Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Par, Able

A cooling appliance is regulated by a thermostat. The thermostat is programmed to cut power to the cooling unit once the temperature reaches 68 degrees farenheit. Should the surrounding temperature exceed 76 degrees, the thermostat is also set to switch the cooling device back on. The idea, of course, is to have a mean temperature of plus or minus 72 degrees farenheit. There's an 8 degree range between 68 (cold) and 76 (hot) degrees in which the thermostat will "idle" before it decides to kick in. "Idling" takes five to ten minutes.

Let's say the device's owner, "Joe," is not happy with a temperature differential of 8 degrees. What if he wants to shorten the "idling" time? He fiddles with the thermostat so that the cooling unit is switched on at 73 degrees and powers down at 71. There's a smaller temperature differential (+1 or -1 degrees) and consequently a shorter wait before the thermostat kicks in.

But let's say Joe is a finicky noveau riche Filipino and he doesn't want to have to wait at all. He wants his room to always be at 72 degrees. So he sets the thermostat's "idling" time to zero. But he doesn't get the desired reults. As soon as his room temperature reaches the ideal 72 degrees, all hell breaks loose. Because both "hot" and "cold" are set at 72 degrees, the thermostat experiences a machine version of anxiety-- trying to switch the cooling unit on while simultaneously switching it off. Cooling unit blows a gasket and starts an electrical fire. Joe pays the price.

Parents and employers, remember this when you lay out policy for- or dish out orders to- your kids or your employees. We're your thermostat. If your "cooling unit" blows a gasket and starts an electrical fire, you have only yourselves to blame.

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