OLLI Instructor Duncan Palamourdas Featured in Daily Bruin

Konstantinos “Duncan” Palamourdas in the OLLI Classroom (Joe Akira/Daily Bruin)


Duncan Palamourdas teaches poker and chess to small classes which always fill up early. He is known for his incredible energy and enthusiasm. We’re very proud that he was featured in the Daily Bruin, and that his book will be out in 2019.

Konstantinos “Duncan” Palamourdas in the OLLI Classroom (Joe Akira/Daily Bruin)Konstantinos “Duncan” Palamourdas uses a “John Wooden approach” when teaching poker strategy.

Palamourdas, a UCLA alumnus, wanted to share his distinct perspective on the game from an analytical and scientific standpoint, using math concepts to approach poker. But Palamourdas also emphasizes the fact that players should be themselves, rather than following a certain gameplay template, just as coach Wooden once did with Bruin basketball players, he said. He does this in his basic and intermediate poker classes at UCLA Extension.

His philosophy will soon be in print: Palamourdas said he is under contract to publish a book detailing his approach with D&B Publishing, which carries titles by some of professional poker’s biggest names, from Phil Hellmuth to Greg Raymer. Palamourdas’ book is in its editing phase and is expected to be released sometime in 2019.

“There’s what I like to call the objective approach, where literally people are trying to do what we call ‘solve the game.’ And by solve the game, we mean find the objectively best move that would work regardless of who you’re playing against,” Palamourdas said. “I’m more interested – believe it or not – in analyzing the game than playing (the game) itself.”

Palamourdas’ initial 2014 email inquiry to the UCLA Extension administration about teaching poker classes was met with stiff resistance, he said. However, he managed to secure a face-to-face meeting with Ric Zappala, current program director at UCLA Extension, with whom he made his case. In addition to the mathematical principles behind poker, Palamourdas said he pointed out professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management have already started a poker class; his would not be the first in a respected university. When Zappala understood that what he was teaching was fundamentally probability theory, he approved the class, Palamourdas said.

In addition to teaching a full quarter at UCLA Extension, Palamourdas teaches a six-week course to senior citizens at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a department of UCLA Extension specifically designed to serve adults 50 years or older. Phyllis Blaunstein, a retired public policy expert, decided to take Palamourdas’ class with some friends and said she appreciates his teaching style.

“He has a gift of turning incredibly complex mathematical concepts into simple and easy-to-understand ideas, and to convey them with humor to engage the class,” Blaunstein said.

Palamourdas describes the beginning of his class as being, for the most part, the same as any math class. Before class, he prepares a lecture on a single topic and uses PowerPoint slides, videos, visual aids and pictures to teach the lesson. After the lecture comes practical application – an hour or more of gameplay between students, with him providing live commentary on student moves within each game.

An issue that often arises with students is bet sizing, Palamourdas said. Students will often bet too little in an attempt to provoke their opponents to fold, but Palamourdas tries to emphasize to the students that they should bet a larger percentage of the money in the pot than they instinctively want to bet. If you don’t bet big, the opponent will never fold, and if they never fold, then you’re taking the skill out of the game, Palamourdas said.

“People are generally risk-averse. They don’t want to risk more than they have to,” Palamourdas said. “The problem is that there is a certain amount they should be risking in order to get the job done.”

Palamourdas characterizes the typical poker player as one of two archetypes: Alice or Bob, both names commonly used as placeholders in cryptology literature. The Bob player values fun over profit, making bets and moves based on intuition or a sense of excitement. Alice, on the other hand, is always playing to win. Alice values profit over fun. Over time, money will flow from Bob to Alice. However, Palamourdas said he reinforces the fact that either playing style is perfectly acceptable.

“One of the things that I stress in the book is that there is nothing wrong with either approach,” Palamourdas said. “It’s a game before anything else.”

John Southworth, a retired lawyer and student of Palamourdas, has been helping with the editing process. Southworth said this book is different from typical poker books in that it isn’t a recollection of “war stories” from tournaments past, nor is it an exemplary account of what to do when faced with particular hands during play. Instead, Southworth claims the book frames poker not as a game that changes based on who your opponent is, but rather as a game that can be won regardless of who you’re facing and what cards you are dealt.

“It’s truly a new approach to the game,” said Southworth. “It’s about beating the game, not other players.”

