Stephan b wessels

 

Hobbies

I have lots of hobbies. Depending on free time and environment, some are more frequent than others. These are my hobbies, listed alphabetically.

Board Games

After having moved to Omaha I discovered "Euro" games. They are also known as Designer Board Games. Designer Board Games usually have the name of the game designer prominently shown on the box front cover. They are also called "Euro" games because many of them are designed in Europe, most often in Germany. However there are excellent Board Game companies also here in the United States.

Our board game collection has been growing ever since and I have created a web site just for reviews and other content about this hobby. By far, the best web site available with in-depth information about board games is Board Game Geek . My username there is fastfingers and I keep information about my board game collection and statistics about which games I'm playing.

Here is a dynamic list of the latest board games I've been playing:

I've also written some board game tutorials which can be found here:
Power Grid
Twilight Imperium III

Genealogy

With considerable help from my mother, I was able to construct a database of my family tree. It's not always current, and from time-to-time I update it. I wrote a program which generates a fully navigable HTML web site that allows perusal of this important Genealogy work. Having this information on the World Wide Web has been very helpful. Three or four times a year I'll get an e-mail from someone who discovered the web site, writing to me to tell me they think we may be related.

If you find errors or have editions to recommend please write to me (swessels@cox.net). It works best if you can provide a page number or URL for any pages you find with errors. I'll keep working on bringing this database current and accurate as new information comes in. Lately I've been updating the database about twice a year.

Geocaching

This is a wonderful hobby for the whole family and it involves the great outdoors. All you need is a GPS and a keen sense for some adventure. Our family in Omaha does this and have discovered all kinds of neat little parks and communities in our city that we never would have thought exist. When I come to visit my mother in Cincinnati, she enjoys going out "treasure hunting" with me.

My favorite web site about this hobby is Geocaching.com. There, you can find many many locations of Geocaches with GPS coordinates for you to use. All you do is look-up a location that seems interesting, store the coordinates on your GPS, and go "hunting". It's typical for a Geocache to have a small weather-safe container hidden away at the location. Often there's a log-book and pencil available there where you can add a journal of your own visit and read about those who have found the site before you. It's customary to leave a small "gift", often a toy like those found with kids meals as fast-food places like McDonald's. You can also take an item from the container if you wish in trade. It's a wonderful hobby and feels like a modern day treasure hunt.

Lego Mindstorms

In 1999 Melissa gave a Lego Mindstorms kit to me. Since then I've discovered the fun of Lego Technic and Lego Mindstorms. It's a wonderful hobby for me since it combines my mechanical engineering interests with programming. And it's just a joy to build a little autonomous mechanism that you program and then watch as it moves around and tries to accomplish whatever task you designed for it. Sometimes it just doesn't work and helpless bashes itself to little plastic Lego pieces in a corner.

I have constructed quite a few robots and other mechanical models using combinations of Lego Mindstorms and Lego Technic components. Pictures and diagrams will be posted here eventually.

Music

My hobby is not as much about listening to music, although I do that all the time with my iPod or iPhone. Rather, my music hobby is about music composition. I've created a web page to share background on how I got started on this hobby, the successes I have had with it, and even some free downloadable MP3 music files of compositions I have created.

Photography

I started to get more serious about my photographs around 1985. My first SLR was a Nikon FG, which I later sold to a friend when I purchased the Nikon FA. Around the same time I took a class in photography. I remember going to the zoo once with my nephew Joe Wessels, and we took a lot of great pictures together. He now takes photographs for a living for a Cincinnati newspaper. Joe once told me that I made a big impression on him to get started in photorgaphy, although I have no memory of that. His work is very good and can be found on Flickr.

With the advent of digital cameras I take even more pictures, although I haven't bothered to invest in a high-end digital camera. We did purchase, as a family, a very nice Panasonic FZ20 with Leica lenses. And I use that camera for photographs that I need to ensure come out great. It handles the black-on-black situations like my cat sleeping.

Truth is, in sheer volume, the most photographs I've taken are now coming from the digital camera built-into the iPhone.

Squeak

I'm a grey-bearded long-time Smalltalk developer. There's an open sourced free version of Smalltalk available called Squeak. It was started by the same group of people that actually invented and created Smalltalk back in the early 80's while at Xerox PARC.

I believe that, just as a musician improves his skills by practicing and playing his instrument often, writing code benefits from living the same pattern. Even though I am paid to create Smalltalk code "during the workday", I still write code in Squeak in my spare time.

I have made many contributions to the Squeak open source community including writing enhancements and features that are now included in the base product as well as applications that are used by "Squeakers" every day. My goodies and tools are published on this Squeak Enhancements page.

At the beginning of the Summer of 2007 I wrote a new Squeak Development Example/Tutorial. It's fairly extensive and is targeted not so much at complete newbies, but at someone who has learned the basics and now wants to write a real application using Squeak. The tutorial has been very well received and I intend to publish it's content in a book. Have a look at the tutorial here.