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my negative experience in an Astronomy club

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#51 David Knisely

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:19 AM

Astronomy clubs have their place, but I doubt that even a simple majority of amateurs belong to them at any given time. Human nature being what it is, one can tire of even those with similar interests after a while, especially when one considers the reasons most people join clubs in general: it is usually to benefit themselves in some way, not to be of service to others.

For those of us who are helpful and giving by nature, membership in any such organization can result in a not-inconsiderable drain of time and expertise, especially considering the social skills of many amateurs, which are often sadly lacking; once it becomes known that a member has a skill that is in demand, or a willingness to be of assistance in other ways, the demands placed upon them by the rest of the membership often become unreasonable. It's been my experience that there are usually one or two "spark plugs" in any given club, along with a small number of individuals who do the vast majority of the work; the remaining membership usually consists of users, losers and space cadets whose main priority is themselves.

After far too much time essentially wasted in and on clubs, I am convinced that amateur astronomy is an avocation best enjoyed in a solitary manner, or with very carefully selected friends.

Fred


I can't agree at all with these statements (especially the blatant misuse of the stereotypical terms "losers", "users", and "space cadets whose main priority is themselves", when referring to club members). Most people who join a good astronomy club are *none* of these things. One thing I had badly wanted when I first got into amateur astronomy as a youngster was a group of people I could share the experience with. It took several years (and a driver's license), but I eventually found that group (Prairie Astronomy Club) about 40 miles away, and have been a member ever since (about 41 years). The group was just a bunch of regular people who enjoyed going out at night and viewing things. Even when I am at the Nebraska Star Party interacting with people from all over the U.S., I still reserve at least one night with a group of PAC members to view with them, as due to my work schedule, I don't get to attend many of the regular monthly club star parties much anymore (see the picture below). Also, that astronomy club from its earliest days in the mid 1960's was involved in community outreach way before it became more popular among many mainstream astronomy clubs, so I got in on that aspect of the hobby early-on. Sharing the sky with those in the general public became immensely rewarding and not at all "draining". To this day, I still really enjoy those times when I can take my scope out to a public event and show others the wonders that float far above their heads. Eventually, I got tapped into doing this on a more regular and formal basis with a local public observatory, but I still go out on my own sometimes with a few non-club people to show them the sky. I don't object even when a few non-amateurs come by and want to have a look (it got me an article about one of those times published in Sky and Telescope too). I also enjoy the company of at least one other club member when observing, as it helps keep me focused on the sky and observing, rather than the dark loneliness of a rural location at night. Some people just aren't "club" people, and for them, observing alone is OK. However, one of the best things that ever happened to me in this wonderful hobby was when I finally joined the Prairie Astronomy Club. It made all the difference in the world. Clear skies to you.

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#52 amicus sidera

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 10:42 AM

I can't agree at all with these statements (especially the blatant misuse of the stereotypical terms "losers", "users", and "space cadets whose main priority is themselves", when referring to club members). Most people who join a good astronomy club are *none* of these things.


I don't believe that I misused those terms, for stereotypical though they may be (I did not think that an exhaustive list of all the species and subspecies would be necessary :grin:), the descriptions given nonethelessless accurately reflect my lifetime experience with many of the denizens of astronomy clubs in the Northeast; perhaps similar organizations in Nebraska and environs are composed of finer stock. Such would not surprise me in the least, as I've always found Midwesterners much to my liking as individuals.


One thing I had badly wanted when I first got into amateur astronomy as a youngster was a group of people I could share the experience with.


And therein, I believe, lies the crux of the matter. From the time I began observing at a tender age, I found that stargazing en solitaire suited me perfectly well; at most, the presence of a family member or close friend or two sufficed for companionship. Indeed, I found the presence of a multitude disconcerting, and seemingly at odds with the business at hand. "Different strokes for different folks", as the saying goes...

Now this is not to say that I've never enjoyed being a member of an astronomy club; I actually enjoyed participating in them at various times over the decades. However, what has caused me to swear off such organizations has been my low tolerance level for individuals who, while often quite intelligent, are socially inept to the point of not bathing regularly, and who are sometimes almost offensively obsessive. These became legion in many of the groups I frequented years ago, and often took leadership positions in the organization, with fairly predictable results: membership rolls diminishing, projects uncompleted, general rancor and drama, etc. After several abortive attempts to reconcile myself to this situation (which seemed to present itself in every club I investigated), I retired from the battlefield, so to speak.

