An overhead projector in the front window

As I was walking near campus recently, I came across a curious sight: the front window of a home filled with an overhead projector. It was facing inward, not working as an old-fashioned Christmas projector for the yard. I have never seen such a scene.

Why was the projector in the window? My first guess is that the owner is a teacher or educator of some kind. Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago that these devices were used in numerous classrooms at all levels. From my elementary through college years, instructors frequently used them. While they were being phased out while I was in college, some of the older faculty still used them regularly. (Indeed, I recently showed a class a YouTube clip of physicist Geoffrey West making a presentation about cities at the Santa Fe Institute with the help of an overhead projector.) Even early in graduate school, I remember hearing advice that a presenter could have overheads as a backup should a Powerpoint fail to load. But, you would be hard-pressed to find one in a classroom on my campus today (though they and the film projectors only disappeared in the last few years). I have no idea what happened to them.

The overhead projector preceded bulky TVs on the way to the landfill – if you can find people willing to take them – and perhaps they will a return as a retro decorative item…

Time of year for HOAs to crack down on holiday decorations

As Halloween decorations emerge, homeowner’s associations are back to patrolling displays. See this example in Naperville:

After neighbors complained to the Ashbury Homeowners Association board about the traffic and noise created by the celebrated house decorations, the group installed rules that thwarted Thomas’ plans.

“I am disappointed,” said Thomas, who has lived in the 1100 block of Conan Doyle Road in south Naperville for 21 years and has decorated his house for the past 18 years. “For a lot of people, the house has become a tradition and it is something people look forward to.”

Thomas’ display has grown over the years, and now includes over 2,000 pieces with lights and synchronized music. Visitors to the cul-de-sac have also grown — he estimates about 8,000 people visited last year alone — which is why neighbors raised concerns about traffic and safety with the Ashbury Homeowners Association board.

The board notified neighbors via its October newsletter that a “Holiday Decorations Rule” was voted on and passed at its Sept. 21 board meeting. The rule limits a person’s decorations to 50 percent of the yard, excluding lights, and restricts the display to 30 days before and after the holiday.

I can see both sides to this story. The homeowner may be asking why the association is now instituting these rules. He has had displays for years; why now? The HOA might say that the displays keep growing and attracting thousands of people disrupts the neighborhood. On the other side, suburban residents tend to prefer quiet streets and neighbors that don’t draw negative attention to themselves (even if they are raising some money for charity). The owner could respond that these are just temporary decorations. The final guidelines may be reasonable: a homeowner could still do a lot with 50 percent of their yard and thirty days before and after provides around 60 days for the displays.

To avoid issues such as these, wouldn’t homeowners associations be better off having such guidelines on their books from the beginning or before such situations arise where single owners feel like they are being singled out? Associations are often pilloried for having silly rules on their books but they can help cut off situations such as these.