New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for January/February 2003

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

NOM’s celebrated Christmas at Bart and Lovie’s home. The food, the convivial atmosphere, and the presence of old friends added a special dimension to the celebration of the holiday. It was wonderful to see Henry and Nettie, Richard and Anne, George, Franco, John, and many other long time members who haven’t been around in a while. Bart and Lovie were the quintessential hosts as usual!

The Christmas party was a special one for Rene and Joyce too. It was their first Christmas as a married couple. Yes, in November, Rene was finally able to persuade Joyce to say “I do.” I asked him how he liked married life, and he said it was everything that he had heard it was. Hmm...

This issue features a book review by Ron Lewis and an article by the incomparable Smitty (AKA Clarence Smith, our former LocSec) Mensa’s oenologist answers questions in her inimitable way. Cover art by Pat DiGeorge is watercolor of a cuddly cat taking refuge from the cold of January and February in New Orleans.

Now that the presents have all been opened, the turkey has been eaten, and the champagne has been drunk, many NOM’s make New Year’s Resolutions. One resolution that I intend to keep is to try to make La Plume de NOM better than ever. To all my fellow NOM’s, my wish for 2003 is that you will have the blessing of health, the love of family and friends, the satisfaction of meaningful work, and for everyone, everywhere, peace on earth!

Letters to the Editor

A note from an old friend and former NOM:

Ann sends Holiday greetings to all her old friends in NOM. Ann finally received her doctorate in clinical psychology in August 2002. She is living in Salt Lake City, where she did her internship at the VA Hospital. Ann says she loves SLC so much she's not leaving! "Couldn't root me out with a stick of dynamite." Ann is now doing a residency in clinical psychology at the VA Hospital and hopes someday to see real money again!

We get compliments:

Hi, Richard. I'm Ralph Rudolph, LocSec of New Mexico Mensa. I just finished reading Naqoyqatsi and was deeply impressed. Your writing sings.

We get questions:

Re your article in current "La Plume," what I don't understand is the way the spellings of the film titles are arrived at. I assume they are an attempt to render in English, words or sounds from another language that does not use the English alphabet. If so, how does one come up with "K O Y A A N I S Q A T S I" as opposed to my spelling: KOYANNISKATSI? Why "A A"? How is that supposed to be pronounced, "AH AH"? a long "AHHHHH"? And why "Q A," a combination of letters that is virtually non-existent in English?

It makes me think of the seven or eight spellings I've seen of the leader of Libya such as: KHADAFY, GHADAFFI, GADAFFY, DAFFYDUCK (just kidding about that last one). Or the way we write Chinese names such as XI (which I think is pronounced SHE) and QANG (which I think is pronounced CHANG). Why don't people work on important issues such as spelling foreign words in a sensible way, instead of worrying about the less significant issues such as what's going on in IRAK?

P.S. I never did congratulate either you or your new bride on your marriage, so sincere CONGRATULATIONS!


Richard replies:

Unfortunately I know absolutely nothing of the Hopi language. I started to say something about a transliteration from Hopi, but I doubt Hopi was originally a written language. So this is obviously someone's attempt to render Hopi sounds into English. Don't know if it's called "transliteration" if there are no letters to begin with. I've always been fascinated by American place names of Indian origin which are rendered in French or English. One example is the Ouachita River and Parish in LA. and the Washitaw Mountains in, I think, Oklahoma or Kansas. Another is Opelousas and Appaloosa. Anyway, sorry I can't be of more help. There are some interesting Hopi websites I saw a few years back; maybe one addresses the language.

Meanwhile, for a serious treat along these lines, go to:

Once you've digested the theory, you'll undoubtedly be ready to examine Native American tongues. A great place to start is: Have fun.

Book SIG

by Jacquelyn Naquin

I've heard a number of you express an interest in pulling together a Book Sig for NOM. Well, here goes. What I would like to do, and this is open for suggestion, is have everyone meet at my house the last Saturday of every month at 10:00 in the morning. We'll read the book during the month and have about a two hour discussion when we meet (and, of course, coffee and...use your imagination 'cause when you're at my house, you know something”s coming out of the kitchen!)

