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March 31, 2008

'Little Trump' — Because The Donald's not the only one who likes living large...


From Yash Desai comes the following account of one Jo Ann Ussery (above), who in 1994 at age 52 found herself homeless after a storm brought trees crashing down on her 1,400-hundred-square-foot wood-frame house in Benoit, Mississippi, nearly flattening it.

The spunky grandmother plunked down $2,000 for a retired Continental Airlines Boeing 727 jet (above), paid $4,000 to have it transported from the Greenwood, Missisippi airport (where one of the country's premier aircraft salvage companies stores planes to be parted out) to her lakeside lot in Benoit, then spent $24,000 to spruce it up and make it more homey.

John wrote in superuse.org, "When the plane was set up, the tail was anchored in 18 inches of concrete. The nose extended out past the shoreline of the lake, giving the 727 home a dynamic look, as if it were flying [top]. The 11-foot-wide cabin looks roomy with the high-density airline seats removed. The 76 side windows and 10 cockpit windows provide ample illumination. The floor plan consists of three bedrooms, a living room/dining room, a fully equipped kitchen, a laundry area and her favorite room, the master bathroom with a Jacuzzi, in the part of the fuselage where once was the cockpit. The cockpit control wheels were retained to maintain an aircraft look."

"Most of the interior remodeling was done by Ussery. Floors had to be built up in the bathroom and kitchen because they were uneven. Conventional padding and carpeting were installed and linoleum was laid down in the kitchen. One original lavatory was kept functional as an aircraft lavatory. A garage door opener was used to open and close the rear air stairs. Overhead luggage compartments were retained, providing an abundance of storage space. Lighting was converted to house current."

"Ussery named her dream house 'Little Trump,' a reference to Donald Trump's $16-million corporate jet, which happens to be a Boeing 727 as well. When asked why she lived in an airplane: "Simply cost-effective — once it was set up, it required no maintenance."

Ussery lived in "Little Trump" from April, 1995 until May, 1999.

On May 18 of that year it incurred significant damage when it fell off a truck she'd hired to move it one mile to a new location, where she had planned to open it up for public viewing.

[via airportjournals.com, vagabondish.com and fashionfunky.com]

March 31, 2008 at 04:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

MagicJack — Ultra-cheap ($20/year), ultra-simple Internet phone calls from your laptop


That's right: $20/year — not month — for unlimited calls to the U.S. and Canada from anywhere in the world.

David Greenberg reviewed it quite favorably in yesterday's Washington Post Travel section, as follows.


    What: A phone jack for your computer that lets you plug in a standard phone and make low-cost calls.

    Aimed at: Travelers with laptops who want to make cheap calls from the road.

    How much? $20 for the jack, plus $20 a year for service.

    But does it work? Between pricey penalties for exceeding mobile phone minutes to absurd hotel telephone charges, calling from the road costs too much. Travelers with laptops and broadband can make Internet calls, but those pay-per-minute rates add up.

    MagicJack changes the game with a flat-rate price so low it looks like a misprint: $20 per year — not per month, per year — for unlimited calls to the United States and Canada from anywhere in the world.

    Getting started costs $40, which includes the first year of service and a small device that plugs into a USB port. The device has a telephone jack that lets you use a standard phone, including cordless ones (you also can opt to use a headphone).

    Setup is simple. You don't need to insert a CD; just plug the small device into the USB port and the software loads automatically. We were making calls less than five minutes after plugging in the device. Voice quality was indistinguishable from a wired phone line.

    We tested magicJack with a variety of Internet broadband connections and PCs. The quality did not suffer, and the device did not slow down other programs, even on an older, slower PC.

    The phone service comes with a free local phone number, voice mail, call waiting, call forwarding, three-way calling and free (commercial-supported) directory assistance. International calls are extra, though competitively priced: Calls to France, for example, are 2 cents a minute (18 cents a minute for French mobile phones).

    MagicJack compares favorably to Skype, which recently added flat-rate pricing to its per-minute pricing ($36 a year for unlimited calling to phones in the United States and Canada). Skype charges extra for such things as an incoming phone number and devices that let you plug in standard phones.

    Cons: Although the device is about as small as a pack of gum, it's thick enough to block a second USB port on some laptops. And unlike more expensive Internet phones, magicJack cannot make calls while your PC is off. However, it can still take voice mail.

