New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for October, 2010

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

Fall in New Orleans

Peter Salomon, Editor

Yes, it’s almost that time of year. The holidays seem to arrive earlier as we get older (helped, of course, by the fact that stores started selling Halloween supplies immediately after taking down their school supplies in mid-August and should start selling Christmas decorations any day now...if they haven’t already).


A new ‘tall tales’ feature for La Plume de NOM by Bart Geraci.

I had worked at a bank in Texas assisting a loan officer by the name of Patrica Whack when a frog hopped in (and I thought to myself "Is this some kind of joke?"). The frog explained that he was Kermit Jagger and wanted a small loan to expand his house. He said he would rather get it from the bank than to bother his father, currently on tour, for the money. Patrica asked the frog what he would use as collateral, and he pulled out a snow globe of Oklahoma City and told her that this should be enough. She called her boss in, and explained the situation to him. She asked him if she could really take this snow globe as collateral. The boss said it was okay with him and told Patty...

..."It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."


Roger Durham

A recent study by the National Office shows a disturbing trend: nationwide, only about half as many Mensa qualification tests have been given so far this year as were given by this date in 2009. This has unfortunate implications for the future of our organization, as testing is our primary source of new members, now that two of the most popular college tests, the SAT and the GRE, are no longer available for our use. A little investigation indicates that the reasons for the decrease are many and various, but here in Region 6 there seems to be a common denominator: not enough proctors. Now this is not true of every group, by any means. Our largest groups generally have plenty of proctors available and are doing lots of testing. Our smaller groups, however, generally have only one active proctor, at most. This is a two-fold problem: first of all, if one person is doing all the testing in your group, they can easily get burned out or discouraged, and gradually decrease the testing frequency in your area until your group isn’t doing any testing at all. Second, if your group’s only proctor dies, fails to renew, or moves out of the area, there is no one left to train another proctor, and in a region the size of ours, the nearest proctor in a neighboring group may be hundreds of miles away.

“Why is this a problem?” you may ask. Well, for two reasons. One is that, without a source of new members, a small group may just wither away as it’s long-time members move, lose interest, or die off. The second reason is that the testing program can and should be an important source of funds for your group.

Right now, two groups in our region are without a proctor. One of them has a volunteer who is willing to train as a proctor, but getting someone there to do the training is going to require a real effort. American Mensa is working on a program to alleviate this problem, by providing on-line proctor training that will replace some of the personal instruction that is now required, but that alone, while very helpful, will not solve the problem unless we have some volunteers willing to be trained. That, of course, is where you come in, especially if you belong to one of our smaller groups.

If you have earned a degree from an accredited four-year college or university, and are willing to give about two hours a month to your local Mensa group, please contact your group’s LocSec or Testing Coordinator and volunteer to become a proctor. No experience is required, although testing experience will substitute for some of the required training, and it’s really very easy. You’ll have fun and help your group at the same time. Thanks!



October is looking to be an interesting month. We have the Mensa Testing Day on the 16th. We hope to get some more members joining us.

The Celebration event this month will mark the 25th anniversary of the Celebration SIG. Due to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, October's Celebration will be the last one for 2010.

In New Orleans, the weather that just started to get nice in September will really be nice in October. A lot of schools and organizations are holding their fall festivals. One thing I have noticed in the past few years is when a date is announced for a fall event, the organizers will mention either (1) the Saints are not playing at that time or (2) if the Saints are playing at that time, a big screen TV will be available for people to watch the game.


Martha B. Sheldon

The approach to Morgan City is through part of the Atchafalaya Basin. Brownell Park on the shore of Lake Palourde has campsites, with swimming, boats, and fishing available. Also a bell tower with one of the largest carillons in the world. The biggest of its bells weighs 4730 pounds. The carillon is played on a regular schedule.

Near Railroad Ave. and Front Street, the historical district, the Coast Guard keeps a vessel on the river, with an office in town. Morgan City is an active port. Until dams restrained it, the Atchafalaya was the deepest river in the US and one of the swiftest.

At Patterson, the Louisiana State Museum shows the Wedell-Williams aviation and the Cypress Sawmill Collections. Cotten Road leads to Kemper Williams Park: golf course, tennis courts, and clubhouse open to the public. Visible across the highway, Bayou Teche merges with the Atchafalaya.

Franklin is the parish seat, incorporated since 1811. The English-speaking families who settled here strongly influenced the community’s development. Its historical district, on the National Register of Historic Places, encompasses at least 400 noteworthy structures, according to the town history. The light standards on Main Street have the words “Do Not Hitch” embossed on each base. Live oaks form an arcade as you come into town from the east; under the trees, a procession of lovely homes, many of Greek Revival and antebellum vintage.

Westward from Franklin, beyond Baldwin and Charenton, the Chitimacha Indian reservation has a museum and a casino. At the extreme western edge of the parish, Cypremort State Park on Cote Blanche Bay is a center for salt water fishing and camping.

Sugar cane and cypress were the original mainstays of the economy. Today, oil, carbon black, salt mining, fishing, and tourism also flourish. Nor is ecology overlooked: Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge maintains six areas in the parish and at Burns Point on East Cote Blanche Bay the state park is a bird preserve and a campground.

The tourist office in Franklin can furnish maps and brochures that will add much to your visit. Call (800) 256-2931.

The quick way to St. Mary: Take I-10 west to 310 (exit right, not far after Loyola Ave.) At the end of 310, exit right to US90 west. Stay on US90. When you cross the Bayou Boeuf Bridge you are in St. Mary Parish.

