Gross Anatomy, I’d Say So



This email alert just came to me from UAA (bold formatting mine):

UAA Campus Community:

Respect is an important value at UAA and safety is our highest priority. For those reasons, we are compelled to inform you that an inappropriate incident involving a female cadaver occurred in the Health Sciences Building’s Gross Anatomy Lab sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. In addition, an act of vandalism to building furniture occurred Wednesday afternoon in the same building.

Criminal investigations are underway and additional security measures were implemented immediately.

Students and staff should take appropriate precautions, including extra vigilance, avoiding isolated areas of buildings, working and traveling in groups or seeking escorts at night.

If you have any information regarding these incidents, please contact the University Police Department at 786-1120.

Thank you.


I guess that’s what one might expect in a “Gross Anatomy Lab”.


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If you live in the United States, consider this scenario:

Canada is hell-bent on erasing Mexico from the map. Ottawa organizes and funds a militia and sends them to a suburb of D.C. to set up a state within a state, setting into place the resources and framework needed to begin terrorizing Mexico. What’s more, this Canadian militia has no qualms about terrorizing the U.S. to meet their ends; a number of U.S. leaders are assassinated in car bombs if they seem like they might speak out against Ottawa. The Canadian militia regularly moves into neighborhoods in the U.S. Southwest, hiding among civilians as they launch rockets across the border into Mexico. Mexico responds by striking back at its attackers– once peaceful neighborhoods now collateral damage. Your suffering, the result of unfortunate geography.
If this scenario makes you a bit uncomfortable, then you’re starting to understand– albeit just barely — a small part of what the citizens of Lebanon have been experiencing under the hammer of Hezbollah for the past few decades.

In his most recent book, The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah, and the Iranian War Against Israel, Michael J. Totten articulately covers the chaos that has consumed Lebanon for the better part of the past decade. Totten lived in Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, during periods of unrest and was able to add to his writing the flair that only a first-hand account can provide. As is constant in Totten’s work, he digs into the history, as well as the country’s recent past, to build the setting for his readers.

While covering foreign people and events may be Totten’s literary raison d’être, his analysis occasionally circles back on his home country, the United States of America. Totten does well at explaining foreign concepts in a domestic manner and voice.

In 1991, the U.S. signed off on Syria’s occupation of Lebanon in return for Hafez al-Assad’s “help” in ousting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. The U.S. had enough of Syrian foreign policy, though, by the time the second Iraq war rolled around. The younger al-Assad helped terrorists and insurgents from all over the Arab world transit through Syria into Iraq to fight American soldiers and car bomb civilians. In 2003, a fed-up U.S. Congress retaliated with the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.

Totten collected interviews from a number of key places and people, including time spent inside Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburb, known as the “dahiyeh”, and in Northern Israel as Hezbollah katyusha rockets came screaming over the Libyan-Israeli border. His first-hand accounts not only offer credibility to his writing, but they engage the reader in contemplation. I found myself spending more time thinking about Totten’s words than actually reading them; and I mean that with the utmost praise for his work.

I stepped out of our car and braced for an explosion. The Israelis fired artillery shells over our heads every couple of moments toward points unknown on the other side of the horizon. I jumped every time and tried in vain to get used to it.
Bang, followed by an arcing tear in the atmosphere. Bang, followed by the sound of ripping sky. A mile or so in front of us, a series of glowing surface-to-surface missiles hurtled toward Lebanon at impossible speeds and somehow got faster as they flew farther.

The Road to Fatima Gate offers its readers unique insight into the turmoil in Middle East and will leave you with a greater understanding of an extremely complex situation that is fueled by even more complex set of politics and relationships. Let Totten draw the connections, as he does plainly and articulately, and finish this book with an expanded view of a troubled, yet fascinating, corner of our globe.

At least the Israeli homes on the other side of Fatima Gate were out of rock-throwing range. They were not, however, outside rifle, mortar, and rocket range. Living in a house so close to South Lebanon in 2005 was like living on a seasonal floodplain or atop a tectonic fault. The false peace couldn’t hold. How could it hold? Hezbollah’s hatred of Jews and Israelis was white-hot and total. It was difficult, if not impossible, for Westerners like me to wrap our minds around it.

Also, read my review of Totten’s previous book, Where the West Ends.

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Wielechowski v. Parnell

So Governor Parnell tweeted:

This prompted Alaska State Senator Wielechowski to respond:

And thus, the stage was set.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer ran a brief story about the exchange. Alaska print and broadcast media weighed in as well. On Thursday, the Anchorage Daily News editorial board recommended the Governor accept the challenge, and conservative talk-show host Mike Porcaro offered his program as a venue for the debate.

Governor Parnell’s response came through his spokesperson, Sharon Leighow:

“A spokeswoman for Parnell, Sharon Leighow, said Parnell would not debate Wielechowski.

