New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for July / August 2004

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

June NOM Night at Fred’s was great–superb food and drink, lovely surrounding, and pleasant company. When the scheduled musicians were unable to attend, Phil and Heath rose to the occasion and played for us. Thanks, guys! Heath and Scott are going to provide music for the July NOM Night at A ’s. Y’all come!

Planning for the Annual Gathering continues apace and I urge all NOMs to get involved. This is going to be a big event and is an excellent opportunity to showcase New Orleans and NOM. There is more information elsewhere in this issue on what has been done to date and what you can do to help.

We were taken to task by NOM Ron Lewis for the bias he described as “lurking” in our review of Plan of Attack in the last issue. We never intended for the bias to lurk, but to be apparent to all. While National Mensa takes no position on issues, local newsletters frequently do–I know because I get a ton of them each month. However, I will gladly print responses from the other side of the aisle if I get them.

Letters to the Editor

The Secret Guide

The Secret Guide to Computers, 2004 edition, will be published approximately July 8, arriving here about two weeks later. I'll inform everybody who ordered as soon as it arrives.

If anyone else wants a copy/s, please let me know before the publication date!


Hello from New Zealand

Just a quick note to thank you for your kind hospitality in welcoming Bruce and me into the “Nawlins” Mensa meeting last month. It was lovely to meet you and the other Mensans, and to experience some real Crawfish at the Bucktown restaurant.

I have posted some photos to a website, and they include one of yourselves that I took at the restaurant.
You can scroll down the thumbnails and click on any one to see a larger picture.

Once again, on behalf of Bruce and myself, many thanks.
Amanda Milne
Membership Officer - Mensa NZ

Hello from Australia

My name is Debbie Smith. I am an Australian currently living in Brunei Darussalam. I am a Mensan, and got your name from the great web site you have for Mensa in New Orleans. My husband and I are visiting New Orleans from June 25 to July 7 this year, and I wondered if it would be possible to meet up with some fellow Mensans during that time. We have bed and breakfast accommodation arranged already, so I have not gone through SIGHT - we would just love to meet some of you while we are there if it is possible. Our holiday is planned to take in the sights and sounds of New Orleans (mainly the sounds - we really are looking forward to listening to some music).

I read on your web site that the US gathering is in Las Vegas from June 30 to July 5 - that is a shame because we are there before we come to New Orleans! I should have checked first before we confirmed our trip, but never mind it is an incentive to come back again another time. The guys in Las Vegas have arranged for us to catch up with some of them over drinks when we get there, even though I am sure they will be busy getting the gathering ready. I guess some of your group will be going to Vegas for the gathering too, seeing that you are hosting next year, so we may miss some of you because of that.

A little bit about us. I am 47, and my husband, Peter is 48. We have been together 10 years now, and have one child each from our respective previous marriages (they are both adults now, so will not be coming along on this trip) - none from this one, because we felt that we were too old to start parenting again when we got together (the thought of running after little ones again made us tired!!).

I lecture in Educational Psychology and Special Education at the University Brunei Darussalam, and I am the Coordinator of Special Education Programmes for the university. I am a speech-language therapist/pathologist and teacher, and have spent most of my working life working with individuals with significant levels of special need. Peter is the Head of the Pharmacy Department at a private medical centre here. We have lived in Brunei for about 6 years now, having decided that we should do some exploring of the world before we got to old to enjoy it. Brunei is a good base, as you can get to lots of other places easily from here.

We hope that New Orleans Mensa might be having some kind of gathering we could join whilst we are visiting, or that we could at least grab a drink or dinner with some of you if you are free. We will be happy to reciprocate with hospitality if any of you come our way. I am just trying to work out with SIGHT how I can let people know about Brunei, as we do not have a Mensa group here. Peter and I live in an enormous house, with plenty of spare rooms, so we are always happy to have people come to stay with us.

We are leaving Brunei on June 17, having a few days in Bangkok, flying to the US on June 20, staying in Las Vegas for a few days then coming on to New Orleans. Hoping to hear from you soon.

