Saturday, December 22, 2012

101 Questions for Christians (Can YOU reply to these?)

I don’t think these questions should be unfamiliar to Christians. The answers and conversations surrounding these questions should be common amongst both new believers and mature believers, and both adult converts and those who grew up in Christian homes.

You might like to share these questions at a study group. Also, if any of the questions presents you with particular difficulty in answering then I urge you to start a conversation with other Christians about that question, and seek the answers together.

If you are not a Christian, but have Christian friends, you might like to challenge them to reply to  some of these!

Additional: These questions are not in any particular order and are not meant to make up a Catechism or curriculum.  They are merely written off the top of my head as a creative exercise.  There is no reason, other than for readability/reference-ability, why I have written every tenth entry in bold.

  1. Why do you believe that God exists?
  2. Why do you believe that the God of the bible is this God?
  3. Why do you believe there is only one God?
  4. Why do you believe that the bible is true and trustworthy?
  5. Why would God make such a terrible world with disease and pain?
  6. Why should anyone follow a God who lets bad things happen to good people?
  7. Why should someone who is basically a good person be punished in hell for not believing in your God?
  8. Why is it important to believe in the Trinity?
  9. What is the meaning of life?
  10. What if it doesn't make me happy to follow God?
  11. How come there are so many denominations?
  12. How do we know that we can trust the bible when there are so many different interpretations?
  13. What about Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc?
  14. There is no absolute truth! (Isn't there?)
  15. What causes division in the church?
  16. Is division in the church ever a good thing? Why?
  17. Have the gifts of the Spirit ceased?
  18. What was the biblical form for the gifts? (What did they look like in practice?)
  19. Do Christians have to give 10%?
  20. What about “prosperity preaching” - doesn't this prove Christianity is a scam to make money?
  21. Are all homosexuals going to hell? 
  22. Hell is going to be better than heaven! (Isn't it?)
  23. Do babies and children that die go to heaven? 
  24. What about people who never get the chance to hear the gospel - do they go to hell? (This doesn’t seem fair)
  25. What is the gospel?
  26. How does the gospel save people?
  27. Does this mean everyone will eventually be saved?
  28. Why eternal punishment? (and not just a short time)
  29. What does it mean to be born again?
  30. How does a person become born again?
  31. How should we read the bible?
  32. What is a study bible?
  33. What is a bible commentary?
  34. How does a Christian “hear” from God?
  35. Why pray if God already knows what we will pray?
  36. What is worship?
  37. What is discipleship?
  38. What is the difference between general and special revelation?
  39. Does God know what I'm thinking? Explain
  40. What is a miracle?
  41. What is God’s purpose in miracles?
  42. Can miracles be from the devil?
  43. Can we make God bring a miracle by praying hard enough?
  44. What does it mean to be holy and how does this apply to us and to God?
  45. Do miracles depend upon our purity and sinlessness?
  46. Do blessings depend upon whether we are sinful? (or have sinned)
  47. Can we be perfect in this life (completely free from sin)?
  48. How were people saved in the Old Testament?
  49. What qualities should Christian leaders possess?
  50. Why are there different versions of the bible?
  51. What is the best version of the bible for me? (and why)
  52. What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?
  53. Are the books of the bible in chronological order? Explain
  54. What does the future hold? 
  55. When do/did the “last days” begin?
  56. What is God’s purpose in the suffering of his people?
  57. What is the purpose of hell?
  58. Who goes to hell?
  59. What will hell be like?
  60. What is the purpose of heaven?
  61. Who goes to heaven?
  62. What will heaven be like?
  63. Is there any place other than heaven or hell where people might go when they die?
  64. Do animals go to heaven?
  65. What is the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestant Christianity?
  66. Why is Roman Catholicism wrong?
  67. What was The Reformation?
  68. What is the best way to know error or untruth when you see it?
  69. What should you do if you find out you are wrong?
  70. How do people identify their gifts from God?
  71. How do they use their gifts from God?
  72. What is the best form of church governance?
  73. What is the difference between a biblical pastor and a biblical teacher?
  74. Can we know for certain that we are saved?
  75. How do we reach assurance?
  76. Can we say if someone else is saved or not? Explain
  77. Can we lose salvation having once had it? Explain
  78. What does it mean that God is sovereign?
  79. Do we have free will? Explain
  80. If we don't have free will, does that make us robots? Explain
  81. If we do have free will, does our decision to follow Jesus mean we are smarter than those who choose not to? Explain
  82. Why is it important to have assurance of salvation as a Christian?
  83. What is discipleship?
  84. When is Jesus coming back?
  85. What should help Christians to get through hard times?
  86. What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?
  87. What does Israel have to do with Christianity (both past and present Israel)?
  88. Why did they sacrifice animals in Israel in the Old Testament?
  89. Why has the sacrifice of animals ended and will never be needed again?
  90. What does it mean to glorify God?
  91. How should marriage glorify God?
  92. What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
  93. How does ‘being made in the image of God’ inform our stance on abortion, war, and euthanasia?
  94. Can we earn our salvation? (Why/why not?)
  95. What is the fall?
  96. How does the fall explain so much of the imperfect world we live in?
  97. How does creation demonstrate the existence of a Creator?
  98. How does creation show the glory of the Creator?
  99. Should we read all of the bible literally? Explain
  100. How should Christians seek to make converts? (Methods, attitudes towards God, attitudes towards men)
  101. How do we examine ourselves to see whether we are Christians or not?

Get talking!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Covenant vs Dispensational Theology (a brief summary of some useful ideas)

Digging through some old notes, I found this handy piece noting some observations I made while wresting with dispensational theology. While my observations may not be perfect in this, they still have enough truth in them to be a good challenge to those who are strongly dispensational.

How did this study/summary come about?

I heard a few years ago that dispensational theology and covenant theology go head to head. I also did a bit of my own research into different eschatological systems. Read most of “A Case for Amillenialism. Understanding the End Times” by Kim Riddlebarger. Most recently, I have listened to Dr. D. A. Carson preaching through Nehemiah during 6 sessions at the 2008 Hamilton Reformed Churches Easter Convention.

