Category Archives: Christmas Lights

Friday Night Lights

Well, the pictures are from last Friday. We didn’t see the moon or any clear sky here for the last couple of days.

After a long day of putting up lights, while I was starting to put ladders and boxes and extension cords and tools away because it was getting dark, I spotted the crescent moon and bright Venus off in the west.

I like my Christmas lights, but it’s tough to compete with the light show in the sky some times.

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Filed under Astronomy, Christmas Lights, Photography

What’s Up With ATC Tonight?

As I’ve mentioned, we live pretty much right under the extended centerline for Burbank runway 8, which leads us to have 737’s and the like overhead at about 4,000′ all day long. Since I’m an airplane nut, this is not a problem.

It also means that I’m pretty used to which direction planes are coming from 99.99% of the time. So when I’m busy on the computer but I hear one coming from an odd direction, it makes my ears prick up.

When a second one follows, I pull out FlightAware to see what their flight paths are.

(Image from FlightAware)

That first plane (a United flight) came in from the northwest (not so unusual), then did a big 360° turn over Hidden Hills (pretty unusual) before he got lined up and had just exited stage right toward final approach. (For reference and scale, from our house at the blue dot, the 405 Freeway and Van Nuys airport there are about half way to Burbank.)

The second guy (a Southwest flight), currently over Tampa Avenue, came in a bit more normally from the north over Simi Valley, looped a little wide, but was now on final.

Then the third plane (Alaska Airlines Flight 1150) followed the second plane and made an even bigger 360° out over the Santa Monica Mountains and Malibu!

What’s up with Air Traffic Control (ATC) tonight?

Let’s step outside and look toward the southwest and Malibu, shall we?

Yep, there he is!

And, yep! There he goes!

A weather-related issue? Possibly. You can see a storm cell over Topanga State Park to our south. There’s a front moving in and some of the showers were supposed to get severe, but that wasn’t supposed to happen until tomorrow morning.

Spacing? ATC maintains minimum separation between aircraft and if there are a few coming in all at the same time, someone might get told to take the scenic route and linger for a few in order to not crowd anyone else.

Whatever. I got my own personal mini air show! The day got better!

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Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Flying, Photography

Fiat Lux 2019

The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the first day of the Christmas lights going up. This year is the latest that Thanksgiving can ever be, November 28th, so there’s no time to delay.

After years of putting up massive numbers of lights at our old house, we moved about eighteen months ago into a much smaller place. So last year was a bit of a learning experience. This year, having one Christmas worth of experience, it went a bit better on day one.

While the lights often look like fine spider webs of colored or sparkling luminescence, there’s a blob over the garage door that defies that.

It’s more like a black widow spider web in form rather than one of those gorgeous, symmetric, orb weaver webs. Just a weird blob of lights in a glob or a clot.

Blob. Glob. Clot.

Might have to do something about that.


Filed under Castle Willett, Christmas Lights, Photography

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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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