Hurricane Harvey Response (Sept 3-10)

Hurricane Harvey Flood

Hurricane Harvey was an anomaly. It dumped over 50 inches of rain over four days and created catastrophic flooding in and around Houston, TX. I had the opportunity to travel with the Baptist On Mission to help set up their big field kitchen called Manna One and then spent the remainder of the week doing what we call mud outs and tear outs in the Port Arthur area. The kitchen volunteers fed about 70,000 people over 5 days and did all the cooking for the Red Cross which delivered many of the meals to shelters and neighbor locations.

Volunteer Harvey

My crew removed wet furniture, cabinets, carpet, sheetrock and any other things that were flooded. We were able to complete five homes, including spraying them for the fast growing mold. The whole process of taking almost all of the homeowners possessions out to the curb and then cutting and tearing out the sheetrock leaving them with nothing but bare stud walls is both traumatic and humbling to the owners. There was much hugging, holding hands, praying, photos and heartfelt thank yous when we finished and moved on to another home.

The trip to Texas took about 20 hours, and as you can imagine tiring. However knowing I had made a difference in a few families’ lives made the trip a profound life changing experience for me.

Larry D. Kingsley (OLLI Member)

The OLLI Book Group

Book Group

If you enjoy reading diverse genres and participating in stimulating book discussions, the OLLI Book Group is for you.

The group meets at 230 P.M. on the second Tuesday and third Thursday of each month at Quail Ridge Books in the North Hills Shopping Center. The same book is discussed at both sessions, and you are welcome at either—or both.

Once a year members are asked to recommend books. A list of these with a short abstract about each one is submitted to each member along with a ballot sheet. Members are asked to select twelve books from the list, and the winning books make up the reading list for the year.

The books for October, 2017 – September, 2018 are:

Oct. 10, 19:            Redemption Road by John Hart

Nov. 14, 16:            Dreaming in Cuban by Christina Garcia

Dec. 12, 21:           The Storied Life of A.J. Fikery by Gabrielle Zevin

 Jan. 9, 18 (2018):  Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith

 Feb. 13, 15:           The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

 March 13, 15:       The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by

Jeffrey Toobin

 April 10, 19:          One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash

 May 8, 17:             The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

 June 12, 21:           Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purcell

July 10, 19:            The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

 Aug. 14, 16:           Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

 Sept. 11, 20:          Friends in High Places by Donna Leon

For more information contact the OLLI office at 919-515-5782

Mercedes Horton

OLLI Instructor Spotlight – Roland Menestres


Question: What’s the second-largest nation in Africa? Answer: The Democratic Republic of Congo, once the property of a Belgian king. Its turbulent history and current challenges are the subject of a fall OLLI course, “In the Heart of Africa: The Congo.” The instructor, Roland Menestres, is well qualified to guide us through this heart of darkness. (Yes, Joseph Conrad’s classic is recommended reading.)

Roland is one of OLLI’s most cosmopolitan members. He was born at the end of World War II in war-torn Belgium, near the borders of Holland and Germany. He studied Latin with a teacher who described excavating Etruscan ruins, and Greek with a teacher “who, after school, introduced us to Japanese, Russian and Scandinavian films we could never see in a regular theater.” By age 18 he was fluent in seven languages. After serving in Belgium’s Airborne Regiment, he spent the next decade hitch-hiking across Europe, the Middle East (learning Hebrew in Israel), Asia and Australia. In 1976 he “met a pair of blue eyes in a banana field in the Galilee.” Those were American eyes, and soon he came to the U.S. to visit the lady. They were married a year later.

Roland worked for 25 years in the printing industry before deciding to complete his formal education at NC State. He earned a B.A. in French Language and Literature and became an ESL teacher in Wake County high schools, where he also taught French. “I pushed as many students as I could to learn more than one language,” he said, “since they might have to compete for jobs on an international level. It worked out for several of them.”

So where does his interest in the Congo come from? “I grew up with it,” he said. “The Congo was like my sister from a different father. I was in ninth grade when it reached independence, and I’d been exposed to it all my life, including through school notebooks with covers adorned with people, animals and heroes from the Congo. The Airborne Regiment I served in was involved with freeing hostages or re-establishing order a number of times before and after my service.”

One of the richest countries in mineral wealth, he said, the Congo “is also blessed with tremendous amounts of fresh water on a continent rapidly destroyed by droughts, and potential hydro power sufficient to electrify the whole continent. And yet it’s bleeding to death through millions of paper cuts named individual greed, political corruption, and outsiders’ hunger for rare metals at any cost, a country where blessings are matched by man’s weakness — but that could rebuild itself with a little good will and some effort.

