The Flywheel

Meeting of May 28TH

Birding in the Bay Area and Beyond

American Avocets matingAmerican Avocets mating

Bob Lewis is a respected Bay Area birding instructor and a photographer of birds worldwide. In his role as the education director of Golden Gate Audubon he promoted awareness of ecology and the importance of conservation.

Bob will show a number of his bird images, talk about the challenges of wildlife photography, and answer our questions.


Last Meeting: May 21st

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Soon-to-be President, Alan Baer, rang the bell and called the meeting to order. Barbara Diaz led the pledge of allegiance and Stoney called for a moment of silent prayer for freedom, peace, and justice on earth. Henry Kelman had this thought for the day: pay attention to June election primaries and embrace the opportunity to throw out all the incumbent bums.

Sunshine Report

Don Lau advised that Dan Tanita will have heart surgery on Tuesday, May 25, so be sure to keep him in your thoughts and prayers. Someone also mentioned that Ralph Hill is taking art classes so he must be feeling better.


  • In the absence of Club Treasurer, David Brown, Alan recapped a recent email message from David about budgeted Club payments made to local worthy causes, including $1200 to the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts to be awarded as a scholarship for a Richmond youth program participant, $1000 to the West County Read Aloud Program, and $700 to the Salvation Army for use in West County. The Club also wrote a $2000 check payable to Shelter Box USA for two shelter boxes of disaster relief items for Haiti and Chile (funds were provided by individual Club member donations).
  • Mira Vista Country Club is looking (again/still?) at raising lunch prices for our Rotary meetings. Since attendance and number of meals purchased are factors in the decision, Alan encouraged everyone to attend and eat.
  • Take note that member annual dues for Richmond Rotary are being raised to $200 effective July 1, 2010. It’s been several years since there has been any dues increase.
  • At 11:00am on Saturday, July 17, East Bay Rotary Clubs along I-80 are gathering for a special tour of the recently renovated and newly reopened Oakland Museum on 1000 Oak Street near the Lake Merritt BART station. Kids are welcome and the charge is $10 per person. Officially named the Oakland Museum of California, OMCA archives the arts as well as the social and natural history of the state.
  • Also on the Rotary calendar: Oakland A’s game against the Texas Rangers on Saturday, August 7, at 6pm. It’s another fun, all-you-can-eat baseball outing for everyone in the family. Cost yet to be announced.
  • Keep up with all Rotary happenings by clicking the “Members” tab above and scrolling down slightly, looking to your right for the “Richmond Rotary Calendar” link under “Upcoming Events”.

Special Events

Erle Brown presented a Paul Harris (PH) award and pin to Norm Lundberg (PH +1), Pam Jones (PH +3), and himself (PH +5). Each Paul Harris award signifies a $1000 contribution to the Rotary Foundation and the “plus” sign indicates the number of such contributions beyond the initial $1000. According to Erle, Richmond Rotary has a per-capita Paul Harris contribution rate of $325 this year, which I believe is one of the highest in the District. Erle also reminded everyone to submit Rotary Foundation contributions to him before June 15 in order to be recorded this member year, which ends June 30.


Don Lau handled recognitions and happy/sad dollars.

  • Nabil Wahbeh celebrated his birthday on May 20 although it sounds like his mother has been stirring in a little confusion in recent years by saying that his birthday was actually on May 18. Nabil enjoyed a special sushi lunch on his real(?) birthday.
  • Nick Despota celebrated his 37th wedding anniversary and recounted the charming story of how it all began. Almost four decades ago, Nick set out driving from Chicago headed for some work in Arizona. He defied the old rule, “don’t pick up a hitch-hiker”, and gave a ride to a winsome European lass named Nel, who was on her way to Vancouver. The plan was for Nick to turn south in Colorado, leaving Nel to continue west and north. After 17 hours of get-acquainted “chatting”, they arrived in Colorado and, lo and behold, continued on together to Vancouver (there was some time flexibility built into Nick’s Arizona gig). Five weeks later, Nick made his way to Arizona but the relationship with Nel was set and the rest, as they say, is history.
  • Although mentioned at a previous meeting, Don again recognized the early-May wedding anniversary (number 57!) of John Nicol and his wife, Felicia.
  • Monique le Conge celebrated her 5th anniversary as a member of Richmond Rotary.
  • Pam Jones, after some typical lawyer-like deliberations regarding the exact number, was recognized for her 15 years of membership in Richmond Rotary.

