The other day while walking out of a restaurant I picked up a match booklet. It's become almost subconscious now. I don't know when it started but for many years now wherever I am I try to pick up a reminder. This has led to a collection of matchbooks and coins that on odd occasions I will bring out and look over. As I get older it is more to try to stimulate the memory than anything else! Including the one when I was stopped at Canadian customs and made to surrender about forty that I had collected before I was allowed to board. And this was years before September 11th by the way!
The puzzling thing is that it isn't a hobby. It's not as if I spend hours categorizing and obsessing over them. They are just there. As, funnily enough, are the many other things I have a propensity to hoard.
It was at a meeting a while back that I began to wonder about what it is that other Mensans do for hobbies or stimulation. (Of the brain people! I can make a fairly educated guess as to the other.) I was listening to Brian explaining about how, during a recent vacation, he had been visiting various prisons. It wasn't so much the topic of prisons that fascinated me as to why someone would choose this particular subject. What is it about prisons that fascinate him? How does he get permission to go inside? Still the most important question though is Why?
It set off a train of thought. What do our members do that is different? What hobbies, jobs or even studies are undertaken by the members that may turn out to be interesting to the others?
Many of us do things that we either keep quiet about, or that we think will not be of interest to the others. So we tend to ignore the possibility that there could be a kindred spirit lurking out there. For example I have noticed that Judy collects thimbles. What I bet she doesn't know is that my mother does the same, and that for many years this was my way of insuring that I was able to remain in her good books. No matter where you go in the world you will be able to find a local thimble. Not only that but they are small and extremely portable so you can add to any collection comfortably. And customs doesn't confiscate them either!
I know we have our share of Trekkies and Bridge players but what else do you do? Maybe it would make for a good topic at one of Pacey's evenings. Perhaps you could even look toward starting up a SIG. At the very least a short article for Montage is appropriate.
Aside from all the other stuff I dabble in I am a capsiacinophilic. Oddly enough my ability to indulge my tastes has been increased tenfold since landing in Canada and I am currently enjoying the ability to indulge the over one thousand different bottles that are available to me. Sadly, and very much in the anorak fashion I have started a collection of the bottles once I am finished. I might even set up a website to categorise their strengths. Who knows? But I will bet I am not the only one floating around. Anyone else out there willing to discuss the Scofield scale can tackle me at any time.
So at the next meeting you attend instead of getting involved in a serious discussion about the state of world affairs tell the others a bit more about yourself and what it is that you are really passionate about. You may find new contacts or just as important you may even find a new passion to follow.

I was browsing through the American Mensa magazine the other day when I came upon a letter written by one of the members. The main gist of the letter was annoyance that his earlier suggestion in an article had bought forth many nasty replies. If the tone of the article was the same as the letter then I am not surprised at the response. A few more of which were also in the letters page.
However that was not what caught my eye.
It was the premise on which the original article was based. This author had apparently written an article on the need for Mensa to lower its admission standards for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans. The reason being that they were excluded due to the cultural bias in the testing system. This of course would have been bad enough but he then went on to state that Mensa must begin to enact some form of  “affirmative action” policy before the different pressure groups for these two races targeted Mensa and “forced” them to accept lower standards.
 The sheer arrogance inherent in both statements makes me wonder. What took my breath away though was a letter that stated that earlier on in Mensan history in the States, 1976 I think, the pass average on the test was lowered from 1300 to 1250 in order to attract more female Mensans. I'm not quite sure how to take this. I hope this was a joke but I can't really be sure until someone confirms or denies it. I know how I would feel if I were a female who joined after 1976 on finding out this piece of information. Actually I know how I would feel if I was any person who joined after 1976 knowing that I could never be sure if I was a member on merit or exception.
One of the facts that never seems to enter any debate on the ”cultural bias” of the tests used to score IQ is that the nation with the highest scores overall are the Japanese. Ten points higher on average.
This tends to make a mockery of all the people who have denigrated the IQ test as being biased and unfair. Especially when it came to certain races. I wonder whether those people who are involved in this exercise realize that this attitude is probably more racist than the people they are attacking. After all what they are really saying is that you aren't good enough to join without lowered standards. Some insult that is!
Wouldn't the whole premise read well in the press as well.
“High IQ club lowers standards to attract members of other races”.
