New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for February 2012

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

From the Editor

Peter Salomon

Yes, that mess means: MARDI GRAS!

It’s time for parades and floats and beads and coconuts... In 1875, Governor Warmoth of Louisiana signed the "Mardi Gras Act" making it a legal holiday in Louisiana.

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

I worked in a bakery once that was mostly an artisan loaf bakery. They put out small batches of carefully hand-created loaves. One day, we got a large order and the customer wanted the loaves sliced. It was taking quite a while, when all of the sudden I had an idea on how to slice the bread faster. I went to the back room fired up the welding torch and merged a whole bunch of spare knives we had but never used. Within 15 minutes I brought back my monstrosity to the kitchen, lined up 4 loaves of bread end-to-end and with a quick downwards thrust, I had sliced all the loaves at once. Then we were able to finish our job rather quickly.

The boss thanked me for such a clever idea and asked what do I call this monster knife.

I said “Isn't it obvious?...”

“...It's a four-loaf cleaver.”


Roger Durham

One of my favorite concepts is something called the Law of Unintended Consequences, which basically states that anything we do will have unforeseen results, regardless of whether or not it achieves whatever we set out to do.

I was reminded of that concept recently, after the National Office sent out an appeal for early membership renewal, suggesting that it was the “green” thing to do, as early renewals “save trees” by eliminating the need for follow-up mailings. The response to this appeal was extremely encouraging, as it generated numerous renewals and quite a few new membership applications as well. Previous appeals for early renewal in order to save the expense of the follow-up mailings were usually widely ignored, but apparently saving trees is much more popular than saving money.

One member, however, objected strenuously. He sent me an e-mail pointing out, correctly, that “saving” trees can actually harm the environment, as mature trees, if not harvested and replaced, will eventually die, increasing the danger of forest fires, and decay, degrading air quality. Cutting of fast-growing softwood trees for paper-making, on the other hand, insures a continuing supply of young, healthy trees that are better for the environment. Now, that’s not to say that logging companies aren’t frequently guilty of a number of abuses, but simply “saving paper” is, in and of itself, not a particularly earthfriendly thing to do.

Our government frequently falls victim to this same error. When Congress banned the manufacture of incandescent light bulbs a few years ago, they intended to reduce electricity consumption. They achieved that, by all accounts, but they also achieved some things that aren’t so popular: the Compact Fluorescent Lamps that replaced the old light bulbs contain substantial amounts of poisonous mercury, which will end up in our landfills and leach into our water supplies, and due to the hazards of handling mercury in a manufacturing process, no domestic company is willing to make CFLs, so hundreds of American jobs were exported to China.

My point is that the Law of Unintended Consequences is as inescapable as gravity, because, as Tolkien’s wizard Gandalf put it, “even the wise cannot see all ends.” A solution that seems obvious to me may have ramifications that somehow escaped my attention. Nonetheless, decisions must be made, and actions must be taken, and all we can do is hope that we have foreseen the most important of the unintended consequences that are sure to follow.

So, whether or not you want to save a tree, please renew your Mensa membership early. Every dollar we can save by not mailing dues reminders is another dollar available for other programs. Thanks!



Well, the Saints didn't make it all the way, but we're all happy with them. It'll be more interesting to get in the Super Bowl in 2013, since that's going to be held here in New Orleans.

We had our first RG planning committee. The next one will be held at my house on February 25th. We are looking for a Registrar and a Hospitality chair. More details are in a separate article.

The next executive committee meeting (EXCOM) will be held on February 11th, 6:00 PM at my house. It's a working meeting, not a social event, but any member in good standing may attend.

This month, on the leap day February 29th, we'll be back at UNO judging the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair ( Every year, we give out special awards (“for projects showing creativity backed by rigorous scientific reasoning”). It is fascinating to see what today's youth are working on. If you can help us judge the fair, contact me at to let me know you are coming; meet me at the judging section upstairs promptly at 9 A.M.

American Mensa has a promotion to recruit people that have prior evidence to join us. In a separate article, there's a bit of a text that can be sent to people via email or snail mail.

CultureQuest is coming at the end of April, and there's another article about that.

Have a safe Carnival Season and Let's go Hornets!

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

By Bart Geraci

Brainfork: Eggs

Ok, What Came First?

“A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.”
-Samuel Butler-

Well, some believe that bird eggs developed from reptile eggs, so in that context, the egg definitely came first. The chicken species have been around for only 3 to 4 million years, and was only domesticated about 10,000 years ago.

Green Eggs and Ham

“Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has merely laid an egg cackles as if she laid an asteroid.”
-Mark Twain-

While white eggs are the most popular, brown eggs are also available. A few years ago, I remember being able to buy some green eggs at the local farmer's market. They were laid by araucana hens, which come from Chile.

I have not come across green ham and I suspect it would not be good.

The Imbalance of Whites and Yolks

"Omelets are not made without breaking eggs."

