Scholars Notebook June 2015


Mark your calendar: Our next general meeting is Saturday, September 19. Our speaker will be Dr. George Tynan, Associate Dean, Jacobs School of Engineering, and Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Faculty, Center for Energy Research, UCSD.

Dr. Tynan is an expert on plasma physics and fusion energy as well as the larger issue of transitioning to a sustainable energy economy, and he will talk to us about exciting developments in these areas. 



On behalf of all the members of SDIS, I’d like to express gratitude and thanks for the outstanding service that Sue Rosner has so freely given us.  As President, she was thoughtful,thorough, and an inspiring leader.  She has worked extremely hard this last year, making SDIS a priority.  She has constantly been alert and open to finding ways to improve SDIS.  She has given us years of dedicated service by filling numerous positions on prior boards, and has also been active in several study groups.  Sue, we admire you.  We respect you.  We all thank you.  Well done!




SDIS uses various strategies to maintain its structure and operational base in times of change. Following the May General Meeting, there is a “Changing of the Guard” in which the governing Board of Directors shifts from the previous Board to the incoming Board of Directors. Practically, this means handing over documents, folders, and records; philosophically, it means taking stock of how well we are fulfilling the goals of the organization; administratively, it means evaluating our efficiency and effectiveness. 

Over the last few elections, the changing of the guard occurs at a Joint Luncheon Meeting of the outgoing and incoming Boards of Directors. We will do so next week. In this way, the two boards can conduct their practical business, assess SDIS performance in meeting its organizational goals, and offer suggestions based on our experience and expectations. In taking stock of SDIS, we can be pleased with our growth in terms of membership, study and discussion groups, events and activities, and take pride in the achievements of some of our long-term members, the mainstays of SDIS.

But, let’s take a moment to be objective in evaluating our performance in terms of attaining SDIS goals. Historically, there are three basic purposes of SDIS:

  • One, is to focus on scholarship by promoting its various forms, viz, intellectual stimulation, active learning, research, creativity and productivity. Some of our members are "independent scholars," others "independent learners," others are delighted by viewing the world from a fresh perspective, still others belong to support the group and its purpose. 

  • A second goal is to provide a forum for group study in an atmosphere of collegiality, sociability, civility and respect for others’ opinions. The popularity and long-standing history of our study groups and enthusiasm for discussions testifies to the viability of this communal feature of SDIS.
  • The third purpose or goal of SDIS is to provide resources for our members and the community through offering research support and opportunities for creative, intellectual growth. These include awarding Helen Hawkins Memorial Research Funds to qualified members, contributing money for members’ library cards, donating copies of members’ authored books to local libraries, hosting panel discussions and monthly program meetings for members, guests, and the public at large, and developing our SDIS website and Newsletter for members and our widespread online audience.

However, I note a particular goal or purpose missing on this list although it is basic to the health and success of SDIS. What is it? It’s the lack of sufficient member participation in management and development.

Administration is more than keeping or staffing the store. It involves vision, enthusiasm, imagination, and testing what works and doesn’t work for SDIS and its members. It involves engaging in planning, preparing posters, recruiting speakers, hosting meetings, arranging social events, suggesting topics for study groups, submitting graphics, staffing the sign-in tables at meetings, editing manuscripts, paying taxes, maintaining the budget, e-mailing letters and announcements, researching a new area of interest, preparing computer based member lists for the SDIS Directory, and so forth. All of these functions are performed by SDIS volunteers. 

SDIS meetings in the Fall, 2015, will provide members with information about how they may become more actively involved in SDIS. In the meanwhile, you may contact Barbara Heckler, SDIS President, 2015-2016, e-mail, with questions on this topic. We welcome your participation.




Breakfast Roundtable meets Monday, June 15, at Coco’s, 9:30 to 11 for breakfast and roundtable discussion. Summer meetings are scheduled for July 20 and August 17. Coco’s is located in University City at the intersection of Genesee and Nobel Drive in the Costa Verde shopping center. To make a reservation, contact Barbara Heckler,, by the Saturday prior to the meeting. Don’t hesitate to email at the last minute – we have space!

Supper with Scholars will meet on the 2nd Thursday of June at 6 pm at Humphreys La Jolla Restaurant, 3299 Holiday Court, La Jolla. Meals from the menu (see ) are Dutch Treat. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to, stating whether you are coming alone or bringing friend(s). No meetings during July and August.




The just completed season saw a wide variety of speakers that pleased and provoked our SDIS audience and guests. Below, is a brief summary of those talks.

Sept. 20, 2014
Speaker:  Eric Frost, PhD, Director of the Visualization Center and Professor of Geological Sciences at SDSU, and sought-after expert on IT response to natural and man-made disasters.
Title:  Homeland Security Updated: Patterns Of The Past Helping Define The Future.

