Pro Tip: Do This Before Buying A Used Toyota Prius

Buying a used Toyota Prius can be a nightmare. I literally had a short conversation with someone who bought one, and the battery went bad 30 minutes later.

It got me thinking, what could I help people look for to know if the car is at least ok to take for a test drive. I came up with an excellent “pro tip” to help you all out.

Toyota Prius Readiness Monitors
If you are not sure what a readiness monitor is on a Prius, it is not complicated. It is not the “ready” light; it is something different.

Readiness monitors are basically a series of systems that monitor what the car is doing. If something goes wrong, the check engine light or check hybrid system pop up and tells you, “Hey, something is not right here.”

OBD2 Code Check Device

The codes generated in the system are not the answer to your prayers but rather a guide to what system is having issues.

Ok, so how does this help? Glad you asked. When a trouble code is present, you have to clear the code so the system can “check” itself again. When you do that, the monitors have to relearn what they once knew.

This memory wipe would show up in the scan tool as a “Not Ready” situation, saying that the systems have not been through their testing to know if they are or are not ok.

Knowing this information can save you a trip down money pit lane, and here is why. If you ask to see the vehicle’s readiness monitors, you will know if the car has been driven long enough for it to “self-check” all the onboard systems.

If the system is not ready, find another vehicle. This could indicate that the person or dealer who is trying to sell the car to you has cleared the codes. No one wants to see a check hybrid or check engine light on, so removing it can give them just long enough to take you on a trouble-free test drive.

There is a caveat to all this. What if the battery was recently replaced? That will wipe the memory as well. Ask questions and try to understand as best you can why the monitors are not set.

If the seller or dealer gets uptight about it, walk away. Chances are if they are getting bent out shape over something like that, they are probably hiding something.

The last thing I would ever want is for someone to be taken for a ride in a car that will destroy them financially. Have questions? Follow me on Twitter @the_hybrid_guy. I am happy to help you wade through the confusing details of buying a used Prius.

Check out this wild new battery tech that Tesla has and why it will forever change the auto industry.

Peter Neilson is an automotive consultant specializing in electric cars and hybrid battery technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Service Technology from Weber State University. Peter can be reached on Linkedin and you can tweet him at The_hybrid_guy on Twitter. Find his page on Facebook at Certified Auto Consulting. Read more of Peter’s stories at Toyota news coverage on Torque News. Search Toyota Prius Torque News for more in depth Prius coverage from our reporters.

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Membership Pro Tip: Good Morning, Foresters!: Associations Now

By / Mar 24, 2021
(behindlens/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

A successful way to engage members virtually has an early wake-up call, but it’s worth it.

How does it work?

 Association of Consulting Foresters members are independent consultants who work with private landowners across the country—and they start work very early in the morning. In a survey, members revealed that the membership benefit they value most is networking, so ACF developed “Good Morning, Foresters: Coffee, Consultants & Conversation.”

The early-morning sessions are hosted on Zoom, which is more conducive to member engagement and interaction than some educational platforms the group uses for webinars, says Lucy Firebaugh, ACF’s communications and membership specialist.

ACF encourages members bring a cup of coffee or their favorite morning beverage, and the membership team opens the session to whatever members want to talk about. They limit the sessions to 20 people to allow for an easier flow of conversation.

Why is it effective?

ACF’s largest networking event is its annual national conference, which was cancelled because of the pandemic. “We wanted to create an alternative solution for members to still receive the networking opportunities they crave and look forward to every year,” Firebaugh says.

The feedback has been “wonderful” so far. Members enjoy the informal opportunities to talk with colleagues and “not have to stress or be prepared for an educational webinar,” she says.

What’s the benefit?

Although most members would prefer to network in person, some members aren’t able to travel to in-person events. “Virtual sessions like ‘Good Morning, Foresters’ have been a great solution for them to still receive those networking opportunities,” Firebaugh says. “Even once life gets back to ‘normal,’ we are planning to still provide these virtual sessions to hopefully increase the overall value of our members’ favored benefit.”

