Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An apology...well...not really

It's been a while since I've been very consistent at putting content up on here, so I guess I apologise for that.  Truth is its been fairly busy though, and I've had pretty sporadic access to the interweb, so really I don't apologise. 

Anyway, this post is simply to say that I'm not promising anything much over the next couple of months.  We'll be settling into a new house and I'd say we won't be getting internet initially so there goes my chances of keeping things regular around here.

I'll be taking the chance to rethink where I'm going with this blog; what I want to achieve and what direction I want to take it etc.  It'll be fun, and you can expect some changes to pop up sometime.  In the meantime, thanks to all my dedicated followers, I appreciate you checking in from time to time and it makes me feel good knowing that some people want to read the stuff I write!

Cheerio for now!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Hitch-hiking Run Down

For those of you who may be interested, here's a summary of the adventure I had getting up to Hamiltron.  The times are just rough guesses, but here we go...


6:30am - woke up at the boys flat, realised this was the day of days.  Grabbed my stuff and headed up to my house to finish packing my things.
8:30 - finished packing and doing the final walk through the house to check everything was spick and span.  Went to put a couple of things in the recycling bin and heard a slam behind me.  Had that sickening feeling when you realise that all your stuff is locked inside.
10:15 - after walking/running back to the boys flat, finally got in touch with the landlord and met him at home to get him to let me in.  Quickly finished packing my stuff and got out to the road, where some other hitch-hikers had already beaten me to it.
10:40 - Got a ride to Palmerston with an interesting couple called Graham and Wendy.
11:30 - A truck pulled over with the name Stuart Orme printed on the outside, and the guy looked familiar when he jumped out to help me put my pack in the back.  It wasn't until we got underway that we clicked that his daughter is one of Paula's best friends (and ex-flatmate), and that I'd actually stayed with them for a couple of nights a while ago.  It's a small world!
12:30 - Turns out Stu was heading up to pick up Katherine at Oamaru, so I stayed and had lunch with them.  'Twas awesome catching up with Katherine and let Paula have a sneaky phone chat with her.
1:00 - Knowing I was getting behind on time to make it to Picton this night I didn't stay long and was back on the road.  Didn't take long before I got picked up by a very talkative lady who sold advertising for the radio network.  Very interesting hearing about what being in that field is like.  She was only going as far as Timaru though.
2:30 - Timaru is definitely the worst place to hitch-hike from.  Got yelled at to "Get a car ya bum" and had someone do the old start-to-slow-down-and-pull-over-but-then-speed-up-and-drive-away-laughing was awesome...and so original!  Anyway, it felt like a while before I got picked up by a few people my age heading up to Christchurch to get drunk for one of their birthday.
5:00 - Got dropped off on the ring road around Christchurch, was freaking out that I was getting way behind schedule, but before I finished walking to a good hitching spot a car pulled over and it was a cool old Scottish guy offering me a ride to Woodend.  Needless to say I took it.
5:30 - Got dropped off in Woodend.  I was starting to feel pretty sweaty and gross so dug into my pack to find some deoderant.  While doing so a car with some pretty gothic looking characters pulled over.  The passengers were drinking and the guy talking to me had something tattooed on his forehead.  They said they were going as far as Amberley, and when I asked how far it was he said he didn't even know where he was.  With all my stuff still lying on the ground it was easy to tell them I'd just wait and take my chances of getting a ride going further.  As they pulled off he yelled at me to get a haircut, at which point I realised that he was real-life skinhead, and had a wee chuckle at the whole thing.
6:30 - After what seemed like ages a friendly looking guy pulled over offering a ride to Amberley.  I was pretty keen to get to a different scene so I accepted.  He told me to mind the shotgun in the back, and sure enough there was a great whopping black shotgun sitting on the backseat.  Turns out the guy sold suits in Christchurch but is a passionate hunter.  He was good value and I really enjoyed the chat.
7:00 - The shadows were getting longer and I was still a bit worried I wouldn't make it up on time.  The road at Amberley seemed pretty dead, but at this stage it only takes one good ride to go the whole way.
8:00 - Realising that my chances of making the 10:30 ferry were all but gone, I finally got a ride with a guy called Peter going to Cheviot.  He's a consultant to the printing industry, and it was interesting hearing how it covers so much more than just newspapers and books and stuff!  Cheviot wasn't really ideal but any ride was a good ride, and I'd basically resigned myself to the fact that I'd failed to make it to Picton that night.
9:00 - Got to Cheviot basically as it was getting dark.  The fish and chip shop was just closing up but the lady kindly offered to turn the fryer back on to cook me some hot chips, which did a lot for the moralle.  The road was basically dead and I decided it wasn't worth trying to hitch-hike there after dark.  Ate my chips beside the road as darkness fell, eyeing up any parks beside the road where I could sleep.
9:30 - After talking to Paula, opted to head to the camping ground to see if any cabins were available.  Turns out they were all booked up for Guy Fawkes but the lady was super helpful.  She tried getting me into an old house bus at the back corner of the camping ground but the key didn't work.  So she got me heaps of tarpaulins and blankets and left me to sleep on the ground.  Had some trouble getting to sleep as the bag I was using as a pillow had some muesli bars in it, and I was freaking out that possums or rats might smell them and try to get into them.  But I eventually got a bit of sleep.


