SCHOLAR'S NOTEBOOK - October 2011

 

 

Clare Crane’s Book:

Citizens Coordinate and the Battle for City Planning in San Diego

 

Presented By

JUDY SWINK

 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

1:30 p.m.

Room 111-A Chancellor’s Complex, UCSD Campus

 

Urban planning in San Diego, especially during the rapid-growth years after World War II, has tended to be a hit-or-miss proposition, subject to the whims of business, political trends, popular ideas, and even the weather.  Gradually, during this time of growth, a number of civic-minded people coalesced under the banner of “Citizens Coordinate” and began to have a significant influence on the direction of San Diego’s development.

Clare Crane, one of the earliest and most productive members of SDIS, who passed away last June, left a wonderful legacy not only in her work with Citizens Coordinate, but also in her book, which was published just a short time before her death.  Clare’s background is well-known to most SDIS members as well as many San Diegans.  She had been a political activist in San Diego and in Citizens Coordinate well before starting her doctoral degree, and many of her experiences at UCSD sharpened her political skills.  She established a reputation for herself by writing articles on San Diego history for the Journal of San Diego History and by numerous appearances at hearings regarding various city planning issues.  Along the way she met Judy Swink, whose interests coincided with her own. 

Clare was aware of the situation evolving in San Diego which threatened to change the entire character of the city, and of the need for good city planning, from her earliest days as a scholar.  For the rest of her life she was involved in Citizens Coordinate, a group dedicated to good city planning and controlled growth.  She worked with the group for a number of years, and was urged by friends and members of C-3, as Citizens Coordinate is now called, to write about its work.  Once she started, SDIS members became quite familiar with her work as she shared it with the Works-in-Progress Study Group as she went along.

Judy Swink, an associate of Clare’s in C-3 and a researcher with an MLS degree, was one of those who urged Clare to keep going with the book, and her presentation at our meeting will introduce you more thoroughly to the work of Citizens Coordinate as well as the process of researching and writing about its successes and failures.  Learn more about Citizens Coordinate at their website www.c3sandieog.org.

 

Save the Date!

ANNUAL HOLIDAY PARTY

Saturday, December 3, at Carlsbad-by-the-Sea Retirement Community.

 

 

From the President

Dr. John Iversen of the Neurosciences Institute was the featured speaker at the SDIS September general meeting. Perhaps some of you who saw his slide of the brain’s response to external sound share with me the awesome feeling of having seen a trace of imagination itself — or at least the shadow of the real thing.

 

Dr. Iversen, as I understand it, exposed people to a repeating series of tones of identical volume followed by a rest (da da — da da — da da — on and on). Test subjects were asked to imagine a beat emphasis on either the first tone (DA da — DA da — DA da —) or on the second tone (da DA — da DA — da DA —). Since both tones were broadcast at the same volume, any cognition of volume difference between them necessarily was self-generated by the subject. Brain activity during the experiment was observed in real time using brain imaging technology. From a scientific point of view, this is an elegantly simple experiment. It neatly assures that beat emphasis, if observed, can only be the consequence of an imagined difference. The experimental results did reveal beat emphasis; test results for the beat tone were enhanced as would have been observed had the beat tone been broadcast louder than the other tone, which it was not.

As Dr. Iversen and his co-author Dr. Patel suggest in a 2008 Acoustical Society of America paper, this “might show one way in which the brain is able to modify our perceptions.” More colorfully stated, the brain imagery was a trace of the brain’s imagination at work creating its own reality. This study challenges the idea that the beat you hear is necessarily a fact of the world outside yourself.

 

Iversen and Patel’s study dealt with beat perception. The obvious follow-on question is whether imagination influences most or all kinds of perception. Stated more pointedly, the question is whether your interpretation of your perceptions includes a degree of participation in their creation.

 

Let’s explore as a thought experiment the generalization that your perceptions, which you believe represent the world “out there,” may in part be a reflection back to you of your preconceptions about “out there.” A cautionary word of explanation is in order: this generalization is intended only as a broad brush, hand-waving exercise. From an experimental neuroscience point of view each separate mode of perception calls for its own detailed investigation. Its relevance to computer modeling which treats cognition as a complex emergent phenomenon (like the weather, the internet, ecological systems, or social groups) is similarly only evocative. However, from a more philosophical point of view — my main excuse for presenting this idea — I do suggest direct usefulness of the generalization as a straw man during broadly integrative discussions. What come first to mind are two areas of current interest to SDIS study groups: the meaning of idea-laden words and studies of human culture. Use of this straw man generalization may be particularly helpful in discussion of public policy issues of various sorts, for example, public education or the concept of the European Union.

