Minor Thoughts from me to you

Up Next: The Shadow of the Wind

Since I ripped through The Martian in just a day, I was looking through my reading ideas list to see what I wanted to tackle next. I decided to grab The Shadow of the Wind, since Adam highly recommended it. I hopped over to the Goodreads page and read the description.

To console his only child, Daniel’s widowed father, an antiquarian book dealer, initiates him into the secret of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a library tended by Barcelona’s guild of rare-book dealers as a repository for books forgotten by the world, waiting for someone who will care about them again. Daniel’s father coaxes him to choose a volume from the spiraling labyrinth of shelves, one that, it is said, will have a special meaning for him. And Daniel so loves the novel he selects, 'The Shadow of the Wind', by one Julian Carax, that he sets out to find the rest of Carax’s work. To his shock, he discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book this author has written. In fact, he may have the last one in existence.

This gave me a bit of a double take. Last summer, I read Cryptic: The Best Short Fiction of Jack McDevitt. This description strongly reminded me of one of McDevitt's stories, "The Fort Moxie Branch". I enjoyed that story (heck, I enjoyed the entire volume), so I'll count that as just one more endorsement for The Shadow of the Wind.

School Choice For the Rich!

(For National School Choice Week.)

School choice is a hotly debated topic in state capitals around the U.S. I'm not sure why. Oh, I know the reasons that people give, but I don't understand why so many people are so vociferously opposed to school choice.

The truth is, we already have nationwide school choice. We just have the most regressive, anti-democratic form of school choice imaginable. Rich families have school choice and poor families do not. It's simple. If you can afford private school tuition, you can send your children to the private school of your choice. If you can afford to rent or to buy a house in the school district of your choice, then you can send your children to the public school of your choice. Either way, if you don't have the necessary money for tuition or housing, then you have no choice over your children's school.

What kind of progressive person supports a policy like that?

We need a school choice policy that's available to everyone: rich, middle class, or poor. I'm 100 percent in favor of school choice. But I don't support our current regressive system of school choice. I'm for school choice that's progressive. I want everyone to be able to choose the educational environment that's right for their child, regardless of race, creed, religion, or income. I want school choice that's available to every American—rich or poor.

It's a mean attitude that says I'll take my money, I'll take my high income, and I'll use it to bid up the cost of housing in the districts with good public schools. It takes a mean person to do that, but then turn around to tell their poorer neighborhors that you can't rescue your children from a school you don't like unless you can first afford to move out of the neighborhood, out of the house, out of the apartment that you currently live in. It's a mean attitude that says those who have money can move around and pick the best, but those who don't must stay put and suffer the worst.

I want school choice that gives everyone an equal choice regardless of income. I want school choice that's available to all. I don't understand why everyone else only supports school choice for the rich.

How Dresses Lost Their Sleeves →

Apparently, it's challenging to make a dress with sleeves that look good.

To designers, sleeves can be frumpy. They also pose design challenges. Sleeve peeves may be rising in part because it is so tricky to make a flattering sleeve that is roomy enough to offer a full range of motion. With more casual styles and the introduction of stretch fabrics from denim to silk, women have grown accustomed to comfort, and they are more likely to revolt against constrictive clothing.

“In the past, the tolerance for uncomfortable clothing was a lot higher than it is now,” says designer Trina Turk.

… But office clothing, with its tailored and more-fitted look, poses a design challenge. Structured construction makes it difficult to add a sleeve that allows complete freedom of movement, unless the fabric is stretchy. Ms. Turk’s ponte-knit “Monarch” dress style has slim, elbow-length sleeves that work because the knit fabric stretches.

So, mostly, dresses are sleeveless because the designers just give up.

Ms. Lepore, known for her curvy, flirty, colorful boho designs, says with each collection she aims to have a balance of sleeved and sleeveless dresses. Sleeves, she says, can make a dress look dowdy.

In Ms. Lepore’s recent resort collection, one tribal-look dress went through several iterations. It started with an elbow-length sleeve. The design team stared at the sample in the mirror trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. They tried a cap sleeve. Still wrong.

The dress wound up sleeveless.

