New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for December, 2010

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

Winter in New Orleans

Peter Salomon, Editor

Yes, Virginia, it snows in New Orleans. Have a happy, merry and safe holiday season. As 2011 approaches, and with it the NFL playoffs, Mardi Gras, hurricane season and can it really be summer already? Time flies when you’re having fun...or when anyone in the general vicinity is having fun. So resolve in the new year to take the time to smell the fleur de lis...


A new 'tall tales' feature for La Plume de NOM by Bart Geraci.

One time I was attending a Star Trek convention in the Los Angeles area, and a bunch of us went out for Sunday Brunch. We found a restaurant with a car theme to it. We sat on actual car bench seats, our menu was in the shape of a car silhouette, and the waitress was in a carhop uniform on roller skates.

I ordered a variant of Eggs Benedict that had lots of fresh veggies in place of the Canadian Bacon you usually see with it. When we got our food it was served on a hubcap made of chrome. We asked the waitress and verified that it was an actual hubcap, but due to sanitation requirements, our food was on a regular plate in the center.

I looked at my friends and told them in my best Spock voice:

"I find this highly logical...

...since there is no plate like chrome for the hollandaise"

From the RVC

Roger Durham

At the meeting of the American Mensa Committee last spring in San Diego, we created a Governance Task Force to examine the way American Mensa is run and recommend any changes they thought would improve things. A couple of motions regarding our corporate governance that came up at the meeting were referred to this Task Force. At our fall meeting in Fort Worth, the Governance Task Force, composed of the Executive Director, four current members of the AMC, and five other members, and chaired by Eldon Romney, our former National Ombudsman, officially submitted its report.

When we created this Task Force, we had hoped they could examine the issues and make a number of concrete recommendations for specific changes, but as the Task Force members began work, it quickly became apparent that their charge was too all-encompassing to be reduced to a neat set of proposed by-laws amendments. An extensive email survey, as well as random interviews at the AG this summer, made it clear that our members’ preferences in almost all areas were so diverse as to defy any attempt to reach consensus. The report eventually turned out to be an examination of the issues, followed by some suggestions of possible options. Nonetheless, it was a huge job, and the final product will be of great help to the AMC in considering what directions we should take in confronting some of the global issues of governance that will be coming before us in the next year or two.

The report contains some recommendations for startling changes in our organization. The question for the immediate future is whether the AMC will embrace the possibility of radical restructuring, or whether everyone will dig in and start defending their own “turf”. The safe decision, when confronted by the possibility of radical change, is always going to be opting for the status quo. Those who push for change will inevitably be the scapegoats if the new way of doing things produces unfavorable results. Those of us not blessed with clairvoyance cannot promise that the new way is better than the old, only that it might be. Clearly, the obvious response to that premise is “yes, but it might not”. Over the next year or so, as this AMC and the next one struggle with the huge implications of the Governance Task Force report, be thinking about your own appetite for change. Do we need massive restructuring of American Mensa in an attempt to increase efficiency and effective delivery of services, or would you prefer incremental tweaking of our current organization, in order to capitalize on what we do well and slowly improve areas where we are lacking?

Over time, you’ll be hearing from me or my successor regarding specific reforms that are likely to come before the AMC. The particulars will differ from case to case, but be aware that the overriding issue is as described above. How do you feel about it? Give it some thought, and let me know whether you lean toward “hope and change” on the one hand, or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” on the other.

Roger Durham


I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.
-Anais Nin-

Well, it's the end of the year and time to review the past year and make plans for the new year. I think one of the best things to come out this year is the newsletter is now coming out on a regular basis and now we are publishing monthly. We are indeed fortunate to have Peter Salomon as our new editor this year, who has raised the quality of the newsletter.

We welcome anyone to submit articles to the newsletter as well.

For 2011, I would like to see someone else manage the New Orleans Mensa web site and give it a nice makeover. I would also like to see someone keep track of interesting things to do in the city for the weekly email reminders. But the biggest thing I hope to accomplish this year would be hosting an RG. These are just a few of the things I will talk about at the upcoming EXCOM meeting at my house, Saturday December 4th, 2pm. The EXCOM meeting is a business meeting, not a social gathering; nevertheless, any NOM member may attend.

