President’s message – August 2003

Posted On August 1, 2003

by Barbara Toy

The year is really moving along, as we head into prime time for Mars observing. Anza in August can be both a pleasure for observing and a challenge - the price of comfortable viewing temperatures at night is blazing hot days.

And, speaking of challenges - we have a few others that have come up in the last few weeks. These aren't necessarily in order of importance…

What Happened With the July Sirius Astronomer?

This is one of those object lessons in why we shouldn't take it for granted that things are working the way we think they should. Without going into a complete blow-by-blow description of the entire sequence, the ultimate outcome was that the July issue got lost in transmission between Darren Thibodeau (our illustrious editor) and the printer. We didn't find this out until Charlie Oostdyk, who is the person who receives the printed copies, processes them, and gets them in the mail, called to find out when he was going to get them, and was told the printer didn't have the issue and couldn't find any trace of the transmission. This was in the late afternoon of July 3, when a lot of people were taking off early for the 4th of July weekend, so the earliest they could actually receive the resubmission was the following Monday morning. They weren't delivered to Charlie until Friday, the 11th, but he got them processed and in the mail in 24 hours, even though the general meeting was that night. And we profoundly hope that all of you have now received it …

The August issue should come much earlier in the month. Liam Kennedy graciously agreed to help out with that issue, as Darren has a major project going at work and won't be able to put the issue together. Unfortunately for those of us who have to meet the paper's deadline, this means that the deadline for material had to be moved up by several days. If you get this issue early, you can thank Liam, who had to put together before he left on a business trip.

Changes at the Sirius Astronomer…

As many of you may know, Darren has been working in Moorpark during the week and coming back to Orange County on the weekends. His work as editor of the Sirius Astronomer has mainly been done on weekends, as he hasn't had the facilities to do it in Moorpark. This was a tolerable situation for him while he thought the job was for a limited period, but it has now become a long-term commitment. While that is great for him professionally, he has reluctantly concluded that this means that he will not be able to continue in the position of editor of the SA.

Darren has been doing a great job as editor, and the issues he has produced show that he has indeed been a worthy successor to Chris McGill and John Sanford. We are very sorry that he will be stepping down from that position, and very grateful that he has been willing to continue as editor over the last few months even though the job has been made a lot more difficult for him because of his work situation. He has also assured me that, though he cannot continue with full responsibility for the SA, he will be helping out in any way he can, which should make the transition to his successor a lot easier.

Liam was instrumental in finding us our current printer and has worked with Darren on a lot of problems that have come up while Darren has been editor. Besides stepping in to put the August issue together, he has generously agreed to help out until we can find a new editor for the long term. He has some ideas, drawing on Darren's experience and his own background, for further streamlining the mechanics of putting each issue together, and we expect that this part of the editor's job will become easier and less time-consuming than it has been for Darren as a result.

As anyone who has had anything to do with the newsletter can tell you, what takes the most time and effort is obtaining enough material for each issue, and getting it in by the deadline. We really need a group of people helping with this aspect of the newsletter - the more people we have scouting for articles and contributing their own, the more original content each issue of the Sirius Astronomer will have, and the better it will be. In the time I've been on the board, I've received more comments and complaints about the SA than about any other single aspect of or service provided by the club, so it's obviously very important to all of you - and well worth its own "special interest group" to support it.

If you have any background working with newsletters or journalism in general, or would like to gain some practical experience working in that area, we would love to have you get involved in working with the Sirius Astronomer. And, of course, if you are interested in taking on the job of editor, we are very interested in hearing from you! Please contact Liam Kennedy at or 949/552-6187, or me at or 714/606-1825.

More Changes - at Anza House…

For the last couple years, Stephen Eubanks has been doing a really wonderful job in the very necessary position of Anza House Coordinator. That position is primarily intended to oversee Anza House, and to take care of such things as making sure there are adequate supplies, collecting the money left by people who stay there overnight, letting the board know of any significant problems, and generally seeing that the house is running smoothly. Steve has consistently gone beyond that, making repairs, taking care of cleaning and other maintenance himself, improving the arrangement of furniture and obtaining new items that make the house more functional, and generally doing everything he could to make Anza House as inviting a place to stay as possible.

Those of you who know him know that he has his own business and many calls on his time and talents, and we are very grateful that he has been willing to devote so much of his energy to Anza House while he's been the Coordinator. Unfortunately for us, he has reached a point where he can no longer do this, and he has now advised us that he will have to give up this position by the end of the year. We are all hoping that one of you will step forward to take on this position in his place while he is still handling the position, so he can work out an orderly transition to his successor.

