New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for April, 2011

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

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Nome Plum Deal

Poisson d'Avril 2011 issue

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From the SocLec

by Tab Ricerag

As your Socialist Lecturer for the group, I was giving a talk locally on the philosophy on Karl Marx. The issue hinged on what was said in his own writings and what has been co-opted by others. He applied the dialectic to the corporeal, sentient world (as opposed to Hegel's spiritual world), and argued that capitalism is prone to cyclical depressions. But some of his ideas have been validated, and some of the issues facing the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat during his time has mutated to a completely different dynamic to the point where it becomes a thought exercise on how he would judge today's relationships between the classes. But still the question remains: what would his name (and shtick) be if he was a member of the Hollywood Marx Brothers?

Events in the Space-Time Continuum


Stardate 2999.999
Milliways, At the End of the Universe.
We'll dine on impossible food while watching the end of the Universe. Be sure to deposit a penny in any bank account to prepay for the meal (Bring Your Own Tea, though).


Stardate -1
Over There, next to the particle accelerator
We'll be reviewing next year's past and planning last year's future. If we can leave at Stardate -1, we hope to finish up by -3


Cerveth 17, Urui 10
So Cerveth moves into the Semifinals against the Grune on Ember 21


9 GUE, tea time.
We will start at West of House. Don't forget to bring a flashlight as you may otherwise be eaten by a grue.


Tuesday 6:15 AM
We'll either figure out where we're meeting or how fast we're running.


Chaos 22
State of Confusion Park
Hail Eris! We'll have a picnic with hotdogs (no buns) and bobbing for apples. Please do not bring ex-parrots, as they are pining for the fnords.

24th of the Month, 2 P M
At our leader's house.
We are working on rewriting the local bylaws into something we can understand.


Y dd chkn crss rd? 2 gt 2 othr sde. LOL!

(resume regular issue)

From the Editor

Peter Salomon

Welcome to the first April Fools edition of La Plume de NOM. My favorite April Fools story: In 1996, Taco Bell took out a full-page ad in The New York Times announcing that they had purchased the Liberty Bell to "reduce the country’s debt" and renamed it the "Taco Liberty Bell." When asked about the sale, White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry replied that the Lincoln Memorial had also been sold and would henceforth be known as the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.


Bart Geraci

On February 23rd, members of our group went over to UNO to judge in the 55th Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair (GNOSEF). Our local chapter has done this for many years. We give out 1st and 2nd place awards in Junior and Senior divisions for:
Projects showing creativity backed by rigorous scientific reasoning
We had Phil Therrein, Johnathan Harbison, Ben Rausch, Patti Armatis, and myself judging for our local group. The next evening, I joined many other judges from other organizations in presenting our own awards to the winning students. Our winners are:

Junior Division:

1st place: Zachary Leblanc, “Predicted Green House Conditions Reduce Plant Growht and Nutrient Density Despite Elevated Carbon Dioxide Levels?”

2nd place: Alexis Chapital, “Peripheral Vision”

Senior Division:

1st place: Yi Shao, “The Effects of Dietary and Lifestyle Habits on the Growth of Streptococcus salivarius”

2nd place: Kinga Malkinska, “The Effect of Strains on Light Absorption Spectrum of Si for Solar Cell Applications”


Roger Durham

As I mentioned last month, the national Mensa elections are just around the corner, and in the next few weeks you may encounter all kinds of solicitations urging you to vote for one candidate or another. Now, obviously I hope you’ll choose to re-elect me as your Regional Vice Chairman, but that’s not really what I want to talk about this month. No, what concerns me is that in Mensa, unlike many other organizations, anyone can put themselves forward as a candidate for any office, whether they have the slightest hint of qualification for that office or not. Mensa, after all, is a three-million-dollar-a-year business, and it just might be important that the running of that business be in the hands of people who know what they are doing.

