Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I'm onsite at a contract manufacturing organization (CMO) this week, here to observe the media fills for a client's runs.

If you've never been involved in pharmaceutical manaufacturing at a commercial plant, it's quite different from clinical or research manufacturing. The schedule is fixed weeks in advance, so you theoretically schedule your visit when all or the bulk of your work is to be done.

And then you arrive, and then life happens.

Of my three days here, the first day I got to observe the end of a run - starting at 12:oo AM and going until 2:00 AM. The second day was clean up, so I saw nothing. Today, I arrived at 8:00 to observe. However, due to personnel availability, the start of the run has been delayed, so here I sit. I have to leave at 4:30 this afternoon for the airport, so if I'm lucky, I'll get to see some of the filling process.

Manufacturing is like this.

But then again, this is a microcosm of life. Life is like this too, if I really admit it. We really like to believe we have control of all (or at least most) of the events of our lives, but how often are we stymied by events out of our control, or things that change, or things that fail or don't happen? At least for myself however, unlike the CMO environment, where I am understanding and patient, I tend to become impatient and lash out the people or circumstances around me. How do I reasonably explain this dichotomy?

The feeling of control, the control that I think I should have over all events in my life - but don't because it is simply impossible.

I need to be more patient and willing to wait - not just in work situations, but in all aspects of my life. The simple fact is, accept it or not, sometimes that's the way it is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday, April 28, 2008

Goals, Dreams, and Guidance

I'm struggling again with goals, dreams, and guidance.

I found a great deal of help and comfort today in reading When I Don't Desire God by John Piper. It had some very practical suggestions for Bible reading and prayer and how the world and its beauties can point us to God.

A phrase that particularly captured me was "In daily life, to live wisely is to achieve the God centered goals for which we were created, including the glory of God in the gladness of our worship." (p. 145).

"To achieve the God centered goals for which I was created" - that, to me, is a perfect mission statement. It helps me to clarify my own:

To Write for Impact,
To Preserve for the Future,
To Lead for Change,
To Glorify God

- In that the focus of all of these is that that they are God centered.

So with that in mind, looking at all my wants and dreams, what are God centered goals?
- To glorify God in all that I do.
- To find joy in Christ more than anything is this world and glorify His worth through the His Word, Prayer, and His creation.
- To be a godly example and leader to my wife and children.
- To bear the Fruit of the Spirit (this would make a long list indeed!)
- To write in such a way that God is glorified.
- To preserve The Ranch (and all that I would have) in such a way that God's creation points others to God.
- To manage my physical body in such a way that it is useful to God yet is not glorified for the sake of itself.
- To use my mind in God glorifying ways through teaching and learning such that I glorify God more, not that I become more prideful or enamoured of my learning.
- To manage my finances in such a way that God is glorified in my money, not that my covetousness and greed are indulged.

Greetings from Illinois

Huzzah! Greetings from Illinois, where it is not quite the spring we have in California: when I left, it was 85 F and sunny. Here, it's 45-50 F, overcast, and we actually had snow today.

Travelling is good for the soul, even if I don't personally enjoy it all the time. The landscape alone is different: here, it's relatively flat and amazingly green to someone from Northern California. Flying over the US as we came, you are struck by the contrast of miles and miles of seemingly unoccupied desert with peaks thrusting their heads up, still snowbound.

Things here are much more spread out in the towns, as land is apparent not in short supply. Still, it is rural enough that I have seen some beautiful barns as I was driving. Lots of fields for what I assume will be corn (it's too late for most winter grains, and I think too early for the summer ones).

The one thing this all does do is make me desire to be at The Ranch even more. There's a way to make something there that will be economically viable. I know there is. Being out among the fields and barns makes it even more desirable (the green doesn't hurt either).

The question is what.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who do you want to be today?

So challenged by Bogha Frois to take action after I note difficulties, this morning I sat down and made a list of role models: those individuals whom I think have characteristics worthy of emulating in part. None of this (with the exception of the first) is without flaw, but it is an interesting point of departure.

