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PSY Brings Hammer, Video Actors in for ‘Finale’ of ‘Gangnam Style’

January 1, 2013

Has America seen the last of “Gangnam Style”? Korean rapper PSY performed the song that spawned a billion YouTube views during “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on Monday night in NYC — an occasion he has called the song’s U.S. “finale.”

For the performance, PSY trotted out several memorable characters from the song’s video, including crotch-thrusting biker short guy and yellow suit dancer, played by South Korean entertainers Roh Hong-cheol and Yoo Jae Suk, respectively.

In a reprise of their American Music Awards triumph, PSY, who turned 35 on the holiday, also welcomed ’90s rap icon Hammer to the chilly Times Square stage.

In a chat PSY said that he’ll spend 2013 focusing on crafting another U.S. hit, rather than just continuing on his current “Gangnam”-only media tour.

“I’m really working hard on a new single right now, and I’m not saying [‘Gangnam’] is ending on ‘Dick Clark’ – I still have a lot of invitations to perform it … I’ll be in Paris, and in February I got invited to perform in China, and I’ve still got to do promo,” he said. “So let me say that in America I need a new single because ‘Gangnam Style’ got too popular, so I’ve got to write a new single.”

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New Year’s Resolutions 2013: Our Cooking Ambitions For The New Year

January 1, 2013

With a new year now here, we’re thinking about food. Surprise!

We’ve never been much for making New Year’s resolutions, because we hope we’ll be able to set goals for ourselves all year long. But, we have warmed to the idea of setting some cooking, eating and drinking goals for ourselves in 2013, just to be extra certain that we’ll follow through. Don’t worry, guys — we’re not talking about dieting here. We’re talking about seeking out things we’ve never eaten, sharpening our skills in the kitchen and feeding all of you better. Happy new year!

We resolve to:

  • Stop being afraid of making cakes.
  • Make friends with dough (especially sourdough).
  • Use our slow-cookers way more.
  • Make sauerkraut.
  • Continue our quest to love anchovies.
  • Drink more/learn more about wine (especially white wine, because we sometimes ignore it).
  • Sharpen our knives more often (doing it ourselves, on the wet stone) instead of just complaining that they’re getting dull.
  • Cook at least one recipe from all the cookbooks we “collect” and never use.
  • Buy one new kind of cheese per week. Think about it, that’s 52 new kinds of cheese in a year.
  • Eat all our produce before it rots.
  • Have a fondue party.
  • Cook more, but really cook (pizzas and quiches don’t count).
  • Make vin d’orange for summer entertaining. (Vin d’orange is a dangerously strong cocktail, that tastes just right on a summer day. It takes a couple of months to make, and so requires thinking ahead.)
  • Start composting.
  • Perfect our chicken tortilla soup recipe.
  • Make spicy pickles.

New Year’s Diet Resolutions: Here’s Why They’re A Bad Idea

January 1, 2013

Note: this piece is not written by a doctor; nor a nutritionist; not even a dietician. It’s written by a food lover, and a serious one at that. Please keep this in mind as you read on. Also, understand that we are only talking about vanity diets, not the ones that are crucial for good health.

If I could make one wish, it just might be that the idea of diets completely disappears from our consciousness. And if that’s too much to ask, I’d settle for doing away with the losing weight New Year’s resolutions that nearly half of the population succumbs to. I’m generally a pretty easy-going person, but New Year’s resolutions that have anything to do with not eating food make me mad.

It’s not that I don’t understand people’s rationale behind the diet resolution. It’s a new year, you want a new you AND you’ve just eaten your way through the holidays, meaning your clothes no longer fit. A diet quickly becomes an easy fix. (I myself have made this resolution more times than I can count.) But resolving to diet is a waste of a resolution — especially when you can take this opportunity to make an awesome resolution, like mastering sourdough.

Going on a New Year’s Eve diet is not only lame, but it’s also like saying you love to fail. While everyone makes this resolution with the right intention, it’s entirely unrealistic. Especially because most diets include giving up EVERYTHING we like — which means you’re resolving to live in a constant state of torture. In what world does that sound like a good idea? It’s just not. Statistics show that some diet resolvers give up before the very first week is over; others give up before the end of the month, and nearly none make their goal by the year’s end.

While I’m not going to get into the problems diets create when it comes to self-image, shame, guilt and so on, I can’t help but feel angry about the fact that it makes people hate food. Food is not the enemy. Food is good. No wait, food is great. It keeps us alive, nourishes us, shapes our cultures, traditions, families. And diets, they destroy that.

