President’s Message – February 2004

Posted On February 1, 2004

It’s hard to believe that it’s now been a year since my first President’s Message. Thank you again for trusting me to lead this great organization. All of the past presidents I’ve talked to agree that the position takes time and energy – but it is truly an honor to hold it. And, I’m happy to report, there’s a quite a bit of fun that goes with the position, as well – and life as president is far from dull!

Kicking off our new year, for those who haven’t yet seen see the election results…

The OCA Election

In spite of our best laid plans, the January Sirius Astronomer was delivered late from the printer, and was delivered without ballots. This meant that Charlie Oostdyk had to “generate” (his word) the ballots, stuff them in every issue that was to be mailed, and then do all of his normal processing to get them all into the mail. This took time, so I expect that many of you didn’t actually receive your copy until after the meeting on January 9. The ballot was posted on the website shortly after it was finalized in December, I sent out an email to all members who have given us their email addresses with the ballot as an attachment, and we had plenty of ballots at the meeting – hopefully, none of you who wanted to vote had any problem getting a ballot so that you could cast your vote.

Bob Evans is the person who very capably takes responsibility for collecting the ballots, checks to be sure they are valid, and then counts them and tabulates and verifies the results. It is a tedious but very necessary job, and, of course, must be done by someone who can be utterly impartial – so nobody connected with the Board can be involved. We are very grateful to Bob for the professional way he handles this job, and for his willingness to continue doing it over the years.

The final results of the election for the 2004 Board are:

President: Barbara Toy

Vice President: Dave Radosevich

Secretary: Bruce Crowe

Treasurer: Charlie Oostdyk

Trustee: Bob Buchheim, Gary Schones, Tony Obra, Joel Harris, Craig Bobchin, Tom Kucharski and Stephen Eubanks

The downside of having an actual choice between well-qualified candidates, of course, is that not everyone can be elected. I must therefore regretfully inform you that Bob Swifka, who is a long-time member, was not elected to the Board – this time. I truly hope that he will run again and serve on the Board in the future. This is the second time that Tom Kucharski has run for a Board position – he won this time, showing that persistence pays.

You don’t need to be a member of the Board, of course, to have input on our decisions, or to bring issues to our attention. All members are welcome at the Board meetings, though we do need to know in advance if you plan on coming, since we are meeting in a private facility and our hosts have legitimate security concerns.

E-Mail Issues

As the situation with the ballots demonstrates, there are times when we have to contact the membership fast and doing it by regular mail won’t work (any time we do a first-class mailing to the membership, it takes several hours to get everything printed and to stuff the envelopes and apply the address labels, plus about $350 for postage, so it’s not something we undertake lightly or that we can do in a day). As I found out from working with Charlie Oostdyk to send out the email about the ballots, sending an email message to our membership also requires a certain amount of time and effort, but is a lot easier and faster than a physical mailing would be. It is not something we want to do very often – all of us get far too much Spam, and we don’t want club communications to be seen in that light – but we do need that capability for those urgent situations that crop up now and then.

Please remember to keep Charlie informed about any changes in your email address, as he keeps all of our membership records current. Also, if you use a Spam filter, please be sure your settings will allow any messages from the club to get through to you. If you have any questions about how you can do that, Charlie is probably the best person to answer them (

Retrospective – In Context

The start of another year is a good time to look back as well as forward. A lot happened this last year. On the larger (though perhaps not cosmic) scale, we had the Columbia disaster, war in Iraq, the recall election, Mars Mania, Voyager in the news again, and (finally!) another successful Mars landing – to list just a few. Closer to home, we’ve seen big changes in the ranks of our volunteers, experienced solid growth in our Outreach Program (capped by our largest outreach ever, Mars viewing with an estimated 10,000 people at the UCI Observatory on the night after closest approach), been saddened by the deaths of Bill Kuhn and Tom Cave, seen the Kuhn telescope get back into revitalized operation, and had a spectacular display of wildflowers at Anza followed by an all-too-lush explosion of weeds in a localized version of conditions that set the stage for the most devastating fire season in years – again, just a few of many memorable aspects of the year.

