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American Mensa, Regional Vice Chairman - Region 8

Just returned from a visit to Reno, where I met with members from Northern Nevada Mensa. LocSec Bob McAllister and his wife Mary were perfect hosts, and I enjoyed my stay with them immensely. On Saturday night, about 30 local Mensans came to Bob and Mary's for a cookout, and I did my best to convince them that they could put an RG together in the near future. Hopefully everyone in Region 8 will be able to look forward to joining their fellow Mensans in the beautiful Reno-Lake Tahoe area for another of the excellent RGs that we do so well in this part of the country.

The monthly Region 8 LocSec Conference Call once again had excellent attendance. This time seven LocSecs were on the call, including Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Erinn Height from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, Milly Treherne frmo Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Bob McAllister from Northern Nevada Mensa, and Ruth Parvin from Oregon Mensa. Assistant RVC Dan Burg was also on the call, as was San Francisco Region Mensa's Assistant LocSec, Alan Winson.

The first order of business was to announce the American Mensa election results. Dan was congratulated on his victory, which will also mean the end of his term as Assistant RVC. I will miss his participation on the call, and the many other ways that he has worked on behalf of Region 8 during the past two years, though as a fellow member of Oregon Mensa and the AMC we will still have the pleasure of seeing one another and working together frequently.

The Oregon Mensa and Mensa of Western Washington joint bid for the 2011 AG was the next topic of discussion. The bid will be presented at the 2007 AG, and everyone hopes that it will be approved this time by the AMC. Since so few Region 8 LocSecs will be coming to Birmingham, however, we are not arranging a repeat of last year's very successful face-to-face meeting at the AG.

Each of the LocSecs on the call was encouraged to provide an update on what was happening in their groups. Judy reported that Monterey County Mensa was planning to update their bylaws to make them conform with the recent changes in the minimum standard bylaws, and Dan offered to work with them as needed. Erinn told us that San Francisco Regional Mensa's RG is on track, that expenses will be paid to Margaret Fruth to settle her claims on behalf of her late husband's estate concerning work he performed as a proctor, and that a threatened recall of the ex comm has not gained any traction. Milly had a question about the game of Quiddler, and said that an argument over the game in her group had resulted in members calling one another "butt" and "baby," which I wish I had been there to hear...it was hilarious in the retelling.

Bob described what he called a state of "apathy" in Northern Nevada Mensa, and I promised to do what I could to bring about a new, "can do" mood in the group when I visited Reno the following weekend. Ed spoke about his successful delegation efforts for the monthly gathering in Mensa of Western Washington, and Walt said things were smooth in Redwood Empire Mensa with the exception of the departure of the North Coast secretary. Ruth concluded the discussion by reviewing how successful the Oregon Mensa RG had been, and by recommending zip code dinners as a way to involve members who are outside of the core area of a local group. Ruth then asked for advice on getting volunteers for both local group activities and for helping with the 2011 AG, and we shared our thoughts on these subjects. We did not set a date and time for the next call, as we will take a break following the AG in July. The next call will be no earlier than the second Sunday in August, and may wait until September; this is yet to be decided.

The American Mensa election results are in. I ran unopposed as Regional Vice Chair for Region 8, and will be returning for a second term on the American Mensa Committee. Joining me on American Mensa's national board of directors this term will be fellow Region 8 members Dan Burg, who was reelected to the position of Second Vice Chair after a one term hiatus, and Scott Rainey, who was elected to the position of Secretary. Scott served as RVC for Region 8 for the two terms prior to my first term, and Dan served as Secretary before he became Second Vice Chair. Both Dan and Scott are therefore very experienced at working at the national level, and it will be a pleasure to serve alongside them for what I expect to be a very fruitful and productive term.

We had very good attendance on the monthly Region 8 LocSec Conference Call this evening. Five of the eleven LocSecs in the region were on the call, including Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, Milly Treherne from Easten Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Erinn Height from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Mark Mitchell from Columbia River Mensa, and Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa. Debra is also an Assistant RVC from Region 8, as is Dan Burg, who was on the call as well.

Erinn began the discussion by bringing us up to date on the situation regarding the ongoing dispute over SFRM's archives. Milly described her adventures bringing home the trophy that she won at the Region 8 Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament during the Oregon Mensa RG. Debra was congratulated for her Regional Service Award. The general discussion that followed concentrated on the problems with the Amercian Mensa election, and the proposed national guidelines concerning member harassment. None of the local groups in Region 8 appeared to have been seriously impacted by the balloting problems, fortunately.

At the close of the call, only Debra and Dan said that they would be joining me at the AG in Birmingham. The next call was set for Sunday, June 10, at 8:00 p.m. PDT.

Oregon Mensa's 2007 RG was a great success, with 130 Mensa members and their guests enjoying a splendid weekend in Portland. This was the fourth RG that I have chaired, and I wish I could say that it gets easier each time. The truth is that each RG presents its own set of challenges, and it was due to a terrific crew of dedicated volunteers that we were able to bring this one off. I'd like to thank each of the following people for all the time and energy that they devoted to making BeaverRG X the success it was:

2007 Oregon Mensa RG Committee and Volunteers

Aaron Lance, Poker Tournament Leader
Anne Chen, Volunteer
Barbara Lance, Volunteer
Dan Burg, Volunteer
Darklady, Lingerie Fashion Show Emcee
Diana Maul, Auction Chair
Doug Parr, Volunteer
Ember Burg, Volunteer
Jacque Greenleaf, Volunteer
Jeffry Fisher, Brewmeister
Joanne Reisman, Volunteer
John Recht, RG Chair and Program Chair
Julia Mark, Wine Tour Leader
Laurie Yadon, Wenchstress
Linda Kelso, Volunteer
Linda Luther, Games Chair
Linda Roach, Volunteer
Lynne Alley, Program Publisher
Michael Meagher, Publicity Chair and Beer Tour Leader
Mimi Wetteland, Volunteer
Randy Gresham, Hospitality Chair
Ruth Parvin, Volunteer
Scott Rainey, RG Webmaster and A-V Coordinator
Stephen Darnell, Registrar and Treasurer
W. Brewster Gillett, Auctioneer

Lingerie Fashion Show Retailers

Cindy Morgan, MC Designs/Odress Fashions
Laura Fitzpatrick, Oh Baby Lingerie, Inc.
Maloni Baca, Cathie's

In addition to all the above people, there were volunteer wenches, volunteer fashion show models, a stellar staff at the Holiday Inn-Portland Airport Hotel, and many wonderful speakers and performers who contributed to the festivities. It was truly a glorious and unforgettable weekend, and I am sure that next year's RG Chair, Michael Meagher, will do his best to surpass it in 2008!

Last night at the Oregon Mensa RG we held the first ever Region 8 Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament. There were 27 entrants, and after four hours of action, the final four were as follows:

First Place - Glenn Hoernig
Second Place - Milly Treherne
Third Place - Tim Wyndham
Fourth Place - Bill Noftz

There was an optional buy-in, and a pool of $280 was divided up by the winners. Since Glenn didn't buy in to the pool, Milly took the top cash prize of $168. Tim's payoff was $84, and Bill finished in the money with $28. Many thanks to Poker Tournament Leader Aaron Lance for his hard work and expertise, which helped make everything run smoothly from start to finish, and to his wife for all of her help as well. Aaron and Barbara are owed a special note of thanks, in addition, for following through with the tournament even though Aaron's mother had passed away the day before. My deepest condolences to you and your family, Aaron, and my deepest gratitude for helping out with the tournament at such a difficult time for you and yours.

Given the success and popularity of the tournament, I am looking forward to making this an annual event in Region 8. I have already asked Mensa of Western Washington if they would be willing to include the next Region 8 Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament on the program for their RG in February, 2008. I hope so! It was a blast, and I can't wait to do it again....

The fiscal year ending March 31 was an excellent year for American Mensa overall, with an increase in membership of 3.3% and a total membership of 54,503 at year end. This was the highest number of active members for American Mensa since the fiscal year ending in 1993, and it shows that we are on the right track both in terms of keeping members and attracting new ones. The table below shows how the eleven local groups in Region 8 have done during the past two years:

American Mensa, Region 8 Membership Totals

Local Group......03/31/05.......03/31/06..........03/31/07.........2-Year Total
08/836 –............133...............138 (+3.8%).....130 (-5.8%).............(-2.3%)
08/893 –............161...............178 (+10.6%)...176 (-1.1%).............(+9.3%)
08/939 –............112...............104 (-7.1%)......102 (-1.9%).............(-8.9%)
08/940 –............1950.............1975 (+1.3%)...1997 (+1.1%)..........(+2.4%)
08/953 –............632...............609 (-3.7%)......637 (+4.6%)............(+0.8%)
08/954 –............232...............240 (+3.4%).....242 (+0.8%)............(+4.3%)
08/970 –............750...............767 (+2.3%).....807 (+5.2%)............(+7.6%)
08/980 –............1060.............1072 (+1.1%)...1125 (+4.9%)...........(+6.1%)
08/989 –............83.................76 (-8.4%)........87 (+14.5%)............(+4.8%)
08/990 –............210...............201 (-4.3%)......213 (+6.0%)............(+1.4%)
08/995 –............123...............120 (-2.4%)......127 (+5.8%)............(+3.3%)

Totals.................5446.............5480 (+0.6%)....5643 (+3.0%).........(+3.6%)

Local Group Numbers
08/836 – Southwest Idaho Mensa
08/893 – Northern Nevada Mensa
08/939 – Monterey County Mensa
08/940 – San Francisco Regional Mensa
08/953 – Sacramento Regional Mensa*
08/954 – Redwood Empire Mensa
08/970 – Oregon Mensa
08/980 – Mensa of Western Washington
08/989 – Columbia River Mensa
08/990 – Eastern WA/Northern ID Mensa
08/995 – Mensa Alaska

*includes Greater Northstate Mensa

Last night there were six of us on the Region 8 LocSec Conference Call. LocSecs joining me included Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Mark Mitchell from Columbia River Mensa, and Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa. Debra is also an Assistant RVC for Region 8. Also on the call was Dan Burg, our other Assistant RVC from Region 8.

We began the call with a discussion of the final results for membership in our local groups from the year ending March 31. Nine of the eleven groups in the region made gains during the year, and the result overall was an increase of 3%. Other topics covered on the call were:

* Appointing Mensa Foundation local scholarship chairs in our groups

* Following proper name and logo usage in local group newsletters

* Making sure that the monthly conference calls were still of use to everyone (they were)

* Dealing with problem members, and how San Francisco Regional Mensa was handling a proposed recall election

* Encouraging members to participate in American Mensa's election

The discussions were wide ranging, brisk, and very well received, I thought. Since everyone on the call preferred that we continue with a monthly call, the next call was set for Sunday, May 20, at 8:00 p.m. PDT.
Continuing with my Mensa blog: the AMC election is underway. As I have no opponent, I have been reelected as Regional Vice Chair for Region 8. There will, however, be significant turnover on the AMC, as we are guaranteed to have at least six new RVCs. We'll find out the results in about two months. This has been a very collegial group to work with, and I am confident that we will be able to continue to work together well in the new term.

During the past week I have put up three very long posts, covering my first three days in Japan. It would be easy to continue with my day-by-day experiences here, but I believe I will hold off, and spare anyone who is looking for Mensa-related posts. I hope that I have been detailed enough to satisfy those of you who asked to hear about my trip. If anyone who reads this would like to hear more about it, I'll continue my posts at a later time, recounting the experiences that Josie and I had as we traveled from Ojiya to Hiroshima, then back to Tokyo. For now, I will return to Mensa!