When a diet tells us not to eat butter or to stay clear of carbs, it’s teaching us to hate bread and to turn to (questionable) chemically-produced butter substitutes. It’s teaching you that food is the enemy. And what did food ever do to us? Sure, if we ate a stick of butter for every meal a la Paula Deen, that would not be wise — and could lead to serious health problems — but if we eat it in moderation, we could probably partake in the joys of butter, every day, every year, for the rest of your life. Now that sounds like a good resolution to me.

So rather than waste a resolution that will most likely spark self-loathing and contribute to the unjust hatred of food, why not make a resolution that will focus on adding something positive to your life?

Hugh Hefner Ties It With Crystal

January 1, 2013

It’s all over but the partying for Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris … who finally tied the knot yesternight at the  Playboy Mansion — after a brief 18 month time out.

Crystal walked down the aisle around 7PM in front of an intimate group  of family and friends — a much smaller gathering than was originally planned  for their June 2011 wedding.

That was canceled when ex-Playmate Crystal  left Hef at the altar … pulling the plug on their relationship days before the  wedding.

Crystal moved back into the mansion earlier this  year, sorted out all the problems with Hef — and then they decided to try the  whole marriage thing again.

This is 86-year-old Hef’s third wedding, and  26-year-old Crystal’s first attempt.

If nothing else … their reception  should be kick ass — it’s the annual NYE bash at the mansion.

Same-sex marriage ceremonies begin in Maryland

January 1, 2013

Same-sex couples in Maryland are holding marriage ceremonies, as gay marriage became legal in the first state south of the Mason-Dixon Line on New Year’s Day.

James Scales, who is marrying William Tasker on Tuesday shortly after midnight, said shortly before the big moment that he could hardly believe he is finally marrying his partner of 35 years.

Scales, who has worked for the Baltimore mayor’s office for 25 years, is being married by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at City Hall.

Ceremonies are taking place in other parts of the state as well.

Same-sex couples in Maryland have been able to get marriage licenses since Dec. 6, but they did not take effect until Tuesday.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have approved same-sex marriage.

Oxymoron From Italy: The Civilized Supercar

January 1, 2013

Ferrari North America

BODY LANGUAGE The surfaces of the F12, including the so-called aero bridge channel in the front fenders, are shaped to increase downforce.

IF one considers the F12 Berlinetta to be nothing more than Ferrari’s latest coupe, the point of the car has been missed. The supercar’s body is merely the fancy wrapping for the gift that is a supremely powerful 12-cylinder Ferrari engine.

“Every time Ferrari has unveiled a new 12-cylinder sports car since 1947, something magical has happened,” Amedeo Felisa, Ferrari’s chief executive, said in an interview. “Our challenge in developing this car, beyond the continued evolution of that magic, was how to beat the best 12-cylinder car — the 599 — we’ve ever done. The F12 tops it, I am proud to say.”

Mr. Felisa is not the only one here who feels that way. The F12 Berlinetta’s birth is a point of great pride for every employee of the Ferrari works, it seems. On a visit last fall, regard for the car appeared nearly reverential.

The front-engine F12 succeeds the 599 GTB, assuming the role of Ferrari’s top two-seat grand touring machine, the pinnacle of the company’s model hierarchy. Its personality is more refined than the company’s pure-sports models — the 458 Italia and Spider, powered by V-8 engines placed behind the driver — but that does not mean the F12 is a machine suited exclusively for high-velocity autostrada runs.

“The F12 is engineered to be driven,” Mr. Felisa said. “So take it out of the garage. Drive it.”

As directed, I took an arrestingly red F12 into the rolling emerald hills of the Emilia-Romagna region, the lush breadbasket of Italy. Those ancient roads, with decrepit asphalt, indifferent repairs and earthquake-induced undulations, had made for a rather punishing, harrowing drive in most previous Ferraris.

In fact, a few miles in a 1957 250 GT Berlinetta on these same roads in the Mille Miglia tribute rally last May proved downright bone-rattling. The newest Berlinetta — a name Ferrari uses for a sporty coupe body style — tamed that same tarmac and seduced it with subtle precision.

