WEASNER'S EDITORIAL PAGE
It has been a long time since I've written an editorial for this site. Email I have seen over the last few months have prompted me to do this one. Keep in mind that this EDITORIAL PAGE is just that. It is MY area to say whatever is on MY mind. Comments are welcome of course.
As a society, no, as a species, we have come to demand the best in everything (but ourselves) and expect the worst from everything (and everyone but ourselves).
The Navy runs a warship with a desktop computer operating system (because someone said it was the "best" for the job) and when the ship has to be towed to port because of a divide-by-zero error in the software it is deemed acceptable (because the worst was expected).
We set up our ETX, turn on the power, and then say all manner of bad words when the power doesn't come on. We demand that the power will always work. But since no power is evident we expect the worst so assume that something has broken or otherwise seriously failed. Was our first thought that the batteries were dead or that we forget to plug in the AC power? If you are honest with yourself, this was not likely your first thought. You expected the worst.
We set up our ETX or DS telescope, go through all the alignment steps, and then we are surprised when the GOTO fails. We demand that it just work but are not surprised when it fails because we just know that there is something wrong with the software. We know we didn't make any mistakes or skip a step. We demand the best and expect the worst.
We unpack our new telescope and take it outside without reading the manual (we know only wimps read manuals). We set things up and then notice that we can't see what we thought we would with the telescope or that there is some "play" in the movement of the telescope. What is our first assumption? Oh, there must be something wrong with this thing that I spent a gazillion dollars on. Even though we don't know what we are doing (didn't read that manual, remember) and we really don't know what is good and bad because we have no experience with the telescope. We just demand that it all work no matter what and expect that it won't.
Product developers also demand the best and expect the worst. Unfortunately, they have costs to contend with, just like us. They can design the perfect product but it can't be made for a price that it would sell. So some compromises have to be made. As consumers we should understand this but usually we don't. We spent our (or our parents') hard-earned money on the product; it had better work the way we demand that it work with no compromises. And it better work because if it doesn't we just know the error is with the product developer and not in our understanding or experience level.
Is it wrong to demand perfection?
Of course not. But did we really pay for that perfection or something close to it? In the consumer marketplace, probably not. And until we gain a lot of experience, how do we know what perfection (or something close) really is? We can't. But we can ask others what is normal (one of the purposes of this web site). We can read the manual (no matter what your opinion of it is), not just once but several times. We can practice with our telescope. We can learn the nuances of our telescope and how to deal with them. We can see how others are using their telescopes and what they have seen (another purpose of this web site). In short, we can gain knowledge and experience so that we can best determine what is good and bad.
Once you have some good experience and knowledge, you will find it easier to tell when something really is wrong or has failed. You will know that it is not operator error. Then you can take the appropriate action, whether it be to return the purchase, get something that better meets your requirements, try to fix a problem yourself, or have someone else fix it for you.
So, whether you buy a telescope, a computer, a musical instrument, a car, a house, or an airplane, learning all that you can about what you have purchased before making judgments is the best thing you can demand of yourself. And then include yourself in your expectations of the worst. You will be happier and better educated, and a more satisfied person in the long run. And you will be improving society and our species, an excellent goal for all of us.
I wrote the above this morning. Later in the day I replied to an email, wondering how a reputable dealer would ship out an obviously used system as a new one. After I sent the reply it occurred to me that I was expecting the worst from that dealer. I decided that it would be appropriate to add some words to this editorial.
As a species, we have become less tolerant of mistakes, those made by others and by ourselves. Humans make mistakes. Most of us are probably human. Therefore we make mistakes. We should not assume that when something wrong occurs that the wrong was done with malicious intent. Yes, sometimes it is done to cheat or hurt. And we need to watch out for that. But unless we honestly know that someone was out to cheat us, the assumption should be that a mistake was made. The honest, hard working people at Meade will make mistakes, the legitimate dealers will make mistakes, and we, the users, will make mistakes. As long as each party along the way will make an honest attempt to correct the mistakes, then we should be OK with that.
We should continue to demand the best but lets all try to be tolerant when dealing with the less-than-perfect material world. As astronomers, we should and can enjoy the perfection that is the Universe.
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