Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Baby birds today

(Double-click to get a bigger picture)

I discovered the cutest little baby birds tucked into a nest just off the front porch. I didn't want to get too close so the mom-bird wouldn't get nervous. She was constantly bringing food to the nest today. Check out the fuzzy heads--you can best see the fuzzy head on the bird on the right side.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A word about "Mother's Day"

I recently learned of "Mother's Day" origins and it now has an additional meaning to me. "Mother's Day" was originally conceived as a day to inspire people to work for peace. I don't think Hallmark has a card with those sentiments for your Mother, sadly.

It began with American abolitionist and suffragist Julia Ward Howe who was horrified by the death and destruction wrought by the Civil War in the U.S. In addition to helping bring about what she called "A Mother's Day for Peace," she is also know for penning the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"--which is an abolitionist song, by the way.

Howe wrote her "Mother's Day Proclamation" in 1870 and wished it to serve as a rallying point for women to oppose war, to promote peace, and encourage other women to take hold of their families' futures.

Howe, a pacifist, worked with widows and orphans during the Civil War, and witnessed first hand what war inevitably brings to innocents, forever disrupting their families' well-being.

Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation / 1870

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Ms. Howe presented her poem around the world, particularly focusing on the terrible aftermath of the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War.

Howe wanted Mother's Day to be a time when women would come together to mourn their losses to war, to urge more peaceful solutions to conflict, and to educate the world about how war ruins futures, lives, and families for years and years after a war has officially ended.

"The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 1, 2009

Piedmont Farm Tour - Day 2 Slideshow

On day 2 of the Piedmont Farm Tour last weekend, we visited Timberwood Organics, Fickle Creek Farm,Chapel Hill Creamery, Pickards Mountain Eco Institute and Four Leaf Farm:

If you'd like to see which farms are which, and some captions, you can see the Flickr set here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slideshow of Piedmont Farm Tour - Day 1

I previously blogged about the Piedmont Farm Tour, which was held last weekend. I went both days, enjoyed myself thoroughly, and took some pictures. These farms sell flowers, produce, herbs, meat and eggs to our local farmers markets.

Below is the slideshow from the first day (last Saturday) and we visited several farms in northern Orange County: Maple Spring Gardens, Wild Hare Farms, Captain J.S. Pope Farm, Anatoth Community Garden, a farm not on the tour (a friend knew the farmers) and we saw llamas and alpacas there, and the last farm visited was Whitted Bowers Farm, a biodynamic farm.

Tomorrow I'll put up some pictures of the Day 2 of the Farm Tour.

If you'd like to see the captions of the pictures in the slideshow, detailing which farms the pictures are from just click here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

City slicker raccoons

I live close in to city center in Durham. Nevertheless we get plenty wildlife encounters. Bunnies eat my lettuce in my tiny garden down to a nub. Squirrels try to make a home in my attic. A hoot owl makes haunting owl calls far up in the trees late at night. But the raccoons! They practically ring the doorbell and ask for leftovers. Here's a picture my neighbor snapped early one morning of some raccoons near my garbage can:

Cute, yes. But up to something no doubt.

Last week one was banging around trying to--I guess--lift the top of the tall green rolling trash can. That's what it sounded like anyway.

When I came home from work day before yesterday, I found out one had been on my front porch. There are the raccoon tracks, right there in the yellow pollen on my front porch:

A friend suggested maybe with all the pollen, he was looking for Benadryl. Perhaps.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Hey, want to tour some local farms?

This upcoming Farm Tour definitely looks like something I'm going to participate in, and I'm surprised I didn't know about it before now. That's one big reason why I'm posting about it, to get the information out there in case you want to participate too.

If you've read books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or The Omnivore's Dilemma, you might be more interested than ever in being acquainted with exactly where your food comes from. I am. And if you shop at your local Farmer's Market whenever you can, do you sometimes wonder what these farms look like, or how they operate? You should consider taking part in the 14th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour on the weekend of April 25 & 26th from 1pm to 6pm. A pdf map with lots of useful information can be found here.
This year’s Piedmont Farm Tour will bring together consumers, farmers, and producers in one of the largest farm tours in the country. It is a great time to go exploring in the North Carolina countryside. With over forty farms to choose from, you and your family can craft an exciting day visiting and learning about farming and agriculture.

