Tag Archives: Eugene

Grinding the Gears: Inside and Outside of Robotics

Students line up around the stacks of wood. “Let’s get going guys,” the team co-captain says.

Each person picks up a different tool and begins assembling an exact replication of the blueprints the students created before the six-week building period. Quickly, the robotics arm is nestled into position.

SERT is the robotics team at South Eugene High School and is compromised of approximately 20 students with just as many different personalities. Each student contributes skills in distinct backgrounds to attribute to the success of the program.

“Outside of robotics, I enjoy reading, writing poetry, and riding horses,” says Perrin Dunn, 16. “It’s a really good experience because I’ve never been in any clubs before.”

"Having students interested in different things works out well for us," Kelly says. Each student brings a different background and contributes a diverse skill set to the team. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

“Having students interested in different things works out well for us,” Kelly says. Each student brings a different background and contributes a diverse skill set to the team. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

By delving into the meticulous realm of circuitry, SERT provides its students a way to get hands-on experience with teamwork, mathematics, and engineering in an academic setting before entering the real world.

Marcus Hall, the Head Programmer for SERT, uses the education he received through SERT to venture outside the realm of academia and share his passion for science and electrical work to elementary students at the Science Factory, a local children’s museum and planetarium in Eugene, Oregon.

Marcus Hall, SERT captain and head programmer, measures a piece of wood that that will eventually become a target for their demonstrations. Outside of SERT, Hall teaches robotics to elementary and middle school students in the Eugene area. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Marcus Hall, SERT captain and head programmer, measures a piece of wood that that will eventually become a target for their demonstrations. Outside of SERT, Hall teaches robotics to elementary and middle school students in the Eugene area. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

In addition to teaching at the Science Factory, Hall teaches robotics to elementary school students at the Science Factory as well as with the Talented and Gifted program at the University of Oregon, a community outreach program dedicated to advanced education among K-12 students through U of O’s College of Education.

Through his work at the Science Factory, Hall is gaining invaluable leadership and teaching experience that he can incorporate into his team captain position with the SERT team.

Head coach and mentor Brian Kelly believes that having a strong and organized leader is quintessential to the six-week building season. It helps strengthen the team both from leadership and teaching standpoints.

During the non-building season, students take their skills to other areas of the school and invest them into classes and programs such as the Stagecraft class in which they construct the stages and sets for each play. This helps maintain their building dexterity during the off-season, as well as keeps the students in a team setting.

Sandra Lui uses a different take to practice her skills by leading the SERT public relations team. Outside of the building season, Lui travels with Hall to lobby the state legislature for more funding for FIRST Robotics. She feels that having a team dedicated to seeking funding for the program is an essential part of a successful robotics program now and in the future.

Even though the students excel far beyond the minimum requirements to preserve their team, for the future of SERT to travel down the path of least resistance, the team must over come a large hurdle recently set forth by the City of Eugene.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the City of Eugene has proposed a bond measure that could potentially harm the SERT program. Measure 20-201, a $170 million bond measure that would replace four aging school buildings, would eliminate Roosevelt Middle School, the current workspace for SERT.

“I don’t know what will happen,” Kelly says about the future of the program. Roosevelt Middle School is the only school is the area with enough space, storage and equipment for the SERT team to successfully construct a robot.

“There are no other workspaces around that we could use,” says Kelly.

In a time of economic instability, job security has never been at a more pivotal point, and any experience that students can obtain during high school will benefit their chances of pursuing a professional career in a technical field.

Having fundamental, hands-on skills is crucial to obtaining a job in the technical field. If the SERT program is lost, students will have to look for alternative methods to enhance their skills. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Having fundamental, hands-on skills is crucial to obtaining a job in the technical field. If the SERT program is lost, students will have to look for alternative methods to enhance their skills. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

“It’s [robotics is] going to be helpful someday,” Lui says. “I’ve always wanted to help people.” The students feel that robotics has strengthened their ability to assist others and recognize the advantages team collaboration will have on their future endeavors.

If lost, SERT members will have no other outlets within this discipline because FIRST Robotics is the only hands-on program left at South Eugene High School. Churchill High School is the only Eugene school outside South that has an active robotics team.

“This is their one big outlet and I think that’s actually a failing of the schools today, that kids don’t get any practical experience,” Kelly says.

As it stands, SERT relies heavily on funding from outside donors, and this can prove to be a challenge in a city where the largest businesses are also non-profit organizations. To raise more funds, the team participates in outside fundraising events each year to pay for the $5,000 entrance fee required before the competitive season starts.

SERT team members gather around the main controller as they prepare to give a demonstration in an effort to attract more students to their program. Recruitment is essential to the success of their program. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

SERT team members gather around the main controller as they prepare to give a demonstration in an effort to attract more students to their program. Recruitment is essential to the success of their program. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

The students also show off their hard work in “performances” at both Roosevelt and Spencer Butte Middle Schools to recruit eight graders into their program for the following year. Demonstrating what they’ve been intensively working on for the last six weeks helps attract a wide range of candidates as additions to the SERT team.

