Mar 232017

Well, here’s an issue I never would have predicted:

Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware

In short: John Deere has made it so that if your brand new tractor breaks down, the only people who can repair it are officially sanctioned dealers. The problem is, farmers are often hours or days away from repair that way, and are of course used to doing their own repairs. So, what to do? Farmers are learning to hack their tractors.

I’m kinda torn. on the one hand… you sign the license agreement when you buy new stuff. You made an agreement.

But on the other hand… these agreements are kinda forced upon you. A new tractor is something that a farmer often can’t really see as anything other than a requirement, so a farmer is being forced to sign under duress. And Ambassador G’Kar pretty much nailed the legitimacy of an agreement signed under duress.

So… the free enterprise system is taking over. Small-time repair shops are figuring out how to game the system, how to bypass security systems, override or replace software. Three cheers for entrepreneurialism.

In a way, this system reminds me of the War On Some Drugs. Without drug prohibition, there’d be far fewer people learning the ways of criminality. Without these anti-repair systems, there’d be far fewer people learning how to hack systems. So, good jorb, John Deere… you’re setting things in place to make sure there will be a thriving system in place to hack self-driving cars and drones. You’ve doomed us all.

Who would have expected that the proximate cause of the robot apocalypse would be John Deere?

 Posted by at 1:18 pm
Mar 222017

The BBC is full of chaos just now, but it appears that there was a “mow ’em down with a car” attack on Westminster Bridge in London, injuring a number of people (including, apparently, a number of French schoolchildren), followed by someone attacking people with a knife on the grounds of Parliament. The two incidents are assumed to be linked, and they’re going out on a limb and saying that this just might be some sort of terrorist attack.

Now, let the unwarranted speculatin’ begin! Given the most recent form of media fearmongering, who might the perpetrator(s) be? Trump supporters? Alt Righters? Mens rights activists? Libertarians? Anti-immigrant racists? Brexit supporters?

As I type, a report just came in that a woman has died, others have “catastrophic” injuries.

 Posted by at 10:13 am
Mar 222017

The unceasing cavalcade of bad 1960’s/70’s mens fashion ads continues with four images that will make you question your allegiance to Earth.

Questions to ask yourself, beyond the basic “why, in Gods name, why?” include such as “did these ads actually work,” and “why are so many of the models just so damned goofy looking?”

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:55 am
Mar 212017

I can well remember the justifiable fear that the Soviets were going to nuke the US into oblivion. That fear of course went away when the USSR went the way of the dodo (well, went the way of genocidal ideologically evil dodos), but the last 8 years of feckless “leadership” coupled with a couple decades of brainless idiocy regarding the US nuclear deterrent program have led to a situation where it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will have to start seriously contemplating nuclear Armageddon again. Not only do we have leaders with poor impulse control in the US and North Korea casually threatening to nuke the bejeebers out of each other, there’s  KGB-trained psychopath in charge of Russia casually steamrolling his neighbors and carpet bombing civilians for giggles. Evenwhat passes for the medis are starting to take notice of the effect, if not necessarily the full set of causes:

Where to Hide If a Nuclear Bomb Goes Off In Your Area

This article gives some advice on the sort of building to hunker down in to provide some measure of protection against fallout. Oddly, the most obvious and important piece of advice about surviving a nuclear attack – “don’t live in a major metropolitan area” – was not provided. The data for the article was horked from a scholarly article from 2014:

Determining optimal fallout shelter times following a nuclear detonation

Which is available for download as a PDF. It provides some complex math to determine when you should shelter in place, and when you should run like hell… math that the average schmoe is unlikely to do in the aftermath of a nuclear blast, but, still, potentially useful if converted into some sort of chart (perhaps one of those plastic-disk “computers” like the old nuclear bomb effect computers).

For years after the Evil Empire went kaput, the old civil defense efforts of telling people how to survive nuclear attacks – efforts that ranged from the generally ineffective to the outright laughable oftentimes – vanished. But they seem to be coming back… probably as ineffective as ever.


