What Is: Constantinople

What Is: Constantinople

How the Mighty do Fall
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Modern-day Instanbul has a history that reaches back millennia. Thought to have been originally founded as a trade settlement by Thracian tribes, it was eventually settled by the Greeks in roughly 300 BCE. However, during the era of the late Roman Empire, it was chosen as the site of Nova Roma, the new capital built by Constantine. More commonly, however, it was known by many names, most commonly as Constantinople, or the "City of Constantine." For over a millennia afterwards, it remained as the richest, largest, and most advanced city of Europe, and its fall to the Ottoman Empire dramatically affected the course of the world.

The city was protected by a series of defenses that protected the entire peninsula, conveniently locking out anyone the citizens didn't want--mostly "barbarian" immigrants. The city also benefited from the affluent trade routes between Anatolia (modern Turkey) and Greece, which served as the link between east and west and was a critical stopping point of the silk road and other valuable trade routes from the east. This wealth made life in the city cozy, to say the least, and soon turned it into a continental epicenter of learning and influence. Of course, as a result, everybody wanted to take the city--and many tried.

At one point, the city was reinforced with a new set of fortifications, the Theodosian Walls, which successfully guarded the city against repeated sieges. Even Attila the Hun turned around and decided the city was impregnable, which wasn't a common approach of his. Three layers of walls and a deep moat successfully protected the city against Huns, Sassanids, Arabs, Bulgars, and Crusaders alike. Needless to say, the city earned a bit of a reputation as impregnable.

One of the more famous defenses of the city was the closely-guarded secrets of Greek Fire, which allowed their dominance of the sea and created actual flamethrowers for the land defenses and sea walls alike. Pots would be filled with the flammable liquid that burnt on water and land alike, although some accounts claim siphons would propel the liquid from tubes like a modern flamethrower. Things heated up quickly when it was brought into battle.

All of that said, nothing lasts forever. The fourth crusade ended as the Venetians used the crusaders to take advantage of Byzantine politics and sack the city during a coup attempt on the emperor, leaving the city and remnants of the empire crippled. Eventually, the Ottoman Turks grew powerful enough to successfully topple what was left of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The advent of canons allowed a bombardment of firepower that, after weeks of siege, reduced the walls to rubble. Even then, the defenders mounted valiant defenses that held the Turks off, but the defensive lines finally failed. The last Byzantine/Roman Emperor, Constantine XI, died in the gap.

Afterwards, Constantinople was renamed Istanbul and served as the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. The ever-helpful Venetians fought them for control of Greece on multiple occasions, even managing to blow up most of the Parthenon in Athens in the process, but the Ottomans were there to stay. Istanbul remained a major economic and cultural center, but, ironically, it's change of hands also spelled its decline. The Byzantines had controlled the silk road for years thanks to the location; after the fourth crusade, the Venetians had largely controlled the trade through the Byzantines. However, after the success of the Ottomans, the rising Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms decided to circumvent the Ottoman dominance of the road by finding a sea route around Africa--and then inadvertently finding the Americas. In a way, although the Ottomans remained a major power for at least a century longer, and Istanbul remains an important city to this day, the last Roman defenders had the last laugh over the Ottomans and Venetians alike.

Cover Image Credit: msecnd.net

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Not My Michigan

A Michigan student-athlete turned Registered Nurse on the Michigan Medicine contract negotiations in 2018.

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It's May 1st, 2016. I'm bright-eyed, eager, and graduating from the University of Michigan as a Nursing Student and Student-Athlete.

I am ready to take on the world the way that Michigan taught me how: fearlessly, compassionately, and wholeheartedly. I bleed blue. I know what it means to be a Wolverine and to represent the Michigan Difference in everything I do. I wear the block M on my School of Nursing scrubs and my Michigan Dance Team uniform well aware that it represents goodness, tradition, and excellence. I am determined. I am inspired. I am ready.

It's Monday, September 17th, 2018. What does Michigan mean to me now? I used to be so sure. Now, I simply don't know. So, what's the deal? How did my view on an institution become so indifferent in recent months?

I chose U of M to start my nursing career because it had the widely known reputation of putting its patients first, respecting its nurses, and providing the best care to patients in the state (5th in the country, to be exact). In my first year, as I was clumsily learning how to push patient stretchers, titrate intravenous vasopressors, and to communicate with the medical team, I proudly participated in our hospital's effort to achieve Magnet status.

When Nursing earned Magnet Status, an award given by the American Nurses' Credentialing Center and indicator of the strength and quality of Nursing at Michigan, I felt that same pride as I did in May of 2016.

