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 ruminations

Advertising Overload

This post is a tirade against the ever-increasing presence of advertising in my life, prompted by attending a University of Michigan basketball game.

I went to the Crisler Center last night, where Michigan lost an exciting shootout against Long Beach State. It was entertaining. Both teams were very talented and tried hard.

I make it to a couple of Michigan sports events each year and will crown Michigan Athletics the victors and the best… at cramming advertisements into the experience. Always innovating. I’d love to see a photo series showing the interior of the Crisler Center over the decades, documenting the creep of ads.

How many ads would you think can be placed on the basket itself? Let’s count. Here’s the view of the near hoop from my seats:

That’s between four and six ads, depending on how you count: the base pad, the vertical pad (“meijer meijer meijer” lol), the State Farm pad by the rim, and a freaking TV ad mounted up top. Now let’s look to the other hoop and see what’s facing the court:

From this angle we can see there’s also the UMCU ad and the Libman ad. Each basket is adorned with seven corporate logos plus a TV that plays ads for Coke Zero and Jersey Mike’s. I wonder how many ads I saw over the course of the game. Dozens? Hundreds?


Replace Evite and Facebook with gathio

Tl;dr – check out for making chill, inclusive, not-creepy event pages. Unlike Evite, It won’t track you or serve you Bitcoin ads.

It amazes me how a free, open-source program can outperform its proprietary, commercialized equivalents. An obvious one is R, the statistical programming language. It blows away competitors like SPSS. R is a huge project, but some great open-source projects can surpass commercial competition while remaining a single person’s side project.

It touches my heart that people build great things together, transparently, and then make them freely available. I’ve long meant to write posts where I shout out a free, open-source software (FOSS) that has improved my life materially or spiritually. I was finally spurred to write when I got an Evite yesterday, for a 7-year-old’s birthday party. I opened the link on my phone and saw:


Evite has always had annoying ads and links, but this took it to the next level. I buy as little as possible from Amazon. Amazon’s bad enough. But Bitcoin?? It’s a Ponzi scheme that lures in unsuspecting saps (see the Citations Needed episode on manipulative Bitcoin/crypto/NFT advertising) and sows remarkable environmental destruction. Happy birthday, kid, here’s 0.0005 Bitcoin. Good luck spending it. (Web3 Is Going Great has you covered for crypto realism and schadenfreude).

These ads put me over the edge, but I’ve disliked Evite for years. In particular, it’s creepy that the organizer can track who has opened and viewed the invite.

And then there’s Facebook events. Because I’m not on Facebook, I sometimes forget how many events are organized there. Until someone sends me one I want to attend and I’m unable to view the info or RSVP. Argh!

Why must we engage with platforms that track us, shove ads in our faces, and sell our data in order to organize a dang birthday party or seed-swap?? Well, someone else felt the same way and did something about it. Enter: gathio!