My Interesting Friend and Her Podcast!

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I have been obsessed with Psychology for a while now, it is very interesting to me the way people think and interact and why. That’s where my whole “trying to know everything in the world” started. I saw a book called “Subliminal” by Leonard Mlodinow and that was the beginning of my adventure to know all things. Now my book shelf is filled with the writings of; Jonathan Haidt, Sebastian Junger, Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, and Simon Baron-Cohen to name a few. It is an impossible task, to know all things, I am aware, but I am enjoying it.

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I used to live in Houston, Texas when I was younger, and I have a lot of friends from there I keep up with. One of them is Kelly Stewart. Kelly and I went to school together, and after I moved, as it often happens, we didn’t speak as much. A while back, I can’t remember when, I was scrolling through LinkedIn and saw where she posted a podcast about Industrial and Organizational Psychology. So, I immediately subscribed and listened. The I-O Podcast is interesting and informative, and I would recommend it to anyone who is employed and wants to better understand human behavior in the workplace. It features guests such as; Eleni Lobene, Ph.D., S. Morton McPhail, Ph.D., and Talya N. Bauer, Ph.D. Click here to find out about I-O Psychology.

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My friend Kelly Stewart is the Host of “The I-O Podcast” within the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). She has worked as a project manager and assisted organizations like The New Orleans Police Department, LA Tech University, and Medical Clinics in the Louisiana area to develop cost effective solutions for recruitment and retention by analyzing data and research. She went to Texas State University for undergrad and is a I-O Psychology graduate of Louisiana Tech University.

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We have recently been talking and in the future, we may team up on some things, maybe I’ll be on her podcast, maybe she will write a blog on Generally Specific. Who knows. Either way you should certainly subscribe to her podcast BELOW to be enlightened on topics of interest within or related to the realm of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. As always subscribe to Generally Specific for updates on blogs and have a wonderful day!

SIOP Podcast

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!

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Life in the Kingdom: Instagram While They Pray

 

As I write this, it’s a little after 6:30 pm on a Friday evening in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The first day of the weekend is winding down and the Isha’a prayer can be heard outside from local mosque loud speakers.

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Photo of downtown Riyadh, taken from land mark building; Kingdom Centre

 

For the past thirteen months I’ve been living in the capitol city of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I work for a company contracted by the U.S. Army to work on the “Modernization of the Ministry of the National Guard” project. This project is only a small part of Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030”, in which the new government hopes to stand up several modernization projects across the country. I hope to talk about “Vision 2030” in more depth at a later date.

 

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Street view of Kingdom Centre, downtown Riyadh

 

As I’m sure you can imagine, the cultural differences from the United States to Saudi Arabia are endless. To start, as you may have noticed at the beginning of this post, I referred to Friday as the first day of the weekend. Although you may start your weekend on Friday after work, the work week here is Sunday through Thursday. Friday is the Muslim holy day, and Saturday rounds out the weekend. This, coupled with a seven to eight hour time difference from your friends and family, really throws a kink in many aspects of life I consider normal.

 

The hardest thing for me to get used to, by far, are prayer times. Throughout the day you can hear the Muslim call to prayer ring out from the many mosques scattered across the city. Without fail, anywhere from ten to thirty minutes before prayer time, all businesses close. They open back up about ten minutes after the end of the prayer and this happens five times a day, seven days a week. It begins with Fajr, the dawn prayer, continues throughout the day with; Dhuhr, Asr and Maghrib, and ends with Isha’a, the night prayer I mentioned in the beginning. Other forms of salat (ritual Islamic prayers) occur as well, either weekly or for special occasions like Ramadan and Islamic festivals. You must plan all of your daily activities around these prayers. I’ve been caught many times, on my way to run errands or visit a restaurant, seeing stores dropping their blinds and locking their doors. You learn quickly to check prayer times before leaving home or work to prevent sitting in a parking lot for forty-five minutes. Unfortunately, due to many factors, sometimes you still end up browsing Instagram to kill the time until you can get your tacos.

