Tips for Interviewing

August 4, 2022

I’ve discovered that many extremely experienced & smart people still commit common interviewing faux paxs.  Here’s some things I’ve learned over the years:

  1. ALWAYS GET REFERRALS
    The best roles come from referrals. Never rely on job postings. Asking people to refer you should be the minimum, however people referring you for jobs unsolicited are the best.  Your professional network is one of your most important career tools.
    [Sidenote: Incidentally, the same holds true for buying a home. Never rely on the public listings or the MLS. The best home buying opportunities are the ones your real estate agent gets you before they are publicly listed.]
  2. REQUIREMENTS = SUGGESTIONS
    Never choose not to apply for a position because you don’t think you have all the job requirements listed.  No one does.
  3. EXPERIENCE = FOOT IN THE DOOR
    Your skills & experience for a role is only 50% of the hiring criteria. Interviews are granted based on key skills & experience but after that, it’s everything else that matters.
  4. PROFESSIONALITY + PREPARATION
    Soft skills, research & networking can fill a lot of holes in one’s resume.  Use your network to learn as much about the position, the team, the company & especially, the hiring manager.
  5. NEVER STOP INTERVIEWING
    Even if you get passed up for job #1, keep in mind that the hiring team may give you a referral for job #2.  (See bullet 1 about referrals)
    [Sidenote: This is how I got my current role. I was referred by the San Francisco office to the Los Angeles office for another role. I’ve now been here 27 years.]
  6. IT’S NEVER “JUST BUSINESS”
    Careers are extremely personal. For me, the individual that coined the phrase, “It’s just business,” isn’t the kind of teammate I’d want to work with.
  7. INTERVIEWING IS A 2-WAY STREAK
    They’re not just interviewing you: You’re interviewing them. Check to make sure the manager is strong & supportive, the team is made of good people, the company is ethical & the role is as advertised.
  8. BEWARE RED FLAGS
    If you’re frustrated because of a poor interviewing process/experience, is this honestly a role you want?  You’re giving them your time & potentially your talent – they should respect that.
  9. CAREFULLY CRAFT YOUR RESUME
    Resumes matter.  If you’re fortunate enough to have a recruiter or hiring manager actually check your resume, know that resumes tell a lot about a candidate beyond skills & experience. For example:
    1. Can they communicate effectively & concisely?
    2. Did they research what we’re looking for & have they made it a point to highlight that in their experience?
    3. Do they want to hop to another job every year & if so, are they worth onboarding?
    4. Can they be honest about their skills? How will their skills hold up upon direct questioning?
    5. Are they a details person or a big picture person?

Guidance for good French Press coffee

July 30, 2022

How to make great French Press coffee:
(Stolen from AllRecipes & some other YouTube sources)

  1. Grind beans as fresh as possible
  2. Coarse grind about like coarse salt – NOT PRE-GROUND
  3. Ratio: 60g to 1L of water/16g to 250ml (See below for table)
  4. Heat water to a boil then remove from heat to settle from 212F to 195F
  5. Pour some boiling water into decanter to pre heat for even brewing & consistency, swirl & dispose
  6. Pour coffee directly into press decanter & then pour water over covering all grounds – do not stir with a spoon or agitate beyond the pour
  7. Let sit for 4 minutes in open air: grounds will settle
  8. Remove top layer / crust with a spoon being careful not to stir coffee
  9. Cover press decanter but do not press down!  Instead for a smoother flavor, simply use top UNPRESSED as a filter and pour ALL coffee into cups or thermos. (Pressing will reagitate the coffee, produce residue in your cup & make it more bitter)
  10. Stir cups/thermos & serve

General rules for coffee/water ratio:

  • 1 cup water (8 fluid ounces) — 2 tablespoons coffee beans (14 grams)
  • 2 cups water (16 fluid ounces) — ¼ cup coffee beans (28 grams)
  • 4 cups of water (32 fluid ounces) — 1/2 cup coffee beans (56 grams)
  • 8 cups of water (64 fluid ounces) — 1 cup coffee beans (112 grams)

Why are UCLA/USC Athletics moving to the Big 10?

July 3, 2022

imageI really had to double click on this because I was as astounded at the move as everyone else was.

But upon investigating the rationale behind UCLA/USC’s move to the Pac-12, the opportunity is an absolute no-brainer for both the Big 10 and the two Los Angeles universities.

