03 February 2006

The things I'll do for half a merit point and the promise of a cookie<

The MSIRP conference continued today. I wasn't planning on taking part in it too much, because today was a teaching day (three lectures in four hours). So I went in early enough to have breakfast, talked to a very nice woman in the semi-conductor(?) industry, then went off to teach my lectures.

Then something strange happened. In my one hour break between classes, Mohammed, my department chair, walked into my office and asked if I could phone over to one of the MSIRP organizers. They were looking for judges of student posters. I blinked a couple of times, and more or less said, "Okay." I had no idea what was going on, because I would have thought I would have heard about it in advance. The person on the other end of the phone didn't quite know what was going on, either. But she said they needed judges, and wanted a judges from a fairly wide range of disciplines.

I said I might do it if they gave me a cookie.

I went back off to my last lecture of the day, they off to yet more really great food for the MSIRP lunch (this one sponsored by the Department of Defense), then back to where I unexpectedly found myself judging five student posters instead of going to sessions. One of the organizers apologized, said they were out of cookies, and offered me a muffin. I took the muffin, and said, "But I won't try to conceal my disappointment." Being a judge for a conference is worth something like a third or a half of a merit point at the end of the year. Although they do cap the number of points you can claim, and I'm way, way over, so I suppose I really did it for the broken promise of a cookie and for fun. It was good talking to the students.

After that, back to the biology journal club for a very interesting session on some of the ethical issues raised in the recent Korean stem cell research scandal. Then back yet again to the MSI conference for -- you guessed it -- more really excellent food(*) at a local museum. This time, I had dinner with a fellow from Washington state, a NASA official, and a woman in the Research office of the university (Eastern Washington University) that our Provost is taking over on 1 April. I joke to someone else that I was warning her, but in actual fact I was good and said nothing. Since our Provost was somewhere in the room and all.

I got to see yet another high ranking U.S. government official giving a talk. She said her name is on the money now, so she's treasurer -- though I haven't pulled out a new bill and looked for her name. She was the most effective speaker I've seen so far this conference. No slides and a near letter perfect delivery.

She also mentioned that new US$10 bills are coming out 2 March. I like the new $20s much more than the old, so I'm hoping the new $10s will also be an improvement.

So one more half day of this MSI stuff and then... um... I'm not sure what.

(*) Wendy, our VP for Research, stopped me in the morning and asked if I'd gained anything from the conference so far. I told her, "Weight."

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