This entry was tagged. Clothing

Do Millennials Prefer Single Family Home? →

Asks the Wall Street Journal. But it seems like they may have buried the most important part about the supposedly surprising survey.

“The preference for the suburbs suggests that future demand will be in the form of single-family homes rather than condominiums more prevalent in cities,” said David Berson, chief economist with Nationwide Insurance Co. “That’s also good news for future suburban single-family sellers, many of whom are baby boomers.”

The survey results, though, could be skewed because they included only millennials who first answered that they bought a home within the past three years or intended to do so in the next three years. That excluded young people who intend to rent for many more years, which is a large and growing group, in part because of hefty student debt and the tight mortgage-lending standards of recent years.

This entry was tagged. Housing Market

How We Get the Smell of Rain →

They found that at the right velocity on the right kind of soil (sandy clay works, but sand doesn’t) a falling water drop can trap tiny air bubbles under it. Those bubbles capture molecules in the soil. As the water drop deforms, the bubbles scoot up through the drop and jet out into the air, like champagne bubbles or spray from a crashing wave.

If the drop falls too slowly, it is absorbed; too fast, and it splatters without the bubbles emerging. “The sweet spot has to do with the velocity of the droplet and the qualities of the soil,” said Cullen R. Buie, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering. He and a postdoctoral researcher, Youngsoo Joung, reported on their work in Nature Communications.

This entry was tagged. Science

How the Packers Lost the NFC Championship Game

Last night's NFC Championship Game, between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, was very disappointing. It was a game that could have turned around the defensive playoff disappointments of the past few years and proven that the Packers are finally able to beat the NFC's toughest teams.

The Packers scored 16 points points in the first quarter and made the Seahawks offense look powerless. After the lead held up through 3 quarters, I began to think that the Packers actually would win in Seattle. Then, over a 7 minute period, it all fell apart. A 19–7 lead turned into a 28–22 loss.

After it was over, I was tempted to blame the defense for the loss. After all, the Seahawks scored 28 points. After some reflection, I've decided that I mostly blame the offense and the special teams. The defense really has gotten better and everyone should acknowledge that.

I'll quickly discuss the special teams. Mason Cosby kicked five field goals and scored 15 points. The kickoff coverage team recovered a fumble. But that's offset by the field goal coverage team giving up a touchdown and the onside kick "hands team" failing to recover the onside kick. Directly and indirectly, special teams gave up 14 points, more than enough to sink the team.

I reviewed each of Green Bay's 13 offensive possessions. I saw a lot of missed opportunities. The Green Bay defense forced 4 turnovers, and forced the Seahawks into four 3-and-out punts. Six different drives started with a field of 57 yards or less. In spite of these gifts, the offense only managed one touchdown and 5 field goals.

The numbers are stark.

  • After 5 turnovers (one from special teams, four from defense), the offense had a chance to score 15–35 points. They only managed to score 6 points and move the ball a combined total of 71 yards.
  • The offense put together 3 drives of 48 yards or more. They only scored a combined 6 points off of these drives.
  • Off of the four quick defensive stops (forcing the Seattle offense into 3-and-outs), the Green Bay offense had a chance to score 12–28 points. They only moved the ball a total of 133 yards and only scored a combined 13 points.

Throughout the second half of the season, the offense showed a disturbing tendency to stall out. They often had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. That sunk the team yesterday as the team got inside the Seattle 30-yard line 5 times, but only scored one touchdown.

The Packers offense could have scored an additional 44 points. Those points could have put the game out of reach and made the Seattle offense completely one dimensional. Instead, those missed opportunities allowed Seattle to stay within striking distance. Russell Wilson, one of the game's best comeback quarterbacks, finally struck—ending Green Bay's season.

This entry was tagged. Green Bay Packers NFL

Bakhtiari takes job as Rodgers' bodyguard seriously →

Tyler Dunne, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, recently profiled Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari.

As a kid, Bakhtiari said energy was always “spewing” out of him. He was the class clown. Rambunctious. His parents called him the “Tasmanian Devil.” And his older brother, Eric Bakhtiari, remembers one freakout in particular when David stood up in a resource class at school and screamed “Ahhh!,” weaved around the desks and left the room.

... As a player, Bakhtiari is a visual learner.