“I like robotics because it’s a bunch of helping, and electronics, and it’s a team,” Yakov Berenshtein says.

Relentless Forward Motion

The second her feet hit the track, she felt like a movie star. She became conscious of human noises –cheering, clapping, other feet falling into step beside her. After thirty-six hours, she had done it: Carolyn Hennessey had completed her first one-hundred-mile Western States Ultramarathon run.

She had spent half the night in the dark woods, the only sounds the owls, her footsteps, and her steady breath. She stopped occasionally to vomit–her body’s reaction to her attempts to consume food along the trail. The time pacers faded in and out, providing her with enough strength and encouragement to continue on. Relentless forward motion, she reminded herself.

The competition was solely internal: a personal commitment to accomplishment. However for Hennessey, finishing also meant overcoming mental and physical obstacles and fighting to keep control of her body while pushing it to the extreme. Despite the pain, discovering and defining her personal limits thrills her.

“I’m always curious about how far I can go and how long,” she says.

Meet the Runners

The category of ultrarunning encompasses a variety of races of different terrains and lengths. Technically, the distance is “anything over a marathon, which is 26.2 miles” according to Hennessey. Typically races range between fifty kilometers and fifty-miles races to one hundred kilometers and one-hundred-mile races. However, the longest ultrarun in the world is the 3,100-mile Self-Transcendence race in Queens, New York. Runners make 5,649 laps around the same city block, taking about a month to complete the race.

Although the concept of running for hours on end does not at first seem like a form of relaxation, individual runners learn to love logging these continuous miles. Hennessey started this practice young, beginning to add mileage to her high school softball team’s required two-mile warm-up before practice.

“I think I just liked that running made me feel free and got my heart beating,” she explains.

Growing up in the Mojave Desert, Hennessey appreciated the sagebrush and other parts of the breathtaking landscape she could see while on long runs. Running became an addictive form of self-competition, and she continued to add more miles to test her endurance.

“You find something in yourself that makes you keep going,” she says.

Carolyn Hennessey runs with her dogs for companionship and safety.

Carolyn Hennessey runs with her dogs for companionship and safety.

Hennessey ran her first hundred-mile ultramarathon in 2010, but it didn’t go exactly as planned when she began experiencing stomach issues at mile thirty-seven, vomiting for the next forty miles.

“I was so determined to finish the hundred-miler that it never crossed my mind that I would stop,” she says.

Although racing is often a personal journey, Hennessey values the time she trains with others. She and Kristin Zosel, whom she describes as a “kindred spirit,” met haphazardly on a trail when Zosel mistook Hennessey for someone else. The connection was instantaneous and they began running together.

This type of friendship is common in the ultrarunning community, According to Zosel. The sport brings together people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, ages and experiences that build unique friendships.

“You go through a lot of different emotions on the trail, you see each other when you are having some tantrums . . . maybe you’re working through some things in life with that run,” she explains. “And it seems like the bond that you form with those people is just stronger.”

Much like Hennessey, Zosel explains her relationship with running as a “slow love affair” that developed after playing sports all her life. Zosel never thought about running until she was in college and, looking for a way to stay in shape, she realized that running might be the best match for her.

“I did the Stairmaster every day and after a year of that I decided I was not going to be sticking with that for a lifetime.”

Running, on the other hand, she could.

Small laps on the road turned into large loops on mountain trails. “There was more a moment with trails where I discovered that, oh my gosh, why would I ever run on roads when I can run on trails?”

Zosel ran her first ultramarathon in Alaska–a fifty-mile long trek with no road access for miles. “That was the race where I discovered just how badly you could hurt but how incredibly euphoric you can be at the same time.”

She parked her car at the start, committing herself to a run of at least thirty-eight miles to the nearest road. Since then, Zosel has run a total of thirty ultramarathons, having most success with hilly fifty-kilometer and fifty-mile distances.

A Note to the Avid Runner

While Zosel and Hennessey continually run fifty-plus-mile distances, the journey they experience along the trail is not for the feint of heart. Longer races can take over a day to complete, and runners tend to encounter an unavoidable point of misery somewhere in what Zosel refers to as the “middle miles.” According to Hennessey, to achieve that coveted runner’s high, you have to first hit a “runner’s low.”

Zosel and Hennessey run hill repeats at 5am on the trails around Mt. Pisgah. Running early in the morning allows them time for family and work later in the day.

Zosel and Hennessey run hill repeats at 5am on the trails around Mt. Pisgah. Running early in the morning allows them time for family and work later in the day.

“You really have to test your limits,” she says.

On the trail, runners remember three common phrases to help them through the roughest miles:

One: Beware the chair. As runners approach aid stations along the trail, their mind welcomes the food, warmth, and people as a sort of salvation. But this can also be dangerous. Runners must not give in to the welcoming comfort of taking a seat because it can cost them valuable race time.

“The chair becomes this all-encompassing thing that’s pulling you in and you don’t want to leave,” Zosel describes.

Two: It never always gets worse. As the night drags on, fatigue–both mental and physical–sets in. One way to combat this is with the phrase “it never always gets worse.” In this way, runners find motivation knowing that the pain will not last forever, but for Zosel, it is also important to remember that the good feelings will not last, either.