5:30am - Got up as it was already reasonably light.  It was a beautiful morning, and turns out it had been a light frost as my pack and drink bottle had ice on them.  Had a really nice shower to take advantage of the camping ground facilities.
5:50 - Walked out to the road, and there was certainly nothing much happening.  The volunteer firefighters were called out while I was there.
7:15 - After a long and cold wait, and feeling pretty stupid wanting a ride from Cheviot at such a crazy hour, I got a ride with a cool guy called Dan.  He'd just finished his second year of Civil Engineering at Canterbury uni, and was heading all the way to Picton.
7:17 - Had a sickening feeling when I realised that my wedding ring wasn't on.  I immediately realised I hadn't put it back on after using the shower at the camping ground, and asked Dan if he'd be happy going back.
7:20 - Back at the camping ground went to the guys showers and looked where I knew I'd left the ring.  To my horror it wasn't there, so I went and rang the bell at the office and sheepishly told the lady what had happened.  Once again she was very helpful, and took my details but as I well knew, she couldn't do much about it.
7:30 - Got back on the road with Dan.  Was pretty hopeful of making the 10:05 ferry.
9:55 - Got to the ferry terminal, quickly said goodbye to Dan and ran inside.  Asked if it was too late to book a ticket and got told the ferry was delayed by 2 hours.  This was pretty gutting as it meant my chances of making it to Tauranga that night were shot down.  Booked a ticket anyway and checked my luggage in.
10:30 - During a phone call with Paula, we decided to see if I could get a refund on the ferry tickets and cough up for a Nelson-Auckland flight.  It turned out I could get my luggage and money back, so was back on the road, pacing it for the road leaving Picton to get to Nelson that afternoon.  Had to stop in a stationery shop to buy a vivid to make a new sign.
11:15 - after frantically walking through Picton, was out on the road again.  It wasn't long before a truck pulled over with a couple of people inside.  The driver had his hood up so I hardly saw his face at all, and the guy in the passenger seat never said a word nor turned around at all so I don't know what he looked like either.  That said, the hooded guy was pretty friendly and was good at keeping a conversation alive.  It was him and his Dad heading off to Blenheim.  They dropped me off on the main road out to Nelson.
12:00 - Got a ride going to Renwick with a lady called Hellie or something.  She was interesting but it was a pretty short ride.
2:30 - The wait in Renwick was the longest and most frustrating wait I think I've ever had!  I'd been hoping to make the 4:10 flight from Nelson, but was starting to despair of that.  The last chance was a 6:00pm flight, which I was still fairly confident about.  Nonetheless, at 2:30 a car pulled up ages away from me but tooted to let me know they were there for me.  Ran down and jumped in the car.  Turns out it was a couple of young guys dropping off a trailer at Havelock and then on to see a friend at Rai Valley.  They were really cool to chat to.
3:20 - Got dropped off in Rai Valley, a random little town in the middle of lots of hills.  The road seemed pretty empty so was freaking out that it'd be another long wait, but thankfully it wasn't long before a car pulled over.  It was a nice couple by the name of Astrid (the girl) and Zed (the guy), she was from Holland and he is from New Zealand.  They had some interesting stories of hitching around North-East Australia
4:00 - Got to Nelson Airport.  Quickly said thanks to Astrid and Zed and ran inside to see if it was too late to get on the 4:10 flight.  Turns out the Auckland flight was actually at 4:45 so there weren't any dramas there.  The lady at the desk was super helpful and did some weird deal with transferrable flights that meant I got the fare a bit cheaper.
4:15 - While waiting for the flight to leave I got a phone call from the lady at the camping ground saying she'd found my ring, which obviously made my day.  I started feeling quite good about this trip which, which a failure in the sense that I didn't make it all the way up, was nonetheless a pretty sweet adventure!
6:00 - Touched down in Auckland after not talking to anyone on the plane.  It was a short wait before Paula arrived to pick me up.  It was flippin amazing to see her again, and was just the most perfect way to finish the adventure.

So anyway, there you have it!  Sorry its not exactly short, but it was fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some Random Stuff

This morning I stumbled on this interesting piece of cartographic art.  Maybe only people involved with maps will find it interesting, but it reverses the age old cartographic problem of taking a spherical object (ie. the earth) and representing it faithfully on a flat piece of paper, by taking the town of Berlin (which is basically flat) and representing it as a globe.  Classic!  Head over to Strange Maps to read more about it.

Also, over at Michael Hyatt's blog he's got a handy breakdown of what he's found are the 10 psychological stages of public speaking.  Having done a wee bit of public speaking myself its always interesting to read about what its like for people who do it frequently.  Definitely worth a look!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wakeboard Wednesday (well...kind of)

Ok so its not actually wakeboarding, but lately I've been impressed with this video by some surfer guy.  It's an autobiographical sketch, and worth watching just for some sweet videography and his accent even if you don't normally watch surfing stuff.

Thanks Dave for getting me onto this!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Song

Yesterday evening I was chilling outside and just spent some time simply listening to the sounds around me. I haven't written a poem for ages, but decided to have a go. Here is the result!

Your song, oh God, is deeper; richer
Than any man-made sound or mixture.
The soft whisper of rustling leaves
In springtimes cool, refreshing breeze;
A muted sound of rushing stream
Is beauty heard and yet unseen;
Sparrows lift a care-free cry
As playfully they race the sky;
And down below a child at play
Laughs a toast to this glorious day.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Social Media Revolution

During a class last week a guest lecturer showed us this video, with some pretty crazy things about how social media is changing the world we're in.  It's been rattling around in my head a lot, so I thought I'd share it here.

Friday, October 8, 2010


I haven’t written a proper journal for months now. I used to be really consistent with it in my latter years of high school, and have been off and on since then. The last time I tried to be disciplined about it was at the start of this year, but I made it until I came back to uni and it all fell apart again.

Most of the time I’m not really too worried about my lack of journal-writingness. There are a number of traps that I fell into that I’m not in a hurry to repeat (as I’ll talk a bit about below). Nonetheless, I’ve been thinking more about it lately and whether to give it another go, because there’s definitely a lot of pros to it. Whatever I do, though, I want to be wise about it rather than just dive in with a pen and paper and an enormous amount of time. So here are a few lessons I’ve learnt from the process, starting with some of the good things I’ve noticed about journaling:

1. It helped keep the dream alive

I want to be someone who makes a difference in the world. Journaling was, for me, a way of remembering that one day in the future I may well write an autobiography that people would actually want to read. It was a reminder to me that I was working towards and building something that would endure for future generations, who would want to know how I tick and how I did what I did. And so sitting down and keeping notes on what I was doing and thinking was helpful in keeping that dream alive.

