25 February 2010 (Friday) - Astro Club

With the ongoing setting up of my sexy new laptop, I felt that whilst I was at it, I'd do a hatchet job on my Facebook account. Yesterday I had nearly two hundred applications on the thing. Now I've got it down to about twenty. I decided that anything I hadn't accessed in the last six months could get the chop.
I also went through my friends list. Some people on my list have only the most tenuous connection to me. I removed the brother of a friend of my nephew (whom I’ve never met), and several people who live half the world away and have only added me to their lists because I occasionally fly a kite.  Mind you, I did find myself getting rather keen whilst deleting. I'm not sure I haven't mistakenly chopped out people I actually want to have on my list. If any of my loyal readers find they've been removed from my list, please accept my apologies.

I then loaded up You-Tube and Yahoo. Both opened up and logged me in without me needing to give the passwords. Would the sexy new PC have picked up the passwords from elsewhere on the network? Or did I log in the other day and have since forgotten that I did so?

On the last day of my week’s holiday I went shopping. Lugging my sexy new telescope around in a cardboard box isn't going to be practical, and the manufacturers don’t give away telescope cases for free. I had an idea that the fishing tackle shop might help - they often have second-hand tackle bags, and I got a bag for the tripod for a fiver. B&Q had a box for the telescope, and I found a shop in Challlock that does foam cut to size. None of these carriers I've bodged are perfect, but they are better than the cardboard box I had before.

Home (via McDonalds) where I slept through several episodes of "Gavin and Stacey", and then awoke to find the phone ringing. Ewan from Orange was offering a deal whereby my internet provider will supply both phone and internet services for the price of what I'm spending on just the phone. Effectively I would get the Internet for free. Bargain!! So I immediately squandered this month's saving on a folding garden table for when I'm astro-imaging outside.
I squandered the money at Argos, having used their on-line ordering system. There was a minor hiccup when I got to the store to find that they had no record of my order. And then I realised I’d ordered it at the wrong store. They town centre branch had my reservation, and I’d got to the branch at the Orbital Park. But they had the table I wanted in stock, so all was (eventually) well.

Seeing how it was the last Friday of the month, today was astro club. As usual I made of point of arriving early so’s I could help get the hall ready. After the success of the “Stargazing Live” event and an attendance of over eight people last month, I decided it would pay to be prepared. I put out seventy-five chairs, and not quite all of them got used. But the evening went well – I got to meet and greet loads of people; several people joined and renewed their membership for another year. The introductory talk on solar flares was interesting, and the end talk on the winter/spring sky was excellent. I enjoyed hawking the raffle, and again I made a respectable profit for the club. Not millions, but enough to cover the evening’s running costs. If I can do that every month I feel I’ve done my bit for the club. I also got some of the resident experts to give my telescope the once-over. All seemed well: I just need to use the thing in anger now. Tonight was too cloudy to stargaze.
The main talk of the evening was done by a guest speaker. A chap I’d not seen before. I really don’t want to sound negative, but I’ve spent ages re-writing this, and deleting it, and re-wording it. And (surprisingly) upsetting myself. So I’ll say it as it is. I didn’t like this talk.

Billed as “Pluto - An enigmatic world”, the talk ranged far and wide over all sorts of astronomical subjects. The speaker leapt from solar system formation to extra-solar comets to gas giant migration to tides and ocean formation with (as far as I could make out) very little actual structure to his talk. The structure must have been there: it’s just that I couldn’t follow it. Perhaps I was put off by his lecture technique of stomping all around and up and down the hall, sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting, and seemingly continually going off on tangents. He was clearly very knowledgeable on all sorts of astronomical topics, but at least twice I felt he was touting his personal theories as established facts.
It didn’t help that whereas most lectures are accompanied by slides which illustrate salient points the lecturer is trying to convey, this evening’s slides were (mostly) irrelevant to what the speaker was talking about. In fact he boasted that the slides were deliberately “retro”, but I couldn’t figure out why he’d decided to do this.
On conversations with others it would seem that I was in the minority: most people seemed to have been happy with the presentation. Perhaps I was put off by the fact that the chap was very different to what we’ve had before. I hear he’s being invited back next year. I shall give him another chance. I’m sure that the fault (if any) is entirely mine… but I must admit to being a bit concerned.

I was there when the astro club first started on 26 March 2007. It was rubbish! For over a year the club struggled to get a membership of over ten people. Reading my blogs from that time, I was very negative about the club for over a year. But following the AGM and committee election in June 2008 the club started getting better. And since the astro club moved to Woodchurch in January 2009 it’s gone from strength to strength.
This is my first blog entry about the astro club in over two and a half years when I’ve done anything but other than gush praise on the club. I don’t like this change ….

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