We need to decide, as a group, how we want to go about the details. We can all get through any book we have to get through, but that's not the point, is it? We want to pick books everyone will enjoy reading. For this reason, I would like for everyone interested to e-mail me at with suggestions for contemporary fiction and non-fiction titles. I'll put together a list of the first five books, which I'll distribute at the first meeting. In advance of the first meeting, I'll e-mail everyone the first title so we'll be ready o get right to it.

Some flexibility is in order with respect to allowance of time. We may decide to spend more than one meeting on certain books. Also, within a 3-4 month timeframe for each grouping, we may choose to compare and contrast several works from the same author and/or genre. This, we would do with the emphasis on similarity of theme from varying character vantages and situational/setting differences. Once I have feedback from everyone interested, I'll have a better idea which direction we should take.

I would like to meet for the first time after Mardi Gras. You don't want to try getting to my house during that time! Let's give ourselves time to settle into 2003, plan what we want to read together and take it from there.

Keep in mind that we can change the date, time, accommodate schedules. Let's just keep it consistent once we get started. My only requirement is that it be on a week-end. The pace around here during the week, before 9:00's “somewhat” hectic!

Remember, we can only get this off the ground after I have your suggestions, so pull out those booklists and let me know your ideas.

The Reading M

by Ron Lewis

I am willing to accept your challenge to turn in brief reviews of books, and you will find that one follows below. My motivation in writing it is altruistic: I think it is a therapeutic primer for anyone struggling with frustration and depression. Perhaps one measure of one's imaginative strength is IQ: if so, Mensans may be more vulnerable to the tricks man's imagination can play on him if he is not very disciplined and prudent.

I recently read an interesting and useful book, "Three Minute Therapy: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life," By Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D, with David Ramsay Steele, Ph.D (Glendbridge Publishing Company, 1997, 228 pages: available through in paperback starting at $9 plus shipping) and I must compliment the effort. The writer has given mankind a valuable tool, distilling the complexity of Viktor Frankl’s "Man’’s Search for Meaning" into a solid, logical, workable theory of recasting one’s consciousness to cope with reality. The challenge to the great intellect is to have a firm enough grasp of knowledge to make it clear and simple, rather than turgid and abstruse. Dr. Edelstein and his writing-helper Dr. Steele have done so.

One result of reading this book has been to clarify my comprehension of Walker Percy’s "The Message in the Bottle," wherein he wrestles with (as his subtitle says it) "How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other." That rather dense book, which may carry more heat than light, identifies man’s Language-Learning Ability (LLA) as the culprit resulting in man understanding the dark side of the moon better than he understands himself. Unlike other creatures known to exist in the universe, man alone can name most everything in his environment. Thus, he informs the various compartments of his self-consciousness, including his imagination, which informs, in turn, both his memory (his expectations or, as Edelstein put it, his "musts") and his interpretation of realities. A gap between these two perceptions (how things "must be" and how things "are") sets the table for mental indigestion.

"TMT" tells us that expectations loaded with "musts" rather than "preferences" will lead to severe tensions when they mix with realities, most every time. LLA gives man the faculty to name things, but not necessarily accurately and thoroughly. Virtues, Aristotle tells us, must be evoked to guard the mind from harmful convolutions: Prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude will keep man’s stomach settled if he nurtures them carefully. "TMT" codifies those virtues.

Freud correctly surmised that man must re-inform his expectations and realities to serve up something palliative for mental malaise, but he was unsure enough of what that was to lay it at the feet of childhood and forgotten experiences. I think many postmodern theorists continue to hold Freud close for the same reason they hang on to Keynes: they want to deny human nature and dismiss personal responsibility as the price of mental health and individual freedom. Dr. Edelstein's last paragraph in point number 9.) on page 216 sums it up beautifully:

True compassion and caring calls for an approach that really helps people with their suffering, as Three Minute Therapy does. It can only do harm to encourage people to wallow in their victimhood and self-pity."

