High Gear Bulletin


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

High Gear Editor: Paul Watermulder

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Happy “Pre-Leap Day!”  (I’ve always figured the whole concept of a Leap Day is some kind of far-right conspiracy (or far left, if you prefer) that we had to be wary of! 
Rotary got under way being called to order by President Koh who asked for the pledge of allegiance to be led by Charlie Rosebrook, as he is freshly in town from his mountain chalet up Route 50, halfway to the stars.  He remembered the words perfectly (although rumor has it that he was practicing them all the way down the highway this morning so he wouldn’t flub it when his big moment came).  Then we all pledged and then sat.
Paul Watermulder gave an invocation focusing on the unfortunate universal instinct to seek revenge when one feels one is the victim of injustice.  Sean Connery had lines in a 1967 movie in which he played a gangster working the same streets as Al Capone in the 1920’s.  He spoke of his philosophy: “They pull a knife; you pull a gun.  He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.  That’s the Chicago Way.”  Revenge is familiar to all of us, since too often it seems to be the human condition.  Then in the days of the writing of the Hebrew scriptures, before the Common Era, a new way became well known:  An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  It sounds grisly.  But in truth it was a merciful adjustment to brutal revenge which was based on constantly escalating an argument or wound.  Because it preached that there are boundaries on responding to injustice.  Boundless pain and suffering are not allowed in God’s good earth to rule the day.  Restraint was introduced to the whole matter.  And then came another teacher who changed the whole game yet again when he said, “if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.  If anyone forces you to carry their burden one mile, go a second mile also.”  A revolutionary change is at hand, with a high moral principle (selflessness) becoming central.
Pastor Glenn McDonald notes that we see these dynamics on display in the Middle East.  “Both sides, Palestinians and Israelis alike, believe they have been grievously harmed.  Both sides see themselves as victims.  And both sides believe something must be done about it.   Israelis are desperate for security.  They yearn to go about their daily lives without fear.  Ever since their fledgling nation came into existence in 1948, they have felt victimized by the all-too-real possibility of terror.   Palestinians are desperate not to feel humiliation.  They yearn to reclaim the lands that were taken away from them in 1948 and 1967, and not to feel beaten down into the humiliating condition of non-citizenship in the very towns and villages where their great-grandparents lived.
As long as both groups feel victimized, and both cherish uncompromising demands of repentance from the other side, the stalemate will continue.  There will be little hope of progress.”  Even “eye for an eye” cannot save them—the only thing that can is the call to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Hard?  Yes, of course!  Embarrassing?  Often so.  Effective?  Yes, for individuals and for neighbors, and for nations.  Amen.
We had two guests in the house:  Morgan Galli and Jean-Paul Torres.  These visitors all became helpful and interesting as presenters of the program in short order.  We also were delighted to have a past long-time member with us on Zoom:  Phillip Larson was tuned in, reminding us of many good times this club has had over the past decades.
Announcements:  First, President Cary declared there is a Board meeting on zoom this afternoon at 4:30.  All are invited.  (If you were about as bored as anybody, this was your chance to respond to an invitation to have some company!)
Second, Jennifer Pence reminded us that April 21 is the date of Burlingame’s Got Talent, our second annual cocktail party- gala dinner-Talent show-auction, and etc.  It includes a red carpet for those willing to live the dream, and played to an overly full house last year, with 100 guests.  Three bartenders, looking suspiciously like Rotarians, held forth with a popular “signature drink” that caused calls for seconds and thirds.  Quasi-club member Pete Wanger and his Barbershop Quartet entertained us with several fun songs, full of harmonies that brought nostalgia to those who could remember the 1920’s!  Last year’s lineup included Rotarian Emily Beach singing to her folk-based guitar tunes, as well as a song and dance team from Burlingame High School.  And we are assured this year will also feature the return of an actual professional violinist, Cary Koh, playing pieces that will make you laugh, make you cry—you will love it.
Third announcement was Jay Miller advocating for our remarkably successful scholarship program which is focusing this year on encouraging CSM students to apply and benefit from Rotary’s interest in helping make college within reach for even more of our community youth.  He plans to invite various of our recipients to have lunch with our Club in the Autumn meetings so we can get to know them and be encouragements to them.
