A midlife survival guide to hellish Halloween

All Hallows. All Saints' Eve. Fright Night. What Fresh Hell-oween Is This? Whatever you call it, 31st October is looming larger in the calendar than ever before, thanks to the unstoppable influences of social media, the Americanisation of our culture and cold, hard commercialism. Indeed, in terms of UK consumer spending, it has now eclipsed Valentine’s Day to become our third-biggest event after Christmas and Easter.  Fighting the tide of terror or grumbling like a Halloween grinch are increasingly futile. So instead embrace and even enjoy it with our handy 10-point survival plan… 1. How to handle trick-or-treaters Yikes, the sheer horror of the ringing doorbell and gaggle of intimidating hooded creatures lurking on your front path. So how to deal with this harassment, intimidation and legalised begging? Oops, I mean, this charming tradition? First, be prepared. Stock up with cheap-ish, small-ish sweets - lollies, mini-packs of Haribo, fun-size chocolate - because you won’t want to give them your artisanal truffles. If you run out, never be tempted to give out money instead. Word will spread like wildfire and you’ll have every urchin in a two-mile radius queuing up for their quids.  Alternatively, if you want to enter the spirit without any of the pesky human interaction, leave a bowl of sweets on the doorstep, with a sign saying, “New baby asleep. Please don’t knock. Help yourself to a sweet”. Although be prepared for the bowl to be emptied immediately and need refilling. (Or not, grinches) Then, of course, there’s the misanthropic coward’s way: pull the curtains, turn off the lights and pretend you're out. But be prepared to feel under siege and not relax for several hours.  2. Picking your own pumpkin “PYO” pumpkin farms have officially become “a thing” in recent years, with welly-clad families descending to choose their own orange whoppers to carve - Continue Reading

First NYC point guard to make NBA All-Star team since ’03, Kemba Walker stays true to roots

CHARLOTTE — The ramp-up to tipoff is routine by now for Kemba Walker, a shot-making showman in his sixth season with the Hornets. He pulls out from his manse in a white Mercedes Benz GLE and waits for the black, wrought-iron gates by the community’s security hut to open automatically. He drives eight miles north to the Spectrum Center, his workplace. Once on site, he parks down by the loading docks, in a lot below street level, and walks through sterile corridors painted purple and teal. He changes out of black distressed jeans and readies for game action by slipping on compression boots to quicken his circulation. That lasts a half hour, after which he lowers his body into a 54-degree tub. He wears his disdain on his face. “I do hate it,” he says, wincing. “I just really, really hate being cold.” Walker, 26, walks out onto the drafty arena’s hardwood wearing a hoodie. He hustles into the lane and blows into his hands like a pitcher in October before acquainting himself with the ball, rubbing its pebbled leather repeatedly. He splits his time between two coaches. First, he performs touch shots, free throws and square-ups with Bruce Kreutzer, a mustachioed shooting doctor whom Walker credits for his three-point accuracy, 40.2%, a career best. He follows that with makes from predetermined marks. That series is done with Steve Hetzel, a stoical assistant known for fine-tuning Walker’s pick-and-roll plays into performance art. Together, they hurry over to the bench to review a few plays on a MacBook. Hetzel harps on Walker’s finishing efficiency. Results have never been better as Walker averages 22.9 points per game. His recent net tickling gives him goose pimples. It also provides evidence of his evolution, from a New York blur to a nuanced All-Star. “I used to be all layups,” he says. “Even to this day, some shots that I make, in my head, I’m still pretty surprised. I Continue Reading

For Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early, a long road from Bronx to perfection

WICHITA, Kan. — Once Bruno, a bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, and his handler, a Kansas state trooper, perform their security sweep of Koch Arena on March 1, elderly ladies wearing black-and-yellow leis file into the Roundhouse alongside students in face paint. It is 90 minutes to tipoff. Some rush; others relish the final moments of an undefeated regular season. Trailing them, Sandra Glover, daughter of the Bronx and mother of Cleanthony Early, a loud, lean Wichita State forward with an open face and gap-tooth smile, negotiates her way through the crowd. She is in no hurry, settling into her fourth-row seat on the aisle behind the Wichita State bench. She wears a yellow Shockers T-shirt and starts shuddering when the school band plays the alma mater. “Jesus!” she says, staring up at the scoreboard. “Jesus! They’re coming out!” Anxiety overwhelms her. She grows hysterical, yelling with a revivalist’s fervor. She reaches into her pocketbook and retrieves a pack of Kleenex. She clears tears from her eyes with tissues as her son and the rest of the Shockers run onto the court. She shakes her head. “Oh, my God,” she says. “I can’t handle it. I gotta go.” She stays standing for the contest’s first two minutes; fans clap rhythmically on Senior Day, her son’s unofficial sendoff. Early is fouled as he cuts to the basket; he takes a deep breath and knocks down a free throw, then misses his second. It is all too much for Glover, though. She sprints back up the cement steps, running away from the courtside action to the quieter concourse area and a familiar usher. She looks on from her removed position as her son converts two catch-and-pop three-pointers. She exhales slowly. “I’ve tried to nail her butt down,” says Early’s aunt, Dorinda, as she looks back at Glover. “It doesn’t work.” Glover’s son, meanwhile, appears unflappable. Continue Reading