So… as long as I’m on the topic, anybody know of a good, reliable and *affordable* geiger counter or other form of radiation detector? I’ve always kinda wanted one. While it would of course be useful in the event of a nuclear attack to scan for fallout, I always thought such a thing might be nice to have in junk and antique stores as well as while hiking. Plus, there’s that well with the indescribable color coming out of it…

 Posted by at 10:01 pm
Mar 212017

This here feller went through the Star Trek: Discovery teaser video and some other sources and has come up with some more information about the Klingons and their ships in the upcoming show. And… well… Sigh. Just watch.

If you care at all about even pretending to continuity, or respecting what has gone before, there is really only a narrow range of possible responses, from THIS to THIS to THIS to THIS to THIS to THIS.

With all the monkeymotions the STD production has gone through, from calculating the optimally political correct casting choices to changing every damn thing in the interests of “kewl,” they’ve forgotten this simple lesson:




 Posted by at 2:49 am
Mar 202017

One of the oldest and most tiresome of the “Nazi Wunderwaffen” myths is that of the “Sun Gun.” The idea is that the Nazis were found to have been working on the design of an orbital mirror, miles in diameter, that would have reflected sunlight to the surface of Earth in such a way to cause enemy cities to burst into flames. This idea first hit the US press quite soon after the defeat of Nazi Germany, and *before* the nuking of Japan. Several articles appeared in the New York Times on the topic beginning in late June, 1945, and the idea reached its peak with an illustrated article in Life Magazine in July, 1945.

The “Sun Gun” was claimed to be a circular mirror one mile in diameter, orbiting at 5,100 miles. The mirror, it was claimed, would be made from large cubical and pressure-tight blocks, providing *vast* internal volume for the crew and their crop of oxygen-producing pumpkins.

Small problem: it’s BS.

Now, there *were* ideas for vast orbital mirrors. Hermann Oberth had proposed such a thing as far back as the 1920’s, so an orbital mirror was not unknown as a concept in wartime Germany. And in reading the lean details in the articles, it’s clear that what is described is the Oberth mirror as described after a round of “telephone.” The basic idea is Oberths, and Oberth even gets a shout-out in the articles, but Oberths ideas got mutated and bent out of recognition. Not leastways because an orbital mirror a mile in diameter 5,100 miles overhead *cannot* set a city, or even a dry piece of of tissue paper on fire. The basic physics of optics prohibits that. Thought experiment: take a mirror one inch in diameter. Can you use it to start a fire? If it’s precise enough and close enough to the target… sure. Now, move that one-inch mirror 5,100 inches from the target. Gonna set anything on fire *now?*

I suspect what happened is that the the US Army officers who reported on the “sun gun” were simply told about the Oberth mirror – which, by the way, was a far less insane idea than the “sun gun” in that it was essentially foil rather than a large solid structure – by Germans who either wanted to screw with them or, like von Braun, wanted to pump up their apparent usefulness to the US military in the hopes of getting transferred to the US. Given the conditions in post-war Germany and the risks of getting sucked into the black hole of the Soviet Union, it would make sense for *anyone* to try to wrangle a ride to the US for an actual job.

I have gathered together scans of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject and mashed ’em into a PDF file which I have uploaded to the 2017-03 APR Extras Dropbox folder. This is available to all APR Patreon Patrons at the $4 level and above. If interested, check out the APR Patreon.




 Posted by at 10:32 am
Mar 192017

How hard is it to make bread? Well… if you have adopted socialist policies, I guess it can be real hard.

Venezuela has a bread shortage. The government has decided bakers are the problem.

Due to the sort of brilliant economics we could expect from a President Sanders or Warren, Venezuela doesn’t have enough wheat to make the flour needed for a sufficient supply of bread. Consequently, bakeries that are selling their very limited supply of product at elevated prices – you know, basic supply and demand – are getting into legal trouble with what passes for the government.

 Posted by at 1:53 am