The popularity of Palamourdas’ classes at UCLA Extension has drawn attention from other parties around campus. Palamourdas said he is in conversation with representatives from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, who have shown serious interest in establishing a business-focused poker class at the school. Palamourdas said his view toward games has always been the same: treating the game like the science that it is, and recognizing that there is no one perfect way to play it.

“There is no such thing as a perfect truth when it comes to science … and that is incredibly important to remember,” Palamourdas said. “If anything, science has taught us humility. As does poker.”

Automation and Lifelong Learning

Dennis Mangrobang, CEO, Flexwest, LLC

By Dennis Mangrobang

I was fortunate to be able to present, “Robotics, Automation, and Our Changing Society,” as part of the Beyond the Headlines series at OLLI@UCLA.

Automation is changing our society in several ways. Driverless cars will cause our infrastructure to change (fewer roadway lanes, parking lots, etc.). Social robots will change our social interaction. Manufacturing will re-shore back to the USA, and become more localized worldwide. One of the most important changes occurring now is job loss caused by automation.

The day after the presentation, I asked Mary Ann Wilson, OLLI Program Coordinator, if she had received any feedback. She told me that one member told her that he thought the talk was going to be boring but it wasn’t. It was; however, depressing, just because a lot of people are going to lose their jobs. I appreciated receiving this feedback.

I believe the current trajectory of the impact of automation on employment and inequality is negative. For example, about 3% of all full-time U.S. jobs primarily involve driving (e.g. trucks, buses, taxis). Due to rapid advances in driverless vehicles, those jobs are at risk in the next few years. Just automating driving will create a big employment problem, considering that normal U.S. unemployment rates are around 5%, very high unemployment is around 10%, and the unemployment rate during the Great Depression peaked at around 25%. This is just the tip of the iceberg. However, I am also hopeful that we can steer this along a positive path, and I hope to better communicate this in my future presentations.

Automation will cause job loss. Should this be depressing or encouraging? It depends on how we handle the situation and how an individual values their job as part of their life.

If you or your friend won the lottery or were born into a wealthy family, would you be depressed about this? Probably not, at least not initially. With sufficient wealth, you could continue working in your current job or do something else. I believe most of us would do something else. The long-term outcome of your life would depend on what else you chose to do, but at least you would have more options, such as attending more OLLI courses.

The effect of losing your job because of automation could be like winning the lottery, or being born into a wealthy family.

The key to winning this automation lottery is capital ownership. If you own the robot that took your job, that is a good thing. If somebody else owns that robot, it is a bad thing for you. We should all own automation.

Unfortunately, most of us have limited ownership of automation through our stock market investments in companies that use automation. The majority of capital ownership is now concentrated within a small segment of our society, a situation called wealth inequality. With this current situation, automation is enabling inequality to grow, and at an increasing rate. More automation creates more job loss and more wealth concentration to the owners of capital.

What can be done? The solution that is most frequently proposed is universal basic income (UBI), which would tax the owners of automation, and redistribute this income to everyone. It depresses me that people, politicians in particular, think this is a practical way to address the problem. It could work in theory, but I am skeptical. The owners of capital will fight against this. They are the ones who wield political power and will shape this policy if implemented. If you cannot find a job, how likely is it that a program like this will provide what you need? Universal basic income would be better than doing nothing, but I think we can do better.

A better solution is to solve the root cause of the problem, which is capital ownership. We should transition the ownership of automation to a broader segment of our society. One way to accomplish this is though 100% employee-owned companies that are focused on developing and using automation.  Initially, your jobs at such a company would be the same as investor-owned companies, and with similar pay. However, the income derived from the deployment of capital would go to the employee/owners, and not passive investors. Employees could invest capital to join, or they could buy in though sweat equity. Employee ownership could have other significant benefits. Employee/owners would decide what the company policies should be. They could decide to not move the company to another country, not to pollute the ground water in their community, and not to award their CEO excessive compensation for implementing short-term policies that cause long-term harm. And, they could decide to voluntarily share the growing pool of capital with others, and how to wield the political power of their company.

My goal is to create a company like this, and I hope people will want to join or build other companies based on this concept. I encourage you to think about these issues and possible solutions, and take direct action.

Lifelong ownership of automation could be very positive, and enable more lifelong learning for people of all ages. OLLI power!

