During the Great Recession
Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:18 AM
I find so much here that I don't get. I see folks making their HUGE telescopes, buying unbelievable eyepieces, and APOs too.
I know I never made the kind of money to afford making such equipment. I guess most of you have better jobs than I ever had. My last job paid $22K and I felt filthy rich.
I most humbly state that in my days of trials of some employment, I managed to pay off my house and have no debt.
As a retiree, I mighty glad that I did these things because retirement brings some great trials, including old age and illness.
I am trying to say is that I see a lot of excess unless you are making piles of money, I'll bet a lot of times, credit cards are in use.
Please be careful. Have fun, but please don't forget what I have said. I am not judging anyone at all and if I seem wrong, please remember:
Humble Pie doesn't taste so bad at all.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:35 AM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:08 AM
I worry that not very many younger folks seem to have this mindset today.
Speaking of ATM's and frugality, what better example than John Dobson? No credit card dependency there.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:40 AM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:55 AM
If you haven't seen Waste Land, you should.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:15 AM
Even having the money to buy whatever you want doesn't mean you have to do so.
My modest house and small cars are paid for, we pay off our credit cards each month, and my wife and I have a very comfortable income (the new proposed tax laws would affect us).
Yet, I have a couple scopes that do not represent the most expensive scopes, and only a half dozen eyepieces.
They are all I need to observe the skies--probably for the rest of my life.
What I need, and cannot buy, is more time to observe, and more clear skies to observe in. Equipment is nice, but what is it for if not to observe with?
I have always tinkered with scopes, and built a 6" OTA from scratch in the '80s and even built a pair of binoculars in the early '90s.
I have always valued those whose mechanical skills in the use of tools have led them to home-made instruments. A friend of mine built a 5" f/5 refractor from a surplus lens and scrap parts he bought at junkyards and flea markets. It was a fine scope, and I envied him in his ability to machine and fit everything together.
And, at night, the rough look is invisible. What counts is what you see through the eyepiece.
Mostly, though, it is about being happy with what you have. That's an important aspect of life often found missing among the "acquirers". Those whose more modest means have led them to be content with lower-priced equipment are lucky today because there is so much good stuff available for cheap. I know people with over $200K of equipment and other people who observe with less than $1K of equipment.
I leave it to your imagination who I find still observing at 3 am.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:48 AM
If the equipment bought for that $500 were rated (on optical quality, perhaps, or image quality) on a scale of 1-10, it may well achieve an 8 or a 9. To achieve the extra 1 or 2 points would likely cost $5000. An example of deminishing returns.
Outstanding observations are made daily by folk with very modest equipment. A practiced observer with modest equipment will out-observe an underexperienced observer no matter what equipment that fellow purchases.
And that experienced observer will be at the eyepiece on many a night when the equipment collector is working his second job, trying to keep the jackals at bay.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 12:20 PM
John Dobson has been a great inspiration to me, but so are others who show what can be done if you persist to find a way to do it.
I don't think that anything has changed: that there were always those who made their own devices and those who just purchased what was available. (Not everyone has the ability or the dedication or the interest to be a craftsman/technoid.)
If something is inexpensive enough the incentive is higher to buy and install, but if its not available or too expensive the challenge is there if you wish to accept it.
Normally I count myself among those who would rather build than waste precious resources. It probably helps to be less financially able. Then you get your start by realizing that you don't have to buy what you can make!
Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:11 PM
also buys instant expertise.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:20 PM
Many of us have standards; something has to look good enough, or have features that we can't easily build into our projects where a commercial concern with CNC machining CAN do. Not saying it's bad or good; it's just the way it is.
Be thankful for the choices we have today. They may not last.
Finally; back then, looking at the sky was more cutting edge science wise. Today, 99% of us are just tourists.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 01:21 PM
Mostly, though, it is about being happy with what you have.
Indeed! I agree with this, Don. Although it's fun to look through those monster scopes, and expensive apo refractors, etc., - and certainly there is nothing wrong with others having what they want to own, if that's what sets their hearts aflutter. But to the main point: I haven't spent much on my scopes, despite owning a LOT of them over the last 4 to 6 years. Sometimes the search is fun too - and can teach a lot, as it did for me.
After I made some more money in my 30's, I used a little saved money to look at different telescopes. First I started with bigger and better refractors. Then I got over my fear of collimating reflectors, and picked up some of them. Mind you, except for my 8" SCT which was bought new way-back-when (since sold), all of these were purchased used - sometimes for very little, and a few were even GIVEN to me. And after trying some different things and deciding I didn't like something anymore, I could sell it for what I paid for it. Some I also gave away, after I had fixed them up. I 'rented' a lot of equipment basically for free - scopes, mounts, eyepieces, filters - you name it.
Nowadays, I've finally 'settled' on the scopes that I really am happy using: A 6" f/5 reflector (purchased with money from selling other items), a 10" Dob (found for $100 used on craigslist), an old Tasco 10-TE 76mm refractor (FREE) and a "found on craiglist" 127mm f/4.4 refractor lens, for which I am (still in the process of) making a wood tube, and my latest project, a 6" f/10.9 mirror bought for $50 that is presently residing in two taped-together concrete pier tubes ($10) to serve as a "temporary holder" for the mirror until I save some money to get a somewhat more permanent aluminum tube. I made the curved spider for that last one out of brass stock. Not including solder and flat black paint I already had, I think it cost me about $5 to make.
