FOSE was gunning for business

FOSE is the largest computer conference and exhibition in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. At one time, it had days of meetings, classes, speeches, and other educational events, plus miles and miles of aisles filled with the latest computer hardware and software. Every single hardware and software company of any note was there, either with their own branded booth or with a Beltway partner acting as a proxy.

This year, FOSE probably had more guns than computers. For a show that began life as the Federal Office System Expo, it was a bit alarming to see racks of shotguns, automatic pistols, machine guns, assault guns, silencers, ammunition clips, ammunition belts, special holsters, special transport containers for weapons and ammunition, body armor, and all manner of things not normally found at a computer show or an office. Unless you were planning on shooting a computer, it is unlikely this weaponry would make computers any more secure.

These assault rifles, manufactured by Heckler & Koch, a German arms manufacturer, were on display at FOSE, the largest computer show in the Washington, DC, region.

These assault rifles, manufactured by Heckler & Koch, a German arms manufacturer, were on display at FOSE, the largest computer show in the Washington, DC, region. The sales representative sported a US flag, with no sense of irony.

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Seedlings tormenting me

When you arise at an early hour and head out to your freshly washed car, only to see it covered with seed pods intent on germinating in the car’s steel, glass, enamel and plastic, the only safe course of action is to go back inside and take more anti-allergy medications.

In biology, you learned about how seeds use natural forces to transport themselves over wide areas. Modern seeds use updated technology.

In biology, you learned about how seeds use natural forces to transport themselves over wide areas. Modern seeds use updated technology.

Early version of Google

This was the early version of Google. Using these humble wooden drawers, generations of scholars and researchers, desperate students and cunning spies, despairing parents and fanatical bibliophiles, and every other shape and size of reader delved into the depth and breadth of human understanding.

Something worth considering: Google contains only a fraction of the knowledge once cataloged by card catalogs. Technology has digitized and indexed only that which is easy to digitize and index; most journal articles, newspaper articles, books, scientific papers, notebooks and other written material are still confined to physical forms, and unknown to Internet search engines.

How I miss card catalogs.

The humble card catalog was the early version of Google. These wooden drawers held the wonder's of the world's past and the future of the universe.

The humble card catalog was the early version of Google. These wooden drawers held the wonder’s of the world’s past and the future of the universe.

Along the Louisville waterfront

Louisville is a seaport, of sorts. The Louisville, Kentucky, “seacoast” is the waterfront along the Ohio River, with that other coastal state, Indiana, just across the water. Barge traffic has moved up and down the river for a couple of centuries, winding its watery way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Most of the waterfront is industrial, or devoted to roads. There are a couple of parks. And a boat ramp, where this sign was found:

"Cars will be launched" could be frightening, unless you had a car that was also a launch, which is a particular type of boat.

“Cars will be launched” could be frightening, unless you had a car that was also a launch, which is a particular type of boat.

Less whimsical is this concrete obelisk, marked off in feet, showing the height of the river above “normal” elevation. At 26.5 feet is a note that this was the height of the 1997 flood. A mark at 29.2 feet shows the 1964 flood level. A mark at 30.1 feet shows the 1945 flood level. And the red arrow at the top points to the air above the 32 foot mark, noting the 1937 flood level, at 40 feet, would be somewhere up there.

Flood gauge along the Ohio River front in Louisville, Ohio, showing the heights of the 1997, 1964, and 1945 floods. A mark at the 32 foot level notes that the 1937 flood would have been up there somewhere, eight feet higher.

Flood gauge along the Ohio River front in Louisville, Ohio, showing the heights of the 1997, 1964, and 1945 floods. A mark at the 32 foot level notes that the 1937 flood would have been up there somewhere, eight feet higher.

Tudor’s biscuits?

One thing that separates the United States from England is the humble biscuit. We simply cannot agree on what a “biscuit” is, and this disagreement was one of the flash points of the American Revolution. (Possibly baking points rather than flash points?)

But apparently not all traces of British occupation were removed by the Revolution, as this bulwark of Britannia can be found in West Virginia. The Tudor dynastic linkage suggests that the establishment even predates the Revolution.

Tudor's Biscuit World, found in the wilds of West Virginia.

Tudor’s Biscuit World, found in the wilds of West Virginia.

Any curiosity about the biscuits were squelched by this sign:

Tudor biscuits, spaghetti and pizza, and a drive through.

Tudor biscuits, spaghetti and pizza, and a drive through.

Louisville and Pangea

Kentucky is not exactly noted for a close association with science. The Creation Museum, in Petersburg, Kentucky, not only opposes most of modern science, but most of modern religion, claiming the Earth was created in six days of 24 hours, roughly 6,000 years ago.

Yet downtown Louisville boasts a remarkable roadside sign that presents, on one side, a metaphoric clock showing the history of planet earth and, on the opposite side, twelve different views of planet Earth as tectonic plates broke apart Pangaea and created the continents we know today.

A clock showing the entire history of Earth, compressed into a figurative twelve hours, with humanity occupying a tiny, tiny sliver.

A clock showing the entire history of Earth, compressed into a figurative twelve hours, with humanity occupying a tiny, tiny sliver. The presence of human brains on the sign is probably not an accident. Click on the image for a larger view.

The evolution of planet Earth over time, shown in twelve different maps on a roadside sign in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.

The evolution of planet Earth over time, shown in twelve different maps on a roadside sign in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Click on the image for a larger view.