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If I had to sum up this week’s column, I’d say it’s all about books and education. But don’t worry, we’ll also have some fun with those wild and crazy lampreys. Here we go …

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Of all the academic stars I’ve highlighted in this column, Tara Beltrami might be the most prolific, earning her way onto Dean’s List after Dean’s List at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She earned a degree in design and imaging technology from the school’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf back in 2016, and now I have word that she graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management. Her sparkling academic career is apparently behind her, and I wish her an equally successful career.

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As the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference approaches, feel free to get into the literary spirit a little early when author Lydia Slaby visits the St. Helena Public Library at 5 p.m. Tuesday, July 23. Slaby wrote the memoir “Wait, It Gets Worse: Love, Death, and My Transformation from Control Freak to Human Being.” Slaby is also a speaker, writer and advocate who advises Chicago’s 2nd Story and serves on the boards of Critical Mass: The Young Adult Cancer Alliance and I Am That Girl, an organization that helps young women around the world take ownership of their self-worth. Slaby will read from her book and discuss how we overwork ourselves and how to transform our lives.

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Jay Greene is the sort of amateur historian who has commendably never seen fit to limit his explorations to a single topic, country or era. His diverse interests are reflected in the lineup of his next series of free historical lectures at 5 p.m. Tuesdays at the St. Helena Public Library. Learn about “Julia Morgan & Bernard Maybeck: The Spirit of California Architecture” on Sept. 24; “Across the Wide Missouri: Fur, Mountain Men & the Overland Trails” on Oct. 1; “The Adventures of Francis Drake: Buccaneer & England’s Savior” on Oct. 29; “Mutiny on the Bounty: Perseverance Against Great Odds” on Nov. 12; and “The Battle of the Ironclads: Two Days That Changed Naval Warfare” on Nov. 26. Jay is also planning a seven-part series on World War II in early 2020 – stay tuned. Jay’s lectures are supported by the Friends & Foundation, St. Helena Public Library.

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In yet more library news, Stewart Reid will talk about lampreys as the WILD St. Helena series continues at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, July 25. The ancient fish (they’re not eels) start out as larva the size of an eyelash, suck the blood of other fish, they devastated the Great Lakes fisheries of the 1930s and ‘40s, and just lead colorful lives in general. Nature lovers should be enthralled and maybe just a tad bit grossed out.

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Update your Rolodex (people still use those, right?) with the new phone number for the Napa Valley College’s Upper Valley Campus: (707) 302-2452. That’s now the best number to reach the St. Helena campus directly. You can also find a full staff directory at napavalley.edu. Don’t forget the campus is closed on Fridays during the summer.

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I’m apparently 60 years or so late to discovering the graceful prose and acerbic wit of historian Barbara W. Tuchman, but better late than never. Last Thursday I had the pleasure of reading her World War I chronicle “The Zimmermann Telegram” cover to cover (it helped that it was short). It was all about how Germany’s efforts to provoke a war between the U.S. and Mexico and thus keep the U.S. out of the war in Europe backfired spectacularly. Lots of cloak-and-dagger stuff, much of it badly bungled. Think Inspector Clouseau getting stuck in a John le Carré novel. Here’s to the glorious combination of a hot day, a strong fan and a good book.

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