I knew in my heart that I picked the best institution to develop my nursing practice and to give high quality, patient-centered care to anyone who walked, rolled, or was carried through the doors of Adult Emergency Services. The hospital's goals were aligned with mine and those around me. We put patients first, and more specifically, we put patients over profits.

I am lucky enough to work at a hospital that has been unionized for more than four decades. When I started working, the concept of a union was foreign to me. For those who may need a refresher, unions promote and protect the interests of all employees. They collectively bargain with employers to secure written agreements for employees regarding pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Collective bargaining agreements are legally enforceable contracts holding employers and employees to mutually agreed-to workplace rules and process to provide a fair and just workplace. The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, an affiliate of the Michigan Nurses Association, has been working diligently since January to bargain with the University of Michigan to protect me, the 5,700 nurses who work within the institution, and our patients. I'd like to think they're the good guys in this story.

Here's where things get sticky: David Spahlinger, president of our prestigious U of M health system, has publicly stated that Michigan is "committed to maintaining current staffing levels," but will not make this commitment in writing. Common sense is reflected in the most high-quality research on the topic of nurse-patient ratios and its direct effect on patient care.

Appropriate staffing allows me and my coworkers to give the quality of care that I know we have the ability to provide. High staffing levels are associated with reduced mortality, falls, medication errors, ulcers, restraint use and infections. Unregulated staffing is a significant barrier to nurses' abilities to provide optimal patient care and prevents Nursing at Michigan from providing what we know to be the Michigan Difference in healthcare.

UMPNC held voting on a work stoppage for unfair labor practices last week. Out of 4,000 votes cast by nurses at the U, 94% authorized a work stoppage in protest of the University's unfair labor practices. No date is set, but our elected nurse bargaining team now has the authority to call for action.

Thank you to Katie Oppenheim, who chairs our union, for reiterating in an article to the Detroit Free Press that a work stoppage is not our goal. "Our goal is a fair agreement which respects nurses and guarantees safe staffing. The university can remedy this situation immediately by stopping their unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith."

I am proud to be a nurse and I hope that our efforts to keep Michigan a patients-over-profits institution are recognized at the community, state, and national level. Anne McGinity, David Spahlinger, and those who have the power to make Michigan the magical place I once thought it was, make like Nike and just do it. For the love of patients, nurses, and our great University. I know we are better than this.

(Stay Tuned, folks).

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To incoming college freshman

Things I wish someone would have told me about freshman year of college

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Freshman year, I remember it like it was yesterday. Well, it kinda was. The excitement and anticipation of finally being away from home and the feeling of a fresh start. I was beyond excited for freshman year and can honestly say it was the best year of my life. However, there are a few things I wish I would have known before starting college.

This first thing I wish I would have realized is how fast the year goes by. I felt like my senior year of high school went by fast, but nothing compared to freshman year. It's like I blinked and it was already winter break, then I blinked again and it was summer. I think this is because there is so much to do at school, between class, extracurriculars, meeting all new people, and exploring a new place. Sometimes, it can be overwhelming, the feeling as if you should always be doing something. It is important not to forget to relax and take time for yourself. The amount of work and time in which it is due is also a lot different than high school as well, which can be a stressful adjustment as time management plays such a big role in being successful in college. A good way to avoid this stress is to plan out when you will do your work for each of your classes and don't procrastinate (we all do it, but if you can break the habit your freshman-year-old college, you will thank yourself at the end of the year). One thing I wish I would have done was taken more time for myself and not have had the constant feeling like I had to be doing something. So take in all the new experiences, but also don't be afraid to take time for yourself because although freshman year doesn't last forever, you will still have three more years.

That leads me to my next point - which is to get involved. This was a such a big factor in how I made friends my freshman year. College offers so many unique opportunities and it is such a good way to find your passions and people that share those passions. One thing I wish someone would have told me was that there are certain clubs for your major. I am a film major and I joined Delta Kappa Alpha, which is a film fraternity and being a part of this organization has helped me meet some of the greatest people and even better I have made friends who have the same major as me. Making friends in the dorms was one thing I regret not doing my freshman year. So many people talk about how they met their closest friends through their dorms, so don't miss the opportunity of meeting people that are living with you for a year like I did.

Overall freshman year is pretty great. A new beginning. Don't forget about your past though. Keep in touch with your high school friends, answer your mom when she calls you, and text your siblings saying you miss them even if you really don't! Have fun and enjoy because it is most likely going to be the easiest year of school.

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