Past RG Programs




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The following is the tentative schedule for SynRG 2014. This will be updated as we finalized and confirm with our speakers. You can find details on the program here.

* denotes a kids program

Friday, May 23

7:00p Poolside Mensa Mingle

9:00p Carnelli

11:00p Fishbowl


Keynote Speaker


Chris Kilgore
Decoding the Dead Man Tableau: New Insights into Palaeolithic Art and Cro-Magnon Thought

Lascaux Cave, discovered in Southwestern France in 1940, contains some of the most spectacular and well-known works of Palaeolithic Art. These paintings, created by Cro-Magnon people over 17,000 years ago, include perhaps the most intriguing and enigmatic of all ancient artworks: The Dead Man Tableau. This assemblage, which contains both human and animal elements, seems to have an implicit narrative, but scholars disagree on its meaning. Does it represent a masked Shaman in trance, surrounded by dream figures? Or is it perhaps an unfortunate hunter dead at the feet of his mortally wounded prey? If the images do contain a message, is it allegorical or literal? Christopher Kilgore's novel interpretation answers these questions definitively and illuminates the images as important precursors of modern culture.

Christopher Kilgore, a Mensan, is an avocational archaeologist and art historian. For the past 15 years he has concentrated on the European Palaeolithic, with emphasis on fiber technologies, animal husbandry, and cognitive archaeology. In the United States, he has presented aspects of his research at Gulf Coast Mensa’s Meeting of the Minds and at Lone Star Mensa’s RG. In France he has spoken at conferences at the Institut de Paléontologie Humaine, and at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, where he was also a featured lecturer at the museum’s Ecole Doctorale in 2013 and 2014.





John Maverick, Magician

John Maverick is a magician, storyteller, actor, alchemist, bibliophile, inventor, collector of deadly things, fire-eater, theologian, rain forest explorer, scientist, freethinker, fortuneteller, spiritualist, dreamer and snappy dresser. Maverick comes from a long line of storytellers, some professional; others reserved their gift for the dinner table. He was first introduced to the art of magic by "The Great Scott" at his fifth birthday party and Maverick has been in love with the art form ever since. Through the years he has found that he views the world around him very differently than anyone else. Maverick uses his magic to tell the story of this parallel world. Turn-Ons include: lavish hats, Jewish girls and long walks to nowhere.

Maverick will be performing two shows at SynRG. The first will be a kids show (yes, adults can attend too). The second will be our headlining event for Saturday night featuring Maverick's popular lounge act. Although his second show is labeled as "adult," the material is acceptable for younger audience members. Maverick is very excited to perform for Mensans, saying "Ooo, I can tell my smart jokes!" For more information on Maverick, check out his website, or that of his alter-ego, MadMan Maverick.


Kids' Magic Show

Our Saturday night headliner, John Maverick, will be performing a magic show for the kid in all of us during Saturday afternoon. While this show is designed for children, adults can attend as well. Maverick's friendly demeanor and slight of hand trickery make him a hit wherever children gather. After being inspired at the age of 5 to become a professional magician, Maverick continues to infuse the fun and wonder of his own first experience with magic into each of his performances. As the self-proclaimed World's Second Greatest Magician, (because, after all, who is going to argue over being in second place?) Maverick's shows include card tricks, escape acts and slight of hand, with some comedy thrown in for good measure. He incorporates questions and comments from his often precocious audience into the show and remains quick-witted and entertaining without being mean spirited.

Based out of Austin, TX, Maverick was recently voted Best Children's Entertainment by Austin A-List's voters for 2013. Reviewers of Maverick's shows consistently praise his ability to hold the attention of wiggle-y kids while keeping their parents entertained as well. For more information on Maverick, check out his website, or that of his alter-ego, MadMan Maverick.


Sundown Karaoke

Our Saturday night party will conclude with karaoke and music for your listening and dancing pleasure. Sundown Karaoke's songbook is over 500 pages long. If you want to sing it, the chances are pretty good that they've got it!

Houston native and Gulf Coast Mensa member Jim Morris has been performing Karaoke and DJ shows throughout the Houston area since 1999. He believes that there is music in each of us, and with enough coaxing (and perhaps a dose of alcohol) it can be brought to the surface and shared.


Mensa Admission Test

The Mensa Admission Test is offered for the convenience of those individuals interested in joining Mensa who either: 1) do not have a qualifying intelligence test score on a previously-taken exam (see partial list), or 2) prefer to take the admission test.

