Past RG Programs




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If you have not yet registered, you can do so online. Registration is $90 through May 15, 2017; $99 thereafter and at the door. Attendees age 7-20 are half price and children 6 and under are free.



The RG will be held at the Doubletree Intercontinental, 15747 John F Kennedy Blvd, Houston, TX 77032. Rooms in the GCM block are $85.00 per night. You can reserve your room online. If you do not wish to reserve online, call the hotel at (281) 848-4000 and ask for the Mensa rate.



The following is the tentative schedule for SynRG 2017. This will be updated as we finalized and confirm with our speakers. You can find details on the program below.

Friday, May 26

4:00p - Registration Opens

4:00p - Games Room Opens

5:30p - Hospitality opens for dinner

6:00p - Poolside Mensa Mingle

8:00p - Carnelli

10:30p - Fishbowl


Keynote Speaker


Keeping a Straight Face to Catch a Spy

Former FBI Assistant Director Richard Garcia

Richard T. Garcia will be our keynote speaker after the Saturday night BBQ at this year’s Regional Gathering (RG). This year’s theme is “It’s a Mystery,” and we are very excited to have a former FBI Assistant Director address us. He will speak on an intriguing and challenging case based on an actual spy case where a former FBI Agent by the name of Robert Hanssen was arrested for spying for the Russians from 1986 – 2001.  This was one of the worst cases in US history regarding spying. He was part of the operation that kept him busy as evidence was developed against him.

Born in San Antonio, Rich Garcia graduated with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement from Southwest Texas University in San Marcos. In 1975, he joined the Dallas Police Department. After five years, Garcia joined the FBI and was assigned to the Dallas division, where he remained until October 1982, when he was transferred to San Juan, Puerto Rico and began his meteoric career rise. Three years later, Garcia was transferred to the FBI's Miami division and then later to FBI headquarters in Washington, where he was a supervisor in the Colombian/South American Drug Traffickers Unit. In May 1993, he was appointed supervisor for a drug intelligence squad for the mid-Atlantic region. A year later, he was appointed assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's El Paso office and, four years after that, was named chief of information technology operations at FBI headquarters.

Garcia became the first Latino to run the FBI's office in Los Angeles and one of only two to hold the title of assistant director within the FBI. In March 2001, he was appointed head of the criminal division for the Los Angeles office where he would oversee 1,100 employees, 670 of them agents, in a 40,000-square-mile region with 18 million people -- far larger than the FBI's New York City office, the next largest in terms of population served. It was in that role that Garcia gained notoriety when the FBI worked with the Orange County Sheriff's Department to solve the kidnapping and murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. Garcia remained in Los Angeles until being appointed head of the FBI's Houston field office in December 2002.

He has received the Distinguished Service Award at the 36th annual Attorney General awards for his role in a Colombian drug trafficking probe dubbed "Cat-Com." Four years later, he received the Eagle Award from the National Hispanic Heritage Foundation for management in crime fighting. He was honored by the White House for his work in Los Angeles, Houston and FBI headquarters.

Mr. Garcia is now the CEO for NTi Investigative and Analytical Support Services supporting State, Local and Federal law enforcement agencies as well as law firms and Fortune 500 Companies. He entered the private sector upon his retirement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation after 25 years of service.



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!



Come join a lively round of Carnelli, a game designed to test your ability to think on your feet, as well as your knowledge of trivia, history and culture. It is a "word association" game using titles of books, movies, songs etc. Carnelli is a parlor game created by Jan Carnell, a member of the Metropolitan Washington chapter of Mensa. This game has been popular at Mensa gatherings and science fiction conventions for years.


Fish Bowl

An open and forthright discussion of sex and the sexes! Participants will submit questions anonymously. Men answer questions posed by women and vice versa! The doors will be closed for the duration once Fish Bowl begins. If you have to ask what happens at Fish Bowl, then you don't know what you are missing. Of course, what happens in Fish Bowl stays in Fish bowl...

*This event is for adults (18 and over) only.


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, anyone who sits for the test is invited to stay and enjoy Saturday at the RG at no cost.

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


Firehouse Meet & Greet

Laura Smith

It's not a secret or a mystery. If you have any clue, you'll be at the Firehouse Meet and Greet, poolside. Anyone who has ever been curious about the hype surrounding the controversial, yet cohesive crew of camaraderie should definitely join our party! The awesomeness will be evident!

