New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for April 2015

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

Is this dress black and white or white and black?

Page 1 clip art credits: … … …

We hope you have enjoyed our usual April jocularity. And now, back to the usual serious-minded tome that is our newsletter.


By Bart Geraci


At the end of February, our group had a total of 199 members. In the list, 89 of you will have to renew this month, so 110 will not. Out of the 110 other members, 31 (including myself) have life memberships. So if you’re tired of remembering to renew each year, look into the life membership plan. It’s based on actuarial statistics so the older you are, the less you have to pay.

Spring is here in New Orleans because the snowball stands are open. One small chocolate with pet milk, please.

The New Orleans Zephyrs starts their season on April 9th. The Pelicans’ season ends mid-month, but they’re competing for a spot in the playoffs. The Voodoo season actually started at the end of March.

Locally, the Crescent City Classic 10k race is on the 4th, the French Quarter Festival is 9-12th, and Jazzfest is April 24th - May 3rd. So the hotels are being filled all month.

Let’s Go Pelicans & Zephyrs & Voodoo!

Gifted Youth News

Gerry Ward

I'd like to do a "Meet "n" Greet" for parents and kids. We need to get to know each other in order to plan activities for the kids. Also because we are on both sides of the lake, we need a place or places to meet. Email me at with your ideas.

Local activities are open to all gifted children in the area and the children of our members. If you like, join us, and get the benefits of membership such as the following contest from National.


Imagine you are stranded on a desert island and can save only ten books to take with you. Share with us what they would be and why, and you could win our latest contest!

To enter, list the books, and then in no more than 50 words each, explain why you chose to include that one. The judges will choose winners based on the quality of the rationale and the level of emotional connection.

Things you need to know:


Did you know that you can sign up for text messages (there's an email option, too) about what's going on in Mensa for youth? It’s a good way to stay up-to-date and not worry that you're going to miss an email. They’re not sent too often, so don’t worry about being flooded with texts. You can sign up by following the directions here:

Volunteer Record:

If your child volunteers, it can be hard to track that in one place. We created this form specifically for those in our Mensa Honor Society, but anyone can use it! If you have feedback on it, please email

Gerry Ward

Gifted Youth Coordinator, NOM

From the RVC

By Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chair

Great news for all you Gathering junkies out there: Mensa 76 (Fort Worth) and North Texas Mensa (Dallas) have agreed to co-sponsor this year’s North Texas Regional Gathering, the 35th consecutive version of the Feast of Pleasures and Delights, to be held again this year at the Sheraton DFW in Irving, TX. With two groups behind it this year, it’s bound to be bigger and better than ever.

And speaking of Gatherings, it’s time to make plans to attend both the Houston Regional Gathering next month, and the 2015 Annual Gathering, July 1-5 in Louisville, KY. Information on both can be found in your Mensa Bulletin.

Now I beg your indulgence while I pass along a brief message from Elissa Rudolph, International Chair of Mensa:

“Running parallel with American Mensa’s national election this year is the Mensa International (MIL) election during April and May. American Mensan voters have the option to vote electronically, which makes the process so much simpler than using paper ballots. However, due to the variety of databases in countries around the world, MIL is not quite there yet to do e-voting. The U.S. postal system will handle your international ballot. Bound into your combined issue of the April/May Bulletin you will find the MIL election materials—details about the candidates, their bios and campaign statements, the country nominations, the MIL ballot itself, and an envelope in which to mail your ballot to a U.S. address.

Please vote in the international election this year! You may not know the candidates personally, but you do know me, and I am one of the candidates for Mensa International Chair. There are four elected, executive committee positions, three of which are contested in 2015. I would be happy to discuss the MIL election and candidates with you so that you can be better informed.

Contact me by email

And yes it does matter that you vote in the international election! The International Board of Directors including the executive committee sets policies for Mensa throughout the world, develops new Mensa groups, trains global leaders, and for nearly 70 years has sustained Mensa as the foremost IQ society in the world.”

