The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 5 late

Yesterday was a long day and it got late so this post is late.

I got the HO, HO, HO display done and it works. I had to re-wire the lights on the last part twice. And I think I figured out why the blue lights on the rebar Christmas tree don’t work. The controller uses Silicon Controlled Rectifiers (SCRs) to turn the lights on and off. The lights are LED which are also rectifiers. Rectifiers only let electricity go one way. If the SCR and the LED or connected against each other the current (moving electricity) can’t get through and nothing lights up. Reverse two wires and the electricity is moving.

I’ll flip the two wires on the blue lights tomorrow. The sun went down and it’s cold. The day was good. Not too much wind. We have a high pressure system off the coast that’s pushing the low pressure system up north and giving them snow and rain. We could use the rain down here. With the warmer weather I get more done, but it seems there is so much more to do.

I did not get the Christmas star up. The displays I am working on are home made. The star is one I bought at the store. Home made items are unique, no one else has one like it. Where the store bought ones can be found down to block, unless they are like mine and are so old no one has them any more.

The gate is finished for now. It needs new wood to cover it, but that can wait until summer and when I can get help. The gate is heavy and hard to move when it is not on its hinges. It also needs painting,but that is going to have to wait until the Christmas lights come down.

Many of the plants in the garden have gone dormant, but the orchid are about to bloom. The paper whites or narcissus are blooming along with the geraniums.

With the big display done after all these years I need to work on the antennas tomorrow. I may make up a couple of extension cords for one more run of lights.

I have some tow by fours left over from the gate project. How can I made a Christmas decoration out of them?

The Garden needs watering. Not as much as during the summer. And the weeds and grass need pulling before it rains and they take off. I have to dig deep to get the grass roots out or it just springs back with the first rain.

Stay strong, write on and stay warm.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 4

It’s been a long day. I got the second third of the HO, HO, HO display done and I got all the light on the first two parts to light. It was hard work, but I got it done. Now to get the last part done. When I do, I will have completed a project I’ve worked years on.

I still have to build two more extension cords for the HO, HO, HO display. That’s straight forward and I can do it inside the house. It’s cold outside. Well, I mean it’s cold for me. The wind is coming off the ocean and it got cloudy today. The air felt like rain. Then the clouds blew away, but the wind stayed cold. I had to go inside every hour to warm up.

I also worked on the big gate, the one I let cars into the back yard with. During Thanksgiving I sat a new gate post in the ground. It replaced the old one that was way too small in diameter. The wind made working on the gate hard. The force of the wind against the gate made it a fight to work on it. Got the holes drilled in the gate and the top bolts in. I had to go to 1/2 inch bolts. I couldn’t find 7/16th inch bolts in stainless steel. I used 1/2 heavy galvanized bolts. It is a big gate and it needs big bolts and I don’t want rust all over the place.

I didn’t get the Christmas star up yet. It’s taking forever to put it up. I don’t think I will get to it tomorrow. I figured out why some of the lights on the other displays don’t light up. It will require soldering to get them working. Soldering in the cold wind is hard. It’s either solder outside or disassemble the display and take it inside. That would take all day for one display. Soldering with heavy gloves on is tricky with the small wires that are connected to the lights.

I made progress, yet I’m down.

I get that way when I don’t get done what I wanted to finish and it should have been easy to do. That and I have three friends going in to the hospital for operations. One of them may not make it. It’s a small chance, but always a chance. I can’t go see them before the operation or for a time after their operations. I can only offer what help I can. But my offer feels like it’s so little, I want to be there for them, but I can’t. Not even their wives go see them. It’s so lonely in the hospital room all by yourself, with all those people around you that are so professional. Kind, but they can’t let themselves care.

I’m so lucky. But I’m still down. And it’s cold.

I got a compliment on the script I wrote. It was just one page long. I would like to get it made, but where would I find the time? So much to do, so much to write.

Stay strong, write on, stay safe, be safe, buy yourself a little present. Smile, even if it hurts.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 3 late

Short cuts or time savers? This blog is late because I had to take my car in for a repair. They found a wire was bad. They missed it the first time I took it in and had to bring in a specialist. Over 200 dollars to replace the wire and it only took them 15 minutes to replace it. It took them two hours to find the problem on the second try. This time of year money is short, but I bit the bullet and got it fixed.

I sat in the dealership for over two hours and the dealership is a 30 minute drive from Castle High Voltage. That three hours I could have spent working on Christmas decorations.