Laura Smith is a ten-year member of Mensa. She is the former LocSec of Tucson Mensa and has held various positions in other local groups, including her current group, Lone Star Mensa.


Scotch Whisky Tasting*

Jason Seiler

Have you ever wanted to try Scotch whisky, but you don’t know enough to order it in a bar? What is the difference between a Highland, a Lowland, and an Islay? Wait, isn’t whisky spelled with an “e”? Known whisky enthusiast Jason Seiler will help with these and more as he presents on the origin, etymology, and process of making Scotch whisky. During the presentation, participants will be treated to six servings of whisky, each a single malt aged 10 years or better, and one each from the six whisky-producing regions of Scotland.

Jason Seiler is a martial arts instructor, firearms instructor, the National Parliamentarian for American Mensa, and a known Scotch whisky aficionado. He has been giving private tastings from his personal collection of 75 single malt whiskies for a decade, providing small groups from different organizations with education and experience in the water of life.

*This tasting will require a $15 ticket, available for purchase at Registration.


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.


The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Event


As a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, you and your teammates will work to follow leads and solve a case that Sherlock himself has asked you to solve. Have your wits about you! Teams of 2-8 will be able to play six unique mysteries spanning the gas lit world of Victorian London.

Victorian costumes (Steampunk, Dickens, etc.) are encouraged but not essential.



Name That Movie!

John & Geri Neemidge

Name That Movie consists of short clips from about 40 movies. Each movie clip presents one or more themes. We ask that you identify each movie and the themes. Play as individuals or as a team of up to 6 members. We try to make each clip interesting on its own, so even if you don't know movies very well we hope the game will be entertaining. Clips (not the movies themselves) are chosen to be PG or G rated. We'll provide a key with information about each movie and themes at the end.



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.




The Worst That Could Happen: Mysteries, Thrillers and Impending Disaster

Millie Hast

What makes someone stay up all night reading mysteries and thrillers?

What’s the difference between these two genres, and what makes them so compelling? Go behind the scenes with a budding thriller writer to explore the elements of this exciting and dangerous world and find out more about your favorite books and authors, as well as some new ones!

Mensa Life Member Millie Naylor Hast is the winner of the 2017 Freddie Award for Writing Excellence in the Thriller Category from the Florida Mystery Writers of America, as well as First Place for Mystery/Suspense/Thriller from the Houston Writers Guild. She is an alumna of the FBI, DEA and Houston Police Citizens Academies and has studied Krav Maga. A former journalist and elected official, she has a passion for writing and politics. Her current manuscript, a political thriller, is under consideration by literary agents.


Music on a Saw

Maurice Hatton

GCM member Maurice Hatton, will play a varied program of songs (from honky-tonk, broadway and opera) on his handsaw, and tell how he became acquainted with "music on a saw". He will demonstrate how to play and will show several different saws and compare their playability. At the end he will ask members of the audience who wish to try their hand at playing.

Thadeus Maurice Hatton is from the Tyler County branch of Hattons, all farmers and loggers. During "The War" the Hattons moved to Jefferson County and Maurice’s dad worked in the refinery. In 1947, when Maurice was 14, the family went into the dairy business there. Maurice became a regular dairy hand. The business later moved to Tyler County. Maurice worked in the dairy and graduated from Kirby High School in 1951. At which time Maurice was happily able to escape into the wider world, and go off to college. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education from East Texas Baptist College, (finally), in 1962.

Maurice taught high school and junior high choirs in Raton, New Mexico, then at Texas High School in Texarkana, later at Sweeny High School and finally Thomas Jefferson High School in Port Arthur. He then taught special education for several years before retiring at age 62.

Maurice holds a Masters degree in music from Lamar University and is retired from teaching high school music. His wife is Earl Dee (Birch), and they have two children (grown and gone), one of each. They live in Wildwood community, about 45 miles north of Beaumont, Texas, where he retired from golf a few years ago.