When the Packers’ offensive linemen first met in the classroom last season, Bakhtiari would stammer through empty answers. He couldn’t articulate a blocking assignment. He said left guard Josh Sitton — the player pivoted to his right every play — thought he was “a complete idiot” in the classroom.

“Then we go out on the field,” Bakhtiari said, “and I don’t (expletive) up once. It just makes sense to me out there. But if you ask me to verbalize what we’re doing I’d just say, ‘Dude, I don’t know.’ Let’s just go out on the field and I’ll show you.’”

When he takes notes on specific plays, Bakhtiari doesn’t use words. His notepad is a constellation of X’s and O’s and arrows.

It's a good reminder that intelligence comes in different forms. Football players are frequently derided as neanderthals who's only outlet is violence. And, yet, I'm fairly certain that I couldn't breakdown football plays in real time the way that Bakhtiari can.

This entry was tagged. Green Bay Packers NFL

The Art of the Snap Count →

I'm always interested when I learn more about the hidden complexities of playing football at the NFL's elite level.

Most of the time, the Packers will meander along snapping the ball on Rodgers' command of "Ready, ready," or the first, second, third or even fourth "Hut."

But with the Packers generally operating from a muddle huddle this season, Rodgers usually has plenty of time to engage in verbal high jinks at the line if he chooses.

"It's not just going on a double count," said Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga. "There's more than just what you hear on the microphone.

"There's some where he'll start in completely different on a cadence. It messes with guys."

Many defensive coaching staffs study TV tapes of previous games in an attempt to find audio patterns of a quarterback's call.

"But if you're playing Aaron Rodgers you can't do that or you're going to jump offsides," [Mike] Trgovac, the Packers' defensive line coach said. "Aaron knows the right situation to use it (hard count)."

There are times during games when the offensive linemen will tell Rodgers the defense is timing his cadence and request a hard count.

"He knows it helps us up front," said Bulaga. "He does a great job mixing it up so those guys can't just tee off."

This entry was tagged. NFL Green Bay Packers

On Ant Man

Ant man, running with the ants

I rewatched the trailer for Marvel's Ant Man and I still don't understand the appeal of the character. At the most basic level, I find it hard to believe that shrinking to the size of an ant is all that useful of a super power. Sure, it becomes a lot easier to infiltrate the bad guy's lair. You can more easily act as a spy or sabotage really small things. But you don't magically gain in strength. Ants may be a lot stronger proportionally, but at the end of the day you're still a microscopic speck on someone's wall or kitchen counter.

I get Batman's appeal: a tech powered ninja detective. I see where The Flash can be useful: sprint in and out of sticky situations. Even without super strength, the ability to sucker punch your opponent 30 times in an instant is powerful. But minuscule size? I don't see it. It's not something that intuitively appeals to me as something that would make for a good story or a good movie.

I'm unlikely to see the movie unless it gets really good reviews.

This entry was tagged. Marvel Comics Movies

The Blasphemy We Need →

I agree with Ross Douthat.

We are in a situation where my third point applies, because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

Texas's Hair Braiders Law is Unconstitutional →

This is a win for economic liberty. It's good to see judges who are willing to protect people's right to earn a living.

Isis Brantley, an entrepreneur who runs a hair braiding school in Dallas, sued the state in 2013, citing the laws that pertained to hair braiding schools to be unreasonable. Under Texas laws, hair braiding schools must first be a fully equipped barber college before turning into a facility that teaches students how to braid hair. In the case of Brantley, she had to first convert her small business into a barber school that had at least 10 student chairs that reclined back and a sink behind ever work station before being allowed to teach hair braiding.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled the laws against hair braiders to be “irrational,” citing the fact that braiding salons don’t need sinks to do hair because hair washing is not a part of the braiding process. Judge Sparks also reasoned that the state cannot force entrepreneurs to do meaningless things before starting their own business and challenged the state to find a single hair braiding school that met their requirements.

The Future of Meat Is Plant-Based Burgers →

Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the idea of plant based meat substitutes. My interest is purely tech based. I'm not worried about the ethics of eating meat or about saving the environment. I just think that the idea of transmorgifying plants into meat is fascinating.