This test is intended for individuals 14 years of age or older, so if you are between 14 and 17, you must have parental permission to take the test.

The Mensa test has two parts, so you'll have two chances to qualify for Mensa membership!  Allow 2 hours total for the two tests.  The standard Mensa Admission Test features "fill in the blank," "which item comes next," and "which one doesn't belong" sorts of questions, as well as some math and vocabulary.

As an added bonus, we will be offering the Spanish Wonderlic for any native Spanish speakers who wish to take the test.

To sign up, please contact our This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Special Screening of Frankenstein's Monster: A Steampunk Film Adaptation of Mary Shelley's Classic

Gulf Coast Mensa has been chosen as a special test audience for a brand new director's cut of Frankenstein's Monster, a Judith B. Shields film. Come to a Sunday afternoon screening and get some background on the inspiration and movie magic behind the budget film. Then, kick back and view the new 80 minute cut of the award winning, audience pick that's been featured at Shockerfest, ApolloCon, Twisted Gears, Comicpalooza, and more. 


Silent Auction & Raffle

Various items donated by GCM members as well as some of the speakers will be auctioned. Smaller items will be raffled off with auction tickets. Auction tickets are given to attendees who exhibit particularly worthy behavior, tell particularly good (or bad) jokes or puns or bribe the Ticket Fairies with cash. Higher value items will be available for the silent auction. The proceeds will be given to the GCM Scholarship Fund.


Weird Owl Wine Tasting

Join us for the unveiling of Gulf Coast Mensa's Weird Owl Spanish Tempranillo, hand bottled by our very own members at this February's Meeting of the Wines! Our own Katie Pira will be leading the tasting along with a slideshow of photos from this year's event. Enjoy a glass of wine and nibble some chocolates and crackers as we vote on what to make for next year's wine. Come mingle with some Mensans and help us continue one of our most popular traditions!

Katie has been a Mensa member since 2011 and  Programs Director for Gulf Coast Mensa for the last year and a half. She's worked hard to come up with new and interesting activities for our members and Meeting of The Wines has been one of her crowning achievements. This year she's trying her hand as the 2014 SynRG Co-chair!


GCM Chocolate Tasting

Come explore chocolate!  Drink chocolate as the Aztecs and Mayans knew it.  Sample organic and sustainable chocolate and flavored chocolate from around the world. A brief introduction about chocolate and a guide to tasting and judging its quality will precede the tasting.

Chris & Patty are an M&M couple - so of course they love chocolate!  Starting with custom m&m's at their wedding, they have served up a decade of chocolate tastings, hosting many times at SynRG and LoneStaRG. Chris & Patty first met at SynRG 1997, soon after both joined Mensa - and the rest is history.  They have been active members of Gulf Coast Mensa, and have served in many roles. Chris currently is LocSec and Patty is Scholarship Chair of GCM.


SynRG Carnival

Don't miss one of our most popular events of the weekend - the SynRG Carnival!! On Sunday night from 9:00pm to midnight come and enjoy your favorite games, from jumbo checkers and Biggle (or giant boggle) to Guitar Hero and Rock Band. We'll also have astrological readings and the ever popular spaghetti tower building contest! Be there or be square people!


SynRG Poolside Mixer

Be sure to arrive in time on Friday night to mix it up with your fellow Mensans for a lovely, informal, night time poolside get together. Some light snacks will be available, beverages can be brought from hospitality (no glass please) and bring your swimsuit to take a dip! More details to come!


Scotch Tasting

Be sure to purchase tickets for a Mensan scotch tasting run by our very own inventor and professional bartender extraordinaire Charles LeMay. Only $10 per ticket gets you sipping time with three exquisite scotches with expert guidance. You've got to hurry though, only 20 spots are available for this special Saturday night event!




Dr. Mark Vorderbruggen 
Wildcrafting Your Neighborhood: Edible & Medicinal Wild Plants of Houston

Before HEB, Trader Joe's, or CVS humans relied on the plants and fungi around them to stay healthy and fed. This knowledge has not been lost, just forgotten by most. Come relearn what your ancestors knew, that the world is full of food and pharmaceuticals. Wildcrafting may not be as convenient as pulling stuff off a store shelf but then you can't really brag about the frozen Japanese veggies you bought at Whole Foods. You can't beat the price, either!