The Trump Presidency After Four Months: What Have We Learned and What Have We not Learned

Richard Murray

Major American political parties' most important role in our democracy is to nominate the finalists in our presidential elections. Normally, they strive to a) Select someone who can unite the party; b) conduct a campaign that can win the Oval Office, and c) govern effectively once in office. At the beginning of his campaign on June 16, 2015 Donald J. Trump seemed likely to fail on all three of these criteria. Nearly two years later, we know he managed to accomplish a and b, albeit in an extraordinarily unusual manner. Now, we are finding out how he will do with c. After a little more than 4 months, we have learned a number of things about the new president. One, he is not going to change. Those who thought he would adjust his style to be more "presidential" have been proven flat wrong. Trump is Trump - sui generis - and he ain't about to change. Two, he does not have a defined policy agenda, and is more interested in winning, than the details of how that is accomplished. Three, he is an extraordinary high-risk president - both in terms of personal safety, political safety, and the safety of his party.

He has some major political assets - his party controls both houses of Congress and he has the opportunity to move the federal judiciary well to the right politically. His has a personal base of supporters that stuck with him through the long campaign and are still in his corner. That fact, plus his volatile style, instills fear among his fellow Republicans who are loath to confront him. BUT, he laid out an unusually broad set of policy goals in his campaign that would be very hard for any president to accomplish, who received just 46% of the popular vote.

He faces an unusually united Democratic Party and base that have come together in opposition to the president and his policy goals. He is probably the most at-risk modern presidency of being plagued by scandal. His lack of political knowledge and the weak support cast make achieving policy goals even more difficult. As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, "buckle your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy ride."

Dr. Richard Murray is the Bob Lanier Professor of Public Policy at the University of Houston and a member of the UH Political Science Department. He holds BA and MA degrees in Government from Louisiana State University, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota. His primary teaching and research interests are in public opinion, political parties, and elections at the national, state, and local level.



Before There Were Vikings: The Scandinavian History of England

Dr. Fred Pearl

Prior to the Viking Age (AD 798-1066 AD) Europeans supposedly had very little knowledge of, or contact with, the peoples of Scandinavia. At least, that’s how the story has been told. Extensive research on 600 year run-up to the Viking Age shows that at least 200 years prior to the Viking Age, wealthy Scandinavian kings explored the Baltic and North Seas, and even had extensive trade-contacts with the Roman Empire, and colonized southeastern England after the Romans abandoned it after 410 A.D. I argue that it was the hubris of medieval English scholars that caused the memory of this lost Scandinavian empire to be forgotten, and modern archaeologists have been complacent in reviewing the archaeological evidence from their own country. The earliest work in the English language, Beowulf, should have sounded the first alarm that England’s remote history was tied to Scandinavian kings. The discovery of the burial ship at Sutton Hoo was the second alarm, and it was all archaeologists should have needed to connect the dots. When the Viking Age began in 798 AD, the northmen were just coming home.

Dr. Pearl is the Director of the Maritime Studies Program and Associate Professor of Maritime Studies, and holds graduate faculty appointments with the Department of Marine Sciences in Galveston and the Department of Anthropology, Texas A&M University in College Station. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology in 2001 from Texas A&M University, and joined the faculty of Texas A&M Galveston in 2001. He is currently leading summer field projects studying Viking archaeological sites in Gotland, Sweden, and is writing a book on the Christianization of the Roman Empire.


Psychiatry with Dr. Bill

Bill Skiba

Dr. Bill Skiba is going to provide us an updating of what modern psychiatry is – it has gone far beyond the New Yorker cartoons of the couch. Then he’ll present more cutting-edge science – he terms this work “Anthropopsychiatry", which is a true synthesis of the "Modern Science of the Mind", including knowledge from psychiatry, cognitive neuroscience, molecular biology, genomics and biological anthropology, including primatology and modern evolutionary theory.

Dr. Bill Skiba is a certified psychiatrist, holds a PhD in biochemistry, and has been a long time member of GCM.


Who Was King John and Why Should We Care?

Freeman Mendell

Most of us only know King John from the old Robin Hood movies. A very few may be aware that the Magna Carta was written in response to his tyrannical ways. Is there more to him? Why is the Magna Carta such a big deal? How did King John change the western world as we know it? Stay tuned…

Freeman Mendell holds a MA in History from Univ. of Houston and retired as the Chief of Staff for Galveston County Judge Mark Henry. He spoke at last year's SynRG and was invited back this year to speak again. For about 8 months last year his brother Wendell and he organized a lecture series held once a week in Hometown Heroes Park in League City.


The Hubble Telescope: A Backstory

Wendell Mendell

Dr. Mendell plans to discuss the rationale and design philosophy for the Large Space Telescope, later christened the Hubble Space Telescope, and then relay some personal anecdotes related to the embarrassing and expensive post-launch discovery of an optical error in the construction of the telescope. He will not show lots and lots of pictures taken by the Hubble, which can be accessed on the internet.

