Month: December 2018

Bye Felicia………

It looks like Uber’s business model has just become illegal in the UK:

Uber has lost its latest court bid to stop its British drivers being classified as workers, entitling them to rights such as the minimum wage, in a decision which jeopardizes the taxi app’s business model.

Two drivers successfully argued at a tribunal in 2016 that the Silicon Valley firm exerted significant control over them to provide an on-demand service, and that they should cease to be considered as self-employed, which gives few protections in law.

An employment appeal tribunal upheld that decision last year, prompting Uber to go to the Court of Appeal. On Wednesday, a majority of judges there said they agreed with the previous verdicts and rejected Uber’s arguments.


Uber said it would appeal the verdict, meaning the legal process will continue.

In Britain, the self-employed are entitled to only basic protections such as health and safety, but workers receive the minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks. Uber has introduced a number of benefits for drivers this year.

Uber’s business model is predicated on abusing its workers and evading regulations.

It’s really nice to see the noose tightening.

I just hope that the bubble bursts before the IPO, so that the early funders lose their shirts.

This is Trippy

One sees a number of proposals for using distributed electric propulsion for vertical takeoff and landing systems, but this is without a doubt the oddest concept that I’ve seen yet:

A vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) design with wings that both tilt and fold, providing stable hover and efficient flight, is under development by Boston-area startup PteroDynamics. The company is targeting the military unmanned-aircraft market initially, but has ambitions to develop an air taxi.

In PteroDynamics’ Transwing concept, the wings tilt and fold back along the fuselage, and the aircraft acts like a multicopter in vertical flight. To transition to forward flight, the wings rotate into horizontal position, allowing the Transwing to fly like a conventional aeroplane.

“Our vehicle is completely unique,” says CEO Matthew Graczyk. “It’s 100% fixed wing in horizontal flight and 100% rotary wing in vertical flight, with no compromises.” Unlike a tiltwing, the Transwing can transition between vertical and forward flight with no stall range, he says. The aircraft can have a long wing for cruise efficiency, but folds into a compact size for VTOL.


PteroDynamics has flown a 12-ft.-span model, but has not yet attempted transition between vertical and horizontal flight and does not know how well the design scales. “We did get lucky with the prototype,” says Petrov. “What will happen at 40-ft. or 400-ft. span we don’t know, but as we understand how it works we see no fundamental reason it will not scale.”

As the wing rotates aft it has more dihedral and sweep and the angle of attack never exceeds 20 deg., while propeller wash helps prevent flow separation. “A tiltwing goes past 45 deg. into wing stall and the wing becomes an obstacle to forward flight,” Petrov says. Transwing “can stall, but mildly. We tufted the wing and video shows the airflow does separate, but not badly. Mostly the flow stays attached.”

Petrov describes the tilt/fold articulation as similar to the wing-fold mechanism on Grumman carrier-based aircraft such as the Avenger and Hellcat, except that Transwing folds leading edge up. The hinge mechanism will carry high loads, but reinforcement of the wing at the fold “should not penalize the aircraft too much, perhaps 5% of maximum takeoff weight,” he says.

I can’t wait for a full size test.

I Have Released a My First Ever Piece of Software

When the Firefox browser was updated from 56 to 57 (Quantum) the previous browser addon technologies (XUL/XPCOM) were obsoleted and replaced with the (less powerful) Web Extensions API.

One that I could not live without was BBCodeXtra, which provided a context menu which allowed various tags in bbCode, vBulletin, Markdown, and HTML to be automated, along with users to create custom tags.

Right now, it is largely a copy of the menu structure of BBCodeXtra.

(on edit) I now have the program up on the releases page at gitHub.

As soon as this is on, I will post the link to that here. 

I have not formally put it in the Mozilla Addons, because it is still at a preliminary state, basically alpha.

The code is released  under an MIT open source license, and you can find the source code on Github as bbCodeWebEx.