My third full day in Japan was Tuesday, March 6. This was to be my last day in Ojiya-shi, and Josie had another eventful day planned for us. We raced through breakfast, and made it to the main street early in the morning to wait for the bus to take us to Josie's base school. Everywhere you look in any city or town in Japan, you will see advertisements, and I amused myself looking at ads and conversing with Josie until the bus came. Getting on the bus, Josie turned and asked me if I had taken a ticket. There is a little machine by the door, and the machine prints tickets with the stop number when you get on, which allows you and the driver to know how much the fare will be when you get off. I had failed to take a ticket, and when I stepped back and reached for it, it maddeningly retracted into the machine, lost forever. I fretted about it until we got off the bus, but at our stop I just followed Josie off the bus, and paid the same fare she did. The driver merely repeated his mechanical-but-polite goodbye in Japanese, and we were on the street again with no problem.

Walking up to the school, I was filled with anticipation at meeting Josie's colleagues. I had on nicer clothes than I usually wear, as it was a big day at the school: graduation day for the 8th grade class. I didn't have on a white tie, as did all of Josie's fellow male teachers, but I was wearing a silk sport coat, a business shirt and a tie, and wool slacks. I was presentable.

Josie took me back to the staff office, where I was introduced to many people in a very short time. All of them thanked me for the chocolate bars that I had given to Josie to bring to school the day before. When Josie and I began to plan the trip, she had told me about the custom of omiyage, which means giving gifts to friends, family, and colleagues whenever you go on a journey. I had decided to bring chocolate from Oregon, and I packed about 50 Dagoba chocolate bars for the trip, plus additional small gifts. Up to that point, with Josie's help I had made sure that every one of her friends and colleagues had received something. After I had met her colleagues, and been presented to the Principal and the Vice-Principal, I was given a place to sit in the office. At that point, I was surprised and very honored to receive a bag with several special gifts, presented to me by the Vice-Principal, and with a card inside identifying what they were in English and in Japanese. I didn't actually open the gifts until I returned home; this was something I wasn't sure about at the time, and in retrospect, I wish I had opened each of them at that moment and thanked everyone. I received two beautiful tea cups, some lovely woven fabric coasters, and some very tasty crackers. It was very kind of them, and I will always treasure these things.

Shortly after I received the gifts, the work day began for Josie and her colleagues. For a short while they had meetings, first as a whole group, and then in groups by grade level. Josie did not take part in her grade level meeting, as she only taught when she was asked to come to a classroom, and she was not involved in the planning process. Finally, the teachers all went to the classrooms, and I was left to wait for a bit until the graduation ceremony was to begin. I thought I would read, but actually I had the opportunity to talk for a bit with various people until it was time for the graduation.

Josie led me through the halls to the gymnasium, which was set up with chairs for the students, teachers, parents, and other honored guests, including the Board of Education. We found our assigned seats, and waited for the event to begin. Finally, the room filled, and for the next couple of hours there were speeches, songs, and each student received a beautiful certificate, presented by the Principal. The basketball teacher, a very nice fellow from Okinawa, counted the number of times we bowed during the graduation ceremony; he later reported it was a total of 48 times. Bowing is a very courteous way to greet someone, to say thanks for something. or to say goodbye, and it happens a lot in Japan. Josie told me I did it too much, but I found it to be a good way to acknowledge people, and I continued to at least nod at most opportunities.

Back in the staff office after graduation, I was asked by the English teachers to write my impressions of the graduation ceremony, which I did, filling up an entire page. I said a number of genuine, complimentary things, including how much I had enjoyed the music. This was reported to the music teacher, and he fairly beamed.

By now, it was getting close to lunch time. Josie and I had purchased our lunch, and we were planning to eat with everyone else. However, shortly before lunch arrived, I had the opportunity to look at my Japan Rail Pass brochure to figure out how I would get the pass validated. I had thought I would be able to do it at the station in Ojiya-shi, but a careful reading of the brochure made it clear that the nearest JR office that would validate my pass was in Niigata, more than an hour away by train. I reported this to Josie, and consternation ensued, because we needed to be on a train very early the next morning bound for Hiroshima. Josie quickly consulted a schedule, and we determined that I would have to leave almost immediately if I was to be back in time for the graduation party. One of Josie's colleagues called a cab, and it arrived shortly after our food did. We ate our sushi and drank our miso in a great hurry, sad to say, and I said my farewells, telling everyone I had urgent business in Niigata. It was a dramatic exit.

Josie accompanied me in the cab to the train station, where she made sure I purchased the fastest ticket to Niigata, one-way. I didn't need to pay on the way back, as my pass would be valid for the return trip. Josie was a great help, as the station agent did not speak English. My goal was to be back before 5:00 p.m., or else Josie was going to go to the party without me. This was doable, according to the schedule.

The local train arrived on time, and took me to Nagaoka, where I was to catch the shinkansen, or bullet train. However, when I got off the local, there was a train on the next track that said it was bound for Niigata. I got on, and the train left immediately. This was a mistake. I had boarded a local, which meandered through the countryside, and took about an hour and a half to get to Niigata. It was a pleasant ride, but I began to fret, not knowing when I would arrive at my destination. Plus, I had overpaid the fare, as I hadn't taken an express. Oh well. Fortunately, the train had left so quickly that the express I would have caught only beat us by about fifteen minutes, and I had time to get my pass validated and make it back on the next return express. I ran around the station in Niigata, got my pass validated, and made it back to the apartment just as Josie was preparing to leave. Whew.

Josie felt that we would be too late if we took a city bus, so we walked a block to the train station and took a cab back to the school. There was a tour bus waiting there, and we got on along with several other staff members and the Principal. We were taken to a place that catered to parties like ours, and we were ushered upstairs to our room.

The room for our party was very long and rectangular. Our coats went on racks behind a screen, and we sat in our places at either of two long rows of low tables along the walls, with a short row of tables at the head of the room. The Principal sat in the center of the short row in front of us, and I sat between Josie and the basketball teacher, a fellow named Kano. Kano was very kind to me, and he did his best to make me feel welcome. I didn't find anyone with whom I could converse in English as well as I wished, but Kano was very good. He made sure to let me know that it was all right if I stretched my legs out under the table, which I did after a while. I'm just not flexible enough to sit on my calves or to sit cross-legged for very long.

This enkai was substantially different than the one I had experienced a couple days earlier. The Principal, and each of the nearly 40 teachers, made a speech during the evening. Through it all, we ate and drank constantly, and after a round of speeches we would circulate around the tables and meet in small groups. I stuck with beer once again, though I drank sake a couple of times, when it was offered by the Principal and by Josie's "Japanese father." As before, my glass was kept always full by my hosts, and the food was delicious and plentiful. This time I paid for my dinner, as I had expected, and I had a delightful time.

When it was over, several of us piled back on the tour bus, which took us to the train station a block from Josie's apartment. Some of the teachers took the opportunity to go into a nearby pub of some sort to continue the party; Josie, Kano, and I chose not to follow them, but headed up the street to a place Kano recommended, just past the 7-11. Unfortunately, it was closed. We then circled back and up another street, where we did find an Italian restaurant. Italian food is popular in Japan, as it turns out. However, the restaurant was closed for a private gathering that evening, more than likely a graduation party just like the one we had had. The weather had turned wet and slushy, and we all agreed to call it a night. Kano went off to his place, and Josie and I walked back to the apartment. We made sure we were all packed, and turned in so that we could get up very early and catch our train south. The next part of my Japan journey was soon to begin. I'll tell you about it in my next blog post.

As I promised, here is another post about my Japan trip. My second full day in Japan was pretty easy. Josie went in to school and worked a half day, and I walked over to the nearby 7-11 to buy my breakfast. In Japan, 7-11 stores are everywhere, and they have fresh, prepackaged meals that they will heat up for you in the microwave. The meals are pretty good, and pretty cheap. They also have chunky triangular packages of rice with various fillings, and a seaweed wrap, that I found very tasty. I especially liked the one with the salmon filling. I couldn't read what was on the package except the price, but there was a picture on almost every item which helped me to figure out what it was when I couldn't see inside.

When Josie came back, we took a bus into town and went for a walk. Linda had given me a mission to find origami paper for our wedding invitations, and Josie took me to a bookstore where I purchased about $30 worth of beautiful paper in various patterns that would have cost several times as much in the U.S. I used my credit card, which caused great consternation among the sales clerks, and earned me a lecture from Josie about how credit cards are not generally used out in the country. It eventually went through, however. My shopping done, we took a bus to the other side of town so that I could experience an onsen. Horisawa had called it a spa when he told the story of everything I had done, and everything that Josie and I were going to do, and it was when I heard him use that word, at the enkai the day before, that I realized he was telling the story of our journey.

The spa was very busy, even though it was mid-afternoon on a weekday. Josie and I entered, put our shoes in a locker near the door, paid for our bath, and we each were given a robe, towels, and a key to use in the locker rooms. As we went down the corridor to the changing rooms, Josie showed me a large room with many low tables, and lots of people lounging, eating, drinking, chatting, and watching tv. This was where we were to meet after our baths. With that, Josie escorted me to the men's locker room, and I was on my own.

Generally, I am not given to watching other men in a locker room. However, there were customs to be learned, and I didn't want to commit a major violation of spa etiquette. I had already been told the basic routine: the large towel is left in the locker, and the small towel is carried into the pool area in such as manner as to conceal one's privates. Which is odd, since everyone is naked, and no one pays any attention. Anyway, the first move is to sit on a small stool, and wash oneself thoroughly. I observed other men shaving, also, and there are disposable razors for sale. I didn't shave, but I'm not sure if anyone noticed.

There were few men in the pool area, as most people were in the lounge. There were a number of pools for bathing, with different temperatures of water, and different combinations of bubble jets. There was also a very large pool that was built to look like a grotto, complete with a waterfall that one could sit under. I tried all but the cold pool (call me a wimp if you must). Josie had warned me that there were a lot of chemicals used, and that I might have a reaction, but fortunately this didn't happen. I discovered a couple of outdoor pools, also. One of them was up a long stairway, and I was alone in that pool while it began to rain. The air was fresh, I had a roof overhead to listen to the raindrops' patter, the chemicals were less intense due to evaporation, and it was very pleasant. (Later, I told Josie that this was my favorite pool, and she replied that the women's outside area was infested with mosquitoes, which was more evidence of how men are favored over women in Japan. She was right, of course, but they do switch sides from time to time.) I also sat in the steam room for a while, and had a good sweat. It was all pretty nice. No one said a word in the men's area; naked men don't usually chat one another up.

After our baths, we met up in the lounge, where Josie insisted that I try the ice cream. I have to avoid sugar, but she was so determined for me to try it that I did buy a small container of strawberry, and found it wasn't all that sweet after all. It was more like an ice milk, I guess, and it was very good. Still, I didn't dare to eat my whole portion.

When we left, it was raining quite hard, and we decided to take a cab back to Josie's apartment, so that we could get ready to join her friends for dinner. Josie had arranged for us to have dinner with Akiko Komata, who is a fellow teacher, and Akiko's boyfriend. Akiko picked us up in her car, and we went to a restaurant that served ramen. Walking in the door, we ordered immediately. We were asked if we wanted a smaller or larger portion; it was the same price for one or the other, so we all said the larger portion. Before long, we all had huge bowls of ramen in front of us. Akiko and her friend were fairly conversant in English, and we all had a really nice time together. Before long we were back at Josie's apartment. We watched a bit of Japanese tv (it's hilarious). I had done okay sleeping on a futon on the floor the first couple of nights, and I was ready to do it again, but what I did have a hard time with in Josie's apartment was the lack of a chair. Sitting on a cushion with my legs folded is not for me, though I managed as best I could. When we turned in, I did get a good night's rest once again, and that was a good thing, because the next day was the day for me to go to school to meet Josie's colleagues. I'll tell you about that in my next post.

OK, I came back from Japan, conducted a Region 8 LocSec Conference call on March 18, left a few days later to go to Chicago for the Colloquium and the AMC meeting, and now I am back in Portland once again. It's time for me to report on my Japan experience with my daughter. The photos are ready to go to Scott Rainey for inclusion on the Web site, but I'll have to actually put the CD in his hands, so that will take a bit longer.

