CultureNature

Cultural Views on Snakes

It’s late spring/early summer in the Northern Hemisphere which means snakes and other reptiles are once again active. This past week, I had multiple encounters with beautiful snakes in my sister’s yard here in North Carolina where I’m visiting. Of course, I do realize not everyone shares my love of nature, nor my fascination with snakes. Some of you are surely cringing right now at the mere thought of being greeted by a snake outside your door, especially a surprise visit because you had forgotten to be aware of them.

My sisters and I agree (as snake experts recommend) with letting the harmless snakes, such as the Black Racer, have free reign outside because they control rodent populations and actually keep poisonous snakes away from the house. I have some friends who say the only good snake is a dead snake. However, I think those feelings are a result of not fully understanding how snakes fit into the ecosystem.

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Politics

Alexa, what happened to Seattle?

For centuries, cities have competed with their rivals to attract and retain humanity’s best, brightest and strongest. The battles fought between Athens and Sparta during the Golden Age of Greece more than 2,000 years ago provide a good example as did the competition between Florence and Sienna to be at the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance.

A similar competitive spirit has been on full display over the past year as more than 100 cities in the USA and Canada vie for Amazon.com’s second headquarters (HQ2) and its promised 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars in investment. While it isn’t surprising that mayors from coast to coast–especially those leading rust-belt cities such as Detroit–would be pulling out all stops to win such a prize, they would be wise to get a first-hand view of the challenges such instant prosperity can bring.

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Nature

Nature’s Healing Power

Try as I might to limit my exposure to too much negativity, on most days I’m a dedicated news junkie. However, sometimes all the buzz and spin become so overwhelming that I have to unplug for a few days. Such was the situation this past week.

I’ve been visiting long-time friends in Seattle for the past two weeks and I managed to escape the city for some much needed serenity in the Pacific Northwest’s great outdoors.

I had two experiences that I’m featuring here in video format. In the first, I was lectured by a Douglas Squirrel as he peered down at me from above. In the other, I was transported to a serene world where the only sound was rushing water tumbling over smooth rocks created millions of years ago.

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CulturePolitics

Donald and Hillary’s Dog and Pony Show

I had a dream this week–one of those part whimsical, part terrifying nocturnal romps through the subconscious mind. I’ll warn you, the dreams that I remember the morning after are in vivid color and peppered with detail.

In my dream, I found myself standing in a crowd that had gathered along the fence facing the North Lawn of the White house. Between the fountain and the north portico of the building stood Donald Trump, dressed in full-on matador costume complete with a glowing red cape he held aloft in his tiny right hand.

The North Lawn of the White House with the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue at bottom–the setting for my dream. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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CultureHuman Rights

Labor in the Arabian Gulf–Part 3

The future of the citizen workforce

As teachers charged with preparing young adults to become productive members of their society, it was important for my colleagues and I to first understand the peculiarities of the Gulf labor market. We were informed by periodic seminars and workshops, conversations with industry representatives and recent graduates as well as through personal research projects.

While Oman’s wise Sultan’s plan has long been to train Omanis for white-collar jobs in education, business management and the STEM industries, the reality was that in many instances this was a long-range goal. Maintaining expat labor in supervisory and management positions was key to keeping the economy humming in the near-term. What I clearly heard from my students was that they weren’t interested in being part of the blue-collar workforce. They wanted a job, preferably with the government, that came complete with their own desk, computer and a sufficient salary.

Students taking an exam at one of Oman’s major universities. The percentage of females studying is considerably higher than males at many of the Sultanate’s universities.

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Human Rights

Video–90 Seconds of Migrant Labor in the Gulf

 

IMAGINE…

You’re recruited to live and work in a foreign country

You work from sun up to sundown 6 days each week 

You’re herded onto the back of trucks like cattle and dropped off at a work

location before dawn each day, then picked up after sunset

You’re paid very low wages for your hard manual labor

You have to work for months to pay the recruitment agency fees

You send all you make back to feed your extended family and often go without

Your labor is arduous and you’re working outside in extreme heat and humidity

You only get to return to your country to visit your family every 2 years

You live in extremely crowded substandard housing

You live this way for years because you have no other way to feed your family

You will never be allowed to become a citizen of the country you’re developing

You have very few rights under your host country’s legal system

You may have to put up with mistreatment by your employer

You’re often lonely, depressed and sick due to neglecting your health

Your employer will only pay for medical care that involves your ability to do your job-

injury to arms, legs or back are covered…eye infections, no way

You will be sent home if you get sick and can no longer work

IMAGINE…this is your life…

peace~henry

CultureHuman Rights

Labor in the Arabian Gulf–Part 2

But, things are SO cheap here!

The Gulf was one of the few places I’ve lived where many of my teaching colleagues hired help each week, especially for house cleaning and car washing. For less than US $10, a teacher could hire the services of a cleaner for an entire weekend afternoon. Call me crazy, but I like doing my own cooking and cleaning so I never went the way of many other expats while I was living there.

During my first two years in Oman, college administration officials allowed faculty to have their cars washed on campus. This practice gave some of the college-sponsored laborers the opportunity to add to monthly salaries as low as RO 40, or a little over US $100. I was accused more than once by co-workers of ‘spoiling’ the system because it was difficult for me to pay one of these laborers the equivalent of US $1.00 for hand-washing the exterior and cleaning the interior of my car in temps that would bring on heatstroke for an average person. In reality, I wasn’t alone in paying more than the standard rate for such services.

Another example of low-tech construction methods–workers routinely dug trenches by hand before burying water pipes or electrical cables.

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