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As a young man I had good vocal cords and dreamed of becoming a famous singer. Considering my teenage background in the church choir and in Gilbert and Sullivan high school productions, the drama teacher suggested that singing my way into the opera world seemed a possible choice. However, there was one problem. The music teacher told me that operatic heroes shouldn’t be shorter than the soprano they are wooing.

I stand 5’4” in my stocking feet.

True some opera singers, like renowned tenor Joseph Schmidt, coming in at just under five feet and considered too short for live performances in the opera house, reached fame doing recordings.

But I craved the stage, the audience. If opera was out, I’d find another musical forum. So, I plowed on with my dream. More… “These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking”

Thomas Laver is a former singer and teacher. He was a writer for the education division of TVO, the Public Television Network of the Province of Ontario, Canada. His writing has also appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Heart Insight Magazine, Canadian Teacher Magazine, and Our Canada, a Reader’s Digest publication.

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The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held its annual convention in Chicago recently, and I was there. Let me make clear at once that I am not a member of this august body but am instead married to someone who is; I was thus in the logistical position to report (with some admitted bias) on the proceedings.

ASCO is a big organization, and its members engulfed the city. Everywhere I looked, disheveled men and women could be seen carrying over-the-shoulder ASCO satchels and leafing through behemothian ASCO Convention Proceedings. Only Chicago and Orlando have convention centers big enough to accommodate the more than 30,000 doctors, researchers, drug company representatives, and sundry others attached to the cancer industry who attend this meeting each year. And although Orlando has hosted on occasion, there’s a certain dissonance in talking about myeloma in the morning and visiting Mickey Mouse in the afternoon. Chicago,… More…

As soon as I walked out of the train station on my first day in Kyoto, I knew that I would love Japan. I passed the ground floor of a department store on my way to the street. To my right, next to purses and scarves, was a wall of color and pattern — windowpane plaid, polka dots, orange and turquoise, red and magenta, lime and navy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a display of washcloths, the most beautiful washcloths I had ever seen. (Unlike their American counterparts, usually relegated to some fourth-floor linen department and confined to neutral bathroom hues, these squares of terry are not used for washing but are kept in purses for drying one’s hands in public restrooms.)

The washcloths were my first exposure to the attention to detail that characterizes much of Japan — both visually and socially. I soon… More…