United Airlines Lottery Gamble Loss

Candice eetimesManagement at United Airlines is backtracking on their idea of replacing earned individual bonuses with lottery tickets.  They seemed to have been caught completely by surprise that employees aren’t thrilled with the idea of replacing earned income with a very small chance at winning a larger amount.

If they had just talked to me, I could have told them this would happen.

Several decades ago, at a fast growing start-up company I joined, they had a “Suggestion Box” system that generated a slow but useful number of suggestions.  The payoff for those suggestions that were accepted and implemented was an atta’boy/girl from the management of the group that had been the beneficiary.  Although it worked, Human Resources didn’t think that enough suggestions were being made.  So they came up with the idea that they needed to provide a real incentive to make suggestions.  In this case, they would have a drawing each month… each suggestion equaled one lottery ticket for the drawing.  Sounds like a great idea huh?

Well, it backfired.  As one would expect, the average quality of the suggestions dropped precipitously.  But what really surprised HR was that the number of suggestions also dropped.  This totally surprised them.

It turns out that people who are hard workers, innovators, conscientious people, like you find in a successful company, have certain ethical codes.  They believe that work should be rewarded fairly, not capriciously.  It also turned out that many of the folks who had been participating in the Suggestion Box had religious and ethical codes that precluded them from participating in ANY form of gambling.  Combined, those who had previously enjoyed the positive reward of knowing that they were simply doing a good turn and maybe would get recognized for having a good idea were put off by the crassness or moral repugnance of a lottery and so no longer felt any incentive to make suggestions for improvements.

Lessons for employers?  Know your staff… and maybe… just maybe… think about the message that you are sending to employees when you tell them that being lucky is more likely to be rewarded than actual consistent performance.


A Well Regulated…

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Candice eetimesThe last year and some I’ve been reading a great deal about the history of the American Revolution, the period from about 1760 to 1800.  It has been most instructive.  My understanding has been radically altered.  I now see many of the lesser known players as the true heros and now see a number of the ‘founding fathers’ actually had feet of clay.  I’ve learned about the economic as well as the political interests that competeted with each other.  There is one item that I’ve learned about that seems to have recently been sorely misunderstood and misused.

The 2nd Amendment was all about the states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state“. It was NOT about random private citizens having a protected interest (that’s what a “right” is…) in owning military hardware per se… it was the right of the states to “regulate”, to organize its citizens into militia (military units) and to “own and bear arms”… note that it is “the people” collectively of the states that have that right… NOT every tom, dick, or harry as individuals.

At the time of the writing of the constitution, the memory of England’s attempts to disarm and disband the colony’s (which later become the states) militias was still fresh. Many feared that a strong central government could turn monarchical and wished to retain the rights of the states, which were seen as responsive to the local citizens, to organize (regulate) their own militias as a necessary means of maintaining their freedom from such a potential despotic turn of events.

Only lately, in the past 30 years, has the NRA, originally an organization of sportsman offering education and competitions, etc. become a lobbying group for the arms manufacturers who have used a false interpretation (read: lying) of the 2nd Amendment as having been about individuals. Their goal, as a gun manufacturer’s voice, is to maximize arms sales… NOT to protect the actual meaning and value of the 2nd Amendment.

Perhaps we do need the 2nd Amendment more than ever… but we need its true and original meaning… not this NRA fabrication.  The people of the states need to take back the power to regulate firearms.

Satellite Manufactroversary

Candice eetimesRecently, Rocket Labs, a satellite launch startup successfully lifted into orbit several commercial satellites.  Along with it, they launched a geodesic sphere specifically designed to reflect sunlight to create “satellite flares”.  Such flares are common sights in the early evening or pre-dawn skies.

The first time I saw one, I didn’t know what it was.  I was at an outdoor music concert on the Stanford campus in the early ’80s when I noticed the satellite moving across the night sky.  As a child of the space-age, having been born just months before the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, was launched, I had grown up looking for them in the early evenings when the sun still shone overhead but had dropped below the horizon where I lay on the grass watching for them.  It was a rare night that I didn’t see any as more and more satellites were placed into orbit.  But that night, as I visually tracked the path of the small star-like dot moving stately but quickly across the sky, it very suddenly brightened to become the brightest object in the sky, brighter than Sirius!  My first thought was, OMG, did it explode?  No, I was later to learn, the sunlight had briefly reflected off of the flat surface of one of its solar panels to create that brilliant beam of light that traced path through and passed my seat on the grass that evening.

