December RVC Column

December is usually a time for parties and feasting and family get-togethers. Unfortunately, our current political, economic, epidemiological and weirdweather “perfect storm” has meddled with most of that. As for crosscountry travel, faggedaboudit. The multilayer uncertainty has also derailed the planning that most Local Groups do for their holiday season gettogethers.
So what to do? Stock up on canned goods, hide under the bed and resort to the internet and video conferencing. If you’re not already an experienced user of Zoom and GoToMeeting and Hangouts, ask any nearby schoolkid for help (and give a figurative pat on the back to their teachers, who’ve been dumped into this new environment and are swimming far more than they’re sinking, bless ‘em). Plains and Peaks Mensa found that trivia nights work almost as well online as the facetoface variety. Nebraska-Western Iowa Mensa reports that online book clubs do the same.
Many of our most successful events center around food, from picnics to dineouts to the Hospitality rooms at Gatherings. Believe it or not, it’s possible to do a foodcentered video conference. How about a multi-cook cooking class for swapping techniques and favorite recipes? Denver Mensa used Zoom for a speaker session featuring a professional mixologist who showed us his methods and philosophy. Or you could just do what people have been doing since cell phones got cameras – everyone shows off the vittles on their plate and then proceeds to consume while carrying on table talk. It just takes one volunteer to start what could become a tradition.
For those of you who’ve been hanging back from the internet because of its wellearned Wild West reputation, here’s a bit of good news. There’s a new Sheriff in town, at least in two places. Mensa Connect is an online conversation facility, supported and secured by American Mensa, with separate sections for national, regional and local discussions. Starting November 2 it’ll have a General Discussion forum – which will be moderated to keep things civil. On Facebook, the old Hospitality and Firehouse groups have been converted to SIGs. Both groups have committed to being kinder and gentler than they’ve been in the past.
Finally, as I wrote last month, I will not be running for RVC next year. If noone runs for that position the AMC will appoint a Regional Coordinator but that person will have no vote on policy matters that will affect our Heartland Region. If you have leadership experience within American Mensa or elsewhere, consider putting your name forward. I value the experience and friends I’ve gained over the past four years, but now it’s your turn. Visit AML’s Election Portal and start your candidacy rolling. I’ll sign your petition.
~~ Rich

Our New Local Secretary, Ryan Adler

My name is Ryan Adler, and I am Denver Mensa’s 2021 LocSec. I’m not big on titles, so just call me either Ryan or Lord Commander. I’ve been in Colorado since 2008 and joined Mensa in 2013. I’m a Leo, very partial to the KC Chiefs, dog enthusiast, and proud purveyor of sarcasm. While I graduated from law school, I’ve never practiced but am as fantastic an armchair constitutional law scholar as they come. For fun, terrible programming is at the top of the list (Mystery Science Theater 3000-caliber stuff). 

My day job, which often turns into a night job, is as a director and Superforecaster with Good Judgment Inc. Long story short, we forecast things like election outcomes, finance, capital markets, sports, and every stripe of geopolitical event. I live/work a stone’s throw from Olde Town Arvada, so I’m usually game for a coffee meetup (depending on weather and infectious disease considerations). I can talk anyone’s ear off about economics, history, etymology, philosophy, and anecdotes regarding my better half, Julia (my four-year-old Australian Labrachiweenie…AKC hasn’t officially recognized the breed, but we’ll get there). If I could invent just one thing, it’d either be an effective cure for tuberculosis or carb-free chips & salsa.

I look forward to leading the chapter through the currently socially-distanced state of affairs and am always interested to hear ideas about how we can increase interactions among ourselves with COVID in mind. While whoever said, “May you live in interesting times!” would probably cringe at 2020, we will work together to make the best out of 2021.

Mensa Foundation Judges Needed

Judges are needed for the 2020-2021 Mensa Education and Research Foundation Scholarship Essay Contest.  Judging involves reading essays submitted by scholarship applicants, and scoring them for points to determine the winners.  Judging will be done online on the Mensa website.  Local judging will take place between January 15, 2021 and February 23, 2021.  Anyone who is interested in volunteering, please contact Tim Winkelman 
(303)698-1897 timwinkeman@yahoo.com.