I'll finish this column off with:

Let's go Saints!
Two Dat!

My Own History of Flying

Martha B. Sheldon

My introduction to flying happened in my own back yard. My playmate Taddy and I wondered what to do.

"We could climb the fig trees again like we did yesterday and you could kill the rest of those giants you saw coming out of the woods." I paused, noticing that he was weaponless.

"Naw, I got a better idea. Anyway, I broke my sword last night. But I borrowed this from Daddy. He won't notice until he goes fishing Saturday."

Taddy pulled a blue bandanna out of his pocket. "See? It'll make a nice parachute."

"What's a parachute?"

"Remember those pictures of planes we saw at your grandmama's? The funny ones from the war? [WWI] When people had to jump out of them they used parachutes. Kind of like an umbrella. Daddy explained to me last night. They keep you from landing too hard. See?" He held the four corners together to show me what he meant.

I eyed the ladder leaning against the tool shed back of the fig trees.

"Maybe if we climbed up there---"

"Yeah. Let's try it."

From the low edge of the roof we surveyed landing possibilities. The ditch at the back seemed suitable, with tall grass and soft mud for a cushion.

"You can go first because you're a girl." Taddy's manner was gracious.

I held the corners the way he showed me and stepped off the roof.

When I came to, in the ditch, he picked up the bandanna.

"You must've let go a corner," he said coldly and went home.

I stayed in the ditch quite a while, until I felt able to go in the house and wash, and my thoughts about men were bitter.

My next venture was alone. I had heard that planes needed distance and speed to get into the air. On my way to school I saw a clear block of sidewalk ahead. I put my books on the ground and ran. When I thought I had enough speed, I spread my arms and awaited takeoff. I went back and ran again. And again. Finally I picked up my books and went to school.

My junior year (1934) at Newcomb College, the new Wedell- Williams air service began between Patterson, La. and New Orleans. Both Wedell brothers were pilots. The older, Jimmie, held a world speed record and, I believe, designed racing planes.

When my friend Frances and I wanted to go to Franklin for some parties, we arrived at the New Orleans airport with numerous suitcases. Walter Wedell stowed them here and there in the cabin. We sat in wicker armchairs. Jimmie flew the plane, following the Southern Pacific track. People ran out of their houses to watch us pass; they waved and we waved back. Halfway there, Walter took the controls, while Jimmie came back to talk to us. My father met us in Patterson. Years later I was my older son's passenger when he got his first certificate. The vehicle was a two seater Luscomb 8a. Two years after that,I pinned on his wings when he graduated as a navy flyer.

Commercial flights have been varied. Once, on Trans Texas, the oxygen masks fell out. Instantly the captain put the plane into a steep dive, and we proceeded at almost treetop level to the nearest airport. A genuine emergency: in only a few seconds one would become unconscious at flight altitude without oxygen.

Another time, traveling by IcelandAir, I had to board my return trip in Luxembourg. A heavy fog engulfed the entire area for a week; even supply trucks could not travel. At the Holiday Inn, by late in the week we were eating cereal, canned soup and rather stale sandwiches. I was glad I had brought needlepoint and some reading material.

A few years later, traveling alone to join an American Express tour in India, I flew Pan Am. Suddenly we landed in Baghdad at night. No landing lights, darkness everywhere. An official came aboard and inspected our passports by flashlight. An hour later, still in darkness and complete ignorance, we took off, only to land in Tehran, another off-the-route city. Loaded into busses, we were taken to a second rate hotel. Pan Am would pay our bills for one night; after that, we would be on our own.

Next day we learned that the Pakistanis had shot up the New Delhi airport, where we should have landed. After much agitation from its evicted passengers, Pan Am agreed to send a plane when it could. Three days later, one did come and take us back to Paris. I have still not been to India.

Wonderful things have happened too. Once, flying from Boston to San Francisco, the captain had permission to fly low over Niagara Falls, then in full spate. That magnificent curving torrent, unbelievably powerful, seemed as alive as any sentient being. While we climbed back to cruising altitude, a rainbow appeared beneath the plane. So I have seen the "end" of a rainbow: a complete circle.

