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"Around OCA" for September, 2005
By: Barbara Toy
September 6, 2005 11:44PM PDT
Views: 10004


By Barbara Toy


Well, we’ve certainly been having unusual weather this summer – last year, it seemed that the “June Gloom” never went away, and this year we’ve been hit with weeks of thunderstorms dumping a lot of water that’s cut up the roads around our Anza site again.  I got caught in one on the way out from our site on July 31 – that wasn’t as intense as the one that hit on the day of the August star party/Starbecue, but even so it made the drive out a very interesting experience as the road turned into a running stream around me.  The accompanying picture shows the wall of rain advancing on our site just before I left – it was an impressive sight!


Well, we’re now heading toward winter and another rainy season.  As I write this, we could use some help in several different areas to help us prepare for this winter’s rains – please contact me (btoy@cox.net, 714/606-1825) if you can help with any of these projects:


Anza House:


Anza House is actually made up of two coaches that were combined into one structure.  The eastern coach has an asphalt shingle roof that suffered quite a bit of damage last winter, especially on the south side.  We need some help replacing shingles and otherwise making the roof weathertight.  The western coach has an aluminum roof that also needs work, mainly caulking cracks and joints.


The club’s weather station and WeatherCam are also mounted on Anza House.  As to the WeatherCam in particular, the platform that supports the full-sky mirror and the camera is splitting apart and needs to be rebuilt.  We also need to either re-chrome the full-sky mirror or replace it, as the edges are pretty badly rusted and other parts of the surface are failing. 


The Club Observatory:


Hopefully, by the time you read this we’ll already be well along on the plan to stabilize the existing roof on the observatory and to refinish the outside wood.  If we haven’t finished it up yet, and you can donate some time to the cause, we’d be very grateful for the help.  The plan is to reinforce the structure with screws where the nails have been popping out, re-tension the cables holding the two sides of the roof together, and scrape down/wire brush/caulk and repair the exterior eaves and the north and south walls of the roof structure and then paint them.  In addition, the stucco wall that supports the pulley for the chain drive and helps support the roof when it’s open needs repair and to be sealed, along with the supports for the roof that are out in the open.


Gary Schones has generously volunteered to draw up the plans and build the replacement roof with Jim Hannum.  Many thanks to both of them for undertaking this, and especially to Gary for agreeing to spearhead the project.  Capable as they are, this project needs the assistance of more than these two people, so please consider helping out.  We’ll be providing more information as the schedule for the work is set and I find out from Gary and Jim what types of help they need at different stages of the project.


AstroImage 2006 Conference:


This doesn’t have anything to do with preparing for winter, but we do have an urgent need for someone with good marketing skills to help us out with plans for the AstroImage 2006 Conference.  The feedback we got after AI 2004 showed that we were not as effective as we would have liked in getting word about the conference out to people who would have an interest in attending it, and we definitely want to change that.  You don’t have to be an imager to volunteer for this – I’m not an imager but I somehow wound up as chair of the Planning Committee…which works because the other people on the committee do have that expertise.  If you can give us a hand with this, please contact me as soon as possible, as we need to plan for effective marketing as early in the process as possible.


Now that those practical issues are out of the way, let me return to a topic I started several months ago…


The Astronomer’s Guide to Dealing With Shyness and Stage Fright, Part 2


In Part 1 of this “Guide,” which appeared last May, I described a general approach to dealing with shyness and stage fright that works by letting you deal with the problem in easy stages – you push the boundaries of your comfort level a bit with a new activity or by exposing yourself to a new situation, and work with it until you feel reasonably confident that you are able to deal with it appropriately, then you push your comfort level a bit further with a new activity or by exposing yourself to another new situation, and so on.  Another part of the process is setting yourself challenges at different times that push your boundaries even further, and which, when you cope with them successfully, can move you along the process even faster.


As it happens, OCA is a great place to put this approach into practice.  We are an astronomy club, and the club’s main mission, of course, has to do with astronomy, but, because of the wide variety of activities and interest groups within the club, you couldn’t ask for a better or more varied environment for working on social skills – or one that is, in general, more supportive.  Suppose you want to improve your ability to deal with groups of people you don’t know very well, or at all – let’s take a look at a few of the options the club offers:


EOA SIG.  The EOA meetings are generally the smallest and most conversational of the SIG meetings.  We usually have six to ten people at each meeting, which are held in a restaurant, so dinner is a significant part of the proceedings and encourages a social atmosphere.  The group is working on the club’s remote controlled telescope facility (the MOCAT), and the latest developments and future plans, of course, are the major topics at each meeting – but there’s also a lot of general talk on a lot of different subjects.  We also have group members regularly working on the telescope and associated equipment out at Anza; at this point, this is usually JV Howell and whoever else is available.  Both the group meetings and work parties out at Anza give opportunities to interact with other club members in a pleasant, low-key environment as well as the satisfaction of contributing to a worthwhile project.


