New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for March 2014

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

From The Editor

Kevin Chestnut

As Bart mentions in his LocSec report on Page 2, New Orleans Mensa has purchased a brick in the National WWII Museum’s Road to Victory program. The message shown at the left will be engraved on a brick on the campus of the museum. For more information about the program, please visit brick-campaign-legacy-2.html.

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

I was at a small art museum in West Texas, and the director was preparing an exhibit about Vincent van Gogh. Now we didn’t have any actual original pieces, but our museum was more of a community resource to learn about great artists.

Anyway, the director ordered a bust of van Gogh, and on the morning of the exhibit, it finally arrived. When she opened the box, she was visibly aggravated; she had ordered the natural flesh colored version, but they sent her the all chalky white version instead. With the exhibit opening up in a few hours, she didn’t know what to do.

I told her that I still had some tanning spray in my car from another business venture I was involved in, and I was willing to help her to make the bust more life-like.

She said, “Really? You’ll help me with this?”

I said “Sure. After all…”

“... it takes two to tan Gogh.”


By Bart Geraci

As this is going to press, we are in the midst of Mardi Gras celebration. That means streets are being closed and we’re dodging traffic left and right to get to places. Luckily in the 21st century, there are apps for that (parade trackers).

We had an EXCOM meeting in February and a testing session. At the EXCOM meeting, I showed the certificate I received from the WWII Museum which describes the inscription of the brick that our group bought for the “Road To Victory” Program. Our group purchased this brick in honor of our many member veterans.

New Orleans Mensa Honors Our Member Veterans

February was also the month of the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair. Every year, for many years now, a group of us will judge some science fair projects and present some awards on behalf of our group.

Locally, the city hosted the NBA All-Star game, showing again how well our city hosts different events. I want to thank all those in the city that make these events possible. It is one of the many reasons I love to live here.

Weather-wise, we’ve been getting some warm spells with some cold spells around here, so my jacket remains in the car for the occasional unexpected freezes. Nevertheless, the warm spells have been getting warmer, and Spring will begin again this month. It’ll be time to start looking forward to the many festivals in the city.

Let’s Go Pelicans!

2014 CultureQuest

By Bart Geraci

I will lead our team, Brains on Bourbon, again this year for the 2014 CultureQuest® competition, which will take place on Sunday, April 27, from 3:00pm to 4:30 p.m. (known around here as the first Sunday of Jazzfest). It is a closed-book 90 minute test on all types of culture trivia: from names of newspapers to the names of the Greek Muses. If you are a trivia buff, we would welcome you to join us. We compete for fun, bragging rights, and cash prizes for our group.

We can have 5 on our team plus 2 alternates. If you are interested, contact me at as soon as possible.

Science Fair

By Bart Geraci

On February 19, New Orleans Mensa sent a contingent of judges to the Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair so that we could give out the New Orleans Mensa special awards. Our awards are for projects showing creativity backed by rigorous scientific reasoning. We give out first and second place awards for both Junior and Senior Divisions. In addition to a certificate, first place winners receive $100 each, and second place winners receive $50 each. This year we had five judges: Ben Rauch, Rachel Sharp, Phil Therrien, Arleen Williams, and myself.

This year’s winners:

In Memoriam

It is our sad duty to announce the passing of one of our members, Martha Sheldon. Martha has been a frequent contributor of poetry and other works to La Plume de NOM over the years, and we have appreciated her willingness to share them with us. Her talents captured the attention of the national group, and her poem “Thoughts After Reading Marco Polo”, published in La Plume’s September 2011 issue, was cited in the Poetry category of the 2012 Publications Recognition Program. Her most recent submissions appeared just last month (February 2014) – the poems entitled “Paradox” and “Pronouns”.

Her low Mensa membership number indicates that she first became a member over 30 years ago. She is also the mother of another member, Phil Wilking. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to her family.

In Martha’s memory, we present below two more poems that she had submitted for publication.


I wish I lived in a little glass house
With treetops all around.
I’d sit all day as still as a mouse
And never make a sound.

I’d watch where the birds fly in and hide,
But I’d know where they go, you see,
For the tree’s green leaves would be my guide –
They’d shake where the birds would be.

Maybe I’d even see into the nest
Where the tiny eggs would lie.
If the eggs were colored, I’d like blue best,
Perhaps as many as five.

Oh, I wish I lived in a little glass house
With treetops all around,
And birds for friends –

Then still as a mouse
I’d watch all day while they sang to me,
But I’d never make a sound.


Wind dances with the homing sails.
Gulls beat to dock against the wind,
To settle in a row, gray against the gray pier.
Four pelicans stroke slowly to four pilings,
Fold satchel-beaks against their chests,
Gaze solemn-faced toward dark water.
One gray heron, a quilted shape against thick clouds,
Reaches, an aging dancer, toe-first
To the tallest piling and stands, aloof.
A late comer, ruffled, uncertain, hurries
To the last place in line, huddling on the gray pier.
The wind plows furrows in the bay.

