Category Archives: Castle Willett

Fiat Lux Two

More Christmas lights have gone up at the new house.

Most of the new stuff has gone up by the garage, and on that tall, tall bank of cedar trees that line the north side of the driveway. I was hoping that the “wall” made by the cedar trees would be easier to hand lights on, but those branches are much more flimsy and less structurally able to hold the light strings that I had hoped. And the last thing I want to do is start damaging the trees.

The lights first started going up after Thanksgiving and it’s obvious that I’ll never have as many lights here as I did at the old house. (Who knew in 2016 when I wrote that, thinking it was the last year at that house, that we had one more to go – but now we’re out.) There’s just not as much surface area to the house, and there are far, far fewer trees and bushes and foliage to drape lights on. But this isn’t bad for what I’ve got.

I also fixed the “bag of electricity and water” issues and put some really nice digital timers on to replace the clunky and only marginally useful analog “clock-style” timers I had.

So now the four sets of outside lights as well as the Christmas tree in the big front window all turn on and off within a minute of each other.

I like it!


Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

Fiat Lux

The day after Thanksgiving is the day the Christmas lights always start to go up.

At the old house, almost three decades of trial and error meant that there was a basic plan. Extension cords go from here to here. This set of lights go there, that set of lights go over there. There might be changes from year to year, but if you look back through the Christmas lights pictures on this site over the past five years you’ll see many very similar elements year-to-year.

All that’s gone in 2018.

New house. Smaller pallet in that the house is smaller, the yard smaller, fewer trees, and so on. Nothing set in stone. No plan in advance.

So this is where The Younger Daughter and I got on the first day of Christmas lights. I’m not unhappy with it and it gives me a good idea of where I want to go next on Sunday.

Fiat Lux. “Let there be lights!” (Close enough. Work with me on this one!)

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

Up At 7:00

One thing I’ve noticed, which is just the cherry on the topping of my hatred for Daylight Saving Time, is that I’m still waking up every morning at “7:00.”

Or, at least, at what used to be 7:00. Based on where the sun is and when it rises and so on. But since we “fell back” almost three weeks ago the reality is that it’s 6:00 AM, not 7:00 AM.

Yet almost every day, my brain stem sees the light and wakes me up within a minute or two of 6:00 AM PST / 7:00 AM PDT, often with a touch of panic because my sleeping brain thinks that the alarm didn’t go off and I’m late.

Almost every day, it takes a few seconds and then I realize what happened. Then I’m trying to get back to sleep for that extra hour of shuteye that I so desperately need. I’m not even getting any slack from my subconscious on weekend days or holidays.

Stupid brain.

Stupid mornings.

Stupid DST.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul

Standing Down

The wind continues to howl. It’s got to be 25-35 steady with gusts to 50+, if not more.

But there is no known fire near us.

The air has more than just a whiff of smoke and ash to it, along with the calling card of a particularly pissed off skunk somewhere nearby upwind. They’ve been telling us to watch out for wildlife displaced into urban areas by the destruction of their natural habitat. Perhaps that’s why the skunk is pissed off. Can’t say that I blame him.

But they’ve taken down the police barricades two blocks away from home.

It’s gotten cold, which I guess is good, but it’s staying dry, which is horrible. There were spots this weekend reporting relative humidity in the single digits for days on end – THAT’s a huge problem when fighting brush fires. One report I saw had a reading of 1% relative humidity! That’s rivaling what it would be like on Mars.

But as of about 20:30 tonight, the mandatory evacuation order for all of the neighborhoods on the west side of Valley Circle have been lifted.

So tonight I started standing down. I started unpacking the cars. I started putting all of those valuable pictures, documents, video tapes, jewelry, and priceless memories back away in the house instead of leaving them pointing out of the driveway, ready to be scrambled like a couple of SAC bombers when the ICBMs start streaming over the Pole.

It’s time to stand down.

And maybe get some sleep.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Disasters

Changes While We Weren’t Looking

First of all, let me be the latest to whine about Daylight Saving Time. I hate it for all of the usual reasons that everyone else hates it, but I’ll add my perspective based on our society’s transition to how clocks are set.

