Wednesday, October 04, 2006

right for me?

Went to the Toronto Centre RASC meeting at the Ontario Science Centre (OSC) this evening. Said hello to Tom on walking in. He talked briefly about what was to happen and gave me a nice glossy brochure. The flyer echoes things from the web site. But I’ll read it again to consider the benefits of membership.

I visited this event partly to hear SF author Robert Sawyer speak. Very interesting dude, quite funny. I even got to ask him a question. I enjoyed this part of the evening.

But the rest of the meeting I was lukewarm about. I don’t think I had any expectations per se. But I had this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Was I expecting a formal new member welcome committee? Somebody in my face trying to get me to sign up? Was I expecting more astronomy info? More teaching? More coaching?

Maybe this was the wrong type of meeting to go to, at least in the sense of looking for hands-on info, tips, tricks. The “member nights” meetings are probably more educational. Maybe it is because tonight was not a social night per se. It was a lecture or a talk. We sat there. I sat there. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t talk about my situation, successes, or frustrations.

The “beginners” event, announced by Leslie Harvey, at the end of the month up at Carr sounded interesting… After meeting administration, I chatted with Harvey. She is “in charge” of helping the rookies and noobs getting started in the centre.

Harvey mentioned that I might pursue the general astronomy certificate called Explore the Universe (EU). You need to bag some constellations, some planets, bright stars, etc. Reminds me of my Cub Scout merit badges. You gotta earn your strips...

This was intimidating at first thought. But it also reminds me of my touch-typing dilemma. I never took typing in high school. So as I continued to use computers, while I was becoming a quick hunt-and-peck keyboard user, I still was being bottlenecked. I bought typing training software but I did not diligently use it. I realised I needed to take a real course with real tests to force myself to learn it… Perhaps to accelerate and focus my learning (of the basics) in astronomy, I need to throw myself into a similar situation, with tests and tangible targets.

It is curious that of late, I have formerly started doing a lot of these things: reading more books on the subject; trying to learn more constellations by sight; making checklists or life logs; trying to see all the planets in the solar system; getting better at navigating (by star hopping, for example); viewing double stars. So, perhaps this certificate would be relatively easy for me to obtain… There's a lot of lunar observing which I'm not terribly interested in but, hey, maybe that would be fun.

Where was I? The RASC meeting was interesting, mostly because of Sawyer, but I left feeling… empty? I don’t know how to describe it. I was sad. Feeling a little alone.

I think I’m looking, searching, for a new social group. I need something new in my life. I need to meet some new people. While there was a good turnout, most were older than me. It was 90% male. I’m sure these people are interesting and smart. But will I hang out and party with them? OK, that's a bit strange, but I think you get the idea.

I had also not considered the geek factor. I sensed something in Harvey that I can’t put my finger on. And as I was chatting with her, there was a couple of audience members hanging around. Definite nerds. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! ;-) But, it just surprised me, I guess, or reminded me, that this field is one that attracts a different kind of person…

Am I a nerd?

Anyway, I was not bowled over. I did not yank out my chequebook.

Is the RASC right for me, right now?

I’m lost at sea.

All that said, I think I need to experience the group again. I need to go to one of the member nights, members helping members, members delivering topics to members. This is probably more what I'm after. Or maybe, simply, the meetings are not right. Maybe I'm tired of meetings. Meetings, bloody meetings...

Maybe I should just sign up! It's a great deal really when you consider you get the Observer's Handbook and a bunch of other goodies. Then I can get out to the actual astronomical events, the observation nights, get up to the observatory. That's what I want to do (and do better): observe.

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