Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East. History nerd, linguistic geek, and devoted news junkie.
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hannahdraper
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The perverse economics of college in America

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Al Lord says he’s sorry:

A former CEO of the student loan lender Sallie Mae says the cost of tuition at U.S. universities is “criminal,” but acknowledges that he played a role in their rising, according to a forthcoming book.

In an adaption of Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Mitchell’s “The Debt Trap,” set to be published on Aug. 3, Al Lord, who joined Sallie Mae in 1981, said that he first felt the impact of tuition costs when he started paying those of one of his grandchildren.

Lord said he paid $175 a semester during the 1960s when he attended Pennsylvania State University, a stark difference to the tuition he paid for his grandson, who enrolled at the University of Miami several years ago. The college currently charges $75,230 for an undergraduate on campus, which includes tuition, fees, housing and meals, transportation and other expenses.

“It’s criminal,” Lord reportedly said. 

He has reportedly also paid the tuition of several other grandchildren, at close to $200,000 a person.

“Boy, am I sure glad we saved for my grandkids. If the average income is $40,000 or $50,000 or $60,000, I just don’t know how you do it,” Lord said.

He reportedly acknowledges in the book that he understands he played a role in encouraging colleges to increase their rates.

According to “The Debt Trap,” after Lord started his first run as CEO for Sallie Mae in 1997, he started a series of incentives to allow students to take out more loans so that colleges could charge more. Sallie Mae started bundling packages of student loans that were then sold to investors.

Additionally, Lord persuaded schools to have students borrow money from either the banks, where Sallie Mae bought its student loans, or the student lender itself, according to the book. Promises from Sallie Mae that additional money from private investors would be available for students to tap into led its stocks to subsequently soar.

A couple of high profile books about student debt are coming out next month, so we should see some renewed chin-scratching about this.

Here’s a stat that I didn’t actually believe when I first read it, so I dug up the source documents to check whether or not it was correct (it was):

Over the the last decade core revenue at independent (non-religiously affiliated) private colleges and universities in the USA has increased by 148% in inflation-adjusted per student terms!

(Core revenue includes tuition, government subsidies, endowment income and other private gifts, and research grants. It doesn’t include revenue from associated activities like student housing and hospitals.)

At religiously affiliated private colleges and universities core revenue has increased by 87% in real per-student terms over the last ten years.

Meanwhile, at public institutions, core revenue has increased by “only” 23.4% in these terms. (This is still 36% greater than per capita GDP growth over this same period).

Overall, core revenue revenue increased by nearly 50% in real per capita terms at American colleges and universities between FY2009 and FY2019.

Where are these hundreds of billions of dollars of increased revenue (core revenue increased from $280 billion to $511 billion between 2009 and 2019) going? They certainly aren’t going into full time faculty salaries, which increased by a combined total of 2.1% over the course of the decade. They aren’t going to the 63% of faculty in American higher ed who have contingent — non-tenure track — employment status. (Average compensation to adjuncts for teaching a three-credit course remains around $3,500, which is the same as it was in nominal dollars two decades ago).

Check this out: in just seven years (FY2012 through FY2019) salary outlays for “management staff” at public institutions have increased by 24% in real dollar per student terms. Again this is during a time when compensation for faculty has been declining, because full-time faculty salaries are flat, while the percentage of adjuncts is increasing.

Then there are all your shiny new buildings, your lazy rivers and climbing walls, your fundraisers, your consultants, your cousin Vinny who is now the assistant vice provost for synergistic interdisciplinary excellence, etc.

The funny thing (not funny like a clown) is that here’s how the first sentence of the summary of the AAUP’s annual report on the economic status of the profession — the profession being college teacher — sums up all these data:

This year’s Annual Report on the Economic Profession outlines how years of unstable funding, combined with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have created an existential threat to shared governance and academic freedom in higher education that severely weakens our nation’s ability to effectively educate our communities.

If “unstable funding” means “skyrocketing core revenue that isn’t going to the people who are doing the core functions” then yeah, I guess.

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acdha
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cjmcnamara
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How Le Creuset Nails the Art of Colorful Cookware

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There’s a scene in the movie Julie & Julia in which Meryl Streep, playing the inimitable Julia Child, is bustling around her Paris kitchen. She dips a spoon into a fiery red-orange casserole dish for a quick taste, decides to add a dash of salt, and moves on to tend to a boiling pot of cannelloni. Cut to another scene where Amy Adams, playing food blogger Julie Powell, is laboring over a pot of beef bourguignon in her New York City apartment. Set decades apart, the two scenes share one unmistakable visual detail—a vibrantly colored Le Creuset on the stove.

