SCHOLARS NOTEBOOK - November 2013

Scholars Notebook


SATURDAY LECTURE SERIES - NOVEMBER 16, 2013

1:30 - 3:30PM     *PRICE CENTER*     UCSD CAMPUS 



AMERICAS FINEST CITY?

 

 

An update of Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Failures in San Diego 2011

 

Steven Erie, the book’s author, will discuss our city’s political climate and history.  Erie is a professor of political science and Director of UCSD’s Urban Studies and Planning program.

 

San Diego, we believe, is a harbinger for dysfunctional state and national trends related to political culture, leadership and institutions,Erie and his co-authors, Vladimir Kogan and Scott MacKenzie, state in the books preface. Paradise Plundered, a mix of policy analysis, political theory and history, won The American Political Science Associations best urban book award.

 

The speaker has advised community leaders in Southern California on the policy challenges of the region. Erie helped develop San Diegos strong mayorform of government and served on the Governors Commission on Building for the 21st Century. His research interests include urban politics and public policy, Southern California infrastructure and development, and California water issues.

 

Erie’s 2006 book, Beyond Chinatown: The Metropolitan Water District, Growth and Environment in Southern California, corrects the movie myth that the MWD of Southern California stole water rights from the Owens Valley to irrigate Los Angeles. Instead it considers the MWD a model for responsible water management and environmental sustainability. His current book project is Mulhollands Gift, concerning the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

 

 

*NOTE*

There is a room change for this month's lecture. 
We will be meeting in the West Bear Room, which is in the Price Center on the UCSD Campus.  Directions are: Library Walk, a wide pedestrian avenue extending from Gilman to the UCSD Library, is less than a half block from our usual meeting place.  Walk on it toward the library. Very close to the Library, on the building to your right is a sign announcing the office of "Kaplan."  Turn toward Kaplan, entering a walkway that hugs the building, angling left. Follow it.  You'll come to a sign painted on the bldg. with a large arrow on which "Bear Room" is the first item.  Enter the door pointed out by the arrow and the Bear Room will be ahead of you to the left.  All without stairs or elevator!

 

*HOLIDAY LUNCHEON*

DATE: Saturday, December 7th  11:30 - 2:30  (Deadline for reservations: November 25)

LOCATION:  Carlsbad-by-the-Sea Retirement Community  760-720-4580 

            2855 Carlsbad Boulevard (street parking behind the building) 

            $20.00 per person for members/guests (includes wine and drinks).
 

Its a beautiful setting by the ocean, enhanced by lovely Holiday decorations.  
Meet old and news friends, and remember that 
guests are always welcome. 

Many North County members drive to La Jolla for meetings, so we invite you to drive to quaint, 
historic, downtown Carlsbad for our Holiday Luncheon
… everyone who attended last year had a great time!  

 

Reservations and checks ($20/person) payable to SDIS - include your choice of salmon or turkey! 

 

Mail to:  Marla Jensen

             1945 Silverleaf Circle, Carlsbad 92009  

             Questions?  Call Marla at 760-407-1101. 

 

Directions: Interstate 5 North to Carlsbad Village Drive 

                 Exit West to Carlsbad Boulevard, go North to 2855
(between Grand and Christiansen)
Park on the street around the building
 

 



 NEW SDIS BREAKFAST ROUNDTABLE

We’ll meet at Coco’s on Monday, November 18 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. for breakfast and roundtable discussion. 
Coco’s is located in University City at the intersection of Genesee and Nobel Drive in the Costa Verde shopping center. 
It’s across the street from University Town Center.  To make a reservation, contact Barbara Heckler at bheckler@san.rr.com by Saturday, November 16. 
Don’t hesitate to call at the last minute – we’ll make space!

 

 

 

FROM THE PRESIDENT

Sometimes when quiet moments linger and thoughts wander from the mundane I do reflect on the usefulness of what I do and what interests me. I know I take pleasure in learning. I am not paid to do it so I am not beholden to anyone's criteria but my own. I try to form my own judgments so I like to believe that frees me to think as I will. I call this independent scholarship but I do so with a degree of unease; I feel more must be said. In a very direct way I sense an inadequacy of communication. 

