` TomBickle.com - Blog December 2006

December 26th, 2:52PM

Let the healing begin, part II

After being mute far too long, my Honda's stereo has been replaced, and I am once again part of the music scene. You may recall, my son turned a perfectly good stock stereo into a fuse-blowing piggy bank by dumping a handful of coin into the thing. One cool thing to note: I pulled two pennies from inside the stereo - they were welded together. Awesome!

My wife is awesome

My wife bought me a totally righteous new stereo (MP3, WMA, SD card-compatible - sweet!) for Christmas, and the next day accompanied me in working to operate on the sickly Civic. She knows me well enough that if I don't get started, it'll never get done.

I am under the impression that you can visit a Target or other superstore and match the correct stereo to match your vehicle with a brochure provided by the store. My wife attested that there was no such brochure at the store with which to match my stereo, and so she just bought the stereo she wanted. Installing it, we found that the electrical connector for the new radio didn't even come close to the existing jack. Undaunted, my wife assured me, with a confidence I cannot even pretend to, that she can rewire the works to match.

She could sense my uncertainty, as I gave her a long, thoughtful look. My concern for my car and budget wrestled with my faith in my wife. It was no contest, as my faith hammerlocked my concerns, and I told my wife to proceed. She thought I doubted her, because for the next thirty minutes, I fidgeted until she had indeed rewired the connection. I only fidgeted because there was nothing for me to do in the meantime. Once she said she could do it, I had no trepidation whatsoever.

Let there be rock

We jacked in the harness, hooked up the battery, and let 'er rip. LED lights turned to static and then to music as the thing successfully powered up. I am not surprised, but I am constantly amazed at my wife. She rocks, and now, so do I!

Ryan Gomes killed

The Record newspaper lists a story about a Ryan Gomes being killed in Manteca early Christmas morning. I can only surmise, due to his name and age, that this was the brother of Ray Gomes, my childhood friend and neighbor. We haven't had any real contact in years, but I can only imagine his family's loss. I wonder if it was the person I knew and think it was.

December 20th, 6:23PM

For the record

Here's a dull but useful accounting of recent events, just because it may be handy to have noted them at some point.

  • I've finally started getting over my second cold/flu in two weeks. Last week, it was a stomach flu that resembled an exorcism-slash-hangover; this week has been a head cold that greedily attempted to move into my upper respiratory system. I am grateful that it is finally moving on. It seems to help that I have offered my daughter up as a sacrifice to the bacterial gods, as they have taken her, and left me alone.
  • I've finally filed paperwork to send the merciless Ghosts of Child Support Past after my ex. She isn't going to appreciate that at all. I hope.
  • Yesterday sucked. I started out with a good vibe, and by 10am, my son had decided that he wasn't going to enjoy his day at all. He wailed and thrashed and bitched and moaned and dug in his heels to protest his entire state of being for about seven hours straight. Even when he napped, I could have sworn I heard him snoring angrily when I tiptoed by his bedroom door: ">zaaaAAWWW... motherfucker... nnNNNzzzggghh... asshole...<" Today, Grandma is coming over to hold down the fort. May Brian have mercy on her soul.
  • I haven't made any money recently, and it's really starting to piss me off. While Grandma's here today, I hope to do something to stir up some business, but I'm not sure what yet. That's one of the funny things about shaking loose your own commerce - nobody really tells you how to go about it, and the freefall that follows freedom is really getting to be a bitch. Sometimes I think I should tuck myself back into a 40-hour a week gig again, and slip back into the herd.

December 18th, 1:54PM

Happy birthday to my kid

My daughter turns 14 years old soon. We had a little family party over the weekend. It was a little last-minute, and I'm glad we had the turnout we did.

How you doin', Tom?

I am getting a little better bit by bit at motivating myself. I have recently had better results regarding my overall mood and self-esteem. One unintended consequence is that since my poor confidence level pushed me to accomplish whatever I do achieve, as this improves I feel less driven to do things.

The old motivation was not a healthy one, and so although my output is diminished as I switch gears, I am hopeful that things will turn around and improve once again soon. I would rather be driven by optimism and creativity than despair and low self-worth, a bitter, negative imp, churlishly whispering in my ear. I need to punch that little gremlin in the nuts, and move on without him.

December 15th, 6:21AM

I rock, because I try new things

Last night I stopped putting it off, and took on a frightening task: replacing the squeaky brake pads on my Honda.

I fear the unknown, and I am just about the least qualified person to work on motor vehicles this side of the legally blind. Picture Edward Scissorhands as a proctologist, and you can guess my level of confidence with things mechanical.

But, armed with a Chilton book knockoff and some fifty dollar brake pads, in I jumped. I destroyed two 12mm sockets trying to remove the lower bolt on a brake caliper (damn, that thing was on there!), but other than that, no real harm was done. I tested out the brakes, and I seemed to stop okay, and I heard no more squealing, from me or the brakes.

So, one fewer fear in this world for me.

