Just relax and look at the center of the picture…

November 18th, 2015

ezgif.com-crop

Keep watching and repeat after me:  “I will come to the light show. I will come to the light show.”

All kidding aside, the new and revised pixel elements are all coming together well and should add some more fun to the display.

We’re down to single digits on the countdown timer. It’s hard to believe that it’s almost time! The weather cooling off and some flurries in the forecast for this weekend will probably make it more believable 🙂  Soon!

It’s the Middle of November Already…

November 16th, 2015

And I still have a lot to do!  Much progress has been made this week, including installation of the new pixel tree, raising of the first layer of the spiral tree, and many smaller items coming together. I also have a final layout plan together, which will allow me to get on with my sequencing. There’s never as much time as I think there will be, so ‘crunch time’ becomes quite hectic. I get to eat, sleep, and breathe lights for a few weeks (yes, even more than normal).

It still looks like the lights will be running November 26, so if the NFL game Thanksgiving night isn’t your thing, and the MSG in your turkey hasn’t induced a coma, come on by and kick off your Christmas season!

In the meantime, here’s a short teaser of the new pixel tree 🙂 :

Opportunities to Give

October 22nd, 2015

It’s only October, but seasonal opportunities to give are popping up already. The first one that arrived in my mailbox is one that I have participated in before:  the Thanksgiving Dinner drive for Kansas City Rescue Mission (KCRM). Each year, KCRM feeds a large number of homeless people, as well as families and elderly folks that are unable to afford or are just unable to prepare a meal themselves. The cost per meal prepared is $2.07, which is quite reasonable, and makes it easy to give enough for multiple meals.

You can donate to the cause through the donation links on our site. Click on the ‘Make a Gift’ button HERE. There’s a spot on their donation page to give for the Thanksgiving Season.

You can read more about the meals services that they provide on page 2 of their Fall 2015 newsletter:  Newsletter.

You can also sign up to volunteer to help deliver meals Thanksgiving morning to shut-ins and elderly. The volunteering information is also on the same page of that newsletter.

We will post more opportunities to serve as we come across them. Here’s to a good Thanksgiving season 🙂

 

 

 

Old Time Radio Christmas, Round 2

September 11th, 2015

radio-xmas

Those of you who have visited our site for a while may remember a previous post about Old Time Radio shows. I posted it a little over a year ago, but those of you who may have missed it are welcome to view that post HERE. This year, I have selected another set of shows to share, and I hope you will enjoy them.

The first two shows share a common theme- one of the main characters in each of these episodes is based on the same person, but you’ll need to listen to see who. In the the first show, Casey is a newspaper crime photographer who inevitably ends up solving the crime that he is sent to take pictures of. You can follow him on this Christmas assignment with his partner Anne, a writer for the same paper. In the second show, Archie is the manager at Duffy’s Tavern. Due to his circumstances, he is down on Christmas. A visitor helps him overcome those feelings in this episode.

Casey Crime Photographer – The Santa Claus of Bums Boulevard

Duffy’s Tavern – Archie’s in Poor Spirits

The next show is this year’s choice for a rendition of Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Richard Diamond is often referred to as the singing detective, as he closes most shows by sitting down at a piano and playing while singing. While his cases can be rough, the show is light-hearted and fast moving.

Richard Diamond, Private Detective – A Christmas Carol

Next up I have episodes of The Whistler and The Shadow. These shows tended to be darker, and generally had tensions surrounding the lead characters. The Whistler would follow along, watching, narrating and giving background information, and usually the shows climax in some type of an unforseen plot twist. The Shadow worked more as an investigator, righting wrongs as he found them.

The Whistler – Christmas Bonus

The Shadow – The Stockings Were Hung

Now, to lighten the mood, I am including an episode of Fibber McGee and Molly. This show was a comedy, and generally has several laugh out loud moments. Many times, the main characters crack each other up during the show, which is always amusing.

Fibber McGee and Molly – White Christmas Tree

Lastly, an episode of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. Dollar is an insurance investigator whose cases are varied and well thought out. When this series ended, with it ended the ‘Golden Age’ of radio shows. I enjoy this series immensely, and present this fun program to leave you with a smile.

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar – The Missing Mouse Matter

Hopefully you have time to listen to these shows, and they can kick off your fall with a yearning for the Christmas Season that lays just ahead 🙂

 

Follow us!