A CLEARER UNDERSTANDING

After years of conversation within SDIS, especially at Colloquy Café Study Group meetings, the reality sinks in that important words and phrases can convey quite different meanings to different people. This is not a rare occurrence. At the Café this phenomenon is regular fare. Alas, I believe it is true too for the phrase "independent scholarship." I suggest we'd all be better off if this phrase, including its various perceived meanings, were understood more clearly and more widely. I personally believe independent scholarship has greater potential than is now evident, so I suggest strongly that this is well worth our collective attention. I'll here present some speculative thoughts along these lines. I will also invite your comments. 

USEFULNESS

An embarrassing question takes shape. I know l bias my valuation of what I do and learn not just by the pleasure of it but also by considering its usefulness. Perhaps this is a belief commonly held in American culture; I sense that it is but I can offer no convincing evidence for this point of view. Perhaps it stems specifically from the way I was educated to think as an engineer and then as a physical scientist whose research, even when not directly aimed at specific and overtly useful purpose, had an undertone of usefulness to it. The mantra was, "Basic knowledge and understanding of the world underpin future usefulness." 

THE JOY OF DISCOVERY

Usefulness runs deep in my thinking. So does curiosity, a motivation harder to justify. Yet somehow I rationalize random study born of curiosity as a kind of strategy which occasionally turns up something useful. For me, a sign of this is an "aha!" sense at moments of unanticipated discovery. 

EXO-USEFUL KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge is often the parent of technology which, for one reason or another, is considered useful in today's world useful to someone for some purpose, not necessarily beneficial for all. Stated differently, knowledge can trigger development of something perceived as useful. It is that "something else," not the knowledge per se, which is useful. It can be called "exo-useful knowledge. Relationships of this kind between knowledge and usefulness pervade the physical and biological sciences, and arguably the social sciences too but it is not at all clear to me that the usefulness of knowledge in the humanities is principally of this kind. 

ENDO-USEFUL KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge itself can also be useful directly as a framework for the knowledgeable person's own purposes. Indeed, in ancient Greece knowledge of aspects of what today is called the humanities was viewed as part of the ideal knowledge base (paideia) of a citizen. This was knowledge directly and personally useful to the citizen. 

In today's world, knowledge is frequently endo-useful but for a different reason than in ancient Greece. Often specific specialized knowledge is an essential pre-condition for entry into a skilled vocation or profession. General knowledge in the humanities can bear a similar endo-useful relationship to vocations in which broader vision is useful such as general executive positions and entrepreneurship. This line of reasoning, linking general knowledge in the humanities to vocational success, was recently described by a leading academic at a recent SDIS public meeting. 

WAYS OF USEFULNESS

More to the point for independent scholars who have no vocational ambitions, of what usefulness is study in the humanities in today's world? In a way this question reduces to rumination about two separate pathways to usefulness: the exo-useful pathway by which one beneficially communicates what one knows to others, and the endo-useful pathway through which one's personal intellectual knowledge may usefully inform one's own life. The former (the exo-useful pathway) informs by communication to others. It, I suggest, is the kind of scholarship traditionally practiced in academia. The latter (the endo-useful direct pathway) informs personal practice. It, I suggest, guides the life and behavior of intellectually inclined people across a broad swath of society.

AN ENTERTAINMENT 

Within SDIS I often talk of the pleasure of learning from and with each other. This suggests an active interest in learning, at least for the pleasure of doing so. Does this imply a belief that learning is useful? Yes, but not with certainty. For some people independent scholarship and concepts of usefulness may exist in different realms. Perhaps for them scholarship is of similar consequence to doing a cross-word puzzle, namely, a somewhat intellectual entertainment. 

A PERSONAL ASSESSMENT

My personal observations at SDIS activities suggest otherwise. I see within SDIS what I interpret as an interest in learning which far transcends entertainment. For some it appears to be of the endo-useful kind, and for others especially those engaged in solo research studies the intent seems exo-useful. I believe I see an emerging trend toward the endo-useful end of the spectrum but I am not sure. My personal hope is that we maintain a balance between the two, each enlightening the other. All this is critically relevant to the kinds of activities which will emerge as SDIS continues gradually to evolve and change. 

