New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for April 2012

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


Poisson d'Avril, 2012


story by William Rovio Bernstein-Sondheim

The remains of a bird and a pig were found this morning in the woods, the results of them ramming themselves into a series of complicated fortresses. A note was left by the tree explaining the suicide pact.

Birdie came from the AgitatedAvian family and Piggie from the Selfish Swine family. These two families have been fighting each other since the Middle Ages in places like Verona, New York City, and most recently in Finland.

Birdie and Piggie first met at a Woodlands dance. According to Piggie's brother, “When Piggie saw Birdie for the first time, it was love at first sight.” Birdie's parents and her friends tried to dissuade them from seeing Piggie. They even choreographed a dance routine singing,

“When you're fowl,
You're chicken all the way....”

Piggie's parents also disapproved of this romance, but Piggie wasn't hearing any of it. He was by himself singing,

“I've never heard
a lovelier wordie
than the bird
with the name Birdie...”

Birdie and Piggie did manage to meet each other on the sly. Piggie went to to Birdie's coop and crooned “A Birdie by any other name is worth two in the bush”

They thought the feud was a waste of time and wanted their families to end it once and for all. They found a priest that was willing to marry them. They thought that if they were already married, their parents would have to accept that and there would be nothing they could do about it. After the ceremony, they walked hoof in wing down the forest glade.

Birdie and Piggie
(this picture of the pair was provided by the police sketch artist's son, who was on hand for “take-your-child-to-work-day”.)

But the parents were stubborn and in their moment of despair decided to die together by throwing themselves against a series of complicated structures. The story ends with

“Never has a sadder story been heard,
Than about the love of a pig and a bird”.

A wake will be held Thursday evening, where the local chef will be serving his famous chicken and andouille gumbo.


Tweet tweet. Oink oink. Crash!

From the Editor

Peter Salomon

Spring is here, bringing with it (of course), the second annual La Plume de NOM April Fool’s Issue! This year’s brilliant Romeo & Juliet parody was provided by LocSec Bart Geraci!!!
If you’d like to try your hand at writing for La Plume just email!

From The RVC

Roger Durham

A current topic of discussion among the members of the American Mensa Committee is the question of how to fill a vacancy in the office of Regional Vice Chairman. For all other AMC members, the process is simple: if an office becomes vacant the other AMC members simply elect a replacement to serve until the next election. For the first four decades or so of American Mensa’s existence, the same procedure was followed for RVCs, but a few years back our legal counsel advised us that this is not allowed by the corporate laws of New York, which govern our operations. In the following two national Mensa elections, proposals were put on the ballot to provide a new method of choosing a replacement RVC, either by holding a special election, or by allowing the Local Secretaries of the affected region to make the choice, but although both proposals received a majority of the votes cast, neither one was approved by the two-thirds vote necessary to pass an amendment to our by-laws. Other possibilities have been raised, but so far none appears likely to get the required two-thirds vote. The result is that if there should be a vacancy in the office of RVC, the remaining AMC members will elect a non-voting representative for that region, who will have all the privileges of an AMC member except the right to vote.

Now there are two ways of looking at this situation: some of my colleagues on the AMC argue that simply having a voice at AMC meetings satisfies the most important requirements of regional representation, and it is true that in my three years on the AMC I have never seen a motion which passed or failed by one vote, so in practice perhaps just having someone present to speak up for the region’s members is sufficient. On the other hand, there is a question of principle involved: if I pay the same dues in Oklahoma as a member across the state line in Kansas, but the Kansas member has a voting representative on the Board of Directors and I don’t, doesn’t that devalue my membership in some way?

For now, there seems to be a strong preference on the current AMC in favor of the status quo, and in a way I find that understandable. After all, we’ve tried twice to get you, the members, to approve a new way of solving this problem, and both of our proposals have been rejected. Perhaps that indicates that you’re all happy with the current system. Consequently, in the absence of a strong protest against the nonvoting representative arrangement, I don’t see any change happening. On the other hand, it may be that most of you aren’t aware that I would effectively disenfranchise you by resigning my office, or by moving out of the region, which would have the same effect. Do you care?

You have elected me to represent you, and it is my intent to do so to the best of my ability, but I have to know what’s important to you and what isn’t. If this is something you think we need to pursue further, please contact me at, or by mail at 9920 Ridgehaven Drive, Dallas, TX 75238.

From the LocSec

Bart J Geraci

Again, another April Fools issue cover: Angry Birds meets Romeo & Juliet and West Side Story.

This month, I will be leading our team, Brains on Bourbon, to tackle this year's CultureQuest on Sunday, April 29th. It's a 90 minute, 5-member team, closed book trivia test. Last year we came in 17th and won $75.

Also this month, Mind Games will be held in Washington, DC near Dulles airport. It's a rather intense weekend of critically judging 30+ board games. I've enjoyed attending this event for many years.

Locally, the festival season is starting: April 7th is the Crescent City Classic, and the following weekend is both the French Quarter Festival and Strawberry Festival. JazzFest will be April 27-29 and May 3-6.

