New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for December, 2013

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

New Orleans Winter Memories

Kevin Chestnut


This photo’s title, “Joy”, seems to capture the emotions of our Shetland Sheepdog, Cindy Lou Who (born on Christmas Eve 2007), as she enjoys a rare New Orleans snowfall on December 11, 2008.

It also reminds us of the joy she always brought to her family.

Thanks for the memories, Cindy Lou.

Photo taken by Sandra Bernard Chesnut, using a Christmas-gift camera, which she then re-wrapped.

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

So I was over in a specialty food store out in West Texas, browsing for items for an upcoming party. When I got to the beverage area, they were having demonstrations of different waters available for purchase. I thought, well, isn’t one water like another?

They were showing that many of the different brands of water had different pH levels, different mineral contents, carbonated or not, flavored or not, and other options.

The one they were promoting this week was herbal flavored water. This didn’t sound all that good to me, but when I tried basil water, I was surprised by the flavor. I also tried cilantro, parsley, and oregano, and I liked some of them, didn’t care for the other ones.

I had a sample of the dill water and it was stronger than I expected. The guy giving the demo said that they had to use ten times the amounts of dill (as opposed to other herbs) in order to get a good flavor profile. Hence, they had to charge a higher premium for it.

I said, “So you’re saying that…”

“...dill waters run steep.”


By Bart Geraci

Well, November has turned out to be a month of transition. I do not know from day to day whether or not I need a jacket or not as the temperatures are varying all over the place. So in general, I’ve kept a jacket in the car at all times.

The big event in our chapter is the return of the End-of-the-Year NOM Night party at our house on December 14th. Last year, instead of the party, we had the RG instead. As usual, we encourage everyone to dress nicely for the occasion.

Our member, Summer McKnight, is starting up 2 new local SIGs: one for board games and one for getting together to attend one of the many local festivals. For more information contact her at

On that note, I want to encourage anyone if they have a particular interest that would lead to some social interaction, I’ll be happy to promote it in the newsletter and on the websites and the emails.

December 1st marked the end of Hurricane season, and we are thankful that we did not have much in the way of storms heading our way this year.

May you all have a joyous season this month!

Let’s Go Saints!

From the Editor

By Kevin Chesnut

In November, I sent a letter to all of our members who receive La Plume via U.S. Mail, asking that they consider switching to electronic delivery. The letter listed various advantages to both the member and the group. Based on some feedback that I have received, I want to make sure everyone understands the following:

I hope this clears up any confusion that might have been caused by my letter. If anyone would like further information, please contact me via email at

Thank you for your support during the past year. As always, we welcome your submissions and suggestions to help improve your local newsletter, La Plume de NOM.

From the Gifted Youth Coordinator

by Gerry Ward

An interesting family activity:

Gingerbread House Building Workshop with Pastry Chef Brett Gauthier of Red Fish Grill

Kids of all ages are invited to partake in this festive and fun tradition at Red Fish Grill.

Workshop dates: December 7 and 14

Location: 115 Bourbon Street at the Red Fish Grill restaurant

Time: 9:30 a.m. - Check-in
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon - Workshop

$50 per gingerbread kit (tax & tip included)

Includes 3 seats, gingerbread house, decorations, chef’s hat, crayons, jingle bell, child size t-shirt & a photo with Santa

Reservations: 504-598-1200
Ask for Suzan or Ashley
(Advanced Payment Required)

Family Workshop: WWII Toys & Games

Saturday, December 14, 2013
10:00 am – 11:30 am
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion, National WWII Museum
Cost: $9 per child

Toy production almost completely ceased during the Second World War; this meant that kids had to be creative and use their imaginations to create fun out of things they found in their everyday lives.

Discover what a Christmas in World War II might look like for a child on the Home Front. Participants will recreate some of the toys and games popular during the war years. Workshops are designed for children ages 8 - 12.

Pre-registration is required for workshops. Please make your reservation online now to secure your spot.1 adult per 3 kids required.

From the RVC

Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chairman

If you think this column sounds suspiciously familiar, there’s a reason for that: this is a repeat of my December column from two years ago, but it is still timely and, in my opinion, bears repeating. The information about the Board meeting has been updated.

Well, here it is December again, and that means the annual Mensa scholarship competition is getting into full swing. If you (or someone close to you) should happen to be looking for tuition assistance at a college or university next fall, there’s still time to get your entry in. The Mensa Foundation awards a number of scholarships in amounts up to $1,000 for applicants who can write a persuasive short essay on the subject of why they deserve financial support in achieving their educational goals. All entries are sent to a central location, and then distributed to local groups for the initial round of judging. Most local groups have a scholarship chair who arranges a judging session for whatever essays are assigned to them, which may be entries from their own local area, or sometimes from a neighboring local group which doesn’t participate in the program. The local scholarship chair begins by numbering each essay and then separating it from its cover sheet so they will all be anonymous (contest rules prohibit any identifying information on the essay itself). The local judges rank each essay according to a carefully-designed point system, and the winning entries are forwarded to a regional judging session. Many groups have a local scholarship fund from which they award additional scholarships. Here in North Texas, we have a separately-incorporated scholarship foundation which funds two $1,000 scholarships each year.

