SIR programs in 2005



December 15, 2005

Annual Christmas Party
Advance reservations required.


November 16, 2005
Speaker: Orpheum Circle Quartet
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: Barbershop Singing‹Neatly Trimmed Around the Ears!

Our final luncheon program for 2005 is sure to bring many smiles of recognition, and maybe even some tears of nostalgia, as we are entertained by our own Don Thomas as three of his cronies singing barbershop. Ah, yes, memories all wrapped up in four-part harmony.

Don has supplied a brief background on barbershop: It originated in the late 19th century, in barbershops (of all places) when popular songs were sung in harmony without a note of printed music in sight. In the 1920s, Tin Pan Alley nudged barbershop into the background, until it was revived in 1938 by a gent from Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose efforts originated the now very successful Barbershop Harmony Society.

The Orpheum Circle Quartet was formed about 4 years ago. The current makeup of the group includes Frank Arsenault from Santa Cruz singing Melody; Don Thomas from Los Altos (a Branch 35 member) singing tenor; Lee Orr from Palo Alto singing Bass; and Larry Onderdonk from Hillsborough singing Baritone. Their repertory includes some of John Denver's, Louis Armstrong's, Ricky Nelson's, Al Jolson's, Patti Paige's, and Johnny Cash's songs as well as some Irish Songs.

Our talented singers "sing for fun" for groups like SIR, barbershop quartet shows, senior groups, and private parties. This fabulous foursome will be scattered throughout the Elks' dining room during lunch so that many of our members will get a chance to welcome them personally (and maybe even make a request for a favorite oldies but goodie).


October 19, 2005
Speaker: Firoozeh Dumas, Humorist Author
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: Laughter - Always a Best-Seller

Our October speaker does not defy description; facts about her are easily presented. The challenge is to peer around the facts at the person, while recalling hearing her speak once before, and to wipe the smile off your face at the same time. Impossible!

Firoozeh Dumas, Iranian by birth, is today an American humorist and a very successful, first-book author. Entitled "Funny in Farsi," her memoir of growing up in California as an immigrant is loaded with laughs as well as poignancy, and she delivers the goods in person as well. And she gets around. Since the book was published in 2003, she has spoken widely, her commentaries have been heard on NPR, and she has launched a one-woman show, "Laughing Without an Accent," which will run for a full season at Theatreworks in Mountain View in 2006.

In other words, this month we are getting a sneak preview of her show‹for free!

Oh, yes, the personal facts: Firoozeh is a young mom married to a Frenchman and is a neighbor (the Dumas live in Palo Alto). She smiles a lot.

At a time when our country as a nation‹and our citizenry‹are focused so intently on events in the Middle East, it will be refreshing to be reminded of the humanity (the joys, the dreams‹and the foibles) we share with those who hail from this crucial part of today's world. Do bring a friend to the October meeting. You (and he) will be very glad you did.


September 21, 2005
Speaker: Charlie Knowles, Venture Philanthropist
Intro by: Bob Simon

The Zimbabwe painted dog may well be Charlie Knowles' best friend (to bend the old cliche a little); the reverse is actually much closer to the truth, as Charlie‹through his Wildlife Conservation Network‹makes things happen to benefit endangered species in Africa and many other locales around the world.

In the 1990s, Charlie sold his Silicon Valley company, Rubicon Technology, but gave no thought to early retirement. Then in his mid-30s, he saw the need to organize a strong, unified support structure for those individuals and agencies around the world striving to keep alive the most at-risk members of the animal kingdom. This long list includes Elephants in Kenya, cheetahs in Botswana and Namibia, wolves in Ethiopia, the Amur leopard in eastern Russia, you name it.

He has marshalled the support of interested celebrities, key foundations, and the likes of Jane Goodall, and he's on a roll. He says, "I have traveled the world over and have worked with a tremendous variety of people from pygmies to Buddhist monks." And it's working. Progress is being made, as solutions to animal-human conflicts are being discovered and implemented.

Oh, the places he's been and the things he's seen. Charlie has a story to tell, "not only about wildlife conservation, but about people in Silicon Valley who retire at a young age and make a career shift to better serve the world." Clearly, as one retiree to all the others in a room filled with members of SIR, Charlie promises to be the cat's meow‹or roar, as the case may be.

To get acquainted with Charlie and his Wildlife Conservation Network in advance, just go to

July - Summer BBQ


August 17, 2005
Speaker: Lauren Dunbar, Personal Historian
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: How to be a Great Ancestor

Have you ever sworn that one day you were going to write your memoirs? Have you promised yourself (or your grandchildren) that "the places you've been and the things you've seen" were going to live on in a permanent form that future generations could access and perhaps benefit from?

Former PBS documentary filmmaker and now personal historian, Lauren Dunbar, will present ³How to be a Great Ancestor" at our August meeting. Her idea-packed program will focus on several practical, easy ways to capture and preserve your personal and family stories, bring to life genealogy data in Family Trees, create heritage albums, or even produce video biographies on DVD that incorporate on camera interviews with old photos and home movies. Our speaker will suggest ways you can get started and overcome obstacles to creating a durable legacy for your descendants.

