Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Shortcuts make for long delays

We have an old proverb in Swedish: “Genvägar är senvägar” – meaning that trying to take a shortcut often makes you late instead of saving time. When I searched  for an equivalent in English, all I found was a quote “Shortcuts make for long delays”, accredited to J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings. I think he probably borrowed that from the Swedish saying…! But it’s the “point” I’m after here, not the origin.

Have you ever done anything that you thought was going to make things easier or save time, but that ended up the opposite? I did, this week. (And I’m not referring to the time spent in search of impossible translations.)

Next weekend is 1st Advent Sunday, which is the proper start of Christmas preparations and celebrations here. And of course that means we need a pre-Advent week (at least) to get ready for Advent… I do, anyway!

So I started this weekend by putting up my “Christmas” curtains in the kitchen. We do that in Sweden – change curtains for Christmas; especially in the kitchen. Mine are red-and-white checkered and as they have a neutral pattern like that I usually have them up from mid/late November until mid/late February. (In the other rooms I don’t change curtains. Not this year anyway.)

I also usually start early with my outdoors lights on the balcony, and that’s where I ran into trouble this year. I decided to “make things easier” for myself by buying a new set of lights enclosed in a plastic tube, like this (this is not the one I bought, but similar):

 Outdoor Tube Lights For Trimming Your House and Yard

I bought it in good time, and this weekend I put it up. It was indeed easier to put up than my old kind of arrangement (which involved fake spruce garlands and a separate strand of little bulbs). I was also quite pleased with how it looked. I could have lived with it… If not for…


… the problem which arose after I’d had it on for about 30-60 minutes: Gradually, as I sat in the living room watching TV, I became aware of a very irritating humming, whirring, noise…

At first I thought the sound came from the timer I had connected the lights to – it was a rather old one. So I removed the timer. But soon the noise started again, and it turned out to come from the transformer…

No, no, no – not that kind…

(blame it on Google image search!)

That’s more like it.

So I tested the lights on and off for a while… It turned out that when the transformer had warmed up a bit, it started to purr. Put the lights out and let if cool off, and then it was quiet when I turned it on again… For half an hour or so. Then it started again.

The sound was much too loud for my “comfort” and I decided it would soon drive me mad. But this of course meant that I had to get out on the balcony again the next day and unwind and disassemble the whole thing, and leave the lightsnake to dry, and then make it go back into its little box (which at one point seemed impossible, but at last I succeeded).

Yesterday the weather was so miserable outside that I really did not want to set foot outdoors at all.

Today, however, I took the box back to the supermarket where I bought it, and said I wanted to make a complaint. Of course the first girl behind the counter could not handle something as complicated as that, so she had to call a supervisor; and then I had to wait while the supervisor “tested” the appliance – even though I explained carefully from the beginning that the noise does not appear until after half an hour or more. She tested it for half a minute and said she could not hear any noise… Duh! She then said that some of the various lights they had on display in the store also make a noise. (Duh! again… Very reassuring…) I said well, I have several other kinds of electric transformers in my home, and none of them makes a noise like this - I don’t consider it acceptable, and I want to return it! So eventually I got my money back.

Then I went into the store to buy another set of lights. As I did not trust the kind I had just returned, and that was the only “tube” lights that they had, I went for another type this time. I also took the trouble of checking those on display… following the cord to the transformer plug… and listening… (hoping no one to be watching!) Finally I found one that seemed to be able to shine silently, and, fingers crossed, bought one of those.

This time I first tested it indoors, spread out on the living room floor for about an hour, to make sure that this one would not get into humming mood too, as soon as it had made itself at home.


It remained quiet, however, so then I took it outside. Of course the trouble with this one was, instead, that it liked to tie itself into complicated knots while I twined it round and round and round four meters of balcony rail (with my fingers getting ice cold from the rain).

After finishing the job, and testing that it worked… I sighed. No, it was not humming… But it just did not look right. Even though it had LED-lights, and twice as many lights as my old strand of bulbs, this one too really seemed to cry out (silently) that it would be much happier in the company of some fake spruce twigs, and not just the bare metallic rail…

So I had to unwind the whole chain again… go down to the storage room and get out the spruce garlands… then prepare the rail as usual by winding plastic clingfilm around it (because the wires in the garlands tend to leave marks of rust if I don’t), then put up the garlands, and then do the whole round-and-round twirling of the long knotty strand of lights again…

But now it looks good! – and hopefully we’ll have a bright and quiet Advent and Christmas together…



  1. after all: this finally looks very wonderful now. well done - also that you changed the light-tube. I can absolutely understand that a 'purring' transformer is annoying.
    I have a lamp that starts 'purring' when I dim the light - it's unbearable! so now the lamp is always either off or brightestly on, but nothing in between. sad to say it was the purring dimmer I paid for expensively ....
    Wishing us a calm advent!

  2. You went to great lengths (pun fully intended) to have that beautiful Christmas decoration on your balcony, Monica!
    But how typical of the supervisor in the shop to say there wasn't any noise after testing the lights for half a minute, when you so clearly explained to her that it took at least half an hour for the noise to build up...

    I love the idea of changing curtains for Christmas! There are no curtains in any of my rooms, but I will get some decoration out this weekend and get ready for the 1st Advent Sunday, too.

    Yes, it does happen to me, too; thinking I can save time and effort and then my intended shortcut makes things take longer and harder!

  3. Good grief!!! We have those encased light tubes here, but to me they just are not as twinkly and inviting. Yes there are usually things wrong with shortcuts. Your final solution is beautiful! I didn't peek till I was done reading, what a pretty surprise!

  4. Thanks. I have to say I'm pleased with the result myself now - finally. So much work involved though! Ah well, now it's done, and I intend to let it stay up for two months at least, after all the trouble I had putting it up!!!

  5. I feel so silly! I already follow your other blog, I'm happy to find this one too. You don't look like I expected. Isn't it funny how we conjure up in our minds what a person looks like from just what we know from what they photograph or write? You are so cute, and not your age either!
    My furnace when it's not heating has a buzz too (only heard when it's absolutely quiet and I'm near it, thankfully). It drives me nuts, I keep thinking I'll have it checked, but...

    1. Norma, it may be I who am silly to be keeping different blogs ;) The thing is, I like to work with black background for some photos, but I don't like a lot of text on black background. And this, after I'd been blogging for a while, resulted in two blogs. This one for a mix of various things, and the Picture Book with focus on my photos. (Although I am aware that as technology has developed, some followers may be seeing a different layout on their screens than I do when I "compose"...)

  6. I love this header about shortcuts. Aussie humour is full of irony and a shortcut here may just be the long way round. It definitely depends on the context. A shortcut during a trip from Rome to London could easily include Tokyo, Denpasar, and Berlin if the tale is related orally. Your Christmas lights must be from Australia and that is why you ended up on the scenic route.
    The buzzy noise? Why that is the dandruff of life. What??? Yes, without some dandruff along the way one just might be a dead manikin. Proof of life and all that. Yes, Batman/Superman/Mr.Bond you are still alive and feisty.

  7. It has taken me 24 hours to think of it but the English equivalent - as near as it comes - is "More haste less speed".

    1. Thanks. I don't think I ever heard that phrase. I wonder if I'll remember it next time I need it? ;)

  8. Ho hum. Bruv's got there first. Perhaps I'd picked up his vibes (brother's do that) and had come up with the same answer. It was such a common saying at home when we were children as it was with our children.

    The final result is beautiful Monica and, though perhaps not as easy is certainly much more attractive than the tube. I hope you think it is worth the effort.


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