore in greater depth.

Dog Bites Man Again

Dear Bank,

Back in May your fraud prevention department contacted me to report what ultimately turned out to be a routine Peapod purchase for a little over $100.

It was humorous.

When you called me again today to report another possibly fraudulent transaction on my card I was less amused.  I assumed the lunch order I placed today for over $100 (covering my colleagues, who paid me back in cash) was the offending transaction.

Imagine my surprise when you confirmed what had really gotten your computer’s attention: a single online purchase from Peapod for a little over $100.


You know… Peapod.


Haven’t we been down this road before?  I know I recognize that tree.

In the future, please assume that all charges from Peapod are legitimate until I notify you otherwise.  I promise to alert you before paying someone else’s grocery bill.

Someone who just wanted to buy food

In the Language of an Infant

A colleague just returned to work today after the birth of his son. He described the process of learning what different cries mean:

It’s like learning a new language while sleep deprived and while the person teaching it to you is yelling at you.

Jim Denevan

Jim Denevan carves enormous art pieces in the sand of deserts and beaches.  On a canvas that nature is prepared to wipe clean with wind or water the moment it’s been filled, he creates artwork so large it can only be appreciated from the air (at least in a lot of cases).

One basic example is this pattern on a beach with a tiny person poised in the center:

The Art of Jim Denevan

Other pieces are abstract, simple, or just daunting.  My favorite has to be this one.