New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for November 2014

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


By Bart Geraci

October was an active month.

I joined the Games Night (aka Bon Temps Joueurs) over at Rue de la Course and had a good time playing games with our fellow members. In the game “Word on the Street”, it is to a person’s advantage to play longer words than shorter ones, so I used the opportunity to play the word “gynotikolobomassophilia” which means “someone who loves nibbling on a woman’s earlobe”. Since Scrabble and Words with Friends boards are only 15 letters wide, I don’t get to use that word that much.

October was also Mensa Testing month and we had a testing session at the New Orleans Museum of Art. We also had a dinner on the Northshore for the first time in a long while. We also changed our monthly meeting to a different location - the Landmark hotel near Veterans and Causeway.

The big event we had was an Open House for our group in City Park, arranged by our Public Relations Coordinator Summer McKnight - more details are in a separate article.

On a sad note, we noted the passing of a long-time active member, Helga Cernicek. I’ll talk about her also in a separate article.

November (actually October 28th) marks the start of our NBA team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Our Saints aren’t doing that well, but no one else in the NFC South is either, so I’m not worried. As for someone who grew up with the Saints (and Tulane Green Wave) I’m used to supporting our teams through thick and thin.

Let’s go Saints and Pelicans!

Remembrance of Helga Cernicek

By Bart Geraci

Helga Cernicek, a long-time active member, passed away recently.

She was Co-Chairperson of the Celebration SIG group that would meet (most) every month at the Landmark Hotel. She would bring cartoons clipped from magazines (mostly from the New Yorker) and pass them around while we munched on some flavored crackers and consume some beverages from the bar.

She was also our group’s New Member coordinator. She would send a handwritten / typed personal note to all our new members welcoming them to the club. In the world of Internet connectivity, she was the only person I knew that did not have either a computer or an online account somewhere.

We are thankful for her many years of service for our group. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to her family and friends.

Mensa Open House

By Bart Geraci

One big event we had in October was the New Orleans Mensa Open House, arranged by the indefatigable Summer McKnight, in City Park near the testing location. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, being a cool-ish fall day in New Orleans. There was no rain, but it was fairly breezy, playing havoc with some balloons that floated away. The location was near one of the park’s many lagoons, surrounded by large oak trees with moss hanging down. There was a large flock of ducks nearby enjoying the day as much as we were.

The food was simple snacking food (nothing needed cooking), but the cotton candy machine turned out to be a big hit with people of all ages. Our drinks were iced down in Igloos; we had bottled water and pouch drinks for the kids. We hung our large New Orleans Mensa banner (with the silhouette of a musician playing under our city’s iconic streetlamp) to let people know who we were.

The theme was “It’s All Fun and Games.” We had prepared multiple activities for people of all ages. Available games included chess, big inflatable bowling ball & pins, kites, Lord of the Rings trivia, and even some science / educational activities. I was most amazed by the huge Scrabble board that Summer McKnight constructed using interlocking foam for the tiles and PVC pipe for the tile racks.

We had people stopping by to ask about our group and expressing interest in joining. We had a bunch of kids running around flying the kites (which put that breeze to good use). All in all, it was a wonderful day and I’d like to thank all those who helped: Phil Therrien, Bob Myers (and his daughter), and Anne Stringer.

I want to especially acknowledge Summer McKnight for all the time that she has put into the event and in our group. Thank you for making it such a wonderful event

So the Story Goes Like This

By Bart Geraci

I took on some odd jobs over in West Texas, including the time I was an assistant to a customs inspector. In addition to checking prohibited items from coming into the country, we also examined other imports for knock-offs that would be attempted to be sold for the real deal. In some cases it was easy such as the shipment of “Rollx” watches.

One time, there was a shipment of shoes claiming to be real “Cobbler” brand shoes, which were fetching a pretty sum at the time. In this case, the name was spelt right, but the design seemed a little different. I noticed that like the real brand, there was stars and moons and comets on the shoe, but my boss showed me what the difference was.

He pointed out that the Cobbler brand only used elements in the night sky, and that the appearance of a circle with sawtooth edges painted in yellow was not part of the design and was clearly meant to represent the sun, which doesn’t appear in the night sky.

I said “So I see…”

“... that the Cobbler’s shoes have no suns.”

Looking for a Few Good Readers

By Jane Gmur

I’m looking for a few good readers – Mensa members who can spend some time, a few hours in late January or early February, to score scholarship essays.

The Mensa Foundation scholarship program is an essay contest that is open to all students living in the U.S. who are enrolled in a U.S. college or university in the academic year following the award. Applicants write 550-word essays that describe their educational and/or career goals. Winning essays are judged by members using Foundation criteria. Please consider being one of those judges.

This program was expanded last year to include nonparticipating local groups. Before then, students in the geographical area of these groups were ineligible to even apply. As Assistant National Scholarship Chair in charge of Nonparticipating Groups, I'm recruiting more than 60 members from all over the U.S. to judge essays. We're looking for members who are confident in their knowledge of writing and reading skills. Of course English teachers and professional writers are welcome, but so are members from all walks of life.