“If you’re feeling terrible, you usually drink a little bit, take in a few calories, adjust your electrolyte intake, and within fifteen minutes, you’re back on top of the world,” she says, noting that it’s all about taking care of your body to maintain the runner’s high of feeling “on top of the world.”

Three: Relentless forward motion. The pit of despair, the deepest, darkest part of the journey where Zosel says she feels like giving up and stopping the race. At this moment, she says it is best to remember the phrase “Put your head down and go.”

“It may not be glamorous, it may not be fast, but as long as you’re taking steps forward you’re getting closer to the finish line,” she adds.

Zosel sees a strong metaphor between her everyday life and this fundamental aspect of racing. If life is moving forward, it is going somewhere progressive. The middle miles, or the part of the race where adrenaline has worn off and the runner begins to realize just how far he or she has to run, are the toughest to work through. The struggle becomes more mental, and the motivation to push oneself decreases.

Not Only a Runner

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. In running, Zosel and Hennessey embrace the trail one mile at a time. “I never think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to run fifty miles today.’ It’s always, ‘Okay, the first-aid station is in six miles so I’m going to run six miles.” In their own lives, the same concept applies.

Zosel works as a physical therapist, in addition to raising a 4-year-old son. The answer? Get up early. “Sometimes the alarm clock has a four on the front, sometimes it has a five on the front, but that way I get my time in,” Zosel says.

At first, Zosel worried about how becoming a mother may affect her running. “From the time you become pregnant, you start worrying about whether you’re running too much or if you’re not running enough . . . or if it’s safe or if it’s not safe.”

Sensitive to her body’s needs, she continued to maintain her fitness during her pregnancy. “There’s no manual anyone can give you about how to treat your body,” she realizes. She enjoys time with her son, Jacob, who likes to bike with her and chase geese in the park.

In addition to running, Kristin Zosel values spending time with her son, Jacob, and encouraging him to pursue his passions.

In addition to running, Kristin Zosel values spending time with her son, Jacob, and encouraging him to pursue his passions.

Hennessey, a stepmother of three children, manages to incorporate family time into her work and running schedules. The time she spends on the trail running gives her time for personal reflection and balances her time with family.

“Running is a way–on a daily basis–just to clear my mind and process things. It’s a way to get closer to myself,” she explains.

While running may seem extremely separate to this part of her life, the individual benefits actually help connect her to the people around her. Her family members function as her pit crew for races, pacing her and providing encouragement along the trail.

Working in human resources and licensed as a family and marriage therapist, she makes time to travel with her husband and stepchildren in their Volkswagen Eurovan. On weekends, she sometimes rises early to fit in a run, then returns around 10 a.m. to join her family for brunch.

“The things that happen when you’re a runner only make you a better mom, I believe.”

The Best Fit


As background conversation and karaoke music fill the packed room swarming with students, red plastic cups are scattered across a beer-flooded wooden table. Everyone is having a great time, until Jack Freeman notices the view of Etienne Bean’s fading smile. Freeman sets down his drink and decides it’s time to part ways with their friends, acknowledging that his partner’s well being is more important than a typical night out.


Etienne Bean and Jack Freeman enjoy spending time together by riding bicycles. They own a custom pair of singled seat bikes that they ride around Eugene. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Etienne Bean and Jack Freeman enjoy spending time together by riding bicycles. They own a custom pair of singled seat bikes that they ride around Eugene. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Once Jack and Etienne met in Portland, they moved in together in Eugene for school after committing to a 4-year relationship. Shortly thereafter, they realized that their relationship helps balance the burden of everyday life.

“It’s convenient when it comes to chores, it’s convenient when it comes to financial responsibilities and sharing those,” Etienne says. “It’s nice generally just having somebody to talk to at all times when I’m having a bad class or a bad day.”

Other couples in the vicinity recognize the convenience a relationship can offer with respect to their daily lives.

Paul and Noelle live on the second floor of a house in the business district of Eugene. They enjoy staying at home and spending time with each other instead of going out. (Photo by Julia Reihs)

Paul and Noelle live on the second floor of a house in the business district of Eugene. They enjoy staying at home and spending time with each other instead of going out. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Just a few blocks down the road from Jack and Etienne, Noelle Petrowski and Paul Metzler have constructed a lifestyle that redefines traditional notions of the college experience.

Each day, Paul returns home to Noelle, his best friend and high school sweetheart. They talk and laugh, while cutting vegetables on a cutting board Paul made with Noelle’s name embedded in it.  At night, they retire to their room, decorated with a record collection and artwork including mod podge shadow boxes commemorating the first two months of their relationship. To this date, they say their relationship is as strong as it was from the beginning.

“Yeah, I’m still not sick of him,” Noelle says. She never regrets their decision to leave the dorms and move into their upstairs apartment in Eugene’s business district.

“It was a better fit for everything,” Noelle says.

In his free time as a university student, Paul goes to the craft center, where he makes timeless items for Noelle. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

In his free time as a university student, Paul goes to the craft center, where he makes timeless items for Noelle. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Missing out?