Is there anyone who thinks that this would not enrage just about everyone? Especially the very people who it was supposed to help attract.
The point that I am trying to make is that Mensa is an organization that has set criteria for membership. Pass those criteria and it doesn't matter if you are purple, pink or green, you are eligible to join. There should be no exceptions for any reason.
If Mensa needs to look toward expanding it's membership to different groups then it should be a marketing campaign designed to attract those people who are proud to say they are in the top two percent, no matter what their background.
I think we do that fairly well here in Canada. Let's keep it that way.

Having had the immense good luck to have traveled all over the world, one of the observations I can make is that humour has distinct differences. It can be regional, tribal, gender based and even, despite the social engineers wishes, race based.
The other day while watching an episode of Mike Bullard, I suddenly realised that I found him and his jokes singularly unfunny. Now I may be wrong at this junction, but I was under the impression that he is supposedly one of Canada's “funniest” people. So I began looking for examples that personified “Canadian” humour. I wanted to get inside the head of the people out there. Assimilate as it were. Coming from another colony with strong British connections I expected to find similar tastes in the style and direction of humour.
Instead what I did find was that the Canadian sense of humour is very much dictated by American TV. Canadian comedians are sharper and wittier, to a degree, with less pies-in-the-face slapstick, but still very much mired in what passes as manufactured-so-you-can't-miss-the-punchline humour. And, just in case you are a stupid immigrant who doesn't understand, they tell it slowly, with intermittent facial ticks, which are added in to inform the audience when the punchline is imminent. Assuming that they haven't started to laugh at their own wit that is. Always a sure sign that the joke, never mind the teller, will be banal to say the least.
In the spirit of good Canadian political correctness though I would like to point out that I found the women to be as boring and unfunny as the men. Especially the AliMcBeal wannabee Carla something or other. About the only difference here being that woman comedians are allowed to say things that would have the PC Police snorting fire and brimstone if it came out of the mouths of their masculine counterparts. In most cases I got the impression that females are now the holders of the vulgar torch and are attempting to vie for the position of the most crass comedian around.
I was bought up on the Goons, Monty Python, Not-the-Nine-o-clock News and other types of what I like to refer to as wordplay comedy. I love to listen to clever dialogue which has hidden meanings, double entendre's or is clever in the outcome. I must even confess to liking puns. (which isn't an invitation Pacey!). I can remember enjoying Wayne and Schuster, although here I hang my head in shame because I was under the impression they were American.
Currently I really enjoy both Royal Air Farce and 22 Minutes. Both of which, you will note, fall into my “clever wordplay” category anyway.
So why am I rambling on about humour anyway, when everyone knows Mensans can only deliver a joke in Binary code?
Well, I was merely wondering whether there was such a thing as a collective Mensa humour? In any gathering you expect there to be a range of differences amongst all the attendees. Our own seems to follow society fairly closely (except for the male/female ratio which is another column altogether!) and as such I expect that there will be large variances in who finds what humourous. And yet I get the distinct impression that, like with myself, there is a definite liking for jokes that follow a more cerebral path. You have to listen carefully and think when it comes to the punchline. Even the most disgusting jokes that I have heard at a meeting have contained that element. In keeping with Canadian society at large, these were, of course told to me by a woman. As were some of the more politically incorrect ones I might add.
I can state though, that I have found a similarity in the various clubs that I have been a member of. As this now constitutes four countries, plenty of provinces and regions and many meetings that I have attended I believe that my observation of the cerebral state of Mensan humour is indeed indicative of a unique collective style. All the way down to the puns!
And, again in keeping with the general populace, I would also like to point out that there are also many members who seem singularly lacking in any sense of humour as well. There is nothing like a humourless Mensan by the way. There is just something about the way they dissect that has overtones. It's no wonder that serial killers seem to be of above average intelligence.
Then again maybe they were just watching Seinfeld. That's enough to drive any intelligent person to commit murder.

One of the most interesting comments in last months Montage was written by George Noviss:
“Nobody knew of a single successful job applicant where the employer was aware of the applicants status as a Mensan!”
That made me sit up and take notice. It is an interesting observation that I think needs to be studied a little bit more.
Is this merely a feeling on the part of members? Does anyone have proof that membership has had a detrimental effect on your chances? Has anyone been told that being a member has caused the interviewer to rule against their employment? What, if anything, do members feel should be the outcome of revealing your membership? Respect? A better position? More money?
