is not a science fiction convention, it's a science convention, the Pittsburgh Conference on Analytical Chemistry and Applied Spectroscopy. This year it was held in Chicago at McCormick Place. Chicago being easy to get to from Milwaukee, they sent me there on Thursday, which was free admission day.
It turns out that there are a remarkably large number of companies selling stuff related to chemistry, and most of them where there. If you like talking to sales people, this is the event for you. At least one of them recognized me from his previous visits to our lab when he worked for a different company. I came away with a vast number of catalogs, lots of pens, notepads, timers, and other miscellanea with various logos printed upon them.
The coolest thing I saw, though with no relevance to anything I actually do, would probably be Hitachi's TM-1000
tabletop scanning electron microscope. The thing is tiny. You could set it on your desk at home next to your computer or ham radio or whatever and be all ready to magnify stuff by 10,000 times. Just under $60,000.
Though it was snowing pretty vigorously here in the morning, my trip to Chicago by Amtrak was as uneventful as it usually is. Though all manner of storms were forecast, I didn't get rained on much at all in Chicago. The bus ride to and from McCormick Place was the big-city marvel of walking up to the bus stop and thinking "I wonder when the bus will arriv---oh, there it is."
After the show I wandered a bit in fairly dense fog, which was fun. The city is pretty in the fog. Maybe London is prettier in the fog, I don't know, but it was nice. It does disrupt my normal Chicago navigational method, which consists of looking for the really obvious landmarks such as the Sears Tower, the whateverthehelltheycallitnow building that I still call the Amoco building, the Hancock, maybe Marina City or Lake Point Tower. In the fog, it's all just fog in all directions. Fortunately, the area is getting fairly familiar to me. And yes, I did stop at Moonstruck Chocolate, as usual.( photos )