WHAT IS A DXPEDITION?

ImageAs in any hobby, jargon is used to summarize activities or concepts which the members partake in. “DXpedition” is a term describing a journey into the wilderness to receive distant signals called DX. The only official DXpedition I was on was to a place called Seven Mile Flats, an out-of-the-way place in British Columbia.

On the Victoria Day long weekend, Joseph Gudz and I drove to a collection of shacks which some radio astronomers had used for their work. I could tell the place was remote by the narrow road we drove along. At one point, the car nearly fell into the river. Thanks to Joseph’s masterful steering, we made it to the camp site.

Joseph and I shared one room of a fourplex. As earlier arrivals from the Canadian International DX (CIDX) club chatted, Joseph and I set up our equipment. Once both of our radios were connected to Joseph’s car battery, we began scanning the shortwave frequency for those hard-to-hear signals impossible to hear through city static.

I, and the other CIDXers, had radios which covered a wide range of frequencies. Poor Joseph wasn’t so fortunate. The DX-160 he had purchased from Radio Shack lacked the marine band. That was where many of the DXers found rare stations. He did find a few interesting signals but nowhere near the amount we did.

Though the prairies were green with new spring growth, the mountains were still recovering from winter. No snow lay on the ground but it felt to us like April. Consequently, I shivered as I tried to sleep. It seemed like I had never felt so cold.

Saturday and Sunday were sunny days but the temperature only rose to about sixty degrees Fahrenheit (fifteen degrees Celsius). Even so, the sun was hot enough to warm water that I had poured into a military surplus canteen.

Then the sun ruined our fun. While I went to the latrine on Sunday afternoon, it belched out a solar flair. When I returned to my radio in the shack, the signals were very weak. As I went out to find the break in my antenna wire, I met up with a fellow club member. He told me not to bother checking my antenna because there was a solar flare

Since there was nothing much to hear, I took photographs of the camp, a mountain stream, and the remains of the radio astronomers’ antenna set-up. I also appreciated the lack of traffic noise as I strolled around the camp and along the stream. How sublime it would have been to live in such a place forever.

The drive home on Monday was uneventful. As I listened to my radio in my apartment, I thought how nice it was not to hear everybody’s TV interference. The DXpedition was like leaving a smoky room and breathing clean air for a change.

I mentioned my shortwave listening hobby in my three memoirs. When a Man Loves a Rabbit and Deliverance from Jericho are featured on the left side of my Bruce Atchison’s bookspage. My recently-published e-book and paperback, How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Advertisements

WHAT CLIMATE CHANGE?

Image

So much hot air has been spewed about climate change that it’s amazing the earth hasn’t overheated. A growing crowd of climate scientists are finding that the environment is actually cooling since 1997. From my own experiences with spring coming so late the past few years, global cooling makes much more sense than heating to me.

The climate has always been changing. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the land my house presently sits on was a tropical forest. Later on in history, it was covered with a mile-thick ice sheet. There was a time in Greenland, about eleven-hundred years ago, when the Vikings were farming the land. A few hundred years later, the mini-ice age gripped Europe. From around 1670 to 1721, the sun had no sun spots on its surface. That corresponded with another stretch of cold weather in Europe and a drought in the southwest part of what would become America.

People also have short memories. My mom showed me a photograph of her family’s farm house taken on May 15, 1945. A heavy layer of snow fell overnight, producing an odd effect of leafy trees covered in snow. I thought this was a rare weather event until 1987. On the Victoria Day long weekend, I woke up to snow covering everything. About six inches of the white stuff fell, breaking many tree limbs and downing power lines. I ventured out and took many photos of the nearby Mill Creek Ravine Park.

The same thing happened again on the Tuesday after the May long weekend. I had been in my yard on the weekend, raking the lawn and digging up the garden soil. The snow began falling in the morning and by the end of the day, we had about six inches. Many trees were damaged by the wet snow that day as well.

During both dumps of snow, the white stuff hung around for a few days. I’ve also noticed that We Albertans can expect some sort of storm during May. Only during the drought of 200-2002 did we have no dump of rain or snow in May. This leads me to believe that the climate will always do odd things at times.

In My new book called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, I mentioned many times when I thought the weather portended soon-coming disaster. Decades later, we’re still here and doing just fine. For more information on God’s amazing work in my life, visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers. My previous two paperbacks are featured on the Bruce Atchison’s books page.

WHICH AUDIO MEDIUM IS BEST FOR THE POOR?

ImageBack in 2006, somebody somewhere said that cassettes would no longer be manufactured. I guess National Audio Company and a few other firms didn’t get that memo. The good news for cassette users is that you can still buy them. Googling the subject of cassette tape manufacturers brings up a considerably long list of firms still making and selling this venerable format.