“The debate is occurring in the legislative hearings,” she wrote in an email. “As a former legislator, Gov. Parnell understands and appreciates the thorough examination of proposals, by Alaskans and legislators alike, that is carried out during the public process.”

Governor Parnell was a guest on Kenai radio yesterday, on KSRM’s Sound-Off with Duane Bannock (humorously dubbed, “The Tall, Dark, and Handsome Hour”). Bannock asked the Governor, “The Senator from East Anchorage and part-time Homer resident, Senator Bill Wielechowski, wants to debate you. Is that going to happen, yes or no?”

Parnell: “No. Not directly. You know, everyday, he has a unique opportunity, unlike most Alaskans, to debate people speaking on my behalf in the legislative hallways. He has a unique opportunity to put forward new ideas to create new production. Those opportunities are there everyday for him, to be on statewide TV doing it. He really needs to do his job as a senator, and I’m doing my job as Governor.”

His comment about the debate being had in the legislative hallways struck me as a bit bizarre and disconnected. There have been far too many deals struck, and debates had, in the capitol’s hallways that should have happened in televised committee rooms and floor sessions. It is extremely important that Alaskans understand this issue; it has the potential to dramatically affect the operations of our state for many years to come. Vice President Biden might refer to it as a big…ahem… deal.

As far as Wielechowski having the opportunity to have these discussions on statewide TV, committee meetings covered on Gavel to Gavel are hardly the place for the lay Alaskan to learn the debate on oil taxes: the discussions are often technical, lengthy, and well… a bit boring. And still, committee hearings are ran by the legislators asking questions of the administration and others selected to offer testimony; they lack the back-and-forth exchange that a proper debate would allow for.

I’ll admit, part of my desire to see such a debate stems for my love of political theater and the potential exists that this could be one of the great debates of Alaskan history. Some are speculating that the next Governor’s election will be between these two men as well, so what a great preview of what might be in store for 2014.

But greater than my desire to see this event for entertainment purposes is my desire to become educated on the Governor’s oil tax plan. I’m tired of the soundbites and slogans. I don’t know if the Governor’s plan is to giveaway $2-billion to the oil companies or if it’s going to create a booming Alaskan economy the likes of which we haven’t seen since the construction of the Alyeska pipeline. And neither do many other Alaskans.

This is one issue that warrants the extra attention. Governor Parnell should give not Senator Wielechowski, but Alaskans an hour or two to let this issue be heard. If the Governor doesn’t want to do it himself (and I can respect the notion that the Governor shouldn’t get in a habit of debating legislators outside of a political campaign), maybe Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell could have someone else protect the state seal for a couple of hours and carry the Governor’s banner in his stead. If the Governor’s plan is defensible, and it damn well better be if he’s proposing it, then time is nigh to defend it.

When it comes to something so important to Alaskans and our future, Alaskans would be better served by having at least part of this debate on primetime KTUU than they are to have all of it happen within the less-accessible halls of the state capitol.

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Great Moments In American Tweets #1: Chuck Grassley and Iowa’s Hunting “Cson”

I’ve been reading a bit of American history lately, the eloquence of Daniel Webster, the wit of Benjamin Franklin, and the slicing reason of Thomas Paine. I wonder, was everything that our great American historical figures said and wrote something you might want to print, frame, and revere? Did the culture of the time require more of its orators and writers than that of ours today? Or maybe they occasionally lapsed into lazy blurbs and stream-of-conscious musings, as if they inked a quill and lawn-darted it at some parchment across the room. We may never know.

But the good news is, today we have the technology to save the words — all of them — of our great political leaders. 150 years from now, when one of my ancestors looks to the pages of American history for some literary inspiration, that sacred historical record will be there for them…

Thanks to “Great Moments in American Tweets”!

For our first installment, I bring you Iowa’s senior US Senator Chuck Grassley, who just might be one of the most active members of Congress on Twitter.

I hope you enjoyed this “Great Moment in American Tweets”, stay tuned for the next edition, coming soon!

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Books Read in 2012

booksI didn’t read in much as 2012 as I would have liked to, but 2012 was a great year for other reasons. I grew stronger than my nicotine addiction, lost some weight, and spent a lot of time in the glorious wilderness. I averaged greater than one book per month, but most of these were read towards the end of the year. My goal for 2013 is to read at least twice as many.

I’ve reviewed some of these on various blogs, as noted below.

And I’m starting 2013 with:
The Road to Fatima Gate – Michael J. Totten

2013 will be a year of continuing my positive habits of 2012, with a greater focus on reading and writing.

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Meanwhile… In Shell’s PR Office

Following the loss of control and subsequent grounding of the Shell drilling rig, Kulluk, that company’s PR team goes to work.

Sitting in PR headquarters, mostly silent, members of the PR team wracked their brains trying to find a way to at least mitigate some of the negative publicity being aimed at the corporation.

