The Flywheel

This Week's Program: June 19, 2009

The Momentum of Flywheels

angular momentum diagram

From its beginnings as a weekly newsletter mailed to our members, to a digital file to be downloaded for printing at home, to its present incarnation—you're looking at it—the Flywheel has been in continuous motion.

Now its current publisher, Nick Despota, asks "Who's using the Flywheel and for what purposes? Can we make it more useful? "

Come and help answer those questions.


Last week's MEETING: June 12th, 2009

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Outgoing President Mark Howe rang the bell and called the meeting to order. Eric Gavidia led the pledge of allegiance. In keeping with the more fluid meeting mode for today’s proceedings (although we’re rarely not into fluidity), there were several thoughts for the day. Sid Chauvin reminded us that “We can’t control the wind but we can adjust our sails.” Josh Genser, still full of himself over that big rainbow trout catch, told the one about the one-armed fisherman who raised his hand high in the air and said he “caught one this big!” Hank Covell, freshly back from leisure time in Mexico, rediscovered the old saw that goes something like this: give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day but teach him how to fish and he’ll sit in a boat and drink beer all day.

Rotarians with Guests

  • Charlie Wong introduced Jean, his wife of 60 years.
  • Elof Granberg introduced his significant other, Betty. Having missed last week’s meeting when D-Day was remembered, Elof was asked if he had any comments about his own experience on the beach that day in France 65 years ago. He said simply, “I was scared as hell!”
  • Werner Schwarz brought his wife, Leah, who had to introduce herself when Werner forgot to after acknowledging Charlie and Elof being with us. (But she and we forgave him.)
  • Henry Kelman introduced his wife, Kathleen.
  • David Brown introduced his wife and former law partner, Cheryl Black.
  • Eric Gavidia introduced his friend, Heidi Hanna.
  • Nick Despota introduced his wife, Nel.


  • On behalf of April Jorden, who couldn’t attend the meeting, Jan Brown passed around hand-written thank-you notes from Peres elementary school kids who wanted to express appreciation to Richmond Rotary for its support of the recent science project and related Camp.
  • John Nicol stood up to express sincere congratulations to Mark Howe for a job well done as President this year. Mark seemed to stammer a bit in surprise but gratefully acknowledged John’s remarks.
  • Before things got too raucous, Mark expressed a few heartfelt thoughts about his past year as Club President, saying that he enjoyed it a lot, believed good things were accomplished (for example, the Rotary Peace Project), and sensed that he tapped into similar passions held by others, to which Stoney good-naturedly quipped, “People lie!” Suddenly, there was a feeling in the air: will there be no mercy for the outgoing President at today’s meeting?!

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • Josh Genser was happy about his daughter graduating from high school this year and also about the small-plane flying experience with Mechanics Bank CEO, Steve Buster (a Rotary December auction item).
  • Jim Young offered some happy dollars for the pleasure of providing Mark Howe with a poster-size replica of a 1993 gun-violence-prevention ad (“Choose Life”) that Jim had a role in getting into the West County Times last decade. Jim thanked Mark for his leadership with the Richmond Rotary Peace Project.
  • Horace (Stoney) Stonework had happy dollars because he was attending the Giants-A’s game that night. He was a bit nostalgic as he reflected on his 51 consecutive years of going to baseball games. He then gave everyone this factoid guaranteed to win any trivial-pursuit bar challenge (although no one present admitted to ever going to bars): Larry Doby was the second black baseball player to join the major leagues after Jackie Robinson. Doby joined the Cleveland Indians in July 1947, just 11 weeks after Jackie joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and one year before Stoney went to his first baseball game (it’s the last part that will likely stump the bar crowd).
  • Erle Brown offered some sad dollars because Obama’s policies have apparently led Erle’s wife to cut his allowance by 15%.
  • Jon Lawlis had happy dollars for an awesome T-shirt made for his son and a group of buddies. With design elements by Laura Kuhn, the shirt proclaims “Team Beer Belly” and “Drive Hard & Drink Harder”.
  • Rafael Madrigal was happy to have served on the Rotary Board with Mark.
  • Henry Kelman had happy dollars for a young person who is graduating from high school this week, an event that was at least in part enabled by Richmond Rotary emergency blood donations 18 years ago. (If Henry mentioned it, the Scribe missed the young person’s name.)
  • Glenn Daggs also had happy dollars for a fun year on the Richmond Rotary Board.

Norm’s Nonsense

An Italian astronaut told a friend of his that the Italians were planning a space voyage.
Friend: "That's great, are you going to Mars?" -
Astronaut: "No, we're going to the sun." -
Friend: "You can't go to the sun, you'll burn up." -
Astronaut: "No problem. We're going at night."


Trial of the Century! Heinous charges. Unanimous verdict.

Even as slight attempts were made not to make a mockery of the justice system, Mark Howe was issued a more-or-less arrest warrant by officer Enos Johnson and brought forward in a mock trial before the assembled Richmond Rotary Club. After all, Mark is the outgoing Club President and he just can’t get off scot-free. That wouldn’t be, well, Rotarian-like. (Are you paying close attention, Glenn Daggs?)

Guitarist Joe Bagley set the tone with a somber but excellent rendering of, “I Fought the Law and the Law Won”. Joe later did a rendition with customized-for-the-occasion words as the meeting was being adjourned.

With wig-and-shades-wearing Judge David Brown presiding, prosecutor Pam Jones presented a leak-tight case while defense attorney Josh Genser tried admirably to come up with something defensive. Even Mickey Mouse (aka Rafael Madrigal), who was called by the defense as a character witness, turned out to be nothing more than a cartoon character.

As the overwhelming evidence made clear, Mark Howe has been from an early age one of those people who push the boundaries. Imagine the behind-the-scenes maneuverings that it took for him to get top-center positioning in his third-grade class picture. Prosecutor Pam pointed to this as an indisputable example of early psychopathological behavior.

Wrapped in legal jargon, the charges against Mark included distribution of “charitable” wine, conspiratorial cannabis-related violations, purchase of an assault weapon for conversion into a flower vase, and other dubious deeds which aren’t necessarily against the law (yet).

When all was said and done, the verdict was unanimous. Mark was found guilty not only of the enumerated charges but also of doing a great job as Club President over the past year when he initiated and/or supported various worthwhile projects including, but not limited to, the Richmond Rotary Peace Garden, the children’s AutoSkill computer-based learning program at the Nevin Center, the young adult Positive Minds Group also at the Nevin Center, the Peace Rug curriculum at Chavez elementary school, and the Winehaven Halloween fundraiser.

Being seen as a flight risk, Mark was sentenced and banished for 30 days or so to the isle of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela, which seems to fit well with his upcoming sailboat travel plans. Bon voyage, Mark, and thanks for your Club service over the past year!

The active Club President Pin was given by Mark to incoming President, Glenn Daggs, while Jon Lawlis gave Mark his Past-President Pin and his special Ex-President Badge.

A fun time was had by all!

Pam Jones (doing double duty as prosecuting attorney and photographer) and Jon Lawlis recorded the evidentiary photographs. A few of them appear above. And for archival purposes, Jon also made a few more photos available online.

- Rotating Scribe, Tom Waller