Anza House is a wonderful facility that really makes our Anza site both unique and much more comfortable than most dark sites. The Anza House Coordinator is in a unique position to make the experience of members and visitors to our site memorable, and to continue the process of improving the facilities at the site. If you have any experience with Anza House, please consider taking on the position of Coordinator. If you have questions about what is involved in the position, I'm sure Steve would be delighted to talk to you about his experience. He can generally be found around Anza House during part of each star party, or you can reach him at You can also contact me about this.

A Happier Change…

One change for Anza House that we've been planning for a long time is finally going to take place - thanks to Trustee Gary Schones, the exterior of Anza House is finally going to be painted. This means that we won't be able to refer to the two halves of the building by color (for those who may not have noticed, currently they are two different colors), but I'm sure we can adapt. We've decided on a beige tone for the main color that is light enough that it should reflect most of the heat, helping to keep the house cooler, but with enough color that it shouldn't be too glaring to the eyes during the day. The trim will be white. If you have any interest in helping out with this job, please contact Gary:

For those who may not know him, I should mention that Gary is another of our "unsung heroes." His claims to fame include getting us Anza House, and continuing to make improvements to it over time. He's helped plan and then overseen the various grading projects on the Anza site, and is the person who knows the most about getting Anza-related projects through the county permit and inspection system - so he's the one everyone goes to for help with the permit process. More recently, he got us the storage container that's now near the club observatory and that made it possible to clear the warming room and observing area in the observatory so they could actually be used - not only did he get the container, he arranged for the gravel bed it sits on and built the shelves inside that made it fully functional as a storage unit. He's had a major hand in just about every significant building project out at Anza, and always has a list of projects he is planning to do for the club - the painting of Anza House is only one of them. On top of all that, he is very generous in sharing his knowledge and his time, and has been a real pleasure to work with in the three years I've been on the board.

Pre-Meeting Slide Shows

This is something of a non sequitur, but I've wanted to talk about the slide shows we run before the general meetings for awhile. These were started by Liam while he was president, in part as a response to questions about why we weren't showing member slides. I'm told that member slides used to be a frequent feature of the meetings, but that, of course, was before we had the email groups and before it became easy for people to post their pictures on the website. It didn't take Liam long to realize that the slide shows also are a great way to display club announcements, so people have a chance to see them even if there isn't time to make the announcements orally. He refined the concept over the months he created them for the meetings, and, when he turned the presidency over to me, I tried to convince him to continue doing them. He declined on the grounds that these should remain a presidential privilege - or responsibility. Although the focus remains the announcements and member images, the shows do provide another way for the president to communicate with the membership, and I admit that I've been having fun with them, though I started off with minimal knowledge of Power Point.

Generally, at least half the slides in any given show are devoted to announcements. As to the pictures, I sent out requests for submissions a few times, but got very few responses. I know, from seeing images posted on the AstroImagers email group and, more recently, in the new Image Album on the website, that there are a lot of members taking a lot of really great pictures. Since these have been posted for club members to enjoy, it seems reasonable to use them in the slide shows, as the shows are meant solely for the club meetings. On a few occasions, I've found an image that I wanted to use that was on a member website but hadn't been specifically posted to one of the club email groups, in which case, of course, I asked permission before using it (I'm happy to report that those members have been very gracious, even enthusiastic, about giving permission).

My philosophy in selecting pictures is to try to give as broad a representation of what members are doing as possible, focusing on images that have been posted since the previous meeting. I try to use only two images per show from any one member (there are times when selecting which two images to use is a real challenge!), and I try to include images from less experienced people as well as from those who are true masters of the art. The "two picture" rule it isn't iron-clad and does get stretched on occasion. The only changes I make in the images themselves are sizing them to fit the slides, and sometimes rotating them to get a better fit (but only on images without a clear orientation). If I find that the way a particular image shows up on a slide doesn't do it justice, I generally won't use it, even if it happens to be one I really like. I started by trying to include all of the information provided with each picture, but found that the text too often detracted from the image, so now I limit the verbal information I add to the title or subject of the picture and the identity of the photographer. The format of each slide is based on the template that Liam set up, which has a black background and the club logo in blue with gold letters at the top left corner - where this detracts from the image, as with Jim Windlinger's beautifully framed picture of the Horsehead Nebula that was in the June show, I eliminate the logo.

Inevitably, I have limited time to find good pictures for the show, and I'm sure there are times that, if I looked a little further, I would have found a better image from a particular photographer than one I actually used. Which gets me to one reason for going on about this - if you have any pictures you would like shown at one of the general meetings, please don't feel shy about sending them to me! It's easiest if you do it by email to, but I do have a scanner if you want to send me a non-electronic version. Any announcements that should be included in the show are also welcome. To give me time to incorporate anything you send into the show, please get it to me no later than the Wednesday before the meeting.

Thanks, and with that I'll sign off until next month. May your August skies be clear and the seeing truly excellent!