Fred

#53 csa/montana

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 11:05 AM

the remaining membership usually consists of users, losers and space cadets whose main priority is themselves.



I don't consider anyone wishing to share that great hobby to be in this catagory!
Not everyone that joins clubs are comfortable being in the leadership or assistance roles; rather simply wanting to share this wonderful hobby with like-minded individuals. This certainly does not make them "users, losers & space cadets". :(

A club has many different roles to play; each individual should take the role that they feel most comfortable with; even if that makes this appear as "main priority is themselves" to a few; I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, this hobby should be focused on fun, not being forced into roles that would be uncomfortable. :shrug:

#54 amicus sidera

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 11:36 AM

the remaining membership usually consists of users, losers and space cadets whose main priority is themselves.



I don't consider anyone wishing to share that great hobby to be in this category!


Well, they do exist, as I've certainly encountered more than my fair share of them.

Not everyone that joins clubs are comfortable being in the leadership or assistance roles; rather simply wanting to share this wonderful hobby with like-minded individuals. This certainly does not make them "users, losers & space cadets". :(


I'm not talking about normal, well-adjusted individuals here; I thought that would be obvious from the context.

A club has many different roles to play; each individual should take the role that they feel most comfortable with; even if that makes this appear as "main priority is themselves" to a few; I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. After all, this hobby should be focused on fun, not being forced into roles that would be uncomfortable. :shrug:


If the role an individual "fits into" is that of a selfish status-seeker or one who uses other people for his or her convenience, or a humorless martinet whose main objective is influence and control, then I would posit that there is indeed something wrong with it. As for forcing anyone into a role, well, that simply isn't going to happen in a purely voluntary setting like an astronomy club, is it? No, people choose the roles that they are most indeed most comfortable with, but the point I'm trying to get across is that such roles as they choose are, by their very nature, often detrimental to organized activity.

Fred

#55 csa/montana

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 11:47 AM

Well, they do exist, as I've certainly encountered more than my fair share of them.



Perhaps you can share what makes someone in this hobby as a user, loser, or space cadet? Everyone has their own way to enjoy the hobby; if it doesn't fit into what someone else feels is not the right way; who are we to say that they are users, losers?

Anyone new in this hobby started out as "users", as we rely on others to assist us, until we can fly on our own. That's what makes CN so special, as we don't stereotype others that don't fit into our mold.

#56 amicus sidera

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 12:52 PM

Well, they do exist, as I've certainly encountered more than my fair share of them.



Perhaps you can share what makes someone in this hobby as a user, loser, or space cadet?


I'd be glad to, Carol.

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User: one who takes advantage of the good nature and generosity of another, with little or no intent to reciprocate.

Characteristics: always requesting help, but never offering help when it is within their capacity to do so. :noway:

Example: "I broke my finder/drive motor/mirror cell/etc., an you look at it it for me?" "Sure, it just needs XYZ, I'll take care of it for you.". Next month: "Can you help out this weekend? We're cleaning up around the observatory." "Sorry, I'm too busy this weekend." Month after that: "I need an eyepiece, anyone have one they could sell me cheap?" "Sure thing, buddy!" Month after that: "the club's having a public observing session on X, can you bring your scope (ed.:with cheap eyepiece!) that night?" "Nah, I'm not interested"... ad infinitum, ad nauseum...

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Loser: one who joins an astronomy club in a quest for, err, "romance". :flirt: Can also describe those who mix their "habits", such as drug use or alcoholism, with club activities, :woohoo: as well as chronic complainers who have a talent for bringing down the mood of everyone around them. :ranting:

Characteristics: puts the moves on anything in a skirt. Usually disappears after the available pool of tender companionship rejects him (it's almost always a "him"). May become offended when others refuse to partake of whatever intoxicants he is proffering. Will regale anyone within earshot of all the (perfectly good) telescopes he claims to have endless problems with, or the minute flecks of dust in his (also perfectly good) eyepieces.

