The telescope I currently own was purchased by myself when I was 13 years old. It's a nice 6" Meade reflector, and a very, very good scope for its class. That doesn't mean I haven't wanted to upgrade over the years. I've wanted to very much--a better mount for improved tracking, computer control, etc. as well as a much larger aperture scope for deep space nebulas, more detail on planets, etc. (I would absolutely keep my current telescope, as it can do certain things a bigger one couldn't--especially if placed onto a modern mount). Various times I've been ready to upgrade, but as soon as I reach that point, something happens to derail those plans. For instance, four years ago I'd saved up roughly $1,400 for a 10" Meade Schmidt-Newtonian telescope. Yay! I placed the order, but the scope was on backorder. My order wouldn't be processed until they were available. I got a sudden sense of dread. I knew something Was About To Happen. Sure enough, a few weeks later my young son was diagnosed with needing some dental work that wasn't covered by our insurance. Guess how much was left of that $1,400?
So last week, when The Wife (who is well aware of my telescopic ambitions) generously offered to buy me one of those mount upgrades so that I could get more production out of my current 6" scope, I was ecstatic. The offer came out of the blue. I was happy. But it was the weekend, and the supplier was closed and couldn't take the order until Monday. Cue sudden sense of dread. Sunday evening, the water pump in my PT Cruiser went out. Guess where the money earmarked for the new telescope mount went? It's a universal law of some sort--if I'm about to make a large astronomy purchase, the universe will block the move. Why? What is the cosmos afraid of me discovering? Canon just announced a new 60Da astronomy-dedicated camera, which would be nice to have, but I'm certain if I ever try to buy it, my computer will suffer and immediate motherboard failure or something. I'm going to try and send off the mirrors from my telescope to Optic Wave Labs in the next week for re-coating (they're 30 years old. It's time) and hopefully the relatively low cost will help this initiative stay out of the universe's notice. We shall see.
I learned something interesting while my car was in the shop. I got a cheap rental for a couple of days, a Ford Fiesta, which looks just about the most tiny car imaginable short of a Smart Car. I expected to hate it, but was surprised when it turned out to be a nice little ride. The front passenger section is surprisingly roomy, and the deep bucket seats are quite comfortable. It gets great gas mileage, has decent pickup for an economy car and is very nimble. That said, I won't be getting one for myself. For one, the back seat is incredibly cramped, even for my kids, and the rear cargo space is little more than an afterthought. Well, fine. This is a tiny compact after all. But then I had it parked next to my PT Cruiser before returning it to the rental agency, and was shocked to see that they're both the same length. The PT seems to have infinitely more overall cabin space, and the cargo area is much bigger. The PT is slightly wider, but that doesn't explain how the Fiesta just seems like such a smaller car overall. One of the PT's design problems is that it is too heavy for its size, which results in lower gas mileage than one would expect. I developed a new appreciation for this extra weight while driving the Fiesta, though, a much lighter car. On the highway, the Fiesta felt like it was constantly skittering in and out of my lane, and I had to stay on top of it to keep from suddenly drifting. Any sudden gust of wind would threaten to send it into the opposite lane. The heavier PT, in contrast, grips the road and isn't going to change lanes unless you darn well decide to change lanes. I found that quite interesting.
But, yeah, the new water pump is in and the PT is up and running again. All I'm asking is for another 10,000 miles and I'll be ready to trade it in. It's been a enjoyable car to drive and overall hasn't given me too much trouble, but it's still a 10-year-old car getting to the point where repairs are costing more than it's worth overall. Maybe once I replace it I'll be able to start looking at new telescopes again. Maybe.
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