Monday, June 22, 2009
Lawnmower math and the cherry trees
I had to buy a lawnmower this spring, so I picked this beauty, my first riding mower ever. I've got to tell you that for creating that visible sense of accomplishment at a task completed, mowing the lawn even beats doing dishes. And it really helps that I didn't have to sweat in the process. This mower even has a cupholder! (Short aside: in the south, they don't mow their lawn. They "cut the grass." Every time I said I was going to "mow the lawn," I got blank looks.)
Now, I am an engineer by training and inclination, so I focus on things like "what path should I use to avoid the rocks and trees." I also want to avoid the situation where I end up making smaller and smaller circles that end up impossibly small and I can't make the turns. Further, my yard is very lumpy and it looks bad if I mow across the bumps (very short on top of the bumps and very long in the valleys). So I need to make sure that I mow parallel to the bumps, not across them. Actually, "need" is a pretty strong word. Grass is pretty forgiving. If I do it wrong this week, I'll have another chance to do it soon!
What makes it worse is that I am an Industrial Engineer first. Industrial Engineers are the optimization people. For me it's not "what path should I use," it's "what is the optimal path to minimize gas use, time mowing, make the lawn look best, etc, etc." Every week I try a little different set of paths to see if I can improve. I really enjoy this task. I can't help it - I really am an engineer through and through.
I suspect that other engineer-mowers have tackled the lawnmower math question and if I did a google search I'd find many algorithms. I wonder if they enjoy this as much as I do.
Immediately behind the lawnmower you can see 2 of the cherry trees. As you can see, the one on the right is maybe 5 feet tall and the one on the left is even shorter. I have no idea if they are adult trees of a short type, or baby trees that will grow much bigger. The cherries left over from last year were small too. Dwarf cherry trees are not this small (per the internet - source of all wisdom). Maybe they're not cherry trees at all?