September 11th, 2015

As the Christmas season approaches, we will post more updates as well as fun Christmas-related posts. You can be notified of any new posts automatically by clicking on the “Follow” button in the lower right corner of your screen. Our posts are also cross-posted onto our Facebook page, which you can like by clicking the box at the bottom of the left side menu bar.

Weather is cooler today, and is a reminder that I need to get this show together…  76 more days until we fire up the display.

Breaking the Silence…

September 4th, 2015

At least the silence around here. It been a few months since I posted anything about the show, so here’s my first update of the season to get things started.

New things to look for this year:

– A new all-pixel tree in front of the house

– Pixel candy canes

– A new tree in the front window, that may or may not fit… *look for this one*

– Additional pixels added to existing elements for effect

– Some new sequencing, and maybe some new songs. Time will determine how many.

 

Things that we have added that you won’t see:

– A second Bridge for network communication to our controllers

– Several new small pixel controllers

– Three additional 8 channel controllers for standard light strings

 

In other news:

– Two other local animated displays are closing down due to job relocations, and will not have shows this year:

– G-Town Lights in Gardner

– Simmons Holiday Lights in Lee’s Summit

-We would like to publicly thank Tyson and Chris for the shows that they have put on, and the friendship shown while they were in town. The Animated lighting community is a fairly small one, and we hate to see them go.

 

 

2014 Videos

February 23rd, 2015

I have posted a handful of videos from this year’s show HERE

They’re not spectacular, but you can definitely get an idea of the scope of the show.

-B

And That’s a Wrap

January 6th, 2015

It’s hard to believe that the season is already over. Granted, when one invests the amount of time into a display that we do, it seems like it should be left up for about three months, but I digress. It was a good season. We spent a handful of nights out on the drive handing out candy canes and meeting people. We made the front page of the paper. The show ran with very few hiccups. I only had to repair a couple light strings for the whole run. Our new pixel elements and electronic hardware worked perfectly. Traffic was up, as were donations. Speaking of donations, WE RAISED JUST OVER  $600 FOR KCRM! Our totals over the last couple of years had been in the $320-330 range each season, so this is a nice increase for us.

Well, now to put together a plan for disassembly and get started on next year…  Happy New Year and thank you for all the support.

Two more nights…

January 5th, 2015

If you want to come out and see the display, you have two more nights! Tonight, 1/5, and tomorrow, 1/6. There will also be a few random nights for getting video, but I’m not publicizing those 🙂

*As seen on the front page of the KC Star!

Media Recognition

December 22nd, 2014

We’re honored to have been part of the KC Star’s write-up on elaborate light displays:

http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article4829961.html

I made a small mention in the article, but got the majority of the photos spots 🙂

Christmas Time is Here…

December 22nd, 2014

holiday-stress

It’s hard to believe it, but we are only a few days from Christmas already. Many people are in the last minute shopping, rush to prepare everything, pull your hair out crazy, mode. It is easy to fall into this routine every year- trying to have that ‘perfect’ Christmas, forcing tradition in the name of ‘good’ memories, and trying to reproduce the type of Christmas found only on the screen and in lore. While it is easy to fall into this type of behavior, I try to avoid it by remembering a few simple things:
-If you’re tired and stressed out, no one will have fun around you. The only memories will be of ‘so and so being grouchy all weekend.’ Relax, rest, and enjoy yourself.
-In the same vein, don’t try to force it. You don’t have to have every second planned. Relax, rest, and let the spontaneous happen. There’s no need to get in the way of it.
-Eat sensibly. No, don’t start on ‘salads only’ the week of Christmas. That’s just setting yourself up for failure. Eat sensibly: reasonable portions, limited junk food, drink plenty of water. You will feel better if you aren’t bloated, and sleep better without the associated heartburn.
-Volunteer. Remembering that there are always people that are worse off than we are helps us to be thankful. Volunteering in some fashion to help the less fortunate helps us focus on something other than ourselves, immediately getting us out of the ‘woe is me’ mindset, and helping lift spirits all around.
-Remember why we celebrate. It isn’t the gifts, nor the family gatherings, nor the mall, nor the tv specials. A special Gift was given, one to be celebrated for all time. Take some time and get to church. Singing carols by candlelight is one of the most relaxing, mind clearing things a person can do during this season.

