Monday, August 8, 2022

Armadillocon 44 Part 2

The convention lost two of its founders, Willie Siros and Joe W. Bratcher III and memorials were held to celebrate both of them. Willie Siros was also a founder of FACT the Fandom Association of Central Texas. FACT is the engine of creation and administration for Armadillocon. His bookstore was Adventures in Crime and Space. Sara Felix’s tribute was posted here: Joe Bratcher owned Malvern Books, a cornerstone of Austin culture and a solid supporter of the convention. 

6 August 14:00 HRS (The show guide really is in military time.) Tiara Workshop. Artist Sarah Felix. Impressed with the tiaras that she bestowed on the guests of honor during the opening ceremony, I was hoping to make something that Aragorn might wear but that was not the kind of identical kits that we got. I left and went to the dealer’s room. Laurel worked on hers but brought it home incomplete. This was definitely a waste of $50 leaving us with unwanted bric-a-brac cheaper than Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. 


I returned to the Dealers Room for a couple of hours, though I still only met about half of the dealers because of our own attenuated schedule. 


Pick a Little, Talk a Little: The Art of Lockpicking by Tex Thompson (1600 HRS).

Tex Thompson loids a lock.
How to open a lock with a credit card.

Back in 2019, Tex Thompson moderated a panel on how to moderate panels. I learned a lot from that session about working either side of the dais. Tex missed last year’s con and I missed her. This year she was back with a new career as a locksmith. (Laurel and I have been locksporters since we lived in Ann Arbor. Here in Austin, I donated several mechanisms to their trove and they awarded Laurel a pair of handcuffs.) Tex Thompson’s presentation was a show-and-tell with hands-on cut-aways from the 19th through 21st centuries. She covered the fallacies in cinema and the tools of the trade including rakes, bumping, amd snappers. We had a good time and helped her schlep her gear back to her car. 

Fannish Feud. (1700 HRS). Our friend, Kurt Baty, was on the fan side. We never watched Family Feud but the rules were easy enough with the pivot being that the answers came from a poll of the convention. So, they were not necessarily right and you have to guess what “most” people might have said. Name a vampire… Name a fan artist … What was the fishing boat in Jaws? … etc. The fans won. 


The Future of Identity in SF (1900 HRS). After a one-hour hiatus, the convention picked up again. I was really looking forward to this. 


Much of the discussion here was about the distinction between artificial intelligence (parking a car) and artificial general intelligence (being “human” or something like that). Stina Leicht pointed out that historically, people have modeled the mind with the technology of the times from fluids and humors to clockworks to computers but the mind is not any of those. 

Ryan Leslie mentioned “evolutionary compensation” but did not extend that thread. (See: “Compensatory evolution means that a locus will evolve an effect size in a different direction to (i.e., negatively correlated with) the effect sizes at other loci.” NIH here.)


John Hornor Jacobs alluded to “Midworld” an AI that makes art. (See “Midjourney’s Enthralling AI art generator goes live for everyone” at PC World here.). He then reminded us of the truism that good fiction is a way to consider the human condition and the interesting question about AI is what it says about us. How would perfect memory affect your relationship with your spouse? (Laurel and I only exchanged sidelong glances even though we wanted to elbow each other in the ribs and chortle “har-har-har.”) Jacobs said, “A genie is no good to a writer unless it is let out of the bottle.” 


Eva L. Elasique (Filipina-American queer feminist) said that her background as a biologist (studied; no degrees) lead her to consider epiphenomenal alien intelligences. That sounded deep at the time. However: “Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events. … Huxley (1874), who held the view, compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of a locomotive.Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "Epiphenomenalism" here


Jacobs and Leitz exchanged comments on gender fluidity in a future that lets you change it like clothing and how that could lead to species fluidity. Leitz pointed out that we now know that in the sterile environment of a space station, your immune system has not much to do and you develop odd allergies, such as to plastic. (That general claim is known though I did not find a reference to plastic. See NASA Human Research Aug 18, 2014 "Study Reveals Immune System is Dazed and Confused During Spaceflight" here.) 


Moderator Hilary Ritz asked, “What are the qualities that you see as essentially human and that you would not want to lose?” John Hornor Jacobs offered kindness. 


How Near-Future Science Fiction has Changed (2000 HRS) Moderator David Afsharirad asked, “What is the most disruptive technology that has turned science fiction on its head?” 

