New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for March 2016

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


By Bart Geraci

Well, March is here by the time you're reading this.

In New Orleans, we've been having good weather, save for a few tornadoes. This month comes springtime and we'll have celebrations on St. Patrick's Day and St. Joseph's Day. While St. Patrick's Day celebrations are found nationwide, St. Joseph's Day celebrations are apparently a more local custom. Not every city (as I found out) has St. Joseph's altars where foodstuff is laid out on tables, money is donated, and a small brown bag with fig cookie, bread, and a dried “lucky” fava bean is your take-home gift.

This month, we're starting up a once-a-month movie day for our Young Mensans / Gifted Children, hosted by our local GYC Gerry Ward. We're starting off with a Star Wars movie.

We're starting to firm up some plans for the NORGY 2016 at the end of the year.

Also, we had a nice turnout for judging the Greater New Orleans Science & Engineering Fair. More in an article below.

In sports, we had an exciting game the other night where Anthony Davis scored 59 points and had 20 rebounds. About 29 years ago, Pete Maravich scored 68 points for the New Orleans Jazz - and this was before the 3-point shot existed.

Let's go Pelicans!

NORGY 2016 !!!

New Orleans Mensa is having a Regional Gathering in 2016 !

Dates: December 9 - 11, 2016

So The Story Goes Like This

By Bart Geraci

So I was out in West Texas when I heard from a friend of mine that he was trying out for an audition for a regional “Idol”-like competition. I agreed to go with him to pass the time and provide some support.

When we arrived, we saw that there were a lot of people already waiting for their turns. He picked up his number and then we waited. I was sitting on the floor, reading my book but he was a bundle of nervous energy. He was pacing up and down the halls, thinking about his upcoming performance when we got called.

After about 75 pages later, I asked him if he wanted to read a second book that I had brought with me. He said okay, and I gave it to him. But rather than sit down next to me, he was standing up reading, leaning against the wall.

I said “Hey, why don't you sit down next to me?”

He replied, “No way...”

“...I can't stand sitting down.”

Greater New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair Winners

By Bart Geraci

On February 24th, I was assisted by 5 other Mensa Members in judging the local Science Fair in order for our group to award prizes. Our criteria is "projects showing creativity backed by rigorous scientific reasoning."

I want to thank my fellow judges for their help: Michael Norton, Rachel Sharp, Robert Myers, Summer McKnight, and Ben Rauch.

Our 2016 Winners:

Taz Talks

By Taz Criss, Region 6 Vice Chair

Ah, spring, that wonderful time of the year. Warmth returns, daylight savings time begins, trees bloom (causing those with allergies like mine to stop breathing for a few weeks), and it's time to renew your Mensa membership!

The membership year for American Mensa ends on March 31.You can make sure you don't miss out on any of the great benefits your membership includes by renewing online at or by calling the National Office at (888) 294-8035 ext. 199.

This year, there is an extra perk offered for those who renew on time. The Mensa Bulletin turns 50 in 2016. Every member who renews on time (yes, that includes life members and multi-year members) will receive a complimentary copy of a beautiful book featuring writing from the last five decades along with brand new original illustrations from members. This book is filled with fantastic writing, and I'm excited to get my copy. If you miss the deadline to renew, you will still be able to get a copy, but you'll have to pay for it. No one likes spending money for what they can get for free, so renew your membership today! You can hear more about this fantastic book in the February issue of the Bulletin, or online at .

While you are considering your plans for the upcoming year, I want to mention a few things to add to your calendar. Gulf Coast Mensa, Lone Star Mensa, and North Texas Mensa are all well known for throwing great RGs, but this year, New Orleans Mensa will be joining the fray. New Orleans is returning to the RG circuit December 9-11, 2016. They will be hosting the quarterly American Mensa Committee meeting in conjunction with the RG. More details will be coming soon, but you'll want to save this date.

A little sooner than that, South Texas Mensa is hosting the AMC for their quarterly meeting on March 19, 2016 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown San Antonio, TX. On Friday, March 18, STM will host their monthly speaker meeting, followed by a town hall with myself and the other members of the AMC. I encourage any of you who are available to attend this weekend. Outside of being able to learn more about our organization, STM always has great speakers, and you'll be able to enjoy San Antonio and all it has to offer.

Memorial Day weekend features Gulf Coast Mensa's annual SynRG. Plans are well underway to Boldly Go Where No RG Has Gone Before. You can register online at . SynRG typically draws in attendees from over at least 7 different local groups. You can enjoy a great party and get to know Ms from all over the region.

Finally, don't forget to register for the Annual Gathering, held this year in San Diego, CA. This opportunity to spend time with ~2,000 other Mensans is one of my favorite times of the year. Stay tuned to for program updates as we get closer to June.

As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or general comments, please let me know. I have created a simple online form where members can offer feedback on any topic, both by name or anonymously. You can find this form at Of course, if you prefer, you can always contact me via email at

In Memoriam

We have been notified of a passing of a long-time member in our chapter: James Gueydan. He was a member for nearly 40 years. We wish to express our sympathies to his family and friends.

BrainFork: A Mensan Talks About Food : Thyme

by Bart Geraci
“Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.”
“Scarborough Fair” -

Well, this month's about thyme and you can expect some more puns later.


