I had the following dialogue with my 3 year old son after I got home from work last night:

Ben: “What does contrary mean?”
Me: “It means inclined to disagree.”
Ben: “No. No it doesn’t. Don’t say that.”


IANAL, but I found the Wisconsin Court of Appeals’ recent refusal to admit evidence of a tape recording of a school bus driver verbally and physically abusing a child on his bus interesting, and a bit puzzling.  The issue the court considered pertains to the recording, of course, not the abuse.  In Wisconsin it’s OK to record conversations to which one is party, but apparently it’s not OK to disclose those recordings, and that was the sticking point for the 2-1 majority.

Policy-wise, we have a long way to go toward a workable future of surveillance and recording technologies.  I’m conflicted on this one — it seems reasonable to be able to record things one is directly perceiving.  At the same time, it seems absurd to suggest that there is some ever-present bubble of confidentiality (i.e. that one would be limited in one’s own use of such recordings).  On the other hand, though, the notion of everyone recording and sharing everything always is troubling.

May 132006


ESP – generally a great guy and a friend of the next generation – gave Ben a copy of Crockett Johnson‘s classic children’s book Harold and the Purple Crayon (HATPC) last year.

For those of you who don’t know Ben or haven’t seen him lately, he’s very into his books. We read dozens a day, he pages through dozens more them on his own, he takes them to bed, he has favorite books, books for certain moods, etc. Our house now has overflowing piles of my books, Amy’s books, and Ben’s books, and there is a louder protest from the back seat when we drive past the library without stopping than when we drive by the ice cream shop.

I find Ben’s routine for taking books to bed particularly adorable: while I’m reading him his before-bed books, he’ll grab a chosen book after I’ve finished it and before I manage to put it back in the boxes of books next to the chair in his room, repeat its title, and say “go to bed”. (For example, “Meet the Dinosaurs, go to bed”.)

Confusingly in that way 2-year-olds are often confusing, this does not mean that Ben is necessarily done hearing books and ready for bed (which comes immediately after books in our end of day routine). Rather, it just means that the recently finished book has been selected to come along with him to bed, whenever the time comes. We’ll read a few more while Ben clutches the chosen book, and then he’ll carry it with him as I carry him to bed.

But I digress … I was talking about HATPC. HATPC is a great book, and even kids (or adults) who aren’t particularly interested in books should read it. It was a bit too abstract and long for Ben at the time Eric got it for him, but Harold recently made it into the active book rotation. I picked it up Tuesday night and read it to him for the first time. As Ben’s books go, HATPC is not short – I probably spent 5 minutes reading it, during which time I don’t think Ben moved a muscle. He’s usually attentive to books, but he was completely focused, and paying very close attention to this book.

When the book was done, Ben was quick and decisive.

B: Harold and the Purple Crayon, go to bed.
me: OK. Do you want to read more books, or are you all done?
B: All done. Harold and Purple Crayon, in bed.
me: OK.

I proceeded to carry Ben over to the light switch so he could turn it off, put him in his crib, and say goodnight.

Ben generally wakes up sometime in between when I do and when I wake Amy. The next morning, somewhat strangely, I didn’t hear anything from him until it was late enough that it was time to wake him. I went into his room and was slightly surprised to see him standing in his crib holding Harold on the Purple Crayon. He turned to look at me, but instead of saying “I awake”, or “go downstairs, get milk”, or “go see Mommy”, or “Daddy open the door”, I heard:

B: "I read Harold and the Purple Crayon in the dark"
me: (laughing) Did you? That's great... but, how could you see it? It's pretty dark in here. [Ben sleeps in the dark with the door closed and the shades drawn.]
B: (not missing a beat) "Harold is bright"

Now, the print isn’t particularly “bright” in the book, and I imagine it was in fact quite hard to see in the dark. He was seriously into this book, though, and I think basically able to see it — either in the conventional photon-based manner or via his memory of our time with it the night before — by sheer force of will (somewhat apropos to the book, in a sense). His tone while saying “Harold is bright” was one of patience, as if as a favor to me he would explain the obvious.

I’ve always been interested in ways of thinking that are internally consistent/coherent but foreign or silly-seeming to the dominant rationality. Kids – Harold and Ben included – are an interesting sort of these alternative logics. I was traveling on business a few weeks ago, and during dinner one night Ben turned to Amy and said, hopefully, “Daddy come home”. I happened to be returning late that night, so Amy said “Daddy will come home after you go to sleep”, at which point Ben put his fork down, pushed back from the table, and at 5-something in the evening said “I go to bed now”.

There is a great episode of the always outstanding public radio show This American Life from a few years ago called “Kid Logic”. While unusually poignant and at moments quite sad, it’s definitely worth a listen.

Thanks, Eric – Harold is a big hit!

© 2021 layer8 Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha