Some thoughts on the financial well-being of STAR Labs employees

I don’t ask for a lot of believability in stories. I don’t mind that the Death Star makes a loud BOOM when it explodes in the middle of soundless outer space. I prefer violence in TV and film to be bloodless, even when really sharp blades are involved. Show me a hero standing in the middle of a hailstorm of bullets and not receiving so much as a scratch and I won’t have a problem with it. But there’s one aspect of my favorite currently running TV show, The Flash, that tests my willingness to suspend disbelief every time I think of it.

How in the multiverse are Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow paying their bills?

CaitlinAndCisco

The Flash himself, Barry Allen, collects a paycheck from the Central City Police Department, where he works as a CSI. Iris West is a reporter. Detective Joe West, like Barry, is on the police payroll. They’re all financially secure.

But Cisco and Caitlin worked at STAR Labs for Dr. Harrison Wells at the time the lab’s particle accelerator exploded. It was established in numerous season one episodes that while Wells secretly planned this “disaster,” most of the world considered it a terrible accident. The incident left STAR Labs and Dr. Wells disgraced. Things were so bad, the STAR Labs building was never fully repaired, and it was declared a hazardous site. Four years later, it still features a visibly damaged exterior.

The financial fallout of the particle accelerator explosion – read: negligence lawsuits – should have sent STAR Labs into Chapter 11. If I remember correctly, the pilot episode said the company was headed towards bankruptcy. But on a more human level, Cisco and Caitlin refused to abandon Dr. Wells after the accident. They continued to work at STAR Labs, and they were part of the team that helped Barry discover and hone his speedster abilities. While this is a heartwarming display of loyalty, they still need to eat. How was STAR Labs bringing in enough money to pay their (not insignificant) mechanical and biological engineer salaries?

Idea 1:
Dr. Wells was secretly Eobard “Reverse Flash” Thawne, a super-villain from the future. Knowing exactly what kind of legal and financial trouble STAR Labs would find itself in post-explosion, he put lots of money away in legally sheltered funds. This allowed him to pay for electricity and pay the salaries of Cisco and Caitlin.

That could work, but at the end of season one, Wells was defeated, and he bequeathed STAR Labs to Barry Allen. How does the money keep coming in, post-Wells?

Idea 2:
Dr. Wells also left Barry all of his money, so after Wells’s death, business went on uninterrupted.

My problem with this idea is that I doubt Barry’s moral compass would allow him to keep and spend Wells’s probably illegally obtained cash. He’d take STAR Labs because it was the place from which he and his friends defend Central City. But he’d want a way to keep it financially viable independent of Wells’s shady funds.

Idea 3:
Barry’s rich friend, Oliver Queen, could foot the bill to keep STAR Labs running after Wells’s death.

Could be. But, while I don’t watch Arrow, my understanding is Ollie has lost most of his money. Isn’t Felicity Smoak also rich though, too? A big strike against this idea is that in season three when Barry offers the use of a STAR Labs hangar (that looked a lot like the Hall of Justice) to his team, Team Arrow, the Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl, he says he owns the facility. If Ollie or Felicity was bankrolling STAR Labs, wouldn’t they now own it? Considering they were both present when Barry said he owned it, wouldn’t they have corrected him?

Besides, STAR Labs being bankrolled by someone from Team Arrow seems to me like something too big to not mention. Then again, I may be the only person crazy enough to be bothered by this. (Or not!)

Idea 4:
STAR Labs is bankrolled by Bruce Wayne.

We now know he does exist in Earth-1 of the CW DC Universe!

Idea 5:
Cisco and Caitlin live off income from some sweet patents they own.

They’re both geniuses. They’ve both invented new tech to help Barry defeat a criminal metahuman multiple times. And I’m confident they’re smart enough to monetize those inventions. But if this is the case, then in early season two, when Barry temporarily shut down Team Flash, why did Caitlin go work for Mercury Labs? Was it just because she loves her job that much? Or did she have bills to pay? And of course, while this would explain how Cisco and Caitlin get their money, it wouldn’t explain how STAR Labs, as a company, continues to pay its property taxes and water bill.

