This spring I was the master of ceremonies
for a banquet at my alma mater. The banquet was a general get-together
designed for camaraderie -- and designed to honor an alumnus who
had given a lot to the university.
As usual, things were kind of rushed. Just before
the banquet, I was talking to the dean of Arts and Sciences about
the program. He said, "Don't worry, everything will go fine -- and,
if it doesn't, we're among friends."
The banquet was held in the large atrium of the geology
building with the stage located between two large columns on the
upper level of the first floor. The meal was buffet style. Behind
and to the right of the podium, the caterers had set several dessert
tables and had placed a large silver punchbowl on one of these.
Hold that thought.
We had several awards to give, so I introduced the
first presenter and sat down while he was talking. While I was considering
some amusing anecdotes for the audience, I noticed a rather large
starling flying around the inside of the building. Suddenly, he
swooped down on the punch table and began pecking at some lemon
Immediately, I looked at the audience to see if anyone
else was watching. Most were focused on the speaker and had not
seen our stray guest.
As I watched with amusement, the bird flew up on
the edge of the punchbowl, proceeded to jump in, and give himself
a good drink and bath. By then, several of the audience had noticed
the contents spraying out of the bowl, and a murmur began to creep
through the audience.
The first presenter was through, but I no longer
needed an amusing anecdote -- I had a live one!
As I walked back to the podium, I pointed out to
the audience that they may want to find another source of refreshment.
As on cue, the bird jumped back on the edge of the bowl, began preening
himself and fell asleep to the lullaby of the audience's laughter.
No matter how hard we try, perfection is always elusive.
Often we find ourselves just trying to weather the "perfect storm."
am writing this immediately after my return from this year's annual
meeting in Salt Lake City. Although attendance was considerably
lower than Houston (over 7,000 in Houston vs. about 5,000
in Salt Lake City), it was an excellent meeting. The organizing
committee, headed by General Chairman Tom Chidsey, and convention
staff did a great job of using the assets of the area's Olympics-improved
services and amenities.
The technical program unanimously applauded as top
notch, and the New Discovery session (two talks on recent large
discoveries) was a huge success. I had a number of members tell
me the poster sessions were some of the best they have seen.
AAPG was very concerned about the lower attendance
for our exhibitors' sake, but I have had more positive comments
about this convention from members than I have had since I arrived
All of this year we have been watching the factors
that were swirling around the convention -- SARS, terrorism, the
Iraq war, etc. -- all of which limited travel, and thus, attendance.
Nevertheless, it was an excellent meeting for members, and I think
the Convention Committee should be very proud of the positive results
that were achieved in spite of a perfect storm of obstacles they
A couple of notes from the meeting:
- This was the first annual meeting where participants could
register online. An amazing 64 percent of members registered online
(please note that you can register
for Barcelona 2003 online).
- The first stage of the Membership Enhancement and Development
program concluded with 328 new members as part of that program.
Congratulations to Dave Campbell and his committee.
- Dan Smith presented an executive summary
of the all member survey results to the House of Delegates
- The House of Delegates voted to move electronic
voting to a vote by the membership for a constitutional amendment.
Active members should be receiving notice shortly, if you haven't
- We hope to have more of the talks and especially posters online
& Discovery. Many authors were contacted at the convention
and we are still in the process of asking authors for submittals.
Generally, each year we plan to make more of the
convention "virtual" so you can review things you saw or find things
you missed at the annual meeting.
Back to the banquet: I thought the bird had disappeared,
but just after introducing the dean for the final presentation,
Mr. Starling suddenly reappeared and walked confidently in front
of the podium all the way from stage right to stage left.
He jumped up on a big flower pot, looked at the audience,
looked at me and flew to the podium where the dean was speaking.
The audience howled.
I guess he had something to say. At least we were