The Flywheel

This Week's Program: June 26, 2009

The Surprising History of the Pledge of Allegiance

angular momentum diagram

We memorize it at an early age and repeat it at public gatherings. But few of us know the real story behind The Pledge of Allegiance.

Shelley Lapkoff, MA and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley provides a well-researched glimpse of history through the lens of this enshrined sentence.


Last week's MEETING: June 19th, 2009

Remember Janus, the god with two faces, one looking to the future, the other to the past? Seems he paid personal visits to some of our members last Friday, loosening their usual grip on past and future events.

Lets start with our designated scribe. As he contemplated the pressing tasks awaiting him at his office, he totally forgot about a past commitment to record the notes at this meeting. A no-show with no back-up. Oh-oh.

Welcome to the Future

Janus is a fitting god for another reason: on this day our new President Glenn Daggs, eyes planted firmly on the future, gaveled our unruly group to order. President Daggs promised fine days ahead, confirmed by this demonstration: Asking all past presidents in the room to stand (several men and one woman stood), Glenn proclaimed that if they could manage to get through it, well shucks, he could too. A look back, a look forward.

Our Flywheel publisher, Nick, was also preparing himself for the future—the presentation he was about to give in a few minutes. But as it turned out, he should have given a tad more attention to the present tense of this meeting, for now it falls on him to recall the thought for the day, the names of guests, the announcements of Rotary things large and small, the causes for dollars happy and sad, and so much more— a task that would intimidate a young elephant with a good IQ. But service above self and all that. Our webmaster shall now attempt to draw a sketch of our meeting from memory.

Rotarians with Guests

  • At least two faithful partners of many years.
  • A bevy of talkative friends who accompanied our members on foreign adventures.
  • The CEO of a local hospital who understands better than most of us the need for health care reform (sat next to me).
  • And children of Rotarians happy to join dad (or was it mom?) for a free lunch. Welcome one and all


Bill Koziol, aka Sunshine Guy, reported that our website now sports a new feature—Sunshine Intelligence (left column, 2nd box from the top). It enables you to send Bill a bit of news about another member that he or she wouldn't mind sharing. Click the link, enter your report, and Mr. Sunshine will do the rest (user discretion advised).

Where's the Loot ? Hank Covell annonced that a play by that name will be performed at the Masquers Playhouse in Point Richmond. If you enjoy an evening of dinner and theatre (and can at least tolerate the company of fellow Rotarians) consider joining them on September 17th. Tickets are $45. Contact Hank.

A young woman stood. Someone spoke. Applause. A scholarship has been awarded to this hard-working high school student. She undoubtedly has a better memory than this writer, who cannot now report her name or tell you what college she will attend. But she was grateful and we were proud.

Jon Lawlis announced new hard-line policies pertaining to badge-wearing, recognitions, door duty, and finishing your vegetables before diving into dessert. Break the law, pony up. People used to like Jon.

Happy and Sad Dollars

Dollars moved from one set of hands to another, to be sure, but the only declaration that left a lasting impression was this: "A new guy. He's the one." We're happy too, Leslie.

Norm’s Nonsense

This guy's father dies, and he tells the undertaker he wants to give his dad the very best. So they have the funeral, and the undertaker sends him a bill for $16,000. He pays it. A month later he gets a bill for $85, which he pays. The next month there's another $85 bill, and the next month there's another. Finally the guy calls up the undertaker. The undertaker says, "Well, you said you wanted the best for your dad, so I rented him a tux."


The Rotary Website

Who's visiting our website and why? Wanting to make the site more useful to more people, Nick Despota's gave a presentation that tried to answer those questions.

"A show of hands, please." Hands shot up. About 16 people this week, about 25 this month.

Hmm, that's odd. Our web traffic statistic— drawn from a program on our website's host computer that tracks pages viewed— indicates about 60 visitors a day, averaged over last month.

And ready for this? Our website gets about 1,200 unique visitors a month, based on 2008 averages. (Sure, each of us is unique; but this refers to non-repeat visitors with that time period.)

Where do they all come from? The fact that the vast majority spend less than 30 seconds on the site suggests that they're either students from a speed-reading course or they've visited the site by mistake. Someone else observed that there are many many Richmonds in the world, and hence nearly as many Richmond Rotaries. But we don't care about the riff-raff that wander in off the cyber-street, do we? So...

Another audience survey: "Why do you visit the site?" In no particular order, here's how our true-blue-every-one-unique Richmond Rotarians replied:

  • To get the email or phone number of another member
  • To find out who the speaker is for the next meeting
  • To check if you've got door duty
  • To see if Nick managed to get the dates right on the Flywheel this week
  • To read the notes from a previous meeting (trouble sleeping?
  • To check the event calendar
  • And this just in: members of neighboring Rotary clubs visit in order to spy on us, discover what terrific speakers we attract, and attempt to lure them to their own clubs. Can you say "scurrilous"? The nerve of them. (Where do we get our speakers, Jim?)

Ah, the ain't what it used to be. In case you want to learn something about how it was, way back in 2008, take a look at the web-version of Nick's presentation: probing questions, contradictory data, and not a bad way to kill 10 minutes.

- Pinch-hitter scribe, Nick Despota