Do you have a membership pro tip? Please share in the comments or send me an email.

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Bored of your four walls? Let me share my pro tip: get some wild wallpaper | Interiors

Chances are you’re quite bored of your home by now. Oh sure, you know how lucky you are, if you have a warm and comfortable place to live when so many don’t. But a person could live in a full-on palace and still, at this point in a generation-defining global pandemic, think, “If I have to spend one more day looking at this cornicing and those enormous wall sconces, I will genuinely hurl myself off the balcony.” So allow me to share the greatest tip of all time for making your home more fun: get some wallpaper.

People are very wary of wallpaper, especially the patterned type. I didn’t fully understand this until my partner and I were house-hunting half a decade ago, after we found out I was expecting twins. Off we went to look at family houses and, while the prices were horrific, the houses were, to my mind, even worse. That’s not fair: they were perfectly fine, but there was something about them that sent me spiralling into a low-grade depression. I tried to explain it to the increasingly exasperated estate agents: maybe they were dark? Or they just had a bad vibe? Were the ceilings too low? At last, I understood: every house I looked at was painted all white or – worse! – some weird Farrow & Ball-esque muted grey. Literally, every single one, and I assume the people who lived in them thought they looked chic and safely neutral. To me they brought back memories of teenage years spent in a psychiatric unit.

“Safely neutral”: has there ever been a more depressing template for a home? “Safely neutral” is timidity, the decorating equivalent of a fear of letting yourself have fun in case people laugh at you, or a refusal to state an opinion in case you get it wrong. How so many people can bear to live like that is beyond my comprehension. I know not everyone is a maximalist, but I find it bewildering that people won’t commit to patterned wallpaper because they worry they’ll get tired of it, yet paint their home in the most boring shades possible. Be your fearless self! Make your stamp! If not on the world, then at least on your walls.

By the time we moved into our (entirely white, God help me) house, I was a month away from giving birth to two surprisingly big boys. I could no longer walk, but this in no way broke my stride when it came to sorting out the wallpaper. This was a home I hoped to live in for the next two decades, so I went all out and spent so much on wallpaper that we couldn’t really afford furniture for a while.

But our walls were fabulous. I filled the downstairs loo with zebras, copying the bathroom of a fancy Manhattan restaurant I once did an interview in (I can’t remember who I interviewed, but I sure as hell remember the bathroom). I covered my cupboard of a study with a wildly oversized palm print wallpaper, in the hope of making it feel like a bungalow at the Beverly Hills hotel. It doesn’t: it looks more like a scene from Little Shop Of Horrors, but I’m good with that, too. I got flamingos for my bedroom, and preppy green and white stripes for the hall, for a (in my head, at least) CZ Guest photographed by Slim Aarons vibe. When chinoiserie wallpaper proved too expensive, I found a brilliant woman on Instagram who painted a copy right on to the plaster, turning the sitting room into a scene straight out of Tintin’s The Blue Lotus.

Whatever spare cash I have goes on wallpaper, and I am currently saving for a toile de jouy for the kitchen and a monkey print for the twins’ room (before they get big enough to stop me). I have spent on my walls what other people spend on a car. But since I don’t drive, and have always worked from home, spending 90% of my time inside my house even before lockdown, I consider it the best money I ever spent. My wallpapers, which I think of as art in surround sound, give me so much joy every time I look at them, which is every day, all day. During lockdown, it has been especially cheering to bunker down in my mad floral jungle of a sitting room when outside all is grey and unrelenting gloom.

I used to think of my wallpapers as my own private pleasure, because only the chosen few entered my patterned palace. Now, thanks to Zoom, everyone I interview sees them, and every conversation begins with a question about my walls, them sitting against their boring white background and carefully curated bookshelf, me against my insane plant print. At first there’s shock – “Er, wow. You don’t see much wallpaper these days!” I know – and then, eventually, envy, as there should be. I haven’t travelled anywhere for almost a year, but every time I walk into a room I travel to a new land. Honestly, it’s better than Netflix. Get some wallpaper.

