Friday, May 29, 2009

Q&A with Sami Laskos

On April 22, there was a special surprise waiting in the LBCC Commons for students. Sami Laskos, a Culinary student at LBCC had made a cake depicting zombie's eating Chef Scott Anselm's head. I had the chance to see the cake with my own eyes, and speak with Sami in an email interview for a short Q&A.

Laskos, a second year culinary student, had made the cake because she had signed up for a bakery display rotation.

Culinary student James Scales has had plenty of experience working with Sami and really enjoyed her creative cake, "The best part about working with Sami is she has the ability to get the work done. No matter what it is, she can motivate a group, organize people, or getting through any of the work that needs to be done, and she'll do it in a way that's fair to everyone involved."

Sami Laskos proudly looking over her completed cake.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me the other day about your cake. Why did you make this cake?

The cake was a project for my Bakery Display rotation. As a second year
culinary student, there are 6 mandatory rotations and 7 "elective"
rotations; each rotation is 8 or 9 school days. Bakery Display is an
elective rotation with a pretty simple goal: create something that
demonstrates at least 3 bakery skills. It's incredibly open ended. There
have been sugar sculptures, chocolate sculptures, even a Rice Krispie
castle... But I think cakes are the most popular because the basics are
familiar, but a cake can transform into almost anything.

At the end of your rotation you display your project in the scramble area.

What was your inspiration?

As a first year culinary student I said I'd never do a Bakery Display
project... I'm not good in the Bakery. Cooking and Baking lay at opposite
ends of the culinary spectrum. Cooking is pretty "free-form" and there
aren't a lot of rules: some of this, some of that... Baking is more
scientific and exact, and I think it requires more patience.

Over the summer I watched an episode of "Ace of Cakes" that lit the fire. A
woman wanted a cake for her husband with zombies sucking his brains. Simply,
I liked the idea of a zombie cake much better than I liked the idea of a
traditional wedding cake. School started a few weeks later and I signed up
for the rotation. The decision didn't really catch up to me until 6 months
later when the rotation came up and I went "Oh shit... I guess now I have to
do it."

How long did the cake take to make?

Not including the hours I spent hammering out the idea and mapping out a
game plan... I'd say somewhere around 30 hours in the kitchen. At one point
I fell behind (the zombies were trickier that I'd imagined) and I was coming
in before school and staying after to get it done...

What was your favorite part about making the cake?

Truely, I didn't know what I was doing. I just kinda went for it... and I
suprised myself.

Little things like lips and eyes took forever. Where things like carving
facial features out of cake seemed to almost happen on their own. Each small
accomplishment boosted me for the next challenge.

It's a great feeling to work really hard on something and then have it turn
out better than you'd imagined (the silly thing actually looked like chef
scott!). The cake is actually still sitting the classroom because I just
can't bear to get rid of it yet : )

What did the other students think?

I tried to keep the identity of the head a secret until the last minute- but
Chef Scott knows everything that happens in that kitchen and I'm sure he
knew before I did. Chef took it in good humor, though he says he'll get me
back : ). As for students, there was a lot of "you're doing what?!" and
"they're letting you do that?" I'm still in shock that I got away with it.
throughout the whole project I was kind of waiting for someone to put a stop
to it. But they didn't, and I just kept pushing. The blood was the "frosting
on the cake" if you will... the head looked much more innocent before the
blood. It even dried like real blood! Overall, the kitchen got a kick out of

Chef Scott Anselm, noted that "Sami's cake was very creative and incorporated many sound culinary techniques. Sami is skilled and has a good sense of humor. I think she and the other students enjoyed poking fun at me. We all have a good tome together in the kitchen."

Monday, May 25, 2009

All hail to you, Linn-Benton.

In the green Willamette Valley

Under skies of grey and blue

Is a school that welcomes ev'ryone,

Where dreams can always come true.

All hail to you, Linn-Benton!

Where learning changes lives,

Where caring teachers show the way,

And ev'ry student strives.

To achieve their own potential,

To aspire and succeed;

Linn-Benton's opportunities

Are ev'rything we need.

As spring term winds down, Linn-Benton Community College’s Concert Choir is gearing up for a special last show. James Reddan, conducting the final performance in June, has the honor of premiering LBCC’s first Alma Mater “All Hail to You, Linn-Benton”.