Why was it so hard to even begin to work this one out?
Dispensational theology seems a lot easier to grasp because it builds a picture of last events from individual texts without having to build the case for an overarching interpretive system first. Despite this, I believe that covenant theology arises more naturally from scripture, though it takes some time to grasp because the nature of Biblical covenants is foreign to Western culture.

Another reason that Covenant theology is difficult to grasp is that people looking for end-times answers will not see the significance of God’s covenants because they don’t appear to be linked to the events at the end of time. The covenant interpretive system is more focused on the relationships between God and His people. This has implications from the beginning of time to the end and beyond. Our salvation is tied up with entering into covenant with God through His Son Jesus. Judgement at the end of time and the redeeming of creation is fulfilment of covenant.

The importance of covenant theology 
I see the major importance in the area of sanctification of Christians. Much of the Bible can only be understood through eyes which understand how covenants work and the related festivals, feasts, covenant blessings, covenant curses, internal structure, and solemn assemblies.

Solemn Assemblies 
A Solemn assembly is a ceremony where God’s people turn from their sin, restore worship, and restore their covenant relationship with God. These were done after periods of great national backsliding in Israel.

Leviticus 26 gives the outline of covenant renewal as followed in the later chapters of Nehemiah. A covenant renewal is called a solemn assembly through scripture (ESV).

This gives a deeper understanding to passages like Isaiah 1:13 where God says that He cannot endure their solemn assemblies. This is like saying that He will not allow Israel to renew their covenant with God. They have turned away from Him one too many times and He is now signifying His desire to not let them repent from their idolatry and wickedness. Very quickly, after these scary words, God displays His steadfast love (mercy) in promises of restoration. God has made the covenant and it is up to Him to keep it. Christians are passive partners in the formation of the covenant. God alone set it up and God alone will sustain it. In this we can have assurance of eternal salvation.

This makes it easier to understand passages such as Joel chapter 2 where covenant curses are described to explain what will happen to Israel when they reject their Messiah. Those specific judgements may not come down upon Israel, but the description of the signs shows that Israel will reject the messiah.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Where's Wally (or Sam)

Being a father takes more time than expected. Every day I am revising my estimates for time commitments at home and it feels somewhere around the 350% mark of actual available time. If you think that's ridiculous, you should see how much my wife has on her plate!  Baby's are time sink-holes, but they are so worth it!

This commitment to family means that I'm frequently absent from my former social spaces, both on-line and off.  If you've asked yourself, "I wonder what Sam is up to these days," then you can rest assured that I'm still alive and kicking, though busy, busy, busy!  Even so, I still find time to work on a number of creative projects as a form of mental release and reflection.  It actually occurred to me that I do a great deal of creation, so I thought I'd list some of that here to help me feel good about myself, and for those who haven't seen me in a while to see what I'm up to and where I'm at personally or professionally.

All of the following have been produced or contributed to in the last 12 months...

Sam Books and Thoughts - this blog containing all sorts of everything
The Physics Lounge - free high school video physics videos
See the Spirit - devotional type reflections on being a spiritual Christian (what other type is there?)
igage - education focused blogging
Apologetics Shorts - Brief responses to objections people have about Christianity
Learn to be a Real Man - Reflections on manliness
Thinkpad in High School - Reflections leading up to my demo of a Lenovo Thinkpad tablet and a review of my findings

I also have my Bible Study blog which is crying out for some attention.  I have plenty of reflections and work on this but most of it is in note form which is where the material for my other Christian writings often comes from.

I also have a concept for a full novel which I'm developing.  You can read an early draft of one section here

I'm always looking for ways to pay for the future (more children, their education, a house, etc) so if you know of any paid opportunities to write that you think could suit me, I love to hear from you!

Thanks for viewing!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More on My Christian Walk - Bicycle Radio NZ

Today's episode covers:
More on my Christian walk and some rambling thoughts about the sunrise, etc.

Bicycle Radio NZ - Wednesday, June 13th 2012 (episode 14) (right click to save)

This "radio" show started a few weeks ago as a way of expressing myself creatively while I had no time to write.  Instead of recording every day, I am only going to record when I have something I'd really like to share. This might mean once per week or once per month.  The experiment continues to adapt.

Thanks for listening!


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Problem With Christianity - Bicycle Radio NZ

Today's episode covers:
Some of the major problems with Christianity.  Christians should expect to be severely challenged.  Non-Christians will get a good perspective on what many Christians hate about the state of modern "Christianity".

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today's episode covers:
  • Flat tyres 
  • Trigger points again
  • Muscle Activation again
  • Stretching - and how to achieve the side split safely

Bicycle Radio NZ - Monday, June 11th 2012 (episode 12) (right click to save)

I don't have time to add links but you can try searching for:
"stretching scientifically" "tom kurz" "trigger points" "neurological facilitation" "muscle activation techniques" "crossfit" "10 minute squat - YouTube" "sock dock" "maffetone"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Muscle balance and activation techniques

Today's episode covers:
  • Causes and cures of some common aches and pains
  • Muscles, tendons, ligaments + what they are and do
  • Identifying the causes of some aches and pains
  • A little bit about trigger points

Links mentioned:
Dr. Maffetone on muscle balance, manual biofeedback, and a set of awesome manual biofeedback articles: part 1, part 2, part 3
Crossfit vid showing muscle activation of hammys in running technique
Frost book link (I'm not an affiliate so I don't make $$ for recommending this)
Article of mine which mentions how aerobic muscle development helps support joints, etc

As I said, this is a huge topic with some equally huge benefits if used rightly.  Have a great weekend trying to read all of this stuff!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Migraine Prevention and Cure - stress, work, and relaxing properly

If you've ever had a persistent headache, lasting for more than a few hours - even days, a headache which throbs painfully and makes you want to vomit, then chances are you have suffered a migraine.
No, I am not attempting a Jedi mind trick!
This article covers some useful background info about migraines - migraine headaches in particular, as that is usually the most noticable symptom. We will also look at a few common causes that I have experienced with some regularity, and treatments of migraine headaches that I have found to reliably work.

Right off the bat, the unfortunate news is that if you suffer from migraine headaches you can't always eliminate them completely. The good news is that you can reduce their frequency and their impact on your life with a bit of practise.