When you have time, drive by and listen to the lights. They run every night from 5:30p.m. until about 10:45p.m. We are still collecting monetary donations for KCRM, and we are out on the drive many evenings, handing out candy. Come by and say hi!

Look for us in the Star

December 17th, 2014

I had a fun time tonight with a photographer from the KC Star. He came out to take pictures of the display, as well as some behind the scenes shots. I had a few breaker issues, as the the show is usually only about 15-25% on at any given time, but I had large amounts of it lit for photos. He took it all in stride, and got photos he was happy with, so we should be good to go. I’m unsure what they will produce, but I know they have spoken to the owners of several of the large displays in town, so it should be interesting, anyhow.

Tour Bus Visit

December 7th, 2014

Before I moved into my current house a little over two years ago, I lived on the main Christmas light driving tour in Johnson county. Consequently, I had limos and tour buses come by the display, which was neat. Now that I have moved to more of an outlying area, I haven’t had that happen, until last night. I was out front, talking to Chris S, who has a display over on the other side of KC, and a tour bus came crawling around the corner. I talked to him for a few more minutes, then walked over to the bus to make sure they had found the radio station and everything. The driver asked if it was my house, and when I said yes, he asked me aboard to talk about the display to the group of senior citizens that had chartered the bus. I gave a brief, non-nerdy run down on the display, and they all applauded. Pretty neat. Glad I was able to add something to their tour, lol.

Site additions and updates

December 2nd, 2014

Now that the show is once again underway, I have some time to pick at the website. I am reactivating the calendar for the show season. I have once again included information about the Advent Season and its progression. New for this year are short daily readings taken from Surviving Christmas, a devotional Ebook published by my friend, author Anne Miller (link). Anne is a fun, quirky author who draws from her personal experiences to write in a refreshingly honest, open manner, confronting some of the holiday headaches we all face. I hope you will enjoy them. I have also taken a bunch of show photos, which I need to go through and get some posted up for this year.

Come out and see the lights!  If you do, let us know! Post your photos on our FB page! Help get the word out and increase our traffic at the show! The more people who view the show, the more funds we will collect for KCRM. It’s a win/win.

They’re on!

November 27th, 2014

After a few weeks of scrambling, the lights are on! I have a couple more things to add tomorrow, but the basic show is up and going. Basic preview here:

I hope you have a chance to come by over the next several weeks and ‘Listen to the Lights!’

-B

City of Shawnee Christmas News

October 9th, 2014

If you share the city of Shawnee with us, or just live locally, there are a couple of Christmas-related items that I wanted to share:

First, the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund is open for donations. The City sells ornaments for $5, which will then be placed on the Mayor’s Christmas tree. All funds then go to Head Start of Shawnee Mission.  It seems like a no-brainer to skip a lunch out and help out a low income child and their family. See more details here:  Christmas Tree Fund

Second, Shawnee puts on an event known as ‘Christmas Around Town.’  This event takes place on Saturday, Dec 6, starting in the afternoon and continuing into the evening. Events include the Mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, a visit from Santa, carriage rides, and even live reindeer! If this event doesn’t get you geared up for Christmas, then I don’t know what will.  After the event, come by our display and cap of the evening with some lights!  Event details here:  Christmas Around Town.

-B

Charity

October 2nd, 2014

October. Already.

As we near the holiday season, charities will once again begin to vie for your attention. From bell ringers to homeless shelters, food pantries to clothes closets, there are a great many charities that deserve consideration when deciding where to donate your money or time. Many people have a certain charity to which they donate yearly during the holidays, while other people prefer to have hands-on experiences by volunteering at local shelters or kitchens. Some people do not reach out to help others at all, and I believe they miss a great opportunity to better themselves as well as those around them. If you are someone who has not taken the time to engage in charity, I would challenge you to make that effort this year.

There are many ways to help others, and one of the organizations that I support is Samaritan’s Purse, and their Operation Christmas Child campaign. The basic idea is that people purchase small gifts, school supplies, socks, or any number of other small items that would benefit or entertain someone in a poor area abroad. These items are then placed in gender-specific shoeboxes, which SP deliveries to poor areas world-wide. Along with the shoeboxes, they present the gospel to box recipients. This is a pretty simple concept, but the scope of the operation is huge, with shoeboxes being delivered to nearly 75 countries each year.