If you’re looking for some animal action you can pet goats, hold chickens or rabbits and get up close to cows and sheep. Plant lovers can learn about growing flowers, vegetables, fruits, and berries. See how farmers manage their land with hoop houses, traveling chicken coops, irrigation systems, and greenhouses. Learn how prawns are saving farmland at Stagg Creek Farm, new to the tour this year.

There will be lots of opportunities to buy meat, eggs, poultry, and prawns, so bring a cooler. One button buys a carload of people two days of touring.

The above from Weaver Street Market.

You can buy the button for admission (for a carload of folks) referenced above here.

A list of participating farms at the pdf above or here.

Hope there's good weather that weekend. Sounds like a fun time to me.

Thanks to my pal Jack for letting me know about this tour.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On the big screen . . .

You may've noticed that I'm a bit of a movie fan, and I think sometimes it's a real treat to re-visit older movies on the big screen, at the theater, the way they were intended to be seen. In Durham we have the ability to take advantage of doing so at The Carolina Theater from time to time.

In fact, I did that with one of my favorites, The Princess Bride, when it was shown a couple of years ago for its 20th Anniversary.

A few more are coming up at The Carolina that you might want to see again on the big screen, with a box of popcorn and giant soda. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II will be showing in May for one week only (May 8 - 14).

If you've never seen those two, now's your chance to see them at the theater. How cool is that?

Also for Star Trek fans, Star Trek IV and Star Trek First Contact, will be shown 4 days only, April 20 - 23.

Details are here.

It's an offer you can't refuse. (Sorry . . . I couldn't help it.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cool color illusion.

Instructions: Look at the black dot in the picture below. Stare at the dot until the countdown ends, and the black and white picture should look like it’s in color . . . until you move your eyes!

I've loved these little optical illusions ever since I was a kid.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sliced Bread FAIL.

So, I haven't ever encountered this before. Regular, sliced loaf of bread from the grocery store. Open the bag to grab a couple slices to make a sandwich. No slices. Just one unsliced loaf. Times are hard, I tell ya.

Okay, not necessarily all that interesting. Mainly just odd. Wonder how many loaves went out the door that day before someone flipped the slicer machine to the 'on' position. D'oh!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ani DiFranco gives Red Letter performance at The Carolina

Tonight was the first time I'd seen Ani DiFranco live. She's one of my all-time favorite singer-songerwriters and I regularly listen to her music, never tiring of my favorite tunes. I missed her a couple of years ago when she was at The Carolina Theater and I'd been kicking myself ever since for not going.

Just like her music, she is high-energy and rambunctious on stage. And her loyal fans were there filling every seat, soaking it all up, knowing all the words, dancing in the aisles, screaming "we love you Ani!" between songs.

I especially enjoyed how when she's wailing on her guitar, she bobs and weaves around on the stage, like a fighter, using her body to punctuate a guitar riff, practically levitating on the stage with her energy. Often when she really punches a chord on her guitar, she lifts her left leg in the air as if she's kicking it out to us in the audience. If you're a fan and never have seen her live, try to catch her next time. You won't be disappointed.

She appeared tonight at The Carolina with only two other musicians, drummer Allison Miller and Todd Sickafoose on upright bass. Their sound was huge and beautiful.

The show was to promote her new CD Red Letter Year, a review here, and she, of course, played many songs from it and many of her older songs too, like Shameless, You Had Time, Both Hands, As Is.

The song I liked best that she played from her new CD was Present/Infant. I already have her new CD and I think I'll be listening to a lot more of it now that I've seen her perform the songs live.

Keep on keeping on, Ani. You're just getting better all the time.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hike on Cabe Lands Access & Eno Quarry

We took advantage of the 80 degree day and hiked down to the old Eno Quarry. I'd never seen it before and it had always sounded intriguing to me, especially after I read this article in the Indy recently.

A little about the area is here.

As you enter, you can pick up a map and see a some items of interest on a covered bulletin board (click to make the pic larger):

Much of the trail is rooty and rocky, but my hiking partner did okay in her tennis shoes. There is a fair amount of uphill/downhill but nothing too strenuous. The trail is considered "moderate."

After a while, you'll get to the big scary warning sign about the Quarry:

Continue on down the trail and soon you'll hear frogs and crickets loudly singing. Water is close. The Quarry is close.

Right before the payoff of seeing the Quarry up close, you have to stone-step over a little creek. The stones looked mighty slippery to me and I was worried about slipping and falling and breaking my leg far down a trail, but I finally got over to the Quarry side (to the steps) safely and snapped a picture.