For Paul and Noelle, other than some slight criticism from close friends, they both agree that there’s been no difference in their social life.

“I think that the college experience is more relevant to people who are trying to find another person and I already have one,” Paul says.

Since they’ve already found their special someone, the couple doesn’t feel the need to actively go out and socialize with others. Instead, they choose a stay-at-home lifestyle, which focuses their priorities on school and enjoying their time together.

For Paul and Noelle, the act of moving out of the dorms was also a way to declare their independence. As current students at the University of Oregon, they cook for themselves, do their laundry in their bathtub, and balance general life. Committing to this relationship provides a balance to their lives.

On the other side of the spectrum, some students believe living with a significant other impedes one’s college experience, and the opportunities presented in college manifest—a genuine opportunity to discover the identity of oneself.

“Everyone says that’s when you figure out who you are and I just wanted to experiment a lot, like, try drinking,” says Anna Crist, University of Oregon senior. “Just have that freedom of not being at your parents’ house and have them know where you are all the time.”

Anna lived with a boyfriend during her sophomore year at the UO, but immediately felt tied down upon signing the lease.

“It was basically signing a contract, like, I’m going to be in a relationship with you for a whole year, at least,” she said.

After digging the pen on the X line, the situation turned sour. Anna felt increasingly more detached from her friends and social scene. Towards the end of their lease, they separated and decided to pursue different paths.

Today, Anna lives with two roommates in a small house close to campus, where she enjoys going out with her sorority sisters. She finds empowerment in the ability to make independent decisions about her future.

Jack and Etienne never had to choose between cohabitating and living their typical college experience. “As much as a person individually can learn about themselves from the college experience, going out and partying and drinking and learning your limits and your abilities, we’ve been able to do that exact same thing, but together,” Jack says.

When going out, Jack and Etienne enjoy their time, but also remain conscious of each other’s feelings and limitations. If one of them is sick or tired, the other has no problem going home early instead of going out. In the end, their commitment to each other remains their most valuable attribute.

“Maybe I’m missing out on some experiences, but I don’t feel that way,” Etienne says. “He’s not a rope. He’s just – he’s very open and an easy partner to have.”

Making the Decision

Noelle enjoys decorating her house with items with anything she can find at local garages sales. (Photo by Alan Sylvestre)

Noelle enjoys decorating her house with anything she can find at local garages sales. (Photo by Julia Reihs)

Love is not the only reason students are shacking up. The rising cost of a college education also serves as a contributing factor.

“I think we’ve chosen to worry about it and try to find ways to live cheaply,” Paul says.

Other couples, such as Jenelle Barzola and Tim Andrew, recognize the ways their commitment to each other can benefit them, like when filling out their financial aid to attend the University of Oregon. Currently registered as independents, Jenelle will receive more aid after they’re married this summer.

“We both thought that it would be a lot easier to do them together because we would receive more aid,” she said. “That was the first moment I thought we should get married.”

For Etienne, Jack’s support and the willingness to share costs has helped him towards graduation from the University’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. “I will be the first in my family to finish college,” Etienne says, “It’s kind of a big deal.”

A changing experience?

As the needs of the modern-day college population change, so do the experiences. “If I did have the funds to go through it and breeze through college without fear of loans and debt, then I’m not sure if I’d appreciate it as much,” Etienne says.

Pursuing financial stability, independence, and future careers, couples in committed relationships view their decision to live together as the best way for them to manage their goals. Some choose a more stay-at-home style and others value to social sphere.

“I don’t think there is just one college experience,” Jack says.

Of Time and Toys

Produced by Ella Gummer

Music, time, taxes, and death. These are the four absolutes in life, according to J. D. Olson, and they are all represented in his mystical land of antiques. Olson founded The Creative Clock and the Conger Street Clock Museum in Eugene, OR in 1981. It is a family run clock store and repair shop that doubles as a museum; an experience that Olson says is “like walking back through time.” Home to twenty large window displays, walls blanketed in cuckoo clocks, and grandfather clocks twice the size of an average child, the museum boasts pieces that date back as far as the 16th century. Olson, famously punctual, has turned his lifelong interest in small-scale mechanics and a knack for collecting into an exploration of what he calls the “philosophy of clocks.”


As the band begins to play, a man with a red beret and a white, trimmed beard takes the stage. He grins to the audience before launching into his performance. His cigar and whiskey voice recites spoken word poetry as jazz music fills the background. He finishes his song and slides the microphone back into the stand before returning to his seat. As the next poet prepares to take the stage, friends and other audience members approach the man with smiles, compliments and handshakes.

The man is James “Izzy” Whetstine, a 75-year-old retired Railroad Yardmaster of thirty years, and he is no stranger to the performance scene in Eugene.

Archive Photo Courtesy of James Whetstine

“People have become enthusiastic about my voice… I’ve been found reciting and making a fool of myself all over town,” says Izzy.

