News & Notes

Theodore Talks

We closed out May activities with our very first lecture in MAM’s new Theodore Talks series. Dr. John Laudun <> gave a very interesting, thorough, and complete discussion of Vernacular Knowledge: Looking for Intelligence in Unexpected Places with his speech based upon the concept of genius loci, or the spirit of a place. He explained how folklore has evolved from a philosophical matter to something more akin to anthropology in its study. We looked at examples of this trend by exploring: 1) the amazing crawfish boat of Louisiana; 2) a country Mardi gras near Mermentau Cove (in Louisiana); and, 3) the pirate and treasure legends which still exist today. He concluded his remarks and storytelling with a very helpful summary and some practical advice. First, folklore opens up our minds and helps us to learn about our place in the world. In this way, storytelling creates community, it gives us a thrill in the acquisition of knowledge, and assists in the documentation of history. Finally, stories have the power to connect all of us and they teach us to practice listening to others. Our oral traditions and the preservation of memories offer a creditable and confident variable for a high level of curiosity and change in our lives.

Ad Astra Mensa Zoom Meeting

Ad Astra Mensa (Topeka, Lawrence, and environs) met virtually via Zoom on Monday, May 10th. Topics discussed included books we have read or plan to read, TV shows we have watched, what else people have been doing, what the new normal is going to be, education, liberal arts, humanities and what “humanities” means to different people, engineering, mathematics, computer science, connections between computer science and musical abilities, connections between computer science and mathematics, people who have both developmental disabilities and phenomenal memories, puns, travel plans, the Bible as literature, the fact that the King James version of the Bible was written by poets, the differences between different versions of the Bible, vaccinations, language, and possible formats for future Ad Astra meetings. If you would like to discuss these topics, or others that interest you, please join us virtually on Monday, June 14th at 7:00 p.m. Look in the June Mension for all of the details about this event.

Ethnic Eats

In June, we are meeting in person. Bonito Michoacan, 1229 E Santa Fe, in Olathe, KS, has an outdoor dining area and we have reservations for six. If more want to attend, we can add to the number, but six-tops is the largest ‘together’ seating. Please RSVP if you’re interested.


Something to look forward to – MAM’s Paul Hough has volunteered to host Games at his home in August. He intends to host four times per year — in August, November, February, and May.

Mask Wearing at MAM Events

As you may know, since the start of the pandemic, adhering to CDC and local guidelines precluded scheduling nearly all of our in-person get togethers. On May 13th, the CDC revised their guidelines, so that fully vaccinated people can now gather in small and large groups whether or not social distancing is an option. (Masking, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings continues to be recommended for those who are not fully vaccinated.)

While this change in the guidelines only affects those who are fully vaccinated, it means you will likely start seeing more in-person events in the very near future. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Should SIG coordinators choose to host an event in their home, it will be up to the host to specify any restrictions for their home. They could, for example, state that all attendees must either show proof of vaccination or wear a mask, or they may ask that everyone wear a mask to accommodate those who are not vaccinated.
  • For any activity in a public venue, restrictions will be based on the venue’s policy at the time of the event. For example, some restaurants may continue to require masks when not seated and some venues may not accommodate social distancing.
  • If you have any concerns about whether or not to attend an in-person event, check with the coordinator about what restrictions, if any, will be in place and make a decision based on your specific circumstances.

As we have witnessed this past year, we cannot forecast when other changes may be coming, so please check with the event host or coordinator to confirm expectations before attending an activity.

MAM/CDC Guidelines as of May 13, 2021


 Type of Event


Basic CDC Guidelines as of 5-13-21


Will masks be required for a MAM event?



Can the coordinator require attendees to provide proof of vaccination to attend?


In-home gathering with people outside your bubble



• No mask required if vaccinated.

• Wear mask and socially distance if not vaccinated


Up to the host.


Restrictions are up to the host. (Ex. You might be given the option to either show your vaccine card or wear a mask.)


Public indoor venue



• No mask required if vaccinated.

• Wear mask and socially distance if not vaccinated. Avoid large gatherings.


Must follow the venue’s requirements.




Public outdoor venue



• No mask required if vaccinated.

• If not vaccinated, wear a mask around others if not socially distancing.






News & Notes

Have you gotten the jab? May is the unofficial start of summer and new seasonal activities and changes to our schedule(s) are gradually ramping up. If you have gotten your COVID-19 vaccination and/or you will be graduating in May, oh the places you’ll go! Likewise, Mid-America Mensa is seeing an uptick in its activities & events as well.