2. It's cool to read about how far I’ve come

Reading back over my thoughts from those younger years is an easy way to remind myself now of how far I’ve come in my outlook on life, my interactions with others and my understanding of God. Many of my thoughts, which seemed so mature and wise back then, look so elementary as I look back at them now. It’s quite encouraging to think that really my life has been improving on the whole, and journaling is a great reminder of this.

3. It helps to track causes and effects

I didn’t do a lot of this when I was big into journaling, but I definitely saw the potential it has for making note of what actually works and what doesn’t, and whether doing one thing actually leads to something else happening or if its just a nice idea. In Christian circles the typical example is of recording what you’ve prayed for and seeing what prayers get answered. I was never very explicit with doing this, but as I read over my journal entries from years gone by, there’s definitely evidence of God doing stuff when I’ve cried out to him. Without writing things down, it’s far too easy to forget what worked and what didn’t, and to run into the same mistakes all over again.

Here are a bunch of the not so good things I’ve noticed from my history of journaling:

1. I wrote way too much about girls

As I said before, the heyday of my journaling career was in my late high school years. Therefore it’s not much of a surprise that a lot of my thoughts were centered around the female species; who I liked, whether they liked me and so on and so forth. This makes it a bit embarrassing reading back over them, and means they’re really not that helpful or informative to where I’m at now.

2. Introspection often got me quite dark

I wrote quite frankly about the problems I was facing and how I was dealing with them. I got quite introspective with my journal, meaning that I’d spend ages analysing myself to figure out what thoughts were helpful and what ones weren’t, whether I was improving and overcoming stuff or not, and so on and so forth. If I messed up in some way or failed socially at something I would disect it like a scientist, churning it over and over to get some lesson out of it. I liked to think that this meant I was ‘deep’ and ‘thoughtful,’ but frankly I was just wasting time that could have been spent enjoying life. I could get quite morose while writing my journal

3. More often than not, it was a waste of time

I’m all for reviewing and monitoring your time, in order to be more productive and ultimately achieve more. The problem is that, when I set out to write a page or two a day about the day I would spend ages writing thoughts that didn’t often achieve anything. To be sure, there were times where writing that journal was the best, most optimistic, future-focused and goal-driven part of my day. Mostly, though, it was just a time where I vented my problems and complaints with no systematic way of getting over them and moving on. Hence, a lot of time was actually wasted while thinking I was doing something significant.

So there you have it, a few off the cuff thoughts on writing about life. Overall, I think I’d recommend it, or at least some form of it that avoids the pitfalls that I fell into. In the meanwhile, I’ll continue wondering whether to get back into it myself!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wakeboard Wednesday #4

Gee this is a bit embarrassing!  I haven't written anything since last weeks wakeboard fix, so sorry to everyone who wants some actual content to read!  This week I can dish up some footage from the 2010 Parks Double or Nothing comp.  This competition is a double up only competition, meaning that riders are doing bigger, higher tricks than you normally see, and makes for some impressive watching.  The video is reasonably slow to load up, but its definitely worth it!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wakeboard Wednesday #3

Just to prove that the pro's still mess up, here's a quick wee video of Chad Sharpe taking a big hit on a quarter pipe.

Chad Fail from Chad Sharpe on Vimeo.

For more videos showing how the quarter-pipe works normally go here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

C.S. Lewis on Joy

I'm currently reading John Piper's book, When I Don't Desire God; How to Fight for Joy.  It's proving to be good, solid and very typically Piper-like.  I'll have a review up here before too long hopefully.  The first few chapters have been awesome simply for the quotes by C.S. Lewis that Piper includes.  Here are some of my favourites...

You cannot hope and also think about hoping at the same moment; for in hope we look to hope's object and we interrupt this by (so to speak) turning to look at the hope itself....The surest means of disarming an anger or a lust was to turn your attention from the girl or the insult and start examining the passion itself.  The surest way of spoiling a pleasure was to start examining your satisfaction.

I percieved (and this was the wonder of wonders) that...I had been equally wrong in supposing that I desired Joy itself.  Joy itself, considered simply as an event in my own mind, turned out to be of no value at all.  All the value lay in that of which Joy was the desiring.

It was when I was happiest that I longed most....The sweetest thing in all my life has been the find the place where all the beauty came from.

Provided the thing is in itself right, the more one likes it and the less one has to "try to be good," the better.  A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he'd always want the right thing more than the wrong one.  Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and other people), like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wakeboard Wednesday #2

The other week I put up a video of the move that won the 2010 Move of the Year award, this week there's a video showing all the nominations for the award.  It makes for impressive viewing, so enjoy!  (I got it here)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Doing the Distance, Part 2

As promised, here is the second installment of the things I've learnt about how to not just endure long-distance relationshipping, but to use it as a way to grow and build the relationship.

Enjoy the positives. There's no denying it, it sucks to be apart from the one person you most enjoy being around in the world. That said, there's no point in spending weeks feeling sorry for yourself and not feeling you can still enjoy life. I've found that there's actually a number of positive results from doing the long distance thing:

Firstly, I've found that we often talk about deeper and more interesting things when we're apart. When you're not together, it's impossible to just hang out talking about mindless things like whats going on around you, the people you see and so on. Instead, whether it be through letters or phone calls, I've found that we talk a lot more about untangible things like concepts, ideas, dreams, passions and so on. I'd say this single element of doing long-distance has enormously helped our relationship.

Secondly, being in separate locations forces you to get more creative about ways to express your love. Whether it be in the words of a letter, gifts sent or even sneaky things you try and rig up in their location, it takes some lateral thinking to do cool stuff when you can't be there physically.  Of course, this all takes a lot of work and so ties in with my first point yesterday, where you need to recognise that it will be a lot of work.  Nonetheless, I've often found that the ideas sparked while we're apart pay off in boosting some romantic ideas for when we're back together.