CONFERENCE CONSOLIDATION
First of all, conference changes are happening everywhere. See: https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/conference-realignment-tracker-ranking-top-moves-for-the-upcoming-2022-2023-college-basketball-season/

What you see is universities taking advantage of the opportunities in front of them & consolidating to put themselves into the best positions possible strategically & financially for their programs.

So why are conferences consolidating?

It’s simple: You can make more money together in volume, than you can negotiating separately.  If you have a lot of marquee names, you can negotiate for things like TV rights much more effectively than small market names.  And university athletic programs are being forced to find more ways to make money to be viable/effective in the future.

But why did UCLA & USC, who have such big brands go to the Big 10?

SEVERAL REASONS FOR UCLA TO MOVE TO THE BIG 10:
I’m sure there’s more than this but this is just what I’ve been able to research so far:

  • NIL & ADVERTISING DEBT
    The Supreme Court NIL ruling put the power to make money into the hands of the athletes.  Conversely, the NIL ruling has taken a massive revenue generation stream away from the colleges. $100Ms of dollars, in some cases & that has to be replaced or the programs will go bankrupt.
    https://trace.tennessee.edu/jasm/vol13/iss2/8/
  • MARQUEE NAME REVENUE
    ESPN, Fox & service providers pay more for marquee match ups of big markets (Los Angeles, Michigan, Ohio) not small markets (Corvallis, Pullman, Arizona) Separating from lesser known Pac-12 conference members for marquee names in the Big 10 negotiates much bigger revenue for TV game rights. Bottom line: Playing conference games against Michigan, Ohio St, Michigan St, Wisconsin, Penn St, Nebraska, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, etc. brings in far more revenue from national networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN, FOX.
    https://archive.ph/VPS1O
  • RECRUITING – NIL REVENUE

    NIL marketplaces/exchanges are far more profitable for athletes – even for Los Angeles – when the athlete’s visibility is broad. The more eyeballs, the more money. And recruits come to the universities where they can make the most money.
    https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Journal/Issues/2021/09/20/Upfront/Name-Image-Likeness.aspx
  • THE BIG PINK ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: “UNDER ARMOUR”
    Signed in 2017, UCLA had a 15 year, $280M athletics sponsorship deal with Under Armour… who renegged on the contract in 2020 and was subsequently sued by UCLA.  While the matter was in litigation, no money is coming in from that sponsorship & UCLA is out $19M in revenue annually.  And even with UCLA signing a new $46M/6yr contract with Nike ($7.7M/year), that’s not enough to fill the revenue hole left by Under Armour.
    Reportedly, the move to the Big 10, with the new Big 10 TV contracts being negotiated, can net UCLA $100M in revenue EVERY YEAR.
    https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/ucla-under-armour-drop-opposing-lawsuits-over-defunct-apparel-deal/ar-AA1052vW

Tech Monopolies: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

June 26, 2022

imageMan, ain’t this the truth.  John Oliver discusses tech monopolies, and how to address the hidden harm they can do.

From:

  • The tyranny of exclusive App Store control by 2 monopolies that charge anyone who wants to publish an app 30% of their earning
  • The complete control over the order of Search Results of a search & advertisement company with 90% market share
  • The total ownership of the retail marketspace by a single online company

This is pretty grim.


Getting accepted to UCLA

March 19, 2022

[I previously wrote this for LinkedIn but I’m posting it here as well.]

In my Senior year of high school, I’d gotten all my acceptances from every other school I’d applied to – all nice fat packets of literature – but nothing from UCLA. I was in San Diego coming off a concert performance & my parents drove to pick me up with the goal of touring the campuses of UCSD, UCI & UCSB.

As we headed to UCSD, I asked, “Did we hear from UCLA?” The car got quiet & my Mom said, “Yes” & handed me a thin envelope, then saying. “I’m sorry, son,” knowing UCLA was my #1.

I was on a high from the concert still, removing my suit & I said, “It’s okay Mom,” and I sat in the backseat with the envelope for a minute. Then I opened it & my eyes were a little teary & only saw one typewritten word on the page:

“Congratulations!”

