And the end of the semester is upon us

Monday is the last day of classes, with final exams scheduled for Tuesday through Friday. My grades must be submitted to the registrar’s office by noon on Monday. What I’ll be doing between now and then is grading (okay, I pretty much do this all semester long). And grading. And grading. And running a half-marathon on Saturday.

The end of the spring semester, for some reason*, puts me in more of a time crunch. So, while I have a slight respite this weekend, it’ll be a grading marathon (on top of the running half-marathon!) after Monday!

*Okay, that half-marathon is the reason! I have to drive down to Indianapolis to pick up my race packet on Thursday, and then drive down again Saturday (early!) morning for the actual race. I’ll get back to Muncie around 1:00, after which I’ll be too physically tired to grade until evening.

Signs of Spring

Mowing (part) of the lawn yesterday. Saucer magnolia tree in front yard starting to bloom. And, most importantly, I saw the first dandelion of the season in my back yard.

Forget Ham. Forget Lamb. This is THE perfect Easter dinner.

Yes, it’s the world1 famous Peeps-Nini. After all, what would Easter be without marshmallow Peeps! Allow me to share with you step-by-step instructions so that you, too, can create this gastronomic masterpiece!

First, assemble the ingredients:

  • bread
  • peanut butter (I like the natural style with salt)
  • butter
  • Peeps! (preferably chicks or bunnies) BTW, do not make eye contact with them. Do not give them names. Do not start forming attachments to them or you will never be able to make this sandwich, let alone eat it. You do know that you have to kill those Peeps to cook this, don’t you?
  • ingredients

    1. Assemble your ingredients. Mies en place, people!
    2. Butter the bottom of one piece of bread. Turn it over.
    3. Spread peanut butter on the other side of the piece of bread you just buttered. Place Peeps on top of the peanut butter. Then put the bread/Peeps concoction on top of the panini press.
    4. setupPeepsnini

      Don’t look at their eyes! You’ll feel so guilty knowing that you are about to send them to a gooey, heated, Smores-like death!

    5. Place second piece of bread on top of the Peeps. AND DON’T LOOK AT THEIR EYES BEFORE YOU DO THIS!
    6. PeepNini Before

    7. Butter the top of the second piece of bread.
    8. Place in your preheated Panini press and close the lid. Cook until Peeps have melted. If you do not have a Panini press, you can use a sturdy pan and place a heavy weight on top of your sandwich.
    9. GooeyGoodness

    10. Eat and enjoy! Well, if you named your Peeps Peter Rabbit and Thumper and Fluffy and Bugs, you may not enjoy the sandwich that much. But I warned you about this. I WARNED YOU NOT TO FORM EMOTIONAL BONDS WITH THEM!

    Now that you know how to make this epicurean delight, you’ll be wanting to make a variation of this for ALL of the holidays!

    1My world, anyway!

    The Columbia Restaurant—Ybor City, Tampa, Florida

    I spent most of last week at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting in
    Tampa, missing some actual springlike days in Muncie (yes, we are headed to highs in the 40s and lows in the 20s on Tuesday—blechhhh). Although I saw some interesting research presented (and shared some of my own), perhaps the best part of these conferences is connecting with friends one sees only rarely (often at academic conferences!) And, as a corollary, one tends to dine with them, a chance to visit local restaurants.

    My dear friend Nellie and I chose to dine at The Columbia Restaurant, located in Tampa’s historic Ybor City (once known as the Cigar Capital of the World—in its heyday, Spanish, Cuban, and Italian immigrants were employed to handroll the cigars). The Columbia is Florida’s oldest restaurant (since 1905) and I believe that many of the waiters were original. The place is huge! I am not exaggerating—15 dining rooms that can seat up to 1700 people (some of these are used for private functions). The place was also jam-packed with diners—we arrived quite early and were lucky to wait only 20 minutes for a table. Anyway, Nellie and I shared a variety of tapas—scallops, grilled meat skewers, queso fundido, and my personal favorite, piquillo peppers stuffed with chorizo, mushrooms, and Manchego cheese. As delicious as these were, especially with a glass of sangria, it was the dessert that may have been the meal’s high point, the Guava Turnover. Imagine sweetened cream cheese and guava paste, enveloped in puff pastry, on a bed of vanilla sauce with extra dollops of guava paste. Then imagine forkfuls of this entering your mouth. I do watch my sugar intake, but this was worth every single gram of it!