Finally, and perhaps a bit selfishly, you get to taste the hospitality of everyone who feels sorry for you. I've already been offered a bed at the flat of some guys at church, and meals at a bunch of people's places. I'll be honest, I'm not complaining! On a more serious note, Paula has seen some incredibly inspiring and quite humbling hospitality from people she's stayed with. We've had a chance to see how incredible it is being part of the church community and quite truly being part of a worldwide family.

Use the time to develop yourself.  Obviously, when you're in separate parts of the country, you'll have a lot more time by yourself.  This can be an ideal time to kick-start or reinvigorate any habits, disciplines and patterns that you want to build and cultivate.  For example, I'm going to have the house to myself, making it easier to get back into pursuing God in the mornings, without worrying about interfering with what Paula's up to.  If you find yourself with extra nights or extra time as a result of being apart, then make the most of it by doing things that will make you a better person when you are reunited.  Read books, go for walks, catch up with inspiring people, do whatever but use the extra time to get closer with God and improve yourself.

So anyway, none of this stuff means I'm looking forward to Paula leaving, but at the same time I'm confident that we will come out the other side stronger and better for it.  And I hope that we'll be able to look back on this time and laugh about it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Doing the Distance, Part 1

In six days Paula will be heading up to Tauranga to start placement, leaving me facing a long seven weeks down here.  It's quite surreal thinking how after so long seeing each other every day, we're gonna go weeks without seeing each other at all (profound I know!).  We've done the long distance thing before when Paula has had other placements, and have learnt some stuff along the way.  Here are some things I've learnt, and that I plan to draw on over the next few weeks...

Recognise that what you do can make or break the relationship.  I guess this one applies whether you're doing long-distance or not.  Nonetheless, I reckon long-distance just steps things up a notch in this regard.  I've seen couples come through long distance and look back on it as a positive thing, and I've also seen relationships crumble over it.  Doing long distance is undeniably a testing time for relationships, and they can either come through refined and strengthened, or weakened and broken.  It's important to realise right from the outset that to foster a relationship that continues to thrive despite the distance requires considerable time and effort, but that if done well they can be fondly remembered as times where love actually deepened and grew.

Write letters.  In this age of emails, skype and call plans, its easy to forsake the age old thing of putting pen to paper and writing a good old-fashioned letter.  In my experience, this would be one of the worst things to do!  Paula and I have found that this is one of the key things that have helped to make long-distance not only bearable, but also a growing experience.  Making a habit of writing letters to each other has the obvious benefit that you get the pleasure of opening an envelope that isn't your latest bank statement.  There's just something cool about opening a letter that actually means something.  Sitting down to write a letter also forces you to think about new and interesting ways to articulate your feelings and thoughts, which leads to some of the benefits I'll describe tomorrow.  Finally, letters have the major benefit that you're much more likely to hold on to them and look back on them than emails.  I've talked to a married couple who look back on letters written in the early days as sources of inspiration and encouragement.  Already in our relationship we've found it cool reminiscing on the things we wrote and talked about in our letters.  It may take a bit of your time, but I'd say writing letters is one of the crucial bits of advice I'd give any couple facing the long distance challenge. 

As it turns out, I wrote quite a bit on these points and its turning into quite an essay, so I'll include the other points as a second installment tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wakeboard Wednesday, #1

Things have been pretty busy lately so I apologise for the lack of stuff going up!  I've realised that I quite enjoy putting the odd wakeboarding video up here, and because its easy to do I figured I could make it a bit of a regular feature.  When I realised that Wednesday and wakeboarding start with the same letter it sealed the deal, so here is your first weekly dose of wakeboarding.

In this first installment, here is the trick that won the Move of the Year award at the recent Wake Awards in slow-mo.   Sure, it just looks like more spinning, but its actually quite tricky doing the old toeside backside spinning.

Steel Lafferty - Toeside Backside 900 from WakeWorld on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Surveying the Shaking Lands

I don't envy anyone with a surveying job in Christchurch right now!  The magnitude 7.1 earthquake that rocked the city last weekend is probably big enough to have jiggled the survey marks all across the city by a few centimetres or more.  A preliminary estimate from a continuous GPS site out on the peninsula shows movement of 13cm or so, and they expect movements of 20cm+ in other areas.  That means that boundary pegs, survey marks, fences and buildings have all moved a bit, with some properties expanding and some contracting. 

The worst thing about all this movement is that there are no laws or legal precedent to guide surveyors in how to address these problems.  The situation in New Zealand is unclear as to whether surveyors should resurvey boundaries where they are now, or try and reposition them where they were before the earthquake.  In most cases, it won't really matter because, at the end of the day, what's a few centimetres?  But where it will be quite significant is in places like the CBD, where the high value of property means that if a boundary moves by 20 centimetres that can equate to tens of thousands of dollars gained or lost.  That's where it starts becoming the sort of thing that big legal disputes are made of!

This event will prove very interesting from here, because it will hopefully be the inspiration for parliament to finally make a call on whether property boundaries move with deformation events, or whether they stay fixed in the positions they were in before the quake.  A call on that will be invaluable to surveyors.

My honours project has been all about the effect of gradual land movement on property boundaries, but as part of it I've done a fair amount of looking into what happens in the case of earthquakes.  The earthquake last weekend has suddenly made my research a whole heap more relevant to the surveying profession at large, so its quite exciting really!

Some cool links to check out are are a video of pretty impressive aerial shots of the fault line here (which also has some comments about the surveying side of things), and my brother's analysis on the earthquake here and here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Reflections on the Earthquake

The other morning I was slumbering away peacefully, but around 4:30 I was stirred by the house making some weird squeaking noises, and the bed rocking back and forth.  I realised it was an earthquake, but as I lay there pondering whether to jump out and get under a doorpost, or even whether to wake up Paula (who slept right through the whole thing) I realised it wasn't gonna be the sort of thing that could kill me, and just enjoyed the ride.

