By Rick Sutcliffe

Why is Hallowe’en like Christmas? Because both have become commercialized to the point of morphing into insanely materialistic binges fueled by greed maintained by non-stop advertising? 

Because both, having lost all meaning as holy times, have become holidays with no more true significance than a ski weekend? Because 25 (Dec) = 31 (Oct)? Or, to morph from the trivialized to the philosophical, is this the real end game of empiricism—-a Solomonesque pursuit of meaningless pleasure with no thought for the future, whether here or elsewhere?

October was scary for other reasons.

What do you say when the elected leaders in more than one  country, having been tagged with numerous scandals from current sexism to past racism to flagrant ethical violations to misuse of office to accepting gifts from lobbyists to making a laughingstock of self and country on the international stage, and whose only qualification for the position is a warped pseudo-charisma, yet cannot be removed because the opposing party is unable to convince the electorate that it has a compelling vision for anything better? 

What about the Spy’s comments last month on the coming avalanche of robotic workers and the vast number of occupations that will, like the stenographer or teletype operator of old, soon enough vanish into the dustbin of history? What about the eclipse of privacy? Who is paying attention to these trends and planning for the future in this increasingly technology-dominated and human-deprecated world? Are more than a handful of our current and would-be “leaders” even literate on such matters? Or if they are, do they care, so long as they are re-elected?

What of climate change, the much-touted boogeyman of our day, with its canonical apocalyptic vision of fried interior landscapes and drowned coastal cities? For the Spy, who has far too much first hand knowledge of respiratory issues, the real issue (irrespective of the longer term extent of its other effects) is pollution. Here in the Fraser Valley the offshore breezes are scarily efficient at moving Vancouver’s exhaust fumes our way, then trapping them against the Cascades, so bathing Valley dwellers’ lungs in concentrated noxiousness. But look on the dimly bright side. Asia is where Britain was a century ago; its peoples breathing more smoke than air. We could be worse off.

What didn’t happen in October of MMXIX ranges from a little scary to a lot. On the little side was Apple’s failure to announce the new 16-inch Mac Book Pro or to begin taking orders on the revived cheese-grater Mac Pro. Perhaps iCook doesn’t care much about computers any more. After all, the company is morphing from providing hardware and software to making money on services–particularly entertainment.

Even on the materialistic scale, is the making of new TV shows really that much more significant than crafting better productivity tools that enhance our capacity for work? To put it another way, does Apple still have a little soul on All Souls’ Day? Or, is it about nothing but the bucks?

On the lot scary side, the economy did not crash into recession in October, the traditional month for hosting economic catastrophes. Credit further interest rate reductions and the desire of one influencer to drive them to zero or below–a move that encourages elephant-in-the-room cheap debt for a while and temporarily bolsters both profits and stock prices by creating money from nothing, but does nothing for wages or the prosperity of hoi poloi. 

It also means printing money and guarantees the inevitable market crash, wild inflation, bank and government failures from bad debt, and massive unemployment, will all be far worse. It’s basic Physics, folks. What goes up must come down. The only issues are how soon and how far.

One symptom of these times is the juxtaposition on many local radio stations of ads for loan companies offering to approve almost any home equity borrowing (“our criteria is [sic!!] lest strict”) alongside equally enticing offers to arrange consumer proposals that reduce debt but avoid formal bankruptcy. Hello? Doesn’t anyone see a problem here (far worse than the bad grammar)? But lemming-like consumers are merely following the examples of their glorious government leaders into debt quicksand.

And the second month with “brrr” in its name reminds the Spy that it’s time to weather proof the igloo, winterize the tractor, move the snow blower to the garage, mount winter tires on the dog sled and lay in fuel for rapid composting in the wood stove. Whoops–bit of smoke there. Ah well, few people are 100% consistent, and its cheaper than burning either gas or electricity.

And speaking of inconsistency, it’s finally time to retire the old 1991 Buick Regal. It’s getting long in tooth, gas consumption is climbing, and a few things don’t work any more. The replacement? Well, emboldened by ultra-positive experiences with a Subaru Forester (now three years old and counting as the drive-to-work vehicle and best car we’ve ever owned), we’re springing for the (discounted of course) singly remaining 2019 Subaru Legacy Sedan as a second car. 

Mrs. Spy does a lot of driving, so gas consumption, reliability, safety issues, and a slow but deliberate savings plan (no loan) informed the purchase. We’ll see if it is as good as old reliable. Kudos to Chantal Gillespie and Jay Shead at Wolfe Subaru Surrey/Langley for their patience as we hesitated over several options.

A high tech car will take some getting used to, but until electrics reach the big time and steering wheels become illegal, this seems the best and least scary way to keep going.

Hallowe’en itself wasn’t too scaryas out in this remote country location of the “City” of Abbotsford there were zero trick or treaters. Guess they all prefer to have parents drive them to the city subdivisions to collect plenty of loot. Too bad. We had a handful of fruit rollups and a New Testament ready for each munchkin. There also were few fireworks that night–a fitting conclusion for a spookily quiet month. What will the rest of 2019 bring? Remember that “may you live in interesting times” is a curse, not a blessing.

–The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author’s own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a. k. a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics, Interim Dean of Science, and Chair of the University Senate at Canada’s Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he’s a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce just celebrated their fiftieth anniversary and have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of B.C. since 1972. 

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