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Ready for the winter?

It is time for the annual contest of wills at the Lemen/Broyles house: Who is the weenie? Who will break first and ask for the heat to be turned on?

We play this every year: not exactly by choice, but more by financial necessity, because once we turn our furnace on, the Old Beauty starts gulping down natural gas as if it’s a favorite cocktail at happy hour. Heat, as all New Englanders know, is expensive. The other thing we know is that once you turn the heat on, you rarely turn it off. So we have come to a compromise: We keep it off until it’s almost ridiculous. And by almost ridiculous, I mean we can see our breath inside.

But the interesting thing about this is that you can get acclimated to low heat inside your house. This has become an odd dilemma for me. It’s not a problem at night, as I have never liked sleeping in an overly warm room. I like the combination of a cool room and a warm bed, and it has to very cold for me not to stick my feet out from under the covers. But that’s fine — the problem I have is with dealing with heated (and to me, over-heated) interior spaces.

My place of work, like my home, is an old Victorian building. However, that old Victorian building hosts other people, and we put the heat on when it gets chilly. However, just like my house, the heating system at my office is steam heat via radiators, which can be tricky to regulate. Sometimes my desk, which is right next to a radiator, can be so hot that I have to either open a window or turn on a fan. It’s not a big deal and I can work with it. I have an office cardigan for the days when it is slightly chilly but I don’t want to turn up the radiator.

The problem for me is when I am in a modern building. Like this past weekend, when I was at the Wikimedia Conference at MIT in Cambridge. It was a chilly weekend, and I dressed for it. I was not exactly comfortable walking through frigid Kendall Square at 8 a.m., but I was not cold. It was once I was inside that the problem started.

I took off my hat and coat and mittens and then went to listen to all the fascinating speakers. (And they were fascinating.) After the first few minutes I would start getting warm. Quite warm.

So I drank a lot of water and stepped outside occasionally to cool down. Problem solved.

Not so easily solved when I am in meetings at work (or outside of work) in what I think of as ‘normally’ heated spaces. I sit and marvel at how warm it is (when I am supposed to be listening intensely to what is being said) and trust me, I am not swathed in wool sweaters and long johns.

So I have started to change my strategy for office wear: all layers, all the time — no matter the season — so I can a sweater on or take a jacket off. I always have a bottle of water with me, too, because nothing helps maintain my temperature than cold water. It’s also good for me.

At the Wikimedia Conference, another thing I noticed is that there were people dressed as if it was snowing inside the building (full hoodie on top of sweater and turtleneck) and people dressed as if it were July (shorts and sandals). So I need to stop obsessing about this and just accept that everyone has a different internal temperature.

Or, of course, we try an experiment: We could just turn the heat on in the Old Beauty in October, damn the consequences and see it I then need it to be warm all the time.

I think I can safely predict which of these two ideas is the one I am going to pursues.