Monday, October 24, 2011

Custom Short Story: James (fictional example)

The following is an example of a tailor made cutsom short story for "James", who wants to lose weight.  The story serves as an inspiration to help James stick with his efforts to achieve his weight loss goal.  If you want a custom short story for free, email me your version of the background and personal info.  If you're not sure how to answer these, just let me know and I can help.

Background Info
Name: James
Age: 25
Where I am now: 110 kg
Where I want to be (goal): 95 kg
What I plan to do to get there (I can help with this process if you're unsure): Gradual changes in diet and exercise

Personal Info 
(select at least three questions to answer - more is better)

Favourite past-time: Eating and reading while listening to some nice music
What hours do you sleep: 2am until about midday
What do you do for a living: student
What subjects are you knowledgeable about:
Pets and names:
Married/In a relationship:
Favourite music genre:
How comfortable you are in new situations:
I'm not comfortable at all. I prefer to stay home and read.
Anything else you would like to volunteer: I'd love to meet more people like me ir real life. Internet connections seem a bit empty at the moment.

First Draft
After jumping up the shallow curb on the side of the road, James slowed from a jog to a walk. He made his way over to the narrow door of the convenience store, noting that the red sprayed graffiti from yesterday was already cleaned up from the window.

He paused at the entrance, fumbling in his backpack for his wallet while he waited for a young couple to clear the doorway. James nodded politely to them as they passed and then took a single step inside, but then paused and turned to look at the couple again. He had noticed the young woman looking at him intently, trying to place his face. Recognition dawned on them both at the same time.

"Katie!" "James!" They spoke at the same time, and then broke into gentle laughter.

Katie's partner looked on with an odd expression of confusion and a desire to keep moving.

"Hi Katie, how've you been?"
"James! I'm okay. Same old really. But man, you look good. You must have lost what... 10kg?"
"Ha ha, yeah. About that much."
"Well that's great!
Hey, this is my boyfriend Maurice. He needs to lose a bit of weight, what did you do? Maurice can try it out."
"I'm not that fat, Katie. Sheesh," said Maurice, quite pained by the whole conversation by now, "We have to go, love."
"Okay, okay. But just a quick tip please James?"
"Sure Katie. Uh, well the main thing I did was just to make small changes over time that gradually snowballed. I started off changing just one meal and walking an extra 15 minutes morning and night."
"Oh cool, that doesn't sound too hard," said Katie.
"Anyone can do it," said James, "Hey you better go - Maurice looks like he's about to miss the final of the Rugby World Cup or something. Take care."
"Thanks," said Maurice with a grateful look at James for wrapping it up.
"Okay. Might bump into you again some time, James," then with a spiteful glance at Maurice, "I might try and find you on facebook and then we can catch up properly. Or even go for a run together some time... This one's too attached to the couch! Seeya!"

James took a deep breath to suppress the blush that had started creeping up his neck.

Well, that was awkward, he thought to himself. At least people were starting to notice the changes that had taken place over the last few months. It was great to know that he had it in him to be used to make a girl's boyfriend jealous, but it wasn't nice to have to face that in real life. Still, it was good to talk with someone who seemed to appreciate the effort it took to get fit and healthy. And to think that all it took was a few eggs and walking to the store instead of driving. And it saved him some petrol money too!

Continuing inside, he moved through the store to pick up a carton of free-range eggs. Coming back to the counter by the door, he nodded to the store owner and handed over some cash.
"Morning Casey. You dealt with that bloody graffiti pretty smartly."
"Thank you, Mr James," the tall and lean Indian gentleman said, "I was inspired to tidy it up by you actually."
"Wow. How so?" said James, tucking his change away in his bag but keeping the fragile eggs in hand for the return journey.
"Mr James, you've been coming here every day or two for at least a year now. About four months ago you started buying more eggs and less lollies and less fizzy drink. About three months ago you stopped with the sugary food altogether. And now, you're running and have clearly lost weight. In such a short time too. That, my friend, is inspiring! If you can take care of your body, I can take care of my store!"
"Gosh, I had no idea it was that obvious a change. Thanks, I guess."
Casey touched one lean finger to his temple and cheerfully spoke, "Casey is a very observant man, Mr James. And keeping track of the regulars breaks up the routine of the day," he paused before continuing, "You know, Mr James, my daughter will be back from her lectures soon. You should really meet her - it would do her good to get to know a disciplined man like yourself."

James was speechless. This fine Indian Gentleman was trying to set him up with his daughter!

"Uh, maybe some other time, Casey," he thought fast, "I have some work to do before the game tonight. Sorry."

James turned and started moving with quick steps toward the shop door.

