Behold! Vertu's $200 USB cable

Did you know that Nokia has a "luxury" subsidiary that makes phones for stupid rich people?

As the European cellular industry's supernumerary nipple, Vertu has long specialized in calculator-display brickphones that look like dragon poo rolled in gemstones. It oozes along the dried slugtrail of progress, having just announced its first touchscreen Symbian handset--sure to be an LG Prada-killer!

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Photos from the first science fiction convention, 1937

Just in time for the 75th anniversary, some photos of the "first" science fiction convention, in Leeds (shown here, Walter Gillings, Arthur C. Clarke, Ted Carnell, in front of Theosophical Hall). Although the site pooh-poohs the idea that the first Philcon was the first-ever con, I'm somewhat loyal to the notion, for the completely ahistorical and biased reason that I was Philcon's guest of honor this year, 75 years after its first gathering.

In January 1937, the Leeds chapter of the Science Fiction League brought something new into the world: the first ever SF convention. (A counter claim is made for an earlier visit of New York fans to meet Philadelphia fans at the home of one of their number, but this is hard to take seriously - see THE FIRST EVER CONVENTION, link below.) At a time when travelling any distance was much more difficult than it is today, several of those attending travelled hundreds of miles to be there. Held in Leeds' Theosophical Hall, at 14 Queen Square, the main order of business was setting up the Science Fiction Association, the UK's first national SF organisation.

THE FIRST CONVENTION (1937) (Thanks, Paul!)

FOIA haul covers a half-century of government telephone security phear

Government Attic's latest FOIA haul is a compilation of FBI documents concerning the security of telephone services, 1952-1995. The collection is posted as a single 66MB monster PDF. Get cracking! On reading the PDF, I mean.

The Botany of Bible Lands: An Interview with Prof. Avinoam Danin

Avinoam Danin is Professor Emeritus of Botany in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He curates Flora of Israel Online. His latest book is Botany of the Shroud: The Story of Floral Images on the Shroud of Turin.

Avi Solomon: What first sparked your lifelong fascination with botany?

Avinoam Danin: My parents told me that when I was 3 years old I always said "Look father, I found a flower". My grandparents gave me the book "Analytical Flora of Palestine" on my 13 birthday - I checked off every plant I determined in the book's index of plant names.

Avi: How did you get to know the flora of Israel so intimately?

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SF vs SF

Illustration: Kurt Caesar (?)

Tell me the difference between these two pieces of text.

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Aerodyne, a compact hand-made Art Deco computer

Aerodyne is Jeffrey Stephenson's latest hand-made Art Deco PC. In keeping with the (modern) times, it's a compact Mini-ITX affair in mahogany and aluminum, with an Intel i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state drive. Stephenson plans to make no more than a handful of them, to order.

Steve Jobs action figure

The Next Web predicts this unauthorized Steve Jobs action figure will get the kibosh before it goes on sale in February. (Thanks, Rachel!)

Who is Rick Santorum?

When [Rock] Santorum was in high school, "Everybody called him 'Rooster' because of a strand of hair on the back of his head which stood up, and because of his competitive, in-your-face attitude. 'He would debate anything and everything with you, mostly sports,' [a friend recalled]. 'He was like a rooster. He never backed down.'" That profile also contains this description of the young Santorum, before he met his wife, courtesy of a cousin: "Rick was a funny guy. He sported a bushy moustache for a time, wore Hawaiian shirts and smoked cigars. He liked to laugh, drink and call things 'horsey-assey.' He was very popular and fun to be around."
From an article my cousin, Molly Ball, wrote for The Atlantic, called "Who is Rick Santorum?"

Into the Zone: The Story of the Cacophony Society

[Video Link] I'm looking forward to Into the Zone, a documentary about the Cacophony Society, which was a pranksterish underground cultural movement from San Francisco that paved the way for Burning Man. There will be a screening on Saturday, February 4, 2012 in Santa Ana, CA, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker Jon Alloway and Cacophony instigators that I'll be moderating. Hope to see you there!

Get advance tickets here!

Into the Zone: The Story of the Cacophony Society

Benefit Preview Screening at The Yost Theate 307 N Spurgeon St, Santa Ana, CA 92701

The Cacophony Society Zone Show: You May Already be a Member
Grand Central Art Center
125 North Broadway, Santa Ana, CA 92701
Runs February 4 - April 15

More information after the jump:

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The Verge's best tech writing of 2011

The Verge's Thomas Houston offers a roundup of the best tech stories from last year.

Iowa Nice

[Video Link] Scott Siepker set me straight about Iowa! (NSFW) (Via Steve Silberman)

If Atari game-boxes had told the truth

Mighty God King lives up to his handle with this fab series of truth-in-advertising shoops of old Atari game box-art, in which the true nature of the games is revealed in their titles.

Fun From Yesterday!

"More information about penguins than I care to have"

From Futility Closet:
In 1944 a children’s book club sent a volume about penguins to a 10-year-old girl, enclosing a card seeking her opinion. She wrote, “This book gives me more information about penguins than I care to have.” American diplomat Hugh Gibson called it the finest piece of literary criticism he had ever read.

Florida deputies cleared of wrongdoing in unusual death

Radley Balko says:

Maybe there’s a legitimate law enforcement reason to strip a man naked, strap him to a chair, tie a “spit hood” around his mouth, put a hood over his head (see video at the link), and douse him with pepper spray until he dies. That’s what sheriff’s deputies in Lee County, Florida did to 62-year-old Nick Christie two-and-a-half years ago.

I certainly can’t think of any such legitimate reason. But Lee County State’s Attorney Stephen Russell apparently can. Because he cleared the deputies involved of any wrongdoing.

The New Professionalism

Gingerbread Girl: graphic novel of a woman missing her Penfield Homunculus

UPDATE: Leigh Walton of Top Shelf just let me know that Gingerbread Girl is available in its entirety as a free webcomic!

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