New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for June 20111

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

From the Editor

Peter Salomon

Do YOU have a photograph that you think should be on the cover of La Plume de NOM? Send it to the Editor at and it just might appear!

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

Another summer, I was working for the local paper in a small town, and as it happens, one organist in town was celebrating her 50th anniversary for playing at the weekend masses. I was assigned to write the story. It was a puff piece for sure, but there wasn't a lot going on in town, so this was the kind of stuff they considered "big" news.

I actually enjoyed doing the interview. The big question was how was it that she remained at the position for such a long time. She said it was all about feedback she got from the people.

In this particular church configuration, she was able to see the people react to the music, and she would adjust the tempo, phrasing and even the musical keys accordingly. She learned how just changing the musical key could either calm the congregation or enliven them. She was careful to get the people moving in the church pews a little bit, enough to get them actively singing and listening, but not too much to tire them out.

"So," I said, "the secret to your longevity at the church organ is..."

"...minding your keys and pews."


Roger Durham

Another election cycle is over, and at the Annual Gathering a new American Mensa Committee, your national Board of Directors, will take office. Some of the members will be the same, some will be new, some may be in new positions. At the first meeting of the new AMC, one of the first duties of the Chair will be to nominate four people to hold the four appointed offices on the AMC: the Membership Officer, the Communications Officer, the Development Officer, and the Director of Science and Education. Soon after that, the Chair will be nominating chairs for a number of national committees. You can find the complete list of committee chairs in the 2011 Directory contained in the March issue of the Mensa Bulletin. Some of these appointees will wish to continue in office, and if they have done a good job the Chair will probably reappoint them, but inevitably there will be some offices that require new faces. The Chair is responsible for finding volunteers for those vacant offices.

But out of nearly 60,000 members of American Mensa, how can the Chair know who is interested in these positions, and who would make good candidates for them? The answer is, of course, that she can’t. Inevitably, therefore, the people who are appointed end up being people the Chair has worked with in the past, and in whom she has confidence; in short, her friends. Elissa and her predecessors would be the first to admit that this is not a particularly fair system, nor is it particularly effective. Those who have criticized national Chairs in the past for cronyism have usually missed the point, however. The system was not intended to be unfair or inefficient – quite the reverse. The Chair has usually made every effort to make the best appointments possible. The problem is that there simply was no good way to make better appointments, because there was no way to know what other good candidates might be getting overlooked.

For this reason, some have suggested that more of these offices should be elective. That would make the process more democratic, it’s true, but most of these offices are not representative in nature. Instead, they have specific responsibilities that require specific skills. The system required to fill these posts effectively is much more like a hiring process than an election, since elections, after all, frequently tend to be mere popularity contests. Consequently, I for one am opposed to creating more elective offices at the national level. However, there is an alternative. In the near future, the national office will be rolling out a new website for American Mensa. One of the features of that new site will be a sign-up area for anyone who would like to volunteer at the national level. Everyone will be able to look over the job descriptions and put their name forward for appointment to one of these offices. You will then have the opportunity to submit a resume showing how you are qualified for that particular post. Not just the Chair, but the entire AMC will have the ability to look at every volunteer’s qualifications and make nominations. So when you see the announcement of the new sign-up process, please take a look at the job descriptions and ask yourself if you could be effective in one of them. Then sign up!


Bart Geraci

By the time this newsletter comes out, the Houston RG will be over and the end of this month will be the start of the Portland, Oregon AG.

In NOM news, we're starting to form a group to work on getting an RG together, tentatively for December 2012. Rebecca Pharr has written an article on the effort. I think it's a great idea and I think that with everyone helping a bit, it will be fun.

In other NOM news, we have a new location for our Coffee SIG: Chateau Coffee Cafe, 139 Robert E. Lee Blvd, New Orleans. They're now open until 9 and they will have real food available. It's located in the shopping center near the intersection of Robert E. Lee and West End Blvd – the same center with Robert's and Walgreens, the one where the Robert E. Lee Blvd theater used to be. Ah, what memories of the Robert E. Lee. I'm old enough to remember when theaters had just one screen (OK, OK, I see you waving your hand frantically in the back, Prytania).