  • For Rhonda Eudaly it is cellphones. She added that we have to accept that we will not know what the next big thing is. 
  • For Alan J. Porter it is miniaturization. 
  • William Ledbetter looked to 3-D printing. 
  • John K. Gibbons pointed out that the cellphone became “a layer of concern” because of the Internet. 
  • Bill Frank (NASA chief training officer) offered the brain-machine interface that allows prosthetics and much else, adding that the pilot of a craft will soon become a redundant component. 

David Afsharirad asked, “Is there something, a speculative element, that must be in a story set 40 to 50 years in the future?”

  • Alan J. Porter suggested artificial intelligence. 
  • Rhonda Eudaly said that we have abandoned the reality of Covid. It is no longer part of a story in mainstream entertainment, adding that more pandemics seem inevitable. 
  • John K. Gibbons added that previous pandemics lasted up to 50 years.
  • Alan J. Porter came back to machine learning and Siri-Alexa voice interfaces that will make keyboards obsolete. 
  • Bill Frank looked to algorithmic conditioning, learning the interface, being conditioned by the algorithms around you adding that it is informative to watch a two-year old learn a device like a cellphone or pad. 
  • John K. Gibbons said that climate change has gone beyond the centerpiece of the plot to being a fundamental condition. “It is kind of crazy if you ignore it.”
  •  Returning to nanotechnology, Ledbetter underscored new material coatings and changes in the human body.

David Afsharirad asked, “What do we obsess over when predicting the future?” 

  • John K. Gibbons replied that it is not the technological projection of space travel but that the extrapolation of it has not aligned with the reality of space exploitation back then. 
  • Turning on that point, Alan J. Porter said, “… but now we have Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon.” 

“What could we not see coming?” Fifty years ago everyone smoked cigarettes and the roles of women were still in the  traditional molds. As the discussion traveled along the table, Rhonda Eudaly said, “ It’s not the nanotech. It’s the people.”


The End of Capitalism (2100 HRS) Let’s discuss writers who defy the saying, “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” What are your favorite anti-capitalist works of SFFH? How have you experimented with world building in your own writing?” (Rick Klaw moderator with Martha Wells, Donna Dechen Birdwell, William Ledbetter, Clayton Hackett, Sim Kern.) 


Referring often to Ursual K. LeGuin’s The Dispossed, not only did none of them actually answer the question with examples from their own publications in which they imagined non-capitalist economies or societies without economics, all of the anti-capitalist clichés were deeply infused with ignorance. For me, leading the list was the narrative that we evolved from barter to money and the best alternative to money would be a return to barter. Anthroplogist (and anarcho-communist) David Graeber (Debt: The First 5000 Years) asserted that we have no example of any society evolving from barter to money but rather barter is what people resort to when money fails. 


Another rant on the evils of capitalist colonialism was launched from allusion to England’s primogeniture laws which sent younger sons out into the world to exploit people. I must point out that they were not Dutch capitalists floating bonds or Jewish moneylenders charging interest. The British colonialists were the best that could be offered by the kind of society all of the writers seemed to want: traditional, landed, family-based, community-based, altruistic, feudal. In fact, the point was made explicitly that medieval lords cared for their serfs and took care of them and the serfs only worked about 140 days a year. William Ledbetter did note as an aside that of course, they did not have a lot of material wealth.


I could go on forever. (I presented "The Future of Money: Beyond Solars and Credits" at Armadillocon 41.) At the end, Clayton Hackett suggested that an innovative monetary medium would lose value over time so that you are forced to spend it in order to keep the economy going. I understand the concept of fiat inflation. I only fail to see the innovation.




The Future of Money 

Mere Gold is Not Enough: Hayek’s Denationalisation 

Numismatics: The Standard of Proof in Economics 

Worker’s Paradise Promised an End to Money 


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Armadillocon 44 Day 1 and Day 2

The 2022 convention was almost back to pre-Covid glory. The first night and the second day and night were productive for us. Different from our previous attendance, Laurel and I did not split up for separate break-outs because fewer options were offered. 


Program book cover show sad woman holding an armadillo.
Program cover by
Lauren Raye Show
with Sara Felix
We both enjoyed the welcoming session (technically three hours into the con). Master-of-ceremonies Cass Morris stole the show, and the guests of honor—Darcie Little Badger, Ellen Kleges, Lauren Raye Snow, and Fonda Lee—were extroverted and engaging. You do not always get that with writers. (Snow was the Guest Artist.)

