Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seminar Cookie Update!

There were cookies at seminar.  Apparently last week's announcement was a garbled interpretation of a new university policy regarding the purchase of food for meetings, seminars, classes, etc.  This is to save what money remains in the budgets, not because the money has already run out.  (Although that must not be too far in the future given the rumors on campus.)

But there were cookies, at least for this week, and they were greatly appreciated because today's speaker chose to read his presentation.  This is unheard of for a scientific presentation in our department, so there was much twittering and awkwardness in the audience.  And while the subject matter held the promise of a very interesting presentation, the speaker's somewhat dramatic reading  with little eye contact with the audience didn't quite capture all of our attention and some of the audience began nodding their heads.  And I wasn't certain what the protocol was for alerting the very senior faculty member sitting beside me that he was on the verge of slumping over in his chair.  Do I nudge him?  Do tap his arm?  What if he jerks awake and feels embarrassed about it?  Poor soul, I would have offered him a cookie but I had already eaten mine.   

Sign o' the times

Forget what the talking heads say about the current economic meltdown, I've got a new indicator for our current economy. Last week, during our weekly departmental seminar, the seminar chairman passed on an announcement regarding the long-held tradition of having cookies at seminar. The departmental budget has shrunk to the extent that, unless people donate money, there will be no more cookies offered at seminar.

I've weathered several other budget crunches at Virginia Tech, but we've never had to cut out the seminar cookies before now.  It's a sad, sad state of affairs when we can't even afford two $2.50 packs of Kroger-brand cookies once a week.

Even worse, those cookies are an absolute necessity at seminar. I've made it through many a less than scintillating presentation by rationing a bite of cookie over the 60 minutes. Sometimes even the cookies can't save me from falling asleep, but that trick has kept me from making a fool of myself (or worse, drooling in public) on multiple occasions.  And I know I'm not the only one who depends on those cookies for the very same reason.

We have seminar this afternoon.....sans cookies.  God help us.