The debut will take place June 4, 7:30 p.m. at the First Assembly of God Church in Albany.

LBCC was established in 1966 as a two-year public college, and has never had an Alma Mater. Reddan decided to take the task on as a personal project because he felt the school needed one.

When I asked Reddan about the importance of an Alma Mater he said, “A school song (Alma Mater) is a way of showing pride in where you go to school, what you have learned, and celebrating the knowledge you take out into the world.”

The Alma Mater for LBCC was created by Eugene local, Rebecca Oswald, a composer. Her history with Reddan extends prior to 2001, where they both attended University of Oregon School of Music and Dance for their master’s programs.

According to Oswald, Reddan proposed the idea of the Alma Mater to her last fall, and she began researching the school’s history, and said, “Words of praise, reverence, and loyalty are essential” in the lyrics.

Oswald was inspired by students admiration of faculty and staff on campus, as well as the remarked beauty and location of LBCC. After much research, which included a survey filled out by students, faculty and staff, and visits to the campus . Oswald was able to complete the Alma Mater in late March and was told by Reddan that the dean and president “heartily” approved of the lyrics.

For tickets to the June 4 concert visit the Russell Tripp Preformance Center Box Office or call 541-917-4531.

All Hail to You, Linn-Benton

Music by Rebecca Oswald

Dedicated to the LBCC Choirs, James Reddan, Conductor in memory of John Reddan

In the green Willamette Valley

Under skies of grey and blue

Is a school that welcomes ev'ryone,

Where dreams can always come true.

All hail to you, Linn-Benton!

Where learning changes lives,

Where caring teachers show the way,

And ev'ry student strives.

To achieve their own potential,

To aspire and succeed;

Linn-Benton's opportunities

Are ev'rything we need.

As we step into the future

With a vision bold and bright,

We'll remember our beloved school,

This shining beacon of light.

All hail to you, Linn-Benton!

With gratitude sincere;

Our hopes and dreams become more real

With ev'ry passing year.

As eager, life-long learners

In this new millennium,

Linn-Benton, you have taughts us

That the best is yet to come!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer lovin' will have us a blast . . .

Summer is knock, knock, knocking on our doors, and many of us are starting to concoct ideas, trips, and shenanigans.

Unfortunately for us, we still live in Oregon. It will rain. It is inevitable according to the Country Studies Web site, and Albany can expect anywhere from .5-7.7 inches of rainfall each month.

When it does rain, we should be prepared. Like a philosophical man once said, turn on, tune in and drop out. Oh wait, I'm talking about surfing the Web. Put on your fingerless gloves kids, it's time to have some fun with my favorite time-killing sites!

If you'd like to do some shopping, go to MySimon, where you can shop for prices 'till your cows come home.

Looking for a present for that special someone that likes quirky shirts? Or perhaps you're in the office on a rainy day and feel the sudden urge to shoot someone with a marshmellow? Head to ThinkGeek for your shenanigans.

But what if that special someone is being a Debbie-Downer and you need a laugh? Well, odd news stories always cheer me up and I know just where to look. If you go to Drew Curtis' Fark you will not be disappointed as they update several times a day with genres like sad, strange or scary stories. You will find the best stories originate in Germany or Florida.

Next, head over to PopCap to numb your brain a little longer with a riveting game of Zuma or my nephew's new favorite, Mummy Maze.

Know someone getting married? The Knot has all the tools you need to transform into bride-zilla.

Feel like flexing your brain muscles? Check out this day in history over at the History Channel Web site, then skip over to Hulu for your favorite summer flicks like "Southland" or "So You Think You Can Dance."

So, before you know it, the day has gone, the rain has slowed down to a drips pace, go to the Weather Channel Web site to find the rest of your weeks forecast.

Happy surfing folks!

_Becca Martino
Fingerless gloves photo by voteprime/ surfing photo by chrisjohnbeckett's (Flickr).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Celebrate diversity: 55 years since Brown vs Board

58 years ago, in Topeka, Kansas, a lawsuit was brought against the Board of Education by 13 parents on behalf of 20 children according to

On May 17, 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents, granting African American students the right to attend any public school.

The case originates in Topeka, when a young African American girl named Linda Brown, was told she could not attend a public school close to her home. Instead, she was sent to an "All blacks" school nearly an hour away.