What are migraines?
Migraines are a neurological disorder, which sounds rather scary. They are usually known for their intense and persistent headache pain which leads to nausea and sometimes vomiting. Personally, I'm not certain whether the nausea is a symptom of the migraine or if it is a secondary symptom of the throbbing pain from the headache.

One factor which is used to clearly distinguish migraines from regular headaches is the chronic nature of migraines. If you regularly suffer the symptoms over a longer period of time (months and years) then it is pretty certain that you are a migraine sufferer and not just a hypochondriac.

The complete list of common symptoms of migraine sufferers: 
- 5 or more suffered in the past (not just a once off)
- headache lasts from 4 hours up to 3 days
- usually affects half of the head (and shifts sides - always on the same side may be an indicator of a brain tumor!)
- pulsating pain
- nausea
- light and/or sound sensitivity
- a sort of narrowing of your field of view

I usually experience all of the above symptoms during the final (most intense) week or two of each school term.

Common causes
In reality, the causes are not fully known or understood. There seems to be a genetic component, as migraines occur more frequently in the same families, but this is not always the cause as even identical twins do not always both suffer from migraines. This leads most authorities to believe that there are both genetic and environmental causes/triggers to migraines.

Females are more susceptible according to the statistics, though I suspect the gap between men and women is less as men are usually more "afraid" to go and see the doctor. Whatever the cause, it's the triggers and risk factors which you should be worried about, because you can do something about them.

Migraine Triggers
- Mental stress or fatigue
- Lack of regular sleep
- Poor diet, e.g. too much sugar or alcohol
- Irregular eating, e.g. fasting
- Poor exercise habits
- Significant hormonal changes

It is important to note that, while you may be able to reduce the frequency of your migraines by reducing these triggers, there is no guarantee that you will eliminate them all together.  That's where the next section comes in but, until medical science provides a reliable cure, you should try to make your life less busy and more focused on a short list of things which are really important to you.  Live relaxed and healthy, then watch your migraines depart.

WARNING: This image may trigger a migraine!
How to stop a migraine in its tracks!
The following is a list of things which have really helped me to cut a migraine off once it has started:
- Ensure you are hydrated with a glass of water
- Get away from work and into a comfortable (home) environment
- Stay off your computing devices
- Turn off the lights and put on some favourite rhythmical music which you are very familiar with
- Lie down, close your eyes, and place a hot wheat pack on your face
- Go to sleep if you can, otherwise lose yourself in the music
- Place a small heater on your bare feet while you fall asleep
- If you must use a painkiller, stick with the recommended dose of paracetamol (NSAIDs are bad!)

Basically, the best way to fix your migraine is to deal with the triggers, get comfortable, and then ride it out.  If you can get comfortable enough to fall asleep for a solid chunk of time, the headache usually passes.

After a migraine it's also a great idea to have a few very low intensity days to help recover and to learn that you didn't really need to put yourself under as much stress, live with more fatigue or less sleep, etc.  Use your migraines to help you develop more sustainable routines and habits in your life as that is always a good trend to aim for.

Further links for your research/interest:
Migraines on Wikipedia
Berkeley University article
Migraine Support NZ

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Continuing my Christian journey

Today's episode covers:
  • A few adventures as an early Christian
  • Some of the people I've met along the way
  • The perils of modern "Christianity"
  • Evangelism while excited and enthusiastic compared to how I share the gospel now
I will continue to continue with my Christian story in subsequent episodes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - How I became a Christian

Today's episode covers:
  • My background and religious influences (or lack thereof)
  • How I came to believe in God in a general sense
  • How I came to believe in the Christian God
Bicycle Radio NZ - Friday, June 1st 2012 (episode 09) (right click to save)

Feel free to ask questions or comment below.  I will continue the story in future episodes.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Parkour and Aerobic Training

Today's episode covers:
  • Why I was wearing one glove
  • Why endurance is important for parkour training
  • How endurance fits with the parkour philosophy
  • My two main reasons for adding endurance to parkour training (a foundation for peak performance and being able to help others in my life more effectively)
Bicycle Radio NZ - Thursday, May 31st 2012 (episode 08) (right click to save)

Links from the show: 
A general overview of Long, Slow, Distance (LSD) training and how it helps high intensity activities such as parkour and crossfit
An earlier episode on similar subject matter

If there is anything you want to hear more from me about, please post a comment or email me  

A few ideas for the future which I've considered: reflections on my view of marriage, the importance of muscle balance and how to test for and achieve muscle balance, how I became a Christian, how I became a teacher and why I stick with it, stretching scientifically, some of the initiatives I've tried using blogging and online media, specific book reviews, how to lead a deliberate life, gay marriage again (and adoption), and more...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Government and Education

Today's episode covers:
  • A poetic consideration of the frosty morning
  • The role of government in education - with reference to the 2012 Budget stuff ups
  • Industrial models of education and how they don't work today
  • My ideal educational vision for NZ schools

Links from the show: 
My education focused blogging:
A fantastic "rant" about class sizes illustrating the problems superbly!

I forgot a bunch of what I spoke about but I'll add links in the comments if I remember anything worth adding.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - The Role of Government in Society

Today's episode covers:
  • A brief comment on the episode about gay marriage
  • The role of government - serving the people or being served by the people?
  • Competitive versus collaborative government
  • The rise of the Pirate Party - the next party in the spirit of the Green Party

Bicycle Radio NZ - Tuesday, May 29th 2012 (episode 06) (right click to save)

Links from the show:
An article looking at the conjugal versus revisionist views of marriage (without reference to religion) - for info and insightful commentary on issues of copyright and the rise of Pirate Parties!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Gay Marriage (and rational vs. emotional arguments)

Today's episode covers:
  • What does "tolerance" mean
  • Bad ways to argue - getting the emotional/rational mix right
  • Debunking some terms thrown around loosely these days (homophobic, tolerance, equality)

Bicycle Radio NZ - Friday, May 25th 2012 (episode 05) (right click to save)

Links from the show:

I hope you enjoy the controversy, if not my position on this issue!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Heart Rate Training (continued from yesterday)

Today's episode covers:
  • How to train during a large, year long, cycle - when to train aerobically and when to train for your sport
  • My before and after - before training aerobically and after

Links from the show: - Where to buy great books from Tom Kurz and other extraordinary writers - here's the link again because the man is a legend!

