Happy Pre-Halloween

Zillow has released their 2014 list of the best cities and neighborhoods for trick-or-treating. That means it’s time for my promised pre-Halloween post.

Once again, San Francisco tops Zillow’s list, and Noe Valley returns as the best neighborhood. Congrats to all. When does the billboard go up? “Welcome to Noe Valley. Come for the candy, stay for the… um… hang on, we’ll think of something.”

As usual, the best cities are clustered on the coasts. Likely that’s the influence of median home value on the rankings. Zillow gives that equal weight with their proprietary Walk Score®, population density, and crime. Oddly enough, the rankings don’t give any weight to quantity and quality of candy. That seems an odd omission. I realize that sending covert trick-or-treaters to every neighborhood in the country would be prohibitively expensive, but how about crowdsourcing the data collection? A simple web form soliciting qualitative assessments from the public would be a nice addition to their arsenal.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being awesome beyond belief and 1 being half a granola bar, how do you rate the quality of the candy you received this year?”

Moving on.

Last year the most popular costumes were obvious: Miley Cyrus, Breaking Bad, and zombies.

This year, not so much. Zombies are still popular, but beyond that, there really doesn’t seem to be anything claiming a significant chunk of the public’s attention. OK, odds are there will be a bunch of Giants costumes in the Bay Area and Royals costumes in the Kansas City, but going by ubiquity, the most likely costume candidate seems to be pumpkin spice. For those of us who think pumpkin pie is a tool of the devil, that would be a truly scary costume.

Strictly as a local item, I’ll give bonus points (and bonus candy) to anyone who shows up dressed as a broken Bay Bridge bolt.

Moving on again.

We do plan to decorate again this year, but I doubt that we’ll get anything close to last year’s three dozen candy bandits. The numbers do seem to vary around here: up in odd years, down in even years*. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the count will be right around fifteen.

* Hmm. A negative correlation with the Giants’ success? Must research further.

We’re still pondering candy choices. Historical data shows that if we have Mounds, we’ll be eating most of them ourselves (not a problem, other than for our health). KitKats do fairly well. I’d suggest we do an all-Android Halloween with jelly beans, KitKats, and lollipops, but given their association with doctors’ offices, we’d most likely be stuck with a bunch of uneaten lollipops. Come to think of it, if we didn’t include Reese’s Cups in the assortment, Maggie would probably stage a revolt. I’m open to suggestions. What candy do you (or your kids) most want to find in your bags?


A clarification, since some people were confused: Lior is not responsible for providing the URL that triggered Tuesday’s rant about ebook vendors disemboweling the self-publishing market. He’s responsible for the URL behind my next rant. That exercise in curmudgeonality is now scheduled for next Tuesday so that I can bring you the following rare cheerful post.

Happy Halloween! (Relax, it’s not a baseball post.)

Yes, I know it’s two weeks early, but any holiday dedicated to the celebration of pranks and candy is worth a bit of build-up. Sure, April Fools Day is fun, but it doesn’t offer candy. It’s also a bit short on iconic mascots, so it’s got a lot of catching up to do. But I digress.

According to the real estate mavens at Zillow, San Francisco is the best city in the US for trick-or-treating for the third straight year. Noe Valley has captured the crown as the best neighborhood. Five of the top ten cities are on the West Coast, and three more are on the East Coat. I sense a marketing opportunity here: any airlines want to offer special “Trick or Treat” fares to parents in the middle of the country who want to give their underprivileged children a top-end Halloween experience?

Zillow’s rankings are based equally on their own Home Value Index, population density, local crime statistics, and Walkscore’s ranking*. That last one is clearly why my own neighborhood will never make the list. Our walkability score is 43 (out of 100) and should probably be even lower, given the lack of sidewalks in much of the neighborhood. (Side question: which is worse: no sidewalk or a sidewalk that just suddenly ends in mid-block? We’ve got both!)

* Edited 2 April 2018 to reflect Walk Score’s acquisition by Redfin. Note, by the way, that in the four and a half years since this post was written, our Walk Score has dropped from 43 to 34. At this rate, by 2030 our score should have dropped to zero, even if San Francisco Bay hasn’t risen to our doorstep.

We never get more than a handful of trick-or-treaters, unfortunately. The first couple of years after we moved in, we decorated the front gate and porch in the hope of encouraging visitors, but the results were so disappointing that we haven’t put up even the giant stuffed spider for a couple of years. In its absence, the regular spiders have stepped up to help out: large, ornate webs stretched across the entire width of the path from the gate to the front door are common. Despite their efforts, though, the spiders have yet to catch a single costumed urchin. Perhaps we’ll try decorating again this year in a bid to improve on last year’s visitor count: zero. If we hand out enough candy, maybe we can slow the kids down enough to give the spiders a fighting chance.

We’re charter members of the school of thought that says you should offer the kind of candy you would want to eat yourself — given the low turnout, it’s self-defense. Of course, these days we don’t eat as much candy as we used to (damn health-consciousness!), so we do still have some left-over Kit-Kat bars from last year. They’re still edible (I had one last night, just to make sure), but I suppose it could be seen as tacky if we handed them out this year, even if we pushed the tie-in with Android. (It’s an open question, by the way, whether Android 4.4 will be out before Halloween. There’s some speculation that the government shutdown may be delaying FCC approval of the Nexus 5 and the rumored Google watch that are expected to be released alongside Kit-Kat.)

OK, I can’t be totally curmudgeon-free: my perusal of Google suggests that the most popular costumes this year are going to be zombies, Breaking Bad, and Miley Cyrus. Inevitable, I suppose. Just please, a few requests:

  1. Don’t combine them. Anyone showing up dressed as Zombie Cyrus gets a lump of coal. I’m serious about this, kids. There’s a bag of Kingsford right next to the door.
  2. No twerking. Do I even need to expand on this?
  3. Keep contemporary community standards in mind. Nude five-year-olds carrying wrecking balls are not cute, mmkay?.
  4. Don’t be surprised if people look blankly at your costume. The odds are good that I’m not the only person in the world who wouldn’t recognize the ultimate Breaking Bad tribute costume.

You may be surprised to learn that I’m not the kind of curmudgeon who believes that there’s an upper age limit for trick-or-treating. However, I do insist that if you are 16 or older, you put in some significant effort on your costume. Note that I used the word “effort”, not “money”. Think and build, don’t buy.

Finally, I’ll be giving special bonus candy to any nude trick-or-treaters who swing in on a real wrecking ball — accompanied by a claim for damages for anyone who hits the fence or house.