I have compiled a list of resources related to the presentation. Whether you attended or not, I hope you will find them useful. You may view these at: https://flexwest.com/robotsAndOurChangingSociety.html

All About Bone

By Roy Meals

I grew up in Kansas City and spent as much time as a could on my grandparents’ farm in central Missouri. There I saw the whole life cycle of bones from birth to butcher to table. I have always enjoyed being outside, and I am not sure whether that stimulated my interest in natural history or vice versa. Either way, my interests led me to major in biology at Rice University, where I gained a deep appreciation for the diversity and adaptations of animal life. During medical school at Vanderbilt University I had the opportunity to further explore the workings and failings of human tissues and was particularly attracted to bone. It appealed to my mechanical, three-dimensional way of thinking.

These inclinations led to an orthopedic surgery residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where I had the opportunity to drill down, both literally and figuratively, on living bone. The residency was interrupted for two years by my military obligation, which I fulfilled as a general medical officer in Turkey. That experience, and the regional travel opportunities it allowed in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe put bones into an entirely new perspective for me—their historic and cultural implications. The ways that the Hittites and ancient Egyptians managed their dead brethren and the ways that various civilizations have used bone as implements, weapons, and ornamentation enhanced my interest in the unique composition and multiple purposes of bone.

After completing a hand surgery fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, I joined the orthopedic surgery faculty at UCLA, where my current title is Clinical Professor. My career in academic medicine has allowed me not only to manage many difficult bone abnormalities in the upper extremity, it has also provided the opportunity to write extensively on these topics. This includes many peer-reviewed journal articles and two books, One Hundred Orthopedic Conditions Every Doctor Should Understand and The Hand Owner’s Manual, A Hand Surgeon’s Thirty Year Collection of Important Information and Fascinating Facts. My interest in writing extends to improving the form and content of the works of others. I have been on the senior editorial board of the Journal of Hand Surgery for most of my career including a five-year term as Editor-in-Chief.

Travel continues to interest me, and visits to all of the inhabited continents and 48 states have provided study opportunities regarding my interest in bone. Museums devoted to natural history, archaeology, paleontology, anthropology, maritime history, and even fine art and musical instruments exhibit bones and bone artefacts and vouch for its durability and versatility. I have savoured each visit.

I now want to organize my observations and experiences with bone, and in a systematic way share my passion with others. Starting with a blog, www.aboutbone.com and a five-part lecture series in the 2018 winter quarter at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute @ UCLA, my plan is to eventually turn the collected information into a book: Bone. Supporting Life, Capturing History.


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra drops in on OLLI Course

Attorney General Xavier Becerra with Instructor Bob Stern

Students of the OLLI course, The Trump Presidency: the Good, the Bad and the Unknown, were treated to an unexpected guest speaker on October 10: California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The attorney general talked on the state of California’s response to the Trump Presidency — which has included filing suit against the federal government. Several notable cases have targeted the adminstration’s actions on immigration policy, including a suit against the proposed border wall; one challenging the rescinding of the DACA program for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors; and another seeking to block Trump’s policy of withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities.”

“Along the way, if someone wants to get in our way,” Becerra said, “I’m not going to pick a fight, but if someone wants to fight, like Donald Trump, we’ll be ready.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra taking questions

The 6-week course is taught by Bob Stern, who has been an observer and participant in elections for the past 40 years and has worked for Congressional campaigns and public officials, including Henry Waxman and Jerry Brown. He is frequently interviewed by news outlets, including MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, the Los Angeles Times and other papers throughout the country on election and campaign reform subjects.

At the Luskin Center on UCLA Campus

The class was also given a location upgrade to the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center, along with free parking and refreshments.

The Los Angeles Daily News covered the event, which you can read about here.

You can also hear it on our podcast, which you can find here.

The course runs from  September 28 – November 2. Other guest speakers include:

  • Chris Carson, President of the League of Women Voters of the United States
  • Bill Boyarsky, former Los Angeles Times editor and columnist
  • Jim Brulte, Chairman of the California Republican Party and former State Senator
  • Derek Shearer, former US Ambassador to Finland and Occidental College professor



The 2017 Osher Institutes National Conference

Stacey Hart, Mary Ann Wilson, Marlene Zweig

I attended the Osher Institutes National Conference in Irving, TX on April 3-5, 2017 at the luxurious Omni Mandalay Hotel. Accompanying me was OLLI’s  volunteer, Marlene Zweig, who joined OLLI at UCLA at its inception in 2005, serving as a member of the original OLLI Advisory Council when fewer than 400 persons participated in the program. She continues to serve as a member of the OLLI Advisory Board and Chair of the OLLI Curriculum Committee. It was our first time to attend.

