Monthly Archives: July 2016

SLUGGING IT OUT WITH THE VAMPIRE BUTTERFLY.

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Well, many people were asking for it and now they’ve got it, they don’t want it!

Not the Referendum Brexit result but hot weather. The other night the temperature in most of England was 27 C at midnight (having been around 36 C during the day) and many did not get much sleep. As well as heat there was a very strong warm wind which, with all the windows open, kept the curtains flapping about. Coupling that with a full Moon it’s not really surprising strange things occurred the next day and tiredness was rife.

Although the recent heat has done some funny things to people, it appears it is affecting the wildlife too. Yesterday I saw a butterfly (Red Admiral?) attack a slug. Well, that’s what it looked like. It landed on this slug and seemed to try to eat it or sucked on it for about 4 minutes. The slug seemed helpless. It didn’t seem to put up much of a fight. Well, shell-less terrestrial gastropods don’t move that fast at the best of times and have no automatic weaponry as far as malacologists know. Slugs are not generally known for their fighting prowess; although the great Mohammed Ali once remarked that he had slugged it out with Sonny Liston. Perhaps he had something there with his ‘float like a butterfly’ mantra which we never realised.

Here are three photos. the first two with the butterfly on the slug and the third when it had landed on a chair, seemingly having satiated its blood lust. It was hard to get close for a decent photo and the thing kept flapping its wings in a sort of protest. Is this a new breed of vampire butterfly that can go out in daylight but hate paparazzi? That’s a documentary for the Discovery Channel to ponder.

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Here is another photo after the vicious attack.

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Notice  in this  photo how the butterfly appears to have changed colour slightly after draining the slug?  It ‘s not the camera, as I was using my top Nikon which is a great camera. If you enlarge the pics you can see great detail on the second image.

A friend of mine, Drew, said that, ‘I’m no authority on these things but what you might have witnessed was the butterfly getting moisture off the slug, in the absence of any local puddles due to the excessive heat. That’s what an old boy told me once. It’s a theory anyway.’

Drew’s old boy could be right. I hope so. Otherwise, it’s  another winged pest to watch out for and means  we would have to wear garlic and crosses when enjoying a nice snooze in the garden or park to ward off potential vampire butterflies.

Sleep easy in the garden, won’t you?

JUST BECAUSE I’M NOT PARANOID DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NOT WATCHING ME!

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So, you are out shopping or walking in a park when, unbeknown to you, someone has identified you from a phone App and then sends you a ‘Friend’ request on social media, or should I say anti-social media?

The new FindFace App allows users to photograph people in a crowd and work out their identities, with 70% reliability. This is very peculiar I find but is going down well in Russia. Why? I don’t know. I mean, who wants to be identified by a passer-by and then have that person send a ‘Friend’ request on Facebook without any idea who they are? Crazy? No, that’s what will happen if Facebook allows compatibility with the programme. I guess it’s more likely that Facebook will develop its own version of FindFace and if that happens it’s ‘Goodnight’ from me and many others to FB. Or is it just me that thinks meeting up with a stranger who has covertly identified me by taking my picture just a bit weird?

Many years ago, Cher sang a song called The Shoop Shoop Song. In view of recent developments she should sing a new one called, If you want to know…. The Snoop Snoop song. I say this because if you believe the latest information about Facebook and FindFace and couple that with the so-called Snooper’s Charter, our lives will never be private again.

Home Secretary Theresa May is hoping that The Investigatory Powers Bill (the proper name for the Snooper’s Charter) will be pushed through the House of Lords. If so, in its current state, your phone calls, text messages, emails and browsing history may be subject to the scrutiny of governmental departments and law-enforcement agencies. Of course, the government claim that this bill has our best interests at heart because by compelling Internet Providers to hold the last 12 months of their customers online data, it would give GCHQ and other surveillance and security agencies the tools to detect any potential terrorist threats more efficiently. On one hand I’m quite happy with this, but I suspect that I’m not alone in having just a slight, niggling anxiety about the government knowing everything I am doing. I’m not a criminal or terrorist and therefore have nothing to fear. However, just imagine the future if a totalitarian government could use the information to know who was against them and maybe use the information to hinder those people’s lives by subtly interfering with their employment, creditworthiness or other aspects.

As I said, I’m not particularly concerned personally, as if some government agent wants to wade through my dreary emails and relatively unexciting details, they are welcome but there must be many people with reservations and I don’t just mean booking clerks. Also, I am sure that Secret Service Agents will be fascinated to read on Facebook what people have been having for meals, or looking at their holiday snaps and photos of children and dogs. The Human Rights organisation, Liberty said, “This bill would create a detailed profile on each of us, which could be made available to hundreds of organisations to speculatively trawl and analyse. It will all but end online privacy, put our personal security at risk and swamp law-enforcement agencies with swathes of useless information.”  There is no evidence that mass surveillance is effective in preventing serious crime, according to Liberty.

Although the bill was passed in the House of Commons on 7 June with a vote of 444 to 69, it is subject to a number of concessions, including a “privacy clause”. This is meant to restrict intrusive snooping unless no other means are available but still allows the use of mass surveillance whether an individual or group is suspected of committing a crime or not.

This only demonstrates how important it is to have a committed and strong opposition party to any government. Ironically, it protects an M.P.’s right to privacy and only the Prime Minister can give explicit approval for any agency to request an MP’s phone and Internet records. That’s a comfort for us, isn’t it?

if that is not enough to contend with there is now a report that Facebook has been accused of eavesdropping on users’ private phone conversations by the microphone on their mobile devices. Apparently, this theory has been tested by a communications professor in America by discussing certain topics privately on her phone and then being subsequently presented with related adverts in her Facebook feed. Facebook have denied the accusation but they do admit that the Facebook app will “access your microphone if you have given our App permission and if you are actively using a specific feature that requires audio”.  So far, this is only relevant to America but what happens over there soon follows here.

Therefore, be careful to check what App permissions you are granting when installing anything. As I said in the headline; just because you’re not paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t watching you. Appen they might.

K.L.F.