Then it came. One member of the team jumped up and exclaimed, “I’ve got it! Let’s spend some money on Facebook and try to get some extra ‘Likes’ over this whole thing!”

Shell fishing for Facebook Likes by exploiting their rig mess.

And everyone at Shell agreed.

The end.

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Fade to East: Reviewing Where the West Ends

North America’s Pacific Rim is the western edge of the West. In the east, the West fades slowly like twilight. – Michael J. Totten – Where the West Ends

Where The West Ends Cover
In Where the West Ends, Michael J. Totten opened up a world I previously, only vaguely, knew from my childhood memories, flipping through the cable news channels. I am a child of the 80s and 90s (I claim two decades on the basis of teeth; my deciduous came in during the early 80s and left me by the early 90s). Countries with names like Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo have generally garnered memories of images of tanks rolling through cityscapes and snippets of speeches by President Clinton, but little more. Those countries were on the other side of the world and I was too young and disinterested to care. Graduating into adulthood, I began to think more about the worlds that exist outside of the realm of my familiarity — it’s now something I spend a great deal of energy dwelling upon.

Totten paints a face on those countries and many others in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Middle East, and makes them feel real to the reader; in fact, what so thoroughly drew me into his writing was how hyper-real some of his descriptions were. As evidence, I offer his words on staying at a hotel in Sarajevo’s “Sniper Alley”:

If you can see the hills, the hills can see you, and the hills loom beautifully but ominously over everything. That night I dreamed I was trapped there during the siege, scrambling to find a place where I couldn’t see hills.

At times, I found it impossible to not empathize with the subjects of war, such as in this description of the battle between Serbia and Croatia:

When you fight for your own house, your own family, believe me, you don’t see black and white. You see only black.”

But Totten is quick to highlight the beauty of these regions as well. The dull, grayish images in my mind took on a new layer of color and beauty after reading some of this descriptions. He speaks about the “perfection” of Dubrovnik, Croatia and the stand-out beauty of Kiev, Ukraine. (Both are places I have realistic plans to visit, inspired in part by Totten’s descriptions.)

I also enjoyed learning the small things that every culture holds, pinned to their hearts, that add a unique contribution to their identity. In Romania’s capital, Bucharest, an argument between a husband and a wife on a bus will quickly involve everyone else on the bus. Whereas in America, we become uncomfortable and try to ignore a lovers’ quarrel, in Bucharest you pick a side and join in!:

 “You should take the bus in this city,” said Alina, my translator. “Every time there is an argument between two people, everyone on the bus gets involved. Everybody takes sides. A husband will yell at his wife, and half the bus takes his side while the other half takes hers.”

Or the compassion and tolerance of Georgians, even in the face of their “enemies”:

Georgia: I even heard that some Georgian civilians took pity on the underfed Russian soldiers and cooked meals for them in their kitchens. I don’t know if it’s true. What I do know is that many Georgians believe it is true and think it a plausible thing for Georgians to do. And I didn’t detect anything in the Georgian character that made me believe the rumors to be false.

Throughout the accounts in Where the West Ends, what resonated most with me was how he communicated the foreign viewpoints towards the United States and Americans. I knew Kosavoans had a special place in their hearts for the United States, but it was affirming to read about a statue of President Bill Clinton that’s displayed prominently in Kosovo’s capital on, of course, Bill Clinton Boulevard, or how ubiquitious the American flag is displayed in that new country.


 “And I definitely think they were right,” Fana said. “We are not European, we are American! We are the 51st state!”


“People here liked President Bush more than people in other places,” Voinescu said, “but they now love President Obama. Romanians are ready to embrace any U.S. president. There is a certain kind of emotional attachment to whatever the Americans decide about their own country. I think people liked President Bush because they liked his toughness on certain issues. You know that in this part of Europe, after the whole communist era, you need sometimes a stronger approach when you talk about various issues. On the other hand, they like Obama because, you know, his charm is seductive everywhere.” I don’t know if President Barack Obama reciprocates that feeling of affection, but Vice President Joe Biden almost certainly does.

One of the most memorable moments in Totten’s accounts touches on the fall of former Romanian Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu. He describes how people publicly respected Ceaușescu, but harbored hidden ill-feeling towards him individually. The true story of Ceaușescu’s fall from power, and subsequent execution, is the type of drama that exists even beyond the imagination of the greatest of writers of political fiction:

 Apostol is my age. He was a teenager when Ceausescu’s regime was overthrown, so he remembers it vividly. It began during one of the president’s outdoor speeches when thousands of people suddenly stopped applauding and cheering and started booing and jeering at him instead.

Where the West Ends is foreign-correspondent journalism at its best: travel diary kindled with observations of war and its scars, doused in politics, and set ablaze with the match of historical context.

I highly recommend you afford this book your time:

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