President’s Message – September 2003

Posted On September 1, 2003

By Barbara Toy

As I write this, Mars is a blazing glory in the night sky, and is still getting larger in the eyepiece night by night. By the time you read it, we’ll be past opposition and Mars will be receding – another indicator of the passage of time on the cosmic clock. Largely through the kindness of others, who’ve generously shared their telescopes, I’ve seen some great views as we approach, and hope all of you have, too. And, as a visit to the Mars section of the Member Image Album on the club website shows, many of our members have been getting great images using different types of equipment and have kindly posted them so we can all enjoy them.

Well, now we’re heading into autumn. Schools are back in session, people are back from vacation, and the annual cycle continues. The cycle of club events also continues, with the next Board meeting on September 14, the club banquet on October 12, and the beginning of our own election season, with nominations for the trustee and officer positions in November and December, and the election itself in January. So, if any of you were too late to declare your candidacy for governor – here’s your chance to run for elective office!

More Changes at OCA…

We have been very fortunate in having Liam Kennedy’s many contributions to the club. He’s been our webmaster now for several years, and continues to come up with ways to improve the website. He made the Anza weather station functional and continues to keep it going. He was instrumental in getting broadband service to our Anza site and continues to work with the provider to improve the service. He found the new printer for the Sirius Astronomer and negotiated the contract we have with them, and he has remained intimately involved with the newsletter, most recently stepping in as the interim editor when Darren Thibodeau had to relinquish the position. He has expanded on the past videotaping of the club meetings with his newest venture, the new OCA television program that is currently broadcast on Cox in southern Orange County. He continues to be active in the Outreach program, and does regular educational presentations for the Upper Newport Bay outreaches as well as Explore the Stars and other venues. And, of course, he’s been very active as a Board member since stepping down from the presidency last January.

This is just a partial list of what Liam’s been doing for the club, and it’s not too surprising that, as he has been getting busier with his new company, he’s found that he no longer has enough time to do it all. After a lot of consideration, he has decided that the best resolution for him is to give up his Board position, and so he is resigning as trustee. We are very sorry to lose him as a regular member of the Board. Even though we know that he will always be available if we need information or input, and that he will continue in his many other roles, it is unquestionably a sad loss for us.

On behalf of the Board and the club as a whole, I want to thank Liam for all of his hard work during his years as a Board member, and as president and vice president of the club in past years, and also to thank him for his continuing efforts in his many other club-related activities.

Sirius Astronomer

On the brighter side, Steven Condrey is working with Liam on producing the September SA so he can see what goes into it, and, if all goes well, we hope that he will be stepping in as the new editor of the SA with the October issue. Steve has done copy editing and reporting for his college newspaper as well as for the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association newsletter and an on-line newsletter for his Union Chapter. We are delighted that he has volunteered to help us out with the SA, and profoundly hope that everything goes well and that he becomes our new editor.

I am also happy to report that we had some other people express interest in helping out with the SA. There is certainly a lot that could be done, and, as I said last month, I am hoping that we can get an ongoing group of interested volunteers who can help with, in particular, the most time-consuming (but also the most interesting) part of putting the paper together – developing the articles that go in it each month. If you are interested in helping out, please contact Liam ( or me (

The OCA Banquet

The OCA banquet is on! The date: Sunday, October 12, at 6:00 p.m. The place: the Orange County Mining Co. in Orange. More good news: Joel has found us a truly excellent speaker, Stephen Edberg of JPL. We also expect a very special Mystery Guest, one you won’t want to miss!

The Orange County Mining Co. has a lot of advantages – it’s convenient for most members, has a nice view of the county from its hillside location, has ample parking, provides good and plentiful food – all good reasons why it proved a better location than the others we considered. We’ve always had a good time there in past years, and expect this year’s banquet to be even better!

Among other things, the banquet is a time to meet and visit with the Significant Others of people you know from star parties and other club events, and a time to show people close to you who may not generally attend club functions what great people you hang out with in the club. It’s also a time to catch up with old friends, meet new people, share some memories, enjoy good conversation, and generally have a great time. Many thanks to Joel Harris, who spent a lot of time and did a lot of work investigating alternatives, working with the caterer, and arranging the entertainment.

The cost is only $45.00 per person. Tickets will be available at the September meeting, or contact Charlie Oostdyk or me about buying them.

Why Be an OCA Member?

