Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cold Comfort

A few weeks ago, The Atlantic Ran an article called "The Benefits of Being Cold." In it, people in Southern California don vests full of ice. Hey dumbasses, why don't you try moving here? Temp in LA: 80 degrees. Temperature in Milwaukee: 11 degrees. I must be seeing lots of "benefits" right now, apparently. Besides, if freezing your goddamn ass off was the key to being healthy and skinny, you would expect to see svelte, fit, athletic people all over Wisconsin and people in California looking like doughy, rotund goblins instead of the reverse. Besides, nobody exercises in the cold.

Then again, maybe going without heat indoors is the key:
As Americans across the country wrestle with spouses and their thermostats over how low to go — as they join contests like Freeze Yer Buns, now in its third year, a challenge posed by Deanna Duke, a Seattle-based environmental blogger who calls herself the Crunchy Chicken, to lower the thermostat to around 55 degrees, or follow the lead of the Maine couple trying to live comfortably in a furnace-free house and blogging about it in their Cold House Journal — there are those who are living nearly without heat by choice, and doing just fine, thank you very much. Indeed, 55 degrees would qualify as sauna conditions for Mr. Ladda and others whose interiors hover around the 30- or 40-degree mark in deep winter.

Many belong to that hardy genus Artista domestica, a group unusually skilled at foraging in urban frontiers, and long-known for sacrificing “normal” creature comforts in favor of other boons like low overhead and capacious, atmospheric habitats. Why they stick it out, and how they cope, are object lessons in creative adaptation fueled by thrift, environmentalism and a commitment to unique real estate. (Denial and long underwear help, too.)

Take Jake Dibeler, a 21-year-old performance artist living in an unheated warehouse in Baltimore with five roommates and two cats. There are concrete walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and hangar-like ceilings, “which means that even if it gets warm outside,” Mr. Dibeler said, “it still takes about a month for our apartment to catch up.”

The rent is $2,200, split six ways, and it’s all worth it, he continued, because there’s a huge stage he and his friends can perform on, “a dream come true in my own home.” Space heaters are expensive and, anyway, a placebo at best, he said, but Mr. Dibeler and his friends have built a yurt in the center of the living room, “or part of a yurt, really, the frame part, which we cover with sheets and line with afghans, and then we drag the cats in. At times, we all get frustrated and pine for a real home with heat and lower ceilings. Then we remember how wonderful it is to be living with five other best friends and making art and how it will get warm eventually. We just have to suck it up and wear a bunch of layers, even if it means looking like an Olsen twin.”

Attitude, not clothing, is what thaws Daniel McCloskey and his roommates in Pittsburgh. Last year, Mr. McCloskey, 22, bought two poorly insulated turn-of-the century clapboard houses for $41,000 in the Lawrenceville neighborhood there, and turned them into a writer’s retreat he named the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writer’s Co-op. It’s sort of like Yaddo or MacDowell — “like where?” he asked when this reporter made the comparison — but without all the amenities (maid service, picnic basket lunches or sufficient heat).

Mr. McCloskey offers monthlong residencies to emerging writers, which is to say a free room in the house at the back. There is a furnace, but his finances are low and mostly it stays off. (Mr. McCloskey, who is writing a novel, last worked as a parking attendant and a poster salesman.) A wood stove in the kitchen area can bring the temperature there up to about 50 degrees, Mr. McCloskey said, if he sees fit to fire it up. Wood is expensive, too; he relies on windfalls, like dead trees from a friend who was clearing land nearby. Electric pipe heaters keep the water supply from freezing, but not the visiting artists.
Chilled by Choice (New York Times) Well, they all seem fairly svelte and healthy.

Maybe we just all need to take lessons from Wim "The Iceman" Hof:
I was attending a workshop given by Wim ‘The Iceman’ Hof. It was a six-hour day of training, talking and laughing. I was eager to learn of his extraordinary insights into the human body. Wim has demonstrated he can consciously control his autonomic nervous system and immune system with a meditation technique he learned in mother nature, something thought to be impossible. Yet, this might not come as a surprise since Wim has shown the impossible multiple times before. He is the world record holder of ice endurance by standing in a container full of ice for 1 hour 52 minutes and 42 seconds. He ran a full marathon above the polar circle at a temperature of −20 °C (−4 °F) on his bare feet. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro just wearing shorts. And not only can his body withstand cold, he is also capable of doing amazing feats in the heat. Last year he ran a full marathon (42.195 kilometres (26.219 mi)) on the highest desert plains in the world, the Namib Desert, without any water and without any food. Mind over matter I’ve heard him say multiple times.

Now, you might wonder what personal relevance this holds for you. Maybe Wim is a genetic outlier who can reach impossible heights that are barred for us mere mortals. However, Wim insists that this is not the case. He claims that with sufficient training all of us can learn how to turn up our own thermostat, live healthier, stronger and longer and gain deeper levels of understanding into our own bodies. We are all endowed with the same physical mechanisms after all. So how does he do it? Or better yet, how can you do it?
Embracing The Cold: A Workshop With Wim ‘The Iceman’ Hof (High Existence)

The Wim Hof Method

BONUS:  America is colder than Mars. Some parts of it, anyway (Guardian) "According to data collected by the Curiosity Rover, the Gale crater is currently warmer than most of the northern US despite being 50m km farther from the Sun...Green Bay, Wisconsin, makes the Gale Crater look like a positively attractive holiday destination. It was nearly 15 degrees colder on Thursday than the crater – and that’s before you factor in the wind chill of Earth’s atmosphere." Somehow the fact that 2014 was the warmest year on record is cold comfort, pun intended.


  1. I thought you were going to post a clip from the ubiquitous Disney film, thank God. (I still love that movie though.)

    1. Moved me to tears and sonnets.

    2. "[A] clip from the ubiquitous Disney film"--I can almost oblige edmund. Early last year, I posted It's freezing, so here's a song from 'Frozen'. The current cold snap, which froze my pipes two nights in a row and then burst them on the third, inspired me to write It's 'Frozen' out there.

    3. I'll have to check it out. I have yet to see WALL-E as well.

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