What’s Your Halloween Personality Type?

1. What’s your pumpkin-carving style?

A. I choose the perfect pumpkin, create an original design on paper, create a template, and then cut the pumpkin very precisely and painstakingly.

B. I dig the plastic pumpkin out of the back of the hall closet and blow most of the dust off.

C. I don’t decorate for Halloween.

D. I carve my start-up company’s logo into the pumpkin, then take pictures and post to all my social-media sites. It’s a festive decoration and free advertising.

E. I enjoy carving faces.

2. What’s your approach to distributing Halloween candy?

A. I engage each child in conversation to determine whether their treats need to be gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, or sugar-free.

B. I point at the candy bowl and say “help yourself.”

C. I turn off the porch light and don’t answer the door.

D. When parents come to the door with their children, I invite them in for a drink and a marketing presentation.

E. I make sure everyone gets what they deserve.

3. It’s two days before Halloween. What last-minute supplies do you buy?

A. None. I’ve already carved my jack-o-lantern, sewn homemade costumes for my children, put up decorations, and bought a carefully-selected assortment of candy.

B. A few bags of fun-sized candies to replace the ones I bought last weekend but ate already. And some beer.

C. Blackout curtains and a “No Solicitors” sign for my front door.

D. None. I’ve already picked up the candies that I had custom-wrapped my company’s logo and web address.

E. Extra-large garbage bags, duct tape, an area rug, and a shovel.

4. Halloween is a good time to …

A. Impress the neighbors.

B. Eat candy.

C. Turn out the lights and hide in the dark.

D. Network with people from the neighborhood.

E. Dispose of a body.

Happy Halloween! If you’re looking for last-minute advice, you may find some of these older posts useful:

For costume ideas, why not try some of these Reese’s-themed fashions?

Don’t want to spend the evening handing out candy? Try some of these alternate candy distribution methods

And it’s always a good idea to follow these simple Halloween safety tips

I’ve switched to a different mail-sending mechanism, so if you get these posts by mail and anything looks strange, please let me know. And as always, please feel free to follow my sad, lonely Facebook page.

Oops! Some of you may have gotten two copies of this in the mail. Sorry about that — it won’t happen again.

I’m Sorry Your Child Disliked My Halloween Treats

Look, I’m sorry. I know everyone expects candy on Halloween. The thing is, I’ve been on a kind of health kick lately, and I would have felt hypocritical handing out sugary junk. I thought a selection of healthful snacks would be a nice alternative.

Image via Wikipedia

I realize that Habanero peppers and durian aren’t to everyone’s taste — I included those mostly as an option for more adventurous kids — but I had no idea the apples would be so controversial. I honestly thought most people liked apples, and that kids in particular liked those little single-serving packs of apple slices. I wanted to give out something like that, but without the chemicals they use to keep the slices from turning brown — because really, who can say with any certainty what the long-term health effects are? I’d feel terrible if an innocent child suffered because I gave out apple slices loaded with artificial preservatives. So, out of concern for the children’s safety, I gave each one something even better: a slice-your-own-apple kit containing a locally-sourced organic apple and a slicing implement. And yes, razor blades may not be the ideal tool for the job, but paring knives and even steak knives are prohibitively expensive, and disposable plastic knives are bad for the environment.

I understand that, for whatever reason, you disapprove of my entire selection of treats, including the apple slicing kits. Lesson learned. But it’s not like I held a gun to your kid’s head and forced him to take them. Not a real gun, anyway, although I admit that, as toy guns go, mine is actually pretty realistic.

Again, I apologize. I can see now that you and your kids had your hearts set on candy, and I’m sorry I disappointed you.

Got leftover candy? Check out last year’s advice on what to do with it.

Towards a Less Intrusive Halloween: Alternate Candy Distribution Methods

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking forward to handing out candy to all the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood, except for the part where you have to stop whatever you’re doing, open your front door, and dole out candy every time the doorbell rings, which in my case is every 90 seconds or so for about three hours. The good news is that there are several less labor-intensive candy distribution methods available; this guide will help you select one.

Start by looking at your front door. Is there a doggy door installed? If so, chances are you own a dog, which  you can probably train to pick up a piece of candy and carry it to the children outside while you relax in comfort on your sofa, sipping an adult beverage and cheerfully yelling “Happy Halloween! Fido’s had all his shots, so don’t worry about any tooth marks or dog slobber you may find on the candy!” Note: do not attempt to do this with a cat. Cats have better things to do with their time.

Even if you don’t have a dog, you can still take advantage of the doggy door. Just use whatever robotic or remote-controlled device you happen to have handy — a Roomba, a bipedal bicycle-riding robot, a toy car, or a robotic toy mouse — to transport candy from inside the house to the children outside.

If you don’t have a doggy door and can’t or don’t want to install one, you still have other options. If you have a large front porch or a flat roof, you can set up a candy catapult, which is pretty self-explanatory. The great thing about the candy catapult is that the kids don’t need to get anywhere near your front door to get their Halloween treats.

The one disadvantage to the candy catapult is that you have to stay on your porch or roof to operate it. If you want to be able to move around during the evening, consider setting up a system of pneumatic tubes running from your front door to various locations throughout the house. Just leave a supply of candy near each endpoint, and you can shoot a treat to the front door whenever you hear the doorbell.

If you don’t have a large front porch or roof access, and your landlord stubbornly refuses to allow you to install a doggy door or pneumatic tube system, you can always have an Internet-themed Halloween. Simply create a web form that prompts the user for his or her name, address, candy preferences, and food allergies. Then generate a QR code for the form, print it out, and tape it to your front door. Instead of ringing your doorbell, kids will use their smart phones to read the QR code, visit your web site, and enter their information. The next day, you can distribute candy to anyone who filled out the form, by either going door-to-door or using FedEx.