Dr. Mendell will tell us about this magnificent human achievement.

Dr. Mendell, is a retired planetary scientist and was Asst. Director for Exploration, Astromaterials Research & Exploration Science Directorate at NASA Johnson Space Center; he came to JSC in 1963. His education includes The International Space University (France), Rice Univ., Univ. of California, Los Angeles, and Caltech.


Artificial Intelligence - from Yan Shi to Skynet

Timmy King

From the dawn of the written word, mankind has imagined artificial beings capable of human thought and action. In this session we will stroll through AI history from the automatons of Alexandria, to the Turing test, through the artificial intelligence winters of the late 20th century.

We will explain how one small black stone, placed on a 19x19 grid, forever changed the perspective of millions of game players. How a computer named Watson destroyed the world’s greatest Jeopardy contestants.

Our journey ends with a mind-boggling (and slightly scary) glimpse into the future of AI.

Society is on the precipice of a paradigm shift not seen since the borg first began their assimilation of the universe.

Artificial Intelligence has been described as the last great invention of mankind.

We'll wrap things up with the important question, "Should we fear Skynet?" The answer may surprise you!

Timmy King, CPA, PMP, JP, exists in a quantum reality which fluctuates between Dr. Who and Horton Hears a Who.

His notable achievements include: almost appearing on a very famous game show, having nearly fought the Dragon of Agnor, and once having the courage to ask Sandy Adamo to the Senior Prom. He spends most of his time in an alternate reality filled with love.

Perhaps Pope Francis said it best, "Timmy is a cross between Oscar Wilde and Charlton Heston."


Teaching Sherlock Holmes

Tyler Baird

Middle school. These two words have plagued schoolchildren and adults alike for as long as they have been in existence. Between 6th grade and 8th grade, students are growing and changing and attempting to figure out just what part they will play in this world, while their parents are frantically trying to accept those changes and steer them in the right direction. As all of this is going on, these students are expected to keep up with the ever-growing demands of education and prepare themselves for college. Enter Sherlock Holmes. The famous detective brought hope and entertainment to a downtrodden and jaded populace in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now, in an age of quick information and evolving technology, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson have their greatest obstacle ahead: restoring the value and effectiveness of classic, mystery literature in the classroom.

Tyler Baird is currently a co-department chair for language arts as well as a football and soccer coach at McCullough Junior High School in The Woodlands. This is his fifth year teaching and has spent the entirety of his career as a professional educator at McCullough. He received his masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction in May of 2014 from Texas A&M University.

Upon walking into his 8th grade PreAP classroom, you will be hard-pressed to find wall space that is not covered in something related to Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, Dr. Who, or sports memorabilia.


The Human Key

Ted Agon

Ted Agon will speak of his work and his book, The Human Key, covering the human subjects of thinking, learning and communicating; and believes what he has discovered applies to Ludwig Wittgenstein's observation: “The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”

His book was written in response to requests stemming from a series of talks he has given. He will describe the hidden, simple and familiar definition of thinking; it is both simple and profound; so simple that it can be understood by a child of eight. It will change the way we think and the way we think about life.

Though Ted grew up in a farming village of 800 folks just south of the Canadian border, he left the United States at the age of 22 and has lived in Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Sultanate of Oman, France, and Canada. His business travels took him to all but two of the world's continents. Countries included Egypt, Israel, Ivory Coast, Congo, South Africa, Nederland, Italy, England, Scotland, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Laos, India, Nepal, Mexico, and Brazil.

He has experience in sea rescue, foreign relief, research submarines, robotics and other fields. He credits his immersion in different industries, countries, cultures, languages, technologies and business ownership, and most importantly his getting to know people wiser than himself, for his ideas that developed through his six years of writing and speaking engagements.