• Hadley Freeman and Tim Dowling will be in conversation on 25 February at 8pm. Find details and £5 tickets for their live streamed event at

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iOS 14 pro tip: One setting change for better photos

Having a new kitten about means that I’m taking a lot more photos. But trying to get a good photo of something that continually moves and squirms (even when sleeping) is tricky.

And it was made all the harder because Apple hid a handy Camera app feature.

Must read: Ninja Cookie: This browser extension is the ultimate productivity hack

Prior to iOS 14, if you held down the shutter button in the Camera app, the iPhone would go into “burst mode,” taking a bunch of photos that allowed me to go back and find the best one.

But now in iOS 14, pressing and holding down the shutter button switches to video recording mode. That itself is a nice feature, but I want the old “burst mode” feature back.

It’s there, but again it’s hidden. And it’s also changed how it works.

Head over to Settings > Camera and you’ll see a setting called Use Volume Up for Burst.

Here's the setting you are looking for: Use Volume Up for Burst

Here’s the setting you are looking for: Use Volume Up for Burst

Now, rather than holding down the shutter button, I have to remember to hold down the volume up button.

But it’s nice to be able to quickly choose between shooting a burst of photos or shooting a quick video.

It’s a nice change. And I really like having a physical button to press on. It’s easier to find and gives me proper tactile feedback, unlike a button on a screen.

UPDATE: A reader sent me a note via Twitter (thanks, Wolfgang!) to point out that there’s another way to access “burst mode,” and that’s by pressing and holding down while simultaneously sliding the button to the left if in portrait mode or down if in landscape. 

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Pro tip from the Greenbrier’s interior designer: Embrace color and shun beige

Since taking over Dorothy Draper and Company, Varney has designed and refurbished countless hotels, buildings, homes and even a presidential yacht, the USS Sequoia. However, the Greenbrier occupies a special place in his heart; as the hotel’s official curator, the 83-year-old maintains an office there. His hardcover valentine, “Romance & Rhododendrons: My Love Affair with America’s Resort — The Greenbrier,” comes out Dec. 5. We spoke with Varney in his Palm Beach office, before he traveled to Washington for a meeting with the National Council of the White House Historical Association. (He’s an appointed member.) He planned to spend Thanksgiving at the Greenbrier, where gravy is a condiment, not a palette. Here are his insights into design and the fabled hotel, plus how color (optimistic orange? positive purple?) can lift our spirits during these gloomy-gray times.

The power of color: I have spent 54 years trying to open the windows and doors of America to color. I believe color has a total effect on people’s heads, minds and attitudes. A beautiful sunny room makes people happy. I think children who grow up in rooms that are pretty and colorful and magical are better people.

Colorful bedfellows: The White House has a bright red room and a green room and a blue room and a gold room. When the Jefferson dining room was done at Monticello, it was a bright gold. They finally returned it to that color.

A beige experience: I once went to a hotel on my way back from Bora Bora, and the carpet was a knobby gray, and the walls were beige with white trim, and the curtains were gray-beige. Even the art was beige. I went into the travertine bathroom, and when I came out, I thought I was naked in a bowl of oatmeal.

Before the beige era: When I came to the office in the early ’60s, hotels were not beige and gray. They were colorful. They were pretty. William Pahlmann used to do wonderful hotels. Ellen McCluskey did great hotels. Tom Lee did great hotels. When Mrs. Draper did the Mayflower in Washington, D.C., the rooms were beautiful.

Never change: We’ve never changed. We’ve become interesting and special. People come to us because we do color. Our business is the oldest established decorating and design company in America, and we survived the muted [trend].

The Greenbrier is not . . . the Ritz-Carlton. You can tell what they are. They have the panel walls, the matching sconces, the Aubusson-style rug, the round table in the middle, the flowers on the round table, the winged chairs in light blue in the corner. It’s all uniform.

