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Examiner
  • Jason Offutt: Common sense takes a holiday

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  • Frost covered the windows of my 1992 Toyota pickup. I could see that through the front window.
    Being an early 21st century man, I went to my laptop in a warm and cozy house and looked up the temperature on the Internet. Weather.com said my town was 20 degrees. Thatís cold. I didnít need exposure to the environment to convince me.
    Darned if I didnít have to go outside anyway.
    I pulled on my pea coat, a present from a college friend during his Navy days. If youíve never worn a pea coat, they were built for the Rebel Alliance on the ice planet Hoth. You will never get cold in one. Ever. I put on a scarf and cap anyway and went outside to battle frost.
    ďGood morning,Ē a 20-something across the street said.
    As I opened the door to the truck, I noticed something odd about the kid using a plastic cup to scrape frost off the cracked windshield of his Dodge Neon. He was wearing shorts.
    ďUm, not sure you noticed this, but itís below freezing,Ē I said across the cold asphalt.
    He looked at me like Iíd said something in Latin, or Klingon, before he waved and hopped onto a driverís seat that was probably as comfortable as a plate of cold cuts, and drove off.
    I started the truck, turned on the defroster and went back inside where it was warm.
    Much like venereal disease, Third World dictatorships and the crop circles, the fact that this kid didnít know 20 degrees meant he should wear pants probably had something to do with how we educate our children.
    According to our cultureís current educational structure, itís the public school systemís job to teach our future doctors, bankers and Subway sandwich artists about the rules of life before sending them off to college, where theyíll eventually drink too much beer and throw up in a strangerís lap.
    Once they get to college, all bets are off.
    They need a different kind of education, like the kind you get at Offuttís School of Practical Physics. Here are two simple lessons:
    ē The fact that my neighbor was wearing shorts in the cold probably meant he was confused about frost point temperature, which is when water in the air sublimates to a surface, such as a windshield.
    Maybe he just didnít know what sublimates meant.
    ē Occamís Razor states that when two hypotheses make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is better.
    Hypothesis One: The oven is set to 400 degrees so the pizza I just cooked is probably hot.
    Hypothesis Two: The ovenís set to 400 degrees, but in order to properly determine the temperature of the pizza, Iíll stick a slice in my mouth.
    Page 2 of 2 - Iíd go with Hypothesis One. The kid across the street is probably a Hypothesis Two kind of guy.
    In my ongoing effort to simplify everyoneís life, Iíll simplify matters even more: the answer to 43 Down on The New York Times Thursday crossword is ďpeat.Ē
    Thatís all youíll ever need to know.
    Jason Offuttís latest book, ďAcross a Corn-Swept Land: An Epic Beer Run through the Upper Midwest,Ē is available at amazon.com.

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