The Case of the Little Spaniard and His Myriad Martyrs: A Baroque Art History Mystery

Chris Kilgore

“…there the stories Of martyrs awed, as Spagnoletto tainted His brush with all the blood of all the sainted.” -Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto 13, Verse 71

Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652), known as Il Spagnoletto, is considered one of the four great masters of the Golden Age of Spanish painting. An absolute technical virtuoso, Ribera had an alarming predilection for gruesome subject matter. Transplanted to Hapsburg-ruled Italy as a young man, he married well and established a thriving career painting religious subjects for Catholic pilgrims, particularly images of martyred saints. But Ribera was also believed to be the leader of the sinister “Cabal of Naples”, a group of artists who protected their lucrative turf through intimidation and violence. Haunted by a little-known painting of the flayed, martyred St Bartholomew, Christopher Kilgore began to research Ribera, and soon discovered that the more he learned, the more questions arose. What was the origin of Ribera’s fascination with such ghastly images? Who was this unfortunate saint and how did he meet his grim fate? And who survived to tell his story? Utilizing digital databases, Chris succeeds in filling numerous gaps in the scholarship, but in the process, he also uncovers hidden connections to unsettling ancient narratives and archetypes. Join Chris as he unravels the mystery of the Little Spaniard.

Cognitive archeologist, art historian, and raconteur Christopher Kilgore, a Mensan, has spoken at numerous RGs, at the 2015 Louisville AG, and will be speaking at the 2017 AG in Hollywood, Florida. Over the past 20 years, he has presented his original research at museums and universities in the United States, France, Britain, Spain, and Belgium. He is a graduate student at the University of Houston, where he is the Art History Writing Fellow and recipient of the 2017 SuMo Award for art historical writing. Chris is currently preparing his master’s thesis on Jusepe de Ribera.


Let's Make a Bonnet (Crafts Workshop)

Loretta Beard

Plan to make a bonnet! We will use premade bonnets and flowers, ribbons, lace, etc. for folks to craft a bonnet. I am hoping those who have some skill with glue guns and such can lend a hand to the less experienced.

Wear your new bonnet to the Sunday tea tasting! Wear your bonnet to the Victorian costumed event Sunday evening! Wear your bonnet about town!

Loretta has a degree in Physics and Psychology from the University of NC, Chapel Hill. She has worked too many jobs, including as a Physics Co-op at NASA Langley, as a Math Technician at the EPA in Durham NC, as a Research Tech investigating low MW polymers at UNC-CH and as the Physics Laboratory Coordinator and Instructor for 10 years at Hampton University, Hampton VA. She served as LocSec for Tidewater Mensa back in VA for 10 years.


The Rise of Private-Pay Physicians and Why You'll Need One in Our Dysfunctional Insurance-Based Healthcare System

Vik Rajan

Since the latter half of the 20th century, the vast majority of people in the United States have utilized health insurance to pay for medical care from their doctor. As an unintended consequence of this payment model, you are increasingly likely to find (1) time with your doctors becoming scarce, (2) medical care becoming fragmented with lack of care coordination, and (3) treatments becoming focused on expensive pharmaceutical drugs and medical procedures.

As a result, over your lifetime you and your loved ones are at significant risk of experiencing medical errors or adverse treatment effects, which combined represent one of the leading causes of death (at least 400,000 per year) and disability (at least 4 million a year) and contribute to the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States.

To mitigate this risk, it will become increasingly necessary for people to rely on personalized health care and guidance from private physicians obtained outside the health insurance market to maximize physician availability and quality of care. Short of convincing your kid to go into medicine and paying $250,000+ for medical school to have a private doctor in your immediate family, there are some other more cost effective and obtainable options. These include finding private doctors in fields like patient advocacy, integrative/functional holistic medicine, and concierge/direct primary care.

This talk will go over the reasons behind our current medical system dysfunction and the various kinds of private-pay physician models available, along with some clinical case examples demonstrating the issues discussed. Audience question-and-answer participation is invited towards the end of the presentation.

Dr. Rajan is the president and founder of Houston Patient Advocacy. He is board certified in internal medicine, pediatrics, and nephrology, and he is a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree with Honors at Texas A&M in a combined six- year BS/MD program and did his post-graduate medical training at Tulane University in New Orleans and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Dr. Rajan became interested in medicine and patient advocacy from childhood based on his mother’s experiences with kidney disease and transplantation. Later during his medical training years, his mother’s health deteriorated and became so complex for her doctors to manage that he served as her medical patient advocate for the last eight years of her life. By effectively reviewing her medical care and coordinating with her doctors, he gave her three years more quality of life than what doctors had anticipated.

