Expect the Unexpected

Jeanie's stuff at All American StorageI feel compelled to relay a story that happened last year about this time. It involves me, my daughter, Tina, and a friend of hers, Jeanie. I’m sure that the scenario isn’t all that unusual, however, the unexpected solution was a pleasant surprise and a lifesaver! Read on and enjoy my story of procrastination, hopelessness, and epiphany.

Both girls attend Texas Tech University, and the academic year was about to end. My daughter lives in the dorm, but her friend lives in an apartment not too far from campus. It’s not the best place to live, but for a ‘poor’ college girl, it was what was affordable. Most students were cramming, planning summer jobs or internships, among other things. Although finals are no fun, the students all seemed happy that the summer was almost upon them – except for Jeanie. She seemed more stressed than most, and didn’t have that look of happy expectations that comes with being almost done with a semester.

Tina didn’t badger her about it and just assumed it was the stress of finals. But even as finals were done and Jeanie had a nice summer internship lined up, she still seemed bothered, so Tina asked what was wrong. She asked just in the nick of time. Jeanie had not paid the last two months rent on her apartment, and was going to be evicted the next day. The problem – Jeanie had no relatives close by, no car, very little money. She literally had nowhere to go and nowhere to put her belongings. She was afraid she would lose everything that she couldn’t carry away on her bike.

The kicker was that it was 7:00 pm, and the eviction was in the morning. Tina called to try to find a storage facility that was still open, and called me to bring the truck and trailer to help. I thought it would be no problem. We’ll just load up her stuff in my trailer and take it to the storage place first thing in the morning.

Wow, was I wrong. She had been living there for three years and had so much stuff that we couldn’t fit it all in one trip. In fact, it would take a least three trips. Now I was getting bothered. My daughter was determined to get her moved, and Jeanie was literally crying, pacing around her apartment, not sure what to take and what to leave. We weren’t having any luck with any self-storage rentals either. It was starting to appear helpless. We sat down at the kitchen table that would soon not be hers any more and did one last Google search for self storage facilities. To our astonishment, we found one that not only was open 24 hours (they all pretty much are), it had a self-serve station that let you rent a storage space anytime, day or night, 24 hours a day at a kiosk on-site. Halleluiah! We raced over there, and sure enough, were able to rent a storage space and gain access right away, even though the office had closed for the day.

Through the rest of the night, we moved her stuff out of her apartment, filling the storage space to the brim. We finished just before dawn, so I took us to a nearby Denny’s for some coffee and a nice big breakfast. We were all exhausted, but that easygoing smile that Jeanie was known for had returned. I could tell my daughter was so proud of me for being there for her friend. And I got a much-needed workout. All in all, it was a win-win for us all.

How Small We Are – How Little We Know

The Milky Way GalaxyAs we look up to the sky at night and see all the stars that are light-years away from us, it hits home how small we are. A child might look up at a stately oak tree and be amazed at how big and strong it is. As young adults taking our first airline trip, we’re in awe of the earth’s size as we gaze out the window mid-flight. As we get older, we become more acclimated to the way things are, and they cease to amaze us any longer. But every now and then, we notice something that drives home the point again –  ‘we are so small’.

We only know what we can experience, so even the most well traveled, life-experienced person only knows what exists on our planet. We have no knowledge of anything outside of our own little world. Which begs the question – how much is there to learn? A famous philosopher once said “the more I learn, the less I think that I know.” The universe is so vast – even just our solar system is more than the mind can comprehend. Astronomers’ active imaginations help to put the universe on our level, in terms of what we know, but what if outside of our little box, the rules are different? Are the distant galaxies functioning on the same physical rules as we experience on earth? Astronomers state that the universe is expanding, but expanding into what? What is beyond the universe? Just a void?

But there’s really not much point in trying to understand what we can’t find the answer to. For us, the universe, its untold mysteries and unending marvels, simply exist to humble us, to put into perspective our miniscule, microscopic contribution that our life will amount to in the grand scheme of things.

Though small and insignificant on a universal scale, we still have vital overpowering importance. Our children depend upon us, look up to us, even worship us as mightily powerful beings that provide for them. As they grow up, they begin to realize what we as adults have known for a while – we are tiny.

So it’s a matter of perspective. To an ant, a mouse looks big. But to a lion, a mouse is a tiny morsel – barely an amuse-bouche, if you will. If you are feeling down and unimportant, help someone in need or look to a child to realize that you are important. If you are full of yourself, look to the sky to understand that everything you ever accomplish or earn will amount to nothing in comparison to the universe.

Your iPhone and the Amarillo Night Sky

Our friends at the Amarillo cell phone repair center are avid astronomy buffs. Our discussions often take wild turns, and this time, the discussion veered off into astronomy and iPhones. After dissecting our conversation, we realized how much iPhones are integrated into everything we do. Like they say, “there’s an app for that!”

The areas around Amarillo are a popular Texas location for stargazing. Because Amarillo is far removed from any large cities, there is little light pollution at night from the surrounding areas. The nights outside of Amarillo are quite dark, allowing the stars to really shine, pardon the pun. So what does all this have to do with iPhones? Glad you asked.

Palo Duro Canyon at Night

Image from Texas Parks and Wildlife

 

First of all, you will want to check the Weather app, since you must have a clear night for star viewing. Once you’ve decided on a clear night suggested by your weather app, you may use your iPhone’s Maps or Google Maps app to guide you to the right spot. Palo Duro Canyon was rated the 5th best place for night sky stargazing in Texas, so put Palo Duro Canyon into your Maps app, and click on the directions button. You’ll be presented with the fastest way to arrive at your destination, as well as an estimate of how long it will take and turn-by-turn directions. You may also check traffic on your Maps app. Then again, there’s never traffic in Amarillo at night. But if you were anywhere else, you might need to check.

If you are hiking around the canyon, you could use the Gaia GPS app to navigate your way. It includes offline maps because cell phone signals are often weak or nonexistent in areas popular for hiking.

Once you reach your viewing spot, the real fun begins. Your iPhone will guide you through the night sky. There are a plethora of stargazing apps that will help you to find and identify stars, constellations, planets and more. Some notable examples are StarMap, StarWalk SkyScout and Star Chart. You can point your phone at a portion of the night sky, and an app will identify what you are looking at.

With your telescope direction identified with your handy iPhone apps, you’ll enjoy beautiful views through your telescope lens. Wouldn’t you love to be able to keep some pictures of your finds for later? Who wouldn’t? With a smartphone adapter for your telescope, you can take pictures of the stars through your telescope with your phone.

With the awesome pictures and videos you’ve taken, you’ll want to share them with your friends. Of course your iPhone can help with that. Share your pictures, your story and your videos with your Facebook, Snapchat, Vine or Instagram apps.

With the help of your trusty iPhone, your evening of star gazing outside of Amarillo was a total success. You’ve avoided the rain, and the traffic. Your navigation app guided you to the perfect spot for night sky gazing, and helped to identify where to position your telescope. Your iPhone archived your excursion with videos and memorable pictures of stars and constellations. And all your friends want to make the same trip now after seeing your Facebook status updates and Snapchat videos. What would we do without our iPhones these days?

Astronomy is the Bomb!

At VenusExploration we love astronomy! There’s something special about the study of the stars that brings home the vastness of the universe. And even though each of us is so, so, so miniscule in relation to the universe, we each still are powerfully unique, special and important. We love to talk astronomy so much that we decided to create a blog just for that.

So, while we gather our resources and put together compelling articles, be sure to bookmark our site so you can come back and dialog with us about our wonderful, beautiful universe!

We hope you visit again soon!