For the better part of the last century, Le Creuset’s Dutch ovens have been both a cookware luxury and kitchen staple for home cooks and professional chefs alike. The brand changed the way many approached cooking by reinventing a utilitarian item in a way that combined form and function with flair. Equipped with a double-coated enamel engineered to resist dulling, staining, and even chipping, Le Creuset’s Dutch ovens were always durable, yes, but their colors lent them something even more distinctive—personality.

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The Sultan’s Tughra

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(The following is a post by Joan Weeks, Head of the Near East Section and Turkic World Area Specialist, African and Middle Eastern Division.)

From the inception of the Ottoman Empire in 1299, until its dissolution in 1922, the sultans from the House of Osman ruled the Ottoman dynasty in direct succession. The second ruler Sultan Orhan I (1288-1360) was the first to have a tughra designed as a calligraphic monogram or signature that would be affixed to all official documents. Later sultans also had their tughra stamped on coins minted during their reign.

Monogram of Sultan Orhan I printed in black on paper.

First tughra of 2nd Sultan Orhan I. “Resimli-haritalı mufassal Osmanlı tarihi (Detailed Ottoman History with Illustrations),” by Sever Iskit, 1957?-1963 p. 68. Near East Collections, Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division.

Insignia of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent illustrated with ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper.

Tughra (Insignia) of Sultan Süleiman the Magnificent (r. 1520–66), ca. 1555-60. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org).

As each sultan ascended the throne, he had a carefully crafted tughra that embellished his name drawn by the court calligrapher. Gradually, the design of tughra evolved over time until it reached a pinnacle during the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).

Insignia of Sultan Ahmed III in blank ink on paper.

Tughra of Sultan Ahmed III (1673-1736) from the Selections of Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Calligraphy Collection, Near East Section, Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division.

Composition of the Tughra

As sultans worked on the design of their tughra, they considered these five major elements:

Tuğ - The three tugs represent independence.

Zülfe – S shaped winds that blow east to west as the movement of the Ottomans.

Hançer – This part represents a sword, sign of power and might.

Sere – The sultan’s name is written in Ottoman script in this section.

Beyze – Egg shapes to the left of the tug with the outer larger loop perhaps signifying the Mediterranean and the inner, smaller loop the Black Sea that the sultan governed.

After the tughra was officially commissioned, it would be affixed to royal decrees, emblazoned on coins, or even embossed on a very special collection of books inscribed as a gift donation to the Library of Congress.

Firmans

The Library of Congress holds several royal decrees called “firmans” in the Ottoman collections in the African and Middle Eastern Division.

One of the most exquisitely illuminated firmans is the royal decree of Mustafa III (1717 – 74). The tughra of Sultan Mustafa III appears at the base of the conical arrangement of tulips and other flowers. The script of the royal decree at the bottom of the firman is the Ottoman Divanee, a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy used in the Imperial Chancery.

Manuscript adorned in gold and multiple colors with cursive writings.

Royal decree of Sultan Mustafa III. Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division. Photography by Joan Weeks.

Detail of a insignia from an illustrated manuscript, in gold and multiple colors.

Detail of Sultan Mustafa III’s Tughra. Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division. Photography by Joan Weeks.

Unraveling the Mystery of Grandmother’s Coins 

(The requester has kindly agreed to let me share the following information.)

In one of the most intriguing reference inquiries I have received, the requester asked if I could translate the text on the Ottoman coins given to his grandmother in her dowry. The coins had stayed with the family, and after her passing were distributed among her family members.

Where to start? At first glance, the front design was a sultan’s tughra or official monogram or signature that was stamped on the coins minted during his reign and the back design would be the sultan’s name written out.

The first step was to transcribe and Romanize the letters on the back of the coin from Ottoman Turkish and they spelled M E H M E D V (1844–1918).

The next step was to check the tughra on the front of the coin with the tughra found in “Resimli-.haritalı  mufassal Osmanlı tarihi (Detailed Ottoman History with Illustrations),” by Sever Iskit  and they matched.

Gold coin inscribed with the title of Sultan Mehmed V in cursive writings.

Mehmed V spelled on the coin. Photo used with permission of the owner.

Insignia of Mehmed V on a gold coin.

Tughra of Mehmed V on the front of the coin. Used with permission of the owner.

Insignia of Sultan Mehmed printed in black on paper.

Tughra of Mehmed V in “Resimli-.haritalı mufassal Osmanlı tarihi (Detailed Ottoman History with Illustrations),” by Sever Iskit, 1957?-1963, p. 68. Near East Collections, Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division.

With this analysis and match, a follow up question was posed: “Would your grandmother have had access to gold coins for her dowry with the sultan who was reigning at the time? Mehmet V reigned from April 27, 1909 to July 3, 1918. Would these dates fit with your grandmother?” The answer was she was engaged to be married in 1911. The coins may have been recently minted when they were given to her as part of her dowry.

Abdul-Hamid II Gift Book Collection

Book cover in red.

Cover of all Abdul-Hamid II gift books donated to the Library of Congress.  Photography by Joan Weeks.