Too often, though, Mensa political campaigns are just about politics. Candidates tell you what offices they have held in Mensa, and what details of Mensa activities they feel are important, and what they feel their opponents have done wrong in regard to those details, all of which are fine (and probably sufficient in a campaign for local group office), but rarely do we see any discussion in national campaigns of what experience the candidate has in running a multi-million dollar corporation. Make no mistake: American Mensa is a business, not a social club. We have employees, whose financial security depends on the decisions made by the national officers; we have millions of dollars in investments, which must be carefully safeguarded for the benefit of future members, and we make decisions about significant events and purchases that can be highly important to vendors and contractors. Yet the comments made by some of the candidates for national office make it obvious that they can’t even read a financial statement.

I’m certainly not saying that it takes a CPA or an MBA to serve on the American Mensa Committee. Many good people have held national office and done outstandingly well without even a college degree. But all other things being equal, some kind of business background will give a national officer a significant advantage over someone who has spent their career as, say, a poet, no matter how sincere and well-intentioned the poet might be. So if you see a letter or email from someone you’ve never heard of, wanting your vote for a national Mensa office, I hope you’ll give some thought to what kind of corporate director that candidate would make, not just to what ax he or she has to grind.

By the way, for the benefit of all those who aren’t multi-year or life members, this might be a good time to mention that if you haven’t paid your Mensa dues for 2011 yet, your membership expires on March 31. If you want to vote, and I hope that you do, please renew right away!

Now, let’s forget about politics and get back to the fun stuff. Don’t forget Memorial Day weekend in Houston, where Gulf Coast Mensa will be pulling out all the stops to provide us with another terrific Regional Gathering. Hope to see you there!

From the LocSec

Bart Geraci

As you can tell by the foolishness on the first page, this issue is in honor of other magazines who put out an April Fool's issue. I'd like to thank Peter for being receptive to the idea.

First of all, I'd like to remind you to renew your membership this month. I've heard of people who have forgotten to renew in the past.

In our chapter, we'll be doing CultureQuest on April 10th. Regionally, Gulf Coast Mensa will have its RG over Memorial Day weekend in May. Nationally, the AG in Portland, Oregon starts at the end of June.

In the Non-Mensa arena, I am looking forward to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival ( later this month.

I hope everyone had a good Carnival season. We had rather good weather with the exception of the 2nd Saturday, causing Endymion to move off its Mid-City route onto Sunday night Uptown.

The sign that Winter is over for the year in New Orleans arrived earlier this month: my favorite Sno-ball stand opened up for business again.

$2.00 Chocolate with Pet milk for the win.

Political Corner: Letters From Candidates

Jared Levine, LocSec MWM, for AMC Secretary (

As American Mensa Committee (AMC) Secretary, I'll provide swift mini-minutes after AMC meetings so the membership, in a timely manner, can keep abreast of results of issues before the AMC. I'll draft Annual Business Meeting (ABM) minutes less than a month after the ABM concludes, so attendees have the information fresh in their minds for them to provide relevant suggestions for changes well in advance of the subsequent year's ABM.

Not only do I differ from the incumbent in these functional ways, but we're also quite different in our views on major policy-oriented items. I've advocated RVC replacement methods that would provide the full Regional membership a say, whereas the incumbent favors allowing only LocSecs that vote. I've supported bylaws amendments which would have explicitly provided for the AMC's ability, and even requirement, to review the decisions of the National Hearings Committee when there is any sanction recommended, rather than just the mandatory review when expulsion or suspension is recommended; the incumbent has voted against such measures. I authored and championed the bylaws amendment which set the National Ombudsman's term of office to six years and revamped the procedure by which he is chosen. The incumbent favored changing that procedure before the inaugural election of the National Ombudsman was even finished.

Look to my blog – – to see my views on other matters that have come before the AMC and even on local Metropolitan Washington Mensa matters.

