Tag Archives: mensa

Two strange weekends in a row. But good strange

Labor Day weekend, as I mentioned before, I took off to chill after finishing Aliens are Here. But I don’t think I mentioned how strange it felt to not be doing anything for five days (Sept. 1-5). A little blogging, yes, but no other writing. I rarely take vacations that long and it’s always when I’m going somewhere, which means I don’t just lie around and read or take walks.

Of course, I did do things — shop for food, cook — but still, it was unbelievably relaxing to let myself off the hook for anything more than that. As TYG was out part of Saturday, I couldn’t do much because I had to keep an eye on the dogs. That helped me give myself permission, I think.

Then, last weekend, I attended my first Mensa event since 2019. It was the Atlanta Mensa gathering; I’d been invited because they had a time travel theme and the organizers wanted me to speak on time travel on film. How could I resist? Though work kept TYG away (we could probably have managed it, but by the time we knew that, I’d already had to book the flight).My talk went great, even though I managed to erase the outline I’d saved on my phone. Fortunately I’d practiced enough and know the material enough that I could do it even without notes. Beyond that I got to hang out with my fellow Mensans, eat some good food — the vegan meal Saturday night was so good, apparently even the meat-eaters in the Atlanta group wanted that restaurant to cater — and participated in a quiz or two. Didn’t win but one question asked for a Batman villain with a time-themed name. I gave them four (Clock, Clock King, Time Commander, Calendar Man).

I must admit, though, the socializing was a little overwhelming after so long without. Sure, I was at ConGregate and ConCarolinas this summer but cons are primarily about activities — selling books, sitting on panels — with socializing squeezed in wherever possible. In gatherings, the socializing’s the priority. I spent a lot of time re-energizing alone in my room.

Oh, I also got my first case of acid reflux in years, due to eating chocolate cheesecake late at night. With no other food in my stomach to cushion the shock. But it was very good cheesecake.

I had no problems with my flights though the airport was packed both times. I used to laugh at myself a little for always following the “get there two hours before the flight” standard. I don’t laugh so much any more.

Below, a closer look at that chocolate cheesecake (with a brownie on the side).

#SFWApro. Comics cover by Gil Kane, rights to images all remain with current holders.

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South Carolina again

As I have for several years, I traveled down to South Carolina last year to play on my friend C’s team for Culturequest, Mensa’s general knowledge test. And to spend the time hanging out with C and her son, who shared his LEGO-building expertise with me for several hours. I built some layouts of my own, but my taste definitely runs to scenarios (“See, we have Batman defending the swimming pool and the magic talisman from Lobo and the giant lizard-man.”) rather than structures.

Other than that, we mostly hung out, watched movies, and hit a nearby used bookstore. I picked up a couple of comic book collections in hardback and several DVDs.

The test itself was challenging as we only had four players (one of our regulars came down sick). Quite aside from his particular expertise (geography and maths), just having more people makes it easier to answer all the questions. Still, it feels like we did okay, and there were no questions where I went “Dammit, I should have known that!” after looking up the answer.

There was only one comic-book question, on the metal of Thor’s hammer (uru metal, for reasons Brian Cronin explains). A fun one I did quite well on was a series of first lines from Wikipedia synopses of literary works (I’d go into detail but I’ve been told the test writers hate seeing the questions posted online). For some reason, every year they include a list of airport abbreviations (RDU for Raleigh-Durham, for instance) and I never get those. Or the sports questions. Regardless of performance, it was a lot of fun.

As my friend doesn’t want me showing photos of her house, here’s one of a neighboring flower bed, and of the Greenville Airport.

#SFWApro. Images are mine, credit me if you use ’em.

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Nanananananana — Batman!

So last Friday, TYG and I headed to Greenville, SC, to attend the annual Mensa RG (regional gathering) there. Given how crazy our schedule has been lately, we were less enthused about it than usual, but for the same reason, we needed a break. The theme of the RG was the 1966 Batman TV show and I’d agreed to give a talk on the show Friday, as a kind of kickoff. Below, you can see me in this year’s RG T-shirt.

