1. Offering insight to what President Lincoln was thinking in the years running up to the Civil War is Edward L. Ayers, today's speaker in the 10:45 a.m. lecture series in the Chautauqua Institution amphitheater. Ayers, a historian and longtime faculty member at the University of Virginia, serves on the editorial board of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, a project aimed at compiling and publishing everything Lincoln wrote.
2. The Jewish Cultural Arts Festival at the Jewish Community Center Benderson Building, 2640 N. Forest Road, Getzville, kicks off with a reception from 7 to 9 tonight and the opening of exhibits of art and photos taken during a recent staff visit to Israel. It's free and open to all and will give many their first look at the center's new Tel Aviv Cafe. JCC members also may step out to the outdoor pool, where there's a 7:30 showing of the Marx Brothers in "Duck Soup." The festival continues Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
3. The Buffalo Board of Education seems to have several options to choose from if it wants to rehire the approximately 250 teachers and teacher's aides that were laid off in anticipation of a budget deficit. There's the rainy day fund. There's the possibility of federal money. And there's the thought that the Buffalo Teachers Federation might yield on a contract provision that would save the necessary $5 million. The board meets in Room 801 of City Hall this afternoon to decide how to tackle the dilemma.
4. Federal court colleagues will sing "Happy Birthday" this afternoon to the Buffalo court's oldest member -- Senior District Judge John T. Curtin -- who turns 90 today. Courthouse employees will honor the popular, soft-spoken but opinionated judge at a brief gathering in his courtroom at 2 p.m. One of the longest-serving federal judges in the land, Curtin's career dates back to 1967, when President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him. He has experienced health problems in recent years but still works on cases on a part-time basis.
5. "A Wish to End Alzheimer's" is the theme of the fundraiser this evening at Quaker's Landing, a memory care facility at 101 Sterling Drive in Orchard Park. The program from 6 to 8 p.m. will include refreshments, entertainment, basket raffles and the launch of wish lanterns at 7:45 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Alzheimer's Association. Call 675-1022 for information and reservations.
6. It's one of your last chances to check out "Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion," the visiting exhibit that's been on display all summer in the Buffalo Museum of Science. The array of marvelous gear-driven devices, created out of wood by Italian craftsmen using Leonardo's designs, imparts a new appreciation for how clever the ultimate Renaissance man was. It closes Sunday. Admission is $8, $7 for seniors, free for museum members.
7. Proof that summer isn't quite over can be seen in the number of free outdoor concerts to choose from today. David Kane's Them Jazzbeards play at noon in the M&T Plaza Event Series on Main Street in downtown Buffalo. The Town Pants from Vancouver perform from 6 to 10 p.m. in the new Buffalo River Fest Part at 249 Ohio St. And that's not all. Gregg Juke and the Mighty No-Stars hold forth at 6:30 p.m. in the Attica Village Park Gazebo on Exchange Street; the Carnival Kids Steel Orchestra offers Caribbean rhythms at 6:30 p.m. in the Greenfields Gazebo, 5949 Broadway, Lancaster; the Kokomo Time Band plays at 7 p.m. in Angola's Centennial Park at Center and High streets; and Hit 'N Run strikes up at 8 p.m. in Gateway Park off Sweeney Street in North Tonawanda.