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Roy Challen

A Concerned Son

49 posts in this topic

I consider myself a reasonably capable astronomer, with about 15 years observing experience under my belt, so when my Dad began expressing an interest in this hobby, I was happy that I could provide advice. After trying to find out his expectations, I gave him my recommendations – something simple and portable to start with. I had a few scopes at that time, and he said if I was willing to sell my Tal 100R, with mount, and show him how to set it up, then he would be happy to buy it. It suited his requirements in my opinion, and the deal was done.

A little later he wanted some binoculars, so I said “get some decent 10x50s”. He said “really?”, so I explained the relationship between magnifications, fields of view, and being able to hand hold bins. Actually, we had a long discussion about various types of telescope, pros and cons of each etc. Anyway, I managed to convince him not to buy the biggest set of bins he wanted – he is spectacularly good at buying things he doesn’t know anything about – 100mm Vixens.

The next time I visited him, there, sitting on a far too flimsy tripod was a pair of Helios 28x110s! Jesus, they’re big. I asked him how he managed carrying them and a tripod on his scooter (doesn’t have a car, well this year anyway). “Oh I don’t – I just go down the road a bit and set them up there”. Hmm, at least they get some use then, even though it’s just daytime use only. Yep, not once has he pointed them at the night sky.

My brother and I went to see him again over the New Year, and guess what? He’s completely ignored my advice – done the exact opposite in fact. Nosing around his flat, I discovered a Sky-Watcher Mak 180 Pro and an NEQ6 hidden under a cover! Then a 12” f/5 newt with coma corrector, 2x Barlow, then worst of all a 3.5mm Myriad eyepiece!

So what? What’s the problem? It’s all good, no, great, stuff isn’t it? The problem is he didn’t ask me about any of it, I discovered it hidden in his flat. He says he researched it all. Er, why not ask your astronomer son then? What research concludes that a 3.5mm Myriad is a good first eyepiece for a scope with 1500mm focal length, let alone 2700mm? Does that same research suggest expert level equipment for a beginner too? My Dad has trouble, actually he’s incapable of texting from a mobile phone, is utterly unwilling to learn anything about computers, and doesn’t know how to find Polaris despite repeated explanations. The polar-scope alignment and polar alignment procedure will be beyond him, I fear – he is not known for his patience. In addition, these are not small, light scopes and although he’s a big guy, he is old and his balance isn’t the best. I’m worried that in trying to lift and attach one of these to his mount, outside in the cold and potentially slippery surface, he’ll either do some serious damage to himself or the scopes or both.

Is this any of my business? Can’t a person spend his/her money in their retirement on whatever they please? Well, he has already asked me to try and sell some of his gear. So now I am involved and he has made it my business.

Why am I writing about it here? I honestly don’t know what to do. I could sell his stuff – he said I could keep 10% of what I get, but then he’ll just go and buy more stuff with the money. Obviously we’ve talked about this level of spending with him (my wife and I are very good with our finances and often help him get his in order, but if I don’t know about it, I can’t do anything about). Should I just keep his stuff at my house until such time he knows what it’s for and how to use it? Unfortunately, it's of no use to me, otherwise I could use/buy it from him. Should I just relax and not worry about it until he has no money left (his spending does go beyond astro stuff, but I’m worried he’ll get an idea that he can do AP after seeing my images (which are rubbish anyway and which I no longer pursue)) and has to sell his flat cos he’ll be in care home by then?

I think he is a member of Scarborough Astro-society or somewhere in that area anyway – he lives in Scarborough, Yorks, so perhaps if there are any members on here, they could help out with showing him the ropes ( he's not very good with new people so won't ask), as it is difficult for me to go there often. Before I put his stuff up for sale – the newt, coma corrector, Barlow and Myriad to start – I would like to know what you good folk would do in this situation, any advice or suggestions will be gratefully received.

Thanks for reading, and if you got this far, well done!

