New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for September 2013

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment

From the Editor

By Kevin Chesnut

Sorry, no Nessie, but some other wildlife was spotted among the islands off Scotland’s west coast during a half-day boat excursion this summer.

An oystercatcher on the shore …

red deer on the hill …
red deer

gray seals in the water …
gray seals

puffins on the rocks …

and a sheep that appeared to be late for work.

Photos by Kevin Chestnut

So The Story Goes Like This

Bart Geraci

So I was heading to a SciFi convention out in West Texas. I had a single friend who liked Star Wars and I asked him if he wanted to come with me. He said that there would be nothing but nerdy guys there and he’d rather go out to the local bars that weekend.

I told him that yes, the ratio of men to women was going to be high at the convention, but he would be more likely to find a woman that shared the same passions as he did, and that could be a better start to a relationship. So he agreed to come with me.

In the evening, some of the hotel convention rooms were used as singles mixers, and each one had a different theme. The Dr. Who room was made to look like the TARDIS, including the blue Police Box on the outer door. The Star Trek room looked like the bridge of the Enterprise. And around the corner, we found that the Star Wars room looked like one the planets.

So we stepped inside because ...

… we were looking for love in Alderaan places


By Bart Geraci

The big event for the local chapter is that we’re having our elections this month at the NOM Night, which will be held at my house. We’ll hold nominations for the four positions -- LocSec, Assistant LocSec, Treasurer, and Recording Secretary -- for the period January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015.

I’ve been LocSec for 4 years. I thank you all for your help and support. I would like to have someone else lead the group for a while, because I think some change will be good for the group. So my current plan is not to run for LocSec again.

I will announce that we are having the annual End-of-the-Year special NOM Night party in December at our house again (December 14th). We had the RG last year, so we didn’t have it then, but no RG this year, so it’s back. We’re looking forward to seeing you all again.

September is also a back-to-school time, even though most schools have started in August. Between the four of us in our family, the academic year feels more “normal” than the calendar year. September is the month of the autumnal (in the Northern Hemisphere) equinox on the 22nd, although it looks like the date when New Orleans gets an equal amount of day and night will be around the 26th. Also in September is Constitution day on the 17th. And in 1752, the British Empire switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, so September 2 was immediately followed by September 14. Finally, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. YARRR!

Locally, September 8 starts the regular season of the New Orleans Saints. We play at home against our longtime rival, the Atlanta Falcons.

The other big event in the city is the re-opening of the Saenger Theater for the first time since Katrina. I’ve seen many events at the Saenger including the Grateful Dead, Asia, and many Broadway hits including “Mamma Mia!” One major event I saw as Abel Gance’s 1927 silent black and white film “Napoleon”. It was a 4 hour movie, with a live orchestra in the pit. In the final portion of the film, the other two screens, one on each side of the main screen, were revealed and the other 2 projectors displayed their film reel, creating a very large and dramatic finale.

Let’s go Saints!


Saturday, September 28 is Museum Day LIVE!

Smithsonian Magazine provides free admission to one person plus a guest. This is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian Magazine in which participating museums across the country open their doors to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket …for free.

New Orleans Mensa is going to the World War II Museum on Saturday, September 28 at 10:00 a.m. If you bring more than two people, you need to purchase a ticket for the others. Official Museum Day Live! Tickets can be found only on the website . There is one ticket per household, good for two people. The ticket does not pay for any special events or exhibits they may have. If the museum reaches capacity, the museum has the right to limit the number of guests until space becomes available.

Let Gerry Ward know if you are going. She needs to know for whom to look so we can enter as a group. (

Because we have some Young Mensans and gifted children who are too young to enjoy this museum, an alternative for them is the Louisiana Children’s Museum, 420 Julia Street between Tchoupitoulas and Magazine.

BrainFork: A Mensan talks about food

By Bart Geraci


“From the simple stringing together of lemon garlands for the goddess Durga, to dividing the rasadam or blessed foods for the children first, I came to associate food not only with femininity, but also with purity and divinity.”
-Padma Lakshmi-

So let’s look at the lemon through its taxonomy:

Kingdom Plantae
(unranked) Angiosperms
(unranked) Eudicots
(unranked) Rosids
Order Sapindales
Family Rutaceae
Genus Citrus
Species C. limon

The lemon is another species of the Citrus genus (which also includes limes, oranges, and grapefruit). One property of the Citrus genus is that they can be grafted on a rootstock easily; so rootstocks are chosen for disease resistance and hardiness, and any number of citrus can be present on one plant.

Eureka, Meyer!

“Harris: I'll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.”
- L.A. Story (movie) -

The most common supermarket variety of Lemon is the Eureka. The Eureka was developed in California in 1958 from seeds that came from Sicily in the late 1850s. They are considered to be a “true lemon”, i.e. a variety of Citrus limon.

The Meyer lemon is a hybrid, a cross between the Citrus limon and an orange or a mandarin. It was named for Frank Meyer, who brought it from China to the United States in 1908. In the mid-40s, it was discovered that a majority of the trees were carriers of a Citrus virus, so they were destroyed. In the 50s, a virus-free variety was found and it is called the “Improved Meyer Lemon”.

