A Lesser Known Italy

Catherine Mitchell

There is so much more to Italy than Rome, Florence and Venice. Don’t get me wrong; I love those cities. In fact, Florence is my VERY favorite city – and I’ve traveled to over 100 countries and can’t even begin to count the number of cities.

My most recent trip took me to another Italy – one of fewer world-renowned artistic treasures and more eye-popping landscapes – to new foods and even another language.

The map shows the area traveled.

The first city, Fano, is more central than northern Italy, but it was my first stop. While I went to visit family, there is much to be said for this city on the Adriatic coast. It boasts beautiful white sand beaches, and the historic center is a walled city, with much of the wall and a city gate still standing.  The ancient Roman via Flaminia ended here. Sections of it are still visible. Fano is also home to the oldest Carnevale (Mardi Gras) parade in Italy. And it’s a perfect walking city.  (More…)

The Stranger Diaries

Cindy Knox

‘If you permit me,’ said the Stranger, ‘I’d like to tell you a story. After all, it’s been a long journey and, by the look of those skies, we’re not going to be leaving this carriage for some time. So, why not pass the hours with some story-telling? The perfect thing for a late October evening.’

‘Are you quite comfortable there? Don’t worry about Herbert. He won’t hurt you, It’s just this weather that makes him nervous. Now, where was I? What about some brandy to keep the chill out? You don’t mind a hip flask, do you?

‘Well, this is a story that actually happened. Those are the best kind, don’t you think? Better still, it happened to me when I was a young man. About your age.’

The Stranger Diaries is Elly Griffiths’ delightful homage to Gothic novels. It’s a book within a book, containing a gratifying mix of mystery, suspense, gloomy settings, horror, deaths, supernatural events, a damsel in distress,  (More...)

Why 80 Matters

Don Menzel

In a few weeks I will hit the magic number: 80 years old.  I reckon I can no longer deny that the so-called ”Golden Years” are just a breath away.  “What will be will be” says the great philosopher Doris Day. And so it is. Or, as another modern-day philosopher, Harlem-born Charlie Rangel once said about his age, “I don’t buy green bananas anymore”.   Well, I haven’t reached that stage yet, and I hope I don’t, but I will share a few personal considerations with you.

First, I never ever expected to clock 80 years for two reasons:  Most of my life has been in the fast lane.  Of course, maybe that’s the reason I down 15 pills daily, seven of which target high blood pressure.  And then there’s heredity.  (More…)

The Sin That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Robert Strozier

When I was a boy growing up in Hyde Park, a community on the South Side of Chicago, our family belonged to the Trinity Episcopal Church.  Father Anderson, the rector, was handsome, generous-hearted and kindly, and I wanted more than anything to win his approval. His wife, Elizabeth, was warm and gracious too. My own parents were okay, but they were—you know—parents.

Father Anderson “believed” in me and hoped I’d become a priest one day. He seemed to like my sense of humor too, not that his standards were too high—his favorite comedian was George Gobel of “Well, I’ll be a dirty bird!” fame.

I was both a choirboy and an acolyte, depending on the occasion, and I’m sure I looked positively angelic in my black cassock and white surplice. But I knew I was a pious phony and unworthy to   (More…)

Chautauqua 2019

Linda Schatz

It’s 1874.  I’m a Methodist Sunday School teacher. I travel by steamship on the calm waters of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York and arrive at a small shoreline settlement for a vacation learning experience. I’ll hear speakers on the Bible, teaching methods, science, and social issues. The roads rise gently from the lake and are only wide enough for one horse and carriage.

Wait—it’s 2019, and I’m one of several thousand knowledge and culture seekers arriving by car at Chautauqua Institution. With six of my women friends, it will be a vacation week of thought-provoking lectures, excellent dance, music, vocal and theater performances, and animated political and philosophical discussions.  Oh, and a tap dancing lesson to bring back my fun days of hopping to a beat and flexing my ankles.  (More…)

A Massage to Remember

Diane Russell

My oldest niece said, “We are all going to have a Chinese foot massage at 6 o’clock tonight – my treat!”  It would be a novel way to celebrate my sister’s upcoming wedding near San Diego in four days. What made this event so unexpected was the following back story in the autumn of 2012.

That morning I drove my husband to Chicago’s Midway Airport, so he could fly home to Tampa. He had enough of the dreary November weather and overstayed his planned visit by two weeks. Why?  (More…)

Deep Medicine

Michael Bice

Eric Topol’s Deep Medicine is a significant contribution to American medicine and should be required reading for anyone interested in the present and future of health delivery.  I read the book as a student and teacher of digital health technologies and quickly discovered that my understanding of AI and medicine is superficial at best. In my quest to overcome this deficit, I found the following observations from the Topol book to be of particular relevance.

The first major entry of AI into the practice of medicine was automated systems for reading ECGs, which were first applied in the 1970s and became routine in the 1980s.

Deep neural networks (DNN) are the driving force supporting AI innovations in health. The DNN era was made possible by these four components:  (More…)

It’s Never Too Late to Return a Book

Diane Russell

The day after my 66th birthday, I looked through the paperbacks on my bookshelf.  It was time to decide which books I would donate to the Friends of the Library for resale.

One book caught my eye, as it did every year. It was Ivanhoe, the classic authored by Sir Walter Scott.  Only the book wasn’t mine. It was lent to me 39 years earlier by John Doe (pseudonym to protect privacy).

We both participated in the 1979-80 USSR academic exchange sponsored by IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board), an international nonprofit organization specializing in global education and development.

My spouse and I befriended John and his partner in August 1979 when we all took a month-long crash course in Russian while living in the Moscow State University dormitory.  (More…)

James Museum

Shelly Belzer

A boyhood love of cowboy movies isn’t unusual, but Tom James, now chairman emeritus of Raymond James Financial, turned his love into a lifetime of art collecting and then founded a museum to house part of the collection that he and his wife, Mary, have amassed.  The James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art in St. Petersburg opened in April 2018, holding 400 paintings and sculptures, a bit more than 10 percent of the James collection. (Most of the rest of the collection fills the Raymond James corporate headquarters.)  Word about the museum got around, and one day in August the OLLI Shutterbugs went to see for themselves.  (More…)

Santa Fe and New Mexico

I’m a transplant to Santa Fe.  I grew up in Miami, graduated from FSU in Tallahassee, lived in San Francisco, Bern, Switzerland and Los Angeles.  Finally I settled here in 1994 at the age of 35.  No regrets whatsoever.  I chose to live in Santa Fe after compiling a list of pre-requisites that included:  small-size city, diverse population, vibrant arts scene, and proximity to nature.

The oldest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2010.  It was located first in what was known as New Spain, then Mexico, and finally in New Mexico (a US territory that became a state in 1912).  (More...)