We spent an hour chatting with convention panelist Kurt Baty and his friends. Kurt and I met in 2012 in another context and it was Kurt who finally talked me in to going to Armadillocon 39. He is one of the long engaged fans and has been the Fan Guest of Honor. My impression of science fiction conventions was informed by two trekker cons. Kurt kept insisting that this convention is for writers, artists, and publishers and he was right. 


Laurel and I then attended “Fighting and F*cking: Writing Action Scenes of All Kinds.” For us, Armadillocon provides insights into the creation and production of literature, both books and cinema. Laurel’s genre is mystery; mine is science fiction. She is an avid fan; I am not. We got some general pointers for carrying action. Talking this out on the way home, we agreed that not every conflict of values is resolved with a fist fight. Also, their theories of sexual enounter were somewhat lacking given that the many aliens of science fiction and fantasy could include fertilization requiring five different participants, one of them non-sentient. Just sayin’… all they came up with was two people (humans) fighting or fucking, with more pointers for the combat than the love, to say nothing of how the one can become the other, as with Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Guests of Honor receive tiaras.

Day 2 started late because our cat, Sunny, had a veterinary appointment. I spent the first hour in the dealer’s room. As important as the break-outs are, the dealers pay for the show and many of them are publishers or self-publishing authors. 


Ryan C. Bradley – Author of Saint’s Blood. For promoting his book, he bought pens that look like syringes with blood. They only cost 66 cents each on Amazon. He said that this book took five years to write and was inspired by his great uncle, Saint Rafael Guízar y Valencia, who was canonized in 2006. 


Kristina Downs, Ph. D. – representing the Texas Folklore Society which is now at Tarleton State University. Founded in Austin in 1909, they moved to Nagodoches in 1971 before adopting their new home in 2020. The good professor told me that folklore has no boundaries. It can be stories, music, crafts, or cooking; and it takes no special training to participate. Folklore includes the family saga: how they came to Texas. 


John Baltisberger of Madness Heart Press has 65 books in print and is looking to cut down on that. However, he is not abandoning his author Susan Snyder, a marine biologist who wrote the Encyclopedia Sharkploitanica and other books about all things shark.

Snyder, Downs, Baltisberger, and Snyder

Gretchen Rix and Roxanne Rix – author Gretchen and publisher Roxanne do business as Rix Café Texican. They sell their books through Amazon, contracting the cover art from Streetlight Graphics ( They have over 20 titles across several genres.

Allan Kaster – editor and publisher was someone I recognized from a previous convention when he was selling off the last of his books-on-tape audio cassettes. (He has been in business a long time.) 


J. Darrell Mitchell – was selling a book to Laurel when I approached. I remembered him, also, because he autographs his books with a very nice drawing of a bug of your choice. I got a scorpion a couple of years ago and Laurel got a firefly for her purchase. 

Rix, Kaster, Jacobs and Mitchell. Freddie Jacobs who was holding the fort
for his father, John Hormor Jacobs,
who was at one of the many panels he served on. 

Armadillocon 42 (2020) was cancelled for Covid-19. We attended Armadillocon 43 last year, 15-17 October, 2021, but I did not write it up. Recovering from Covid-19, the convention was much downsized and the presentations were less than stellar. Reviewing the schedule now, the only two that I remember were “25 Things You Didn't Know About James Bond” by Alan J. Porter on the first night and “Creating Realistic Medicine in SF/F” by Jen Finelli, MD on the last day. Even that as published (follow menu options from was different from my memory because I remember a different person speaking with great emotion about her recent experience as a combat medic. 




Armadillocon 39

Armadillocon 40 Part 2 

Armadillocon 41 

Armadillocon 41 Day 3: Dealers Make the Show 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

How do you make God laugh?

How do you make God laugh?

Tell him your plans.


I have been diagnosed with multiple myelomas, a form of cancer in some cells found in the bone marrow. It is not survivable. The best outcome is four relapses with increasingly aggressive responses for a survival of greater than five years. However, 46% of patients do not make it through six months. My oncologist’s best one-liner is “We will know more in four months.”


I had been planning to have prostate reduction surgery for over two years. In November 2019, my urologist suggested a less invasive procedure and he set me up with another urologist for a consultation. That specialist's plan was to insert glass beads into the artery feeding the prostate thus causing the prostate to stop growing. The treatment is popular in the national health care systems of the Mediterranean tier. (See below re Europe.) The problem is that beads get lost, flow elsewhere, and cause strokes and infarctions. Plus, the path in is not through the femoral artery but following the arteries in my arm through my chest and down into my prostate. It just did not seem like a good plan. So, it was back to square one. Then Covid-19 happened. 