I've got a list of about 40 people whose membership has lapsed. Please check to see if you have forgotten to renew.

In LaPlumeDeNOM news, American Mensa will change the default option of receiving your newsletter September 1st. The default will switch from “print” to “electronic”, but it's not going to be that bad – I wrote an article to explain what's going to happen.

Congratulations to our Editor, Peter, for selling his first novel, THE MEMORY OF HENRY FRANKS, to be published in Winter 2013 by Flux.

Congratulations are also in order for Juba Kali, the son of our member Ukali Mwendo. Juba has made the final 15 in Food Network's "The Next Food Network Star" program, which starts June 5th. Check out Juba Kali at You can sample some of his specialties at the Burrito Juke Joint, every Friday at 915 N. Dupre Street from 5pm until.

And because some things come in threes, I'll close this with: Congratulations to my daughter LJ for graduating from high school.

New Default for Local Newsletters

Bart Geraci

Starting September 1st, there will be a new default for local newsletters. If you do not specify a preference, the default is to have your newsletter sent electronically, rather than snail mail. But before you gather your torches and pitchforks, the change isn't that bad. Here is my analysis of the new defaults:

For New Orleans Mensa, we've been sending electronic versions of La Plume de NOM newsletters for quite a while now. Right now, it costs about $65.00 a month to print 180 copies of a 12-page newsletter - in black & white (note: this figure does NOT include postage costs). We have about 40 people who opt to receive the electronic version, which comes in glorious color and arrives quickly in your email as a PDF attachment. The more people that convert over to the electronic version, the less we spend on printing and postage.

If you can't find a recent issue, we are also storing the unabridged PDF newsletters on our website under the same id number / password combination used to access your account at National Mensa. We publish the issues in the open section of our website, but quite a few phone numbers and names have been removed and the formatting is a more utilitarian HTML than an aesthetically pleasing PDF.

Go Ape This Summer...

Rebecca Pharr

This June, come to the Northshore for this educational tour for young and old alike, to see how apes and other primates, man’s closest relatives in the animal kingdom, are being used to help make our own lives better. Our June activity on the Northshore will be a tour of the Tulane Primate Research Center in Covington, Louisiana on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, at 11:00 a.m. The address is Tulane National Primate Research Center, 18703 Three Rivers Road, Covington, LA 70433. The TNPRC is part of a national program of about eight facilities nationwide funded by the National Institutes of Health to study infectious diseases and other biomedical research using over 5,000 nonhuman primates of six different species. Since its establishment in 1964, it has become one of the biggest employers in Saint Tammany Parish, with a staff of over 300 employees, including 35 doctorate level scientists. Research being conducted includes biodefense and regenerative medicine, as well as other studies to improve human and animal health.

On the day of the tour, dress comfortably with good walking shoes. Please note that no photographing will be permitted on the tour, and any children will have to be at the seventh grade level or above to come on the tour. You will want to eat a good breakfast just before you come, as there is no eating facility on the grounds and the tour is expected to last an hour and a half. However, they will provide bottled water. If you are coming from the Southshore on the Causeway bridge, continue north on North Causeway which becomes Highway 190. You will pass the I-12. Those coming from elsewhere on the Northshore can take the I-12 to the Highway 190 exit toward Covington. Continue north on Hwy. 190 until you reach Harrison Blvd. and make a U-turn on 190, then turn right onto Three Rivers Road until you reach the TNPRC. We will meet at the front gate about 15 minutes early, and the police at the little security building to the right will let us in as a group. Then we will drive straight in and down the road until we reach Building One and go in to see the receptionist. First there will be an overview of the facility which will last 30 minutes, then a walking tour of the grounds which will last another 30 minutes, and then a tour of the Breeding Colony, where most of the primates live and play, will also be about 30 minutes. We will receive some brochures and a small gift at the end of the tour. When we leave around 12:30 pm, we could go as a group to eat lunch somewhere nearby.

