Halloween Round the Globe

samhainYesterday, as I brought out my Halloween-themed lessons in classes, I found that there were a lot of Halloween haters out there. Halloween involves dressing up and getting candy, so how someone could hate it is beyond me. However, I do understand that I have grown up with the holiday and don’t have it forced at my nation via Facebook and Buzzfeed. In addition, I am aware that the U.S. is the major celebrator of Halloween, spending about $6 billion a year on candy, decorations, and Kim Kardashian costumes.

Most Halloween haters aim their hate at the U.S., but the U.S. is not the country that came up with the idea of Halloween and it’s far from the only country that celebrates some form of it. So let’s get to the bottom of where this whole Halloween business started and who else celebrates it…or something like it.

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Ebola Prep

hypochondriacI have always had a solid – obsessive – relationship with illness. For I am a Group B Hypochondriac. The Group A hypochondriac sneezes and then takes three weeks off of work. They milk minor illnesses for all they are worth. 79% of the Czech Republic falls into this category.

The Group B Hypochondriac does not waste his time with small time illnesses like cold and flu. He lurches for life threatening and deadly; the more improbable and destructive the illness, the better. Extra points if it’s tropical or transmitted by wildlife.

So when Ebola became the hottest word in the world of disease, I cracked my knuckles, went online and window shopped for hospital gowns and ventilation masks. And as I waited to get Ebola, I prepared.

First of all, I looked up Ebola charities. I try to donate to charities of diseases I am planning on getting, so I now have twenty dollars earmarked for the Pre-Undiagnosed Ebola Survivor’s Investment (or PUESI). Second, I rekindled relationships with friends who are doctors. That way, when I start coming down with Ebola I can get partial medical advice without leaving the hazmat area in my living room built out of shower curtains and shopping bags. And third, I realized that to get Ebola, I had to know how one gets it and what it looks like. So I looked up the risks and symptom list.
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Creepy Europe

sedlec ossuary 2It’s mid-October, which means that Prague looks like the set of a vampire film. It’s getting darker earlier and long stretches of fog hang above the Vltava in the night and early morning. The fog sits in front of the castle as well, so that Prague Castle looms creepily above the city. There are baring trees reaching out at you on windy days. It’s pretty awesome.

This time of year always brings to mind the creepy and eerie. And if you want creepy, come to Europe. Nobody does it better. Undoubtedly, this is partly due to Italian teens in furry collars, Czechs in socks and sandals, and French people. But Europe has some seriously creepy spots. Here are five.

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Good Day, Mr. Misery

Mr Misery picI am just reaching the apex of the hill I must scale to get home. I have just finished my run on a chilly morning so my body is steaming like a plate of dim sum. But it’s post-run, Friday, and there’s nothing in my immediate future but reading, writing, and coffee. My level of joy on a ten point scale would be 10 if I could eat carbs today, but even so still resides at a lofty 8.9.

And then I see Mr. Misery. No, that is not his real name.

Mr. Misery, the manager of my apartment building, exudes all the pleasantness and warmth of a prolapsed hemorrhoid. He is sour, negative, and his features are pinched into a permanent state of complaint. The only time I have seen him smile was when I slipped on ice and fell on my ass in front of him. Mr. Misery and I avoid each other, sharing words only when the direst building situation arises. And every time he speaks to me his voiced is laced with arsenic.

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Five Ways to Look Stupid in Public

stupidIt’s amazing how many opportunities there are to look like an idiot in public. Now, if you’re an idiot everywhere – in private, in your bathroom, at work – then there’s a solid chance you’re going to look really stupid in public at some point. Also, if you regularly urinate in your pants on the tram or pick half-eaten hotdogs out of the trash, this list isn’t for you. This list is for you normal(ish) folks who occasionally look like schmucks for some random anomaly.

Wrong Door

Trying to go in through the out door or vice-versa is a minor blow to anyone’s ego. This is probably because such an elementary task should be executed with little to no problem.

We all know the feeling, too. Walking up to this door, not even thinking, your brain on autopilot, pushing the door, pushing it again, and then doing the ‘where is the door I need’ look around the room. Then the sheepish exit.

It doesn’t matter how well dressed or how attractive, as you leave the room people strip 30 points off of your possible IQ.

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I’m Forty and I Don’t Give a Damn

40I turned forty years old on Saturday and immediately found the closest bottle of alcohol to sip at and ponder the unfairness that had brought me to this affair. At first the only thing I could mutter into my drink was “Well, that happened fast.” And it really did. It seems a week ago I was celebrating my 21st and now I’m saying things like “How can you drink tequila on a Tuesday?”

There are lots of disadvantages to turning forty. I get heartburn by looking at pizza. Standing up and sitting down requires a good groan. My body randomly decides to shut down parts, such as ankles and knees. My doctor performs tests on me that I have only seen in internet videos.

