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.