New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for September, 2010

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

Are You Ready For Some Football?

by Peter Salomon

Yes, it’s that time of year already. It seems like only yesterday I had just moved to New Orleans and was overwhelmed with black and gold. Speaking of which, this is one of the ‘food capitals’ of the world, yet our newsletter is printing a food column from someone living in New York. If you are interested in food and/or writing about food, please let us know. New Orleans Mensa should be writing its own food column!


A ‘tall tales’ feature by Bart Geraci.

I had once bartended at a place that had several odd rules. Sure enough, one day a string walked into the bar and asked to be served. I explained that we don't serve strings (odd rule #17) and I told it to leave. After the string left, it found somebody to twist it in some kind of ball and also frayed its ends with some scissors.

Well, I thought something was up when the string came back into the bar and asked to be served. I said to the string "You wouldn't be that string that was here earlier." It replied...

..."No, I'm a frayed knot."


Roger Durham

From time to time, unfortunately, members of Mensa make themselves so obnoxious that their fellow members, in self-defense, find it necessary to impose some sort of disciplinary action upon the miscreants. This is accomplished by means of the procedures specified in Article IX of the Bylaws of American Mensa, which can be found on the national website ( Section 6 of this article provides for regional disciplinary hearings, subject to the limitation (in Section 5) that no member can be suspended or expelled from membership except following a hearing by the national Hearings Committee, composed of the three most recent Past Chairmen of American Mensa (with provisions for substitutes if necessary). At the last meeting of the American Mensa Committee (AMC), someone moved to place on next year’s national election ballot a proposal to amend Article IX of the Bylaws by changing the composition of the national Hearings Committee to a group of members appointed by the AMC. This motion failed.

One reason for the lack of support for this motion was that it was virtually the same proposal which was presented to the membership in the last election, and failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority for adoption. Several AMC members felt it was inappropriate to offer the same proposal again. Personally, I see nothing wrong with trying to pass something a second time, but I was swayed by the argument that this proposal did nothing to move us closer to the ideal of decision-making from the bottom up, rather than from the top down. Under both the current Article IX and the proposed amendment, while a regional hearing can recommend certain disciplinary actions, which then must be confirmed by the AMC, the most severe discipline can only be imposed after having a whole new hearing before the national Hearings Committee, thereby making the regional hearing moot, and incurring substantial costs for the Committee members to travel to the hearing site.

So, I have a modest proposal: why not emulate the real-world American court system, and just have one hearing at the regional level, with the right of appeal limited to a review of the record of the original proceedings. In the courts, this is done (at great expense) by means of a written transcript, but we can cut costs by requiring that a video record be made of the original hearing. If a party elects to appeal, a DVD can be sent to each member of the AMC, who can review the video at home before voting by e-mail to confirm, modify, or reverse the decision of the Regional Hearings Committee, or even to return the matter to the regional level for additional proceedings before a new regional committee. The appealing parties would be required to specify what errors they believe were made at the hearing.

What do you think? Is this a good idea, or the worst idea you’ve ever heard? Let me know how you feel, and if this suggestion meets with general approval, I’ll offer it at the next AMC meeting. If not, maybe you can come up with something better. Send your comments to me at

The History of Labor Day

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Information from the United States Department of Labor: ( laborday.htm)


by Bart Geraci

September is here and to my taste things are getting back to normal. As someone who was in school until 1993 and had kids in school since about 1997, the school year is the "calendar" year that I feel that I go by. Back in the day, school started off after Labor Day; those days are clearly gone now.

Along with back to school is also the start of football season. So let me make this clear:

The World Champion Super Bowl Winning New Orleans Saints

Six months later, it still seems hard to believe. As someone who went to the games back when they were at Tulane Stadium, back when Tulane had a stadium, it just seems hard to believe. But I know that the people involved worked very hard to get there --- I believe that it takes hard work to be able to take advantage of lucky situations. But I also have heard that it's bad luck to be superstitious, so don't throw wooden gift horses over your shoulder under a ladder full of black cats.

In New Orleans Mensa events, we're having another Northshore gathering in September. In October, we'll have testing as part of the National Testing Day. And the end of October, the Celebration SIG will celebrate 25 years of the monthly get-togethers.

I again ask the membership if they have ideas on what the group can do together. I've been to a lot of events this year, and I have only seen a small fraction of the members in our area. Where is everyone else?

What would it take for you to come to an event? Calvinball tournaments? Pogo-stick races? Scrabble duels at dawn? Sharks with laser beams?

Come on guys, this group is for you too --- I just want to make sure that you get your value and satisfaction from being a Mensa member in the New Orleans area.


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

On The Cheap...

by Francis Vigeant

I’ve been frugal long before the recession. Actually, I’d say I’m a trendsetter. All the best cars I’ve owned have come from eBay, cost less than $3,500 and took an average of 70,000 additional miles before going to their next owner. Sure, for you critics there are repairs but if you find the right garage you’re still better off than a car payment. Just think; the 6.25% tax alone on a new $20,000 car is equal to 10 years worth of oil changes or 5 major repairs. I’d prefer to earn interest on that sum or take three hurricane cruises from Boston to Bermuda. You might think I’m into cheap thrills, living life on the edge, with auctioned goods and internet coupons but you couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, most people who don’t know me well might think I’m a big spender. Really I’m a saver; the art is getting what you want at a price below what you’d have to spend anyway, all the while limiting your opportunity to lose the money you saved in some hidden fee or cost.