“There’s so much we Americans don’t know about Africa in general and the Congo specifically. Is it lack of interest or self-centeredness? The reality is that our media, with few exceptions, spend more time on entertainment than real information. I keep digging through the international press to keep halfway abreast of what goes on in the rest of the world. That’s also the main reason for sharing this course with fellow OLLI members.”

Barbara Haddad Ryan

The North Carolina Museum of Art


Really, the museum is free? I marveled at the experience of walking into the
West building of the North Carolina Museum of  Art on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh and looking at the outstanding collection spread out before me like a feast. The building is light-filled, spacious, friendly, and free.

I grew up in New York City and majored in art at Hunter College. My days were filled with museum visits in Manhattan, where I became familiar to many of the guards in The Met and the Museum of Modern Art. They liked art students. The museums were free to us then and often quite empty.

My future husband courted me at the Met mainly because it was free and we could stay for hours on a Sunday rambling through rooms of furniture, jewelry and art. We imagined similar trophies in our home. We were young, but at least it helped us develop a taste for fine things even if we could not afford them.Flowers NCMA

With time these museums grew larger and became popular with local and foreign visitors now charging for the privilege of viewing the very works we thought as our property. Museum entrance fees became staggering for a newlywed couple, then parents with a growing family. On top of that was the cost of transportation into the city as we became suburbanites.

As a Professor of Art at a university in New Jersey, my love for art became my profession. What a joy to share art history with students. I was careful of the costs to myself and students when we took trips to the museums. It required careful budgeting for my department – when were still able to pay for student trips. That too became a thing of the past a good fifteen years ago.

I found myself living in the Raleigh area when we moved here just over one year ago. The first week my husband and I went to the North Carolina Museum of Art. Wow! Amazement, delight and gratitude for the gift we have. Two hundred works of world class art in this collection. The environment for viewing them is even better than the overcrowded spaces in NY; there are few officious guards monitoring your presence insisting you stand far back from the work. I have become up close and personal with Rembrandt, Gainsborough and others. Another benefit In addition to free admission is free and plentiful parking.

Retired now from teaching I felt compelled to share my enthusiasm and love for art with sculpture NCMAother Olli students. With so much available in the museum, including docent tours, I have framed my lecture to help prepare Olli visitors to get the most out of your visit. You can look for my offering in February. It’s called “Look at Me”





Dr. Geraldine Velasquez, Professor of Art and Design Emeritus


Musings from an Amateur Cosmologist

Moon and Sun relationship

Recently, for a minute or two, a few fortunate Americans found themselves to be in the sixty five to seventy mile wide shadow of the moon during the August 21, 2017, total solar eclipse.

However, most of us do not stop to consider that, essentially, we experience a more frequent and much longer solar “eclipse” by being caught in Earth’s shadow as the planet continuously eclipses the sun. This occurs for several hours each day between sunset and sunrise when half of the planet is always in the earth’s shadow (we call this nighttime). The only exception, other than the cosmonauts aboard the Space Station, are the folks who live in the “land of the midnight sun” at that time of the year when, for them, the sun never sets.

By the way, since it is the Earth’s rotation that gives us the illusion of the rising and setting sun, we should really call these events “Earthset” and “Earthrise” respectively, as in “What a beautiful Earthrise this evening”.telescope-e1504807705987.jpg

When it comes to eclipses, one particular historical event stands out. During a total solar eclipse over the South Atlantic Ocean in May, 1919, the British astronomer, Sir Arthur Eddington, was able to confirm one of Albert Einstein’s most famous predictions.

In 1916, Einstein had predicted, as part of his new General Theory of Relativity, that light on its way to us from distant stars would follow a curved path around a massive body, like the sun, because of the “warping” of space-time in the vicinity of that body (sort of like a marble rolling across a trampoline with a bowling ball nestled in it’s center).

By photographing the position of the Hyades star cluster when the sun was nowhere near the cluster’s line of sight to Earth and again, during the eclipse, when the darkened sun was almost directly in the cluster’s line of sight, Eddington found that not only did the stars appear to shift their positions relative to background stars, but by the exact amount predicted by Einstein. This was in conflict with Newton’s theory of gravity which predicted a much smaller, if any, path-bending effect for light. Star light has no mass and, according to Newton, should not be affected by a gravitational field, but Einstein/Edington found that it indeed is.

We now know that gravity is not some mysterious “force acting at a distance” as Newton believed, but is actually the mass-induced curvature of space-time that causes moving objects to “fall” toward each other along curved paths. This means, for example, that our “small” Earth is continuously falling toward the much larger sun, but the planet’s rate of fall is (fortunately, for us) balanced by its orbital speed and momentum in its curved path around the sun.

Interesting, but this is probably not the same thing as saying, “I think I am falling for you”.

Howard Horton – OLLI Member and Book Group Coordinator


Telescope photo source – shutterstock wikicommons

Moonphase photo Source – Abraren.wikispace