Fourth, we will host several Rotary exchange students from our sister club Tokyo-Edogawa Japan starting on March 21; many opportunities will come up, including intentionally sitting at a lunch table during our weekly meeting to become acquainted and make a new friend.
Birthdays and Anniversaries were next on the docket, and Mark Lucchesi introduced the honorees with his signature fanfare.  BirthdaysCharlene Drummer and Mike Horwitz both on February 3 (though his birthday was ummm, maybe a century before Charlene’s).  Cheryl Fama on Valentine’s Day.  Anniversaries (both 51 years) :  Mark and Kathy Lucchesi (Feb. 3), and Marilyn and Rich Orr (Feb 17.)  And then the ever-popular anniversaries of Rotary club membership:  Past President Emily Matthews (Feb 1, 2010).  Past President Mike Horwitz (Feb 5, 2001).  Newest member (tie) Nimisha Melag and Marla Silversmith (Feb 21, 2024)
Program time arrived (we all knew it would), and Susan Baker introduced the two presenters who updated us on the most ambitious transit program on the face of the earth (not kidding here):  California’s High-Speed Rail.  We learned that when completed, the whole system’s main trunk will be San Francisco to Anaheim, Orange County.  That is roughly 500 miles of track.  Then in Phase 2, there will be two additions, one to Sacramento and one to San Diego.  Trains will travel up to 220 miles per hour (thus reaching average cruising speed for Charlie Rosebrook and Michael Heffernan on I-5?).  The system is being developed to run on 100% recyclable energy.  Every two years a report is made to our state legislature on the project update and [in alternate years] on the business plan for solvency. 
The sustainability of the project is clearly one of the most astonishing aspects.  To date, 95% of the construction waste has been diverted (recycled, reused, composted, stockpiled).  750 small businesses are participating in aspects of the construction.  4492 acres of land have been preserved as natural habitat for wildlife. 
PLUS, in the future, the plan is for the high-speed trains to use 100% renewable energy.  102 million metric tons of GHG emissions will be reduced over 50 years.  5 billion (with a Capital B) fewer vehicle miles will be traveled in California annually (!).  And an estimated 62,000 fewer individual air trips will be taken in California per year. 
Progress is being made on several fronts simultaneously, with construction of 22.5 miles in the Central Valley virtually complete already.  The entire system is responsible for over 12,000 construction jobs, with the completion already of 10 new structures.  The current completed section is at Madera, and part of the eventual target of (roughly) Merced to Bakersfield. 
The 22 stations in the system (counting the extensions to San Diego and Sacramento) work with local governments not only for the sake of beauty and of safety concerns to be met, but for the interest of local communities who can then see the value to their community of this game-changing project.  In our county, Millbrae will be the one station stop, enhancing the transit center which already services BART, Caltrain, SamTrans, etc.  Millbrae will be flanked by San Francisco end of line at Fourth & King (aka Giants’ stadium [aka PacBell Park]) to the north and San Jose Diridon to the south. The electrification of the Caltrain tracks is part of a shared use agreement for both the Caltrain commuters and the High-Speed long-distance travelers to make use of the same right of way.  The 500 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles – Anaheim will constitute High Speed Phase 1, with at least partial ridership beginning maybe in 2030 (but this is wildly unknown due to the need to raise money and to dig two enormous tunnels along Highway 152 leading east to Los Banos.  There is no truth to the rumors being spread by an overly eager Phil Siegle and Doug Person that when the trains stop at Anaheim, they will be at the Main Street station, greeted by Goofy and Minnie, and upon departing southbound will use the tracks of Splash Mountain while north bound trains will be sharing the Monorail for one loop around Disneyland.
The project has captured the attention of many in California as we look forward to the day of train travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours. 
Our meeting ended with many Rotarians seeking to ask questions and learn even more about California’s High-Speed Line:  America’s answer to Japan’s Bullet Train, France – England’s Chunnel train, and the Orient Express.
Our very own Burlingame Rotarian, Mark Lucchesi has started a podcast for the Burlingame Historical Society called "Burlingame is a Small Town." He has interviewed a number of Burlingame Rotarians as well as other prominent folks in our community. You can check out his YouTube podcasts here.
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We all aim to live our lives with integrity. Yet we all face situations that test our ideals and values with no clear right answer. Author and clinical psychologist Dr. Inge Hansen makes the claim that we all compromise our values and ideals at times—but that the challenge lies in doing so ethically. Sharing stories of people who have faced dilemmas that led them to question what matters most, Dr. Hansen will explore what it takes to maintain integrity in a messy world.


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Member Birthdays
Joseph DiMaio
March 8
James Young
March 10
Cheryl Fama
Denis Fama
March 19