From 2010 onward, he started a private patient advocacy service in Houston to help patients and families navigate the medical system. Over time, he developed a strong interest in understanding the true causes of chronic disease and how our diet and lifestyle choices impact our health. This journey led him to additionally specialize in integrative holistic medicine in 2014 to help people make the necessary changes in their own lives to improve their health and decrease the need for prescription drugs and medical interventions. Finally in 2016, Dr. Rajan started a concierge medical program to assist those needing access to higher quality primary care than what medical insurance alone typically provides.


Mis-Tea-Rious Tasting

Amanda Vermillion

Tea culture is steeped in mystery! Join Certified Tea Master Amanda Vermillion as we examine the history of tea and debunk tea myths and legends like true "TEA-tectives".

In keeping with our RG mystery theme, attendees will also experience a "blind tea tasting: you will sample three different types of tea and attempt to deduce what type of tea it is using your wits and clues provided by your senses!

Amanda will have a selection of teas and tea accessories for sale after the talk.

Amanda Vermillion is originally from the Northeastern U.S. and has been a Mensan since 2004. She lives in Seabrook and currently serves as Assistant LocSec of Gulf Coast Mensa. In 2013, she earned her Tea Master certification from the American Tea Masters Association. She also holds a tea blending certification and a New World Tea certification from I-TEI of Canada. Amanda is the owner of The Tea Mistress, LLC, a specialty retail coffee and tea shop in Houston/Clear Lake. Amanda also serves as Director of Lone Star Houston Tea Festival, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that puts on the annual Lone Star Iced Tea Festival and the Houston Tea Festival. For more information, visit her websites:, and


Where Will Our Future Energy Come From?

Steve Allen

This talk will provide a short overview of current global energy consumption, followed by a more detailed examination of the energy use of the United States in particular. This will be a quantitative review of how U.S. energy needs are currently met and the status of emerging energy technologies.

Steve Allen has a B.S. in Meteorology from Texas A&M. He was in the USAF Air Weather Service from 1974-1979, and worked for NOAA (National Weather Service) from 1979 until his retirement in 2006. He is a current member of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and of course, Mensa/GCM. He has been involved in studies of energy issues and climate science since my retirement.


Financial Planning

Myrna Agris

Myrna Agris focuses on financial management and education and helps to provide guidance in all areas of your financial life. She will also answers questions based on the audience's requests.

Prior to joining Morgan Stanley, Myrna practiced law in the area of estate planning, preservation of wealth, and elder law. She taught a course at Rice University School of Continuing Studies "Take a Pro-active Approach to Aging: Legal and Financial Issues". As one of the authors of the Elder Law Handbook, published by the Houston Bar Association, she is often asked to speak to groups on estate planning and financial topics.



The Mystery of the Buried Cannon

Mark Lardas

In 1976 workers installing an underground gasoline storage tank at a gasoline station being built on Galveston's Broadway Avenue found something unexpected while digging: a muzzle-loading, smoothbore 19th-century cannon, buried three feet down. Where did it come from? Why was it there? Who owned it? No one knew.

At first it was assumed it was from the Civil War, and for over a decade it was displayed as a Civil War artifact at the Galveston Historical Society museum. But the truth about the cannon was finally discovered in the late 1980s, when an amateur historian discovered it was actually an artifact of the Texas Navy - a gun from the Texas Navy warship Brutus. As such it was a remarkable rarity - the largest remaining piece of Texas's republic-era navy.

How did it end up three-feet deep under Broadway Avenue? That story is even more remarkable - one involving Galveston's Brown family, Galveston Harbor, and the 1900 Hurricane, a story that will be revealed by Mark Lardas in this talk.

Mark Lardas, a one-time engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian and model-maker, lives in League City, Texas. When he says something isn’t rocket science, he should know – he has been one. Although he graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, he spent most of the the next 30 years as a space navigator and a software engineer on the Shuttle program. His down-to-earth interests include model-making and writing, interests which he combines in numerous articles to modeling magazines, and as a stints as the Hobby Master for Boy’s Life and the Model Master for English Street, an English language publication in Hong Kong.

He is the author of 19 published books, 3 just since he spoke on Texas shipwrecks at last year's SynRG. This year he published Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers of World War I, The Battleship Texas, and Chattanooga 1863: Grant and Bragg in Central Tennessee.


Meet the RVC

Taz Criss

Q & A about Mensa at the National level with our Regional Vice Chair for Region 6, Taz Criss.

Taz is a second-generation Mensan who joined as a teenager. She has served in various roles in local groups and SIGs. Taz was first elected as RVC for Region 6 in 2015 and begins her second two-year term on July 1, 2017. Her leadership style is uniquely honest, upfront, and jovial. If confidence were inches, she would be 10' tall.



