Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Finally finished the garage display

So, I finished the garage display last night at 11pm right when Joey and John finished their sequencing. I'll take more detailed photos tonight and post them. I really like the gingerbread display and the USA tree this year. We've planned a lighting ceremony for this Friday at 6:30, so I need to figure out how to schedule the show in the Show Editor. Neighbors have remained positive about the display. Hopefully it will continue. The strobes aren't as blinding to drivers as I thought they would be...good news. And the north poles can be turned down to 50% intensity, so they are not too bright. They have 40 watt bulbs because 40 watters are 75% cheaper than 25 or 15 w bulbs. Every little bit adds up.
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95,000 hits on CopelandChristmas!

Holy cow! Since June 14th when I set up my web stats account, we've had 95,000 hits. We had 7,200 within the last 7 days alone. Wow! We should celebrate when we hit 100,000.

Radio Station Signs

I just picked up the signs from the store. They are 18 x 24 and are mounted on coro. They are also laminated so they will last several years and won't scratch if bumped. They turned out great. We'll put spot lights on these. If you want to do a sign like this yourself, see my How To page for downloads and a quick tutorial.
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Testing the Lights

Lastnight, Joey & John spent hours sequencing one of the songs. It's a great U2 Christmas song called Baby Please Come Home. You can see their command station in front of the mega tree. It's a table, chair, and a very long USB cord. We're all getting excited.

Tonight, i nee dto figure out how to schedule the show to come on at 6:30 automatically, then loop until 9 or 10pm each night. I have the software, I just need to figure out how to use it.
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Got a good manger shot tonight

Joey and John were sequencing for about 4 hours tonight fron the street near the manger. I love the new camera.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Santa's Marching Band (Mr. Christmas)

It's raining outside, but it will only last a few minutes (Florida rain). Here is another shot from today.

I was sitting in the garage under the workbench I painted white a few months ago. I've hung Santa's Marching Band with staples and attached it to a remote control. Then, I hot glued decorative trim (something I found at home depot) to the under side of the work bench. It really looks good and it'll be great to have on a remote control. Everyone I talk to agrees these soldier are cool, but not for more than 5 minutes.
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Very Busy---Quick update

I've been so busy the past week. It was my b-day on Wednesday and I got a new Canon Rebel XTI!!! Here's what I captured with it this morning. Doh! Both the garage door and the ladder still work. I did have to use a hammer to whack the ladder free. Just another one of those things that suck up 15 minutes HERE...and 15 minutes THERE...and that's why the display isn't done yet :)

...but I have an awesome camera!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

USA Christmas tree

Here's a shot of the village scene under the USA tree in the garage display. You can see the top of Tigger's head at the bottom of the photo. The tree is one of my faavorite parts of the garage display so far.
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Mega Tree

Here's the shot of the mega tree at the end of tonight. it's not hooked up to LOR yet, and the 12 slices are still bunched together. But it works!!!
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Raising the Mega Tree

Here's Joey raising the mega tree for the first time.
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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Copeland Christmas Display Set Up

Generally speaking, John is in charge of the outside and I am in charge of the inside. John is making great progress with Joey's help. Today, they set up Santa's Runway, the north poles (not up yet in this photo), the manger scene, part of the mega tree, and red lights in the bushes.
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The Engineer and His Mega Tree

This is my brother Joey and the first trial of the mega tree topper. It's a wooden bunn with coat hooks. The flagpole is 20 ft, but we'll only raise it to 15 ft. It is just simply too big at 20 ft.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

How to Wrap an Extension Cord...Without Tangles

Well, after more than 3 hours untangling, labelling, wrapping, and zip tieing extension cords, I was pretty frustrated. I remembered an old friend used to wrap them kind of funny to avoid messy tangles. So, to the internet I went...I googled "how to wrap an extension cord."

So, here's a few of the dozen videos which explain in detail how to wrap an extension cord.

By the way, one of my all-time favorite youtube videos is "how to tie your shoe lace in one second." Check it out too.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Read the ransom note. It explains everything.

It was all John's doing (idea, cutting, glueing, blindfolding)!!!!
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Another shot of the kitchen Cabinets

the scene is about 3/4 done in this shot.
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Christmas Decorations in Kitchen

Here's this year's kitchen cabinet display. I like it alot. It's not completely done yet, but it's close. It needs more foo foo (that's what John's grandmother called it and that's what I call it). This is our first year with the NOEL lettes. I'll get a better shot because they shimmer in the light and are really gorgeous. The reindeer with sleigh was an impulse buy (John not me) from yesterday. The Annalee's are from an sale this past January. Four of the angel motionettes are from a thrift store.

I know this is not the best shot, but I couldn't hold the light fixture with one hand and take the photo with the other.
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So, Where Are Your Lights?

So far, we've got the roof outline and roof icicles up. All the other lights are inside. This may seem crazy to keep track of, but it's so easy to run in an enter a line to the spreadsheet.
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5,611 Lights Are Up So Far!!

Joey and John got a lot done today. So did I.