Business class to Australia on UAL meant fourteen hours in a huge plane. The difference between business and first class is a few thousand dollars. We had the same size seats. First had fresh mushroom omelets for breakfast. Business omelets held only canned mushrooms. First had French champagne; we were offered California's.

On the way, we flew at 37000ft, far above Earth's smoke and clouds, where stars seemed just beyond my hand's reach. They pierced the limitless blackness in pulsing, shimmering, sparkling, uncountable myriads. I longed to gather some and hold them forever, yet they left me breathless with wonder. The image has not faded; when I think of it I am again breathless. It was a glimpse of infinity.

Holiday Poetry

Martha B. Sheldon

Sing merry the season of fruitcake and holly,
Of turkey and tinsel and gift.
Let carols ring out, for it’s time to be jolly;
Away with the budget and thrift!
For Yuletide’s the season, the time to remember
The folks you’ve forgotten all year.
Drop coins in the cauldron, crank up for December.
Then prepare to pay bills with good cheer.
It’s Christmas Eve and Halls Are Decked
With Holly, pine, and mistletoe.
The kids at last are safe in bed
To dream of Santa Claus and snow.
Though Hark! no Herald Angels Sing
Yet carol groups come round,
Wishing Joy To The World, as soft and low,
They chant of the Tannenbaum.
Now parents whisk presents under the tree
–Santa Claus Comes To Town fast—
Then they hit the hay for a few hours’ rest,
And it’s Silent Night at last.

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

Bart Geraci

Food for the New Year



389 ingredients, 3.89 days.

Part 1...

...and no, I'm not going to do something like this.

With a newsletter, you have to be thinking ahead. So in November, I'm writing this for the December issue, so I have to talk about things in January. Here in New Orleans, which at times is part of the South, and at other times an island nation with allegiances to both Europe and the Caribbean, there's a fair amount of special food that comes with celebrating the new year.


The greens, such as collards, kale, chard, cabbage symbolizes the green color of money. There are some that say that the more different number of greens, the better the luck.

Lentils / Black-Eyed Peas

The beans, when cooked, puff up and grow and their size is symbolic of coins (again, with the money reference).


The gold color is a reference to the metal. Besides, what are you going to sop up the liquid from the greens with?


The pig represents wealth, prosperity, and progress. Really? The progress bit comes from the fact that the pig roots itself in the ground before pushing forward.


In Chinese, the word for “tangerine” sounds like the word for “luck” and the word for “orange” sounds like the word for “wealth.”

Ring-shaped Cakes and Pastries

Cakes, doughnuts, and other pastries in a ring or circular shape represents a complete cycle of 12 months for the new year.


Greens & Ham


Many different green things (collards, kale, parsley, cilantro, chard, cabbage, green onions, turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, etc.) The more the merrier!

Ham ( hock or jowl or salt pork or pig's feet). Used for flavoring.

Boil or simmer the greens with the ham. The greens themselves will shrink tremendously when cooked, so you may have to add them in batches. A longer time over heat will smooth out any bitterness from the greens.

Black-Eyed Peas


Black-Eyed Peas, dried, sorted, rinsed, and dried again. (If all you have are cans, then heat the contents with some ham and you're done. )

Salt Pork or Bacon or something else entirely

(A) If you have bacon: Dice bacon, put in pot, fry it up good, then add the peas to saute them for a few minutes, then add enough water to cover the peas in the pot. Bring to boil and then simmer until peas are tender.

(B) If you have salt pork or ham hocks Make cuts into pork, add with the peas and water into the pot. Bring it to a boil, then simmer until peas are tender.

Variations: Naturally, you can add onions, garlic, spices, seasonings to either version.

Everything Else

For Citrus, squeeze the orange and tangerine juices. Have it in the morning with some Round Things such as doughnuts (from a local store), or pancakes that you can make yourself. That leaves Cornbread, which I admit that I don't really cook that often. I do know that my relatives have used Jiffy brand Corn Muffin Mix. After the death of my grandfather, the maid would cook lunch for my grandmother and I would join her once a week. I know that she used the Jiffy mix. But sometimes, what's more important than the food you are eating is the people you are eating with. And on that note...

...I'd like to wish you all health, happiness, prosperity, and good eating for 2011!

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Last edited: 06-Dec-2010 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at