I'm sorry that I ran out of time to describe my typical day.  I forgot to mention that, in terms of aerobic activity, I ride to and from school (where I teach - I'm not a student!) which totals about 50 to 60 minutes per day.  30 minutes is just enough time to warm up and cool down so I usually try to stay under about 130 beats per minute.  I also try to run three or more hours per week at my max aerobic range (139 to 149 bpm) and that routine is getting back in action after some time off due to the baby coming.

Tomorrow I'm going to talk about something super controversial.  I will not be popular after that.  President Obama, Prime Minister John Key, morality, and society... Those are the clues and, if you're aware of the main stories in popular media this past week or two, you will know what I intend to talk about.  Should be fun!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Heart rate training + aerobic vs anaerobic

Today's episode covers:

  • heart rate (HR) training
  • aerobic vs anaerobic and how to use HR to stay aerobic
  • Where to find a cheap HR monitor
  • What to expect when you train this way (benefits)

Bicycle Radio NZ - Wednesday, May 23rd 2012 (episode 03) (right click to save)

Links from the show:
Sock Doc Training Principles
Dr. Maffetone's 180 Formula - polar heart rate monitors - garmin heart rate monitors - cheap heart rate monitors from China

Some useful links from my blog
How to start heart rate training for all fitness goals
Training for endurance
How to incorporate aerobic training in parkour
Benefits to Long Slow Distance (LSD) training

It's interesting to note that these bike recordings are totally unscripted.  While I'm going through my morning routine I spare a moment or two to think of a starting point, but that's it.  It takes a lot of time to read up on and experiment with the concepts covered.  This process allows the material to sink in properly and, with the practice from years of teaching, communicate the ideas off the top of my head.

I think the pace is easier to follow when I have to slow down and think about the words a little more carefully.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Migraines and Healthy Living

On today's episode:

  • Migraines - causes, triggers, and treatment
  • Healthy living - stress, nutrition, and the inflammatory/anaerobic lifestyle
  • Trucks, cars, and buses - traffic noise ;-)

Links mentioned on the show:

Coming soon (hopefully) will be a more focused and orderly look at migraines.  The show today was a little scatter-brained as I'm having a migraine currently!

I forgot to mention on the show to avoid Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to deal with your migraines.  NSAIDs also produce a cortisol response which leads to further long-term degradation.  Head for the paracetamol based pain killers before NSAIDs.

Thanks for listening!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Bicycle Radio NZ - Education and Assessment

Today's episode (on a chilly and foggy morning).  I talk about the purpose of education, the government's role in education development, and the purpose of assessment.  Enjoy!

Bicycle Radio NZ - Monday, May 21st 2012 (episode 01) (right click to save)

Some of these themes are discussed on my education focused site:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Podcast - Bicycle Radio New Zealand (episode 00)

Being a busy lad with little time to write, but many thoughts to write about and share, I thought it would be interesting to experiment with a podcast.  I plan to record while I ride my bike to work - efficient multi-tasking! This is where the name "Bicycle Radio NZ" comes from.  I had to add NZ because there is already a bicycle radio out there which is devoted to athletes and competitive bike racing.  There is none of that on my version - the bicycle reference is merely to me talking while riding.

The link below is to my first effort, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  You can hear me whooping with joy as I fly down hills and I talk about my background for most of the session.  

I will attempt to record an episode every day that I ride to work when the weather is fine enough to be wearing my headphones with mic.  Future developments will be to form chapter links and a sort of contents so that listeners can skip to the part they want to hear about.

For now, it's just an mp3 link.  Please share liberally, and I hope you enjoy this first test episode!



Saturday, April 7, 2012

How Do You Listen to Your Body?

It is common these days to hear health and exercise gurus telling you to "listen to your body".  Some of them are quacks, pushing pseudo-science remedies for everyday ailments, but others have advice backed by good research and years of medical practice.  It's usually easy to tell who is good.

What I want to talk about in brief is what it means to listen to your body, and how you can do it relatively reliably.

What is listening to your body?
In short, it is the practice of self-awareness where you take note of how you feel (output) when doing certain things or changing the fuel/stimulus of your body (input).

The inputs can be things like experimenting with different diets, e.g. slow-carb, low-carb, zone, paleo, etc. and the outputs, how you listen to your body, could be noticing responses like less aches and pains, more energy to perform activities, weight loss, different thought patterns, better sporting performance, etc.

A parkour example, to illustrate a slightly different approach, is when warming up for a solo training session.  The practitioner will assess her body and how muscles, joints, and mental aspects are operating.  Am I sore anywhere?  Do I feel up for a challenge or is there a lazy kind of feeling about myself?  Then using this information, she will likely decide to train in a way which rests those areas of her body that are sore and allows her to receive the mental stimulus appropriate to the day.

How can you do it?
It's quite easy to copy this approach in a general way.  I think most people do unconsciously.  However, to add more value to the approach, getting better results from your self-experimentation, it is useful to be a little more rigorous in your method.

One way is to record your inputs and outputs with a journal.  A simple spreadsheet with three columns would suffice.  One for the input - what are you trying?  One for the output - what effect(s) did you notice?  And one for any comments or recommendations to yourself for further reflection and action.  

It is important to note that some trials should take place over a number of days, weeks, or years.  Careful research is also necessary so that you know what to expect with your trials.  And finally, it is a great idea to find others who have experimented in a similar way so that you can discuss and collaborate for further added value.  Getting others involved, sharing anything learned, that makes all the difference sometimes - that's why I write a lot of what I write, to share the joy!

A final note is that you don't have to wait to experiment with inputs and outputs.  You are already immersed in a lifestyle which is producing outputs.  See if you can list all of the aches, pains, and annoying things about your body.  These are your default outputs and the goal is to improve on these.  Sometimes our bodies have been screaming at us for years and we have not noticed!

