Free Range Childhood…

Candice eetimesWhen my daughter Liz was ten years old, I would pick her up from school and take her directly to the ice rink where she could skate and I could sit in comfort and occasionally glance through a window from the warm lobby to see her zooming backwards at high-speed to throw herself into the air to perform a double mumble-mumble. (I could never keep the moves clear in my head.  They all looked the same to me.)  I usually read a book while Liz was on the ice.  Every now and then she would zoom up to the window, tap on it to get my attention so she could show off to me.  A happy child doing happy kid things.  Life was good.

Then one day, a woman a few years younger than me came up and angrily demanded that I, “do something about” my daughter.  I glanced up from my book, searching through the throng of mostly pre-adolescent girls on the ice until I spotted Liz, chatting and playing with another little girl… whew!  For a moment, I thought that Liz had perhaps gotten into a fight with another child or hurt herself.  I turned back to the woman and asked what she was so agitated about.

“Your daughter is distracting mine from her practice!”

Oh boy… an “ice skating mom”… you know the type, living out their dreams of athletic and artistic narcissistic glory through their children.

“What I see is too little girls doing what kids that age should be doing, playing, socializing, learning how to make friends.”

Off the woman huffed, put out by my total lack of concern or sympathy.

That was decades ago.  Today, not only are parents totally controlling every moment of their children’s lives and thoughts, our neighbors are turning us into the authorities if we too do not hover over our children, never letting them out of our sight for a moment, never letting them be… like kids used to be… kids.

Older adults can remember walking or riding their bike to school alone.  Playing in the park with their friends while their parents were at work or at home.  We used to play with the neighbor kids down by the creek, in a tiny copse of trees and brush, get our shoes squishy wet catching pollywogs in a jar with nary an adult in sight.  If we got hungry, we dropped in on any one of our parents houses for cookies and milk before running out to toss a frisbee or jump rope in the suburban street.  The boys would be playing baseball with a light bat and a taped up ‘wiffle-ball’.  (The wiffle-ball, if you don’t have such memories, was a plastic ball with holes in it so light that it could never break a neighbors windows… but because of the holes, they couldn’t be thrown very far, so the boys would tape them up with black electricians tape to make them more aerodynamic and a tad heavier.)

Sometimes, an ice cream truck would come by… and kids would haul out their dimes from their pockets to get a treat… and we didn’t have to ask permission from our parents.

But today’s kids will never have these memories unless this horrid practice of over supervision of every moment of their lives isn’t countered with a counter movement back to sanity… cause as it is now… parents are afraid that the neighbors will call the police and child protective services if they so much as let their kids play in the front yard alone.

Hurray for Utah.  (And I never thought I would be happy about anything that came out of that homophobic state.)  They have specifically made a law that allows kids to be kids.  The “Free Range Parenting” movement, which is really just a return to the type of parenting that was the norm before the past two decades, has finally pushed back against the “stranger danger” and “oh my god your child can’t walk to school alone like that” fear mongers.  Hurray for Utah.

Now, let’s see this same sanity return to the rest of the Western world.

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Electoral College Is Only One Problem…

Candice eetimesMany folks have been calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College for a number of reasons, one of which is the failure of our recent election to install the candidate who won the most votes.  Personally, I have even more issues with the system in that we no longer vote directly for an Elector, but instead we have bypassed the original intent by voting for a slate of Electors by party in a winner take all contest in many states.  Then, we have laws that would seek to enforce the winner take all slate vote during the actual Electoral election some weeks later for the candidate that they had pledged to when selected by their party.  This present system could not be further removed from the original intent of the framers of the Constitution of the United States of America back in the late 18th Century.

So lets imagine that those original framers were somehow alive today and able to debate the issues anew based on what over two hundred years of the history of our republic have taught us about their great experiment.

