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For the last decade or so, I’ve been routinely attending a ride-on lawnmower race. I’ve always wanted to participate, but the high cost of used mowers is better spent on more practical vehicles, like literally anything else. Sometimes, though, the universe sends you a message. And in my case, that message came in the form of an awkward leg of a huge trade-in scam.

Picture, if you will, the humble redneck. They await the approach of big, fast domestic mowers. John Deeres, Cub Cadets, even weird modified Chinese stuff they looted from Aliexpress. There is jubilance, but that soon comes to an awkward hush. An unfamiliar engine note approaches.

My International 1480 combine harvester, all ten tons of it, is barrelling down the highway at a clip somewhere between “tepid” and “jaunty.” Even though I have shown up for a race, I am sandbagging a little bit, making sure that the bets get settled against my vehicle before I show them the might of a fully operational monster such as mine.

Technically, there is no violation. I had looked at the rulebook from every angle in the previous year: it has the correct number of wheels, the proper agricultural intent, and with precise work on the tiller, it can even (poorly) mow a suburban lawn. Is it modified? Oh yes, yes indeed, but I see the nitrous bottles poking out from the rows of Kubotas at the starting line.

And when I leave the starting line, it is a thing of beauty. At least for a few milliseconds. It seems that the wizards at International Harvester simply did not comprehend of a situation in which the frame of their combine would be launched into the air by means of one thousand eight hundred foot-pounds of supercharger-bolstered torque. I had erroneously believed that the loose soil of the rural community would let the wheels dip in, but now I am facing directly into the sky, having twelve o’ clocked hard on my wheelie, shooting flames from my exhaust and whirling vertical blades of death towards the grandstand.

It’s not about whether you win or lose. Sometimes it’s about how many pages you add to the rulebook.


Dr. Saleh said: “In engineering, the reliability of a component or process is defined as the probability that it is still operational at a given time. The time it takes for a component or process to fail is referred to as its time-to-failure and this shows similarities to the time-to-violent-death of Roman emperors.”

Dr. Saleh found that Roman emperors faced a high risk of violent death during their first year of reign, a pattern also seen when engineering components fail early, often as a result of a failure to function as intended or, in the case of an emperor, meet the demands of their role. The risk of death stabilised by the eighth year but increased again after 12 years of rule, a pattern similar to the failure of components because of fatigue, corrosion or wear-out. When data points were aligned on a graph, the failure rate of Roman emperors displayed a bathtub-like curve, a model widely seen with mechanical and electrical components.


President Trump took a swipe at the late Rep. John Dingell during his Battle Creek, Michigan rally Wednesday evening, drawing a quick rebuke from the widow of the longtime Michigan Democratic congressman, who succeeded him in the House. Mr. Trump claimed Debbie Dingell had thanked him profusely for providing “A-plus treatment” after her husband’s death in February, including ordering flags flown at half-staff.

He quoted her as saying, “Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down.” Then he added: “I said, ‘That’s OK. Don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up. I don’t know.”

The representative was quick to respond:

Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.
— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) December 19, 2019