Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for February 16th, 2015

Incredibly cool: Evolution creates echo-location-jamming apparatus

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It’s amazing what evolution can produce given enough time. Derek Mead reports at Motherboard:

A funny-looking moth has more in common with fighter jets than most of us would ever have guessed: The luna moth’s long, fluttering tail acts like radar-distracting chafffor bats’ echolocation signals, effectively misdirecting the flying mammals to an expendable part of their body. It’s a scene seemingly better suited to Top Gun than the night skies of North America, but hey, the animal kingdom is no stranger to a good arms race.

If you’re a flying insect, having a bat show up on your tail is assuredly more terrifying than a fighter plane. Bats’ echolocation abilities have evolved over millions of years to become incredibly effective at locating and tracking prey, like the relatively noisy fluttering of a moth.

Moths aren’t entirely helpless, however. Many, such as noctuid moths, have simple ears that are tuned to the sonar frequencies of the bats that prey on them. Yet closeto half of nocturnal moth species don’t have those bat-tracking ears. According to new research, the luna moth (Actias luna, family Saturniidae) has evolved a different defense entirely: Its swallow-like tails flap and spin in its wake, creating a confusing mess that bats end up targeting, much like a heat-seeking missile getting misdirected by aerial flares. . .

Continue reading. Video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

The Only Way You Can Delete This NSA Malware Is to Smash Your Hard Drive to Bits

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The NSA has gone completely off the reservation and I find it unfortunate that there is no longer any way to bring this agency (or the CIA, for that matter) under control. They now have complete autonomy and immunity and will do with us as they please. We had some good years, but life is changing.

Matthew Braga reports at Motherboard:

Russian security company Kaspersky is calling it one of the most sophisticated features it has ever seen in a piece of malware: the ability to infect not just the files stored on a hard drive, but the firmware controlling the hard drive itself.

Such an exploit could survive a complete hard drive wipe, or the re-installation of an operating system, and “exceeds anything we have ever seen before,” the company’s researchers wrote in a new re​p​ort.

It’s not the sort of infection your typical piece of security software would know how to detect. At the company’s Security Analyst Summit in Mexico, a presenter on stagerecommended literally destroying an infec​ted disk.

This and other details were revealed on Monday afternoon, alongside fresh evidence that an unnamed “nation state”— ​confirmed by Reuters to be the NSA—has been developing an arsenal of cyberweapons going back as far as 2001. Kaspersky has dubbed its creators the “Equation Group” and describes them as “probably one of the most sophisticated cyber attack groups in the world,” and “the most advanced threat actor we have seen.”

Kaspersky’s researchers discovered several malware platforms used by the Equation Group, with names such as EquationDrug, DoubleFantasy, GrayFish, and Fanny. Much like previously discovered NSA malware such as  ​Stuxnet and Flame, Equation Group’s malware platforms can spread between air-gapped computers, ones that aren’t connected to the internet, via USB sticks; in other cases, its operators can install new features remotely, using control servers set up across the world.

But other features of the Equation Group squite are more advanced in scale and execution than Kaspersky has seen before.

Of note, the group recovered two modules belonging to EquationDrug and GrayFish that were used to reprogram hard drives to give the attackers persistent control over a target machine. These modules can target practically every hard drive manufacturer and brand on the market, including Seagate, Western Digital, Samsung, Toshiba, Corsair, Hitachi and more. Such attacks have traditionally been difficult to pull off, given the risk in modifying hard drive software, which may explain why Kaspersky could only identify a handful of very specific targets against which the attack was used, where the risk was worth the reward.

But Equation Group’s malware platforms have other tricks, too. GrayFish, for example, also has the ability to . . .

Continue reading.

NSA is now unleashed to do whatever it wants. What an ignominious end to democracy and freedom—and of course in their view they are preserving the very things they destroy.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 7:04 pm

Culinary notes

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Chili was so good I remade it. I used both a boneless chuck roast (1.75 lbs) and some “Pork loin top sirloin chops boneless” (1.5 lbs). I also got some Scharffen Berger 99% cacao baking chocolate and added a chunk (I estimate 2 oz.; the bar was scored, so I used one rectangle) of that in lieu of the cocoa powder.

Here’s the recipe, using a 10″ diameter 6-qt pot:

1/4 cup olive oil
3 large Spanish onions, chopped
1 Tbsp kosher salt
multiple grindings black pepper

Sauté until onions are transparent, then add:

1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 large red (or yellow) bell pepper, chopped
3 ancho chile peppers, cored, seeded, and cut with scissors into small pieces
3 chipotle chile peppers, cored, seeded, and cut with scissors into small pieces
1 handful garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2-3 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1-1.5 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp Southwest Seasoning from Penzeys (still don’t have chili powder)

Sauté a while, then add:

1.75 lb boneless chuck roast, cut into small pieces
1.5 lb pork loin top sirloin chops boneless, cut into small pieces

Sauté for a while, browning meat as best you can, then add:

2 Tbsp Illy espresso grind dark roast coffee (the actual grounds)
2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
2 oz 99% cacao chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger)
3-4 Tbsp liquid smoke
6 or so good-sized tomatillos, chopped (but remove the outer husk)
16-20 largish cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 can original Rotel tomatoes and chiles
7 oz canned diced green chiles
juice of 2 lemons or 4 limes

Simmer 1 hour. It turns out to have plenty of liquid.