So there it is, I hope this has cleared up a bit of confusion or brought some clarity to your thinking.  Now go forth into the world and listen to your body!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Story About an April

My daughter was born last week.  Her name is April.  It wasn't in our minds when we chose her name, but I rediscovered this short piece which I wrote a long time ago.  The main character is a girl named April, though April also refers to Autumn in New Zealand

An Autumn Scene

Falling leaves and a carpet, of yesterday's offerings from the trees, underfoot. Picture a scene of a long suburban street with trees lining the side of the road and a small grass strip between gutters and the footpath. Black iron fences on the other side of each footpath from the road.

April came and went. Nobody really cared because they didn't like her that much. This was sad. They didn't know her. April was a person inside a person. Outwardly she was quiet, antisocial, and reclusive. Inside this shell April observed the world she passed by in great detail. While the kids in her classes stood on the street corner and watched her pass with little interest and a lot of disdain, April was noticing things.

She saw a crisp red-brown leaf from a maple tree. Within that leaf was a network of white veins that had carried the life of a tree to the extremities of the leaf-tips. Between those veins were smaller veins that created borders between hills and valleys and flakes of dead skin. The intricate crackle as she stepped on that leaf and killed it again. The sound of white noise and harsh material rubbing. The sensation of a fragile, thin surface being harshly folded by a thick plastic heel, and muted by that same thick sole. The thought of the tree that this disowned and destroyed leaf used to belong to. Does the tree feel the parting of the sibling? Does the independent leaf have sensation of falling, drying out gradually, and being crushed?

And then it was gone, along with the unnoticed misunderstanding of the cool kids from school who lived in a skin deep world.

11th November 2003

April and Doughnut - Oh so cute!
This piece also appears in my free e-book.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kony 2012 - Truth or Conspiracy? Making sense of the backlash?

This article contains:
- My experiences with being scammed
- Two sides to human nature described (to help you know if you are being scammed)

There is no doubt that those who donate to causes are well intentioned.  You've probably done so yourself.  But how do you know if you are being scammed?  Nobody wants to be scammed into giving to a false cause.

My experiences
When I was younger, a university student and not on a regular income, I challenged myself to be more giving because it seemed to count more to give when I couldn't afford it.  In one instance I was asked for some petrol money by a guy who wanted to get back to his family in another town.  I gave him ten bucks and kept the five dollar note to last me until who knows when.  Later, I had the embarrassment of being told that this guy was a druggy who regularly asked for cash using a sob story.  This was my first encounter with scammers and has unfortunately hardened me to people asking for help.  It has also made me reluctant to ask for help, but that is another story.

So in relation to Kony 2012, I say again, Nobody wants to be scammed into giving to a false cause.

I don't know what the truth of the Kony situation is, but my intention here is to illustrate two sides to human nature to help you decide for yourself if someone is trying to scam you.  If you want to watch a series of videos to get the entire Kony 2012 picture, I've linked or embedded the vids at the end of this post (so that you don't fail to read the important stuff)

Two sides to human nature
One side of human nature that we have to battle with is evil.  Everyone has a dark side which they mostly work hard against to avoid being too bad.  Keeping this short and to the point, with Kony 2012, it is entirely conceivable that the whole thing is a big scam to get a hold of the natural resources of Uganda.

Looking even bigger, to Africa as a whole, there are some parts that are more stable than others, but the centres of power and influence seem to be full of corruption and mess.  It's crazy to think that the international agencies are positive about Africa when there are so many refugees coming out.  My country takes 750 refugees each year, which doesn't seem like much, but when you consider that the (large) families then follow.  Also, there are many voluntary refugees who are getting out while they still can.  Huge numbers of white South Africans are being persecuted and having their land violently taken from them as reverse racism takes over.  There are many such voluntary refugees in my country (I even married one!).

Even on this larger scale than mere Uganda, it seems conceivable that countries (who seek a foot in the door to negotiate about the rich supply of natural resources in other countries) would support instability so that they can then "help" overcome in order to be better able to claim a share of the oil (or whatever).

The other side of human nature
On the other hand, it also seems conceivable that people are just dumb and make bad decisions constantly.  This causes mess on a grand scale and leads to the sort of social and political climate which supports dictators and evil opportunists.  People also like to try and help, which often leads to more mess because everyone has an opinion about how to put this help into action.

So which seems more obvious for Kony 2012?
I'm not sure, and I don't think there can be any surety unless you have personal interaction with the people involved.  To make these sorts of decisions of support it is not enough to have transparent accounts any more (which are just numbers on a document that anyone could fudge).  There needs to be real and direct personal contact with every contributor for them to feel confident enough that their contribution is being fairly used by people who care.  Even then, the regulations they have to operate under can hijack the process despite everyone's best intentions.

My advice, if you're moved to give to the Invisible Children then take a close look first.  Don't give blindly, and if you can you should give in other ways than pure cash.  And never give anyone money for petrol... take them to the petrol station and put the petrol in for them!

The videos to watch to get the whole story: - Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey responding to critics

Your comments are welcome below

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Endurance Training

Being more than a little excited from viewing the Taupo Ironman event over the weekend, I decided to write up a short but fairly comprehensive training guide for endurance athletes to get them started.  This was meant as a starting place for some students at my school who are interested in endurance training.  I also thought there was enough value to share this here.  
If you want to download a pdf of this info (2 pages) you can download the file here.  

Endurance Training
The focus of good endurance training is on forming a lifestyle which develops:
  1. Your aerobic energy system
  2. Fat burning capabilities (fat is a primary aerobic fuel),and 
  3. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle to ensure over-training does not occur

Think of nutrition as more about taking in the right drugs/nutrients which control your hormones the best (and less as just fuel).  Your hormones control fat burning, energy levels, growth, and much more.  The right mix gets your body functioning best which is essential for physical and mental performance.

For best performance: eat the right balance of protein, low GI (slow release) carbohydrates, and fat (about ⅓ of your energy from each) + a good mix of vitamins and minerals (rainbow of veges).  Unprocessed foods, as close to natural as possible, is the best source of quality nutrients.  Sugar, including most fruits, is to be avoided.  Processed dairy is also to be avoided (runny whipping cream + unprocessed cheese is okay).

