Motorized bicycles that are ‘non-motorized’? Say hello to my ‘cat’

This morning was perfect for a bicycle ride from Longmont to Lyons, a distance of about 10 miles if you start at the Smith place. It’s always great fun to be on the road with nearly as many cyclists as motor vehicle operators. Mrs. Smith and I aren’t the slowest people on bicycles, but we’re not so fast that we miss the scenery, the road-killed snakes, and all the yellow skins apparently shed along the way by bananas that no longer need them.

We’re also noticing more and more of those e-bike things, which I thought were referred to as such because they have electric motors. Silly me.

I read in the Denver Post after our human-powered morning ride that the U.S. government has decreed that e-bikes are actually “non-motorized.”

And up is actually down, unless I have that backwards.

My favorite and funniest part of the article, even though this is no laughing matter:

“The Interior statement said riders must use the motor only to boost their pedaling on the trails, and not zip along on motor power alone.”

The absurdity is obvious: The Department of the Interior has determined that the riders in question don’t have motors. What’s more, we all know that cyclists, motor vehicle operators, and even riders of non-motorized contraptions that do have motors routinely fail to do many of the things they must do.

I wouldn’t deny anyone the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, as much as or even much more than I do. The arguments in favor of using e-bikes to get around are numerous, and many of those reasons are actually good.

As a writer and editor who cares about language, however, I do take exception to calling things and people something they are not.

By the way, I thought I’d share a picture of my cat, since people love cat pictures so much.

Pedal on, my friends.

B.J.

Silence of the Elms

Our power-mad HOA slaughtered several trees this week. I was home to hear the last of them fall to the fearsome teeth of the chainsaw.

I heard the roar of the chipper shredding life itself into mulch.

Now all is quiet.

‘Toady’ on my mind today

Somewhere between 1.37 and 1.79 miles on my post-workday walk* on a treadmill at the gym today a favorite old word came to mind. I was watching CNN on a screen just off to my left – Fox News being a few monitors over to my right, of course – when it happened.

Image by Егор Камелев from Pixabay

“Toady,” my brain said. I can’t say for sure if this was triggered by the sight of Rick Santorum or Lindsey Graham, but they both appeared on the screen just minutes apart.

Unsure if either of them met the actual definition of the word, I looked it up when I got home. Among other things, I’d decided I absolutely have to use toady correctly in a poem that is beginning to take lumpy shape in my brain.

Here’s what I found.

What surprisingly fond amphibiotic memories came rushing back!

…the toad hotel my siblings and I built from corrugated boxes on the banks of the Little Cedar River, which flowed gently just behind our childhood home in Mitchell County, Iowa.

…the tiny toadlets leaping for their lives, desperately trying to escape the deadly blades of my reel mower in the big back yard in Cedar Rapids.

…the lovely toad sculpture that lives on my desk in the basement under the watchful eyes of a Milton B. Davis carving of a Golden Eagle.

Toads. You gotta love ’em, warts and all. Toadies, not so much.


* A brisk 3.2 mph on a steadily increasing grade, prelude to semi-vigorous and repeated lifting of weights.

Lesson from dogpiling on PETA: Words do matter

Snarkmeisters and others have had a whale of a good time mocking PETA‘s latest effort to change public discourse and appetites, but the group reinforces an important concept here:

Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations. pic.twitter.com/o67EbBA7H4— PETA: Bringing Home the Bagels Since 1980 (@peta) December 4, 2018

Words do matter. So does the evolution of language.

Words express what we think, or in some cases what we want people to think we think. As language evolves, it reflects changes in our culture, in technology, in how we think or don’t think about religion and justice and politics and pretty much everything else. Our use of language reveals what we think about other humans and about animals, as well. What we think about them and how we treat them are closely related.

dogpile

Speaking like you always have is easy. So is mocking those who advocate for change that you don’t like or that you don’t think is necessary. So is dismissing certain words and phrases as “politically correct,” a stale, overused term that we all would be better off without. (Evolve, dammit!)

Surely PETA expects mockery and denigration. Just as certainly, they know how to use words to provoke discussion and to make people think. May we continue to evolve toward a civilized society once our present backslide is over. It will require some thinking and careful choosing of words, and maybe a little less barking past each other.

B.J.

Two words that make a writer’s day: “Great read!”

Woke up to this on Monday morning…

When affordable housing doesn’t really mean what you think it means

In my neck of the universe, and likely in your own, words are prone to losing their meaning.

Take “affordable” as the most recent example of a word I once thought I understood. I looked it up just now to check and found this definition in my go-to online dictionary, Merriam-Webster:

able to be afforded

Well OK then. It’s just as I thought, but more vague than I remembered. M-W goes on to define affordable housing as housing that is “not too expensive for people of limited means.”

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Rendering of a wee-Cottage. (Boulder Creek Neighborhoods / Courtesy Photo)

Again, rather vague. What is “too expensive”? When do means qualify as limited?

Affordable is a relative term that can no longer stand alone and have any real meaning, but the news media and peddlers of sundry goods rarely qualify it as they should.

Take this story about the “wee-Cottages” coming soon to the southeast part of Longmont, Colorado. As if the hyphen and mysterious capitalization weren’t unreal enough, the story says these no-doubt-cute little places will be listed in the low-$300,000s. Presumably they are all at least temporarily affordable, because 27 of the 102 wee dwellings will be permanently affordable in the low- to mid-$200,000s.

Permanently? Nothing is permanent.

This is what affordable actually means in our little piece of Boulder County:

able to be afforded by some people but not by many whose means are actually limited

If a guy tells you something is “affordable,” ask him to complete the sentence.