Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010

November 2010

What a month! I thought last month was busy. I have been takingn every Monday and Friday off this month giving me 4 day weekends just devoted to getting things completed and staged for setup, it’s actually relaxing to go to work now, since I only work 8 hours on the job, versus my 18+ hour days at home. This year I actually have used my time off wisely and completed a lot of the Christmas projects, but it seems like every time I finish something, I remember I still had to work on something else I never finished, one of these years I will stop expanding the display and actually have a schedule I can keep. One more week and we start hanging the lights, I have 9 days off this comming week and it's all devoted to the display, and with any luck we will be fliping the switch the day after Thanksgiving.

We received the correct controller boxes. I still have not heard back from Broadband regarding my return, the last they told me was they were waiting on approval for the RMA (2 weeks now), I don’t think they want this order back. Anyway, the controllers fit perfect in the new enclosures and I highly recommend them for the LOR controllers.

We had to order additional rubber grommets for the wire taps on the enclosures, and after checking Lowes and Home Depot, who used to carry them and have now decided they didn’t need to stock them, putting me into another Google search for grommets, man! these things are expensive, I was getting prices up to $20.00 per 100; finally, I thought I would check Grainger and I’m glad I did, I purchased over 600 grommets for around $12.00 and Grainger has a depot just down the street from my office, plus I get a discount from my work, can’t bet that, I will definitely have to source them in the future.

The new Rainbow Floods have been installed into the fixture enclosures and tested; I was a little disappointed on the performance of the LED Floods, the color is outstanding but the projection of the color is about half of a 150 Watt flood light, I will have to do some tests once we set them up to determine if the will be adequate for my needs, if not, I can possibly incorporate some incandescent bulbs to reach higher up the front of the house.

We added another 3000 feet of SPT wire for all the new elements in the display this year, I have calculated 500 feet already for the elements, but I know we always come up short and with adding another 7 controllers this year maybe the extra 2500 feet will get-r done! (Feature Note: we are approaching 3 miles of electrical cable in this display)

I came across a great deal at Home Depot on-line for SPT1 Vampire Plugs, typically a good price on these is around .60 cents each, HD had them on-line only for .30 each in lots of 100, I don’t think I will ever need that many but couldn’t pass them up at that price, I ordered 100 mail and a 100 female plugs and now I have extra for next year.......Hmmm, I wounder what I can build now?

We started restringing our custom C9 strings with the new C9 Retrofit LED bulbs, and found that I ordered short by 125 C9 LED bulbs……Still trying to figure out how I came up short on the order, the only thing I can think of is; I only counted one string instead of the 3 strings we have, and at $1.00 each per bulb makes this my first Oh-oh expense this year (Laura can only handle so many Oh-oh expenses per season). After logging-on to my friends at Action Lighting and seeing all the C7’s out-of-stock, I really began to worry, but lucky for me they had the C9’s in stock and have already shipped, close call!

We just installed the new EDM-TX-RDS Transmitter antenna on the new EDM transmitter and all I can say is WOW! The clarity is outstanding and the distance is unbelievable, I drove completely around the block with it set at 10mW and heard very little static on the station, it’s so powerful I’m actually going to have to choke it back a bit so I don’t find myself breaking the law. The RDS transmission part of the transmitter still is not working correctly and I’m not going to push to get it configured this year unless I have the time to get figure it out as I have more pressing things to do.

I sent an e-mail to Toys-For-Tots last weekend asking to be a collection point again this year. In the past we have alway collected toys for the Marine Corps Reserve Toys-for-Tots and it has always been a great success. I need to remind myself they don’t always respond promptly and I need to be patient and wait for the reply, but they have always come through in the past and this display has always added a few more toys for them to pass out for the Christmas Season.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October 2010

October 2010 - Holloween

Busy, Busy Busy! Every available minute is being spent on the displays final builds. We have placed orders for the final materials that will be in our show. I’m on my holiday schedule now, taking every Monday and Friday off in the month of November, this should give me ample time to finish up all the projects and start getting things setup. My plan is to start setting up the second week of November and be ready for Black Friday light-up.

