Happy Birthday Military Commissions Act

(17 October 2007)

Part 1: The Baking

It all begins here with some ingredients... in our case... lots of ingredients. Here are some useful stats.

21.5 cups water
2x5-lb boxes cake mix
6 normal size cake mixes
3 cups veggie oil
18 eggs

6 lbs butter/margarine
4x10-oz containers of Ghirardelli cocoa powder + a little bit
2x4-oz containers of instant coffee + a little bit
16 lbs confectioners sugar
1x59ml container of vanilla + a little bit

(note: "a little bit" is a precise technical cooking term used by top chefs around the world. It roughly translates to the layperson as "a measurable quantity amounting to significantly more than is required to make it's presence felt but not more than the total prescribed original amount"... or something to that effect)

For our cake masterpiece... we "borrowed" many large baking trays from the Barnard kitchen.

For the cooking itself, we commandeered several floors of Schapiro in order to use their ovens. Logistically, this was handled very much like a military operation (except with a much higher general level of competance, and less killing).

Perhaps it was just me, but when I saw that the cake mix was called "moist deluxe" I had a quiet internal laugh...

Division of labour leads to greater efficiency. Adam Smith would have been proud. Mixing, pouring, more mixing and... operating the oven, a non-trivial task and one which Chloe took to with great zeal and enthusiasm (though she very skilfully masks that enthusiasm in this particular photo).

What better place to mix cake mix than in a mixing bowl...

After the mixing, there was the pouring...

...and some more mixing...

The most exciting stage of the baking process was the preparation of the frosting... which began with butter (actually, it was margarine)

Of course, the most essential part of the frosting is the sugar... we used 16lb of it, just to make absolutely sure that it would be sweeeeeeeet.

And for good measure, the frosting was skillfully mixed by Clare and Payal. It was commented at one point that the experience was like an "orgasm for your hands". Not having personally experienced an orgasm with my hands (try making a joke out of that one smartass!) I decided to just take their word for it.

High five... luckily, it didn't take too long to un-high-five these two, and the mixing process wasn't significantly delayed.

There was a constant, ongoing cleanup during the enire operation, which, at times, got very messy.

What's the plan now? We waited around while the cake was baking in the ovens and amused ourselves watching the frosting getting mixed.

It was hard work, making sure that the frosting was mixed properly.

The ingredients were added slowly over the course of the mixing to ensure a well-homogenized mix... and also because we thought it would result in less of a mess.

hmm... yes, I believe it is ready now.

After baking, the different pieces of cake were stored seperately and we planned for them to all come together on College Walk for our big table.

Finally... the frosting is sealed... in order that nobody may touch it (i.e. eat it all) until the time is right.

In parallel with the baking, was the making of various birthday cards and posters to complement the cake.

All the materials were ready...

Part 2: The Eating

It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon... and the various pieces of partially-assembled cake made their way onto our table.

"Military Commissions Act" seemed a bit long so we abbreviated it to "M C A". In the background you might have noticed the bake sale for breast cancer research... which we felt slightly bad for undercutting.

While we prepared the various materials for our table - letters, balloons, birthday cards, and the like, we began to attract attention.

Co-President Nick slices off the first bit of cake that we gave away.

The military commissions act turns one, so we lit a candle. We also sang happy birthday (rather badly). Behind the candle you can see the final patchwork being done on the cake to make it into one homogenous piece.

How did the cake taste? Apparently, it was very good indeed.

As news of free cake spread throughout the campus, the table became quite crowded and many people signed a letter.

Of course, the worst mistake that you can make when dealing with such serious issues as human rights is to take yourself too seriously. We were in no danger of falling into that trap... oh no.

I decided to sample some of the cake myself... it was goooood. Is there any chocolate in my teeth?

As the day wore on, our cake was slowly consumed and many letters were signed.

Surprisingly though, there was some leftover cake. We spent that night's amnesty meeting eating it while stuffing envelopes with the letters which had been signed.

All in all, 138 letters were signed and collected which is a pretty decent effort... and to think this whole cake idea began as an offhand remark at a committee meeting, originally intended as a joke. Well... the snowball effect has run it's course but not without good effect. I guess it just goes to remind us of the power of a good idea - something worth remembering in an organization like Amnesty International.

In case you missed it, here is the letter. Sign it, address it, and send it to your senator.