Dr. Robert Livingston probably figured he had encountered just about every sort of student and every sort of question that might be germane to his discipline.
After all, he's a lifelong educator who has taught at Yale, Harvard and UCLA and who is now at UC San Diego, where he founded the neurosciences department at the School of Medicine and currently is researching how to develop a computer-generated map of the human brain in microscopic detail.
He has been on the staff of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council and has served as scientific director for the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness.
He ponders such questions as what is human nature, and is it common to all humans? And, at what point does an embryo begin to develop human consciousness?
So there was some interesting give-and-take recently when Livingston offered some in-home tutoring to the Dalai Lama. Livingston and the Dalai Lama had met three times earlier on the lecture circuit. And the Dalai Lama, who serves as both the secular and ecclesiastical ruler of Tibet (although now in exile in India), asked Livingston to join American and French professors at the Dalia Lama's palace for five days to familiarize the Buddhist leader with the latest in Western scientific thought.
Among the Dalai Lama's questions: Is the euphoria of sexual orgasm created by the physical sensation of coitus or the more spiritual ecstasy of a transmigrating soul at the time of conception?
Each professor was given a morning to present his topic, and the afternoon was spent in open discussion.
Livingston suggests he may have prospered more by the experience than the Dalai Lama, given his own interest in Buddhism and being given the chance to soak up a week's exposure to the Buddhist leader. But he characterized the Dalai Lama as one of his finest students--and the first to pose the question about the physical and emotional feelings at time of sexual orgasm.
"He had believed the ecstasy was caused by the transmigrating soul entering the (female) organism and causing conception at that very moment of fertilization, which was right at the moment of ejaculation. When we explained to him that the sperm and the egg might not connect for 24 hours, plus or minus, he was shocked.
"I don't know what they're going to do about that," Livingston mused.
A Beeper and Shampoo
If you're shopping at North County Fair or Plaza Bonita and the lady next to you has a beeper go off in her purse, you can wonder about all the reasons she's being paged.
She's a doctor and her patient is failing? She's a stockbroker and Wall Street is hemorrhaging? She's a pilot on standby? She's killing time until her hair appointment?
Indeed. Great Expectations Hair Salons is now issuing beepers to its customers at the two malls so they can shop until it's their turn for the chair, when they're beeped.
Socking It to the Needy
In our Department of Charitable Giving, here are a few projects in the spirit of the holidays:
- For each person who donates blood to the Community Blood Bank of North County, Play Co. will donate a toy to the Casa de Ampara shelter for abused or neglected children at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside.
- Mission Federal Credit Union donated 500 pairs of socks, from baby booties to men's dress socks, to Spectrum Ministries, which helps clothe the needy in Tijuana.
Why 500 pairs of socks? The 21 Mission Federal offices around San Diego County had them dangling from the rafters for a promotion called "Knock Your Socks Off," then had an in-house suggestion program to figure out what to do with the socks after the promotion was over.
- Kaiser Permanente is off again on its annual holiday food drive, which has grown from 10 families a couple of years ago to a list of 160 families this year.
Employees are not only buying raffle tickets for potted Christmas trees to help purchase turkeys, but also are bringing in food for the drive. And what kind of food depends on where the employee works.
The Carlsbad and Escondido offices are in charge of potatoes; Clairemont Mesa's got the pumpkin and cherry pie fixings; Point Loma is in charge of dressing; La Mesa's got the sweet potatoes; the medical center in Mission Gorge is the cranberry clinic. . . .
An Electrical Shock
Vernon Payne of Escondido was a little shocked the other day when he opened his electrical bill. It came to $24,075.50.
C'mon fellows, he complained. No way could he use 75 million kilowatt hours, but that's what the bill insisted. The Christmas tree lights aren't even plugged in yet!
Ooops. If that were an accurate accounting, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. admitted, the meter would have blown up. Turns out someone punched the wrong numbers into Mother Computer.
The bill was corrected to $75.72.