Born in Minnesota and raised in a family of foragers, Mark Vorderbruggen grew up immersed in the bounty of nature. Being of scientific mind, he pursued degrees in chemistry including a masters in medicinal chemistry and a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry. Somehow this lead to moving to Houston in 1997 to work for the oil & gas industry. His love of plants never abated and he found himself giving impromptu foraging classes while hiking and paddling the wilds of Texas. This led to getting the nickname "Merriwether" from his hiking buddies as he was always recording the plants they saw. In 2008 was created after he was asked to teach edible wild plants for the Houston Arboretum. If you would like to learn more about Mark and his schedule of offered classes please visit his website!


Brandon Lowery
Surviving The Not-Dead Undead

Aaagghhh! Zombies! With the insane popularity of such shows and movies as The Walking Dead, Zombieland and World War Z, the pop culture landscape is now littered with the shambling corpses of the undead. But what would it really be like? Come enjoy an intriguing presentation as Professor Brandon Lowery examines zombies in pop culture and folklore, how a virus that doesn't raise the dead but degenerates the living could resemble a real zombie apocalypse and how you can survive with your brains intact!

Brandon Lowery graduated from Sam Houston State University with his Master's Degree in Biology. He is a native Texan, a professor of biology, and a zombie prepper. He runs the Tumblr Blog "Not-Dead Undead Hypothesis" and writes for Zombie Guide Magazine. Brandon is currently honing his archery skills while drinking martinis. His website is and offers humorous zombie tips and tidbits as well as practical hurricane and disaster preparedness advice.


Rob Brayton
Photographing the Beauty of Our Living Earth

Explore and capture our beautiful earth with photography. We will start by examining a collection of photographs and explain how they were captured and edited. A Q&A session will follow where you can ask any photographic question. Your facilitator, Robert Brayton, CPP is a certified professional photographer in Spring, Texas.



Tricia Fox
Music Doing Good

Music Doing Good is a Houston-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that inspires and transforms lives through innovative, music-based programming and performance experiences. One of four outreach programs, Music Doing Good with Lyrics is a songwriting program that provides at-risk, undeserved youth with an opportunity to express themselves through song. Tricia Fox will be sharing the powerful impact of songwriting through a facilitated mindful listening exercise, performance of her original songs, and through stories of specific children impacted by this work. Come hear the powerful impact of songwriting and how this process encourages self-confidence, teaches a new form of healthy self-expression, provides a space to be heard and valued, and offers an innovative experience that demonstrates the powerful impact of music.

Nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter Tricia Fox, Music Doing Good with Lyrics Program Director, graduated from Naropa University in Colorado with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. As a professional musician, she has toured the country as a solo singer songwriter and with her band, Edmund Evans, having played countless shows from Boston to Austin. Tricia began working with Music Doing Good, a Houston nonprofit that provides music experiences and education to underserved youth, in 2010 and launched the Lyrics program in 2012. Also in 2010, Tricia began working with a groundbreaking songwriting program (Purple Songs Can Fly) at Texas Children’s Hospital that works one-on-one with kids undergoing cancer treatment and end of life care. Tricia is an active participant with the Global Alliance for Arts and Health and presents on songwriting and bereavement at conferences for medical professionals. Through the Music Doing Good with Lyrics program, Tricia joins her exceptional talent as a performer and songwriter and her rare ability to listen empathetically to capture and preserve the valuable experiences and wisdom of our community through songwriting.


How Grafitti Saved My Life

GONZO247 speaks about his adventures in life through his chosen art form, Graffiti. From finding this urban art form in the mid 1980's  to going through the trials and tribulations of getting this genre recognized as the art form that it is.

Mario Enrique Figueroa, Jr. also known as GONZO247 was born in Houston, Texas in 1972 and resides as a native Houstonian. GONZO247 was exposed to graffiti and began his pursuit as a self-taught artist in 1985. GONZO247 is co-founder of Aerosol Warfare artist collective and gallery. Today, he defines himself as an artist, curator, art collector, collaborator, public figure and community member; he manages Aerosol Warfare Studio, teaches his medium through Aerosol Warfare’s CKC StART Street & Urban Arts program and continues to create art in various ways on various levels for various projects.


Caroline Kostak 
Did You Know We Still Have A Space Program?

Despite the end of the Space Shuttle program and wide-spread media confusion, NASA is still up and running.  Hear about some of the exciting things going on onboard the International Space Station and find out what's coming for the next generation of space geeks to work on. Kids and teens interested in the space program won't want to miss this!

