President’s Message – November 2004
Posted On November 1, 2004
By the time you read this, we’ll be off Daylight Savings Time – and maybe the rainy season will have begun…I’ve been told that this is supposed to be a wet winter. Well, we need the water, but here’s hoping the storms all cluster around the full moon!
Fundraising for Anza
Elsewhere in this issue you should see an announcement about our fundraising effort for work out at our Anza site. This particular plan is based on the fact that that just about everyone has at least a few things that are never used, but are too good to throw away, and because we don’t quite know what to do with them, they just hang around taking up space. For a lot of people, it’s easier to donate something physical and take a tax deduction for its value than it is to donate cash – especially if it’s something that’s not being used and maybe is even in the way. These could include “collectables” or artwork that aren’t quite your taste, a TV or stereo or other electronic equipment that’s been replaced by something better, tools or sporting equipment you don’t use anymore, a set of china that isn’t your style, jewelry you never wear – once you start thinking about it, I’m sure you could add a lot of possibles to the list.
Our “win-win” fundraising idea is that we give you an easy way to get rid of these things by donating them to the club, which gets them out of your hair and gives you a tax deduction as well, and the club then raises the money it needs from them by auctioning them on Ebay. Actually, the idea that the club would itself auction off a lot of different things on Ebay is pretty daunting, as it would require a lot of administrative work to make it work, not least of which is making sure the money actually arrives and that everything that’s sold is properly delivered to the purchaser.
One of our members, Larry McManus, has a company that auctions items on Ebay as a major part of its business, and we have an agreement with him to have the company handle all of that heavy work for us, for a percentage that covers the costs associated with the process and gives them some compensation for their time and expertise. The arrangement also gives them incentive to get as good a price for the items sold as they can, as that’s to their benefit, too. Larry has generously volunteered his time and energy to handle the remaining aspects of the project that are still the club’s responsibility, such as publicizing the project, collecting the donated items from members (or anyone else who wants to donate – we won’t insist that donors be members!), providing receipts for the donations, delivering them to the company, monitoring what happens with them, and making sure we get a proper accounting along with our portion of the proceeds of the sales. It’s the combination of Larry’s volunteer efforts and the expertise and administrative work provided by the company that makes this idea really workable for us.
So, why do we need to raise this money? One big reason is that the fire in June left us fenceless and defenseless along two sides of our Anza property – and just the materials for the fence will be expensive, even though we’re only planning on three-strand barbed wire strung on metal poles. For those who may not be aware of the metals markets, the cost of steel has been skyrocketing, and isn’t expected to come down or even slow down much in the near future, so our expected costs for the fence are rising, even though we hope to provide most of the labor through the help of volunteers. This problem with the metals market affects one of our other big needs, as well – the replacement roof for the observatory.
The roll-off roof for the club observatory has seen over twenty years of hard use and harsh Anza weather, and badly needs either major renovation work or replacement. It’s a very heavy structure, and there’s a stronger, lighter and much more easily maintained alternative available now – a metal roll-off roof, similar to what Dave Radosevich, Jim Hannum and John Kerns built for their observatory. After considering the options, it was pretty clear to the Board that replacing the current roof with a metal structure was by far the better option, especially as we think it can be built to allow more clearance than the current roof, so we could actually move the Kuhn around without having to open the roof. This would make it a lot easier to do repairs or maintenance on the telescope, and could also allow us to close the roof even if, for some reason, we aren’t able to get the Kuhn into its proper “park” position. Not incidently, it would also make it a lot easier to close the roof without the chain drive if we had a power loss or the motor died while the roof was open – a very attractive feature to those of us who have the roof open a lot!
Another significant expense that’s come up more recently is our network with broadband access to the Internet for the Anza site. Members who’ve used this are mostly familiar with accessing it as a wireless network. We also have several hardwired locations on the network, including the computer that controls the Kuhn telescope and the computer that uploads the weatherstation and weathercam data to the club website. We had a thunderstorm in the vicinity that damaged a lot of components in the system, which is why you may have noticed that the weather information displayed on the website for Anza stayed on August 14 for weeks afterward (I’m hoping that’ll be corrected by the time you read this…). Vance Tyree has taken on responsibility for the system, and he and others with expertise in the area (including Jerry Mulchin, who did the original installation) have concluded that we need to replace the current network backbone with fiber optic cable as a major step toward eliminating the problems we were having with the system even before the thunderstorm. We’ll need to replace damaged components, as well, and to ground portions of the system better – all of which, of course, is additional expense.
