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.