Is there a PHB at Reddit?

When I read about what what happened to the remote workers at Reddit my blood runs cold. Did management take a lesson from the Pointy Haired Boss in Dilbert’s office?

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I can’t imagine how poisoned the workplace at Reddit must be now that everyone has had an ultimatum to move to San Francisco or be fired. I’m a big fan of the site but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. There’s a boss there somewhere who wants to make life as difficult as possible for the people who helped make that site what it is today.

Stories from a homeopathic manufacturing plant

Take this with a grain (or essence) of salt because it’s the Internet but some of these stories were too good to disappear..

I have worked at a homeopathic manufacturing plant. Yes, there is always a starting material, however sometimes it can get really shady. Homeopathics are regulated by the FDA under CFR 211, so if you make stuff up (like lie about having a starting material), and they find out about it, you’re in big trouble.
For most herbals, the actual herb is purchased, then tested to make sure it’s the right variety. This can mean TLC (thin layer chromatography), which is what I was responsible for doing when I worked there. A lot of times we got in a different species of the herb, but used it anyway.
Sometimes a pathogenic starting material is used – in that case, we contacted out to a third party micro lab that keep strains in a controlled environment. We paid the micro guy a contract fee to do the dilutions himself which ended up being about $3500 because only he was licensed to deal with pathogens. We made 200 30 mL units out of that which sold for less than $1200 total. Such a waste.
Sometimes a material of animal origin is used. If it’s something weird, like bovine trachea, there really isn’t a good method to test it, so we kind of took the supplier’s word for it. Pretty shady.
One time we needed to do an extraction of “morning dew”, so we went outside in the morning, shook some water off of some weeds, weighed it, then did the dilution.
My favorite story is this one: We needed to do a dilution of uranium 200X. Problem, is you can’t get uranium (unless you’re Doc Brown), so we went to Hanford (this was a looong time ago) carrying a vial of water. When we got there and did a tour (the plant manager knew what we were going to do), we took the vial and held it up against a glass wall that was a close as we could get to the cooling chamber. That became our “1X” dilution. We went back to our lab and diluted it to 200X, in ethanol. We had a lot left over, and because it’s illegal in WA to dump large quantities of ethanol down the drain, we needed a disposal service. Unfortunately, when we tried to explain that it was a 200X dilution (and that there wasn’t even a single atom of uranium in there to begin with), they still wouldn’t take it, because it said “uranium” on the label. So we took a shovel and buried in the back of the plant, and never told anyone.

One time we needed to do a dilution of goldenseal. My lab partner dropped his pen in the mix. We didn’t want anyone to find out, so he reached in to grab it, covering his arm in goldenseal, a potent laxative. He spent the next several days with severe nausea.
One time a guy wanted us to make this product called singtu. It was a pretty standard herbal homeopathic, except at the end we were supposed to “sing to” the final product, using these chants that the customer prepared for us. At first we were like “no”, but money is money, so when he visited we sang the chants. After he left it became a joke to say the most vulgar things we could around it.
One time we needed to make a belladonna 1000X dilution. I had to sit there and make sure the compounder did it right. That was the most goddamn boring thing I have ever done. It took two solid days

Meanwhile, Heel, a company that made homeopathic “medicine” has left the US and Canadian markets after settling a class action lawsuit. They would have had to modify their packaging and advertising to be more truthful. Unfortunately they still operate in South America and Europe.

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And finally, I saw in the money section of “USA TODAY” a few weeks ago while on the way home from Automattic’s Grand Meetup that another company, Hyland, that makes homeopathic “medicine” is facing a class action lawsuit over their children’s cold and flu products. The first product, Hyland’s 4 Kids Cold ’n Cough has heavily diluted ingredients. While there might be some particles of the X6 ingredients left, there won’t be any of the X12 ingredients.

How to remove the shine on faces with Lightroom

I had to develop a bunch of photos I took at an event recently and some of the faces in the photos had distracting highlights. The shine wasn’t too bad, but it mocked me and my initial attempts to fix it!

Lightroom is limited in it’s editing tools but it does have a powerful brush tool. The instructions I found here worked a treat. You can use the brush tool, healing tool or a combination of both.

  • Select the brush tool and change the colour to a shade close to the skin colour. Do this by clicking on the colour tool and when the colour picker popups up drag the cursor to where you want to grab the colour in the picture.
  • Set the brush to a low opacity and colour in the shine. Go slowly, it’ll take a number of passes.

You can also use the heal tool, but again make sure the opacity is set low.

Unhide passwords on your Android Device

One of my pet peeves about logging into sites on my phone is the password field. On a large screen it makes sense that the field is obscured by * characters but what about on a small device only you can see?

I can’t be the only one bothered by this because the wifi login form on Android devices has a handy “Show password” setting. Maybe it’s because people use the default wifi password set by their ISPs so much it’s their only “strong” password. Anyway, I wished there was a similar setting for other login forms.

Well, now there is, sort of. A handy Xposed Framework module called HideNoPasswords that reveals the letters behind the dots. I found I could even swype my password which makes logging in with phrases so much easier.

logging into twitter

There are downsides. Security is the most obvious one. An application could take screenshots in the background when it detects the keyboard is in use and send that data somewhere. Someone could look over your shoulder and see the password.
Also, your phone has to be rooted, and you need the Xposed Framework installed but if you’ve conquered those hurdles installing this module is simple.