We marveled at how well organized the conference was — every meeting was well-run, informative, and stayed on schedule; and the attention to detail was apparent down to the color-coded name cards at the final dinner. All the participants were given flash drives that included the slides and handouts of each session. But most importantly, the food was plentiful and delicious. All this thanks to Stacey Hart, Manager of Operations, National Resource Center for OLLI.

We learned that of the 120 lifelong learning programs in the country, no program is like another, nor should be. OLLI isn’t a franchise, they said, but more like a network of bakeries, each one featuring home-baked, delicious cookies.

We were impressed by many of these home-baked surprises: a dance program that included not just ballroom and line dancing but a performance of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”; an acting course on the history of old-time radio that became an active theater performance of a Jack Benny radio show. Which then evolved into productions requiring auditions for actors over 50, featuring such Broadway musicals as Fiddler on the Roof and Grease. Then there were the OLLI members, who with the help of a master gardener, took over a brownfield remediation site and produced 3,000 pounds of fresh produce in its first year and 17,000+ pounds of fresh produce by its fourth year, all of which were donated to food pantries and soup kitchens.

We heard from Executive Director of the Osher National Resource Center (NRC), Steve Thaxton; President of the Bernard Osher Foundation, Mary Bitterman; Senior Program Director of the Bernard Osher Foundation, David Blazevich; and Founder and Treasurer of the Bernard Osher Foundation: the one and only Bernard Osher, who is one cool dude. We were inspired by notable speakers, we networked with colleagues near and far, and we returned with a greater appreciation for UCLA Extension, which provides an infrastructure of support we had always taken for granted.

At a plenary session on fundraising, one panelist got a round of applause when she said she finally got a development officer. The idea of not having one stunned me.

At a new directors’ workshop, we discussed how and if the following offices assisted our work: parking, development, dining services, facilities, mail services, and marketing. One new director said she had none of these services and asked others to tell her how to get them. OLLI at UCLA has all these.

Another director told me he was only allowed to use a classroom on campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have our own space in the new Gayley Center with first dibs on two classrooms, a lounge with three personal computers, a TV, refrigerator, microwave, and free coffee.

So, thank you UCLA Extension, for making us feel at home.

And thank you, Mr. Bernard Osher, for bringing happiness into the lives of 160,125 Osher members in 377 towns and cities across the country.


Mary Ann Wilson Program Coordinator

How Volunteering with the American Language Center Led to This

Leonard Blum Russia 1

Leonard and Bonnie Blum with ALC student Lena in front of an entrance to the Kremlin and Red Square.

My name is Leonard Blum and I am an Osher member. Lena, a student from Moscow, who was enrolled in a class of the American Language Center, asked our Osher class for volunteers to aid their students in learning and practicing English. Coincidentally, my wife, Bonnie, and I were planning a trip to Russia. I asked Dylan if he could please ask Lena to contact me to discuss Moscow. She did. Lena came to our home; we had a delightful meeting with her and she gave us valuable information about her city. Lena then tutored my wife in the Russian language. Our time in Moscow coincided with Lena being at home and we were fortunate to have her as not only our guide, but our dinner companion for three out of four nights we were in Moscow. I thank the Osher Institute for facilitating our introduction to Lena, which worked out for our mutual benefit.

Teaching Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism

By Don Parris

Don Parris

Don Parris

I have been teaching Buddhism over the past thirty plus years, and the most frequently asked question of me is how I got into Buddhism and particularly Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism, a discipline that requires intensive study of Theravāda (classical/individual vehicle) Buddhism for seven years, Mahāyāna (universal vehicle) Buddhism for seven years, and Vajrayāna (Tibetan/Tantric diamond vehicle) Buddhism for seven years. It all began with a telephone call.

The call came as my wife and I were chillaxing on the pristine crescent bay sands of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, sipping mai tais complete with little pink parasols spiked in pineapple wedges. A “Grand Budapest Hotel” Zero Moustafa type lobby boy paraded by, in red pillbox hat, searchingly pinging his xylophone, “Call for Mr. Parris. Call for Mr. Parris.” I took it on the house phone in the Mauna Kea’s stunning blue tiled entryway.

