XBOP Refreshed for 2016

As part of refreshing XBOP for 2016, I think a number of disclaimers are required. This article is partly a review and  reflection of my About page, which has been revised 8 times, including the most recent times 3 years and then 11 months previously.

XBOP as a blog reflects a lot of my personal opinions. I have, over the years grown and developed a number of interests in a variety of areas/topics, which are categorised according to the top-level navigation menu. That structure remains largely intact although the distribution of content over the years has been skewed in certain directions (103 articles categorised as relating to my faith, whereas the next nearest tagging is for 58 articles deemed “creative”. The third category of “holidays” has 43 articles, which is an interesting observation… Partly, that may be a reflection of the migration/consolidation of content that predates the use of WordPress as my content management platform.

X = Christian

Having credentials and any authority to back up and support any of my writings on the topic of my faith is important. In fact, it is somewhat biblical to follow the model that Paul set in one of his first epistles/letters – Galatians 1 – that we establish our credentials. For Paul, he was an apostle appointed by God and Jesus Christ and NOT by men. The other apostles ate, walked, and lived with Christ while He was on the earth, and thus their credibility was established in part by proximity and association with Christ. Paul did not fall into this category, but instead he persecuted  true Christians until his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. It was during this conversion that he was instructed by Christ personally and thus had a legitimate claim to apostleship.

My association with the faith has its roots in my life-long upbringing at Clayton Church of Christ where I have served in numerous ways and ministries for the majority of my life. As I once said to the Worship Director during the course of 2014-2015, I do not take my position on the worship team lightly and assume longevity automatically entitles me to a position and role on the team. Indeed, the longevity of my service simplifies and overlooks the fact that there has been a clear journey in the way I have served. Originally as a youth, I played piano/keyboard and migrated to singing. A nominal interest in the technology behind the audio & visual production has persisted over the years although the level of proficiency has remained at an intermediate level, particularly since I got more involved when the church moved back into the new building/facilities. The Apple factor also has influenced the team’s migration to Apple-based technologies such as ProPresenter.

My time at the one church can be viewed as a form of bias and imbalance which I have addressed in more recent years by growing my network and association with groups like Christians 20/30. Living out my faith in the workplace has seen me involved with various prayer ministries and whilst I have a strong natural affinity to Clayton, having a Kingdom of God perspective is part of a bigger picture that I align with. Church Unite and  their vision is a ministry I identify with given its aims are to help stand in the gap and bring churches together across Melbourne. In recent years, Operation Christmas Child and Samaritan’s Purse have also grown in importance to me and offer ways to serve from a local and global perspective simultaneously.

A large part of my faith and identity are thus wrapped up in a philosophy of service. Tapping into the Sacred Pathways material that has guided the January 2016 preaching at Clayton, my strong styles are a combination of caregiver and activist; I have to live and apply my faith through action. Over the years, I have also been reminded of the importance that our identity in Christ remains the foundation of our faith; we are called to worship Him first, acknowledge His Lordship and seek His kingdom. When we acknowledge this spiritual truth and priority, then the combination of faith and action rings true theologically.

This leads me onto a key area of faith and my writings here at XBOP. I seek truth from God’s Word primarily. However, I also acknowledge the living present nature of God through the Holy Spirit, guiding us through other people around us, plus signs, wonders and miracles that He divines through the world and environment around us. Our God is a logical and consistent God; he will reinforce His will in multiple ways – and the teaching from a previous Senior Pastor continues to echo in my mind, that we can validate messages from God through His Word, other people, prayer, signs and wonders. From a study perspective, yes I do not have any recognised biblical training, but I have been involved with short courses like Bible Study Fellowship (Camberwell, Young Adults chapter) and Alpha (hosted at Crossway).

As a life group leader since 2014, another short course that the majority of church leaders at Clayton I participated in was Mental Health First Aid, which has been a highly practical learning experience with benefits to life and dealing with people in general. My style of leadership is consultative and open communication. I advocate transparency, and a constant renewal of our minds, in ensuring we do not become complacent or allow our ego and pride to lead us into unrighteous ways. In many ways, I seek a path of humility and encourage others to do likewise. I bring into my style of leadership a willingness to listen and learn, acknowledging that I do not always have the answer(s); and that in many ways it is the journey we are on that is important rather than the end outcome.

B = Business

Over the years, the constants of my full-time employment remains a pillar of my life: Terra Firma and to-date, Telstra as a regular repeat Terra Firma client. I continue to maintain an intentional separation between these aspects of my life from XBOP as an online representation of my life. The best simplification and explanation of this model is that XBOP content has limited to no material benefit for my full-time work. Whilst this is a generally true principle, over the years, particularly with my MBA studies, the boundaries have blurred considerably.

A few important disclaimers – as of 2016 I am a shareholder in both Telstra (ASX: TLS) and Apple (NASDAQ: APPL). I was fortunate to have invested into Telstra back when the share price had bottomed out at around $2.80 during the 2010 period. I treat both investments as long-term investments which makes more sense for Telstra given its status as a dividend-rich share and blue-chip status on the Australian stock exchange. Whilst I have commented extensively on the various product refreshes and releases from Apple, all of which predates my investment in the company, I have never commented on Telstra work or the company here at XBOP, even on case studies relating to historical projects that I previously worked on.