Who’s in charge?

I read your book report and loved it. Mr. Woodward seems to confirm my suspicion that Vice President Cheney has been pulling the strings for some time. I have never been in favor of this war and I hope we get the hell out soon. One person dead in Iraq is too many.

Lurking bias?

Dear Anne and Richard:
One thing lurking so obviously within the editorial content of our local magazine is your rampant hate of President Bush. Your political wing is not at all shy about showing this bias, but it would seem since Mensa is publicly committed to avoiding aligning itself with controversial causes (to avoid ripping itself into the inevitable factions which have to follow any official assumption of virtually any cause celebre), even La Plume de NOM would soften the rhetoric in its editorializing.

A review of Bob Woodward’s book is fine, but the words dripping with animadversion, finding fault with Woodward’s failure to find enough fault with the Bush administration, are not particularly instructive, especially to someone who finds your opinion subjective and merely, somehow, self-gratifying.

If this upsets you, it should. Maybe your best friends won’t tell you, but your prejudice is showing, big time.
Ron Lewis

Richard responds:

Thanks for writing. When my wife accepted the job of editor at an election meeting, she told the assembled crowd that they would have to contribute, or suffer our liberal rants as space filler. To date, you are one of the very few who has contributed anything, for which Anne is very grateful. In that sense, my article, which I admit is highly biased, is a challenge to some member or members to contribute an opposing viewpoint.
I'll have to let Anne address the appropriateness matter. I'll say that, as far as I recall, political or other opinions have only been expressed in articles like book reviews, which have nothing to do with Mensa or NOM. I do know, from reading the newsletters of other groups (Anne gets tons of them) that such expressions of opinion are not uncommon. The most extreme example recently has been the Shreveport newsletter, in which the editor, who was also LocSec, was deliberately trying to provoke some kind of response from the membership. He'd run extremist pieces each month; this month a marxist, next month a kluxer or something. He finally resigned both positions in disgust at member apathy.
May I on Anne's behalf invite you to contribute a counter opinion or other piece?

MensAGumbo : Something for both sides of your brain

by Heather Miller

After many suggestions and ideas were put forth and discussed on the AG committee listserve, a vote was taken at May Celebration SIG, and MensAGumbo was the unanimous choice for the name of the New Orleans 2005 Annual Gathering. The slogan will be “Something for both sides of your brain.”

Registration for MensAGumbo officially opens July 1 at the 2004 AG in Las Vegas. New Orleans will sponsor the Friday night dance with Mardi Gras decorations, and all Las Vegas attendees will find carnival beads in their “goody bags.” Heather Miller and a crew of New Orleans and Baton Rouge Mensans will be everywhere evident in Vegas to sell our AG.

Volunteers are still needed to coordinate the following speaker tracks, which are all New Orleans-related and for which we need New Orleans Mensa volunteers. Track coordinators will arange for and coordinate speakers. The tracks are: History (New Orleans and Louisiana and otherwise); Arts and Entertainment (preferably New Orleans-specific); Sports; and The Hidden Side of New Orleans (a track rich with possibilities). We also need a security coordinator. If you are interested in working in one of these areas, or giving a presentatioln, please contact Program Coordinator Jimmy.

In lieu of a committee meeting in July, there will be a site visit at the New Orleans Sheraton Friday night July 17 and Saturday July 18. Initial planning meeting will take place Friday night at 7:00 at the Pelican Bar in the lobby. Please call AG Chair Heather Miller for specifics.

Hello Region 6

Dan Wilterding

Foundation scholarship winners (MERF - Mensa Education & Research Foundation) have the limelight this month -- ten groups in the region submitted twelve winning essays! New Mexico Mensa took top honors with three winners. The names of the winners are available on the web at

Congratulations and many thanks also to those who donated their time to read & evaluate the essays submitted. Giving money to deserving students is fun, volunteer now to participate in the next round!