I’m so glad we went. Not only did I get a break from pup-watching (we boarded them for the weekend) but we had fun. A lot of that was hanging with our friends down there, but also with each other. With TYG’s workload, we don’t get to hang out as much as we’d like, but this weekend we managed it.

Every year we play in Blonde Bowl, a quiz bowl where the last line of every question is a “blonde,” obvious clue (e.g., “… name this baseball player whose life was dramatized on screen in The Jackie Robinson Story, Jackie Robinson — All American and The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson.”), though people still flub it. I was feeling so wiped I wasn’t sure I was up to playing, but TYG signed up so I joined her team, the Lannisters (she’s a big GoT fan). While she often insists she’s not really good at things like this, she was amazing — six questions answered in the first round out of 20, giving us a slot in the finals. Overall I got one more question than she did, but more of mine were on the blonde clues. I had one frustrating moment when I recognized on the first sentence that Charlie, our quizmaster, was talking about Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight, but got confused and said “Sir Gawaine” as the answer instead of “The Green Knight” (I’ve had similar glitches before).

On the plus side, we came down in the finals to a dead heat at the last question. About two sentences in, I recognized the name “Roland Daggett” from Batman: The Animated Series and guessed, correctly, that the city we were being asked about was Gotham City. So that was a pretty satisfactory win.

My talk on the TV show went really well and I got several compliments on it, and my being able to deliver it without any notes. I was actually a little surprised at that myself, but comics and related matters have always been something that sticks in my mind.

Otherwise, let’s see. We got to snuggle in the mornings without the dogs demanding attention, played poker (well, TYG played, I just watched), and I got to sample an $1,100 bottle of scotch. I don’t have the palate to appreciate it, but when someone offered me a sip, I couldn’t pass it up. If nothing else, the scent of the drink was really neat to inhale.

Sunday morning we hung out with TYG’s mom and brother, who live in the area, then we headed home and collected the dogs. I know the refreshed feeling won’t last but it was really great.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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Lost and Won

LOST: My travel mug, while we were in Indianapolis. It was the first night, when I had pizza at the hotel restaurant and took some of it back upstairs. They gave me a massive box, way larger than I needed (it would have been big even if I’d had the full pizza) and maneuvering it around, stopping to read for a bit … well somewhere on the way I focused on the box and forgot the cup.

Which wouldn’t have been so bad except I cannot handle drinking tea from styrofoam. It’s horribly acidic, and makes my stomach miserable. I went on a mall hunt for a substitute mug, but to my surprise couldn’t find one. Finally I settled for the hotel Starbucks and shelled out $20. Way overpriced! However it met the need, and I must say it’s a good mug, both for keeping the tea warm and for not leaking when I tip it to drink.

WON: Okay, the team I played with for Culture Quest, “The Standard Deviants,” did not actually win the contest. But they announced at the AG came in eighth, the best we’ve ever done, and that’s pretty damn impressive (to me, anyway). I’m very pleased with us. And even though I go to hang out with Courtney, not to actually win, I certainly don’t object.

To celebrate the near-win, here’s a Bob Abbett book cover. No connection to tea or Mensa, I just like it — simple, but interesting.

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there … oh, wait, yes I can

(Title courtesy of the R. Dean Taylor song).

One thing TYG and I love doing on our Mensa trips is visiting zoos, aquariums, anything of the sort. And wouldn’t you know, the Indianapolis Zoo was located within a mile of our hotel. A very hot mile, but it was worth it. We caught the morning dolphin show (later we found a room offering a view from under the water), saw a cage full of macaws (didn’t photograph well, alas) and a colony of meerkats and hydrated a lot. Like I said, hot.

I thought this bear was a small bear. Then I got close and realized how much of him was in the water.

The flock of helmeted guinea fowl were a hoot as they clucked at us. That’s a crowned crane in the background.