The icons are NOT under the MIT License, having been done by by Charles Saroff, and he holds the copyright under a yet as to be determined license.

While this will work with pre-Quantum (Firefox 56 and earlier) versions of the browser, the clipboard functionality does not work.

I should warn you that this is some of the ugliest JavaScript in the known world, and perusing it may lead to all sorts of physical and mental problems.

bbCodeWebEx Quick Start Guide

(click on any image to see a larger popup)

When you right click on text in a text box, it provides a context menu that allows you to apply formatting in bbCode, vBulletin, HTML, XHTML, Markdown, and user defined (custom) tags.

As you can see, I have not yet figured out how to create a color wheel for font color, so it’s just a sub menu. (I’m working on it)

The settings page allows you to activate or deactivate menus.

You simply select or deselect the check boxes, and then click “save menu options.”

Since vBulletin is a superset of bbCode, the vBulletin menu is a submenu of bbCode menu, and if you deactivate bbCode, you deactivate vbulletin as well.

Custom Tags
If you click on the “custom tags” button, the custom tags page will popup, either as a new tab or as a window depending on your browser settings.

You can re order the tags by dragging and dropping the rows, but you cannot drag anything to the bottom row. You must drag to the 2nd row from the bottom, and then drag the bottom row up. (I’m working on it)

Once you have finished, click the “Save Tag Order” button.

To edit a tag, click, select a tag from the list, and it will populate the input boxes at the bottom of the page.

Make any changes you might want to the Menu Title and Menu Argument input boxes, and then click “Save Custom Tag”, and it will be updated in the list.

The two simplest, and most commonly used, tokens for making an argument to be used in a menu are are: (Other, more complex, tags, are described in the detailed documentation)

  • {{selection}}
  • {{clipboard}}

An example of the use of selection would be

<b><span style=”font-size: 100%; font-variant: small-caps;”>{{selection}}</span></b>

which makes the selected text bold and small caps.

An example of the use of clipboard would be:

<img src="{{clipboard}}">

Which takes the content of the clipboard, and pastes it into the html code for an image.

If you want to delete a tag, click on it, and it will populate the input boxes at the bottom of the page.

When you click the delete button, you will be asked to confirm, and then the custom tag will be deleted.

To create a tag, click on the “New Tag” button, and the “Menu ID” input box (you cannot change this value), and the “Parent Menu” input boxes will be filled in. (you cannot change this value either)

Enter a title for the sub menu and an argument, and then click “Save Custom Tag”, and it will be added to the bottom of the list.

To export your custom tags, click on the “Export Settings…” button, and you will be warned that things like unsaved new and edited tags will be deleted. If you are OK with that, click OK, and save the file, which will have the name “bbCode_WebEx_YYYY-MM-DD.json” will be saved to disk.

To import your custom tags, click on the “Import Settings…” button. You will be asked to confirm, because this will erase your existing tags, (Back up first) and then you can use your file dialog box to load a file.

Export and import files must/will be JSON array file format.

bbCodeWebEx Custom Tags & Advanced Use

Available codes:

(Note: these are case sensitive, and they can be used multiple times in a single menu.)

  • {{clipboard}}: This pastes in the current clipboard contents where it is placed.
  • {{selection}}: This pastes in the currently selected texts where it is placed.

Example: [url={{clipboard}}]{{selection}}[/url]
So if you copy a url, and select text, this would add a link to it for bbCode, and around the code words are double curly braces, “{}“.

Here is an example of using the tag more than once.

This right justifies an image, sizes it to 200 pixels wide, and adds a link to the fullsize image that pops up in blogger:

<a href="{{clipboard}}"><img src="{{clipboard}}" style="margin: 0px 0px 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer;" width="200"></a>

Nice picture, huh?

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

JSON array format:

It is basically a text format (UTF-8 character set) that this extension uses to externally save data.

Here are the first three standard custom tags that come with the extension.