GoTo SIG.  These meetings are generally 12 or more people, and are currently held at Craig Bobchin’s home (for which we thank him).  The interest that brings this group together is telescopes with GoTo systems, and the meetings usually start with a round-table (or round-living room) discussion, often with an outside speaker or a presentation by one or more of the members on a topic of interest to the group, and they usually end with a viewing session in Craig’s back yard.  This group also regularly assists with the club’s “How to Use Your Telescope” classes, and helping people who are having problems with their telescopes is a regular feature of the meetings.  The GoTo group’s meetings are also very social, with a lot of banter as well as solid information exchanged in the course of the meetings.  A lot of the “regulars” at these meetings are also active in the Outreach program, so, if you’re thinking of doing outreaches, this is also a good place to get to know some of the people you’ll be seeing at those events.  This group now has a new email list that the members are encouraged to join so they can share information and keep in touch, ocagotosig@yahoogroups.com.


Astrophysics SIG.  Generally these meetings are around 15 to 24 people, and are held in the classroom behind the Centennial Heritage Museum.  The main formal activity in each meeting is watching one or two video lectures on various aspects of astrophysics, along with group discussions of topics covered in the lectures or other topics of interest.  Don Lynn usually brings an assortment of the latest pictures of interest he’s collected from NASA and other websites (typically, he brings more to these meetings than he shows at the general meetings), and there are usually group discussions of the pictures and any recent news related to astrophysics, as well as a lot of informal discussion as people look at the pictures set up around the room.  Because of the lectures, these meetings tend to be a bit more structured than the GoTo or EOA meetings, but more along the lines of a seminar group than a lecture class.  We usually have a lot of general socializing at the beginning and end of the meetings, and quite a bit of affectionate banter mixed in with more serious discussions in the course of the meetings.  Because of the size of the group and the structure of the meetings, it’s easier than with the EOA or the GoTo SIG  to hang back from the group a bit while you get a feel for it, before you really start to participate, though Chris Buchen (the chair) makes an effort to introduce new people, and group members usually go out of their way to try to include new people in the discussions and make them feel at home.


AstroImage SIG.  These tend to be the largest of the SIG meetings, often over 20 people, and are held in the conference room at Source Refrigeration, courtesy of Bill Patterson, who chairs the group.  What brings this group together is an interest in imaging – which includes all the equipment associated in any way with capturing the images and with processing them.  Overall, these meetings are probably the most structured of the SIG meetings, and include a “show and tell” section of member images, and one or more presentations on topics of interest to the group; usually the talks are by different members of the group, but guest speakers are invited, as well.  Often there will be people who want advice on particular problems, which sometimes is given through general discussion within the group and sometimes by a smaller group in a side discussion.  Even though the meetings may be more structured than for other SIG’s, there’s a pleasant overall sense of flexibility and friendliness to them, and there is a lot of general socializing before and after the meetings and during the breaks.  Again, because of the size of the group and the structure, it’s easier to stay in the background while you get a sense of the group than with the smaller SIGs, though Bill also makes an effort to introduce new people to the group, and the group members are good about trying to include new people in whatever is going on.  Most members of this group are also on the AstroImagers@yahoogroups.come email list, and joining that list is also a good way to get a feel for the group even before you attend your first meeting.


OCA-TV (Video) SIG.  This group is responsible for videotaping the general meetings and editing the raw videotapes into a finished production, and, when it meets as a group, the meetings usually are associated with the club’s general meetings.  One of the advantages this group offers to someone who may feel a bit overwhelmed by the general meetings is that, if you’re one of the people running the video cameras, you’ve got an identifiable function there that can help a lot in making you feel more “at home” at the meetings.  It also gives you a sense of connection with the events at the meeting that general audience members don’t have, and automatically gives you a group of people you have a bond with as part of what you’re doing – the other members of the video team for that meeting, and other members of the group in general.  The group really needs more members to help out with the videotaping, so this is a particularly good time to join – we’ll greet you with open arms (figuratively speaking, anyway), make you very welcome, and happily put you to work.  This group also has an email group, ocatv@yahoogroups.com, which helps the group plan its activities for the meetings.


So, How Do You Use These Groups To Combat Shyness?


These descriptions of the various SIGs is based on my own experience with them, and they’re offered to give you a better sense of which of these groups would be best to help you push the limits of your particular comfort zone.  All of the SIGs welcome new people, and the members will understand if you decide, after giving one a try, that it’s not really what you want and you stop going – in other words, you needn’t have any concerns about negative repercussions if you decide you don’t want to be part of a particular SIG after you go to some of the meetings.  


If one of the SIGs appeals to you but you feel just a bit uncomfortable about the idea of attending one of its meetings – that’s what you want for this exercise.  The idea is that you push yourself to go, and then to keep going, until you feel comfortable being part of that group.  Then you can push your limits further by participating more within the group, or you can start the same process with one of the other groups (or both).  The upshot should be that you will demonstrate to yourself that you can, in fact, successfully mesh with a group of people you don’t know to start out with, and, in the process, you’ll get to know more people in the club and you’ll learn a lot about whatever that group is focused on.  All of the SIGs are well worth your time, so I really encourage you to take advantage of what they have to offer – substantively as well as the social side.


The SIGs are just a few of the options the club offers to people who want to work on expanding their comfort zones to allow them to do more within groups comfortably.  There are other major opportunities with the general meetings, the Outreach program, the Beginners’ Class and the star parties at Anza and Black Star Canyon – and plenty of other opportunities as well.  I hope you’ll give them a try – and, if you have questions about any of these activities, please feel free to contact me about them (that’s part of what a Member Liaison is for).


I’ll look forward to seeing you at one or another of the SIG meetings!

                                                                                                                        © Barbara Toy, August, 2005

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