Do we come across as different? Why indeed should being a member of Mensa be held against? Considering some of the experiences I have had I would like an answer.
Some time ago I told by the CEO of a company I worked for that I thought I was better than him because I was a member.
This wasn't actually true. I thought I was better than him because he was a moron engaged in illegal activities but the way he said it has stuck with me for some time. There was a degree of fear in the way it came out. Since then I have been particularly wary about whom I tell this information to.
Then a week ago a headhunter here in Canada advised me to remove it from my resume in order to make it easier to sell myself. Considering that he had just spent a good few minutes telling me he was a member back in University day's I decided that maybe he had some insight which may be useful.
I had added my membership into my new, improved, reworked-for-the-thousandth time resume, because I felt that showing that I was intent on becoming a good citizen included adding local clubs that I was a member of. I must also admit that I was also intrigued by the selfish, egotistical pomposity that permeated all the examples of resumes I had seen as well. My reasoning being that if over-inflating your abilities was a given, then pointing out you are a member of Mensa may go down well. Now it seems that this may in fact be an area to steer well clear of.
Which is a pity.
So perhaps someone out there may like to start a study as to the effect being a member of Mensa has on a person. I would suggest that it takes into account the attitudes displayed by both sides. I have this sneaking suspicion that there is some blame to be laid on both sides but wouldn't it be nice if we actually had concrete facts as to this whole aspect of a relationship that can't merely be tossed aside.
Is there anyone out there that knows the answer? Please let me know quickly as I have a resume floating around out there.

For those of you who are not yet aware, at the recent AGM I was elected to take over the position of LocSec which has been so capably handled by Denise for the last few years. As I am given to writing down my thoughts on all sorts of issues I am switching from Canada to the local Mensa branch for a change.
One of my earliest memories of Canada, and specifically Toronto Mensa, was the warmth with which I was received at my first meetings in this country. Not only was it easy to contact the local Branch and get information, it was also not hard to assimilate with the local members. Once my weird accent became understandable that is.
To this day I count many of those first members that I met as friends and look forward to the meetings that I attend.
I put it all down to the committee, and the people who have served in various capacities on it. During the last two years I have come to understand that the caliber of person who has taken on the task of making your local Mensa such a success has been very high indeed. As such stepping into the shoes of such a talented person as Denise makes me rather nervous. I know that Denise will still be there to give advice and encouragement. I know that the other members of the committee have the experience and knowledge to give the all round skills necessary to run the local Mensa. I look forward to working with them so that we may carry on providing you with stimulation that you all need.
Thank you Denise for all the hard work and effort you have done for Toronto Mensa. I hope this is only a battery recharging period.
Many of you know me, or through my writings have at least an idea of my presence. Perhaps it is time to add a little bit more to the person.
I joined Mensa South Africa in 1976. My mother designed the logo for the new South African chapter and suggested I tried out. I think I was as surprised as others when I was asked to join.
Since 1977 I have been involved with the National and Local committee's in one form or another. Chairman (we hadn't got around to the politically correct LocSec form. Still haven't I think.) of both the Western Cape and Natal branches, National Committee representative at various times, Editor of Impi ( Natal newsletter) and contributor to other magazines, Testing officer and when I got burnt out, just a solid committee member of the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban branches. During that time Mensa grew from about 30 people in the country to well over a thousand members and International recognition. The biggest group having almost as many meetings as our local branch. From 1999 I have been a member of Canadian Mensa. I haven't been involved other than as a contributor to Montage and to quite a few debates on my comments.
Since arriving in Canada and having to struggle to establish myself (an ongoing process unfortunately) I have always had the Mensa meetings to look forward to as beacons of sanity. I feel relaxed and comfortable in the presence of the local members.
Mensa Toronto has a lot of enjoyable meetings, gatherings and get-togethers. These work well because of the dedication of the hosts and attendees.
So, bearing in mind that I have found friends and sanity in my attendance of Mensa meetings what I would like to do is convince you all to do one thing this coming year. Make it an important decision to attend at least one Mensa meeting. More if possible. It doesn't matter which one you choose. Start your own if you must, but put in an appearance. We will be happy to see you there. I believe that ultimately you will be happier too.