Thursday, 21 May 2015

LEARNING THE REST OF THE STORY

In the summer of 1968, a band called People had a hit out called "I Love You."  Sharing the lead vocals was a young man named Larry Norman. I didn't know it at the time but he went on to become a pioneer of Christian rock music.

Ten years later,I discovered Larry Norman's solo album, Bootleg, at the public library in Edmonton. While listening to the double LP, I realized that he was the same person whose voice I heard a decade earlier. I confirmed it by looking at the line-up of band members on the People LP cover, a record my mom bought for me for a dollar back in 1974.

I've heard that the very day that "I Love You" hit number one in America, Larry quit the band. According to Wikipedia, most of the band members accepted Scientology. Larry had recently given his life to Christ so he left the group to pursue a solo career.

What was so significant about Larry's music for me? It showed that rock music was merely a tool and it could be used to spread the gospel. Many Christians insisted that it was the Devil's music and some even claimed I'd become possessed by a demon if I listened to it. Larry's lyrics showed me that those folks, sincere though they were, were mistaken.

Certainly music does effect one's mood. That has been demonstrated through experiments done on various people groups around the world. Even so, believing one can receive a demon merely by listening to rock music is superstitious nonsense.

I'm eternally grateful to Larry Norman. In spite of horrendous criticism from evangelical Christians and poor record sales, He persisted in making rock music with Christ-honouring lyrics. In spite of his weak heart and other health problems, he persisted with his vision of evangelizing and commenting on social issues through his distinctive musical style.

When I get to heaven or if Christ returns before I die, one of the first people I'll seek out is Larry. I want to thank him for giving me hope during a difficult time in my life. To learn more about this difficult time and how the heavenly father led me out of it, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's Books.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

REPURPOSING OLD COMPUTERS

An e-mail I recently received from an anti virus company had some good suggestions on re purposing old computers instead of tossing them out. Basically, they can be turned into home theatre systems, storage devices, recipe computers in the kitchen, refurbished as a spare, or given to somebody who can make use of the PC.

These are great ideas but I have a few more. For example, many people like older versions of programs better than the new ones. Why not keep the old PC with its old programs and use it for dedicated tasks? That way, you can still get what you need done. In my case, I love WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. All three of my memoirs and a score of freelance articles were written by me with that antiquated-but-effective program.

Another use of an old computer is as a spare if the new one is down or somebody else is using it. I have several old machines and while I'm cleaning the hard drives or downloading some huge file, I can continue writing on another PC.

I'm not into games but I'm told by gamers that they like the old ones for their retro look and the challenge of playing them. The only game I play is a DOS-based game called The Mice Men. Basically, you try to get your mice men in the blue shirts across the maze of cheese cubes before the PC gets all of its red-shirted players to the other side. It's a challenge and the mice men are cute. I find it quite addictive.

I have a feeling that really old computers, like my Vic-20, will be valuable to collectors someday. Since old toys, bubble gum cards, and similar cultural artifacts are now fetching high prices, why not working machines from the eighties? The old circa 1991 Apple computer somebody gave me might also fetch a good price from a collector, especially since it still works.

I hate tossing anything away that still is useful and I hope many other folks feel the same way. Second hand shops are a great place to find old equipment. Not only is it a way of reducing the land fill but it breathes new life into old machines.

You can read about the three books I wrote with WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS at the Bruce Atchison's books page as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's Books.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

ONE STRANGE KITTEN

Cats certainly do have some interesting personality quirks. Yet there was one kitten I knew who had some extremely quirky habits. He was one of a litter born to my mom's Siamese cat named Cocoa.

Because of his grey fur, we called him Cloudy. The other three kittens in the litter were black. Cloudy also had a dark grey Hitler mustache.

Adding to his quirks was that he had a speech impediment. Instead of meowing like a normal cat, he'd say, "Gow!" That was handy since we didn't even need to wonder which one of Cocoa's kittens wanted attention.

Cloudy also loved to retrieve woolen flowers. My sister Diane had bought them to decorate her knitting projects. Cloudy discovered one on the floor and dropped it at our feet as we sat and watched TV. "Gow!" he insisted and pawed at the flower. Diane tossed it across the living room and Cloudy chased after it. To our surprise, he came trotting back with the flower in his mouth. "Gow!" he exclaimed as he stared at us again.

