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Norman Sperling
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I Made 100 NCHALADAs

© Norman Sperling, October 29, 2012

No, I didn't make 100 enchiladas, the tasty Mexican food. NCHALADA - pronounced the same - is the Northern California Historical Astronomy Luncheon and Discussion Association. It's an informal group, meeting 3 or 4 times a year since 1985. No charter, no bylaws, no dues, and between meetings it only exists as a mailing list.

With Ron Oriti, I co-founded the group as Northern California's version of the "Society for the History of Astronomy", which conducted discussions around Los Angeles. Ron was active there while working at Griffith Observatory, and I visited one excellent session hosted by Gibson Reeves.

We thought the same kind of thing might work around San Francisco. We were right. Meeting mostly at Chabot Observatory, and its successor Chabot Space and Science Center, we discuss a very wide range of topics, some timely, some timeless.

Each meeting selects topics, chairs, and dates for the next. Where a different venue is wanted, or needed, we take offers, or find a suitable place.

Discussions are always good-humored, with many a pun (by many participants, not just me).

But the characteristic commented on repeatedly is that participants bring strong mindpower and expertise, and join in purely for the intellectual joy of it. Bob Multhauf said he enjoyed NCHALADA meetings more than academic colloquia because no one was trying to impress an advisor or potential employer, they were all there because they're interested. A high-ranking MD said NCHALADA discussions show stronger brainpower than he finds in professional meetings.

Attendance has dwindled. The Los Angeles group gave up several years ago. Our attendance has drifted downward, though meeting 100 brought a dozen, our best total in a while.

-- == 100 == --

Nancy Cox, Alan Fisher, and John Westfall have attended about 90 of the 100 meetings. And I have attended every single one.

I was wondering if I could make it. I normally don't make a big issue of numerical milestones, but I've been hoping for this one. Would I still be in town? Though I reconciled myself to missing some because of my upcoming travels, the group picked meeting dates for when I'm home. Would family, health, and other considerations allow it? They never got in the way. The next meeting or 2 also look possible.

-- == Historical Astronomy On Line == --

We just set up an online Yahoo Group to resurrect our former website in an easy format, spark discussion between meetings, and encourage people everywhere to consider our topics. It's also an invitation for more people to join discussions that interest them.

We're posting many of our previous "discussion suggestions" of varying strength. They may include essays, bibliographies, and/or questions. Bringing up a topic is NOT the same as agreeing with it, and participants discuss it from many different viewpoints.

If other places wish to conduct sporadic or regular discussion sessions, we applaud. If you would like to link to any of our postings, please do. If you would like to adapt some, please ask its author, but it'll probably be fine. If you would like to contribute questions, bibliographies, or essays in historical astronomy, send them to us and we'll probably want to post them unless they are offensive.

The Journal of Irreproducible Results
This Book Warps Space and Time
What Your Astronomy Textbook Won't Tell You

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