Dear Paul

Expert answers to your most dire questions

Q: With all the end-of-the-year deals, I’m considering buying a new car. Are hybrids really everything they’re cracked up to be?
A: I bought a Camry hybrid, which looks like every other Camry on the road, except it gets an average of 40 miles per gallon in the summer months, and about 34 mpg in the winter. I spend less time hanging out at SuperAmerica and get to work just as fast. With gas prices fluctuating between $2 and $4 a gallon, it just makes sense—dollars and sense.

The best solution is a plug-in electrical car that you can charge up every night in your garage, especially if you have a daily commute of less than 50 miles. Think of all that money you can save on gas and put to better causes, like stockpiling money for college, retirement, or gift subscriptions to Minnesota Monthly.

Q: I’m planning a snowball fight with my brother. What is it that affects whether the snow is fluffy or dense and, er, easy to manipulate?
A: The key factor is the air temperature while the snow is falling. When it’s really cold, with air temperatures below 15 to 20 degrees, snowflakes are light and fluffy, like feathers in a down blanket. But when the temperature is closer to freezing, the flakes clump together: This is the kind of heavy, wet snow that’s perfect for snow forts—and ambushing your brother when he least expects it. Just one bit of advice: Don’t aim for the head. I hate to sound like your grandmother, but if there’s any ice in the snowball, you could take an eye out with that thing!

Q: My boss doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Can I still buy him a gift?
A: Yes, absolutely. The holiday season is a time of reflection, compassion, and generosity. Giving a gift is symbolic, a way to acknowledge and thank friends, family, and co-workers who are important in our lives. The spirit of the holidays transcends individual religions and the different ways we celebrate the mystery and wonder of life. Still, keep it simple. Trust me. I’m a weatherman.

Paul Douglas is a meteorologist, inventor, and businessman living in the Twin Cities. Got a tough question? Send it to