Joan Casale 




 The Story of a Woman’s Life


Saturday May 18, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.  Room 111A  


Chancellor's Complex

 UCSD campus


Eve’s Icons, Ms. Casale’s unique, award-winning project, provides instruction for women and older girls through a creative system of simple graphic icons describing the life of every woman on earth.  While using the familiar female and male icons in note taking, she needed a similar icon for “child” to save time.  She created not only “child,” but icons for “pregnancy,” “miscarriage,” “childbirth,” “who’s the father?” and many more. Showing woman’s life as it has never been seen before, Ms. Casale’s slide show – with her icons drawn by professional graphic artist Kat Godard – will lead us through a progression of 40 basic icons in this birth-through-death narrative journey.


Ms. Casale, a writer by profession, is an experienced feminist activist, having served the San Diego County Chapter of the National Organization for Women as President and in various other roles. She received the 2012 Helen Hawkins Research Grant Award from San Diego Independent Scholars to engage a professional graphic artist to complete work on her book, Eve's Icons. The result is more than the story it tells. It is also an innovative iconic system of narration, at once both descriptive and compelling.


Ms. Casale's presentation will be accompanied by initial brief project concept introductions by the two 2013 recipients of Helen Hawkins Research Grant Awards and by a short San Diego Independent Scholars election and business meeting.



Now, in this last From the President column before the annual SDIS Business meeting, I am pleased to report that SDIS continues to thrive. Membership is strong. New ideas continue to bubble forth. New programs are being started. There is an air of excitement about intellectual topics of interest. It's been a good year. SDIS is indeed for those who treasure a life of the mind and I feel in good company when I am in the presence of its members.

As part of an ongoing trend, during the past year SDIS has increased its capabilities in the scholarship of "conversational learning," a mode with traditions of its own. The vigor and variety of its study groups attest to this.

At the same time, writing — writing, not reading — surely deserves greater emphasis; it's often the seemingly more demanding mode and, as I've written previously, getting started can depend on overcoming a kind of activation energy barrier. During the 2013-2014 SDIS year, my hope is that SDIS will learn how to encourage and facilitate short collaborative writing projects so that more members will be inclined to explore this as one of their modes of learning and communication. 

SDIS has been behind the times in its use of the internet for communication, publication, and outreach to the larger community of people who would benefit from what SDIS has to offer — but mostly are not even aware that SDIS exists.  The past year's planning is expected soon to reach fruition in the form of a website which offers a more useful and attractive electronic communication and outreach experience.

I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the opportunity to work this past year with the many SDIS members whose volunteer efforts speak of a devotion to the mission of SDIS, to its people, and to the intellectual rewards of participating in its programs.  

Sam Gusman



At the next meeting of the Culture One Study Group on May 16, attention shifts to Jared Diamond's book, Collapse (How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), Part 4, "Practical Lessons, pp 417-539. This carries with it no inference that the entire reading will be discussed during the May 16 meeting. The pace will depend on the Group's interest in in-depth discussion of specific issues and ideas encountered during the way.  

Early in Part 4 of the book the author presents four broad categories of rationalization for collapse — way-stations along an analytic pathway from the time preceding awareness of a problem through to postmortem analysis of attempts to address it, with many critical decision forks along the way. It can also be viewed as an analytic question tree.

1) failure to anticipate a problem before it arrives;

2) failure to perceive it (as a problem);

3) failure to try to solve it; and

4) failure to succeed in solving it.

Each of these could be subdivided. In order to emphasize that the following is illustrative of a way of thinking and not a précis of what is written in Collapse, the following comments are framed in terms of a hypothetical situation in which the earth seems to be the target of a large and distant asteroid, approaching at high speed. 

The destructive impact of a large asteroid might under certain circumstances be a failure of type (1) if it occurs because of (a) lack of access to information that disaster is ahead, e.g. an asteroid is approaching but no one has yet invented a telescope so no one knows it is on the way, or (b) lack of diligence in applying available means of study, e.g., high power telescopes are available but no one has pointed any of them at the section of sky within which the asteroid could be seen. 

Similarly (2) can be sub-divided. For example, failure to perceive the problem may, for example, be the consequence either of (a) not understanding or believing the basic premise that a large asteroid squarely hitting the earth would have disastrous consequences or (b) because of a miscalculation or uncertainty about the asteroid's trajectory, incorrectly believing that the asteroid will not hit the earth.

