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The CrackBerry

I'm not sure how many of you have a BlackBerry or any one of a number of new PDAs that have hit the market recently, but take it from me, an avid Treo user, getting your email fix anywhere, anytime, is about as close to an adiction as anything I've ever known. (Hold, perhaps, chocolate... especially, lately, DARK CHOCOLATE!)

Stuck at a red light for more than 5 seconds? Well that's plenty of time to check the 'ol email. In line at the Stop'N'Shop (the express lane!)? Heck, why not return your mother's email that's been sitting in your inbox for weeks now... you know the one, about why you never call anymore.

The word "vacation" takes on a whole new meaning when you bring your PDA along, as well. Sitting poolside, fighting to see the screen in the bright sunlight, mashing those little buttons with wet hands, hoping that people on the receiving end will forgive you because a) you're on vacation, and who responds to emails on vacation? and b) your default signature contains "Sent from my Treo handheld device" -- meaning "I meant to type an S not a D, but my hands are wet because I'm on vacation and just got out of the pool, so please forgive my typos!!!!"

Well, thanks to the guys over at the Freakonomics Blog for tipping us off to Joe Sharkey's squib in yesterday's New York Times, because now I know where I'll be taking my next vacation: Chicago!

...The Sheraton Chicago Hotel ... offers to confiscate a guest's BlackBerry upon arrival and return it once the vacation is over. Kind of like duct-taping your refrigerator shut when you start a diet "¦

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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holidays
Custom-Design the Ugly Christmas Sweater of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)
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For those of you aspiring to be the worst dressed person at your family's holiday dinner, UglyChristmasSweater.com sells—you guessed it—ugly Christmas sweaters to seasonal revelers possessing a sense of irony. But the Michigan-based online retailer has elevated kitsch to new heights by offering a create-your-own-sweater tool on its website.

Simply visit the site's homepage, and click on the Sweater Customizer link. There, you'll be provided with a basic sweater template, which you can decorate with festive snowflakes, reindeer, and other designs in five different colors. If you're feeling really creative, you can even upload photos, logos, hand-drawn pictures, and/or text. After you approve and purchase a mock-up of the final design, you can purchase the final result (prices start at under $70). But you'd better act quickly: due to high demand, orders will take about two weeks plus shipping time to arrive.

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