    MagicJack is available for Windows XP, Vista and Intel-based Macs from www.magicjack.com.


Here's another take.

Consider that if the iPod touch had a USB port you could plug this puppy in and have an iPhone on the cheap sans contract.

I'll bet I'm not the only one who had this thought....

March 31, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

'Meetings are held because, while people detest them, they hate actually working more' — Tom Landis


Landis, president of a restaurant company that caters meetings, was quoted in Jared Sandberg's "Cubicle Culture" column about our love/hate affair with meetings, in the March 11, 2008 Wall Street Journal.

Landis's insight is so spot-on, it's not even funny.

But then, why am I laughing?


Something is happening here but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. joe?

March 31, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dino-Lite USB Digital Microscope — Endless fun at your desk


"This portable digital microscope weighs 90 grams [3.2 oz.] and


provides amazing high-quality 10X-200X continuous magnification


with full digital photo/video-capturing capabilities.


Easy-to-use and convenient, it allows for virtually 360° of viewing perspective. Software included."



March 31, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Time travel in Berlin


You can do it — UCLA's Hypermedia Berlin can help.


Long story short: UCLA associate professor of Germanic Languages and Jewish Studies Todd Presner, a self-described "techie-humanist," is the driving force behind Hypermedia Berlin, "on online geodatabase that enables visitors to virtually explore the famous German city layer by layer and era by era," wrote Judy Lin in an article in the April, 2008 UCLA magazine.


On the drawing board: Hypermedia Los Angeles, Lima and Rome.

Here's the magazine story.


    What if you could use the Web to travel to a city, explore its streets, and get lost in buildings — and travel back through 800 years of its history? Thanks to UCLA Associate Professor of Germanic Languages and Jewish Studies Todd Presner, you can — at least in Berlin. The self-described "techie-humanist" is the mind behind Hypermedia Berlin, an online geodatabase that enables visitors to virtually explore the famous German city layer by layer and era by era. On the drawing board: Hypermedia Los Angeles, Lima and Rome.

    Q: How did you come up with Hypermedia Berlin?

    A: The idea came to me in graduate school, at Stanford during the dot-com boom. It was an amazingly interesting cultural moment in the mid- to late-'90s, with so much excitement about the Web. This came together with ideas I had while doing research in Berlin. I was trying to think of a way to understand a city space that seemed to me to be haunted — that is to say, many parts of the city's past exist in the present, but you couldn't really piece them together. You would recognize that this building doesn't go with that building; this plaza doesn't go with that train station.

    Q: How did you make it happen?

    A: I was teaching a course on Berlin when I came to UCLA in 2002 and I realized that many of the students had never been there and wouldn't possibly have the experience that I had. Just reading a book on Berlin wasn't going to convey this complexity. So I began making models and drawing ways of overlaying the past, basically thinking of maps that were laid on top of each other, and a way for students to navigate information geographically and, later on, contribute information. I've also been blessed with a very skilled team in the Center for Digital Humanities, where most of the technical development has been done.

    Q: This is more than a stand-alone platform?

    A: We've created an interface that works with Google Maps. Students can begin in the present, using satellite map imagery provided by Google. If they want historical information, they use our maps and system to navigate back through 800 years of Berlin. We're also putting all our maps into Google Earth, so that the general public can also experiment with manipulating time-stamped information.

    Q: How does it work?

    A: I log in and create a user profile, information about me as well as all the groups that I'm a part of. The database is always giving you material based on your latitude and longitude, as well as your zoom level and what group you happen to be in. When you're at a particular point — shown as a marker or polygon on the screen — you get information for that place.

    Q: And moving around in time?

    A: All of the maps have now been geo-referenced and overlaid. So present-day Berlin overlays 1947 Berlin, which overlays 1650 Berlin, and so forth. For example, if you're looking at a river in 1650 Berlin, you can go to satellite imagery in present-day Google Maps and see 1650 Berlin as a tiny hamlet lined up beneath 2008. You can literally watch how things are evolving over time.

    Q: There's also a social networking aspect to the site.

    A: If you register for the Berlin site, you join a general Berlin group or you can form your own group and curate your group's own content. We can support hundreds of different groups.

    Q: What sorts of content can be added, and by whom?

