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New electronic device allows students to see images of cadavers

CHIPPEWA FALLS — Micah Atkins placed his fingers on the screen and flipped through several images of an actual cadaver. Even though Atkins has only used this new imaging system a few weeks, he found the device easy to learn.

“This is a really cool, accurate model,” said Atkins, a Fall Creek High School senior. “There is just a lot of room to learn. It’s a very valuable tool.”

Atkins is among nine high school students enrolled in the Healthcare Academy at Chippewa Valley Technical College at the Chippewa Falls campus. The class is aimed at high-achieving students who are planning to enter the medical field.

CVTC recently acquired an Anatomage Table, which is roughly seven feet long and three feet wide, and it can display images of multiple different cadavers, taking exact images of actual people. The touch-screen, which covers nearly the entire table, allows students to look at a variety of images, such as just the skeleton, or just muscles, or the nervous system. The table costs about $90,000.

Julia Brown, CVTC life science instructor, said the Anatomage Table offers a lot of possibilities to students and is better than working with an actual cadaver, as there are no worries about how to obtain a body, store it, dissect it or deal with odor or waste.

“I’ve worked on many cadavers,” Brown said. “This isn’t as intimidating, and it makes it a lot more fun.”

Brown is impressed with the details and quality of the images, and she agreed that it is user-friendly for students.

“These are 3D models loaded in,” Brown said. “We can scroll through the body. We can turn it in any sections we want. It’s neat to look at the different bodies to see their unique structures.”

Elizabeth Anderson, a Fall Creek High School senior, is planning to attend Minnesota State-Mankato next year and enter the nursing program. A school counselor suggested she enroll in the CVTC Healthcare Academy, which meets in the morning daily. She then takes classes at Fall Creek High School in the afternoon. Anderson shared the enthusiasm for the possibilities offered with the new machine.

“I think it’s a great learning tool, to see the whole picture and see all the perspectives,” Anderson said. “I think it’s a really great learning opportunity.”

The table is essentially a high-functioning computer, and more cadaver images can be loaded into the system when they become available.

The CVTC Foundation received a donation from the Rutledge Charities that paid for a portion of the machine, said CVTC spokesman Mark Gunderman. Students in the class also come from Altoona, Bloomer and Cornell high schools, he said. They all will earn 14 CVTC college credits from being in the year-long class.

Upon eating lutefisk for the first time

Editor’s note: Best-selling author Nickolas Butler is among local writers who will be regular columnists in the Leader-Telegram starting in April.

Was I kidnapped and forced into attending a lutefisk supper because of peer pressure? Partly, sure.

I married into a family that brags of 100 percent Norwegian ancestry. I love my in-laws in spite of their goofily ornate sweaters, their bland food and their inability to curse or show intense emotions. What they’ve nailed is a sense of family. Because none of them display their darker emotions, there aren’t the familial fractures that other families endure. Everyone just happily gets along.

They laugh together, watch sports together, drink together, even work together, and when I was recently invited to eat lutefisk with no less than eight of my wife’s relatives, I thought, “We’ve been married 13 years. It’s probably about time.”

I wasn’t prepared for the pomp of the supper. To be fair, we’d bought tickets to what I’m told is one of the finer area lutefisk suppers, but still. We were ushered into an ancient Lutheran church and filed into pews, there to listen to the minister tell Ole & Lena jokes and collectively sing along to the Great American Songbook.

I suspect that tens of millions of Americans living in our coastal metropolises might find what I’m describing to be impossible in 2019. Yet, there I sat, laughing and singing with a bunch of blissed-out cottontops eager to get their lutefisk on. In fairness, there were a couple handfuls of us under the age of 40. But not many. And yet, it was the most wholesome fun I’d had perhaps all year.

In the basement of the church, we sat in close confines, elbow to elbow. Tempting slabs of pie already awaited us on the table and because I still had trepidations about the dinner course of the upcoming meal, I dug into the pie. Coleslaw, chutney and lefse were soon delivered to the table, and I dug into those, before rising to serve myself mashed potatoes, mashed rutabagas (or, rutabaggies), gravy and meatballs.

Then, the lutefisk arrived.

Honestly, even as a giant dish of it landed at our table, I can’t say that I would have identified it as food, necessarily. It sort of looked like a giant helping of clear, translucent snot. But I was encouraged to drown the fish (ha!) in melted butter and then liberally salt and pepper. I was happy to follow these orders.

There really is no way to prepare yourself for the texture. The taste is recognizable — cod, or whitefish — you can wrap your head around that. But the texture is mostly gelatinous, and even those treasured pieces of lutefisk identified as “firm” are covered in a fish-jelly that sort of sloshes inside your mouth as if you were gargling algae, perhaps, or fish flavored Jell-O left in the sun and mostly liquefied.

I proceeded to eat what I deemed to be a “more-than-polite-amount” of lutefisk. Two helpings, I’d say. I was acutely aware that as I ate, I was being watched (no, evaluated) as if I were a dignitary from a totally alien culture presented with a fine delicacy. There were moments in the meal, I must admit, when I closed my eyes and shuddered as cod-jam squirted through my teeth. When the meal concluded I heard some criticism that I hadn’t eaten enough. Friends, I remain quite proud of my lutefisk-eating effort, thank you very much.