Failure to try to solve the problem may depend of any of a variety of factors. When is the impact expected? It may not occur for a very long time. This affects the probability that time will be available to solve problems; it also influences whether the affected parties will be of this or subsequence generations. Also relevant are the magnitude of the damage impact is expected to cause, where in the world impact is estimated to occur, who is expected to be harmed by the impact, who is expected to benefit from the work to deflect or prevent impact, the political and economic clout of these different constituencies, and so forth. Of course, both the trajectory data and the trajectory modeling may be imperfect, hence adding uncertainty to the prediction that impact will occur. All this could comprise the raw material for a structured decision analysis, but it is still incomplete. Whether key decision makers choose to address the problem arguably depends on whether they are risk averse or risk prone, their personal values, and how smart they are at working to find optimal courses of action.

Similarly (4), failure to succeed in solving, can be subdivided. For example, failure may be due to inadequate financing, lack of success in developing and implementing all aspects of required technology, the unwillingness of people with differing interests ultimately to minimize or eliminate working at cross purpose to each other, and so forth.

For members of the Culture One Study Group who have not yet read Part 4 of Collapse, this is precisely a moment when a blank slate about its content leaves room for unfettered imagination about ways to assess causes for collapse. It's a situation which sets the stage for the enjoyment of playing around for a while in a very large field of possibilities and trying to understand the rules of the game.

For more information about the Culture One Study Group contact Sam Gusman at



At its April meeting the Culture Two Study Group began reading and discussing Chapter One of The Geography of Thought (How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why) by Richard E. Nisbett. At the Group's next meeting on Friday, May 10, the discussion will focus on Chapter Two as well. 

The Study Group is at the start of the comparison of two cultures each of which is affected by many threads of thought and events. Grasping the essential nature of the ways in which they may differ requires a willingness to examine and understand differences at a basic level, both experiential and intellectual. Focusing on Nisbett's description of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, started in ancient times, the April meeting began this learning process. This will continue on May 10.

During April, a question also arose about the degree to which ancient cultural patterns and beliefs remain relevant in China today given the traumatic event of the more recent past, especially the Cultural Revolution (late 1960's to early 1970's) which sought to alter culture and ways of thinking. To the extent feasible, this will be brought into the discussion so that Nisbett's writing can be viewed with this context in mind.

For more information about the Culture Two Study Group contact Sam Gusman at


The April Colloquy discussed the topic "habit."  After quickly dispensing with riders' or nuns' habits, we explored the varied ways we use the word.  Among the issues raised and discussed were substance abuse habits or addictions; how habits are malleable, i.e., we can jettison old, unhealthy or negative habits and develop new, beneficial ones; the line between habit and obsession; how habits can be either conscious or subconscious, automatic or volitional; and how good we are at rationalizing our bad habits.  We considered neuromuscular habits, the ones we use when we throw a ball, drive a car, walk or run, things we do without giving them any conscious thought.  That brought up habits of the mind, such as prejudices, and how difficult it can be to become aware of them in oneself or to consider the need for change.  Physical habits, too, can become so ingrained that we don't always realize we have them.  A number of influences, aging for example, alter our bodies and minds forcing us to change our habits to match our fluctuating abilities.  We closed with further considerations such as the difference between routine and habit and how habits of the mind can limit us. 

The May Colloquy Cafe topic on May 15, 2013, will be "now."


The Film Group will meet Wednesday, May 1, at 10:00 a.m. at the home of Barbara Heckler to view the 2011 documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop.  Directed by street artist Banksy, the film follows a French immigrant who is obsessed with street art.  Contact Barbara at for information about attending. 

April’s selection was City of God, a 2003 film called “cinematic dynamite” by Amazon.  Time magazine lists it as one of the 100 greatest films.  City of God is a notorious slum of Rio de Janeiro.  The film is based on real events depicted in a 1997 novel of the same name.  Covering a 20-year period, we see the growth of organized crime from the 60s to the 80s.  Be prepared to be mesmerized by a film about a ghetto in which violence is so rampant that even police avoid it.  In spite of the violence, Film Group members were overwhelmed by the quality of the movie.


May 20, 2013, at 10:30 am, the Literature Group will meet at the home of Gerry Horwitz to discuss the late Chinua Achebe’s first novel, Things Fall Apart, still considered his most important work. It is the most widely read book in modern African literature. If you wish to attend, check with Harry Boyle at, and plan to bring a brown bag lunch.


The next meeting of the Neuroscience Study Group is scheduled for Monday, May 20, 2013 at 3 pm at Bea Rose's home.  The discussion will focus on an essay by Stanislas Dehaene, “What Are Numbers, Really?  A Cerebral Basis for Number Sense” which is Chapter 12 in John Brockman's book, Mind

Although visitors are welcome, it is necessary to call Bea Rose beforehand because space is limited and appropriate seating arrangements must be made. 



San Diego Independent Scholars (SDIS) provides a welcoming and collegial environment for the intellectual community. We meet to study, discuss, learn, share ideas and concepts. We enrich our lives while promoting independent scholarship in the arts, humanities, and the sciences.