Casey watched him with a twinkle in his eye and a smile, and then called after him, "Okay Mr James. Have a nice day. See you tomorrow."
"Bye Casey," he called over his shoulder, and then muttering under his breath, "Probably won't see you tomorrow. I might need a week to build up the courage to come back. Sheesh!"

James couldn't help but smile to himself as he continued on his way, though. With this sort of positive reinforcement, it was going to be easy to put the next change in his routine - a proper training schedule for the half marathon around the lake in three months time. 21 kilometers sounded like a lot right now, but if the last three months were anything to go by, the next should be great. He was sure he could make it all the way!

The End

Possible Titles (choose one)
James' Journey
Double Joy
Inspiring Trouble by Accident

I'd love to hear from anyone who wants me to write them a custom short story.  Go to my contact page to see how you can get in touch.  Please share this with anyone who might like to have one written for themselves, or for others as a gift.


Friday, October 21, 2011

Return To Sender (Why You Should Bother)

Will snail-mail ever become redundant?  I doubt it.

I’m the sort of person who takes the time to:

  • put a line through the address
  • writes “Return to sender - no longer at this address” on the front (sometimes with a big arrow pointing to the return address if it’s at the top of the envelope), and 
  • drops it back in the post when I get a chance.
Here’s a couple of reasons why I think this is a good practice:
  1. It’s doing someone a favour without you getting a reward. A practice of unselfish behaviour.
  2. If I was running a company, I would appreciate knowing that my client/consumer details needed updating.
  3. If I was the person, no longer living there, I would want the groups I interact with to know so that they could remind me to change my details next time I see them.
  4. If everyone did this, then companies would see the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of this means of communication for a certain profile of client/consumer.
  5. Your might save some trees if you maintain this practice over a life-time.

It’s interesting to note that you can perform a snail-mail “return to sender’ totally anonymously, but with incorrectly addressed/sent electronic-mail you always run the risk of spam hitting you back. Marking or deleting spam is today’s equivalent action and no feedback goes to the companies unless the spam becomes excessive or wide-spread.

Is there something lost in this new process?

Snail mail will be around for a while, so I wouldn’t panic just yet.

For those who like Elvis Presley:

Twilight of Education (Kristen Stewart and Differentiated Learning)

People with a lot of uniqueness will struggle to have their needs met by a system designed for the average person.

Kristen Stewart, who played "Bella" of recent Twilight fame, blames her teachers for failing to meet her educational needs when she didn't fit into the education system. Her acting meant that she couldn't make classes regularly and needed personalised "packages" from her teachers to help her keep up her education.

Three things I want to mention about this.

One - This is differentiated learning, i.e. having a unique program of learning that is tailor made to the individual needs of the student.

Two - The workload of high school teachers is impossible if they are expected to provide individual packages for their 125 to 150 students (under a differentiated learning model)

Three - Teaching students how to teach themselves, and weaning them off of their dependence on the (current) education system as early as possible, seems like a good way to differentiate in a meaningful way. Developing learning power according to Guy Claxton, or building Key Competencies according to the New Zealand Curriculum.

For the full news article, visit:

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Tactics" by Gregory Koukl (Summary: part 3 of 3)

Tactics is a book that teaches the reader some of the most useful tools of discussion (the tactics) for debating. The specific context for using these tools is in defense of the Christian faith and Christian world view.

Purchase the book or read more about it here on

Here is a brief summary of each of the main tools and chapters presented. It is worth reading the entire book because of the conversations detailed and the specific examples of each strategy.

Steamroller - Sometimes people will try to overpower you with words and ideas without listening to valid counter-arguments. Learn to identify this behaviour, stop it by saying, "stop right there. You haven't answered my question". If they persist, shame them by pointing out exactly what they have avoided answering. If they refuse to play ball after that there is no point in talking with them - just leave the conversation. Don't cast pearls before swine.

Rhodes Scholar - Just because someone is an academic expert it doesn't mean that they are basing their arguments on logical lines of reasoning. Be aware of when someone is trying to educate you or inform you. Informers don't try to justify their position. Educators make a case and leave the conclusion as a result of the evidence.

Sometimes two definitions of science are used to confuse. "Science deals with the natural world only" suits when evidence points to a supernatural designer. But when it suits to rubbish faith, "science is a method using evidence and experiments." So the right methods are expected and the right answers are also expected!

Historical science also includes assumptions about the expected findings, denying miracles even though we have records of eye-witness accounts.

The Rhodes Scholar tactic is merely to ask for the reasons for what the opponent believes, and not just accepting their statement as truth.

Just the facts ma'am - Use facts and figures to make a strong case. This is especially useful when a claim is made that doesn't stand up to the facts, e.g. "Religion has caused more wars and death than anything else" but 66 million were wiped out under Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev (atheistic communists); between 32 and 61 million Chinese have been killed under communist regimes since 1949; etc.