First, Walkabout KC in May heads out to Antioch Park, 6501 Antioch Rd., Merriam, KS, on Saturday, May 1st at 10:00 am. We had a big turnout enjoy the MAM comradery, warmer weather, and light exercise last month at Leawood Park. Hopefully more MAM members and friends will meet up with us in May for another casual & enjoyable walk about a local park.

Ad Astra Mensa (via Zoom)

Ad Astra Mensa (Topeka, Lawrence, and environs) met virtually via Zoom on Monday, April 12. Topics discussed included Covid-19, places we would like to visit when travel restrictions are lifted, vaccinations, masks, the freedom to see people in person for those who have received their shots, movies, TV shows, books, Genghis Khan, the evolution of warfare, awareness (or lack thereof) of consequences of one’s actions, gardening, and haircuts. If you would like to discuss these topics, or others that interest you, please join us virtually on Monday, May 10 at 7:00 pm. Please check out the May Mension if you are interested in learning more about this upcoming MAM event.

Salon with a Double Twist — Saturday, May 15th, at 2:00 pm via Zoom

The usual way to have a salon is to select a topic and ask that everyone be prepared to offer their two cents’ worth on the subject. Well, that’s still true, but the first twist is this: In order to allow everyone time to speak and not have the salon be dominated by a particularly lengthy speaker, comments will be limited to one minute at a time. Everyone will have multiple opportunities, in turn with everyone else, to offer their wisdom and insights. The second twist is having a Salon via Zoom instead of in-person. The focus will continue to be intelligent, witty, insightful dialog. The Salon topic: What will be your new normal in life after Coronavirus?

Theodore Talks – Sunday, May 23rd, from 2:00-3:00 pm via Zoom

Vernacular Knowledge: Looking for Intelligence in Unexpected Places — Dr. John Laudun

Join us for this MAM event (which is the very first lecture in MAM’s new speaker/talk series). Please look in the May Mension for more information about this MAM speaker event and how to make your reservation to attend!

Theodore Talks: Dr. John Laudun

Dr. John Laudun has been selected to be the first speaker of Theodore Talks, our new speaker/talk series. He is scheduled to speak May 23rd, 2:00-3:00 pm in the MAM Zoom room. The speaker’s information for this lecture immediately follows below.

TITLEVernacular Knowledge: Looking for Intelligence in Unexpected Places

SPEAKER BIO – Dr. John Laudun is on the specialist faculty at the U.S. Combined Arms Center’s Army Management Staff College where he focuses on social information systems. In addition to his programmatic duties, his current research looks at TED talks in relationship to contemporary culture as well as the spread of ideas across online social networks. A folklorist by training, with a PhD from Indiana University’s Folklore Institute, Dr. Laudun has documented, analyzed, and published on Cajun and Creole cultures, embedded creativity, and folk narratives about places and people. He has been a Javits Fellow, a MacArthur Scholar, and been supported in his research by the NEH, the NSF, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. His scholarly work has appeared in a number of journals and been translated into Chinese. Dr. Laudun has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Atlanta Constitution.

Editor’s note: The following editorial comments/notes are only those of this editor and are just intended to help offer some background as to what Dr. Laudun’s speech may be about.

Can you imagine how a quest for intelligence in unexpected places appeals to all of us? We live lives which have a changing narrative and timeline. We each have a physical, and digital, vantage point which keeps us living subject to the societal norms and values which we must learn to accept. Like a search for truth, this partial and portable variable makes our origins derived and grounded in many beliefs; and thus, this comprehensive nature of community (or, belonging to a regional organization) does indeed fall within the realm of ‘science’ proper.

By way of another example, Mensans know that there exists one common theme among members and groups within Mensa – it is something interwoven throughout our nature. Do you know what it is? Mensa “is based on an objective criterion of selection, an assessment of the applicant’s ability to think effectively. Mensa aims to be a forum of the intelligent of every persuasion, so it is simply and permanently not possible for Mensa to have any controversial collective views or policies.” (Serebriakoff 1985, Mensa: The Society for the Highly Intelligent, pg. 263) Like a story slowly becoming dissected and analyzed, we do not always see things eye-to-eye and we can have very different and opposing points of view on certain issues. More than anything else, perhaps, these few ideas are what constitute the ‘golden rule’ of Mensa.