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In Seveneves, Stephenson discusses "Amistics, the study of the choices made by different cultures as to which technologies they would embrace or spurn."

"Anyone who bothered to learn the history of the developed world in the years just before Zero understood perfectly well that Tavistock Prowse had been squarely in the middle of the normal range, as far as his social media habits and attention span had been concerned. But nevertheless, they called it Tav's Mistake. They didn't want to make it again. Any efforts made by modern manufacturers to produce the kinds of devices and apps that had disordered the brain of Tav were met with the same instinctive pushback as Victorian clergy might have directed against the inventor of a masturbation machine."

You see those kinds of choices being made at a cultural level all over the world. Developed countries where nobody uses leafblowers, or in-sink food waste disposals, or what have you. People understand how those things work, they just don't want the effects.

About leaf blowers and waste disposals, I think it's not about the "effects" so much as the item itself. These devices do perform a function but their original reason for existing is arguably to profitably sell motors (or small engines in the case of the leaf blower). Having lived mostly in countries where they aren't used, I'd say it's a skepticism about the real utility of the device that makes them unsuccessful there, not a reasoned assessment of the effects of widespread use.

Leaf blowers are very overrated, unless you buy the industrial grade backpack type. And that's only a niche application.

I use a rake, which works faster for my consumer-level yard than a mid to high-range blower, to get the leaves all in once place. Then, I use the blower in reverse to chop the leaves for compost. Not the intended purpose at all, but it works for me.

Exactly how I use mine, and how my father taught me when I was a kid. I thought this was normal.

You can also drop the leaves into a large trash can and use a string trimmer lowered into the can to chop them as finely as you like. Works just like a giant immersion blender, plus it's cool to take a huge pile and reduce it down to almost nothing.

And I have one of those "Why didn't I think of that" moments.... Thanks!

If you want to avoid purchasing a blower altogether, especially one with reversible operation (1), a bagged lawnmower works equally well. I have a SunJoe electric bagged mower and I just place it on top of the leaf pile and let it hoover up the leaves into its bag.

1: As I read your post more, it seems that your blower does not officially have a reverse - you just rig it that way. That is pretty cool though any bit of debris in the leaf pile might break up the impeller if the latter is plastic.

Not only is the rake faster, it is also quiet, a property that will be mostly appreciated by other people than the wielder.

Arguably? I loathe the sound of gasoline-powered leaf blowers, but they are quicker than rakes and brooms. I'm not sure that my neighbors are willing to pay for the additional labor needed by a lawn crew to rake leaves or sweep sidewalks.

It looks like leaf blowers originated in the mechanisation of farming, so perhaps there was a legitimate labour saving objective there. In the case of sink waste disposal, I'd be pretty surprised if there was a good reason.

Hamilton Beach is an example of an early 20th C manufacturer that made a lot of consumer products which used similar motors, for example a now-classic catering-grade blender for milkshakes. That seems like a clear example of a market being created by the development of the device, which itself existed to apply a technology (the motor).


Here in Florida leaf blowers are a very important yard tool.

But do the leaves actually change and drop in Florida?!? Yes, yes they do but leaf blowers aren't really for leaves here...

They're used to blow grass clippings and dirt back on to your yard!

You see, if you don't use a leaf blower all those grass clippings will end up washing down into the storm drains (Note: Not the sewers) or pile up at the end of your driveway where they ultimately decay into dirt. This causes two problems:

* The dirt that slowly builds over time will completely screw up drainage and create flooding problems.

* The fertilizer-enriched grass clippings will ultimately make their way to our ridiculously important fresh water systems (rivers, lakes, streams, etc) resulting in nasty algae blooms and similar environmental problems.

Actually, it doesn't matter if the clippings wash down into the drains because the rain water will absorb the nitrogen and herbicide/pesticides which will then flow into the wetlands. I live right next to a popular lake where there are signs posted about this. The end result is what you say though (algae blooms, etc.).

There's actually a low-tech solution to this problem as well, it's called a broom.

Don't your lawn mowers have catchers for the clippings?

> You see those kinds of choices being made at a cultural level all over the world. Developed countries where nobody uses leafblowers, or in-sink food waste disposals, or what have you. People understand how those things work, they just don't want the effects.

Is that really a cultural difference or just a socioeconomic/generational one? My parents' generation talked about the evils of the dishwasher - but mostly when they couldn't afford one; my generation buys them without a second thought.

Didn't dishwashers use to be very inefficient. They apparently are as efficient as handwashing now (not sure that accounts for making the actual washer).

>my generation buys them without a second thought. //

My parents have one, I think they're great, can't afford one.

More efficient in the case of my one, which is a few years old now.

Whenever I think about leafblowers, the only thing that comes to my mind is this scenario: two sweaty, pudgy suburban warriors, facing off across from each other, either side of the property line, leaf blowers drawn and straining, battling to push a single leaf off their lawn and onto the other.

Please send this to Pixar. They will absolutely do it justice.

Developed countries where nobody uses leafblowers, or in-sink food waste disposals, or what have you

"Places that are not America"

(OK, people will use leafblowers in the UK, especially professional gardeners, but the in-sink waste disposal is quite rare)


With newer cars, buying one with an automatic just means you want better gas milage.

Where is that?

I suspect most of Europe? And Central and Eastern Europe for sure.

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