 

The old philosophical questions about the reality of what is “out there” are not challenged by this thought experiment. It merely posits that perceptions of “out there” may be influenced by cognitive preconceptions. A corollary is the denial of a sharp boundary protecting perception from cross-over with cognition (including imagination).

 

A general statement supportive of possible cross-over of this kind is found in Marco Iacoboni’s 2008 book, Mirroring People. While noting that many brain cells are specialized, he goes on to say that the neuroscientist who assumes “no crossing over between perception, action, and cognition may miss entirely (or dismiss as a fluke) neuronal activity that codes with much more complexity, that reflects a brain that is dealing with the world in a much more ‘holistic’ fashion than previously understood.”

 

Dr. Nelson Goodman’s 1978 book, Ways of Worldmaking, has been on my bookshelf a very long time. Its title always captures my attention. In a chapter titled “The Fabrication of Facts,” Goodman, a philosopher, asks a series of questions:

 

“Can’t you see what’s before you?”

The answer, “That depends….” — is followed by a request for information, “Well, what’s before me?”

 

Goodman’s reply to this question summarizes what is at stake. “That depends….”, and one thing it depends on heavily is the answer to still another question: “What do you make of it?”

 

I find it fascinating, but at first disconcerting, that the beat you hear is not necessarily a fact solely of the world outside yourself. Transposing Goodman’s general line of questioning to this particular situation, the opening question becomes, “Can’t you hear what is before you?” The answer, “That depends…. ”, is appropriate because what you hear may be an amalgam of the sound signal reaching your ear and your self-generated preconception of what it might be — in Goodman’s words “what you make of it.” To say this adds complexity to interpretation of perception is surely an understatement.

 

More importantly, it is an invitation to watch with keen interest as neuroscience, both through modeling and experiment, challenges older assumptions and reveals more about the mechanisms which determine how we perceive and interact with the world around us.

                                                                  Sam Gusman

 

 

 

STUDY GROUPS

 

Colloquy Café

 Colloquy Café will discuss "Hope" on Wednesday, October 19 at 1:30 p.m. If you are interested in attending, contact Jean Mayer at pcluddite@sbcglobal.net

 

Culture

The Culture study group will focus on the issues described in Chapter 8 (Who Deserves What: Aristotle) of Justice: What's The Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel.  They will meet on Thursday, October 20 at 2:00 p.m. If you are interested in attending, contact Sam Gusman at sagus@sbcglobal.net

 

Film

TheFilm Groupwill meet Wednesday, October 5, at the home of Barbara Heckler.  At 12:30 p.m. we will view the 2004 documentary Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train. If you have already viewed the film, discussion will begin at 2:00 p.m.  Contact Barbara at bheckler@san.rr.com for information.

 

Literature

The Literature Group will begin its fall season with a discussion of Ben Jonson's "magnificent if rather dreadful comedy" titled Volpone, or the Fox. Cathy Blecki will chair the meeting, which will be held Monday, November 14th, at 10:30 a.m. in the home of Marcus Klein. Bring a brown bag lunch.  Contact Harry Boyle at hhboyle28@cox.net for more information. (Notice: no meeting in October.)

 

Science (aka Brain)

The Science Group will meet on Monday, September 26th, at 3 p.m. in Bea Rose’s apartment to discuss Chapter 3 of Patricia Churchland's Braintrust.  Visitors are welcome, but please call Bea Rose at 858-458-9263 if you intend to come.

 

Works in Progress

WIP will meet Saturday, October 22, 1:30 p.m., at the home of Aline Hornaday.    Judith Strupp Green will present a draft of her illustrated lecture for the November Chacmool Conference in Calgary, Canada.  Judith’s audience will be primarily anthropologists and historians of indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica.  Her specific subject is the study of pictorial and hieroglyphic evidence on several classic Maya painted ceramics, including one from the Museum of Man’s recently acquired collection.  Judith has learned that the iconography and text relate to a boyhood blood-letting rite to prove his right to rule a kingdom.  The rite involves slaying a stag and subsequent blood offerings to ancestors.  To attend, RSVP to Donna Boyle at dboyle101@cox.net, so that you receive Judith’s advance material. (Curious about Chacmool?  Check out these websites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chac_Mool or http://people.ucalgary.ca/~chacmool/.)

 

 

 

 

UP CLOSE & PERSONAL WITH TOM SAMARAS

 

Tom is a very busy person – exercising regularly, researching, and writing, writing, writing! See Tom’s website at www.humanbodysize.com.