Dan Burg for First Vice-Chair:

The job of First Vice-Chair is free-form. It is what the occupant makes of it. Various First Vice-Chairs have interpreted the same words differently over the years. “[A]ct as substitute during the Chairman's absence or inability to serve” – that’s easy to discern. “In the case of vacancy in the office of Chairman . . . the [First Vice-Chair] shall move up” – that’s easy to discern too. But what does “assist in the discharge of the Chairman’s duties” mean? To me, it means that the Chairman and the First Vice-Chair should act as a team. I provide informal advice and historical perspective and act as a resource to the Chairman and to other individuals and to the AMC as a whole. I’m also currently on eight national committees, including two as chair, and gather member input on issues important to them.

Representing American Mensa internationally is another important part of the First Vice-Chair’s job. The First Vice-Chair traditionally serves as one of American Mensa’s national representatives to Mensa International. The international board meeting last fall was my ninth, the most of anyone currently in the American delegation. This experience has let me weather the various challenges that have come up in ways that are beneficial to both American Mensa and international Mensa.

I would be honored to receive your vote to continue as First Vice-Chair. Thank you for your support.

Minutes of the March EXCOM Meeting

Claudia D'Aquin

New Orleans Mensa Executive Committee Meeting
March 12, 2011 5:30 PM
Home of Bart Geraci
Members present:
Officers: Bart Geraci, Phil Therrien, Claudia D'Aquin
Other members: Loretta Levene, Rebecca Pharr

Meeting was called to order at 5:35 PM

Approved minutes of previous meeting

Treasurer's report: Phil Therrien submitted a written report. Cash in the treasury is $8986.80.

1. Bart anounced the next Excomm meeting will be in May. He will email members to determine the date.

2. Mensa annual cruise is leaving from New Orleans on March 20. Meet and greet for NOM members and cruise goers is Friday March 18, Mulate's.

3. Bart announced new guidelines received from Mensa National regarding minimum standards for bylaws for local groups. He distributed copies of the model bylaws received from national. Claudia suggested that we refer this matter to our parliamentarian, Phil Wilkings, for review. Bart will email Phil about this; the parliamentarian will then advise us regarding any changes that should be made to our bylaws.

4. Bart opened discussion on the possibility of our hosting a Mensa RG (regional gathering). As there has not been enough response to requests to form an organizing committee, it was decided that we will consider this idea again, possibly in the next 2-3 years.

5. Claudia gave an update on the status of our search for additional prospects for proctors to administer the Mensa admissions test. We currently have several members training and hope to have one or two certified as proctors by the end of the year.

6. Rebecca Pharr gave an update on plans for events on the north shore. She is trying to plan a monthly event for the weekend following the regular NOM night each month.

All business being completed, Bart made a motion that the meeting be adjourned. Phil seconded, and the meeting was adjourned at 6:35 PM.

In Memory of Michael G. Puinno

Michael G. Puinno was the editor of La Plume de NOM back in the early to mid 90s.

Regretfully, Mike passed away in March at his home in Niagara Falls, Ontario after an 8 year battle with cancer of the pancreas.

Mike had a lot of friends in Mensa, but he jumped on an opportunity to move back home to Canada in 1996.

Mike left behind his wife Cheryl, five kids, and four grandchildren. He was 58.

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

By Bart Geraci

Fooling around with Food

This month's topic is all about playing tricks with food.

In Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Cookbook, he describes a course given to his diners: Beet and Orange Jellies. A diner is presented with a pair of diamond-shaped jellies on a plate. One is beet red, and the other one is bright orange. The waiter would instruct the diner to “eat the orange one first”.

The trick with this course is the beets used in making the jellies are not the dark red beets, but another variety, which is orange-colored. The citrus oranges used in making the beet-red jelly is from blood oranges, hence their juices are beet-red colored. So the eye is expecting one thing, but the taste perceives another.

One cookbook I picked up at the Salvador Dali museum many years ago had an interesting looking cover and title. It was called the Surreal Gourmet, and written by Bob Blumer. His followup books, The Surreal Gourmet Entertains and Surreal Gourmet Bites has some more examples of food trickery. I have included some simple recipes to fool the eyes.