Find your maximum heart rate to train at and spend your training session at the intensity which keeps your heart rate within about 10 beats of this.  If age 16 or less, use 165 as your max.  Otherwise 180 minus your age and modify if needed:

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, a rough guide is training at an intensity low enough that you can breathe comfortably through your nose.  A cheap heart-rate monitor is worth investing in (less than $50 on TradeMe sometimes or cheaper and with free shipping from

Spend 15 minutes warming up and 15 minutes cooling down at about 20 to 30 beats below your max, e.g. for me for a 1hr training: 15 minutes at about 120 beats per minute + 30 minutes between 139-149 + 15 minutes at about 120.

Training this way encourages development of slow-twitch (aerobic) muscle fibres, development of mitochondria (which convert fuel to energy in your muscle cells), and development of capillarisation (provides nutrients + fuel to muscles).  As you develop, this means you go faster at the same heart rate and your recovery improves.

Effective training includes enough rest to allow recovery from effort and adaptation of your body (to better cope with your training load).  Life is full of more stresses and physically draining activities than merely training.  Because of this you need to consider the rest of your life when allowing for rest.  

A busy social life, work, study, sports, etc. all contribute to stresses on your body.  Ensuring plenty of sleep and appropriately scheduled days off is essential to performance gains.

Two quick ways to know if something in your training plan is amiss (too much training, too intense training, poor nutrition):

  1. It will become increasingly difficult to motivate yourself to train.  Training should be pleasurable and you should end a training session “energised”
  2. Your performance will decrease according to a standard test (which you should try to perform monthly)
How to test your progress
Improvement will show when you can maintain a faster pace at the same heart rate.  This means your body is working more efficiently.  To test your fitness, warm up properly and then record your time every kilometer for 5 or 6 km while staying in your aerobic range (10 beats below your max).  You should notice improvement from month to month, even if it is small.  If you see no improvement over 2 or 3 successive tests then it is time to reassess your nutrition, training plan, or stresses.  You might be ready for some higher intensity anaerobic training, e.g. sprint interval training.

Sample training journal
The length of the training session includes your warm up and cool down period.  If you only have a half an hour just warm up and cool down - it’s still worth it.
DateLength of Session (min)Notes
(how I felt before, during, after - technique ideas - etc)

Further resources: (20 time Ironman finisher) (Coach of legendary Ironman athlete Mark Allen) (Peter Attia - endurance swimmer)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Goals and Inspiration - finding the energy and purpose to have hope and drive

I look around myself daily and see many, many people who struggle through life.  They are unhappy more than they are happy, and their goals are rather simple and (can I say it without offending?) empty.

These people stumble into and out of relationships, stumble into and out of jobs.  They might start a family, work for years, make a bit of headway on their mortgage, and then "come to them self" after their prime has passed and wonder where their life went and whether it was worth it.  If any conscious direction exists, it has been set with a low bar, and even then it has not always been achieved.

So what is missing?
An ability to set goals?  Partly, but everyone can imagine them self as a hero, or just better than they are now.

A sense of accomplishment?  Maybe.  Significant achievement is addictive and until you establish a pattern here you don't know the feeling you are searching for.

Is it due to a lack of ability? I don't think so - my students do some amazing things and demonstrate some pretty incredible creativity and thinking, though inconsistently.

Maybe it is motivation, inspiration, purpose, and drive - the part of the formula that gives energy to the do-er and carries them through the low times with enough momentum to keep things moving forward.  This is a huge part of the puzzle that is missing for many people, young and old, rich and poor, all over the world.

Then, how can it be fixed?
Morality is needed.  An understanding of what is good, and what is evil.  What could lend more purpose than this?  We all want to do good, don't we?  That's why we root for the goodies in movies, and feel a sense of happiness and satisfaction when the baddies are overcome.  At heart, we all want to be the goody who is overcoming the bad guy.

But how do we know what is good and what is not?  As babies and small children, we have strong urges toward selfishness.  This is a useful survival mechanism perhaps, leading to getting fed, changed, and cared for.  As we grow up that selfishness becomes destructive - we engage in conflict with our surrounding peers, until we begin to understand that other people have a right to things that we want also.  We learn that our carers have authority and power that we don't, so we listen to them and learn from them - this usually shapes the rest of our morality.  But what shaped their morality?  How do we know what is truly right and wrong?  We need a lasting authority that cannot be argued with.

God (If you don't believe in God, just humour me for the sake of this).  What does God have to do with it?  What can a "mythical" being contribute to morality that you can't come up with on your own?  Well, a mythical being can't come up with anything since a myth doesn't exist.  But if God exists, He lends an enormous weight to any description of what is good.

Consider the attributes of a God...
...and not just any god.  Think of one who is truly big enough and powerful enough to make an entire universe.

God is eternal, existing forever into the past and forever into the future.  He knows the beginning, the end, and everything that happens in the middle; and He knows this for everything that has ever, or will ever, exist. Put it this way: God can see the eternal consequences of every single decisions that you will ever make, or could make.  When you die, there will still be consequences raging on for the things that you have done.

Now imagine that you were given a task to do that would accomplish something good from God (and of course God is the expert on "good", or He wouldn't be God), and something that would have lasting consequences until well after you pass on.  What if you had something so amazingly good to put your hand to that it would have positive eternal consequences?  Would that give you purpose?  Of course it would!  And God is the only one who can give you such a purpose because He is the only one who can say what will bear everlasting fruit.

What else?  God is powerful, able to create a universe just by speaking it into existence.  Let's add power to the mix then.  That could mean that God doesn't need us, lowly humans, to accomplish His purposes, but for a moment consider that He made us.  That means we are significant to Him in some way, and that He chooses to use us and work through us somehow.  So our hypothetical question now becomes, "What if you had a positive eternal purpose to try and accomplish, along with the power from God Himself to help you achieve that goal?"

With such a situation, there is no chance of losing.  You are creating something good, something lasting, and something that is sure to succeed.  It's never a cheap and easy victory though, because God loves us to struggle along the way, perhaps growing us during the process into something better.  But even though it seems hard or impossible at times, we can know that our purpose will never be foiled if God is for us.

If you're not convinced of the need for God, try to think how this works without Him.  Where is the absolute certainty that your purpose is good?  Where is the power to accomplish it coming from?  Where is the certainty of lasting effect?  And what prevents you from setting the bar too low and finding too easy victory that is unsatisfying?