Dr. Frost explored the positive impact side of Homeland Security, including Trade Enhancement, Global Disaster Response, and Social Media Crowdsourcing.  His enthusiastic explanations of using social media to gain important information for response teams in disaster situations amazed and was enthusiastically received by the audience. This was further evidenced by the questions and comments that followed the talk.

Oct. 18, 2014
Speakers: Panel of facilitators for the various group activities of SDIS, including the six study groups, the breakfast and supper groups, and the projects. The Panel consisted of:Sam Gusman, Mary Ellen Stratthaus, Sue Rosner, Beatrice Rose, Gerry Horwitz, Dorothy Parker And Barbara Heckler.
Title: Discover Your SDIS Identity: What SDIS Does Now And What It Might Do For You. 

Each panel member gave a short descriptor of the rationale and modus operandi of his/her group. These efforts were well done and informative and even the panelists learned much about each other’s groups. The audience then broke into clusters around areas of interest to them, and possibilities of new groups in different topic areas were explored.

Nov. 15, 2014
Speaker: Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman, PhD, Award-winning historian and novelist, and Chaired Professor of History at San Diego State University. 
Title: Umpire or Empire?  The Costs and Consequences of World Leadership

Dr. Cobbs Hoffman discussed her insightful ideas on the impact of the United States on world affairs throughout its history, as an umpire rather than an empire, building on ideas expressed in her highly acclaimed book “American Umpire.”  Her examples from important moments in history and the use of “umpire” in descriptive language of the day, helped support her thesis. The talk was well received, with interesting questions and comments by the audience.

Jan. 17, 2015
Speaker: Nicole Tonkovich,PhD, Professor of Literature at UCSD, and expert on 19th century American women in literature and visual arts. 
Title: Reading Beyond the Ending of Native History: The Nez Perce Allotment (The written and visual records of Alice C. Fletcher and E. Jane Gay.)

Dr. Tonkovich spoke about an important piece of American history, the allotment of lands in severalty to the Nez Perces, and the role of Chief Joseph, Alice C. Fletcher and E. Jane Gay, as part of that history. Much of that history was provided through the latter two’s writings and photographs. Dr. Tonkovich’s expertise and enthusiasm for her subject was well received, with much follow-up enthusiasm by those in the audience.

Feb. 21, 2015
Speaker: Paul L. Nunez, PhD, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Tulane University, expert on cognitive science, author of the popular book “Brain, Mind and the Structure of Reality,” and a member of SDIS.
Title: Is “Consciousness” a Four Letter Word?  Neural correlates and the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness.

Dr. Nunez spoke about the correlation of consciousness with ever more sophisticated measurements of brain activity, and addressed such intriguing questions as what ingredients might be required for consciousness to arise in a complex system, and can an intelligent computer ever become conscious. His use of charts and data to explore some of these ideas, and his description of the difficulty of defining necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness were informative. Dr. Nunez’s enthusiasm and expertise in this exciting topic was apparent to all, and the questions and comments that followed the talk were intelligent and lively.

March 21, 2015
Speaker: Heidi Dewar, PhD, Fisheries Research Biologist at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Center in San Diego, and an expert on large pelagic fish, including tunas, sharks and swordfish.
Title: Tracking fish forwards and backwards using high-tech tools.

Dr. Dewar discussed the importance of tracking the movement of individual specimens, which informs population structure, habitat use and potential sources of mortality and is critical to management, conservation and understanding basic biology. She discussed the sophisticated electronic tags for forward tracking in time, and complex chemical and radiation signatures of captured individuals, to perform backward tracking in time, including oceanographic regions they had been in and the time frames involved. Her enthusiasm was clear and her bringing in samples of the various tags used over time was a winner.  The audience showed its enthusiasm through questions and comments.

April 18, 2015
Speaker: Jean R. Renshaw, PhD, is a principal in the consulting firm, AJR International Associates, and a Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior.  She is an acknowledged expert and acclaimed author on Women’s rights and empowerment issues in Asian countries, and is much sought after for that expertise. She is also a long time member of SDIS.
Title: The Remarkable Story of Burmese Women: Clues and Surprises from Myanmar.

Dr. Renshaw spoke to us about her recent experience travelling to Burma (Myanmar) to attend, and chair a panel on Women Leaders in Asia, at an international conference, as well as her subsequent research on the women of that country. She spoke about the remarkable and unusual history of the rights and limitations on Burmese Women, and the prognosis for their future evolution in that country. Her talk and accompanying audio-visual presentation were fascinating, and provoked many questions and comments from the audience.

May 16, 2015
Speaker: Mary Stroll, PhD, the recipient of the SDIS Helen Hawkins Research Award this year, has been a Fulbright Fellow, a Visiting Scholar at the Academy of Rome, and a renowned specialist on the 12th Century Papacy. She spoke briefly about her upcoming Honorius Paper, July, 2015, Leeds, UK. She is also a Founding Member of SDIS. In this regard, she was interviewed by Moderator Gerry Horwitz, another longstanding member of SDIS, on her life as an Independent Scholar. Questions and answers followed.