24 Corner Stonens Light Bars, what a project this turned out to be, but the effect will be well worth the effort. We originally designed to have the 6 street facing corners embellished with lights, but after doing the math decided to cut back to just the center structure of the house, and with 2011 plans already on the board these elements may not be usable in the 2011 show so we cut back the quantity.

The corner stone’s required 2400 Holes Drilled, 48 Pressure clips, 192 rivets, 2400 lights, 12 Channels of control all in all; the process was so tedious we could only assemble one per night, but we should be completed with this project this weekend.

The Rainbow Flood Lights arrived (, this is another kit project with 54 LED’s per board, these will replace our power consuming incandescent one color flood lights that burn at 150 watts, to just under 4 watts with more lumens (brightness) per unit and the ability to change to 1000’s of different colors all on 12 volts of electricity. 10 Rainbow flood lights are being built currently, we have eight kits assembled a two to go, which should be done in the next day or two.

The Rainbow Flood housing is made from a portable 500 watts work light, where we removed all the internal guts and wiring and retrofitted low voltage wiring, painted the shell green, install mount plates and the RGB boards, giving us a weather proof portable case for the RGB floods that will last for years.

The DC Controller has been tested and working as designed, we finally received our 125 Watt 12 Volt power supply from Circuit Specialists(Cirduit Specialists) that will power the DC Controller. The DC Controller will control all our RGB Low voltage elements in the display (RGB Floods, RGB Wall Wash, and Blizzards), I wish I ordered two controllers, as I have the elements available, I just might pickup another one even if I don’t use it this year, since I will need it next year. Thanks to Greg at Christmas Manor for specifying the DC Power supply.

Arches are still in the works, I have one more strip to put on arch #3, and build the final arch, my plan is to have them completed this weekend, I still have to install the male plugs on each circuit, I found a great deal from Home Depot for Male and Female vampire plugs (SPT2) 100 packs at .30 cents each, those should arrive Tuesday.

We ordered enclosures from the Broadband store, unfortunately I ordered the wrong enclosures and have been trying to return the enclosures for the correct enclosures, I don’t know what the problem is, but The Broadband Store has been giving me a real hassle on returning these enclosures. I have sent three emails, one voice mail before they finally acknowledged my RMA request with the response: “We are waiting on approval”, what approval? I’m returning $70.00 worth of enclosures and purchasing another $100.00 worth of enclosures, I guess their priorities are not on customer service. Regardless of the hassle, I still had to order the correct enclosures and I only did it because the cost is so good not because the company is reputable, so beware and check the size before you buy.

A few local folks in the neighborhood have started design with computer control, I think this makes 5 families in the local area of Palmdale and Lancaster, I will place new links for displays on the web site shortly.

Our daily count-down will begin soon starting in November.

Monday, October 04, 2010

October 2010

Well crunch time is here! Our display for the 2010 season has been designed, the sequence channels configured, and the sequencing has begun. Many of the plans we had will not make it in the display this year, and others may still get cut, depending on our available resources, but the elements we have, will be dramatic and awesome visually. I have 4 new songs that I’m hoping to get completed this year, a few others that I have been working on for the past year, and several that will be re-synchronized to the new layout.

I was able to build a new desktop display host PC this year, out of fear that the little laptop that ran the show for us for so many years would just give up, so it will retire as our failover system should something fail with the new system.

We finally completed the 50 Controller Load Calculators, thanks to another enthusiast and a gentle nudge; it was enough to get me motivated to complete it when others needed it most. The controller Load Calculators are a simple Excel workbook designed for lighting controllers, each lighting controller has specific load maximums that need to be monitored, exceeding these loads could render the controller inoperable, so I initially designed that calculators with that in mind, and it has grown ever since. Everything we do goes through the calculator, allowing us to see maximum loads on each controller, and each controller channel, additionally it allows us to manage every lighting element in our display (Controller Calculator DOWNLOAD LINK).