While you’re out buying stuff for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate this time of year, I hope you’ll set aside a little extra for the Mensa Foundation and/or your group’s local scholarship program. Gifts to the Foundation are generally tax-deductible; gifts to your local program may or may not be, depending on the group. If you’re feeling really generous, your accountant or tax attorney can tell you whether or not you can benefit from a major tax-deductible gift.

However, even if, like many of us, you are suffering from the ravages of the current economic downturn, and don’t feel you can afford to contribute financially, you can still be of assistance to this worthwhile program. Call your local group’s Scholarship Chair and volunteer to be a judge. The essays are occasionally moving, always interesting, and frequently hilarious. The judging is usually done in one afternoon, in the company of a dozen or more of your fellow Ms, and many people enjoy it so much that they come back year after year. If your group doesn’t have a Scholarship Chair, you could volunteer to do the job yourself next year; complete instructions will be provided.

Whatever you decide, please accept my best wishes for a joyful holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. The Board of Directors will be meeting in West Palm Beach on December 7, and I hope to have some thought-provoking news for you next month.

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food

By Bart Geraci


“Groucho: (pause) I'm not playing "Ask Me Another," I say that's a viaduct.
Chico: Alright! Why a duck? Why that...why a duck? Why a no chicken?
Groucho: Well, I don't know why a no chicken; I'm a stranger here myself. All I know is that it's a viaduct. You try to cross over there a chicken and you'll find out why a duck.”
-The Cocoanuts (movie)-

Today’s topic is... DUCK!
Okay, you can get up now, I mean to say that I’m talking about duck this month.

Duck Families (other than the Robertsons)

“anatidaephobia: the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you”
-Gary Larson, The Far Side-

The first 5 levels of the duck taxonomy go like this:

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Anseriformes
Family Anatidae

But going from Family to Genus, we have not one, but two separate Genus lines: Anas and Cairina. With the split comes two main categories:

The Mallard Side

“When I start a movie, the first day, I feel like a duck.”
-Penelope Cruz-

The Mallard is (Anas platyrhynchos) and this specific instance is also known as Wild Duck. The males have a bright green head, a thin white ring, a yellow bill, and dark and light brown feathers. The female have mottled brown feathers and a brown bill.

Within the mallard side is the American Pekin (Anas platyrhynchos domestica) which is a domesticated version of the mallard. It originated in Beijing (once known as Peking - with a “g”) China. This is the beautiful white duck that you see in commercials for a particular insurance company. This duck can lay about 150 - 200 eggs a year. In 1873, 25 Pekin ducks were sent to Long Island, NY (but only 9 survived the trip). Those ducks begat a successful commercial industry to the point that most of the ducks you see in the supermarket come from Long Island now.

The Muscovy Side

“Popularity should be no scale for the election of politicians. If it would depend on popularity, Donald Duck and The Muppets would take seats in senate.”
-Orson Welles-

The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), like the Mallard, also come in both Wild (Cairina moschata sylvestris) and domestic (Cairina moschata domestica) versions. These ducks are generally black and white, and are characterized by having a red collection of carbuncles from the eye to the bill. These ducks have a stronger tasting (like roast beef) meat than Mallards.

The name “Muscovy” means that it comes from the Moscow region, which seems odd because the ducks are actually native to the Americas, not Russia. But in South America, it was called the “Musco duck” because it ate mosquitoes. These ducks were brought to Russia, hence the name.

The Mad Scientist Side

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.”
-Douglas Adams-

Just to prove it can be done, a Muscovy can indeed be crossed with a Mallard, to produce an aptly named Mulard duck. This duck is also referred to as the “Mule duck”, since it is sterile like the mule.

Duck: Another Red Meat

What is sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander but is not necessarily sauce for the chicken, the duck, the turkey or the guinea hen."
-Alice B. Toklas-

The odd thing about duck is that it’s red meat. Chicken and turkey have 10% red myoglobin fibers in breast meat, while duck has 80%.

Ducks have a lot of fat. Unlike chickens and turkeys, ducks need fat to be able to both fly long distances and survive in cold climates.

Most duck consumed is aged 6 - 16 weeks old. In the Philippines, there is a delicacy called balut which is a developing duck embryo (15-20 days) that is boiled and eaten in the shell.


“Singing songs like 'The Man I Love' or 'Porgy' is no more work than sitting down and eating Chinese roast duck, and I love roast duck.”
-Billie Holiday-


The bad news: duck IS fatty, so you're going to want to let it come out.

The good news: duck fat is really really delicious, so you'll want to save it anyway.

