What did you think of Rotary, Doug?

Last week, Kathryn Fenner brought a guest to the Columbia Rotary Club: Doug Ross!

It was great to see him. I learned that he was there during the part at the start of the meeting when members stand up to introduce their guests. He was, of course, introduced as a key contributor to bradwarthen.com, a distinction to gild any resume.

As he was introduced, I was standing by the piano holding my guitar, waiting to go on and do Health and Happiness.

I’m afraid I disappointed both Doug and Kathryn by not using much of the material that y’all so generously shared with me. But don’t worry — I’ve saved it all for next time.

What I did instead was a routine that was a last-minute inspiration, in which I sang bits of Dylan’s “The Times, They are a-Changin'” interspersed with topical commentary in a voice that would have been a cross between Dylan and Arlo Guthrie, except that I had awoken sort of hoarse that morning.

I had planned to record a video version for y’all, but my voice got worse and my asthma kicked up over the long weekend, for the first time in quite awhile. It has occurred to me that this may be divine retribution for my routine, but the College of Cardinals is still out on that.

If I feel better any time in the next few days (basically, I’m functioning fine; but if I try to sing, I start to cough), I’ll still do it for you.

Meanwhile, I was wondering what Doug thought of Rotary. Seeing as how I write about it frequently here, and some of y’all ask about it, I thought his fresh and unbiased impressions might be of some interest to y’all.

Below you see Kathryn and Doug with USC President Harris Pastides, our speaker last week. You may note that there’s no one left in the room. Our friends had kept him behind for interrogation. I managed to spring him right after this was taken…

60 thoughts on “What did you think of Rotary, Doug?

  1. `Kathryn Fenner

    I think the biggest problem with your jokes were that so few people got them–apparently Rotarians aren’t paying attention to the Republican debates much?

  2. Steven Davis

    “apparently Rotarians aren’t paying attention to the Republican debates”

    Kind of what I thought… a room full of liberal Democrats.

  3. Brad

    Now THAT is funny.

    I’ve got to work that into my routine….

    Actually, pretty much the same joke was in my original script last week, but I dropped it for time. It went something like this: “I have a special announcement from president-elect J.T. Gandolfo. He has gone beyond the call of duty, indeed to the GREAT beyond, to bring in our next few speakers: Strom Thurmond, Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater. It seems some of you have been complaining about all the LIBERAL speakers he’s foisted on you this year, and he’s making amends…”

    I’ll let Kathryn, who is probably one of about five identifiabl Democrats out of a membership close to 300, explain the joke…

  4. Brad

    Never mind. Kathryn won’t be able to explain without griping.

    See, over the last few months, we’ve had Nikki Haley, Trey Gowdy, Lindsey Graham, Jim DeMint, and I forget who else.

    Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, we’ve had Joel Lourie, and that’s about it.

    And most of our members have received these speeches VERY enthusiastically. With Kathryn being the noteworthy exception…

  5. `Kathryn Fenner

    The HR Gun Guy, Alan Wilson…President Rodger put his foot down about Newt Gingrich….

    I think me, Debbie Yoho, Anne Walker, Anne Sinclair, Rodger Stroup, Rick Noble, Boyd Summers (duh), Natalie Britt….

  6. Steven Davis

    “I’ll let Kathryn, who is probably one of about five identifiabl Democrats out of a membership close to 300, explain the joke…”

    So it’s you, Kathryn, Lourie and Pastides, who is the other one… Harpootlian or Turnipseed? Do you get to sit at your own table?

  7. Doug Ross

    What did I think of the Rotary? I’ll try to be polite since Kathryn was gracious enough to invite me.

    First, I’m not big on groups. The larger the group, the less likely I am to have a good time. That’s just me. I like talking to people one-on-one as I was able to do with the people at my table (an eclectic mix of a Salvation Army leader, a ex-Army black man who spends his time trying to motivate youth and working with inmates, and Ms. Fenner whom I am now 100% certain I do not ever want to get mad at me. She was relentless with Mr. Pastides to the point where I felt my little request that he do something about the cost of textbooks was probably a relief to him.

    Second, I’m also not big on pomp and circumstance. There is a certain formality to the meeting/lunch that is not typical of my routine. While Kathryn did a marvelous job playing the Star Spangled Banner (kudos to Phillip), I’m not that big a fan of singing it before a meal. Again, this is my opinion and doesn’t mean I hold anything against those who desire to do it.

    Dr. Pastides speech was about what one would expect from a university president. He has to be about positivity and progress but it also means he can’t really talk about the reality of how things work. I was a little surprised that he mentioned speaking with the USC football trainer that day to get a rundown on the injuries for the upcoming Clemson game. I guess I think he should have more important things on his mind. He also was asked by a member about the NCAA and his role on the board. While it would be nice to believe that USC is committed to recruiting scholar athletes as he suggested, we all know it isn’t true. And I know enough information about specific players to know that there are two sets of standards — and that there are recruits right now who have no business being near a classroom at a major university but will be on the field next year.