Baseball is starting again in New Orleans; Let's go Zephyrs!

New LaPlume Editor Wanted

First off, I want to graciously thank Peter Salomon for all his hard work in making the LaPlume as beautiful as it is.

Peter's wife has accepted a new job in Chapel Hill, NC starting in June. Peter has said that he can continue until the September issue, so we have a little bit of time of transition for the new editor. Furthermore, I am willing to help the editor to take on the post-office duties of the assistant editor (which I am doing now) if he/she chooses to do so.

If you are interested, contact both Peter and myself and we'll work on the transition.

If no one steps up, then it falls back to me; and it won't be pretty (in multiple senses of the word).

Again, thank you, Peter. The LaPlume won't be the same without you.

New Other Positions Wanted

In addition to the Editor position, we have other positions available. Here's what *I* am currently doing (in addition to being the LocSec and writing the LocSec article for the newsletter):

Contact me at if you would like to do any of these

GNOSEF Winners

Our chapter presented awards at the 2012 Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair on March 1st. Our awards are given to projects showing creativity backed by rigorous scientific reasoning. In both junior and senior divisions, we award $100 for first place and $50 for second place. The winners this year are:

Mardi Gras Cups for NORGY Needed

If you have plastic cups from Mardi Gras, the RG is looking to collect them for goodie bags for the registrants. If you have (or can get) other items for goodie bags, contact me at and we'll see what we can do.

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

Bart J. Geraci


The mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that ‘W-A-T-E-R’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, joy, set it free.
-Helen Keller, The Story of My Life-

In honor of April Foolishness, this month I'm talking about (1) how to make water and (2) how to boil it.

Making Water

Water, water, everywhere, And all the boards did shrink. Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"-

Water is made of two hydrogen atoms attached to an oxygen atom. This seems like pretty basic chemistry, so why can't we just take some hydrogen gas and some oxygen gas and mix it together to form water. The problem is that the gases contain molecules that are either all hydrogen or all oxygen in one clump. The elements remain separated, just like oil and water. To form water, you have to break apart the bonds for each clump so you can attach them to the other elements. To do that, you need to apply energy to the mixture. A lot of energy, more than, say, vigorous stirring with a spoon.

The good news is that hydrogen is flammable (or inflammable, take your pick) and that oxygen will support combustion, so all you need is a little spark and that would create enough energy to break apart the bonds to make water. The bad news is that the little spark releases a tremendous amount of energy. More than you want in your kitchen or science fair project. For example, the Hindenburg was filled nicely with hydrogen, then a spark was created, and the result was hydrogen mixing with the air to create a massive fireball that completely destroyed the ship in less than a minute. Now, a lot of water was generated, but I think most people weren't thinking about the water aspect at the time.

So can we create water without explosions? Yes, by way of a chemical catalyst. A hydrogen fuel cell is an example where additional chemicals break down the bonds of the gases to allow them to be combined.

In a typical fuel cell, hydrogen enters one side of the cell, while oxygen enters the other side. The hydrogen molecules lose their electrons and become positively charged (this is “oxidation”), while the oxygen molecules gain electrons and become negatively charged (this is “reduction”). The negatively charged oxygen ions combine with positively charged hydrogen ions to form water and release electrical energy. It has been harder to find catalysts to do reductions than to do oxidation. One recent experiment involving the element iridium has been shown to actually handle both sides well.

Boiling Water

I bought some instant water one time but I didn't know what to add to it.
-Steven Wright-

Now that you have some water, let's boil it!

There's different degrees of temperatures that are called for. Poaching, used for eggs and fish, is generally around 160 to 180 degrees. Simmering, used for stocks, soups, and sauces is around 185 to 200. Boiling is when water reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit / 100 Celsius. If you cover the pot after reaching the temperature for poaching or simmering, the heat will stay in the pot and the temperature will rise, possibly higher than you want it to. Likewise, it is a good idea to cover the pot before reaching the desired temperature to heat the water up faster

But these degrees hold true at mean sea level. For about every 500 feet in altitude, water boils at 1 degree less than 212. In the state of Louisiana, Mt. Driskill is the highest point at 535 feet.

What happens at higher altitudes is that there is less pressure from the air. With less air pressure, water and other liquids evaporates faster and boil at lower temperatures. But because the water boils at lower temperatures, the cooking time increases in order to transfer the same amount of energy to the food.

Once the water is at the right temperature, you can turn down the heat a little bit. You no longer need to transfer a lot of heat to raise the temperature, you want to transfer enough heat to maintain the current temperature.

Microwaving Water

My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them.
-Mitch Hedberg-

Water can be boiled in the microwave, but there are caveats.

In a microwave, the water gets hot but the container usually does not. If a container is exceptionally smooth, like glass, then there are no nooks and crannies for bubbles to form. If bubbles don't form, then you could have water exceeding 212 degrees in a state called “superheated water”. In a normal pot, metal is fairly rough, so bubbles form easily in water, keeping it at 212 degrees.

