Tuesday, 27 January 2015

POLICE BRUTALITY, MYTH AND FACT

What a year 2014 was for protests against police brutality. The high profile case of Michael Brown  alone erupted in violence for months on end. Unfortunately for those stirring up dissension, the facts proved the teenager guilty and cleared Officer Wilson. The same was true for other recent cases of police supposedly using excessive force.

Police officers aren't perfect, yet they take so much more abuse from the public than you or I do. They need to stay calm and professional while facing vulgar insults from people, many of them drunk.

Furthermore, officers are trained to use appropriate force for each level of conflict. They are trained to subdue miscreants, not beat the stuffing out of them. In all the training videos I've been privileged to watch, officers know which of their tools to use in each case.

Police also have to engage in social work. Many of their calls are to homeless people who have made a nuisance of themselves or are in medical distress. I remember one officer speaking on a local radio station about these "sad" people who he's had to help.

Perhaps the most dangerous situations officers face are domestic disputes. They often have to get between two irrational adults and separate them to calm them down. Worse yet, they see the fear on the faces of the children as all this is going down. Can you imagine how this effects cops with children of their own?

Traffic stops are also dangerous. An officer never knows who is behind the wheel and what sort of stunt they might pull. Far too many good men and women have lost their lives in the line of duty because an innocent-looking person suddenly pulled a gun on them and fired.

Now I don't say that all members of police forces are perfect. I've even seen a video of an RCMP officer kicking a man's face  while he was down on his hands and knees. Fortunately, events such as this don't happen often. Here in Canada, officers have to fill out reams of paperwork for even taking their guns out of their holsters. Any incident of alleged misconduct is rigorously investigated. In almost all cases, the citizen was at fault, not the cop.

One supervisor at the blind school I was forced to attend went on to be a police officer. It was against regulations but he even let me hold his gun. It was far heavier than the cap pistols I was used to and that fact amazed me. You can read more about my enforced stay at that institution on the Bruce Atchison's book page.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Once upon a two-wheeler.


When I attended a boarding school in Vancouver, British Columbia, a supervisor taught us how to ride a bicycle. Like all boys, I had my share of accidents. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, this is how my first and worst one happened.
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Cycling became one of my methods to escape the hopelessness of my situation. The thrill of riding at top speed down the hill caused me to temporarily forget my woes. I had my first serious bike accident one January evening. After asking Mr. Thynne's permission, I took a bike out from the storage room. As I zoomed down the road from the dorm, I saw the headlights of a car coming towards me. As I swerved to the right, my foot caught on the curb, sending me flying. Fortunately, I landed on the grass, but I twisted my right ankle. The pain nearly overwhelmed me as I picked myself up and hobbled back to the dorm, leaning on the bicycle for support.

When Mr. Moiarty drove me to the emergency ward of the hospital, I inexplicably had a fit of the giggles. Everybody in the emergency room stared at me as I laughed uncontrollably. My foot appeared twisted but the X-ray showed that no bones were broken. After a few weeks, it was as if nothing happened to my ankle.
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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped Inscribe writers group web site. E-mail me for further information or if you don't have PayPal and still wish to place an order.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

LIFE IN A NORTHERN TOWN

I was reminded of something during a Facebook conversation. Not everybody lives in snowbound areas. One of my friends asked what things we did daily to cope with the winter. This seemed like a good topic for a blog post so here it is.

In most of Canada and many northern American states, the snow stays from November to March or April. This means that homeowners, business managers, and apartment superintendents need to keep sidewalks free of snow and ice. Cities like Edmonton, Alberta's capital, have bylaws stating that sidewalks must be shoveled up to forty-eight hours after a major snowfall ends or the City will clear the snow and charge the owner of the property.

Street plowing is also a day-to-day reality for us. The bill for clearing the roads of a large city can be as high as a million dollars per winter, depending on snowfall amounts. The same is true of highways and rural roads. Many cities enact parking bans so that the entire avenue can be plowed. Violators are fined, even though the bans are widely publicized by the city or municipality.

Another reality is scraping frost and snow off of vehicle windshields. Motorists carry a large brush with a long handle in their cars and trucks so the job is a bit easier. Ice is harder to remove. Folks carry a scraper in their vehicles for those times when the windshield needs clearing.