He began doing live stage at the age of 30, by socializing and performing with a group of people at Very Little Theater known as the Uptight Players. He became well known in the theater crowd because he attended the plays that he wasn’t in. Since then, he has performed in countless shows at other theaters around town including Lord Leebrick Theater and the University of Oregon.

Beginning in the mid 1980s, Izzy was the master of ceremonies for nine years for a holiday vaudeville show that Lord Leebrick Theater put on. His job was to introduce the acts, put on his own acts, and improvise as they went through a night’s entertainment. During one show, he performed A Night Before Christmas in a tie-dyed jester outfit while moving around the stage and interacting with audience members.

He has also acted in several local movies. It began with a 1962 James Stewart Civil War film, called Shenandoah. There was a casting call for people with beards, and Izzy fit the description. In 1976, he received a call for a role in a movie called Animal House, saying they had the perfect role for him. He played the school janitor and starred in the dead horse scene that took place in the Dean’s office of Johnson Hall. Four years later, in 1980, he played a bartender in How To Beat The High Costs of Living, with Jane Curtain and Susan SaintJames.

In the early 2000s, Izzy was introduced to a man in the jazz scene named Kenny Reed, when a restaurant called Chez Ray’s began doing poetry nights stressing the beatnik theme. Since then, he has been performing with Kenny and Kenny’s jazz band, Stone Cold Jazz, at poetry events.

“I’ve generated a little bit of an audience for the sort of thing that I do, and when you’ve got a good jazz group helping you out, you can’t go wrong. They make all the difference in the world,” says Izzy.

Izzy has become comfortable with performing on stage in front of an audience and loves being the center of attention. He has a packet of material to choose from, and has no shortage of small talk. He also enjoys making links with certain members of the audience.

“It’s not the sort where you meet for coffee or have dinner together,” says Izzy. “You make eye contact with people in the audience and they feel a kinship, you feel a kinship. And, the performer knows that these people will pay attention and listen, rather than to try and talk louder than you’re talking and outperform you.”

The beatnik persona Izzy has created onstage is an extension of who he is as a person offstage. He refers to himself as a compulsive showoff, and claims to always be ready and available for viewing any time, any place.

“I try hard not to be typical in any aspect of my life. I think perhaps I am a little young for a fellow my age. I try to be as silly as possible and go out dancing and cutting up, and carrying on and behaving as if I were much younger, but it’s how I have fun,” says Izzy. “And, I learned a long time ago that seriousness is not something that I am good at.”

Hurling—Not Curling

-Casey Klekas

I play an Irish sport called hurling, which, as we hurlers like to say, is a cross between lacrosse and murder. It is not the ice sport of curling, where ex-janitors come to flex their sweeping skills. Rather, it is an ancient Gaelic game that combines every other field sport I can think of. Here’s the rundown:

Hurling is played by two teams of between nine and fifteen players, depending on how many are too hung over to make it to the field at noon (remember this is an Irish sport). The field is supposed to be over four hundred feet long, but we normally just play on a soccer or football field. Soccer goals are in place, but they have football posts attached, so it looks like an “H”. The game is played with a “sliotar,” a slightly more forgiving baseball. Each player has a wooden stick, similar to . . . well, similar to nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s called a “hurley” and its about three feet long with a flat paddle at the end. Whenever I’m on my walk home from hurling practice, hurley in hand, everyone stays out of my way. It looks like a prop from some medieval torture chamber. But during a game, the hurley is used to whack the sliotar, rather than someone’s kneecap—not intentionally, at least.

The object of the game, besides survival, is to have more points than the other team. It’s one point between the football posts and three points inside the soccer goal, which is difficult because the biggest, burliest man on the team plays goalie. The better players can score by putting the sliotar between the posts from half-field or more. I, on the other hand, have only been playing for two years and am lucky to keep the ball in bounds.

To move the ball, you normally use your hurley. You catch the sliotar with your free hand, then toss it on to your paddle. The paddle is flat, so you must balance the ball if you want to move more than the four legal steps of ball-in-hand. You are going to want to move because there is at least one sizeable Irishman on your heels. To shoot, you simply flip the ball back to your hand, then toss it to yourself like you would hit a baseball. Oh, yeah–you don’t hold the hurley like you would any other club. Your dominant hand is on bottom, so opposite a baseball bat, which makes for an initial awkward period of about a month.

You can also slap the ball with your free hand, which is good for short passes and assists, but no throwing. You can kick it and play a full game of “sliotar soccer,” as long as you don’t mind the axe chops of hurleys at your feet. The other team can eventually prevent you from kicking the ball, so you can also use your hurley to hit the ball on the ground–like a mutant form of croquet or a violent variation of field hockey.

The list of illegal moves is short: No throwing the sliotar, as I said. No picking it up from the ground with your hand–you must scoop it up with your hurley. No cross-checking with your stick. And, no… uh… that’s it.

I forgot to mention: it’s not a light contact sport. One of my first games, I nearly broke my thumb. Well, I didn’t nearly break it—some bearded ape from Corvallis did. During the first game of an all-day tournament last year, I watched a man break both his tibia and fibula like a pretzel. The next game, a boy tore a ligament in his knee. But, most days it’s just a bunch of guys outside whacking some sliotars.