    Dr. Pastides also mentioned a new law center supported by Lindsey Graham which will be dedicated to the “rule of law”… made me want to ask if there would be a “(unless you are an illegal immigrant)” after the title.

    Anyway, it was an enjoyable lunch skillfully delivered by Gary Seawell and his family (Gary coached my son in baseball long ago on a team with USC running back Brandon Wilds).

    It’s a group of decent people getting together to do some good works, press some flesh, network, and meet with old friends. Nothing wrong with that.

    I think you should have gone with my material, Brad, but you probably made the better choice to go your way. Better to offend the eardrums than the sensibilities of the members.

    Now can we please have a get together some Friday for all the regulars? First round is on me.

  8. Doug Ross

    I wrote a long response last evening. I saw it there waiting to be approved later on in the evening. Now it’s gone.

  9. `Kathryn Fenner

    Lourie (Joel), Harpo and Turnipseed are not members of Columbia Rotary. Mick Lourie who is Joel’s uncle(?) is. Joel may be a member of another Rotary club. Pastides is a member ex officio but attends maybe twice a year.

  10. `Kathryn Fenner

    Actually, Doug, we sang it after we ate, and even Phillip says he had nothing to do with my skill or lack thereof at playing the SSB. We work on Mozart and Bach, et al. I have been playing the piano since I was nine or ten, studying seriously off an on, but I’m not the sort of Sunday School pianist like Rusty dePass who plays hymns confidently and accurately before crowds.

    That was not Pastides’ best speech–seemed cribbed from news releases from the website more than usual. I really like Pastides–he will tell it like it is more than most, and we have a history of friendly banter, so I wasn’t perhaps quite as tough as it might have seemed.

  11. Steven Davis

    j – After reading Doug’s review, it sounds like any other group gathering I’ve attended at Seawells… which doesn’t interest me.

    I’d rather be at work actually accomplishing something then sitting through one of those meetings, especially since they appear to be held weekly.

  12. Brad

    It’s not for everyone. Ironically, when I was at the newspaper, right down the street, I had a harder time making it to meetings then. I used to be on deadline in the middle of the day, every day.

    Now, I get reminded, because Lanier Jones of ADCO is also a member (and past president), and every week he goes, “You ready?” And I have a free ride.

  13. Brad

    Speaking of Mick Lourie, he regularly rides back with us. We drop him at the Lourie Law Firm, and he gets a ride from there…

  14. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Steven–most Rotarians work for a living, too, and make valuable connections that benefit their employer. Also, there is more to life than work, including giving back to society. To belong, one must be “executive” level–and thus is one of those not on a time clock, and also one of those to whom much is given and from whom much is expected.

  15. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – “To belong, one must be “executive” level–and thus is one of those not on a time clock, and also one of those to whom much is given and from whom much is expected.”

    Sounds kind of uppity to me, I bet the wait staff licks your silverware and spits in your water. How do the non-working members, such as yourself, get in if you’re required to be “executive” level. Do you apply for an advance degree override?

    BTW – I haven’t been on a time clock since I worked part-time in college. I found that comment insulting and condescending. I bet this holier than thou attitude is taught in law school orientation.

  16. Brad

    I don’t think she meant it that way, Steven. She was just responding to your comment about “work,” and explaining that people on salary are always at work…

  17. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – Interestingly enough, every lawyer I’ve ever used punched a clock. I saw it in their bills. They all had those fancy 6-minute clocks.

  18. Steven Davis

    @Brad – So, if people on salary are always at work, how does this whole “more to life than work” thing work?

    I’m a salaried employee, if that matters… and now confused, because for the first time in my professional life wonder if I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I should quit my job and join Rotary.

  19. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ MAB–No. I no longer work for pay, in fact, although my husband and several city employees can attest that I do quite a bit of work. Once a Rotary member, one does not get bounced out when one ceases to be compensated, so long as one pays dues and attends meetings.

    @ Steven–I did not mean to offend you or seem uppity, but since you said “I work for a living,” I felt the need to explain that some people who work for a living can do so by attending Rotary. Plenty of work can be done while eating a meal!

    I do not eat the “food” at Seawell’s, and having had a few onion-scented lemon slices, I am rethinking drinking the iced tea. I do not agree with Doug’s assessment of the Seawell’s cuisine, whatever their other wonderful works.

  20. Mab

    I thought Seawell’s restaurant closed some time ago. But I live in Lexington and don’t get out much…

    Kathryn — I no longer work for pay [either], in fact, although my husband and several [cops/civil servants] can attest that I do quite a bit of work. Thanks. I like that description of ‘what I do all day.’