So here I am 30 months later, vaccinated and boosted and ready for the surgeon. We discussed  laser ablation and laser cauterization and I tossed a coin. The urologist wanted to make sure that there was no cancer in the prostate right now. On 29 May I had an MRI scan. The prostate was good. However, the MRI revealed a problem with the bones of the hip (ilium). The MRI was followed by a computerized tomography (CT), previously known as computer-assisted tomography (CAT). The CT of 20 June revealed a “secondary malignant neoplasm of bone.” 


They said: “OSSEOUS STRUCTURES AND SOFT TISSUES: Multiple lytic lesions are scattered throughout the axial skeleton, the largest is expansile and in the right iliac bone measuring 8.7 x 3.4 cm. … Multiple scattered lytic lesions are seen throughout the axial skeleton, which are nonspecific, but suspicious for multiple myeloma or metastases.” And there were some other findings of lesser consequence (in my opinion). 


My urologist explained that I should read some reliable websites such as the Mayo Clinic, that the multiple myeloma is treated with monoclonal antibodies, after an immunomodulatory agent with a proteosome inhibitor. And he referred me to an oncologist and we met on 30 June.


The oncologist set me up for a sedated biopsy on 13 July.  On 20 July, I met again the oncologist to discuss the evaluation of the biopsy and the plan of treatment. (I was not in doubt about the need.) Fortunately, he has two area offices and one is within walking distance of my home. In fact, I was assured that I could walk myself in and back after each treatment session. 


But he was less than candid. 


Laurel said that they want to be positive and upbeat and therefore somewhat vague about the downsides because we all know that attitude is important to recovery. The fact is that he lied by withholding the truth. He told me that treatment will not require chemotherapy. It will be by monoclonal antibodies: two pills and a shot every 21 days for four months. In point of fact, the treatment is chemotherapy: Lenalidomide plus Bortezomib plus Dexamethasone. I will be nauseous and fatigued. I just will not lose my hair. I will be at risk for other infections, anemia, both bleeding and clotting, and neuropathy.


After the chemotherapy, assuming that I have responded well, then the monoclonal antibodies are injected in order to rebalance the antibodies created by the cells that are now overproductive.


“Antibodies are produced by B lymphocytes, each expressing only one class of light chain. Once set, light chain class remains fixed for the life of the B lymphocyte. In a healthy individual, the total kappa-to-lambda ratio is roughly 2:1 in serum (measuring intact whole antibodies) or 1:1.5 if measuring free light chains, with a highly divergent ratio indicative of neoplasm. -- )


It is scary when Wikipedia is more informative than your doctor. To be fair, he did draw a divergent Y with a little K and a little L (though he did not use the Greek letters).


For myself, I feel that I am behind the curve, trying to find what to read. The oncologist gave me about 100 pages from Wolters Kluwer update dot com website. All I have is the paper printout not access to the website because I am not a professional provider. So, I do a lot of flipping back and forth to find definitions. I asked for a second opinion and mentioned the “goat behind door number two” and he seemed to understand the allusion. He promised to follow up with the University of Texas Medical School. (I think that they graduated their first class just two years ago. I watched the new buildings go up. The last medical research I did in 2014 was at their so-called medical library wrapped around a spiral stairway inside the Texas Tower on campus.) Anyway, I have not heard back from that person. So, this weekend, I started from scratch and made appointments at M D Anderson.


I do not respond well be being addressed like a child. The reassuring singy-songy voice just brings out the worst in me and I still owe the nurse practitioner (MSN APRN FNP-C AOCNP) an apology. She called me back the other day with information that she forgot to give me when we met. She said that she did not know how she could have forgotten and I confess that I did not remind her of that moment. 

Europe: What a sense of humor. In most European nations, people my age do not get treatment for this. It is considered a normal end of life. How else do you provide free healthcare for everyone?




Bob Swanson and Genentech 

From Texas to the Moon with John Leonard Riddell 

Mayim Bialik 


Dishonest Scientists: Who is the Guardian? 

Tuesday, July 19, 2022


I accidentally borrowed the 2008 remake of The Andromeda Strain from our city library. Long ago, after seeing the 1970 movie, I read the book. I do not know whether to attribute the failings to the depths of postmodernism or shallows of popular culture. The remake was flawed on many levels but overall the writers were incapable of updating a story that was already modern 50 years ago. Perhaps the significant advance in our knowledge is the set of organic molecules--including amino acids--found in interstellar space.

