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Good Neighbors Share Their Telescopes

Becky shares her experience viewing the the transit of Venus in the parking lot the Media Center shares with Sciton in South Palo Alto.

While I was working away at my desk yesterday, our office manager's officious baritone came over the PA system.

"Norm has invited us to view the transit of Venus in the parking lot.  All are welcome."

"Of course!"  I thought to myself pushing away from my desk.  "It would have to be Norm!"

Norm works at Sciton across the parking lot from the Media Center where I work.  Sciton manufactures medical lasers and we share a parking lot with them.   We might never have met Norm had he not wandered in one day asking for a BNC connector.  He was wondering since our sign read "Media Center" if maybe we had some "media" style equipment.  Do we ever?!  A BNC is an old style RF (radio frequency) connector used for coaxial cable for stuff like electronic test equipment, piping video signals and old style network connecting.  Anyway, we're rolling in BNCs so we gave him one. 

Then the inevitable question when someone walks through our doors by accident.  "What do you do here?" 

Norm had no idea we have a full service professional studio and that we teach classes in all manner of video production and that we run 5 community TV stations with locally-originated content produced by staff and volunteers.  That, as the saying goes, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Norm brought some of his coworkers to our regular Thursday orientation a few weeks later and they got the facilities tour.

It turns out that Norm is a physics guy.  He is passionate about pulsars and frequencies and oscilloscopes.  His garage is full of his toys for measuring the properties of the universe.  And Norm also performs stand up comedy.  In fact, our relationship with Norm culminated in his packing our studio for a one-man science comedy show: "Dr. G's Empirical Compound". Norm, his wife and his daughter who is an LA casting professional produced  the show with the assistance of our professional staff and volunteers last Saturday night.

I was in the overflow crowd, watching a monitor in the studio lobby.  I laughed at some truly funny routines and guffawed at the inevitable corny jokes and marveled at his demonstrations.  It took me back to my high school physics class, which by the way was NEVER this fun.  Norm's audience was delighted and the Media Center staff taped the show.  We have 45 minutes of science schtick that will delight and teach our viewers on the TV channels and on the Web.

So that is how the relationship with Norm began.  Thus it came as no surprise to me that on the day of the Transit of Venus, Norm not only would have a 100 pound telescope the size of a cannon but that he would also bring it to work and set it up in the parking lot.

As I came out of the Media Center, employees from both businesses poured out of the buildings.  We queued up as good citizens will and took turns viewing the beautiful trajectory of the Goddess of love.  Several of us got back in the line to see it again, and I waited around for one more viewing.  One of Norm's coworkers at Sciton took a picture with his smart phone through the lens of the telescope.  He caught not only the transit but my reflection as well.  He emailed the picture to me and there was my reflection in the lens captured in this one moment in cosmic time.

I thank Norm for reaching out across the parking lot and sharing his telescope with us.  But I really am most appreciative of the relationship we are able to build with our neighbors -  at work and at home - where we know each other's names and share the resources we have like BNCs and telescopes to deepen our connection to the world and to one another.

If you need a piece of video equipment, maybe we have it, and maybe, your reaching out to us could be the "beginning of a beautiful" friendship.  Or maybe you want to think about walking into the business across the parking lot, next door or down the hall.   Why not introduce yourself and say, "So what do you do here?"  You never know, you may end up in a photograph with the Goddess of Love.





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