Chief Justice Earl Warren stated that the "separate but equal" doctrine was in clear violation of the 14th amendment "which guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws."

The parents involved in the Brown v. Board of Education case weren't the only to petition the government regarding segregation.

In the late 1800s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that having segregated railroad cars conformed to the 14th amendment in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson. This ruling was impacting to the state of Kansas because it declared that all public locations were justifiably segregated.

Five different cases originating from five different states (Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC) with 200 plus plaintiffs were combined under the Brown v. Board case, which created a domino-effect across the nation which begged for social change.
Women protesting Brown v. Board: "We like you, but we don't want you in our school". Flickr photo by Techne.

According to the History Channel Web site, the U.S. Supreme Court required public schools to "integrate with all deliberate speed."

Today, residents in Topeka, Kansas, celebrated the courts ruling. Linda Brown just happened to be one of those attending.

"How much it's meant to so many people all over the United States, not only all over the United States but the entire world," Linda Brown said.

Without the Brown v. Board act, we would not be able to appreciate the great diversity our world has to offer. Open minds would be fewer,hatred would perhaps run rampant and we wouldn't be celebrating our first black president.

Fortunately, US history has proven that people will always stand up for the greater good, and our constitution will be there to back them up.

Map provided by Google.

To view a short clip of "This day in History" click here. Provided by

Kilt wearer or cross-dresser: you decide.

Most of us have experienced a time in middle or high school where school officials have decided a certain type of clothing inappropriate. For me, popular, inexpensive shoes (the ones with blinky lights in the heel), BK's were forbidden because they were potentially "gang" related.

Even Halloween costumes were monitered closely for offensiveness.

Utah however, has decided that a student wearing a kilt could be misconstrued as a cross-dresser.

In an article posted today on reports that student Gavin McFarland, of Scottish heritage, was told to change from his kilt after many complaints by students and teachers. The principle Craig Jessop said that wearing the kilt could be misconstrued as cross-dressing.

District spokesman Nate Taggart disagreed "We certainly do not consider wearing a kilt, especially for a school project, as cross-dressing."

A public apology will be issued to McFarland and hopefully the state can take this as an educational directive.

McFarland's mother said it best in the article,
"A kilt is a distinctive garment. Nobody mistakes it for a skirt."

The description provided by Wikipedia: the kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century

These are my thoughts exactly. Hopefully the school will take it upon themselves to educate one another about different cultural backgrounds.

Principals should be trained on when its right to make comments, because its these statements that could land the school in the middle of a lawsuit.


Weekly there is a gentleman at LBCC who wears a pink plaid mini skirt with stockings, and you can definitely tell that it is no kilt.

At first, I was quite surprised, and now it is just one of those things that makes LBCC unique. I feel fortunate we live in a pretty diverse state, and I hope that my future children will grow up with respect and knowledge of cultural diversity.

Commenters came across very passionately on the site:

Ryan wrote:

...and on the other hand, it's sad to see a school administrator, who was just trying to do his best, trashed so publicly in this manner. I'm sure Gavin's parents did a fine job yelling at Mr. Jessop, teaching him a lesson before this article was published. Thank you for humiliating and bullying our underpaid educators who occasionally make a mistake.

Kevin wrote:

I just found this article in the Seattle PI. All I have to say is the principal's ignorance regarding Gavin's kilt is symptomatic of the false multiculturalism that has pervaded modern education. By that, I mean we have lost practically ALL knowledge of eastern and western European customs and their influence in America. Pretty stupid that a school principal, who likely has a Masters' Degree or higher, would make an assertion as dumb as that. Then again, graduating from college does not guarantee smarts.

Flickr photo by alan(ator).

Celebrate Christmas the Floridian way

Christmas in Florida comes early this year, when a report was filed Monday May 6, 2009 by an anonymous caller to the Fort Pierce police department that two palm trees lining the 800 block of South Indian River Drive, had been uniquely decorated.

Decayed fish, toys, and seagulls with ropes around their necks had been strewn about the trees.

Animal control cleaned up the scene and put ropes/toys into evidence.