Example: A "Will you go out with me?" propositioned to every single female club member, even those who are married or of advanced years. "The trouble with you people is, you don't know how to have a good time!" This last is often spoken after spilling half a beer down someone's OTA. "Did you see the (tiny, practically invisible) sleek on the dewshield of my new Questar/A-P/Takahashi? It's outrageous that they let it leave the factory in that condition!"

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Space cadet: an individual who has a very unhealthy obsession with science-fiction and space-related matters, and tends to live, for the most part, in a fantasy world of starships and light sabers; :jedi: These are not normal science-fiction fans (which many fine amateurs are, of course), by any means.

Characteristics: Often possesses remarkable social ineptitude, making communication when discussing anything other than areas of their specific interest somewhat problematic. Attending to personal hygiene sometimes rates rather low on this individual's scale of importance. May attend star parties wearing a complete Federation uniform (command gold, of course).

Example: "NASA needs to build an elevator to the Moon." Etcetera, etcetera...

--------------------------



Everyone has their own way to enjoy the hobby; if it doesn't fit into what someone else feels is not the right way; who are we to say that they are users, losers?


People can do what they want; however, certain things are anathema to some of us; I've listed some of my personal dislikes above. We all make personal judgments about people, that's just part of being human.

Anyone new in this hobby started out as "users", as we rely on others to assist us, until we can fly on our own. That's what makes CN so special, as we don't stereotype others that don't fit into our mold.


No, not everyone starts out as a user; see my definition of "user" above. For example, the books and telescopes I relied upon as a beginner were paid for with a paper route. Users are those getting a free ride off the backs of others.

I will agree that CN is special, but part of that specialness is that it pretty much disappears from my life when I turn off the computer; in the non-virtual world, users and their ilk don't tend to be so accommodating,

Fred

#57 csa/montana

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:06 PM

All I can say is, with individuals you just described; I'm certainly glad I live where I do; even though I'm sure individuals such as this is a very small percentage of any club's memberships.

#58 amicus sidera

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 01:14 PM

Carol, I long to live out where you live, in the West; I've traveled all over this country, and I can say with assurance that I'm a fish out of water here in New Jersey; I have much more in common, in every respect, with folks from the West and Midwest than the area here, which I grew up in... it has become unrecognizable to me.

Fred

#59 DeanS

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Posted 01 October 2013 - 03:03 PM

I wish I could find a club out here in eastern KY. I really miss being a member of an active club like the BBAA back in Va Beach VA and the NAS in Norfolk VA.

I am in the process of starting a club. I have a contact at the local college and he is the astronomy professor. We are hoping to get some radio air time to talk about the up coming comet. Maybe that will get a few folks interested in coming out to the free observing sessions we have been doing in the college parking lot.

One can only hope.......


Wish you where closer to Lexington, our club needs some new blood to get things going.

Dean

#60 mountain monk

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Posted 03 October 2013 - 11:35 PM

Hummm... I have a doctorate in dealing with losers, users, and space cadets, but I did not find that such terms applied to members of my local astronomy club. They are intelligent, helpful, and civil. The reason I attend only once or so a year is that I found their interests too technical for me, and, like Carol, the drive home was simply too dangerous. CN is my astronomy club. I doubt that any local club can match the expertise here.

Dark skies.

Jack

#61 Skylook123

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 10:34 AM

In 20 years in this avocation, I have been highly active in three clubs directly as a member and a half dozen other clubs through common association and operations in four states. And by active I mean participating in and often organizing at least five, often more, specific public events a month over that time ranging from two astronomers to over 110 and from 50 to over 1400 public visitors each night, and participating in astronomer only events with over 150 attendees each night in county, state, and national parks, public and private schools from elementary through colleges, and supporting some private fund raising events. And team teaching basic astronomy both at the club and university adult education venues.

The only losers, users, and space cadets I've run into have been away from the astronomy environment. The clubs I've worked within, and alongside, have been a joy to be privileged to be associated with.

#62 operascope

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Posted 04 October 2013 - 05:10 PM

I'd like to pipe in and say that I've encountered very few "losers, users and space cadets" in the astronomy community. There might be one or 2 I've encountered, but they're such as small percentage,and I find they are easily avoided for the most part. Mostly, I've found a rich variety of people who are united by a passion for astronomy, and love to share this passion with others. Honestly, if I wanted to completely avoid losers, users and space cadets, I'd never be able to leave the house.

