Science moves on bodies of evidence

I’ve long made the point that science moves on bodies of evidence, not individual studies. If you don’t have repeatable data, then you don’t have much of anything. This is why the media is frequently so bad when it comes to reporting on recent studies; they report (or at least imply) individual study results as conclusions that are being made by the scientific community at-large. The truth is usually more like, one group of researchers found some interesting results.

And with that in mind, I turn to one of my favorite topics in science, circumcision. My numerous posts are easily searchable, so I won’t bother to link them, but for those who are unfamiliar with my stance, let me be clear: I am hugely in favor of circumcision because the science is in – circumcision saves lives. Furthermore, there is a very clear body of evidence that circumcision does not decrease sensitivity or sensation. In fact, a recent study found just the opposite:

Of 454 circumcised men, 362 (80%) returned for a follow-up visit 6 to 24 months after VMMC (voluntary medical male circumcision). Almost all (98%) were satisfied with the outcome of their VMMC; most (95%) reported that their female partners were satisfied with their circumcision. Two thirds (67%) reported enjoying sex more after VMMC and most were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied (94%) with sexual intercourse after VMMC. Sexual function improved and reported sex-induced coital injuries decreased significantly in most men after VMMC.

For someone like me who is greatly in favor of circumcision, this is great news. While it is only a survey study rather than a research study, it still provides evidence that circumcision is even better than the scientific community thought. However, that’s just not how science moves. Find me another several dozen studies like this using a variety of methods, and if they show a trend that confirms the results here, then I’ll start believing it. But as things stand now? I can’t make the leap. There is a standing body of evidence that says circumcision doesn’t affect sensitivity or sensation one way or the other; for every study that reports positive results, there’s one that reports negative results (and more often, studies report mixed or push results).

For sports fans only

For as long as I’ve had a deep interest in sports beginning in 2005, I’ve been of the opinion that people who don’t watch or follow sports should remain out of the majority of discussions in that area. For instance, after news came out of Joe Paterno’s failure to act at Penn State, people were calling for the school to be stripped of a significant number of wins. That eventually happened, though once everything quieted down, it was reversed. Why? Because the huge number of non-sports fans demanded it. They applied pressure and got a result that made them feel good, but which held zero consideration for all the players, coaches, and staff that had nothing to do with the incident. Non-sports fans wanted to punish an entire school and every individual associated with a huge sports program because of the acts of a few. That was utter horseshit. Plenty of non-sports fans may think that sports are ‘just a game’, but that’s pure ignorance; just because something isn’t important to your life doesn’t mean it therefore isn’t important at all. Fortunately, those who are actually involved in college football saw fit to correct the mistake.16508166_626391204214106_2020830949610527241_n

All that brings me to this recent garbage meme I’ve been seeing about Tom Brady.  On the right side of this post, it includes a quote from media day prior to the Super Bowl. He was asked a couple of questions about Trump and he dodged them. After a third question, he said that he wasn’t going to talk about politics. Somehow this has become an instance of white privilege rather than an example of avoiding irrelevant questions.

There are multiple failings surrounding this meme, but I’ll start off by pointing out the one that’s unique to the ignorant non-sports fan. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are known throughout the league for avoiding distractions as best as they can. This comes from the top of the staff in Belichick. He sets the tone year-in-year-out by giving gruff press conferences where he dismisses shitty, irrelevant questions. We saw it this year when Jimmy Garoppolo did well after his first game and reporters attempted to manufacture a quarterback controversy. After making it clear that Brady was their guy come game 5, Belichick was still asked if Garoppolo would be considered for that start. Belichick simply grumbled “Jesus Christ” and moved on to the next question.

For people who have any idea of what they’re talking about, it’s pretty obvious that Brady’s comment isn’t an example of whatever political or social narrative someone is looking to push. It’s an example of ‘the Patriots way’ (a phrase I’m positive non-sports fans aren’t even remotely familiar with). This is one factor in why this organization has been so successful over the years. Focusing on football creates team cohesion that matters.

