Well, here’s what’s been going on with my latest Burning Interests:
Tablet PCs – I ended up getting a Toshiba Satellite R15-S829. It’s not a super-powerhouse, but the price was right ($999 at Circuit City). The built-in optical drive is very convenient but makes it a bit heavy. The 14″ screen is great, and although the max resolution is 1024 x 768, I think that’s plenty for the hobby-type art I am doing. Which brings me to…
Drawing & Sketching – I’ve been doing a lot more now that I’ve got the tablet. I know everyone always says pencil & paper is the best way to learn, but working digitally gives me the freedom to make mistakes and recover from them. On the other hand, there are probably some “happy accidents” (as Bob Ross would say) that never get a chance to happen, but I can accept that.
Working in Painter on the tablet is fantastic. I have a small Wacom tablet on my desktop at home, but with that you are looking at the screen while drawing on the tablet. Better than a mouse obviously, but not ideal. Being able to draw directly on the screen is great. I’m working my way through a bunch of different drawing books. Yes, I am drawing a lot of fruit. I hope to post some of the stuff I’ve been doing soon. Not because I think it’s great, but because I think it isn’t – and hopefully it will be a way for me to see my progress (or lack thereof).
Astronomy – I’m reading a lot of astronomy stuff every day, and saving up for a telescope (must pay off the laptop first though). I tried to scratch the itch by buying a cheapie Explorascope-type scope on eBay (for 60 bucks) but unfortunately the primary mirror was all out of whack. I couldn’t get an in-focus image, even of the moon. My attempts to collimate it (align the mirrors) made it worse – I turned one of the screws too far and it fell out. Not sure how much of that was my fault and how much was busted to begin with; the reason I turned the screw so far was because no matter what I did, I couldn’t get the primary mirror to tilt to the right. I suspect it was out of its cell when it arrived but there’s no knowing now. At this point I figured what the hell and tried to take the whole thing apart but it was just not worth the effort. It is now in the Metuchen dump. Definitely a case of “you get what you pay for”.
I’m undaunted though. I’ve definitely settled on a reflector instead of a refractor since you get so much more aperature for your money. I’ve been going back and forth between Dobsonian and Equatorial mount. The EQ mount will allow you to track objects in the sky more easily and so lends itself better to photography. On the other hand, everything I am reading says “forget photography at the beginning”, due to the expense of the equipment you need to take decent pictures. The EQ mount is more expensive than the Dob – basically it seems like you can get an 8″ Dob or a 6″ EQ for the same money. The scope that has my eye at the moment is the Orion XT8. I don’t think I’m going to go with any of the fancy GoTo stuff for now – I’d rather learn the sky and what’s where than have the scope point to it for me.