  21. Doug Ross

    “I bet the wait staff licks your silverware and spits in your water.”

    Which is why I made a point to go in the kitchen in the back and thank Gary for his hospitality. I will never look down on anyone who works hard.

  22. Steven Davis

    You have to pay dues???

    @Doug – Especially with people who touch your food.

    There’s a similar saying among IT people. Changing one line of script or checking/unchecking one box can make a person’s life a living hell. “I don’t know what happened, I hope to have you back up by the end of the day”… 5:00 comes, you take 3 seconds to undo what you did and you’re a hero and out the door while they’re stuck at work until midnight trying to catch up.

  23. Steven Davis

    @Doug – “a ex-Army black man who spends his time trying to motivate youth and working with inmates”

    That wouldn’t be a guy who retired as a Command Sgt. Major who feels the need to hand out personal “business/calling cards” when you meet him now would it?

  24. Doug Ross


    Not sure of the rank. He did not hand me a card and we had a very good discussion about the challenges he faces trying to work with the black kids and inmates.

  25. j

    Steven, your comments remind me of Sisyphus who was condemned to continuously push the boulder up the hill only to have it fall back and have to start again. They seem to lack empathy and a lack of understanding of the real world. Some attorneys with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work are among the wisest individuals I’ve know in my life. Maybe Brad might consider lighting a candle to St. Jude in the hope that you deepen your understanding & compassion and that you lose your condescending attitude exhibited by your posted comments.

  26. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – When was that ever a secret? I’ve mentioned it several times. Why is that interesting? And no I won’t come and fix your laptop.

    Question – If Rotary is for executives, when were you an executive at a law firm? I didn’t realize you were a managing partner or even a partner. Are Associates and Of Counsel now considered executives in the lawyer world?

  27. `Kathryn Fenner

    I had the Genius Bar fix my laptop the only time I’ve ever had an issue, thank you very much. I believe that if everyone used Apple products, there’d be an awful lot of IT unemployment.

    I was totally honest about my background and qualified. Apparently, judging from the fact that a newbie associate from NP was admitted, merely being a lawyer suffices. Perhaps you should give it a go–I’ll sponsor you.

  28. Brad

    That’s a Rotary badge. We all wear them at meetings — I clip mine to my lapel — because in a club with well over 200 people, it’s impossible to remember everybody’s names..

  29. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – If everyone went to Apple products it wouldn’t affect my employment at all, because Apple doesn’t produce the hardware for what I do. I use what’s best for my needs, a Windows based computer for work and home and an iPhone for my cell phone service.

    “Apparently, judging from the fact that a newbie associate from NP was admitted, merely being a lawyer suffices.”

    So you’re saying the standards aren’t that high.

    Thanks, but like I said earlier, these types of organizations aren’t my thing, I’d rather be at work doing something productive than sitting there listening to some speaker’s dry attempt at humor (no offense Brad, but there’s likely a good reason you’re a journalist and not a stand-up comedian). But hey, if you have nothing else or better to do knock yourself out.

  30. Mab

    Who’s the newbie NP? Have I missed part of this conversation?

    Steven is about to be sponsored? Better watch out. He is ferreting info like nobody’s business, here. Maybe the IT thing is just ferret cover.

    Whatch’all got in those files, Brad?

  31. Doug Ross

    “I believe that if everyone used Apple products, there’d be an awful lot of IT unemployment.”

    Since Apple only makes toys, its not really an issue in the real IT world.

    Let me know when they have a server that can handle processing the requests of 2000 users against a multi-terabyte database.

    I’ve worked in IT for 30 years and have never seen an Apple device aside from an iPhone or a random Macbook.

  32. Brad

    Typically, where you find Apple is among creative types — and not people who are creative with words as much as those who deal with images, video, sound and so forth.

    I’m the only person at ADCO who uses a Microsoft laptop — everybody else is Apple.

    Back in the newspaper world, you found Macs among photographers and (back when we had them) graphic artists. Everybody else was PC.

    The iPhone is the only Apple product I willingly use, and it’s pretty awesome. But it’s not, contrary to the stereotype to which Kathryn refers, without its glitches.

  33. Brad

    Oh, and the laptop I use the most is my personal property. ADCO provides me with a Mac laptop, and I try to make myself use it — and sometimes I HAVE to use it, for certain tasks.

    But I still don’t like it a bit. With PCs there are so many little keyboard things I do without thinking that don’t work on a Mac, and that drives me nuts.

  34. `Kathryn Fenner

    I defer to your superior information, Doug. I do know that most of the professors in the Computer Science and Engineering department use Macs or Linux machines. Maybe that’s just a bunch of toys using an ISP? I really don’t understand.