What then?
If you're prepared to accept that an eternal and powerful being exists (who has a vested interest in humanity's success) then what?  How do you learn His purpose or His will for you?  Holy writings from God perhaps?  But which religion?

If you are considering these things then I suggest you start here.  The page leads you through some short articles that build the picture that many already possess.

And if you decide to go your own way, then all the best with that.  Even if you don't see the need for God, I hope you can take a few things out of this article anyway.  Namely, the knowledge of how to set goals in a way that will give you purpose and inspiration, i.e. Goals that are achievable, have a sense of good about them, and that have a long-lasting effect in your life and the lives of others.

Take care :-)


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Steve Jobs Biography, Apple, Android, and LSD (the drug this time)

Having recently read, and thoroughly enjoyed, the Steve Jobs bio by Walter Isaacson, along with some fresh interactions with Apple products (iTunes, Macbook Pro, iPad), I decided to share the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head ever since.

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was an incredible guy who has left a lasting legacy. He was also pretty crazy a lot of the time. Jobs experimented with LSD, followed weird diets, ignored medical advice, and pretty much did what he wanted most of the time. There are a number of reasons he was so successful but the couple of things that stood out for me were his "make it happen" attitude and his insistence on quality, even if it appears he took these to an irrational excess at times.

After reading the bio, I've discovered a strange appreciation for Apple products. Their simplicity and user-friendliness, which drive a lot of the Apple innovation, is very attractive. You may have noticed that many companies are now embracing a Zen-ish simplicity, e.g. Google's recent changes to Gmail, Blogger, Reader, etc... Whether this is directly due to Jobs and Apple or not I can't tell for sure, but the bio does record Larry Page visiting Jobs at his house.

One other aspect of Apple design that deserves a mention is the focus on completely integrated design. There are no bolt on parts to make up the whole, instead products are considered as a whole with features of every part reliant on every other part in their design and function. This leads to great gains in efficiency but lead to much higher production costs and therefore retail costs.

So, after receiving all of this inside information and insight into Apple, I can say that I really do appreciate their products. Unfortunately there is a downside, and it's not the cost. My sort of creativity and innovation doesn't work too well with Apple products. Sure, for writing, drawing, snapping pictures, video, etc. I could use an Apple device, but once I have that media I can't seem to bend the Apple device to do my bidding. I am convinced that this is due to their insistence on having only Apple software, to preserve the Apple experience, and also due to their overly strict digital rights management. Copyright ruins Apple for me.

So proud of their intuitive interface, Apple loses this intuitive interaction with the user when they disable naturally intuitive features like sharing. Also, with iTunes, it is awkward to get your media into a commonly used format and in New Zealand your options for media to purchase on iTunes are vastly diminished. Even their payment system, using gift cards to top up your account balance rather than using it like every other gift voucher (at the checkout), fails the intuition test. The small print on the card? Who reads small print these days? The prices through iTunes are still way out also. Why buy a digital copy of a movie for $25 when that is more expensive than a DVD?

What I inevitably find with Apple products is that I love the device and the hardware interface, but the software just doesn't allow me to be innovative and creative the way that something more open (like Android) does. So after years of trying to have a good experience with Apple products, I have finally given up. I'm not going to experiment with an iPad because it costs too much and I'm almost certain I won't like it - what a waste of money. Instead I plan to wait until decent Android tablets become cheaper (and they will because that's what happened with smart-phones).

Now, I'm a realist. I know that my issues with Apple may change or become irrelevant. I know these issues are not entirely an Apple issue (blame is due to the big music and movie corps too). I also recognise the quality of the hardware, and the suitability of Apple products for digital immigrants and others seeking a simpler technological interaction experience. So if you, or anyone you know wants to give me a free iPad (you never know...) I will still give it a go in the interest of fairness.

I know that people get pretty passionate about their Apple devices, so feel free to rant at me in the comments below. I'm half expecting some Apple cult members to show up and defend their faith, but they should remember that we'd only be arguing about different values - I value a different type of creativity in addition to theirs, and I'm not willing to surrender that.

I'll leave you with a video clip of Steve Jobs launching the iPad 2. Despite the effects of terminal illness on his body, you can see the magic. Enjoy:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another part of a story

Another step in the story begun here. So far, a mysterious stranger with a lot of influence has arrived in town and selected an unlikely apprentice. After a few stops on the way out of town to get supplies, the Stranger and Sara have spent a couple of nights in the woods heading to the Stranger's cave dwelling. His name has been revealed as Nero and he has taught Sara a few surprising skills already. Sara has begun to trust Nero because of this and to seek his approval through her actions. Now, they continue on the way, not far from their destination...

"How far is it now?" asked Sara, "You did say that we'll get there today, right?"

Nero glanced up at the sun, tilted his head to the side to think, and then moved his arms in an arc across the sky. He enjoyed pantomiming his thinking process so that apt students could learn without him having to explain, "At this pace, we will arrive around the time that the sun reaches it's peak. And yes girl, today's peak. If I was alone I would be long home though."

Embarrassed at the knowledge that she was slowing him down, Sara looked at the ground to hide the flush that crept into her face. After a moment she responded to the imagined rebuke, "I can go much faster you know. My friend Kelly and I once ran all the way round the village wall in less than the time it took mum to bake a loaf."

Reading Sara's body language, Nero thought to himself that just maybe she wasn't as emotionally stable as he'd been led to believe. He decided to probe a little further to see how she responded to losing. Sara was no use to him if she got hung up on defending herself for the sake of it. He really wanted her to be able to admit defeat and to learn humility from it.

After a few steps he asked, "And how long do you think you could keep that running pace for?"

Lifting her head with a small unconscious tilt, in imitation of his own earlier thinking posture, she then paused in her stride for a moment. Nero paused with her, turning back a little to keep her expression clearly in view. He noted the false confidence rise up as if she was about to blurt out a lie without thinking, and then amazingly he saw the embarrassed flush reappear as she realised that she was about to put her foot in it. Gradually, Sara deflated and resumed walking with her head hanging low and a sad look on her face.

"Tell me what you are thinking girl" Nero commanded in a strangely gentle voice.

"Well..." She paused to take a calming breath and took a moment to look up at his face. After a moment she decided that there was nothing mean in his intentions and let the breath out, "I'm thinking that I'm stupid and don't know as much as I thought."