Note that the last one does NOT have a comma after the closing curly brace.

Theoretically, you could manually edit these, and if you wanted to combine two sets of custom tags, you could with a cut and paste, making sure that all of the closing closing braces are followed by a comma, except for the last one.

"menuId": "bbcwbx.custom.001",
"menuTitle": "First custom menu",
"parentId": "bbcwbx.custom",
"menuArg": "Arg 1",
"icons": ""
"menuId": "bbcwbx.custom.002",
"menuTitle": "Second custom menu",
"parentId": "bbcwbx.custom",
"menuArg": "Arg 2",
"icons": ""
"menuId": "bbcwbx.custom.003",
"menuTitle": "Third custom menu",
"parentId": "bbcwbx.custom",
"menuArg": "Arg 3",
"icons": ""

The indents and the new lines here just for readability.

Qu’ils Mangent De La Brioche

The French police are seriously considering joining the gilets jaunes protesters because of how they have been treated:

The French government is desperately trying to keep its exhausted police force onside following weeks of violent protests demanding economic reforms, improved living standards and the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron.

On Wednesday, French officials met with police trade union leaders to work out a deal to soothe anger in law enforcement ranks regarding overwork, unpaid overtime and difficult working conditions, Le Monde reported.


Police have accumulated some 23 million hours of overtime that is yet to be paid. According to The Local France, police union leader Frédéric Lagache explained, “Faced with this irresponsibility [of the government], we are forced to be irresponsible in our actions.”

It really is remarkable just how badly Macron is screwing this all up.

I’m waiting for him to start a speech with, well, you know.

It’s Turtles All the Way Down

I read a very interesting review of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou.

It’s about the Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, and the culture of what can only be called charismatic fraud at the now shuttered blood test firm.

It provides a lot of insight into what went wrong, and the review very ably provides a summary of what happened and why.

On the other hand, when one looks at a history of Silicon Valley startups, the only difference between them and Theranos is that Theranos was operating in the real world with a real product that depended on real chemistry and real physics.

I’m wondering if the real issue with the entire Theranos affair might not be how a blond in a black turtleneck managed to defraud a very large number of investors, but instead that this is simply business as usual.

When one looks at Silicon Valley Firms, with very few exceptions, the business models frequently seem to be predicated on regulatory arbitrage (cheating, see Uber, AirBnB, etc), or having no viable business plan (Uber again, and various startups whose founders made their money from being bought out), etc.

I refer to the above as, “Turtles all the way down“.

I’d really like to see a US Attorney go zero tolerance on this sort of crap.

Oh, the Horror!!!

The powers that be in the UK are freaking out over a proposal to set a minimum wage of £30,000 for immigrants admitted as “Highly Skilled”.

By way of perspective, at the current exchange rate, that translates is about $38,000 a year, or a bit over $18/hour, or about 3 bucks more than Bernie’s proposed minimum wage here in the US.

Econ 101: if you pay a decent wage, they will come:

Proposals for a minimum annual wage could see the UK without tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and teachers.

Industry leaders have stressed ‘high skills do not equal high pay’ as the government seeks to curb immigration after Brexit.


Mr Javid confirmed the Government would be scrapping the current 20,700 annual cap on ‘highly skilled migrants.’

It will now set a minimum salary for workers applying for five-year visas and they would need to be sponsored by a company.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have recommended a £30,000 threshold.


The starting salary for nurses, midwives and paramedics is £23,000. Junior doctors start at £27,000 while healthcare assistants are at £17,000.

Most scientific researchers also earn below the proposed threshold.

I think that I may have identified a significant problem in the UK:  They have set up an economy where the City of London (finance) is impoverishing the rest of the nation.

Tweet(s) of the Day

Some interesting context — McCaskill is railing on the left, after losing reelection on the same ballot that voters passed a minimum wage increase:

— David Sirota (@davidsirota) December 20, 2018

and this:

Interesting that McCaskill lost elecfion in a state where “right-to-work” was defeated by a two-to-one margin.

