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Quilts and High Beams

January 7, 2024

There have been problems in chip manufacturing in the last couple of years creating a wide-ranging effect on a lot of different things. These days, there are chips in everything. Just think about your washing machine, stove, microwave, and even your doorbell if you have one with a camera.

I have always considered these things points of failure, meaning one more thing that can break.

Computers are the way the world is going. Burrowing farther into the things that fill our lives. Like a freight train. Get on or get run over. I held out on getting a cell phone until just a couple of years ago. I still resist. I am not all in on phone gizmos. I don’t do texts. Or watch movies. Or read the news. Or play games. I can‘t escape the march of progress though. No one can. Especially not if you drive.

I drive a Honda Civic. I wanted a hybrid but could not get one. At the time new and used cars were difficult to impossible to find or to afford. The supply was low for both and in some cases, dealers were charging a premium ON TOP OF the car price. One dealer in Erie charged a $5000 surcharge on new cars to scare away car flippers.

The supply of new cars was hindered to some extent by a chip shortage. It is amazing how many things are computer-controlled in a car. Maintenance used to mean replacing points, plugs, and condensers and adjusting timing. A cow could do it. Well, I could do it. These days service requires a device of some type to plug into the car’s computer system to translate arcane codes into arcane component issues. We can go on YouTube for videos on making many repairs, but technology has outpaced the skills and physical limitations of many ‘garage mechanics’. That is a downside of technology. I can no longer repair or maintain much of my vehicle. However, there are upsides, and some of these I learned about during visits to quilt shops.

For example, I learned something about high beams. By ‘high beams’, I’m talking about a headlight setting in vehicles. Particularly on roads in the forest, there are no street lights. All illumination is from vehicle headlights, including reflection from fluorescent road line paint and reflective road signs, and houses with occasional dusk-to-dawn lighting. I LOVE driving in the forest. Except at night, and more so as I get older. There are long stretches of roads where there are no signs. Or houses. I got a sense of just how dark it is on forest roads one night when my wife told me to pull over and turn off the headlights. It was amazing. And revealing. I don’t drive much in the dark. When I do, much of the time I am using my ‘brights’, or high beams. That does introduce some concerns.

First, in the forest, I have to keep the Amish in mind. It is not often but I have seen them in winter mornings before light. In black buggies. With ninja horses. Sometimes they have lanterns. Usually, they have fluorescent triangles on the back of their buggies. (I heard a comedian say if you hit the triangle with a softball you dunk the driver.) Always they are difficult to see at any distance in the dark. High beams can help except when they are in oncoming traffic.

Oncoming traffic is the second issue with brights. I try to be courteous, turning them off when other cars approach. And rage against approaching drivers who do not show the same courtesy.

In the ‘old days’ (my old days) you turned your brights on and off with a switch at your left foot. Of course, in wintry climates, these could get corrupted with snow and salt from your boots. My grandfather’s old pink Cadillac had a black thing on the driver-side fender that automatically switched the brights off when oncoming traffic was detected. That was only on Cadillacs of cars in my orbit back then. Somewhere along the line, foreign cars moved the brights switch to a turn-signal-like lever on the steering column. You still had to switch it manually. And one day at a quilt store, I learned a better way.

I should here say that the discovery had nothing to do with quilting. My wife does quilting. I often go with her just for the company. But I usually draw the line at going into the store. When I’m sitting in the car waiting, sometimes I nap, but sometimes I read. And sometimes I have nothing to read so I read the owner’s manual of my vehicle. That is how I found the auto-bright feature in my Honda Civic. I set the knob to AUTO on the headlight switch, pull it back toward me for several seconds, and my high beams turn on and off automatically when traffic is detected, either coming my way or traveling in front of me. I LOVE IT.

The other day I was in the dentist’s office for some work. It was 24 degrees when we went into the office. I was in there maybe 20 minutes. When we came out of the office, all of my car windows were down. They were up when we went into the office. It turns out that if we hold our UNLOCK button on the key fob for several seconds, all of the windows go down. I can now add to my list of things I can do by butt. (i.e. butt-dialing, butt-friending (i.e. accidentally friending someone on Facebook)), I can butt-window-down. (That is my term). I should note that this only works for opening the windows. There does not seem to be a butt-window-up. We were confused but consulted the manual, and sure enough, that is a ‘feature’ of our Honda. Your vehicle may have its own unique features that can be activated by finger (or butt) revealed in some obscure section of the manual.

My Civic usually beeps if I press the LOCK button three times when I’m out of the car. I do it to hear the beep. That tells me the door is locked. Explaining WHY would have overestimated my curiosity, but my wife did find the back story. If you press the LOCK button three times and the car does not beep, the trunk is open. I’m serious. Programmers think of everything.

The lesson in all of this is an old one. Read The Fine Manual. There are often great things to be learned. Sometimes to be avoided. I have had instances where I thought I knew what I was doing because I had done it before (or something similar to what I was doing) and skipped a step that ruined a part or caused me to backtrack many steps to correct things. Because I did not read the manual. It is apparently pretty common. Manuals today are often a folded piece of paper with microscopic font unreadable to the naked eye. Or only available online. From a QR code. Definitely, nothing that can be read in a quilt store parking area. Car manuals are still books, though, so I am often learning things in quilt store parking areas.

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