Thursday, May 30, 2019

Old Post from the Anthropik network

"I noticed, when she delivered the plate of fruit, that my Balian hostess was also balancing a tray containing many little green bowls-small, boatshaped platters, each of them woven neatly from a freshly cut section of palm frond. The platters were two or three inches long, and within each was a small mound of white rice. After handing me my breakfast, the woman and the tray disappeared from view behind the other buildings, and when she came by some minutes later to pick up my empty plate, the tray was empty as well.
On the second morning, when I saw the array of tiny rice platters, I asked my hostess what they were for. Patiently, she explained to me that they were offerings for the household spirits. When I inquired about the Balinese term that she used for "spirit," she repeated the explanation in Indonesian, saying that these were gifts for the spirits of the family compound, and I saw that I had understood her correctly. She handed me a bowl of sliced papaya and mango and slipped around the corner of the building. I pondered for a minute, then set down the bowl, stepped to the side of my hut, and peered through the trees. I caught sight of her crouched low beside the corner of one of the other buildings, carefully setting what I presumed was one of the offerings on the ground. Then she stood up with the tray, walked back to the other corner, and set down another offering. I returned to my bowl of fruit and finished my breakfast.
That afternoon, when the rest of the household was busy, I walked back behind the building where I had seen her set down two of the offerings. There were the green platters resting neatly at the two rear corners of the hut. But the little mounds of rice within them were gone.
The next morning I finished the sliced fruit, waited for my hostess to come by and take the empty bowl, then quietly beaded back behind the buildings. Two fresh palm leaf offerings sat at the same spots where the others had been the day before. These were filled with rice. Yet as I gazed at one of them, I suddenly noticed, with a shudder, that one of the kernels of rice was moving. Only when I knelt down to look more closely did I see a tiny line of black ants winding through the dirt to the palm leaf. Peering still closer, I saw that two ants had already climbed onto the offering and were struggling with the uppermost kernel of rice; as I watched, one of them dragged the kernel down and off the leaf, then set off with it back along the advancing line of ants. The second ant took another kernel and climbed down the mound of rice, dragging and pushing, and fell over the edge of the leaf; then a third climbed onto the offering. The column of ants emerged from a thick clump of grass around a nearby palm tree. I walked over to the other offering and discovered another column of tiny ants dragging away the rice kernels. There was an offering on the ground behind my building as well, and a nearly identical line of ants. I walked back to my room chuckling to myself. The balian and his wife had gone to so much trouble to daily placate the household spirits with gifts; only to have them stolen by little six-legged thieves. What a waste! But then a strange thought dawned within me. What if the ants themselves were the "household spirits" to whom the offerings were being made?
The idea became less strange as I pondered the matter. The family compound, like most on this tropical island, had been constructed in the vicinity of several ant colonies. Since a great deal of household cooking took place in the compound, and also the preparation of elaborate offerings of foodstuffs for various rituals and festivals, the grounds and the buildings were vulnerable to infestations by the ant population. Such invasions could range from rare nuisances to a periodic or even constant siege. It became apparent that the daily palm-frond offerings served to preclude such an attack by the natural forces that surrounded (and underlay) the family's land. The daily gifts of rice kept the ant colonies occupied and, presumably, satisfied. Placed in regular, repeated locations at the corners of various structures around the compound, the offerings seemed to establish certain boundaries between the human and ant communities; by honoring this boundary with gifts, the humans apparently hoped to persuade the insects to respect the boundary and not enter the buildings.
The maintenance of such boundaries is the essence of magic, but our civilization has lost its magic, and we have violated every boundary. We've been as short-sighted as the man who hated frogs. Could it ever be as simple as just asking the frog to come back to our stream?"

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wildest Nature and Amazing Animals - select readings


Friday, May 17, 2019

Psychology, Recovery and Mental Health - select readings

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Music Playlist - Spring 2019

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Some serious concerns about driver distracting behaviors on our work bus

Update, September 16, 2019:

This past May, beside submitting these unwelcome driver-distracting concerns, I submitted this (below) to the bus company and two social services agencies. Though I haven't noticed any results yet, it's possible that this is something that various managers handle discreetly. Every agency I submitted this to, at least replied to the message, acknowledging this is something that should be looked into, except for no reply forthcoming from the bus company. Skills Management claims that they can't really doing anything about events on the bus - it's "out of their jurisdiction."

Yet, when I witnessed an actual assault on the bus by one of the Skills workers upon another and tape-recorded this, they acted more concerned.  Skills management later told me that the bus management (instead of thanking me) is most concerned about me filming on their buses! 

It feels like someone is getting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" confused with "If you see something, say something." What if someone assaulted a member of their family? Would they not hope for the best evidence? 