It took almost 24 hours from the time I arrived at PDX airport to the time I arrived at Josie's apartment in Ojiya-shi. Flying from Portland to Seattle was easy, and the Seattle to Narita leg wasn't too bad, but the trip became more difficult as I went along. Going through Japanese customs took some time, and then I had to find my way through Narita airport to where I could take the train to Tokyo. My first kind encounter with strangers in Japan occurred almost immediately. While I stood somewhat perplexed in front of a phone, trying to figure out how to make a long distance call to let Josie know I had arrived in Japan, and to let my fiancee Linda know I was safely on the ground, I was approached by a person who offered to help me make the call. Several times after that during my trip, I had the experience of having perfect strangers, both men and women, come up and ask if they could help me, if I stood staring at a sign or otherwise showed the slightest hesitation in making my way around. I found it very kind and hospitable of these folks to offer their help, and I appreciated it very much.

The railroads in Japan are fairly easy to navigate, as signs are printed in English and in Japanese, and there are handy guides available in the major stations. I had a Japan Rail Pass to use for the last seven days of my stay, but I had to buy train tickets on the first day to get to Tokyo Station from Narita, and from there on the shinkansen to Nagaoka. Ojiya-shi is a small town not far from Nagaoka, which required yet another transfer. Altogether, I was headed about 200 miles northwest of Tokyo, and after two trains and almost six hours after I had arrived in Japan, I was getting pretty exhausted. Fortunately, Josie met me at Nagaoka for the last leg to Ojiya-shi, as I saw no route map in English at the station for the local train we took, and it would have taken me some time to figure out the best way to proceed at that late evening hour. By the time we arrived in Ojiya-shi, it was late on March 3; I had left Portland early on March 2. So goes the International Date Line! I had had only two hours of sleep the night before I left, and after I lugged my bags up the four flights to Josie's apartment, I was ready to turn in for the night.

When I awoke the next morning, I had already adjusted to the time difference, and was ready to go. This was fortunate, as Josie had a full day planned for me. It was Sunday morning, but Josie went in to the office, letting me take my time getting showered and dressed. We had a tiny breakfast, and had some time to chat. Josie showed me a flyer for a concert that afternoon, which mentioned me as an honored guest. In particular she showed me where it said in Japanese, "Josie's papa comes." After awhile we went downstairs to the parking lot to meet her sensei, Horisawa, and his wife. They drove up to meet us, and off Josie and I went on our first day of adventures together.

Horisawa has been teaching Josie how to play the shamisen, a three-stringed instrument that I likened to a banjo. It is a traditional Japanese instrument, and its sound is familiar to anyone who has heard Japanese music. Our first stop was a soba restaurant, the most famous soba restaurant in Ojiya-shi; the Emperor once ate there. The four of us ate soba and tempura, and tried to speak with one another. I know only English; Horisawa and his wife know only Japanese. Josie studied Japanese for years in high school and college, and tried to translate back and forth between us. It was awkward, and I found it very difficult. We were able to talk about baseball a little bit, though; like everyone in Japan, I guess, they know about Ichiro, and I was able to tell them that I go see the Seattle Mariners every summer. Naturally, as the honored guest, I was not allowed to touch the check. This became the pattern for the day, as it turned out.

Ojiya-shi, and Niigata-ken in general (the district in which Ojiya-shi is located), is known for its spectacularly huge and brilliantly colored koi, and after lunch we went to see the koi at a place called The Village of Nishikigoi in Ojiya. Then we went across the street, to a sort of museum where a woman demonstrated a traditional craft, weaving a mat from colored thread while we watched. Following this, Horisawa took Josie and his wife to his wife's family home, and Horisawa and I drove off together to parts unknown, almost unable to communicate with one another. It was a bit strange, but I felt up for whatever we were about to do.

My journey with Horisawa turned out to be a tour of the local area. In turn, he took me to each of the schools where Josie has been serving as an Assistant Language Teacher, teaching English to middle-school students. We stopped at each of the schools but one, and Horisawa found people working (still Sunday!) at most of them. I took photographs, and tried to communicate with the people we met; some of them spoke a little English. When Horisawa saw me take photos of monuments in front of the last school, he must have figured I was interested in religious subjects, as he then took me to a very ornately decorated and furnished temple. Finally, we went to a building that had many cars parked in front of it, and looked like a combination hotel-meeting center, a couple stories high. Horisawa took his instrument from the car, and we went inside, joined on the way by others who were arriving at the same time.

Inside, I found Josie, all dressed in traditional Japanese fashion, along with a number of other women. They posed for pictures, and fairly soon it was time for all of us to enter a room that was laid out for us with low tables and cushions. The performance, and a traditional Japanese cultural event called an enkai, was about to begin. There were two rows of tables, each laden with numerous trays containing many Japanese delicacies, including sushi, meats of various kinds, fish, fruits, vegetables, altogether quite a spread. I knew from the flyer that guests were supposed to pay 3,000 yen to attend this combination feast and performance, but once again I was expected to pay nothing. The performers sat at the tables on one side of the room, and the guests sat on the other side. Josie was the exception, and she was allowed to sit beside me at head of the guest table, with me immediately on her right.

Naturally, I tried to sit with my legs folded beneath me, but that didn't last very long. It was okay with everyone, and I did all right on the floor. For the next four hours, we guests ate, drank (I drank Asahi beer), and listened to the music. There were about a dozen people playing the shamisen, both women and men, including Josie and Horisawa. Josie is a beginner, but she did very well. Some of the players were extremely skilled. Additionally, there were a couple of singers, and there were dancers as well. Sometimes performers who were not playing at the time danced, as did some of the guests, and Josie took a turn eventually, too. All the performers were in traditional garb. Throughout the enkai the performers took turns eating, drinking, and playing, and at some points there were speeches. Josie was asked to make a speech, and I was asked also. I did my best to thank everyone, and to tell them how much I appreciated their kindness to me and to Josie.

You may wonder how I did, drinking beer for four hours straight. First, there was a lot of food. Second, I drank very slowly, and did not go for the sake, though I could have. The Japanese custom at an event like this is to refill your glass whenever you take even the smallest sip; it is considered an honor to offer to refill your glass. So, I took very small, infrequent sips, and everyone was happy.

Toward the end of the event, Horisawa made some remarks to everyone. I soon realized that he was telling the entire story of what I had done since he met me at Josie's, down to the smallest detail. Apparently this is fascinating stuff, as everyone was giving him rapt attention. Finally, he and Josie did a duet, and after a few more photos (I took quite a few throughout the concert), the event concluded. Our day was far from over, however.

Leaving the hall where we had just eaten and drank for four hours, it was time to...go to dinner, what else. Horisawa and his wife took Josie and me to a sushi restaurant, where we met up with his prize pupil, one of the best shamisen performers in Niigata-ken, and his lady friend. There we ate and drank once more, and I tried to talk with everyone. They asked what music I liked, and I told them blues and jazz. Horisawa wanted to know if I had listened to Japanese jazz, but I had to confess that I hadn't. I made a mental note, though, to try to repay Horisawa for his many kindnesses by giving Josie some of my favorite jazz albums to give to him. This I did, a few days later on our trip. As we concluded our dinner, I found us being whisked back to the street, and realized that once again Horisawa had settled the bill out of our sight.

It was getting late, and the day was winding down, but Josie was still in a kimono, and so we went back to Horisawa's wife's family home so that she could change. We went inside together, and I was ushered into a comfortable family room, where we were joined by Horisawa's wife's mother, father, sister, and her sister's husband. We sat around a table, and more food and drink appeared while Horisawa once again described everything I had done that day, down to the smallest detail. We all sat around and chatted some more, and finally it was time for us to be taken back to Josie's apartment. It was a fabulous day, a perfect way to begin my trip...and this was just my first day in Japan. Two days later, I was at yet another enkai! If you made it this far along with me in my reminiscences, I hope you'll indulge me while I catch my breath a bit, and write more in a day or so.

Early tomorrow morning I leave for Japan to visit with my daughter, Josephine Lomax, who is also a member of Oregon Mensa. I'll post some tales of my travels with Josie on my return.

The Region 8 LocSec Conference call tonight brought together LocSecs Bob McAllister from Northern Nevada Mensa, Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Milly Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Assistant RVC). Our other Assistant RVC, Dan Burg, and I rounded out the group.

Our theme for the evening was what special plans and activities were in store for our various Local Groups. Ed said that a spelling bee was in the works. Judy will be having speakers come to present both sides of the issues regarding Monterey County's general plan, which will be on the ballot in June. Judy will also be reprising the garage sale fundraiser, and she will once again have on hand her chocolate chip cookies, which proved to be very popular and very profitable last time. Here is Judy's recipe, an old family favorite (also posted on my blog on 4/15/06, but worth repeating):

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Crisco shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot water
1 cup chopped walnuts
12 oz chocolate bits
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs. Stir in dry ingredients and water. Stir in nuts, bits, oats, and vanilla. Drop by spoonfuls onto non-stick or greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 - 11 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen.

Bob spoke about dinner, wine, and trivia in Northern Nevada, and he was given suggestions for possibly putting together an RG in Reno with the assistance of Borderline Mensa and others. One definite RG coming up in Region 8 this year will be in Sacramento this October. Debra reported that her group is in the process of putting together their RG right now, and their theme will probably be "California Dreamin.'" At the conclusion of the call, John announced the next one will be 3/18 at 8:00 p.m. PDT.

The Region 8 Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) in Portland this weekend proved to be quite a success. Altogether, 32 people attended, including 29 Mensa members, Heather Spillers, who is the National Groups Coordinator for the AML National Office, and two guests of members. The LDW went very smoothly, and the evaluations submitted by the attendees showed that they found it a rewarding and valuable experience.

The session cited as the most valuable by many of the attendees was "Getting People Involved," as presented by Debra Reiger. As the LDW progressed, numerous attendees stepped forward to offer their services on behalf of Mensa on various projects at the local, regional, national, and international levels, so the LDW was most definitely a success from the perspective of getting people involved. Erinn Height from San Francisco Regional Mensa agreed that the LDW experience was rewarding, and she offered to help put the next one together, a year from now in San Francisco. Planning for the next Region 8 LDW will therefore begin shortly.

The Region 8 LocSec Conference Call last night drew a sizeable number of folks. On the call with me were LocSecs Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Assistant RVC), Milly Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Erinn Height from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Ruth Parvin from Oregon Mensa, and Mark Mitchell, the new LocSec from Columbia River Mensa. The past CRM LocSec, Alma Lewandowski, also joined us, as did Dan Burg, Assistant RVC.

We began the call by introducing Mark to the group. We then took up some current issues at the national level, including the increased funding for Local Groups approved by the AMC at the meeting in Birmingham, and discussions concerning the proposed Local Group Charter Agreement. On the latter issue, Dan pointed out that the proposed agreement is more complicated than it needs to be, and Debra felt that members were worried that Mensa is becoming like a big corporation, and that it was less fun to be a member than it used to be. The question was raised by the group, are we happy members or prisoners? When put in context, however, the agreement does have utility from the standpoint of risk management for American Mensa and for the Local Groups...much will depend on the final formulation of the proposed agreement, in terms of how members perceive it to affect their participation in Mensa.

Milly raised a question on a totally different subject, whether or not proctors may ask for the $30 testing fee in advance. Milly also wanted to know if that were the case, could it be nonrefundable. Dan said that this has been a hot topic on the national e-list for Proctors, and he recommended that Milly check with Mary Spencer in the National Office about policy in this area.

Finally, John reported that Region 8 was not awarded the bid for the 2010 AG, despite the best efforts of all concerned, particularly Michael Meagher of Oregon Mensa. The bid was acknowledged as a very good one by the AMC's Site Selection Committee and by the AMC as a whole, but in the end a competing bid from Gen-X SIG was given the nod, and the 2010 AG will take place in Dearborn, MI, a suburb of Detroit. John also reminded everyone about the upcoming Region 8 LDW in Portland, and announced that the next conference call will take place on 2/18 at 8:00 p.m. PST.