I think anyone who’s spent much time out at Anza has come up with ideas on things that could be done to improve the site. A concrete walkway or stairs between Anza House and the Football Field is a popular suggestion, modifying the westernmost bathroom in Anza House to allow access directly from the hallway is another, and there are many more. It would be really great if this fundraiser raised enough money that we could fund some of these “wish list” items as well as the really urgent projects. If we don’t come up with enough new funding to pay for at least the urgent projects, we will have to find another way to pay for them. There are other ways – but none of them are as relatively painless as this Ebay idea.
So, please, do check your closets, storage units, garages, attics and anyplace else you store things you don’t use, and donate any salable items you don’t need to the club. As Larry said at the October general meeting, we’re asking each of you to donate one item – but we’ll be delighted if you want to donate more than that!
We’re collecting items for this fundraiser for at least the next three general meetings. If you have something that you’d like to donate but you can’t get it to one of the meetings, we’ll be happy to make arrangements to pick it up. The person to contact is Larry McManus, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 714/731-5542.
Thanks for your help!
Given the highly-charged political climate as we approach the national and local elections in November (which should be over by the time you see this), you may not want to be reminded that the club is entering its own election season – but we like to think that our elections are a lot more fun. We take nominations from the floor of the general meetings in November and December, ballots should be available to download from website sometime between the December meeting the end of the month, and will also be sent with the January Sirius Astronomer and will be available at the January meeting. You can vote by mail (directions will be on the ballot, which, as is our practice, won’t feature any chads, hanging or otherwise) or at the January general meeting. To be counted, your ballot has to be postmarked on or before the day of the January general meeting (i.e. January 14, 2005), or has to be turned in at the general meeting itself.
The purpose of the election is to select the new Board of Trustees, which governs the club. There are eleven Trustees on the Board, including four officers, and all eleven positions are up for election every year. The qualifications are pretty easy to meet: anyone who’s been a member of the club for a year can run for a general Trustee position, and any member who’s served on the Board for a year (any year) can run for President or Vice President. The current Board members are listed on the contact list on the back of the Sirius Astronomer and on the Contacts page on the club website.
As I’ve said on other occasions, being a Board member is a great way to get more involved with the club as well as to learn more about it than you could believe possible. Historically, our Boards have been very active, so pretty much everything significant that goes on in the club goes past the Board in one way or another – and (at least with the current Board) there are very few club activities that one or another of the Board members isn’t directly involved in. There’s always a lot going on in the club, and our meetings (which are regularly scheduled in the odd-numbered months of the year) are seldom boring. The Board is essentially the nerve center of the club, and Board members legitimately learn about and can participate in a lot of things that they never would have known about otherwise. And, though it may run against popular wisdom to say this, being on the Board can simply be fun.
Those are all ways you could benefit personally by serving on the Board. The benefit to the club of having you run for the Board, of course, is that is that it helps give the members a real choice as they decide who to vote for, and it could help bring a different perspective and a different skill set into the club leadership. As I write this, I don’t know who on the current Board will be running for another term and who may decide not to. Regardless of the plans of the current Board members, you should run – to help keep your club healthy. And please don’t be discouraged if you lose the first time you run – your only cost for running would be a little time (mainly, to write a statement that we can put on the website, etc., to let people know more about you and your candidacy) and several of our members had to run more than once before actually making it onto the Board (and we are very glad they did!).
To all you past Board members out there – we really appreciate all your past services to the club, which helped it become the great organization it is today (and for those past Board members who continue to serve the club in non-elected positions – Don Lynn, Jim Benet, Liam Kennedy and Russell Sipe are some who come to mind – thank you for all of your ongoing efforts!). Do consider rejoining the Board – we could really benefit from your knowledge and expertise – and, of course, as past Board members, you would qualify to run for President or Vice President, both of which (I say this from personal experience) are very stimulating and at times entertaining positions to occupy.
Please don’t let shyness, diffidence or indifference get in the way of what could be one of the greatest experiences you’ve had in the club. You can become a candidate by notifying me that you want to run, preferably by email so I can be sure to get the name right (email@example.com), or by having someone nominate you at the general meeting in November or December (and, if you don’t have a nominator, we’ll be happy to find you one, or to waive any need for one). If you nominate someone else, please be sure you check with him or her first – we’ve had some candidates who were quite surprised to find themselves on the ballot, and were not at all pleased about it.
So – I’m looking forward to hearing from you all, and to having a really full ballot this year!
The fact that I’m able to write this on my own computer and access all the files I need while doing it I owe to Charlie Oostdyk, who spent an incredible number of hours salvaging it intact from the effects of a very stupid act on my part (Moral: Always make sure you have a good and current backup before you install a Microsoft Service Pack, even if it keeps begging you to hit the “install” button…). Very fortunately for me, Charlie regarded it as kind of a game, him against the computer, and he ultimately won. Not only that, but he actually improved its performance, so it’s a lot faster than it was before (I’m not sure what the moral to that is).
On behalf of both me and my computer – thanks for all your help, Charlie!