AN ONGOING DIALOG

I invite comments from SDIS members on these matters. If I receive more than a handful of responses I'll edit them into a future From The President column. If fewer, I'm open to entering into dialog with those who respond either separately or as a group.

Sam Gusman

 

 

 

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH MIKE SIEDEL

Interviews of SDIS Members are submitted
by Barbara Heckler 

 

Q.  What are your memories of childhood in Berlin under Hitler? How did your parents cope?

 

A.  Actually quite pleasant. Politics did not intrude in my life although my parents were under increasing stress. They shielded me from their worries. When I brought stuff back from school or Hitler Youth instructions that seemed puzzling and I asked my mother about them, she tended to say that, yes, the Führer was a great man but, think about it, the Good Lord the Priest talks about in Church is still a far bigger man. I wondered why the Führer and the Good Lord would disagree but didnt worry about it. 

 

My parents tried to stay under the radarwith their views, my Jewish grandfather, and my mothers activities in helping Jewish friends.

 

Q.  How did those years shape your perspectives as an adult?

 

A.  In many ways and decisively. Not my childhood per se, but the end of the war and the revelations afterwards. Those were devastating, but 1945 was also a liberation and an opening of the world for me. Many, many times I had to fight WW II all over again, particularly to Dutch and English people I met, trying to appear un des bons boches. 

 

Q.  Why did you decide to come to school in the United States?

 

A.  My uncle encouraged me. He thought that Europe in general and Germany in particular was finished. I wanted to see if he was right. I had also heard a lot about Cornell from my father. I also knew that science had advanced in the US far ahead of the disaster that was German science in 1950. 

 

Q.  How did you meet your wife Margaret?

A.  We were class mates in grad school at Cornell. I had been looking at her from afar and wished I could see the copious notes she took in advanced organic chemistry class. But then she had to do a seminar on the Wittig Reaction (q.v. Google) and all the pertinent literature was in German. She asked me to help her translate. As I have always said, Professor Wittig was not a romantic fellow, at least judging from his papers, but he brought us together. This could never happen again since even the German chemistry journals are nowadays all in English. 

Q.  Tell me a bit about your long distance romance with Margaret.

A.  It was letters mostly, although Margaret visited our family in Munich once during that time. In the beginning Margaret even sent me clippings of the strip Ll Abner, which had been my favorite (although I also missed Smokey Stover, Our Boarding House with Major Hoople, and  Fearless Fosdick). We both have a shoebox each of letters which we should look at again sometime.

Q.  What was most gratifying during your long career at Rohm and Haas?

A.  Interaction with the scientists in an acquisition I persuaded the company to make. They were at the cutting edge of genetic engineering of plants. I was ex officio on the Science Board of the acquired company. In retrospect I feel gratified by how much I learned about human nature by dealing with peers, subordinates, and company brass. 

Q.  What were your biggest concerns when you started your own business after your early retirement from R&H?

A.  Going belly-up in the first three years when most new small companies do so. 

Q.  If you had chosen another career, what would it be?

A.  I always was interested in history and mans nature, specifically in how things can go so spectacularly wrong (I have made it my hobby to analyze everything in my later corporate life under this aspect). But in the post war situation I was surrounded by utter intellectual disaster to which French philosophers reacted by declaring life and man absurd (Camus: we must think of Sisyphus as a happy man). I had to agree. The Americans I met in Munich in my student days were basically slumming, soaking up the decadence. Science by contrast looked and was solid, promising and not absurd. 

Q.  Looking back on your own life, what are you most proud of?

A.   Im not really proud of anything in my life but if you press me, I would say that I never bent myself into someone elses shape when I knew it would be wrong. I had seen too much disaster occurring because people had been brown-nosing idiots and jerks.

Q.  Why did you move to San Diego?

A.  Not for the CA taxes. Both of our sons live in the county with their two children each. 

Q.  What was your toughest decision?

A.  Getting married and getting married to Margaret; turned out well though.

Q.  What is your SDIS Hawkins grant project about?

A.  The 18th and 19th century histories of my paternal grandparentsfamilies. Shoemakers and Lutheran ministers. 

Q.  Whats your idea of fun?

A.  Writing. I have written the biographies of two of my uncles (they were both exiles after 1933, one in England, the other in Uruguay); the history of my Jewish grandfathers family; translated and commented the autobiographies of two Jewish friends of my family who were hidden during the Nazi years and survived; pieces of my autobiography, and a book about my fathers WW I experiences using his notes and photographs. 