If you’re anything like me, your watch, phone, computer, tablet, and cable box all updated themselves last night. They’re all computers talking to other computers and those other computers are talking to the Colossus computer (howdy, Dr. Forbin!) somewhere a mile under some Colorado mountain and the Colossus is hooked into an atomic clock that’s accurate to within a fraction of a microsecond between now and the heat death of the universe. Since they’re all talking, they all make sure that they’re all using the same time frame.

But there are still clocks in our lives that aren’t in that particular computer clique and they have to be reset manually. My bedside clock radio with the honkin’ big red numbers, the wall clocks in the bathroom that are running on a solitary AAA battery, the dashboard clocks in the cars, the clock in the microwave… Time has to be spent hunting down and changing all of those clocks.

That’s not the problem.

The problem is that over time all of these clocks, both sets, will drift a bit. With the computer clocks, they’ll talk to the Mother Ship clock periodically (daily? hourly?) and all get on the same page again. But those manual clocks will get a bit off here and there, which we’ll compensate for in our heads. I know that the bedside clock is a couple of minutes slow, the one in the master bathroom is a minute fast, the one in the guest bathroom is a minute slow, and the one in the old van just blinks because it’s too damn hard to figure out how to set to begin with.

But I’m not going to set them to be off by that amount again! That would be stupid, even by my anal standards. Instead, they all get set to match my watch and/or phone, which in turn match the computer, the cable box… You get the picture.

But tomorrow morning when that alarm goes off and I look at the the clock to see “07:00” I’m going to have to remember that it’s really 7:00, not 7:02.

What a pain!

Meanwhile, while dealing with all of that, we found out this morning that while we were out of town last week one of the bus boys at our “normal” Sunday morning restaurant has been promoted to a waiter’s position. Great, we like him! Except, where’s Connie, my ketchup queen? Oh, that’s why George got promoted? But Connie was our favorite!

Furthermore, when we get to the grocery store after breakfast, we find that in that same week out of town they’ve done a “Fifty-Two Pick Up” on how the store’s arranged, so our ten minute shopping routine turned into over twice that as we just tried to figure out which aisle now had the sodas, where the olive oil got hidden, and who in hell thought it was a good idea to put the potato chips way over THERE?

Somehow it’s all connected, and I’m sure there are stupid politicians behind it all somehow.



Filed under Castle Willett, Paul


Something got me up early the other morning (given the choice, I would be up until 1AM or later every night and then not roll my butt out of bed before about 10:00) and I found much to my surprise that the later sunrise and my earlier rising and the shifting of the sun to the south as it rises in the fall all combined to make the kitchen and dining room of the “new” house the most amazing golden color.

Even this picture can’t begin to portray even half of the depth to the hues and the vibrancy of the color.

It was spectacular! Almost worth being out of bed before 10:00!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography

Halloween Decorations

As the seasons move on and we enter fall for the first time in our new neighborhood I notice that there are substantially more homes with Halloween decorations out than in our old neighborhood. It was one or two as soon as October rolled around, but now the number is growing. (This gives me great hope for Christmas, although it’s equally likely that we’ve just inadvertently moved into a neighborhood of vampires, ghost, goblins, and ghoulies and we’ll never see Christmas because we’ll be eaten alive on the 31st… Never mind!)

Most of meager supply of Halloween decorations are still in storage after the move, but a couple of lawn ornaments got shoved into the garage during those chaotic weeks, so this weekend I put them out in the front yard. Of course, last night we had our first severe Santa Ana wind event and they got blown over. (In the old neighborhood we were at the bottom of the hill and somewhat sheltered – here we’re at the top of it and pretty exposed. It got windy.)

No harm, no foul, everything’s back up again tonight, but in that mindset, the Halloween zeitgeist as it were, I noticed something else tonight.

From our front yard security camera, during the day (the mail carrier is likely not a ghoulie) it looks like, well, a front yard:

However, tonight I noticed that that bush in the foreground right by the porch looks quite different when lit from the porch light only:

Am I the only one that sees a crazed, screaming face in that bush? And why do the eyes follow me when I look out that window and move around the room?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Photography