Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Pokemon World Championships

Who goes to the Pokemon World Championships in 2015? Well, we did, for one—mostly to find out who else was there.

Well over a decade after its heyday, Pokemon is still going strong. There’s now nearly 800 Pokemon, but there are still lots of kids, teens, and older nerds trying to catch ’em all. We caught up with some of the best players of both the card game and the video game at Boston’s World Championships to see how the community has changed over the last few years.

Are Uber Drivers Employees?

Uber drivers set their own hours, file taxes independently, and often own their cars. They don’t get health insurance from Uber and they don’t wear uniforms. And yet, Uber controls much of what they do by setting prices, handling their tips, and micromanaging them through its driver rating system. Are these drivers independent contractors, working for a strict boss? Or are they employees, entitled to benefits and covered expenses?

A law firm has filed a class action lawsuit against Uber in California on behalf of the state’s drivers, alleging that the company had misclassified them as independent contractors. Uber is going to the mat to defend the status quo, arguing that the class is too large, that drivers want to be independent contractors (which isn’t really material to their classification), and even trying to make itself seem more like Wal-Mart.

The case, O’Connor v. Uber, is going to stretch on for a long, long time. To make sense of it all, we spoke to Sarah Jeong, our contributing editor and resident legal expert, who has been covering this case. Then we chatted in the studio with managing editor Adrianne Jeffries (self-loathing Uber user), staff writer Kaleigh Rogers (technoinnovation optimist), and Motherboard Germany editor Max Hoppenstedt (European perspective). Ever thought about what Germans think of the name Uber? Listen to this week’s Radio Motherboard to find out.

The Would-Be Astronaut

Brian Shiro really wants to go to space. He wants to go to space so badly, in fact, that he’s applied to NASA’s astronaut program. Twice. Both times he fell just short. He’s hoping the third time’s the charm.

Until then, he’ll be heading up Astronauts4Hire, an appropriately-named astronaut contracting service. Wth A4H, Brian hopes to open doors for aspiring astronauts to the burgeoning commercial space industry, and also provide flight and simulation training to pad their resumés.

I first learned about Brian’s story while editing a profile of him published a few weeks ago on Motherboard. The story was written by Sarah Scoles, an ace science writer (who, in a past life, did research on one of the telescopes in the Quiet Zone in Green Bank, West Virginia). It’s a fascinating look into the psyche of someone with perhaps the biggest dream of all, a dream more potent than ever as a new space racestruggles to get off the ground.

I thought it would be worth exploring Brian’s story a bit further. I chatted with both him and Sarah about where A4H is going, why “space is hard” is a tired excuse for companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, and what needs to happen for commercial space travel to be open to everyone, not just rich folks who can afford $100,000 tickets to low-Earth orbit. Also: Are either of them game for a one-way ticket to Mars?

After listening be sure to check out Sarah’s original profile of Brian Shiro on Motherboard.