Personally, I think the answer is a little bit of all of these ideas.

  • I think Cisco and Caitlin both own some patents and that they collect a little money from them, but not enough to live on.
  • I think Dr. Wells continued to pay them, even after the particle accelerator explosion, and I think after taking ownership of STAR Labs, Barry continues to pay them.
  • I think their salaries must include an extra stipend towards buying their own personal health insurance, because what group health provider is going to offer a plan to a company with only two employees, whose corporate office is a “class four hazardous location”?
  • I think Dr. Wells, a speedster who has mastered time travel far more than Barry ever has (and who paid the price for it), obtained his wealth by putting money in a savings account in the past and living off the beaucoup interest.
  • I think when Barry came into possession of this wealth, he was OK with spending it since the only laws Wells broke in obtaining it were the laws of physics.
  • And I think Barry gives Cisco and Caitlin matching 401(k), continuous education via a generous training stipend, and an extravagant Christmas bonus every year because he’s Barry Allen, the fastest, and nicest, man alive.

That’s my headcanon, and I’m sticking to it. Now don’t even get me started about how CatCo must have an unlimited PTO policy because if they didn’t, Kara Danvers would have been fired halfway through Supergirl season one due to all of her sudden absences from work.

Tomorrow’s Shepherd Cover Reveal

I’m very pleased to reveal to the world the cover of my next book, Tomorrow’s Shepherd, the second book of The Verdant Revival.

eBook Cover

Tomorrow’s Shepherd shifts the focus of The Verdant Revival from sword-wielding blacksmith Siv McCaig to his best friend, socially awkward, mechanical genius Fritz Reinhardt. With the alien white demons defeated, Fritz embarks on a worldwide effort to restore the planet’s chipware. He’s the only person who can repair planet Verde’s ancient technology, lost two centuries prior. The promises of instantaneous communication, vastly improved medicine and hygiene, and labor-saving tools fill most people with ecstatic hope for an easier life. But a powerful minority remembers technology’s faults: loss of privacy, deadly high-tech weapons, and devastating environmental impact.

These critics find a powerful ally in Lady Verde, the living spirit of the planet, who demands an end to the technological restoration. How can Fritz build a better future when the planet itself is fighting against him? How will Fritz and his friends defend the people when their planet turns deadly? And what secret is Lady Verde hiding?

Fritz is featured on the cover clad in a high-tech chipware suit. And what is that massive robot he’s just tackled? Back in August, I dropped the hint that Tomorrow’s Shepherd features two villains, and both were mentioned by name in Yesterday’s Demons. The first is Lady Verde. The second is the Steelterrors, a group of giant, sentient robots who nearly destroyed the ancient world a thousand years ago. The Steelterror on the cover doesn’t look too happy to be taken down by a lowly “blood bag,” does it? Fritz is in for quite the fight.

Here’s the entire picture you’ll see on the front and back covers of the paperback edition. Click on it to view it full size.

Tomorrow's Shepherd Cover - Full

The illustrator of this cover is Tommaso Renieri, a gifted artist and a true professional. I’m blessed to have found him, and it was a pleasure to work with him on this piece.

Tomorrow’s Shepherd will be available in ebook and paperback in 2018. I’m currently hard at work finishing it. Check back soon for more updates. I can’t wait to tell you this story!

Tomorrow’s Shepherd cover reveal coming soon

TS Tiny Cover TeaserI have some exciting news today! Next week, I’ll be revealing the cover of my next book, Tomorrow’s Shepherd, book two of The Verdant Revival. That reveal will happen right here, on this blog, but a sneak peek will first go out to everyone who subscribes to my newsletter.

I send my newsletter a handful of times a year, anytime I have something I’m especially happy to report. If you’re not already a newsletter subscriber, please become one.

Whatever channel you prefer, stay tuned! You’re soon going to get your first glimpse at Tomorrow’s Shepherd.