And just like the Bruin Bound videos, I yelled, “I got in! OMG, I got in!” The next few minutes could only be described as chaos in the family station wagon as we tried to figure out what to do. Next thing we know, we’re hightailing it up the I-5 to Westwood stopping only for food & a payphone call to UCLA trying to arrange an impromptu campus tour to learn about the potato tree & where Mr Janss was buried.

So my 1st interaction w/ UCLA was getting punked by Admissions. I mean, sending a LETTER of congratulations? DUDE.


"The Kind of Smarts You Don’t Find in Young People" – The Atlantic

March 3, 2022

With the speed of business today, there’s a need for broad experience to be ingrained across teams for guidance, best practices & to avoid disastrous pitfalls in real-time.


Why We Need to Upgrade Our Face Masks—and Where to Get Them

December 6, 2021

A while back, I found a medical supply store that would sell 3M “designed-for-medical/surgical-use” N95 masks by the crate (440 masks) at roughly $1/each.  This is still a very good deal however it surprises me that more people haven’t adopted N95 masks when it’s been made excruciatingly clear that:

  1. Wearing a paper surgical mask and/or a cloth mask is VERY EFFECTIVE at protecting others from contracting COVID-19 from you;
    It is LIMITED in protecting the wearer from contracting COVID-19 from others.
  2. Wearing an N95 mask is VERY EFFECTIVE at protecting others from contracting COVID-19 from you; 
    It is VERY EFFECTIVE at protecting the wearer from contracting COVID-19 from others.

This article from Scientific American lays out why people should be getting N95 masks, as well as detailing the differences between:

  • N95
  • FFP2
  • KN95
  • KF94

I’ve also written about 3M’s documentation on the different mask offerings they have, and the differences between each here:

Read the article from Scientific American which I find very compelling:

A wealth of evidence has shown that wearing a face mask helps prevent people from spreading the virus that causes COVID, SARS-CoV-2, to others and from becoming sick themselves. But there has been less guidance from public health officials on what kind of masks provide the best protection.

Early on in the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization told the public not to wear N95 respirators, a type of mask that is made from high-tech synthetic fibers and provides a high level of protection against virus-laden airborne particles called aerosols. That was because there was then a shortage of such masks—and health care workers desperately needed them. At the same time, both agencies said there was little risk of aerosol transmission of SARS-CoV-2. They recommended cloth masks or other homemade face coverings that can stop some relatively large virus-carrying droplets even as it became clear that SARS-CoV-2 commonly spreads through aerosols—and as the supply of better-quality masks increased.

There is now a cornucopia of high-filtration respirator-style masks on the market, including N95s, Chinese-made KN95s and South Korean–made KF94s. They have been widely available and relatively affordable for months and provide better protection than cloth or surgical masks. Yet it was not until September 10 that the CDC finally updated its guidance to say the general public could wear N95s and other medical-grade masks now that they are in sufficient supply.

Full article here:


The Perfect Dog

November 26, 2021

My son asked a question as little boys do
Of me in my wisdom and all that I knew.

“Is there a dog that is perfect?” he asked on a whim,
Well, I thought and I thought about where to begin.

“He’d have ears that were floppy… or cropped and alert
And eyes that were sleepy… or perky and pert,
He’d leap like a bunny or sit in your lap
And run fast as horses… or opt for a nap.

“A dog that is perfect would be covered in spots
Or maybe one-color … and then have spots-not.

“He’d be small as a teacup… or big as a house,
With a nose that seemed flattened … or long like a mouse,

“He’d swim and he’d hunt with a coat flying free
Or be dainty and delicate … and ‘He’d’ be a ‘She’

As I struggled to answer, and not with a clue,
My son, with a smile, said, out of the blue,
With the wisdom of children, what he already knew…

The dog that is perfect … is the one next to you.

– John O’Hurley


Proof That Positive Work Cultures Are More Productive – Harvard Business Review

November 14, 2021

imageResearch shows that not only is a cutthroat environment harmful to productivity, but that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.


POLITICO: Google sought fellow tech giants’ help in stalling kids’ privacy protections, states allege

October 23, 2021

A woman walks below a Google sign on the campus in Mountain View, Calif. on Sept. 24, 2019. “Google sought to use an August 2019 meeting with fellow tech giants Apple, Facebook and Microsoft to stall federal efforts to strengthen a children’s online privacy law, attorneys general for Texas and other states alleged in newly unsealed court documents on Friday.
Google also bragged about “slowing down” new privacy rules in Europe that would apply to digital services like services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Microsoft’s Skype, according to internal documents quoted by the states. But the search giant expressed concerns that Microsoft, which had been making “subtle privacy attacks” on its Big Tech rivals, might not go along with its plans.”