Critics Consensus - Infected with an overloaded plot
and clunky techno-babble, The Andromeda Strain is a
remarkably dull mutation of its source material.

Chains of hydrocarbons are known in the Orion "Horsehead" Nebula (Barnard 33).  Many papers have been published about the hydrocarbon molecules detected there including propynyl (C3H2), ethynyl (C2H), and butadinyl (C4H). 

1970 Movie Poster

Even more interesting is the evidence that these short hydrocarbons are the result of ultraviolet radiation breaking down more complex polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as naphthalene (C10H8) and anthracene (C14H10), which we now know to be abundant in the universe.


BioBash: Chamber Replicates Success 


Monsters from the Id 

Teaching Science with Science Fiction 

Thursday, July 14, 2022

A Good Entry-Level Telescope

Keep the telescope. Throw away the mount and tripod. Keep the eyepieces as curios for historical reference. The average beginner telescope costs about $159 whether from Orion, Celestron, or Explore Scientific. For that money, 70% of the value is in the optical tube assembly (OTA: the telescope itself) another 20% is in the useless junk that goes with it and then 10% is lost to packaging, instructions, and perhaps extras such as star charts. So, what does it take to build a good entry-level telescope?


Start with the Mount.

Just as the scabbard called “Avalon” was more powerful than “Excalibur” (the blade it sheathed), the positioning mechanism (“mount”) is more important than the telescope. 


The best entry-level mount and tripod that I have is the Explore Scientific First Light Twilight Altitude-Azimuth with slow-motion controls. It costs $349.99. I use it for my ES 102-mm f/6.47 refract0r, my Astronomers Without Borders 130-mm Newtonian, and all of my 70-mm refractors. 


I found that the Orion VersaGo E-Series Altitude-Azimuth mount—rated for 11 lbs (5 kg)—is sufficient for the 70-mm refractors. It retails for $99.95 and is currently marked down from Orion at $89.99, which indicates to me that this will be discontinued. I bought four of them, one for each of the 70-mm scopes that I will sell and another for the one that I will keep. It also can carry the AWB 130mm Newtonian which weighs only 5 lbs (2.3 kg).

Orion VersaGo E-Series Mount is $100.

 It is not perfect. The gearing does have sloppy “backlash.” You have to turn the slow-motion controls several twists for them to engage in any direction. Even so, it is better than every other competitor. 


Previously reviewed here, 70-mm refractors from 
Bresser, Meade/Orion, and Celestron.

The original Meade alt-az mount did not work at all in left-right azimuth, no matter what the tensioning. The Bresser German Equatorial mount likewise failed to provide even crude adjustment. The Celestron movie camera pan-tilt mount was cheap plastic incapable of any smooth motion. So, for the money, the Orion VersaGo does let you have good control of the viewing field, left-right and up-down.

All Tubes are Created Equal.

Just as we are different individuals who are equal under law, so, too, are these telescopes somewhat different but essentially equivalent. The optics are a given. It is for this reason that Sky & Telescope's  Gary Seronik is a fan of cheap binoculars: the expense is in the gears, not the glass. (See Binocular Highlights reviewed here.)


The Celestron 70-mm AstroMaster has a longer focal length: 900 mm or a ratio of f/13. So, it offers more magnification with a given “eyepiece” (ocular). It is important not to be seduced by useless magnification advertised in bright colors on the box of a department store telescope. In her guide, Celestial Sampler, Sue French (a Sky & Telescope columnist), typically views with her 4-inch telescope at 47X. 


However 900/12.4 > 72 and 900/32 > 28 and a 2X Barlow will double the larger to modest but sufficient 144X. Those numbers are not importantly different from the magnifications of the competitors. 

The Orion and Bresser are both f/10 telescopes, focal lengths of 700 mm. And the oculars will render images at 56X and 21X (doubled to 113 and a convenient 43X). 


Moreover, with a refractor (though not with a Newtonian) you can place a 2X Barlow ahead of the diagonal rather than after it and in so doing enjoy a 3X magnification. Personally, I experienced that observing technique and it can be inspiring if not overly more informative. It does offer mid-range options for 65X or 84X. 

It is a simple fact that different objects viewed under different sky conditions will look somewhat better or worse for marginally more or less magnification. So, you want incremental arrangements.


Some Oculars are More Equal than Others.