Caroline Kostak was a flight controller for the Space Shuttle and Space Station programs for 11.52 years.  Her jobs included helping astronauts find and organize their underwear, manage the space station computer help desk, and assemble the space station. After leaving NASA at the end of the space shuttle program, a co-worker and she developed a program to teach middle school students how to be flight controllers.  She believes all students can benefit from the important life skills that are taught in Mission Control and loves to share space with kids, both young and old.


Jill Hasling
Why Size Matters...When It Comes to Hurricanes

Hurricane Sandy demonstrated that waves can cause the most devastating damage.  With a fetch of over 300 nautical miles,   Hurricane Sandy caused significant waves of 32.5 feet at buoys off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Research at Weather Research Center has shown that SIZE MATTERS when it comes to the impact of hurricanes.

Jill F. Hasling is President of Weather Research Center and Director of The John C. Freeman Weather Museum. She became a Board Certified Consulting Meteorologist [CCM] of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in 1992 and Fellow of the Society in 2000.  Jill was the sixth woman to become a CCM, and she then became the first woman member of the NCIM, an association of private sector meteorologists. Jill is one of the few women Fellows of the American Meteorological Society.

Jill has worked in the field of meteorology since 1974 as a programmer, forecaster, researcher and forensic meteorologist. Since graduating in 1975, she has worked as a marine and tropical meteorologist and provides daily weather forecasts for the offshore oil industry all over the world. Jill started her meteorological career at the Institute for Storm Research at the University of St. Thomas in 1974 as a weather technician and programmer and became Vice President in 1980.  Jill founded Weather Research Center with her father, Dr. John C. Freeman, in 1987 and continued her work training young meteorologists the art of marine and tropical weather forecasting.  In 2006, Jill opened the nation’s first Weather Museum in memory of her father.  Jill continues to engage in many community outreach programs with events, talks and visits to schools. Since WRC’s inception, its outreach programs have served over million in the community.


Kerry Carpenter
Honeybees and Beekeeping

A brief history of mankinds involvement with collecting honey and the beginings of beekeeping. Kerry will also discuss the differences between the Queen bee, worker bees, and drone bees, the lifecycle of honeybees and how they locate nectar sources, and honey harvesting.

Kerry has been a member of Gulf Coast Mensa since 1979. He first became interested in beekeeping when he bought a house that came with a colony of wild bees. After capturing that wild hive his interest (and number of hives) grew into the part time honey business he runs today. Kerry is employed as an electronics technician in the oilfield services industry.




Laura Jones
Life on Erebus

Laura Jones worked for the Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory (MEVO) in Antarctica, using LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) technology in order to monitor yearly and daily changes in the Erebus crater, lava lake as well and the ice tower and cave systems along the flanks. The goal of these measurements was to quantify geomorphologic change, which up until that point had been unable to be measured, in order to learn more about the internal processes that control the volcano. Life on Erebus was never boring – besides the science there was the installation of solar and wind-power systems, snowmobiling across glaciers, dodging volcanic bombs, camping in a tent in 100 mph winds and -40F temperatures to the filming of “Frozen Planet” with the BBC (to name a few).

She is currently working for Schlumberger in Houston, TX as a Geophysical Project Lead.



Richard Russell Fleece
The Energies of Astrology

What's your sign? Does it really impact who you are and the decisions you make? Even if you aren't a "believer" come join Richard Fleece as he offers a scientific exploration of all the signs of the zodiac and the relationships between the individual, spiritual and psychological aspects of growth. 

Richard R. Fleece has been a practicing astrologer for over 35 years. His extensive experience in the field has given him a very in depth insight to the psychological and spiritual energies of the universe. Also, don't miss Richard at the SynRG Carnival where he will perform brief readings for our members!



Caroline Kostak
Green Building: It's Not Rocket Science

The International Space Station is one of the highest performance buildings ever built.  Find out how lessons from the ISS can be brought to Earth and why we should care. Come and meet Caroline Kostak as she talks about what makes a building green, why green buildings are important, how buildings tested for “greenness” and how you can green your home or office building.

Caroline Kostak worked at NASA for 11.52 years and left to become a Green Building Consultant.  Working closely with people who can see the Earth from a higher perspective  made her aware of just how fragile and precious our Earth is.  It became clear to her that managing the energy use and health of our homes is one of the most personal ways we can have a real impact on this beautiful planet we call home. Caroline has spent the last 2 years educating about Building Science and working towards making our homes more sustainable and healthy places to live.




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