Gardening ruminations

The SEO garbage search result that sent me over the edge

This post is a spiritual successor to LLMs are good coders, useless writers.

After getting steadily worse for years, the experience of searching the web just hit a new all-time low. I clicked on the top non-ad search result and encountered the worst word-salad nonsense I’ve ever seen. It was too perfect not to share.

I had let the small patch of lawn in my yard get knee-high. My reel mower can’t cut grass that tall, so I broke out the old weed whacker I got on the cheap at ShareHouse. It immediately ran out of the cutting string that it came with, so I found myself at the hardware store shopping for a refill.

I didn’t know if I should replace only the string or swap out the whole head. So, standing in Lowe’s, I whipped out my phone and searched it up: “restring toro weed trimmer”

(I winced when my kids started saying “search it up,” but I’ve since come to appreciate it. It avoids centering a corporation, unlike “I Googled it.” And I wasn’t using Google: the DuckDuckGo browser on my phone is, sadly, Microsoft Bing in disguise).

The first non-video result was from “Backyard Lord.” I’ve included screenshots in case that link dies, as it sure ought to.

Looking at it now, the “Pro Tips for Easy Trimming” suffix reeks of LLM garbage, as does the domain “Backyard Lord.” But the listed steps seemed like what I wanted. I clicked on it.

The page started off okay:

But that was the end of the plausible content. The next block was just keywords and mentioned a tennis racket??

The next block contained the prompt for the LLM! All highlighting mine:

From there it becomes free-association insanity. There’s a step-by-step guide … but each step discusses a totally different industry! Step 1, preparation, is about starting a business:

Step 2 is about restringing a guitar:

Step 3 is empty and Step 4 drips with irony as it talks about strings in the context of LLMs:

Local reporting

A three-eyed creature haunts the streets of Ann Arbor

I first met this adorable creature in Ann Arbor in April 2022. It was painted on a post at Packard & Arch at the tiny Forsythe Park. It offered good (albeit saucy) advice:

I’m glad I photographed it because it was soon gone. A week later the creature appeared a few blocks south, on the side of the Argus Farm Stop. This message was purely encouraging:

I didn’t see it again after that. Until this month, when the creature returned to a couple of spots on Madison St.

Here it is beaming on a planter at Madison and Main:

And finally on an electrical box near Washtenaw Dairy, on Madison west of First:

Radiant! Does anyone know what it’s saying? The same red and white paint is used in both pieces a block apart, perhaps they were created in the same evening.

I find these impressive, both creatively and technically. Is that paint? Marker? I know little about street art but I appreciate it when it’s well-done. I’m glad the creator still calls Ann Arbor home – it’s a pricey place to make it as an artist – and continues to share this creature with us.

This kind of thing is ephemeral and feels worth recognizing and documenting. My dad played poker with a guy who made a hobby out of photographing antique ads painted on sides of brick buildings around Chicago. By the time he published a book with his decades of photos (Fading Ads of Chicago), half of them had faded away or been covered up, painted over, knocked down.

If you have seen this creature elsewhere, send in your photos or tip me off to where I can spot it in the wild.