The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time

October 8, 2021

imageExcerpt:  Taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive. For example, silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory.

But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets.  Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, and quiets inner chatter as well as outer. Try going on a media fast, sitting silently for 2 minutes during the middle of your workday, or taking a long walk in the woods — with no phone. The world is getting louder, but silence is still accessible.

Read the full article here:


Mental health is the next big workplace issue

October 5, 2021

imageEmployees’ mental health is quickly becoming a top concern for companies as they try to hold on to workers through the pandemic.

Why it matters: The firms that confront mental health are poised to win the war for talent.

“These days there are worker shortages everywhere,” says Chris Swift, CEO of The Hartford, a financial services and insurance company. Mental health is a massive contributor to that, he says.

Read the entire article from Axios here:


NEWS: Use of employee surveillance software has jumped over 50% since the pandemic started

October 5, 2021

Headline: “Your company could be spying on you: Surveillance software use up over 50% since pandemic started.”

Yeah, that’s not unsettling at all. <sarcasm>

I’ve had more than a half dozen customers ask me, “How can I monitor the keystrokes of my employees?”

WHAT?

“Yeah, we wanna make sure that they’re working while they are remote.”

ACTIVITY IS NOT PRODUCTIVITY
This is the most common scenario I’m told is the reason companies are looking for ways to monitor their employees computer activity.

Which if course is ridiculous.  Computer activity is never a measure of productive work. 

The urge to monitor employees however is an indicator that management doesn’t know how to measure employee productivity or their success – and that’s a failing of management, not their employees.

Who cares if the employee works only 3 days a week if they’re not required to be at a physical location?  If they do their job with excellence – why should anyone care? 

EXAMPLE: SALESPEOPLE & QUOTAS
Sales jobs often do exactly this:  They have sales quotas that they have to meet for the year as the metric of their job performance.  I’ve met numerous salespeople that have completely blown out their quotas in the 1st half of the fiscal year… then effectively went on vacation for the remaining 6 months.

Some say this doesn’t translate to other jobs: I disagree.  The majority of jobs do in fact have measurable outcomes.  Everyone has quantifiable goals that their job requires.  And there are tasks that are necessary to attain those goals.  Simply identifying when employees complete those tasks & ultimately, reach the goals & outcomes of their jobs are simple metrics that every manager can establish & do every month, quarter, and review period.

If you can’t verifiably measure an employee’s productivity or excellence, maybe you should spend time & effort on that before you think of doing something as valueless as monitoring employee computer activity.


HOWTO: Stop“paused TV” ads when using DirecTV Genie DVR

October 2, 2021

imageFor years, my DirecTV DVR would show a floating DirecTV logo as a screensaver when TV was “paused” for 5 minutes.  This was great because it’d prevent burn-in on people’s projection or OLED TVs and I appreciated that. 

THE DAY DIRECTV GOT DESPERATE
One day, instead of a floating DirecTV logo after “pausing” for 5 min, the DirecTV Genie DVR started showing still image advertisements for future TV programming, pay-per-view shows, and sometimes even products.  These rotated every so often and were pretty obnoxious.  I didn’t like this but it wasn’t that distracting.

But THEN, during the pandemic, my DirecTV “Genie” DVR started playing 30 second VIDEO ADS when live or recorded TV is paused after only 30 seconds. Suddenly, 30 seconds after pausing the TV program, “Lily from AT&T” is on a loop pitching completely irrelevant business phone service on my screen.

Video ads during a pause?  Now that’s distracting and extremely annoying.

GETTING “ADVICE” FROM AT&T/DIRECTV
imageSo the question is, how do we make it stop?  I contacted DirecTV and of course their people gave me completely irrelevant & incorrect advice which is inline with the kind of guidance they’ve given me in the past:

  • First, they said to “turn off power savings” – which has nothing to do with the ads that run during paused TV.
  • imageThen they actually told me to “turn off” my DVR and turn it back on, providing the worst, most embarrassing tech support I’ve gotten in years.

