Friday, May 16, 2008

How To: organized tours and vacations

Last time I went on a vacation to Chicago was the weekend before I had an interview at Willian, Brinks, Olds, Hofer, Gilson & Lion, Ltd., the leading patent firm there. I always do well when I spend time with my friends right before any interview. So that time I thought I might as well take them along on a trip. It was mid-March, and when we left for Chicago it snowed for the last time in the Midwest.
That weekend did turn out to be wild. I remember we stopped at a Rodeway Inn, and there was the famous Chicago deep dish pizza restaurant and a fusion jazz bar nearby. Next morning we were really hungry, wanted a stack of real pancakes. That we could not find. We were directed to Walker Brothers in Highland Park. This was one-of-a-kind experience. I have never seen pancakes this big. Later in the afternoon we went on a lake cruise, and the waves picked up inexplicably, causing the boat to roll like we were int he middle of an ocean. Then we spent the rest of the weekend in drunken stupor. Come Tuesday, my friends already back home, I was bright and ready for the appointment. I did not get the job, lucky for me, since I got a job at a really convenient place back home. Next time I would know better and organize my vacation ahead of time through Internet, like look up and use companies that offer sightseeing tours. I found one, and they are Trusted Tours & Attractions. They offer discounted tickets to the best sightseeing tours in 23 cities across the country. Thus, should I want to vacation in Chicago, I would definitely do many of the activities I found on the Chicago page. I would really plan my vacation thoroughly, and even do such an obvious thing as look for ideas on what to do by signing up for the Trusted Travels eNewsletter and at the same time have chance to win a $150 iTunes gift card offer that ends Saturday, May 31st, 2008. Things to do in New York City is also where I am going to plan my trip to NYC and stay sober.

Writing about Microsoft and ATT: boring

You don't have to agree with me, but just don't be boring when writing about law. The current edition of IP NewMatter, the quarterly publication of the IP Law Section of the California State Bar has the most exquisitely written boring article on the recent Microsoft v. ATT case, written by two lawyers from Klein O'Neill and Singh. The article boringly steps through each section of the decision and relevant statutes, mostly concluding with a discussion on the apparent loophole of 271(f), asking "What to do in the meantime?". But it is hard to know what to do, how to plan legal arguments, given the horrible sludge in the Supreme Court's decision - a decision which gets all of the fundamentals of computer science wrong. And if you get the fundamentals wrong, you can't argue if, or if not, software is a component? Ask a juvenile hacker. Yet nowhere in the article is any discussion of this ongoing scientific illiteracy problem at the Supreme Court. This silence makes the article a token reading for yesmen and interns, and patently BORING.

Ride into the sunset

Just another day a fellow attorney was telling me about his nightmare experience that approximated the Planes, Trains & Automobiles the comedy movie. I almost swore to myself that I would never rent a car again. But then someone else at the office told me about how easy, and free of all the Kafkaesque complexities her experience was with Advantage car rental. Now I want to get away from it all, rent a car, and go for a nice luxurious drive to Palm Springs. I checked it out on their special offers, and, true, the page contained the features that our associate has enjoyed. I am into a nice, within the speed limit drive along a straightaway highway in a comfy and spacious SUV, which I see my coworker has rented. I checked out their Easy Rental service, and that's why it makes sense. My schedule is overloaded as it is, so this is exactly what I need on my precious vacation time - no worries. I have no problem urging others to make it easy on themselves, use Advantage and go for that ride of their dreams, into the Western sunset.

Phishing the phishers

A n enterprising group of fraudsters from Morocco calling themselves Mr-Brain has launched a website that offers easy-to-use phishing site code, email templates and other hacking tools. The website offers phishing kits for many of the most common targets, such as Bank of America, eBay, PayPal and HSBC. The tools and code provided by Mr-Brain are designed to make it extremely easy for other fraudsters to deploy realistic phishing sites. Only a very basic knowledge of programming is required to configure the PHP scripts to send victims' details to the fraudsters' chosen electronic mail address. Deploying one of these fully working kits can be done in as little as one minute – another factor that adds to their appeal.
Phishing the phishers
Mr-Brain's intentions are to encourage as many people as possible to use their phishing kits, for all is not what it seems at first glance. Careful inspection of the configuration script reveals deceptive code that hides the true set of electronic mail addresses that are contacted by the kit – every phisher who uses these kits will unwittingly send a copy of each victim's details back to the Mr-Brain group. The configuration script exploits the case-sensitivity in PHP variable names to disguise Mr-Brain’s electronic mail address as an unrelated but seemingly essential part of the script, encouraging fraudsters not to alter it. The injected electronic mail address is actually contained in a completely separate PHP file, where it is encrypted in a hidden input field named "niarB", or "Brain" backwards. Yet another PHP script reads the value from this input field and decrypts it before supplying it to the configuration script. Most fraudsters are unlikely to notice this level of obfuscation and will assume the script is working normally, as they will also receive a copy of any emails produced by the script. When Netcraft decrypted the contents, the hidden input field revealed one of Mr-Brain's Gmail addresses, which is used to covertly capture details from all of the phishing kits that have been deployed on their behalf by other fraudsters. A comment at the top of one of the scripts aims to deter these fraudsters from examining the script that decrypts the hidden field: Earlier this month, Netcraft also exposed a similar phishing scam targeting Bank of America. This, too, was authored by Mr-Brain and was configured to covertly send harvested credentials to a different Gmail address. Each phishing kit listed on their website is accompanied by a description, showing what kind of information it steals from victims. One page on their website lists a selection of Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and PINs under the heading "Free and Freash [sic!] Credit Card". Mr-Brain claims that all of the scam pages offered on its site are undetected by Mozilla, Opera and Internet Explorer. Netcraft blocks these sites when they are detected by the Netcraft Toolbar community, and propagates the block to all companies which licence the Netcraft Phishing Site Feed.