Comparing the Contact Lists on the back of the Sirius Astronomer from February, 2003, and January, 2004, gives a sense of some of the changes we’ve seen over the last year. Steve Condrey is now the editor of the Sirius Astronomer instead of Darren Thibodeau, the “chair” of the AstroImagers SIG is now held jointly by Leon Aslan and Bill Patterson instead of Greg Pyros, the Telescope Loaner Program Coordinator is now Bob Bell instead of Henry Fry, and the Anza House Coordinator is now Larry Carr instead of Stephen Eubanks. Although there isn’t a separate heading for it (yet), our Website Editor is Russ Sipe, who will be assisted on the more technical aspects of the site by David Pace, marking a reorganization of the management of the site after Liam Kennedy, who had been our Webmaster for about five years, left that position.

It’s always hard to say farewell to those who are leaving these activities because their circumstances make it too difficult for them to be involved in club activities in general, especially when it’s a matter of health, and we are particularly sorry that Henry Fry has had to withdraw from his club activities – we will miss him, and wish him good health and good luck in the coming year and what we hope will be many years beyond. Fortunately, most of these changes merely mark a shift in the interests or priorities of the volunteer who has left the position, and those people are still around and active in other areas. The changes also show the vitality of these different club activities, which continue to develop in new directions as new volunteers have stepped forward to fill the vacant leadership positions. It’s great to see their enthusiasm and creativity applied to the responsibilities they’ve taken on, and I’m really looking forward to working with them in the year ahead.

In one case in particular, this last year has seen a major shift in focus – with the result that the club now has a new Special Interest Group (the OCA-TV SIG) and a television program appearing regularly on Cox Communications in southern Orange County, and soon to be appearing on Adelphia and COMCAST – and the programs are available in DVD form for those who prefer it or who don’t get the broadcasts. Our primary purpose as a club is education, both of our members and of the general public, and this program is a new way for us to reach both members and the public with astronomical information from our meetings and other sources. The member who had the concept and who has been the driving force behind its success is Liam Kennedy – for those of you who might wonder what he’s been doing with his time since stepping away from all of the different activities he’s handled in the past, he’s finding the creation and editing of the programs quite a time-filling (but enjoyable) challenge!

Outreach for the Future…

I mentioned that our Outreach Program has continued its steady growth, a testament to Jim Benet’s energy and capability as Outreach Coordinator as well as to his hearty (and hardy) band of Outreach Volunteers. We’re now heading into our busiest season of Outreach activities with the schools, and you can see by looking at the calendar on the website that we have a lot of events coming up between now and the beginning of Daylight Savings Time in April. Of course, the more events we have, the more we need volunteers to help out – it’s the volunteers, their telescopes (and other equipment), and their enthusiasm that really make these events work.

For those who haven’t tried it, Outreaches are tremendous fun and generally don’t require more preparation than putting your equipment in your vehicle and going to the location where the event is happening (though, of course, if you want to do more, you’re welcome to, and some people on occasion have set up computerized visuals or brought other things to help show what’s out there). Once at the event, you set up your equipment, set it on an attractive celestial object, and let the people there see it (it’s even better if you can share just a smidgen of information about what they’re seeing). You don’t even have to commit to coming to any particular number of events – some come to almost all of them, others come to one or two a year, or maybe just those that are closest to them, and there’s quite a range in between. Of course, the more you attend, the better you get to know the other regular volunteers, which (for me, anyway) makes coming to the events even more fun. And, while you’re there showing children and their families what they can see through the eyepiece and talking to them about the wonders that are out there beyond our atmosphere, you have the joy of sharing something really precious with people who genuinely appreciate it. It’s a major (and completely legal) upper – the perfect way to put a hard day of work behind you!

So, one of my recommendations for the coming year is for all of you who haven’t tried coming to an Outreach event to plan to come to just one, to see what it’s like for yourself. Talk to Jim Benet or one of the other regular volunteers if you have questions or want a contact to make you feel more comfortable in going out for one – we’re a very friendly group, and are eager to make you welcome any time you want to join us!

(And I do mean that “we” literally – I’m an ardent Outreacher myself, and proud to be one of Jim’s “regulars.” Take it from one who’s been to almost all of the club’s Outreaches in the last four years – though not as many as Jim has been to – an Outreach is a really great way to spend an evening, and a really great Outreach will leave you walking on air for days afterwards. But you don’t have to take my word for it – come and find out for yourself!)

In Closing…

As long as we’re looking back at 2003 – doesn’t it seem that we had a lot more overcast viewing nights than usual? Here’s hoping that in 2004 the clouds will show up on moony nights only, and that the weekends around new moons will all be clear, with great seeing!