Pythagorean Theorem Day

Pythagorean Theorem Day is celebrated when the sum of the squares of the month and day of a date equals the square of the last 2 digits of the year of that date. So we have one in December, 12/16/20 (122+162=202 or 144+256=400), another one on 7/24/25, and the last one this century will be 10/24/26. But that will be your last chance to celebrate until March of 2105, so don’t wait, whoop it up now!

In honor of the day (and the Theorem), I have included below, one of my favorite graphical proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem. Look closely at the animated image and you can see why, with a right triangle with sides a, b, and c, that a2+b2 must be the same as c2. Note that the right triangles remain the same, they merely get rearranged. It is the left over area that gets reallocated as a2+b2 or c2 within the larger fixed-size square.

Updated: MAM Wins Ruby Award

Mid-America Mensa (MAM) received some well-deserved recognition during a recent recalculation based upon the 2020 American Mensa Annual Awards. In Class II, MAM was awarded a RUBY for a variety of its activities and accomplishments – earned by the local group as a whole. Basically, groups can earn points for “active participation in all that Mensa has to offer to positively impact the experience of the local group members”. The award was the culmination of points earned during the fiscal year just completed for April 2019 – March 2020. For more about this see: Jewel Awards Criteria, https://www.us.mensa.org/recognize/group-awards/local-group-jewels/

Awards like this one from American Mensa are like a precious gemstone because they show a degree of bright, active participation and glowing vitality that are so greatly needed by a living, breathing social organization. We had received the SAPPHIRE level of recognition in an earlier announcement but it has now been upgraded to the RUBY level which perhaps indicates a very solid core group of members who continue to build Mid-America Mensa’s story with a very high level of service. In addition, we continue to foster the growth of our entire membership through hosting local activities and events (like Cabin Fever earlier this year). Truly, we must like each other well enough to stick around with each other in MAM. Belonging to MAM continues to be time well spent by our members; so, congratulations to Mid-America Mensa for winning this American Mensa local group jewel award!

Ruby Jewel Award

Notable: MAM Wins Sapphire Award

Mid-America Mensa (MAM) received some well-deserved recognition during the recent 2020 American Mensa Annual Awards. In Class II, MAM was awarded a SAPPHIRE for a variety of its activities and accomplishments – earned by the local group as a whole. Basically, groups can earn points for “active participation in all that Mensa has to offer to positively impact the experience of the local group members”. The award was the culmination of points earned during the fiscal year just completed for April 2019 – March 2020. For more about this see: Jewel Awards Criteria, https://www.us.mensa.org/recognize/group-awards/local-group-jewels/

Awards like this one from American Mensa are like a precious gemstone because they show a degree of bright, active participation and glowing vitality that are so greatly needed by a living, breathing social organization. We have achieved the SAPPHIRE level of recognition for several years in a row which perhaps indicates a stable core group of members who continue to build the story of Mid-America Mensa with a high level of service to MAM’s members from year to year. In addition, we continue to foster the growth of our entire membership through hosting local activities and events (like Cabin Fever earlier this year). Truly, we must like each other well enough to stick around with each other in MAM. Belonging to MAM continues to be time well spent by our members; so, congratulations to Mid-America Mensa for winning this American Mensa local group jewel award!

Sapphire Award

Q&A with Stephen T. Johnson

Q&A with Stephen T. Johnson

What do you think about when you think about interconnections? Among other different things, Interconnections is a triptych mosaic mural located inside the Lenexa City Center Library, Lenexa, KS. This library is new to the Johnson County Library system. It had held a ribbon-cutting ceremony as recently as June 2nd, 2019, when tours were given to introduce the public to the new building, as well as to allow visitors to gaze upward upon the new public art project, Interconnections, which was designed by award-winning artist Stephen T. Johnson.

Editor’s note: When this library reopens on June 15th, spend some time with Interconnections if you can and learn about its little passages of colorful, harmonious interconnections.

Q-1/ Why is the essence of your triptych Interconnections like an alphabet?

Stephen/ Concert halls, art museums, and public libraries invite us to explore ideas and the interconnections they evoke through sounds, colors, and language. We rearrange the notes of a scale to generate musical compositions, we mix the colors of a rainbow to create visual works of art, and we reorder the letters of an alphabet to form words and texts.

As with a triplet of stained glass windows or three lines of a Haiku, Interconnections is a triptych that celebrates the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet through a profusion of typographic fonts, both uppercase and lowercase, intermixed with images from my books — Alphabet City, Alphabet School, and A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet.

Reading from left to right, the first panel celebrates the letters A to I, the second panel J to Q, and the third panel R to Z. The goal of Interconnections is to inspire visitors to the library to view our world in a fresh and playful way, and in so doing, discover for themselves juxtapositions of scale, color harmonies, rhythms in surface textures, and joy in what may seem unremarkable or ordinary, by transcending the mundane and unearthing its hidden beauty.

