Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online

November 13, 2001

This morning I woke up in my condo in Taos, thinking about assembling a night-sky telescope that my wife purchased a few weeks ago. Last night I had attempted to put the darn thing together, and the result had been a fiasco. This wasn't just any telescope. It had a built-in computer that could automatically find and track a number of stars and planets—once it was programmed.

But programming it was the problem. To start with, the instruction book was about the size of an unabridged dictionary. Second, the original instructions must have been written in Chinese or another foreign language and then translated by some English major who could have cared less whether the translation would make any sense to the reader.

The opening sentences referred to a Figure No. 1, to demonstrate what I was attempting to do. The picture was a blurred image of an intricate part of the telescope. Trying to figure it out, I wondered why the manufacturer had made it so difficult to put this thing together. Why not make it easy, so that the purchaser would enjoy the process and then tell friends about it, who would then buy one also? If this telescope was as good as purported to be, why wasn't the same care taken in writing the instructions?

The more I tried to follow them, the more confused and frustrated I became. Then I started thinking about my wife’s way of putting things together—by trial and error. She has never liked reading instructions, and now I was beginning to understand why. After fifteen more maddening minutes, I tossed the instruction book aside and switched to Linda’s method. An hour and a half later—mission accomplished! There was one slight problem, however. Several parts were left over

Proud of my accomplishment, I called Linda to come and see. As the two of us struggled to carry the awkward scope out into the night, she casually asked what the parts lying on the bed were for. That caught me off-guard, because I had been careful to stand between her and the bed when she came to witness my great feat of assembly. But women have eyes in the back of their heads!

I tried to think of a good explanation—like “They are replacement parts in case something breaks,” or “I guess they made a mistake at the factory and packed some parts that didn't belong.” But facing Linda’s cold, hard stare, I finally gave up. "I don't know," I said.

I set up the telescope and pointed it in the direction of the moon. When I got it lined up and focused, I was thrilled. The image of the moon was splendid, with craters and mountains standing out in bold relief. "It works great,” I told Linda. “Take a look." But when she did, the moon was already slipping out of the telescope’s view, due to the Earth’s rotation. The telescope was not tracking the moon, the way it was supposed to. Linda had to re-aim the scope to get the full view.

"It does work great,” she finally conceded. But before I could start patting myself on the back, she added: “But maybe we should have one of our young nephews come over and connect those computer parts.” There was something about that statement that I didn't like—maybe it was the word “young.” But I remained silent, because we men know that silence usually works the best.

Have a great day.


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