After every game, the teams join together for a round of beers and burgers, followed by another round of beers. But sometimes this occurs between games.

So, if any of this playful barbarism sounds appealing to watch, or if you hate yourself enough to play, come support the Eugene Trappers. We practice every Saturday, one o’clock behind Roosevelt Middle School. We’re looking for new players so please come by ready to hurl!

This Saturday, March 9, we host a tournament played at the Eugene Irish Festival. Check us out on Facebook and YouTube. There are only a few hurling teams in the Pacific Northwest and Eugene is home to one of them. So support your local boys and help us celebrate the Irish diaspora. Go Trappers!


Photos by Ricci Candé

Damn You, STFU: An Unfair Campaign That's Working For Me

-Casey Klekas

I used to scoff at the Smoke and Tobacco Free University campaign, smartly and respectfully acronymed STFU (was “Get The F!@# Out” already taken?). I never thought a little inconvenience would get me to cut back on the smokes. The sort of public declaration of intolerance, the mob-rule attack on a minority, was a little tough to swallow. But I accepted it and took to smoking elsewhere. Now I wouldn’t dare be caught with a lit cigarette between Agate and Alder, 18th and Broadway. So, I’m like Socrates: I respect the laws, even if I disagree with them (hopefully they won’t condemn me to drink poison).

I’ve changed my route to the PLC so I can burn a quick one before class. Between classes I’ll sneak to the other side of Kincaid and hope my smoke doesn’t drift eastward. When I’m walking home, I’ll wait until I pass our smoke-free campus boundary to hang out with Mr. Stogie. And my general impression when I’m near campus is that of an exile that’s coming too close to his old town.

I’m not going to bring up a losing argument against the movement that banned smoke and tobacco from campus. I understand that it bothers people and they’d prefer not to walk through a cloud of second-hand smoke before they go into the library (now they can just settle for a line of smokers on the perimeter of campus). I realize that many smokers are not as conscious as I would say I am about the social toxicity of second-hand smoke. But I am bothered by the air of zero-tolerance that seems antithetical to what we stand for as Ducks. STFU? Has there ever been another campus campaign that could get away with condemning behavior like this, enough so that smokers are implicitly told to Shut The F!@# Up? I don’t think so.

But what bothers me more than the little inconveniences and my status as a pariah is that, in my case, the STFU campaign has actually worked. Since the new year started, I haven’t smoked a sober cigarette. Maybe this is because I feel so unwanted by my peers when I reach for my pack of stoges. It’s a bit of a drag to think that I can be so easily manipulated.

The Rise of the Coffee Community

Brooklyn Walker, left, and Holly Gibson play a game of Rummikub in the corner of Eugene Coffee Co., where they enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and intimate feel of the coffee shop. Both students at Northwest Christian University, Walker, a junior, and Gibson, a sophomore, have visited the store three to four times to play their favorite game. (Michael Arellano/Flux)

In the Northwest, coffee shops have evolved from pit stops for professionals in need of a morning caffeine jolt to central gathering spaces that welcome relaxation and community. But will these coffee communities last?

It’s eleven o’clock on a Sunday morning and the Washburne Café in Springfield, Oregon, is awake.

The bell on the front door dings as customers enter to join the handful of people already sitting at wooden tables and plush sofas, immersed in their conversations or buried in their newspapers. Parents discuss politics over their now-tepid coffees as children run around waitresses who cart plates brimming with breakfast burritos and fresh fruit. Voices blend together in an unintelligible hum that makes the clinking of silverware and sputtering of cars outside almost imperceptible.

Nestled between a hair salon and a fabric shop on Main Street, the Washburne Café is where business executives, hipsters, and grandparents meet. It’s where people escape from their homes or workplaces to relax with a cup of coffee and take a break from the outside world. It’s also a prime example of what sociologists call “the third place.”

“I always say that we’re selling an experience, not necessarily coffee.”

-Sue Harnley, Eugene Coffee Company owner

In 1989, Ray Oldenburg coined the term “the third place” to mean an informal meeting space where communities gather and interact. The term originates from the theory that the home serves as an individual’s “first place,” and the office a “second place.” Third places are described as a home away from home, a hub that provides a comfortable environment for people to think, unwind, and interact with like-minded individuals.

“Through a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends,” Oldenberg wrote in his best-selling book, The Great Good Place. “Here joy and acceptance reign over anxiety and alienation.”

Despite the recent popularization of the term, the concept of the third place isn’t new. Public gathering spaces have long served as breeding grounds for political participation, civic engagement, and literary inspiration.

In the 1800s, amidst the abolition of slavery, organizers of the Underground Railroad used barbershops and saloons as congregation centers for the black community. Later in the 1900s, diners emerged as third places for inexpensive outings during the Great Depression. Today, coffee shops have attracted a plethora of public figures, including Malcolm Gladwell and J.K. Rowling, authors who each wrote bestsellers at café tables, scrawling on loose-leaf paper or the corners of napkins. People seem to feel a need to find gathering spaces that are distinct from their offices or homes.

