New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for March / April, 2004

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

March is membership renewal month. If you haven’t already done so, renew now. We don’t want to lose any of our subscribers. Also, send in your proxy. Only 26.8% of NOMs have sent in proxies to date. You can submit your proxy online at

March is also the month of Culture Quest. This is a ninety minute test of cultural literacy that Mensa chapters all over the country take simultaneously on March 28. There are questions on art, literature, history, science, current events, etc. The fee is $40 to field a team of up to five. It is a lot of fun and last year, our team “Brains on Bourbon” came in 14th in the nation. The top twenty teams receive cash awards for their scholarship fund. If you would like to join our team, contact Bart Geraci. If you would like to form a team, more information is available at

Bart Geraci is our newly appointed Ombudsman. The Ombudsman handles any issues that arise between anyone in our local group and the national office of American Mensa.

This issue features a story by our former LocSec, Smitty , about his trip to the Calcutta Zoo. We’ve got lots of new members to read about and I take a swing at the Bush administration. Pat DiGeorge’s hummingbirds and colorful flowers on the cover remind us that spring is just around the corner.

Hello Region6

by Dan Wilterding

Springtime! The leaves are greening, the dandilions need mowing, and for the vast majority of us it's time to renew our membership. Please -- don't forget to do that before the 31st.

ProxyQuest is coming along nicely -- we've gathered all of the easy pickings and have begun the push to persuade those that have not yet sent theirs in. If you have questions or concerns about this please contact me or your local group leaders for more information. This matter really does need to be put to rest so that we may spend our dues monies in ways more beneficial to us all; current expenditures for ProxyQuest are expected to be in excess of $50,000 before the end of March and nearly $14,000 more before July 1. Proxies may be submitted online at or on paper (ask your LocSec).

Are you interested in being the Region6 LDW Coordinator? It's a typical Mensa job -- lots of work, some glory (very loosely defined), no money but the potential for intense personal satisfaction. If interested please call or write me (contact info below).

Where y’at?

As of 12/31/03 New Orleans Mensa had 207 members. Here’s where they live (or at least get their mail).

NOMs by location
Orleans Parish Eastbank  
Jefferson Parish Eastbank  
  Old Metairie (below C'way)
  New Metairie (above C'way)
  Jeff/Harahan/River Ridge
St. Bernard  
River Parishes  
Houma/Lafourche/Grand Isle  
St. Tammany Parish  
  Slidell/Pearl River
Washington Parish  

Upcoming nearby RG’s

Thinking vacation? Here’s a list of upcoming Regional Gatherings within a day’s drive (more or less) of New Orleans. Details will be found in your Mensa Bulletin. Mileage and Drive Times from


by Smitty

I was second mate on a ratty old liberty cargo ship, carrying wheat to Calcutta.

A few days after we docked in Calcutta I went to the zoo. This was a fascinating place, with the feel of the jungle, not a well trimmed civilized zoo.

I saw a pygmy hippo with large, curved tusks eating grass, a black Indian crane with ruby eyes and a long neck which looks as though it was stuck on as an afterthought, and turkeys with brilliant red heads. Indian squirrels, black or very dark red with a cream outline were eating grass.

As I was watching the incredibly thin but athletic gibbons I saw one of them dive from the top of a tree which was well over a hundred feet tall. I was horrified. It looked as though he was committing suicide, but when he got down close to the bottom, he casually reached out with one hand and caught a branch which bent almost to the ground. I guessed that was one way for him to cure boredom.

I bought a bag of monkey nuts and fed them to a big, fat Durante crane. When the nuts were finished he thanked me by nipping my thumb. A Saurus crane was grey with a bright red head was stretched out while his new baby lay by his neck. The baby would struggle to his feet, scream than fall over. The mother was comfortably eating, not far away. A big, crane like Himalayan bird, which ate meat, had a huge, misshapen craw. A silver eared mesia had a very melodious voice. The incredibly brilliant Lady Amhurst pheasant was orange and green with brown areas.

There was a porcupine with enormous quills with a baby. The mother was trying to eat a pile of grass but the baby kept getting in front of her, not allowing her to eat. A red kangaroo, with a ridiculously dainty hop, was scratching her side carefully with her hand.

A heavy rain started suddenly. I hastily opened my umbrella and dashed for cover. I went to the fountain where a flourescent peacock strolled impudently across my path. I had a drink of deliciously cool, sweet mango juice. A lovely scarlet macaw flapped upside down in a cage in the rain. His wings were blue on top and red underneath. A dissipated appearing cockatoo looked on.

A tiny girl pattered in under the roof, holding her shoes, followed by her mother in a beautiful pink sari, also holding her shoes so they wouldn't get wet.

