Time Off for Halloween

HalloweenI’m out of town. I had to go down and visit my sister. Her daughter (my niece) is getting married next Tuesday, and I am here to help. Or I’m on vacation. It isn’t really clear. The truth is that when I’m at home, I have a very hard time not working. It’s just so easy to slip into work for lack of anything better to do. But given that the last couple of years have been pretty thin on paying work, it is welcome. Of course, I am working, as you can tell from this post. And I’m doing some of the paying stuff too.

As I’ve noted before, Halloween is probably my favorite holiday. I just love the iconograph. I also love that it is a nighttime thing so the world doesn’t come to a stop for it. And I love decorating for it and giving out candy. That’s another thing. I’m well known for being a “bad influence” on children. It’s really just that I have no trouble getting into the same head-space as kids. And given that I don’t have to be responsible, I can encourage them to be just what they want to be. Fun for me — but not generally for their parents.

So it is nice to be able to give candy to children in a socially acceptable way. And it is nice to be able to scare them in a totally non-threatening way. My favorite things are ghosts. They are fun to make. But I did something different this year. My brother-in-law is way into pumpkins. So we carved three pumpkins. I don’t remember doing this since I was a kid. This is odd. But I just don’t think in terms of pumpkins, even though they are one of the best things about the holiday.

I noticed that the bigger you make a mouth the friendlier it is. If you limit the amount of light that gets gets out of the pumpkin, the more sinister that it gets. I could see myself getting into this — buying a dozen pumpkins and trying different things. And that’s what it would take, given that I’m not that good with visual stuff. Speaking of which…

My sister recently got distance glasses. I tried them on and I was amazed: the world had returned! My eyes have gotten steadily worse and worse. I’m to the point of using my reading glasses all the time. That means the world more than a couple of meters out is blurry — whether I have glasses on or not. But wearing these distance glasses made my eyes young again. It was wonderful. And not just because I could see long distances, but because I knew that there was a technological fix to my problem. Very exciting — a wonderful holiday gift!

So I hope you all have a wonderful Halloween. Decorate your home. Stockpile loads of candy so you will have plenty left over so you have plenty candy — What are you going to do? Throw it away?! — while you watch a “scary” film. I recommend House on Haunted Hill:

More and More Oil as Global Warming Continues

Smoke StacksEarly this month, I wrote, Global Warming and the Insanity of the GOP. In it, I discussed this recent series of articles from Inside Climate News that documented how Exxon’s own scientists had been warning the company about global warming 40 years ago. What did they do? “Exxon and the other oil companies responded in exactly the same way that the tobacco companies had responded to the research that showed it caused cancer: denial.” That’s not hard to understand. But even I have a tendency to forget just how big the incentives are in this regard.

If you are my age, you remember back to the 1970s and the gas lines. That had nothing to do with actual physical gas shortages. The government had simply implemented price floors. But it didn’t stop people from talking about oil shortages and so on. The truth is that we are not looking at physical oil shortages any time in the near future. We are still discovering huge oil fields. For example, in 2000, the Kashagan Field in Kazakhstan was discovered. It contains an estimated 38 billion barrels of oil — 13 billion recoverable. That represents upwards of a trillion dollars. And that’s one oil field, discovered quite recently.

Similarly, the Lula Field off the coast of Brazil was discovered in 2006. It has almost 8 billion recoverable barrels of oil. That’s roughly half a trillion dollars. This is not just a tremendous amount of money. This is a tremendous amount of money that no one even knew about a decade ago. There is no way the people who work in the oil industry are going to stand aside and say, “We’ll pass on this money for the sake of the world.” They are going to use all the tools available to them to manipulate science, public opinion, and politics to keep this money flowing out of the ground.

This all takes me back to Chad Stanton and his idea of Impulse Control and Global Warming. We are constantly told that the problem with poor people in this country is that they lack impulse control. But global warming is a perfect example of how the rich have no impulse control. The idea of doing something for the long term is anathema to the capitalist way of looking at things. What’s the overall sustainability of the planet compared to a small number of people making a lot of money over the next quarter or year? This is the equivalent of eating your seed corn, except in this case, it is one or two people who eat it, so there isn’t even widely shared short term benefit for the long term tragedy.

It’s easy enough to focus on things like the Ghawar Field in Saudi Arabia, which was discovered in 1948. It remains the largest oil field in the world with production of 5 million barrels per day — roughly $100 billion per year. It’s just oil that is sitting around. But ExxonMobile and the rest are not just waiting to extract the oil that we know about. They are pushing forward to find ever more oil. And it is there to be found! And I fear that as long as there is big money to be made, they will continue to do so.

Morning Music: Yat-Kha

tuva.rockWe get to the end of our week of my boss’ selections. Unlike similar weeks, I think this one has worked really well. The music has been great. It makes we want to check out more of this kind of music. That’s especially true of the music of the Sahara. But we are going to stay in Asia for the last day. In this particular case, we are listening to Yat-Kha from Tuva — pretty much Mongolia.

It does a lot of different music. In general, it is pretty west-friendly. But the vocals are very much throat singing. I think it works pretty well, but it still bugs me. This is “Coming Buddha” from their 2003 album, tuva.rock.

Anniversary Post: Halloween

HalloweenIn the United States, Halloween is the favorite holiday of many — adults and children alike. Celebrated on October 31. All Hallows‘ Eve originated from the ancient Celtic festival Samhain (for some reason pronounced “say-win”) which celebrated the end of the Gaelic harvest season. The Gaels believed that on that day the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead became fluid, allowing the dead to come back to life, bringing illness and other evils. Masks and costumes were worn to appease the dead. Of course, the living were also capable of wreaking havoc. Trick-or-treating, for example, began as a fun bit of extortion: give us a treat or else.

Scottish immigrants brought their versions of Halloween when they came to North America in the 19th century. Other western countries didn’t embrace the spooky fun until the late 20th century, developing all the imagery of witches and ghosts, bats and ghouls that delight and terrify.

A similar holiday, celebrated November 1 and 2, comes from southern and central Mexico: Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). The indigenous peoples also believed that, at midnight on October 13, the boundaries between the living and the dead opened, not to let evil into the world, but  to allow the spirits of angelitos (deceased children) to reunited with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come to enjoy the festivities prepared for them. That afternoon families go to the cemeteries to clean tombs, listen to music and reminisce about the loved ones no longer with them.

The holiday also corresponds with the annual migration of monarch butterflies, which, according to traditional belief, are the souls of ancestors returning to earth for their annual visit. Such a beautiful thought.


It’s a charming variation of Halloween, based on close family ties and community. It’s filled with sugar skulls (calaveritas de azúcar), ornate costumes, flowers and food. If you’ve never seen an ornately painted sugar skull, you’ve missed out. My paternal grandmother was born in Chihuahua, Mexico. I don’t know if she ever celebrated this holiday as a child since her father was German, but I’m sure she must have experienced some of the treats.

I found an image at ColoringShapes.com that I modified to possibly embroider.



Mexican Sugar Skull
Halloween History