New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for July/August, 2002

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

After years of freeloading, enjoying the labor of previous editors, I have agreed to step up to the plate, bite the bullet, revamp my collection of cliches, and serve as interim editor of La Plume. Following the excellent efforts of Mike, Smitty, and Renee is not an easy job, and one that I would not have undertaken without strong urging (and offers of help) from Richard. He did come through with the help and the result is largely due to his efforts.

What we hope to accomplish with the Plume is to renew interest in the local organization, provide a snapshot of group activities, attract new members, and provide a forum for the stories, essays, rantings, and screeds of the local members as well as samplings of poetry, drawings, and photographs of artistically inclined Mensans. We hope to publicize and promote the activities of local Mensans engaged in various artistic, scientific, and professional activities. Send submissions to We’ll publish signed letters to the editor sent to the above address. (We’ll withhold names if desired, but the letter must include it.)

Cover art this month is by H. Like many of you, I had passed Robert’s Market thousands of times without noting the banners flying from the roof. H, who has an artist’s eye, saw them fluttering in the wind, saw the architectural details of the roof, saw the interesting cloud patterns in the sky, and saw the makings of a great photo.

NOMs on Stage

We will occasionally feature NOMs who perform or otherwise do interesting stuff that the public can attend. Long time NOM Thais St. Julien is the Co-Director of New Orleans Musica da Camera, one of the country's premiere early music performance groups. As such, she and other MDC members perform not only in MDC concerts, but also in other local productions.

Her July/August schedule is below. For more information go to

NOM at the Science and Engineering Fair

by Patti Armatis

The New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair for greater New Orleans schools was held in the first week of March at the UNO arena. Our local group participated, and gave first and second place awards in both the senior (grades 10-12) and the junior (7 - 9) divisions.

The award criteria were: projects which exhibit intellectual achievement defined as the ability to learn and reason. The experiment must also exhibit good scientific methodology.

This year’s winners were:

Each prizewinner received a plaque documenting the award. The NOMensa judges also had a good time.

Ed. Note: Many Mensans were considered gifted children. R. says he asked his mother if he was a gifted child. She replied, “We certainly wouldn’t have paid for you!”

My Yukon Land

by Richard Stringer

Once in a while, I use the web for something other than keeping track of boy George and The Evildoers. As I've had in mind a trip to Canada lately, the other night I set out to look up something in British Columbia. Somehow (I've long since forgotten why--you know how surfing goes), I eventually found myself at the home page of the Government of the Northwest Territories, looking at an incredible display of print in languages I have never even dreamed of. Turns out the NWT has ELEVEN official languages. You have the right to address court in any of them! And there's a nifty interactive map where you can click on each village in the territory and get a chart of the linguistic habits of the village. Naturally, such exotic esoterica started me wandering through the other territories of Canada. Nunavut, the new territory created from the eastern half of the NWT in (highly controversial, I later learned from a Canadian friend) settlement of Inuit land claims, is currently sponsoring a snowmobile repair compensation program, apparently due to some bad gas being distributed last winter. I checked out the two-page snowmobile compensation claim form (in Inuit and English). After God knows how long of such wonderful websports as checking highway conditions in the Northwest Territories (all ice bridges are now closed and the ferries are operating), and the governmental budget for Nunavut, I of course couldn't resist making my tour complete by visiting the web site of Canada's third, and most famous, territory, the Yukon. And when I clicked it open, one of those wonderful little flashes of memory happened. Something I hadn't thought about in maybe forty years suddenly presented itself at the forefront of my mind. I remembered that I OWN LAND IN THE YUKON!

Back in the mid-fifties, when I was a kid of about eight or nine, there was a TV show called Sergeant Preston of the Yukon. The show was sponsored by Quaker cereals. And like all cereal companies in the fifties, they had a boxtop premium. But the boxtop premium offered to Sergeant Preston's fan club was first rate--for three boxtops and a quarter, you purchased LAND in the YUKON! One square inch, for your very own. Naturally, I had to have this. So after eating my way through three boxes of Quaker Puffed Wheat and cadging a quarter and a three cent stamp, I took my very first step toward becoming a real estate tycoon. And sure enough, after several weeks I received in the mail a fancy certificate proclaiming my Yukon land ownership. My dad was impressed, as it was an actual deed, with legal description and everything. I suppose, now that I think of it, that it was my very first investment (and certainly no worse than most of the ones I've made lately, and a heck of a lot cheaper). And even though it wasn't as practical as a decoder ring, or a Wheaties license plate, I was nevertheless pretty proud of having done something so grownup.

After remembering this long lost legacy, I wondered what had become of my land. If the government of the Yukon has sent me a tax bill in the last forty years, I haven't paid it. I wondered if they collected taxes on a square inch of land. And I decided that I'd have to research it. The nagging thought presented itself: "What on earth good is a square inch of land?" but I dismissed it out of hand as being way too pragmatic and unromantic. One of the ways those of us who came to computers in middle age give ourselves away is by our thought patterns. "I decided that I'd have to research it" sounded, at the time I thought it, like some distant, future project involving letters and stamps and such. Maybe it's a sign of my personal progress in the digital world that it only took about ten minutes for me to realize that "research" is a now thing. Back I went to the Yukon government web site, found a search box, and typed "square inch." Miraculously, up came a file with two articles about the "Klondike Big Inch" land giveaway program sponsored by Quaker Oats in 1955! It seems that the Land Office in the Yukon is still, fortysomething years later, bedeviled by folks inquiring about their square inch of land! One of the articles was a many-paged complete story of the promotion and its aftermath. If you want to read it yourself, you can, at . In brief, on a dark day in late 1954 a desperate advertising man who had been completely unable to come up with a gimmick to make a bland, adult cereal into a sexy product that kids would scream for, was certain he was going to be fired. One sleepless night, sitting on the john at 3 AM, this brilliant flash hit him: give away land in the Klondike! Long story short--after initial revulsion, the client bought it, it became the most successful cereal promotion to that date, and twenty-one million deeds to square inches of land in the Yukon were distributed. One slight problem was that the deeds were not registered (which was legal, it turns out). Regrettably, ten years later the dummy corporation the cereal company had set up to own and distribute the land was out of business, and the 19-acre tract which was the site of these millions of parcels, was repossessed by the government for nonpayment of taxes. And thus came the downside of instant research: my dreams of being a Yukon land baron, only so recently inspired, were dashed in the same hour. But I had fun reading the story, especially about all the lawyers writing to Quaker Oats and the Yukon land office on behalf of heirs who had found these deeds in drawers, bank boxes, and such. And I DO have the satisfaction of being able to say I used to own land in the Yukon.

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