Tag Archives: algorithm

The Halloween Candy Calculations

With Halloween just around the corner, two questions that seems to be increasingly on our minds are “How many Halloween treats will we need?” and “Is it too early to buy?”

When I was growing up, I don’t recall there being much debate. The number seemed generally stable from year to year. When the neighbourhood’s teens felt they were getting too old to be trick or treating, younger kids were replacing them. And if I remember correctly, 60 to 70 kids seemed to be the norm for many years. When it came to Halloween, it was suburban stability.

Also, back then, Halloween candy didn’t grace our store shelves until after the “Back-to-school” season was over… when kids were back at school. I don’t recall any retail shenanigans of having Halloween candy on the shelves a couple of weeks into the summer break.

In the couple of weeks leading up to Halloween, Mom would buy 60-70 treats. On Halloween night, most (if not all) of the treats would be distributed. The end.

But that hasn’t been the case recently.

When I moved into my own home, as a first-time owner, I took great joy in the preparation and in the decorating. I even dressed up a few times too to greet the kiddies at the door. It’s been a lot of fun.

I enjoyed seeing the thought and creativity that went into the costumes, especially for the toddlers who were out on their first trick or treating journeys.

But in my new home, the fluctuations in the number of kids, year over year, has been like a wild ride on the New York Stock Exchange.

The slightest drizzle seemed to keep them away. On a clear night, the doorbell never stopped ringing, and with kids I have never seen before. Trying to figure out that magic number as a happy medium for both eventualities became an increasingly difficult challenge.

Plus, the early arrival of Halloween candy on store shelves made it even more challenging.

I tried to figure out a fool-proof algorithm to determine how many treats I needed to buy from one year to the next but there are so many variables, it has been hard to get the average number right:
– How many kids came to the door last year? What was the weather like?
– How many kids came to the door the year before? What was the weather like?
– How many kids may have aged out of the trick or treating cohort?
– How many older kids may be returning to the trick or treating cohort?
– How many little ones may be joining the trick or treating cohort for the first time?
– On what night of the week will Halloween night fall (i.e., Fridays and Saturdays are generally busier)
– Are the Halloween treats at such a sweet price that I should buy early?
– How many weeks ahead of Halloween do I plan on buying the treats?
– Will there be another opportunity to get these treats at this price?
– How much discipline do I have this year to just put them away and not dip into the reserve of Halloween candy before the big night?
– Am I watching my waistline?
– Am I watching carbs?
– Am I watching my sugar intake?
– Am I watching my caloric intake?
– Have I been working out enough lately, so that it won’t matter if one “accidentally” fell out of the bag?
– If I do dip into the reserve of Halloween treats, will I have the opportunity to replenish before the big night?
– What is the probability of scooping some up at the last minute at 50% off?
– And closer to the big night… what is the weather forecast for that night?

One year, I contemplated buying treats that contained gluten, because there would be NO WAY I would be eating them, and any leftovers would have to be brought to the office. But then I started feeling guilty and sympathetic toward the poor kids who may have been gluten intolerant as well. That wouldn’t have been fun for them.

Then in the years that I was disciplined enough to not sneak a treat or two before the big night, the weather would turn ugly and then I’d be stuck with all these treats.

I forget how many years ago it was, on one night in particular, I think I had less than 20 trick or treaters, despite really great weather conditions. My algorithm failed me! Sheldon Cooper would have lost it.

After the time I spent that year on the treats calculation, the careful shopping for treats at a good price, the creativity and the decoration, as much as I loved the overall experience, it was a letdown. My inner Martha Stewart felt rejected.

The next year, my hot glue gun was still feeling depressed from the year before and suggested we take a break. I went shopping instead, thinking that maybe this would be a good night to get started on Christmas shopping, especially since Christmas stock had been out before the Back-to-school sales were underway.

What a revelation! The mall was 100% fully functional and absolutely empty. It’s like the mall was entirely mine. It was a perfect opportunity to browse for the perfect gifts.

There were no crowds, no one was pulling tantrums, there was no one walking slowly and staring at their phone while bumping into people, I wasn’t too hot carrying my coat and parcels, and service was impeccable! And the best part, I had no Halloween treats left over to tempt me.

Since then, if I ever was feeling less than spirited about Halloween, Christmas shopping has remained an option. The reality is that without kids of my own, Halloween is what I choose to make it.

Even though I have tried to figure out a ball park estimate of how many treats I needed, I gave up trying to nail the exact number like a gymnast dismounting after a routine and sticking his/her landing perfectly.

There are too many variables to get the perfect number, and the early availability of the treats is a test for anyone’s will power.

As a new homeowner with the best of intentions in having enough treats for everyone, I stressed about it a lot. But that’s not the case anymore. If I run a little short on treats, I shut off the lights and call it a night. If I end the evening with leftovers, I exercise a little discipline and get through them a little at a time.

It may not be efficient from a mathematical perspective, but it’s all about the spirit of Halloween fun.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing