Around OCA for February, 2006

Posted On February 1, 2006

By Barbara Toy

Well, the New Year’s Eve star party at Anza didn’t happen, after all – too bad, as it would have been a great way to kick off 2006. But weather intervened, and pretty intense weather at that, as shown by the fact that the wind blew the moving roof off Dave Kodama’s observatory (fortunately, not much more than the roof itself was damaged). On the brighter side, we had a really good turnout of both people who needed help and of volunteers to help them at the “How to Use Your Telescope” class on January 6, which was a great way to kick off our outreach activities for the new year.

I hope all of you had really great holiday seasons, and that 2006 has gotten off to a good start for all of you!

2006 Board Election –

The election for the 2006 Board is now behind us, along with a very entertaining (and informative) Astronomy Jeopardy game at our January meeting, thanks to the efforts of Craig Bobchin and Matt Ota. Hopefully you’ve all seen a formal announcement of the new Board by now, but, just in case you missed the election results, the 2006 Board is:

President: Barbara Toy

Vice President: Craig Bobchin

Secretary: Bob Buchheim

Treasurer: Charlie Oostdyk


Gary Schones

Steve Short

Tom Kucharski

Matt Ota

Alan Smallbone

Leon Aslan

Steve Condrey

It’s always a pleasure to welcome new people to the Board, and having new people join the Board every year is healthy for both the Board and the club. However, this also means that we have to say goodbye to some of our past members each year, and that’s always sad. This year, the members of the 2005 Board who won’t be returning in 2006 are Tony Obra, Bill Hepner, Paul Brewer, and, of course, Dave Radosevich. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing them all for several years, and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few words of appreciation about them.

Tony Obra

Tony has been an OCA Trustee for many years, and I first met him when I joined the Board in 2001. Among his many activities at the time was working with one of the teachers in the LAUSD who regularly brought his classes out to Anza for astronomy field trips. My first attempt to go to our Anza site was to join Tony, this teacher (whose name, interestingly enough for OCA long-timers, was Wayne Johnson), and several others for one of these field trips – it took a lot longer to get there than I’d expected, and I got thoroughly confused on the dirt roads, so I never did make it to the site on that trip, to my lasting regret. I did make it to one of Mr. Johnson’s later field trips, and found the students to be an impressive bunch – and Tony’s pleasure at working with them helped make the event memorable.

In the days before the needs of his family and work pressures seriously limited the time he had available for astronomy, Tony was involved in a lot of outreach activities, and also had pretty strong ties to Mt. Wilson. As one result of his Mt. Wilson activities, he was able to get us the observatory building that now houses the Mocat telescope near Anza House when it was decommissioned at Mt. Wilson. On the more local level, even when he hasn’t been able to stay and do any observing himself as a reward for his hard work, Tony has regularly shown up with a large truck to help out on Anza clean-up days. The truck and Tony have both been a lot less available this last year than before, which, for anyone who might have doubted it, proved just how helpful they have been in years past.

One of the things that I appreciated about Tony when we served together on the Board was his ability to take in information from the general discussion of a particular issue, then ask what often seemed to be a simple question that went to the true heart of the matter. In particular, in the period after the Kuhn’s drive system burned out a few years ago, John Hoot found the burned-out circuit board for the control system and determined that the damage was too extensive to attempt repair, and we were all discussing what should be done to get the Kuhn back into operation. After taking in a lot of discussion without comment, Tony asked a very basic question that we discovered we didn’t have the information at the time to answer fully – which was what actually caused the circuit board to burn out. Dave Radosevich finally provided the answer to that question after he evaluated the telescope as a whole, and his answer went to the heart of the repairs – basically, “delayed maintenance” had caught up with us, and a combination of worn gears, dirt in the gears, improper balance, and similar issues ultimately made it so hard to drive the Kuhn that it was only a matter of time before it failed. Tony’s simple question and the discussion that followed redirected our focus, and helped us realize that the scope had deeper problems than just a failed circuit board, so we were better prepared when Dave brought us his findings and recommendations for a complete overhaul of the telescope.

Tony’s been increasingly tied up with responsibilities in other parts of his life over the last few years, and hopefully having a period without Board responsibilities will free up some of his time so he can indulge in other aspects of our hobby – though we’ll miss him on the Board.

Bill Hepner

Although I had seen him at outreaches before, I first got to know Bill when we were part of a group that stuck around to chat after an outreach at a school in Trabucco Canyon (where it was incredibly dark for Orange County). That was the first of many interesting conversations I’ve had with Bill over the last four or five years – he’s been actively involved in different aspects of astronomy for over thirty years, and has done many different types of public education in astronomy over the years he’s been involved in the hobby, so he has a lot of knowledge to draw on and experiences to share. I’m one of many who have learned a lot from him – and I have him to thank for showing me how to convert my original ETX90 to a “goto” scope, and for making that transformation possible.

I didn’t have the pleasure of serving on the Board with Bill, but I know that he approached his position as Trustee this last year with as much dedication as he gives his ongoing outreach activities and his other club activities. Among other things, he has had a particular interest in making at least some of our facilities out at Anza more accessible to people with physical impairments, which is one of my own goals. Even though he won’t be on the Board as a Trustee in 2006, I hope to draw on his knowledge and insight in that area to continue to improve access to our facilities for all of our members.