1) Jesus Christ - Saviour, Messiah, Son of God

Then, in no particular order:

2) John Bunyan (1628-1688): Christian Writer and Preacher. Wrote widely; his most famous book is Pilgrim's Progress.
3) Miyamoto Musashi (1584 - 1645): Japanese Swordsman. Author of A Book of Five Rings.
4) Nehemiah (active 444-424 BC): Cupbearer to Artaxerxes I; rebuilt walls of Jerusalem.
5) Ruth (ca. 1146-1105 BC): Biblical book and character; great grandmother of King David.
6) Esther (active 483-473): Biblical book and character; queen of Xerxes I, Persian King
7) Crazy Horse (1842 - 1877): War leader of the Lakota Sioux.
8) Leonidas son of Anaxandridas (ca 540 - 480 BC): Agiad King of Sparta; led the Three Hundred to the Pass of Thermopylae.
9) Marcus Porcius Cato (234 - 148 BC): Roman Statesman and Censor. Author of On Farming.
10) Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790): American statesman, inventor, scientist, politician, political theorist, diplomat, businessman, and author.
11) George Washington (1732 -1799): American General, Farmer, and President.
12) Elijah (Active ca. 870-855 BC): Hebrew Prophet.
13) Colum Cille (Columba) of Iona (521-597): Irish missionary monk to the Picts.
14) Gene Logsdon (Current): American man of letters, critic, and farmer. Author of numerous books.
15) Marin Luther (1483 - 1546): German monk, theologian, reformer, university professor and author.
16) John Carter - Warlord of Mars. Fictional character of Edger Rice Burroughs.
17) Michael Collins (1890 - 1922): Irish revolutionary leader, politician, Director of Intelligence for the IRA, and Commander in Chief of the National Army.
18) Theodore Roosevelt (1858 - 1919): American president, governor, historian, naturalist, explorer, author, and soldier.
19) CS Lewis (1898 - 1963): Irish author and scholar. Most famous for The Chronicles of Narnia.
20) Alexius Comnenus I (1048 - 1118): Byzantine Emperor. Founder of the Comnenus dynasty.

So there you have it. Even as I write them, I begin to see patterns: military, honor, leaders, farmers, authors. Even seeing this, I need to go a little deeper: Why do I admire these people? What is it about them that I would seek to emulate?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Role Models

So I'm struggling with goals and motivation - a fairly typical occurrence for me, as it happens every 3 months or so. I set goals, and then I lose my motivation to achieve them, feeling less than energetic, or a failure, or it doesn't matter.

So, in an excess of feeling as if I needed to be punished, I spoke with Bogha Frois. Two items came out of it:

1) What is your motivation set in?
2) How do you evaluate those whom you seek to emulate?

For 1), my motivation (as I have written earlier) always seems to be in the gaining of the approbation or pleasure of others. The nut to crack here is how to essentially self motivate, to set and seek out goals not for what they will cause others to do, but what they will make me.

For 2), Bogha Frois points out quite rightly that there is not necessarily a need to adapt folks without reservation, but to take the best part of different individuals and emulate them. Still, it is a relevant question: Whom do I believe are worthy role models? What about them should I seek to emulate? How do I do this?

Who are your role models, those whom you seek to emulate?

Some Thoughts to Start Today

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Don't wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking." - William Butler Yeats

"Begin to be now what you will be hereafter." - William James

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Running Bees

Having bees for a hobby is kind of like moonshining.

You pay for your bees, then you go to the site - invariably out away from "city folk" (lest the insects that support their fruit smoothies interfere with their lives - where, in a semi-clandestine exchange, you pick up (and pay for or prepay) x boxes - three in my cases. They go in the the trunk of your car, then off you go - in my case, with my three daughters, to act as cover in case of a traffic pullover.

Then, you drive to the location of your hives - again, away from the "city folk" -, going through the small rural towns of the valley. You look in your back mirror, and suddenly one of the bees which was attracted to the queen's pheromones and was on the outside of the box has now floated up to the back window. No worries - one bee.