The Quarry was lovely. I was going to circumnavigate it because a trail does go around it according to the map, but I got my shot of the Quarry and headed back.

above, Eno Quarry 3.7.2009

Hiking out we saw some teenagers hiking in quite obviously going for a swim. I wondered about how cold the water must surely be since earlier this week the temps were 13 or so degrees a couple of nights.

A few other shots from the hike:

Friday, March 6, 2009

Great Blog: "North Carolina Miscellany"

I've really been enjoying the blog "North Carolina Miscellany" so I wanted to give it a shout out here. From the blog:

North Carolina Miscellany is a blog produced, edited, and maintained by the North Carolina Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The North Carolina Collection, located in historic Wilson Library, is the state’s premier collection of published materials documenting the history, literature, and culture of the Tar Heel state. The collection is free and open to the public.

The North Carolina Miscellany will include regular posts discussing new and upcoming books on North Carolina topics, state history in the news, treasures from the stacks of the North Carolina Collection, and general “Tar Heelia.”

Really great stuff there.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Easy Crustless Spinach Quiche

Not sure I've ever even made a quiche before but I made this one for dinner (and probably lunch tomorrow too).

I used:

1 med. onion
1 10 oz. pack of frozen spinach
5 eggs
Pre-shredded cheese
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper

I'm not a precise cook, but here's what I did:

Dice up a medium sized onion and sautee with a little olive oil and garlic powder until the onion begins to turn brown (carmelize)

Microwave a frozen 10 oz. pack of spinach until thawed (3 min. approx) and drain and throw into the pan with the onion for a couple of minutes.

Break 5 eggs and whisk them. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add some shredded cheese of your choice in with the eggs (2 to 3 cups, depending on how cheesy you like it) and stir.

Mix the eggs/cheese mixture in with the spinach/onion mixture.

Scoop it all into a lightly greased 9 in. pie pan. Bake for 30 min. at 350.

I threw in a small handful of crumbled bacon I had, but if you wanted it vegetarian, don't do that. :)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Bye-bye snow and ice. Even this afternoon, though, we still had this impressive one on our gutter.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ben Folds at the DPAC

At the "historic venue" as he jokingly called our new DPAC, Ben Folds played for 2 solid hours last Wednesday night. Many songs from his new album "Way to Normal" but plenty of his older songs that the crowd enthusiastically sang right along with him--"Annie Waits" "Zak and Sara" "Not the Same" "Rocking the Suburbs."

The sound at the DPAC is fantastic, by the way.

Folds apologized for being too full of Mama Dip's banana pudding and patted his stomach appreciatively. He talked wistfully of moving back to Chapel Hill, but it might've been the banana pudding talking.

The Lorelei's from UNC and a band from Phoenix called Miniature Tigers (and sounding a bit like Fleet Foxes) opened.

(This blog posting is also a test to see if I can post successfully from my mobile phone.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stuff to do to that gets you out of the house.

Spring is around the corner, right? Tons of stuff always going on through The Eno River Association.

Reading groups, star-gazing nights, various hikes, bird-watching excursion, night-time hikes, hikes for tots, and even a parents-night-out hike.

Here's the monthly calendar with all the dates and details.

Love the Eno!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ten minutes on Durham.

"10-minute Introduction to Durham, NC. Originially created by CurrentRutledge for Duke Law recruitment . . . "

Good stuff.  


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thank goodness for my Neti Pot

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to avoid the current cold ripping its way through the population of Durham. A terrible head cold this thing is. Today my head was miserably stuffy, despite dosing with cold meds and Advil. Then I remembered my Neti Pot, and foraged through the shelves in the pantry and found it there in its box from when I used it last--maybe 2 years ago when I had my last headcold.

If you haven't heard of one, just let me say I was a skeptic at first too. And let's face it, there's a bit of a 'yuck' factor too.

It's a little pot that looks like a genie's lamp. Mine looks like this, purchased from Whole Foods for less than $10:

Fill it with a quarter teaspoon of salt and warm water to make a saline solution. Then lean over the sink with your head turned, pour the warm saline through the top nostril (remember your head is turned)--miraculously (or more like gravity) the saline travels through to your bottom nostril and comes out. Do it with the other side, and then you can BREATHE again. No, it doesn't hurt. Not at all. Yes, you can easily breathe through your mouth for the few seconds it takes.