Paul Brewer

Paul is one of those quiet people who don’t advertise their capabilities, so you find out about them almost by accident. In talking to him at various outreaches and at Anza, I’ve become aware that he’s an active astroimager (though he hasn’t posted many of his images on the website Image Album) and woodworker, he knows a lot about astronomy and has a good way of conveying that information to schoolkids and other members of the general public, he’s a loving uncle who’s been doing his best to inspire a love of astronomy in his nieces and nephews, and he also does well with a camera in daylight conditions – among other capabilities. Back after the fire we had at Anza, he kindly provided me with copies of pictures he took when he was out there shortly afterward to view the damage, and he also generously gave me a copy of the set of pictures he took at RTMC a couple years ago when I needed some shots for a related activity – I was very grateful for the help, and appreciative of his skill. I’ve generally seen Paul most when his camera and telescope are doing their thing on star party nights and don’t need his active supervision, so he decides to drop in at the club observatory to see what’s going on, maybe view a few objects through the Kuhn, and share information and conversation with whoever is there, which is always a pleasure.

As with Bill Hepner, I didn’t have the pleasure of serving on the Board with Paul, but I’m sure he was as serious about doing a good job as Trustee as he is about his other activities. He’s been around the club a long time and has a lot of insights and information that could be valuable to the Board – and I hope we’ll continue to benefit from his knowledge even though he won’t be a Trustee this coming year.

Dave Radosevich

They say that an article should end on a strong note – so I’ll take the liberty of ending this column with Dave, who is certainly one of OCA’s most colorful members and one of the most active people I’ve ever met. He’s a man of many talents, interests and capabilities – the nuts and bolts of astronomy, of course, but also telescope building and refurbishing, including classical telescopes, building of telescope mounts, woodworking as a fine art, collecting meteors, astroimaging and so on, and so on. Along the way, he’s built a business buying and selling high quality wood, he’s bought and sold a lot of different astronomy-related equipment and parts, he’s built telescopes for other people – all this (and more), and he still manages to work full time, get out to his house at Anza a couple times a month, and spend some time with his wife and kids. And he’s also somehow been able to continue doing all of these types of things during the time he’s been on the Board. Those, like me, who operate at a much less intense level can only marvel at his energy and his boundless enthusiasm.

My first experience with Dave’s enthusiasm and energy was with the refurbishing of the Kuhn telescope. As I mentioned above, Dave gave the Board a good analysis of the overall physical problems that had built up with the Kuhn, ultimately causing the drive system to fail, and he came up with an affordable plan for refurbishing it that included cleaning, properly aligning and reworking the gears, and installing a new drive system; Dave dealt with the equipment end of the project and John Hoot handled software and other find-tuning issues once the telescope was physically back in operation. Dave was so filled with enthusiasm for this project that he actually finished the bulk of the work within a matter of weeks, though he’d originally estimated that it would take him several months because of other commitments. Although it took a lot longer to work out some of the remaining bugs, this initial burst of work by Dave gave us a functional telescope that was generally a pleasure to run and that could be used for star parties and other visual work, even if it wasn’t yet optimal for imaging. As Observatory Custodian, I have particular reason to be grateful to him for his extraordinary efforts during that period, and I continue to benefit from his advice and assistance in maintaining the Kuhn and working to optimize its performance.

Filling the position of president of this club has its pleasures as well as challenges, and I hope that Dave found pleasure in the position while he held it. He certainly didn’t shy away from taking on challenges over the last year – one particularly important challenge was implementing the new rules regarding brush clearance that the Board adopted after the fire. I hope that we’ll be able to build on the groundwork he laid, so that we won’t ever again go into a fire season with the Anza property as overgrown as it was the year of the fire. As another challenge, we finally got the County’s approval of the overall plan for development of the Anza site this last year – we now have to figure out how best to implement it, and Dave has done a lot to get that planning process under way. That’s an ongoing process, and a lot of hard work remains to be done before we move any dirt or construct anymore pads or observatories on the Anza site, but we are much further along than we were a year ago. And we still need to replace the moving roof on the club observatory and complete the perimeter fence for the Anza site – those and other projects will undoubtedly keep us all very busy this coming year!

Dave started a couple of practices as president that I hope will become club traditions. One is having all Board members who are present come down to the front to take part in presenting awards – it’s a good way to show how much the club really honors those recipients, and also helps people get more familiar with who is on the Board. The other is having the members of the new Board introduce themselves and talk a bit about their background at the start of the first meeting of the new board. Dave tried that last January, and I thought it got that first meeting and the entire year off to a good start. I plan to continue with these practices, and I hope future presidents will, as well.

In Closing…

Every year presents its own challenges to the Board, and the 2005 Board is to be commended for seeing us through the last year so well. Thank you all for entrusting me with the presidency again for the coming year, and I look forward to working with the 2006 Board, both new and returning members – with their help and the help of all of you club members, I hope we will be able to see even more of our long-standing projects completed in the coming year.

© Barbara Toy, January, 2006