 Looks Matter

“Homeliness is the ‘protective coloration’ of many third places . . . [they do] not have that shiny bright appearance of the franchise establishment.”
—Oldenberg in his novel The Great Good Place

Coffee shops have become popular during recent years as shop owners attempt to establish a sense of “homeliness,” especially in areas that have a large coffee culture already. Several cafés in Portland have employed distinctive interior design techniques to promote community gathering. Specialty coffee company Ristretto Roasters received national attention in 2011 for the decorative flair at its NW Nicolai location. Owner Din Johnson partnered with Bamboo Revolution, an architecture firm, to design a coffee house inside the showroom of a high-end lighting business, School House Electric and Supply Co. Here, Johnson hand-selected a variety of custom lighting fixtures to illuminate the building, including a set of lamps once used in mine shafts.

The popular result of Johnson’s meticulous work at Ristretto is a spacious café with lofty ceilings and an explosion of bamboo trim, tables, and shelving. A floor-to-ceiling photo of Portland’s St. Johns Bridge occupies one of the white walls, illuminated by the sunlight seeping in through large bay windows. Past wrought iron gates, the shop transitions seamlessly into the School House Electric showroom, where customers sit in upholstered chairs next to smooth mahogany tables that look more like they belong in a Pottery Barn catalog than a coffee shop.

“I think people can afford a $3 pleasure. They can’t afford the big screen TVs or the fancy vacations, but people are going to afford themselves that little bit of comfort, that little bit of routine at a time when things seem so crazy.”


“Din built this up to be a really fancy example of coffeehouses to showcase what we can do,” barista Ben Schultz says. “This [location] is not so much about the community. We are more of a destination for most people.”

Although Ristretto sees its fair share of regular customers, many first-time visitors flock to this coffeehouse to sip their carefully decorated lattes, listen to indie music playing over the speakers, and bask in the overall ambiance of the shop.

Two men chat with each other at Eugene Coffee Company, a place frequented by many locals daily. (Michael Arellano/Flux)

 A Home Away from Home

“Those who, on the outside, command deference and attention by the sheer weight of their position find themselves in the third place enjoined, embraced, accepted, and enjoyed where conventional status counts for little.”

“I always say that we’re selling an experience, not necessarily coffee,” says Sue Harnly, owner of Eugene Coffee Company, a small brew shop located in Eugene, Oregon.

Harnly bought the Eugene Coffee Company in 2008 and has since introduced a wide variety of event offerings, including a silent coffee hour for the hearing impaired, women’s poker night, and barista training for high schoolers, making the shop the heart of the community for many West Eugene residents.

“There are so many places in this town where you can get coffee, but there are not so many places where you can have a known connection with people,” Harnly says. “So that’s what I think keeps bringing people back.”

Neal Connor, one of the many regular patrons at Eugene Coffee Company, comes to the coffee shop every morning to work on his novel. He orders the same drink each day (his “poison,” or four shots of espresso), which is served in his personal, brown-speckled ceramic mug by one of the many baristas that know him by name.

As a recovered alcoholic, Connor uses his time at the Eugene Coffee Company to stay organized and productive. He says his third place used to be bars, but since embracing sobriety, he has switched to coffee shops.

“The Eugene Coffee Company has become sort of my extended family, which is great since I live alone,” Connor says as he cradles his steaming mug. “Going to coffee shops becomes a big part of your life when you’ve graduated from a drunken lifestyle.”

 A Sense of Togetherness

 “Life without community has produced, for many, a life style consisting mainly of a home-to-work-and-back-again shuttle. Social well-being and psychological health depend upon community.”

Third places have attracted a diversity of community members, but retirees in particular compose a significant portion of coffee shop patrons. According to the National Coffee Association, adults aged 55-64 are 28 percent more likely to purchase coffee away from home than younger generations. Whether it’s for exercise or social stimulation, seniors seem to believe in the importance of frequenting cafés and becoming involved in the local community.

Retiree Phyllis Kesner is one of the Washburne’s many regular customers. She’s been coming to the coffee shop for years due to its convenient location.

“I live alone, so I grab opportunities to talk to people,” Kesner says. And she’ll talk about anything—her two tortoises, her favorite operas, and that time in high school when she held the door open for Eleanor Roosevelt. “You can often get into a conversation at a café. . . Somehow the permission is there.”

Beverly Kjellander, 60, also visits the Washburne to socialize and meet with friends. Ever since the café opened, she’s been coming twice a week for her usual decaf, non-fat, no foam, extra-hot latte, and over the years she has grown alongside the coffee shop.

“The staff knows me well enough that I don’t have to tell them what I drink,” Kjellander says. “It feels much like the Cheers of coffee shops for me.”

She’s become so well-known at the café that she was even given a special pastry with a candle on it for her birthday, and if she calls ahead, the baristas save her a piece of strawberry shortcake or pie.

“If you live alone, it is a good thing to ‘get out amongst ’em,’” Kjellander says. “Coffee shops can be a very non-threatening place to go.”