— Mike Elk (@MikeElk) December 20, 2018

Maybe Claire McKaskill lost her bid for reelection because she did not reflect the values of her state, but rather she reflected the values of the Wall Street banksters.

Why Are These Folks Not in Jail?

It appears that some schools are routinely fitting disabled students with shock belts.

This is evil beyond belief:

An international body entrusted with upholding human rights across the Americas has called for an immediate ban on the controversial use of electric shocks on severely disabled children in a school outside Boston.

The Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, is believed to be the only school in the world that routinely inflicts high-powered electric shocks as a form of punishment on vulnerable children and adults. About 47 of its students are currently subjected to the “treatment”, which involves individuals being zapped with electric currents far more powerful than those discharged by stun guns.

Disability rights campaigners have tried for decades to stop the practice, which the school’s administrators call “aversive therapy”. So far the institution has managed to fend off all opposition, arguing that electric shocks are an acceptable way of discouraging harmful habits.

Now the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has issued a rare formal notice known as “precautionary measures” that calls for immediate cessation of the electric shocks.

In a seven-page resolution, the Washington-based panel says that the practice poses a “serious impact on the rights” of the vulnerable children at the school, “particularly on their right to personal integrity which may be subjected to a form of torture”.

The commission cites the work in 2013 of the then UN monitor on torture, Juan Méndez, who found JRC’s electric shock technique was a potential violation of the UN convention against torture and other international laws. It also notes several federal agencies and professional groups have called for a ban on “aversive techniques” on grounds they can cause psychological trauma.

They are torturing students, and it must be stopped.


Canada’s top court has ruled in favour of denying accreditation to a Christian law school that banned students from having gay sex.

Friday’s ruling against Trinity Western University in British Columbia (BC) was closely watched by both religious freedom and gay rights advocates.

The university made students promise not to have extra-marital or gay sex.

The Supreme Court found that protecting LGBT students from discrimination trumped religious freedom.


Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia law societies denied the school accreditation, on the grounds that it required all students to sign a covenant binding them to a code of conduct which banned sex outside the confines of heterosexual marriage.

Specifically, it said that it could (would) expel students for gay sex.

Good on the court.

Your need to hate does not trump basic human rights.

A Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day

ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Whatever has been eliminated as a proto-nation state/caliphate.

It is now a diffuse terrorist organization, and as such, the only remaining justifications for keeping 2-3000 (and probably more off the books) troops on the ground are promulgating regime change and doing the House of Saud’s dirty work in their hundreds of years long battle with Iran.

As such, I think that Trump’s announcement that they are pulling ground troops from Syria, effective immediately, is a good thing, even if is (probably) being done for the most base of reasons:

The United States will move quickly to withdraw all forces from Syria, the White House abruptly announced Wednesday, as President Trump defied warnings from his top advisers and upended plans for a continued mission against the Islamic State.

The move plunged U.S. allies into uncertainty and created the potential for greater regional instability even as it provided Russia and its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a chance to cement greater control over the country.

“Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now, we won and that’s the way we want it,” Trump said in a video message on Twitter, an unusual format for the president. “That’s the way we want it, and that’s the way they want it,” he said, pointing to the sky in an apparent reference to American soldiers killed in Syria.

To quote John Kerry, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

The decision also delivers on the president’s repeated threat this year to pull out troops. Since before taking office, Trump has promised to conclude the campaign against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and questioned the value of costly and dangerous military missions overseas.


Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, warned in a statement that the decision would benefit Russia and Iran, Assad’s other major patron.

I use the tears of the regime change Mousketeers to sweeten my coffee.

Of course, the wing of U.S. officialdom known as, “The Blob,” are doing their level best to prevent a sudden outbreak of peace:

President Donald Trump may have declared the so-called Islamic State “defeated,” sparking talk of a U.S. withdrawal from the former ISIS stronghold of northeastern Syria. But administration officials, several of whom were taken by surprise, indicated an effort was underway to stop or slow a pullout.