WE soon tired of the game but Cloudy didn't. We'd be engrossed in the program on TV when We would hear "Gow!" behind us. If we didn't respond, Cloudy would paw at our feet until we complied with his wishes. Never have I known of a cat who retrieved toys to be tossed again by his or her humans.

We all missed the kittens when they were given away by Mom.  I think we missed Cloudy the most. He was so loveable and eccentric that we often spoke of how silly he was. Forty-one years later, I still remember that spring and the fun we had playing fetch with that silly grey kitten with the little mustache.

I haven't written much about my family's pets but I did write a memoir of my rabbits which I had as an adult. They too had their own quirky quirks. For Example, Gideon hurled rolled-up socks between his hind legs like a football quarterback. Harry was so self-possessed that he often fell asleep on his side in the kitchen doorway. Neutrino was a little bunny with a huge attitude. These stories and more are told in When A Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living With Bunnies. Check it out on my Bruce Atchison's books link.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

SPARKING DISCUSSION ON EMERGENCY GADGETS

Every once in a while, I come across a nifty little gadget that I wish I had known about years ago. While at the World Net Daily Superstore web page, I read about the Sparkie fire starter. Since they were only $10.00 each, I ordered two of them.

When the package containing my fire starters finally arrived, I immediately tried out the Sparkie. I didn't get the hang of it at first but I eventually figured it out. A short test in the kitchen sink demonstrated that it indeed gave off hot sparks which could light kindling.

There was a time in my life when I felt I might have to hide out in the wilderness. Back in 1986, I attended a house church which believed that the mark of the beast would be instituted  before Christ's return. Consequently, they stored up a large supply of canned goods against the day when nobody could buy or sell without the mark.

A novelty catalogue I received in the mail about that time had some exciting outdoor gadgets. I purchased a pocket-sized stove, a solar-powered cigarette lighter (useful for lighting kindling), a dynamo flashlight, and other useful items. The only problem with the lighter is that it wouldn't work during cloudy days or at night. The Sparkie would have solved that problem. As it was, I put some wooden matches in a waterproof container. I would have loved to have the Sparkie back then but I found no such fire starter in the catalogue.

Though I now believe that we need not fear this mark of the beast because it was a mark of character and that all events except for Christ's return mentioned in Revelation happened 2000 years ago, I still see useful applications for the Sparkie. It'll be handy when my pilot lights in the stove are blown out. If I do go camping, I could start the campfire. I might be invited on a picnic as well someday. Since the Sparkie relies on a flint rod, I don't have to worry about wet matches or lighters running out of fuel. According to the back panel on the product's packaging, the Sparkie lights kindling even if the device gets wet.

Though I enjoy practical emergency gadgets like the Sparkie, I'm glad I'm free from the paranoid teachings of that aberrant congregation. Some of the leader's doctrines were so incredibly wacky that I felt compelled to write a memoir about them. Please check out How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's Books. The end of the paperback is especially gratifying, plus it contains the secret of how to rid oneself of emotional baggage.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY SLEEPS

It seems like everybody has at one time played guitar, wanted to play the instrument, or hopes to learn it someday. I was no exception. The rock music of the sixties made me feel that playing guitar would make me one of the cool kids. I often dreamt of playing rock music in a band but it never came to be.

I learned just how hard playing guitar was when I was at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in 1969. The music teacher decided that we should learn to play the instrument. A dozen acoustic guitars were bought and we were allowed to take them to the dorm to practice them. My excitement turned to disappointment when I found out that the music didn't automatically come to me.

Sadly, my classmates and I soon lost enthusiasm for playing guitar. I remember one class where the teacher got angry when I told him that I hadn't practiced. His rant just alienated me more from his tutelage and from guitar lessons in general.

Five years later, a friend at church gave me a battered old guitar. With the help of another friend, this one from school, I learned some basic chords. I still remember the joy I felt when I learned to play the chords for the chorus of a song by John Lennon called "Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out" A year later, I needed to fill some time at school because I had to drop out of electronics class. I took the easy route, opting for Home Economics and Classical Guitar. While in that latter class, I found that my old Melody King guitar was perfect for playing classical pieces. The strings were the right distance apart and not too high above the fret board.

During the summer of 1975, I convinced the church I attended to let me strum along with the hymns. The woman who played the accordion thought there were too few singers but I said it would be my contribution since I couldn't read the hymn book. I played from then on until I left that house church in 1987.