Insignia of Abdul-Hamid III embossed in gold on red book cover.

Detail of Abdul-Hamid II’s Tughra on the cover of all of his gift books donated to the Library of Congress. Photography by Joan Weeks.

The story of how Abdul-Hamid II (1842-1918) met and befriended Abram Stevens Hewitt (1822-1903), Member from New York’s 10th district, was reported in the New York Daily Tribune (July 13, 1884).

While Hewitt and his young son were touring around St. Sophia and Yildiz Palace grounds in Constantinople during a very hot day, when the young boy fainted and was taken to the guard house where two other boys his age observed all the excitement. They reported back to their father, the sultan, what they had seen. Their father dispatched his emissaries to Hewitt’s hotel to inquire about his son’s well-being and to request that he and his son visit the palace the next day.

During the visit, the sultan noticed Hewitt’s indelible pencil and special cigarettes which resulted in a gift shipment to Abdul-Hamid II when Hewitt returned home. Shortly thereafter, Hewitt received a notice about a shipment of Ottoman books. He wrote back to the sultan that he didn’t deserve such an honor and that the sultan should give the books to the Library of Congress. The sultan agreed and had a special collection prepared for the Library and invited Hewitt to keep the first set for himself. Hewitt’s collection is now in the New York University Elmer Holmes Bobst Library.

In 1884, Sultan Abdul-Hamid II (1842-1918) gifted the Library of Congress with a collection of Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic works that he had richly embossed with this inscription in English, French and Ottoman: “Gift made by H.I.M. the Sultan Abdul-Hamid II to the National Library of the United States of America through the Honorable A.S. Hewitt Member of the House of Representatives A.H. 1302-1884 A.D.” The tughra of Abdul-Hamid II is embossed in the red Morocco binding in gold leaf.  The Abdul-Hamid II Collection of Books and Serials Gifted to the Library of Congress has been digitized and is available for public access.

Learn More:

New York Daily Tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), 13 July 1884. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

İskit Yayını. “Resimli-haritalı Mufassal Osmanlı Tarihi. Bir Heyet Tarafından Yazılmıştır” (Detailed Ottoman History with Illustrations), [İstanbul] [1957?-63]

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Problem Solved

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In 1991, botanist John L. Strother was reviewing the classification of North American sunflowers when he identified a new genus. By this time his 100-page monograph was in the final stages of proofing, and adding a new entry in the middle would require troublesome changes in the layout.

The genera were listed alphabetically, and the last one was Zexmenia. So Strother named the new genus Zyzyxia. Since this placed the new entry near the end of the article, it minimized the necessary changes, and the editor accepted the addition.

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Parade of Nations in Katakana Order

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I don’t remember how Japan ordered the Parade of Nations when it hosted the Olympics in 1964 (when I was in high school there), but this year the nations were ordered according to how their Japanese names sounded in katakana, the Japanese syllabary used to render foreign names. A full list of the nations in Japanese order can be found in the NPR report about the parade.

Katakana order was used even when names contained kanji (Chinese characters). So Equatorial Guinea (赤道ギニア Sekidou Ginia, lit. ‘Redroad [=equator] Guinea’) appeared between Seychelles (セーシェル) and Senegal (セネガル) because they all start with the sound SE, written セ in katakana.

Similarly, Great Britain (英国 Eikoku, lit. ‘brave-country’) and the British Virgin Islands (英国ヴァージン諸島) appeared after Uruguay (ウルグァイ) and before Ecuador (エクアドル) because the katakana syllabary starts with the five vowels in the order A I U E O (アイウエオ), then proceeds to KA KI KU KE KO (カキクケコ). So the E+I of Eikoku precedes the E+KU of Ekuadoru. (In Chinese, where the name 英国 originated, the character 英 sounds much more like the first syllable of England.)

The last of the vowel-initial names are those that start with the sound O: Australia (オーストラリア Oosutoraria), Austria (オーストリア Oosutoria), Oman (オマーン Omaan), and the Netherlands (オランダ Oranda < Holland). I’ve transcribed the long vowels here as double vowels.

The order of the consonant-initial syllables is KA (カ), SA (サ), TA (タ), NA (ナ), HA (ハ), MA (マ), YA (ヤ), RA (ラ), WA (ワ), N (ン). Most, but not all, of these consonants occur with each vowel. The YA series has YA (ヤ), YU (ユ), and YO (ヨ), but YI and YE have been replaced by the vowels I and E. As a consequence, Yemen is written イェメン Iemen, and its team preceded Israel, Italy, Iraq, and Iran in the parade, while Jordan was relegated to near the end of the parade as the only name starting with Y, written ヨルダン Yorudan. The WA series only has WA (ワ) and WO (ヲ), with WI, WU, WE replaced by the vowels I, U, E. The final sound, N (ン) only occurs at the ends of syllables, as in Iemen and Yorudan.