Young Mensan News & Notes

From Lisa Van Gemert, Gifted Youth Specialist

Happenings & Celebrations:

March is National Craft Month, so be sure to try out a new craft or art project. For ideas, see our Pinterest Arts & Crafts board at (you do not need to be a registered Pinterest user to view the board).

Don’t Forget the Young Mensa Six-Word Biography Contest!

Visit for info.

Benefit Highlight:

If you like trivia, be sure to check out BrainWorx, Mensa’s new trivia source designed just for youth! Every day, we share a question, and then we send the answer to that question the next day. Every day has a different topic, from Math & Science Mondays to Fun Friday, and lots in between. We send the questions and answers out via our Twitter account @MensaGT (, but you don’t have to be on Twitter to see it. You can see the questions every weekday at 10 a.m. Central time, and the answers every Tuesday through Saturday at 9 a.m. Central time. Find out more at

From the RVC

Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chairman

Spring is almost here, and that means it’s time to renew your Mensa membership again (unless, of course, you’re a life member, or you paid for a multi-year renewal that still has some time to run). This year you may have noticed that we are offering a new option: automatic renewal. This will allow you to authorize American Mensa to renew your membership each year without bothering you, unless and until you tell us otherwise. This option will save you some hassle, and has been fairly popular so far, but saves you no money. However, as I have mentioned before, a life membership will insulate you from further dues increases - forever. Why not make this the year that you invest in Mensa life membership?

Another thing that it’s time to do is make your plans to attend the 2014 version of SynRG, the Regional Gathering of Gulf Coast Mensa, taking place over Memorial Day weekend in Houston. Go to for more information and a registration form. It’s also time to make plans to attend the 2014 Annual Gathering of American Mensa, July 2-6 in Boston this summer. Visit for details.

Now, I need some feedback. I am chairing a task force that is charged with looking for better ways of supporting local groups. One of the suggestions brought forward in our discussions has been the creation of an on-line tutorial for new or prospective Local Secretaries on how to lead a Mensa local group. I think this is a fine idea, but the problem is that no funding is available for it. However, funds are budgeted each year now to pay for a “LocSecs’ Summit” at the AG, where experienced local officers share best practices. This is a popular program, but in my view it reaches too few people and the ones it does reach are the wrong ones. We have to limit it to current LocSecs, of whom fewer than half attend, and because it’s done in conjunction with the AG, most of those participating are at least halfway through their terms of office by the time it takes place. Would you think it’s a good idea to discontinue the “LocSecs’ Summit” at the AG and apply the funding to development of an on-line tutorial that would be available to anyone at any time? Please give this some thought and let me know as soon as possible. I would like to be able to share your opinions at our national Board meeting at the end of March.

Finally, as always, please remember that if you have any questions, comments, or concerns, you can reach me at


BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food

By Bart Geraci


“I was only foolin', George. I don't want no ketchup. I wouldn't eat no ketchup if it was right here beside me. If it was here, you could have some. But I wouldn't eat none, George. I'd leave it all for you. You could cover your beans with it and I wouldn't touch none of it.”
- John Steinbeck “Of Mice and Men”-

Mayonnaise was last month, Ketchup is this month.

A Little History

Sheldon: “Oh, here's a fun fact! Ketchup started out as a general term for sauce, typically made of mushrooms or fish brine with herbs and spices. Some popular early main ingredients included blueberry, anchovy, oyster, kidney bean, and grape.”
- Big Bang Theory -

Okay, that’s stealing a bit of my thunder, but I’ll continue. In China, there was a sauce of mostly fermented fishes and spices called ke-chiap. In Malaysia, a similar sauce was called kicap. Today, “kecap manis” is an Indonesian thick and sweet soy sauce In fact, “kecap” is an Indonesian term for all fermented sauces.

Now neither cuisine had what we now consider the common tomato ketchup sauce since the tomatoes are a New World crop (originally from the Andes). One of the earliest mentions of tomato ketchup as a recipe appeared in 1801 in the Sugar House Book. The Heinz company started commercial production of tomato ketchup in 1876.

Now when we say ketchup, we are talking about the tomato variety. If we want to talk about another variety, we have to put a modifier in front. So in England, there exists mushroom ketchup. And we’ll see another variety later.

So is it Ketchup or Catsup?

(Mr. Burns is in a grocery store holding two bottles of the aforementioned condiment. One reads “Ketchup”, and the other one reads “Catsup”)
Mr. Burns: “Ketchup ... Catsup. Ketchup ... Catsup. Cats... K... K... uh, I'm in way over my head!”
Store Clerk #1: “He's talking to the ketchup now. Burns is sure acting nutty!”
-The Simpsons (episode “The Old Man and the Lisa”)-

When Heinz released their tomato ketchup in 1876, the common spelling at the time was “Catsup”. So Heinz decided to name it as “Ketchup” as a way to distinguish itself from the other brands. (This could have been a risk if people were skipping over “Ketchup” bottles looking for “Catsup” bottles). Eventually, other brands converted to Ketchup, and Del Monte was the last holdout, spelling “Catsup” until 1988.

