What counts as cold?

I took this photo several years ago when I lived in San Francisco

The photo features a bus passing by the Embarcadero neighborhood. At the time of taking the photo I thought it was incredibly cold. I wore gloves and a hat and couldn’t warm up. I was not quite miserable, but approaching. It was windy.

Now that I live in the Boston area I have a completely different attitude about cold. Do I need to wear the thick puffy long coat, or the thicker and even warmer puffy long coat? Do I need to wear the slush-proof boots, or will regular boots suffice? Will the subway station be flooded? Will the sidewalks be passable? Will I be stuck in a blizzard if I go into the office? Checking weather has more significant implications on my routine.

Since moving to Boston I have developed a winter uniform

When I first moved here I wanted to be fashionable in the winter. I thought puffy coats were silly-looking and made everyone look shapeless. Now, I think they are fantastic. The technology for keeping out the cold is amazing.

My winter uniform:

  • Standard long black puffy coat (what everyone wears)
  • Blazer and scarf
  • Fleece leggings and skirt
  • Knee-high boots (or sometimes Uggs)
  • Leather gloves
  • No hat unless it’s really cold, because my headphones double as earmuffs and I keep the hood up
  • A hat and a hood if it’s really cold

It’s a tricky balance to wear something outside that will be suitable for the office. I tried wearing pants because I thought they’d be more suitable for snowy weather, but they required a belt and were generally uncomfortable. I have been a no-pants person for many years now and I can’t go back.

What’s your winter uniform?

The Bothersome Man Movie Review

The Bothersome Man (Norwegian movie, 2006, Den brysomme mannen), on the topic of the afterlife, is great watching. Here I compare it to The Good Place (American TV series, 2016), also about the afterlife.

The Bothersome Man is about a man in the afterlife who is stuck in “The Medium Place”, craves “The Good Place”, and ends up on a doomed bus ride to “The Bad Place”. “The Good Place” is hinted at by the aroma of breakfast pastries and sound of children on the other side of the wall, tormenting him and convincing him there’s a better place. Just as “The Bad Place” of Eleanor Shellstrop’s world is ominously implied as the destination of an old-fashioned train ride, here it is implied as the destination of a bus driving off into the barren snow. The places in The Bothersome Man are not named, there is a bus not a train, and the movie is sombre, but the theme resemblance is otherwise uncanny.

Interestingly, Wikipedia treats the setting as present-day, not afterlife: The story is about a man suddenly finding himself in an outwardly perfect, yet essentially soulless dystopia, and his attempt to escape. … The two dig frantically, in secret, through the wall and discover it leads into a house, presumably back in the real world. 

I disagree, Wikipedia.

See it for the sombre and nuanced depiction of the afterlife

The Last Winter Movie Review

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The Last Winter stars Ron Perlman as an oilman whose corporate intentions threaten the pristine icy setting. Pretty soon, people start dying. A scared and dwindling set of survivors are set against the frigid north. At first no one knows what the source of the problem is, except that it comes from the ice. I liked The Last Winter a lot, because the terror was largely psychological. Make no mistake, there is a lot of gore/grossness, but it starts really slowly and builds up to it.

Subtract points for a little heavy-handed “don’t spoil nature” message. Add points for the suspense and building dread. Compare and contrast with these other horror movies and tv.

See it for the excellent slow-building mood and fine characters

paramecium etching

It was so cold

Boots in the snow

When I was a kid my family visited the cold winters of Moncton, Canada, where I experienced what might have been frostbite for the first and only time in my life. My cheeks didnt actually fall off, but for the purposes of this story Im going to say it was frostbite.

Moncton is a beautiful city in southeastern New Brunswick with an active French-speaking Acadian population. We often went to visit my moms French-Canadian relatives there. I never understood why we went in the winter. If you visit Moncton, go in the summer. Its lovely in the summer. Nobody gets frostbite in the summer.

My dad and I wanted to go to the local mall to get some coffee. We thought we’d just pop over for breakfast. It was the middle of December. It was snowy, windy, and hovering close to zero Fahrenheit. Wind chill pushed it well into the negative. I wore a black scarf wrapped around my face and a hat, so that the only exposed skin on my face was the small space behind my eyeglasses.

That little bit of exposed skin took all the force of the wind. The cold only hardened our resolve. We refused to give up. We forced our way against the wind like mountain climbers on Mount Everest, desperate to reach the mall. Hot coffee was just across the street. The wind howled crazily about. We would not be deterred! Coffee was so close! So close!

By the time we got to the other side of the street I had two pink blistered triangles of skin where the wind whipped at the unprotected triangles of my face. Was that frostbite? Were my cheeks going to blacken and come off in pieces? Do people in Canada wear ski masks? How does one protect that part of your face? These were terrible thoughts to ponder. Moncton in winter was a terrible, terrible place, to which I vowed never to return.

Why did we go to Moncton in the winter? Why? WHY?

We made it to the comfort of the mall and took the only reasonable course of action: staying at the toasty mall all day, playing slot machines and eating breakfast multiple times over. I ate scrambled eggs and bacon at least twice. He had French toast, fried eggs, and sausages. We both had several cups of coffee. I may have lost twenty bucks on slot machines, but I drank coffee and ate breakfast all day with my dad. Despite the burn of my poor cheeks, a good time was had by all.