The week before the 2023 Annual Monolithic Dome Tour, I was able to spend a large part of my days at the house helping get the Callisto ready to show. Tessa and I wanted to do some “spring cleaning,” and I had a handful of things I needed to fix up.
Here in Italy (Texas), our homes are built on clay soil. The clay soaks up spring rain and expands, and then dries up and contracts under the hot summer sun. Last summer was a scorcher with very little rain, and many homes around here shifted. It’s common to have doors that were square in June suddenly not shut in August. We had a few areas inside the conventional connector between our two domes that had moved so much that it cracked the sheetrock. I was able to knock out those repairs in no time.
Whenever I tackle drywall work, I think of my dad and the things he did for me. In 2001, when he built the current office complex, he said, “Mike, you’re going to learn to hang drywall,” and he put me in charge of the whole project. Luckily, his accountant, Alden Porter, had formerly owned a drywall company—he and Dad were always around to show me what to do. I installed so much drywall that year I went from making messes to being at least somewhat competent.
Spending the week with Tessa working on our house was so much fun. We have learned to work well together over the last 24 years of marriage, and the house came together easily.
Tessa and I ate breakfast the morning of the tour and sent Frankie off to his band contest in Whitney. Evie was visiting from college, and she subbed in for us by following the band over to Whitney and supporting her little brother. We were very grateful Evie was here since it allowed Tessa and me to give tours of the house.
This year’s dome tour went more smoothly than ever before. In the months prior to the tour, we held a few multi-department meetings where we got everyone together to discuss our goals and then divided up the tasks as a group. In years past, we always put one person in charge–basically giving the rest of the staff permission not to worry about it!
We had 50 or so groups come through our house. There were not as many people as some of the tours before, but I think there may have been as many serious visitors as any previous years. One of the tour attendees brought her plans with her to our house, where we were able to sit and discuss her design in more detail. Tessa and I both agreed that more extended augments were needed and that she was building a huge house. Since then, I’ve heard they are discussing a smaller garage.
When the 2017 solar eclipse happened, we decided we wanted to be better prepared for the next one. We invested in a special lens that attaches to the end of our telescope, making it safe to view an eclipse without damaging anyone’s eyes. Our telescope is one that automatically tracks celestial objects, so you don’t have to continually adjust the position. The auto-tracking and the filter made setting it up for this year’s dome tour a no-brainer.
The 2023 Annular Eclipse hit its peak at about noon on the day of the tour. I was able to get a pretty great image of the eclipse just by putting my iPhone up to the eyepiece. Someone pointed out that the sunlight filtering through the leaves of all the trees had suddenly transformed into tiny Monolithic logos! The eclipse was a cool addition to the day.
Overall, it was a good tour. We had fun and met many very interested people who wanted to get a feel for Dome Living!