Category Archives: Christmas Lights

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

Well THERE’s Your Problem – December 7th

It’s a whole new adventure putting up Christmas lights at the new house. Everything’s new and different. Where can I attach things? Where can I plug things in? Where can I put things so they stay dry if it rains?

There are…”challenges.”

We had some pretty significant rain a couple of days ago, and while we didn’t have to deal with any of the major problems that deluge brought to Southern California (especially to the burn areas), I found myself scrambling on Monday and Tuesday to try to waterproof my Christmas light installations.

Something failed.

The lights on one end of the house were plugged into a power strip at the end of a long extension cord and that was the likely source of the failure. It’s pretty exposed to the elements, so I had wrapped it up in plastic and I thought it might be okay. When I got home and saw that the lights were out it was pouring, so I just checked to see if it had tripped a breaker at the main panel and taken out any of the other electrical circuits in the house. We were fine, so it must have just been the circuit breaker on the power strip – which is how it’s supposed to work.

Tonight it was finally dry-ish, so I went out to see what was up, figuring a little bit of water might have squirreled it’s way in.

As Adam Savage is so fond of saying, “Well, there’s your problem!

Yeah, that’s a bag full of water and electricity. Not so good.

The reality is that the electricity got cut off as soon as it hit the electricity on Tuesday and from there the water just kept coming in from wherever it came in and made it look really impressive now.

Things are drying out now. We’ll see what’s working and what needs to be replace tomorrow.

(Now what REALLY would have been neat is if someone else had seen this and put a goldfish in there before I got to it!)

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Filed under Christmas Lights, Photography, Weather

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

Make Believe

I am a HUGE fan of “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson. (If you don’t like “Calvin and Hobbes,” the door is over there, don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out. I have standards.)

To me one of the most endearing aspects of the comic is the way Calvin creates massive chunks of his universe with his imagination. Whether he’s Spaceman Spiff or a Tyrannosaurus Rex or turning a box into a replicator machine, Calvin can always deal with a sucky reality by applying a healthy dose of make believe.

The lack of make believe in our modern adult lives was brought into sharp focus for me tonight. (I’m not, of course, counting that “make believe” with the Lucha Libre mask, the maid’s dress, the ukulele, the handcuffs, and the bucket of whip cream.)

I spent hours today taking down this year’s Christmas lights. I spent long enough so that I ran out of time with a large batch of lights still up. These lights:

The top lights here are twenty feet or so in the air. There are steps on the one side which makes getting to them a bit trickier. It took several hours to get all of these lights up, using two different ladders, with a fair amount of time at the top of a sixteen-foot ladder.

Did I want to tackle that in the dark? Well – probably. These are newer lights, they’re the better, more expensive ones, it’s going to be a busy, tough week at work, and there’s rain coming tonight so I would prefer not to leave them up for a week.

On the other hand, it’s not high enough (probably) to kill me if something happened and I fell. Just high enough to break a whole bunch of things that I would prefer to remain unbroken, things which would probably take a while to heal since I’m no spring chicken.

More importantly, how does one explain dying like that to Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates? Or, more importantly, to my boss when I can’t come in to work in a full-body cast? “You were doing what? In the dark? YOU go to Hell!”

So I went and got a forehead mounted flashlight that I find very useful. (It also makes me almost unbelievably attractive…) I got my big, long stick with a hook, also very useful.

I got the ladder and stared down my opponent.

Climbing the ladder, balancing in the dark, reaching with the long stick with a hook for a string of lights that was about five feet out, swaying with the breeze, I had my epiphany about make believe and Calvin. (This might not be the Calvinistic epiphany that is generally associated with that term.)

As adults, we’ve forgotten how much fun “make believe” can be!

The spirit of Calvin took over my brain. I wasn’t 90% blind in the dark with a flashlight on my forehead standing fifteen feet up in a tree precariously balanced while wielding a long stick with a hook in order to take down Christmas lights! NO!

I was on an emergency spacewalk in zero G in the dark depths of interstellar space to fix my broken space ship!!

And that quickly – I was.

Oh, sure, there was some part of my brain that kept me functioning and getting the job done in the reality where I could break every bone in my body and impale myself on a long stick with a hook – but the higher level conscious functions were halfway to Alpha Centauri with a broken motivator module just out of reach!

Suddenly something that was an “adult” thing, a pain in the ass job at the end of a long day when I would much rather have been sitting on my butt and getting some down time before the upcoming week, this “adult” thing was now a game! It was fun! It was an adventure!

The change in my mood and the lifting of my spirits was palpable. It was stunning. It was as close to a magic spell as I’ve seen in a while.