Happy and Sad Dollars

  • Ted Abreu provided some happy dollars for his recent six-week trip to France (which we need to hear more about at some time).
  • Judy Kafka was happy about a memorable experience during a recent visit to the De Young museum. It seems that, while she was looking in her purse for some money for the self-guided-tour museum headphones, a stranger in line who was also a Rotarian noticed Judy’s Rotary pin and graciously put forth payment for the headphones. So at the Rotary meeting, building on success with this new-found technique, Judy started looking in her purse for some happy dollars to offer up as Don Lau graciously put forth a couple for her.
  • Leslie Levy offered some happy penalty dollars for some brochures left on tables advertising the sale of her beautiful home in Oakland.
  • Barbara Diaz had happy dollars for her 32nd wedding anniversary and for her daughter’s graduation from San Francisco State University in broadcast communications.
  • Tom Waller gave happy dollars after being on a morning tour of the newly reconstructed Walter T. Helms Middle School in San Pablo. While physical infrastructure is obviously not all that’s needed for a high-performing school system, the well-designed and well-lighted buildings will provide a great place for teachers and administrators to go to work and a great place for kids to go to learn. All things considered, Tom encouraged West County voters to consider a “yes” vote on Measure D, the June ballot initiative to approve a bond issue for completing renovation and reconstruction of West County schools.

Norm's Nonsense

You know you're getting old when ...

You have a choice of two temptations and you choose the one that will get you home earlier.

You give up drugs because you can get the same effect by standing up really fast.


Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan

Bruce Kaplan and Claudia Russell

Jim Young introduced our presenters: husband and wife team, Pt. Richmond residents, and nationally known musicians, Claudia Russell and Bruce Kaplan.

As creative spirits and serial entrepreneurs, Claudia and Bruce have each run several small businesses and, throughout their careers and 20-year marriage, they’ve always performed music, currently as the three-person (sometimes four or five) Folk Unlimited Orchestra. (Check out the web site.)

The Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper is quoted as saying, “[song writer and guitar player] Claudia Russell has a voice that was born to sing folk music. She breaks hearts….” One web site describes her style as a blend of “folk, blues, country, and bluegrass.” Whatever the classification, it’s great!

Musical talent runs in Claudia's family. Her father, Gilbert Russell (born Val Rosing in Russia 100 years ago this past February), was a vocalist for Britain’s BBC Dance Orchestra in the 1930s and had a million-selling song record called “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”. Her mother, Marilyn, was a dancer and appeared in White Christmas and the Jimmy Durante TV Show.

Claudia's grandfather, also known as Val Rosing, was a Russian opera singer and director and moved to California to direct operas at the Hollywood Bowl and the American Opera Company in San Francisco.

Bruce, who sings and plays the mandolin and guitar, described their music business as “tiny” but nonetheless subject to the demands of smart business practices and changing technology. He shared a couple of tips that have been helpful for them.

For example, they’ve amassed a large database of people all over the country who’ve been to their performances (for later follow-up about new music CD releases, return engagements, etc.). It’s a simple process: announce a drawing at the performance for a free CD so people are encouraged to take the small piece of paper provided to fill in and submit their name, email address, and zip code. Barbara Diaz won the drawing at our meeting.

Bruce’s other business tip was to continually work on attractive elements of “your story” and to repeatedly share them well with people so they become engaged. For example, Claudia’s story of the life and work of her family (including her father’s delightful song, “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”) helped us make good, warm connections with her and Bruce during our short time together.

It was an enjoyable program with pleasant stories and songs, a nice break from presentations sometimes requiring more brain-matter intensity.

- Rotating Scribe: Tom Waller