If Beyond Meat is right, it's an idea that may be closer to moving from SF to reality.

a box arrived at my door and made it easy.

Inside were four quarter-pound brown patties. I tossed one on the grill. It hit with a satisfying sizzle. Gobbets of lovely fat began to bubble out. A beefy smell filled the air. I browned a bun. Popped a pilsner. Mustard, ketchup, pickle, onions. I threw it all together with some chips on the side and took a bite. I chewed. I thought. I chewed some more. And then I began to get excited about the future.

It was called the Beast Burger, and it came from a Southern California company called Beyond Meat, located a few blocks from the ocean. At that point, the Beast was still a secret, known only by its code name: the Manhattan Beach Project. I’d had to beg Ethan Brown, the company’s 43-year-old CEO, to send me a sample.

And it was vegan. “More protein than beef,” Brown told me when I rang him up after tasting it. “More omegas than salmon. More calcium than milk. More antioxidants than blueberries. Plus muscle-recovery aids. It’s the ultimate performance burger.”

This entry was tagged. Food Innovation

Baby Bananas: An Interesting Idea →

After reading this, I'm certainly willing to give baby bananas a fair chance. I just don't know if I'll be able to find any around here.

Is America ready for a second banana? For most shoppers, one banana fits all: the Cavendish. A foot long and weighing in at seven ounces, it accounts for at least 99% of national banana consumption. It also causes trouble for people who don’t want to slice a whole banana into a bowl of Rice Krispies.

If only bananas could be smaller. Well, some are. Of the 33 billion bananas shipped to the U.S. in a year, a tiny fraction are exotic cousins often sold as “babies.” That is demeaning; baby bananas are full-grown. At a third the size of a Cavendish, sweeter and creamier, a baby fits without waste into a peanut butter, banana and mayonnaise sandwich. No one slicing a baby banana into a bowl of Rice Krispies ever has to ask, “Who wants the rest of this banana?”

This entry was tagged. Food

Reclaiming Heinlein

Early last year, MetaFilter had a spirited discussion about SF. Various people were arguing about supposed Progressive bias in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) and whether an author like Robert Heinlein would even be welcome in SF today. Several people doubted that he could even win a Hugo today.

John Scalzi stepped in to say that not only could he still win, but that he would definitely win today. Scalzi essentially argues that today's SF field is broader than yesterday's. Yes, there are more Progressive voices. But authors are still writing stories in the Heinlein tradition, they still sell well, and they still get nominated for awards.

If we grant that a resurrected Heinlein would read the lay of the land, commerce-wise, could he win a Hugo today? Sure he could -- or at the very least could get nominated. Charlie Stross wrote a homage to late Heinlein called Saturn's Children which was nominated for a Hugo in 2009; its sequel Neptune's Brood is on the ballot this year. Robert J. Sawyer, who writes in a clear, Campbellian style, is a frequent Best Novel nominee, most recently for Wake, which has a clear antecedent in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. James SA Corey rolled onto the Hugo Novel list in 2012 with Leviathan Wakes, which is solidly in the Golden Age traditon, updated for today's audiences. And I can think of at least one recent Hugo award winner who has a thrice-Hugo-nominated military science fiction series, who has been explicitly compared to Heinlein all through his career. So could Heinlein win a Hugo? Hell yeah, he could -- and if he were as commercially smart today as he was back in the day, it wouldn't even be question of if, but when.

Reading Goals: 2015

I wrote out reading goals for the first time ever, last year. I enjoyed the project so much that I'm going to do it again this year.

Last year's goals were pretty simple: read through several series and read a list of non-fiction books. This year, I'm going to go in a slightly different direction with a longer set of goals. I want to focus on some specific authors, reread some old favorites, read some literary fiction, some hard science fiction, more non-fiction, and books that hooked me with interesting ideas.

Last year, I made an actual reading list, with the intention of reading every book on the list. This year, I'm keeping things more casual and spontaneous, by making an ideas list rather than a reading list.

For the last 4 years, I've been keeping track of every book that catches my eye. I've also been noting down what I found interesting about each book. I went through that list and skimmed off the cream. The result is a list of over 100 books that meet each of these goals. I definitely won't be able to read everything on the list but it'll give me plenty of ideas to draw from throughout the year.