We now return to our scheduled programming: As always, please remember that if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you can reach me at

BrainFork: A Mensan Talks About Food

By Bart Geraci

Food Pathogens

“Heat prickled my cheeks. My palms went clammy. Love is a lot like food poisoning.”
- Suzanne Supplee, “Artichoke's Heart” -

(So are you eating now?

I would suggest waiting an hour after eating before continuing below.

You’re back? Ok.)

The April column is always a little bit strange, so this year, I’ll be talking about different pathogens found in our food.

I’ll try not to be too gross.

As I’m writing this, I’m looking at recent articles about listeria, salmonella, hepatitis A, campylobacter, and other things. So what are all these things in our food?

FAT TOM, it’s an acronym, not an insult

“I got food poisoning today. But I don't know when I'm going to use it.”
- Steven Wright -

FAT TOM is an acronym describing the six favorable conditions required for the growth of foodborne pathogens.


“What is true for E. coli is also true for the elephant.”
- Jacques Monod -

We’re going to cover 4 different bacteria in this article. There are many more pathogens than that, but this is a simple article, not a textbook.

All of these Bacteria start at the top with the Kingdom called … Bacteria


Phylum Firmicutes
Class Clostridia
Order Clostridiales
Family Clostridiaceae
Genus Clostridium
Species C. botulinum

Clostridium botulinum is a bacterium that can produce the neurotoxin botulinum. It spends most of its time as inactive spores surrounded by a hard shell to resist heat, drying, and radiation. Once in the body it activates and produces the toxin. The toxin paralyzes the nerve so muscles can’t contract. Naturally this becomes a problem when lungs can’t contract to be able to breathe, among other things.

The bacteria was discovered in 1895 and has been heavily researched. In the 1950s, researchers were injecting it in patients who had hyperactive muscle twitching, with a fair bit of success.

In the 1990s, the idea was developed to use it to remove wrinkles, thus starting the Botox ® craze (Botox is owned by Allergan, Inc.). What is injected is Botulinum toxin A, composed of

(C 6670 / H 10290 / N 1716 / O 1983 / S 32 / Zn).

Since botulism spores are well protected, it actually does not need oxygen to survive; it can be found in thick viscous material such as honey. This is one reason why raw honey is not recommended to children under 12 months.


Phylum Firmicutes
Class Bacilli
Order Bacillales
Famiy Listeriaceae
Genus Listeria
Species monocytogenes, ivanovii, grayi (and others)

Listeriosis is an infection caused by any of the three species listed above. These bacteria have the unfortunate ability to survive in cold temperatures such as the fridge and freezer. It is not impervious to heat however.

The bacteria grows in the digestive tract. If the person’s immune system is compromised, an infection can grow, pass through the intestinal wall and get into the bloodstream. It affects both the Central Nervous System and Cerebrospinal Fluid.

E. Coli

Phylum Proteobacteria
Class Gammaproteobacteria
Order Enterobacteriales
Family Enterobacteriaceae
Genus Escherichia
Species E. coli
Serotype E. coli O157:H7

Actually, our intestines have some E. coli in them and they’re beneficial. It is only a few varieties that are causing problems. So when the news are talking about E. coli in food, they generally mean the one specific serotype O157:H7 (although other serotypes have been found to cause problems). The name?

Well, antigens are proteins that trigger the immune response.

This particular serotype infects the intestinal tract and produces toxins that can affect other parts of the body.


Phylum Proteobacteria
Class Gammaproteobacteria
Order Enterobacteriales
Family Enterobacteriaceae
Genus Salmonella
Species S. bongori, enterica

First off, this has nothing to do with the yummy pink fish. Salmonella is named after Daniel Salmon, the first person to earn a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree in the US.