My little buddy is cute, and smart

Also, with Christmas funds at a minimum, my wife and I splurged anyway, and got some inexpensive digital video cameras. My first production therefrom is this home movie short.

December 13th, 7:49AM


After my most-recent blog entry, I procrastinated in a worthwhile fashion. One of the great things about having a running blog (or any journal) for years now is the ability to look back over the years and see how things were at a personal level at a given time.

I have looked back at the past few Decembers, and it was fulfilling in a finite but useful way. It allows me a unique perspective on my life. I like to think of myself as pretty self-aware, but the older I get, the more I realize that is less true than I like to think, and the more I realize that the blinders I wear are real, if unintentional.

December 13th, 6:18AM


Good shows abound lately: "Man vs. Wild" on the Discovery Channel is fun to watch. In a quick search though, it is surprising to see so much vociferousness and bitterness towards Bear Grylls, the show's host and adventurer. People really have their favorites picked for these shows, and ruthlessly stand by them.

I happen to be a Les Stroud fan, and was disappointed when his show dropped off the map for a while. One main difference between his show and the others is that he truly goes it alone, acting as his own cameraman. According to his website, "Survivorman" is apparently ramping up for a second season of production. Good for him, and for us viewers.

If you build it, I will come

Or at least, I will breathe hard. According to the Calaveras Enterprise, Delta College plans to build a Valley Springs Campus. Hoo, it's about time. One of the few things I lamented when moving up here is any chance at continuing formalized education. Hopefully, that will change someday. According to the story, just the purchase of the land will take a year and a half.

Manteca Bulletin sucks

Reason number twelve: their website is down. Previous reasons include poor grammar and proofreading.

Comedy hoax

Sheckymagazine.com blogs/reports that Pauly Shore got punched in the face at an Odessa, TX comedy club, and film of it turned up on the web. Turns out it was a hoax. Strange that it was a hoax or publicity stunt, as it neither makes me want to visit an Odessa, TX comedy club, nor see Pauly Shore. But knowing it was a put-up job does kinda make me want to punch Pauly Shore in the face.

On the serious side, Sheckymagazine.com has it right when they continue to bleat objections at the acquiescence of the general public to heckling and the occasional assault that goes on at comedy performances. No other form of entertainment would tolerate this crap. How many times have men been dragged to a Celine Dion concert and successfully stifled an urge to bash her face in? I for one was provoked to a nearly homicidal rage when I saw her do a cover of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long," and that was just on television, so there's got to be that kind of potential out there.

Really, female French-Canadians should not cover AC/DC. It's just not natural. That's all I'm getting at. Unless they're really stacked. Anyway, I think this post is done with.

December 8th, 10:18AM

A good look in a dirty mirror

Anthony Atkielski maintains a blog about his life in Paris. It used to be on his real website, and it used to be worth a shit, containing photos and brief notes about the goings-on in the City of Lights. It felt like a connection to a bright, contemporary life.

Now, it is on a blogspot site, and contains roughly three core elements: bitching about the weather and Parisian tendencies to overheat and under-cool his building; his poverty; and his Flight Simulator exploits. It now feels like a connection to a man with a painful, deteriorating disease in a dark, cold place.

How sad, how utterly wretched! I have trouble producing sympathy or affection for the man, as he seems to have developed none for the city he lives in nor the rest of humanity. It's all bitter complaining, piteous whining.

Imagine living in Paris, one of the great cities of the world, and huddling in your tiny, oven-like hovel in front of a dim CRT monitor, pretending to fly an imaginary plane to nowhere while some of the greatest wonders of the world twinkle and tower outside for the experience! What self-imposed Hell!

Apparently, he teaches a class at some school, and it is one of the myriad things that do not make him happy, and doesn't pay well. He also moans that he himself is late, unreliable, and unprepared for class.

Am I so different? Valley Springs is no Paris, but it is not without its charms, and I acknowledge and appreciate them. At least, I think I do. But comparatively rarely do I slog around nearby Lake Hogan, enjoy some outdoor work with my son, or even lounge on my deck with its soothing view. Similarities, to different severities.

Is this where cynicism and pessimism take you? It sure looks like it. I recognize the "woe is me" sadness and self-pitying desperation from my own thoughts. Seeing Mr. Atkielski's blog smacks of a future, extreme me, and it is chilling. Living in Paris, gnashing my teeth at all of the horribleness around me; ensuring that I've discovered said horribleness beforehand because I've tenaciously sought it out and fastidiously shut out all light, wonder and hope.

Egads, how terrifying, and yet it sounds very possible, even familiar to me. It's like Paula says: I've got to think more positively, stop beating upon my own back within defeatism and negativity, masquerading as honesty or crooked attempts at keeping things real. Fill my cup. Try to believe. Give hope a little chance, give chance a little hope.