Superheated water actually looks placid without signs of bubbling. But if you put in some type of powder, say cocoa mix, into the water, the powder disturbs the water enough to create steam bubbles. With many hundreds of individual powder pellets, the resulting steam can result in a violent explosion of hot water into the air.

One easy fix to this problem is to insert something non-metallic (and non-meltable) like a wooden chopstick or Popsicle stick into the container while microwaving the water. The wooden object should be rough enough to generate some bubbles to keep the water from getting superheated.

The cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.
-Isak Dinesen-

Letters to the Editor

Our RVC, Roger Durham, writes in his April column about filling vacancies when RVCs do not or cannot complete their term.

However, he misleads when he says “we’ve tried twice to get you, the members, to approve a new way of solving this problem and both of our proposals have been rejected.” We, in this case, would be the AMC, but half the truth has been left out. The facts are that the AMC first proposed the ‘LocSec Option’, whereby only the LocSecs in a region would appoint a successor to fill a vacancy. This, in a nationwide Mensa vote, received a small majority but not nearly the required two-thirds needed to pass. Then the AMC tried a second time, with a concerted effort crafted by Past Chairman Dave Remine and AMC Executive Member Dan Burg, in favor of the ‘LocSec Option’. This motion was opposed by a ‘Member Option’ -­ where all the members in the region vote for a successor -­ proposal written by Jared Levine, a non-AMC member. The two options were put before all U.S. Mensa members, and the Member Option got more votes, just 38 shy of the required two-thirds.

So, “rejected” is indeed what the AMC’s LocSec Option was, but the democratic preference was and still is being ignored. Roger also says that “there seems to be a strong preference on the current AMC in favor of the status quo”. (If an RVC doesn’t complete his/her term, the remaining AMC members will elect a non-voting representative for that region.” Roger’s perception is contrary to the facts.

Everybody who receives InterLink will have seen a piece written in January by Robin Crawford, another former AMC member, strongly touting the twice unsuccessful (rejected!) LocSec option. In support, she writes ”Formal regional elections could take up to five months and cost up to $11,000.” However, when the LocSec option was first proposed, the AMC argument was that member voting in a regional election (the Member Option) could cost $5,000, because of print and mail costs. That number is now supposed to have more than doubled, even though American Mensa has adopted Electronic Voting. Challenged to substantiate $11,000, Ms Crawford hasn’t responded. Draw your own conclusions. As for “up to five months,” that’s probably as accurate as the $11,000 figure.

It seems that that the AMC just won’t give up and won’t get behind the motion preferred by the members. Is this because the egos of AMC members are too large to permit a non-AMC motion to be preferred over an AMC-sponsored one? Will the thinking change when all the members of the AMC involved in the failed LocSec Option finally give up their positions of power? Who knows?

What is clear is that we in Region 6 must press our RVC to do the right thing, to promote the Member Option as the solution to RVC vacancies.

Brian Bloch
Lone Star Mensa

SynRG 2012: Visions

Houston, Texas is the place to be for Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-28! Come join the fun at SynRG 2012: Visions! Let’s look towards the future, since the world isn’t really going to end this year. Team RG's feverish preparations are nearly complete, with speakers and events being finalized. Anne So is back this year with her amazing hospitality suite, and the games room will be open all weekend.

Among our tantalizing event offerings:
Pre-RG Events on Thursday and Friday include: A Taste of Houston Blues at The Big Easy, The Future of Transportation Today - a free tour of the new, highly automated Hybrid Electric Vehicle Motor Plant at Toshiba International Corporation, and the Schilling Robotics Tour, where you can see (and drive!) their cuttingedge undersea robots. Space for the tours is limited, so please contact us at to reserve your spot!

We have already scheduled many speakers and events, with more to come! Here’s a small sample of the topics we have lined up:
Climate of the Future, Living With Your Emotions, Scientists and Engineers of the Future, The Future of Heart Surgery, The Houston Dining Scene, Robonaut 2 – the Future of Space Exploration, Future Astronomy, Gulf Coast Food Culture, a panel discussion of the future trends in transportation and city planning; and our Saturday evening Keynote Speaker Scott Grischow will describe his quest to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents.

Additional activities include our Saturday evening Jam Session and Karaoke, Name That Movie!, Carnelli, the Sunday evening Carnival, chess tournament, tastings, games, and special presentations by Jason and Brigette, celebrated Gamemeisters for the North Texas Mensa RG and 2013 Fort Worth Annual Gathering! They have created a Puzzle Quest for Saturday night, will bring their Spaghetti Construction event to the Sunday night Carnival, and are hosting a trivia event on Sunday afternoon.

Full weekend registration includes all of the speakers, games, activities, and our fully loaded Hospitality suite. Visit our website to register online!

Reserve your room at the Crowne Plaza Houston Northwest - Brookhollow, conveniently located on Highway 290 at Pinemont. Call 713-462-9977 and remember to ask for the fabulous Mensa rate of $75.50 s/d/t/q!

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These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2012 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: 03-Apr-2012 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at