Still looking for a Leadership Development Workshop Coordinator for the region; anyone interested?

Comments, anyone?

Dan Wilterding - RVC6

LonestaRG VI Rgmageddon

Austin, Texas: September 3-6, 2004

A post-apocalyptic paradise! Themed speakers, costume dance, games and contests, discussion room, late night pool & hot tub, prizes, abundant hospitality - meals included! Bring the whole family and party like it's the end of the world! More info at

Mark & Janet Kres
P.O. Box 80635
Austin, Texas 78708-0635
Email at:


by Ray O’Connor

Gatherings at Sea will host its first SIG gathering on Carnival's Ecstasy, out of Galveston, TX, January 24, 2005 to January 29, 2005. Join us for five days and four nights of Mensa fun. An RG on a ship, what an idea!

There will be a games tournament (in the library, where else?). Enjoy shopping in Cozumel or the beautiful white sand beaches of Calica. Enjoy fine dining, including late night buffets or if you prefer, casual dining in the Seaview Bistro. If eight meals a day aren't enough, there is room service. We will even have healthful selections, which are low in calories, fat, sodium, and cholesterol on the Spa Carnival menu. The entertainment includes live music, including three bands and orchestra, Vegas-style shows and comedy acts. You won't want to miss the welcome aboard party and the Captain's cocktail party. There is even a singles party for those who qualify.

Host: Ray O'Connor, SIGs Officer

To register: contact American Voyager Travel, att: Bob Wallace, Group Travel, 14850 Montford Dr., Suite 165, Dallas, TX 75254.

American Voyager Travel, a bonded travel agency, will be handling all registration/travel fees.

Per person Registration Fee: $395 for inside cabins, $450 for outside cabins, and $300 for 3rd and 4th person in cabin. The minimum occupancy is 2 persons per cabin; a one-person cabin is $500. To reserve your space, a $200 deposit is due by August 23, 2004. Payment in full is due November 23, 2004. Full refund of deposits until November 14, 2004. Rates may change after November 14.

For more information contact Ray O'Connor at

The Reading M

by Anne Osteen Stringer

Bill Bryson is a prolific writer. I have relished his travel books for his sense of adventure and wit and chuckled over the tongue in cheek quality of his books on language. His newest book, A Short History of Nearly Everything is a departure for him. He says that about five years ago, he realized that he knew almost nothing about the planet he lived on–he didn’t know a proton from a protein or a quark from a quasar. Resolving to find out, he spent the next three years reading books and journals and asking scientists, teachers, and other experts “Could you explain that just one more time?”

The book that resulted from all that is a hefty one–almost 500 pages of text and numerous pages of notes and sources. It is chock full of facts, but nothing that you wouldn’t learn from a good science textbook. What keeps one reading is Bryson’s writing and his gutsy approach–he doesn’t hesitate to try to explain such subjects as quarks and supernovae. From the “Big Bang” to DNA, his enthusiasm doesn’t flag–although he does seem to get a little impatient with subjects such as quantum physics which he regards rather untidy. There are some sections that are dry indeed–even Bryson can’t make Superstring Theory amusing. He’s much more comfortable in his discussions of the earth sciences. There is an undertone of ecological awareness in these chapters. He writes an exciting tale of the search for the age of the earth and his chapter on the geology of Yellowstone Park caused me to look at that beautiful land in a new light.

Another thing that keeps one turning the pages are the anecdotes. Scientists are notorious for being eccentric and their behavior provides Bryson with a fertile field to exercise his characteristic wit. Isaac Newton, who was undeniably brilliant, was also an ill tempered recluse who spent more than half his working life in the study of alchemy and performing bizarre experiments. (Once he inserted a long needle into the socket of his eye and rubbed it around just to see what would happen. Incredibly nothing did.) When he was not trying to turn lead into gold, he pursued weird religious studies, spending hours poring over the floor plan of the Temple of King Solomon in Jerusalem in the belief that it held clues to the date of the second coming of Christ. He was notoriously forgetful and a serious procrastinator–after developing the calculus, he put it aside for twenty-seven years. It’s a wonder the law of gravity got discovered at all!

