The bong of the bell of the buoy in the bay...

Last week was spring break, and in response to the way small-town living makes me stir crazy, I got out of town.  More specifically, Phil and I drove out to Pennsylvania so I could meet his family.

Having lived exclusively in the Midwest and in South Florida, I am familiar with nothing but extremely flat terrain.  Yes, I've traveled through places with mountains, and I've even been through Pennsylvania a few times (the most recent trip involving a night spent at a Red Cross shelter in North East, PA), but I've never been into any of the cities nestled between the mountains.  It's no surprise that there's significant altitude changes even in these cities, so that the roads are riddled with hills and all kinds of twists and turns, but this was a fun novelty for a flat-lander like me.

Since we were already all the way out East, we took a day trip to Baltimore to see fun historical things.  And the Chesapeake Bay.  I didn't realize how much I missed the smell of the ocean (I used to live in an apartment right off of Biscayne Bay) until the scent of salt and rotting seaweed assaulted my nose.  This whole being landlocked thing is starting to get to me.  I'm definitely going to have to get back into sailing this summer, even if it's in some tiny local lake (0.03% the surface area of Lake Huron, oh well).

But that is entirely off topic for a cookie blog.  The point of posting is because I made more cookies when I returned from PA, and the result was really delicious.

90. Cashew Caramel Cookies
At first glance, these cookies look like they took a lot of work to make.  It turns out that this assessment is far from true: these cookies are just like peanut butter cookies, except they have homemade cashew butter and chopped cashews in the dough in lieu of peanut butter and peanuts.  Oh, right, and they're topped with caramel.  To make cashew butter, one simply has to put cashews through a food processor until finely ground, then add oil and process again until the mixture is smooth.  The caramel topping is not the homemade stuff I talked about before, but a mixture of heavy cream and soft caramel candies.  All in all, these cookies are delicious and simple, with a nice flavor combination of salt from the cashews and sugar from the topping.  I think the topping may make it a bit too sugary, however, and so in the future I may try making these again without any caramel.  I expect they'll still be delightful.

As far as other things go, the Midwest is behaving as usual for springtime, which means yesterday's high is today's low, and probably in a couple days the opposite will be true.  This means that I, like everyone else I know, find myself possessed with a strong desire to be outside as much as possible when it's warm and sunny.  It's days like these that make me a little sad to work in dark rooms with lasers.

To compromise, I end up reading articles about the relationship between scientists and the general public.  The guy who wrote the article I link here has some interesting things to say about how the broadcasting of the LHC collisions gets the public involved with physicists' emotions, but I'm not sure emotions are enough to garner public support (or funding, which is kind of the important thing for such an expensive project).

Most people don't really understand what scientists do or why they do it, and I think education is much more valuable than a weak emotional connection when it comes to removing the Ivory Tower branding that continues to be placed on "pure" scientific research.  Science museums and University outreach programs (including Saturday Morning Physics lectures at various universities including Michigan and Illinois which are aimed at the general public) are a helpful source for such education, but they require some starting interest so that people actually show up to learn.  Even with such programs, the specialization of research topics makes distillation of those topics to a non-scientist's knowledge level a formidable challenge.  And let's face it, people like Carl Sagan, who popularized astrophysics in the 70s and 80s and had a successful research career, are extremely rare.

I'm going to cut myself off before I end up writing a full essay, but I invite you, whether you are a scientist or a layperson, to consider this issue.  I'd love to hear what you think about it, and what you think might help to mend the situation.

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