Come see me at a Local Author Fair

AuthorFairI’m happy to announce I’ve been invited to participate in the Schertz Public Library’s Fall Local Author Fair on Saturday, October 21, 2017. The event will take place from 1 to 3 PM. Eleven authors from the Schertz-Cibolo area will spend the first hour talking about ourselves and our work, and the second hour will be a meet-and-greet.

If you’re in the area, stop on by! I’ll have paperback copies of Yesterday’s Demons available for sale. I’ll have some giveaway swag, too. Yay, free stuff!

The Schertz Public Library is located at 798 Schertz Parkway in Schertz, Texas. I hope to see you there!

On having an introverted child who needs to be alone. Often.

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Photo from Pixabay,
licensed under CC0 1.0

Unless you’re the Energizer Bunny, you eventually will get tired. Everyone needs to rest and recharge themselves. But how we recharge is a huge distinguisher between extroverts and introverts. To some psychologists, it is the trait that most distinguishes between the two.

Extroverts are mentally energized by being among people, lots of external stimuli, and exciting situations. On the other hand, an introvert may enjoy those same activities, but she will find them mentally draining. She’ll need to recover from them with rest, where rest is defined as down time, alone time, quiet time, or all-of-the-above time.

An introverted child will need plenty of down time in which to rest and regain energy lost during socialization. And an Introvert Parent will most likely have no problem making sure the child gets the time she needs. But beware! There’s a tendency within you, my fellow Introvert Parent, that I believe is not in your child’s long-term best interests. You need to be on guard against it.

An opportunity we wish we’d had
One of my daughters likes to be alone. A lot. If unexpected guests arrive at the house, she runs and hides in her room. When expected guests arrive, she… well, she’s likely to hide in her room then, too. And I understand how she feels because when I was growing up, I felt the same way. I suppose many Introvert Parents did.

Susan Cain’s Quiet started a cultural conversation about introversion and extroversion. One of her theories is that we live in what she calls the “Extrovert Ideal,” “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.” But before Quiet, many of us introverts felt misunderstood, or worse, felt our preferences were ignored or belittled.

Knowing what we know now, we Introvert Parents can do better for our own children. So your son likes to be alone? Great. Let him be alone! Be respectful of his needs. Let him whittle away his leisure hours reading in his bedroom, or building with Lego, or whatever it is he likes to do.

But no one stays home forever. Outings, errands, even — gasp! — parties are not just facts of life, they’re good things. (Yes, even parties can be good.) And there are a few tips I’ve learned to follow to give my introverted children the greatest chance of having fun and enjoying themselves in such occasions.

  • Set expectations. Don’t make the outing a surprise. Let your child know ahead of time that it is going to happen. An introverted child will have a lot of questions. Who will be there? How long will we be gone? What will we do once we get there? The more of these questions you can answer ahead of time, the greater the likelihood the introvert child will enjoy himself.
  • Arrive early. Walking into an empty room is far, far easier for an introverted child than walking into a crowd. It will give the child time to get used to his new surroundings and environment without having to get used to the crowd of people around him at the same time.
  • Not every outing is a chore. Sometimes, the outing should be to something he really enjoys, like an art class, or a superhero party. If the only parties he ever attends are crowded, noisy, and the opposite of everything he likes, then, of course, he’s going to sour on all parties. Show him what a fun outing can be.
  • Let him take a breather. Just a few minutes in solitude, or silence, or both can be re-energizing. If he seems to be getting drained in the middle of the event, take a break from it. If it’s a sporting event, go visit the souvenir stand or concession stand, but do it during a time when most folks are in their seats. If it is a party at a friend’s house, take a walk around the block, or spend some time at a nearby playground. Relieve the pressure for a while, and he might be energized enough to make it through the rest of the event without a meltdown.

“Let her take a break” is good advice for time spent at home, too. A day the family spends doing some kind of activity together is likely exciting and fun for an introverted child, especially if she has a quiet, safe space to retreat to for a while if needed.

The hidden danger
As an Introvert Parent, you are thoroughly equipped and qualified to take care of your introvert child’s need for alone time. But you can also be your own worst enemy, especially if you grew up wishing you could have more time alone, or wishing your relatives understood you loved them, but needed to control the amount of time you spend with them. You’re a parent, so of course, you want to give your children a better life than what you had. But in this case, your tendency may be to coddle your children.