Well it turns out the earthquake was a pretty significant event in Christchurch, with widespread damage across the city, and especially in the CBD.  The earthquake, centred in Darfield, measured 7.1 on the richter scale.  Miraculously, there have been no fatalities as a result of the quake, and only two people sustained critical injuries.  It's pretty incredible when you read some people's stories of what happened.  An event of such magnitude obviously plays on everyone's mind for a while, so I thought I'd jot down some of my ponderings since hearing about what went down.

I'd guess the most influencial thing that this earthquake has done is remind us New Zealanders of our own mortality.  We're used to seeing images on the news of destructive events around the world, but somehow I think we subconciously forget that we are just as prone to those disasters as anyone else, which is silly in light of the fact that we actually sit right on top of the plate boundary.  But anyway, I think it can only be a good thing to be reminded of our mortality.  Hopefully plenty of people will be thinking about the bigger picture stuff as a result of this, realising that life has to be about more than the accumulation of wealth and 'stuff' and that the best thing you can do with your life is to be prepared for your death.  Some may call this morbid, I call it wise, especially when you realise that death doesn't need to be something to be feared.

My other thoughts are a bit trippy, so bear with me here for a moment.  I've been thinking about how God can be called good in a situation like this.  On the one hand, we can rejoice at how miraculous it is that no one died.  On the other hand, though, many people are now realising that they face a long and hard few months or years as they face the fact that heaps of their stuff has been destroyed, leaving them in the depths of financial hardship.  Was God good because he protected everyone's lives?  Or was God bad because he brought this calamity on the 'good' people of Christchurch at all?

I think God uses everything for ultimately good purposes, and I'm sure that out of this earthquake many people will be questioning the important things in their lives and hopefully realising that this life is about living for something bigger than yourself.  But thinking about this stuff is making me realise just how subjective our view of mercy is, and how it can so easily be distorted.  Is God's goodness a relative thing, dependent on our circumstances and outlook on life?  Or is there some outside, objective idea of what is good for people?  I'm realising that we humans, with our limited understanding and the biases of our upbringing and attitudes, really aren't in the best position to judge whether God is being good or not with whatever he does.

This is plunging into the deep end with some intense philosophical stuff, and I've written too much as it is so I'll call it quits there.  Tomorrow I hope to write some less deep, but still interesting thoughts on how the earthquake makes things interesting for my research here at survey school.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What He Reads

Michael Hyatt has posted what his reading list is these days.  I thought it was good because 1) it's interesting to see what highly successful people read (and how much time they spend reading), and 2) it got me onto a bunch of interesting sites that make for good reference.  Check it out if you're keen.

How to Remember People's Names

Being in the church scene, I'm meeting people all the time.  I know how daunting it can be to step into a church for the first time, and so I reckon learning people's names at the first meeting is absolutely crucial.  Nothing makes someone feel at home and included like being known by their name, so I aim to do my bit to make church a welcoming place by taking this pretty seriously.  On this note, I found this article over at Lifehacker to be absolute gold!  8 handy tips to learn people's names (even when they're unusual foreign ones) will never go amiss, whatever your situation!

The only tip I disagree with is no. 6: 'don't ever call people by the wrong name.'  He says "if you're not 100% certain that you've got someone's name correct, it's probably better not to address them by it, and instead immediately find some covert way of re-learning it."  In my experience, there's nothing like taking a punt on someone's name and getting it wrong to make you put more effort into learning it!  It's arguable, but I reckon saying "sorry was it John?" says "I care enough about learning your name that I'll go on a limb and potentially embarrass myself to get it eventually."

Anyway, take it or leave it, I found it pretty interesting and helpful.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Questions are You Asking?

Don Miller has an interesting post on "Why the Bible is a Tough Book for Americans."  It's definitely a worthwhile read.  Here's some quotes:
"We all live life asking questions, questions about how to get ahead, how to make life more meaningful, questions about how to survive or help people survive. The question how is an American question, and it rests on the presupposition that we know what life is really about."
"The problem Christians face is the Bible is not attempting to answer how questions. And if it is, it’s a terribly written book and not practical in any way in terms of addressing how to succeed, how to get married, how to be more sexy, how to lose weight, how to organize your finances or how to build a business. Instead, the Bible is a why book. The Bible is answering much larger questions: Why do we exist, why do we not feel loved, why is there pain in the world, why has God left us and so forth."
"So what does the Bible say to the Average American [and I'd say to the average New Zealander]? Among other things, it says this: You are asking the wrong questions."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The 2009 Move of the Year

For your viewing pleasure, here's a wee video with a selection of the coolest moves of wakeboarding in 2009.  I came across it at the wakeboarding mag website.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Review: Leadership Gold

If I'm gonna be honest, I picked up this book with a fair amount of trepidation.  I've only read one other book written by John Maxwell, it was called The Difference Makerand was a whole book devoted to the importance of having a positive attitude.  I found that book to be little more than a collection of cliche catchphrases and, frankly, it felt like I was spending the whole time getting a pep talk by some wannabe coach who'd watched way too many movies like Remember the Titans.

So anyway, I read this book for two reasons: 1) I got given it for free, and 2) I was in the mood for a book that I didn't want to think much about.  Having gone into this book with such an unflattering mindset, I'm happy to say I was very pleasantly surprised.  From the first chapter or two I knew that this book had the potential to transform the way I thought about leadership.

This book is pretty easy to read in Maxwell's casual style of writing.  He makes it explicit that this book is drawn from his experience leading people and organisations, so it comes as no surprise that it is filled with short stories and anecdotes from his time at the top.  Thankfully he includes as many examples of times he learnt lessons the hard way as when he did things successfully, meaning that it is easy to relate on a personal level with his ideas.