When an intestinal wall is attacked by bacteria, the tissue becomes damaged, starts swelling, and the body immediately sends out white blood cells to attack the bacteria. Salmonella has a protein called AvrA, which keeps the cell wall together. When salmonella attacks, it can penetrate the intestinal wall, but the AvrA protein keeps the rest of the wall taut, so the body is unaware of a wall breach.

So what can we eat?

“Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don't eat has been proved to be indispensable to life.....But I go marching on.”
- George Bernard Shaw -

So you might say, ok, I’ll go vegetarian. But these bacteria have been found in fruits and produce as well. And some of these food pathogens are found in water as well.

The upshot is that for the most part, people with a healthy immune system will be able to fight these invasive bacteria. And by paying attention to FAT TOM issues earlier in the article, our chances for contracting any one of these pathogens is greatly decreased.

So everything is poisoned?

“Everything is poison, there is poison in everything. Only the dose makes a thing not a poison”
- Paracelsus -


“Belladonna: In Italian, a beautiful lady; in English, a deadly poison.”
- Ambrose Bierce ‘The Devil's Dictionary’ -

No, the recipe is not how to make these pathogens. That’d be too gross. Let’s make this article more palatable with two “deadly” cocktails from Ernest Hemingway.

Death in the Afternoon

The 1935 cocktail book “So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon” sought contributions from famous authors. This was Ernest Hemingway’s entry:

“Pour one jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly.”

But that’s not the only recipe from Papa …

Death in the Gulf Stream

Charles Baker’s “Jigger, Beaker, and Glass: Drinking around the World” talks about this recipe that he got from Hemingway:

“Take a tall thin water tumbler and fill it with finely cracked ice. Lace this broken debris with 4 good purple splashes of Angostura, add the juice and crushed peel of 1 green lime, and fill the glass almost full with Holland gin ... No sugar, no fancying. It's strong, it's bitter — but so is English ale strong and bitter, in many cases. We don't add sugar to ale, and we don't need sugar in a Death In The Gulf Stream — or at least not more than 1 tsp. Its tartness and its bitterness are its chief charm. It is reviving and refreshing; cools the blood and inspires renewed interest in food, companions and life.”

American Mensa Elections

The voting period for American Mensa elections will be April 15 through May 31. All members in good standing as of 4/1/2015 (dues paid by 3/31/2015 at 11:59 p.m. Central time) may vote. The default voting format will be electronic; members may vote via paper ballot instead by updating their profiles at We have received the following messages from candidates for various offices for which we in New Orleans Mensa are eligible to vote, i.e., all of the national posts (shown below), and Vice Chair for Region 6 (which will appear in the May issue, along with any others that we receive before then).

Candidates for Chair

Dan Burg for Chairman of American Mensa

I’ve been Chairman of American Mensa for almost two years, and seek your vote for a final term.

This term has been “interesting.” Several employees left the national office. An outside review found our use of technology to be lacking in a number of ways. At times it’s felt like being Chairman of a strong windstorm.

But we’ve dealt with everything head-on and have emerged stronger. At this writing, American Mensa’s membership numbers are ahead of a year ago -- and have been for months. If that trend holds up until the end of the membership year, it will be the first time that’s happened in five years.

Now the office staff is smaller, working together better, and getting more done. A new technology plan is being implemented. And the dues that members pay have not been raised this entire term, despite our dues to Mensa International having been raised substantially.

What has my role been in this? Juggling a lot of balls at once. Leading stronger and more effective oversight of the office. Being a member of all national committees (except Nominating and Elections) and active in most of them. Using my broad-based experience to help me understand issues and contribute to solutions across the spectrum of American Mensa.

I hope you will let me juggle the balls next term as well. I would be honored to receive your vote to continue as Chairman.

Deb Stone – Candidate for AML Chairman

It’s almost election time as I write this; don’t forget to vote! Electronic voting is the default this year for the first time. If you would prefer a paper ballot for AML voting, you can request one through the American Mensa website or by calling the National Office. Make your voice heard!