“Don! This will change your life!” Frank, my mentor in the global Big-Law firm at which I was a young associate grunt, always spoke emphatically and was not one for such niceties as “hello” or identifying himself. Straight to the chase; and, as always, he was right—emphatically so.

6With that salutation, the force-of-nature that was the Senior Partner Chair of our firm conscripted me and my ever-valiant wife into a trek to the base camp of Mount Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world—“The Five Treasures of the High Snow”—toward the eastern end of the Himalayas. I had never even heard of the mountain’s home, the Kingdom of Sikkim. However, our alpine guide, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, regaled us for weeks with stories not only of Sikkim, but also of the Himalayas, Tibetan Buddhism, Sherpas, bodhisattvas, tantra, yetis, and his and Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1953 first summit of Mount Everest. After his ascent, Nepal, India and Sikkim fought over Tenzing’s provenance; but first, foremost and forever, he was a Sherpa. Throughout that first trek, the love, care and selflessness the Sherpas and Sherpanis extended to my sometimes struggling wife opened my eyes, mind and heart to a far more evolved life form than the one prowling the hallways of Century City high rises.

4As Frank had prophesized, the Buddhist cultural Himalayas became my life-changing path, journey and sanctuary. I began “taking refuge” not in the Three Jewels of Buddhism—the Buddha (teacher), the Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community)— but, in the more western sense of the phrase. I took refuge in the Himalayas where my clients and office couldn’t reach me; and, if I be completely honest, visa versa. However, for me, it soon became less about escape, and more about quest and inner exploration. I eventually took refuge formally in the Three Jewels and became what Buddhism calls a “stream entrant:” one who enters onto the Path seeking a different perspective and way of engaging life. Decades of learning, scholarship, teaching, guiding and practicing later, I’m still swinging through the branches on that evolutionary continuum; but hopefully soon will be able to walk upright.

Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism is an orally transmitted and visually encoded tradition. The Buddha cautioned that its accelerated path to enlightenment—nirvāṇa—was as dangerous as it was expeditious; and, accordingly, had to be undertaken only with the guidance of an appropriate teacher or guru. So, eventually, when fully prepared—or so I thought—I introduced myself to my proposed first teacher, the venerable Geshe Phurba in the alter room of his Himalayan monastery. It was not an audition to be proud of. I bowed, I namasted, I invoked an air of solemnity, and ventured, “I wish to become a Buddhist; I wish to become enlightened; I wish to practice anuttarayogatantra,” showing off a bit with the last to convince him I was learned in his ways, familiar with the highest tantric practices, and serious disciple material.

7His response: “Later.”

Me: “No.” I actually said “no”—to Yoda. By that time I was a partner in the global Big-Law firm; so it was knee-jerk, maybe even genetic. Recovering quickly, I dialed it way back and asked, “Why? It’s already late for me master; I need to start now.”

Geshe Phurba: “You can not. You have no mind.”

Oh, I thought, just a simple misunderstanding. After all, it’s not like I had filled out a formal application for the position. “I have a mind,” I informed him, and promptly proved the opposite by listing everything under my professional CV caption “Awards and Honors:” PBK, Coif, Law Review Editor, JD, Supreme Court clerkship, Big-Law partner . . . .

“Stop!,” Geshe interrupted. “There, you have no mind!” He looked pained, as though it gave him a headache just trying to think down to my level.

Finally, losing all conceit and using his honorific title, I simply asked, “What do I do, Rinpoche?”

“First,” he said, “get a mind. Observe, study, learn, critique, focus, meditate, understand, and practice. Then, teach.”5

“But what about enlightenment?” I blurted out.

Response: “Later.” I had the uneasy feeling we were right back where we started, only much further behind. “Please, Rinpoche, will you help me?”

And he promptly got up and walked out.

Since I was still in the alter room, I did not actually swear; but I channeled it through every fiber of my body.

Eventually Geshe Phurba returned. He unrolled a grimy scrolled painting—a thangka—and hung it on the wall by a small window. He then laid an old frayed rug down before it, motioned me to sit there, and directed me, “Observe, study, learn.”