Quite often, one comes across a recipe that uses a different amount of egg whites than egg yolks. Then you have to come up with another recipe to even the numbers out. One book I re-bought after the Federal Flood of 2005 is called “The Separate Egg” by Pat Field and Pat Kery. It's a tiny little book that has a cover on both sides. One side has recipes for extra egg whites, printed on white paper. Flip the book over and the other side has recipes for extra egg yolks, printed on yellow paper.

Baked Alaska

Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans is known for their Baked Alaska dessert. It's a simple recipe: sponge cake, topped with ice cream, then topped with a meringue. The whole thing goes under a broiler long enough to brown and firm the meringue. An extravagant touch is to splash it with some rum tableside before serving, then flambeed in front of the excited guests. I did not know this, but it turns out that February 1st is Baked Alaska Day in the U.S.

So What Frightens Alfred Hitchcock?

“I’m frightened of eggs, worse than frightened, they revolt me. That white round thing without any holes … have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting. I’ve never tasted it.”
-Alfred Hitchcock-

Recipe: Boiling an egg

"There is always a best way of doing everything if it be to boil an egg."
-Ralph Emerson-

It has been said that one of the true test of a chef is his ability to cook an egg. So let's try to do something simple, like hard-boiling an egg. Do we boil water first? Eggs in first? How long? Let's see some versions:

  1. Place eggs in saucepan, cover with lukewarm water, bring to a simmer, cover and remove pan from heat, let sit for 7 minutes (5 minutes for softboiled). (From John Besh's new cookbook “My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking”)
  2. Let eggs sit at room temperature while bringing a pot of water to a boil. Turn the heat down, gently lower the eggs into the water, and leave it simmer and cook for 9 minutes (5 minutes for softboiled). (From Alice Water's “The Art of Simple Food”)
  3. For a cold-water start, place eggs in pan, cover with 1.5 inches water, partially cover pot, bring to boil, turn heat low and leave on heat for 30 seconds, then take off heat and let stand 15 minutes. (From Shirley Corriher's “Cookwise: The Secret of Cooking Revealed”)

Well, I hope that settles that.

One bonus recipe I came across was from David Chang and Peter Meehan's “Momofuku” cookbook where they talk about slow-poaching an egg inside the shell, so that a poached egg comes out when you crack it: For slow-poached eggs, get a large pot of water, insert a rack so the eggs won't touch the bottom, bring water to between 140 and 145 degrees, then add the eggs in. Cook at this temperature range for 40 minutes.

Closing this article in the words of Lennon/McCartney:

“I am the eggman, they are the eggmen. I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob.”

American Mensa Prior Evidence Promotion

American Mensa is having a promotion for people who may already qualify based on prior evidence. The promotion runs through the end of February; the applicant saves $10, and our club gets $1.

If you know anyone who may qualify, please feel free to forward the text between the "@@@@@@" below to them.

You may already be Mensa material!

Many people find that submitting prior scores are an efficient way to join Mensa.

Individuals who took the LSAT after 1982 and scored in the 95 percentile rank are eligible, as well as those who score a 95 percent or higher on their GMAT. Students in gifted programs and people who have served in the military often have test scores.

There are more than 200 different tests that are accepted. For a list of test scores please visit,

For the months of January and February, when you join using prior test scores put the code “WPE–700” on your application and save $10 off the $40 evaluation fee.

If you have any questions or need clarification on the offer, please contact me at


By Bart Geraci

I will be leading our team, Brains on Bourbon, to tackle this year's CultureQuest. It's going to be on Sunday, April 29th. (The first Sunday of Jazzfest. The good news is that the Beach Boys will be at Jazzfest on Friday April 27th, so no conflict there. Whew!) It's a 90 minute, 5-member team, closed book trivia test. For more information, see If you want to join our team contact me at

Calling all Computer Wizards

By Bart Geraci

Calling all Computer Wizards I am looking for someone else to take over the New Orleans Mensa website. I think it is time for a fresh redesign.

NORGY 2012

NORGY 2012
November 30 – December 2
Hilton St. Charles Hotel

At the previous New Orleans Regional Gathering meeting, we are pleased to announce the following positions:
Co-chairs: Bart & Lovie Geraci
Treasurer: Phil Therrien
Publicity: Claudia D'Aquin & Bart Geraci
Website: Bart Geraci

We need someone for the following positions:

A specific requirement for the Hospitality position is that you need to be certified for food safety. This certification can be done through a local health department which gives classes for restaurant employees, or through Mensa, with an online book and test. Check out for more details.

We have decided to call the RG “NORGY” but use the year “2012” instead of a Roman Numeral suffix like the Super Bowl.

We are talking with some people who might be able to present a talk at the RG. If you have any ideas, contact me at

The next meeting is Saturday February 25th, 2pm at my house.

LimmudFest New Orleans: Learning and Lagniappe

Saturday, March 10–Sunday, March 11, 2012
Tulane University
What is Limmud you ask?
It means learning. It is “anyone interested in Jewish Learning.”
Music, Dance, Kosher Food, Text Study, Art, Spirituality, Israel, Culture, Social Action, Jewish History, Networking, Children’s Programming AND MUCH, MUCH MORE

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Last edited: 30-Jan-2012 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at