It’s been getting colder each day this week. But I don’t know nothing about cold. If you want to know about cold ask someone living in the Northeast. If it snowed here they would declare a national emergency.

I feel guilty about doing a Tee twist solder joint when making new runs of Christmas lights. A tee joint isn’t as strong or durable as a Western Union splice, but it’s faster. In the cold, I need faster and Christmas is closing in.

Last night I got part of the Ho Ho, Ho display repaired. I’ve been working on that display for 20 years. I’ve had to remove the lights I had on it and replace them, the lights were so old. The new lights have to be cut to length and spliced to fit. These displays are made to last and I need good solder joints. The Tee joints should last 20 years, but I will be kicking myself if they don’t.

The big gate repair is going slowly to. But now I don’t have to worry about the gate blowing over in the wind. It will look a lot better when I remove the two by four braces.

I still haven’t got the Christmas star up.

I am making a Christmas meal shopping menu. Got to do that today. I was going to do that yesterday.

More neighbors are putting up lights and displays that have never had lights before. That’s a good thing. The world needs all the good cheer it can get.

Now excuse me, I have to open another 250 foot roll of zip cord and make up six new extension cords for the displays.

Stay strong, write on, and join in and put up a string of lights.

Professor Hyram Voltage.

The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 2

Got a late start on the decorating. Not a good sign.

The wind is cold and off the ocean. I’m running around chopping dead grass and dead heading flowers. I stop to take a load of grass to the trash can. Opening the gate I realize that I must fix it, so the displays will look their best. Run to the fence supply place and buy two heavy duty hinges. Race back and an hour and a half is gone.

Wipe down the hinges and start installing them. Look around and find the battery to the electric hacksaw. How did the battery end up in the kitchen? Saw bolts to the hinges to length. Find wrenches for bolts. Pry the big gate over and line it up. Get the battery operated drills (one for pilot holes and the other for the big drill bit) and punch holes for the gate.

Go inside for lunch and write a script. I should be writing a book.

Back to the gate. Brace, drill, bolt and do it again for the bottom hinge. Run into a road block. Go move some pavers. Check mail. Clean some weeks out of the garden. Things are looking better.

Start to wire up another tomato cage tree Christmas display. Stop and go back to work on gate.

The sun is down and it is getting colder. I see a sliver of the moon about to set. Jupiter and Saturn are so close.

Tomorrow I will get the star with all the blinking lights up.

Stay strong, write on, and enjoy.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Merry Christmas to All the Special People

Merry Christmas to the mail carries that have to work Christmas eve.

Merry Christmas to those that have lost friends and loved ones this year.

Merry Christmas to those who have to work Christmas eve and Christmas day and night. We need you. And thank you paramedics, doctors, and nurses.

Merry Christmas to all of you, like me, that didn’t get that book finished. It’s so close.

Merry Christmas to all of you that let me take your picture. I hope next year we can take more pictures. Please smile it makes you look so much better.

Merry Christmas to all those that helped me this year. May I be able to help you or pay it forward. May we all be able to pay it forward.

Merry Christmas to all that don’t have someone to wish them a Merry Christmas.

Stay strong, write on, and keep the spirit of the season it your heart during this hard time.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Twelve Days of Obsessive Christmas Decorating day 1

It is not Obsessive to start Christmas decorating before Thanksgiving. It’s good planning. Now starting Christmas decorating in July when they start putting out Christmas items in the big box store, now that’s obsessive. Besides it’s not as cold around Thanksgiving as it gets around Christmas.

I do not buy Christmas lights by the case. I have bought them by the 3/4 case, after Christmas when they were on sale. That’s being thrifty, and that’s all they had left.

It’s not being obsessive when you throw away old lights to standardize on one type or style of lights. That’s keeping your theme stylish. Besides, the 20 year old lights were getting faded. Some people throw away their Christmas decorations every year. They say it saves space.

It’s not obsessive to buy a drafting program to lay out the arrangement of Christmas lights. It’s good planning.

Let’s not talk about buying 1200 feet of wire to make more extension cords for the Christmas lights. I was going for the price break.

The Holidays, 1,200 Feet of Extension Cords and More

I started to write this blog entry on Monday, but WordPress said I needed to update a bunch of stuff.

Several themes needed updating, so I deleted five themes that I was not using and never planned to use. So far so good. Then I started to update WordPress, the program that runs this site. WordPress said I should make a backup the site before I update. Bad move. I start the plugin named upload (they have to change the name of that plugin, you try and search for help with the plugin and you find tons of stuff on uploading images or the problems with uploading images in WordPress, but nothing on the plugin upload).