Following up as noted below on 11/19/06, Michael Meagher came to the AMC meeting in Birmingham, AL, this past weekend, to present an AG bid on behalf of Oregon Mensa and Mensa of Western Washington. Hotel Liaison Cookie Bakke was also there in support for the bid, which called for the 2010 AG to take place at the Hilton in downtown Portland, OR. The AMC Site Selection Committee, and ultimately the whole AMC, preferred another bid submitted by the Gen-X SIG at the same time, which means that the 2010 AG will take place in a suburb of Detroit, MI. We all owe Michael and Cookie a debt of thanks for the very hard work that they put in during the past months to put together such an excellent bid on behalf of Region 8.

Although there will not be an AG in Region 8 in the foreseeable future, there is no reason why plans for a large, mini-AG cannot move forward. Following preliminary discussions with Cookie and with Region 9 RVC Doug Miller, it is possible that there will be an effort made to put together a major event as a joint effort among groups in Regions 8 and 9. A lot of groundwork will be necessary before this could become a reality, but I will continue to investigate the possibilities, and will stay in communication with Mensans sharing this vision. Discussions along these lines will continue at the LDW in Portland in February.

Although the rejection of the Region 8 2010 AG bid was a cause for disappointment, there was a motion passed at the AMC meeting that should give great cheer to our Local Groups. After a thorough process of investigation by a committee led by AMC Communications Officer Robin Crawford, Local Group funding was increased from $0.72 to $0.82 per member per month, effective at the beginning of the 2007/2008 fiscal year. The minimum a local group will receive is $33 per month. In addition, this funding amount applies to every member of a Local Group, whether or not they are a second family member in the same household. The net effect will be to increase funding overall by approximately $1.27 per member per year in the Local Groups, which means, in particular, that neither San Francisco Regional Mensa, nor any other Local Group, should have to produce their newsletter at a deficit. I am very gratified by this result, and I am very glad that Robin was able to finally decouple support for Local Groups from a formula that did not take their actual needs into account.

The next AMC meeting will take place in Chicago, IL, in March. Between now and then, there will be ample opportunity for members to express their opinions about the proposed Local Group Charter Agreement, which was discussed by the AMC in Birmingham, but postponed until the next meeting. If anyone reading this blog has suggestions, questions, or concerns on this issue, please send them along to me at rvc8@us.mensa.org.

The monthly Region 8 LocSec Conference Call drew very few people due to the holiday season. Joining me on the call were Sacramento Regional Mensa LocSec and Assistant RVC Debra Reiger, and Assistant RVC Dan Burg. We discussed several important issues that will be on the agenda at the AMC meeting in Birmingham in January: the prospective Local Group Charter Agreement (LGCA), changes to Local Group funding, and changes to the National NomComm. Debra asked if the LGCA is a solution looking for a problem, and suggested that Local Groups think things are just fine the way they are without the LGCA. Dan and I pointed out that the LGCA is connected with the risk management review process, and is intended mainly to establish formal recognition of the relationship between American Mensa and Local Groups.

The next call is scheduled 1/21 at 8:00 p.m. PST. This will be the third Sunday in January, instead of the usual second Sunday call, due to my travel schedule returning from the AMC meeting.

Following is an article on the upcoming LDW that I sent along to the region at the suggestion of Judy Burdick, LocSec of Monterey County Mensa:


If you are a current, former, or prospective volunteer leader in Mensa, please come to Portland, OR, to take part in a Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) scheduled for Feb. 9-11, 2007. The LDW will be the third held in Region 8 in as many years, and they have alternated between the north and the south in the region to give as many folks as possible the opportunity to participate. The idea of the LDW is to present sessions on topics that leaders in our Local Groups need to know about, in order to help them do their best at what they have volunteered to do.

Our chief source of material for the sessions is the LDW Guide, which is available on the American Mensa Web site. The topics in the LDW are organized in tracks, and are given at various levels, and we always try to combine some of the basic courses that first-timers will want to know about, along with a few more in-depth topics. Our presenters have both experience with their subject and experience in leadership positions in Mensa, which helps them bring the material to life and provides them with examples of best practices to share with the attendees.

The conversations tend to be very lively, and there is a kind of energy present that comes out only when people really work together to build something. It's very exhilarating, and it can be very intense. The current program schedule will have us starting at 6:30 pm on Friday, and finishing at 9:15 p.m. that evening; starting on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., and finishing at 7:00 p.m. that evening; and then reconvening on Sunday morning over a no-host breakfast for a general discussion at the breakfast table for those who are staying over. We should be done by mid-morning on Sunday. We'll also have an informal suite for hospitality; nothing very elaborate, just a place for additional chat on Friday and Saturday evenings after the formal sessions.

Topics currently on the program schedule will include:

ExCom Basics National Office Services LocSec Basics Welcoming New Members Editing and Newsletter Basics Planning and Holding a Leadership Retreat Scholarship Program Fast, Effective Business Meetings Getting Area Groups Going Getting People Involved Fund Raising Gatherings Getting Involved at the Regional, National, or International Level

Attendees are most often current leaders in the Local Groups; there were five LocSecs at the most recent LDW. There will be a lot of other volunteers as well, and some who want to know more about becoming a Mensa leader, but who haven't actually tried it yet. Altogether, there have been about 30 people at each of the past two Region 8 LDWs, which is somewhat higher than the average at other recent LDWs that have been held throughout American Mensa.

Registration is free, and there will be a free lunch on Saturday. For more information, please check the notice in the Gatherings section of the Mensa Bulletin, or send an email to John Recht at rvc8@us.mensa.org. John would also like to hear from you if you plan to attend, so he can order your lunch. Please join us, and find out how rewarding being a Mensa volunteer can be!

After the RG in San Francisco, Linda and I took the opportunity to drive down the coast to Monterey for a few days. Unfortunately, a sudden case of the flu kept me down on Monday, but I recovered enough on Tuesday to celebrate Linda's birthday as we had planned, with a trip down the 17-mile drive through Pebble Beach. Afterward, we joined several Monterey County Mensans for a lovely dinner at a Greek restaurant in downtown Monterey. Joining us were Judy Burdick, Steve Bean, Lynne Powers, and BJ Mountrey. It was great to have this chance to visit another Local Group in Region 8, and Linda and I are determined to come back and visit again before long. The night was also special because Linda agreed to marry me! Stay tuned for further developments, as we plan where, when, and how we will get married. Right now, we are talking about September, 2007....

The RG held by San Francisco Regional Mensa this weekend was once again a great success. The Holiday Inn Golden Gateway in the heart of San Francisco has proven to be an excellent RG venue, with terrific access to the city, superb views, and affordable prices. The whole RG volunteer crew, led by RG Chair Barbara Canup, did a wonderful job. I was especially gratified to see so many first-timers at the RG; now that they know how much fun it is when Mensans get together, there ought to be that many more people in attendance next time. I can't wait until next year...it was just too much fun!

The Region 8 LocSec Conference Call tonight brought together the new LocSec-elect from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Erinn Height, along with LocSecs Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, and Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Assistant RVC). Also on the call were Assistant RVC Dan Burg, and Michael Meagher from Oregon Mensa. Michael was on the call at my invitation, to bring the group up to date on plans for submitting a bid for the 2010 AG in Region 8.

Erinn began the call by introducing herself to the group. In this election season, apparently Erinn will be the only new LocSec in Region 8, though some turnover is still possible in one or more other local groups. Michael then described the current effort to submit an AG bid for 2010. Michael would be the AG Chair, and he has been working with Cookie Bakke, the American Mensa Hotel Liaison, to try and put together a viable bid. Michael asked for support from all the local groups in the region. The intent to bid was submitted on 11/14, and the bid packet itself will need to be in the hands of the Site Selection Committee by 12/14. Michael was assured by the LocSecs in Region 8 that they would do all possible to help the bid.

I spoke about the upcoming LDW in Portland, OR, this coming February, and I asked all the local groups to encourage participation by their members. I also gave an update on the current problems that Mensa Alaska has had with their officer nominations and election. The problem was solved when the Mensa Alaska board approved a nominations and elections committee consisting of myself, Dan, and Debra. As a result, the election will proceed according to the bylaws, and in as timely a fashion as possible. Hopefully this situation will not happen again.

Wrapping up the call, Walt shared some highlights of his travels in Africa and Antarctica, and Judy spoke about her time in Oxford this summer. Ed Ledger talked about a terrific speaker that they had had in Seattle, who had described the lifestyle of people who get Alzheimer's disease. The next call was set for 12/10 at 8:00 p.m. PST.

My Mensa travels continue unabated, as this weekend found me in Sacramento, CA, for Sacramento Regional Mensa's Regional Gathering. It was not a large gathering, but it was very well run as usual. I was happy that Charlie Bruce talked me into entering the paper airplane contest, as my X1 entry flew further down the hallway than Charlie's, by just a few inches. I also enjoyed entering the Time-Released puzzle contest created by Gregor (Botttz) Baltzell, and I once again nosed out Charlie by coming in first with the solution. I was only one of many to receive prizes for all the games and contests, however, and it was a very enjoyable gathering overall with an excellent and varied program. I hope that more of our Region 8 members will find out how much fun it is to party in Sacramento next year. I'll do my best to help spread the word!

The AMC meeting in Providence, RI, was once again a very collegial gathering. We did have to contend with an unfortunate situation, having to do with the acceptance by British Mensa of an application for membership from a person who had permanently lost their membership in American Mensa due to acts inimical to the society. American Mensa's representatives on the International Board of Directors will bring the matter to Mensa International for consideration.

There was more turnover on the AMC at this meeting, as Marc Lederman replaced Judy Vasiliauskas as Secretary, Leah Kinder replaced Marc as Region 2 RVC, and Doug Miller replaced Henry Miller as Region 9 RVC. It was very sad that both Judy and Henry had to resign for health reasons; we will miss them a great deal on the AMC. It is a boon for American Mensa to have two more GenX members on the AMC, though, as we do need to have more of our younger members stepping up to leadership roles. I look forward to working with Doug and Leah, and wish them well in the upcoming election season.

Once more I am back on the road, this time to Albany, NY and the Mensa Colloquium on Cosmology. This was a sold out event, ably hosted by Mensa of Northeastern New York. All three national events this year were a smashing success: Mind Games, the World Gathering, and the Colloquium. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues into 2007; we may have to look at our national events somewhat differently if they continue to sell out. At the very least, it could call for planning for bigger crowds in larger venues. The Colloquium on Humor in Chicago in March, 2007, will be a test of that.

Back safe and sound in Portland after a fabulous trip. Linda and I saw Stonehenge, Avebury, Salisbury, Oxford, The Cotswolds, the Peak District, Hardwick Hall, Chatsworth, Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Warwick Castle, and many other wonderful sights before we headed for Nottingham. We drove a thousand miles, mostly over highways, but we had the opportunity to drive on many tiny country lanes, providing great amusement and occasional terror.

Nottingham and the British Mensa AG were nothing short of splendid. There were Mensans from all over northern Europe, and quite a few Yanks and Canadians. We had a terrific time at the AG. The British Mensans do love to party! One thing that seemed to bring everyone together throughout the AG was the latest successful American export, Texas Hold 'Em Poker. I'm inspired by their example, and I plan to hold the official Region 8 Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament at the Oregon Mensa RG next May.

Left for England today...will tour the Midlands for a week and then arrive in Nottingham on 9/27. The British Mensa AG will run through the weekend until 10/2, and then I'll be back in Portland briefly.

The Region 8 LocSec Conference call drew eight of us last night, including LocSecs Bob McAllister from Northern Nevada Mensa, Denise Yancey from Mensa Alaska, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Assistant RVC), Mike Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa, and Milly Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa. Assistant RVC Dan Burg and I rounded out the group.