The shower stopped as quickly as it started and I went on to see a 12 year old adolescent elephant and Indian rhinos lying in a ditch, luxuriating in the mud and the relief from the heat. A marsh crocodile lay not far away, short, fat and with a curious pointed head.

In the reptile house the hamadryad -- king cobra, one of the most lethal serpents on earth, was weaving back and forth, innocent looking and lively, while his relatives, the Indian cobras, the naja naja, morosely coiled together in a big ball.

A rat snake kept pushing his head against the glass of his cage while a red sand snake lay mostly covered by sand. He had very small scales and his skin looked like old, worn leather. Two big pythons peered wistfully through the mesh on their cage. Not far away was a small glass case where a horrible looking scorpion, ten inches long, scuttled around on busy legs with his deadly pointed tail curved threateningly over his back.

The tiger, Jimmy, was a ham. He dashed around when called by his keeper, he rubbed his side on a barn-like door, then ran to a hole and leaped to a ledge, 15 feet above the ground, posed for a moment, then lay down with a smile.

A pair of ruffed sloth bears were snuggled together. One was biting the other's neck while the bitee moaned with pleasure. A weary looking polar bear raised his head a moment then dropped it on his paws and closed his eyes again. Two toned black and white honey badgers looked friendly as they came up and rubbed against the fence.

This was not the best zoo I have ever seen but it was one of the most interesting, with its mussed up, unshaven appearance.

They Blinded Us With Science

by Anne Osteen Stringer

Embryonic stem cell research offers the hope of cure for many chronic conditions such as Alzheimer Disease, spinal cord injuries, and others. Two years ago, George W. Bush, in a shameless pander to his fundamentalist Christian base, banned federal funding for research involving new stem cell lines. He stated that there were 60 cell lines available for research. This was untrue. It was shortly revealed that there were only 11 lines and those were contaminated with mouse DNA. Scientists now have the ability to grow new stem cell lines without the use of mouse DNA, but they cannot be used in federally funded research.

This and many other outrages prompted 60 prominent scientists to issue a report warning that the United States’s preeminent position in scientific research is being undermined. Issued in February, 2004, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making, documents numerous instances of censorship and political interference with scientific research at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the departments of Health, Agriculture, Interior, and Defense. The report charges that the Bush administration has deliberately and systematically distorted scientific research to further their policy goals. White House spokesman, John Marburger, dismissed the distinguished scientists who issued the report as “conspiracy theorists”, but these charges will not easily be spun away. The signers of the report include numerous winners of the National Medal of Science and at least 20 Nobel laureates. You can read the whole report at

A few of the instances documented in the report are:

In December, 2002, Bush appointed W. David Hager to the FDA’s Reproductive Health Advisory Committee. Dr. Hager has published articles promoting prayer and scripture reading to cure women’s health problems.

Last year, Jerry Thacker, a Christian activist who has described AIDS as the “gay plague” and called homosexuality a “deathstyle” was appointed to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV and AIDS. In speeches at his alma mater, Bob Jones University, Thacker discussed the “sin of homosexuality” and his fear that others might think that his own infection with HIV was the result of homosexual behavior. Thacker later withdrew from the council.

Last year, the New York Times reported that the Environmental Protection Agency's report on the state of the environment was heavily edited by the White House to delete scientific information about global climate change.

Candidates for appointment to the peer review panel of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were reportedly quizzed about their stand on various policy issues such as ergonomic standards and who they had voted for in the 2000 presidential election.

The Bush administration declined to appoint scientists with years of experience to the Center for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning and instead appointed industry lobbyists.

Despite his claim that his top priority is keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists, the Bush administration has failed to heed the advice of Defense Dept. scientists to deal with the thousands of “tactical” nuclear weapons, some of which are small enough to be transported by a person, that are stored in poorly secured locations in Russia.

In his drive to unite the country behind his plan for an invasion of Iraq, Bush ignored advice from top Department of Energy nuclear materials experts who cautioned that aluminum tubes being imported by Iraq weren't suitable for use in making nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration’s usual answer to criticism is “Clinton did it too!” and it is true that previous administrations have sometimes cherry picked scientific studies as a basis for policy decisions–but never to this extent. “Science...relies on freedom of inquiry and objectivity” said Russell Train, head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Nixon and Ford, who joined the scientists in calling for action. “But this administration has obstructed that freedom and distorted that objectivity in ways that were unheard of in any previous administration.”

This disregard for scientific integrity poses grave danger to our country and is an issue that should unite Mensans–Republican and Democrat alike. The Bush administration is politicizing science by pandering to their fundamentalist religious base and their corporate/industrial masters by suppressing and distorting scientific research. In the process they are endangering not only our air and water, our forests and wetlands, but also our health and safety, and that of our children.

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