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i think this can only be sorted by yourself...i know you are looking for advise on this but ultimately the decision has to be your own. My dad has spent a life time collecting tat of all sorts...as many of us do!..but now is going the other way and selling most of his stuff off...(still has more fishing gear than Shakespeare!)...Hopefully you can resolve this without a falling out, good luck.

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It sounds like he wants to find out about all of this stuff on his own.  Independence is something that is strongly ingrained, so don't take it personally - it's probably just how he is.

What I would wonder is where the advice he is receiving coming from?  He obviously understands that small eyepieces = greater magnification but not what the practical limitations are.

All of that said though, if he's got the money and worked hard to earn it, then in my mind it's his choice what to spend it on.  But you can possibly temper the decisions with extra knowledge.

My parents are/were/still are computer technophobes.  They were pretty much forced into having a computer in order to start digital photography. One of the best things I did was set them up with a simple computer running Linux Mint - it's very hard for them to break it in the same way they kept doing with XP, and now they can google stuff, stay in touch with clubs online and so on.

I suspect if you could open up an avenue of good information (rather than say, Bob down the pub or the local department store that want to sell expensive stuff) then his choices might become better informed.

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Perhaps there is no specific practical advice anyone can give you. As I myself grow old and silly - well, more so than I already was - I do realize more than ever that things...ah, well.

You are a concerned son, but also clearly a loving one. Maybe that can light your path.

Your main concern may be for his happiness. You may feel responsible, or you may feel that one's happiness is mainly one's own responsibility - or both.

Perhaps, in the end, what you do is less important than how you go about doing it.

At the very least, one may consider that such things give fathers and sons something - a perceived shared interest - to talk about.

:happy11:

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To me, tttonyyy's remark seems very plausible-your father's behaviour might have to do with autonomy in deciding for himself.

Many years ago, when "learning the ropes"  as a psychiatrist, a very experienced member of the medical staff used a provocative saying, for which I hated him:

"Loving care almost means restraining loving care".

Over the years I've found more than once some truth in this. What seems good to us is perhaps not exactly what others prefer. Your father is going"big" with his acquisitions; contrasting to your equipment, as it seems.

So, what can you do? Let him take the first steps in exploring the night sky, assist him and answer his questions, without "pushing" him to anything.

Let him decide, what he will do. Of course, some gentle nudges might be helpful( e.g. the question:"will you look at the moon tonight with your mak,

or at Jupiter? There are also some fine planetarys up there at the moment" - the " illusion of alternatives" strategy).

Perhaps there are some ways to get the 10" set up semi-permanent (in a garage, wheelbarrows attached).

 

As a loving son, enjoy the hours you spend with your father. Fine to have you here in this friendly forum.

Stephan

 

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Hi Roy,

when it comes to a parent it can be very difficult to get them to understand that you are not being a stooge about this, its just the fact that it is your dad and you gave him very good sounding advice, even though sometimes they do listen there is also times when like you said he went out and got the most expensive stuff when just first starting out, like you say, he went against the very good sounding advice you gave him, like some others have said, the question could be who has potentially put these ideas into his head to get the bigger and better expensive equipment over the ideas you put forwards, But then you also have to look at the fact that your dad has earned his money so really he is free to purchase what he desires, even if sometimes it is against advice, I would say have a good sit down with him and have a good old chat about your concerns regarding his finances and your worries, at the end of the day it is your dad you are speaking to so should be able to get to some agreement on what to do with the stuff he's recently purchased, good luck with this and hope you and your dad can sort it out regarding the purchases he has made, sometimes you can think there is a simple solution when it comes to family and loved ones but that is not true it can be harder sometimes talking to family as you don't want to be arguing and falling out & offending them over this.

Mark

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Roy - could you not sell the stuff, then if he's still interested, recommend something more manageable like a smallish frac on an alt-az, or a smaller Dob than the one he bought?  And after a few sessions in the cold and dark, his interest might just wane anyway.