Due to COVID-19, we will not be having a Judging Day event this year.  Hopefully this will return next year if everything has returned to normal,

We will also be needing regional Judges for Region 7.  Regional Judging will take place between February 23, 2021 and March 30 2021.  We will be looking for people who have not been judges for any of the local groups in Region 7 for the 2020-2021 competition.  Judges may only judge at the local or regional level, but may not do both in the same region.

December LocSec Column

From Your Commander in Geek!

And that’s a wrap!!! It’s been amazing being your LocSec these past two years. I’ve had a ton of fun and, with this December issue, my term is officially ending.

Most importantly, I’ll offer my sincere thanks to all the amazing volunteers who helped out, made these two years what they were and more. Specifically, my ExComm team of board members included:

Alex Zhou as Assistant LocSec, who offers great perspective on the same issues I wonder about and creativity in thinking of fun new events. Even if we aren’t in a position right now to put on those events…someday we will!
Ryan Adler as Treasurer, who consistently offers sardonic wit, a sense of irony thick enough to cut butter and a grasp of the obvious seemingly few others can pick up on. He’s always ready to reassure us that “we have money” regardless of how much or little it is.
Londell Jackson as Member-at-Large, who offers the same insight into good communication and insightful wit that Ryan does. In my opinion Londell has a solid pulse on what’s defined as polite behavior from Mensans and uses that to help grow the group.
Sara Shepard as Membership Officer, who regularly monitors the group, it’s opinions and even the negative feedback with aplomb and tact. She is truly vested in what makes this organization great and wants to see it grow and flourish, one member at a time.
Sarah Boe as Editor, who has pulled together a very different Matrix than the one we were used to in the past. She’s scrounged and found interesting content that appeals to (what I’m hoping are) many members and I hope that can continue.
James Taylor as Programs Officer, who has brought creativity and new ideas, adding some speakers into our mix the past several years on topics that no one ever thought would be a hit. But they were! And he’s a cutie, which is why he’s my husband.

Of course, there are many more volunteers outside of these. Taylor Profita helps with the website, Rich Olcott keeps us on the straight and narrow as Regional Vice Chair, Lauralee Arnold allows us to play games in a constructive learning environment and more. However, the six ExComm members above commit to regular meetings, following through on regular responsibilities, engaging in special projects and truly want to improve our Denver Mensa.

I sincerely look forward to the next ExComm and what their accomplishments will be! I wish them much success and, while I’ll remain in a volunteer role to help where possible, I also suggest you consider becoming involved! Reach out for more details. And, of course, happy holidays!

November’s RVC Column

November’s our month for giving thanks. I am very grateful that my grandkids and their parents have successfully traversed the Valley of Covid. They’re still in quarantine as I write this but I am so looking forward to real-life hugs once they’re certified virus-free. May everyone who reads this escape the bug entirely or at worst suffer only a mild case with no after-effects.

While I’m being grateful, a big “Thank you” to the 126 people who’ve volunteered for 176 roles in our dozen Local Groups. Back in June I tipped my hat to our steadfast Editors, the linchpins who keep our members informed of local events and personalities. Standing behind each there’s an unsung hero, the Publisher or Circulation Manager (different groups use different titles). Sometimes the hardworking Editor fills that role, too. Whichever, there is an important behind-the-scenes person who oversees printing, addressing and mailing the hardcopy newsletters to the roughly half our members who prefer that medium. Thanks, folks, your faithful service deserves recognition, too.

Thanks also to our thirty-one Proctors and Proctors-In-Training who haven’t had much to do since March. As Milton wrote, “they also serve who only stand in wait.” Your friendly introduction to American Mensa is our best gateway for new members. Unfortunately, state and local health regulations have virtually shut down most of our testing sessions. The good news is that at last, after years of effort, we’re able to begin electronic testing as a supplement to what our Proctors have been doing and will do in our future.