Barbara Heckler

  1. Q.  You started your career as a systems engineer.  What did this involve?
  2. A.  My specialty was configuration management, a sub-discipline of systems engineering.  Configuration management involves a systematic approach to the conceptualization, design, construction and maintenance of a new system that meets the requirements specified by the customer. A key element is formal control of changes to the configuration to ensure that the system performance, safety, reliability and cost are not compromised.
  3. Q.   Why did you make a major career change?  How long did it take for you to make that decision?
  4. A.  I started my research in the ramifications of increasing human body size about 36 years ago. I worked in this area part time after my normal work schedule. About 18 years ago, I took early retirement and began working full time on how human body size affects health, performance, longevity, resources, the environment, and fiscal costs.

 

  1. Q.  You still actively research and write about the relationship between body size and longevity.  What have you concluded?
  2. A.     I collaborated with doctors from Italy and Belgium to write a new paper that was accepted by Biodemography and Social Biology. It provides additional evidence that shorter people live longer with a plant-based diet and active lifestyle.  We found that short men (5’2”) in a village in Sardinia live longer than taller (5’5”) men in the same village.  My previous research supports these findings, including a study from Spain based on 1 million deaths, and a U.S. study based on 18 million deaths, which found that shorter Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans live longer than taller Whites and Blacks.

A word of caution about my findings: Height is only one factor in the longevity picture; economic status, education, diet, lifestyle, weight, socialization, and heredity also play important roles. Therefore, not all short people live longer than taller ones. In fact, many tall people with higher socioeconomic and a healthful lifestyle can live to be 100 or more.

     

  1. Q.  About your writing…how many books have been published?  Articles?

A.   I have written or co-authored six books on engineering and industrial management. I co-authored the first book ever written on configuration management.

I edited the book Human Body Size and The Laws of Scaling: Physiological, Performance, Growth, Longevity and Ecological Ramifications. A reviewer from the University of North Carolina said it was a Herculean accomplishment.

In 1994, I wrote the book The Truth About Your Height. I have also written chapters in the International Encyclopedia of Public Health; Epidemiology and Demography in Public Health; New Developments in Obesity Research and Trends in Nutrition Research.

 I have written articles for Harpers, Science Digest, Earth Island Journal, World Future Society, Edison Electric Company, World Nutrition, and the World Health Organization. Over 29 papers were published over the years with the help of associates in medicine, physiology, biology, nutrition, and demographics.  

 

Q.  When did you form Reventropy? What is its purpose?

A.   In 1992, I started working full time on my research and formed this organization which is dedicated to the ramifications of increasing human body size. The term “Reventropy” was created from “reversing entropy.” “Entropy” is a term from science which means disorder. The law of entropy says that everything tends to go from order

 

to disorder unless external work is done to reverse the process.  At the time, it was the only organization looking into this important area related to future human survival.  

 

Q.  You’re Administrative VP for SDIS.  What does that involve?
      A.  In addition to attending Board meetings, I schedule the conference meeting room at UCSD and handle audio visual needs of our speakers.

 

Q.  Do you have any pet peeves?

A.   We have all been brain washed from childhood on the benefits of rapid growth and greater height. Because of this bias, people tend to have difficulty in thinking out of the box, and many scientists cannot see the harmful ramifications of increasing body size. By the time nutritional scientists, the medical profession and governments realize that they have created a self-destructive growth trend based on excessive consumption of animal protein and processed foods, it may be too late to correct it without massive health problems and food and water shortages. So my pet peeve is “knee jerk” reactions to my findings because they go against the sacred cow—increased growth and body size.

 

Q.  If you could choose any person (living or historical) to spend an evening with, who would that be?

A.  Professor John Waterlow (UK) saw into the future well before I did. It would have been great to meet and discuss his concerns about increasing body size and obtain his reactions to my findings.

 

NEW MEMBERS

SDIS extends a warm welcome to its newest members:  Joan Eichberg, whose interests are literature (biography, famous women) and music; and Norman Eichberg, whose interests are literature, music, and politics.

    

About SDIS

San Diego Independent Scholars (SDIS) supports unaffiliated writers and researchers and welcomes everyone who appreciates creative and intellectual activities in the humanities, science, and the arts.  SDIS is a non-profit organization and an affiliate of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars. Sam Gusman, President, sagus@sbcglobal.net.

 

Scholar’s Notebook is the newsletter of SDIS. Please send your news for the Notebook to Barbara Heckler, Notebook editor: bheckler@san.rr.com or by mail to 3489 Wellesly Ave, San Diego, CA 92122. The deadline for submissions is the 22nd of the month prior to publication date.

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