New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for November, 2013

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

I was visiting my friend out in West Texas (and West in this context is a direction and not the town) who was starting to get into making cheese.

He was showing me around the place and all the equipment and finally into the room where cheese was being stored. In this room, there were shelves of big wheels of cheese and by each cheese was a label with date and milk information and a small jar of some sort of liquid.

So I asked him what was in the jar and he explained in the processing the cheese is made from the solids after the milk curdles and the leftover watery portion is the whey. He was keeping a little bit of the whey in case he wanted to go back and do more tests on the liquids.

So that made sense to me. And I thought “How obvious…”

“...when there’s a wheel, there’s a whey.”


By Bart Geraci

So the big event in October was Mensa Testing Day at the New Orleans Museum of Art. We tested two people and we’re planning out more testing dates.

In town, the weather has just been marvelous. It’s those few days of the year where you can walk outside in the afternoon and feel just so comfortable. Like San Francisco weather, but just a tad warmer.

Elsewhere in New Orleans, the Pelicans basketball team is starting up, having played a few games in October. The Saints have had their bye week, and they’re working through the rest of the season. The Saenger Theater is back in full force with Broadway plays, concerts, and other events. Voodoo Fest is the first weekend of November, and it includes Pearl Jam, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Kid Rock and many others.

This is November, so there are two major events. There’s “Black Friday” where everyone goes out shopping, although it looks like every year, they start earlier and earlier. Used to be the specials would start at 6 a.m., then midnight, now they start on Thursday evening. One year, they’ll probably make the whole week a National holiday. Of course, some people do all their shopping online.

Still, the major Holiday of November is Thanksgiving. And on this note, I am thankful for all the volunteers who put their time and effort into our group.

Let’s go Saints!

From the Editor

By Kevin Chesnut

I would like to express my thanks to Bart, Gerry, and Martha, who contributed to this month’s newsletter, and to all who have done so in the past year. We always welcome your submissions, as well as your suggestions, to help La Plume de NOM serve you better.

Member Benefits

The American Mensa web site ( offers a cornucopia (had to use that word somewhere this month) of information, about our organization’s past, present, and future. Of particular interest are the many financial and other benefits available to members. Here’s an example regarding the entertaining and informative mental_floss magazine:

Members of American Mensa pay less than $20 for an annual subscription to the magazine that covers everything from black holes to the Dead Sea Scrolls. And the mental_floss store is currently offering a special discount to members in honor of Mensa's Brilliant anniversary!

For more about the numerous benefits of Mensa membership, visit:


by Martha Sheldon

I will sing you a song, Scarlet Tanager
A sad song, though your feathers are bright.
I will dig you a grave, little traveler,
In this earth that holds none of your like.
I will line it with green leaves for sleeping
Softly, safe from the buffeting wind.
With red berries I’ll mark it for memory,
Here where warm, gentle shadows lie dim.
I will think of you sometimes with sorrow
For beauty no longer in sight,
But always with hope that, unknowing,
You soared to the end of your life.

From the Gifted Youth Coordinator

by Gerry Ward

Who can be a Young Mensan?

Young Mensans are the children and grandchildren of our members and children who are members in their own right.

When referring to child Mensa members, I will use YMM for Young Member Mensans.

In order for me to plan activities, I will need to know who wants to be a member of our Young Mensan group. I have the email addresses for most of our YMMs, and would like them for the two that omitted them from the national information list.

Adult Ms: please send me the name, gender, age, grade level, and address of your children/grandchildren who would like to be included in our Young Mensan activities. I also need an email address for the adult responsible for the child. It is not always possible to get information early enough in the month to make the newsletter, and I may need to email the information to you.

Since we are spread out over both the north and south shores of Lake Pontchartrain, I need your help in deciding where to meet and what activities your children would like to do. Also the days and times that are convenient to the majority.

Mensa does not have a “drop off and leave” policy. Adults must stay and be responsible for their children. When the activity is over, all of us will leave.

You may contact me at

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

From the Gifted Youth Specialist

by Lisa Van Gemert (

Calling all Lego® fans! Gather your bricks and get building.

Send us a picture of your efforts, and you could win one of six Lego prizes!



