Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
From Saturday 8th through to Sunday 16th we’ll be “offline”. We’re off to northern Finland for a week. I’m not sure what to expect for mobile coverage and I’ll be deliberately avoiding email/web.
We’re going to be in Ylläs, comfortably above the Arctic Circle, where I’ll seek to take a chunk out of Rudolf (Rudolf the red-fleshed reindeer; Has a very jui-cy steak; And if you ev-er ate it; You would even say it flows. Flows? There must be something better than that. Hrm, with blooood.)
Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
Stick a form on the web and within a few days it’s getting hammered. My recently added “comment” form started getting a few posts, all to the “Comments” entry (web-search anyone?). So I added email registration… could have saved myself time by just not adding the silly “comment” ability in the first place. The registration was just in time, a day later the flood started. Maybe not much of a flood by big-web standards, it must be scary to be a popular website! In the last 12 hours I’ve had just over 1000 POSTs of the comment form.
They’re not hitting the “Comments” entry much anymore either. The breakdown is:
The end result of this little exercise is that I seem to have confirmed my opinion that there are no “real” people involved here. This isn’t representative of course, my site is tiny, unimportant, and doesn’t employ CAPTCHAs. If anything I’m a very unlikely target of such attention. Further, there are two ways to disable my logging:
Cache the form and present from some “form filling” tool (unlikely).
I classify the first as highly improbable. I classify the second as not being the case for my forms since I’ve started getting submissions with spam data filled into hidden fields.
It would have been much more interesting to pick up some key logs! But the effort has revealed interesting data regardless.
After changing the form the new fields didn’t show up in POSTs so that POSTer (a bot) responsible has cached the form (or form params at any rate).
There was a delay of only one hour between the form change and the first new spam post with the new fields. Of 1000 POSTs in the next 12 hours only 10 were for the new form. Most current POSTs are still using the old form fields.
Nine of the new-form hits were for the same page (Technology/General/Comments.html), so first hit from a new crawl of the form-snaffling bot I take it.
Just one was for Food/Ristretto/The_Coffee_House_on_Watford_High_Street.html, and this is a very different POST from all the others (spammy random URL and random-letter “words”, while all others all have real “English” word secuences).
Reflecting back on the access logs it looks like POSTs are usually preceded by GETs to the correct URLs and the GET has no referrer (related: in the same period there are 4 hits to the page by MSIE variants with no referrers and no other hits from the same IP, the spider maybe? Two of the IE UA strings are just broken looking.)
The “url” field is always filled in with a “http://…” URL.
Across all 1000+ posts only 33 URLs are used. These are not evenly distributed, with about 5 around the 100 mark, 27 below 25 (10 are a single occurrences), and 7 in the 25-80 range.
A total of 148 IPs source the POSTS, many make only 1 or 2 POSTs, 22 make beteen 10 and 50, 5 between 50 and 100, and one makes 127 POSTS (submitting 15 URLs with very uneven distribution).
Five URLs appear to be a typos with “hyml” rather than “html”, but I’m not giving them the satisfaction of a hit to find out for sure. It might just be an obfuscation attempt. Of these possible typos three are the three most submitted URLs.
40 “name”s are used and 35 “title”s, these usually are filled in with identical data, and usually related to the obvious subject of the URL.
Most spamvertising is for drug names (I recognise “viagra” but the rest mean little to me: “levitra”, “ambien”, “xanax”, “cialis”), next most popular is gaming/casinos (including the most spammed URL), finally there’s porn (comparatively infrequent).
The “comment” field is usually filled in with some supposedly complimentary text, and only contains URLs in two cases.
I’ll leave the observations at that, more interesting would be to draw relationships between the different field content, inspection doesn’t show any obvious patterns and I don’t have time to dig deeper. The frequency of comment content is:
1 comment:[[URLS REMOVED]]
1 comment:good post man [[URLS REMOVED]]
1 comment:so many interesting [[URLS REMOVED]]
1 comment:yujlh lzqfe heug xsjepcl dljfugw axiwrlbcm visf
6 comment:Hello, nice site look this:
44 comment:Good design!
48 comment:Great work!
49 comment:Pretty much nothing seems important.
50 comment:Good site. Thank you.
50 comment:I like your site very much indeed.
51 comment:Great site! Beautiful craftsmanship!! Keep of the wonderful work!!
52 comment:Nice site
53 comment:Cool site. Thank you!
53 comment:Hello, very nice site!
53 comment:TARRIFIC SITE!
53 comment:Thank you!
55 comment:Hi, nice site
56 comment:Well done!
57 comment:very interesting fix links
60 comment:Nice site. Thanks.
61 comment:I feel like a bunch of nothing.