Such flares are common and predictable since we know the orbits of the satellites and their orientation such that we can compute their location, time, and brightness.  You may wish to observe them yourself by using a web-based calculator.  One simply enters their location and the website tells one when and where to look for the next upcoming flare at that location.

You may also look up where the brighter satellites will be visible, including the biggest and brightest of them all, the International Space Station.  Over the coming decades, we can expect that even more and larger space structures will be built, especially as we enter the age of space resource extraction and manufacturing.


Which brings me back to the silly manufactured controversy that the press is making out of the launch of a privately designed and funded satellite whose ONLY function is to create such flares.  The press contacted astronomers to find a small handful that against all reasonable logic, given that they already occur with such regularity, were peeved about this one object placed into orbit.  Quite literally, this one object joins the literally tens of thousands of other objects in orbit, none of which has hampered optical astronomy in the slightest.  Thus, the press is making ‘much ado about nothing’ and I for one celebrate this latest satellite for what it really is; a bright shining announcement of the end of the age of state controlled access to space and the beginning of the age of entrepreneurial expansion.

Additional Reading:

Double Tap

Candice eetimesI have a bone to pick.  Today, I saw yet another meme posted dissing older people for using the double space after a full stop, stating that was only required because we learned to type on mechanical typewriters that used monospaced type setting.  Today, the computer doesn’t need that double space.


The two spaces after a full stop was NOT just because of typewriters. It is because it differentiates between a full stop at the end of a sentence and the period that denotes that an abbreviation has occured.  A single space distance tells the reader (and the text rendering algorithm) that this does not end the sentence, but a double space does.  Until we have a new character for denoting either a full stop or the abbreviation, then I will continue to use the double space.  If you examine today’s digital text rendering systems, many DO provide more space when using the double space bar entry.  The myth that one should not use the double space bar entry is based on the mistaken idea that just  because some modern computer text rendering algorithms may use micro-justification and automatic kerning that somehow the system will automatically provide additional space after the full stop that is different from that after an abbreviation.  While some do, most do NOT (e.g. facebook’s comments).  This effort to diss an older generation that understood the usage of the double space is a form of age prejudice combined with ignorance regarding text layout algorithms and the continued utility of the double space convention.

Strange Love or I Learned to Love the Book

Candice eetimesRather than posting another boring blurb, perhaps authors should talk about our writing, what we write about and why. So, please, allow me to share about myself.
Like many readers of SF&F there was one moment when it began. Mine was 5th grade, in the first few weeks of school when the teacher was looking at my “permanent record” and said, “I see that you are a good reader so I’m putting you in the advanced reader group.” She then gave me a book to read, “Old Yeller”. I read it in my spare time in just days. Then I approached the teacher and asked when we would be discussing the book as she had said we would. She then said, “We will discuss chapter one next Monday.”
This concerned me as it implied that we would only be talking about chapter one… not the whole book, so I asked, “When will be be discussing the rest of the book?”
“We will discuss one chapter a week.”
Now I was dismayed. Seriously, only one chapter a week? We would be talking about this one book for a whole YEAR?
“But I finished the book!”
“LIAR !!!”
I was shocked, she had called me a liar? Of course I defended my honor. To this she pulled out a sheaf of notes (She has notes?) on the book and proceeded to attempt to prove that I was a liar and hadn’t read the book. Of course, I had and could answer all of her questions. She was very very angry now that she had been shown to have falsely accused me of lying… and of having grossly underestimated my reading and comprehension skills. So, she looked around at her desk at her own reading material, grabbed a book and shoved it at me…
“Read this and write a book report.”
I did… it was the “Hobbit” and I was hooked… on both reading and on writing. I devoured science fiction and fantasy books by the armload… I became a high tech entrepreneur, over a hundred US patents, etc…. and self-published my first novel, “All The Stars Are Suns” just recently. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Are UFOs real?