I hope you will consider giving me your support. I’m a 31 year Mensan, and an active volunteer for 28 of those years. I have held almost every local position, I have been RVC1, and I have helped run 3 AGs (in 1994, 2004 and 2014.) I have seen the ways Mensa has changed over the years, and also they ways it has not changed. I think we need a new direction – and I would love the opportunity to work toward that.

I think our current national focus is on Mensa the organization, not Mensa the members. But members are the heart of Mensa. I think our current actions are based too much on how things have always been done. But how we have done things is not necessarily how we should do things. I believe that, with the right information we can determine what resources and programs can help Mensa grow and thrive. But we either don’t have that information, or we don’t have access to it. I believe that Mensa needs strong leadership on the AMC. But I don’t believe we have enough of it right now.

If elected, I will engage in what I am calling an ‘agonizing reappraisal’ of the way we run Mensa. That means working to change the organizational focus back to having members be front and center, and finding ways to use their volunteer spirit and expertise at the national level. That means looking for new ways to do things, to reflect the changing world around us. That means transparency much beyond what exists now. And that means metrics that help us understand whether the thing we are doing are actually a benefit to Mensa.

For more about my views on AML or the bylaws amendments, please visit my website (, Facebook group (Deb Stone for Chairman) or email me at

I would appreciate your vote!

Candidates for 2nd ViceChair

LaRae Bakerink, Candidate for 2nd Vice Chair -

Mensa became a part of my life in 2001 and I have enjoyed every moment. My Mensa experience includes serving on every level, local, national, and international.

Leadership Development is an important member experience that can and should be provided to members so they can grow and flourish, in and out of Mensa. I believe that we should provide better tools to the local groups, especially electronic tools. Mensa should also turn to being more Community Minded and help involve the members more in their local groups and communities. These are some of the things that will attract and keep new and younger members.

With my background and experience in the business world, I believe I have the necessary skills that will enable me to provide strong and smart leadership on the AMC. We need experienced leadership with new ideas to keep up with the changes in our world. Let me bring my new ideas to Mensa to help enhance our member experience.

Please vote for me for 2nd Vice Chair.

For more information about my background please go to: or you may contact me directly at .

Candidates for Secretary

Lori Norris – Candidate for AML Secretary

As Secretary of the American Mensa Committee (AMC), I would like to see increased transparency with detailed minutes and fewer (and shorter) closed sessions. I am hopeful that a new AMC can find a way to utilize more of our members’ expertise before seeking outside contractors.

I have been a Mensan volunteer for over 20 years and feel that our members are our energy. Over the past few years, I have felt less appreciated as a volunteer and I believe that the concerns and ideas of fellow volunteers are not being heard on the national level. Local groups run on volunteer effort and I believe that Mensa should provide better support to the local groups, both financial and through better communications such as handbooks. We need to work on a way to share local groups’ best practices and even those practices which were not successful, because they just might work for another group. I would love to work on a program to share event ideas, recruitment programs and community involvement projects between groups.

We need to revitalize Mensa and improve our recruitment of new members and retention of existing members. I believe that we need to take a thorough look at all of Mensa’s programs, set realistic goals for these programs and determine which ones are successful and forward looking.

From 2007 to 2011, I was the Regional Vice Chairman (RVC) for Region 1 – the great North East Region. As such, I assisted in the re-creation of Maine Mensa as a separate local group. I worked with other groups to find their way out of temporary difficulties. To this day, I continue to remain involved in several of our region’s local groups and pitch in with their Regional Gatherings.

For information on my opinions on the proposed Bylaws Amendments and other issues facing Mensa, please read my website (, see the Lori Norris for Secretary Facebook page, or send me an e-mail at

I would appreciate your vote!

Candidates for Treasurer

Rob Salkin

Please visit for this candidate’s information.

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These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2015 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: 18-Apr-2015. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at