The mile hike from the mid-priced hotel where I was staying to the Purdue University campus usually was pretty routine during the most recent four-day compressor and refrigeration-air conditioning conferences.

But one day there was quite a fuss. Local television stations and national networks had set up satellite trucks on campus and security was stepped up.

Well, I thought, it is about time. After all, the plenary talk that morning was one “Latest HVACR Development Trends in European Response to Imminent HFC Regulations.” No doubt “imminent” and “regulations” stirred the interest. No such luck.

Ends up Barack Obama was going to be on campus later that day for a whole two hours to participate in a seminar on such fun topics as bio-terrorism and national security. He was in the next building over from those of us trying to learn more about HFCs.

His part of the seminar just happened to fall during the noon hour when the local stations just happened to have local newscasts. The big cable news channels simply pre-empted whatever “breaking news” was breaking for this “breaking news.”

It all was pretty weighty stuff except for the fact that “Obama for President” volunteers seemed to be in even greater numbers than the media or security.

So, I guess, even solemn seminars have political overtones these days.