Commenters on the TCPalm website had some interesting thoughts about this.

namvet67 wrote:

I am sure its just a "religous" practice, someone
is trying to summon their "god or gods". Happens
in Miami/Dade all the time!!!! As far a serial
killers are concerned, most do have some animal
mutalation in their backgrounds.It is a harbinger
of things to come in a lot of cases, as is the
guy who tried to abduct that young lady in Vero
last week, he is someone who should be sent away
for a long,long time.This guy attempted to spirit
away this lady in a van and we all know what he
had in mind. Wonder what his attorneys will come
up with in his defense??Insanity perhaps?

BORF was more sing-songy:

It's beginning to look a lot like christmas ....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Guards in Florida prisons shock kids

April 24, 2009 was "Take your daughter/son to workday", across the nation.

Ten Florida prison employees have been suspended and one fired, while investigations of guards using stun guns on as little as six children who were visiting, continue.

A news article from the St. Petersburg Times reported early Wednesday May 6, that up to six children are victims of a real life "show and tell" game. Three separate prisons have revealed that guards zapped the victims, ages ranging between 8 and 14, with "electronic immobilization devices," a.k.a the stun gun, which produces a 50,000 volt shock.

When George Sapp, deputy secretary of institutions for the Department of Correction, heard rumors that the Franklin Correctional Institution in the Panhandle ordeal was not an isolated one, he began calling wardens and discovered that Indian River Correctional Institution in Vero Beach and Martin Correctional Institution in Indiantown had similar events take place.

However, Gretl Plessinger, a corrections spokeswoman, said that the three situations were "separate and unrelated," suggesting that no coordination or planning was to have taken place.

Matthew Foster, attorney for one victim said that his client "sustained abrasions and trauma when the powerful jolt knocked her to the ground, requiring a doctor's treatment."

The Department of Corrections is leading the investigation with House Council on Criminal and Civil Justice Policy keeping a watchful eye.

"If we think the department is not thorough and is taking care of its own, we'll step in," said State Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, chairman of the House Council.

The ten suspended employees are currently on administrative leave with pay, and will be notified by mail if and when they can return to work.

Since high school I have been an avid listener of the radio show Loveline featuring Dr. Drew and various hosts (including Adam Corrolla and Striker). To liven up the show, they played a game called "Germany or Florida" in which you had to guess where a crazy story originated.

Florida seems to be taking the cake in the news this week, producing one horrific story after another.

Personally, I am not surprised that this situation happened, and really that it was only a matter of time. I would not be surprised to find that more prisons around the country have experienced situations like this many times.

What I would like to know is how the situation came about? Did one or two kids mention it, and sweet talked the officers into a live demonstration? Was it an idea floated between the officers?

Next, I would like to know how the story leaked? It makes you wonder if the children were bragging to their friends, and a teacher found out; or if a prison employee reported it to their superior; or if the child told the opposite parent who responded accordingly.

Then I would like to discuss the fact that tazing children unnecessarily should involve a punishment much more harsh than losing a job or suspension with pay.

Personally, I feel like this falls under the category of "cruel and unusual" or even torture, no matter the context of how the situation came about.

This just proves, that not every fertile person should be reproducing.

photo credits: photo of Drew Pinsky provided by shell belle (Flickr); photo of stun gun provided by yoheiyamashita

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Holocaust survivor speaks at LBCC

Alter Wiener, Holocaust survivor and author of “From a Name to a Number” spoke at LBCC Tuesday, April 28, from 3 to 5 p.m. to an audience of 300. His speech was about his experience of the Holocaust, learning from history’s mistakes, celebrating life, and was followed by a question-and-answer session.

Wiener began his speech by telling us he was not here to entertain, but to tell us his story.

It began when Wiener was 13, after Germany invaded Poland and people were fleeing for their lives. Separated from their father, Wiener’s family tried to leave the country unsuccessfully. They learned three months later that, along with 37 others, Wiener’s father had been shot and left for dead in a ditch on the outskirts of Poland.

Not long after, the Gestapo came for Wiener’s oldest brother and, when Wiener turned 15, he too was sent to a labor camp. That camp was called Blechhammer. Soon after arriving, he discovered his brother had been there for a year.

He described the car that transported him and many others to Blechhammer as hellish.

“People died standing up because there was no room to lay down and die,” Weiner said.