Though I have tried very hard to make sure my daughter gets all the alone time she needs, there are many situations in which I’ve had to draw a firm line between being supportive and being pampering:

  • She doesn’t always get to “just stay home.” She has to do some things she thinks she doesn’t like. Am I trying to force her into the Extrovert Ideal? Not at all! I’m trying to prepare her for life. She probably won’t want to go to class in college, either. She probably won’t want to go to work. I don’t want to push her into the rat race too young, but nor do I want it to be a shock to her once she’s in it.
  • She doesn’t have to be a social butterfly, yukking it up with everyone at the party. But she does have to be polite. She has to greet people. She has to say please and thank you. She doesn’t have to offer small talk, but she has to listen politely to it. Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, being rude is not OK. Wheaton’s Law applies to all.
  • Sometimes I’m flexible on when she does her chores, but there are still deadlines, and sometimes, I just need the table set now. I give her a lot of leeway in making her own personal schedule, but when I need to step in and request her immediate attention, I need her to respectfully comply.

Having an introverted child is a dream come true for you, my fellow Introvert Parent, because such a child will share so many of your preferences in how to spend free time. Just be conscious of what you permit and the example you set; you don’t want your child to become the meme stereotype of introversion. He needs your help to stay more “I like quiet” and less “I hate all people except the Amazon delivery guy.” Help him to explore our loud, busy, wonderful world, not hide from it. Then, after the socializing is done, show him the truly spectacular things that can happen when you combine snacks, a sofa, and Netflix.

August 2017 Status Update

The story of what I’ve been up to lately is in my Project Tracker:

2017-08 Status Update

I finished the second draft of Tomorrow’s Shepherd, and it is currently in the hands of the first of my beta readers! I’ve been working on this book for twenty months now, and it’s not done yet, but nevertheless, I’m happy to reach this milestone.

I’ve previously given out a few teases about the book. I’ve mentioned that each of the three books of The Verdant Revival will have a different theological virtue as its theme. Yesterday’s Demons was about love. Tomorrow’s Shepherd is about hope.

I’ve mentioned that each of The Verdant Revival‘s main characters takes a turn as the star of a book. Siv was the focus of Yesterday’s Demons. Tomorrow’s Shepherd is Fritz’s story. And I mentioned that “gravity” was not only the 100,000th word I wrote for the book, but it’s also another theme of the book, so much so that “Defying Gravity” from Wicked is perfect for the book’s soundtrack.

To celebrate the completion of the second draft, here’s a new hint about the book’s plot. Tomorrow’s Shepherd features not one, but two villains… and both were mentioned by name in Yesterday’s Demons.

As is my practice, I now plan to put the book on the shelf while my beta readers absorb it. During this break, I plan to catch up on some articles I’ve meant to post here. I also have another project in mind I’ll be starting very soon. It will be a different experience for me, but I’m very excited about it. And since I don’t want to sound entirely coy and elusive, I’ll say this much about it: it’s a non-fiction project.

As always, I want to thank everyone for reading this for your support. I can’t say you’re the reason I write, because I have to write, and I’d do it even if no one read my work. But the fact you do read it, and enjoy it, and tell me about your enjoyment of it means so much. Thank you for your continued support.

Deus vobiscum.

A cult of quality

One of my favorite books about software engineering is Peopleware by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, and one of my favorite parts of that book is the introduction of the phrase “cult of quality.” DeMarco and Lister define this as a team that has decided “only perfect is good enough for us.” While most of the world won’t argue for higher quality, members of a cult of quality will “always turn out something that’s better than what their market is asking for.”

It’s my great privilege that in my day job as a senior software developer and team lead, I work in a cult of quality. My company recently published an article I wrote about our cult of quality.

Check it out and let me know what you think. If you’re a software engineer, do you work in a cult of quality? If not, how can you make your environment into one? And if you’re not in software engineering, how can you live a cult of quality in whatever it is you do?