Here's sort of what it looks like in action:

Here's an online demonstration I found on youtube:

I only use it when I have a headcold and it's always been easy for me to use. It's supposed to be good for people with sinus trouble or allergies, but I'm not a doctor so you'd have to ask your doctor about that I suppose.

There are some drops of herbal medicines for sale you can put in it if you want, but mainly the saline and warm water do the trick for me. I do it several times a day when my nose is uncomfortably stuffy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pres. Lincoln's 200th birthday is Thursday.

I've been reading a lot of Lincoln books lately. One of the best books of the ones I've read is Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer.

Even if you know already know something about the topic, this book won't disappoint. The author makes it all seem like it just happened--urgent, suspenseful, well-written, well-researched. Once you pick it up, it's truly hard to put it down until you've read it to the end.

Our Durham library has a copy or two.

At the website I linked above, you can see a few accolades for the book, including historian Doris Kearns Goodwin who says:

"James Swanson has written a terrific narrative of the hunt for Lincoln's killers that will mesmerize the reader from start to finish just as the actual manhunt mesmerized the entire nation. It is a triumphant book."

The author, James Swanson, is a bit of an odd duck, or at least that's the impression I got from this article about him.

You can hear Mr. Swanson discuss his book at this link.

On a related note, the History Channel has been replaying its The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth which is interesting to watch after reading the book.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What's in the proposed Stimulus Bill for NC?

The website below purports to detail what is proposed as the Bill stands now.

Projects in North Carolina

Below are the "shovel-ready" projects for which the mayors of this state have requested federal stimulus funding. You can click on a project to read (and add to) its description. You can also discuss the project and vote on whether you believe it is critical or not.
Link --->

FAQ of the site.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Speed reducing measures coming soon for Gregson & Duke Streets?

I found out this week after seeing some city surveying crews around Trinity Park that some traffic calming measures may soon be coming to Gregson Street and Duke Street. Drivers use those streets, right through pedestrian heavy neighborhoods, like freeways--at least in terms of speed. Several proposals have been made for slowing down the dangerous speeding, including returning the streets back into two-way traffic, which was met with mixed reviews from the neighborhoods.

What's going to be placed up and down Duke Street and Gregson Street is apparently like what's on Anderson Street, if you are familiar with that. If not, I took some pictures today of what Anderson Street has. It has traffic islands on the side of the road, marked with black/yellow signs (you can click the pictures to enlarge them):

What these traffic islands do is to make drivers feel a little squeezed, less wide-open like a freeway, and that has been shown to slow the traffic down. The more narrow a driver perceives a road to be, the less likely he is to accelerate.

The thing I liked on Anderson Street too is the permanent sign that gives drivers feedback on how fast they are going and what the speed limit actually is (seen in the first picture).

We've seen numerous close-misses, actual wrecks, and even fatalities, directly attributable to drivers speeding on Duke or Gregson Streets. Because there are slight hills on these two streets, drivers often top a hill traveling at speeds greater than their visibility allows. Thus, if someone is turning into their driveway, or a pedestrian is crossing the street, the speeding car doesn't have enough time to stop to allow for that and an accident occurs. While I don't think these medians will cure all speeding related accidents, I hope they help address the problem.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow Day for us on Inauguration Day

In this newly "blue" state of NC, we got a rare snow day on this Inauguration Day.

My car's back window at 10:00 am on 1.20.09. Believe!

The "Snowbama Man" my niece made. Nice cap!

Wonderful, memorable day.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

A feast for the Chinese New Year

At the Durham Bull Pen residence our favorite Chinese restaurant is Eastern Lights. The Eggplant in Garlic Sauce is excellent. Best Hot & Sour Soup in town too. Last night when we dined at Eastern Lights, our server mentioned that Chinese New Year is coming up--Year of the Ox, incidentally--and that they'll offer a special menu available on those nights, January 25th and 26th. There is even a special deal if you can get a group together for dinner that night, but make your reservations ahead (according to the menu below).

Click on the menu to better see the special dishes and deal for Chinese New Year:


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mint in Chapel Hill

My good friend Jack allowed me to post here at the Bull Pen his review of the restaurant "Mint" in Chapel Hill:


We finally went to Mint, a new Indian restaurant that opened on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. We went for the lunch buffet today. We found the food to be very good. Fresh, medium spiced, and a nice variety of both meat and vegetable dishes.

