In reference to food at defenses--
I recently passed my qualifying exam. I scheduled it for 10:00am to limit the
time (there was a class in the room at 1:00), and I brought bagels, OJ, and
coffee. Was this bribery? Not in my case. I am _very_ sensitive to blood
sugar levels, and although I couldn't eat during the defense, the orange juice
kept me from falling into hypoglycemic agressiveness. A bagel went with me
when I had to leave the room to let them deliberate my fate. This kept me on
an even keel (other than normal nervousness) throughout the "ordeal".
Most of my committee knew about my sensitivity and took the presence of food
not as a bribe but as a needed precaution.
I was a bit surprised at the posting where it was expressed that coffee is
inappropriate at a formal defense. One of the things I like about scientific
interactions is the focus on substance rather than formality. Most people
prefer polite interactions, yes, but that seems a bit stiff.