Don’t monkey around and let this opportunity pass! Please let me know today if you are coming and how many people in your party, as I need to tell them how many are coming by May 10, 2010. You can email me at See you there!

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

Bart Geraci

Tonight’s episode: “I got the blues”

I found my thrill
On Blueberry Hill
- sung by Fats Domino -

Blueberries are in full swing this time of the year and we have at least 2 different vendors at the Farmer's Market that grows them. They come in at a time when the strawberries are leaving us, but they are joined by the blackberries that are also coming in.

I still have vivid memories of blueberry pancakes in Bar Harbor, Maine at a local restaurant, back in July 1991. This was after seeing the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Trivia Geeks know that this is the first place in the United States to see the sun rise. It was cold up there, but we braved it and later that morning headed out for breakfast. Those blueberry pancakes were delicious.

I'm going back someday
Come what may
To Blue Bayou
- Linda Ronstadt-

For quite some time now, my favorite blueberry dish is a blueberry grunt. Partially because the construction is so weird looking, partially because I like the sound of the name “grunt”. From the King Arthur Flour's Baking Companion Cookbook, the different names of these fruit dishes are explained:

When I'm dreaming I dream in blue
When I'm dreaming I dream of you
When I'm screaming I scream in blue
- Midnight Oil “Scream in Blue” -


The 2 variations on blueberry grunt are based on whether the final product is cooked on the stovetop or baked in the oven. The difference is that the stovetop version has a leaner dumpling mixture (less fat), and the baking version has a bit more fat to withstand the baking process. I remembered the oven version, but the stovetop version looks to be simpler.

Watery Fruit Mix

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 quart blueberries
1 tsp lemon juice, if berries aren't tart
other flavorings, if desired
Combine ingredients in skillet and bring to a boil over low heat. While that is going on, it's time to make the dumplings.


2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbs butter (1/2 stick) (or shortening or both)
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)
Blend dry ingredients together, rub in butter with fingertips, quickly stir in buttermilk. So it's like a biscuit of sorts.


Drop the dumplings by spoonful blobs on top of the watery fruit mix. Cover and cook until done, about 15 minutes. To serve, scoop up berries and dumpling and invert it on a plate. The dumplings should be cooked, and the blueberries/sugar/ water mix should produce a thickened sauce that slumps over the dumplings. You can top it with more sauce, whipped cream, evaporated milk, etc.

Chief Meanie: It's no longer a blue world, Max. Where could we go?
Max: Argentina?
-Yellow Submarine (Movie) -

NORGy in 2012

By Rebecca Pharr

I have never been to an RG, or Regional Gathering, but I have been to an AG when it came to New Orleans in 2005. I remember the first thing that came to mind when I went with my husband was, “I’ve never been to such a wild party!” Mensans are geniuses at having fun, too! I imagine an RG is like the AG except on a smaller scale. New Orleans has been host to about five RG’s. They were called NORGy or New Orleans Regional Gathering and usually occurred between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The last one was held at Maison Dupuy Hotel in the French Quarter. We have not had a NORGy since Hurricane Katrina. Now, almost six years after the storm, New Orleans Mensa has made a slow but sure recovery, and annexed the area north of the lake where some of the population of New Orleans has relocated since the storm. I am not sure we are ready to resume our tradition of hosting an annual or bi-annual RG, and would like to have the membership’s opinion on this subject.

Many of the former members who used to help make the NORGy happen have either moved out of Louisiana or passed on. However, I would like to know if there are any of these members still in the New Orleans area who are interested in resuming our traditional NORGY at the end of 2012. Also, I would like to hear from any other, newer members who are also interested in having a NORGy.

