President’s Message – May 2004

Posted On May 1, 2004

May – the season of warmer nights and still-mild days out at Anza, wildflowers, weeds, and, of course – RTMC! That, though, is the subject of a separate article…

Besides RTMC, we have JPL’s annual Open House coming up on May 15 and 16. After that two year hiatus following the 9/11 disaster, it’s great to see it back on its regular schedule. Details are on JPL’s Open House website: The only downside is that May 15 is the date for our Anza star party – it’ll be an exhausting weekend for those who do both!

On other topics…

Messier Marathon Revisited

We had a great night for our official Messier Marathon this year – reasonably warm, clear and dark. It was great to see so many people out at Anza, and to have so many come up to visit at the observatory (especially during that “dead period” of the Marathon before Scorpios and Sagittarius rose). A lot of people seemed to be doing the Marathon, and almost all of the Marathon lists I brought out to Anza were taken – but (as of this writing) not very many have been turned in.

To get your official OCA Messier Marathon Certificate, Doug Millar needs your name and the number of objects you found at the time you did your Marathon (you didn’t have to do it the night of our official Marathon, and you didn’t have to do it at Anza to qualify for the certificate). It’s best if you turn in your Marathon list documenting the objects you found; you can do this by mailing it to Doug Millar care of the club’s P.O. Box, or by turning it in at the general meeting.

So – get the credit you deserve! Turn in your Messier Marathon list and get your official OCA Messier Marathon 2004 Certificate!

And, for those who didn’t do the Marathon – there’s always next year!

We Need Help With the Website

The OCA website is not only an important source of information to the members of the club, it’s the way many people first become acquainted with us. Although it’s become increasingly useful and interesting over the last few years, it has also become increasingly complicated to service and maintain. At this point, it realistically requires more time than one person can give to keep it going and to keep its information current.

Last year, when Liam Kennedy needed to step away from the webmaster position he filled so capably for several years, Russell Sipe (who had been our webmaster before Liam) generously volunteered to return to the website as Website Editor. He has now taken on other responsibilities that are limiting the time and energy he has available for that role, and, to our regret, has decided that he would like to turn the position over to someone else by the end of the year. We have also lost the two members who volunteered to handle the technical side of the site due to unforeseen changes in their working lives.

So, we’re looking for volunteers to help run the website. Per Russ, the skills needed for Website Editor are:

1. Proficiency with HTML (not only through a web editing program such as Dreamweaver, but at the source level);

2. Good editing and writing skills;

3. A good sense of Web layout and graphics;

4. The ability to interpret and modify scripts (such as VBScript, JScript, and Javascript). Please note that this does not mean you have to be a programmer in these scripts, but you do need to know how to find text strings and modify them without breaking the code;

5. The ability to work with our Content Management System (web page interfaced and fully documented).

Per Liam, the skills we need for the “down-and-dirty programming aspects of the site” are knowledge of VBScript, JScript, Javascript, Access Databases, Microsoft IIS (Internet Information Server) and ASP (Active Server Pages), as well as HTML. In general, whoever gets involved in the programming aspects of the site “needs to understand and be able to code dynamic web sites running under Microsoft IIS developed using ASP and Microsoft Access databases.”

As a club, w need an arrangement that will keep our website healthy and growing, which requires stability as well as knowledge and imagination on the part of the volunteers who take this on. We are exploring the available options, so, if you want to influence how the management of the website is organized and to take part in this highly visible aspect of our club’s activities, and if you have either of the skill sets described by the two people who are currently closest to the website, now is the time to come forward!

If you have questions you need answered before you could make that commitment, the best people to direct them to are Russ Sipe and Liam Kennedy (but they are both very busy, so please be patient if they can’t get back to you immediately). If you would like to volunteer to help with the website, please contact me or one of the two current Board members who have volunteered to help with this project, Craig Bobchin and Tony Obra (contact information for everyone should be on the back of this issue).

OCA Archive

Another project we want to get underway is the organization of the OCA Archive, so we don’t lose all the information that people might otherwise throw away about the club’s history and the people who have given it its character over the years. For now, I’m the archivist, so if you have any pictures or documents that relate to any aspect of the club’s history that you would like to turn over to a good home, please contact me. If you have pictures from our past that you want to keep but are willing to allow us to scan or duplicate, please let me know – and the same applies to documents.

Pictures of particular interest would be of any of the various observing sites the club has used or owned over the years, various meeting places the club has used, any and all club events, group pictures (such as at RTMC or club banquets), OCA’ers in any capacity or context, trips by groups of club members (such as for eclipses or to tour observatories), observing equipment over the years, our Anza site and the area around it – actually, anything having to do with the club or its members at all, even remotely, would be of interest. Documents could include club flyers for different events, newsletters (you never know when we’ll need more duplicates!), minutes and other records of Board and committee meetings, membership lists, records of speakers, personal notes, logs or diaries of club events, newspaper and magazine articles mentioning the club or any of its members, correspondence, records of club purchases and sales, plans for club facilities or equipment, and anything else that might relate to the club in any way.

So, if you’re thinking of doing some spring cleaning, or you have some old club stuff that has just been sitting around gathering dust because you didn’t know what to do with it, turn it over to the Archive, and help preserve our past!

In Closing…

Well, it’s been a busy winter and a busy spring – and it’s looking like a busy summer, too! Dates to keep in mind – the July Anza star party (July 17, right on the New Moon) will be the annual Starbeque, and AstroImage 2004 is August 27 and 28. Mark your calendars – you won’t want to miss either one!