    A: Hypermedia Berlin is a Web 2.0 teaching tool because users participate, create, upload, comment on and network with one another. You can create your own group and curate the group's material. A student can add "My Trip to Berlin," put all their pictures up and geo-reference them. We also have more formal contributors like the Wende Museum in Culver City, which has a fascinating trove of cultural material about Germany during the Cold War.

    Q: Have you discovered new things about Berlin from the site?

    A: Yes. It's a powerful research and discovery tool. For example, I discovered something interesting in the vicinity of a church that exists today [but] on the 1772 map, there were two Jewish quarters close by. By using these maps, going back and forth between them, I see that what is now a parking lot used to be the courtyard where one of these Jewish quarters used to exist. I actually traveled there to see if there is any remnant of the Jewish quarter, and there's not. You have to go to 1772 to find it. I don't know any other way you could discover this. The physical maps tend to be kept in archives and are very fragile. You can't use them, let alone overlay them.

    Q: You're standing on the edge of the digital world, but you've also done traditional academic work.

    A: I published two books this past year, "Mobile Modernity: Germans, Jews, Trains," and "Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration." I don't think they're conventional books by any means, but they definitely look like traditional scholarship. "Mobile Modernity" is actually relevant to the Hypermedia Berlin project, as many of my ideas were written up first in the book.

    Q: Do you find non-traditional forms of teaching and research more interesting?

    A: Doing non-traditional things is definitely exciting for me. Since the mid-'90s with the public development of the Web, you have new venues for scholarly production. New modes of authorship like blogging. New ways of scholarly dissemination. So the ways in which your work is actually disseminated is far beyond traditional academic communities.

    Q: How much of a techie do you consider yourself to be?

    A: I have a Facebook account. I have an avatar, but I've never really gotten into Second Life — I'm too busy — and I don't really blog actively, though I have been known to blog. I consider myself a techie-humanist, a humanist who has interests in using technologies.

    Q: Does Web-based teaching and research challenge academia?

    A: There's still a certain amount of resistance to new forms of Web-based scholarship. The humanities has prided itself for very long on the individual genius in the archive discovering something, writing it up, spending years creating a printed monograph. Now you have a Web-based geodatabase. For people who may be more traditionalminded, it looks odd. We also have many more collaborative projects today: geographers working with computer scientists working with historians working with literary scholars. The humanities are changing.

    Q: Are students learning differently from your site — or better?

    A: Students at universities internationally are using this. We have a tremendous amount of information available to us now online. Information navigation and information literacy are two of the critical things that students have to learn. If we're enabling our students to enter the new world of the 21st century, we have to equip them with the tools to navigate and critically analyze the dizzying amount of information out there. We want them to learn traditional things — history, geography, urban studies — but they're learning in a more rich and contextualized way.

    Q: What's next?

    A: We've created hypercities.com, starting on a Los Angeles project going back to the 18th century up through the present. The collaborative team includes UCLA History Professor Jan Reiff and Architecture Professor Diane Favro, along with USC Professor Phil Ethington. We're not just an academic project. We're also in the L.A. community.

March 31, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Massaging Backback — Episode 2: It's here


Just a concept when I featured it last year but they've been busy out back in the skunk works.


Astound your friends.


March 31, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UrbanDictionary.com — 'Define your world'


"Urban dictionary is a slang dictionary with your definitions."

My Pennsylvania correspondent wrote, "Type in your name and see what horrid things appear. It provides great fun in the library. Also, it's where we found all the commentary about law school being sim. to a prison."

March 31, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Salvador Dali 'Bird-in-Hand' Compact


Own a genuine Dali for less than you might expect.


From a website:

Salvador Dali 'Bird in Hand' Compact

This post WWII compact designed by Dali is an absolutely outstanding item that belongs in every compact collection.


It came in several color/material combinations.

Ours is the partial gilt on silver plate.


He opens by pushing a tab at his tail.

You can then open his powder section or open the base of his tail for pills.


You slide his head out of his body for your lipstick.

Super design work!

His original puff is intact.


The hinge and all closures are tight and work well with firm-sounding clicks.

The mirror is original with no cracks and just a few age specks starting.

There is wear and discoloration to his lacquer as you can see from the photos.


This is normal when the item has been used or handled often.

The gilt is in wonderful condition and his red enamel eyes are intact.

There are no dents or dings, it has never been dropped or abused.


Don't let this delightful fantasy compact pass you by.

He is 4-1/2" long x 2-1/2" wide x 1-1/8" deep.



March 31, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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