Then, when you look back a little later (trying not to swerve and attract attention), you see it's two. Then three. Soon, ten - all against the back window, but now at least one is flying around the back of the car.

So, you pull over, away from the freeway, hoping again you don't attract attention. Out go the bees after a little shooing. You eventually have to do this another one to two times.

Finally, you arrive at your locale of hive placement - after 250 miles of driving (for me, The Ranch). Using a home prepared substance out of legal materials (syrup), you doctor it up for your purposes (with essential oils and antibiotics to feed the bees.

The hives, which were on hold since last year, are back out of storage. Into each hive, you take the queen cage stuffed with marshmallow (no queen candy in them) and place it in the center of the deep. Then, against all common sense, you slam the bees to the bottom of their box - two times at least - then start pouring clumps of bees into the hive (you would not think bees would clump, but they do). In fact, leaving all leave of your senses, you play Bee pinball, trying to roll smaller clumps through the hole in the box and into the hive. All of this, you do three times.

Then, you place a feeder above each hive, as progressively more bees whir around your head, and pour into it a portion of your "syrup", after having placed a "pollen patty" (a patty purportedly made of pollen and other "ingredients") onto the top of the hive. On top of this, you place the lid. Again, you do all of this three times.

I love having bees.

And if you think this sounds like moonshining, wait until we talk about taking honey...

Friday, April 18, 2008


Gardening, to me, is proof that God exists. How else could you explain that planted things, which seemingly do not have any of the required things or prime conditions for them, grow?

Witness my asparagus. I planted them without a row, probably not a wide enough trench, in some cases with the roots seemingly pointed up - yet when I went out on Wednesday, a frond caught my eye. Over the last two days, more have started showing up.

It appears I have asparagus.

What a good God - that we are granted a surfeit of wealth in the food that comes from His creation, if only we exercise a little effort. In fact, in so much He is gracious - "He makes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust."

The miracle of creation is not that we exist, but that God in His mercy and goodness continues to pour out His grace and love on rebels in every aspect of our existence.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


So I think I've figured out what the dream means, and why imaginings/fantasies are so attractive to me.

My realization started today with the thought, based on Bogha Frois' comments, that a dream with a known result is seemingly more desirable to me than reality with unknown results. Why? Because you don't know (and can't control) the outcome.

Then I realized that there are two types of people in my life: those whom I perceive as making changes or decisions and it having no impact, and my imaginings, in which my which my choices have direct impact (that whole cause and effect thing that was beaten into me in physics). Put another way, there are those to whom I try to live up to, and those to whom I live at the same level.

Which then brought forth the thought, why do you change, make decisions, or take actions?

More often than not, it is to get an action or behaviour out of others - rather than changing for them sake of improving myself or taking action.

Which is why 90% of my changes, decisions, or actions fail - because I take them based on the expected actions or behaviour of others, rather than for the benefit or excellence that is to be derived from them personally.

Do I care too much about the opinion of others? Why don't I live up more to the image of what I could be, rather than what I am?

Is this why I lack self confidence - that if I do something in hopes of affecting someone else and it fails, I feel like I have failed - instead of the intended action not causing the desired effect?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


My grain is starting to reach the point that I need to consider harvest.

It's interesting - I learned some things for next year. Mostly the fact that my summer and winter gardens need to change sides as the seasons turn, and that fallow is not a really bad thing.

Again, my barley seems to have done super well. I have less crops of my two wheats, and maybe some rye as well - but the rye was planted on the summer side, and buried by weeds, so it seems to not have done as well.

The kicker is for next year. Even I, in my paranoid fashion, am eyeing the growing turmoil in food production. Could I plant enough grain on my garden to support us for a year? No way.

But - could I put in enough grain at the Ranch to do it? Maybe. I'd need more equipment - largely a manure spreader (readily available), a reaper/binder (less available), and a thresher (More difficult, although I've seen plans for a simple one). And seed, of course - although the items we used the year we tried were not nearly as productive as the stuff I grow at home.

