Saturday, September 24, 2016


I had never been to Europe. Vancouver to the Caribbean. Maine to Southern California. But never across the Atlantic.

What took me there was the annual Space Simulation Working Group meeting endorsed by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. I am the current representative to this group for NASA Glenn Research Center.

More than the tours and the many pages of notes I took during the various talks, on this trip I began to weave connections to other group members. Perhaps this was because I wasn't traveling with a companion from NASA GRC. Maybe it was because I had finally seen more members repeatedly and they, me. Could be all the wine. It doesn't really matter why. I'm just glad for the experience.

In the meantime, though, we were lodged in the Pink City of Toulouse. The city center. And I was able to wander about and snap a few photographs.

Here they are:


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Day of School

The first day of school.

Everyone has to perform the morning choreography with precision for all to greet the bus on time. For our dog, it is the first day in months that she would enjoy a peaceful and quiet home all day.

Everyone enjoys the first day of school.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

GenCon 2016

I had only attended one GenCon. GenCon is short for Geneva Convention, which began in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It was started by Gary Gygax - a co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons. Gygax is as famous in gaming circles as, say, Steve Wozniak is among computer geeks.

The year I attended was 1992. That was GenCon's 25th anniversary. In fact, I ran a couple short role-playing events at that convention. One interesting tidbit was that I bought a painting from Mark Poole at that time. It's hanging over my fireplace.

Anyway, Mark was at this convention, too. I got to show him what I had done with his work (that, incidentally, also graced the cover of Dragon magazine #201, which sits on my mantle).

My wife loves meeting artists and actors and authors. They're just regular people, but to her they're special.

Also special were the two days I got to spend with my daughter absolutely geeking out. Everyone we met was gracious and accommodating. As much as she enjoyed just spending time with her dad, Sarah was surprised at the spectacle that is GenCon. She expected rooms full of sweaty, middle-aged men playing board and role-playing games. What she found were tens of thousands of people who absolutely overlook one another's quirkiness.

You may have never seen a Utilikilt anywhere else. There, you'll find several people wearing them without irony or comment. You can meet game designers, artists, authors, and musicians here. Beyond gaming, you also have anime and cosplay.

Another aspect of the convention that my daughter found noteworthy was the breadth of attendees. Old and young, male and female of all races and ethnicities. Although I would say that Caucasians were over-represented.

Without further ado, here are the pictures.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ohio Caverns

Several months ago I realized that my kids had never seen caverns. So as a day trip this summer we went to Ohio Caverns. It is fifty miles west of Columbus.

We picked a beautiful, partly cloudy day for our trip. The driving was easy and it was an opportunity to drive my wife's new car.

Since we had a twenty minute wait after getting our tickets, we ate a small picnic lunch. Then we enjoyed the hour-long guided tour through the caverns.

The path to the entrance was a sloping, looping sidewalk. Inside the caverns it was cool, dark, and damp. The temperature inside is a constant 54 degrees. A nice respite from the summer heat.

The narrow path took us past limestone stalactites and stalagmites, outcroppings of iron oxide, and exposed veins of flint.

The caverns were the prettiest I had seen. It was a very nice excursion and a wonderful way to spend the day as a family.

Patio Refinishing

I have a stamped concrete patio that's been neglected for twenty years (by me). Its color had faded from bright red to a spotted pink-and-gray mess.


After researching several options, I settled on using Surecrete Eco-Stain and HS 240 Acrylic Sealer. The first color coat was Kayak, followed by a coat of Oak. Once that was dry, the sealer was sprayed on.

Here are the photos.

Plastic sheet to protect the house and deck

First coat: Kayak

Second coat: Oak

Sealed with HS 240


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Myrtle Beach

This year we decided to do what, it seems, everyone around here does for summer vacation. We spent a week in an oceanfront condo at Myrtle Beach.

The view was wonderful and it was really nice to be able to eat in, watch television from the couch, and live somewhat normally for the week.

Our typical day had us getting up, one at a time, from 6:00 - 10:00 AM. We'd eat breakfast, get dressed for swimming, and head to the beach and pool. After spending about an hour at each, we'd head back in for a late lunch. Then we'd do something else in the afternoon and have a nice evening walk on the beach.

We visited places like Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing, which are practically the same thing. We went to the Myrtle Beach State Park to walk trails and the boardwalk. One evening, we went to the Pirate dinner show. That sort of thing.

Mostly, though, we relaxed.

For us, this was a little different than most of our vacations where we try to pack in a lot of activities and sightseeing. When it was over, we weren't quite ready for it to end. That, more than anythng, is the mark of a fun vacation.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Wall Hanging

Okay. I give up. I admit being wrong about myself.

I will swear, up and down, that woodworking is not a hobby of mine. I'm not that good. I don't care to become very good. I just make things out of necessity and to give me purpose during the winter months.

So how do I explain this?

After a couple weekends doing nothing I had to make something. My winter project was done. It was too blustery to do much outside. Flipping through a magazine I saw something hanging on a wall and thought, "I can make that." I was a square frame housing pieces of carpet tiles.

I have carpet tile pieces.
I have a two-foot-square of unused plywood that has some water rot along one edge.
I can frame it with solid wood.

So off I went to the BORG to see what I could find. I could make the frame from pine and paint it. I could make it from poplar and stain it. Or I could make it from oak or...walnut. Walnut. That way, I don't have to stain it (always a plus) and it would look really nice. We don't have walnut, so this is an accent piece. It will help tie dark mahogany piano with the finished basement.

Construction was pretty easy, really. Here are the photos.

Materials: 1 x 2 walnut, 2 x 2 cherry plywood, carpet strips

Pocket holes around perimeter

Sand the bottom

Mark the solid wood for cutting

Cut pieces to length

Dry fit pieces to make sure it will come together correctly

Assemble frame

Polyurethane the frame

Then it was merely a matter of gluing the strips in and hanging this thing on the wall, between the piano room and the basement.

My wife is tolerant of this. I won't go so far as to say that she likes it. But I did remind her that I've seen worse. I've seen a bunch of broken dishes and cups glued to a board that had all been spray painted black hanging in a museum, so there's that. I remember the framed piece of graph paper titled "Tree" that adorned a museum wall. So just call this "Rainbow Field; Jungle Highway" and pretend to be a modern art snob.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Scrap Tables

The project after the project was making a couple tables out of the scrap hickory. I made an end table and a task table.

My wife was happy with them, and I'm glad to have used up the remaining wood so there's less clutter in my shop.

Very simple design. Just cabinet-grade plywood, edged with solid hickory. Hairpin legs screwed into the bottom face, and that's it.

Yes, the grain goes the wrong way. The edges are made from the most bowed and warped pieces I had. No one cares because they look better than the pieces they replaced.