Behind the Camera with Sherlock Holmes

Dr. Warren Chaney

The world’s most famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887 and appeared in four novels and forty-seven short stories, the last one written in 1927. Some of what the public knows about Sherlock Holmes is taken from Doyle’s series of books and stories. From these works we know that Holmes worked as a detective for twenty-three years, with physician John Watson assisting him for seventeen. They were roommates before Watson's 1887 marriage and again after his wife's death. Their residence is maintained by their landlady, Mrs. Hudson. Most of the stories are narratives, written from Watson's point of view as summaries of the detective's most interesting cases. Holmes frequently calls Watson's writing sensational and populist, suggesting that it fails to accurately and objectively report the "science" of his craft.

However, most of what the general-public accepts as Sherlock Holmes gospel such as the deerstalker cap, a massive drug-problem, the Irene Adler love affair, the curved calabash pipe, and even his famous hound’s-tooth-attire emanates not from the writings but from theatre and film. Even Holmes’ famous, "Elementary, My Dear Watson,” was taken from a medium other than the original cannon. Behind the Camera with Sherlock Holmes presents an analysis from the perspective of the motion picture as the audience steps behind the camera to study the screenplays, casting, locations and production of the many films that have contributed to the Sherlock Holmes legend of today. Film contribution to Holmes is better understood through The Guinness World Records which has listed Holmes as the "most portrayed movie character", with more than 70 actors playing the part in over 200 films,” not to count television.

At a result of attending Behind the Camera with Sherlock Holmes, you will come away with a good working knowledge of theatre, film, and television’s impact on the modern public’s perception of the world’s greatest detective. You will also develop an understanding of how motion pictures are made. Finally, for those who may be interested, you will learn how to connect with Houston’s John Openshaw Society (and its secret meeting times and locations), one of the largest brances of America’s Baker Street Irregulars.

Warren Chaney, Ph.D., is an American author, filmmaker, artist, behavioral scientist, and pioneer in television. He holds a doctorate degree (behavioral science and management), an MBA (finance), and a bachelor of science with a double major (marketing and speech and theatre).

In a wide-ranging career, Dr. Chaney wrote twenty-six books including five novels along with sixteen screenplays, nine theatrical dramas, and more than 250 professional and non-professional magazine and journal articles. He has written entries for Colliers Encyclopedia and was an editor of two publications--one in health care and the other a fictional detective journal. He has produced nine feature films and directed eight, in addition to producing and directing numerous television productions that include 150 episodes of the pioneering television series, Magic Mansion. His work has received considerable recognition and numerous awards.

With a heavy background in behavioral science and management consulting, Dr. Chaney has been featured in national publications and mass media such as Good Morning America, Real People, PM Magazine, CBS Weekend News, and ABC Radio.

Dr. Chaney established the first public university Health Services Administration program for the state of Texas, served on multiple boards of directors and advisory boards of public companies, and is considered a leader in the field of neuroplastic development of cognitive functions.

During the Vietnam era, Dr. Chaney was an officer in the United States Army and served in multiple military commands. A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Dr. Chaney was educated in Tennessee and Texas. He now resides in Houston, Texas, and is married and has five children.


Kids' Track

Parents, please be sure to bring a completed release form for your kids! Print it out, sign it, and return it to us This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Alternately, you may print it out and bring it to the RG, although that will slow your registration process.


Spy Training 101 (all ages)

Ray Richards

Do you have what it takes to be an international spy? Could you fight your way out of a sticky situation? Is your head steady enough to defuse a bomb? Would you know what to do if you intercepted a secret message? Come to our spy school and see if you have the moxie to enter the field of covert espionage!

Participants will partake in a number of fun activities including using Morse code to decode a secret message. They will sharpen their shooting skills with Nerf Guns (used on targets only), and navigate a laser obstacle course to stop a time bomb. Participants are reminded to arrive on time so that they will have time to complete the training. No child will be turned away but we must end spy school on time so that other events can remain on schedule.


First Lego League Robotics (age 7+)

Josephine & James McGill

Do your kids like robots and Legos? Do they like finding creative solutions to problems? If so, they will LOVE First Lego League (FLL)! Young Mensans from an award-winning FLL team will talk about how the FLL competition works and attendees will participate in a mini-FLL competition, including a project, team challenge and working with a Lego Robot!

