New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for October 2012

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

From the Editor

Renee Aguilar

One more thanks to Peter for doing such a good job with La Plume de NOM. I hope you all will be patient with me as I kick some dust and rust off of my editing skills. Here we are in the second half of hurricane season. Unfortunately, we are not yet halfway through football season and it’s already been a long one. Let’s hope that the worst of both hurricane season and football season is behind us.

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

I was to have a meeting with a very important client and through some connections I found someone that we both knew. So I asked my contact about how to approach my client.

She said that he was the type of person who likes to talk a bit first to get comfortable with you before discussing business. So I asked her what should we talk about.

She knew that he was interested in raising birds and his latest venture involved crows. I thanked her for the information, and I was ready for the meeting with my client. So after introductions, I asked him...

...“So, have you bred any good rooks lately?”


Roger Durham

AMC News: At the meeting of the American Mensa Committee in September, your Board of Directors voted to replace the procedure we have been using to deal with vacancies in the office of Regional Vice-Chairman. You may recall that over the past few years some members have expressed dissatisfaction with the policy of appointing a non-voting representative to fill the remaining term of an RVC whose office becomes vacant for any reason. This system was adopted several years ago when our legal counsel advised us that New York law (Mensa is incorporated in the State of New York) prohibits the appointment of a voting member to replace a member of the Board of Directors who was elected by only a subset of those entitled to vote on other offices. This prohibition is primarily aimed at business corporations, which often have directors who represent only a particular class of stockholders, but unfortunately the same provision is found in the law governing non-profit corporations like ours.

The vast majority of members seem to have no problem with the arrangement we have been using, and I thought the question had been dropped, but at the Annual Gathering in Reno some of the other RVCs came up with a new plan, which they submitted for a vote at the September meeting. I did not support the new arrangement, but it passed narrowly despite my opposition. Unlike previous plans, it does not require amendment of our by-laws, so it will not be submitted to the membership for approval. The new policy is that in the event of a vacancy in the office of RVC, that RVC’s region will be divided among two or more adjacent regions, and the RVCs of those regions will act as RVC for the groups in their part of the newly-divided region as well as their own for the remainder of that term of office. At the end of the term, the former region will elect its own RVC and be restored to its previous status. Frankly, I have little hope that this new arrangement will be any more acceptable to those who opposed our previous system, but perhaps I’m mistaken.

The vote on the dues increase announced at the last meeting was postponed until after the International Board of Directors meeting in October, as it is generally expected that the IBD will increase the International Component, which is the amount that each national Mensa must contribute to the international organization. It is currently 4% of the total dues amount collected each year.

As always, if you have questions or concerns about anything in Mensa, you can reach me at

Last but certainly not least, don’t forget North Texas Mensa’s upcoming RG in Dallas, Feast of Pleasures and Delights XXXIII, over Thanksgiving weekend, and the RG in New Orleans the first weekend in December!

Roger Durham


Bart Geraci

This month is Mind Challenge Month, with October 20th being Mensa Testing Day.

Anyway, to confirm some possible rumors, there is not going to be an End-of-the-Year party this year. Since the RG is happening a week before what would be our party, we are going to be too busy with the RG to hold our usual party. If you want a great dinner, come sign up for the RG and we'll have our Saturday night dinner done by John Besh's restaurant Luke.

However, there is likely to be on the evening of December 2nd an invitation to come over to the house and partake in whatever food is leftover from the RG.

Around the city, October is when the New Orleans Hornets start in action again. It's also the month of VooDoo Fest, Blues and BBQ Fest. It's a great time of the year to hold festivals due to the weather. In fact, it had just recently turned cool and delightful.

October also means there's only one more month of robocalls due to some election thingy coming around in November.

Let's go Saints! And Hornets!

2-For-1 Deals Aren't Limited to Stores...

American Mensa has declared October 2012 to be Mind Challenge Month, while October 20th is the Mensa Testing Day. Our fine chapter is one of many who is holding a Test session on Mensa Testing Day. To encourage people to challenge their friends, spouses, co-workers, etc. to take the Mensa Admissions Test, American Mensa is offering this deal:

Anyone who signs up to take the test with a “challenge buddy” will receive two-for-one pricing. That’s two tests for $40 ($20 each)! Plus, all test takers will receive a code good for their choice of a specially designed promotional item.

A Visitor from the other LA

A member from Los Angeles, Robert Berend, will be visiting New Orleans from October 11-17 mainly to attend the free Blues and BBQ Fest on the 12-14 in Lafayette Square. He would like to have company because he doesn’t have friends here.

He is 56, single, and has a JD and PhD in human sexuality. He has offered to give his Q&A called “Ask the Sexologist” if our group wants him to.

He would like us to join him at the fest and for DINING. Right now he has reservations for
Fri. 12th — Palace Café lunch and after the concert @9:00, Dante’s Kitchen.
Mon, 15th — 12:30 Commander’s Palace
Tues, 16th — lunch at Galatoire’s
If you want to attend any or all of the meals, let me know so I can coordinate with Robert and add you to the reservations.