Navajo, O’Keeffe and Kachina dolls, virtually

To get away from the pressurized chaos of high tech and politics, just like a father who takes his family on a trip to the American West, I jumped at the opportunity to go on a virtual vacation to the Stark Museum of Art, in Orange, Texas, one of our most significant collections of American Western art.
Western Art
Western Art collection includes explorer-artists such as George Catlin, Alfred Jacob Miller, John Mix Stanley and Paul Kane, who traveled across the continent and documented American Indians in portraits and scenes of their customs. In the following decades artists such as Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran painted the mystifying grandeur of the Western landscape. Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell and others created enduring iconic images of the Wild West in their paintings and sculptures portraying cowboy life and Indian imagery at the turn of the last century. The twentieth century artists settled in the region and formed artistic colonies in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Taos Society of Artists included Joseph Henry Sharp, E.L. Blumenschein, Bert Phillips, E.I. Couse, W.H. Dunton, E. Martin Hennings, Oscar Berninghaus, Victor Higgins, Walter Ufer and Kenneth Adams. Their art portrays an idyllic West, the Pueblo peoples, Hispanic culture and a landscape affected by atmospheric light. Other artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe, Alexandre Hogue, and Allan Houser have brought new, imagistic interpretations to the concept of the West.
Decorative Arts

The collection features glass and porcelain masterpieces from Steuben Glass, including the only complete set of The United States in Crystal, a series of bowls engraved with scenes representing each of the 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the Union. The Steuben Glass Collection includes 76 engraved plates as well as numerous bowls, flasks, and plaques.

A series of porcelain birds by artist Dorothy Doughty is another museum treasure. The Stark Museum of Art collection holds the entire series as well as some duplicates, including unpainted versions. The collection also includes a series of porcelain birds by artist Edward Marshall Boehm.

American Indian Art

The American Indian collection consists of objects created by some of the tribes of the Great Plains, Southwest, Eastern Woodlands and Northwest Coast. The collection includes visually captivating examples of Plains clothing, body ornaments, and beadwork, such as exquisitely beaded moccasins.

The museum also exhibits baskets from major basket-producing cultures in the West: Pueblo pottery, including blackware by the world renowned Maria Martinez of San Ildefonso; kachina dolls of the Zuni and Hopi; and an outstanding collection of Navajo rugs and blankets.

The collection also has an extensive works by Julian Martinez, Tlinquit, Sioux Northern Plains and Navajo.

Rare Books & Manuscripts

The Rare Books and Manuscripts collection includes the famous Birds of America by naturalist John James Audubon. These five double elephant folios, which depict the birds of North America, belonged to the artist's personal collection. This publication is widely regarded as one of the finest illustrated books of all time.

In addition to Audubon’s The Birds of America are letters and journals by Audubon and artist Paul Kane, seven Books of Hours manuscripts, and more rare treasures such as 16-th century illuminated manuscripts.

History of he Museum

The Stark Museum of Art began as a vision of H.J. Lutcher Stark and his mother, Miriam Lutcher Stark, an enthusiastic collector of art, furniture, and decorative items from around the world. Lutcher Stark developed a similar passion for collecting, with a particular interest in nature and art depicting the American West. Both Miriam and Lutcher Stark shared the desire that one day a museum in Orange, Texas, would display the works of art they collected. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas, Lutcher Stark began building his collection by purchasing works from Texas artists. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he began collecting American Indian objects from New Mexico.

He married Nelda Childers in 1943, and together they continued to build the collection. Each year from 1944 to 1962 they traveled to their ranch in Colorado, stopping along the way in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, to meet with artists. From these visits they built a collection that strongly represents the Taos Society of Artists, a colony of artists drawn to the area for its scenery, culture and inspiration. Inspired by their shared passion, Nelda and Lutcher Stark founded the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation in 1961 to enrich the quality of life in Southeast Texas through education and the arts. After Lutcher Stark’s passing in 1965, the Stark Foundation, directed by Nelda C. Stark, built the Stark Museum of Art, which opened on November 29, 1978, and continues to acquire new works of art today.

I wish anyone who's weighted down with the our electronic chores would could make a real visit to the museum.