61 comment:I just don't have anything to say.
64 comment:Cool site. Thank you:-)
64 comment:Excellent web site. I will visit it often.
69 comment:Nice site. Thanks!
We’ve all seen “Nice site. Thanks!” on blogs all over the ‘net. My favourite is “I feel like a bunch of nothing.”, makes me feel sorry for some poor depressed zombie machine somewhere. The fourth one, “yujlh…” is from the only POST that looks completely unlike all the others, a URL submitted but with all other fields meaningless character sequences.
My feeling is that this is the “new spam”, though maybe not so new just harder to measure. Why try to push to victims through email, which is rapidly loosing the peoples’ trust, when you can focus real effort to simultaneously getting the word spread all over the ‘net and push search-ranking juice to these pages? Does this really work? Seems unlikely, but I’ve never been able to get my head around the fact that spam is actually effective … it takes all kinds of stupid to make a society.
They say that email spam is declining (but people like to say that every few months, then there’s another surge) so maybe the resources are going into this instead. The next question is the source? I think it is probably clear that this is the work of a bot-net, do we think Storm? Who’s paying them? Maybe the URLs are actually
There’s been 100 new POSTs since I started writing this (one hour ago).
What can we do about this? The solution seems simple. Guard web forms appropriately! CAPTCHAs are popular, but requiring login/registration may be better. Mark all URLs as “nofollow” to kill any hopes of search-state inflation (or don’t allow URLs if they can be avoided). The simplicity is probably misleading though, this flood against my little site is unsophisticated and this is probably the case because this is all that’s needed to post to so many blog type sites. If bloggers raise the bar the bot herders will just jump higher. Depressing isn’t it? The continued lack of any real solutions against malware and spam often makes me “feel like a bunch of nothing”, to quote one of the bots.
Leftovers, some more stats:
1 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.04506.30)
1 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Xrqhgdfzi sipmvr zqboirha
3 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)
6 HTTP_USER_AGENT:User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows NT 5.1; Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1) ; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; InfoPath.2)
54 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; http://www.tropicdesigns.net)
63 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322)
75 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727)
105 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
116 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.0; Maxthon)
129 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; InfoPath.1)
147 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows 98; DigExt; MRA 4.0 (build 00768))
157 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows 98)
327 HTTP_USER_AGENT:Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.01; Windows NT 5.0)
(Interesting to note that some companies here are effectively giving out details about how their internal web clients are scanned at the gateway. Some of this could be enough to expose the existence of vulnerable infrastructure software or help whittle down the list of software you need to check your targeted malware with. Not good practice.)
Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!
Ducks’ tails, drakes’ tails,
Yellow feet a-quiver,
Yellow bills all out of sight
Busy in the river!
Wind In the Willows, Ratty’s “Ducks’ Ditty”… Actually, it brings Tom Bombadil into the fore of my mind, there’s a parallel I’ve not considered before; Tom and Ratty… Hmm, very literary, very picturesque, now let’s shoot a few of the damn ducks and get on with the show.
In actual fact the duck I’ve used in this recipe is neither wild or shot. Duck isn’t all that uncommon and in the UK you can find it in many supermarkets, even Tesco, and most butchers. Duck farming is smaller business than chickens, but is big enough that there are intensive duck rearers — poor ducks that never see the sky, let alone any kind of pond. If you’re going to buy duck please try and stick to “free range”, especially if also “organic” (nothing more unappetising than a silicon duck!).
For this recipe I found a nice looking pair of breast fillets at a local butcher. Large, fatty, luxurious breasts. On first sight of a duck breast fillet the you’re likely to note that it looks like there’s more fat than meat, and by volume there sometimes is! Don’t worry though, the breasts will transform into meaty nuggets once cooked and the layer of fat all but vanish (into a puddle in the pan). Compare the photo of the raw breasts to the one of the cooked one and you’ll get the idea.
2 x 200g Duck Breast Fillets
10g Chestnut Honey (or other honey)
10g good thick Balsamic Vinegar
1tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
2 cloves (6g) Garlic
100ml dry Red Wine
Reduced marinade (see below)
10g (~1 tbsp) Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10g (~1 tbsp) dry Red Wine
2 small (~100g each) lettuce, like “baby Cos”
100g Red Radishes
100g Cherry Tomatoes
We start by marinating the breasts, at least an hour before cooking by preference. In my case about 6 hours, longer shouldn’t hurt (for example: start them marinating before you go to work in the morning so you can cook as soon as you get back).
Crush the garlic cloves into a bowl big enough to hold the duck. Add the chestnut honey, vinegar, wine and pepper and ensure the marinade is well blended. Slice into the fat-side of the fillets, about 6 slashes stopping short of slicing into the meat. Plonk the duck breasts into the marinade fat-side-up, cover, and into the fridge with the lot. Ideally you should flip the breasts every 1.5 to 2 hours, but this can be skipped.