Conditions at Blechhammer weren’t any better. Wiener shared an 8 by 10 foot room with 24 other people. There were no mattresses, pillows, or blankets – only bed frames that were already inhabited by roaches and mice. For breakfast, they were given stale, moldy bread and for dinner a watery soup. One might be considered lucky if their bowl contained a floating potato or onion.

Four months after arriving at Blechhammer, Wiener was transferred to his second labor camp and later transferred to his third, fourth and fifth camp.

He learned that Jews weren’t the only ones being persecuted. It came as a surprise when he saw groups marching into camps wearing different badges and soon learned that 30-40 different groups of people were persecuted, including Soviets, homosexuals, and gypsies.

Wiener described several unfathomable events that took place during the three years he was living in camps. He told of one particular event where a commander entertained himself by having everyone in Wiener’s barracks stand under the cold showers for an entire night. When the sun came up, he sent them to work.

Many actions were criminalized in these camps, including talking to each other while working and bartering for food, as Wiener learned after trying to trade his watch for some bread which he never received. When the commanders learned of the trade, they whipped Wiener 15 times.

Finally, on May 9, 1945 the Russians liberated his camp and Wiener was set free, weighing only 80 pounds. With only four surviving family members left out of 123, Wiener felt his time in Poland had come to an end and decided to move to the United States.

Now Wiener lives in Hillsboro, and speaks regularly at schools, churches and prisons about his experience. Instead of dwelling on atrocities committed against him, Wiener wanted people to learn that he believes that “we should be judged on an individual basis”

Wiener concluded many points in his speech by reiterating his belief that Hitler was a man without a heart, and someone needed to teach him to love.

Wiener was also very quick to point out the ignorance of Holocaust deniers, like the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“How dare he say so,” said Wiener, “there are photographs, and buildings, and graves, and I’m still here carrying my physical and mental scars. If you are tortured once, you are tortured every day.”

Audience members were moved to tears and gave Wiener a standing ovation before the speech was opened up to a question and answer session.

Alter speaking to students individually after the speech.

When I interviewed audience members, most left with mixed feelings of hope, sympathy and curiosity. Bob McCormick, a retired vet and education major at L.B.C.C. said, "my heart is opened more, there is great importance in passing this lesson on to our children."

Another audience member, Zachary Dietrich thought that the story about the watch was most shocking, "how anyone could be punished for trying to eat isn't fathomable."

photos by Becca Martino.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Thank you mass media.

Ah mass media hype [aka mass hysteria]- how I loathe thee, you embarrass an aspiring journalist like myself.

When I originally discovered and reported about the swine flu last, I was very concerned. After all, a huge number of people seemed to be immediately sick. Link
It's been exactly a week since I first read about it, and even while the number of sick has increased in Mexico city, and there are cases all over the U.S. those numbers are still very minor and insignificant to the number of people who die every year from the flu.

Right now, numbers reported by AP suggest that 140 are sick in the United States. 140 Out of 300 million people living in the United States? Tell me HOW THAT DESERVES 24 news coverage?

That is why I REFUSE to watch, listen or pay attention to any of the news during times like this, or during election season, and I think you should refuse as well.

Lack of creativity has brought our beloved mass media providers to report on one topic 24 hours a day. Even during the same news reports like AP or T.V. segments and companies like Fox or KGW repeat the same thing over and over again.

How many different ways you can say 1,000 people in Mexico are sick, you might get sick too, wash your hands because there is no cure? ONE YOU IDIOTS. Please explain why one needs to devote a whole hour news program unless you're going to bring me original coverage.

Does Obama not have enough to do without the media blowing topics way out of proportion?

There are two logical explanations for everything.

1: Residents in Mexico City live in a more polluted, crowded environment than most in the U.S., with little options for quality health care.

2: Numbers are rising in the U.S., because those experiencing regular flu symptoms decide to get screened. Normally, we would stay home and wait it out.

Here in Oregon, WOU has decided to close campus classes and events through Monday because there may be a potential case.

Shutting down a college campus is not going to stop the spread of the flu, it's going to accelerate it because kids wont have homework and they're going to go party, or have fun in the sun.

According to the NYTimes, Cairo, Egypt, is experiencing a more serious problem, all because of mass hysteria created by the news. They are forcibly slaughtering all the pigs in the country as a precaution.

So friends and family, when you hear the news, check your sources and take a step back so you can logically analyze the situation, and put a blanket on the fire that is mass hysteria.
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