The upload program has a problem and my web site blows up. A critical error message pops up on the screen, but not my web site. It’s not a blue screen of death, but the site is useless and I’m not going to get the blog written until the site is back online.Tuesday lots of research on what a WordPress critical error is. I tried to reload the backups (yes, I had more than three) that I meticulously made at set intervals. It didn’t help and the site remained locked up. I turned off plugins, I was about to change themes when the site went really bad.

I Googled and watched a lot of Youtube videos and learned more about WordPress than I want to know and it’s stuff I will never use, because when I need to use it the stuff will be out of date and I will have to learn a bunch of new stuff.

All that Googling and YouTube watching is worthless and does not fix the problem. Wednesday I hired someone to fix the web site. Thursday they fix it and I write the blog entry I was going to write Monday.

If you have followed this blog you know that people have accused me of having a Obsessive Christmas Decorating Problem. I am still putting up Christmas decorations on New Year Eve.

So this year, I started putting up decorations before Thanksgiving. I even had a friend help me for three days. In California that is risky. I am still putting decorations up. Five years ago I bought a box of five, 250 foot rolls of ‘zip’ wire (sometimes called line cord). I have been using that for wiring the lights up. Before that, I used 20 gauge white single strand wire. I’m still using a lot of the old single strand wire harnesses I made years ago. They still work and do not need replacing. Before Halloween, I use up the last of the five 250 foot rolls of wire. The Halloween harnesses are also used for Christmas. So I ordered another case of five rolls.

Each string of Christmas lights has three colors. Each color is addressable, individually addressable. That’s three extension cords per light string. I put up six new sets of lights yesterday and the lights were as far away from the controller as any of the lights. I needed long extension cords. So I made new cords out of the wire I just got.

I have plans for six more lights sets tomorrow. This is on top of all the lights I had put up last year.

Thankfully, the lights are LEDs and don’t consume as much power as the old incandescent light strings I used to use. The total power I’m using now is less than the five 120 light strings of incandescent lights of the past used.

Also there is work going on in the back yard, so I’ve had to make emergency set ups for this year.

Today I had to hold off stringing up lights so I could get the computer fixed.

Tomorrow I may need to go get a couple of plug strips (multi outlet boxes) to plug in the new strings of lights.

I haven’t decorated the tree yet. I have a live tree in a big pot that I use year after year.

It’s December and the Gladiolas are blooming. The yucca plant is about to bloom. There are apples on the apple tree. The apples are green and have a lot of growing to do. The strawberry plants are still producing and they’re getting snow on the east coast. Oh well, Elon Musk is moving to Texas and most likely taking a lot of jobs with him. He can pay the employees less in Texas. Besides, his tax bill will be way less in Texas. Good going governor. Maybe it’s worth putting up with snow if you get to pay less in taxes. Next thing you know there will be a snow tax in California, it snows and you get taxed. The state will be seeding the clouds to raise money.

Maybe I should put what little money I have in gold so they can’t tax it. Gold may not earn much, but it will keep up with inflation.

So backup your writing, your web site and everything else. Also make sure the backups are good and you can use them. Use more than one backup hard drive. Backup media can fail. It does, it happens to me. Web sites and cloud computer center fail. Just look at AWS and Microsoft cloud failures. A lot of work did not get done on those days. As a contractor they can elect not pay you if the cloud goes down.

Stay strong, write on, and backup, backup and backup some more.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Kroger and people do dumb things and I’m powerless to do anything about it

Every week I get several emails from the grocery store, run by Kroger. I click on an add, any add, in the email and I get Access Denied. That’s a slap in the face, they send me an email offering a good deal and then tell me I’m denied.

I’ve been getting these emails for months. I finally decided to do something about it. Of course Kroger doesn’t want to be bothered by its customers. There’s no working contact us link in the emails. So I goggled the CEO of Kroger and emailed him. No echo back that they got the email, nothing. Like I said they do not want to hear from their customers, just like most big corporations, they’re busy, they just want us to give them our money and go away. Well, I went away and deal with on line companies.

It cost Kroger money, lots of money to send out the emails. They have a big IT department with managers trying to build as big a department as they can, so the manger can earn more money because he runs a bigger department. That mean it cost Kroger even more money as time goes by. Then there is the advertising department. That’s expensive and adds to the cost of the emails. There are lawyers that make sure the emails meet state and federal requirements and don’t offend someone. More money. And the hidden middle men who earn their living by being in the loop. All to send a useless email out that the customer can’t use.