Candice eetimesA bit over ten years ago, I was piloting my Piper Cherokee over eastern Oregon in excellent visual conditions.  I could see for over a hundred miles.  I spotted what looked like a white building a long distance away on the horizon along my desired route so I used it as a visual point to fly a straight line toward it.  As I flew along, the “building” seemed to be getting bigger far too quickly.  I revised my estimate of how close it must be but couldn’t grasp what it was.  It suddenly grew much larger than it could possibly get and I suddenly realised it was flying at the same altitude as I was.  OH MY GOD!  I’m going to crash into it so begin to away when it flashed past me at high speed….

What was that thing?  A UFO?

Well, as it flashed past me only feet away, I finally understood… it was a white rubber toy helium balloon with a string hanging from it.  It was my first encounter with a toy balloon but not my last.  Each time my heart skips a beat then catches up with a rapid pounding as they flash past.  The ones that are really freaky are the metallic ones that shine brightly in the sunlight and appear to be bobbing flying saucers that nearly collided with me.  So please, hang onto your balloons lest they terrify some poor pilot half to death and give rise to yet more silly reports of “Unidentified Flying Objects”.

Yes, UFOs are real… I’ve seen ’em !

The Language of the Future

Candice eetimesYesterday, one of my readers expressed a concern that my novel, All The Stars Are Suns, was riddled with typos.  It turned out he was having trouble with some of my characters use of language.  He didn’t realize that I was trying to convey how in the future, languages would merge into creoles, admixtures of the languages of two or more cultures when they interact.  In my vision of the future, much of the advanced technological polities of the world would use what I dubbed “International Chinese English”, a creole of mostly English words, but with the simplified syntax of Mandarin along with some Mandarin words.  But in space, the cultures having developed primarily from Russian and American space programs, both governmental and corporate, would develop a creole of Russian and English.  This would leave English words as the dominant feature of both creoles as the common intersecting gloss.

All languages evolve, some faster than other during some historical periods, often from cultures interacting with each other, taking on loan words, sometimes blending vocabularies wholesale and simplifying the grammar.  Languages that evolve in isolation tend to accrete more complex grammars as a means of increasing error correction.  When one has to keep gender, case, number, etc. all the same in a sentence, then a slip in one word is caught as an error and is less likely to cause a miscommunication.  However, when two speakers of two or more different languages speak together, they will drop the complexity in favor of simplicity in order to facilitate faster learning of the new creole.

English is in some ways a mish-mash creole becoming a more complex language.  English is a creole of French (a vulgate Latin) and German with more than a bit of Norse (from the Danes / Viking occupation of the east of England).  Added to that are loan words directly from Latin and Greek, as well as others.  Though now that it is becoming (over the past three hundred years) taken up as a second language by more speakers, those speakers often drop the complex grammar in favor of a simple one.

In some ways, Mandarin can be seen as a special pidgin.  A ‘pidgin’ is a language created from the efforts of inter-language contact of traders and travellers who don’t have time to learn each other’s language but need to have a minimum vocabulary and grammar, just enough to get by on.  The vocabulary of Mandarin is greater than a true pidgin but it’s grammar is very pidgin like.  It has no verb conjugation, no gender, no articles, etc.  Yet it serves as the first language of the single largest group of speakers.  This likely developed out of the polyglot history of Imperial Chinese rule.

As Asia gains in economic influence, it needs a common language.  In a strange quirk of history, because modern technology and business in Europe and North America is based on English, that language has become the international business and technology standard.  But China is the single largest market and will soon be the largest developer of technology.  It seems inevitable that English and Mandarin will begin to merge for international business and technology exchange to become “International Chinese English”

In space, I do not see the Chinese working with the Americans and Russians, for the next century at least, since there will be military implications of the technology.  China will want to fully control its own space technology.  Thus, as people move off-planet to live more and more of their lives in space, two cultures will emerge.  Perhaps I’m just being chauvinistic, but I believe that the American/Russian partnership’s culture will eventually dominate space but will have strong economic ties to Asia such that eventually the Space Born, will speak a creole of English/Russian/Mandarin with their own unique spin to it.

So… happy reading !