The Greenbrier is . . . special. If you go to a great house in Europe, you don’t want to see beige. You want see how one generation added onto the [designs of the] next generation, but they didn’t eliminate the previous generation. So the houses are interesting. They’re fun to go into, to see the series of people who have lived there. In the Greenbrier, that beautiful Princess Grace portrait I hung in the north parlor . . . you don’t have to be a pre-Revolutionary-war person to be hung on the wall there. We honor our past as well as we accept the future.

Beyond rooms: We did a new chapel. Then I did a casino and a sports center. There’s always something happening. Gov. [Jim] Justice [the resort’s owner] trusts me, and they don’t interfere with what we do. It’s like my own house.

Just like home: I have been there for so many years, I feel like I know what is in the bottom drawer of Room 1029. That’s the room I always stay in. And, of course, they did a suite several years ago, the Carleton Varney Suite, which is on the north end. It looks over the mountains. There are a lot of people who think it should be a convention hotel. They don’t understand that it’s a country house hotel. I want you to feel as if you are the owner and you invited your friends to stay over. You offer them the yellow bedroom or the pink bedroom or the striped bedroom. But you don’t offer them oatmeal.

The White House of West Virginia: It’s much like the White House in many ways. It has the columns. The emir of Qatar came here, and when the wife arrived, she said to her husband, “I never knew the White House had a golf course.” She thought it looked so much like the White House.

Banana leaf copycats: We did the big banana leaf design for a hotel in Brazil, and then they used it for the Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s our pattern, and everybody is using it. It’s on bed trays, women’s clothes — it’s on everything.

Shades of blue: Mrs. Draper believed that Jefferson painted the ceilings at Monticello that light aqua blue to deflect the insects and mosquitoes. Dorothy was very unhappy when Tiffany came out with those boxes in blue because she said it was her color.

Hues with benefits: I like to be in a green room because I feel like I am in the mountains of Montana or the jungles of St. Croix. I have always painted small rooms dark colors — garnet red, royal blue, sable brown — because they become more intimate. Mrs. Draper never did a ballroom unless it was pink because pink flatters faces. I worked with Dorothy for seven years. I remember working on a hotel in D.C. called the Sutton House. Dorothy would look at the fabric we were working with and say, “Show me nothing that looks like gravy.” Nothing that looked it was going to be on a turkey or a piece of meat. It had to be happy.

Executive decorating: I was Jimmy Carter’s decorator when he was in the White House. The Carters had the most wonderful style — down home. I would do tuzzy muzzies on the tables when [then-U.K. Prime Minister] Margaret Thatcher came to a state dinner. And then I did their cottage and log cabin in Ellijay [Georgia]. I helped them at the Carter Center [in Atlanta]. I redid the house in The Plains. Speaking of Washington, I was also the Quayles’ decorator when they did the Naval Observatory, and it was very colorful. Marilyn [Quayle] didn’t want any roses like Barbara Bush had. I did a china service for the vice president’s house — light blue and gold. I wanted to find out if Tipper Gore [the subsequent resident] ever used it. I got a letter back that it was in the basement.

Book timing: I’m not getting younger. I felt I owed it to the Greenbrier to write this story so that future generations would know about the color and spirit of the place. There is a whole thing called the Greenbrier style, which I hope the world never loses.

Shop Draper: People like to walk out of the Greenbrier with something that looks likes the Greenbrier. We have all these things that we call Dorothy Draper Home. We have pillows, trays and lamps. We opened the store [at the Greenbrier] last July. It is the only one now. We are going to have a couple in other places.

Garden variety: I like the colors that come up in the garden and the colors that come from below the earth — the emeralds and beautiful rubies.

Foreign influence: I love Portugal, and I have a house in Ireland. I live in Ireland half the year. I love the Irish green, the countryside. I planted daffodil and tulip bulbs. I plant a thousand every year, so my fields are all yellow. People who plant a garden believe in a tomorrow.

Insta-Greenbrier: The Greenbrier used to be a Kodak moment, but now it’s an Instagram moment.

Greenbrier is home: I think people like to go back to the Greenbrier because it doesn’t change. They know they’re home.

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