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food


Bart Geraci

“Let yourself be open and life will be easier. A spoon of salt in a glass of water makes the water undrinkable. A spoon of salt in a lake is almost unnoticed.”

I never did think too much about salt until I read the book “Salt: A World History” by Mark Kurlansky. This is the book that opened my eyes to the history of man in relation to salt.

Salt of the Earth (and Sea)

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”
Isak Dinesen

Chemically speaking, a salt is a compound formed by combining an acid and a base. Table salt is the version that we are familiar with in cooking; it is composed of sodium (Na) and chlorine (Cl). Other common salts include magnesium chloride (MgCl) and potassium chloride (KCl). For instance, people who are on a low-sodium diet can turn to these other salts as a replacement.

In the human body, chlorine is needed for digestion and sodium is needed to transmit signals in the nervous system. In hot climates, people need salt to replenish their bodies after sweating.

We get most of the common Table Salt from salt mines. It is further processed to remove impurities and to ensure the granules are of uniform size. Sea Salt is made from evaporating saltwater in brine pans. Kosher Salt comes in larger granules; the name refers to the fact that this particular type of salt is used in the koshering process to remove blood from the animals. Black Salt, also called Kala Namak, comes from India. It has impurities consisting of Iron Sulfide (Fe2S4) ; the Iron element gives its purple / pink color and the Sulfur element gives off its egg-like aroma. Red Alaea Salt comes from Hawaii and the red color comes from the volcanic clay impurities containing iron. Smelling Salts release a small amount of ammonia gas to revive people from unconsciousness. Salt Lake City is in Utah.

Regular table salt tastes, well, salty. The other salts (sea, black, red) each have minerals that brings their own taste profile to the food. But those tastes tend to dissipate via heat. Therefore, leave the common table (and Kosher) salt for cooking and sprinkle these fancier salts at the end of the cooking period.

You want irony? For many centuries, people wanted finely grained pure white table salt removed all of its impurities. Now the big thing is specialty salts which keeps the impurities and non-uniform size.

Death and Salt Taxes

"Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food."
William Hazlitt

Like the Babel fish (in “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams), salt has caused more wars and death and destruction than anything else. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire? Salt. French Revolution? Salt. British Empire? Salt. That fight with the rotten kid in the third grade? Salt.

The key to this fanaticism is that it was discovered that salt was an excellent way to preserve food. A city can tolerate lean years. An army can keep marching and fighting without stopping for foraging for food. Fishermen could remain at sea for many days at a time, leading to new areas of exploration.

And if you can control the production and distribution of salt, you would become rich and powerful.

China used salt taxes to finance the Great Wall of China. The Romans manipulated the price of salt, raising them when they needed more money to finance wars. The English word salary derives from the pay Roman soldiers received, salarium, to purchase salt (as well as other things). The British Empire levied high taxes on imported salt to help their domestic producers.

So what happened? The wars and subsequent declines came for different reasons. Perhaps the supply chains were interrupted (Roman Empire). Perhaps the government was too greedy with their salt taxes (French Revolution). Perhaps cheaper sources of salt were available (British Empire).

A case in point: when the British took over India, it wanted the inhabitants to purchase British made salt to help their home-grown businesses. But in India, there were many available sources of free salt. So Britain made it a jailable offense for the Indians to use anything but British salt. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led a long (240 miles) walk to the city Dandi and publicly violated the salt law by picking up a piece of salt crust from the coastline. The repercussions of that action eventually led to India's independence.

Oil and Salt (Hold the Vinegar)

“Three things are good in small doses and bad in big ones: yeast, salt, and hesitation.”
Hebrew Proverb

The Strategic Petroleum Reserves is managed out of New Orleans. Its job is to store crude oil for emergencies; the current amount is somewhere around 700 million barrels. And the most effective way to do that is to find a salt cavern, drill a hole in it, add water to clear out the insides, and store the oil in it. Notice that they're not storing the barrels, just the oil itself. One of salt's property that allows this to happen is that salt can seal its own cracks. Many of the salt mines are found along the Louisiana and Texas Gulf coast.


"Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?"
Job 6:6 (KJV)

Well, just about any recipe has “salt and pepper to taste.” So this is one that uses a copious amount of salt.

Salt-Baked Fingerling Potatoes

Small potatoes (fingerling)
Kosher salt
Optional: rosemary, garlic

In pie tin or baking dish, put a thin layer of salt on the bottom. Take potatoes, scrub them and dry them really well and place on top the salt layer. Add in optional rosemary and garlic. Then pour in more salt to cover the potatoes. Bake at 350 for 45 to 60 minutes. Dig the potatoes out of the pan, brush off excess salt and enjoy.


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Last edited: 03-Oct-2012 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at