It was a really good chili. Extremely tasty.

And I want to add that this wine-aerating device really does seem to work extremely well. The red wine was particularly smooth, had a wonderful bouquet, and was very tasty. This was a modestly priced Pinot Noir. The device is $20, but it noticeably improves the wine and is a cinch to use. Recommended.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 6:44 pm

Texting while driving kills others

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If someone texts while driving and has an accident that kills him or her, that’s not a good outcome but presumably s/he knew the risks and accepted them, so while it’s undesirable, it’s at least compatible with what their decision and no great loss. (Not to put too fine a point on it.)

But when some texts while driving and kills someone else, then they should face manslaughter charges at the very least, as in this report by Anthony DePalma in the NY Times:

ONE Wednesday afternoon in 2013, I received a frantic call. My older brother Bob had been in an accident. He had been babysitting for two of his granddaughters until just after lunch. Then, sensing it was one of the final bursts of summer, he put on his helmet, hopped on his 2007 Harley and headed down lazy back roads toward the New Jersey shore.

At about the same time, a young waitress at a Monmouth County country club was finishing up lunch service, hoping to get away during her break. She sent a friend several text messages, and she kept on texting as she drove her gray Acura TSX several miles to meet him.

According to the Middletown Township police report, at 3:04 p.m., Bob was heading east on West Front Street. Coming toward him was the Acura, followed, as it happened, by a detective from a nearby town in an unmarked police car.

The detective later told investigators that he saw the Acura turn left abruptly: no turn signal, no brake lights, no apparent recognition of the oncoming Harley.

Bob had no time to get out of the way. The impact nearly severed his left leg and flung him and the Harley into the air. Weeks shy of 70, father of four and grandfather of six, Bob barely gained consciousness before he was taken by helicopter to a Level II trauma center, where he died moments before I got there.

Investigators got a search warrant for the motorist’s iPhone. She had been texting for an hour and a half leading up to the crash. While she was still at the country club, “hey whtsup,” arrived.

A few texts later she wrote: “I’ll be out of work at like 230 3 … is that cool?” Driving eastward, she sent: “Where you at.” At 3:04 — when the police believe the crash occurred — she received a text saying “im on my way to u.”

A minute later she texted “?” Ninety seconds later came the friend’s reply: “u just told me to meet u at surf taco.” After 90 more seconds, she called 911. . .

Continue reading.

Why is this driver not in prison?

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 5:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

Transporting oil by rail? Not to worry…

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Check out the video in this McClatchy news story.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The problem with having stupid, stubborn people in high places

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Read this post by Kevin Drum: Eurozone Fiddling While Greece Burns.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Reducing incarceration rates does NOT increase crime rates

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The extremely high incarceration rate in the US seems more and more simply to be an exercise of government power over the people: the government can lock you up, so it does. It has nothing whatsoever to do with reducing crime.

Kevin Drum explains it clearly.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 11:18 am

BBS with the bakelite slant, and two bathroom views

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SOTD 16 Feb 2015

Extremely nice shave today. I used my Rooney Style 2 Finest, a fave, and a free sample I received with my order of Carnaby from Strop Shoppe—a very generously sized sample, I might add. (I suspect that’s one advantage of ordering directly from the soapmaker.)

Loading the brush took, oh, I’d say about 10 seconds, though I did not time it. But Strop Shoppe soaps are quite good and lather easily. One the face it seemed a bit as if I had loaded too much. I added a little water and worked it into the lather on my beard before I was fully satisfied. And I was right: it’s much easier to lather a wet (and washed) beard than a dry beard: some of the work’s already done. In effect, I prepped my beard for the lather, just the lather preps my beard for the shave.

Three passes with the marvelous Merkur white bakelite slant, direct ancestor of the Stealth. What an eye-opener this razor was when it was first rediscovered. And it’s still a hell of a razor. Three passes, BBS face, and a splash of TOBS Sandalwood to start the week.

I suddenly have YouTube subscribers! I can feel the pull to provide more content….

In the meantime, people asked for another look at the bathroom, so here it is. Note the shave-stick settlement atop the cabinet of shaving soap at the beginning.

Written by Leisureguy

16 February 2015 at 10:59 am

Posted in Shaving

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