Your Dad clearly likes to act independently, and you say you already help and advise him.  Can you do anything further?  Only you and the family can decide on that, I feel.

(The huge mags with the 3.5mm Myriad are indeed a cause for concern!)

Doug.

 

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My experience of dads suggest he can't be told and won't listen to any advice other than his own. No matter how much of an expert you are he will always know better...

My dad couldn't separate his opinion and fact - to him they were the same. Also, there were only two ways of doing things - his way or the wrong way...

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If I had been fortunate to have had a son then I think he would have been concerned as well!  :icon_biggrin:

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Oops -,i have left out an important word in my quotation!

"Loving care almost always means restraining loving care"

Sorry for that

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Posted (edited)

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and replies, they have been a big help. 

Calvin - don't worry, the only falling out will be that of my hair of which there is precious little left anyway!:icon_biggrin:

Tony - yes, he is a bit independent and tends to jump in at the deep end but usually finds that he can't swim, so to speak, resulting in him selling off gear at a large loss. It's this that I want to help him avoid. My Dad is the Emperor of Luddite. Texting, internet, computers etc. are, well, just no. He has the Nikon equivalent of a Canon 5Dmk III that only ever gets used in green box mode. The other buttons/functions are pointless and confusing according to him. God help him if he tries AP! He did try and have a go with a simple laptop but didn't stick at it i.e. got frustrated at the lack of progress and sold it for half what he paid. 

iPeace - I do feel a small amount of responsibility as he does often pick up on what I do, then decides that he want to do it as well

Stephan - I like your suggestions very much, but he'll need to learn the very basics from me first, such as how to find Polaris, in order to set up the mount. I'll approach it in the manner you describe. No chance for semi permanent set-up though, he lives in a first floor flat, no garages, although there is a lift. Even so, an EQ6 and mak 180 is a big beast.

Mark - thankyou for your advice, I have talked about money and astronomy with him before (nearly every time we see each other), and I do agree that it is his money to with as he pleases - I just don't want him to waste it on stuff he can't use and then abandon the hobby as a result.

Doug - Yes, I could sell the stuff, but then he might just go and buy more stuff before consulting me about it. I need to think about how I can get him to learn properly how to use what he has, with maybe a loan of a sensible range of eyepieces from me.

Michael - you hit the nail on the head there! How dare I think I know more about astronomy than my Dad! After all, he's been around for nearly 70 years!:icon_biggrin:

Peter - But apparently you know a thing or two about telescopes!:icon_biggrin:

I'm less concerned about the amount he spent than the type of scopes he bought. If it had been a £2500 Tak on an AZ4, with a 24mm Panoptic, he would already be outside using it. Anyway, I've convinced him NOT to buy anything else astro-related until I've had a good think about how best to 'educate' him in the use of astro gear. This will necessarily have to start from the very beginning. But I'm happy to do that as it will confirm that I still know what I'm talking  about - hopefully. I think I'll start with loaning him my eyepiece collection, and go from there.

I'll confess now that I would really like to have a look through the Mak 180 at the Moon and Jupiter, and see what the 12" Newt can do on something like M51/81/82:happy7:

Thanks again to everybody.

 

 

Edited by Roy Challen
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As an old codger who has spent more money than necessary on astro gear ( my son groans every time I get some new bit of kit ) I quite like having stuff around that may never get full use, it's just nice to look at.

Strangely just possessing something is sometimes enough, our psychiatrist friend Stephan probably has an explanation for this, some sort of syndrome :grin:

Having spent last night skating on my patio it's probably safer just to look at it indoors.

Don't know now old he is but when you feel the grim reaper breathing down your neck your priorities tend to change.

A relative has an obsession with collecting "crested china" got so much that it's packed away in the loft in bubble wrap, never sees the light of day but no intention of selling any, in fact still goes to auctions and buys boxes of the stuff.