Judy filled us in on her three week session at Oxford, and we had an extended discussion about the WG. All of us agreed that it had been an excellent gathering, though Disney made it impossible to have hospitality as we would have preferred it. One request that came out of our conference was for a map of the US with regions outlined; I will ask the National Office to produce something for circulation to the local groups that is easier to look at than what is currently on the National Web site. We also spoke about plans for upcoming events, including Mensa Testing Day, the RGs in Sacramento and San Francisco, and the Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) in Portland, which is scheduled for the second weekend in February, 2007. I would especially like it if each LocSec would actively encourage members in their groups to attend the LDW, and I will be following up on this topic in the coming months.

As I reported in my RVC column for September newsletters in Region 8, the World Gathering (WG) lived up to expectations as a fabulous get-together for Mensans from all over the world. We were well-represented from Region 8, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit with quite a few folks from out here, including more than a dozen from my local group, Oregon Mensa.

It was also a special pleasure for me to see several awards presented to members from Region 8. Nancy Flack received four Publications Recognition Program (PRP) awards for her work as Editor of the Redwood Mpire News, including Best Member Recognition, Best Overall Presentation, Outstanding Newsletter (Medium Group), and a Special Mention for use of smiling photos in the officer listing. Frank Bruni, also of Redwood Empire Mensa, won in the PRP category of Puzzles and Games for Mpossible Puzzles: Keep the Change. Also, Oregon Mensa took second place nationally in the Community Activities Program, in recognition of their efforts to raise funds for local group scholarships. And, at one of the many contests that took place during the WG, Ember Burg of Oregon Mensa and her partner from another local group won the Jigsaw Puzzle Championship.

As my week at the WG continued, I had numerous occasions to meet and speak with Mensa members from around the world. This was also my first chance to attend a meeting of the International Board of Directors, and it was very enlightening. One of my very favorite moments came at a reception hosted by Russ Bakke, Chairman of American Mensa, which was attended by many of the leaders of Mensa groups from around the world. The atmosphere in that room fairly crackled with energy, and it was absolutely thrilling, just standing there among people who collectively have done so much to keep the spirit of Mensa alive in the world.

I wish I had space here to mention all of the people I visited with at the WG, all of whom made this experience incredibly special for me. There was a great deal of intense discussion, on any number of topics, and a lot of fun was had by all. I have already registered for the AG next year in Birmingham, AL, where they are promising something that we couldn't get at the Disney Coronado: real food in Hospitality. That will be nice, of course, but the best part by far will be getting back together with all my friends, who are more than just friends...we're all part of the Mensa family. I hope I see you there too, next July, and I encourage you to register right now at www.ag2007.org. See you there!

Yesterday I used RVC funds to purchase phone cards for the LocSecs in Region 8 for their use on the monthly conference calls, and I mailed them out along with Region 8 Officer pins for the elected Local Group officers who were not in office when I sent the first batch out last year. At this very moment, I am finishing my preparations for the trip to Orlando. If you are coming to the World Gathering next week, when you see me there, please say hi and let me know what's on your mind in regard to Mensa...I'd be delighted to have the opportunity to talk with you.

Also, if you have a Best Practice from your Local Group to share, or if you want to read about what others have posted, please check out the new Best Practices category under "Mensa Matters" that I started recently in the American Mensa Forums on the National Web site. There are already several good ideas posted, and ultimately I expect to have a collection of excellent, proven ideas and methods on file, sorted by subject, available to everyone in American Mensa. Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Despite several folks being off on summer adventures, six of us met on the Region 8 LocSec Conference Call tonight. Present on the call were LocSecs Michael Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Milly Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Assistant RVC), RuthAnn Parvin from Oregon Mensa, and Assistant RVC Dan Burg. I asked who was going to the World Gathering (WG) in Orlando next month, and everyone on the call said they would be there. We set a time and place for an informal face-to-face Region 8 meeting at the WG: on Thursday, August 10, after the American Mensa Annual Business Meeting at 6:00 pm, in the same room. If we must move, we will find somewhere nearby to gather.

Tops on my agenda this month was to follow up with our local groups to find out what plans for membership recruitment and retention were in place for the coming year. Dan Burg spoke about last year's strategy for giving tests on National Testing Day in five different locations in the state of Oregon, and expressed confidence that that would be repeated this year. Ruth said that Oregon Mensa is focusing on membership retention by using SurveyMonkey to find out what members want; by having area coordinators call everyone in their areas; and by expanding the dues subsidy program. This led to a spirited discussion of dues subsidy in general in American Mensa, and various ways and means for implementing it in local groups. Michael was outspoken in his desire to have American Mensa return a greater share of dues revenue to local groups for any purpose they deem necessary, including dues subsidy. Milly asked if American Mensa might match funds for local groups who choose to administer such programs. I pointed out that the AMC had defeated a motion to establish a national fund to assist members with their dues at the meeting last December, but I would be willing to raise the issue once again at a future meeting, in light of the wishes of the LocSecs in Region 8.

Debra then gave an update on the Sacramento RG this fall. A world-famous comet hunter, Don Machholz, will be speaking, and may give the keynote address. Debra also brought us up to date on the project to increase cross-communication among the local groups in the region; according to her inquiries, members report that it's pretty easy to find out what's going on in other groups, especially through the local group Web sites. The group agreed with Debra that we should make an effort to educate our membership to help them take advantage of these resources to find out what is going on in nearby local groups.

Ruth raised a couple of questions as we neared the end of the hour: first, how do other local groups in the region integrate former LocSecs after their terms are up? Debra pointed out that in Sacramento Regional Mensa, the past LocSec becomes a board member-at-large and the parliamentarian. However, Dan said that in his Mensa experience as a member of four different local groups, none of them had a formal role for the past LocSec. Ruth's second question concerned what should be contained in the minutes of local group board or ExComm meetings, and we gave her the assistance she was looking for. I then announced that there would be no conference call in August due to the WG, and the next call would be on September 10 at 8:00 p.m. PDT

Yesterday and today I coordinated another garage sale for the Oregon Mensa Scholarship Fund. The results aren't all in, as there are a couple of donated items that I will be selling on craigslist, and there is one large item that isn't paid for yet, but we have already cleared over $400 and it looks like we will end up with well over $500 when all the sales are accounted for. In any case, with $400+ in hand this time around, we have made more than $1,000 for scholarships from the two garage sales that I coordinated in 2005 and 2006, which is proof that they work. I hope all of the local groups in Region 8 will consider this a viable fundraising method, and I will be happy to consult with them and share what I have learned in putting these events together for Oregon Mensa.

Tonight the Region 8 LocSec Conference Call brought together eight of us. Joining me were LocSecs Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington,Bob McAllister from Northern Nevada Mensa, Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Asst RVC for Region 8), Denise Yancey from Mensa Alaska, Milly Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, and Assistant RVC Dan Burg. I began the conference with a report on membership increases in Region 8 and in American Mensa as a whole. Since the new Mensa year began on April 1, we have seen a healthy increase in membership of almost 3% in American Mensa, with a similar increase of 2.8% in Region 8. Especially notable was the fact that our renewal rates are the best we have ever recorded, with 87.2% of our membership having renewed by May 31.

In other business, Milly spoke about her strategy for contacting those members of her group who don't renew. They receive a post card, with the notation, "This is your newsletter. Kinda small, isn't it?" I will save this item for my collection of best practices in Mensa local groups!

We also discussed upcoming plans for the World Gathering, noting schedules for the 48 Leadership Development Workshop sessions, the AMC and committee meetings, the Annual Business Meeting, and the International Board of Directors meeting. (All of this information is available online at www.us.mensa.org, which is accessible through my LINKS page on this Web site.) Ed gave us an update on his efforts to survey his membership, and Debra discussed her plans for promoting information sharing among the local groups in Region 8.

One further item that Debra told us about concerned the new membership coordinator for Sacramento Regional Mensa, and how his planning ahead and executing the plan had made a difference in bringing out new members to the parties scheduled for them in different areas served by the local group. I am hoping that each local group is giving thought to making definite plans for membership recruitment and retention, and I would like to hear more discussion on this topic in future conference calls. The next call was scheduled for Sunday, July 9, at 8:00 p.m. PDT

Amy Wachspress has just sent along a correction to the address to which books should be shipped to the Hopland School. Please send them to 130 Fircrest Ave., instead of 1680 South State St. as given below. Thanks again for all your help.

Thanks to Amy Wachspress, a new Mensa member from Ukiah, CA, help is on the way for the Hopland School Library, which lost about 60-70% of its library as a result of the NewYears' flooding. Redwood Empire Mensa LocSec Walt Bodley notified me of Amy's efforts, and Project Inkslinger Coordinator Michael Beetham is already working hard to help. I have notified Region 8 of the situation, and have already heard from Milly Treherne, LocSec of Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, and from BJ Mountrey, newsletter editor from Monterey County Mensa. If anyone else in the region wishes to help, books may be sent to:

Hopland School/Warehouse
1680 South State St.
Ukiah, CA 95482

Your help will be much appreciated! Thanks for showing how much you care with your donations on behalf of the children of Hopland Elementary School.

The Region 8 LocSec Conference Call was very well attended this time around. On the line with me were LocSecs Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Milly Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Ruth Parvin from Oregon Mensa, Bob McAllister from Northern Nevada Mensa, Alma Lewandowski from Columbia River Mensa, Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, Mike Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa, and Assistant RVC Dan Burg. We began by introducing Ruth, our newest LocSec, and proceeded with a critical discussion of the Publication Recognition Program. Concerns were expressed by many of those present, and comments and criticisms about the program should be submitted to Marc Lederman, the RVC for Region 2, who administers the PRP for American Mensa.

The PRP discussion touched on the conflict of interest issue that came about due to a controversy involving a PRP submission from Robin Crawford, who is also the Communications Officer for American Mensa. Robin entered the PRP competition under a pseudonym, causing a flap among other editors who suspected that the fairness of PRP was compromised. Robin had a perfectly good explanation for her submission, but the whole incident highlighted how the appearance of fairness is so important. With this in mind, I pointed out that I had been singled out for criticism in Oregon Mensa because my dual roles as RVC and as a board member caused uncertainty on the part of some members regarding the nature of my participation in issues facing the chapter; therefore, in the interest of maintaining clarity in my relationships with members of the chapter, and to better focus my efforts as the RG Chair for the 2007 Oregon Mensa RG, I had chosen to step down as Treasurer and board member at the end of May.

Other items of discussion on the call included the GOTYA competition and the Community Activities Program (CAP). I asked for suggestions for topics to be covered in the next LDW, planned for February, 2007, in Portland, and suggestions included sessions on ways to increase membership in the less populated areas of the region, and on ways to get members to be more active in their chapters. Ruth suggested using Survey Monkey to find out what would get the members interested in particpating. I would like to hear the results of this, as well as what our local groups have planned overall regarding member recruitment and retention in the current year, and I will be following up on this topic on the next call.

Alma and Ruth discussed ways to publicize activities in the region, especially those that might attract members from neighboring groups. This is the project that Assistant RVC Debra Reiger agreed to work on, and we will look for an update from Debra as she considers the various ways this might be done. The next call, scheduled for Sunday, June 11, at 8:00 p.m. PDT, will give us the opportunity to discuss this further.

The 2006 American Mensa Mind Games took place in Portland, OR, this weekend, and it was a tremendous success. A total of 198 Mensans and their guests registered for the event, a new record. Each registrant was asked to play and judge 30 of the 62 games entered by the manufacturers, and the top five games were awarded the Mensa Select seal. Those five were:

Deflexion by Deflexion (www.deflexion.biz)
Hive by Smart Zone (www.smartzonegames.com)
Keesdrow by Pywacket (www.pywacketgames.com)
Pentago by Pentago (www.pentago.com)
Wits & Wagers by North Star Games (www.northstargames.com)

It was altogether a wonderful weekend, and I will cover the highlights of the event in my RVC column for June. Please check out my column for the names of the many volunteers who made Mind Games the success it was, and for more information about the event. I do want to note here that I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to co-chair Mind Games, and I consider this weekend to have been one of the peak experiences of my years in Mensa. I owe a great debt of thanks to everyone involved, players, volunteers, staff people alike, and I can only hope that Mensa will continue to provide us all more opportunities for such superb events as this, for many years to come.