Specific Authors

I keep running across authors that intrigue me. I really like reading through an author's back catalog to get more familiar with him. This year, I'd like to focus on some specific authors that have caught my attention.

Guy Gavriel Kay writes fantasy that's often set in historical analogues to our own world. It may be fantasy, but it reads like historical fiction. I read one of his books last year and I want to read more of them this year.

Robert Silverberg is a giant in the SF field. He's been writing for decades, won countless awards, influenced the field in many ways, and has been named an SFWA Grand Master. I've read a few of his works and really appreciated the literary tone of them. I want to read a lot more.

Jack Vance is another writer that I only became aware of recently. He's another SFWA Grand Master and winner of multiple awards. His stories have a more literary tone to them. According to Wikipedia, "[a] 2009 profile in The New York Times Magazine described Vance as "one of American literature's most distinctive and undervalued voices"."

I first heard of Brent Weeks from Brandon Sanderson. His simple description, "Brent is making epic fantasy novels that read with the pacing of a thriller", intrigued me. Then I started seeing his name pop up all over the place. Hint taken, Internet. I'll see what the fuss is about. The last time I did this, I discovered how much I love Jim Butcher's Dresden series. I'm hoping this is just as successful.

William Gibson is the man who launched the cyberpunk movement and inspired an entire generation of writers. I've heard of him, often, but I've never actually read him. At the urging of my team lead, I'll remedy that this year.

Reread Old Favorites

I don't often indulge in rereads. I always feel like there's too much that I haven't yet read, to spend time rereading. But there are a lot of books that I really like and this year I'm going to indulge myself by rereading a few of them.

Literary Fiction

Last April, I talked to Adam about literary fiction and what makes a story literary. Since then, I've been thinking more and more about literary fiction. I don't want to admit defeat and an inability to read an entire section of writing. This year, I'm going to try reading a few different literary novels in the hopes of better finding out what I do and don't like.

Hard Science Fiction

For me, hard science fiction is what makes the entire genre worthwhile. The focus on scientific and technical accuracy takes the genre from mere entertainment to something that becomes educational. I took a college class on Physics and Science Fiction and learned a lot from it. As much as I like it though, I've read almost no hard science fiction in the last couple of years. That changes in 2015.


Whatever else reading is, it should be educational. I'll continue reading non-fiction, to ensure that I continue stretching my mind and increasing my store of knowledge.

Interesting Hooks

I've collected quite a list of "reading ideas" over the past 2 or 3 years. Many of them are books that had a specific hook that caught my interest. This year, I'll go through that list, write about what hooked my interest, and then read the books to see if they live up to the hook.

The End

I'll finish off last year's goals: reading the Wheel of Time series and finishing the Culture novels. I intend to purchase another Supporting Membership for Worldcon. I'll continue reading Hugo eligible books, to inform my vote. And I'll continue to give myself the freedom to read outside of my goals, as I find things that interest me.

This entry was tagged. Reading List

A Wheel of Time Overview

About 3 ½ years ago, Brandon Sanderson gave a talk at the Polaris Conference. I listened the the recording and took some notes on his comments about the Wheel of Time. Here's the overview he gave of the series.

  • Books 1-3 (The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn) are quest stories
  • Books 4-6 (The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos) slow way down and are really deep character drawings. The destinations stopped being as important as what was happening with the characters and the way the world was expanding. If you don't make the transition, book 4 is a hard transition but is the favorite of many fans.
  • Book 7-9 (A Crown of Swords, The Path of Daggers, Winter's Heart) are the start of a bunch of big arcs and they stopped being individual books. There aren't climaxes where you'd expect until book 9, which has one of the biggest climaxes of the entire series.
  • Book 10 (Crossroads of Twilight) is a weird outlier. It's a parallel novel that tells the backstories of some of the side stories. It's the slowest and is catching you up on what happened with some of the characters during the big events of book 9. It lays a lot of foundation work.
  • Book 11 (Knife of Dreams) starts to build on the foundation of book 10.

I've kept this in mind ever since. Now that I'm in the middle of book 8 (The Path of Daggers), it's an even better help to keep my bearings in this immense story.

