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Ingenious

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Mystery Object

We were at the Prince William County Fair last week, taking our usual turn through the exhibits and displays, when we came up this object among the display of old farm implements. I had never seen anything like it, and first surmised it was a kind of two-person butter churn, with one person on each handle on either side. But it didn’t look like a butter churn, and so, curious about what it was, I posted the picture on Facebook, asking my FB friends if anyone could identify it. Two of them could: it’s a manually operated clothes washer. The clothes go in through the lid, water is added, and more than likely, a plunger is inserted through the hole in the top to agitate the clothes. It’s a sight better than beating your laundry on river rocks!

It struck me that this was an ingenious way to at least bring some degree of mechanization to the clothes washing process. I don’t know how well it worked–maybe not so well because you don’t see that many of these (or at least I haven’t–maybe habitees of antique shops and shows are familiar with them). I had heard of washing machines powered by gasoline (my father’s family had one) and kerosene. If you don’t have electricity, it’s an ingenious solution, made right at home.

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Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to Conclusions

It has occurred to me recently that I jump to conclusions entirely too often. I like to figure things out and, given a set of circumstances, it’s interesting and instructive to try to reach some plausible conclusions. But too often when I do, the conclusions are wrong.

Let’s take the last time I had to put my Mazda wagon into the shop as an example. I knew that when you take a car to a mechanic with a problem, you don’t diagnose the cause, no matter how much you think you know about cars. The Mazda was missing under a load, and rather than tell my men at the auto repair shop what was causing it (coulda been a lot of things, really), I simply reported that it was missing. They ran computer codes on the car and came up with nothing from that. Their surmise was that I had gotten some bad gas (and I had eaten Mexican the day before…sorry, couldn’t resist) and they put in some additives to combat the problem, telling me to run the gas in the tank down to let the additives work, and then get some gas that was a known good quantity.

A couple of days later, the “check engine” light came on. And went off. And came on. I tried tightening the gas cap and nearly twisted the threads off, but the light came on. What’s worse, it started flashing. I called the repair shop and the owner’s daughter, who is the receptionist, told me to bring it in ASAP because the engine could stop dead at any time. I drove it right over.

Long story short, the engine codes showed a burned out spark plug coil. I didn’t know that spark plugs had coils. Apparently, when many (most, really) car engines went to fuel injection, the coil moved from the, well, coil which serviced all the plugs to an individual coil for each plug. Sounds personal and cozy, doesn’t it? I thought so.

So, they replaced the coil and the Mazda again has the smoothly running brute of an engine I have come to expect.

What are the “takeaways,” as people like to call them nowadays, in this? ¬†First, as I wrote earlier, don’t jump to conclusions. Second, I (and other people) don’t know as much as we think we do. Third, even experts can be wrong for a while, but they (or someone else) usually figures it out.

I’m going to do better at keeping an open mind, not jumping to conclusion, being sure of what I do and don’t know, and realize that in so many areas, I am decidedly not an expert. Although sometimes I do figure things out, such as recently when I figured out how to remove all the Facebook contacts that kept showing up on my iPhone. Really, though, that wasn’t a matter of using logic and knowledge as it was continuing to press buttons until I achieved the desired outcome. I’m good at that, at least.

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