That’s dumb.

The workers inside Kroger use the company’s computers. I bet that the emails, they send out, look and work fine when viewed on the companies computers. Do high level board members see these emails on computers outside the company, if at all? Probably not. They have people that screen their emails, and other people to do their shopping at Whole Foods.

Has the CEO every looked at one of these emails? Why should he? He has people to do that. Has he every been inside a Kroger store except for an official visit? Why would he? His time is very valuable, he has more important stuff to do. The old idea of HP corporation where the two men that founded the corporation walked around the factory floor and talked to the workers and went to the customers and talked to them about their products is so old fashioned. Look what happened to HP when Carly Fiorina took over and stopped the old ways of doing business and ran the company by the book in the modern way . Hint, the stock price went from $78.00 a share to $13.00.

So Kroger will keep spamming people with email they can’t use, driving customers away, all the time the high level executives will keep giving themselves bigger and bigger raises. That is till we all go to on line shopping.

Stay strong, write on, and shop online.

Professor Hyram Voltage

The Candy Chute

Sometimes you just got to live your art.

Just before Halloween I saw in the Rose Is Rose newspaper cartoon that MeeMa had built a chute to slide the candy down to trick or treaters. She tied the slide to the hand rail that ran along the front steps of her house.

OK, I can do that. I made a quick trip to the big box hardware store to get a length of 3 or 4 inch diameter plastic pipe. All they had was 2 inch in white. I wanted white so it would show up at night in the poor light.

It was Halloween, and I was in a hurry. I used big tie wraps to hold the pipe to the hand rail of the steps to my front door. The hand rail was not steep enough to make the candy slide to the end of the pipe.

I went into the back yard and found a four foot long stick. I tie wrapped it vertically to the hand rail and lifted the end of the pipe closest to the door higher. That fixed getting the candy to the bottom of the pipe.

Then I tried to slide a little “Fun Sized” bag of M&Ms down the pipe. The bags were too big to fit in the 2 inch pipe.

The tie wraps held the pipe loosely so I could pull the pipe out easily. If I used duct tape, the old stand by, I would have had to tear the tape off and get the cleaner out to get the sticky residue off the pipe. I’m down to my last bottle of cleaner and it’s half empty.

I took a hacksaw and cut the pipe length wise at the one third point. I now have two pieces. One piece is a long trough shaped strip, but isn’t deep enough to reliably keep the candy in the chute as it slides down. The second piece has sides that are high enough to keep the candy in the chute.

I cleaned the chute up, shoving a wet paper towel down the pipe did not get it very clean. The candy now slides very fast down the chute and over shoots the bucket at the bottom. I was sending candy out into the front yard.

I add a 45 degree elbow to the end of the chute as a down spout. Helps but still sending candy into the yard.

The first kids, I had come to the door, had a hard time understanding that they were to stand at the end of the chute and the candy would come to them. In fact the first kid would not move from the chute after he got his candy and stood there waiting for more.

The word got around quickly and kids would crowd around the chute. Some of the older kids would grab the candy before it could fall into the littler kids bag. Thinking back to my past, that is something I would have done. I must have been a greedy kid.

The bottom of the chute, where the candy ends up
Top of the chute

I did practice good safety. I handled the candy with gloves on and the chute was over six feet long. Plus, I wore two masks.

Stay strong, write on, and slide candy slide.

Professor Hyram Voltage

Write What You Know

How can you write about inventors without trying to invent something? I’m not talking about slapping something together on a lark. I’m talking about dedicating part of your life to making something that’s never existed before. That last sentence sounds a lot like novel writing.

To often the story has the inventor grab things off the shelf and make a gadget that saves the day. Deus ex machina. And the thrown together invention always works, never fails and does the job completely.

Inventing is a struggle. Day after day and long into the night the determined inventor battles to overcome what others just excepted. overlooked, or ignored.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but they never mention that bastard cost, the dead beat father of creation. The Wright brothers sought out every book they could get on heavier than air flight. Then they did experiments and found that the “Book” on flight by a famous German scientist was wrong, based on experiments with equipment they constructed.

Tesla used higher mathematics to build his inventions. It takes work to invent, not tinkering.

Go read the Popular Mechanics article on Van Halen and his inventions concerning guitars and music. Don’t touch that big blue thing.

Sometimes progress is measured in explosions and the learning is if you survive the blast and don’t do it again.

Stay strong, write on, and invent.

Professor Hyram Voltage