Mr. Felisa said that among the company’s road cars, the F12 was nothing less than “the most high-performance Ferrari ever built.” The mission of Ferrari’s 12-cylinder engines has long been raw performance, of course, but the F12’s power plant was asked to deliver more nuanced measures of technological prowess: everyday drivability and 30 percent reductions in fuel consumption and carbon emissions. In the European combined driving cycle (the E.P.A. does not yet list mileage for the F12) the fuel economy works out to 15.7 miles per gallon.

But are those relevant motivators for the motoring purists who rationalize the extravagance of a Ferrari?

“The auto industry is evolving,” Mr. Felisa said. “Ferrari must evolve with it. We will be able to continue to evolve with innovation, new content and new thinking.”

When Ferrari was a small-scale operation building several hundred cars a year, collectors — speculators might be a more precise description — could gobble up part of the company’s annual output and park their new toys in climate-controlled garages. Wait a few decades and the passage of time might turn the more memorable models into multimillion-dollar classics.

At some point, Ferrari management concluded that this was not a sustainable business model.

“Collectors are our worst kind of customer,” Mr. Felisa said. “A Ferrari is not meant to fill your garage.” His message was clear: if owners don’t drive their Ferraris — if they are bought for decorative purposes only, the automotive equivalent of Fabergé eggs — sales will eventually dwindle.

No special training is needed to drive the F12 in stop-and-go traffic, of which there is no shortage on the region’s crowded two-lane roads. But when an opportunity to pass presents itself, nailing the throttle will instantly awaken one’s inner Michael Schumacher. The V-12 bursts into an aria, the chassis seems to leap from a sprinter’s stance, and — voilà! — the open road appears ahead. The vehicle passed quickly diminishes in size in the rearview mirror. The V-12’s exhaust broadcasts an aurally optimized Sirens’ song into the cabin.

It is indeed magical. “What just happened?” I found myself wondering after the first time I experienced this sensation — the exhaust’s scream becomes louder the closer one accelerates to the 8,250 r.p.m. peak, where all 730 horses are pulling.

 The 599 GTB Fiorano could produce magic too, albeit in huge, gluttonous helpings; from a standing start, it could hit 62 m.p.h. (100 k.p.h.) in 3.7 seconds, according to Ferrari. But it was not a friendly everyday companion on roads like these. Response of the 599’s 612-horsepower 6-liter V-12 to throttle input was instantaneous, brutal and unmitigated. Paired with a 6-speed manual transmission, that V-12 produced eyeball-rolling, sociopathic, felonious fun.

The F12 offers all that and more — and less. “It is a car with blistering performance,” Mr. Felisa said of the F12’s new 6.3-liter V-12; it delivers 730 horsepower and 509 pound-feet of torque, and it does this without the aid of turbocharging or supercharging. The F12’s 0-62 m.p.h. sprint is done in 3.1 seconds, according to Ferrari, using the Launch Control feature. Top speed is “more than 211.”

But, Mr. Felisa added, “The F12 also can offer pleasurable performance at lower speeds.” It even has a hybridlike engine stop-start feature, to further save gas and reduce emissions.

Time and again, the F12 obediently followed slow trucks in a docile manner until prompted. And then it would vanish down the road. Roll-on torque, from about 2,500 to 6,000 r.p.m., is the V-12’s performance sweet spot.

To package this V-12, Ferrari went in an almost counterintuitive direction. The F12 is smaller than the 599, halting a trend toward ever-larger Ferraris that seems, mercifully, to have peaked. Almost every feature of the car’s elegant body, including what Ferrari calls aero bridges — the sheet metal between the front wheel and the cockpit — helps to channel air to reduce drag.

Compared with the 599, the F12 is lighter — by more than 100 pounds with the “lightweight” options that hold the weight to about 3,600 pounds — and more nimble.

The F12 also has a lower center of gravity, increased torsional rigidity, better weight balance, a lower coefficient of drag and more precise steering response. There’s more, but a complete listing of all the gadgets on this car would bewilder even James Bond.

Thanks to a long menu of electronic features, including traction and stability control, yaw control, electronic differential and braking aids, an operator with basic training at a performance driving school can throw the F12 around a racetrack with reasonable confidence.

“The F12 is a fundamental step forward in every way,” Mr. Felisa said.

It is, in short, a sportier sports car than its predecessor.

The direct-fuel-injected engine is based on the V-12 also found in the FF, but with notable improvements, including a higher compression ratio. It’s a masterpiece of space-saving packaging, almost cube-shaped.