Don Parris's classroom

Don Parris’s classroom

I had no idea—none—at all. But it felt like a test, so I began studying the image. An hour and a half later, he brought me a cup of foul-smelling and fouler-tasting yak butter tea. It’s an odd and challenging concoction of black brick Chinese tea, yak milk churned to butter, and a generous scoop of salt; all of which is whipped into something of thick soup texture. The resultant taste bears little resemblance to tea, but it is chain-chugged throughout the Himalayas.

An hour after the proffered tea, Geshe Phurba returned, motioned me to sit next to him, and asked what I had observed, studied and learned. “Thank you, Jesus” I mumbled silently. I recited my near-photographic-memory description of the eidetic thangka image: details of the creature holding in his fangs and claws a disc of pictographic concentric circles, of the twelve outer ring images, of the six inner panels including one man chopping down another’s tree, the people with bloated stomachs breathing fire, the wretched souls being boiled, sawed, flayed and dismembered, and of the pig, snake and rooster chasing each other in the central hub. Nailed it!

2My master shook his head with what I chose not to recognize as profound disappointment, and asked me again what I had learned. I asked what he meant. He asked me to leave.

And that was the end of my first teaching with my master.

I had been egocentric, not properly intentioned, and not ready to begin. He, however, was infinitely patient, and had actually accepted me as his student. Decades later, I am still studying that image of the Bhavachakra—The Wheel of Life—and I am still learning its teachings. And I have, for decades, as my teacher wished, been teaching Buddhism.

The second most frequently asked question of me is what my classes are like, such as my Summer Quarter 2016 course on Tibetan/Tantric Buddhism. I should note my conviction that you cannot simply intellectualize your way along the 1Vajrayāna/Tantrayāna Path. It is a bit like learning a foreign language; it ultimately requires some period of full immersion in situ. Living in the Himalayas and particularly in a monastery or gompa, being a part of the Buddhist culture and environment, and joining its rhythm and flow, is integral to understanding the Vajrayāna and particularly its Tantric technology. Otherwise, it’s like reading the operator’s manual without ever actually seeing or using a computer.

So, in our course, I’ll complement lectures and textual scholarship with (literally) hands-on, decoded visual components including statues, iconography, artworks, thangkas, ritual objects and artifacts. From our classroom chairs, we’ll (virtually) go on a pilgrimage, explore monasteries, enjoy a festival/teschu, travel throughout the Buddhist Himalayas, and live among the people of the snows as they go about their daily spiritual lives.

On the experiential side, since this is a contemplative tradition, I’ll try to devote (time permitting) the last five to ten minutes of a few classes to sample abbreviated guided meditations, appropriate for beginners or practitioners, of various types and levels of practice from calm abiding mindfulness, to insight-based investigation, wisdom awareness transformation, and finally just a taste of the anuttarayogatantra or unexcelled yoga meditation. For those who wish to participate, the meditations can be done either in classroom chairs or on the floor (bring your own cushion).

Don Parris's classroom

Don Parris’s classroom

The course will analyze the paradigms of classical Buddhism (Middle Way, Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path, and so forth) without which we cannot understand the more esoteric teachings of the tantra. We’ll explore what is—and, equally important, is not—the Buddhist meaning of suffering/dukkha, no-self or non-self/anātman, impermanence and emptiness/shūnyatā, rebirth and the Bardo Thödol/The Tibetan Book of the Dead, nature of reality, and nirvāṇa. The “great schism” of Mahāyāna Buddhism introduced transformative changes in classical Buddhism based upon penetrating philosophical, scientific and psychological investigations and analyses, which we’ll consider in overview. The propagation of Buddhism into the Himalayas encountered and assimilated the indigenous animistic/shamanic Bön religion. The result of these influences was the “Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma”—Vajrayāna Buddhism—with its paradigm shifts, and singular teachings and practices rooted in the tantra. Throughout, we’ll take a look at the architecture, dance, music and fine arts, and the role they play in Buddhism in the Land of Eternal Snows.

3Most importantly, I want to encourage free, open and intelligent class discussion and participation on the topics addressed in each session of the course.

Don Parris will teach Tibetan Tantric Buddhism this summer on 8 Tuesdays, 1-3pm, Jun 21-Aug 9, in the Gayley Center.

Come Meet Our International Students!