Our web stats are still going crazy! On September 26th, 2010 we exceeded hits (Visits) to our site over the month of January 2010, which is historically (5 Years) our peak month. September 30th 2010, we had over 3,000 unique visitors, with over 6,000 page views as compared to January 2010: 2,598 visits and 4,127 page views, this is in part is due to the release of the 50 Controller Load Calculator

September 2010 Visits

2010 Visit Count

Another interesting observation we saw has been our international traffic, specifically from the University of Science and Technology of China, with over 40 hits in September 2010 alone, what are they up to?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June 2010

June 2010

Not many Christmas developments in June, we have been just too busy with family obligations. Of course, Christmas is never far from our thoughts. As of June; my funds for Christmas 2010 have dried up, so further expansion for this coming season may be with what we have already purchased, which is a lot of new technology and features, I was just hoping we could have done more this year.

We finally released the Controller light Calculator (Version 3), this has sent our site hits through the roof. I am still making modifications to the Calculator workbook, and trying to finish the user guide, which I am hoping to have completed very soon, I just need to find a few hours where I can focus and get it completed.

I got the swimming pool operational, and cleaned. I only had to clean the filter about 10 times, but its ready for summer and the pool water temperature is currently 81 degrees, just by natural sunlight. We still have to rebuild the pump manifold and replace the salt chlorinator, but at least I have everything running and working, I just have to keep a close eye on things just in case something catastrophic happens.

Little League – As of May 31, 2010, the Quartz hill Dodgers have secured 1st place in league, we have two games left to play, and we have a 2 ½ game lead over our closest competitor, so worst case scenario we will win by a ½ game.

We will be entering the Little League Tournament of Champions that will be hosted at American Indian Little League in Palmdale this year, and if we are good enough the championship game will be hosted in Boron, California (better known as the Borax capital of the world).

The Little League TOC is comprised of teams from every league in our district, and our district is California District 51. California District 51 is made up of 18 Leagues from:

  • Lakes LL (Leona Valey,CA)
  • Palmdale LL (East Palmdale)
  • American Indian LL (Central Palmdale)
  • Quartz Hill LL (West Palmdale)
  • Bishop LL (Bishop, CA)
  • Boron LL (Boron, CA)
  • California City LL (California City, CA)
  • El Dorado LL (Lancaster)
  • Kern River Valley LL (Lake Isabella, CA)
  • Mono County LL (Mammoth Lakes, CA)
  • Mojave LL (Mojave, CA)
  • Monte Vista LL (Lancaster)
  • Owens Valley LL (Big Pine, CA)
  • Park View LL (Lancaster)
  • Rawley Duntley LL (Lancaster)
  • Rosamond LL (Rosamond, CA)
  • Sierra LL (Acton, CA)
  • Tehachapi LL (Tehachapi, CA)
California District 51 is one of the nation’s largest districts (Land wise) in the United States, California District 51 has over 6,000 kids that participate in baseball or softball, and teams can travel up to 300 miles to participate in the District Tournament of Champions.

Bubba will not be playing in the TOC this year, even though we took first place. He broke his wrist May 24th in a 12U Memorial Day Pony Baseball Tournament, and to top it off, he broke it during pre-game warm-ups…….and like a good dad, we didn’t go to the doctor until the next day! Shoot, I thought it was sprained! Therefore, Bubba is benched (Doctors and Moms orders) until July 2 a few days before Little League All-Stars kicks in, and with any luck; he will be voted to participate on the QHLL 12 Year Old All-Star team. Anyway, we did win the Pony Baseball tournament on May 24, shutting-out our opponent in the championship game in a 24-0 victory.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 2010

Display Status:

New C9’s and Strobes have arrived: Our order of 150 C9 LED’s retrofit bulbs and another 24 strobes arrived from Action Lighting. I must say, at first I was not too impressed with the C9’s, but once I setup a test strip, I was impressed with the colors. I have yet to test them on a controller yet, but the specs do say they are dimmable and will do what we need. One nice feature with any LED bulb is the power consumption; each C9 LED will only consume ¼ watt (37-Watts total display) versus 10-watts for each incandescent bulb (1,500-watts total display), giving us a savings of 1,463 watts, that’s like turning off 37 40 watt light bulbs…..I’m impressed!

We ordered 90 new power cords for all the new controllers. We saved quite a bit of money on the cords from Mono Price, but the cords were not stripped or tinned, and we had to strip and tin 270 wires, then install quick connects……what a tedious project, but that is done, and now behind us now.