There’s an orang-utan house with several apes. We got to watch one of them practice identifying symbols on the computer. It did pretty well. Below, a mother and child clown around.

Gila monster!


Lion fish!

And seal! Regrettably I didn’t photograph the walrus exhibit.

One moment of comedy was when a kid next to us informed his mother very seriously that he’d counted the rhino butts and there were definitely three of them in the exhibit.

It was definitely worth getting hot and exhausted for.

#SFWApro. All photos are mine.

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Indianapolis Mensa gathering: the basic economy trap!

So Monday we arrived at the Raleigh Airport and discovered we’d booked our flight basic economy. This is a low-cost, low-service option designed to wean travelers away from bargain airlines. But airlines and travel sites don’t emphasize the drawbacks (only one bag on board) or alert you, so we arrived and learned we’d have to pay to check our third and fourth bag. No upgrades possible (I’m surprised, as airlines make a packet that way). And TYG has another trip we made the same mistake on — but next time we book, we won’t be so foolish.

We arrived in Philadelphia for our plane change, and it was surprisingly compact. Narrower aisles and the gate was just a desk inside the bar/restaurant above (which isn’t a bad idea). A few hours later we made it into Indianapolis, then to the hotel (the big blue slab).

As usual the highlight of the trip was hanging out with friends. Lots of Mensans I know from Florida, or who’ve moved away from Florida, or whom I know just from annual gatherings. Wednesday, the first day of the gathering, I was pretty much social-whirling for the entire day, catching up with people, going out to dinner, chatting with strangers in the line at Starbucks (there was a Church of God in Christ convention the same weekend. Starbucks was packed). The next couple of days I still socialized but gave myself a little time to sit and read — now that I’m accustomed to spending most of the day with nobody but the pups, constant people sometimes felt overwhelming. TYG got out and hung too, though she’s less of a social butterfly than me.

I also explored the area: a skywalk connects the hotel to the convention center to the mall and beyond. Made for a lot of walking.

I didn’t do much in the games room but my friend Zarya convinced me to play a round of Azul, a new tile-based game. It was a lot of fun. And I couldn’t resist the bestseller covers-jigsaw above.

I attended several presentations, although I didn’t give one — I’d applied but the new scoring system shot me down (no idea why). I did have the pleasure of getting several “You’re not presenting? But I love your presentations!” compliments when people found out. The good ones included one on tombstones and art; one on the Green Book used by black motorists for a chunk of the last century; and a Roma college professor who’s written a book about her people (TYG picked it up). A couple of others were dull enough I walked out. I won’t name names.

Hospitality, despite the excellent company, was piss-poor. No vegan alternatives according to one of the other attendees, and the vegetarian alternatives, except for a good hamburger, were uninspired. The pasta with marinara sauce? It was pasta with the tiniest possible streaks of sauce dabbed on. Seeing as we only had lunch and breakfast served (a new thing, IIRC) I think they could have done better — vegetarianism aside, the food was bland. I know it’s cafeteria food at these things, but how about a better cafeteria?

Fortunately there were excellent restaurants in the hotel and around the area, so we spent quite a bit of money enjoying them. Below, some decorations at one of the Italian places (we ate a lot of Italian).

TYG and I also spent a lot of time just reading in bed (yes, reading). With her crazy schedule and the dogs to take care of, we rarely get to spend an evening doing that the way we used to.

Sunday we left early so we could pick up the dogs before the vet closed. Much as I enjoyed the break, it’s good to have them with us again.



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My vacation has given me the secret to best-seller status

So as I mentioned Friday, I spent last week with TYG attending the annual Mensa gathering. And it hit me late in the week: John Scalzi devotes blog posts to photos from his hotel room windows. John Scalzi is a best-selling SF novelist. So if I show photos of the view from my hotel … QED, am I right?

And besides I didn’t have time to get anything else about our trip written up, so—


Next, a day view

And a view of some of the roofs below.

Here’s a view of a rainy Indianapolis street, just because I think it’s a good photo

Tomorrow, some actual blogging about the trip, plus more photos.


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