Delegating authority should not be equated with passing the buck and I keep feeling as if I'm getting lip-service over these various bus concerns, with limited actual change or improvements of the important issues.

Original post: May, 02, 2019:

Skills of Central Pennsylvania, Benner Pike, State College
Centre County Transportation, Milesburg, Pennsylvania

To whom it may concern,

I have pressing concerns about unwholesome habits being demonstrated by some Skills workers on our Centre County Transportation work commuter bus. These have become so out of hand that they frequently distract our dedicated bus drivers.

As a Skills Program worker over the past year, I’m grateful for the training I’m paid for, as well as the supplementary bus rides between my residence and work. This has made a big difference and improvement in my life.

And I like to think I can carry these precious skills onward and upward to other aspects of my life. I believe positive attitudes and outlooks can overlap, influence and rub off onto fellow colleagues; therefore it strikes me as disheartening when I experience negative ones as manifested in the following scenario which repeats itself so much that it’s become predictable:
First, the bus driver travels over a bump and somebody sitting in the back shouts over our whole group that he’s going to kill, strangle, beat, or otherwise disfigure the driver if they don’t slow down more. Then, others chime in angrily, saying it can’t be helped and that they will then kill or maim the complainer someway. Everything heats up more, as riders commence shooting personal insults to each other from several angles. Often this unhealthy banter gets recharged over the next bump and continues boisterously for the full bus ride or at least until involved passengers depart. Not only that, but there are other standard protocols of politeness that some Skills workers disregard daily, such as leaving the aisle seat open and properly securing their safety belts, even after the driver asks for this.

On the bright day I learned of my bus riding approval I received a memo which included the guideline: “Passengers must conduct themselves in an orderly and polite manner when riding in county vehicles.”  Presumably, the other riders and / or guardians received the same memo.

I feel that if I say nothing about this unacceptable societal failure, then it follows I’m giving my sanction that it’s okay. The last straw occurred recently at lunch one day when a Skills staff manager made a similar comment in jest about killing someone. This was in response to a minor question from a co-worker when Ms. ____ __ answered “I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you!”  An old worn out joke for sure, but not one that everyone at Skills comprehends. Half-shocked to hear this myself, I sensed the surprise and confusion coming from the young woman who asked the question, and then soon left (to cry?) And certainly a grievous trigger point for others who have lost loved ones to violence. Indeed, our widespread TSA agents arrest and interrogate glib travelers for lesser offhand ‘jokes.’ about violent acts.

If integrating Skills workers into the community is still part of Skills mission, as I’m told it is, then I would like to point out another pertinent observation: In my vast experience of finding respectable employment over the past forty-five years the majority of the better jobs I’ve discovered came through personal contact or via word of mouth. Many workers I’ve met have experienced this same serendipity. Even now, it’s likely that someone on the bus or even the driver is or knows of homeowners or businesses looking for decent help with various chores, e.g.: gardening, grass cutting, dog-walking, gutter cleaning, cooking, leaf raking, trash- recycle sorting, garage sweeping, knitting, vacuuming, sewing, fruit-picking, stable cleaning, fetching tools, folding tarps, painting, snow-shoveling, furniture rearranging,  brush removal, etc. The odd job list is long...

But if potential employers sometimes we encounter on the buses experience a constant sea of Skills disharmony; seeing perpetually rude and disorderly behaviors, this impression immediately dissuades those prospective employers and that bad imprint gets shared with others.

I have faith in my work colleagues that several of them will see the light right away when this is explained by someone with the proper timing and authority. Other good news is that at least one bus driver has already vowed to keep the bus atmosphere ship-shape, and starting by requiring window seat placement for those first on, when additional riders are expected. 

Posting a sign on the bus could help remind riders that bus privileges come along with the responsibility of respecting other commuters. 

At Skills we have occasional days off when no work is scheduled, and here we help with volunteer projects instead. Why not consider a few hours of one of those days for training or a refresher course about courteousness, even if it’s just done in small groups? Tacking on a small challenge for Skills workers to use to their imaginations to say something complimentary about each other would be a nice start.

I’m impressed by the safety standards our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania uses in other important niches now, such as automatically cancelling registrations when drivers insurances lapse, and implementing brief back road closures for migrating turtle egg-layers. Bus services themselves may have already set aside funds for safety programs which dissuade driver distraction, and if so, may offer to go in half when approached with an idea for a brief annual refresher meeting or class to remind riders of their respectful responsibilities. Such a gesture could go a long way in helping mend these inappropriate and outlandish driver-distracting behavioral patterns.

Thank you,

c.c. Centre County Transportation
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, safety division.

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