This will not be “online testing” like our practice test. No low-security testing from someone’s living room sofa. Instead, candidates will sit for what we’re calling “a private test” at a secured (and cleaned) professionally-run testing center. They’ll find that center and make an appointment using the same “Test sessions near your ZIP code” online search facility they now use on our website to find the (considerably less expensive) Local Group tests. By the time you read this, we’ll have had the benefit of a couple of weeks of shake-down and Q&A via Mensa Connect’s Proctor Officers Community.
Details are evolving. Check the latest in the article and accompanying Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page at us.mensa.org/featured-content/announcing-private-testing/.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the texture of the Mensa experience is changing because of our perfect storm of pandemic, social and economic disruption. One indicator – I’m getting notifications of nation-wide video conference “speaker meetings” hosted by Local Groups as distant as San Francisco Region Mensa and Central Florida Mensa. I sat in on a SFRM presentation by one of my favorite science-fiction authors. Watch for announcements on Mensa Connect.

~~ Rich

November LocSec Column

From Your Commander in Geek!

Holidays!!! You’ve seen the displays in stores already! While I’m sad to see Christmas decorations even before Halloween is upon us (or, as of this writing, October 1 has yet to arrive), it’s sometimes nice to know we’re almost done with this crazy 2020 of a year. Not that a “new year” rollover will magically solve our issues, but it’s something nice to focus on.

When it comes to Denver Mensa, there are a few important things happening. First, are virtual events! We’ve been hosting virtual happy hours, coffee connections, new member events, speakers and more. While these haven’t been extensive, the same applies – you, as Mensans, are always welcome to plan what you want! If you’re active nationally on Facebook or Mensa Connect, you’ll see there are many other groups nationwide being active in the virtual realm. There have been virtual classes, cocktail-making lessons, movie nights, escape rooms, scavenger hunts, puzzle parties and more! There’s no reason we couldn’t host more of these in our group so, if you’re interested, reach out and I’d be happy to provide some suggestions on either how you can start planning something or how someone in our group can help you start planning something.

Additionally, in this vein, we usually plan a year-end holiday party at a restaurant / bar. Last year and the year before we were at the Schoolhouse in Arvada and, while they’re technically open, the logistics are difficult since they cannot accommodate large groups. Frankly, I also want to be safe. That said, we’re still working out the best option for a holiday party or, at a minimum, member appreciation event. Keep an eye out for more details!

Going back to important things happening, the second of these is our elections! Toward year-end, we elect a new Executive Committee – or ExComm – which is our organization’s governing board. There are four elected positions, including the Local Secretary, Assistant Local Secretary, Treasurer and Member-At-Large. We’ve had only one official candidate for each position, so that means the election is uncontested and, per our bylaws, the candidates are elected! We’ll report more on this in the December issue, so be sure to watch out for some introductions to our new ExComm members. These four elected members will then appoint the three remaining members of the ExComm (the Programs Chair, Membership Chair and Editor) as of the start of the new term in January.

But as mentioned, keep an eye out for virtual events and take advantage of the opportunities to be involved! See you soon!

October LocSec Column

From Your Commander in Geek!

As we head into fall and start to think about 2021 (well, mostly it’s ending 2020 that we’re all focused on!), I’ve heard a lot of people comment about how this virtual stuff is the new norm. It’s not that we want it to be the new norm, it’s just kind of becoming that way. And for good reason! Let’s concentrate on ridding ourselves of this virus and we’ll look forward to in-person events again!

For now, there are a few very cool things happening in the virtual world. For one, we’re seeing a lot more Mensa events go virtual! Keep your eye on our schedule, as we’re hosting the new member events, coffee gatherings and happy hours virtually. In addition, outside of Mensa, the Denver Metro Regional Science and Engineering Fair has also gone virtual! This is an event that several Mensans – and special thanks to our regular volunteers, Ryan Adler and Jennifer Jewell – have volunteered at as judges the past few years. This event was “established in 1963 to give pre-collegiate researchers an outlet to engage their scientific interests and an opportunity to interact with professional researchers and scientists”. With that mission, you can imagine how important continuity and opportunities are. That said, the fair will go on, although virtually! We’ll be helping judge the entries, same as in years past. Or, if you’re interested in being involved, reach out!

Additionally, in this issue of the Matrix, you’ll see a heartwarming and congratulatory story about Charlotte Pankratz, who just won a Youth Impact Award from the Colorado Association of Gifted & Talented (CAGT). This is a pretty impressive achievement with a ton of competition! Charlotte’s project, in particular, related to reducing our carbon footprint. The award will be given in October, but check out the story here for more information. And, in terms of Denver Mensa, we support the CAGT’s annual fair in October by sponsoring a vendor table. While their event has also been taken virtually this year, we’ll continue to support the organization as possible.