We need to know if there is anyone with expertise or experience in giving a convention of this type. We need someone familiar with the tourist industry, in the French Quarter or near to it who can visit the various hotels and help select a site for the RG. We need someone with legal expertise who can help draw up a contract with the hotel for the RG and make sure we have the proper licenses, insurance, and other legalities necessary. We need someone who knows about catering and food service to help plan and order the food for the event. We need to know if any member would be willing to publicize the event and do the publishing for the event, such as a logo, a welcome packet, a registration form, and any literature or advertising for the NORGy. We need a treasurer to administer a budget and bank account for the NORGy, to take in the registration fees and disperse the necessary funds for this project. Then we need someone, one of the most important jobs in this project, to book speakers, recruit vendors, and plan activities. Another important post to be filled would be someone in charge of recruiting members to volunteer for the information booth, the registration booths, the hospitality room, and help out with other areas of the convention. If there are any areas which I have overlooked, please let me know. And of course, if someone knows they can do a better job than me in coordinating such a big project and is willing to step up into this leadership role, by all means do so! And if you cannot chair a committee, will you be willing to serve on one of them?

Please let me know you have anything to offer about having an RG. If I get enough of a response, I would like to contact you about getting together with you and offering any help I can. Perhaps we may be able to have a planning meeting sometime in the future. Please tell me if you think we should have another NORGy, and what you would be willing to do to help make it happen.

You can write to me, Rebecca Pharr, P.O. Box 4, Lacombe, LA 70445, or email me at Please include your name and contact information on the correspondence.


By Claudia D'Aquin

Our Coffee Night (Coffeehouse SIG) will be moving to a new location, beginning this month. The new place is the Chateau Coffee Cafe, at 139 Robert E. Lee Blvd, in the Robert E. Lee shopping center at the corner of Robert E. Lee and West End Blvd. It's always on the first Thursday of each month, beginning at 7 PM. (The next date is June 2). Here's a link to their website, if you would like to see the menu.

The original idea behind coffee night was to have it in a place with a coffee-shop atmosphere, but where one could also have a light meal, in a central location that would be relatively convenient to a major exit from the interstate. When our original 'home" was destroyed in the event of 2005, we ended up at CC's. It's never been ideal, because they serve only coffee-shop fare. The Chateau serves FOOD, and they have finally extended their hours late enough to work for us.

Take the West End exit and continue straight toward the lake. You'll see the shopping center on the corner when you hit Robert E. Lee.

This is also posted on our Facebook page as a status update. All current members have access to the page. Just look up New Orleans Mensa. (please consider joining the FB page if you haven't done so yet!) I hope to see many of you at Chateau!

Good Wine Cheap (and good food to go with it)

John Grover

This month we review a white wine from Italy, the 2009 Gavi from the Stefano Massone winery. The vineyards for this particular wine are located in the town of Masera at the foot of the Italian Alps in the Piedmont (Piemonte) region. Gavi is made 100% from the Cortese grape. This wine is crisp and fruity and starts with a nose dominated by citrus and pear. The taste is smooth and clean with clear notes of green apple, pear and a bit of minerality. It ends with a light and refreshing finish. Gavi is a good match for many sea foods and pairs well with the recipe below. This wine is available for between $11 and $14 a bottle.

Fettuccine with Red Clam Sauce

(from the Epicurious website; originally published in Bon Appétit, April, 1990; check the readers reviews on the website for suggested variations in preparation.)

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons olive oil; 5 garlic cloves, minced; 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste; one 8-ounce bottle clam juice; two 6 1/2- ounce cans chopped clams, drained, 1/2 cup juice reserved; 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley; Pinch of dried red pepper flakes; Salt and pepper; 8 ounces fettuccine, freshly cooked

Heat oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden brown, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir 1 minute. Add clam juice, reserved 1/2 cup juice from clams and parsley and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Add clams and red pepper flakes and heat through. Season with salt and about a half dozen turns of your pepper grinder. Pour sauce over the fettuccine. Toss thoroughly and serve.

I hope that you will contact me with your comments and favorite wines at I will be happy to share them with the broader Mensa group.

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Last edited: 12-Jun-2011 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at