Why do we eat lutefisk? Why, do we still eat lutefisk when, by all accounts, Norwegians living in Norway would NEVER eat it. A cynic might say we’re shackled to lutefisk by nostalgia. We’ve romanticized the old days and old ways. Maybe.

But I have to say that there is some virtue in doing a nice-turn for another person’s benefit, and in the case of that particular Saturday afternoon in which I endured lutefisk, I could see that my wife’s grandmother, the matriarch of her sprawling family, was beaming with pride that we’d accompanied her to that beautiful country church. And, if perpetuating that tradition on into the future is the function of a disgusting fish-dish like lutefisk, then, well, I think it’s worth it.

It’s also useful to reflect on the ways in which those of us as fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, or even seventh-generation Americans cling to our ancestral traditions. While it’s OK for some to celebrate their heritage, we demonize others for their cultural pride. Look no further than the national news or social media: Some angry person on a subway or in a restaurant yelling at some other person who they deem as “foreign,” yelling at them to speak English, or worse, American. Or spraying hateful graffiti on a mosque or temple. We all at times grasp for the familiar, and that’s understandable. But more important is reaching for the unfamiliar with a welcoming hand and open mind.

Even if the unfamiliar is lutefisk.

To see photos of the lutefisk meal in question, follow Butler on Instagram at: @wiscobutler

Evers' first budget faces hurdles with both Democrats, GOP

MADISON — The difficulty Gov. Tony Evers will have getting his transportation funding plan through the Legislature showed Friday, with the Democratic leader of the state Senate refusing to say whether she will support a key provision of the proposal.

Republicans who control the Legislature are similarly conflicted, although for different reasons, as they have promised to reject much of what the new Democratic governor proposed Thursday in his $83.4 billion state spending plan.

Evers’ plan for roads is a central part of the budget. He wants to raise gas taxes by 8 cents while repealing the minimum markup law that’s designed to increase competitiveness by barring retailers from selling gas for less than they paid for it.

Republicans and Democrats agree that much of what Evers proposed in the budget is dead on arrival. Evers, in a nod to how difficult finding compromise will be, told AFL-CIO union members Friday that people were likely wondering what he was “drinking, smoking” when he called for Republicans and Democrats to work together.

Later Friday, he told reporters in Appleton he could veto the entire budget if Republicans don’t pass something he can sign. He previously said in January that he would be open to vetoing the entire budget, a highly unusual move that would force him and lawmakers to start over.

On transportation at least, he doesn’t even appear to have Democrats on his side.

Sen. Jennifer Shilling initially refused to answer a reporter’s question about her position on the minimum markup repeal after also speaking to AFL-CIO members. She later called Evers’ plan “a start,” without taking a position as she walked away from reporters.

The minimum markup law prohibits the sale of gas below what it costs a retailer to purchase, resulting in a roughly 9 percent markup at the pump. Retailers, including La Crosse-based Kwik Trip which is in Shilling’s district, have long opposed repeal because they say the law keeps prices competitive.

Republicans have supported repeal, saying the law artificially increases prices on gas and other goods. Evers’ budget puts them in an awkward position. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called it “disingenuous” for Evers to call for the law’s repeal at the same time he’s proposing raising gas taxes by 8 cents per gallon.

The transportation funding plan is just one of many flash points in the budget.

Among Evers’ proposals that Republicans have promised to reject are expanding Medicaid; creating a nonpartisan redistricting process; legalizing medical marijuana; freezing voucher school enrollment; allowing Planned Parenthood to access women’s health grants; increasing the minimum wage; and allowing people in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses and pay in-state tuition at the University of Wisconsin.

Evers also wants to repeal much of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s legacy, including work and drug test requirements for Medicaid and food stamp recipients; limits on the governor and attorney general’s powers approved during the lame-duck legislative session; and the “right to work” law opposed by labor unions. Evers is also calling for the reinstatement of the prevailing wage, which unions support.

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz indicated that much of Evers’ proposed budget is going nowhere.

“These are placeholders,” Hintz said. “I think this was a good start. ... He’s given us one option. We’ll see what the other options are.”

Republican legislative leaders said they plan to start from scratch.

“Pretty much every single policy” Evers proposed is something Republicans “will not stand for,” said GOP Rep. John Nygren, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee.

There are some areas where compromise is possible.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos noted that his fellow Republicans, like Evers, support the state paying for two-thirds of school costs and expanding rural broadband internet service. Both Republicans and Evers want to cut taxes for the middle class, but they can’t agree on how to pay for it. They’ve also both supported increasing the number of assistant district attorneys around the state, doing more to combat homelessness and increasing access to clean water.

Shilling told AFL-CIO members that the fight was just beginning.

“It’s as if we are starting the boxing match,” Shilling said. “And you’ve got the two heavyweights in the ring and they’ve been circling each other and now they’re trying to see who can land that punch. I hope that my colleagues will recognize that they have to work with this governor and that he has every right and opportunity to put forward these ideas.”