I should stop before I start singing show tunes and painting pink flowers on my Hello Kitty lunchbox, but you get the idea. Until now, I've heard but not so clearly understood the truth of such advice. It all sounded like pie in the sky, feel-good jibber-jabber. Anthony's painful example is the most effective illustration I've seen yet regarding how negative thoughts pile up and weigh you down.

I hope he can get corrected somehow, too, before his is bent and old (assuming he is not yet either of those things), and denying Bob Cratchit a lump of coal for the stove. It's not too late for me, and it's not too late for him, either.

December 7th, 1:08PM

Better now

I am finally back in the pink, so to speak. That means that I have just recently shaken the durable sensation that an enraged howler monkey has taken up residence just below my right lung, or that I've swallowed a thorny doorknob. I am up and moving, and things feel pretty good.

France24 news

France24 launches today, a brand-new news outlet that hopes to run with the big dogs, CNN and BBC, as well as Al Jazeera. They offer French, English and Arabic versions of news.

As a Frenchyfile, I enjoyed their Special Report on working with the French. I'd like to put it to good use someday. I am doubtful, but who knows how life may go?

December 4th, 1:58PM

Montezuma can go to Hell

I blog to you from what feels like my deathbed.

I made these great, least-minute plans to see some stand-up comedy on Saturday night in Lodi, at the Movie City Bar & Grill. I'd link to their website if they had the intelligence to ever get one. So be it.

Around 4:30pm Saturday, my gut started talking to me, and I knew I'd have to call off my big plans, which was a bummer because Daddy doesn't get out much, and this really felt like a big deal to me. By showtime, my gut was screaming at me, in a maniacal, sadistic, humorless laugh, pitilessly mocking me as I expelled organic material from any orifice large enough to carry it.

The smartest thing I did all day Saturday was to grab a clean bucket from the garage and carry it with me like Linus's security blanket. O, Black Bucket, what a good friend you have been.

The long and short of it is that I have lost at least nine pounds, and I no longer fear death. One of the reasons for that is that I did some of the stupidest things one can do before signing on for a stomach flu that would have sent Dr. Louis Pasteur running for his mother:

First, I decided to start working out again during the two days preceding my infirmity, so not only did the fever cause muscle aches in my lower body rarely seen outside of vehicular homicide, my upper body pain was self-inflicted.

Second, since my wife and I found each other alone on Saturday afternoon, I decided to celebrate by barbecuing up some red meat and some quickie pasta, wolfed all that down and then had some nice, fattening Haagen-Daazs ice cream. (When you hear me bitching about my weight, I am fully cognizant that I do these things to myself). At any rate, this gut-buster of a lunch was not to sit long on my unsuspecting digestive tract, and had I any inkling of what was about to transpire, I would much rather have sipped some skim milk and SAE30 motor oil, to ease my Olympic-level yawlfing.

"Yawlfing." I just made that up. © TomBickle.com 2006

But no. No, I gobbled down lamb and beef and other goodies like it was my last day in Rome, and I smelled smoke. What a fool I was. Choking all that back up was truly a regrettable experience.

Anyway, let me wrap up this morbid little post with some words of appreciation, bitterness and wisdom you can't get anywhere else: my wife has been patient and helpful, my daughter hasn't been in to check on me once, and if you feel like you can safely squeeze out a little flu-fart, make sure you've got a towel under your withered, sickly little bum. 'Nuff said.


I've been having dreams again. Odd, piercing dreams. Some good, some bad. The other night I had a dream that involved sewing my lips shut, and some sort of mesh pulled over my head. It's more disturbing in hindsight than it was at the time, but it was no picnic in any event. In another, I dreamed I was back in Paris, but had so poorly planned the trip that I had not packed clothing nor converted money to Euros. Still, Paris is Paris, and I was still magically happy to have been there. The only bad part was waking up. Not that I have it so bad here in reality...

I mention this because up until several days ago, I haven't had dreams that I can recall in quite some time. I remember reading decades ago that everyone dreams, whether they remember them or not, but I've definitely had a nocturnal blackout for at least some months. I am hopeful that the change on my dreamscape means something positive. Either way, it seemed worth noting.

December 1st, 1:33PM

Doctor's orders

What a crap morning. Kid's unruly, confusion breeds frustration. For example: we've got a horse that ain't gettin' any younger; his leg's bothering him. During a hurried exit, my daughter tells me that my wife instructed her to put him in a pen, but she doesn't have time, she's late for school. Soon, I'm outside tugging and yanking on this poor, suffering animal, who doesn't wanna go.

I stop and realize: I've been here before, in a difficult situation, operating under questionable advice. I raise my wife on the horn, and sure enough, she didn't say what someone said she said. I should know better by now.

Getting to the point, stuff like this has directed my day into a pit, so I decided to go out and get some sun on my face. I took three carrots and my son out to see the horses and feed them snacks. My son took his carrot and began munching on it, which struck me funny, but I bet the deprived horse didn't laugh too much.

Anyway, we strolled around the back lot, which if you squint and imagine hard enough, could be taken for some form of wilderness. My little buddy threw rocks, and it was relaxing.