Also the company of smart people like the ones at SDIS.  

 


STUDYGROUPS

 

Colloquy Cafe

 

On October 16, the Colloquy Café discussed the concept "normal" and in the process realized how extremely difficult it is to define.  Everyone knows what normal means, but normal doesn't always mean the same to everyone.  Synonyms include average, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, or nothing extraordinary, while antonyms cover both above normal and below normal, descriptions such as: exceptional, outstanding, and unique but also bizarre, outré, weird, odd and strange.  Identifying a thing or person or custom as "normal" unfortunately often conveys the concept that NOT normal is bad.  Obviously, culture is a huge influence on one's perception of normal.  One thing normal usually means is acceptable or conforming to expected behavior but like abnormal or unacceptable depends almost entirely on the cultural context.  Of course, the word "normal" when used in a scientific or mathematical or medical context has widely varying definitions.  For a word we use frequently and routinely, "normal" can mean so many different things.

 

The next meeting will be on Wednesday, November 20, when we will discuss "time."  For further information, contact M. E. Stratthaus at strattme@san.rr.com

 

 

Culture I

 

The October 23rd meeting of Culture One was rescheduled for NOVEMBER 20th, 2 - 4 PM due to prior personal commitments. The November assignment is Nisbett's Chapter 7 which contrasts Eastern ideas of conflict resolution, contradiction, plausibility, with Western principles of logic and coherence. East-West differences in jurisprudence, wisdom vs intelligence, and generational shifts in conflict resolution will also be mentioned. For information, please contact Sue R. Rosner: rosnersue@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Culture II

 

At its next meeting the Culture Two Study Group will shift to a new focus, the strategic issues faced by America as global power dynamics change and arguably shift from West toward East. The next meeting will be on Friday, November 8 at 1:30 PM. This is an ideal time for those interested in such matters to contact me about joining the group, sagus@sbcglobal.net. The reading for this meeting is Part 1 (The Receding West) and Part 2 (The Waning of the American Dream) in Zbigniew Brzezinskis book, Strategic Vision.

 

 

 

Film Group

 

TheFilm Groupwill meet Wednesday, November 6, at 10:00 a.m. at the home of Barbara Heckler to view Pedro Almodovars 2004 Bad Education.  The movie is a return by Almodovar to his darkstage and was chosen to open the 57th Cannes Film Festival in 2004, the first Spanish film so honored. Contact Barbara at bheckler@san.rr.com for information about attending. 

 

Octobers viewing choice was Talk to Her, a 2002 Almodovar masterpiece which alludes to the changing role of sexes.  Characters include a possibly gay nurse, a decidedly male-like but female matador, a dancer, and a writer.  Considered one of Almodovars best, the director addresses loneliness and intimacy, loyalty, and the persistence of love beyond loss.  Almodovar likes to make us uncomfortable, and he is at his best here.

 

 

 

Literature Group

 

Gerry Horwitz will lead a discussion of Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky (1949) at the home of Carol and Larry Gartner on Monday,

December 2, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. Bring your lunch; dessert will be provided.

 

Gerry provided this description of the book: "The story of an alienated American couple who drift deeper and deeper into post WWII North Africa in search of self-discovery.  This dark novel has been said to have "opened the world of Hip," into primitivism and away from civilization. Contact Cathy Blecki, cblecki@pacbell.net

 

 

Science Group

 

The next meeting of the Neuroscience Study Group is scheduled for November 11 at 3 PM in Bea Rose's home. The reading assignment consists of2 essays in Mind edited by John Brockman:  Chapter 9 entitled 'You Can't Be a Sweet Cucumber In A Vinegar Barrel'  by Philip Zimbardo, and Chapter 17 entitled HHow Can Educated People Continue

To Be Radical Environmentalists.”

 

Visitors are welcome but are advised to contact Bea Rose at (858)458-9263 or beabe@me.com because space is at a premium.