This is one of the first books I've read on the generic topic of leadership, and so I found it a fairly eye-opening insight into the complexities and wisdom involved with leading a business.  I'm aware there are heaps of books on this topic out there though, and if you read plenty of this sort of books I'm not sure what this book would add that's new.  I suspect Maxwell's approach to being productive and successful in business hinges more on people than a lot of other books.  His approach is humble and down-to-earth, which will be refreshing to achievement driven, productivity focussed leaders.

The chapters are concise and to the point, with headings like Leaders distinguish themselves during tough times and The best leaders are listeners that leave little to the imagination about what that is about.  Because of this, I think this book works as a handy reference to flick through every now and then to get a snapshot of some of the important facets of being a good leader.

So anyway, I really enjoyed reading this book.  If you get the chance, and you're serious about leading well, its definitely worth the read.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Humanitarian Surveying

Sometimes I feel guilty for enjoying surveying so much.  It just seems like other professions like medicine, nursing, teaching and so on seem so virtuous in that they deal with people and directly improve lives.  Putting in boundary pegs, by contrast, seems so detached from meeting the real needs of hurting people.  In fact, a lot of the work surveyors do is doing developments for land-owners and in many ways just helping the rich get richer.

I've thought a lot about how on earth surveying could have humanitarian applications.  A quick google search brings up plenty of stuff on minefield surveys, but somehow I think they need people with a different set of skills from what we learn here.  Other things mention using remote sensing (ie. analysing satellite images) to size up the situation immediately after catastrophes such as earthquakes, tsunamis or volcano eruptions.  But again, these all seem somewhat impersonal and indirect.

I had a bit of a brainwave, though, when looking into big infrastructure companies such as Beca, Opus or Cardno for work next year.  It occurred to me that these big multi-disciplinary firms have all the resources to do massive infrastructural projects...and make lots of money.  It would be so cool if some firms took the millions of dollars of profit they make from projects such as the new Dunedin stadium, and invested in giving a little village in the developing world a make-over.  As surveyors, we know how to design and oversee construction of infrastructure such as underground sewage, stormwater and reticulated water systems.  These are all things that the developing world desperately need, so if one day I wind up as the CEO (or some influential person) of Beca, I'd be all for it.

I assume that there are people already trying to put in systems like this in places, so I guess the other option (if I don't end up as a CEO) is to head out and help them out by doing the levelling (or whatever) myself.

The Blip in Technological Advance

Over at Strange Maps they've got an interesting post noting how one of the few exceptions to technology advancing over the years is in the field of technology.  Where we used to be able to cross the atlantic in just a couple of hours, now that the concorde has been disbanded it takes longer.  We used to be able to put people on the moon, but now we don't.  There's a somewhat interesting map to go with it too.  But anyway, I'll leave you to read the whole article here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reflections on 8 Months of Marriage

Today Paula and I celebrate our eight month anniversary, which means its only four months until we've been married a full year!  I've heard that a year is when you've 'made it' as a married couple, so I can't wait.  Here are some (fairly random) thoughts:
  • Being married is awesome
I guess this isn't terribly deep, but I've loved being married these past few months.  It's been so much fun living with my best friend, and being a team in the proper sense of the word.  There's something cool and mysterious and exciting about being able to look forward to a future together, and knowing that you've got someone watching your back through thick and thin.  We've particularly enjoyed being able to be hospitable and welcoming to people as a team, and invite people around without having to check with flatmates!  Overall, my experience with being married has been cool (based largely on my choice I think), and I can look forward to it getting better as we get to know each other more and more.
  • It's easy to forget things
As with haircuts, land development, and slavery (in the case of the Israelites), it is harder than you'd think to remember what things were like before being married.  The struggles of going out seem like a distant memory, and now I can't quite fathom why some of the things that consumed my mind back then seemed so important.  This is quite a strange phenomenon, and probably worth writing about at length some other time.
  • Being romantic is harder when you're married
I'd always heard how keeping romance alive when married takes more work than beforehand, but I never realised quite how sudden the change would be.  It was almost like with the flick of a switch, things got harder in this regard.  That's not to say that enjoying being with your partner is harder, just that doing the special, surprising stuff is more difficult.  Part of the problem I think is that, because you enjoy more time together, there seems less need to make the times together special.  It's also harder to be sneaky and keep things a secret when she lives with you.  This isn't an excuse though, and I'll definitely be working on this.
  • There's nothing quite like marriage to cure pride
I've learnt a lot of things over the past eight months.  Probably the biggest thing, though, has been learning to get over myself and apologise for doing stupid stuff.  Though I had to do this every so often before Paula came on the scene, now the stakes are much higher.  I know how destructive pride can be in a marriage, so one of the best, but most painful things about the last few months has been the steep learning curve in what it means to humble myself.

Thanks Paula for eight amazing months, I look forward to many more!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


This is why it's a good idea to wear a helmet wakeboarding!  Thanks to Trevor Hansen for getting me on to this gem!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The real Bible

Over the years I’ve discovered that it’s generally the simplest things that make the biggest difference. When it comes to the Bible, I’ve often found that the key to getting more out of it is simply to realise that it is talking about people that actually existed, dealing with situations that actually happened. Writing it down like that, it seems so simple as to sound stupid, but I’ve noticed its power to transform how I read things.

It’s far too easy to skim through the Bible, where in the space of a few minutes you can read how Paul addressed an issue in the church, or how Jesus did some miracles in a town and then moved on, or how David spent his early years protecting sheep from bears and things. But the challenge for me is to continually realise that the people of the Bible were in many respects just like that as David stood there facing Goliath, it was real adrenaline running through his actual veins, and real fear making his real heart beat faster, and that this fear is the kind I have when doing something that could potentially kill me. Even the smaller events of the Bible, the ones that only fill half a verse, can become epic when I start to think how it’s real discussions that are taking place, real emotions that are being experienced and actual people getting hurt or encouraged or changed.

