Saturday, November 22, 2008

How Get Me To Cuss Like a Sailor,

One Thing I Hate About Christmas,

You Gotta Have the Right Tool for the Job

It takes a bit to get me rattled. I'm usually described as calm and even tempered. However, at the beginning of every Christmas season, my vocabulary is reduced to four letter words strung together in tirade of filth and foul. What, you ask, could possibly reduce this otherwise mild mannered father of 4 into a crazed hate spewing monster?

Simple, the lighting of the Christmas Tree.

Yes that time honored tradition of Daddy putting the lights on the tree while expectant children impatiently await their turn at decorating the tree.

It got so bad that a few years ago my wife decided to purchase a pre-lit tree.
This certainly would be the end to all despair and restore peace in our home at the beginning of the holiday.

The situation has only gotten worse. Now every year I wrestle this 200lb monster out of the attic and down the steps. When I get it set up and ready to plug in, I wait expectantly like Clark W. Griswold for the 1000 light extravaganza assembled by some penniless sweat shop worker who will never see the finished product in all its glory, and think to myself how smart I am to have authorized the purchase by my wife of such a holiday shortcut and then, drum roll please...


Now I've been told by countless thousands about how these days Christmas tree lights are now wired in parallel, not like the old days where if one bulb was out, then the whole strand was out. I remember as a boy helping my poor Dad unscrew and replace every bulb from our old school, over sized, C-9 1/4 colored lights. This method worked great as long as you only had one light out, but heaven forbid you have multiple failures on a single strand. You could be hours replacing bulbs.

Today it's supposed to be different, but you know that isn't true. We've all seen sections of lights out in an icicle strand. How is this possible.

Two years ago, I wore my fingers out while replacing each bulb in the broken part of the strand. Each socket has a little plastic lock and then the replacement bulbs have these little filaments that have to fit into little holes just so.

Generally, in today's economy with the aforementioned sweat shops pumping out strands of 100 lights for $2.99, it's just easier to traipse off to Walmart for another set.

This was my plan last year. Angela and I just purchased a couple of additional strands to replace the sections that would not light. We discovered, however, that the sweat shop employees were diligent workers and had secured the wires to the prickly branches with a dexterity unmatched by soft American computer user hands. Six man hours later and looking like a couple of first year marrieds had wired their first Christmas tree, we had replaced the two burned out sections.

This year I was determined to outsmart the Christmas Tree Light Grinch and I Googled for possible solutions on how to fix Christmas tree lights.

Could it be true? Could it be possible? The Light Keeper Pro was the answer to all my holiday problems. God bless Google and God bless Rich Frederick.

I ran down to my neighborhood Ace Hardware store so I could pay full retail price for this tool. Not to be tricked by some snake oil salesman, I took the top of my tree with me and I planed to test the Light Keeper Pro on site at Ace and return it if I was disappointed.

The nice ladies at Ace made wonderful suggestions, "Honey, why don't you just buy another strand?" and "You could just wrap some new ones in with the old ones." but I was undeterred.

I bought the Light Keeper Pro, found the nearest outlet and proceeded to follow the instructions to a "T". Surrounded by Ace hardware staff and customers, I was prepared to pull the trigger the maximum of 20 times in order to get my lights working but with one unclimatic pull of the trigger all the lights came to life. It has worked as advertised. Christmas is saved.

Most miniature Holiday Light set failures occur when an individual bulb "shunt" fails to energize. These shunts are energized when a filament burns out. This causes a section of lights, usually 35 or 50, to go out instead of just one light bulb. This is because miniature light sets are wired in "series" and electricity must flow through each bulb, to the next, for them to light. The LightKeeper Pro Quick Fix Trigger sends a shaped, electrical pulse through the defective bulb, clearing the shunt. This allows it to operate properly. The current can then flow through the light set completing the circuit and illuminating the other bulbs.

I completely endorse this product and recommend it for every pre-lit tree or lawn ornament user.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wisdom at Waffle House

I met a man last weekend who gave me some unsolicited advice but I haven't been able to shake it.

He was a working man in blue coveralls with his name embroidered on the pocket. He was an older, local fellow with some teeth missing and askew. He noticed me waiting for a table and stopped to comment on my children. He mentioned that he had raised 3 girls in his lifetime. And then proceeded to give me some advice. I leave you with his own words as best as I can remember them:

"People say raising girls is harder than boys, but I say it's easy. You just gotta be right there for them when they need Daddy. When I'm at work and I get a call from home, I just close up my tool box and head on home. My friends ask me, 'Don't you have a job?' but I tell'em my wife has 3 kids to raise and she can't do it alone."

I've reflected on his words all week and they strike a chord within me. You can find morsels of wisdom anywhere you go.