They outlined the whole roof with white GE 200 ct commercial grade lights. Yesterday, John put up the icicle lights. Tomorrow, the 17 stripes go up. The outline of the roof (above) used 1700 bulbs. We've dedicated three channels to the outline and two to the icicles.
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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Christmas Light Power Consumption Excel Spreadsheet

I spent 5 hours last night with John laying out maps, extension cords, controllers, security cameras, and power grids. I was going to use 3x5 index cards (one for each of the 64 channels). With Microsoft Excel 2007's new conditional formatting, a monkey could calculate power consumption. I still need to learn how to do Vlookup formulas. It's a breeze to move around strands of lights and instantly see how the total power is affected.

We have 4 controllers. The black grid is a screen shot of controller #4. All 16 of the channels are calculated and tallied automatically. The controller can handle a total of 15 amps. As of right now....

controller 1 - 14.91 amps used (.09 amps free)
controller 2 - 14.54 amps used (.46 amps free)
controller 3 - 14.88 amps used (.12 amps free)
controller 4 - 14.90 amps used (.10 amps free)

If we were to replace the 15 amp fuse in each of the 4 controllers, we would be able to draw 20 amps per controller. I'm not going to start messing with a circuit board though. Maybe next year.
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Slowly but surely

John got the icicle lights up in 5 hours by himself. I helped untangle and test the strands :)

200 bulbs per strand x 17 strands = 3,400 icicles bulbs
.51 amps per strand x 17 strands = 8.67 total amps
Half of the icicles will go on controller 1, channel 16.
The other half will go on controller 3, channel 8.

We estimated that we'd use 20 strands and we actually used 17...I'd MUCH rather over-estimate than under-estimate!!!

The Stuart Air Show was today, so we took a break from hanging icicle lights to watch an F-16 Fighting Falcon do a 15-minute routine. It was pretty cool and we plan on going to the airport tomorrow so we can see him perform (again) up close.
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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sunsetter 20 Ft. Telescoping Flagpole

The concrete has cured and the flag is flying! I didn't know it's acceptable to fly the flag at night as long as there are spot lights on it. We'll have to get some permanent spots. We kind of like the flag in the front yard. Nice iron stain on the planter, huh?
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Computer Controlled Lights Testing

Here's a shot of "Area 25." Uh...anyway...we had to move operations from the garage to the back porch. You can see Joseph in his manger supporting an LOR controller panel. The long flat board at the bottom right is the revised 17-hole roof panel. I have another 13 holes that represent the mega tree immediately above Joseph's head. I screwed the controllers to plywood so that they don't rest on the floor. They are supposed to be upright and away from anyplace that may collect standing water. I'll get video up soon.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Light-O-Rama Testing

I really need to work on getting the sequences done. Today, I drilled 17 holes in this piece of wood. The intent was to stick a single C7 light bulb in each hole, then hook up the lights to 17 channels on the LOR controllers. It will help to see the bulbs blink (for real) as opposed to watching the computer animation. When sequencing really fast songs, the animation does not sync perfectly on the screen. So, after I drilled all the holes, I tried screwing the bulbs in to the wood.......and found out that the wood is too thick. It's 3/4 inch pine.

Not having any other wood on hand, I drilled holes into cardboard (look under the wood). I knew the cardboard would be too flimsy.
Having wasted a few hours of prescious time, I went to Home Depot and got a piece of wall panneling for $.41. It had a dinged up corner so it was on clearance. I drilled a new set of 17 holes, popped lights in, hooked it up to LOR, and voila!
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Monday, November 5, 2007

Christmas Train Track in the Garage

Here's another shot of the christmas train track. Around the bend, I made the garland slowly move from the outside to the inside. The track is 5.5" wide by .75" thick. I should measure the track itself to see how many feet of track we have. I bet the garland is a 25 ft. stand, so maybe I can formulate an estimate based upon the garland.
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Stapled through Christmas lights

So, I have been stringing blue LED icicle lights under the train track today. Then, I hid the wires with green garland. It's slow going. I thought about doing the stringing before I raised the track, but I thought this way would be easier. It will sure turn out better than if I did it upside down, then flipped it. I'm using those 3M adhesive hooks. They're under $4 per package; each package contains 24. I used one package today and estimate I'll need another 5-6 to finish the project.

I hesitated to staple the stuff because I want to be able to resuse the track for years to come and not have to worry about staple holes. Plus, staples are much cheaper than adhesives. So, on my third staple, I shot one right through a strand of lights. Great. At least I was smart enough NOT to have the strand plugged in. So, can I pull out the staple, and continue? Or is the strand trashed now? If it does work, will it be dangerous? I dont know these answers, so I've posted the questions on Planet Christmas. Two people have replied saying the same thing:
Make sure the set is unplugged. Pull out the staple. Look at the wire, is it damaged at all? If the coating is damaged but nothing else, use electrical tape. If the wire is damaged, cut out the bad part, reconnect, cap it, and apply electrical tape. Even better is heat shrink tubing the same size as the wire if you happen to have any. Basically you want to make it waterproof.
Since, this is an indoor strand (which I failed to mention in my original post), I think it will be OK if I just put some tape on it and continue on.