Remove breast fillets from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Set marinade aside for later.
Pull out your heavy cast-iron pan, in my case a nice heavy square grill-pan, and very lightly oil the surface with a peanut or canola oil (for the high smoke-point). The oil is just to gauge the pan temperature, the duck will provide loads of fat of it’s own. Now put your pan on a high flame and heat until the oil just starts to smoke, at this point drop the temperature of the flame about 30%. In goes the duck! Quaaaaaacccck! Fat side-down for 5 minutes. Beware, it’ll hiss, spit, and smoke like anything. This is all normal, if it isn’t making a mess of your kitchen your pan isn’t hot enough.
While the duck gets it’s 5 minute sizzle you can separate the lettuce leaves. (If you need to wash your lettuce you should have done this earlier and washed the leaves so they can drain, soaking leaves make a mess of salad.) There’s no hurry though, the duck will need some resting and cooling time. Don’t rush yourself. Clean and slice the radishes, and quarter the baby tomatoes. The salad ingredient’s can be whatever you like. I think some avocado and blanched snow peas (mangetouts) would go very well with the duck.
With 5 minutes passed flip the duck over and give two minutes on the meaty side. Done! Set the fillets aside on a plate somewhere out of the way.
Turn off the heat and pour the fat off the pan (to be discarded), be careful. Give the pan a couple of minutes to cool then dump in the marinade. Hiss! Give the pan a good scrape and then put the liquid back on the heat bubbling vigorously until it’s reduced to about 10% of the original volume (see photo right). In my case I poured and scraped the liquid out of the pan into a small saucepan. Reducing a sauce in a grill-pan is a path to much difficulty.
Strain the reduced liquid into a small pouring jug, helping it through a fine strainer with the back of a spoon, this gets rid of lumps of garlic and any errant chunks of crispy duck skin. Add the extra dash of red wine and the EVOO and mix it up a bit.
Now lay out the lettuce, tomatoes, and radish in a couple of shallow bowls (see left). At this time the duck should have had about 10 minutes to rest since coming out of the pan, if not then pour yourself a bit of wine to make up the time. Notice that the fat layer has reduced to a thin and crispy veneer, you’ll have poured away the majority of it’s volume from the pan. Now, you might want to remove the skin layer at this point, it’ll pull away easily, but note that it’s beautifully tasty! Get your sharpest knife and cut each fillet, across the grain, into slices no more than 5mm thick.
Arrange the duck slices on top of each salad in a double-circle, forming the titular “flower”. Give the dressing a good stir and drizzle over the salads. Add a couple of grinds of pepper.
Quack! With some wine!
Using non-mainstream meats is always a bit of a conundrum when it comes to calculating the nutritional profile of a meal. Duck is isn’t too bad on this front but free-range ducks can vary a fair bit from one critter to another and tend to be much leaner than intensively reared quackers, wild ducks even more so. With this in mind note that the calculated nutritional information will be even more “approximate” than usual (OK, there aren’t typically grades of approximation, in truth I should say “less accurate”).
A very enjoyable meal, light and tasty. The duck was a little on the sinewey side but had excellent flavour. Next time I’ll try it with an Asian twist, some ginger, coriander, soy, and normal honey in the marinade. The salad would have worked better with some avocado, can’t go wrong with avo.
 Chestnut honey? I bought a jar of this a while back and the flavour is far too strong and bitter to use on porridge (our usual use for honey), you could even say the flavour is gamey. So this honey is only used for the occasional marinade where I think the flavour is going to work. In this case it worked really well I think! The recipe should be fine with normal honey though, but the flavour will certainly not be the same.
Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
I’ve decided to try cooking game with greater variance and frequency. My motivation stems from The River Cottage Meat Book and was recently reinforced by the surprising range of game available at a new local supermarket. To-date my game cooking experience has been rather limited, just venison and rabbit. The former possibly farmed, the latter certainly farmed (so the link to “game” is tenuous at best). If you’re unfamillar with game then the Hugh book is a great start, but game is just a small part of it’s coverage and I can recommend Clarissa Dickson Wright’s (one of the “Two Fat Ladies“) & Johnny Scott’s “The Game Cookbook” as an alternative starting point that is also a great read.
I fear that the supermarket-with-game situation will be short lived due to a lack of demand, will enough locals buy game? Anyway, Waitrose is not the be-all-and-end-all of game, far from it! While the High Street butcher showed little promise on the game front (admittedly I’ve only tried asking for rabbit, in which case all they had to offer was farmed rabbit from China!) I recently found out about a different butcher nearby that ticks all the right boxes, I picked up some tasty duck breast there on Thursday and went back today for a couple of wild rabbits. Wabbit stoo tomorrow!