While Canada also uses “Ketchup”, other British commonwealth nations use “Red Sauce”, which is strange because locally, “Red Sauce” refers to a pasta sauce (instead of the condiment). At Rocky & Carlo’s in Chalmette, “Red Gravy” is the term that refers to the pasta sauce as in “Do you want brown gravy or red gravy on the mac and cheese?”

Like Tomato Ketchup but Hate Tomatoes?

“I still eat a burger at a counter with ketchup dripping down my face.”
-Scarlett Johansson-

During World War II, there was a shortage of tomatoes in the Philippines. So they decided to make a substitute using bananas, which was in abundance. I found some at my local International Supermarket, termed “Banana Sauce”. There are no tomatoes in the ingredient list, but since the natural color of the sauce is brown, it is often dyed red to resemble ketchup. And the taste? It’s not bad. It’s loaded with spices and sugar like regular ketchup and I don’t really get a “banana” sense in tasting it.


“Shake and shake the catsup bottle.
None will come, and then a lot'll.”
-Richard Armour-

The word viscosity describes a fluid’s resistance to flow. The viscosity of a Newtonian fluid (water, milk, etc.) depends only on the temperature. The viscosity of a Non-Newtonian fluid (yogurt, paste, ketchup, etc.) depends on temperature and shear rate.

Okay, so what does this mean? If you take a brand new bottle of ketchup and turn it upside down, the inherent thickness of the ketchup will keep it in the bottle and it will refuse to come out, therefore the viscosity is very high, since the ketchup is very resistant to flowing. When you hit the bottle, you’re applying a deal of cross-sectional force which will cause some of the bonds in the ketchup to break (shear), thus enabling the ketchup to flow. At this point, the viscosity is very low since it flows freely. Any liquid that changes from a high viscosity to a low one after applying a sufficient level of shearing stress is called a Bingham Plastic, named after Eugene C. Bingham, professor of chemistry at Lafayette College.

The agent responsible for the high viscosity in ketchup is Xanthan gum. It is not an emulsifier, but it is a stabilizer since it helps suspend solid particles in liquids. It is used in salad dressings in order to keep the ingredients mixed in the bottle, but when subjected to enough force, will thin out to be poured onto the yummy vegetables.

Any Final Thoughts on Ketchup?

“My favorite sandwich is peanut butter, baloney, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and mayonnaise on toasted bread with catsup on the side.”
-Hubert H. Humphrey-

Okay...wait a sec...weren’t you here last month?


I have two this month. I tried the first one, but not the second one.

1. Red Remoulade

In New Orleans, just like gumbo, there are a variety of recipes for Remoulade sauce. The two main divisions are Red and White. The Red uses ketchup while the White uses mayonnaise.

1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup chopped green onions
0 to 1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped celery
1 to 2 Tbsp chopped garlic
0 to 3 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 to 4 Tbsp prepared horseradish
2 to 6 Tbsp mustard: Creole, whole-grain, yellow (or a combination)
2 to 3 Tbsp ketchup
0 to 1 Tbsp paprika
Salt / Pepper / hot sauce to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and process. Taste for salt / pepper / spiciness.

2. Ketchup Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons red food coloring
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease two 9 inch round pans (parchment suggested) or you can also do this as cupcakes, rather than one big cake.

Dry mix: combine and mix flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and ginger - set aside.

Wet mix: combine and mix ketchup, water, and food coloring; set aside.

In Mixer Bowl: combine butter and brown sugar, then add eggs.

Then add Dry mix and wet mix to mixer bowl and beat on low until incorporated. Then turn up the speed to medium high for a minute.

Pour into pans, and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before assembling and icing.

Frosting Ingredients:
6 ounces brick-style cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups icing/confectioners/powdered sugar

In Mixer Bowl: beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla on low until smooth. Then slowly add sugar, beating on high until fluffy.

So Any Comments on the Ketchup Cake Recipe?

“That's wronger than ketchup on pancakes.”
-Charles Barkley-

New Orleans Mensa Executive Committee Meeting, February 8, 2014

Members present: Bart Geraci, Claudia D’Aquin, Daniel Pounder, Phil Therrien, Robert Myers,

Gerry Ward

5:15 p.m. - Meeting called to order.


1. Bart presented the minutes from the November 9 meeting. The minutes were accepted.


1. Editor Kevin Chesnut sent receipts from last month's newsletter.

2. Bart presented our certificate for the New Orleans Mensa brick at the WW2 museum "Road To Victory" brick program. We will publish a photo of it in the next newsletter.

3. Science Fair is February 19, 9 a.m. to noon, at the UNO Human Performance Center. We have five volunteers to judge.

4. Daniel brought up some ideas for activities involving young Mensans. Brought up the idea of a viewing pizza party for the premier episode of the new Cosmos series on March 9. He and Gerry will work on setting this up.

5. Treasurer's report: Current balance: $10,788.81 as of January 31.

All business being concluded, the meeting was adjourned at 6:00 p.m.

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Last edited: 07-Feb-2014. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at