The buffet today included Onion Bhajais, Aloo Gobi, Chicken Korma, Channa Saag, a black lentil dal (can't remember the name), tandoori chicken, another dish with cauliflower, peas, potatoes, and chick peas that was just the perfect blend of spicy and sweet, an egg curry dish, and of course basmati and a very light nan. The mango lassi was probably the best that I've had. Just very light and refreshing. None of the dishes were heavy at all. The decor was very nice. It was much lighter inside that the Sitar India Palace, which probably added to making the dishes feel lighter.

Since finding Sitar India Palace in Durham about 8 or 9 years ago, it's become our benchmark for local Indian food. I'm sure that I've been there about 40 times over the years and I've never left as much as a single grain of rice on my plate. Everything is just really good there. I have to say that Mint was every bit as good. If I could change one thing about our experience there today, it would be the music. While Sitar India Palace plays traditional Indian ragas and songs, the Mint had on something that I can only describe as new age.

The two desserts that were on the buffet were the traditional kheer (Indian rice pudding) and a sweet carrot dish which looked similar to a persimmon pudding. I had neither, as I was just stuffed from my first and second rounds at the buffet.

The lunch buffet runs $9 on weekdays, and higher on the weekends. Before we left, we asked to see a menu so we could see what else they had. And they had a lot. We want to go back for supper soon and order something a little spicier. I did see that they had goat curry (which I love) on the menu. I'll probably give theirs a try.

I definitely recommend it.


Thanks Jack for the review and I can't wait to try this place out soon. -- DBP

Monday, January 12, 2009

Something on fire south of American Tobacco

It's smoky outside and as of about 10:30pm this was what it looked like south of American Tobacco. I didn't get close but it looks like the big ladder truck was there. Lots of smoke and sometimes flames seen. Lots of sirens and the news helicopter too.

You can click the pic to make it larger.

Maybe it just looked big, but whatever it is, it's throwing off a lot of smoke.

I think it must've been this fire. I hope the firefighter will be okay.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Durham County Library Interactive Calendar

It's possible that I'm the last one to know about this online resource, but I inadvertently found it while looking for something else, so I thought I'd post it.

Durham County Library has a comprehensive calendar with all the arts & crafts workshops, kids' story-telling times and kids' movie times, computer workshops, ballroom dancing, community meetings, and everything else going on at the Library.

You can run your cursor over the program to get a pop-out of the event with more details. You can sign up online. You can even grab the RSS feed.

Here's the direct link to the calendar: Durham County Library interactive calendar. (I'm saying 'interactive' because you can evidently sign up for events by clicking on the links within the calendar.)


Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year's Day Hike - Umstead State Park

For the sixth year in a row, some friends and I gathered for an afternoon hike on New Year's Day. This year we chose Umstead State Park. Umstead is fairly large, and there are entrances from both I-40 and Hwy 70. We'd done a hike on the Hwy 70 side before, so we tried the I-40 side, which enters off Harrison Avenue.

We walked the "Company Mill Trail" down to Crabtree Creek and a little beyond. The trail was rocky but well-marked. The air was cold and exhilarating. A nice start to the New Year. At the trailhead:

A sample of what the trail looked like:

Once down at Crabtree Creek, it's easy to see the ruins of the old dam that was in use at least as early at 1810.

There was also a grist mill in use at the site in the 1800s, and the old mill stone is now displayed beside the trail. The mill stone was thought to be lost, but in the mid-1990's it was found in the riverbed downstream from the dam and recovered. A National Guard helicopter helped pull it out of the creekbed and place it beside the trail.

Going along further down the trail you can see the old foundation of what was probably the mill operator's house. Also further down the trail--we didn't get that far--there is a bridle trail that is part of what was the "Durham Road" that is an old, old trail connecting Raleigh and Durham. Evidently an former stage road can be found bisecting this route too and I'd like to go back soon and find it. (This information is via Randy Johnson's Hiking North Carolina, a guide worth owning, in my opinion.)

There is a nice new metal bridge that crosses Crabtree Creek and another map on the other side of the bridge for checking your route. This section of the trail is nice for stopping and enjoying climbing the rocks, checking out the old dam ruins and the mill stone, and listening to the rushing water. The entire loop of the Company Mill trail is 4.8 miles. Down to Crabtree Creek and back is just over 2 miles.

I love to see the surprising green ferns peeking out of the brown leaves in winter.

It's a nice hike and closeby too. The park was very well kept with plenty of maps at the trailhead. A highly recommended afternoon hike.