From the RVC

Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chairman

By now you have probably all heard that Mensa has a new policy prohibiting weapons at national Mensa events. Our more fervent Second Amendment defenders were quick to leap to a number of incorrect conclusions as soon as this motion showed up on the agenda, but the facts do not support the level of hysteria engendered by this proposal.

First of all, the policy is not the opening salvo of a Mensa campaign against guns. This new policy is actually not about guns at all – it is about insurance. As a result of an incident at the Fort Worth Annual Gathering, where one of our members threatened another with a firearm, apparently committing at least three violations of Texas law in the process, our insurance agent informed us that if we did not ban guns at our events, the carrier would probably cancel our policy. Our agent added that if our coverage were to be terminated for that reason, no other company would be willing to pick it up.

We simply cannot afford to allow this to happen. Aside from the financial risks of doing without liability insurance, we would be unable to hold any more national events, such as the AG, Mind Games, or Colloquia, because the hotels where such things are held require insurance from us. No insurance, no event. It’s that simple. We tried to pass the least restrictive ban possible, applying only to national events. The new ban does not apply to your local events or Regional Gatherings. Opponents of the new policy have charged that this is only the beginning – that the Board of Directors intends to expand the ban to local events at some time in the future. I can tell you that the sponsors of this policy, the Risk Management Committee, have no such intent. However, I can’t promise that such an expansion won’t occur at some future date, because we don’t know what the insurance companies might require in the future. For now, however, we are hopeful that they will be satisfied with what we have done so far.

Another misconception is that the new ban prohibits members from bringing weapons to the hotel where the event is held. That is not the intent, although many hotels have such a prohibition, and there’s not much we can do about that. Our policy, however, is intended only to prohibit the carrying of weapons in the event rooms themselves. Unfortunately, the motion as actually passed does not make that clear, and I intend to see that an amendment is introduced at the December meeting to clarify this and several other points.

As a Vietnam veteran and the owner of a number of firearms of various kinds, I would never have put my name on this motion if it were part of some kind of anti-gun political statement. Please recognize it for what it is – a financial necessity imposed on us by the insurance industry. If it’s any consolation, we investigated over 250 other groups that hold national gatherings similar to ours. Of these, only one – the National Rifle Association – does not have a weapons ban of some kind. In any case, it’s a moot point in 2014: our AG is in Massachusetts, where guns are banned everywhere.

From the SIGHT Coordinator

by Gerry Ward

From November 3-9, a member from Wisconsin and his wife will be in town, and they would like some of the locals to show them the sights or give them good sightseeing advice. They are not interested in commercial tours.

Please let me who know who will take them around. Since they will be here for Coffee Night, they can meet more of us. So please come out on November 7th.

Gerry Ward

SIGHT -- the Service of Information, Guidance and Hospitality to Travelers -- allows members to enjoy the company and hospitality of Mensans from around this country and from more than 40 other countries.
From the American Mensa web site.
Visit for more information. – Ed.

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food

By Bart Geraci


“It has been an unchallengeable American doctrine that cranberry sauce, a pink goo with overtones of sugared tomatoes, is a delectable necessity of the Thanksgiving board and that turkey is uneatable without it.”
-Alistair Cooke-

In time for November, we’ll talk about Cranberries this month. After all, November is National Cranberry Month … what? ... October? Really? OK, take two: After all, November is the month after National Cranberry Month.

What’s in a Name?

“Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.”
-Groucho Marx, “Animal Crackers”-

Okay Groucho….

Cran-berry? Actually, more like crane-berry. What happened is that the early settlers looked at the stem, calyx, and petals of this fruit and decided it reminded them of a crane’s head. In Northeast Canada, it is called the mossberry.

Cran-berry? Actually more like bounce-berry. A good ability to bounce is a sign of a good cranberry. John Webb first discovered this in 1800s.

Cran-berry? Actually more like float-berry. The cranberry has 4 pockets of air in it which allows it to float in liquids. This has led to a rather unusual harvesting technique as we will see later.