The design of the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission — no manual gearbox is offered — has been revised. The gear ratios are more closely spaced to better match engine power, and they are also optimized for the multiple mode settings: Wet, Sport, Race, Traction Control Off and Stability Control Off. Shifting occurs instantaneously; gone are the lag and balkiness of some past Ferrari auto-shifters.

Ferrari sought improvements in even the tiniest increments — by millimeters, degrees and grams. The F12 is assembled with tighter tolerances and almost aerospace precision on a highly automated assembly line here that would have seemed sacrilege not long ago, given Ferrari’s heritage of hand-built craftsmanship.

But a greater level of durability, quality and reliability are expected even of Ferrari these days. The F12 comes with a seven-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Human comfort is addressed too, with vastly improved ergonomics and luxury features. The driver’s and passenger’s seats can be ordered in almost any size and configuration, in an almost overwhelming array of colors, textures and materials. Matching luggage and golf bags are also available.

Cabin space and luggage capacity have been expanded compared with the 599, despite the F12’s slightly smaller dimensions. Gone are the annoying steering column stalks; most functions are now found on, or around, the steering wheel. Most gauges still have analog faces, a nod to Ferrari cockpits of yesteryear.

“We do not want to change, or destroy, the characteristics of Ferrari,” Mr. Felisa said. “But these kinds of improvements are the only way to ensure the future of the company.”

The formula seems to be working: Ferrari announced increased profits and record sales and revenue through the first nine months of 2012. The F12 is expected to bolster profits further when it officially goes on sale in all markets, including the United States, this spring. Most of the initial production run was spoken for even before the price was announced.

“Our regular customers contact dealers and just say, ‘We want the next Ferrari, whatever it will be,’ ” Joanne Marshall, a Ferrari spokeswoman in Europe, said. “About 60 percent of our customers are repeaters. They don’t bother asking the price.”

Should you be one of those who want to know before making the commitment, Ferrari says the F12 will start at $315,888.

Outmaneuvered at Their Own Game, Antivirus Makers Struggle to Adapt

January 1, 2013

Amichai Shulman, the chief technology officer at Imperva. The data security firm recently found that antivirus software programs perform poorly against new viruses.

The antivirus industry has a dirty little secret: its products are often not very good at stopping viruses.

Consumers and businesses spend billions of dollars every year on antivirus software. But these programs rarely, if ever, block freshly minted computer viruses, experts say, because the virus creators move too quickly. That is prompting start-ups and other companies to get creative about new approaches to computer security.

“The bad guys are always trying to be a step ahead,” said Matthew D. Howard, a venture capitalist at Norwest Venture Partners who previously set up the security strategy at Cisco Systems. “And it doesn’t take a lot to be a step ahead.”

Computer viruses used to be the domain of digital mischief makers. But in the mid-2000s, when criminals discovered that malicious software could be profitable, the number of new viruses began to grow exponentially.

In 2000, there were fewer than a million new strains of malware, most of them the work of amateurs. By 2010, there were 49 million new strains, according to AV-Test, a German research institute that tests antivirus products.

The antivirus industry has grown as well, but experts say it is falling behind. By the time its products are able to block new viruses, it is often too late. The bad guys have already had their fun, siphoning out a company’s trade secrets, erasing data or emptying a consumer’s bank account.

A new study by Imperva, a data security firm in Redwood City, Calif., and students from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is the latest confirmation of this. Amichai Shulman, Imperva’s chief technology officer, and a group of researchers collected and analyzed 82 new computer viruses and put them up against more than 40 antivirus products, made by top companies like Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee and Kaspersky Lab. They found that the initial detection rate was less than 5 percent.

On average, it took almost a month for antivirus products to update their detection mechanisms and spot the new viruses. And two of the products with the best detection rates — Avast and Emsisoft — are available free; users are encouraged to pay for additional features. This despite the fact that consumers and businesses spent a combined $7.4 billion on antivirus software last year — nearly half of the $17.7 billion spent on security software in 2011, according to Gartner.

“Existing methodologies we’ve been protecting ourselves with have lost their efficacy,” said Ted Schlein, a security-focused investment partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. “This study is just another indicator of that. But the whole concept of detecting what is bad is a broken concept.”

Part of the problem is that antivirus products are inherently reactive. Just as medical researchers have to study a virus before they can create a vaccine, antivirus makers must capture a computer virus, take it apart and identify its “signature” — unique signs in its code — before they can write a program that removes it.