“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows;
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.”
- William Shakespeare, “A Midsummer Night's Dream” -

Let's start off with a taxonomy.

Kingdom Plantae
(unranked) Angiosperms
(unranked) Eudicots
(unranked) Asterids
Order Lamiales
Family Lamiaceae
Genus Thymus
Species T. vulgaris

Like the herbs sage and rosemary, thyme is part of the mint family Lamiaceae. The odd one out of our opening quartet is parsley, which is a member of the parsley/carrot/celery family. Thyme is native to Asia, southern Europe and the Mediterranean region, and it can be cultivated in North America.

The herb that we call Thyme that is used in cooking is actually a specific species, called Thymus vulgaris , where “vulgaris” means common. There are other varieties such as lemon/lime/orange thyme, caraway thyme, and wild thyme.

The condiment Za'atar is widely used in the Middle East and the Arab world. It is commonly made from dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. In France, Herbes de Provence is a popular mixture of thyme, savory, oregano, rosemary, and marjoram.

A Brief History of... (puts on sunglasses)...Thyme

“And in his left he held a basket full
Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull
Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
Than Leda's love, and cresses from the rill.”
- John Keats -

In Ancient Egypt, thyme was used for embalming, as well as being added to bathwater. Greeks burned it as incense - they believed it source of courage. The word “thyme” itself is derived from ancient greek words “spirit” and “smoke”. Hippocrates mentions thyme being used to treat respiratory conditions.

During the Middle Ages, thyme was placed under pillows to aid sleep and ward off nightmares. Also, women would give scarves to their knights and these scarves would have a sprig of thyme for bravery. Thyme was placed on coffins during funerals to assure passage to the next life.

Herbs in Bondage

“He wraps a bay leaf, thyme, and parsley with the dark green portion of a leek and secures it with a string. Voilà, a bouquet garni.”
-Kathleen Flinn, “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World's Most Famous Cooking School”-

A bouquet garni is made as described in the quote above. One uses it to flavor a stock or some other cooking liquid. The technique is used in order to easily remove it from the pot after the stock has finished. If you're passing stock through a strainer, you don't need to do this. However if you're leaving the solids parts (meat, veggies) and you're serving it with the liquid, then that's where this trick comes into play. You can do something similar with a sachet made from cheesecloth (or a tea-ball) with the herbs in them.

Oil the Thyme in the World

“It was like a journey into space. I was standing on Mars, knee-deep in thyme, under a sky that seemed never to have known dust or cloud.”
- John Fowles, “The Magus” -

The volatile oil in thyme contains several terpenes, such as borneol, geraniol, and carvacrol. But the principal phenol in thyme is called thymol (C10 H14 O). Thymol is an antiseptic and is used in commercially produced mouthwashes as well as hand sanitizers.

The volatile oils in thyme have been shown to be able to not only prevent contamination, but to actually decontaminate different pathogens. For instance, one study shows that the oil, in a low concentration of %1, can decontaminate lettuce inoculated with Shigella, a bacteria that causes dysentery (which is how you die in the Oregon Trail video game).

Thymol shares the same chemical formula (but organized differently) as carvacrol (C10 H14 O), which is found mainly in the herb oregano. So some thyme varieties will taste a bit more like oregano. Comparing the two, thymol is a gentler version of carvacrol.

So this means you can use a little bit of oregano if you ever find yourself...

...out of thyme.


“Jerusalem artichokes are very sweet this time of year, ... I like to bake them until they are buttery. Add butter and thyme and a little chicken stock until they are glazed.”
- Daniel Boulud -

Fresh thyme does not fly like an arrow, but it flies like any small thin woody stem with small green leaves. You can extract just the leaves by scraping it with the back of a knife or by holding the stem and pulling the leaves through the fingers or fork tines. Now it so happens that thyme freezes well. And when you take a frozen stick of thyme out, you can just rub it and the leaves fall off even easier.

Thyme has an affinity with apples, beans, chicken, figs, fish, lemons, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. You can add it to vinaigrettes and other salad dressings.

So let's do thyme, lemon, and chicken together:

Simple Chicken Breast Recipe

chicken breasts
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil
lemon juice
fresh thyme

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Season breasts with salt and pepper. Put olive oil on bottom of oven-safe dish, add chicken breasts, drizzle a little oil on top, squeeze lemon juice, and sprinkle with thyme leaves. Bake for about 30 minutes - we're looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Move chicken to plate and pour juices over the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Another combo with thyme and lemon:

Spring-Thyme (or Summer-Thyme) Lemonade

Make simple syrup (1 unit water, 1 unit sugar) but add some thyme to it as well. When sugar is dissolved, add lemon juice & water, strain into pitcher and refrigerate until cold. Garnish with thyme sprigs to show that this isn't just any old lemonade. And I've seen versions that add some gin or vodka to the mix.

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These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2016 by New Orleans Mensa, all rights reserved. Mensa® and the Mensa logo (as depicted for example in U.S. TM Reg. No. 1,405,381) are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by American Mensa, Ltd., and are registered in other countries by Mensa International Limited and/or affiliated national Mensa organizations. Mensa does not hold any opinion or have, or express, any political or religious views.
Last edited: 31-January-2016. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at