This entry was tagged. Reading List

Still working on my 2015 reading goals

With 2014 now in the rearview mirror, I've been turning my attention to my 2015 reading goals and reading list. I've actually been thinking about it for the past month, but I've been too busy with other things to actually put it together.

I have a pretty good idea of what the list is going to look like, but it takes time to create it and link everything up just right. I worked on it tonight and I expect to work on it throughout the week. I'd like to get it published by this weekend.

Until then, I'll continue reading either the next Wheel of Time or Culture novel.

(I also plan to write down some of my thoughts on my 2014 reading goals and accomplishments, but I'm not sure when that will be ready.)

This entry was tagged. Reading List

It's 2015. I updated my footer.

I have a copyright footer at the bottom of my site. And I'd completely forgotten that it need to be updated for 2015. Shawn Blanc's post yesterday reminded me. He linked to It's 2015. Update Your Footer as a public service announcement.

Ever looked at a website and wondered if it is still in operation? Maybe a thing or two looked like they could have been updated – and then you notice the copyright notice the in the footer. "2012. Right, this site must be dead. Let's move along."

Of course, it could be that the owner just forgot to update the year in the footer. That happens a lot, especially if those years are hard-coded strings. To future-proof your footer, it's better to just let computers take care of this. Grab one of these snippets and paste that on your page (or forward this site as a friendly reminder to someone who can do it for you).

The snippets on the page are for Javascript and PHP. I didn't want a Javascript based date and my site doesn't run on PHP. I'm using Pelican, written in Python. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to make my own snippet for automatically updating the footer every year.

Pelican uses Jinja for site templates. In order to have the date in the footer, I needed a Jinja variable to hold the date. Pelican made it easy to create one.

All templates will receive the variables defined in your settings file, as long as they are in all-caps. You can access them directly.

I added this to my pelicanconf.py file:

import datetime
TODAY = datetime.date.today()

Once that was done, it was easy to add a dynamic footer to my theme's base.html file.

Copyright © 2006–{{ TODAY|strftime ('%Y') }}

And that's it. Now my site's footer will always be current with the year of the last time that I updated the site.

To make things more challenging, I did the entire change on my iPad. I used Dash for reading Python documentation. I used Textastic to update my template and settings file. Just for fun, I opened both files using Transmit's doc provider extension. Finally, I used Pythonista to actually rebuild the site and push the updated files to the server.

Grimm's Fairy Tales

The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, cover art

For Christmas, my mom gave me a copy of the new edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales. The Guardian wrote about this new edition.

Rapunzel is impregnated by her prince, the evil queen in Snow White is the princess’s biological mother, plotting to murder her own child, and a hungry mother in another story is so “unhinged and desperate” that she tells her daughters: “I’ve got to kill you so I can have something to eat.” Never before published in English, the first edition of the Brothers Grimms’ tales reveals an unsanitised version of the stories that have been told at bedtime for more than 200 years.

I'm excited to have this edition. I think it'll make great bedtime reading for my four daughters.

Thanks, Mom!

Update: After reading this post, my mother would like to make it clear that she wasn't aware of the uncensored content of this edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Had she known, she never would have purchased it.

This entry was tagged. Children Fairy Tales

Stay Cold to Lose Weight? →

My wife thinks I keep the temperature too cold as it is. I don't think she'd be a fan of this line of research.

The mild cold exposure he advocates might be as simple as forgoing a jacket when you’re waffling over whether you need one, not layering cardigans over flannels despite the insistence of the fall catalogs, or turning off the space heater under your desk. And if you don’t want to annihilate the environment by running the air conditioner to get a taste of sweet, calorie-burning, metabolism-enhancing cold in the summer, there are devices like the ice vest, which really isn’t as terrible as it sounds.

“The first time you put it on, it’s a bit shocking, to be honest,” Wayne Hayes, the vest’s inventor, warned me. “You feel like, Holy shit, this is cold.” But after wearing it a few times, he said, most people barely notice they have it on. That was my experience. (Hayes’s wife has become so used to the vest that she wears it under her clothes instead of over them.) Hayes recommends wearing the vest twice a day until the ice melts—which can take an hour or longer—though he has himself worn it as many as three or four times in a single day.