The cost of Halloween candy for dozens of trick-or-treaters can really add up. If you’re on a tight budget this year, consider setting up a candy vending machine by your front door. Let the kids pay for their own fun-size Snickers.

Check out these Halloween safety tips from last year. They’re just as relevant now as they were then.

We Have Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself. And, Of Course, Zombies.

Warning: this post contains many run-on sentences. Proceed with caution.

I once watched the movie 28 Days Later right before going to bed. This was a mistake; watching a bunch of fast-moving rage-filled zombies viciously attack and eat people makes it kind of difficult to drift gently off to sleep. Technically, I probably shouldn’t call them zombies, because they’re alive and infected with a disease instead of dead and, you know, zombified — but it says “zombie” right there on the movie poster, and regardless of what they are, you still don’t want one of them biting you, because then you’ll get infected and all you’ll ever want to do is attack and eat people, which will put a huge strain on your personal relationships and also probably make you lose your job because you keep skipping work to go on violent rampages and even when you do show up you spend most of your time biting people even though you’ve already been warned about your company’s no-biting policy several times. And then you won’t have an income, and although your living expenses will go down because you no longer have to buy food because you’re eating people instead, you still won’t be able to pay your rent, which means you’ll have to move in with your parents, which will be even more awkward than you might have imagined because even though your parents never expressed any strong opinions about cannibalism while you were growing up, they turn out to be pretty closed-minded about it. So of course you’ll eat them, which will seem like a good idea at the time but will mean there’s no one left to pay the rent on their house, so you’ll wind up out on the streets and even worse off than before.*

The point is, it’s a scary movie. So I was still a little frightened when I went to bed after watching it — which only got worse when I started hearing frantic scratching and clawing noises right outside my window. I’ve heard these noises before: directly under my bedroom window, there’s a screened-off entry to the crawl space under my house, and I sometimes hear sounds that turn out to be either an animal trying to get into the crawl space for warmth or an axe murderer trying to get into the house to kill me. So far, it’s mostly been animals:

Type of intruder Number of occurrences
opossum 58
raccoon 42
skunk 15
axe murderer 0
unknown 23
zombie 0

Whenever I hear these clawing noises, I remind myself that there haven’t been any confirmed axe murderers so far. But then I think, well, I guess that means we’re due for one, until I remember that probability doesn’t work that way: the likelihood of it being an axe murderer this time is independent of the number of previous axe murderer visits.** But I still haven’t gotten around to looking up axe murder statistics for my neighborhood; all I know is that I’ve never seen a report of one in my local newspaper, which means they must happen so frequently that they’re not considered newsworthy. Often, by the time I finish with that line of reasoning, the noise has stopped, so I count that as “unknown” in my ongoing intruder tally.

But this time is different. This time, I’m not thinking about axe murderers; I’m thinking about zombies. And while I know that zombies don’t exist, that doesn’t make me any less concerned about the possibility that there’s one right outside my window. So I’m lying there in the dark, afraid to look at the window because if I do then whatever is out there will become real. As long as I don’t look, it’s simultaneously a harmless raccoon and a murderous zombie in the same way that Schroedinger’s cat was both alive and dead, or dead and not-dead, which means that whatever’s outside my window is basically a Schroedinger’s zombie, which I can almost deal with except for the fact that “dead and not-dead” also describes a regular garden-variety zombie, which means there’s a zombie in my garden — and as I’m pursuing this train of thought, my cat jumps onto the bed. I’m so startled by this that I leap three feet into the air, still completely horizontal, like a cartoon character,*** which frightens the cat, who jumps even higher, which apparently scares off whoever or whatever is outside. And I suddenly realize that my zombie was an imaginary zombie, just like Schroedinger’s cat was an imaginary cat.

*Some of this is speculation on my part. The movie tends to focus less on long-term economic and social outcomes and more on short-term murderous rampages.

**Well, almost. An individual raccoon or axe murderer’s decision to visit a particular house is likely to be influenced by his or her prior experience with that house, so the events aren’t entirely independent.

***I’m pretty sure that’s impossible. But that’s how it felt.

Better Living Through Candy: Creative and Practical Uses For Halloween Leftovers

It’s the day after Halloween, and chances are you either have more leftover candy than you know what to do with or know someone who does. Traditionally, people in this position are advised to either eat the candy (but not all at once, and possibly chopped up and baked into another dessert or sprinkled over ice cream) or give it away (to coworkers or to charity). This year, why not try something different?
Continue reading “Better Living Through Candy: Creative and Practical Uses For Halloween Leftovers”

Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Here are some simple tips that should help keep it safe and fun for everyone.

1. When planning your children’s trick-or-treating route, stick to residential neighborhoods. Try to avoid deserted industrial areas, construction sites, and toxic waste dumps.

novelty contact lenses2. Novelty contact lenses can add a new dimension to a Halloween costume.  Please get yours from a licensed eye care professional; resist the temptation to create your own using an empty plastic water bottle, a razor blade, and a set of colored markers.
Continue reading “Halloween Safety Tips”

How to Write the Perfect Mystery Novel

As a public service, I offer these suggestions to aspiring murder mystery writers who want to improve their work.

1. If at all possible, have the murder occur on Halloween. Halloween is the best day of the year to dispose of a body — you can walk around in blood-stained clothes, carrying as many severed body parts as you want, and people will just think you have a really cool costume. Of course, there’s always the possibility that, once people hear the news that a murder has occurred, they’ll have second thoughts about the costume they saw — but that’s okay, because they won’t know that you were the person wearing it. Remember, on Halloween, you can wear a mask.
Continue reading “How to Write the Perfect Mystery Novel”