Good preachers, I reckon, are those ones who can take a bit of the Bible and sweep away all the social constructs and modern paradigms that hinder us from experiencing what it was like to be there at the event.

Even having written this, it seems like something not worth spending valuable internet space on, but hopefully you get the gist.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


My grandma, a.k.a. Grace Brown, died yesterday.

It’s times like these that I desperately wish I could have had more memories to draw on and enjoy. Strangely enough, I regret not spending more time being around her, learning from her, and joking with her, knowing full well that if I had it would only make her passing more painful.

The memories I do have of grandma consist of good times playing on her crossword solver, laughing (with her) about her flappy arms, being amazed at the ‘lap table’ she had with the pillow underneath and plenty of picnics on sunny afternoons at The Mount, with Grandma watching in enjoyment as we threw the Frisbee around. Most of all, though, I remember her laugh. Grandma had a laugh quite unlike any other old person I know. When she had a chuckle it communicated much more than that something was funny, it somehow reflected a freedom and zest for life that was truly inspiring. Her giggles communicated a deep contentment with life, a contentment that stemmed from having lived and loved with all she had, but also from a secure awareness that God has things under control. When Grandma laughed it was impossible not to laugh with her, and it’s those enduring memories that I will cherish the most.

Grandma has left an incredible legacy, being a family and friends who have learnt and grown so much because of her example. The foundations that she laid can most clearly be seen in the lives of her family who are left, in the way they live out their faith and contribute to society. I feel privileged to count myself as part of the heritage that she was so crucial in establishing.

I’m pretty ripped that I won’t be able to get to the funeral, and right now Dunedin seems so far away. But yeah, if you’re part of the whanau and you’re reading this, know that I’m thinking of you all.

Grandma, you will be missed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stormy skies

There's some pretty awe-inspiring photos of some extreme weather over at The Big Picture.  It's well worth checking out!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Becoming Who I Am

It’s strange really. I’ve heard it said since I was 13 that youth is a time to ‘find yourself,’ and that it takes until you’re 24 or something before you really know your identity, but one year out from that deadline I’ve still got a long way to go!

There’s nothing quite like having to make big decisions about your future to get you thinking about who you are. I’ve found it very interesting these past few months trying to figure out what sort of job would satisfy me, where in the world I’d like to live and what sort of mark I’d like to leave on the world. It’s a complex balance, with all my varied passions, dreams and interests on one side, and my doubts and fears on the other, and trying to reconcile them all into the one person that is me. Everything will work out in time, as they say, but when it’s time to make a decision that will largely affect how your future will play out it’s hard to ignore these questions.

The main theme that my thoughts come back to is that I’d like a surveying job where I get to fly around in a helicopter.

On a slightly different note, I’ve been wondering how to reconcile being confident in who you are with being inspired to be a better person. I’m lucky enough to have plenty of friends around me who possess desirable qualities in greater measure than me, and the tricky thing is to allow myself to be inspired by them without feeling even slightly gutted that I don’t already have those qualities.

This post has just been more questions than answers sorry, but I guess that’s just the nature of my thoughts on this at the moment!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


For this geovisualisation and cartography paper I'm taking we had a lab that consists of playing around in a virtual world, making it look pretty and stuff.  It just cracks me up how for this paper we're basically just playing games!  For those in the know, the platform we're using is based on second life.

Here's some snapshots of my island, just for giggles.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Perfect Handshake

If you know me much at all you'll know that I appreciate a good handshake.  I realise its not good to judge a man by his handshake, but lets be honest, if you meet a guy who gives you a limp fish you'll think twice before inviting him to go hunting or something.

Well hopefully the poor handshake is in its final days, because a team of researchers somewhere has done the hard yards and figured out the equation for the perfect handshake.  It depends on twelve variables including eye contact, verbal greeting, vigour, temperature of hands and so on.  There's no provision for getting the other hand involved (on the shoulder, elbow or just the old two handed handshake) which I reckon takes the standard handshake to a whole new level, but then I'm pretty sketchy about the whole thing. 

What I'd really like to see is an equation to determine whether to hug a girl or stick with the handshake, which depends on many complex factors such as the duration of time since/until seeing her, eccentricity of the girl, level of friendship, location etc. etc.  Or maybe I'm just awkward.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Can't Land Them All

It's winter here so there hasn't been a lot of wakeboarding to be had.  But that hasn't stopped me enjoying some videos, such as this crash montage put together by Chad Sharpe.  There's plenty more over at his blog.

Book Review: Christianity's Dangerous Idea

I bought this book a couple of years ago and just haven’t got around to reading it until now. Truth be told I was a bit daunted by the thing! Nonetheless I found myself with nothing to read one day and had an eerie sense that the book was laughing at me, so I took a deep breath and delved into it. I’m glad I did!

So anyway, aside from being an intriguing title, what actually is “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea?” I’ll let Alister McGrath do the talking:

“The dangerous new idea, firmly embodied at the heart of the Protestant revolution, was that all Christians have the right to interpret the Bible for themselves. However, it ultimately proved uncontrollable, spawning developments that few at the time could have envisioned or predicted.”

This book is a history of the protestant revolution from the 16th century until now. This may sound pretty dry at first glance (and was another reason why I resisted reading it for so long!) but in fact I found it quite an exhilarating read. McGrath has done well to take a subject that could potentially be seriously boring, and tell a story that is both informative and exciting.

The book is divided into three parts, telling about the origination, manifestation and transformation of Protestantism. The first part is a broad-brush history of the birth of the movement right up until the 20th century. I found this section enormously helpful in highlighting how and why so many different denominations have sprung up, and summarising the key issues involved. My generation generally doesn’t seem to have much idea about all that stuff, and so this was a very handy reference to answer questions about why the diversity in churches we see today exists. McGrath was successful in generating a sense of excitement as the story of Protestantism built toward the present day, and even in these early pages he imparts a strong sense of the magnitude of the movement that Protestantism continues to be.