I recommend this to anyone who may, as most humans do, suffer frustrations and, occasionally, depression with the circumstances one encounters in everyday life. The Three Minute Therapy is not a simple proposition to learn and practice, but it is a clear-cut and powerful tool for those who have the persistence to practice its steps.


by Smitty

On my Uncle George Smith’s ranch in the John Day Valley, Oregon we had to be careful of rattlesnakes. These snakes didn’t want to have anything to do with anything as big as a human. When anything big came near them they would rattle their tails furiously, warning us away. We did lose one cow who didn’t have sense to get out of the way and was bitten on the milk bag. A couple of our horses were bitten on the leg but recovered in a few days.

One day I was alone on the ranch while Uncle George and Aunt Katie were in town. I was pumping water when a rattlesnake had the audacity to come crawling up to the well. I grabbed a stick of wood and held down the snake's head until I could step on his neck. I cut off his head with the sharp hatchet I used to cut kindling wood for the great stove. Then I skinned him and cleaned him. I noticed that his heart was still beating steadily.

Curious, I held the heart on my thumb and watched it throb. I even removed the membrane sac around the heart and it still continued to beat. I have no idea how long it kept on, I finally got bored with watching it, and threw it away.

I had read of rattlesnake meat being eaten and I decided to try it myself. I took a chunk of cleaned snake, about a foot long and put it on a plate, while I went out to cut wood to build a fire.

While I was cutting the wood, our neighbor Charlie Hill drove up for a little visit. I told him the folks were in town, but he hung around to talk to me. I kept on working and we went in the house to start the fire. He noticed the piece of white meat on the plate and just then the meat twitched a little.

"Jesus Christ," Charlie yelled, jumping back. "What's that?"

"That's a rattlesnake," I said. "I just killed him."

"Rattlesnake!" his voice rose. "What're you going to do with him?"

"I'm going to cook him and eat him."

"Eat him!" his voice rose to a screech. He couldn't believe anyone would eat a snake.

I explained that I had read about people saying the meat was very good eating, but Charlie was not convinced. When I went out to get more wood for the fire he hid the plate, then waited around until the folks got home.

I was amazed at Uncle George's reaction. He took the snake, plate and all, and threw it as far as he could, then threatened to spank me within an inch of my life if I ever did anything like that again.

From Bottle to Vineyard

by Cyn F. Andle

Ed. note: The following bona fide questions appeared some time ago in Bon Appetit. With only a minimum of pressing, La Plume de NOM succeeded in having our very own Mensa oenologist, Ms. Andle, provide her vintage 2003 answers.

Q. Can you give me some information on a 1922 Fronseca Muscadet bottled in the district of Setubal, Portugal? Is this wine too old to drink?

A. Regrettably, this wine is still TOO YOUNG to drink. It should be at its peak around 2099. Feel free to ask me for further information at that time.

Q. I am planning a very special dinner and would like to open a bottle of wine I have had in my possession for many years. It is a 1966 Marassou First Harvest Pinot Noir. What should I expect from this bottling?

A. Since this publication goes to families with children, I do not feel free to spell out what you can expect. Just prepare for a REAL surprise!

Q. We are planning a trip to Europe and would like to visit some of the grape growing areas in France and Italy. Can you recommend any books with up-to-date information on the wineries and the historical sites of the regions?

A. I can HEARTILY recommend the most recent edition of my popular reference work, The Math of Grapes.

Q. I do not feel very comfortable using the traditional method of decanting wine with the aid of a candle. I understand you can strain it through a cloth instead. Do you recommend this?

A. I will be happy to comment on the cloth-straining method, but I really need to know first what it is, exactly, that you are doing with that candle.

Who does not love wine, women, and song
Remains a fool his whole life long.
Martin Luther, 1483-1546
In wine there is truth.
Pliny the Elder, A.D. 23-79

NOM Finances

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