More questions than answers for readers drowning in detail


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Posted Online: April 03, 2013, 2:57 pm
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By Frank Mullen III
A number of readers have requested the answer to the math problem in last week's column. The question, paraphrased from a standardized high school achievement test, was this:

"Farmer Krueger has been offered $4,000 per acre if he will sell the southeastern half of his square, 360-acre farm. How much more money can he make if he sells the northwestern third of his farm for $7,000 per acre?"

The solution requires only the ability to recognize horse manure before stepping in it. I learned this valuable test-taking skill in the Navy, where every basic seamanship examination included the multiple-choice question,

"Seaman McCarthy has been ordered to empty the bilgewater from the forward storage compartment of the USS Gridley. What is the pumping capacity of the P-250 pump?

A. 250 gallons per minute.

B. 5 fluid ounces per century.

C. 30 miles per gallon.

D. 2 coupons per customer.

This question is drowning in unimportant details. It doesn't matter what the guy's name is, what ship he's on or what he has tattooed on his chest. All that matters is the capacity of the P-250 pump, the name of which is, let's face it, a big, big hint.

But some sailors always felt this question actually needed more details. They were generally nice guys from places with names like "Peoria" or "Cedar Rapids." They never answered the question. Instead, they'd pencil in more questions, such as, "Is this the Steve McCarthy from Decatur who owes me ten bucks?" or "There are no forward storage compartments on the Gridley. Do you mean the Greenville?"

Midwesterners crave details. Telling the story about the old lady who rear-ended your truck outside of Casey's last night requires beginning with the infant baptism of her husband, Edward, Darla Quirter's cousin, the mechanic from Buffalo Prairie who died 17 years ago.

The need for details is a major distraction for the many Midwesterners, primarily males, who gather in restaurants at 7 a.m. on weekday mornings, push a couple of tables together and argue.

"Anybody see the question in the paper about this farmer, Krueger, trying to sell his land?"

"You mean Tim Krugel, farms south of Coal Valley?"

"Nah, his farm is northeast of Sherrard."

"Northeast? Where'd you hear about phony, in-between directions like 'northeast?'"

"Right here in the Argus. Somebody gimme a pencil so I can diagram the northwestern half of this guy Krupner's farm."

"It's either 'Krugel' or 'Krueger,' not 'Krupner.'"

"And it's either 'north' or 'west,' not 'northwest.'"

Solving Farmer Krueger's dilemma requires weeding out extraneous information. Who cares whether his farm is square, rectangular or shaped like a pork chop? Ignore unfamiliar terms like "southeast" and "northwest." Such concepts have no meaning in the Midwest.

Consider Farmer Krueger's first offer. Half his 360-acre farm is 180 acres, whether they're located in the southeast, the northwest, or three miles outside of Akron, Ohio. At four thousand bucks per acre, selling that land would give Farmer Krueger $720,000. Or he can sell 1/3 of his acreage -- 120 acres, and we don't care where this land is, what shape it's in or, for that matter, what shape Farmer Krueger is in after a night at the VFW -- for 7,000 bucks per acre and walk away with $840, 00. So, if he takes the second offer--less land at a higher price per acre -- he comes out $120,000 ahead.

There's your answer, and if you disagree, call the U of I Department of Mathematics, not me. Unless you're selling land, that is, in which case I can put together an offer in no time.
Frank Mullen III of Aledo is a former Navy band leader.
















 



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  Today is Wednesday, April 23, the 113th day of 2014. There are 252 days left in the year.

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1889 — 125 years ago: The Central station, car house and stables of the Moline-Rock Island Horse Railway line of the Holmes syndicate, together with 15 cars and 42 head of horses, were destroyed by fire. The loss was at $15,000.
1914 — 100 years ago: Vera Cruz, Mexico, after a day and night of resistance to American forces, gradually ceased opposition. The American forces took complete control of the city.
1939 — 75 years ago: Dr. R. Bruce Collins was reelected for a second term as president of the Lower Rock Island County Tuberculosis Association.
1964 — 50 years ago: Work is scheduled to begin this summer on construction of a new men's residence complex and an addition to the dining facilities at Westerlin Hall at Augustana College.
1989 — 25 years ago: Special Olympics competitors were triple winners at Rock Island High School Saturday. The participants vanquished the rain that fell during the competition, and some won their events; but most important, they triumphed over their own disabilities.




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