I resorted to Internet searches at this point.

BLOCKING ADS ON DIRECTV GENIE DVR
The short answer is I found out that you can block the following domains on your DNS or your home router and it will stop the ads from appearing during paused TV:

  • xaaf-be-live.att.com
    Blocking this one domain will prevent the full motion video ads from playing after 30 seconds of paused TV.  You will still see still-image ads after 5 min of paused TV. (I’ve tested this and it works perfectly when I block this domain on OpenDNS, my DNS provider)
  • Blocking the list of domains below will reportedly prevent still-image ads from appearing.  The only thing you should see, assuming you’ve blocked both domains is a moving DirecTV logo screensaver. (I haven’t set this up yet but many folks have confirmed that it works.
        • xaaf-be-live.att.com
        • xandrssads-sponsored.akamaized.net
        • insights-collector.newrelic.com
        • dtvstb-screensaver.secure.footprint.net
        • iw.dtvce.com
        • callback1-stb.dtvce.com
        • cmd.dtvce.com
        • stb-plugin-akamai.directv.com.edgesuite.net
        • bbvds.dtvbb.tv
        • ums-stb.dtvce.com
        • analytic.rollout.io
        • itv-pxy.dtvce.com

I’ll update this once I’ve entered in all the domains above to block in OpenDNS.


How IBM Public Cloud struggled against AWS and Microsoft

October 2, 2021

imageInsiders say that marketing missteps and duplicated development processes meant IBM Cloud was doomed from the start, and eight years after it attempted to launch its own public cloud the future of its effort is in dire straits.

The words stunned IBM’s cloud executives in November 2013. Former CEO Ginni Rometty had just told them that Watson, IBM’s dubious crown jewel, should run on the company’s own Power chips inside SoftLayer, IBM’s recently acquired cloud-computing division.

There was one big problem: SoftLayer, like all major cloud efforts at that point, only used x86 chips from Intel and AMD.

What came next can only be described as a scramble, according to sources who worked for IBM at the time.

Read the full article here:


Worried About Swearing Too Much? Science Says You Shouldn’t Be

September 18, 2021

imageA study found “swearing can enhance the effectiveness & persuasiveness of an argument.”

Another study “revealed people who curse often, lie less & have a higher degree of integrity.”

So suck it.


Study: Two spaces after a period makes reading easier

September 14, 2021

imageAmongst people who care deeply about typography and fonts — which is, in our typographic age, probably a reasonable chunk of people online — there’s been a low-level war about spacing after a period. Specifically: When you finish a sentence, do you type one space, or two?

There are many heated views on this matter.

But recently, a couple of scholars decided to science this one out, and … things did not turn out well for the one-spacers.

Read the full article here:


Bitcoin is a cult – Adam Caudill

September 4, 2021

This article from Adam Caudill, Director of Security at 1Password, is all you need to know about Bitcoin & crypto-purveyors.

imageThe Bitcoin community has changed greatly over the years; from technophiles that could explain a Merkle tree in their sleep, to speculators driven by the desire for a quick profit & blockchain startups seeking billion dollar valuations led by people who don’t even know what a Merkle tree is. As the years have gone on, a zealotry has been building around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies driven by people who see them as something far grander than they actually are; people who believe that normal (or fiat) currencies are becoming a thing of the past, and the cryptocurrencies will fundamentally change the world’s economy.

Every year, their ranks grow, and their perception of cryptocurrencies becomes more grandiose, even as novel uses of the technology brings it to its knees. While I’m a firm believer that a well designed cryptocurrency could ease the flow of money across borders, and provide a stable option in areas of mass inflation, the reality is that we aren’t there yet. In fact, it’s the substantial instability in value that allows speculators to make money. Those that preach that the US Dollar and Euro are on their deathbed have utterly abandoned an objective view of reality.

I read the Bitcoin white-paper the day it was released – an interesting use of Merkle trees to create a public ledger and a fairly reasonable consensus protocol – it got the attention of many in the cryptography sphere for its novel properties. In the years since that paper was released, Bitcoin has become rather valuable, attracted many that see it as an investment, and a loyal (and vocal) following of people who think it’ll change everything. This discussion is about the latter.

Yesterday, someone on Twitter posted the hash of a recent Bitcoin block, the thousands of Tweets and other conversations that followed have convinced me that Bitcoin has crossed the line into true cult territory.