Another failing of this embarrassing meme is that it assumes Tom Brady is somehow required to talk about politics. He isn’t. If you tried to force your colleagues into talking politics or religion or sports or whatever topic you cared about despite them telling you they weren’t interested, you’d be hearing from HR pretty soon. You might even get fired. And if you complained that Bob in the next cubicle was a big jerk for not talking immigration with you, you’d get lambasted. Bob deserves to have his wishes to keep his views to himself respected. Why we think non-political celebrities don’t deserve the same respect is beyond me.

And, finally, if Tom Brady focusing on the Super Bowl (that jerk!) wasn’t enough, and if Tom Brady making sure he doesn’t distract the team (what an asshole, amirite?) wasn’t enough, then the fact that he has already made his views clear should be enough. He has said that he has a friendship with Trump that goes back a decade and a half, long before Trump had even significantly waded into politics. He has also pointed out that knowing someone doesn’t mean you agree or disagree with everything they say or do.

So, no, this isn’t an example of white privilege. You don’t know what you’re talking about if you think that; you’re intentionally ignoring context. This is an example of a non-politician staking out a non-political position in an effort to deflect irrelevant and, frankly, inappropriate questions.

Thought of the day

I’m thankful every day that I don’t have some terrible condition like diabetes or heart disease or even colon cancer.

Merry Christmas

I think 2017 is the year that I update this picture.

Merry Christmas

Should I face my plates in or out at the gym?

If you go to a gym with older equipment, you’ve most likely found yourself dealing with asymmetrical plates. While these may not be as convenient as the spoke-wheel type of plates that newer gyms tend to have, there is something to be said for the feel of authenticity that they give your workout. However, if you’re like me, then they come with a downside that’s so big you need to make a blog post about it: people putting them on things backwards.

The type of plates I’m talking about are the ones where one side is completely flat and the other side has a lip. The lip-side of the plate will display how much a given plate weighs, and there may also be a logo. Here’s an example:

plates-out

The backs aren’t visible, but they have nothing on them. They are also facing the correct way. And the only reason they’re facing the correct way is because they’re from my gym and I was the one who fixed them.

If you google which way people should orient their plates, you’re going to get a few basic responses. Most people will say that they don’t care. Either it isn’t something they think about or they go to a gym that has newer plates. A surprising number of people will say they face the plates with the label in. And the relatively few of us who have actually put some thought into what makes sense will tell you that the above picture is correct.

(Another answer you may get is that Olympic rules say the first plate goes on backwards and the rest go on forwards. This is almost purely for advertising purposes.)

The people who say plates should go on backwards – that is, letters first – will usually cite a myth they’ve heard about wobble reduction. They believe that having the lip side on the bar first will somehow make everything more stable. It won’t. First, the same amount of material is touching the barbell in either scenario. Second, if the rest of the plates are facing the same way, then it makes no difference anyway. Third, anyone who has actually been to a gym can tell you that it makes no difference. Close your eyes with the plates oriented one way or the other. Do a few reps of whatever. You won’t be able to tell which way anything is facing. Fourth, if wobble is such an issue for you, then you can use clips (which, incidentally, will be tighter to the lip side than the flat side).

But why does this matter, you may find yourself asking yourself this far into the post. There are a few reasons. First, it’s not that it really matters which way a person wants to put plates on a bar. What matters is how they return the plates to the trees, such as the one featured above. It is wildly easier to pick off a 45 pound plate that has something to grip than it is to pick off a flat one. Even more importantly, people are assholes who over-fill pegs. Sometimes you have to barely touch a weight and it will seemingly just fall. I’d rather not break my foot because someone couldn’t be bothered to do something correctly. Second, not everyone has been going to the gym for 20 years. It isn’t always obvious which is a 10 pound plate and which is 5 pounds. I’m a well-seasoned veteran of the gym scene and I still occasionally grab the wrong weights. Facing the plates out so that they can be read is about basic respect for others. Third, a lot of people can’t seem to be bothered to place the same sized plates on the same pegs. In the picture above, the top peg had 5 pound plates on it before I got there. The second peg also had 5 pound plates. Some people are assholes and they aren’t going to pay attention no matter what, but I’m convinced a lot of people just need a simple visual cue to get things straight.