In katakana, voiced consonants are distinguished from their voiced equivalents by a diacritic that looks a bit like a double quote mark: KA カ vs. GA ガ, TA タ vs. DA ダ, SA サ vs. ZA ザ. The consonants with and without diacritics are considered equivalent for ordering purposes. So Canada (Kanada), Gabon (Gabon), Cameroon (Kameruun), Gambia (Ganbia), Cambodia (Kanbojia) are in that order because of what follows their initial KA/GA syllables (-NA-, -BO-, -ME-, -NBI-, -NBO-, respectively). On the same principle, Zambia (Zanbia) precedes San Marino (Sanmarino) (-NBI- > -NMA-), while Singapore (Singaporu) precedes Zimbabwe (Zinbabue) (-NGA- > -NBA-) among the nations whose names start with S/Z.

The same principle applies to the three-way diacritical distinction between HA ハ, PA パ, and BA バ. So Bahrain (Baareen), Haiti (Haiti), and Pakistan (Pakisutan) begin the series of names beginning with HA ハ, which also include Vanuatu (Banuatu) because Japanese has no syllable VA. (However, the V can be represented by adding the voiced consonant diacritic ” to the vowel ウ U, as in ヴァージン Vuaajin for the Virgin Islands.)

Nor does Japanese have a syllable FA, but the syllable HU (フ) sounds close enough to FU to substitute for F in foreign words. So names beginning with F sounds fall into the same group as those beginning with H, P, and B. Thus, the next countries to enter after Fiji (フィジー Fuijii), Philippines (フィリピン Fuiripin), and Finland (フィンァンド Fuinrando) were Bhutan (ブータン Buutan) and Puerto Rico (プエルトリコ Pueruto Riko).

The TA/DA (タ/ダ) series is at least as complicated. When pronounced, the syllables TA TI TU TE TO (タチツテト) actually sound like Ta Chi Tsu Te To and are usually romanized that way in English, while DA DI DU DE DO (ダヂヅデド) sound like Da Ji Zu De Do. So nations whose names start with Ch or Ts sounds are ordered among those whose names start with T/D. So the teams for Chile (Chiri), Tuvalu (Tsubaru), Denmark (Denmaaku), and Germany (Doitsu < Deutsch) entered in katakana order チツテト (TI TU TE TO, which sound like Chi, Tsu, Te, To), keeping in mind that TE=DE and TO=DO for ordering purposes.

Just as the normally syllabic フ FU can be combined with イ I (in フィ) to represent the foreign syllable FI, normally syllabic チ TI/CHI can be combined into チャ (TI+ya=) CHA, チュ (TI+yu=) CHU, チェ (TI+e=) CHE, and チョ (TI+yo =) CHO to represent foreign syllables starting with those sounds, as in チャイナ Chaina (China) or チェコ Cheko (Czech). Foreign words starting with J- can be represented using similar combinations starting with ZI/JI. So ZI+ya = JA in ジャマイカ Jamaica and ZI+yo = JO in ジョージア Georgia, which are sandwiched between ジブチ Djibouti and シリア Syria in katakana order. (Jordan is written ヨルダン Yorudan.)

It’s interesting that the Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei, and the People’s Republic of China all appear among the nations whose names start with T/D, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would too, if it sent a team to this Olympics. The official name of South Korea in Chinese characters is 大韓民国 (Great Han Republic), which is pronounced in Japanese as Daikanminkoku. This name places South Korea immediately after Thailand (タイ Tai), which starts the T/D section of the parade of nations. Chinese Taipei (Chainiizu Taipei) and Tajikistan (Tajikisutan) immediately follow, so the former is ordered as if it were Taipei, not Chinese Taipei.

Tanzania, Czech (チェコ Cheko) Republic, Chad (チャド Chado), and the Central African Republic (中央アフリカ共和国 Chuuou Ahurika Kyouwakoku) precede China (中華人民共和国 Chuuka Jinmin Kyouwakoku ‘Chinese [‘Middle Splendor’] People’s Republic’) because the official names of both the CAR and PRC start with 中 ‘middle’, which in katakana is written チュウ Chuu. The official name of North Korea in Chinese characters is 朝鮮民主主義人民共和国, pronounced in Japanese as Chousen Minshuushugi Jinmin Kyouwakoku (‘Korean Democratic People’s Republic’). It would immediately follow Tunisia (Chunijia) because チュ Chu precedes チョ Cho in katakana order.

Finally, because Japanese R renders both R and L in foreign names, and katakana RA RI RU RE RO come near the end of the syllabary, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Libya, Liechtenstein, Liberia, Romania (Ruumania), Luxembourg, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Lebanon come after Jordan (Yorudan) at the tail end of the parade, just before the current and future Olympic host nations.



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