For your purposes, keep an eye out for those virtual opportunities and take advantage of them! We love your connection, participation and engaging stories, like the one about Charlotte. See you in the virtual world soon!

September RVC Column

Almost every photo calendar I get in the mail has a blah picture for September. February may rate a calving glacier, April may feature baby critters, June may have a view of soaring mountains, but September always gets an old barn or a cliché maple-clad hillside. I’ve long wondered why but I think I’ve figured it out. The editors are taking revenge on the start of the school year. It goes back to when things made sense and school started the day after Labor Day. Since then September has always carried a faint flavor of chalk dust.

School this year, who knows? Full-time, part-time rotating, online-only, open immediately, open deferred to time certain, we’ll let you know when or even if – and the plan seems to change every week. It’s enough to make kids want to go to school just out of orneriness. Except maybe Mensa kids, who dive into stuff on their own and often way before the school system is ready for that. If you’re one of those or if you know one or two, tip them off to what the Mensa Foundation and American Mensa’s Gifted Youth Programs Manager Jamie Uphold have put together at us.mensa.org/featured-content/at-home-learning-resources-for-kids/. All kinds of interesting links and material there for kids. For grown-ups, too, especially if they want to keep up.

Grown-up Mensans shouldn’t be surprised that the texture of the Mensa experience is changing. Not because we want to get creative, but because we have to – here in the Age of Covid the environment just doesn’t sustain our traditional event structure. To the folks who can still gather with appropriate precautions in outdoor locations, ¡salud!

For the rest of us it’s print media (bless our newsletter and Bulletin editors!) and getting together on the internet. You or your Local Group officers can organize online video gatherings with the resources listed at us.mensa.org/lead/localgroupresources/stay-engaged-with-your-members/. Zoom, GoToMeeting and their competitors listed there make it easy to set up a meet-up. Beyond your local area, take your pick from all the Special Interest Groups listed at us.mensa.org/connect/sigs/sig-listing/ or the growing number of interesting nation-wide “virtual speaker meetings” that some of the larger Local Groups have begun hosting. We’re still figuring out how to advertise them – I expect Mensa Connect will be a good source for that.

~~ Rich

Solitude

Well, here we are, ending April and each hoping life starts to get back to normal soon. Let me start by saying that I hope everyone is safe and weathering this storm of isolation and solitude as best as we can… Obviously, no one enjoys the quasi-enforced isolation, but it really is for the best, as I am sure we all have come to recognize…

That being said, however, I do have to wonder if our forced isolation need to be as… well, isolated. yes, we do need to respect various orders and guidelines. That does not have to mean, however, that there is no connection or communication.

Personally, I would love to see our monthly speaker meeting continue. In this world of zoom video or other ways to get a group to meet without having to be physically present, I would love to see the tradition of a speaker continue. I think it would be a welcome addition to all of our Mensa experiences to find a bit of encouragement in our members or associates sharing their knowledge and passions. It could easily be recorded and placed on this site, or any forum for that matter.

Additionally, the ExComm meetings could, and I would argue should, also be made available to the membership. Once again, a zoom meeting is easy to set up and record, and it would be helpful to all of us to see what issues are being discussed and what decisions are being made.

Yes, for the time being, we are all having to cope with this change, and we all hope that it ends quickly, with the least amount of damage possible. And, with this hope, we all sacrifice. But we need not sacrifice unnecessarily. Certain aspects of our Mensa interactions can continue, or change to adapt. No, we can’t go out to meet in a restaurant or enjoy each others company in an escape room. But, to the extent that certain activities can continue, albeit in an altered form, I cannot believe that such is too difficult or outside the realm of possibility for this group. If anything, it will help us continue to take part in some of the great aspects of this organization, and given that so many have figured out how to adapt, I can’t see any reason to not start trying to continue on the best way that we can and engaging in activities, like lectures, that don’t strictly require physical attendance, but which we can all enjoy.

Coffee and Politics?

The website says there’s a meeting today at 1, but it doesn’t say where. There’s no contact info for anyone. It’s difficult to read the white text against the background picture. Does anyone care?