Something else I found out about OCC this year is that they are providing discipleship materials to leaders in the areas where the boxes are being distributed.  The materials provided are 12 lessons, collectively titled The Greatest Journey. Use of these lessons helps those children who make decisions for Christ begin to learn and live out their faith.

I would encourage anyone who is looking for a way to reach out this holiday season to consider making up a shoebox (or several), and brightening the day of a child who likely has little to nothing.  If you have children, get them involved as a way to plant seeds of giving in their hearts.  There are many drop-off locations in the KC metro (and nationwide, if you aren’t local to us). You can find more info at the links below. -B

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/the-greatest-journey/

Banned?

August 19th, 2014

Sorry if any of you have encountered a ‘You Are Banned’ message when trying to visit here. I had an some issues with my blocking plug-in, including locking myself out… sheesh. Anyhow, the issue is resolved. Thanks for your patience. -B

Progress Toward the 2014 Show

July 22nd, 2014

It’s been a time of planning, trying to get all of the display updates and changes laid out, and then procuring the necessary controllers and lights to make it all happen. I think I have everything accounted for (crossing fingers).

Recent progress includes:
-Completing three additional 8 channel controllers for some added versatility
-Completing a fourth 64 channel controller, which has been tested and will be a backup for the three of these that are already used in the show
-Ordering pieces for a new controller, affectionately dubbed the Renzilla, that in basic design is able to control 96 channels. The controller is extremely flexible, though, and with a couple of small adapter plates, I will have it running approximately 530 channels, more than last year’s entire display. This will all be used to control one new display item.
-I have purchased a number of blue led lights in order to begin switching over the longer lasting, better looking leds. I started with blue because most blue mini incans look like junk right out of the box and I hated the thought of buying any more.
– I also found a cache of new mini incans in red, green and clear, which will replace a number of faded strands, and also be used for expansion. Total lights bought so far, approx 33k.

I hope to have all the new electronics built and tested in the next couple weeks, the get my channel profile laid out and begin sequencing while finishing up new display items. Lots to do, and time will grow short quickly. Here we go 🙂

 

Old Time Radio Christmas

July 16th, 2014

radio-xmas

 

Those of you who know me, likely know that I enjoy listening to radio shows from the 1930’s-1960’s. I primarily like the detective and police dramas, but there are also some westerns and comedies that I listen to regularly. Most of these shows were weeklies, and reflected the season in which they were broadcast. Many of the shows did Christmas episodes, some funny, some more poignant. As I like most things Christmas, it should come as no surprise that many of these episodes are among my favorites. I have uploaded a few of these shows, and will list them below with a brief description of the series. Most of these shows can be found on archive.org by searching for Old Time Radio, or OTRR. Happy listening 🙂

First, an episode of The Saint, featuring Vincent Price. As The Saint, he helps people who end up in difficult situations. His character is similar to a detective, though not in an official capacity.
Nineteen Santa Clauses

Next, an episode of classic Dragnet. Jack Webb played Joe Friday, a detective in LA. Most episodes are fairly dark, with bits of humor thrown in. For several years, the show titles started with the word ‘big’
Big Little Jesus

The next show is an episode of The Six Shooter. James Stewart plays Britt Ponsett, a drifter in the old West. Though there are many classic radio versions of Dickens’ Christmas Carol, I chose to share this interpretation.
Britt Ponset’s Christmas Carol

Most folks are familiar with at least one iteration of Sherlock Holmes, and his partner, Dr. Watson. This is a Christmas episode from an early radio series from 1945. Don’t let the title throw you- it has nothing to do with the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.
The Night Before Christmas

The next two shows are both feel-good shows. They do a good job of evoking some of the emotion that is tied to the Christmas season. The first is an episode of Gunsmoke. The Gunsmoke radio show is wide recognized as one of the best-written of all classic radio shows. It is one of my favorites, as well. I enjoy this episode, as it verbally paints a great picture of a Christmas in Dodge City. The second show is from Nick Carter, Master Detective. This show generally had a fast pace, and shows tended to wrap up quickly, almost too quickly at times, due to the amazing observations of Nick Carter. This episode, though, is a roller coaster of emotion, and ends grandly. Keep a Kleenex handy 🙂
Xmas Story
Nick Carter’s Christmas Adventure

The last show is from the series Broadway is My Beat, a police drama from NYC. This show tended to be dark, and not all episodes ended on a high note. Lt Danny Clover, the main character, tends to be a cynic. His character is offset buy an offbeat sergeant who keeps the mood lighter.
Nick Norman & Santa Claus

I hope you can make time to listen to at least one of these. These old shows are truly treasures. -B

More lights?