I only need one good year, and then an annual rotation. Maybe I'm being silly, but I like my bread, I like to grow and grind grain - and a little paranoia once in a while is not a bad thing...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Odd Dream Part II

The ever helpful Bogha Frois analyzed my dream for me this afternoon.

"So what's it mean" she asked?

"I've no idea. Nothing in it makes sense."

"What did DT represent?"

"Personally, not a clue. If I had to think about it, I'd probably say it represents my inner longings that feel like their being trapped-"



"Nope. Here's what I think. With DT, you said that you already know what any outcome would be?"

"Yeah. You did read the blog, right? This is the kind of person I am well familiar with from my past."

"So what you're saying to me is that this...this..."


"Okay, daydream...this daydream, although you already know how things are going to end, is more desirable to you than the problems you are facing. You'd rather face a known failure than the unknown problems that you have to work on."

"In other words..."

"In other words, even you're daydreams are sad in that you dream about things you know will go badly. At least dream about something happy."

"But the dreams that are happy would never be. You know that."

"Yes I know. How pathetic is that?"

Like I said, she's very helpful.

But thought provoking. I know in my heart of hearts that I can never move in that direction, that the outcome is preordained - but that doesn't seem to stop some portion of my mind.

Desire is a dangerous and headstrong thing - given its head, it will run one over the cliff without thinking.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Glorifying God

Had a very good - and very thought provoking - men's retreat this weekend. The focus was on prayer, specifically the Lord's Prayer (Mathew 6: 5-15). The teaching was by Pastor Robert Briggs of Immanuel Baptist Church. It included the nature of how we pray, the Lord's prayer as a model, and the attitude of prayer.

The thought that has convicted me since then is simply my own unworthiness and my self focus. As Pastor Briggs pointed out, the Lord's prayer is designed such that first is God and His priorities, then us and our priorities. God's priorities: That the name of God is to be glorified, that there a serious interest in the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, and that there is a desire to see the accomplishment of the will of God on earth.

Frankly, the whole discussion simply made me realize how shallow and weak I am. How often am I concerned with glorifying God - I mean, I say I do, but do I really mean it? How often do I substitute my own desire and wants as ways that I will glorify God (by getting my own needs met) rather than simply seeking to glorify Him by obeying Him?

For example: I have a list of things I want to do, things I would like to be. In reality, I have been given certain gifts by God - am I seeking to glorify Him by using them to His glory, or am I seeking to use them to glorify myself or make myself feel better?

There's a lot caught up in this - submission, goals, holiness obedience. It was unsettling and good - but I am still haunted by the thought of glorifying self instead of glorifying God.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Above the pink haze,
Twin peaked mountain stands waiting
as the sun creeps up.

Another Odd Dream

I had another one of those "Odd" dreams again last night. The Ravishing Mrs. TB and myself were driving to the bottom of the American River Canyon to go to a Starbucks (and no, there is no Starbucks at the bottom of the American River Canyon). Once we were there, for some reason the Ravishing Mrs. TB had a quesodilla but wanted another one. For some reason I had one, but nothing to cut with. She was insistent that I get a knife or something from the cashier. This seemed to be a big deal - her insistence, my reluctance.

So I did ask, and get it. Suddenly, it's night and time to leave. We go out to the car, and suddenly I see DT there with family (I assume). We get in the car to leave, my eyes trying to catch DT's, even as they drive away. We get in, and we ourselves drive away in the dark.

And then again, I wake up in a disturbed mood (late for work, to boot).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Reality Smackdown

So I reached the point tonight (as I do occasionally) where work has become so stressful that I think to myself, "Self, I need to think about a new job."

I don't do this lightly. I don't really want to start over at the bottom somewhere else. But due to some home responsibilities this morning, I got to eat with my family, see my girls off to school, and drive in the sunlight. Gosh, I thought, wouldn't it be great if life was always like this?

So then I started looking online tonight. And now, I'm thankful I have a job.

