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December 31, 2005


sit back and
                      enjoy the ride


As with many consumer goods,
old-fashioned Christmas lights
were better than new ones. The
old style had big bulbs which you
could replace; if one burnt out,
the rest of the string stayed lit.
You could use the same string for
30+ years, replacing bulbs as needed.
These were "improved on" by mini-
lights. If one bulb burned out or got
broken, the whole string went dark.
When I was a kid, I remember switching
out whole strings bulb by bulb to try and
find the defective one. My step-father
Otto (a retired engineer) even invented
a minibulb tester, which, like many of his
creations, was clever but wasted more
time than it saved. Ropelights seemed
like a real improvement--encased in a
tough rubber-like plastic, they appeared
weather resistant and indestructible.
But, like many new technologies, they are
designed to soon fail and be thrown away.
They burn out quickly in big segments, and
once they do the bulbs can't be replaced.
These white lights, a gift from my sister,
are the old-style. The first thing I did when
we got home was clip them around the rim of
an old dome hairdryer to make a reading lamp.
   Fittingly, I started to read Garbage Land....