Meyer lemons have a much thinner rind, more of an orange-yellow color, and less acid than the Eureka. They grow well in warm climates, are slightly more frost-tolerant, and are even grown locally (look for them around December).

I am acid, denaturer of proteins!

“Life is a lemon and I want my money back.”
-Meat Loaf-

Lemon juice is mostly water, but like other citrus they have a high concentration of Citric Acid (C6 H8 O7 ), around 5%. It has a low pH (2 - which is more acidic than stomach acid). Lemon juice also contain Ascorbic Acid (C6 H8 O6), also known as Vitamin C.

When we cut an apple into pieces, we notice that after a while, they start to develop some browning on them. What happens when we cut an apple is that we break open the chambers containing the enzyme polyphenol oxidase and expose it to air. In a pH setting of 5 - 7, the enzyme starts the browning process.

Like other proteins, the enzyme is susceptible to destruction via an acid. This process is called denaturation. This particular protein, when exposed to a pH level of 3 or less (like lemon juice), will be broken down enough to lose its ability to react with oxygen and brown. Hence, the lemon juice is said to be an antioxidant.

The dish ceviche is made from raw seafood marinated in citrus juice. Like the enzyme found in apples, the proteins undergo transformations when exposed to the low pH juice. Depending on the ratio of protein to juice, you may actually see the change taking place by noticing the color changing. Cooking via heat will also denature the proteins, and heat has the advantage of killing bacteria and/or parasitic worms.


“I made lemon spaghetti in an early season of 'Everyday Italian,' and to this day people still come up to me and say they love it. It's very, very simple. Basically, you cook the pasta and mix together Parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and pour it over the pasta.”
-Giada De Laurentiis-

So today’s recipe is lemon spaghetti and … er … well, it’s already in the quote above, so let’s look at something else.

Preserved Lemons

Lemons, scrubbed very clean
Kosher salt
Extra lemon juice (if needed)
Optional spices (such as cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, bay leaf )
Sterilized canning jar

Place salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.

Prepare the lemons: cut off any stems, and cut about 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.

Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.

Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. During this process, you may want to add optional spices to your preference. Fill up the jar with lemons, making sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if needed. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.

Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least three weeks, until lemon rinds soften.

To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.

Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

“When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade.”
-Dale Carnegie-


Sugar, water, lemon juice. Done. Anything else?

“Cave Johnson: All right, I've been thinking. When life gives you lemons, don't make lemonade. Make life take the lemons back! Get mad! I don't want your damn lemons! What am I supposed to do with these?! Demand to see life's manager! Make life rue the day it thought it could give Cave Johnson lemons! Do you know who I am? I'm the man who's gonna burn your house down! With the lemons! I'm gonna get my engineers to invent a combustible lemon that burns your house down!”
-Portal 2 (video game)-

Hey, hey, calm down dude! Here… have some Limoncello.


Lemons & Vodka

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Combine peels and vodka. Then wait. I’ve seen times range from days to weeks.

Sugar & Water

Make a simple syrup by heating some sugar and water (usually in a 1:1 ratio) in a pot until the sugar is dissolved. Once cooled, add the syrup to the mixture. Then wait. I’ve seen times range from hours to weeks. How much syrup? To your taste. You can add a little bit at a time because you can always add more later. Then strain the peels out of the mixture and put into bottles.

From the RVC

Roger Durham, Region 6 Vice Chairman

Let’s talk about funding for your local group. Last month I mentioned that I am chairing a task force on local group support, which over the coming months will be looking at ways to make our support of local groups more effective. Our task force members will be coming up with suggestions for changes in our funding parameters, but I’d really like to hear from you, particularly you current and former local officers who have to live with the results.

One thing we’re pretty much agreed on at the beginning is that simply throwing more money at local groups and hoping they will find good uses for it is not going to work. We need to set up a system that established some accountability for the funds received by the local groups. Otherwise the money is likely to end up just sitting around in local bank accounts, like much of the local group funding does now.

As I mentioned last time, some early thoughts on this subject include tying portions of the local group subsidy to specific programs, such as testing, communications, meetings, elections, and so on. One advantage of this approach is that by connecting the funds to a specific purpose, we may be able to increase the overall amount by including some amounts that are now carried as administrative costs of the various programs. This, in turn, might encourage innovation and creativity by putting control of the expenditures in the hands of the local groups and RVCs, rather than locking us into a one-size-fits-all national approach.

One innovation I’d like to see is more cooperative programs between groups. For example, if your local group is small and has trouble maintaining an active testing program, why not look into asking a neighboring group for help. If a large group sends a proctor over into an adjoining group’s area to give a test once a month, they can benefit from the local share of the test fees, but the small group will get the $25 for a test session, plus the new members that result from the tests. Everybody wins!

I really expected some feedback on this subject from last month’s column, but so far all I’ve heard is a loud silence. Please give this some thought and let me know what you would like to see come out of this task force’s deliberations. All suggestions are welcome, even if they are only vague aspirations. We can’t make things better if we don’t know what you would consider an improvement.

That’s all for now. Don’t forget Lone Star Mensa’s upcoming RG in Round Rock, just north of Austin, over the Labor Day weekend. For more information contact Ron Edelstein,

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Last edited: 03-Sep-2013 . Webmaster Bart J. Geraci can be reached at