There is nothing in my field in my area - or almost nothing. Entry level positions, perhaps one or two potential jobs (one of which I've interviewed for at least twice before), but not nearly what there was even a year ago.

This is jarring to me. It's also a reality smackdown, as this is continuing a trend I have noticed. Five years ago, interest from recruiters and companies dropped from trees. Two years ago, you had to work a bit, but there were still plenty online. Even a year ago, there was a fair amount online.

Now, not so much.

So the question: how do I manage my job and my stress level and the fact that for the duration, approximately 19 hours of my day are consumed by work or sleep (12 hours work, including commute, 7 hours sleep)?

How do I remain thankful I have a job?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Meetings, Emergencies, and Onions (and Garlic)

Today was just a slogging, miserable day - the kind of day where you start meetings at 0830 that bleed into other meetings, then into meeting for an emergency, then lunch when you talk about the emergency, then another meeting about the emergency, then you end up leaving 8.5 hours later (rising time is 0430, with a 2 hour commute in the afternoon) missing yet another meeting but you have a carpool, so off you go. The fabulous thing is that you have somehow managed to avoid doing any of the work that you intended to do, so you have that to work on as soon as you come in the next morning.

And the emergencies - that's the sheer insanity. There are moments when one feels as if one is trapped where the very process of thinking has been somehow abandoned, where common sense was left at Tivoli, where not only does the right hand not know what the left hand is doing but it is questionable if any two fingers on the same hand are moving in the same direction.

So to make myself happy, I planted onions and garlic.

The garden is getting ready to make the switchover from winter to spring: The wheat, rye, and barley are in full head now, and I am digging around them, preparing for the next round. The potatoes have sprouted, and I had the rather unusual experience of trying to plant asparagus - the root balls were big, and they take up lots of room, and then I figured "If I can plant them in rows, why not post holes?" We'll see - these things never work out well for me.

I planted three types of onions - yellow sets, seeds for Alisa Craig (a yellow bulbing onion), and Red Torpedo Onion ( a not surprisingly red onion). I like planting seeds, as it does give you more selection, and you can plant them closer - you pull them early for green onions (Yum!). The garlic are just plain old 3rd generation Safeway that I bought and have saved - although I have been getting some fabulous purple heads (which are hot - again, yum!).

It's amazing to me how happy being in the garden, working with the soil and plants, makes me - not that I have any more control over the process, but perhaps because I am less at the receiving end of circumstances beyond my control.

And, I suppose, that I get to eat the fruits (or vegetables) of my labor, instead of collecting more paper which will eventually be recycled.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Simple Pleasures

This evening one of simple pleasures. As the Ravishing Mrs. TB has had a hard week, I offered to take the girls out for a while. We used the Truck (always a pleasure for me) and went to In-n-Out burger for dinner. I am coming more and more to appreciate the virtues of In-N-Out for various reason: They are inexpensive (one of the few places we can feed our family for under $20.00), they are tasty, and since it costs the same to go to McDonald's, why not go where you like it more? (No small plastic knick-knacks to lay around, either)

After that, we went over to Lowe's. I typically don't like going to big home improvement stores (but prefer Lowe's to Home Depot), but I had gift cards, so off we went. We got peat pots to start our garden vegetables - in the past, I've been lazy about it , and my gardening suffers for it.

I also got a few flowers to plant around the front of the house. I've pretty much surrendered to the fact that for landscaping, especially out front (which typically I never see, because I'm in the house), as long as it is neat, easy, and has flowers, I'm good. At this point, we're not seeking to sell the house, and we're certainly not trying to impress anyone, so why not be reasonable.

One of the gems of the evening was watching the girls point out and follow the sparrows that live inside Lowe's. They always remind me of seeing the small things and valuing them.

And then, home and reading and bed. All in all, a reasonable evening.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring in wine country

Smudgepots in vineyards,
Smokey squat Spring Jack-O-Lanterns
Scare away the cold.

The waning moon is blurred
by translucent harbringers:
Spring is not quite here.