  1. Remove the gizzards - heart, kidney, liver, neck - from the cavity of the duck. If your duck is talented enough, he may even produce a small container of orange sauce. Save these items for a giblet gravy
  2. Remove any fat from the cavity of duck. There’s a lot of extra skin that is loose all around the duck past the cavity, so you can trim all that off.
  3. With paper towels, dry the duck well inside and outside.
  4. Spices: could be simple as salt and pepper, but you can add sage, thyme, orange zest, whatever. Rub mixture over duck and inside cavity.
  5. Innards: You can stuff the cavity with oranges, onions, celery, carrots.
  6. Pierce (with tip of knife or fork) all over the skin of the legs and breasts. This will let the fat drip out during cooking. But there’s still going to be enough fat remaining.

Now the cooking bit:

  1. Preheat roasting pan in oven set to 425 degrees.
  2. Roast 30 minutes breast side up.
  3. Reduce temperature to 400 degrees.
  4. Roast 30 minutes breast side down.
  5. Afterwards, put the duck to the side while you pour off the duck fat into a container to save for later.
  6. Roast 40 minutes breast side up until skin is crisp and juices run clear.
  7. Let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

If you have a fair amount of duck skin left over, try crisping it up as cracklins.

Take the duck bones and make a stock with it.

From the National Office

Free Prior Test Score Review

Submit your qualifying scores from accepted intelligence tests before December 31, 2013, and we will waive the review fee (a $40 savings). We accept a variety of qualifying tests, including the LSAT, the GMAT and the Stanford Binet. Find out about the qualifying tests we accept at

American Mensa does not test children under the age of 14, so submitting prior test scores is a great way for children to qualify for Mensa. Plus, many children have taken these tests as part of standardized testing in school. Visit for more details. Offer expires December 31, 2013.

Holiday Gift Guide

With hopes that you'll return the favor, let us give you a gift – the gift of ideas. The American Mensa Holiday Gift Guide ( will take your hand and carefully walk you through the holiday shopping maze.

Avoid the store lines and, with just a few clicks and keystrokes, find goodies that are smart and fun (including ideas for giving the gift of Mensa). Nowhere else will you find out how to turn your refrigerator into a Doctor Who TARDIS or learn how to rock out your shower-singing experience. Check out for even more glad tidings.

The Gift Guide is once again brought to you by the helpful folks at GEICO, who know a thing or two about saving time and money through your homeowner, vehicle and rental insurance – and who offer special discounts to American Mensa members. Visit for more information.

New Orleans Mensa Executive Committee

November 9, 2013
Members present: Bart Geraci, Phil Therrien, RenÚ Petersen, Kevin Chesnut, Robert Myers, Gerry Ward, Summer McKnight
5:15 p.m. - Meeting called to order:


  1. Accepted minutes from last meeting.


  1. Treasurer's Report $11,040.60. RenÚ accepted and Kevin seconded.
  2. Phil Therrien talked about getting more people to events. One idea was setting up events by ZIP code. We talked about how we used to publish a roster, but due to privacy concerns we don't anymore. Therefore people don't really know who else is in the group. We get 20 people meeting, so that's about 10% real participation. Our statistics show that our group is 2/3 male, 1/3 female. We're thinking about building up membership by targeting age groups.
  3. One of our goals is to get people to host our monthly meetings. Bart found out that other groups have their monthly meetings in libraries, community rooms, and restaurants; very few have them in private residences. He also noticed that a lot of groups have they have their monthly meetings on other days of the week (not Saturday night like us).
  4. Summer McKnight talked about the Facebook Halloween costume contest. Nobody voted on the contest (Bart mentioned that he didn't know we were supposed to vote). We talked about extending the voting until 11:59pm on the November 22. Bart will post it in the weekly emails. Summer showed the beautiful plaque for the winner.
  5. Summer suggested that we put something on the Facebook page on a regular basis so it's active. A suggestion was made to post Bart’s weekly emails with local activities.
  6. Kevin sent out information to people who get paper copies and got a few responses. A few people called him and told him to change their preferences to email, but Kevin explained to them that they have to notify National in order to change it on their end.
  7. Kevin informed us that at the most recent newsletter mailing at the Post Office, they complained that he didn't have the right tray labels. So he'll investigate on how he can get the tray labels. For that issue, he put stamps on it and mailed it regular first-class rate. The mailing at bulk rates run about $26 for 91 pieces; first class rate would run about $45.
  8. Summer McKnight wants to start two new local SIGs: one to attend the local festivals in our area, and one for board games. We are happy about this and we're looking forward to seeing more activities for our members. There is a po-boy festival next weekend, which may be our first event.
  9. Gerry mentioned that kids (under 18) of a Mensa member are considered “Young Mensan”. But once they turn 18, then they have to be members. Gerry said that she didn't have any success of getting the young members together.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 6:34 PM.

Next meeting: Saturday, February 8, 2014, 5:00 p.m., at Bart's house.

Submitted by Bart J Geraci, (in place of Claudia D'Aquin, Secretary)

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