This is pop science, but really good pop science. If you read it, you may not learn a lot, but you will have a good time.

Fahrenheit 9/11

by Anne Osteen Stringer

Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 9/11 opened to packed houses all over the country. The film is arguably the most politically charged film since Doctor Strangelove opened in the Vietnam era. Like Dr. Strangelove, one side of the political aisle hailed it as an artistic triumph. The other side claimed that it was anti-Anerican and untrue at that. (The White House denounced Fahrenheit 9/11 as “obviously false” before it even opened or anyone had had an opportunity to see it.) Is it true or false? The New York Times says that the basic facts are supported by the record. And it is hard to argue with actual video footage.

The film opens with a reprise of the election of 2000. It’s all covered–the early call of Florida for Gore, the contested election, the Supreme Court decision, the certification of the election in the Senate. What was news to me was the number of protestors at the Inaugural Parade. Protesters pelted the presidential limo with eggs and forced the procession to speed up. I had not seen that footage or heard that reported anywhere–it was effectively covered up, by a media and White House eager to foster a feeling of national unity.

The next video that I had not seen was the tape of Bush in the class room on September 11, 2001. It was devastating! When he was informed that the country was under attack, he sat in the classroom for 7 long minutes. The look on his face was such a blank stare, that it is impossible not to draw the conclusion that he just didn’t know what to do. This is only one of the times that Moore lets Bush appear on film and reveal himself to be shallow, inarticulate, and dull.

Next Moore treats us to a lot of shots of Bush on vacation golfing, hunting, sailing, etc. He covers the Bush-Saudi connection and the fact that many members of the Saudi royal family and the Bin Laden family were flown out of the country without being interviewed by the FBI. Moore doesn’t prove that Bush himself had anything to do with this incident, but the fact that the Saudi royal family have been benefactors to the Bush family is made clear.

About the final third of the movie deals with the war in Iraq and it is here that Moore’s patriotism becomes apparent. The footage is gripping–at times horrifying and bloody; at times heartbreaking, at times funny. Scenes of devastation in Iraq are interspersed with scenes of devastation in an inner city neighborhood in Flint, MI. It’s shocking to see politicians and executives discussing the money to be made in Iraq. Most poignant is the story of Lila Lipscomb, a woman who described herself as a conservative Democrat who had touted the military to her children as a means of obtaining an education. She’s a woman who loves her country–flying the flag on the front of her house and never allowing it to touch the ground. When her son was killed in Iraq, she began to question the rationale for war and what he died for. It’s heart wrenching.

Moore’s treatment of the soldiers themselves is warm. He praises the sacrifice that is willingly made by our young men and women and shows them in a kindly light for the most part. He believes that they should not be asked to lose their precious young lives for any but the most important reasons. I agree. There are laugh out loud moments in this film and others that touch the heart. I believe that it is a patriotic film and validates those of us who love our country, but not the direction it has taken. Michael Moore doesn’t like the Bush administration, but you can’t say that he doesn’t love his country.

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey," just died peacefully at age 93.

The traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin.
They put his left leg in. Then the trouble started.......


by Al Thomas

Having lived aboard a sailboat for 2 years I was stricken when I saw the movie “PERFECT STORM”. I know these are things you want to avoid at all costs. Even little storms can play havoc with your life style on a boat.

From a world view it looks like we are headed into a perfect storm of world macroeconomics. That means every one in the world is going to be impacted economically by the developing global economics. The more economically developed the country the worse they will be affected. Those third-world countries just working their way to becoming second-world countries can easily be set back 30 to 50 years.