The lights all got taken down, I didn’t fall, I didn’t get impaled, the bittersweet job got done. That probably would have happened anyway. But in addition to all of that, something really critical happened.

I. Had. Fun. I was a little kid again. I was Spaceman Spiff.

Thank you whatever part of my brain made that happen. Thank you, Bill Watterson. Thank you, Calvin.

We don’t have to adult 24/7/365, even when we have a job to get done.

Whip cream is optional.



Filed under Christmas Lights, Deep Thoughts, Paul, Photography

Fading Of The Lights

This is the weekend that the Christmas lights come down, so tonight’s the last chance to see them. As has been true for the last couple of years, it means that this might be the last night of the last big Christmas light display for us in quite a while.

In the end, we were able to put up about 65% to 70% of our “peak” displays of past years.

For example, the birch tree with the two strings of white stars in them would normally have those plus at least two or three strings of plain white lights and white icicle lights.

The bushes below the white stars would normally have at least one more set of lights and the big berry tree to the left of the white stars would have at least a couple of strings up high in the branches.

But in the years we did those displays I was also either working far fewer hours or, for a couple of years, not working at all. In many of those years I also wasn’t in my current position at the CAF SoCal Wing, which is almost another full-time job. Priorities, man – this adulting thing can really suck.

This view usually has a nice image of Orion rising above the house, but the clouds tonight ruined that.

We we can see at the top center (red & green stripes) is a trans-Pacific jet of some sort climbing out of LAX.

We joke that there’s a danger of one of the jets coming into Burbank (we’re right under one of the main approach corridors) mistaking us for the airport.

Tonight’s threat was more of an Earthbound sort.

As I was taking these final pictures, standing right next to the street, I heard something on the sidewalk behind me. Nails or claws clicking on the concrete as something trotted along.

Fortunately, I froze instead of abruptly turning around.

One of the neighborhood skunks, about the size of a Maine coon cat (i.e., pretty good sized), was not more than four or five feet away, oblivious to my presence. I wanted to keep it that way, so I stayed “vewwy, vewwy quiet.”

Our bold-as-brass visitor turned into the neighbor’s yard and disappeared underneath their fence gate into their back yard. About then the neighbors drove up and started to pull their trash cans up from the curb to put them into the back yard. I quickly suggested they might want to leave them out in the front until morning.

With that, we bid a fond adieu to the 2017 Christmas lights. Who knows what Thanksgiving weekend 2018 holds?

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

The Christmas Card Wheel Turns

The cards have gone out. Late, but they’re out. Normally we try to get them out by mid December so everyone has them by Christmas, but that wasn’t happening this year.

The first batch (about half) went out last Wednesday and started showing up in people’s mailboxes on Tuesday. The second batch went out yesterday, and the final batch went out today.

And today the first returns started coming back.

It’s something of a “circle of life” thing. Start with a list of relatives, friends from SF fandom, work connections, high school classmates, and college classmates. Over the course of a few years a few new names get added every year while a few more get dropped as people move and we lose touch.

Something happens (like a high school reunion) and the address list gets updated. People once lost get reconnected and go back on the list.

New connections are made (like going on staff at the CAF SoCal Wing or getting a new job) and the address list gets added to. The list grows again.

Then time passes, the cycle turns, and every year there are a couple dozens of returns. Folks moved and, much to my amazement, dropping a change of address notice to me so they can get an annual family Christmas card isn’t their top priority.

The toughest ones are starting to be the “deceased” entries on the list. The Springfield High School Class of 1974 is all in their sixties now and it’s starting to show.

If you’ve gotten a card in the past, don’t get one in the next few days, and you still want one, please let me know. If you’ve moved in the last year or so and you want to stay on the list, let me know. If you’ve never gotten one of our family Christmas cards and want one, let me know. (It’s not a tough list to get on, I’m pretty touchy-feely about the keeping-in-touch and spreading-the-holiday-cheer crap.)

Given appropriate privacy concerns, it’s probably best not put put personal information in the comments. I would suggest you can either send emails to, send a private message to me on Facebook, or send me a text message.


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Christmas 2017

As we wrap up Christmas Day, head into the New Year, and then face 2018 and whatever it might bring, I wish for all of you to find peace, joy, happiness, and love.

Each of which can be elusive. And difficult to hold onto once found.

Given that, above all I wish for each of us to find strength and courage. Strength and courage many not get television movies for each holiday, but if we can find a way summon strength and courage from within, we can persist, endure, and survive until our elusive moments of peace, joy, happiness, and love arrive.

That might not be the Christmas gift we want, but it’s the Christmas gift we need.

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Filed under Christmas Lights, Deep Thoughts, Photography