Little League:
18 games in, and we are still in first place, with one loss.
What a season so far! The Quartz Hill Little League Major Dodgers just keep going and going. We finally faced off again with the Major Rays; whom we were tied with at one time, news of their key pitcher had fingertip issues (blisters) gave us added hope for a win, we knew we could take them with or without their key pitcher. I have coached long enough (15 Years) to know that one player does not carry a team, and I have learned that one pitcher is not strong enough to pitch every game in an entire season; they just break down about mid-season. Unfortunately, the way the pitching rules are written; if a pitcher keeps his pitch count down each game, he can pitch every game. Unfortunately, this rule does not help develop other potential pitchers on the team, and actually harms the pitcher in question in the long-run, I have seen many young men over the years; pushed by their fathers, only to quit out of frustration, or get permanently injured from over working and poor mechanics.

Anyway, we faced-off with the Rays (Dead tie for first), and yes, we saw their key pitcher, but we were ready for him, remember, you can teach anybody to be a fastball hitter, it’s hitting the junk pitches that are hard to teach a batter, but the boys practiced hard over several days and we lit up the Rays pitcher pushing us one game up to take first place. We took four runs from their pitcher, and only gave one in return, dominance from the start of the game.

Since that game, the Rays tied with another team, putting them back another ½ game in the standings, and making our position much stronger. We see the Rays one more time, which I am not worried about, but it is the other teams we need to be cautious about; We have told the kids that they are now the bulls-eye for every other team, there is no greater pleasure in Baseball than beating a first place team, and we are the target! Now is the time to focus, to have purpose, and to get better at this sport.

Our team batting average is still in the high .475 after 16 games, with 21 home runs by seven of our twelve-man roster. We have a team on-base average of 59%, and a whopping 125 RBI’s. Our runs ‘For’ verses runs ‘Against’ is a staggering 167 to 39.

I have been catching for my 18 Year-old in the bull-pin this season to keep him honed, and he is just beating the heck out of this old man. Catching an 83 mile-an-hour fastball really makes you think about your skills as a catcher, but it is all for the good of both of us, we are both working out and getting better. It will be nice to see him play again this summer.
High School Graduation is just weeks away, we are waiting with great anticipation, getting the pool ready, cleaning the backyard, and tuning up the margarita blender, so that Laura and I can celebrate that another child is through the system, and one left to go.

Household Projects (Honey-Do’s):
1) Pool Pump manifold rebuild.
2) Hedge Front and back shrubbery (we have a LOT of bushes, over 40 in the front alone, and the backyard is 10-fold).
3) Fix A/C compressor fan.
4) Replace pool chlorinator.
5) Fix upstairs heater igniter.
6) Something is wrong with the lawn sprinklers, very low pressure, and must checkout.
7) Make and replace patio furniture swags.
8) Put my LT500R top-end back together, and get ready to ride.
9) Fix upper pond waterfall cracks.
10) Strip, stain, and varnish front doors.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

April 2010

Little League: what a start! We actually started out season at the end of February, but due to the nature of this blog and how it is written, it’s always one month behind. Our first game with the mighty Major Dodgers got off to a great start, although we thought we weren’t going to play due to the rain, we did eventually get the game going. We knew we had a weaker team, so we soften up our defenses and let the younger players occupy the infield, while our older players visited the outfield or reacquainted themselves with the bench. It does not really matter what we do, our team is so strong, and they perform wherever you play them.

We have played nine games up to Easter weekend and currently we are tied for first with one loss. Our team batting average is an awesome 498 with our top hitter batting 709, after 9 games we have hit 10 home runs with five of our batters while another two continue to bounce off the fence, This is nothing but a solid team with solid players. I could not ask for a better team! Bubba incidentally is hitting 609 after 23 official at-bats.

We have not done anything with the seven-foot trees yet, I am displeased with the manufactures design of removable branches. We have discussed this at length, and it will be one of those let try something and see projects.

We received our new controllers from Light-O-Rama from the Fall Sale, a new CTB16PC Kit, and a CMB16DC controller, pushing us to 160 channels of control. Having all the controllers will allow me to distribute my power needs more evenly amongst the controllers, dropping the amperage load considerably on all controllers and get the controllers closer to the elements.