So, on Tuesday I decided to give a bird, or two, a whirl. I trundled over the tracks to the supermarket intending to get a couple of partridges. Alas, there were none! Luckily there was Wood Pigeon, the other birds available were far too large for one each (pheasant, mallard, goose!). Don’t fear, Wood Pigeons are not the same thing as the greasy rats-of-the-sky very familiar in Sydney (and London). I think that city-pigeons might be Rock Dove’s (Columba livia) or maybe just some sort of mongrel, Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus) are related though.
Let us get on with the recipe.
2 Wood Pigeons (~280g each, marked on packet as 250g)
6 rashers of Streaky Bacon (120g)
1 small Zucchini (90g after tidying & chopping)
1 medium Onion (200g after tidying & chopping)
12 White Mushrooms (410g after tidying & chopping)
1 tbsp Maple Syrup (10g)
150ml Dry Red Wine
2 cloves of Garlic
6 Juniper Berries
1 heaped tsp of dried Oregano
2 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
2 tbsp Spiced Mead, or Port, or Sherry
Determining the right baking parameters for the birdies was a little difficult. The packaging recommended 40 minutes at 160 degrees, while Hugh’s Meat Book suggests up to 25 minutes at 230 degrees. I stuck to the latter, since the Meat Book is well on it’s way to becoming my preferred deity. If anything I think that critters of this size could have done better with 20 minutes rather than 25 (25 was the upper threshold for a “large” pigeon, but I don’t know what “large” is for a pigeon!). So, first step, preheat oven to 230 degrees.
Next heat the spiced mead, just bung it in a teacup and microwave it. Crush and halve the garlic cloves, crush the juniper berries, and throw both into the heated mead along with a teaspoon of pepper and a couple of grinds of salt.
Now prepare the vegetables. Trim mushroom stems, if necessary, and slice. Top and tail zucchini, halve lengthwise, and slice. Halve, top, and tail the onion and slice. (Photo right.)
Rub the birds with some olive oil, not dripping with oil, just glistening. Now place them breast-up in a roasting pan and get out the bacon. The bacon is to be wrapped over the breast of the bird, the idea is to provide a steady stream of fat to reduce moisture loss, this is known as barding. No special technique is required, the image on the left shows the barded birds. With this done spoon the mead mixture, which should have been sitting for at least 5 minutes, into the cavities of the bird sharing out the garlic and berries evenly. Whack it in the oven! Make a note of the time, they’ll be ready in 25 minutes.
Use a large heavy based pan to deal with the veggies. Add a tablespoon of light olive oil and get it nice and hot, the oil should shimmer and run like water but not be smoking. Toss in the veggies! Keep tossing them around and let them brown a little. After about 5 minutes of this push the temperature right down and add the wine, maple syrup, remaining pepper, and about 50ml of water (or stock if you have some handy). Put a lid on the pan and let it lightly sizzle for about 10 minutes, stirring on occasion. Turn off the heat and have a quick peek at your birds to make sure nothing untoward has happened.
If there’s some time remaining for the birds pour some wine and marinate the
Remove birds from the oven, turn it off and place a couple of plates in it to warm. Get a medium flame going under the vegetables again, and then continue self-marination for 5 minutes. Remove birds to a temporary holding dish (probably best to have warmed this in the oven too) and pour juices from the pan into the vegetable pan, add about 50ml of water to the pan scrape, swirl, and tip into vegetables. Now push the vegetables to high heat and boil away liquid until vegetable mix resembles that shown in the photo to the right, there should be very little liquid remaining. Grab the hot pates from the oven (careful!) and divide vegetable mixture between them. Place birds on top of vegetables, add a couple of grinds of pepper, serve! Simple!
This is a hard sort of meal to deal with on the Nutrition front, mostly thanks to the pigeon. The Waitrose nutritional information was for “when prepared as directed”, but this would involve weighing the beasts after baking them and didn’t specify whether the weight should include bones or not! I took a punt at it by calculating the raw consumed weight as the raw weight minus the leftover carcass parts after eating (approximating a total of 200g). I had little luck finding nutritional stats for raw wood pigeon so I used stats for “Pheasant, raw, meat and skin” from the USDA database.
So, clearly the information here must be regarded as little more than a rough approximation! Here’s goes:
We found the pigeons to be mild in flavour and maybe a little dry, but the wet vegetable mixture covered for any dryness in the meat. Next time I’d probably give them 5 minutes less time in the oven. That said, the sky-rats are certainly to be repeated!