Here in Canada, vehicles have heaters to keep the engine block from freezing. I remember the time when I was in Mexico and a friend thought that my driver and I owned an electric car. I also spoke to a visitor from California who asked for help starting her car. She had no idea what I meant when I asked if she plugged it in at night. This is why vehicles need to be parked near a power outlet or an extension cord needs to be stretched between the vehicle and the plug-in.

The worst weather during winter is when freezing rain falls. It turns streets into skating rinks and sidewalks into dangerous places, particularly for the elderly.

Citizens dress in well-insulated coats and wear several layers of clothing. At extremely low temperatures, even a slight breeze can freeze exposed skin in less than five minutes. Wise people bundle up and wear wind-resistant clothes to prevent hypothermia.

This post would become way too long if I listed all the things we need to do to stave off the cold of winter so I'll end here. Please check out my first two books at the Bruce Atchison's book page as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's Books.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A TOOL EVEN BLIND FOLKS CAN USE


It has no digital read out, no screen with text or symbols, yet this handy gadget can tell if alternating current is flowing through a wire. Better yet, it doesn't need to be connected. Just holding the probe  next to the line is enough to cause it to react.

While shopping at a discount store, I decided to buy this handy voltage detector. It wasn't expensive and I felt it might be useful. It certainly did show me its utility when I took it home and tried it out. I was able to tell if power was flowing through wires in my wall as well as through the cords of appliances.

The voltage detector has two ways of alerting its user that electricity is present in a wire. It lights up when in the presence of an electrical field. The device also emits a loud beep.

Though this detector is a handy tool for showing where electrical wires are located behind walls, both home renovators and even average people can make use of this gadget. I can tell that this would be of help to even totally blind individuals. We hear so much today about phantom power losses, what some folks call vampire currents. Those gadgets which we assume are off can still be using electricity. If a person can't see the appliance's indicator light or liquid crystal display, this device makes it possible for power waste detection.

I recommend this product for anybody who is curious about power wastage or if electrical outlets are still connected to the power. It's also fun to use.

I've often mentioned my love of gadgetry in my three memoirs. Check them out at Bruce Atchison's Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and/or Powell's Books., Bruce Atchison, voltage detector, blind-friendly tool

Thursday, 8 January 2015

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD WHITE MEN

How did this come to be? I'm now in the most despised social group in society. I'm an old white man. In this age when people are repeatedly told not to discriminate on the basis of skin colour, gender, and age, I'm still in society's bad books.

Fighting discrimination was a noble goal back in the sixties. The rights of non-whites and women were routinely violated in the past. Now it's old white men who are being discriminated against by the vary ones who once suffered discrimination.

Do two wrongs make a right? Discrimination on the bases of innate characteristics is obviously wrong. Why then do African-Americans such as Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton spew such vitriol toward fair-skinned people, most of whom never did them any harm? In the same way, it's wrong for far left politicians to blame folks like me for the wicked actions of people in the past.

To me, it's the content of one's character that matters, not externals such as gender and skin tone. I've never made friends to please social reformers. Whomever  I liked, I befriended and whomever I didn't, I didn't.

I also remember how one woman tore a strip out of the Boreal Electro-Acoustic Music Society (BEAMS) because we had only one female member. Though I experienced no fallout from the article she published in a local magazine, her illogical argument showed her abysmal ignorance. The reason BEAMS had so few female members was because only one woman wanted to join. We had absolutely no policy barring women or anybody who wasn't male and white. In fact, we would have warmly welcomed them had they applied.

Though that incident happened in 1989, there are still people in the press who make false allegations about groups dominated by white males. These folks regularly assume that females and dark-skinned people are automatically excluded when in fact they aren't.

My hope is that the irrationality of these press pundits will be obvious to all thinking citizens. Prejudice is still prejudice, no matter who is guilty of it.

As a legally blind person, I've experienced plenty of accusations and prejudice. My Deliverance from Jericho memoir describes in a matter-of-fact way the discrimination I suffered as a child. Read more about it on my Bruce Atchison's books page.