#63 Skylook123

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Posted 05 October 2013 - 01:30 AM

+1 :waytogo:

#64 scopefreak

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 06:27 AM

+2 :grin:

#65 Philler

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Posted 08 October 2013 - 11:07 PM

Hummmmm -- I belong to a club in the Kansas City area. It has lots of members. I have no idea about the politics, living outside KC I don't attend meetings. But I do use the fantastic dark sky site, which is about 60 miles south of KC. During my time at the dark sky site and at our star parties I have never had a negative experience. All of the observers are friendly, open folks.

Ed


Hi Ed, just wanted to say that I joined the club and used the dark sky site last night. You are right, it is fantastic.(A little tricky to find). The folks are friendly and open. Glad I joined.

#66 bluedandelion

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Posted 10 October 2013 - 11:01 PM

Hi Ed, just wanted to say that I joined the club and used the dark sky site last night. You are right, it is fantastic.(A little tricky to find). The folks are friendly and open. Glad I joined.


I love happy endings. Here's to the beginning of a life long membership ...
Posted Image

Ajay

#67 Philler

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Posted 12 October 2013 - 03:21 AM


Hi Ed, just wanted to say that I joined the club and used the dark sky site last night. You are right, it is fantastic.(A little tricky to find). The folks are friendly and open. Glad I joined.


I love happy endings. Here's to the beginning of a life long membership ...
Posted Image

Ajay

Thanks, I'm glad it turned out like this.
As for a lifetime, I've been in this hobby since I was about 40 and I'm in my mid 60s now, so I want to make the most of it. Don't have quite the energy I had years ago to set up and observe like when I was younger. Energy drinks seem to pick me up if I start dragging. :)

#68 Ed Wiley

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 10:08 AM

See you on the field!
Ed

#69 Zamboni

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Posted 16 October 2013 - 03:48 PM

I may have had some negative experiences in astronomy clubs, but I've never encountered anybody who falls into any of these categories except for one "Space Cadet" at a star party last year, and he wasn't even a member of the club.

Stereotyping members of astronomy clubs as a whole based on this doesn't seem to be particularly fair, especially considering I think these types are probably vastly in the minority.

#70 starrancher

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 01:54 AM

Honestly, if I wanted to completely avoid losers, users and space cadets, I'd never be able to leave the house.



Huh !
Before I left Californica , I found myself not wanting to leave the house for just this reason .
The move to Northern Arizona made all the difference in the world .
Now I can go back outside again .
:whee: Wheeeeeeee!
Goodbye to the land of Fruits & Nuts !

#71 dpippel

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Posted 17 October 2013 - 05:02 PM

I've just returned to the hobby after a 25 year hiatus. When I was active back in the 1980s I belonged to two different astronomy clubs at two different times. I ended up leaving both due to the same problems - petty bickering, egos running amok, people with control issues, and club politics. Both situations were like belonging to an HOA board, with telescopes. While I'm sure there are plenty of great clubs out there, as a result of my past experiences I have no desire to go down that road again. I, and I'm sure many other amateurs, simply prefer to eschew club involvement altogether. Cloudy Nights is as close as I care to get. There's nothing wrong with belonging to a club, and there's nothing wrong with choosing not to.

I'll close by saying that I don't think using club membership as the main indicator of our hobby's "health" is really valid. IMO there are far more amateur astronomers with telescopes in this world than amateur astronomers with telescopes who belong to a club.

#72 Matthew Ota

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Posted 27 October 2013 - 03:06 PM

I was a trustee with the Orange County Astronomers a few years ago and now I am in the South Bay Astronomical Society. Fortunately in Southern California there are a lot of astronomy clubs to choose from. It is a hotbed of amateur astronomy.

When I was a trustee withthe OCA I did what I could to get the club to promote itself more with bumper stickers. It has also made affiliations with the local telscope store and that helps to promote it with new members. In recent meetings, the president makes an effort to individually welcome new members in the General Meetings.