Plus. I’m forty.

Maybe it was the variety of liquids I was ingesting, but I finally decided to look at the positive side. There are some major benefits of turning forty.

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October’s Other Holidays

Happy octoberOctober is for Halloween, right? It’s a holiday which fits right into October, the spooky time of year. The leaves change, the cold weather comes, it gets dark, and Kansas City is still playing baseball. October is when things get spooky.

It’s gotten spooky in October for a long time, which is why Halloween comes then in the first place. Halloween’s 2,000 year old grandfather is Samhain, a pre-Celtic festival which marked the end of summer. End of the summer meant beginning of the winter, a scary time for anyone who doesn’t live in a block of flats or have a refrigerator and central heating. Long story short, Halloween now rules October.

But Halloween isn’t October’s only holiday.

Researching on the Internet today (taking buzzfeed quizzes) I come across a few other October holidays. There are some predictable ones, such as Black Cat Day, Wicked Witch Day, Jack-O’Lantern Day and Trick-or-Treat Day, which for some reason is on October 25th. There are also holidays dedicated to traditional monsters, such as Frankenstein’s Monster Day, Frankenstein Friday, and Dracula Bite Day.

But there are a few October holidays that aren’t so predictable.

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New Dictionary Words

dictionaryIf you are interested or involved in linguistics then you know that new words are added to the dictionary each year. The last couple years have seen the birth of words such as selfie, adorkable, hangry, and defriend, to name just a few.

One of the reasons new words keep being created is that existing words aren’t adequately defining somethings specifically. For example if you say that you’re angry it’s not clear that you are angry because you’re hungry (unless you’re me). We satisfy this by saying we are hangry. I am hangry right now. In fact, usually when I’m angry, I am hangry. Now you might think I’m downright adorkable.

In any event, I offer these five words which bring some much-needed specification to my wild world. I ask you to add to this list, dear reader (Mom and Grandmom).

Crapobatics (n. un. crap-o-bat-ix): The arm waving and upper body acrobatics one does when the automatic light has gone off while they are sitting on the toilet.

In our university, some sadist has set the automatic light to about 2.3 seconds. So I do crapobatics a lot. Especially in the morning.

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Tool Time

tool timeThe message comes at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

Collin: Are you free tomorrow evening?

I pause. Are you free? Can mean lots of things. Of course, it can mean “Do you want to get a drink” or “Let me buy you dinner for being awesome.” However, it can also mean “Can you help me remove a wasp nest?” or “I need help dumping a very heavy sack in the river. No questions asked.”

Also, it’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, and almost no good messages come at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Could you give me a hand with something?

With what?

I need to put something together.

Put something together? I look around me. I’m lounging on the couch, utilizing all three pillows. A cat is sleeping on my back, I have a warm glass of milk, and I am wearing a floral-printed Yukata. I don’t exactly feel like a “put something together” kind of guy. But then I remember that Collin has spent his summer feeding and cleaning up the poop of my cat, the B Monster. I relent.

Sure, I’ll see you at 6.

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The Thirty Minute Detective

Vltava in fogA morning run can be beautiful and it can be awful. And usually, I know which after just a few steps. There are times I chug down the river, feeling strong, healthy, and solid. Sometimes it’s so good that I feel like an actual athlete, with real muscles and all. Men nod at me, women notice me, and when they do I flash a little calf.

It’s during these wonderful runs that mind and body meld together. My mind goes to a story I’m editing or one I’m writing, and I slip into this place with ease. My body goes on autopilot and my brain reworks or brainstorms. We work as a perfect unit and I become a meditative running Yogi. It is beautiful.

But sometimes, sometimes, running is an agonizing experience. After just a couple of steps I can tell that not only are my mind and body not working together, but that my entire body is not one whole body. My limbs, lungs, and core break into separate rebel insurgency factions and fight against each other. My legs seemingly forget how to work and I stumble and stagger. This stumbling gait is enhanced by a shaky panting that should alert bystanders to call the emergency medical authorities. This is all topped off with my arms swinging like confused possums.

It’s during these awful runs that I need a hobby. This hobby only has to remain a hobby for about thirty minutes. Its main goal is to distract my head and body, tricking them to work together while keeping me from a fall into traffic or the river.

Sometimes I’ll bird watch, count slugs and snails, or squash leaves. Other times I’ll count cyclists, people wearing spandex, or just practice my obnoxious operatic baritone. And sometimes I just work with what Prague gives me. The Vltava River is a central active point in Prague, there are several stories hidden in its discarded items, garbage, and bodily fluids. I try to notice them and put together the story; I sometimes feel like a thirty minute detective.

If that detective is insane.

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