July 15th, 2014

Yes, more lights… I think I have purchased all the lights I will need for replacements and upgrade for this year’s show. I stumbled into a large cache of unused mini incans (which really helped my budget), and also purchased all my blue lights in LED from Paul at Creative Displays, taking advantage of some generous sale pricing. This is the first in my steps to move the display to LED, so I will have less strands to repair or replace each year, and cut down on some of the electrical load that the incan bulb produce. I am also in the process of completing a new storage building, and once done, it will be onto building new items for the display.

Some goals for this year’s display:
-Fill in some of the empty space in the front yard
-Find a method to fill the driveway and help help the cohesiveness of the layout
-Simplify assembly and connections

We’ll see how it goes, and keep updating here on the progress…

Traditions

June 13th, 2014

Almost every family has some holiday traditions.

I remember as a youngster going out driving to see Christmas lights. We grew up in a rural area, so this was no small venture- we often drove into a nearby town, just so the houses would be more condensed and we had a better chance of actually seeing some lights. I also remember that, each year, my sister and I would exchange our presents on Christmas Eve. Then there was the plywood Christmas tree cutout that my dad had made, which we hung on the bedroom door and decorated each year.  Even further back, I remember being in a Christmas play at the Lutheran church we attended, and not being able to sing Silent Night without choking up. Even then, the songs of Christmas got to me.

As a father myself, we have started some traditions of our own.  There are the lights, of course. We also enjoy driving around to the local displays and visiting Longview Lake’s display each year. We have a daily advent calendar that my mother made for us, and we couple that with reading and discussion of the Christmas story.  The kids decorate our main Christmas tree with their Hallmark ornaments- each child gets to pick out a new one each season, which we purchase and hang the next year.  That tree also gets the ornaments that my mother makes for the kids annually. It is a fun, colorful tree.  My wife and I (mostly her) also do a ‘pretty’ tree, with ribbon and more classic decorations. The lights start running Thanksgiving night, and Christmas music plays for much of the season.

Something I have just found out in the last couple of years, is that my wife’s grandfather did a large Christmas display, well before they were common or popular. I had heard snippets and bits about it, but that was about it. Recently, however, I have come into possession of a video of his display from some time in the 1960’s. Much of his display was hand built. It included not only lights, but also a life-size nativity scene, Santa and his sleigh (with reindeer) on the roof, a singing snowmen cutout, and the really unusual part- an animated snowman playing a pipe organ! None of these items could be picked up at your local big box store, so his creativity and ability really came through. I have a newspaper clipping from the era, showing that he won a decorating contest put on by the local newspaper.

Though I started my lighting hobby before I knew the full extent of his display history, I would like to think it has become a part of the tradition of our family. I hope that my kids will not lose the fascination and joy of Christmas, and will follow the examples set generationally by sharing it with others.

Here is a video of Charles Spendal’s Christmas display:

2013 Videos

May 2nd, 2014

For those of you who have asked about videos from the 2013 season- I have them recorded, but will need outside help to combine multiple angles into one video. I have found someone to do this, it is just a matter of getting together to get it done. Hopefully I will have them posted prior to this year’s show 😉

It’s been a little quiet around here…

May 2nd, 2014

…but that doesn’t mean we haven’t made any progress!

Our latest news of note is that the first pixel matrix proof of concept is functional:

Stay tuned, should be a fun season!

B

 

Quiet, but productive

March 20th, 2014

As usual for this time of year, we find ourselves deep in the throes of planning, collecting, and building, getting things ready for this season’s show.  I have added 10 new controllers for this year, giving me more flexibility in the layout of channels, as well as incorporation of more wireless controllers. Just last night I updated the firmware on all 8 wireless units that I have on hand, as well as setting them to operate on a different channel to eliminate some interference issue that we had last year.  Also, I am currently awaiting the arrival of some pixels to assemble and test my scrolling signs. I have to do some pvc construction for a new element, as well as revamping the giant candy cane.  Once the basic layout is complete, then it is back to sequencing. Lots to do, and the summer will fly by as soon as it gets here. All of our time management skills are put to the test 🙂

Happy First Day of Sping!

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