It wasn't until 1986 that I bought myself a second hand electric guitar. There too, I learned something I hadn't imagined. Those instruments are heavy. They seem so light when in the hands of rock stars. I also didn't like its strings being so high above the fret board and so close together. Consequently, I didn't play it often.

It's been years since I played either my acoustic or electric guitars. Being busy with writing, I haven't had the time or inclination to dust off my instruments.

As for that house church I attended, click here to learn about a book I wrote regarding my spiritual journey.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

IF YOU DON'T VOTE, DON'T COMPLAIN

Today is the day when Albertans will choose the next premiere of the province. Many people will be at the polls during some time today. Sadly, not everybody realizes the great privilege of voting in a free society.

Many countries have dictatorships where no alternative to the powers that be exists. Anybody even hinting at the dictator's faults is whisked off to prison or just disappears in the middle of the night.

Some nations allow voting but showing up at the polls is dangerous. Opposition parties often threaten to kill voters and blow up polling stations in order to intimidate citizens. On occasions, opposition candidates are murdered so that the ruling power can keep its hold on the country.

I take my privilege of helping to choose the next provincial government seriously. In fact the first time I voted in any election was forty years ago. I haven't missed one because I realize how precious our right to political dissent is. Though my first experience with voting was humiliating because the poll workers assumed I couldn't even sign my name, I still felt proud of what I did.

People today in the west have no excuse for not voting. Practically every country has advanced polls for those who are unable to vote on election day. Some provinces and states even have mail-in ballots for those who are homebound. Candidates use social media and have web pages outlining their policies so voters can read them and make an informed choice. How much more must be done to get people off their couches and vote?

It seems to me that people figure their vote doesn't count. History is filled with accounts where a few votes either way could have changed the fate of nations. I believe people are just to apathetic and lazy to vote. They don't appreciate the honour given them by the governments they pay taxes to. Neither do they care that many people around the world would love to have the freedom they take for granted.

As long as I can, I plan to vote in all the national, provincial, and municipal elections held where I live. As I enter the polling station, I think about how fortunate I am that nobody is intimidating me to vote a certain way or that I might be shot. I therefore urge all Albertans to get out and vote. Stop letting others determine your future for you. If you're too lazy to do your homework and vote, don't complain about who was elected. You have no right to gripe since you didn't bother voting.

Friday, 1 May 2015

SHOULD WE CLAIM DEDUCTIONS ON OUR TAX RETURNS?

Yesterday was the last day for Canadians to get their tax returns in to the government. It's often the busiest day at Revenue Canada since people tend to put off that dreaded annual chore. The question is occasionally raised by libertarian-minded folks regarding whether or not we should claim all we're entitled to. I don't see any problem in doing so, do you?

I believe that citizens are much more adept at spending their money than the government gives them credit for. We know our limitations and the consequences of chronic debt. Most folks spend wisely and they know what they need verses what they don't.

Not so with bureaucrats. Their department gets a set amount of money. At the end of each fiscal year, they must turn in any unspent dollars. Instead of assessing whether departments need the same, less, or more money, government bean counters subtract the money turned back from the next fiscal year's allotment. This causes a frenzy of spending in March on all sorts of unnecessary things. That way, the department reports the same amount of money for the next financial year.

I also believe there's nothing wrong in taking legitimate tax breaks because we're promised them by the government. It's our money to start with so why should we let those wasteful bureaucrats have a penny more than is allowed?

Here's an example of how I received bad advice but got what I was owed. Back in the eighties, I had my taxes done by volunteer accountants at the CNIB. They misread the disability tax credit to mean that all the mentioned handicaps had to be present in the taxpayer before a credit could be given. I learned later that the list was meant to outline separate disabilities and wasn't inclusive of them all. I received about eight-thousand dollars in back taxes which I used to pay off my charge card bills and part of my mortgage.

There's nothing wrong with donating to charities and political parties either. Claiming those deductions is our right as free people. Society is helped and donors are rewarded for their generosity.

By the way, Canadians must separate charitable donations from the receipts for political donations. Provincial and federal receipts must be separated as well.

Of course this isn't meant as a give-to-get scheme. The minister of an aberrant house church tore a verbal strip off me for suggesting that we should donate more to get more back from the government. He assumed that I was greedy when all I wanted to do was spread the gospel further.

I wrote about the mental abuse I suffered in that pseudo-church and how the heavenly father led me to a proper knowledge of himself in a book called How I Was Razed. Read more about it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's books.