The May meeting was also the business meeting of SDIS, with reports on the year’s activities by officers, the election of Barbara Heckler as the new President of SDIS, and the filling of several other posts by SDIS ballot. Thanks were given to Sue Rosner for her exemplary service as President of SDIS this last year.




Barbara Heckler

Michael Seidel
Executive Vice President
  & Secretary

Tom Samaras
Administrative Vice President

David Parker
  & Membership Chair

Alvin Halpern
Program Chair

Arlene Gilbert
Notebook Editor

Barbara George

Betty Boone
Alvin Halpern
Sally Pollack
Jean Mayer
Edwina Shell-Johnson




Literary Group: The literary group will be reading Hawthorne's "The Blithedale Romance" with Larry Gartner leading the  discussion on Monday, June 15th, 10:30 a.m.  We will be meeting at Vi: Nancy Cohen is the host.  We welcome interested members; please call Nancy Cohen if you would like to come.  We bring our own lunches; Nancy will provide dessert. NOTE: We will probably meet in July, but not in August.

Culture Two: At the Culture Two Study Group meeting on Friday, May 23, the discussion centered on issues raised by the following essays in Reimagining India: Chapter 3 (about business and technology)— Finding the Right Remedy, Solving India’s Most Pressing Challenge, and Power Switch — and Chapter 4 (about challenges) — Health Care for All, The Creaky Wheels of Indian Justice, It Takes More Than a Village, and India’s Farms: Harvesting the Future. These essays all relate to today’s developmental issues in India including challenges and opportunities. 

At the next regular monthly meeting of the group on Friday, June 26 the discussion will shift to religious and spiritual matters using the first half of Religion in India (A Historical Introduction) by Fred W. Clothey as background reading. During the summer months, and perhaps for a while beyond that, additional segments of both Reimagining India and Religion in India will likely serve as background reading.

In early June, the group will convene at the San Diego Museum of Art for a docent led viewing of the Binney Collection of Indian art miniatures. 

The current plan this Fall is to shift attention to the Middle East in order better to understand issues related to that region. We want to identify, in the voluminous literature about that region and its cultures, several highly informative and readable texts to serve as background reading. Of the many specific topics which could be addressed, the group has expressed special interest in learning more about Iran, about Arab cultures, and about Islam in general.  Reading suggestions are invited from all SDIS members. Please contact Sam Gusman ( with your suggestions and questions.

Culture One: Cultural Differences, Continued: During the summer, Culture One is updating its study of cultural differences by reading three articles on this topic: 1-"We Aren't the World," follow-up on "WEIRD," the non-universality of cultural research findings (e.g., attention to religion); 2-"Cultural Intelligence" Harvard Business Review article on Cultural Management; and 3-"Differences in Cultures," dimensions on which cultures differ, Analytic Technology. Meeting times to be arranged, contact Rosner, for information. 

Colloquy Café will continue to meet on the third Wednesday of the months at 1:30 throughout the summer.

Our recent topic was "beauty."  After the conventional meaning in describing a woman as attractive, sexy or pretty, and a mathematical description of elegant, short, and clever, we agreed that, while everyone has a concept of what beauty means, defining it is very difficult.  Beauty is relative, as expressed in "beauty is in the mind of the beholder," but some beauty is universal, attractive to most people.  Sunsets, for example, like other aspects of nature, e.g., the Milky Way, waterfalls, a snow-topped mountain.  However, different cultures develop different definitions of beauty, whether it describes a woman, music, a work of art, or a story.  For us, it seems fruitless to try to pin a definition onto the word.  The June Colloquy Café will be held on June 17, 2015, when we'll discuss "arrogance."  For further information, contact

The Film Group will meet Wednesday, June 3 at 10:00 the home of Barbara Heckler to view the documentary Life Itself, a documentary about famed film critic Roger Ebert.  Ebert was the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, in 1975.  

Summer meeting dates are July 1 and August 5.  Tentatively scheduled for July 1 is Inequality for All, a 2013 documentary which follows Robert Reich, U.C. Berkley professor and Secretary of Labor in the Clinton cabinet, as he explains the causes and implications in the disappearance of the middle class. Tentatively scheduled for August 5 is a 2014 documentary The Missing Picture, which uses archival footage and clay figures to depict the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979.


Study Group Directory
See above for summer schedule. 

Colloquy Café
Contact: M.E. Stratthaus

Culture One
Contact: Sue Rosner

 Culture Two
Contact: Sam Gusman

Film Group
Contact: Barbara Heckler

Literature Group
Contact: Catherine Blecki

Science Group
To be rescheduled.
Contact: Bea Rose

Breakfast Roundtable
Contact: Barbara Heckler

Supper With Scholars
Contact: Dave Parker