Flolf, and Thoughts on Weather Neutrality

“You’re from California. You’re supposed to suffer or be confused.” —L. Gunderman

My freshman year, a co-forecaster on MIT’s weather team had a family visiting in late fall. He told his mother I was also on the weather team, and she responded that I appear to not have gotten the weather right, as I was in t-shirt and shorts.

I did know it’ll be what most people call “cold”. If my forecasting skills were that off, I couldn’t possibly have ever won an award in national-level weather forecasting. I knew what the weather was; I simply didn’t care.

I actually wear a t-shirt and shorts far into the Bostonian winter, often well past solstice. There’s actually layers of reasons why I consistently go out in a singular layer of clothing.

First of all, and probably most guessable of all, I appear to generally prefer colder temperatures than others, and thus can endure the cold a bit further. I’ve taken a look at some data on how I felt versus weather conditions over my time at MIT. It appears that, without winds, I start feeling cold around 39°F (4°C, 277 K). (I seem to take about a 1.5x factor on wind chill, so my isofeels rapidly go up in termperature as wind increases.) I appear to have a cold resistance, relatively. In fact, one of my friends, B. Tidor, decided to name my cold resistance “Fluffy” a few years ago. After a few months, I renamed it “Flolf” to avoid multitudinous namespace collision and, well, if an abstract entity will manage to get named, why not make it palindromic.

Flolf by itself, however, does not explain why I continue to wear a t-shirt and shorts down to 14°F (-10°C, 263 K). It’s easy to accidentally credit Flolf for that portion of the temperature spectrum.

There’s a second factor in balancing feeling cold against other inconveniences. It may be slightly cold to be outside for me in this temperature range, but is definitely way too hot indoors in most buildings here with jackets or longer sleeves on. Is it that much effort to deal with this that it’s worth getting a little cold?

Yes, yes actually. I like how with shorter sleeves, I feel less cold than I feel needlessly warm with longer sleeves, and additionally I feel freer and also more in touch with nature. And for jackets in particular, there’s that really high likelihood I accidentally forget my jacket where I leave it somewhere, and then there’s all that time and frustration I need to spend finding it again. I want it to be cold enough that I won’t forget I have a jacket with me before I start wearing a jacket. (I remember back when I was little my parents would yell mercilessly at me if and when I lost something, and maybe this left in me an increased fear of losing things. Speaking of parents…)

The third and deepest layer stacked upon my abbreviated layer of universal clothing goes into parental resentment.

My very Chinese and Confucianism-respecting parents emphasized to magnificent degrees the importance of respecting one’s elders and to not question what to preach. This is how I ended up not reading Harry Potter: because I had a second-grade teacher who told us we shouldn’t read it because it’s evil due to mentioning “dark arts” and the such, and I was primed by my parents to respect and listen to my teachers. Needless to say, this is not the only time in my childhood where I could’ve benefited from questioning elder authority, and was rather pissed when I eventually (years later) learned a broader picture.

One particular thing that always bugged me was how frequently my parents told me it was too cold to go to outside without a jacket. (My mom wears a full-blown jacket when it’s 70°F (21°C) outside. I could never understand this. Maybe a part of this is that she’s from Taiwan.) What this eventually resolved to was that I left home with my jacket on, I arrived at school and shoved my jacket into my locker, went through the school day, got my jacket back out, and for all my mother would know, I wore the jacket the entire day. Well, ideally: realistically, it was not cold enough for me to feel I need a jacket, so I often simply forgot to retrieve it from my locker. (Remember, this was California.)

And it is precisely this that has, in a way, caused inside me a push to overreact to excessive paternalism, to really demonstrate that I’m fine very far below the point at which my parents (scientifically erroneously) believed I would certainly end up catching a cold.

And honestly, I think I’ve come to like what I’ve done in terms of adjusting how my clothing reflects the weather (or lack thereof). As mentioned above, it has made me feel closer to nature and to think more about and feel closer-up the awesome powers of natural forces.

M. Virza likes to go taking walks in the rain. It can really seem bizarre, but a while ago I decided a natural extension to not caring about the cold would be to not care about the rain and stop bringing an umbrella, and to give what he does a try. The thing about umbrellas is that they always need their own space to dry up when brought inside and often get forgotten places (like jackets). It’d be nice to adjust oneself such that one doesn’t need them. I’ve recently tried several times intentionally not bringing an umbrella and walking places in the rain. It seemed actually fine, although I do still feel I should avoid walking outside if possible due to higher chances of slipping and due to the fact that I’m often carrying electronics (hey look, I’m caring more about the wellbeing of my electronics than about the wellbeing of myself, I’m being a stereotypical…something, I don’t actually know) that I might mind getting wet.

I think I’m fairly convinced I can just ditch the umbrella now in rain scenarios. Maybe not in snow scenarios. I have consistently had more than my typical less-than-one-layer when it was snowing, and I’m not sure I want to change that soon, although I might give that a shot.

But looking back so far this descent into winter, I have only worn a t-shirt and shorts every day except for the particular occasion in which I don’t for a not-weather-related reason that I’m not going to mention here. (This might change very soon. I see some really cold weather coming up in a few days.)

It would be cool to actually attain total weather neutrality and not ever have the weather affect plans at all, and just wear a t-shirt and shorts and not bring an umbrella everywhere. It’s probably not going to happen fully, but I’m fairly happy with how close I’ve been able to get, and still strive to get closer, both for the convenience and for the feel of defiance.


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