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Leaf blowers: Discuss
I was going to write about something else, but I couldn't concentrate. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Three years ago, Elon Musk tweeted something that deserves more attention. (Never thought I'd say that).
Ready? April 23, 2019: "Tesla is going to develop a quiet, electric leafblower."
Perhaps you're thinking: Leaf blowers?
To which I can only reply: Do you live among the 25 percent of Americans in the nation's suburbs?
Out here, amid the tree-lined streets and the manicured lawns, near the highway on-ramps and the commuter rail stops, there is no single issue that divides and creates more animosity than the simple conversation starter:
"Leaf blowers. Discuss."
I don't want to bog this with the pros and cons too much, so briefly, in my experience:
The "pros," who are wrong, say that leaf blowers are an important tool for keeping lawns neat, and employing the folks who use them.
The "cons," who are on the side of the angels, are all about the exhaust and the environment and, yes, the insanely intense noise.
How loud? As much as 115 decibels for operators, and a still earsplitting (or at least super-distracting) 78 decibels from 50 feet away. Also, using a 2-stroke leaf blower for one hour produces emissions equivalent to driving a gas-powered car for 100 miles.
Anyway, Musk spitballed the idea. A few people accused him of having copied the notion from Rainn Wilson (the actor who played "Dwight" on The Office).
And then? Crickets.
I assume he was joking. Useful clues in this regard include his puerile next two tweets:
“Tesla blows haha”
“Will be sentient, of course”
But I take the idea seriously even if Musk doesn’t. And when I write about him from time to time (less so recently, because I'm only a man and I'm exhausted by him), it's become a running joke: I'd like him to stop wasting so much time with Tesla and SpaceX and Twitter, and finish the leaf blowers.
Anyway, aside from my personal antipathy for these things, I do think there's a thought-worthy takeaway from Musk's tweet, which basically has to do with unexpected uses for innovative technology.
Nobody was likely to try to reinvent electric propulsion in order to create quieter leaf blowers. But, now that Tesla and other brands have in fact done some of that in the automobile industry, the opportunity arises.
People are interested. Some towns are already banning the use of gasoline-powered units, or at least restricting their use to certain times of the year.
If someone out there picks up on the idea of super-quiet leaf blowers, I think will eventually find a smart new use for novel technology and a ready market.
Musk hopes for a legacy about humanity into an interplanetary species.
But there’s also another legacy, which has to do with the idea that great leaders don't just inspire followers; they inspire more leaders: like the man or woman who solves the leaf blower problem so we can get back to our lives.
(Then, if they could only figure out how to get people to clean up after their dogs. But leaf blowers first.)
Today’s column was inspired by the fact that I was in turn inspired by some of what I learned from readers’ reactions to this week’s stories:
yesterday’s lead about corporate phone trees, and
No joke, I worked on this for a while, but couldn’t quite get it to sing the way I need it to. Partially to blame: The world outside my home office erupted for the first time this year with the sound of gas-powered leaf blowers. I just couldn’t concentrate.
So I’ll wrap that up for next week.
Meanwhile: Thoughts? Comments? Ideas? Think I’m making too big a deal about these things) (“Things” in the previous sentence originally referred to “leaf blowers” but you can make it refer to any thing you like.) Let us know in the comments.
7 other things worth knowing today
U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss says she’ll step down as prime minister following a turbulent 45 days in office which has seen her crash the markets, lose two key ministers and shed the confidence of almost all her own MPs. Truss will be the shortest-serving prime minister in UK history. (The Guardian)
Millennials should be at their sexual prime. Why are so many couples reporting major dry spells? Survey shows 25.8% of married millennials “report problems with sexual desire in the past year," compared to 10.5% of married Gen Z and 21.2% of married Gen X adults. (BBC)
Marie Kondo accidentally admitted that her tidying-up method doesn't work for families with kids. (Fatherly)
Elon Musk throws shade at Warren Buffett, saying they’re dissimilar because he (Musk) actually makes things. (Just not leaf blowers, I guess.) (Business Insider)
I flat-out don't believe anyone is actually buying these at that price, just that they're listed this high. But, for purposes of knowing what other people are talking about: "McDonald’s limited-edition adult Happy Meal toys are listed for as much as $300,000 on eBay." (CNBC)
Massachusetts woman allegedly unleashes swarm of bees on deputies carrying out eviction order. (Fox NY)
Why did 36 drivers on a California freeway all wind up getting flat tires at the same time? Dunno, says the California Highway Patrol. Maybe someone dropped a box of nails? (Kind of reminds me of the joke about the army jeep that ran over a box of popcorn and crushed two kernels.) (Autoblog)
Thanks for reading. Photo courtesy of Pixabay. I’ve written about some of this before at Inc.com. See you in the comments.