As promised in the 4/9 entry below, here is the report from Judy Burdick, LocSec from Monterey County Mensa, about their successful garage sale:

"A Tale of a Sale
"Judy Burdick

"Monterey County Mensa had a successful garage sale recently. RVC John Recht asked me to share the particulars with you.

"We had everything going for us, including LUCK. Each year a very nice subdivision in our area has a neighborhood sale. Well-advertised, it brings in hordes of folks who cruise up and down the streets looking for bargains. I just happened to interview a new member several weeks previously, who lives in that area. We had never met her, but my officers encouraged me to ask her. I got up the courage, called her, and lo and behold, Carol Liebman said yes! I promised that we would ask no more of her than the use of her bathroom, and asserted that we would not only bring the stuff, but haul all the unsold merchandise away afterwards.

"As you may have read, it had been raining for days. In fact, it was the second rainiest March on record for Monterey County. We asked people to bring their stuff the afternoon before, and invited members to participate in the pricing at that time. Of course, it was pouring rain, so we had to do all that in the garage beside Carol's car. We made charts stating prices for different colored stickers, and just put stickers on the items. Saved a lot of time. Most everything was 50 cents or a dollar. People asked me what we'd do if it rained the next day. I said that all systems were "go" unless we were otherwise notified.

"Once again, the gods were smiling on us, and the next day dawned not only clear, but sunny! I had lined up a crew of helpers. One woman manned the cash box. I baked dozens of cookies, as I had done for several years, and stationed myself out in front with signs. I sold them for 50 cents each. The day went well. Lots of customers. Helpers came as promised. People bought our stuff for $159.50 altogether. And the cookies grossed $83, so our total was $242.50. We loaded the remaining stuff on a truck and trailer, and Carol was able to leave as scheduled at 1:00.

"Here followeth the best-selling cookie recipe, an old family favorite:

"Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup Crisco shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon hot water
1 cup chopped walnuts 12 oz chocolate bits
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla

"Cream shortening and sugars. Beat in eggs. Stir in dry ingredients and water. Stir in nuts, bits, oats, and vanilla. Drop by spoonfuls onto non-stick or greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 - 11 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen."

Tonight's monthly Region 8 conference call was rather lightly attended. Present on the call were LocSecs Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Bob McAllister from Northern Nevada Mensa, and Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa. Debra is also one of two Assistant RVCs from Region 8. Assistant RVC Dan Burg was present on the call as well.

The call began with a recap of membership figures for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2006. For the year, American Mensa's membership was up slightly, and Region 8 was up a corresponding amount. Reports from the AMC meeting were shared, noting the loss for the year of about $70,000 (see the 3/25 entry below).

In other items, Judy shared the good news about Monterey County Mensa's garage sale. She promised to send a report for publication in this space and for a future issue of InterLoc. Debra told us about how her group has met the challenge of reaching out to new members by scheduling parties for them in different parts of the local group area, with part of the cost subsidized by the group. Debra also announced that Sacramento will host an RG in the latter part of October, with the theme, "The Sky's the Limit." The next call was set for the Sunday, May 21, at 8:00 p.m. PDT.

The AMC meeting in Greenville, SC, proved to be another in a series of congenial and productive sessions conducted by the leadership of American Mensa during the past year. The most important item from the meeting was the Treasurer's report, as follows (from the approved minutes of the meeting):

"REPORT OF THE TREASURER ON THE STATE OF THE BUDGET AND INVESTMENTS: [Charlie] BRUCE said that being down in membership has cost us. Although our year-end membership will be up by 1%, we'd budgeted 6%. We are also down in testing revenues. Hearings have cost us significantly; both the quantity and the fact that we had a $5,000 deductible on our insurance defense costs. Legal costs related to our Name & Logo and Licensing also continue to be significant. Event income is up, which offsets some of the loss and investment returns on our long term investments have exceeded expectations. A $70,000 anticipated operating loss is the end result. Things do appear to be picking up. He recommended to RVCs that they work to get more testing offered in their regions."

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2006-2007 was adopted without dissent, though two members abstained. The discussion made it perfectly clear that testing is the key to increasing our membership, and increasing our membership will have critical bearing on American Mensa's future solvency. Therefore, we in Region 8 need to work as hard as we can to build our proctor network, and to make sure that our Proctor Coordinators are scheduling testing sessions as frequently as possible. We also need to focus on keeping the members we have, and bringing lapsed members back into the fold; for these tasks, our MemSecs need to redouble their efforts on behalf of their local groups. Working together, we can help make sure that Mensa continues to provide the services that we want in return for our dues, and also assure that Mensa continues to be an organization in which we can take pride.

The monthly Region 8 LocSec conference call was very well attended this evening, with seven of the eleven LocSecs present on the call. In attendance along with me were LocSecs Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Mike Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Alma Lewandowski from Columbia River Mensa, Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa (Debra is also an Asst RVC for Region 8), and Millie Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, and Asst RVC Dan Burg.

Mike led off the discussion by describing the problems they are having in San Francisco with regaining possession of the local group archives. The archives are now in the hands of the widow of the former SFRM Archivist, and she does not want to give them up for personal reasons. There do not seem to be many good options under the circumstances, but my suggestion was to continue to try a positive approach, and see what can be worked out.

Debra gave a summary of the LDW in Sacramento, and received well-deserved congratulations for her efforts as Coordinator of the event. One item that came out of the discussions at the LDW was a request by some of the local groups to have their events cross-listed in the newsletters of neighboring groups, for the benefit of those members who would like to travel and take part in those events. Debra agreed to take on the assignment of working with the local groups in Region 8 to develop the means to make event cross-listings a regular feature in newsletter calendars. Debra announced that she hopes to retire in May of this year, and she expects that after that time she will be able to put this project on the front burner.

Millie spoke about garage sales, and expressed concern that it would be a lot of work to organize one on behalf of her local group. The rest of the folks on the call joined me in offering support to Millie in helping to plan her fundraiser, and she then said that she had held her own garage sales in the past, and it sounded as though she would have no problem organizing one, as long as she could find the volunteers to help put it on.

Alma brought up the subject of publicity materials, and wanted to know if other local groups had had problems getting all that they had ordered from the National Office. Alma would like to see Mensa flyers with tear-off response tags, and also preprinted post cards so that she doesn't have to keep making them herself. We all thought it a good idea for the National Office to supply the items that Alma wants, and in general we would like to see made available other items that local groups are commonly in need of. For many months now, I have been pushing the idea of having downloadable certificates on the National Web site, for local groups to print out and give to deserving volunteers. Mike Eager said he had created such certificates in the past, and offered to find them and send them along to me so that I could share them with everyone.

Other items that I spoke about on the call included a report on 2006 Mind Games, noting that we now had 174 registrants from 27 states and 45 local groups. We are very close to our capacity of 200, and it looks as though it will sell out. I also reported that every local group in Region 8 now has one or more proctors recertified, in time for the March 31 deadline, so we have accomplished that important goal. And, as we approach the May 1 deadline, I encouraged everyone to consider submitting a entry for CAP award, noting that local groups have performed many community-oriented activities over the course of the year for which they deserve recognition, and this is their opportunity to receive it. I closed by the call by letting everyone know that the next one will be Sunday, April 9, at 8:00 p.m. PDT.

As predicted, the Leadership Development Workshop (LDW) in Sacramento this past weekend was a great success. LDW Coordinator Debra Reiger put together a very full program, which drew more than 30 Mensa members from six local groups in Region 8, including five LocSecs. Coming from the furthest away was Catherine Barney, who came from the National Office in Texas.

The program included two tracks of sessions on particular topics which offered attendees the opportunity to gain and share expertise with their fellow Mensans, as well as several general sessions to designed to inspire more discussions and encourage questions. The session topics that Debra chose, and the session leaders, were as follows:

Martha Baker - "Financial Basics Overview"
Rod Baker - "Building Your Proctor Network"
Catherine Barney - "National Office Services," "Developing Mensa Publicity Tools," "Testing and Admissions Overview," and "GenX Mensans"
Dan Burg - "Local Group By-Laws & the Structure of Mensa," "Name & Logo," and "Risk Management"
Mike Eager - "Mensa Websites" and "Recruitment and Retention Overview"
Nancy Flack - "Editing and Newsletter Basics"
Doris Gentry - "Fund Raising and Investing Group Funds"
John Recht - "ExComm (Local Mensa Board) Basics" and "RVC Rap Session"
Debra Reiger - "Getting PR for Mensa" and "Remote Members and Area Coordinator Programs"
John Reiger - "Running Good Elections"
Jim Werdell - "International Mensa"

As a means to train local leaders and aspiring newcomers in the ways of Mensa, nothing surpasses LDWs. The World Gathering in Orlando in August promises to be another excellent opportunity to learn from fellow members about how to promote leadership in our groups, and Region 8 will have another opportunity next February when we will have another LDW, this time in Portland. As long as I remain RVC, I will continue to alternate LDWs between the north and south parts of the vast region we inhabit, and hope that they will always be as successful as the two we have had in the past couple of years.

Joining me on the monthly Region 8 conference call tonight were LocSecs Kristina Bernette from Oregon Mensa, Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa, Michael Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Asst RVC and LocSec Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa, and Asst RVC Dan Burg. We welcomed Judy to her first conference call as the new LocSec in her local group, and she shared some of the news from Monterey County. I was very impressed to hear of Judy's resolve to call every member of her local group; it is the sort of personal touch that will go a long way to assuring that the members of her group feel connected with Mensa as a whole.

Debra brought us up to date with plans for the Leadership Development Workshop in Sacramento, and the program sounds first rate. More than 30 people are expected to attend, which will make it a great success by national standards.

Michael shared the news with us that David Whitney came to san Francisco last night for his "going away" party, which drew more than 100 people. David has had a long history of involvement in Mensa, and the news of his rapidly deteriorating condition was very sad to hear. The idea of having a party to celebrate David's life while he could still be there to enjoy it was heartwarming, and I know that many more of us wish we could have been there to convey our best wishes, and our thanks.

This past weekend was quite a learning experience for me, as I visited the National Office to watch the AMC Finance Committee in action as they went through the entire budget for next year. They were extremely thorough in their review, and I can verify that they examined each and every item in the budget, considering the data and assumptions behind each item as well as the impact for the coming year and the four following years. I feel it was time well spent, and I believe I will be in a much better position now to represent Region 8 as I exercise my fiduciary responsibilities on the AMC. As a side note, since I am not a member of the Finance Committee, I paid my own way to and from the meeting, as well as the cost of my hotel, and it was well worth every cent.

Yesterday I received an email from BJ Mountrey, newsletter editor for Monterey County Mensa, announcing that Mensa member JD Russo was featured on local station KSBW for his victory in the county spelling bee. Congratulations, JD, and good luck in the next round of the competition!

Prior to today's Super Bowl (sorry, Seahawk fans), the 2006 Mind Games committee met at my house to discuss the current state of planning for the event. I was joined by Co-Chair Stephanie Smith and committee members Dan Burg, Ember Burg, David Burg (MG committee member ex officio), Steve Darnell, and Bill Olson. We had a fantastic month for registrations in January, and now have 139 registered. We decided to accept up to 200 registrations, and allow a waiting list after that, until the close of registration during the first week of April. We also divvied up the tasks for the time up to, during, and after the event, and we are excited! As it stands now, we are on track to make all of our commitments to the hotel for room nights and catering, which was in doubt until very recently. We will be sending out the first of three versions of the "mommy letter" to the list of registrants very soon, to help them plan their visit to Portland, and I will update my blog with more Mind Games info items as well during the next ten weeks leading up to the event.