That process can take as little as a few hours or as long as several years. In May, researchers at Kaspersky Lab discovered Flame, a complex piece of malware that had been stealing data from computers for an estimated five years.

Mikko H. Hypponen, chief researcher at F-Secure, called Flame “a spectacular failure” for the antivirus industry. “We really should have been able to do better,” he wrote in an essay for Wired.com after Flame’s discovery. “But we didn’t. We were out of our league in our own game.”

Symantec and McAfee, which built their businesses on antivirus products, have begun to acknowledge their limitations and to try new approaches. The word “antivirus” does not appear once on their home pages. Symantec rebranded its popular antivirus packages: its consumer product is now called Norton Internet Security, and its corporate offering is now Symantec Endpoint Protection.

“Nobody is saying antivirus is enough,” said Kevin Haley, Symantec’s director of security response. Mr. Haley said Symantec’s antivirus products included a handful of new technologies, like behavior-based blocking, which looks at some 30 characteristics of a file, including when it was created and where else it has been installed, before allowing it to run. “In over two-thirds of cases, malware is detected by one of these other technologies,” he said.

Imperva, which sponsored the antivirus study, has a horse in this race. Its Web application and data security software are part of a wave of products that look at security in a new way. Instead of simply blocking what is bad, as antivirus programs and perimeter firewalls are designed to do, Imperva monitors access to servers, databases and files for suspicious activity.

The day companies unplug their antivirus software is still far off, but entrepreneurs and investors are betting that the old tools will become relics.

“The game has changed from the attacker’s standpoint,” said Phil Hochmuth, a Web security analyst at the research firm International Data Corporation. “The traditional signature-based method of detecting malware is not keeping up.”

Investors are backing a new crop of start-ups that turn the whole notion of security on its head. If it is no longer possible to block everything that is bad, the thinking goes, then the security companies of the future will be the ones whose software can spot unusual behavior and clean up systems once they have been breached.

The hottest security start-ups today are companies like Bit9, Bromium, FireEye and Seculert that monitor Internet traffic, and companies like Mandiant and CrowdStrike that have expertise in cleaning up after an attack.

Bit9, which received more than $70 million in financing from top venture firms like Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital, uses an approach known as whitelisting, allowing only traffic that the system knows is innocuous.

McAfee acquired Solidcore, a whitelisting start-up, in 2009, and Symantec’s products now include its Insight technology, which is similar in that it does not let any unknown files run on a machine.

McAfee’s former chief executive, David G. DeWalt, was rumored to be a contender for the top job at Intel, which acquired McAfee in 2010. Instead, he joined FireEye, a start-up with a system that isolates a company’s applications in virtual containers, then looks for suspicious activity in a sort of digital petri dish before deciding whether to let traffic through.

The company has received more than $35 million in financing from Norwest, Sequoia Capital and In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of the Central Intelligence Agency, among others.

Seculert, an Israeli start-up, approaches the problem somewhat differently. It looks at where threats are coming from — the command and control centers used to coordinate attacks — to give governments and businesses an early warning system.

As the number of prominent online attacks rises, analysts and venture capitalists are betting that corporate spending patterns will change.

“Technologies that once were only used by very sensitive industries like finance are moving into the mainstream,” Mr. Hochmuth said. “Very soon, if you are not running these technologies and you’re a security professional, your colleagues and counterparts will start to look at you funny.”

Companies have started working from the assumption that they will be hacked, Mr. Hochmuth said, and that when they are, they will need top-notch cleanup crews.

Mandiant, which specializes in data forensics and responding to breaches, has received $70 million from Kleiner Perkins and One Equity Partners, JPMorgan Chase’s private investment arm.

Two McAfee executives, George Kurtz and Dmitri Alperovitch, left to start CrowdStrike, a start-up that offers a similar forensics service. Less than a year later, they have already raised $26 million from Warburg Pincus.

If and when antivirus makers are able to fortify desktop computers, chances are the criminals will have already moved on to smartphones.

In October, the F.B.I. warned that a number of malicious apps were compromising Android devices. And in July, Kaspersky Lab discovered the first malicious app in Apple’s app store. The Defense Department has called for companies and universities to find ways to protect mobile devices from malware. McAfee, Symantec and others are working on solutions, and Lookout, a start-up whose products scan apps for malware and viruses, recently raised funding that valued it at $1 billion.

“The bad guys are getting worse,” Mr. Howard of Norwest said. “Antivirus helps filter down the problem, but the next big security company will be the one that offers a comprehensive solution.”