Cran-berry? Actually, let’s look at its taxonomy:

Kingdom Plantae
(subdivision) Angiosperms
(subdivision) Eudicots
(subdivision) Asterids
Order Ericales
Family Ericaceae
Genus Vaccinium

There are three sub-genus here:

Tartness abounds

“And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart.”
-Edward Lear, “The Jumblies”-

Cranberries have some of the lowest sugar/acid ratio. See:

banana 60.0
blueberry 37.0
orange 8.0
cranberry 1.0
lemon 0.4
lime 0.3

Cranberries are rich in pectins, so cooking them will cause the sauce to thicken considerably, making jellied cranberry sauces easier than other fruits.

Cranberries are loaded with phenolic components (200mg / 100g) including antioxidants, antimicrobials, and benzoic acid. Cranberries also possess a pigment precursor which has the distinct ability to prevent bacteria from adhering to tissues in the human body. This is why cranberry juice is said to help people with urinary tract infections.

Aromas found in the cranberries come from terpenes and phenolics. The differences:

Bogged Down in Details

“There, too, I admired, though I did not gather, the cranberries, small waxen gems, pendants of the meadow grass, pearly and red, which the farmer plucks with an ugly rake, leaving the smooth meadow in a snarl, heedlessly measuring them by the bushel and the dollar only, and sells the spoils of the meads to Boston and New York; destined to be jammed, to satisfy the tastes of lovers of Nature there. So butchers rake the tongues of bison out of the prairie grass, regardless of the torn and drooping plant.”
-Henry David Thoreau-

Cranberries grow on vines or low shrubs. To set up a cranberry field, called a bog (hence the chapter subtitle), a layer of topsoil is removed to build a levee around the field. The vines are in the center and actually for most of the growing season, the vines are kept moist and not drowning in water.

Before harvesting, the berries must mature first. Actually, at the onset of maturity, the berries are white in color - this is where we get white cranberry juice from. But let them on the vine longer and they turn into the red we are all familiar with.

Now per the above quote, cranberries can be hand-picked. But the more interesting way is that at harvest time, the bog is flooded with say 6-8 inches of water. The pockets of air embedded in the cranberry will cause it to break free from the vines and float. Once on top, the prevailing wind at the time will gather all the cranberries in one corner of the bog and gathering them becomes fairly easy. I have a vivid memory of seeing a dog standing in the bog with the farmer as they were gathering the berries one October in Massachusetts.

Around 95% of the cranberries that are harvested are processed in some way before showing up on the shelves. The ever-present canned cranberry sauce was invented by someone who wanted to put the damaged cranberries to some good use.


“I made cranberry sauce, and when it was done, put it into a dark blue bowl for the beautiful contrast. I was thinking, doing this, about the old ways of gratitude: Indians thanking the deer they'd slain, grace before supper, kneeling before bed. I was thinking that gratitude is too much absent in our lives now, and we need it back, even if it only takes the form of acknowledging the blue of a bowl against the red of cranberries.”
-Elizabeth Berg, “Open House”-

So what I like is a recipe that deals with the leftover jellied cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving. I’ve seen a few of these and this one has some whole grain flour and oats and other good stuff.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees, get a muffin pan and use paper baking cups for the muffins. I tried without the baking cups, but the pieces of the cooked jellied cranberry will stick to the pan easily, so it was hard getting the muffins out without tearing them.

Dry ingredients:

1˝ cups of flour - 1 cup regular, ˝ cup whole wheat

1 cup oats

Sugar - ⅓ cup or so, either brown or white

1 Tbsp baking powder

˝ tsp baking soda

˝ tsp salt

Dry spices - cinnamon? orange zest? nutmeg?

Use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients together - you’ll use the whisk for the wet ingredients anyway, so why not?

Wet ingredients:

1˝ cups of leftover cranberry sauce

˝ cup milk

⅓ cup oil or melted butter

1 egg, beaten first with the whisk

Wet spices - vanilla extract? almond extract?

After the egg has been beaten, add the rest of the wet ingredients and whisk until well combined.

Like all muffin recipes, once you introduce the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, time is of an essence here. What happens is that the liquids start to react with the baking soda / powder and it will start to generate gas to make the muffins rise.

But if you keep mixing it too much, then it’s likely that you have broken enough of the strands to hold the gases within the batter, and the muffins won’t rise as much. So mixing wet into dry ingredients is usually done until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Split dough among the muffin cups and bake for about 20 - 22 minutes.

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These pages and all content Copyright (c) 2013 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: 13-Jul-2013. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at