Read the essay here:


The gap between Microsoft & Amazon on Work-from Home

September 4, 2021

Taken from Bloomberg/Mint:

imageWhen Amazon said in March that most of its 60,000 workers in the Seattle area would return to the office by fall, some employees were infuriated. A few threatened to quit for reasons both substantial and otherwise, including one who said post-pandemic rules would interrupt his regularly scheduled kayaking. At the same time, Microsoft, at Redmond, said employees could work from home, the office or in a hybrid arrangement. Covid has compounded the impression that while Microsoft is often more enlightened, Amazon is harder driving and more old school. As employers compete for prized workers, demand for remote or hybrid work is fast becoming a part of hiring negotiations and compensation packages. Work flexibility may be even more important than pay.

“I think the job market has changed forever,” said Chris Bloomquist, co-founder of Talent Mine, a tech recruiting startup. Years ago, he said he could have counted on one hand the number of prospective employees seeking remote work. Now, seven of 10 candidates mention it off the top. And many, several recruiters say, insist on 100% remote.

Amazon has clarified its rules, likely shamed into it by corporate peer pressure. It now plans to allow two days of remote work. This beats its earlier “office-centric culture as our baseline”, but maybe not by enough. “People can be wooed away by other companies,” said an Amazon software engineer who requested anonymity. “I am jealous of Microsoft. There is implicit trust in its policy, that trust is meaningful.” A self-described introvert, she feels the office reduces her productivity, which flourished under stay-home rules, partly because she said she recharged after a daily siesta.

Read the rest of the article here:


The Legend of the “Chocolate Bar house” on Halloween

June 1, 2021

Halloween was always the start of the best time of the year for me when I was a kid.  In October, we got candy (I never got candy), then in November I had my birthday, then in December we had Christmas.  But Halloween was what I looked forward to because it was such a mystery as to what costume I’d be making and what candy I’d be getting.

imageTHE LEGEND OF THE HALLOWEEN CHOCOLATE BAR HOUSE
When I was in 4th grade, there was a famous rumor going around my friends & classmates about a house in the neighborhood that gave out “full size chocolate bars” for Halloween as opposed to the “fun size” smaller snacks.  This was the 1.55oz bar that ran about $1 each, I think.

That was enough incentive for my friends and I to chart out the neighborhood in search of the fabled “chocolate bar house”.  We strategically organized every year covering each block and reporting back what we’d found by meeting in a central location.

Over the years, we continued to search every Halloween but we never found it and I began questioning after all these years if it even existed – or if may be the family that did it, moved away.

RESURRECTING THE LEGEND
It’s been 40 years since then & I still remember how much fun Halloween was:

  • Sorting my candy into 3 tiers of quality (Take note: You tootsie roll, Jolly Rancher, & lollipop houses are bottom tier)
  • Judging houses & families based on the quality of their candy (And make no mistake: The kids JUDGE)
  • Trading candy amongst friends & bringing your stash to school the next school day (And you better have the goods)

I also remember how important that “house” search was each Halloween & how much fun it was to passionately *believe* in the legend of the Chocolate Bar house.

About 8 years ago, after living in condos most of my life, I bought a house in a suburb of Los Angeles right around Halloween and was sitting in my sparsely furnished living room, thinking about how much fun Halloween was going to be for my son, when it dawned on me:

“HEY… I COULD BE THE CHOCOLATE BAR HOUSE.”

I thought about the candy I could give out, the thrill the kids would get, etc. 

MARKETING THE LEGEND
But it dawned on me that our house is on a street that doesn’t have a lot of families… mostly older, less active folks that didn’t turn their porch lights on during Halloween.

Honestly, we are in the middle of our block and our street was easy for kids to skip – you kids-at-heart know what I’m talking about: A lotta time, as a kid. you would look down a street at how many houses had their lights on, how long the block was, and wonder if the “juice was worth the squeeze”.  With a lot fewer porch lights on our street & a reputation for being filled with Boomers, I felt I had to overcome that.

So we decorated the tree on our curb with orange Halloween lights – LOTS OF LIGHTS – powered by a portable battery secured to a car we have parked out in front.  It was bright enough that the Intl Space Station could probably see our house’s tree from orbit.  No kid could miss the big orange tree and at least not wonder, “What’s goin’ on there?”