Essays will be emailed to you in late January. You’ll have a few weeks to read and score them in your home, though we hope it will only take an afternoon or two. You email the scores back and you’re done!

You may already be planning to judge essays for another Scholarship Chair. I don’t want to steal current judges from Local Groups or Regions. However, for those members who love reading essays and want to spend an additional few hours reading more, you can participate at this level with no fear of conflict of interest. Let me know which region or local group you’re reading.

Please send an email to for any questions and to get involved in this worthwhile program.

News & Notes for Young Mensans

Lisa Van Gemert

In an effort to help people stay abreast of the many opportunities for youth in Mensa, we have a new, free service called Remind for which people interested in what Mensa is offering for youth may sign up.

This service will enable them to receive text or email messages (their choice) that are sent from the national office with information about events, deadlines, resources and services for youth in Mensa.

Anyone may sign up, and their phone numbers will not be visible to anyone, even us.

The service does not accept replies, so privacy is guaranteed. People may unsubscribe at any time, and you may find information on signing up or unsubscribing here: . We have also uploaded a printable instruction sheet into the Sharehouse, tagged “Gifted Youth” and named “Youth Text Sign Up Instructions.” Feel free to share this sheet or upload it your local group website. The simple instructions are that in order to subscribe you should enter this number (682) 593-4959 with this message: @mensaym

Here are some FAQs:

This list does not accept replies, so anyone who has questions should please direct them to me privately off-list.


Lisa Van Gemert Youth & Education Ambassador |

get resources:

find more:

From the RVC

By Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chair

About six months from now, it will be time to think about voting in the 2015 Mensa national elections. In addition to a number of candidates for national office (including yours truly – hint, hint) there will be an unusually large number of by-law amendments on the ballot. I know most of you don’t usually vote in our national elections, but I hope you will make an exception next year, because some very important changes in our national by-laws will be voted on, and you might not like some of the things that have been proposed.

Next year, for the first time, the default method for voting in our national elections will be electronic. That means that each of you will receive an e-mail directing you to a voting website where you can record your preferences for each item on the ballot. Of course, if you don’t have a valid email address on file with the national office you will receive a paper ballot in the mail as always. If you do have a valid email address on file, but you would prefer to receive the usual paper ballot, the email will also contain instructions on how to request one. This method is designed to save money, which it undoubtedly will, but I expect that in this first year it will probably result in some confusion, so please watch for this information and read the instructions carefully.

Over the next six months, all of you will be receiving information about the amendments and the candidates for office. Please take a few minutes to read through this material and then cast your vote next May. Aside from my personal interest in the outcome, I can assure you that the future course of American Mensa may well rest on the results of next year’s voting. Typically, only about 10% of our members vote in national Mensa elections. I hope you will make the effort to change that next year.

That’s all for now. Please think about coming to North Texas Mensa’s Regional Gathering in Irving, just east of DFW Airport, over the Thanksgiving weekend. For details, contact Deborah Lockhart,

BrainFork: A Mensan Talks About Food

By Bart Geraci


“Host: Name something people take to the beach.
Contestant: Turkey.
Host: The first thing you buy in the supermarket.
Contestant: Turkey.
Host: A food often stuffed.
Contestant: Turkey.”
- Family Fortunes (British version of Family Feud) -

I hadn’t written about turkey yet? Let’s get started.


““You know what Disneyland is known for? The Big Turkey Leg. People walk around with enormous deep-fried turkey legs. Like little kids, three-year-old kids eating these five-pound turkey legs.”
-Steve Carell-

So let’s get a closer look at this bird...

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Galliformes
Family Phasianidae
SubFamily Meleagridinae
Genus Meleagris
Species Meleagris gallopavo, Meleagris ocellata

The flap of skin that hangs over the beak is called a snood. The skin under the chin is called a wattle. To talk turkey is to talk simply and get to the point.

Three Strikes … and You’re Delicious

“I'm not a sandwich store that only sells turkey sandwiches. I sell a lot of different things.”
- Lady Gaga -

In bowling, three consecutive strikes is called a turkey.

It’s a Bird! No, it’s a Country!

“We recommend that no one eat more than two tons of turkey-that's what it would take to poison someone.”
- Elizabeth Whelan -

Well, one could guess that since we have a country named Turkey, the bird comes from there, right?

Wrong. The turkey is a New World animal, found in the Americas.

So why is it named after a country straddling Europe and Asia?

It’s not. The Europeans saw the turkey in America and thought that it was the same as the guineafowl birds they knew from Africa. The guineafowl was imported to Europe through the country of Turkey, thus the name was “Turkey bird”

You see the Genus name “Meleagris”? That’s the Greek word for the guineafowl bird.

So when the Europeans first explored the Americas, they thought America was part of Asia, so they figured that our American turkeys were the same ones that they were used to seeing coming through Africa.