A couple of months ago, a gentleman came up to me at the general meeting and wanted me to tell him why he should join the club. My answer at the time focused on the wide array of activities and benefits that the OCA offers its members. Top of the list for active observers and photographers, of course, are access to our Anza dark sky site and the local Black Star Canyon star parties. The Sirius Astronomer gives a wide range of information to local amateur astronomers, including the chance to identify other people who share the same interests. Members can take advantage of discounts on subscriptions to the major astronomy magazines. Special interest groups provide ready-made “communities” of people exploring special topics or activities.

As I was thinking about the subject later, I realized that there can be a big difference between what causes someone to join the club and what keeps that person in the club over time. Because OCA covers the whole gamut of amateur astronomers’ interests, and also has the flexibility to take in new activities as groups of members develop new interests, what a particular member values in the club can change significantly over time. In other words, your original reasons for joining may not be the most important part of your membership a year or two later. And being a member can expand your horizons in ways you never would have guessed at the time you joined…

If I might illustrate using the case I know best (my own), I originally joined because I enjoyed the general meetings and liked the people I talked to at the meetings. For the first few months, I was pretty oblivious to the other club benefits, even though I heard the announcements and even though I hadn’t had much luck finding good places for observing on my own.

The turning point for me was volunteering for the Outreach program several months after I joined the club. The first outreach I went on was in the parking lot of the Discovery Center on a night that was too overcast to see more than a star or two overhead, and, to make it worse, all the lights in the parking lot were left on, as well. The few telescopes we set up ended up focused on surrounding office buildings, but, when the kids (and their parents) who were attending the astronomy program inside came out, they seemed pretty excited to be looking through telescopes at all. While all of us volunteers waited for the program inside to end, we talked about all kinds of things and had a great time – and, by the end of the evening, I was thoroughly hooked as an outreacher. Showing how one thing can lead unexpectedly to another, when election season came up near the end of that year, Jim Benet, through persistence, convinced me to run for the Board, which is about the last thing I would have considered doing on my own.

The point is that, if you’d asked me about the club in the first few months after I joined, I’d have talked enthusiastically about the meetings – the speakers, Ask an Astronomer, conversations on matters astronomical with people around me in the audience or around the refreshment table, and so on. If you’d asked after I joined the Outreach program, my response would definitely have included outreach activities. And now, I’ve learned so much and had a chance to get involved in so many different club activities through my involvement with the Board that it would be hard to come up with a comprehensive list of what’s important to me about the club – though Anza, the Kuhn and the Board itself would be high on the list!

That said, the best reason for joining and for staying a member is the people. I’ve talked to a lot of different members over my time in the club (I seem to spend a lot more time talking to people than observing, especially since joining the Board), and it seems to me that OCA has an exceptionally high percentage of thoroughly decent people as members. That doesn’t mean that everyone gets along with everyone else all the time, or that people don’t have individual quirks, but that just adds some spice to the mix. Overall, in my experience, if you want to be with people who genuinely live by such values as love of family, honesty, loyalty, and respect for hard work, without fanfare and without proselytizing, OCA is the place to be – especially if you also want to be with intelligent and knowledgeable people who share an interest in astronomy!

There’s another point to be made here – in reality, there are different levels of membership in the club. A lot of members seem perfectly happy to stay at the periphery, going to meetings, reading the SA, maybe going to star parties or other events, but remaining largely uninvolved. Those who volunteer to help out with club activities and facilities start to discover a whole new world within the club, and contributing to the web of volunteer services that binds the club together and helps it to achieve its goals adds a level of satisfaction to club activities that you can’t get any other way. Outreach is one of the easiest ways to volunteer – but there are innumerable ways to get involved, including such mundane activities as running a vacuum cleaner around Anza House when you’re there. The change in attitude that is inherent in becoming a volunteer, from being one of the takers of club services to being one of the providers, gives a sense of connection to the club that those who never volunteer can never experience.

And, to top it off – there are health benefits to all this! According to a study reported in a recent issue of Science News (July 26, 2003), people who are “givers” actually live longer than people who are only takers. And there are other studies indicating that keeping your mind stimulated can ward off Alzheimer’s disease – so there are two great ways that being active in the club can help improve your health. And, of course, volunteering out at Anza usually involves physical activity – great for the cardio-vascular system!

So, for all of you who haven’t yet tried it – make sure you get the full value of your membership by becoming an active volunteer!