    What is Success Anyway? Part Two

    Life Balance. Could this also be a way of defining or describing success? Isn’t living a balanced life—one where your contributions to your career (including those whose work is managing a home) equal your contributions elsewhere (hobbies, volunteer activities, learning, physical activity, etc.)? Too often people fetishize or brag about long work hours (“I haven’t had a day off in 6 weeks!””14-hour days are the norm for me”), hoping to impress others (“look at how important I am because I work so much”). But why on earth would someone be PROUD of that?1 Especially when one thinks of the alternate explanations—poor time management, excuse to avoid keeping physically fit, fear of failure, inability to delegate, etc.

    I am NOT suggesting to avoid work—far from it! I am suggesting that you balance your work with other parts of your life that need to be nurtured. This, in turn, will make you more productive and a better worker.

    Read something, preferably fiction. It’ll improve your brain

    Take a walk or a run outdoors. Good for your physical body and your brain, just like reading!

    Cook something (with whole, minimally processed foods—leave the processed garbage alone!). It’ll spur your creativity.

    What is Success Anyway?

    Ask the average person1 how he or she defines “success” and I’d lay some pretty good odds 2 that “make lots of money” or “be famous” would appear on the list. Indeed, it is how we, as a society, measure success. Who graces our magazine covers? The wealthy and the well known. Who are our “heroes”? Movie actresses, country singers, basketball players (with the very occasional renowned scientist, such as Stephen Hawking). But is stuff (and money is a type of stuff used to garner more physical stuff) or adulation truly indicative of a successful life?

    How do YOU define success? How do I define success? Let us think about that. It is up to each of us to define a personal meaning of success, one that allows us to decide if we have met (or are meeting, as success isn’t a mountain that you climb and voila, it’s done)it. What is your definition of success (as ever-evolving as it may be)?

    My definition of success is moving beyond my comfort zone and doing that which scares me3. I feel successful if I’ve tried (and “tried” is the operative word here, as expanding your boundaries necessarily entails risk of failure4). If I try something new, be it as impressive as skydiving or as seemingly mundane as trying a new recipe for a tried and true favorite, I’ve reached beyond my boundaries. A life of risk-taking, pushing boundaries. That, to me, is success. And while I don’t always feel like I am achieving it, it is my success touchstone—and I know I work at getting beyond those cages called “comfort zones”.

    The concept of success is one I’ll visit again.

    1as if there is such a mythical being as an “average person”

    2Well, only if those odd are really good-looking!

    3one of my New Year’s REVolutions is exactly this—Do That Which Scares Me

    4”Failure” isn’t failure, folks—and quite a few mainstream media outlets have been writing about this for the past few years, such as the New York Times. “Failures” are learning experiences and are an important part of growth. People who don’t fail are people who don’t try because of their fears.

    Bella the Cat has no intention of leaving HER comfort zone!

    Signs of Spring!

    My chives are coming back up and I’ve seen some activity on the rhubarb plants. The lawn is starting to turn green. I put some fuel stabilizer in the fuel tank of the snow blower. Then I started the lawn mower just to make sure it works—not an immediate start, but an extra push of the primer and it roared to life!

    I Don’t Take Attendance When a Thunderstorm Rages

    I have a policy of not taking class attendance when thunderstorms are in the area because of the danger—I really don’t want to put my students at risk. I won’t insist my students traverse ice-covered roads during a winter storm (and several of them commute longer distances); now I won’t force them to walk outdoors during a storm either. My building is located in the older part of campus, with a beautiful quad featuring some gorgeous towering trees, aka lightning magnets. I know enough about thunderstorms (hey, I teach introductory meteorology, though I’m really a climatologist) to recognize that any time one hears thunder, one is in danger. I know people try to count the seconds between the lightning flash and the peal of thunder in an attempt to gauge how close/far the storm is (as a method of personal risk assessment), but one does not know how large the thunderstorm cell is. The typical diameter of a thunderstorm cell is approximately 10-15 miles. You have no way of knowing whether the lightning was from the center or the near perimeter or the far perimeter. So, you really don’t know if you are standing directly underneath the next lightning strike!

    Back to my attendance policy. I do not wish for my students to be outside in a thunderstorm. I do not want them to feel frightened as they walk outside, on their way to class. A missed day of Global Climatology will not trigger the end of the world. So, students, be safe.