    Also, just because you worked in IT and never saw an Apple system. doesn’t mean there aren’t any. You were an IT person–they seem to gravitate to Windows, since it ensures their employment. QED. 😉

    I do recall the USC tech person, then also a CSE grad student, telling my husband, who was at that time forced to use a Windows machine, that she had found the virus –Outlook.

  35. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Brad– You *could* learn the Mac keyboard shortcuts.

    The iPhone is glitchy, but not so much as the Android, if Lifehacker’s readers and my nieces and nephews are to be believed. When I had a Blackberry, it was glitchy, too. Maybe it’s smartphones…

  36. Doug Ross


    You might be right if I didn’t spend the past 20 years in consulting onsite at more than 50 different companies representing every industry and businesses from tiny to multinational.

    Macs are fine for one single person tasks, not high transaction environments. Their “niche” also means there is a cost premium. As Brad said, unless you are doing graphics type work, there’s little reason to have anything more than $500 laptop/desktop.

  37. Steven Davis

    @Mab – They can sponsor all they want. Unless they plan to drag me there bound and gagged I don’t see myself going.

    @Doug – “Since Apple only makes toys, its not really an issue in the real IT world.

    Easy now, you might upset those 5 year old making Christmas cards for Grandma.

    @Kathryn – “I do know that most of the professors in the Computer Science and Engineering department use Macs or Linux machines.”

    I believe that statement may be true if you remove “Macs or” because that school is reportedly heavy users of Linux. Mainly because most of those types don’t like being locked down to Microsoft coding and because it’s open source.

    I can’t recall seeing an Apple network in any businesses I’ve been in outside of graphic design and media. There’s nothing I can think of better to do design and video editing on than a Mac, unless they’re using CAD software.

    I have a few sources at USC who tells me that their computer services division purchased a bunch of Macs and are running Windows emulation on them. So in other words, they’re running Windows on a pretty computer with a one button mouse. If that’s true there, I wonder if it’s also the case at Engineering.

  38. SusanG

    Just for clarity, I’ll mention that the Computer Services Division (CSD) and the Computer Science department are two totally different beasts. CSD is the IT department for the school, and the CS department is academic. (I worked for CSD many many years ago).

  39. `Kathryn Fenner

    I can buy a Mac laptop for under $1000–an iPad with a wireless keyboard or a smaller MacBook, and I it comes fully loaded and I don’t have to buy security software or deal with IT people to “fix” it. It IS primarily a personal computer, ironically. A PC seems to need a lot of IT professional help that a Mac doesn’t. The only problem we’ve ever had that humble idiot me couldn’t fix in 20+ years of computing with Macs is that the edge of the bezel on my MacBook keyboard cracked and had to be replaced–free–by the Genius bar.

    @ SusanG–Yes, and my CSE professor husband truly *can’t* fix your laptop.

  40. Mab

    Wow this thread is taking a boring turn.

    Brad said, “…let’s talk about something besides each other…”

    OK. Can we go back to talking about ourselves and people who aren’t here? This seems much more interesting.

    I’ll go first. Mab is not my real name. It actually belonged to a deceased pet hamster, named after Queen Mab of Romeo and Juliet.



  41. Brad

    Queen Mab was like a fairy or something, right?

    I used a similar naming convention with our old dog who died in 2005. When we got her as a pup, she was very small and black. For some reason I thought of the blackness of crows. Then I remembered that in T. H. White’s “The Once and Future King,” Morgan le Fay was in the habit of turning herself into a carrion crow.

    So I suggested “Morgan le Fay,” and my younger son (it was his dog) went along with it.

  42. `Kathryn Fenner

    I wondered if it was Queen Mab, the Fairy Queen, or if it was just your initials.

    What IS your name?
    What is your quest?
    What is the airspeed of an unladen hamster?

  43. Steven Davis

    “A PC seems to need a lot of IT professional help that a Mac doesn’t.”

    Really, are you still running Windows Vista on that PC?

    Genius Bar… is that the customer support counter at the Apple Store where the people behind it’s response to every problem is, “I’m so sorry, let me go in the back and get you a new one.”? Genius Bar, ha… the only “genius” there is the guy who convinced Steve Jobs to call it the “Genius Bar”.

  44. Mab

    Morgan le Fay is an awesome name that any critter should be proud to answer to!


    Kathryn, my name is [redacted]. But are you offering to buy my burden and send me flying?! Everything has its price!

    Queen Mab was carried about by a mice-driven chariot, you know. The load couldn’t be too very much.

  45. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Steven Davis –Reading comprehension is so helpful. AS I wrote, the Genius Bar FIXED my laptop for free, and gave me a warranty on the repair.

Comments are closed.