My interview with the nicest, coolest geeks in Eugene

I had to go to work on Monday and Wednesday when our profile drafts were originally due Wednesday night. Basically, I knew I had one day to interview and write the profile. No problem, I’m a superhero.

I did a bunch of research last weekend online and through Friendly Area Neighborhood’s website I found that they host events by the Eugene Astronomical Society. Cool beans, a bunch of nerds to interview! In my few hours between classes and work on Monday, I followed the trail of nerd and found science-fiction writer and telescope-builder Jerry Oltion.

If you read Jerry’s website you’ll understand exactly why I got super excited to interview him. I called Jerry right away and he just so happened to be available to interview the next day. He said he would have been in Wyoming but he got in a car accident and had to come back to Eugene. It was probably the happiest I’d ever been to hear someone had been in an accident.

I apologized for the short notice of the interview, hung up and did a fist pump. I went to work until midnight then got home and wrote out a bunch of questions I wanted to ask Jerry. My boyfriend helped a bit with this since he was a bit of a Star Trek geek back in his day.

Tuesday after class I put on a nice shirt and clean pants and drove to Jerry’s house. The interview was so much fun, Jerry and his wife Kathy (both wearing tie-dyed shirts) could be the quirkiest people I’ve ever met in Eugene — obviously that’s saying something. They’re the kind of people who get passionate about something and then do something about it. Their house was filled with nerdy bits and bobs. I felt so lucky to have the opportunity to meet with them.

At one point Jerry said, “Do you want to try to see a star with one of our telescopes? There’s a star out right now.”

I replied, “There’s a star out right now?”

“Yeah, the Sun.”

Duh, Ponta. DUH! He tried to make a fool of me on purpose. I had to listen to that about five times when I was transcribing and I face-palmed every time.

Jerry and his wife showed me how and where they build telescopes, showed me where he writes and then, when I got really excited about the telescopes he built, he asked, “Do you want to try to see if we can find the planet Venus?!”

It was a difficult task BUT WE FOUND VENUS WITHOUT A TELESCOPE! Sorry, I’ll calm down. But it was so neat. Venus is one of two planets you can pretty much only see during the day.

Venus through Jerry Oltion’s trackball telescope.

You probably can’t see that well, but it’s a picture of Venus. Look how adorable and crescent-y it is!

Anyway, then I went home and got to transcribing for around three hours before I finally had to give up because I wasn’t working off much sleep and I had to study for my Spanish test.

The next day I found out the deadline was extended. I was grumpy but not for long, if the interview had been extended I might have put it off until the cloudy weekend and I wouldn’t have seen Venus!

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