Here’s the XDA Thread on the module, and the XDA blog post where I found out about this handy extension.

Ipega 9025 Controller and Terraria on Android

The Android version of Terraria is on sale right now on the Play Store and Amazon App Store so I bought it last week and it’s a pretty decent port of the PC original. Controls are reasonably good although I’ve sometimes found the movement swipes (left side of the screen) get confused and my character uses his weapon/tool instead. The local multiplayer over wifi is great!

Anyway, I had ordered a Ipega 9025 controller on dealextreme and it arrived a few days ago. It’s a bluetooth controller designed to hold a smartphone in a cradle so I was interested to see if it would work with Terraria. Initial tests were not good and various forums said Terraria didn’t support the controller. I tried Tincore Mapper but could not figure out how to map anything.

I finally read the manual for the controller and found it mentioned something called the ipega game lobby. You can find the APK for it here. It’s the file called “IPEGA Game Center_ENG.apk” and should be side loaded on your phone. Most of the app has been translated to English but Chinese characters still show up in a few places. Getting it to work is a bit fiddly too. My Galaxy S4 wouldn’t always connect to the controller, but the game lobby would usually find it and launch the test app. Moving the analogue sticks around moves a green dot on the screen to verify it’s working. Terraria now works fine and is very playable with the controller!

Ittle Dew worked perfectly and I also tried RetroArch, the multi-system emulator. It didn’t pick up the controller until I defined the keys explicitly and told it which “keyboard device” or IME to use.

Here’s where the major downside to using the game lobby comes in. It doesn’t require root which is great, but it does ask you to set the controller as the default keyboard. That means when you later use your phone to send tweets, emails or type anything it’ll be through this keyboard. I’m rather fond of Swype, and TBH, I don’t fully trust them that they won’t try to download everything I type.
There is a way around it however. By using Llama Profiles I set up an action to catch when the controller disconnects. It then used the secure settings plugin to change the keyboard back to Swype and display a brief message saying, “Swype activated again”.

The Ipega 9025 is also available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. The controller feels good in my hands. It’s not going to feel as good as an Xbox 360 controller but it gets close and it’s super convenient being able to clip the phone to it. Recommended!

So long Robin Williams, thank you

On the day a world famous celebrity dies the Internet fills with countless messages remembering their life, expressing grief and shock at the death. It’s a collective coming together of humanity. Today was exceptional though. I read that grown men were reduced to tears when they read the news. In solidarity, people repeated the same simple catch phrase an alien in the 70’s used in greeting.

Robin Williams and daughter Zelda

Yesterday, Robin Williams died. His Wikipedia page saw a flurry of activity today as the end of his life was documented for future generations to peruse.

I still remember him best as Mork, the alien who crash landed on Earth in an egg but he has a long list of movie and tv titles to his name which you’ll find on Wikipedia, or IMDB.

I knew he had battled substance abuse but had no idea he fought depression. It’s horrible that someone who brought so much laughter and joy to the world should see no alternative but suicide. I can’t imagine how dark the future must seem if this is the only way. I wonder what he’d make of the outpouring of feelings and grief today?

Some links that I came across today, because the Internet will return to normal tomorrow. I hope these don’t rot away with time.

These are dark days for his friends and family in their grief.

Nanu Nanu Mork. RIP.

First Impressions of the Power Up 3.0 Paper Airplane

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly a remote controlled paper airplane?

I backed the Power Up 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane last year and received my airplane in the post this morning. Excited? I was, just a bit.

I like the packaging. It comes in a plain cardboard box in a sleeve with a transparent plastic top containing the engine and brains of the device. Inside are a manual, papers for making various types of planes, a charger and a usb cable. There’s also a spare propeller and tail fin.

For my first airplane I decided on the Invader design they recommended. The instructions for making it are simple enough, although all the folding to strengthen the wings makes it more complicated than a regular paper plane.

How does it fly? Well, they’re not joking when they said you’d need around 150×150 meters. For my first flight I used a public grass area at the end of my street that’s maybe 15x15m and the plane flew so fast it had barely left my hand when I had to turn it. It didn’t respond too well to the Android app running on my S4 but that might just be my panic at seeing the thing fly away and heading towards a nearby tree at high velocity!

After a few goes we moved to a larger area that’s on a steep slope. So, up to the top, and there’s a wind blowing. “That’s going to cause havoc”, I thought. I was right. I released the plane and it was flying towards the hedge at the end of the park within seconds. A quick twist of my hand to tilt my phone and the plane changed direction and I cut the throttle. It glided to a stop just a short distance from a fence. Phew. The two kids watching the plane fly were a bit awed I think. :)

Next test will be tomorrow. I think the square in Blarney village is probably big enough..

Photos from Helios XM Anomaly in Dublin

Last weekend I took the train to Dublin to take part in my first Ingress event, the Helio XM Anomaly. All I knew was that both Resistance and Enlightened would be there fighting over portals but not much more than that.

Fights for portals were intense 15 minute battles. It must have made a strange sight watching two groups of adults bent over their phones on a street or park tapping at their phones. The only thing heard were the frequent shouts calling “DEPLOY”, “MOD” or “CUBE” as we shouted what we were doing. Who won? The Resistance of course!

The next (closest) Helios event is in Manchester but if there’s another one in Ireland I’d like to go if I can. Good fun, lots of walking.

Almost 23,000 steps around Dublin