Our house had, well, no decorations.  I kept the entire house 100% black as night except the entryway to our front door which was lit in very bright orange light.  Simple but effective.

THE CHOCOLATE HOUSE LIVES
Over the years, our house went from ~20 visitors to ~300 and it really never gets old watching the awe & smiles on the kid’s faces wearing Captain America outfits & many many Harry Potter Wizard/Witches costumes. 

Additionally, our video security system out front constantly catches spoken comments from the kids (and parents) outside:

  • “Dudedudedude, shut up, I think this is it.”
  • <whispering parent> “Jeannie just texted me that it’s the house with the orange lit porch.”
  • “Mom, can you hold my chocolate bar in your purse? It’s too big for my pumpkin.”
  • “OMG I’m never going to be able to finish this [bar].”
  • “BOYS, I BELIEVE WE’VE FOUND THE MOTHERLODE!”
  • “Bro, remember Tim talked about this place. We gotta ‘gram this house.”
  • “Mom! Mom! C’mon! There’s a line forming! He might run out! Hurry!”
  • <parent> “They really do this every year? Jesus.”
  • “Awyeah, achievement unlocked! LET’S GOOOOOOOO!”
  • “Fix up your costume… he doesn’t like if you have a sloppy costume…”

(Every year there’s a few parents that take photos of our house to text to their friends, which I guess I should expect, but what’s funny is that they usually try to photograph the front which, remember, has an extremely brightly lit entry way – and no other light.  Try it some time… it’s really hard to take a recognizable photo with this level of contrast.)

imageSTEPPING UP THE BAR SIZE
I forgot to mention something:  I hand out the “XL 4.4oz” Hershey chocolate bars – not the 1.55oz that I pined for when I was a kid.

These are enormous – particularly for grade school kids.  They are the size of actual books for many of them and their eyes grow wide when I hand them out.  I get less of a reaction from the jaded high schoolers but it’s still hilarious to hear them say, “Brooooooo” – that’s what’s up!”

COSTUME REQUIRED – THAT’S FAIR, RIGHT?
That comment above about “needing to fix up one’s costume” is a relatively recent one.  I started to institute a simple, informal rule that seems to have been shared: 

  • No costume = no candy.
    (The corollary is: Lousy costume = lousy candy.)

Why? We’ve been doing this now for 7 years, and around the 3rd year I had a problem with high schoolers (and some adults) walking up in little/no costume at all.  Their little brother/sister told them our address and so their gang just showed up on a lark, basically wearing street clothes.

So I keep backup candy. Small fun size candy that I hand out to folks that simply don’t put in the effort.  I still remember the last kid (no costume) I handed a fun size candy to:

“What the… aww maaaaannnnn”

I realize I risk an egging of my house – but I still have hope that kids know the unspoken covenant of Halloween: “No costume – no candy”.

THE DARK SIDE OF BEING THAT HOUSE
And then there’s always the 1% that wanna ruin it for everyone.

Sure, there’s a small set of kids that try to go for another pass, trying to double up. I usually give them a small item the 2nd time around which is their signal to move on.

And then of course, adults always fuck it up

  • Rude kids with parents that don’t teach them any manners (there’s always the “gimmes” & smart talk, attempts to grab the candy out of my hand, kids that actually try to ENTER my house, etc.)
  • Costumeless parents that are entitled enough to ask for candy for themselves – sans costume
  • Adults without kids that randomly walk up without a costume, saying “Trick or Treat” (This last one is full on creepy)

This has been on the rise in the past couple years but the happy ending is I’m judge, jury & executioner: Piss me off & you might get demoted to “fun size”… or may be nothing at all.  Believe me – the threat is all that’s necessary.

THIS HALLOWEEN… I’M CHANGING IT UP
I’m not doing the chocolate bar this year.  Some folks will be disappointed but I’ve got something different planned.  It’s costing me a decent amount of money but I think it’ll be better.

For the chocolate critics, and yes, I’ve had a few folks that bitch about the “quality” of Hershey’s chocolate vs other brands (you can see what I deal with), this change will probably make them happy.  You can see where I’m going with this.

I’ll add more once we hit October 2021… which will be like the revenge of Halloween after this miserable pandemic that we’ve all gone through.

Happy early Halloween!