 

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Nearby restaurants and grocery store closed for Dhuhr prayer on a Friday

 

Then there are differing religious laws, which are enforced by both police officers and religious authorities, that prohibit things that we as Americans can do freely every day. Like meeting your Tinder match (for you single folk) for a drink after work. Yeah, you just broke multiple laws doing that, if you were here. First off, alcohol of any sort is illegal here. My boss and I can’t even order isopropyl alcohol to use as a cleaning agent. Secondly, you aren’t allowed to be in the company of a female in public without being related to her or having a male member of her family being present. Both crimes are cause for being immediately arrested, which comes with prison time and/or harsh physical public punishment. Those punishments are comprised of; lashings, stoning, and extremity amputations including beheadings if it’s deemed a severe enough crime. All of those take place downtown in a spot us Westerners have nicknamed “Chop-chop Square,”. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly! Now these aren’t open to the general public, at least not anymore from what I’m told. Such events are by invitation only to Muslims of status in high political and religious standing, and those somehow linked to the criminal. Personally, I just stay away from that part of downtown no matter if it’s choppin’ day or not. Really puts being single in the USA into perspective, huh? Obviously both drinking and single men and women getting together still happens, and we may get into that when I’m a little surer that every keystroke isn’t being watched. Trust, me these guys will give the NSA a run for their money…. Oops!

 

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All in all, I haven’t felt threatened while being here which is good. Mostly because I make sure to respect their customs and abide by the directives my company security division issues. At the end of this I have no doubt that I will return home to my wife with a great new-found appreciation of the basic freedoms that we Americans have. Until then, I will try to learn what I can about this different culture and find things to enrich my time here and share with all of you.

 

-Author: David Cannon Follow David on Twitter

Thank You for MY Service.

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Well the day is upon us again, where all the veterans on Facebook change their profile pictures to them, in their respective uniform, holding a machine gun (or spatula and tongs for our special 92G’s) or standing in formation or saluting. I’ll be honest, I’ve done it too.  I am no veteran though. At least by my own definition. There are better men that have done much more than I and deserve the veteran name. My time in the military was short and uneventful, but I am proud of it.

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I signed a contract in August of 2011 for the Army National Guard. My family had a pretty average ratio of people in the military, my father was in the Navy as well as both of his brothers, and my grandfather served in the Air Force. Plenty of other extended family as well, so it’s safe to say that I knew about the military. I considered joining active duty straight out of high school and I had a buddy who did the split option, where you go between your junior and senior year of high school for boot camp, and he made it look easy. I decided to go to community college instead, seeing if I could get a scholarship, which I did, and subsequently wasted both my time and their money. When I dropped out of community college I knew that I had to change my attitude and just my overall way of thinking. Two of my best friends, from high school and my brief stint in college, were in the National Guard and told me all about it and it seemed appealing to me.

 

Basic Training, or “OSUT” for me was 14 weeks in Ft. Benning, GA on sand-hill. Personally, it was physically demanding, I had never run more than a mile and had an addiction to carbohydrates. Mentally it was a breeze because I was accustomed to being yelled at by my pops, which I appreciate. As far as the being away from home part, I missed home but, it didn’t hinder my general mood or motivation from day to day. Looking back, I realize that it was easy compared to what I was told prior, and I hear its hella easier now. Sad. Anyways, I completed that and went to airborne school which I was booted from because of a shoulder injury I received during boot camp. So I flew back to ‘Bama and began training with my first duty station; 1st Squadron, 131st Cavalry Regiment, Troop C, LRS ABN Infantry (AL ARNG) in Geneva, Alabama.

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For those of you not familiar with the National Guard let me enlighten you; essentially, instead of being a full-time job, your duty is to “drill” once a month and during the summer time you go somewhere for 2 weeks, it’s called “AT” (annual training, often called anal training as a joke). Drills consist of 50% training and 50% sitting around talking about football, drunk stories, or guns waiting to go home. That training includes rucking, which is just walking at a fast pace in a tactical formation (sometimes) with a heavy bag on your back for several miles. We also trained with all kinds of firearms, most often the M-4 Carbine which is a shorter and lighter version of the M16A2 assault rifle chambered in 5.56x45mm. My MOS, the only one that matters, is 11B which is an Infantryman, so we also got to train with crew served weapons like the M240B and M249 which civilians mostly know as machine guns. We often stayed in the woods and did field training. Before my Squadron switched to Light Infantry, it was Calvary and I was in Charlie Troop, which was an Infantry LRS unit. We did reconnaissance and surveillance which I very much enjoyed. I did not think I would like it to begin with, I am a very loud and hyper person so when I was told I would have to travel 17 klicks and get buried in a hole to watch a bridge or building for 24 hours all while being completely silent and unseen, I scoffed. I did it though, because the army said so, and it turned out to be somewhat therapeutic. We trained in other ways as well including; combat lifesaving first aid, military vehicle operation, night operation, tactical maneuvers, room and building clearing, radio communications, land navigation, and many more.