Please, for the love of whatever you worship, face your plates out. It doesn’t matter which way you do it on the bar, but get into the habit of doing it with the lip side out anyway. Not only will it be easier to pull off the bar, but it’ll also make it far more natural for you to re-peg the plate the correct way since it will already be oriented correctly.

Trump’s victory is bad in the short-term, but potentially great in the long-term

Without a doubt, the worst part of Trump’s victory is the fact that he will get to appoint at least one justice to the Supreme Court. Antonin Scalia’s death was likely the greatest political news of the century, so it’s doubtful that Trump will be able to find someone as bad as he was. Unfortunately, if he gets to replace Ginsburg, it won’t matter who he picks to replace Scalia or her. He’s going to get to add a conservative justice, swinging the court further to the right.

However, despite the problems of the Supreme Court, a Trump victory is not significantly worse than had Romney won in 2012 (or any other Republican for this election). No progress would be made on global warming under either scenario. The NSA would continue to fundamentally (and with fucking glee) violate the rights of literally every single American. Brown people overseas would keep getting droned. None of that would be different just because Trump happens to also be a bad person. Indeed, with the exception of Democrat lip service towards global warming, all of those things would be the same had Clinton won. We are not in a significantly different position in most areas.

So how is this better in the long-term? Consider the real difference between Clinton and Trump. It isn’t on spying or hawkish foreign policy or spending. It’s almost entirely in their rhetoric. Clinton, while ethically questionable through-and-through, isn’t crass. She has some basic decency in how she expresses herself. Trump, on the other hand, is a raging moron who mocks disabled reporters and grabs women by the pussy. His outsider nature was able to override people’s disgust with him as a person, but that novelty will fade. And as it does, we’re going to see a continued split amongst Republican voters. Combine that with the minor defections we’re going to see from Democrats who weren’t happy with the DNC primary rigging, and we have the perfect storm for the rise of a third party.

I’m not sure which third party we might see in 2020, but whichever one it is, it will have to to be the middle of the road. The Libertarians fit that bill, but the problem with them is that people conflate libertarianism as a political movement with libertarianism as a philosophy. Any political theory must take reality into account whereas the same isn’t true of philosophy. The Libertarian party isn’t rigid in its views, and neither was its candidate, but that didn’t matter to people because they know the philosophy is much more straight-forward. I can’t remember how many times someone told me Gary Johnson believed x when, in fact, he didn’t. People would assume he believed x because it would be consistent with libertarian philosophy to do so, but they never bothered to actually look up what he said. (For instance, did you know Johnson wanted to eliminate the EPA? Crazy, right? Except he didn’t. In fact, he cited the EPA as a well-run government agency that he supported.)

If people on one side or the other try to rise up with a third party, however, it will fail. We saw that with the Tea Party, and we see it every time the Green party gets a little momentum. These ultra-right and ultra-left groups are inherently on the fringes. They can’t succeed because they can never draw nearly enough of the people from the center. Just consider the 3 main third party candidates. Gary Johnson was the closest to the middle, so he did the best. Jill Stein? She’s far-left, so she did poorly. Evan McMullin? Even when we recognize his limited ballot access, he still had no chance of pulling anyone from the Clinton camp.

This is my great hope from the election. We desperately need a viable third party, and disgust with Trump can fuel that. For whatever negative consequences he may bring, his presidency may prove to be the end of the two party duopoly.

A third-party vote is not a vote for Clinton or Trump

I’m no libertarian by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s zero chance I’m going to vote for either Clinton or Trump. A vote for either of them is a vote for the NSA, and (aside from global warming) there is no current bigger threat to democracy itself than the utter destruction of privacy. (And to think, people used to be upset about the idea of the government looking at their library history.)

On the other hand, a vote for Gary Johnson is simply a vote for Gary Johnson. I may not like all his stands, but there isn’t a single viable candidate who will protect basic liberty like he will.

gj