Lauren says, "The digital tools we have today have transformed how we are able to preserve our family legacies‹our life experiences, wisdom, challenges, joys, values, and blessings for our loved ones today and for those who follow. Whatever durable form our stories take, we bequeath them as a gift of love and hope for our future generations. We can all be Great Ancestors!"

Our speaker's background in television‹with credits on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Explorer, among many others‹has given her special insights into ways creative and innovative lives can and should be given permanence. With the "high tech"tools of video production now available in many homes, her advice could not be more timely for SIR members and their families.


June 15, 2005
Speaker: Don Wobber, Jade Sculptor
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: Jade Beneath the Sea

We all have picked up shells and stones along the sea shore. Our June speaker never quit collecting stones formed by the sea, most of them jade--and most of them found beneath the sea rather than on the beach. Even during his 20-year partnership in the family printing business, Don Wobber could not escape the sea. As a diver, nature photographer, and sculptor, he has spent his life near--and in--the ocean.

When he retired, in 1968, he returned to school to earn a Masters degree in marine biology. Then the fun really began, including the recovery in 1971 of a 9,000 pound jade boulder mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records and, years later (in 2002), his appearance in a National Geographic series on the sea. Now living in Pacific Grove, Don still delights in diving for, recovering, and carving nephrite jade.

With props that include samples of his jade sculpture and videos of some of his adventures--in and out of a diving helmet--Don will bring the sea and its treasures to us. We will learn about his jade sculpting techniques, and the philosophy that guides his shaping of stones that have already been smoothed by the sea itself.

Yes, Don retired in 1968, yet, 37 years later he's still "working" on his first love. He believes that jade is meant to be touched, creating "a primitive connection which holds one outside of time." You will have the opportunity in June to hear Don, to shake his hand ( a hand weathered by time and the tide, for sure), and to touch the jade that he has brought into the light and turned into works of art.

Don't bother to bring your snorkel or scuba gear to the meeting; we'll leave the diving to Don.


May 18, 2005
Speaker: Chris Bischof, Director and Principal, Eastside College Preparatory
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: Making a VERY BIG Difference

What if you lived in East Palo Alto, were of middle school or high school age, and wanted to make something of yourself? Good luck! More than half of your peers drop out of school, somewhere along the way.

Enter Chris Bischof, founder/principal of Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto, a school that has served academically motivated students from the low income, minority communities of East Palo Alto and
eastern Menlo Park since 1996. A Stanford graduate (twice), Chris holds State of California teaching credentials, has taught at the middle school level, and--prior to launching Eastside School--founded Shoot for the Stars, a program dedicated to motivating East Palo Alto youth to reach their full academic potential.

Speaking of motivation, what makes Chris run? And what would prompt an outstanding professional athlete like Ronnie Lott to speak so highly of Eastside School on Bay Area radio? The questions keep coming: How can a
"minority school" grow so fast in less than a decade that it is now over half the size of a leading local prep school that's been around close to a half-century? How are its graduates doing--where do they go to college, what
kinds of careers do they have, how are their adult lives different from what they would have been?

As our May speaker, Chris will answer questions like these, and many more. And there's one more question, the one we ask too often: Why isn't someone doing something about all those kids from disadvantaged backgrounds?

The answer: Someone is.


April 20, 2005
Speaker: Jeff Morgan, Global Heritage Fund
Intro by: Bob Simon

April 20 - Jeff Morgan is out to save the world, or at least its greatest archaeological treasures. His fledgling Palo Alto foundation, Global Heritage Fund, is attracting the attention of generous institutional and individual donors. Morgan's business acumen--he holds an Stanford MBA--and his singular interest in antiquities combine to give hope to a diverse group of sponsors. Current projects include Lijiang, China; Great Zimbabwe; and the Mirador Basin in Guatemala.


March 16, 2005
Speaker: Mike Cassidy, a columnist with the San Jose Mercury News
Intro by: Bob Simon

March 16 - Mike Cassidy has a writing style that wakes his readers up smiling--most of the time. His perspective on contemporary life, particularly life here in Silicon Valley, makes him an easy read with a cup of coffee. Even when his dander is up (such as the time when reality TV planned to have a "winning" couple adopt a baby for real), Mike has you savoring every loaded word. He will probably scoop himself in his talk to Branch 35 in March.


February 16, 2005
Speaker: Alan Dale
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: The Big Bands

February 16 - Alan Dale, is an ex-Lockheed manager whose love of Big Band music led him to reinvent himself, upon retirement, and become first a disc jockey, then a TV mystery host on local public television. No stopping Alan! From there is was an easy step to television commercials, with his wife Betty, and the couple then went on to appear as extras in motion pictures (and they're still at it). Alan will treat us to some of the great old sounds from his personal collection of Big Bands.


January 19, 2005


January 19, 2005
Speaker: Fr Martin Mager - Headmaster at Woodside Priory
Intro by: Bob Simon
Subj.: Easy Riding - a Monk's Travels