President’s message – MAY 2003

Posted On May 1, 2003

by Barbara Toy

Well, we're really heading toward summer now - Daylight Savings Time has begun! Warmer nights can't be far behind, though, of course, they'll be a lot shorter than those bone-chilling nights at the dead of winter. Those who've seen Anza in the last few weeks have seen a great display of wildflowers, which is the best we've had for a long time. So plan to come early and check them out at the May 3rd Star Party!

Sirius Astronomer Update

Thanks to the efforts of our editor, Darren Thibodeau, who got the April issue of the SA put together in record time, and to Charlie Oostdyk, who got the mailing labels on all 700+ that go by bulk mail, stapled them, and got them to the Post Office within 48 hours of the time he got them from the printer, we really got to see how much better a job the branch of the Post Office we're dealing with now can do for us. According to the notices emailed to me, almost everyone got their copy by April 2nd, and most got theirs by March 31st. There were a very few that seemed to lag behind the others for no good reason that I could see. It's too early to say we've licked the delivery problems, but it sure looks promising. I'm hoping that tracking deliveries for a couple more months will help us deal with whatever remaining problems we have.

Many thanks to all of you who sent me the date you got your copy and your city and zip code. Please send me that information again for the May and the June issues - the email address is If you want to send it by snailmail, please send it to the OCA mailbox, P.O. Box 1762, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.

Thanks also to all of you who sent comments with the delivery information. It's good to know people actually read the President's Message! To those of you who were kind enough to give me the credit for the improved delivery time - the credit really has to go to Darren and Charlie. I did pass the messages on to them, though.

If you want to help keep the Sirius Astronomer on track, please consider contributing an article or two. The more articles Darren has to draw on, the easier it is for him to put each issue together within deadline. And, as I said last month, there is a lot of different subject matter you could talk about. If any of you would like to discuss story ideas before you actually put anything down in writing, or even while it's in process, Darren would be delighted to talk to you, or you could talk to me, or to other Board members. And I'm sure there are a lot of other people in the club who would be happy to help you out, as well.

Darren needs material for the SA in electronic form, so it's easiest for him if you email it to him at, and it's also easier if you send it in Word format (illustrations can be included). If you can't email it to him, please call him at 949/455-0323 about the best way to get your material to him.


I talked a bit about RTMC last month - that's Memorial Day weekend (May 23-26) at Camp Oakes near Big Bear City. This is THE Really Big astronomical event around here, and, if you haven't been there yet, you should really try to go for at least a day.

What can you expect? In its other life, Camp Oakes is a Boy Scout camp, so the roads are dirt, there are a lot of areas for tents and RV's, a lot of trees and trails, and an overall rustic feel to the place. If camping isn't your style, there are some dorms, and some shelters that are open on one side with bunks inside - all of those need to be reserved in advance, as they go fast. If you pay to stay overnight (you can camp Friday through Sunday nights), you would park near where you're staying, but parking is at a premium, so most people don't move once they've got a good spot, especially if they've got meal tickets or are otherwise eating on site. The cafeteria food, by the way, is plentiful and, though hearty rather than gourmet, eminently edible. The meals are at set times, because they use the dining hall for other events between meals, but that gives you a better chance of seeing who else is there and meeting up with people, so it's got some side benefits.

If you come for the day, you would park along the dirt road going into the event area. If there's a shuttle running - as I'm writing this, we don't know if there will be - you can get a ride to a drop-off point near the center of the events. If not, you would have to walk, but it's really not too far and the surroundings are nice. Be sure to bring sun protection (hat, sunscreen) as well as cold-weather gear. Because of the altitude, the sun is pretty intense during the day, and temperatures drop fast after dark.

So, what are the events? There are a lot of different talks both Saturday and Sunday, lasting well into the evening. There is the legendary Raffle both Saturday and Sunday nights, after dinner, which is a highly entertaining event unto itself. If you come, remember - the OCA bunch hangs out in FRONT of the building (you'll see - there's an element of competition between the back, the front and the inside of the building. So remember, you'll want to be in FRONT of the building. And better bring a lawn chair).

There are vendors lining the path to the dining hall, vendors all along the route between the dining hall and the telescope field, and all around the telescope field. RTMC is known as a great astronomical swap-meet, so individuals as well as manufacturers, retailers, etc., set up shop and sell things off. Places like OPT use this to sell off "shopworn" items or things that have just been collecting dust in corners. If you like to shop, you can't beat this event, and lots of people get really good bargains (RTMC bargains are a great source of star party one-upmanship for the rest of the year). Owner-made telescopes can be entered in competition, and winners are announced at the time of the Raffle. You can get supplies for making your own telescope, get advice, and see what various telescope makers have been up to. There are star parties every night, which gives you a chance to wander around and see what everyone else has in the way of equipment, and the on-site observatory will probably be operated by Bill Hall again this year. And all this is just the beginning - for more information, including information on non-astronomical activities, please check the RTMC website:

Besides the shopping and the raffles, THE big activity at RTMC is socializing - meeting new people, seeing old friends, putting faces to people you've exchanged emails with or heard about, finding out what everyone else is up to, exchanging ideas, and so on and so on. You've got a big, friendly crowd of people who all share an interest in astronomy in one form or another, so it's really easy to fall into conversations with people even if you don't know anyone to start out with. So don't feel shy about coming, even if those nearest and dearest to you don't want to come with you.

If you feel at loose ends, come on over to the OCA booth. We'll be selling off various donated items, and can always use purchasers or help - or both. Helpers in the booth do get the best chance to check out the merchandise….

And, if you have any magazines or books (of any type, not just astronomy-related) or other items you want to donate to the club to sell at RTMC, please contact our librarian, Karen Schnabel ( or me (, or bring them to the general meeting in May. And, if you'd like to help out at the booth for a couple hours (or more - we don't want to limit you!), please contact Karen or me.

RTMC is a great event - I hope to see you there!