“Why use such an old fashioned technology?” many people ask today. With the Internet delivering MP3 files and the popularity of MP3 players, there doesn’t seem to be a need for magnetic analogue recordings.

One benefit of cassettes is that they can be re-used. You can’t do that with a CD-R and CD-RWs don’t work in CD players. Companies did try making portable CD players but they had problems with the recording breaking up when they were bumped. Though vehicles have CD players, CD-Rs often won’t play in them. With portable cassette players, the only worry was the battery dying. Some cheap models did eat tape on occasion but careful winding of the tape into its shell often worked to restore the cassette.

Another benefit is that they can be stopped and then started again without losing their place. With CDs, you have to fiddle and diddle until you find the point where you stopped listening. This is especially annoying when listening to long spoken-word pieces or sermons.

Cassettes can take a fair amount of abuse. If the tape is mangled and returned to the shell, it still will play. The whole recording isn’t ruined like it would be with a scratch on a CD. I’ve been able to revive a tangled tape many times using this method. On the other hand, I’ve had whole CD-Rs become unplayable because the foil started flaking off.

People in Third World countries often lack CD players but have access to cassette players. I’m currently taping the sermons of John MacArthur and episodes of Unshackled off the Internet and sending the cassettes to a friend in Alabama. He distributes them to missionaries in various countries. One man in Nigeria translates Unshackled episodes into one of the local languages and says the people deeply appreciate the dramatizations. The cassettes also bless the missionaries.

Cassettes are also easier for seniors to use. Computers fluster them, making it hard for them to make their own CD-Rs. It’s a lot easier to push buttons than work one’s way through menus on CD-R burning software. Most of these elderly folks grew up in a world of dial telephones, vacuum tube radios, and vehicles with no electronics. They’re much more comfortable pressing “PLAY” than clicking an icon.

As long as I can, I’ll use and listen to cassettes. I recently purchased four boom-box-like recorders from a bargain shop just so I can keep listening to the hundreds of cassettes I recorded over the years. Additionally, I can use these machines as computer speakers because they have a “line in” jack. One thing is for sure, I won’t lack a cassette player for years to come.

WHEN THE PHONE WAS A FRIEND.

Image

What a shame we have to live dreading the sound of the telephone. Time was when the phone was something that brought friends and family together. Alberta Government Telephones, bought by Telus in 1996, once had an ad campaign promoting dialing long distance. “Your Voice is a Visit” was their catch phrase and it certainly resonated with people.

Then businesses began bugging us for their custom and charities for donations. I remember back in the eighties when I’d pick up the receiver and instead of a friend or family member, a local sales person tried to sell me subscriptions to a newspaper or get me to donate to some charity.  The occasional polling company would call for my opinion but I usually received sales calls.

Scammers caught on and offered supposedly incredible deals. I was burned by one of those in 1987 when an investment firm called Principal Group offered twenty percent returns on investments. Established financial institutions only offered three to five percent, depending on the risk involved. Fortunately for me, I only put in fifty dollars and was repaid twenty-six dollars when the firm was taken to court. Now I realize it was a Ponzi scheme. If something seems too good to be true, it almost always is.

Now we have phone robots being used by political groups and scammers alike. It’s rather hard to tell which is which. Thanks to my talking caller ID, I can hear if it’s a friend or a fiend calling me.

I regret that I was also using my telephone for less-than-honorable business purposes. The promise of riches by prosperous Amway distributors drove me to call every contact in my address book. When I evaded people’s questions about what I was asking them to come to my house and see, I lost almost every friend. I persisted with Amway for another five years before giving up.

Though I plan on getting a cell phone, I much prefer e-mail replies. I can compose my ideas much better with it. Answering calls puts a person on the spot and usually interrupts something which the recipient of the call is deeply involved in. With me, the phone seems to ring when I’m in the bathroom. It’s usually a friend too. When I’m waiting for a call, that’s when the scammers and phone robots appear to bombard me.

I wrote about losing all my friends on account of Amway in my new book. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers. My previous paperbacks are featured at Bruce Atchison’s books.

THE JOYS OF BUNNIES WITH TOYS.

Image

Because many rabbit owners keep their pets locked in small cages, they miss out on much of the joy that house bunny owners experience daily. One aspect of rabbits is that they enjoy playing with toys.

When bunnies are allowed to live in a room or even a large exercise pen, they become more outgoing and playful. When given some noise-making toy, such as plastic keys on a ring, they happily toss them one way and then another. I had one long-eared companion named Mark who liked to push a cylindrical rattle around his pen. Gideon, my first true house rabbit, loved picking up cardboard tubes from paper towels and letting them drop to the floor.