Josephine McGill has been coaching a First Lego League (FLL) robotics as part of Girl Scouts for the past 6 years. Her team has gone to the state competition for the past 5 years running. James McGill has been mentoring the team in programming for the past 3 years. Their oldest daughter Kyna has been on the FLL team for the past 6 years and their youngest, Ava, was part of Jr. FLL last year and FLL this year. The McGills also taught a special interest group on Lego robotics programming to Girl Scouts last summer.


Flushing Mystery (all ages)

John S. Grounds, III, PhD, PE, CFM, D.WRE

What happens after you flush the toilet? Where does the waste go? How is it processed and then released into our waterways? Attendees will get “HANDS ON” experiences related to the physical, chemical, and biological processes of wastewater management and sewage treatment. NOTE: No actual human waste will be present … except what you bring yourself.

John is a Professional Engineer at LJA Engineering with a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Houston. John analyzes and designs infrastructure for sanitary sewers, drinking water, and storm water for the City of Houston, Harris County, and cities and counties across the State of Texas and internationally. In addition, he maps floodplains using remotely sensed data for thousands of square miles of watersheds for commercial and real estate developments. John started “Science Nights” at two elementary and middle schools where he volunteers his time to put on science and engineering experiments. John is also an educator having been adjunct faculty at Rice University and a visiting lecturer at the University of Houston as well teaching workshops alongside FEMA. He has made more than 50 presentations at Professional Society Meetings. He has been President of the American Water Resources Association and the Texas Floodplain Management Association. John has been active on committees and chaired fundraisers for the American Cancer Society and Texas Special Olympics. John loves to talk about science no matter the setting. Ask his wife Lynell and daughters, Elizabeth and Jennifer, who work with him in the garage building hovercrafts, trebuchets, air cannons, toilet paper guns, and 3D printers. Did I mention he is a Mensan?


Public Speaking Workshop (teens)

Tavia Ewen

Love it or loathe it, public speaking is an essential life skill. It's not just for extroverts, either! Did you know that in medicine, law, STEM and other "introverted" fields, public speaking is part of the job description? So let's learn to embrace it! Mensans attending this session will learn how to get control of their fears, capture audience attention and deliver a concise and compelling message. Participants will also learn to confidently give a quick 2-3 sentence elevator pitch about who they are and what they have to offer the world.

Tavia leads business development and client services for an international law firm network. She works with lawyers from every country in the world, teaching them some of the same techniques you will learn in this session.


The Breakout of the Box Games (all ages)

Jennifer Sheffield

Join us for a game of Breakout. Breakout is a game that will have you thinking critically, problem- solving, troubleshooting, working collaboratively and having so much fun you won't even realize how much you are using your brain! We will have an elementary session and another for our teens.

Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in Education via Interdisciplinary Studies focused on English and Psychology as well as a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Instructional Technology. Recently she completed her certification requirements for becoming a Principal. Currently she is an Academic Support Specialist in Reading and Math. Jennifer has been teaching for twenty-one years serving a wide array of students from many different backgrounds and socio-economic levels. Over the course of those years she has taught Kindergarten through Fifth grade in all subject areas, Sixth through Eighth grade Language Arts with ESL and newcomer inclusion, and Junior College for students seeking to enter the teaching profession. Jennifer also had the opportunity to serve as a specialist in Reading, Writing, and Math. Outside of education she has been an active volunteer for Girl Scouts where she lead troops for five years. While working on her degrees, Jennifer volunteered with a gang intervention and prevention program.


Resume Writing and Interview Techniques: Become a Master at Marketing Yourself (teens)

Tavia Ewen

Do you want to learn the secret to writing a killer resume that will stand out from the crowd? What about acing that in person interview once your foot is in the door? Mensans will learn how to look at their experiences and accomplishments, and translate those into tangible benefits for a future college or employer. The group will learn to tailor their message to fit the organization they are interviewing with. They will also learn to prepare for an interview (from research to clothing) and conduct themselves in a way that will leave a lasting impression.

Tavia leads business development and client services for an international law firm network. She works with lawyers from every country in the world, teaching them some of the same techniques you will learn in this session.


Scavenger Hunt - time permitting

Ray Richards

If programming ends early, young Ms will compete in a scavenger hunt headed up by our fearless leader, Gifted Youth Coordinator Ray Richards.




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