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Unplugged

Campus technologists share their interesting and unusual hobbies that help them unwind from their daily technology duties.

People  |  Jan 20, 2022  |  By Nicole Johnson
Computer screen and steering wheel for simulation racing

From woodworking to simulation racing, employees from the UNLV Office of Information Technology share what they enjoy doing in their spare time. (Rakitha Perera/UNLV OIT)

Techies spend a lot of time looking at screens for work and helping others with technology. With a job that requires them to always be connected, have you ever wondered how technologists unplug and unwind in their free time?

Employees from the UNLV Office of Information Technology (OIT) were recently asked to share their interesting or unusual hobbies. Here is what they said.

Leatherworking

Leather wallet When Ryan Pepito is not troubleshooting computer and other device issues on campus, he is making leather wallets and bag charms. The associate IT support analyst picked up the hobby after watching YouTube videos during the pandemic. Early on, he used cheap leather and templates to practice on. Now, Pepito is designing his own printed leather wallet.

Trap-Neuter-Return

Jennifer Tison, IT assessment specialist, has been involved in trap-neuter-return (TNR) for the past 15 years, humanely trapping community cats in the states she’s lived in, like South Carolina and Tennessee, taking them to be spayed or neutered and vaccinated, and releasing them back to their home outdoors.

In a recent call, Tison talked about why she got involved with TNR as Daisy and Gatsby, the latest additions to her feline family, played in the catio, an enclosed porch at her Las Vegas home. Black cat

“TNR is associated with reducing euthanasia rates at animal shelters, fewer births reduces animal intake,” said Tison. “It also vastly improves the lives of outdoor cats,  where chain pregnancies, fighting and injuries, homeless cats, and kitten deaths are reduced.”

She says that TNR newcomers should reach out to local organizations for help. Groups like the Animal Foundation, Alley Cat Allies, and Heaven Can Wait offer free or low-cost resources, including easy-to-use humane cat traps.

“We always need help because the problem is large in Las Vegas,” said Tison. “TNR is a good way to improve animals’ lives and also your community space.”

Simulation Racing

John Barlaan is on track to beat Lewis Hamilton’s lap time at Brands Hatch race track in England, clocking in at 1:24 minute, less than two seconds shy of the seven-time Formula One champion’s time. The motorsports fan uses a driving simulator he built in his home to compete in open-wheel racing online. 

“I love racing and have been watching different formulas of racing for some time,” said Barlaan, a public service intern for the inventory assets team. “Simulation racing gives me the opportunity to experience what drivers experience, albeit in a much safer environment.”

Woodworking

By day, Bob Fournier helps manage account privileges for more than 90,000 users, but in his downtime, you can find him in his woodworking shop planning his next project. The senior system administrator fell in love with the hobby when he was nine years old, and he has been doing it ever since.

Fournier finds woodworking relaxing and rewarding, appreciating the whole process, from bark to board and beyond.

“Woodworking is taking raw material and turning it into something useful,” he said.

Wooden chair One of his first major projects was creating wood targets for jets to practice on while serving in the Navy. The do-it-yourselfer has also built furniture, including animal rocking chairs for his grandchildren, and renovated his whole home.

Fournier has learned some valuable lessons over the years, sharing his wisdom to those taking the leap into woodworking.

“Take things slow,” he said. “Also, buy the best quality tools you can afford to avoid buying twice.”

Playing Music

Casey Overton performed at the Whisky a Go Go, one of the most famous rock and roll landmarks in the U.S., where bands like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Mötley Crüe, and Nirvana catapulted into superstardom.

Inspired by his father’s own musical career, Overton taught himself how to play guitar nearly 20 years ago.

“We had a detached garage that was converted into a music studio,” said the associate IT support specialist, who delivers new computer equipment to users on campus. “I would go in there as a kid and play around with different instruments.”

Person playing guitar Overton now has his own music room at home and mainly plays music for fun and recreation. But if you are lucky enough, you may have seen him play at the Whisky or heard his former metal band’s single, “Domination,” on a local radio station’s show that features the best homegrown, unsigned bands in Las Vegas.

As he continues to play and expand his passion for music, Overton offers unforgettable advice to those thinking about learning a new instrument or any hobby.

“Most importantly, be inspired and have fun with it,” he said. “You will make mistakes, you may even get overwhelmed at first, but keep at it and you will find your own talent to build onto.”