Shamra Clark spends her Saturday morning making a to-do list, reading up on health tips, and catching up on a TV show while sipping on tea at the Wandering Goat Coffee Shop. (Kathryn Boyd-Batstone/Flux)

 Here to Stay?

“Third places are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, but sadly, they constitute a diminishing aspect of the American social landscape.”
– Oldenberg

Regular customers like Kjellander and Kesner are a fading breed among coffee shop clientele. According to research conducted by the National Coffee Association in 2010, 86 percent of coffee drinkers prepare their coffee at home and the rate is rising. While 66 percent of adults purchased their coffee away from home in 2003, the recession has since cut that number in half. Now, only 30 percent of adults get their caffeine buzz outside of the home.

 “You can often get into a conversation at a café. Somehow the permission is there.”

-Phyllis Kesner, Washburne Cafe regular

Despite a lull in business, Harnly of Eugene Coffee Company is optimistic about the future of coffee shops, and her café in particular.

“I think people can afford a $3 pleasure. They can’t afford the big screen TVs or the fancy vacations,” Harnly says. “But people are going to afford themselves that little bit of comfort, that little bit of routine at a time when things seem so crazy.”

With his own struggling business, customer Neal Connor’s income has been suffering—making his daily coffee a much greater financial sacrifice. Yet, he still finds room in his tight budget for his daily visits to the Eugene Coffee Company.

“In the last two years, I really haven’t gotten out of debt, but I have to have my coffee,” Connor says. “There are a couple of basic needs we have. I mean, why do you keep eating every day? Why do you breathe?”

Despite empty wallets and full schedules, frequent customers like those at the Washburne and Eugene Coffee Company offer at least some proof that coffee shops have continued to serve as cornerstones of community. They are where couples have their first dates, where employees go before starting their workdays, and where regulars find a sense of family. Coffee is no longer just a staple of the working person’s diet, but a vessel for conversation and a liquid confidence for the lonely.

“Even if you are not involved in the chatter, there is something comforting about being around that sound of people talking and laughing,” Beverly Kjellander says. “Along with the coffee, it gives you a warm feeling . . . a feeling that you belong.”


The Discipline of Dance

[caps]F[/caps]rom a young age, Geoffrey Bergold knew he was meant to move, but he didn’t realize until 2 years into college that he had a love for ballet. He abandoned traditional higher education, and found a disciplined home at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet in Carisle, PA.

“For the first two months, I couldn’t walk,” recalls Bergold.

Transported from the east coast, Bergold now dances across the Pacific Northwest for the Eugene Ballet Company. Here, Bergold is surrounded by a devoted family of fellow dancers; “I don’t miss a day of work,” he says.



My Weekend with Sasquatch: The Journey Begins

-Mike Munoz

The weekend of Sasquatch is finally upon us. Four and a half long days of musical bliss and camping out with friends, and I am fortunate enough to be attending only a few short weeks before I graduate and say goodbye to the Pacific Northwest. While I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year, my Sasquatch send-off got off to a bit of a rough start.

Our first mistake was leaving Eugene later than we originally planned. We were aiming to start our journey at around 2 in the afternoon; however, due to last minute errands and forgotten items, we didn’t hit the road until around 3. Finally, with our trunk stuffed with food, camping supplies and beer, we were on our way to the Gorge.

Things only got worse when we got onto the I-5. As soon as we got on the road, the rain Gods of Eugene decided they were bored and felt like shaking things up by giving us some heavy showers. The rain drastically slowed down everyone on the highway and made the first hour of our trip pretty frightening. Each time we got next to an 18-wheeler, our car was completely engulfed in a cloud of mist, with nothing guiding us but the red glow from the tail lights in front of us. Luckily, the rain died down as we approached city limits.

With the weather and traffic clearing up, the morale of our car was temporarily restored as the reality of our journey began to sink in. We made great time and hit Portland at around 4:30, but our spirits were quickly dashed when we found ourselves in bumper-to-bumper to traffic. We all tried to hide our frustration, but it was pretty clear that nobody was happy about losing an hour in the gridlock.

Once we got out of Portland, the rest of our trip was smooth sailing. We made excellent time to The Dalles and it wasn’t long until we found ourselves in central Washington. Our full tank of gas got us all the way to Toppenish, where we made a quick, mandatory McDonalds stop. With full bellies and the knowledge that Sasquatch was only a couple of hours away, we made our final push to the Gorge.

At 10 pm, we finally found ourselves at the Gorge. Morale was at an all-time high as our endless journey seemed to be at an end; but we soon found our patience was going to be tested one last time. As we approached the entrance to the campgrounds, we found ourselves in a line of cars that stretched back for miles. We all tried to keep our spirits boosted by convincing ourselves that the flow of cars we definitely keep moving. Fast forward to 3 hours later, and we had finally arrived.

So we may have had to set up our tent at 2 in the morning, and there may have been stretches of the drive in which I thought we might all die, but all that matters is that we’re here. The sun is out, our neighboring campsite is blasting Earth, Wind and Fire and I couldn’t be in a better mood. Be sure to check out the blog all weekend to keep up with our live coverage of Sasquatch!