Last night on the monthly Region 8 conference call I spoke with LocSecs Walt Bodley of Redwood Empire Mensa, Michael Eager of San Francisco Regional Mensa, Ed Ledger of Mensa of Western Washington, Bob McAllister of Northern Nevada Mensa, Debra Reiger of Sacramento Regiona Mensa, who is also an Asst RVC for Region 8, and our other Asst RVC, Dan Burg. We had a lively discussion on how best to make use of area coordinators in local groups, and I made my pet suggestion to put them in charge of garage sales in their areas. Debra Reiger offered to include a module on area coordinators at the Leadership Development Workshop in Sacramento in February, and she brought us up to date on plans for the event.

A critical topic for the region at this time, and for American Mensa as a whole, is the coming deadline for proctor recertification on March 31. We spent a good deal of time reviewing the situation for each local group, and everyone agreed to redouble our efforts to make sure we are in good shape for testing after the deadline. I will be returning from the National Office after the Finance Committee meeting on the second Sunday of February, so for the next call I will set the date and time as the third Sunday, February 19, at 8:00 p.m. PST.

Today I received a report from Mensa Alaska President Denise Yancey about her group's activities. It is a wonderful story, and I will reproduce it verbatim here for you. I am also sending it along to the Mensa Bulletin and InterLoc, in hopes that it will find a national audience. I believe that many Mensans throughout the country would be curious to know how the folks in the Far North are doing. Here is what Denise has to say:

"I promised you a report of what Mensa Alaska has been doing in our community, and how the community is beginning to use us a valuable resource! Here it is. Please pass it on as desired! I don't have everyone's email addresses.

"September 2005:

"Mensa Alaska sponsored a table and had two Mensans as participants in this year's BizBee! The Anchorage Literacy Project is a non-profit group whose sole purpose is to assist adults who, for one reason or another, never learned to read English. (http://www.anchorageliteracyproject.org/index.htm )

"'Every fall, the Anchorage Daily News holds its annual fundraiser for the Anchorage Literacy Project -- a corporate spelling bee called the BizBee. Teams of spellers from local businesses, agencies, clubs and educational institutions compete for prizes and the honor of being the best spellers in town. First begun in 1991, the event has grown to fill the ballroom of a local hotel and is characterized by lively emceeing and boisterous displays of cheerleading. Teams of three people take turns spelling increasingly challenging words taken from the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee Study Booklet. It's a group event, so spellers get to help each other out, plus they get to study the words in advance. Teams reserve tables for their supporters while closet spellers in the audience also try their luck spelling words that are called out. The team with the most cheerleaders in the audience wins a free word exchange while the winner of the Biz Bee Raffle takes home two round-trip airline tickets from Alaska Airlines. The team that out spells all others holds the title of "Spelling Champion" for one year.'

"Mensa President Denise Yancey was on the ACS team, and came in 6th place, while Secretary/Treasurer Norma Gertson's team came in 10th. The Winners this year were the University of Alaska Professors, with the Anchorage Daily News team coming in second. Mensa had a big sign advertising its participation in the event, and had many people come over to ask questions about the society.

"November 2005:

"Mensa Alaska has had the Anchorage Municipal Librarian as a guest speaker at one of its monthly potlucks, telling us how the Patriot Act affects library policies and how all across the country different libraries are handling it. He remembered us fondly, and when they needed a favor in return, he called us to help with their annual fundraiser. All money raised goes to pay for books, media and training they otherwise couldn't afford. (http://lexicon.ci.anchorage.ak.us/ )

"Here is how they reviewed this year's event:

"'The Friends of the Library semi-annual book sales just keep getting bigger and better! The fall sale Nov. 5 and 6 was the most successful yet. During the two days, 2,552 people came through the level 1 doors at the main Loussac Library where the sale was staged and walked out with tens of thousands of books. The sale raised $18,985.95 for the library, smashing the previous record last fall by more than $4,000.'

"Mensa Alaska assisted with sorting and selling the books and media. It was amazing seeing the huge crowds of people milling around with armloads of books, with grins on their faces like it was Christmas.

"December 2005:

"One of our members is on the board of the Alaska Robotics Education Association (http://www.akrobotics.org/index.htm ), and for the third year asked Mensa Alaska to supply the judges for this year's state tournament of the FIRST Lego League's competition (http://www.usfirst.org/jrobtcs/flego.htm).

"'FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a multinational non-profit organization, that aspires to transform culture, making science, math, engineering, and technology as cool for kids as sports are today.

"'FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter. FIRST operates the FIRST Robotics Competition in which teams of high school students, sponsored and assisted by local companies and volunteers, design, assemble, and test a robot capable of performing a specified task in competition with other teams. FIRST also runs the FIRST LEGO League, for children 9-14 years old, and FIRST Place, an innovative science and technology center, including a hands-on children's science museum.

"'FIRST was founded on partnerships with businesses, educational institutions and government. Many Fortune 500 companies provide funding, in-kind donations and volunteers to support the program.

"'The key to FIRST's success is the work of over 25,000 volunteer mentors, professional engineers, teachers, and other adults working with students across the country. In addition to the thousands of volunteer team mentors, FIRST competitions and other events were organized and staffed by over 14,000 event and committee volunteers. Through these volunteers, FIRST programs engaged over 70,000 young people during the last year. FIRST programs are growing rapidly in the United States and Canada, and demand is accelerating in other countries.'

"This year's theme was 'Ocean Odyssey', and the goal was to design robots out of legos which could accomplish tasks needed to make use of one of our greatest natural resources - the world's oceans. There were so many teams who wanted to participate here in Alaska this year that we had to split it into two competitions - one took place in Fairbanks and the other in Anchorage. This also allowed more teams to participate because they didn't have to travel as far. Each had a first place winner who will go on to the International competition in Atlanta, Georgia this summer!

"January 2006:

"We will again be collecting and grading the submissions for our two college scholarships. We’ve been doing this for many years.

"Denise K. Yancey

"Mensa Alaska President"

Thanks to Region 8 Webmaster Scott Rainey, I have made substantial changes, and I hope improvements, to my website. The intention was to make it easier to read my RVC columns each month as opposed to my blog, and to allow the website to load faster. My pictures are also better organized, and should load more quickly for those interested. Overall, as I keep updating, it should now be easier than ever for you to access this website. As always, if you have any questions or comments for me about this website or any other topic concerning Mensa activities or concerns in Region 8, please contact me at rvc8@us.mensa.org. I look forward to hearing from you.

Tonight on the monthly regional conference call I spoke with LocSecs Kristina Bernette of Oregon Mensa, Walt Bodley of Redwood Empire Mensa, Alexander Brittain of Sacramento Regional Mensa, Ed Ledger of Mensa of Western Washington, Alma Lewandowski of Columbia River Mensa, Millie Treherne of Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa, Nicholas Williams of Monterey County Mensa, Denise Yancey of Mensa Alaska, and Asst RVCs Dan Burg and Debra Reiger. Dan shared the 25 responses to the questionnaire sent to members of Greater Northstate Mensa, which overwhelmingly supported rejoining with Sacramento Regional Mensa.

Other topics on the call included discussion of the AMC meeting the previous week, and upcoming events in Region 8, including the Leadership Development Workshop in Sacramento in February, and Mind Games in Portland in April. Walt asked questions about the use of a Mensa phone for outside contacts for his group, and spoke about possible website development. Denise shared information about her group's efforts to judge the robotics contest in Alaska, and promised to send an article for publication in Interloc. Alma was pleased to announce her group's prize of chocolate for winning the National Testing Day contest in Group 5, a prize also won by Oregon Mensa in Group 2. Millie mentioned how her group is enthusiastic about games nights. The date and time for the next Region 8 conference call was set for 1/8/06 at 8:00 p.m. PST.

AMC Meeting Report
The quarterly American Mensa Committee (AMC) meeting in Tempe, AZ, yesterday resulted in several decisions of import to the membership of Region 8, the most notable being the acceptance of a bid for the 2008 Annual Gathering (AG) in Denver, CO. After successive AGs in New Orleans, Orlando, and Birmingham, it will be much easier for all of us in the western US to travel to the AG, and we should plan on taking that opportunity to experience the best event in American Mensa in an area that is close to home. I would dearly love to see an AG in Region 8 before long as well, and over the course of the next year I will explore the possibilities for 2009 while there is still time to get a bid together.

In a related item of note from the AMC meeting, a new volunteer position was created for a National Events Hotel Consultant. This position will be effective in the new budget year beginning April 1, 2006, and the intent is to provide assistance in hotel consulting and negotiations if requested by a group interested in hosting a national Mensa event. This will be very timely for us in Region 8 if we do go ahead with exploring the possibilities for an AG in the region.

At least a couple of groups from Region 8 will be affected by another decision, that specifies that local groups that exceed the IRS threshold in annual gross revenue for nonprofit organizations, currently $25,000, shall be included in the financial activity of American Mensa Ltd. for annual reporting of income and expenses to the IRS. Any local groups which have been granted a separate IRS filing status shall report income and expenses to the IRS directly with a copy of the form to be submitted to the American Mensa National Office. What this means is that local groups with annual gross incomes which may exceed $25,000 will have to be audit ready, and they should take precautions to make sure that their books are in order in case that the National Office should request additional information. For more on this subject, contact David Peery at FinanceDirector@americanmensa.org.

Other decisions at the AMC meeting included unanimous approval of my motion to hold an annual AMC planning session at the fall meeting each year in Arlington TX, beginning in 2007; approval of a motion to allow electronic versions of member directories for local groups if they are downloaded via the secure National website; and approval of proposed amendments to the National bylaws that would allow electronic voting, subject to approval of the membership in a special referendum. The most controversial decision made at the meeting, however, was relatively inconsequential in terms of impact on the budget, though it stirred a considerable amount of impassioned discussion prior to the meeting by some members who closely follow the workings of the AMC. By a written tally of 15-5, funding was approved for two additional days at the World Gathering in August, 2006, for those AMC members who are not also members of the International Board of Directors (IBD). This was a very difficult vote for me, as I found both sides of the issue having legitimate reasons for support.

In the end, after all of the discussion, I weighed in with my reservations just prior to the vote. There are definitely solid reasons for AMC members to serve as ambassadors to the World Gathering, and though the potential value to American Mensa via our participation with the IBD meeting is intangible, it is none the less real, in my view. It is regrettable that some Mensa members view this as self-serving by the AMC, and it was mainly to avoid such an appearance of a conflict of interest that I withheld my support for the motion. Now that the motion has passed, as a member of the AMC I fully support my colleagues and the decision that we made.

All in all, I would say it was an excellent AMC meeting. I was very pleased to have my first motion approved at the meeting, and I am looking forward with pleasure to continuing to serve on behalf of Region 8 at the meetings to come as we enter the new year.

Returned home today from San Francisco and the Brilliance by the Bay RG. What a fantastic event! RG Chair Erinn Height and her committee did themselves proud. This was a terrific example of what Mensa can be...the opportunity to get together and enjoy the family reunion we all wish we could have. It seems a long time until the next one in Region 8, but Vancouver BC Mensa in Canada will offer their North by Northwest II RG from March 17-19, 2006, to be closely followed by the Oregon Mensa BeaveRG IX from April 28-30. I recommend them both highly; you'll find registration info through their websites via the links elsewhere on this website.

Joining me on the monthly regional LocSec conference call this evening were Jerry Moore from Greater Northstate Mensa, Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Michael Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa, Denise Yancey from Mensa Alaska, Ed Hanley from Northern Nevada Mensa, Kristina Bernette from Oregon Mensa, Assistant RVC-8 Debra Reiger, and a special guest, Region 8 Webmaster Scott Rainey. Although the regional results from National Testing Day were not available, I shared the results year-over-year for membership in the region as of 10/31/05. Total membership in the region was up to 5,048 from 5,017 on 10/31/04, for a gain of 0.6%, and the gains and losses by group were as follows:

Northern Nevada Mensa +10.0%
Redwood Empire Mensa +5.6%
Monterey County Mensa +3.9%
San Francisco Regional Mensa +2.5%
Mensa of Western Washington +1.2%
Sacramento Regional Mensa -0.8%
Oregon Mensa -2.5%
Greater Northstate Mensa -3.3%
Mensa Alaska -3.4%
Southwest Idaho Mensa -3.9%
Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa -7.0%
Columbia River Mensa -11.5%

Discussion touched on issues in the upcoming AMC meeting in December, and in particular the LocSecs on the call expressed their support for availability of electronic versions of membership directories for their local groups. Scott offered insight on local group website matters, and offered his assistance in website development and maintenance for groups in the region.