“Fries and Catsup”

What looks like french fries and catsup is actually a desert. To enhance the illusion, you will need to ask your local fast food chain for some of the containers that the french fries come in. And you will also need a squeeze bottle, preferably a red one.


Ingredient: Pound cake
The “fries” are french-fry cuts of pound cake. Cut into long 1/4 x 1/4 inch strips. Then toast them long enough to brown on the sides. You may have to give the “fry” a 1/4 turn to promote even brownness on all sides.


12 oz bag frozen raspberries, thawed OR 2 cups fresh
About 2 Tbsp powdered sugar

Blend raspberries to a puree. Add 1-2 Tbsp water / lemon juice to keep the blender running smoothly. Add sugar 1 tsp at a time to the mixture until the tartness is gone. Place puree through a fine mesh strainer to strain out seeds and transfer to squeeze bottle.

“Freezing Hot Coffee”

Ingredient: Coffee-flavored ice cream
Take the ice cream out of the freezer to soften up. Get coffee cups and saucers ready. One the ice cream is soft enough, pack it into the coffee cup and smooth out the top. Ideally, it should look like a cup of coffee with a bit of cream floating on top. Place coffee cups in freezer. When ready to serve, put cup on saucer, with cookies (for hot coffee) and a spoon.

Miss Ellen Retires

By: Martha Sheldon

Miss Ellen Schwartz, just two days retired from teaching fifth grade at the Perrine, Florida public school, strolled homeward from the supermarket, propelling her loaded grocery carrier along the gravel path through the municipal park. She felt relaxed. Liberated at last, she said to herself, though she realized she would miss the children. She thought how much she was going to enjoy sleeping late when she wanted to, having lunch with friends during the week, not having to hurry all the time.

Since nothing in her grocery load needed quick refrigeration, she stopped at a bench to rest a bit in the green leafy shade of the live oaks and to enjoy the early summer breeze. At this distance from traffic only the twittering of a few sparrows disturbed the quiet. Miss Ellen sighed with contentment and closed her eyes.

“Friend, you idiot,” The harsh voice was close behind her right ear. Miss Ellen leaped to her feet and whirled to face the menace.

A big green parrot surveyed her from his perch on the back slat of her bench.

“Friend, you idiot,” he repeated. “Hiram at your service.” He hopped off the bench, fluttering, and sat on the rim of her grocery cart.

Miss Ellen waved him away peremptorily, but he did not budge. “Go home, you nuisance,” she said. “Home, do you hear?”

“Home, home, friend, you idiot. Hiram at your service.” He cocked his head, looking at her from first one eye then the other.

Exasperated, she said, “And just what am I supposed to do now? Where do you belong, you pestiferous avian? I suppose I ought to advertise for your owner and take care of you in the meantime.”

In her apartment she shut the parrot into the bathroom with a little bowl of water and a small plate of pecans, crackers, and pineapple slivers. Then she telephoned an ad to the local paper asking the owner to claim his parrot as soon as possible. Indignant squawks from the bathroom accompanied her call.

Two weeks later Miss Ellen still had no reply to her ad. She had found a fairly suitable cage at the Goodwill Store, and had bought a supply of parrot pellets to supplement the fruit and nuts she offered. Hiram, for that really seemed to be his name, was considerably calmer now, especially in the evenings when she played DVDs from her favorite operas. He was particularly attentive to “Celeste Aida”, “Che Gelida Manina” and “Vesti la guibba” but he sat still and obviously enjoyed all the tenor solos. To reward his good behavior, Miss Ellen usually gave him a maraschino cherry when she turned off the music.

By another week, she realized she was becoming resigned to Hiram. After all, she told herself, I can’t justify abandoning a helpless creature, nor can I give him to a pet store. They might sell him to someone neglectful or even abusive. And I have to admit, he is sort of company, at least a living presence around the apartment.

A few evenings later, when she went to turn on the recordings, Hiram rattled the bars of his cage and called, “Hiram at your service, you idiot.” So she took him out, careful to avoid a nip from his powerful beak. He perched on the back of a desk chair, tilting his head but making no sound while an orchestra played the opening phrases of each number.