First, all of the abolitionists would be both satisfied and horrified that their misgivings about slavery had come about.  Yes, there were active abolitionists at the convention.  But in order to pull together the States into the Union, a compromise was needed.  My favorite aphorism about politics is that “Good politics is compromise… unless it is one’s own rights that are compromised”  Unfortunately, all of the framers were white men.  I would add “straight”… but in fact a few of them were very likely gay or bi, both from historic evidence and from statistical probability.  No black men.  No women.  That slavery and institutional disenfranchisement of women were baked into the constitution were just two of the great injustices found in this otherwise great document.

Did you know that at the time of the framing of the constitution that one of the states allowed women to vote?  Yes, New Jersey allowed women to vote if they met the same qualifications as men… which was they had to be financially well off.  But since far more men then women owned property, they booted women off the island in the early 19th Century.  Yes, women’s rights went backward, a lesson for LGBT folk as well.  We can’t be too vigilant.

There would be another problem that the framers would now recognize.  The status of the Vice President.  In real practice, the “Vice President” is actually the “President of the Senate” with the ability to vote there in the case of a tie vote.  But the VP is also in the line of succession.  As we saw in the case of the death of FDR during WWII, the then VP, Harry Truman, was totally unprepared to step into the Oval Office at first because he had been outside the loop.  He had truly been the President of the Senate… NOT the an actual member of the Executive Branch of the government.  This needs to be fixed.

Finally, as we’ve seen this past year, the framer’s fears that a popular but utterly unsuitable candidate might be installed by an ill-informed public if given the direct vote was realized due to our having disabled the original mechanism of the Electoral College.  There has even been calls for the other party to double up on the problem by encouraging yet another such candidate to stand for election to oppose him.

The original framers would, I strongly believe, be aghast.  I certainly am.

We do not need another celebrity President.

So, in the spirit of being at a Constitutional Convention, I propose several amendements to our constitution:

Item:  The Office of President of the Senate be separate from the Vice President of the United States.  The President of the Senate to be elected solely by the Senate for a term of six years.  To be qualified, the candidate must have been previously a Senator for at least a full term, with honor, and may not be a currently sitting Senator.

Item:  The Office of President of the United States of America is to be elected by direct popular vote of the People of the United States and its Territories for a term of four years and may not serve for more than two terms.  To be qualified, the candidate must have served at least one term, with honor, as the Governor of one of the several States.

Item:  The Office of Vice President of the United States of America is to be elected by direct popular vote of the People of the United States and its Territories.  To be qualified, the candidate must have served at least one term, with honor, as the Governor of one of the several States.  During their tenure as Vice President, the officer shall hold the position and responsibilities of Secretary of State.

Item:  The line of succession should the President be unavailable or unable to fulfill the responsibilities shall be as follows, the Vice President.  The Office of Vice President would then be filled by a qualified candidate elected by a college consisting of the current Governors of the several States only until the next Federal election.

Item:  Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

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.

http://www.heavens-above.com

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:

Very Old News…

Candice eetimesMy how time flies…

I just saw an announcement from the World Technology Network that they just announced this year’s winners and new fellows… which reminded me that I am a fellow myself, though I have not been very active.  It made me nostalgic, so I checked back.  Yep, that was the year, 2005, twelve, no thirteen years ago?  That year the list for Communications Technology was:

WINNER

  • Bill St. Arnaud, CANARIE, Inc.

OTHER NEW FELLOWS

  • Vanu Bose, Vanu, Inc.
  • Thomas DeFanti, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Masayoshi Son, Softbank Corporation
  • Linus Torvalds, Open Source Development Labs
  • Candice H. Brown Elliott, Clairvoyante, Inc.

Other 2005 Nominees (Associates)
Jud Bowman
Christina Domecq
James Erickson
Dianah Neff
Greg Raleigh
Henning Schulzrinne
Igal Rotem
Carver Mead & Chris Diorio
Greg Phillips

Wow, really…. I was in the same list as Linus Torvalds and Vanu Bose?  And Carver Mead was nominated by didn’t become a fellow?  I was thought to be more worthy that Carver Mead?  Amazing!

https://wtn.net/2005/summit/finalists.htm

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.

WRONG!

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.