In a sense, cardboard box houses with doors at either end become a plaything for rabbits. Not only does such a simple toy give them the satisfaction of enlarging the doorways but they feel a measure of safety while lying inside them. When a old phone book with the covers removed is placed inside, bunnies have a wonderful time shredding them. I’ve spent many mornings listening to Deborah, my current house rabbit, joyously ripping paper in her cardboard hideaway.

The best thing about toys for rabbits is that they can be made at home or bought cheaply from thrift shops. With a little imagination, anybody can make playthings which will keep bunnies occupied. After all, they need mental stimulation. If they aren’t provided with toys, they’re more likely to get into mischief.

One toy I invented for rabbits is the CD top. I took a ruined CD-R and sanded off the aluminum coating. Then I flattened a toilet paper tube and rolled it into a spindle. Next, I put the spindled tube through the hole in the centre of the CD-R. Not only does this simple object give rabbits something to toss but it rocks back and forth. That adds to the rabbit’s  fun.

I wrote about these and other bunny distractions in When a Man Loves a Rabbit: Learning and Living With Bunnies. It’s available through the Bruce Atchison’s books page. I briefly mentioned my rabbits in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Amazon and Barnes & Noble distribute the e-book edition while Virtual Bookworm Publishers stock the paperback version.

A TOUCH OF COUNTRY IN THE CITY.

ImageThere’s something therapeutic about green spaces. The city of Edmonton had wise planners who decided that the North Saskatchewan valley shouldn’t be developed but made into walking and riding trails. This policy was extended somewhat to creeks as well.

When I lived in Edmonton, one favourite place I often visited was Mill Creek. It was my sanctuary from city noise and buildings. May was the best month to visit since the leaves on the poplar trees began to grow and release a wonderful scent.

While working at Transport Canada, a branch of the federal government, I met a short and sweet lady named Monika. She and I became friends because we had so many opinions and interests in common. Though she wanted only a platonic relationship, we remained friends for years.

In 1995, I invited her to walk with me in the Mill Creek ravine. The leaves on the poplar trees were perfuming the air on that sunny afternoon of our stroll along the creek. As we talked and laughed, I took photos of the lovely scenery. The photo at the top of this post is of Monika on one of the park’s paths.

What pleased me most was that Monika was one of only a few friends who loved nature as much as I did, and still do. Both of us disliked cities and shared fantasies of someday living in the country. We would have separate houses but still see each other from time to time.

Though it’s eighteen years later, I still remember the scents, warmth, and beautiful vistas of that afternoon’s walk. Though I’m single and happy to stay that way, I wouldn’t mind having somebody like Monika to spend the rest of my life with.

In a way, my wish for a place in the country was granted by the Lord. I live at the edge of a tiny hamlet with neighbours at a distance. Behind my house is a hay field. The hamlet is across the railway tracks, not in my face. Though the grocery store closed, I can still get my mail and borrow DVDs from the library. Unless I have my windows wide open, I hear no dogs barking or kids yelling. This is the perfect home for a writer.

I wrote about God’s wonderful gift of this home to me in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. The cover photo and more information is at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers. My two previous paperbacks are featured on the Bruce Atchison’s books page.

HOW FAR WOULD YOU WALK TO BE FREE?

Image

Periodically, we hear on the news about refugees walking many miles to reach peaceful countries. Refugee camps aren’t nice but they do help people remain safe from military conflict.

Though I’ve never been a refugee, there were three times in my life when I walked twenty-five miles around Vancouver, British Columbia. Beginning in 1968, an event called Miles for Millions was organized to raise money to feed impoverished Third World people.

Though I made half-hearted attempts to find sponsors, I did walk all twenty five miles for three consecutive years.  My reason for doing so wasn’t to help the poor but because it was a chance to be unsupervised for twelve hours.

I was incarcerated in Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind at the time. During non-school hours, supervisors made sure we stayed on the grounds. We couldn’t just walk to the nearest store to buy candy or pop. We all had to go as a group. I felt like a prisoner as we walked in orderly ranks down the streets of Vancouver. Each boy with a little vision had to take the hand of a totally blind boy. The same was true for any events the supervisors took us to.

Things were so nice on the Miles for Millions walks. Nobody watched over us as we followed the crowd along the route. The weather was sunny and warm all three years that I walked the walk too. I felt euphoric as I walked from checkpoint to checkpoint. The only other time I felt so free was at my home in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta during the holidays.

Though I felt tired and sore when I reached the finish line each evening of the walk, it was all worth it. Any break from those supervisors was worth it.

I wrote about the six painful years that I spent in that institution in Deliverance from Jericho. More information about it, and my debut memoir, is at the Bruce Atchison’s books link.

Meanwhile, I have a brand new book out called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. You can find out more about my testimony of God’s grace by visiting Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Virtual Bookworm Publishers.