Yes, back again for yet another year are the Controllable Halloween Decorations for Celiac Disease where you can not only view the 10,000 lights and inflatables via three webcams, but you can control them - i.e. inflate/deflate the giant Frankenstein, Pumpkins, Grim Reaper, Skull, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Homer Simpson - D'OH! ;-)
Speaking of kids, people ask how they are doing (great) ... although Dirk was a bit chilly after doing
the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (with a garbage can!) ... and we had a super-duper fun time doing a week long rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. While Wendy was off to Africa for a couple of weeks, I had my own local wildlife experience taking pictures of some really cute Cooper's Hawklets nesting in my neighborhood.
'Tis the holiday season and the Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease are back online ... for the FINAL year.
Three live webcams and X10 technology allows web surfers to not only view the live action, but also *control* 20,000+ lights ... plus inflate/deflate the giant 15' Santa Balloon, Santa on Skis, in a Helicopter, and flying a Plane ... along with Elmo, Frosty Family, SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Homer Simpson Santa - D'OH!
The website is totally free (and totally fun) but also raises awareness and funds for charity via optional/voluntary donations - over $80,000 for the Center for Celiac Research. I've supported this world-class research organization for almost a decade and even though I found out last year that the original Celiac Diagnosis of my kids was a false positive (nutshell summary is medical science is "hard" so not always 100% correct), I'm still helping them raise awareness and supporting research for an eventual cure.
As implied by the subject line, Alek "Griswold" is hanging up his Santa hat after this holiday season ... :-(
For over a decade, Alek's Controllable Christmas Lights have been an online festive holiday tradition for millions of Internet users world-wide ... here's an entertaining snippet of just some of the media attention. See how the Christmas Display has evolved from 1999 to present ... and follow along this year on the Christmas Blog.
There are a myriad of hilarious stories through the years ... most notably from 2002-2004 when the technology wasn't quite there yet so I had to do a simulation - finally had to reveal as it got outa hand - read more here about the Great Christmas Lights Hoax of 2004! ;-)
There were many "challenges" doing it for real such as getting reliable wireless connectivity to the webcam at the neighbor's house, replacing burnt out lights (one goes out, they all go out darnit!), squirrels chewing through the wires, water causing the GFCI's to trip, swapping X10 Super Sockets in the power panel (often during sub-zero temperatures), dealing with 70+ MPH winds (the greatest enemy of holiday displays is winds), scouring garage and post-holiday 50-75% off sales for lights/decorations/inflatables, dealing with the media (they can be a PIA at times ... but I did enjoy the Heli ride!), the occasional knucklehead on the Internet (more than balanced out by the 99.9% of folks who loved the interactive display), and having my family "put up" with my craziness - "Alek I need to drive out of the garage - can you please move Homer Simpson?" - D'OH! ;-)
It's been a fun run ... with the best part being the countless messages from people saying it has brought some joy into their lives. But it's time to "retire" and wanted to finish "bright" in 2014.
A special thanks to my Mom who flies out most Thanksgivings to help me setup - that's her in the last picture with the "Elmo Santa" she put together out of (literally) parts from Goodwill. And a Happy (decade) Birthday to my wonderful wife Wendy.
Merry Christmas and HO-HO-HO!
My wife Wendy ROCKS on her 50th birthday and last call on the Controllable Christmas Lights.
My recent "broadcast" Email talked about how it's the last year for the Controllable Christmas Lights for Celiac Disease ... and WOW, was there an outpouring of heartwarming messages (at the bottom of that link) from people around the world. Pretty amazing how many people have enjoyed this festive holiday tradition for so long - my favorite message was from DaveT who wrote: "When you started doing this my daughter was 1 she is now 11 and has grown up looking at the lights each Christmas and Halloween."
More on that in a bit, but first (and more importantly), I also mentioned that my wonderful wife Wendy was celebrating her 50th birthday - I appreciated the wishes about that and she just had a fantastic weekend getaway to some Colorado Yurts with her girlfriends. Our family celebration was a super fun rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho this summer. In my book, there is even more than 50 ways that Wendy rocks - see picture below.
Back to the Controllable Christmas Lights. For those that have asked, here's the complete history (overly long video I made a few years ago) and a compilation of various TV appearances has some good comedy - "Clark Griswold move over!" It really has been a fun run.
But with "Alek 'Griswold'" hanging up the Santa Hat, is anyone interested in taking over ... or should I put up a (funny) Craigslist ad to sell it all? And does the buyer have to take everything down from the roof, house, and yard?!? ;-)
One last holiday wave in the picture below - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
P.S. I've had several people ask if I could continue the Christmas "virtually" ... as was done in 2002-2004. That's a pretty wild idea and might be kinda fun to dust off the old Perl ImageMagick code. While I won't be setting up the christmas display next year, I did take a series of still photos of each zone this year ... HO-HO-HO! ;-)