The Bresser 70-mm Callisto comes with 25 mm and 9.7 mm Plössl oculars (“eyepieces”). These are standard, modern designs, two matched pairs of plano-concave lenses. For want of an umlaut, the name often appears as just Plossl or more correctly Ploessl. Even expensive, complex, computer-driven entry-level telescopes arrive with older ocular designs, called “Modified Achromatic” or “Ramsden Achromatic” or “Modified Kellner”, all of which are three-lens arrangements. The Celestron AstroMaster comes with two Kellner oculars, 20mm and 10mm. The Meade StarPro comes with three Kellner eyepieces, 26 mm, 9 mm, and 6.3 mm, and a 2X Barlow lens.

·       2020-December-6 Focus on Georg Simon Ploessl 


I found better “Super Plössl” eyepieces of focal lengths 32mm (GSO brand) and 12.4mm (Meade 4000 series) to add to the instrument packages. The advantages are better construction: metal barrels, not plastic, blackened inner tubes to eliminate stray reflections, better glass in the lenses and closer specifications in production. 

Better oculars sold by Astronomics (left) 
and Agena Astro Products (right).

Also, the longer focal lengths deliver better “eye relief” a measure of how near or far your own eye must be from the lens to get the best view. With cheaper, smaller lenses you must be uncomfortably close to the eyepiece, with a smaller cone of light, and it is like viewing Grand Canyon through a soda straw. With the wider view of better eye relief, you come close to that very rewarding “walk in space” experience when stargazing.


What Can You See With That?

It is an easy generality that most backyard stargazers make the famous “double double” of Epsilon Lyrae the gold standard for performance. I achieved that view with each of these. It depends on the “seeing” the quality of the sky, more than on the aperture of the objective or the magnification of the ocular. Given those parameters, each of these 70-mm refractors at their greatest magnifications will split all four stars into two binaries.


Of course, there is more to backyard stargazing than that. Double stars Albireo in Cygnus, Algieba in Leo, Zuben el Genubi in Libra, Graffias in Scorpius, open clusters like Messier 44 the Beehive, and globular clusters such as  Messier 13 in Hercules, as well as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn and more are all available. 


I have been at this for a while, ever since being given my first (adult) telescope for my 65th birthday in 2014, a Celestron 130-mm Newtonian reflector on a German Equatorial Mount. I  used this blog to gather my thoughts, observations, theories, and opinions.


·       2019-December-14 Defending the Hobby-Killer Telescope 

·       2019-December-14 In Support of the Entry-Level Telescope 

·       2021-November-7 70-mm Shootout 

·       2022-May-22 Product Review: Bresser EQ3 and f/10 Refractor 


You can find other informed opinions. On the popular discussion boards (Cloudy Nights, Stargazers Lounge, Sky Searchers) every introduction in the Beginner’s Forum that asks “What Should I Buy?” receives an easy 12 to 20 opinions, sometimes running into lengthy arguments between aficionados. The highly regarded Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe  by Terence Dickinson (revised fourth edition, 2019) recommends a 6-inch Dobsonian as the ideal beginner scope. It offers a large aperture, is easy to collimate–align the mirrors; a requirement of frequent maintenance for any Newtonianand with a base of 25 lbs (11 kg) and a tube of 15 lbs is easy to carry in two pieces.

The true costs of a decent beginner telescope
(Don't forget shipping and taxes.)

That all being true, a smaller refractor comes to ambient temperature quicker than the tube of a Dobsonian. Until you reach temperature, you will be viewing through a column of shimmering air in the tube. Also, a larger aperture returns a worse view when the atmosphere itself is turbulent whereas a smaller diameter objective transmits a lower ratio of noise-to-signal.

A refractor requires no collimation. (At least, it is very infrequent and should be done by returning it to the seller for proper work). Also, the 1200 mm tube is a stretch if you want to collimate by looking into the alignment tool while adjusting the back screws. It is not clear to me what you do with the tube when it is not mounted. In other words, the refractors can be set on their Vixen bars without affecting the optics. Can you lay a Dobsonian on its side? You do not want to stand it on its mirror. If you stand it on the opening, is it stable? And once set up, how easy is it to move that 1200 mm (four feet long) 50 lbs tube on its box mount? 


Currently $460 from Astronomics, 
and several others.

I agree that the 6-inch Dobsonian is a great telescope, all in all. No telescope is perfect. I selected the 70-mm refractor for portability and range of targets based on frequent and easy backyard viewing. 



The Origins of Technical Writing 

Readability is the Only Metric 

Visualizing Complex Data 

An Objective Philosophy of Science