I’ve already saved Boston Mensa a projected $6,000.00 per year on printing Beacons. Now I’d like to help Mensan’s get cheap savvy, save without skipping out on that tab, all while keeping your friend pool intact. If you want to live it up while saving it up you have to develop some key skills. Defining your possessions keeps your possessions from defining you. Understand who you are and separate what you need from what you want. Unless you need a 4G phone, stick with what you have. Remember your first web-enabled phone... wish you had that $500 back? Treat your purchases as investments that must give you a positive return over their lifetime. Aim to buy durable goods that won’t depreciate further and can be resold 5 years from now for what you paid today. Most of all, when an item has reached the end of its usefulness, don’t store it or dump it, sell it.

The end of summer is a goldmine of savings for cheapskates. For businesses and parents August signifies the back to school sale. Here’s a few tips to get paper and pencils for bottom dollar:

1) Ask your student to make a wish list of back to school supplies with quantities and have them list the cost next to each item. Tally it up and then challenge him or her to find lower prices or drop items. Promise to give your student 20% of the final savings as an incentive.

2) Looking for backpacks and clothes to last a lifetime. Check out L.L. Bean’s refurbished backpacks and returned clothes at their outlets. These mis-ordered or mis-monogrammed items carry a life-time warranty (and a $0.20 razor can fix all monograms).

3) To save $60-100 on a TI scientific calculator hit a local pawn shop. Functioning new TI-83s go for about $20.

4) Check Staples to see if they have any buy-one-get-one or 50% off deals on back to school basics, these will almost always beat Wal-Mart prices, otherwise always buy the basics at Wal-Mart. Read to your kids? Get a Teacher Rewards Card because you are a “home school parent” and get faster rebates on Staples purchases.

5) The college bound should request student loans be disbursed on due dates only for the amounts due. This will save added interest. Also be a roommate, don’t get a roommate. And search for off-season vacation rentals to get the most for your money.

6) For those making a random purchase sniping people on eBay works incredibly well (bid only what you want to pay in the last 4 seconds). Or visit Google Shopping, search by part number or description, then sort by price ‘lowest to highest.’ Watch out for shipping costs.

7) Last but not least, whenever you buy online and see a spot to enter a coupon or discount code, Google “*vendor name* coupon code,” “free shipping *vendor name*,” and “*vendor name* 10% off.” Search in 5% increments up to 25% and you’ll often be pleasantly surprised.


Interested in hosting an event? A movie night in your living room? Sports night at a local bar/pub/tavern/ saloon? Games night? Anything at all? It’s easy...just send us an email with your idea and a date and a place and you’re good to go! This is your organization, and getting involved is simple!

Good Wine Cheap (and good food to go with it)

By John Grover

This summer the Boss and I had the opportunity to visit the Finger Lakes region of New York State. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the Village of Penn Yan which is located at the Northern end of Keuka Lake. The B&B was quaint; the landscapes were breathtaking; and, the wine tastings at the many vineyards around the lake were ever so good. The recipe for this month was determined by the sudden surplus of eggplants coming from our garden. But, it turned out to be a wonderful dish and a nice match to the wines below.

The wines this month are from wineries located on the east side of Keuka Lake. The first is the 2008 Traminette from Rooster Hill Vineyards. Traminette is a clone of the Gewurtztraminer grape. This wine offers floral scents and the taste of spicy fruit and citrus rind. It finishes crisply with a little pucker across the tongue. It is available at the winery for $12.99 a bottle. The second wine is the 2007 semi-dry Riesling from McGregor Vineyard. The Finger Lakes is famous for its Rieslings and this one does not disappoint. It gives you the bouquet of peaches and orange blossoms. And, it fills your mouth with the luscious full fruit of peaches and apricots. This wine is more refined, and not as acidic as the first; but, it still has a clean finish. It is available at the winery for $17.99 a bottle.

Thai Chicken Soup with Red Curry and Vegetables
(published in Bon Appetit, September 1997 and available on line at
2 tbsp. corn oil
1 tbsp. Thai red curry paste (Maesri is a good brand)
12 oz. skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
4 oz. green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 small Japanese eggplants, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add curry paste; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chicken; stir 2 minutes. Add green beans and eggplant pieces; stir 1 minute. Add broth, coconut milk and fish sauce; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and serve. We served this with a large dollop of jasmine rice in the soup bowl. Also, regular eggplant will do if the smaller Asian varieties are not available.

I hope that you will contact me with your comments and favorite wines at I will be happy to share them with the broader Mensa group.

John Grover is a member of Mensa of Northeastern New York. He lives with his wife Sharon in the Hudson Valley of New York.


Interested in writing for our newsletter? Have a poem to share? A photograph? An idea for a monthly column or even just a joke? Send it in! See your name in lights...well, in black and white in a small newsletter sent out to your fellow New Orleans’ Mensa members. We’re looking for content! Email the Editor, Peter Salomon, at The right to edit is reserved

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Last edited: 30-Aug-2010 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at