St. Mary's Parish Sidelights

  1. Another way to get there: I-10 to Sorrento, cross the Sunshine Bridge, take La.70 to Morgan City. About 10 miles longer than US90 and best in good weather. It goes by Pierre Part, a crawfish center, and comes out at Brownell Park.
  2. Petroleum Museum at Morgan City is on an oil rig which has been moved to the Intracoastal Canal in town.
  3. Several golf tournaments, horseshoe pitching, and boating events are held throughout the year, many of them at Kemper Williams Park.
  4. Morgan City will have its 6th Eagle Expo in February 2011.
  5. A walking trail is now open in the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge.
  6. The Harry Williams Memorial Airport is near Patterson. Both Harry and Kemper Williams were from Patterson. Kemper also had a house in New Orleans. That house is now the Milton Latter Library.
  7. On La.182, which follows Bayou Teche, between Centerville and Franklin, you will pass Bocage, Frances, Alice C., Dixie, and Arlington. The best guide is the book “Plantation Homes of the Teche Country” by Paul F. Stahls, Jr., Pelican Publishing Co., Gretna, LA, 1979.
  8. Franklin has a Black Bear and Birding Festival in the spring and an Art festival in late summer.
  9. The bayou is constantly in use around Franklin by small craft; in former years it served as a major highway because roads were impassible in wet weather. Originally most of the plantation homes faced the bayou, so what you see from the road now was the back of the house. Also, paddlewheel steamboats towed huge rafts of cypress logs to the sawmills.
  10. During the thirties, for a small fee, one could have a steamboat party. A windup portable record player and a hamper of food, and we danced all evening on the deck. Prohibition and the Depression enforced sobriety.
  11. Cote Blanche is an active salt mine. Not open to the public. Belle Isle, near Morgan City, is also a salt dome and was briefly mined but proved too dangerous so is now permanently closed.
  12. Oaklawn Manor, on Irish Bend Road near Franklin is the home of former governor Mike Foster and his wife Alice. It is open for tours, except for the family’s living quarters. It has a romantic history and the grounds are magnificent.
  13. Sterling Sugars operates the refinery on Irish Bend Road.
  14. At the Intracoastal Canal, Cabot Carbon is on one side of LA.317; Columbia Carbon is just across the road. The highway ends at Burns’ Point on East Cote Blanche Bay, at the bird preserve. A road goes on to Point Chevreuil but that area is owned by an oil company and is closed to the public.


by Peter Salomon

La Plume de NOM will begin publishing a series of articles intended to expand the knowledge, interest, and participation of the New Orleans Mensa membership. This series will select locales within our membership area revealing insights into these locales. They could encourage group excursions or individual visits to the areas, and heighten interest in our great and beautiful region.

Our intent is to solicit the membership to contribute their knowledge of their local areas, and increase communications between our members.

Suggested topical areas include, but are not limited to:

Please contact Peter Salomon at if you have any information

BRAINFORK: A Mensan writes about food

Bart Geraci

Turn around. Every now and then I look through my cookbook collection. I used to have 10 large shelves of books, but due to levee failures, I had to start from scratch. I'm back up to 2 shelves, but I'm collecting fewer books and only keeping the ones I use a lot.

Turn around. Every now and then I look through Harold McGee's “On Food and Cooking” to learn how chemical processes happen to food. Like why a quick blanching brings out a brighter color.

Turn around. Every now and then I go to the Crescent City Farmer's Market, which has been around since 1995. The location I visit is the one on Magazine and Girod on Saturday mornings from 8 am to noon. I've been going there ever since they first opened, and I've met many people there over the years. If I know I'm going out of town for a while, I have to let the vendors know. With the fall weather coming around, it's a good time to get some carrots and some kale.

Turn around. Every now and then I look through one of my favorite cookbooks: “Tassajara Cooking” by Edward Espe Brown. The recipes feature vegetarian food and are often written without amounts. One example was a recipe called “Green, Orange, and Onion” where the “orange” represents carrots. That sounded like a good combination to me. And then I remembered that kale, like carrots, is an excellent source of betacarotene, which makes the recipe below good for eyesight. So let's cook (but first turn around):

Bright Eyes
Ingredients: kale, carrots, and other things.
I like to wash the kale and cut out the center stem. Then I leave the leaves in large pieces and just blanch them in a bit of salted water for just a little while until I see it turn a nice dark shade of green. I drain the kale and squeeze it out and put it on the side while I work on the carrots.

The carrots I cut into small cubes/chunks and also blanch them a little bit in salted water. The effect I want is to take the raw edge off and soften them up just a little bit.

Then I shred the kale into strips and mix it with carrot cubes so I have dark green flat kale with orange colored carrot cubes as a visual counterpoint.

Once done, you can add dressing of your choice. You can also saute some combination of onions, garlic, scallions in oil (olive, peanut, canola, etc.), then mix the saute into the vegetables. Or after the saute, add the carrots back into saute pot (leaving the greens out) until the carrot pieces get a bit of brown spots on them; then mix the saute into the kale. Or add the kale to the saute pan with a little bit of liquid and cover it so the kale steams and reheats on top of the saute.

In place of salting the veggies, you can use soy sauce and add some minced ginger to the saute for an oriental flavor. For a third contrasting color, I like to top it off with a sprinkling of white sesame seeds.

Another textural/visual/protein counterpoint would be to add some nuts to the mix. If you have some almonds or walnuts, you may want to spend a little time dry-toasting them in a non-stick pan. The heat will release the oils and make the nuts fragrant. To get a bit of spice to the mix, you can use freshly ground pepper, Tabasco, or Asian chili sauce.

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Last edited: 03-Oct-2010 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at