#73 JayinUT

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 04:21 AM

I preference these comments with just this: as with all comments in this thread or board, these are just my opinions. They are free, of no cost so in truth, probably are of value only to me. Others may agree, disagree or whatever.

I have been a member and not been a member of a local club. I've decided not to renew. The club is wonderful with an emphasis on outreach, to where outreach is their number one draw. They are close but those who are new who are assertive over time, attend the outreach events and the meal time at a local restaurant afterwards; attend club meetings and a couple of major outreach events will fit right in over time. I believe that if you attend you will observe long term friendships that can be perceived as "cliquey" yet in truth are from long term friendships and doing outreach together.
Why won't I renew? Why? I do outreach about 4 to 6 times a year, usually near my home and at the school I teach but I am at a phase where I do as much dark site observing as I can. I have several great friends who usually join me observing, one might say we are cliquish but we are not. We invite anyone who wants to observe at a dark site to come with us and announce to the public when and where we are going. I'm selfish with my time, I don't have a ton of free time so when it comes to observing, find me at a dark site observing 90% of the time. Guess what, its fine, it is what I do to enjoy the hobby. Others do outreach. Some have done what I have done and driving out to the West Desert or in summer to the mountains is not their version of fun. Doing outreach is and that is great for them.

So since my vision is so much different than the club's purpose, at this point in my life I don't see a need for being a member and probably not for some time if ever. I won't say never. For now we are at different purposes. I want to get people out to a decent to excellent dark site so they can see the difference in observing from suburbia or an urban area. I have spent about 5 of those "dark sky trips" this year teaching someone how to observe and use a telescope, often my own, in order to observe with the hope they may take a long term interest in the hobby. For me that is outreach, actually teaching people how to use a telescope to find some of the easier objects in the night sky. People, especially younger people want to do more than they just want to come take a look. That is why I feel there is little growth in clubs from the younger generation. We want to show, we want to tell. Young people don't care about that. They want to do, they want to learn on their own. Great that I know it. They want to learn how and then be let loose. For me the very nature of outreach has to change in order to get young people interested in the hobby. Then again what do I know, I'm just an educator professionally. Show someone the sky and you have them for a moment. Teach them the sky and to use a tool to observe it and you just may open up a new hobby to them.

So don't be too hard on a club. Just know what the club's guiding purpose is and decide if it fits with where you are at. If not, stay involved in the hobby but do it on your terms with what interests you. Selfish? Maybe, maybe not, but who cares? Really? Who cares? How I enjoy the hobby and how someone else enjoys the hobby means there is more than enough room for all types under the amateur astronomy tent.

I do invite anyone to go observe at a local good to excellent dark site and see the difference. Don't stay in the safety of the light polluted skies, but as Rush says in SubDivisons, venture out into the "far unlit unknown." You just may get bit by the dark site observing bug and spend a lot time visually observing. Warning, Thermacell will not help in keeping the observing bug from biting you if you go to a dark site. You may just get addicted.

#74 scopefreak

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:32 AM

I agree with this post 100%!! I too feel the same way and in a lot of ways did/do the same things when I was involved in the several clubs I was involved in. Now I have no options for joining a local club as there are none anywhere near where I live.

I have my observatory and have had a few people out to observe with me that are rank beginners and it was a fun time. I enjoy teaching and talking to folks about this magnificent hobby and I thirst for that again in the form of a club environment. Alas, it's not to be. I have even gone so far as to try and garner interest in forming a club but I keep running into brick walls, ie. can't get any people to show up for public viewing nights at the local community college, putting flyers at the library and getting no replies, etc....

I will keep pressing on and maybe someday before I die I will again be involved with some sort of organization.

One can only hope.......

#75 stevecoe

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 04:23 PM

Hi Jay;

I am glad to see that you go the 14 inch up and working...and that you are using it under clear skies.

In my club we have a public viewing session once in the Spring and once in the Fall. They are fun and lots of great folks attend, both with scopes and novices who just want a look. That is about all I want to do when it comes to outreach. New Moon is my time to view the sky.

There are club members who have contacts with teachers and they get some members to go to a school and set up. That is fun and I have done it a few times.

The good news is that there is room for all types of observers.

Clear skies;
Steve Coe






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