Memorise with precision any dates, figures, and facts that apply (the more specific the better) and then suggest that the person with the vague counter claim must face those facts. Facts are more powerful than a louder voice.

Finding the right context for a reading can be used as facts to help interpret scripture too, e.g. using the log in your own eye verse against judging. This verse actually says you can judge if you do not have a log in your eye. IT is about not being hypocritical in your judgment so is actually telling you to judge!

More Sweat, Less Blood - Working hard in training means less blood in the battle. Spend time with others who share the passion of learning these tactics and it gets easier to learn them. Face legitimate objections to your faith - they will only lead to a clearer understanding of the truth and a stronger faith (if your faith is correct). Don't be shy, you have the truth so give it a go at least. Have courage. Even the best arguments may result in failure to convince because at the end of the day people can't believe unless God changes their heart.

Follow the Ambassador's Creed. Be ready, patient, reasonable, tactical, clear, fair, honest, humble, attractive, and dependent on God.
I am intending to write a follow up to this series about some of my experiences implementing these tactics over the 12 years of my own discussions defending the Christian Faith.  Subscribe or add my blog to your reader to receive these automatically.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Tactics" by Gregory Koukl (Summary: part 2 of 3)

Tactics is a book that teaches the reader some of the most useful tools of discussion (the tactics) for debating. The specific context for using these tools is in defense of the Christian faith and Christian world view.

Purchase the book or read more about it here on

Here is a brief summary of each of the main tools and chapters presented. It is worth reading the entire book because of the conversations detailed and the specific examples of each strategy.


Suicide: Views that self destruct - These are views or statements that, if they are true, prove themselves false. Variations on the theme "there is no truth" are common. Saying that "God doesn't take sides" assumes that God takes that side, proving the view false.

Pseudo-questions such as "Can God make a rock so big that he can't lift it" are nonsense questions. It's like asking if god is stronger than god and makes no sense.

"People make mistakes, so I won't trust the bible." But you're a person and could make mistakes, so I'll trust the bible.

"Saying that evolution designs by chance." Design implies a designer with a hand in events and is not chance at work.

"Only science gives reliable truth." But science doesn't give itself its truth so is it true?

"All religions are true." But some deny the truth of all other religions, e.g. Jesus is the only way versus other views.

Practical Suicide - These are views that fail when you put them into practice (even if they aren't contradictory in them self), e.g. Saying that "arguing is wrong" is not contradictory but as soon as you try to defend that view you are arguing and proving it impractical.

"It's wrong to condemn people". But that condemns people who think that it isn't wrong to condemn people.

"You shouldn't force your morality on others". Isn't that view forcing your morality on others?

Sibling Rivalry and Infanticide - Sibling rivalry is a way of describing ideas that compete, i.e. both can't be true, e.g. "good people go to heaven" and "good and bad are relative, not absolute". How then do good people go to heaven if there are no truly good people!

Another example of sibling rivalry: "A loving God would never send anyone to hell" and "Why does God allow evil in the world, why doesn't he punish bad people?" If you punish bad people you need a god who will bring pain!

"Homosexuality isn't wrong because it's natural". This implies that anything natural is right, but when it comes to homosexual couples adopting children they are trying to do what is clearly not natural, or they would have their own children!

Infanticide is when prior concepts disprove what is being claimed, e.g. vocal chords do not exists first requires vocal chords to exists if one is to say them.

"I can't believe in a God who allows evil in the world". This presumes the existence of evil, which can only exist if God is in the world. Also, if morals are relative then how can the claim that evil exists disprove God? If evil is relative, then the objection is nonsense.

Remember that Atheists can act moral, so don't accuse them of that, but they can't justify their actions in the absence of a moral law giver. Their defense of their own morality works against themselves!

Taking the roof off - Some views result in absurd conclusions if they are pushed to their limit. Saying that there is no objective moral good or bad means that we can't say that rape is bad, or that Hitler was wrong. To realise when an idea is absurd you will have to take it for a test drive to find out if the roof comes off.

Example - the claim that homosexual marriage is morally okay because the government supports it. The government also supported slavery at one time, so it is a non-argument to say that anything is okay if the government supports it.

"I was born homosexual so it's not bad". But people are born liars and murders too...

The philosophy professor who "proves" god doesn't exist by dropping a pen and saying god doesn't exist because he couldn't stop it hitting the ground. Say that the professor doesn't exist if you don't catch a pen and then choose to let it fall.

"That's just your interpretation of the bible!" But he will object if you interpret his words to mean that you can have his car. It's not the interpretation that matters, it's what the words really mean.

Still to come is the third and final section.  Please subscribe or check back for in a few days for the conclusion and a link to the full summary in PDF format.