Part of the joy I get out of this hobby is making things for my telescopes. I have made at least seven tripods and/or piers for my telescopes, rarely finding "stock" ones either acceptable or affordable, and will be building an 8th here this winter. And by the way, I may be younger than many of you too - I'm in my early 40's - so there's hope, given those of us still scrounging / making / being happy with lower-cost options out there.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:18 PM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:28 PM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:11 PM
My Parents were Depression babies, and taught "us siblings" to work and save if we wanted something. We were also taught to live within our means and to RARELY carry debt (A mortgage was acceptable). To be rich meant that you had money left over after the bills were paid and food laid in.
Now that retirement is here, there's time to enjoy hobbies. Everything is paid for and still there's the time and resources to help those in the neighborhood. We may not have the "newest and the bestest", but that doesn't mean an Ethos or two hasn't made it's way into the EP box.
I'm thankful for a wife who tolerates this Mistress, "astronomy".
Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:26 PM
While the "old timers" (Depression and WWII generation) may not have had the kind of disposable income we have today, they did have an enormous advantage in Work Ethic over todays Entitlement Culture. And they certainly knew what real hardship was all about.
Excess is a little more a point of opinion I guess. I would speculate that what really held the old timers back from the large scopes of today was just timing - they were wedded to massive machined metal equatorial mounts, as well as full-thickness glass. The idea of a wood alt/az mount was inconceivable even as recently as 40 years ago.
John Dobson was just born 50 years too late for them. Imagine if he had been a contemporary of Russell Porter ...
Posted 28 November 2012 - 03:43 PM
-IF- in particular, you are saving enough for retirement as you are -SUPPOSED- to be doing every payday. I see a tendency with the last couple generations of squeezing every last penny of equity out of their houses with 2nd and 3rd mortgages--- perish the thought. I hope they can afford to retire someday.
I was always hammered with sayings like "better than where there's none," etc.
I knew I'd never be able to afford the optical toy I wanted that would surpass anything else or really tax the capability of my eyes (20/10 in my better years) so I had to learn how to -MAKE- what I wanted and to do a lot of research on my own.
Let's put it this way--- The house, though not a 6 bedroom/5 bath monster, is paid for, has a constant running source of potable water, and can have an electric bill less than $25 a month. And I'm not saddled with payments to support a couple 4-5 figure scopes in the stable, or a ton of expensive eyepieces, etc.
I think in the end, this is the smart way.....Call me crazy if you want. If I won the lottery, I wouldn't change one bit- too old to do that, seen too much.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:36 PM
I'm thankful for a wife who tolerates this Mistress, "astronomy".
Posted 28 November 2012 - 04:45 PM
Don, 100% agree from my perspective. I have enough 'stuff'...really, really do. Anymore I value observing in dark skies with my astro buddies, dining at the nearby greasy spoon, and shooting the breeze with others with similar interest.
Well known ATM'er Ron Ravneberg was a personal friend of mine and fellow club member here in Columbus. Even way before he passed away, Ron used to say 'I collect people'....and 'I collect memories'. Yes, equipment is certainly nice, but there is so much more. I think about Ron often.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:24 PM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:36 PM
Sorry had to rant.
Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:13 PM
My dad was a teenager during the depression. His family moved from Oklahoma to CA in the mid 30s. I just saw Ken Burns' "The Dust Bowl" on PBS last week. Now I understand that the recession we've been experiencing is nothing like what he lived through.
I grew up dreaming about the old-school telescopes of the 60s and 70s. Now, I find I can afford some of them, and have bought several. "Big" back then was 12.5", and is still currently my largest aperture.
I've taken a couple mirror making classes, and would like to make my own meter-class instrument for my retirement observatory. I don't know how realistic that is, though. But I do think that I could be happy with something much smaller, maybe even one of my 12.5"ers.
I don't really like altazimuth scopes still, though I do like wood, and I do like making my own stuff:
I prefer Porter over Dobson, though. And the next Springfield I build will have my own optics in it (the mirror in that one is from Optical Craftsmen, 1972).
Probably, though, if I ever do get to build a meter scope, I'll have to consider a Dobson mount if I'm going to expect to be able to lug it around msyelf (though if I build an observatory, maybe I can use a hoist to put a massive GEM together and leave it there, letting my kin dispose of it when I shove daisies).
Posted 28 November 2012 - 08:26 PM
Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:10 PM
Sky & Telescope magazine in particular seems ridiculous to me, with their non-stop coverage of the "Hottest Item of the Past Month." They have fallen so far.
How many times have I known people refer to "big people in astronomy" and then found they meant folks who run amateur equipment companies...
Then there are clubs with observatories worth six figures, but which they never really use.
I try to stay focused on where it's at - up there. I find a lot that is disconcerting about hobby astronomy today but it's just a reflection of our society and the fact that this interest has many wealthy and upper-middle class people involved. There have been times when I was well-off enough that I fell into these things as well, so I am not really directing anything nasty toward these folks. However, I do feel the whole scene has gone the wrong way since the 1980's.
But this is true of many things and many hobbies. For a lot of folks, their hobby is buying, and the psychology of why they buy what they do runs very deep and is probably a little sick, too.