The second part goes back and fills in some details on certain elements of Protestantism, such as how it approaches the Bible, and its relationship with culture, the arts, science and so on. I found it a bit of a slog getting through this bit. It’ll make good reference material for sure, but for me it lacked the sense of drive and purpose that made the other sections so enjoyable.

Finally, the book finishes up with a more comprehensive look at the radical transformations that have happened since the dawn of the 20th century, in particular the rise of Pentecostalism and its potential impact on the future. I found this the most exciting section of the book, probably because it is most relevant to me. McGrath writes as one expecting monumental changes in the movement, and hence the world, within the next couple of generations, and this sense of excitement is contagious in the way he writes. I love big picture thinking, and this section definitely lays the foundations for a view of the world that is well grounded in the past, and expansive in its vision for the future.

Overall, the book is very well written and easy to read. A wee bit of prior understanding of the various facets of Protestantism would always be a bonus when reading something like this, but McGrath generally does a good job of keeping things pretty simple. Though not everyone’s cup of tea, if you want to know more about the general origins and issues facing Protestantism, you can’t go wrong with this book.

To Bury or Burn?

Paula and I were talking about this fairly recently, so I found this article on the ethics of cremation quite interesting.  It provides some good background on the historical views toward it, where it comes up in the Bible and the theological issues it brings up.  Definitely a good read to help form a well grounded view on the issue. 

Justin Taylor got me on to it, and provides some handy summarising quotes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Clyde coldness

Last weekend Paula and I enjoyed a weekend away at Clyde with Paula's parents.  It was nice and relaxing just reading books and playing cards and whatnot.  It got pretty cold though, and on the Sunday morning there was plenty of fog to complete the atmosphere.  I couldn't let the opportunity go by, so put my warmest gear on and braved the outside world to take some photos, trying to get a bit arty with my point-and-shoot camera as well.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grace induced Sweat?

My thoughts lately have been revolving around a sermon I listened to on the importance of discipline in growing as a Christian. It’s probably the sort of message we don’t hear enough of these days, and after he spends the first half just talking about examples of discipline in sports and other stuff, this gets really quite good.

A particularly memorable quote was that “grace produces perspiration,” which struck me as being quite a handy way of thinking about the way that grace should motivate us to work hard at serving and honouring God. Listen to the whole last part of the thing for a good explanation of how discipline is quite different from legalism.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My Dissertation in 300 Words

This is my last year of the surveying degree. I'm doing the honours programme so on top of the normal course papers I'm carrying out a year-long research project. Because I have so many people asking me what it’s all about, I thought I'd put a brief summary of it here.

The title is A Stake in the Shifting Sands: Toward a Unified Approach to Surveying Areas Experiencing Gradual Land Movement. When I stumbled on this name I felt like most of the work was done, given that it combines both alliteration AND a pun, and hopefully enough humour to make the most pale-skinned, square-eyed academic grin.

Anyway, as the name suggests, my project is looking at the effect land movement has on legal property boundaries. Land movement comes in many forms, from tectonic plate movement, to earthquakes, vertical subsidence and landslides. Landslides can further be broken into two groups; the sudden, discrete events that everyone knows about and see on the news, and slow gradual movement that often people are unaware of. I’m looking at the unique characteristics of this latter form of movement.

The current situation in New Zealand is not ideal, as there is no guiding legislation or legal precedent to help surveyors figure out where the original boundary is when all the control marks around the place have moved. There is even confusion over whether the boundary stays fixed (meaning your house and fences are effectively sliding off the property) or whether the boundary moves with the land.

All going well, I hope to produce a document that effectively summarises the issues involved, critically looks at the current and potential approaches to the problem, and make recommendations to resolve the problem and help ease the frustration facing surveyors in the future.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rediscovering the Virtues of Self-Management

This morning I discovered the blog of Michael Hyatt, Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. In particular I liked his articles on scheduling time in the "alone zone" and “slay[ing] your dragons before breakfast.”

The fact that I can even spend time at 11:30am reading articles like this probably shows I don’t really need the leadership principles he’s advocating. Being a student, I have a whole heap more time on my hands than he does, and so you could argue that I have no need for his advice.

That said, I find articles like his strangely exciting. They get me wondering where I may end up in life, and help me realise that the decisions I make now are building towards who I am and what I can accomplish in the future. Sure, the decisions I make now aren’t of the same magnitude as those of the CEO of an international company, but they can be just as significant in dictating what I can handle in the future.

I think its always good to be challenged to take a more proactive approach to life, and although I don't fully identify with Hyatt's achievement-driven style, I think everyone can learn something from it.

...and who knows, maybe one day I will wind up as a high-powered executive somewhere someday!

HT: Challies

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Big Picture: Afghanistan photos

I always enjoy checking out The Big Picture, and today they have a somewhat moving collection of photos from the last month in Afghanistan. It's crazy to think that while I've been living away in my quiet life here so much drama is unfolding over there.

Hello World!

Welcome to my second foray into the blogging world! If you didn’t know about my first attempt at a blog I’m not surprised, because I never really told anyone about it and just hoped that heaps of random people would find it and be impressed by how deep I was and follow it and I’d become a famous popular blogger. Well needless to say, that didn’t happen and I got a bit disillusioned with the whole thing.

So why, I hear you ask, have I come back for another go? The first reason is really quite selfish: I want to think better. Lately my thoughts have been all over the show and I figured that what I need is some way to bring them all together and make sure that they actually make sense. And what better way to force myself to write coherent thoughts than to write something that potentially the whole world could read! So this is my wee forum for all my musings on life as they come.

The other reason I’m back is to invite you into the journey that is my life. This world is a big, beautiful mystery and it’s an adventure to explore and experience it. I’m loving where I’m at, and am excited about where I’m going. This blog, I hope, will offer a bit of a window into the portrait that is my life.

I hope you enjoy the ride.