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Editor's News and Views

Howdy, folks! As Ellis mentioned in the January issue of The Refractor, (his last newsletter), I will be taking on the job from this point forward, and IĎd just like to say Ďthanksí to Master Myers, for having done all that high-quality work for all those years. Seven, was it? Yipes!

About myself: My name is Don Saito, and I work for the University of Californiaís Office of the President, Office of Technology Transfer as their Computer Resources Specialist (desktop support and network maintenance). I developed a love for astronomy in my early teens, but that kind of got squashed by not one, but TWO successive department store telescopes. After twenty-plus years, and the advent of the Internet, I was idly surfing around and found a reference on Chabot Observatory, right here in Oakland. (Wait Ė an observatory in Oakland?!) I saw they also had a free telescope makerís workshop, and all of a sudden 20 years of repressed enthusiasm for astronomy just sort of let loose! I went to the observatory, met Conrad, The Bills, Paul Zurakowski, and immediately bought an 8Ē mirror blank from Don Stone at the old Starry Nights Gift Shop. But I just couldnít wait to finish my telescope, so I bought a 3.5Ē Questar(!). Iíve lusted after a Questar since high school, so I figured I should get one before I die. I love it. I then joined both the EAS and COSC (now CSSC) and began volunteering to help with public viewing on Friday/Saturday nights.

A year later, at Dave Barossoís invitation, I helped out on a volunteer project to clear brush from the hillside at the New Chabot construction site. Dave mustíve liked what he saw, because he then recommended me to Kevin Medlock and Ken Swagerty, who were just putting together the volunteer team to refurbish Rachel and Leah. I jumped at the chance to work on these two wonderful antique telescopes. Iíll write an article or three about that whole story as thereís not enough room for it here.

So, thatís kind of my story up to this point. Iím really enthused to be here, and am a little daunted to be following in the footsteps of such a pro like Ellis. As you can probably tell by now, my style is a little looser than his. Iíve got a somewhat quirky sense of humor which gets me into trouble sometimes; IĎll try to keep it in check, but Iím kind of a cross between a construction worker (Iíve been one) and an artist (IĎve been one of those, too) so that means I can be a little rough around the edges, sometimes. Also, I just want you to know (as I told others, recently) if thereís anything Iím doing thatís bugging you, or that you would like to see changed, PLEASE let me know. You will never hurt my feelings with constructive criticism, but you can get me pissed if you just grumble behind my back.

Onward and forward: In the last days at Old Chabot, weíd get really small groups of people; anywhere from 3 or 4 to (wow!) 20 or 30! If you havenít been up to the new place on a clear Fri/Sat night, you should go look; itís quite gratifying and even a bit mind-boggling. On slow (but still viewable) nights, weíll get maybe only 200 people(!) On nice nights, we commonly see more than 350 people come through Wightman Plaza. If thereís some event or a new planetarium show, or if itís just a really pretty night, thereíve been several times where 450 people or more have shown up(!!!)

And speaking of large crowds at the telescopes: we need more volunteers during both during weekdays and weekend days, and Fri/Sat nights. During the day, itís nice to have someone help greet the public and tell them about Rachel and Leah. Terry Galloway has been doing this on the weekends during the day (all day), and he needs some help! Also, on Fri/Sat nights, with the throngs of public coming up to view through the telescopes, it really helps out when volunteers are there with their own telescopes, especially when thereís often a 45 minute wait to get a look through Rachel. If you can spare a few days or nights every few weeks, give Chabotís Volunteer Services Manager, Marcia Hale, a call at (510) 336-7376. Iíve done it a lot and itís fun.

    Nancy Cox announced that NCHALADAís (Northern California History of Astronomy Luncheon and Discussion Association) next meeting is at New Chabot on February 10th, starting at 10:00am. Alan Fisher will talk on the History of Rocketry and Bruce Mehlman will chair a discussion of the history of astronomical illustration.

I was given a direct order by The President to include this photo of myself on the roof of the Transit Telescope room, jamming a piece of wood against the upper-right corner of the north vertical window to keep it shut before some nasty weather hit.

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