I have kept all my astro receipts so that my son can flog it all when I'm dead, don't know what he's complaining about as he's had more cars in a year than I've had in my whole life :grin:

My advice is to let him get on with it as long as he's compos mentis.

Dave

 

 

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7 hours ago, Peter Drew said:

If I had been fortunate to have had a son then I think he would have been concerned as well!  :icon_biggrin:

I'm sure my sons (both still teenagers) are concerned about my 'non mainstream' hobbies.......

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Posted (edited)

17 minutes ago, laser_jock99 said:

I'm sure my sons (both still teenagers) are concerned about my 'non mainstream' hobbies.......

Other than astro?  Do tell!

My son - a father himself - shares my interest, and has one of my old 'scopes!

Doug.

Sorry - this thread has drifted a bit!

Edited by cloudsweeper

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It seems that he is thoroughly enjoying himself.:icon_biggrin:

If he is happy then just relax and let him find thing out for himself.At least he is enjoying himself.

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18 minutes ago, Singlin said:

It seems that he is thoroughly enjoying himself.:icon_biggrin:

If he is happy then just relax and let him find thing out for himself.At least he is enjoying himself.

Well he's certainly enjoying spending his money! However, I do wish he would just ask me about this kind of stuff before going headlong into it. Most people on here wouldn't find it too difficult to set up and use what he's bought, but he's not exactly technically minded and gets frustrated easily when something like this doesn't work perfectly straight out the box. I hope he finds the patience until my next visit (which I suspect will be a long one) so that I can show him how to do it. That's what he needs really, following instructions will only get him so far, but being shown should be a lot better. And then he can enjoy himself looking through, instead of at, his telescopes.

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I must admit I was a bit stressed with this over the last couple of days, but since posting on here about it, I've felt the stress lift and can look back and see that it's a little bit funny. I mean, he actually hid these purchases from me, and I had to find them by snooping around his flat!

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20 minutes ago, Roy Challen said:

I must admit I was a bit stressed with this over the last couple of days, but since posting on here about it, I've felt the stress lift and can look back and see that it's a little bit funny. I mean, he actually hid these purchases from me, and I had to find them by snooping around his flat!

That's good Roy - it is rather amusing!  You've clearly got his interests at heart, and I hope he enjoys using the gear with your filial assistance!

Doug.

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Good luck with this Roy.....what a situation.

In fact, you post reminds me of my dad, only substitute computers for astronomy gear. :p

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Gadgetitis can affect anyone. If additional symptoms of aperture fever appear it can get very serious.

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I am an old man and just spent 160 pounds on two light bulbs, doesn't mean I am loosing it rather I forget things sometimes.

Alan

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Sorry to hear about this predicament, it is interesting how differently people like to enjoy their hobbies. My dad is interested in astronomy but isn't interested in getting much gear even though he could get any amateur gear if he wanted to.

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13 hours ago, Davey-T said:

I have kept all my astro receipts so that my son can flog it all when I'm dead, don't know what he's complaining about as he's had more cars in a year than I've had in my whole life :grin:

Dave that bit made me laugh. Simple pragmatism right there!

Roy, I'm glad to hear you are stressing less about it. If it helps I still raise my eyebrows when I hear my dad has spent the best part of a grand on another model boat. At least he's happy and it's not like it's money spent on things that immediately depreciate. :)

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3 hours ago, tttonyyy said:

Dave that bit made me laugh. Simple pragmatism right there!

Roy, I'm glad to hear you are stressing less about it. If it helps I still raise my eyebrows when I hear my dad has spent the best part of a grand on another model boat. At least he's happy and it's not like it's money spent on things that immediately depreciate. :)

Yeah, my Dad likes model trains too. Didn't know it was possible to spend £2500 on a second hand model!:icon_biggrin:

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Thanks for all your responses folks, it's been a big help.

I've decided to write a beginners guide for my Dad - just the basics to start with, setting up will have to wait until I visit him. I'll also lend him some of my EPs until he can understand the differences and then buy his own. 

 

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