The DC controller we purchased specifically for the Blizzard and Rainbow wash LED lights. I am hoping I can gather enough funds to purchase enough Rainbow Wash lights to replace all our flood lights, which is approximately 40 – 150 Watt lights, giving us back over 50 amps of available power, but at $20.00 each, this will be quite an investment, so we will have to see what happens with this element.

We have decided to purchase a new FM transmitter; our old Belkin has LCD screen finally died after 4 years of service, not a bad investment for $30.00. We have chosen the EDM LCD RDS transmitter that is manufactured in South Africa; this has nothing but great reviews and meets the FCC part 15 compliance regulations for home FM broadcast. The EDM LCD RDS clarity is unparallel to other transmitters, and will allow us to broadcast the song titles and artist names directly to the listener’s car stereo. This was quite an investment, but it does play a very important part to our display, without it, it’s just lights.

We started building our four - seven channel arches, two have been built and one is in the works. We planned to do one per week, but we only built two in three weeks. We should have the third built this weekend and the final one at least started.

Bubba and I have decided that we would build a unique twenty-foot tree for this coming year, it so happens that our neighbor decided to cut down a twenty-foot pine tree just at the corner of our property, this will be a perfect location for our twenty-foot flag pole tree, this corner is high terraced and viewable from the main street and will serve as a beacon to our display. This will not be just an ordinary tree, it will be something that has yet to be seen in this neighborhood, and will add that dramatic innovative effect that we always trAdd Imagey to achieve.

We have purchased 125-C9 retrofit LED lights that will replace our incandescent C9’s that currently burn 7.29 amps, the amperage savings alone will be just under 7 amps, not to mention hours of life per bulb is almost 10 fold.

We have also purchased 24 more strobes for the display, pushing our total count of strobes up to 36; this will add to the drama that we can produce with the strobes.

What we have left to do?

Christmas tree builds
Arches (2 built – 2 left)
Corner Stone’s (Design and build)
Mega Tree (Purchase parts, Design and build)
Rainbow Wash (Order and build)
LOR Controller Cases (Order 7)
Re-sequence everything
Secure new charity organization

More to come next month.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

March 2010

OK, not sure what has happened, but our web statistics are going through the roof! We had over 2,300 unique visits, with 4,122 page views in January 2010 alone, that’s darn close to our highest visit count in any one month since we went live back in 2005. February is also blazing with visitors, shoot, I might have to start providing add space on the site.

More Controllers: Light-O-Rama had their secrete sale on February 27th, Yes, we bought 2 more controllers, 1 - 16 Channel PC kit, and our first 16 channel DC controller. The PC kit will get us the channel count we need to be at if we get everything built for the 2010 season, and the DC controller will enable us to implement the new Rainbow Wall Wash and Blizzard elements to our display. We started on our first 7 foot tree build; lots of obstacles will have to be overcome to make this a working element for years to come, but we will get there.

The Controller Calculator has been rebuilt, we identified a few new bugs and have them worked out, and our big delay is the new user’s guide for the Controller Calculator. The user’s guide will be a comprehensive guide, currently 19 pages; the biggest obstacle is explaining the ideas and concepts that we originally designed the calculator for. We have done lots of research on this guide and it should be a great addition to the calculator. We are hoping to release it very soon.

Little League: Well we had our draft for the Major (12U) Dodgers, Paul and I entered thinking we would probably do pretty good having to only replace 5 players, however we did awesome! We thought we might get lucky and pick up two studs (top 90% players in draft) but we ended up with 5 top ranked players to add to our already powerful team of 6 very strong and competent 12 year olds. Our pitching rotation is solid at 7 pitchers. Like I said last month, this will be my final of 15 straight years in Little League Baseball; maybe I learned something after all! Winning isn’t everything! But it sure makes the game a lot more fun and whoever takes over our team next year will have 6 solid players to build from.

Nate has been asked to participate on the Ventura DRays, a Connie Mack league team. The Connie Mack league is an 18U high level, big exposure wood bat league played in the summer. The DRays carry a 30 man roster, and competition for a spot is fierce. I have coached several players’ from previous squads or had the opportunity to play against them in the past; these are really great ball players. It will be a pleasure to watch Nate play with real champions of this sport.