So what is the American Turkey bird called in Turkey? The “hindi”, which means it comes from India. The French word for turkey is the similar “dinde”. In Russia, Poland, and across the Arab regions, it is also said to be the “bird of India”. In Portuguese it is called “the Peru bird” (correctly referring to its New World origins).

Now the country we know as Turkey was called the Ottoman Empire until 1922, but the region had been informally known as the land of the Turks.

You Are Getting Sleepy ...

- Charles Bukowski, “What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire” -

OK, so eating turkey at Thanksgiving makes you sleepy because all of the tryptophan, right?

Well, tryptophan (C11 H12 N2 O2) is an essential amino acid. The “essential” part means the body can’t manufacture it on its own. The body ingests this and uses it to make Vitamin B3 and serotonin

(C10 H12 N2 O). Serotonin contributes to a relaxed feeling and happiness.

But tryptophan is found in many proteins, including red meat, fish, and poultry. In fact, turkey contains a lower percentage of tryptophan than other poultry. Let’s look at some percentages:

Food tryptophan amount (g / 100g food)
Parmesan cheese 0.56
Sesame seed 0.37
Cheddar cheese 0.32
Pork chop 0.25
Chicken / Turkey 0.24
Beef / Oats 0.23

Well, if tryptophan isn’t really the culprit, why are we tired after the Thanksgiving meal? Three reasons: (1) Alcohol consumed with the meal is a Central Nervous System depressant; (2) Fats consumed during the meal require more of the body’s energy to break them down, so all the body redirects the blood towards the digestive system; (3) Eating more food than normal at the meal again taxes the body to direct all its energies to the digestive system. So enjoy your meal, but don’t blame the turkey.

Why Turkeys Can’t Fly

“Arthur Carlson: As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
- WKRP in Cincinnati “Turkeys Away” -

Well, actually the domestic turkey raised on farms are much heavier than the wild turkeys that roam free. So the Wild turkeys can actually fly.

Recipe: Spatchcocked Turkey

“Cooking turkey every year doesn't have to be monotonous - I want people to always mix it up using different spices and preparations.”
- Marcus Samuelsson -

So today, we’ll be doing spatchcocked turkey...

Spatch- WHAT?

OK, let’s try this again….

Recipe: Butterflied Turkey

Butterflying and Spatchcocking are similar in their results - to make a thick object thinner and wider.

What this recipe does is shows a way to cook a turkey by cutting out its backbone (and using it for stock), then spread the carcass flat on a broiling pan. What happens is (1) the bird lays flatter, so the heat is more evenly distributed, (2) the skin is made crispier because it is all exposed on top of the bird, rather than coming down the sides and hidden in crevices, and (3) the cooking time is shortened dramatically.

The disadvantage is that you are robbed of the grand entrance of presenting this beautiful bronzed whole bird at the table. This is mitigated in situations where you regularly cut the bird in the kitchen and just come out with the plate of already sliced pieces. After all...

“A lot of Thanksgiving days have been ruined by not carving the turkey in the kitchen.”
- Kin Hubbard -


Advanced Preparation: If you have a day or two before cooking the bird, you can rub salt all over it, place it on a large plate, cover it loosely with foil or wrap and refrigerate it. Then when you are ready to start, rinse off the salt and pat dry. This will result in juicier meat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Blend the Veggie Mix in a bowl and take about 2/3 of it and place it on the bottom of pan. The broiler rack / wire rack will go on top of this and the turkey on top of the rack. When the fat drips from the turkey, it will not flare up, but instead will cook the veggies.

Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Using kitchen shears, cut out the backbone of the turkey and save it for the stock / gravy. Then unfold the bird outwards pressing down on the breastbone to flatten it somewhat.

Rub surfaces with fats & season with spices.

Tuck wing tips behind back. Place turkey on top of rack, making sure it doesn’t go over the edge of the broiler pan.

Transfer turkey to oven and roast, rotating occasionally, until an instant read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the breast registers 150° F, and the thighs register at least 165° F. It is estimated to take about 80 minutes for a 12 - 14 pound turkey, but the temperature is a better gauge of doneness, so go by that, not time.

While the turkey roasts, start making the broth.

Chop neck, backbone, giblets and sauté it in some fats until lightly browned. Add remaining Veggie Mix and stir until softened, then add stock and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook for 45 - 60 minutes. Strain, keeping the liquid and discarding the solids.

Make your roux using butter and flour, which in this case does not have to be all that dark - a blonde roux will be fine here. Then whisk in the reserved stock and cook until desired thickness.

When turkey is ready, remove the roasting grid it is on and put it over another roasting pan. Tent it with foil and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Now at the bottom of the original roasting pan is all those delicious drippings and veggies. Strain these liquids out into another cup (discarding the solids again) and blend it into the gravy to taste.

Once the turkey has rested, carve off the pieces to put on a pretty platter.

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Last edited: 4-Nov-2014. Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at