All of the lights

23 Dec

This year, for some reason, I got really into our Christmas lights.

We had bins in the attic of lights including some we bought last year in the post-Christmas sales, but except for the ones we put on the tree or around the house, I never messed with trying to set up lights outside.

It always seemed like too much of a hassle and I never had enough time as Christmas chugged, Polar Express-style, toward us at high speeds. (See also: why we haven’t sent out a family Christmas card in a few years.) It seemed exhausting and a little dangerous (what happens when it rains? Does your house just explode in a shower of sparks?) and I just had no solution.

But maybe it was a sudden burst of energy I was having at the end of the year, or a restlessness of not doing enough stuff outside with my hands that got me going, but I made the decision to put up lights. Or lay them on the ground. Or something. There were going to be lights, dammit!

So I started setting up the lights. In my mind, we had all the stuff necessary to do this stashed away, including extension cords, electrical posts, plenty of lights that all matched and (imaginary) items that would hold everything in place perfectly. It was all in the bin just waiting for me to set things up.

In reality, it was a mismatched heap of tangled indoor lights, one shady-looking green electrical post that looked like it might shock me if I looked in its direction and maybe one set of six 3M sticky tabs that probably wouldn’t work with our stucco and stone outdoors.

So I bought lights. And then I bought more lights. And then I bought some extension cords. Then I bought a bunch of hooks and adhesives and a holiday staple gun that shoots staples as well as plastic staple protectors, as if the stapler were afraid of getting a loathsome disease and is blowing through dozens of tiny little condoms.

They also keep you from stapling through the electrical cord and killing yourself, I think, so sure, why not. Staple condoms.

I set up a line of big bulb lights (not LED, it turns out, but the old school ones that burn you if you try to touch) along the yard. I didn’t have stakes or clips or anything to hold them down. In fact, three different gigantic stores told me they had sold out of crates and crates of these. So, I tried to make some makeshift stakes by tying the lights to some skewers and you can image how shitty and lame and ineffective that turned out. So the lights were basically just lying on the ground in a loose row, ready to be tripped on or blown away by a strong wind. Success!

I had better luck with a set of tiny globe LED lights that I stapled up around the garage. Near the stucco is a spongy border and that turned out to be perfect for the staples. I set everything up, brought my wife and the kids out to see the glory of my gorgeous lights.

Half of the set that I had just put up didn’t come on. I had forgotten to check before I put them up.

Another trip to the store. More lights, Lots of cursing.

I finally found some stakes at the grocery store and I was able to lock down the lights around the sidewalk, or at least keep them from wandering off.

When it was all finished and I taped up the ends with Duct Tape to keep water out, it all looked really nice even if it was a pretty simple setup with nothing for the bushes or in our yard. We have the lights down the sidewalk, some lights around our garage, some lights going around the side of the house, a little LED tree and bear in the doorway and that’s about it. Next year, maybe we’ll add some stuff to the yard, but I felt pretty manly-man enough with just this first effort.

I couldn’t tell you why I needed to to this this year. I think it’s that the kids (now 3 and 5) like it and the things I used to really not care about seem to matter a little more when there are kids involved.

All this happened before recent events in the news made that even more clear to me. It’s so easy to just let the holidays fly by and to try to get through it and look forward to days off and a new year. But this year, I’m trying to enjoy it moment-by-moment and not let is rush past too quickly before I’ve gotten to really let the glow of the lights illuminate the darkness a little.

Lights 2

Recent writing stuff:

I’m finally on vacation through January, but here’s what’s run recently (and one thing that’s running tomorrow that’s pretty significant).

In the Digital Savant column, I did a piece going over my 2012 tech predictions from last year and then looked ahead and made more predictions for 2013. Will those pan out? Wait a year and find out! One neat thing was getting to see the word “Omarstradamus” in display headline type in the paper.

The column for Monday, Christmas Eve, is a roundup of all the apps you should download if you happen to get a new smart phone or tablet. It’s impossible to list anything even close to comprehensive, especially if you’re trying to include more than just iOS and Android, but I tried to focus on stuff people who are new to these kinds of devices might need. Even trying to narrow it down, it was a pretty impossible task to cover all bases, but I think the list is a good start for most people.

Fairway Solitaire: current addiction

I included Fairway Solitaire, the mobile game I’m currently addicted to. Please don’t download it. It will eat your life.

The Walking Dead: my video game of the year

Other stories I wrote since the last blog entry: a piece about the Statesman’s new digital offerings, a story about top Austin searches on Google for 2012, a review of the full first season of the brilliant “Walking Dead” video game and a write-up of two Austin-made games, God of Blades and Arcane Legends, that are worth a look on iOS.

For Digital Savant Micro, I wrote about why you might need a dual-band router, what the Hell Snapchat is and what a “Chromebook” laptop is all about.

I was also on the radio last week, talking about holiday tech gifts (it’s a bit late for that, I know, but maybe you’ll get some ideas for post-Christmas gift exchanges) with The Daily Circuit on Minnesota Public Radio. You can hear the full audio by following the link. The other guest was Dana Wollman from Engadget.

The last thing is that Carolina turned 3 on Friday. As much as Lilly keeps us on our toes constantly, it’s Carolina who makes us laugh, who always does or says something completely unexpected, and who seems to always have mischief and smiles in her eye for everyone she meets.

I’m not sure if it’s a phase or if it’s just part of her personality that she constantly tells us she loves us. I hope it lasts a good long while.

Carolina at 3


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