Monday, February 01, 2010

February 2010

What a month! We received our 4 AC controller kits, all have been assembled, tested, and ready for enclosures. The new controllers will bring our controlled channel count to 128, enabling us to do quite a bit of new things with the display, which we will begin, building this month.
We are also testing a few new kits; the Blizzard and the Rainbow Runner. The Blizzard really excites me as it will add a feature rarely seen in personal displays. We are also looking at purchasing a new DC controller this year that will enable us several more possibilities with different products. DMX will probably not be in the mix until 2011, as this will a DMX controller as well as a host of other items.

We have finally started work on the Controller Calculator again, adding several new features, including calculations for DC, I know; A DC watt is the same as an AC watt, but I have had several folks ask for this feature and I decided I might as well include it also. We will be working on the 50 Controller calculator this month also (Imagine have 800 channels to sequence…..insane!) hopefully we can get version 3 uploaded for the extremists among us.

We have uploaded 10 sequences for download to the site, as well as our favorite Christmas Vacation sound bites; a must have for in-between songs. We will be uploading several more sequences trough out the year as we get them zipped and uploaded. I have also added several links to other sites of which the designers are also offering sequences for download.

We will be adding a few new pages to the web site to help organize things a bit. One new page will be for the many links to other displays, vendors, sequence sites, as well as other useful Christmas tech forums.

We will be starting work on our new display elements either this coming week or next; more than likely with the vertical corner stones, and leaping arches. Our corner stone’s will be one of two designs we have developed, we will make the prototypes first, try them out and go with the one with the most effects. We will document the progress of the corner stone lighting since we have several obstacles to overcome getting the implemented.

We bought 5 – 7 ½’ Christmas trees during the holidays, not sure how they will do, what we thought we bought is not what we actually bought; the trees we bought have individual removable branches, which may create an issue on pre-setup, since we wanted to semi-permanently attach the lights to the branches, so this will take some thought on the actual procedures we develop on the final assembly, if at all possible on these specific trees.

Nate was invited up to Cal State East Bay D2 (San Francisco/Oakland area) to try out for the college baseball team. He didn’t have a bad performance, but I know he is capable doing better. Last summer when he was a HS Junior I watched him dominate Westmont College roster from the mound, giving up 1 hit in 4 innings, he commanded the field so much, I thought Westmont just wasn’t capable of hitting the ball until they relieved Nate, Yes, they could hit the ball, 1st pitch from Nate’s reliever was out of the park, 2nd pitch to the next batter; again out of the park……pretty much the same results for the next four pitchers, they got lit up like they were part of our Christmas display.

Nate has been accepted to Cal State Northridge D1 (CSUN), and will be attending their 8 week training camp this summer, hoping to gain more interest in his abilities. All we have to do is keep him focused on the big picture and his choices that will make the rest of his life.

Little League Baseball has started up again for 2010, this will be Bubba’s last year of Little League Baseball, and will again play on the major dodgers (12U). This will also be my last year of Little League; I have spent the last 15 years as part of Little League either as a coach, manager, board member, or umpire. I have lots of memories in this organization and I have seen many of the kids I coached the fundamentals of baseball to play college ball, none pro yet, they are still too young, but I hope I made a positive impact in their lives.

Friday, January 01, 2010

January 2010

Wow, it’s been awhile since I have written anything in this BLOG.

As many of you know we did not have the display this year. We had a stream of problems that made the display impossible to put up, at least to my standards, and I felt it best not to stress myself trying to get it working.

Thank you to everyone whom called, emailed, and stopped by inquiring about the display.

The big question! Yes, the display will return in 2010, and as I write this journal entry, we have already begun building on our 2010 display. All the equipment has been tested and the parts ordered to repair the failed controllers. We have ordered 4 new controllers that we will be building this month giving us a total of 112 controllable channels, of course this means that all the music will have to be reworked to accommodate for the new controller channels.

We have also purchased another 20,000 lights to go with what we purchased last year (20,000), along with 5- 7 ½ foot Christmas trees that will be a nice treat. Some of the other features that we will add are 20 more strobe lights, 4 leaping arches, illuminated corner stones, and retrofitting the C9 bulbs to LED lighting.

Happy New Year!