Friday, November 21, 2008

Happy birthday Rene!

So today I'm teaching class and my students have checked out laptops for the period. They're finishing up a PowerPoint and poster for a civil rights project due next week.

Anyhow, in the middle of the class I hear from the other side of the room "What is this?" and "Maybe 'it's raining men' or something." I don't have any idea what they're talking about, so I ask. "It's this thing on Google today -- what is it?" one asked. Oh, it must be one of those special Google logos, I thought, trying in vain to think what November 21 must be the anniversary of. As it turns out, this is the logo they saw:

"Magritte!" I shouted.

"What?" came a chorus. I think they thought I'd lost my mind.

So I clicked the logo and found out that Google is honoring the 100th anniversary of the birth of Rene Magritte, who has always been one of my favorite painters of all time. I used to have his posters in my room at Jordan and I made a mental vow to get more for the new classroom.

Anyhow, the real delight came in spending the next 15-20 minutes with these students completely off-task and enthralled as we clicked image after image to see more of Magritte's work. Each time I tried to explain ("it's a picture of a pipe, not a real pipe" or "see how the horse appears to be in front of and behind the trees at the same time?") and you would see these amazing looks come over their faces as they "got" it. I don't think these students (who are very bright) had ever seen this kind of art before and this inadvertent introduction to it was priceless. So thanks, Google, and happy birthday Rene Magritte!

Here are some of my favorite works:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poet's Walk/Occoneechee Speedway hikes

"Hikes" is probably too strong a word here, but "strolls" is too mild and "walks" doesn't capture it either. Woodsy amblings, maybe? Anyhow, on Sunday the fam went to Hillborough to walk around the historic Ayr Mount residence (built in 1815 and fully restored) on a path known as Poet's Walk. Visitors are encouraged to take a pencil and paper and compose a poem as they walk the grounds, though we couldn't convince our little poets to do so. Still, a beautiful walk that weaves in and out of the woods, across green meadows and along the Eno River. For a short time the walk also parallels the old Indian Trading Path.
As we were down by the Eno we were greeted by a man who had just crossed the river to the other side and was busy putting his socks and shoes back on. Turns out he was Bill, the caretaker of Ayr Mount, who has lived on the grounds for 22 years with his wife (who does the tours of the house). He noted that he was on his way to retrieve the tractor that he had left the previous day on the other side of the Eno at the other trail. We watched him scramble up the bank and disappear.
Turns out the other trail he was referring to was exactly where we were going, the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail. (It was only a short drive away, I knew, but I didn't realize that the two sites are just across the river from other until I used Google Maps.) From 1948-1968 it was a real one mile dirt track speedway featuring the likes of Richard Petty, but now the main part of the trail is a one mile dirt oval with amazingly gorgeous colorful trees all around. There are other paths to branch off to if you want a longer jaunt as well. We all loved the old concrete grandstand that still remains at the finish line.
And wouldn't you know it, we did run into Bill on the walk to the oval -- he had located the tractor and was driving it back to Ayr Mount. He gave us a big grin and wave as he passed.

Two great places to visit and only a short drive away -- we'll go back and explore more next time, only with a full picnic basket in hand.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mmmm ... doughnut muffins

Inspired by the amazing dessert maker who appears at the Durham Farmer's Market (and whose blog is growing cobwebs) I searched for a recipe for doughnut muffins. While I found several that had wildly varying ingredients (sweet potato puree! four eggs! five sticks of butter!) I settled on this one. Easy to make and incredibly delicious ... in just about 45 minutes start to finish you'll have these delectable treats for yourself. Share them with loved ones if necessary. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Awesome sign!

This family's daughter goes to NCSSM and they live on Club Boulevard -- fitting photo for today!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Durham early voting just under 100K

97, 697 was the final total of votes cast during the early voting period in Durham this year. Early predictions by the BOE office suggested 90-100K so not too shabby. With about 175000 registered voters (more could have been added during early voting) about 50% of potential voters have already cast their ballots which is amazing. As Kevin noted earlier, 110,000 was the total number of votes cast in Durham in the record-setting year of 2004, so expect to see that record smashed on Tuesday.

Here is the final updates for each early voting site, first with the totals through 10/25 and then with the final numbers:

Board of Elections office: 10, 702/19,452
Duke: 4,498/9,361
East Regional Library: 5,320/11.031
Forestview Elementary: 3,526/7,254
NC Central: 7,054/14,353
North Regional Library: 9,429/17,421
Southwest Elementary: 9,420/18,825

Last chance to vote early by 5 today

The photo above was taken outside the Durham Board of Elections office this morning about 9:30. Not too bad a line -- someone who'd been at the Southwest location earlier this morning said that the wait was about 45 minutes. Whatever it is it's going to be better than election day ... so get out there and vote if you haven't already!