Our American Language Center seeks volunteers to help international students practice English in their advanced speaking class. These students are ESL learners who want to improve their writing skills for personal, professional, or academic reasons. Our OLLI members will be interviewed by the students so that the students can practice speaking English in a live setting.  The previous sessions were great successes enjoyed by all and we hope to repeat the experience. Volunteers are needed for the following Tuesdays:

  • April 7, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-680. The theme is family!
  • May 5, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-681. The theme is travel!
  • June 4, 1:15p-3p, 1145 Gayley Center, 114, Reg #257-682. The theme is hobbies!

Intercultural Mixers

April 28, 2015 and May 28, 2015
1:15p – 2:30p, 1145 Gayley Center

OLLI members interested in meeting international students for intercultural discussion can arrange group exchanges through Bob Baldwin, Academic Advisor at the American Language Center (ALC), UCLA Extension. Mixers consist of 10 – 15 international students who meet with an equal number of OLLI members. Mixers are conducted like a “speed-dating” session, with pairs (consisting of one OLLI member and one ALC student) meeting for 10 minutes per pairing. Questions are provided, but participants are free to talk about anything they like. Mixers can be English-only or bilingual (subject to there being sufficient numbers of ALC students who speak a language which OLLI members wish to practice). For further information, contact Bob at rbaldwin@unex.ucla.edu  or (310) 794-2714.

Language Partners Program (LPP):

The LPP, which has been in operation for over 25 years, provides the opportunity for members of the UCLA and local community to meet international students enrolled at the American Language Center (ALC), UCLA Extension, to improve participants’ language skills and intercultural awareness. The LPP is a completely voluntary program, with participants meeting at times and in public locations based on mutual convenience. Exchanges can be bilingual (if OLLI participants want to practice a foreign language in exchange for an equal amount of English) or English only (for intercultural exchanges). Most participants meet in pairs or small groups and engage in free conversation. Interested parties can contact Bob Baldwin, the ALC Academic Advisor, for an LPP application; once the application is submitted, he will then make the necessary match-ups and introductions. For further information, contact Bob at rbaldwin@unex.ucla.edu or (310) 794-2714.


Seeing Is Believing: Mars, the Moon, and Stars

Photo of the Moon taken on a camera and placed on the eyepiece of the 60" telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

Photo of the Moon taken on a camera and placed on the eyepiece of the 60″ telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

OLLI members enrolled in Seeing Is Believing: Mars, the Moon, and Stars enjoyed a special treat on Saturday, January 7. They were taken by chartered bus to the top of the Angeles Crest Forest to look through the 60-inch telescope at the Mt. Wilson Observatory, considered the birthplace of modern astronomy. Highlights included  craters on the Moon, globular clusters, planetary nebulae, and stars and the grand finale — Saturn and its rings. Luckily for us, the Session Director of the Mt. Wilson Observatory 60-inch telescope happens to also be the instructor of this annual OLLI course.

Some comments from students:

It was low risk to take a class in astronomy for the first time.  Am I delighted that I did!  I had no idea how meaningful it would be and expand my own limited universe. Mt. Wilson made me feel so much more intimate with the skies.  It was a connection that gave me a whole new appreciation and curiosity for something that I never had expected to encounter in my life.  Shelley Bonus’s teaching style is inclusive, entertaining and rich with opportunities to ask questions, no matter how elementary.  She makes learning FUN!

The trip to Mt. Wilson gave new meaning to “special”! Now I know what an “out of this world” experience is. It raised so many philosophical issues for me that will give me lots to think about in the coming years.

The class was followed by an incredible field trip to the Mount Wilson Observatory for a night of star and moon gazing. It was an experience that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Going to the Mt. Wilson Observatory and viewing the Moon, Saturn, Mars, globular clusters, planetary nebulae were the highlights of the class and “out of this world.”

If all instructors had the dynamic presentation and informed and informative content as was delivered by Shelley Bonus, there would be no drop out rate and all places of learning would be overflowing. There is room for discussion; all questions are considered. Exemplary!


Saturn through the 60" telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

Saturn through the 60-inch telescope. Photo by Janet Greene.

The 60" telescope inside the dome. Photo by Janet Greene.

The 60-inch telescope inside the dome. Photo by Janet Greene.

Session Director and Instructor, Shelley Bonus. Photo by Mary Ann Wilson

Session Director and Instructor, Shelley Bonus. Photo by Mary Ann Wilson

The moon through the 60" telescope. Photo by Janet Greene

The moon through the 60-inch telescope. Photo by Janet Greene