Industry Based Learning journals from 2001 (Coles Myer) and 2002 (IBM Global Services Australia) are within scope for migration into XBOP from a blogging justification in order to preserve personal data that was used for Monash University educational purposes. Much of this is part of my efforts to preserve historical records that would otherwise be lost permanently. Both corporate entities from the early 2000s no longer exist in their own right, although successor corporate entities exist today in Wesfarmers and IBM/ PriceWaterHouse Coopers – examples of mergers and acquisitions played out over the last decade.

Event Production & Management case studies are undergoing a slight update in terms of separating out individual events into discrete cases.

O = Opinionated

Whereas the About page lists 8 different topics for blogging, the reality over the years has meant that these topics form a scope definition of my entire online presence, of which XBOP is a substantial subset. That is, these topics provide a comprehensive coverage of all my activities on social media – Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook as well as here on by website.

In recent times, I have rekindled my interest in public transport to the extent of releasing the first two articles within a future topical series on the new emphasis that our state and city have on public transportation. These context refreshes provide a timely reconnection to some of the oldest original content published on XBOP in my Alternate Melbourne Designs (for public transport). In a way, this is my opportunity to inject a better sense of reality into what are arguably fantastical, super expensive design ideals. In recent years, the debate has matured somewhat in terms of state politics and public transport. After the debacle of Myki and the 2012 politicisation of the East-West Link at both state and federal levels of government, we have finally reached a point where the state Labor government led by Premier Daniel Andrews is continuing the work initiated by the Denis Napthine Liberal government (2013 – 2014). Having a body like the Level Crossing Removal Authority funded and empowered to deliver on the removal of 50 level crossings over an eight-year period (2014 – 2022) gives the community a greater sense of purpose and commitment to public transportation priorities.

In the past I have been connected into the community interest group Public Transport User Association (PTUA) as a paid member, where I read with interest each of the monthly newsletters released. After a period of about three years I decided that I had to reduce and trim this membership, particularly since the value I got out of being a member was informational only.

Over the years, I have tried to maintain a high standard of written communication. For my day/full-time work, there are aspects to the role where I am required to write. In fact, written communication is one of the key criteria for succeeding in my line of work. With a father who hailed from a literacy-based career, teaching English at the top secondary school of Singapore (Raffles Institution) to being a book editor for McGraw-Hill, the standard expected of myself has always been above average.

For my Year 12/VCE educational results, English was my strongest subject which helped me gain a rank (then known as the ENTER or Equivalent National Tertiary Rank, since succeeded by the ATAR or Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) of 96.4. Whilst not in the top-performing rank of 99.95 or 99+ as a band, English has nonetheless remained a constant strength within my suite of academic studies. English language mastery is also advantageous since it lifts other areas of studies. For example, most academic studies have a written form of assessment, usually in the style of a report and a strong command of English enables the student to write confidently and succinctly, often explaining complex concepts in fewer words and more eloquently. Thus, the readability of the assessment helps the assessor/teacher/lecturer to quickly grade the submission.

With the advent and growing pervasiveness of the online/social media forms of communication, I still retain an element of dedication to the English language – most evident in my style of communication, choice of words and general adherence to coherent, full forms of writing even for SMS/text messages. Whilst some people fully embrace the shortcuts of internet language to squeeze every drop out of a 140-character length message, I avoid excessive acronyms. Further, certain habits die-hard and even here at XBOP, I avoid the too-casual style of language and vocabulary, preferring to spell out sentences and words fully instead of the more casual, conversational styles.

In pursuing my MBA studies, I chose a part-time pathway via the prestigious and top-ranking Melbourne Business School. I pursued a marketing-focused program where my electives were drawn from the range of marketing disciplines that MBS is well-known for. Combined with my background in technology and work experience product development projects, this combination has guided new content topics to  explore.

P = Personal

As a personal discipline, the art of blogging helps to create space in an otherwise busy routine. Throughout the later half of 2015 I ended up taking a hiatus from blogging with this period of slumber only now coming to an end. The habit and discipline of maintaining a weekly routine for blogging is a challenge, but I hope to at least infuse XBOP with new content throughout January based on current seasonal events. In February, I will join an 11-day Samaritan’s Purse Discovery Trip to Cambodia where I will have the opportunity to experience and see the local mission field, including Operation Christmas Child. This, along with my recent family Christmas cruise aboard Carnival Spirit (19 – 28 December 2015) will be the latest contributions to the holiday content category.

Lego was added into XBOP as a subset within the Design category, and whilst new content in this area has been limited of late, it remains a very real and strong interest in real life. As an adult fan of Lego (AFOL), I will mark the one year celebration of this interest by attending Brickvention 2016, scheduled for this upcoming weekend (16 – 17 January 2016). This event will no doubt feature here on XBOP along with the dual combination of Lego with Star Wars, which has been a constant presence since the release of The Force Awakens in December 2015. The fact that the movie has become a record setter in box office statistics affirms the legendary status of the film franchise and its ability to now influence and inspire a whole new generation.

XBOP remains a strategic long-term online presence for myself, and it is hoped that 2016 will enable me to improve from the previous years’ ambitions and complete various projects. Whilst the Family stories collection featured a year ago, more stories from this area may be recorded here to help grow the collection of genealogical records.