What am I talking about? People need food and shelter and after they have the basic necessities they will buy nonessentials such as entertainment and toys (boats, cars, jewelry, bigger houses, second homes, etc.). These are all purchased because the person has extra units of credit called money with which to buy the extras. In order the get that extra money he has to have a steady job. World wide there is excess productive capacity. Approximately 25% of productive machinery is idle; we are working at about 75% of capacity where the normal rate of production is between 87% and 92%. That means that many who were at those machines are now sitting at home wondering not about a new toy to buy, but how to make the next mortgage payment.

Everything looks smooth. The waters are calm and the breeze is at our back. When that perfect storm was forming in the Atlantic Ocean there did not seem to be any danger, but the meteorologists watching their satellites and computers could see that all was not well and a terrible storm was forming. They realized when it hit that ships would be at high risk.

There are meteorologists of the stock market. They are a combination of technical and fundamental analysts and it is their job to predict the stock market weather. Like weathermen the job of prediction is not easy nor is it an exact science, Many get it wrong, Today the news of the stock market and the economy is dominated by the fundamentalists who see excellent weather and tranquil seas. Many technicians see it otherwise. They are predicting that there are formations that could produce a perfect storm that will wipe out many portfolios.

Historically the timing of fundamentalist (those who follow the reports of company profits and government statistics) usually lags while the prediction of technical analysts (those who follow chart patterns and historical data) has been much more accurate.

The key to the stock market is timing. The investor wants to own stocks and mutual funds while the market is advancing and to be in cash while the market is declining.

Today the fundamentalist weathermen say buy while many technician weathermen are recommending cash. In the next few months we will see if the weather is calm or stormy.

Copyright Albert W. Thomas 2004. All rights reserved.
Author of "If It Doesn't Go Up, Don't Buy It!"
Comments to

Ed. note: Al Thomas is a member of Mensa and President of the Williamsburg Investment Company.
Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.
Woody Allen, 1976
If money go before, all ways do lie open.
William Shakespeare

It is a Small World, isn’t it?

by Joe Hopkins

I Suspect everybody has at least one small world story. Some have many. Some a few. I had had so many before I got married that I fully expected to run into someone I knew while on my honeymoon. At the jewelry store where I bought the ring, the proprietor asked where the honeymoon would be. When I said Puerto Rico, he said he had a friend, a priest, living in Juncos, and I should look him up while there. Juncos is in the center of the island and we were going to San Juan on the coast. Strangely, I thought, in the two weeks we stayed there, I did not see anyone I knew.

Our flight back to the mainland was at 2:00 in the morning. We made it to the airport, boarded the aircraft and were ready for the take-off when the ramp was brought back and the door re-opened to allow one late passenger to come aboard. It was a priest and as he walked back towards a seat behind us, I said to my wife, “This must be the priest we were supposed to look up.”

“Don’t do it,” she said, anticipating my action. But I did..

“Pardon me, Father” I said. “Are you from Juncos?”

“Why yes I am.” he replied.

“Are you Father O’Brien?” I continued.

With a look of amazement, he answered again, “Why yes I am. Have we met?”

I told him what I have related here. When I turned around to introduce my wife to him, she was curled up behind a magazine, in a world too small to allow her to disappear.

Summary of NOM Finances

Arnold P. Wilking, Jr., Treasurer

      Summary of the New Orleans Mensa Society's Finances, 01JAN03 to date

June 13, 2004 at 12:17 p.m.


Balance Forward from the previous year:                           2,283.02

Income - total:                                                   1,114.17

   Wire transfers from Mensa National:               890.73
   Bank account interest:                              0.94
   N.O.M. Nights cash takes:                         202.00
   Non-NOM member "La Plume" subscriptions:            0.00
   Book Sale Proceeds:                                20.50
   Miscellaneous income:                               0.00

   Total income:                                   1,114.17

Outgo - total:                                                    1,254.63

   "La Plume" printing:                              515.10
   Postage:                                          416.29
   N.O.M. Night host fees                            250.00
   Proctor fees:                                       0.00
   Office supplies and stationery:                     1.08
   Science Fair prizes and fees:                      72.16
   Bank service charges and check printing fees:       0.00
   New Orleans Mensa telephone charges                 0.00
   Miscellaneous expenses:                             0.00

   Total outgo:                                    1,254.63

Bank Account Balance:                                             2,142.56

"Miscellaneous" income and expenses are explained in the detailed
report of account activity.