Turning a Corner

Cheap Thrills: Forecast of 40s Sounds Amazing Was Minneapolis too 'dang-blasted cold to host a Super Bowl? Is Pyeongchang, South Korea too prone to frostbite to host a Winter Olympics? We all have our winter weather coping skills, fine-tuned over many years of shivering. But shivering is anathema to a figure skater or downhill skier, trying to focus muscles on the challenges at hand. A New York Times article highlighted the ways nations are helping their athletes cope with the cold. Some are putting tape and Vaseline on their skin for another layer of insulation. Canada's Alpine skiers have battery-powered pants. Or heated socks and "Lungpluses"; small whistle-like devices that warm the air by about 20F. Yes to all of the above. I got a look at the latest models and did a happy-dance (friends thought I was having a seizure). It looks like low 40s on Valentine's Day; another shot at 40s next weekend as Pacific air spills inland. Flurries are possible Thursday as cooler air returns, but no more lengthy, subzero blasts are brewing. For the record, on this date in 1838 a mercury thermometer at Ft. Snelling froze at -40F! Glimpses of March. We are turning a fairly big corner this week as temperatures finally rebound, after a cold start to February. Not Pioneer Cold, but colder than average to the tune of 10-15F. 40F is possible tomorrow, again this weekend before the next inevitable cold front. But not exactly polar pain. Dribs and Drabs of Snow. Not much in the way of accumulating snow into Friday; just a coating possible over northern Minnesota and North Dakota, according to NOAA's 12km NAM model going out 84 hours. Map: pivotalweather.com. Winter Snowfall, To Date. Ryan Maue has an effective graphic showing snowfall as of February 11, courtesy of weathermodels.com. Note the patch of 6-7" over far western Minnesota and northeastern South Dakota, for the entire winter! Split Flow. A southern branch to the jet stream may dredge enough (Pacific and Gulf) moisture north to Continue Reading

A plan for prescription-strength health care persuasion

My fellow Americans, let's be honest. I'm running out of levers to pull to convince you of the virtues of health care reform. I've tried rhetoric on rapidly rising costs, which must be reined in or will soon swallow our economy. I've tried making the moral case that it's wrong to have 47 million uninsured people in a country as rich as America. When Republicans spread fear that the government will ration care, I explain that we're going to deliver the right kind of primary and preventive care. I've tried vilifying the insurance companies, who already ration your care. This week I rolled out a new message highlighting eight ways consumers will be better off under a reformed system. I've done all this in a dozen town halls and speeches. A prime-time press conference. Wrenching personal stories told by doctors and patients. Allied groups have made multi-million-dollar ad buys. And still, poll numbers for our proposed reforms are dropping. Blue Dog Democrats are dragging us further off track. The public insurance option is looking increasingly endangered. With every new word out of my mouth, people seem to have more questions, not fewer.  Since the outreached hand we've extended to the American people has been met with a clenched fist, we have no choice but to ratchet up our efforts. So today we're rolling out the next phase in our persuasion campaign. Phase 1 is simple. More exclamation points! Why didn't I think of this before?! If I employ more emphasis, America will finally get the message!!! Phase 2. Diversify my media appearances. I've been on the networks, in local media and on an AARP town hall. We have yet to reach out to readers of the great technology blog Gizmodo, or to "Maxim." Those Maxim dudes, 24% of whom are uninsured, still don't get what they're missing if we are lacking an employer mandate. So I'm arranging a photo shoot of uninsured women. It won't be pretty. One has gangrene. As part of this phase, we're producing a Continue Reading

Bring the spa and salon to your place: DIY beauty treatments to help you save money

The beastly thing about beauty treatments? They’re pricey to attain - and to maintain. Between manis, pedis, facials, brow-shaping and highlighting, it’s easy to drop hundreds of dollars a year. Experts say it’s just as easy to become a DIY expert at caring for your skin, nails and hair. Here’s how to slash big bucks from your beauty budget – and still look gorgeous. Cut your own bangs: Don’t cut them in a super straight line straight across your forehead, advises Kari Molvar, Cosmopolitan’s beauty editor. Instead, hold the scissors at a 45 degree angle and make tiny snips all the way across the bangs. “That takes up the length a little bit but it doesn’t look too severe,” she says. “It’s more forgiving, too, so if you mess up a little bit it won’t look that obvious.” Use small, fine scissors, but avoid taking fabric or sewing scissors to your bangs, she says. Tweeze your own eyebrows: Always tweeze underneath the brow so that tweezing doesn’t change the arch of your brow, says Molvar. You might have your brows shaped and waxed professionally once, so you’ll like the shape. Then simply follow those lines as you tweeze out stray hairs. Invest in a small pair of scissors, brush your brows up with a small brush and then trim them a bit. “This creates a cleaner line so your brows are more defined, and they look nice and groomed,” Molvar says. However, don’t tweeze out these hairs. If you’ve got a borderline “unibrow,” one way to not overpluck is to line up a pencil with the left or the right edge of your nose. When you’re tweezing the left side, line it up with the left edge of your nose. Then see where the pencil top meets the brow. “Whatever you see on the other side of the pencil closer to the middle of your face is where you pluck,” Molvar says. “A lot of people tend to pluck too far over, so a pencil is Continue Reading