Q-2/ How did you begin to think about this creation as a conceptual idea?

Stephen/ After being awarded the commission, I had constructive discussions with members of the public art commission, particularly Christopher Leitch (also a staff member of the library), who encouraged me to push my concept for the designated three large vertical spaces to include references to my various children’s books. It was clear to me relatively quickly thereafter, that I should consider using my three published alphabet books — Alphabet City, Alphabet School, and A is for Art: An Abstract Alphabet as a source of inspiration for the murals. Paired with my love for abstract collage, which connects and contrasts edges, patterns, colors, shapes and imagery, this was the perfect medium to introduce my various typography binding the three designs in both a visual and conceptual manner.

Q-3/ Which particular skills did you apply/use with Interconnections?

Stephen/ The designs for these murals were constructed digitally beginning with physical collage (found paper sources like posters, magazine advertisements, old books, and the like), that I would scan into the computer and with Photoshop, change the size and colors of shapes and imagery. I also scanned various pages from my alphabet books and chose the letters that would work best within the overall design being mindful that they would be translated into glass mosaics for the final artwork.

Q-4/ What were the other helpful artistic resources you drew from? (Like, emotions, materials, tools, your father?)

Stephen/ My love of abstract collage that has a heavy typographical component came from several remnants of political posters that my father (Ted Johnson a Mensa member since the early 1990’s) saved from our years living in Bordeaux, France in the 1970’s. I referred to these posters for the design of Interconnections. My propensity for incorporating bright primary colors intermixed with pink, green and black create a dense and vibrant impact. This was made possible by the extraordinary artistic work of Franz Mayer of Munich. Beginning with the interpretation of my design, to the shipping and eventual installation, Franz Mayer translated my designs into gorgeous mosaics. Working with them was a joy and as an artist that generally works unassisted, I greatly enjoy the collaborative nature of public art which includes working with project managers, architects, consultants, local representatives, interior designers, and contractors that together, produce a mutually beneficial and memorable experience for all.

Other Suggested Online Resources:

Family Art Guide – https://www.jocolibrary.org/sites/default/files/lx_familyartguide.pdf
Library lessons — https://kansasalumnimagazine.org/issue-5-2019/stephen-johnson-library-lessons/
Lenexa City Center Library, Lenexa, KS — https://stephentjohnson.com/#/library/

Q&A: Climbing SIG

Q1/ What do you say to help beginning climbers, like myself, get over any initial apprehensions and just start climbing?

Mark/ Just start climbing. Sign up for an intro course with one of the local gyms.

Editor’s note: You can also contact any area climbing gym and inquire about how to get started. Do you have a suggestion on how we can help you get started in climbing? If so, write to Mark Lamendola: [email protected].

Q2/ Compare gym climbing to ‘traditional’ climbing [for those of us newbies who question whether this is a real or an ‘extreme’ type of sport].

Mark/ Gym climbing is real. You will see it in the Olympics, in three forms: bouldering, lead climbing, and speed climbing. It is an extreme sport, placing extreme demands on the athlete. That is a big part of its appeal.

Editor’s note: According to Mark Lamendola in the May 2020 Mension, “Gym climbing is considered an extreme sport not because of danger but because of its extreme demands on your cognitive and physical powers. If you want a mentally challenging sport that will also help you develop lung power, core strength, flexibility, and balance then climbing would easily make your short list.” See our climbing videos: https://tinyurl.com/ClimbingSIGChannel.

Q3/ What are the out-of-pocket expenses, in terms of equipment costs and gym fees, to move potential climbers quickly and safely into wall climbing?

Mark/ Rental fees are posted on each gym’s website. Typically, it’s $17 or $18 for shoe rental and a day pass. If you buy your own shoes ($100 for beginner level shoes) and a 10-punch card, you climb for about $12 each time. There is plenty of equipment you can buy or rent, but nothing other than shoes that you must buy or rent (unless you want to do top-roping, which requires taking a class and renting or owning a harness).

Q4/ Most of us don’t want to embarrass ourselves by starting a strange, new activity. Any suggestions?

Mark/ Don’t worry about being embarrassed. Every climber fails, that’s what we do most of the time. It is a huge, huge bugaboo to criticize another climber simply because your abilities are greater than theirs. Do that, and nobody will climb with you. Climbing gyms are very social, and it’s a positive environment.

Q5/ What are your personal goals and dreams for achievement in this sport? For group participation in this special interest group (SIG)?

Mark/ I still have not sent a V7 or 5.11d. I want to keep progressing. The social aspects are the most important to me, so even if I don’t become much better as a climber, I will probably enjoy climbing for many years to come. As a SIG, I think we have maxed out with the participation. Someone else would need to start a SIG for new climbers, perhaps where all of the members sign up for a class and take it together.

Q&A with Artist Jana Duca

Q-1/ How did you get started as an artist and Mensan?

Jana/ I got started as an ‘artist’ when I was around 7. My dad would take me and my brother to the bridge club, and while he played, we would color, play games, and reproduce the newspaper comic strips we liked. Later, I started reproducing Marvel comic book characters and scenes and I tried to make my own comic books. Seeing my drawings, my parents enrolled me into a high school with a visual arts magnet program. I was a Marie Walsh Sharpe scholar when I was 16. Then, I went to Washington University and later the Kansas City Art Institute to major in painting. (I also have a master’s in accounting!)

From first grade onwards, I was in the gifted program in Broward County, Florida. That is where I first learned of Mensa. While I knew I qualified, I never applied because I couldn’t access my test scores. Then, in 2018, I decided to take the Mensa admissions test, and here I am! I joined Mensa to meet and interact with more people (though I’ve been too shy to truly do that yet), and for more self-confidence.

Q-2/ Artists tend to be unique individuals. What makes your art unique?

Jana/ My art is unique because many people who paint portraits focus on either making something photo-realistic, or focus on more precise representation of color and form. My figurative oil and acrylic paintings are more about the psychological space, and connections between people and their environments. They are about the space between words and thoughts, about feelings, about social and physical connections, and about the pieces of people that are left behind as they try to interact with the world. Many of my paintings show people dissolving into their backgrounds, or disappearing because of lost edges. Some show pieces of the figures interacting with the environment/background. Sometimes most of the figure becomes disrupted, but other times, the figure is whole, but it is the background that becomes disrupted. While I’ve been painting in this manner for close to 18 years, there is a recent book by John Seed called Disrupted Realism that describes similar work, and a new wave of artists who chose to go beyond purely representational figurative art. (It’s an interesting read. It has interviews with the artists, and it’s intriguing to see the reasons each artist has chosen to paint in this manner.)

To me, while I deeply admire and respect the more representational paintings (and their artists), I do not want to make that art myself, because if I wanted the ultimate representation of someone, I would just take a photo.

Q-3/ If you were working at an office, what would you want others to know about you?

Jana/ I do work in an office as an accountant! I normally tell people that I’m left-handed, that I’m an artist and a CPA, and I tell them about my husband, step-son, my uniquely talented 11-year-old, and my problem-solving 2-year-old. Then, I also tell them about how I was born in California, and grew up in several cities in South Florida, moving almost once a year until I went to college. Then, I came to Missouri for college and never left.

Q-4/ If you could go deeper and wrestle with one question in your soul: What work would you be able to accomplish?

Jana/ This is a tricky one. I have lots of questions and lots of things I want to accomplish. If it were something that I could attain with hard work and with all other things, including finances, being equal, I would put more art into the world and I would help others express themselves with art. Art is a way you can say things that you can’t find the words to say. It can help with stress relief and self-expression, and it can be its own form of therapy. I feel like I should want to be doing something more grand than this, but unless I win the lottery, I will do what I can with what resources I have.

I guess my other answer is that I would want to work more with my autistic son, to help him understand and navigate the world better, so that he has more options when he’s 18. And, I am trying to help him grow his extraordinary talents and interests in music (he has synesthesia and perfect pitch and has begun to compose his own songs on a DAW), art (2-D and 3-D), and engineering so that he can work in what he loves when he grows up.

Q-5/ What is your mission toward other human beings and career goals?

Jana/ My mission towards other human beings – I guess that is to treat everyone as I would like to be treated, and to help people where I can, whether it be helping someone with a task, buying a needy family presents for the holidays, or just letting someone know that they matter, and that they can talk with me if they are feeling down or lonely.

My career goals are two-fold. On my accounting/CPA side, I would like to grow my career in corporate finance/accounting, and make my way to manager or maybe even director someday. However, I want to do this responsibly, and in a way that means I still can have dinner with my family every night. I’ve worked in public accounting, and I know there are roles that do not allow you time to fully participate in family life. I do not want a role like that – my family comes first. (I would also like a job that allows me time to still paint at night or on the weekends.)

In art, I would like to start showing in more galleries in Kansas City, and work my way to other major cities. Eventually, it would be amazing to have regular gallery representation, and to be able to show in galleries worldwide too. Since I have a day job, I don’t necessarily have to worry about how much money I am making on my art. I can make what I want and pursue the subject matters that interest me.

Editor’s note: If you are interested in learning more about Jana Duca’s artwork, visit her fine art website at: janaduca.com.