Yet the official added a harder-edged warning suggesting that military force against Iran in Syria remained an option: “Iran knows the U.S. stands ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests.”

OK, Mr. Anonymous Official, name 3 significant American interests in Syria, and you cannot use, “Iran’s there,” or, “Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud’s dick won’t suck itself.”


‘Bohemian Chanukah’, a riff on Queen:

If It’s Too Dicey for a Literal Vampire………

Elon Musk’s self dealing between SpaceX and the Boring Company has alarmed even actual vampire,* and psychopath, Peter Thiel.

He is aggressively using SpaceX resources on his next big thing:

Elon Musk’s tunnel-digging venture, the Boring Co., is being pulled into the billionaire entrepreneur’s controversial practice of spreading overlapping assets across his disparate technology firms.

On Tuesday, the Tesla Inc. TSLA -3.27% chief is set to unveil a test tunnel developed by the Boring Co., the first of what Mr. Musk imagines as a futuristic series of high-speed underground highways to alleviate traffic.

The entrance of the two-mile-long Boring test tunnel is being constructed in Hawthorne, Calif., at the headquarters of another Musk-controlled company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., partly by SpaceX employees using equipment purchased with SpaceX funds, people familiar with the matter said.

The arrangement alarmed some longtime investors in SpaceX, including its largest outside backer, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, some of the people said. The investors learned in recent months that despite the diversion of SpaceX resources and staffing to the fledgling Boring startup, it was Mr. Musk who was in line to receive almost all of any future profits, these people said.

The investors questioned SpaceX about why their investment dollars into a company ostensibly devoted to launching satellites and carrying humans to Mars were instead partly used to start a separate company that principally benefited Mr. Musk. When the Boring Co. was earlier this year spun into its own firm, more than 90% of the equity went to Mr. Musk and the rest to early employees, the company has said.


The SpaceX board never voted on devoting resources to Mr. Musk’s new venture.


The Boring Co.’s unusual inception is illustrative of how Mr. Musk defies the conventions of traditional corporate chieftains and sometimes supports his business empire by shuffling finances between companies.

“Defies the conventions of traditional corporate chieftains,” huh?

I think that technical term, of course, is fraud and embezzlement.

ToMAYto/ToMAHto, whatever, I guess, because these days, the motto is, “Let Bond Villains be Bond Villains.”

Listen to the cat, listen to the cat.

*I do mean this characterization of Thiel literally.  He is literally a vampire who wants to use the blood of the young to extend his lifespan.

Way to Go Beto!

After extensive documentation showing that Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s campaign repeatedly and egregiously violated the “No fossile fuel money” pledge, the Oil Change USA has dropped him from their list:

Texas Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke has been removed from a pledge he signed to reject large donations from fossil fuel PACs and executives, following a recent Sludge investigation of federal campaign finance records.

Sludge reported on Dec. 10 that the congressman had accepted dozens of contributions of over $200 from oil and gas executives and had not reported refunding them. Oil Change USA, which led a coalition of environmental and democracy organizations to create the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, attempted to reach O’Rourke’s campaign and congressional office but did not hear back. Nor did Sludge.

David Turnbull, strategic communications director at Oil Change USA, told Sludge on Tuesday that the group had just removed O’Rourke’s name from the list of signers.
The pledge stipulates that in signing it, “a politician and their campaign will adopt a policy to not knowingly accept any contributions over $200 from the PACs, executives, or front groups of fossil fuel companies—companies whose primary business is the extraction, processing, distribution, or sale of oil, gas, or coal.”

It is interesting how this news has been greeted by his fans.

It appears that relating the facts makes me, and the dozens of journalists who went through FEC filings, Vladimir Putin’s butt boys.

I prefer my candidates to stand for something, thank you very much.