There is a nickname for people in the National Guard, “weekend warrior”, its meant to be an insult I think. People in the military kind of look down on it in the mindset that if you’re not full-time you’re not good enough, or couldn’t cut it in an active duty unit. While that may be true with some NG units and some soldiers, it certainly isn’t the case for all. There are “shit bags” in both active duty and reserve/national guard components of the military. For the beginning part of my time in I could have been considered one of those people, I had sub-par PT scores and wasn’t invested the way I should’ve been. That changed, I reached the rank of Sergeant before getting out and that is because I began to take it seriously and became more responsible and disciplined. The National Guard is unique because you are a part-time soldier. On the civilian side you have a full-time job and responsibilities, then once a month and two weeks out of the summer you become a soldier. There are doctors, lawyers, cops, mechanics, EMT, personal trainers, truck drivers, lineman, and every other occupation you could imagine that serve in the National Guard. A lot of guys have families as well with an added responsibility of being a parent. Overseas deployments for the National Guard are less frequent than Active Duty of course, but as a state entity the guard can be activated by the governor for natural disasters all over as well. My first unit was activated for the tornadoes that hit Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in 2011 and provided relief after the fact. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m simply saying that they are both vital in this nation’s defense. I am proud to have served in the National Guard and will represent that “Nasty Girl/Weekend Warrior” name till the day I die.

While I was in, I was exposed to a vast assortment of people. That is one part of the military that I think many people over look. Without going on a 9,000+ word tangent about diversity and racial issues, which believe me I could, I’ll say that I am the person I am today mostly because of my experience in the military and the men I served with. I served with people from all walks of life that taught me about varying cultures and lifestyles that I will cherish and apply to my life forever. I met people that I hated and people that I loved. For all those people, I would have, and still will take a bullet, and I’m a better person because of it.

Overall, I enjoyed my time in the military. There certainly were times I wanted to quit and hated everyone and everything in my general vicinity. Like the time I was moving with my team during an AT in the woods of Eglin AFB for a 72-hour recon training mission. I wanna say it was my 2nd Annual Training with that unit. We were like 14K into a 24K movement, it was probably 175 degrees, and I was basically carrying an apartment in my ruck sack. I sucked down most of my food and water because I was a half-witted dough goat. Everyone else was in the same general mindset as I; “Screw this, I’m over it, I wanna go home, my feet hurt, I’m tired, hungry, thirsty, and if I had an actual grenade I would end this terrible misery”. That is probably an exaggeration looking back, but we were in “the suck” if you will. At a certain point in time I called it… I remember a mosquito or fly wouldn’t leave me TF alone and my straps on my ruck sack just couldn’t get comfortable. I broke. I would compare the beginning of my episode to an inaudible “Operation Meetinghouse”, the single most destructive bombing raid in human history. I started to spaz out violently, my being was filled with rage trying to escape like a freshly shaken bottle of champagne. I was on a recon mission, so I didn’t yell or make a sound because, sound discipline, duh. I imagine it was quite the show. At that point my Team Leader sharply whispered, “Cooke, what is your problem man?”. My reply was full of expletives, comparisons to hell, wishes for the sweet release of death and, by the account of others on my team, tears, which I can neither confirm or deny. After the dust settled, I was fine, don’t get me wrong I still wanted to eat a cheeseburger, drink a beer or serval, and go home, but I was finished with my toddler like tantrum. We decided as a team that it would be silly of us to continue seeing as everyone else was also black on ammo, water, food, and give a damn. It turned out that the grid points for our objectives given to us by our LT. were incorrect and the route we planned was 3x longer than everyone else’s because of that incompetent butter bar. That was the Army sometimes though; unnecessary tasks, planned by literal babies, through impossible terrain, in undesired conditions, carried out by grunts like myself.

Today I am thankful that I was lazy in college and quit, because if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have experienced the military and its many benefits. Without it I wouldn’t be the man I am today, and would probably be dead or in jail. I learned what it takes to be successful. I learned about compassion. I learned many skills and tactics that help me in my civilian job. I learned the importance of brotherhood and camaraderie. Finally, I learned about people, and today I’d like to say, to all you people, civilians and veterans alike; Thank you for my service.