Monday, 5 January 2015

SOMEDAY YOU TOO WILL BE LIQUIDATED

A Bible study sermon by Albert Mohler started me thinking about the fact that we're all going to leave our worldly wealth behind when we die. In the fourth chapter of James' epistle, he describes our lives, compared to eternity, as a vapor that appears briefly and then is gone. Yet many people insist on amassing and hoarding wealth for themselves.

Rich people are particularly prone to thinking that the one who dies with the most toys wins. They tend to forget that it doesn't matter if one dies rich or poor. Death is still death. They also seem to fail to recognize, as King Solomon did, that their heirs might squander the wealth they inherited because they didn't work for it. I'm sure the tales of foolish waste by the children of the rich must be legion by now.

This isn't a behaviour limited exclusively to the super rich. I've heard of people, like one woman in Edmonton, who hoarded money in her bank account while skimping on every luxury and pleasure. She died with nearly a hundred-thousand dollars in her account. I don't know who got the money but she certainly didn't take it with her.

There is a way that we can transfer our treasure to paradise. Jesus told a rich young ruler to sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor so he'd have treasure in heaven. Although this doesn't mean that we too must live like paupers, donating our money and time to help the less fortunate is the way to use our wealth for an eternal reward. Helping to spread the gospel also deposits treasure, People in this case, in heaven.

Though I'm not much good at helping others, I believe I've contributed generously to my post-retirement fund.  A day will come when those I helped will thank me, though we've never met in this life. Furthermore, I haven't given to help spread the Gospel and help the poor for the sole reason that I wanted to amass a bigger stash after I die. I really care about the poor and that they hear the good news of the salvation Christ purchased for them.

You can read more about my record of giving in my How I Was Razed memoir. For more information about this marvelous testimony of God's providence, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Powell's Books.

Friday, 2 January 2015

BETRAYAL IS SO PAINFUL

I'm sure that nobody likes to have their trust betrayed. But that's just what happened last month to tens of thousands of Alberta's citizens. On a bleak afternoon in December, Wildrose leader Danielle smith and eight other members of the Legislature of Alberta crossed over to the Progressive Conservative Party which they once fought.

About seven years ago, disaffected members of the Progressive Conservative party decided to unite with the Alliance party to form the Wildrose Alliance Party. The PCs had been in power for thirty-seven years. As with all politicians who have ruled for so long, the members felt entitled to lavish salaries and extravagant perks. The Wildrose members felt this waste had gone on for too long. In the 2008 provincial election, they managed to gain two seats in Alberta's  Legislature.

During the next four years, Wildrose rapidly gained the support of grassroots volunteers. Constituency Associations formed to the point where there were candidates running in all eighty-seven ridings.

Much of the support for the party was garnered by Danielle Smith. Her articulate explanation of policy and her determination to balance the budget without burdening taxpayers appealed to many Albertans, particularly in rural areas. Pollsters felt so confident that they predicted Wildrose would win the upcoming election in April of 2012. During the final days of campaigning, the PCs dug up dirt on two candidates and made it look like the whole party was homophobic and extremist. That stampeded voters to vote in the PCs again.

Danielle Smith decided to moderate the social stance of the party by affirming homosexuals. She even walked in Edmonton's pride parade that June. The party membership were told that this was just a way to gain acceptability among the majority of Albertans and that it had nothing to do with the goal of ridding Alberta of fiscally irresponsible government policies.

The party faithful, including me, worked hard to promote Wildrose. People knocked on doors, held events, and campaigned for their riding candidates. By 2014, Wildrose had matured into a powerful opposition party.

Then the unthinkable happened. On December the seventeenth, Danielle Smith announced at a press conference that she and eight other legislature members were "rejoining" the PC party. She said that most of the fiscal policies which Wildrose proposed were being enacted by the government and that we, meaning Wildrose, won.

The defection gutted the party and hurt its credibility. People who had supported it, including myself, felt as if we'd been kicked in the butt by these nine defectors. Whatever happens in the coming years, the trust of Albertans will be difficult to win back.

Spiritual betrayals are just as painfully devastating to the faithful, as I described in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Check this amazing story of God's providential guidance at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's Books.