Debra and Ed Ledger received kudos for the wonderful RGs in October in Sacramento and Seattle, respectively, and Debra brought us up to date on plans for a Leadership Development Workshop in Sacramento from 2/24-2/26, 2006. Michael spoke about the upcoming RG in San Francisco on 11/25-11/27, 2005, which has a terrific program planned in an excellent location in the heart of the city. Several of us are planning to attend, and are looking forward with pleasure to another outstanding RG.

Denise received a warm welcome for her first appearance on the monthly call, and she gave us some fascinating highlights of the activities of Mensa Alaska, and the unique challenges that the group must cope with. I invited Denise to send me a writeup of the group's experiences so that I may get something published nationally about what they have been up to up there. We closed the call by setting the date and time for the next call, on Sunday, 12/11, at 8 pm PST.

For the past two weekends Region 8 has had terrific RGs, and I am very happy to have had the opportunity to attend both of them. For some time I wondered if scheduling RGs on back to back weekends in the region would diminish one or the other of them, but apparently my concerns were unfounded, as both Sacramento Regional Mensa and Mensa of Western Washington drew healthy numbers of fun-seeking Mensa members.

Sacramento RG Chair Debra Reiger and MWW RG Chair Mary Prior, with the assistance of many volunteers, have shown us that the RG spirit is alive and well up and down I-5, and I congratulate each of the folks who helped put on such stellar events. Now that my RG appetite has been seriously whetted, I can hardly wait until the San Francisco Regional Mensa RG comes around in just three weeks...hope to see you there!

Joining me on the monthly Region 8 conference call tonight were Alexander Brittain, Dan Burg, Michael Eager, Ed Ledger, Alma Lewandowski, Jerry Moore, and Debra Reiger. Jerry discussed the problems that Greater Northstate Mensa has recently faced, which may lead to recombining the group with Sacramento Regional Mensa. Dan is actively working on this issue on behalf of the region.

Michael brought up concerns about the local group funding level, and I will follow that issue during the budget cycle that begins in February. I will also look for opportunities for funding innovative programs that come out of the best practices initiative that I am working on as a result of the AMC planning process.

Debra expressed her support for best practices, and offered a suggestion that successful programs be identified according to a scalability factor. In other words, Debra thought that there should be a way to distinguish whether a program of interest would be applicable to any size group, or groups only within a certain range. I will keep this in mind as I explore the best ways to describe successful programs for the benefit of local groups throughtout American Mensa.

Alma noted problems she had had with obtaining a certificate of insurance from the national office, but others had not shared that difficulty and suggested that it was a rare occurrence. Debra, Ed, and Michael advertised their upcoming RGs, and I concluded the call by setting the time for the next one, on Sunday, 11/13, at 8 pm PST.

Oregon Mensa's garage sale fundraiser for the scholarship fund was an unqualified success! Altogether more than $620 was raised for scholarships in the one day sale, and the sale brought together the members for an excellent gathering. It also garnered good publicity for our scholarship program, and attracted at least one prospective new member. I will make it the focus for my November RVC column, and encourage other local groups to try making it a staple event for all the right reasons.

Even a relatively small event requires coordination and participation, and when called upon the members of Oregon Mensa came through with their energy and generosity on behalf of the scholarship fund. The following people joined me in contributing time, energy, resources, and/or donations to the sale: Kristina Bernette; Nancy Block; Dan, Ember, and David Burg; Shirley Fitzgerald; Scott Kauffman; Bob Kegel; Bill and Jean Morita; Scott Rainey; Joanne Reisman; Barbara Ring; Linda Roach; David Schlinkert; Doug and Alisa Walters; and Amy Whinston. Their efforts were all greatly appreciated, and we will take what we learned, and the leftover items, and do it even better next year.

AMC Meeting Report
Just returned from AMC meeting and planning session at the National Office in Arlington, TX. At the planning session, I agreed to follow up on reporting to the membership about what has worked in local groups, using websites and sampling surveys. I will ask the RVCs to solicit best practices from the groups in their regions, and work toward getting them published on the National website in a special section. I will also ask for the involvement of the Communications Committee and the Leadership Development Committee in this effort. In addition, I will prepare teasers about the Mensa Handbooks for publication in the Mensa Bulletin and Interloc, to help familiarize the membership with what is already available for their use.

At the meeting, Debra Reiger and Dan Burg were officially appointed as Assistant RVCs in Region 8. The AMC also adopted the "Policy and Guidelines for Administrators of Internet Communication Services," and the issue of event-specific ride-sharing and/or room-sharing needs at the local level was dealt with by a strong recommendation that websites of local/regional/national gatherings direct members to the site's "bulletin board" or "forum" area so that members may contact one another directly about their needs.

All in all, it was a very collegial meeting, and an excellent planning session. The National Office staff, led by Pam Donahoo did a wonderful job of welcoming us and showing us the inner workings of the headquarters of AML Ltd. I am looking forward with much anticipation to another harmonious and productive meeting of the AMC in Phoenix from 12/2 to 12/4/05 (my birthday).

Tonight the monthly Region 8 conference call was very well attended. Joining me on the call were locsecs and representatives from eight of the twelve local groups, including Alexander Brittain from Sacramento Regional Mensa; Judy Burdick from Monterey County Mensa; Dan Burg from Oregon Mensa; Michael Eager from San Francisco Regional Mensa; Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa; Kristina Bernette from Oregon Mensa; Ed Hanley from Northern Nevada Mensa; Walt Bodley from Redwood Empire Mensa; Jerry Moore from Greater Northstate Mensa; and Alma Lewandowski from Columbia River Mensa.

Following introductions and mentions of upcoming RGs and LDWs, we reviewed outstanding issues from last month about hosting local group websites on national servers and about privacy concerns. We noted the introduction this weekend of the brand new updates to the national site, and everyone was encouraged to send me their feedback for me to take to the AMC meeting next weekend.

We also spoke about National Testing Day and the need for proctors in the region. There was general agreement that we should find ways to identify where proctors are on the map, and to have the ability to send lists of prospective candidates to the nearest proctor regardless of which group the proctor belongs to. It was also thought that there ought to be incentives for adding proctors to local groups, much as there are for adding and retaining members.

In response to a question concerning whether the National Office could give local groups the ability to create PDFs, several people pointed out that that ability already exists in Microsoft Word, and I mentioned that OpenOffice also makes that possible. I went on to point out that I have put a link to OpenOffice on my website, and stated my intentions to continue to make my website as functional and useful as possible for Mensa members in the region. As a followup to that, I offered to check and see if my website can be linked through national. Maybe it would be possible to redirect the Region 8 url to pass through to my website, in addition to being available through the member link section of the national website.

At the close of the call, I announced that I have purchased Region 8 Officer pins, and will begin sending them out to elected officers in each of the local groups in recognition of their service. This was an idea suggested to me by Susan Heimlich of San Francisco Regional Mensa, and I agreed with Susan that it is an excellent way to thank people for their efforts on behalf of their fellow members. I bought the pins from Joe Zanca in the Mensa Boutique with money from my discretionary expense fund.

Just before we signed off, I received very nice feedback from the group, telling me that they thought the call was well worth it, and I very much appreciated hearing that. I am already looking forward to next month's call, which is scheduled for October 9 at 8:00 pm Pacific time.

Today we held the first ever Region 8 conference call, using FreeConference.com. The call was an unqualified success, bringing together LocSecs Nicholas Williams from Monterey County Mensa, Ed Ledger from Mensa of Western Washington, Ed Hanley from Northern Nevada Mensa, Alexander Brittain from Sacramento Regional Mensa, and Mildred Treherne from Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho Mensa. Debra Reiger from Sacramento Regional Mensa also joined us on the call.

After time for introductions and getting acquainted, discussion ranged over problems affecting the very spread out populations in our respective local groups. We also discussed hosting local group websites on national servers; privacy issues; and National Testing Day. The next call will be held on Sunday, September 11 at 8:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time.

Despite the threat of Hurricane Dennis, the AG in New Orleans was a big success! It was a pleasure to meet with so many folks from Region 8, and I am already anticipating more opportunities to get together with you at the RGs in Region 8 this fall.

My second regional appointment is Scholarship Chair, and I have reappointed Diana Maul in this capacity. Diana has done a fantastic job in this capacity, and I encourage you to get in touch with her if your local group needs help with the scholarship program. Diana not only assembles the team of scorers for Oregon Mensa and Region 8, but she is a tireless fundraiser for scholarships, and she is constantly in touch with ideas to improve the program. Congratulations, Diana!

As I prepare to begin my term as RVC for Region 8, I want to take this opportunity to thank Scott Rainey for his four years of service as RVC. Scott has worked hard on behalf of the Mensa members in the region, and his ideas for our society have inspired me and helped me as I have begun working at the national level.

Scott's experience on the AMC's Communications Committee, as Oregon Mensa's Webmaster, and his 25 years in the private sector as an IT consultant make him an ideal choice for my first regional appointment, as Webmaster for Region 8. Thank you, Scott, for agreeing to volunteer to continue to improve our internet services.

For his first assignment, I have asked Scott to make himself available to all the local groups in Region 8 as a consultant to their Webmasters, and to help in particular those groups who have not taken advantage of the opportunity to host their own website. For those of you who have Mensa website-related questions for Scott, please contact him at scott.rainey@overbyte.com, and he will be glad to assist.

Spoke with Millie Treherne, LocSec of Eastern Washington/Northern Idaho/Montana Mensa. Millie described how her group raised money for scholarships in the past by serving coffee at freeway rest areas on both sides of the highway. The group provided coffee and cookies continuously, 24/7, for an entire weekend, and received donations from passers-by. It was pretty labor intensive, but the group netted more than $700. Even a small group could make this happen...it's an idea worth trying. Thanks, Millie, for sharing this, and good luck with your scholarship program in the coming year.
Since my last entry, a revised version of the AMC Mini Minutes was distributed informing us that the proposed policy restricting organizers of Mensa events from actively arranging carpooling, ridesharing, or roommate matching will be reviewed again at the next AMC meeting. This proposed policy is a point of concern for the groups in Region 8, and I will report on the discussion after the next meeting.

In the last few days I have added a number of links on my Links page. Please check them out if you haven't already, and if you know of more that you think I should add for the benefit of visitors to my site, drop me a note and let me know!

Greetings, and thanks for visiting my website. Now that I have been declared elected as Regional Vice Chair for Region 8, I am beginning work on transitioning into office, and communicating with my fellow Mensa members is very much on my mind. I would like to make this website a focal point for communications during my term, and with the much appreciated assistance of outgoing RVC Scott Rainey, I have added a blogging function so that I can note developments in real time and encourage feedback. My goal is to continue to develop my website to be useful to you, and in particular I intend to provide links from my website to all sorts of interesting and helpful sites. Until I take office in July, I will look for email under my primary address at jdrecht@earthlink.net - please feel free to contact me with questions and suggestions, and I will look forward to hearing from you.

In addition to my weblog, I plan to institute a monthly conference call for LocSecs in Region 8, and I will write a monthly column for the newsletters in the region. I also plan to come to the Annual Gathering in New Orleans, the Regional Gatherings and Leadership Development Workshops in Region 8, and Mind Games in Portland in April, 2006. Please look for me in person at any of these upcoming events - hope to see you there!