                      Details of the bank account activity
                             01 January 2002 to date

June 13, 2004 at 12:17 p.m.                                                     Page   1

           Remitter of a credit, or                           Received
Date       Payee of a check with the reason for the payment                Paid

                                                                   .00      .00
01/01/2004 Balance Forward from 2003.                              .00      .00
01/11/2004 Patricia Armatis: printing JAN/FEB "La Plume"           .00   111.19
01/13/2004 Bank Account Interest                                   .20      .00
01/16/2004 Mensa National Wire Transfer                         143.09      .00
01/17/2004 NOM Night Host Fee                                      .00    50.00
01/18/2004 Phil Wilking; N.O.M. Night Cash Received              48.00      .00
01/23/2004 Richard Stringe;Printing JAN/FEB "La Plume" covers      .00    65.63
02/04/2004 Richard Stringer; February meeting postcards            .00    64.47
02/11/2004 Bank Account Interest                                   .18      .00
02/14/2004 Phil Wilking; N.O.M. Night cash take                  39.00      .00
02/14/2004 N.O.M. Night hostess fee                                .00    50.00
02/20/2004 Mensa National Wire Transfer                         162.08      .00
02/27/2004 Phil Wilking; 100 cheap envelopes for the Treasury      .00     1.08
03/03/2004 Patricia Armatis; Science Fair plaques                  .00    72.16
03/06/2004 Richard Stringer; March "La Plume" expenses             .00   160.17
03/13/2004 NOM Night Hostess Fee                                   .00    50.00
03/14/2004 Bank Account Interest                                   .20      .00
03/16/2004 NOM Night Cash Take (3/13/04)                         33.00      .00
03/19/2004 Mensa National Wire Transfer                         145.16      .00
04/13/2004 Bank Account Interest                                   .19      .00
04/16/2004 Mensa National Wire Transfer                         168.02      .00
04/17/2004 Phil Wilking; Book Sale NOM Night cash take           66.50      .00
04/17/2004 Postmaster, New Orleans, 2nd Class Mail Account         .00   250.00
04/17/2004 NOM Night Hostess Fee                                   .00    50.00
04/17/2004 Richard Stringer; April Update postcards                .00    73.21
05/09/2004 Patricia Armatis; May "La Plume" printing               .00   139.74
05/12/2004 Bank Account Interest                                   .17      .00
05/12/2004 Arnold P. Wilking, Jr.; Postage Stamps                  .00     7.40
05/21/2004 Mensa National Wire Transfer                         128.54      .00
06/03/2004 Anne Osteen; June postcard notification expenses        .00    59.58
06/12/2004 Phil Wilking; N.O.M. Night cash take                  36.00      .00
06/12/2004 N.O.M. Night Host Fee                                   .00    50.00
06/18/2004 Mensa National Wire Transfer                         143.84      .00


TOTALS:    Total Income                                     1,114.17
           Total Outgo                                      1,254.63

           Net change to the account so far this year:      - 140.46

Notes to this report:

The Balance Forward from last year is shown at the top of the activity list
as a zero sum activity because my antique software insists on listing it, but
it really is not a transaction of any kind. Go to the Summary Report to see the
current bank balance.

Credits to the account are recorded when deposited in person, placed
in a mailbox, or notice of a wire transfer is received; debits from the
account are subtracted from the balance when the checks are drawn.

Mensa National now sends us advance notice of dates and amounts of wire
transfers to our account.

Credits to the account shown as "Wire Transfers" are actually something
called "Automatic Clearing House" transfers. I don't know what the
difference may be, except that genuine wire transfers cost us $7.50
each to receive, while "ACH" transfers incur no charge.

                                       Respectfully submitted,

                                       Arnold P. Wilking, Jr., Treasurer

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