Suddenly, as Pavarotti’s voice began “Celeste Aida”, Hiram lifted his voice and sang along. It was a creditable performance, given the source, and Miss Ellen laughed until she had to wipe her eyes.

At the end of the aria Hiram graciously accepted two maraschinos. His little black eyes twinkled as she told him, “Friend, you idiot. Miss Ellen at your service. I think you will earn your keep in fun, but we shall have to persuade you to use a more polite way of expressing yourself.”

To herself Miss Ellen added, so obviously I’m not yet entirely retired from teaching after all.

Bzzz of Glory

By Kevin Chesnut

“Emile Zola.”
“Yes – very good. Next one … who hit a three-­-run homer to help the Yankees reach this year’s World Series, then became the Series MVP?”
“Bucky Dent.”
“That’s right – good!”

The Ridgewood Prep School Varsity Quiz Bowl team was on a roll. After entering the locally televised 1978-­-79 tournament with sixty-­- three other southeastern Louisiana high schools, the Golden Eagles had scored two convincing victories over solid competition to reach the Sweet Sixteen. A typical practice session, conducted with the help of a homemade buzzboard in the homeroom of their faculty sponsor and coach, left behind page after page of correctly-­-answered sample questions.

The team captain’s encyclopedic and instantly accessible mental database was capably complemented by the varied expertise of a fellow senior and two juniors in a variety of disciplines – math, history, the sciences, religion, current events, languages (especially French), and sports (especially baseball). The squad even recovered from the loss of one member to a track-­-and-­-field wipeout that left him in a partial body cast through the end of the school year. A classmate stepped in and helped engineer a third victory, after which the coach made good on her promise of lunch at Bud’s Broiler on City Park Avenue. All was well as the team anticipated a fourth visit to the Channel 12 studios and another VQB taping with host, and local TV legend, Mel Leavitt.

And then, along came Newman.

The group from Isidore Newman School, Ridgewood’s next opponent, had stormed to the fourth round of the tournament with an onslaught of erudition. Each member of the team made the average five-­-day champion from Jeopardy look like the average consolation prize recipient from Tic Tac Dough. The Eagles recognized the challenge before them as they took their places on the set. The studio announcer introduced the members of both teams, and the match began.

“Here’s our first tossup,” said Mel Leavitt, “and it’s an audio. Name the culture associated with the following music – listen.” Someone from the show’s production staff cued a snippet of zydeco fiddle.


“The Cajuns,” said the player on the captain’s left, and Ridgewood took a 10-­-0 lead. Maybe this could be a close game after all! Or, maybe not. A very short time later, Newman’s scoreboard registered in the triple digits; Ridgewood’s, still ten.

“The substance …”, Mel Leavitt would say.
“DNA,” answered one of the Newman Greenies.
“That’s … correct … for ten points,” Mel replied, astonished.

And so it went for the rest of the match. The final score was somewhere in the 385 – 120 neighborhood. For years afterward, and long before Jerry Seinfeld became exasperated with his neighbor and expressed a similar sentiment, members of that Ridgewood team would recall their final appearance on Channel 12, and, almost involuntarily, exclaim “Newman!” through clenched teeth.

Nevertheless, the Eagles took some small comfort in having been beaten by the best, when Newman won the championship a few weeks later, doubling up on the score posted by the Jesuit Blue Jays. And each member of the group took home a trophy – the memory of those days of glory on the buzzboard.

By: Kevin Chesnut
The Player on the Captain’s Left
Ridgewood Varsity Quiz Bowl Team, 1978-­-79
Final Record: 3-­-1

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These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2011 by New Orleans Mensa, all rights reserved. Mensa ® and the Mensa logo (as depicted for example in U.S. TM Reg. No. 1,405,381) are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by American Mensa, Ltd., and are registered in other countries by Mensa International  Limited and/or affiliated national Mensa organizations. Mensa does not hold any opinion or have, or express, any political or religious views.
Last edited: 10-Apr-2011 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at