She blinked back the stinging that was beginning in her eyes and took another breath, holding it with eyes scrunched tightly closed. When she blinked them open again, she was back in control.
"And how did you arrive at those thoughts?"

She looked at him again, thinking that just maybe he was wanting to rub it in, but no. His face remained neutral, definitely not like the big kids who had just started their apprenticeships and still wore expressions of smug superiority when they spoke to her.

Noticing her pause, and wanting to reassure Sara, Nero spoke again, "I'm not wanting to embarrass you further, girl. I just want to know whether you are conscious of your thought process or whether it's purely instinct that got you to the right place. And I don't mean to be cruel in repeating it, but you are right about your own ignorance, though paradoxically that is the wisest position you can hold right now. So please, open up your mind to me a little and share how you went so swiftly from cockiness to true humility."

She didn't understand everything he had just said, she wondered what a paradox was for instance, but right then Sara decided to trust Nero with everything. She could see that he meant her no harm and he spoke to her as if she was a real person with value. In his willingness to be gentle but still probing at something that hurt in order to release the pressure, she found a love for this strange man that had been missing since her father had passed.

So, once again, would you read more?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Benefits of Long Slow Distance (LSD) Exercise

This post looks at the following:
  • What is LSD exercise?
  • How do you do it properly?
  • What are the benefits of LSD exercise (done properly)?
  • Why do groups such as Crossfit rubbish LSD, and why are they wrong to do so?
  • A call to promote simple, relaxing, and healthy exercise.

What is LSD exercise?
As the name suggests, LSD is training sessions where you exercise for a longer time, your intensity is low/slow, and you tend to cover a lot of distance, e.g. running 10km at a heart rate of 145 beats per minute(bpm).  The opposite to LSD training is heading out for a session of sprints or performing weight training.

Neither low or high intensity training is necessarily bad, but high intensity training is more likely to lead to over-training and then injury.  Both forms of training, performed in the right mix, and at the right times, can be highly beneficial to your level of fitness.

The main distinction of LSD training is that it is primarily aerobic in nature, stimulating the aerobic energy system and aerobic muscle development.  Higher intensity training such as Crossfit works the anaerobic energy systems much more, and only to a limited extent does it improve the aerobic system.

How to do LSD training properly
If you follow energy systems and the fully scientific approach, e.g. from Polar here, you will likely find your max heart rate and then train within the range of about 70 to 80 percent of this figure.  For a 30 year old, the max is approximately 190 bpm (thought this can vary widely).  70 to 80 percent of 190 bpm is 133 to 152 bpm.

This means that, for you to do LSD training properly, you will wear a heart rate monitor and train with your heart rate kept within that range.  What if you don't have a monitor?  Some suggest maintaining a pace that you can hold comfortably while breathing through your nose and to stay within this range.

I use Dr. Phil Maffetone's method, which roughly speaking takes your age from 180 and then stays within a range of 10 bpm below this figure, e.g. for a 30 year old: 180 - 30 = 150 and then maintain a range of 140 to 150.  There are modifications to this range based on fitness and health levels.  The Maffetone method often results in a significantly lower heart rate range which some find difficult to keep to because their body wants to move them faster.

Because muscle imbalance can be corrected with light aerobic stimulus, and because you can end up worsening your muscle imbalances much more easily with higher intensity aerobic training.  I think Maffetone's method works best.

Benefits of proper LSD training
While it can take a fair bit of time, the benefits of training LSD are huge.  Later I'll mention why Crossfit can't compete with LSD training where it matters, and what Crossfitters can easily do to save their training.

The benefits:
  • Better fat burning because of optimal mitochondrial development
  • Better recovery because of optimal capillarisation (development of capillaries and therefore increased blood flow to muscles helping bring nutrients)
  • Better performance, again because of the two points above (better blood flow means better oxygen delivery)
  • Lower injury rates since light aerobic training can help restore muscle balance and efficiently develops your aerobic muscles which are your structural/stabilising muscles for joints
It should be mentioned that LSD training, if it is the only training that you ever do, will not be enough to help you perform at a competitive level.  But for the average person, LSD is a great way to increase both health and fitness without the drawback of low energy levels during a lengthy recovery period, which is typical of high intensity training.

Why do groups like Crossfit not follow LSD methods?
On the Crossfit Endurance FAQ page, you can find a list of pros and cons for LSD training.  For them, they choose to follow a higher intensity training because there are more cons (in their view) of LSD training, and more benefits of anaerobic training.  While their list is true, it is only true under certain conditions, and is only relevant if you are aiming to perform at a high to elite level (which if we're honest, is not most of us).

Primarily, crossfit methods are wrong because they overlook the two greatest benefits of aerobic training with LSD, namely increased capillarisation and mitochondrial growth.  Without these, you are setting yourself up for injury if you want to maintain a high training frequency.  I look at crossfit and can't help but feel that most of it is designed around controlled over-training in which it is almost impossible to avoid injury.

The good news, as many people are beginning to realise, is that you can have the best of both worlds simply be seasonalising your training carefully.  Ben O'Grady is one I've discovered and enjoy reading and recommend his articles.  Maffetone has been seasonalising much longer, often recommending a 3 month aerobic base building (off) season and even a mini base building season for a month or so in the middle of a long competitive season.

For crossfitters, gymnasts, parkour practitioners, and any other athletes with high intensity expectations, I thoroughly recommend fitting in 3 months minimum per year of exclusive (no anaerobic training whatsoever) aerobic training.

Everyone should be training this way
Finally, I want to point out that the benefits I've discussed (fat burning, recovery, injury prevention), along with a thoroughly easy and enjoyable training method, are not only great for athletes.  Even the average person, who merely wants the health and energy to enjoy life properly, will benefit enormously from LSD training.

I know that I want to be active when my children are old enough to train at the things that I love, and LSD training is essential to this.  I would love to see people all over the world embracing something which really is an essential part of the foundation to a better life.

To any crossfitters who might be a bit peeved at me, I say keep your crossfit but at least spend a few months each year preparing for your personal crossfit season.  And if injury occurs, back off and spend a few months repairing your body with long, slow, distance, aerobic training.

All the best!