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.

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Whoa

Here’s why the misspelling of “whoa” bothers me so much more than other misspellings:

I understand that language evolves. Words spelled one way in the past are spelled another way today. Words spelled one way today will be spelled another way in the future. Language, spelling, grammar, syntax, and other linguistic aspects change over time, and that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean we should simply ignore the etymology of a word because some people misspell or misuse it. And, of course, we don’t. For instance, few people argue that we should accept “rediculous” as a valid spelling, despite it being a very common misspelling.

This argument changes, however, when we get to certain words. “Whoa” is the one I notice the most; in fact, when it comes to “whoa”, this argument gets thrown out the window completely. Then stabbed with the broken shards of glass for good measure. This particularly bothers me because its most common misspelling – “woah” – doesn’t make any sense. When people misspell “ridiculous” with an “e”, the word is still phonetically correct. The same basic idea goes for difficult-to-spell words. But with “woah”, the logical basis behind the misspelling simply isn’t there. It’s just bad spelling; the phonetics of the word change entirely: “woah” has two syllables and rhymes with Noah. But point out this misspelling and everyone loses their shit. Suddenly we’re suppose to accept it because it’s so common.

That sounds rediculous to me.

Your definition of “clickbait” sucks

An example of clickbait: “A firefighter rescued 9 kittens from a burning building. You’ll never believe what happened next!”

Not an example of clickbait: A title to an article you don’t like or a title that is just misleading or a title that is just sensationalist or any content within an article.

The hallmark of clickbait titles is vagueness. If it isn’t vague, it isn’t clickbait. The reader is given the general topic, but the lede is hidden. That’s the bait. You have to click to find out what happened next. You have to click to see why you’ll be so amazed. You have to click because the title doesn’t give you the basic information about the content.

And, no, that definition of “clickbait” that you just googled does not make a case for some other use of the term. While the OED (why aren’t you using dictionary.com?) says clickbait is any content on the Internet that is sensationalized or designed to get clicks, that’s a garbage definition. Content has been sensationalized on the Internet for the past 25 years. The word “clickbait” has only risen in popular use in the past 2-3 years since Gawker style articles started clogging your Facebook feeds. It’s obvious the word is a response to something more than sensationalized titles. And note how the garbage definition uses “or”. That means anything which is designed to get clicks is clickbait? Quick, tell the BBC and Reuters and Al Jazeera America to stop writing headlines about earthquakes, riots, floods, and Greek debt. Hell, tell Facebook to get rid of that “clickbait” home button at the top of your Facebook page. It’s designed to get you to click, after all.

Related side-rant: People abuse dictionary definitions all the time. First, a lot of people use Merriam-Webster, which is a really shitty dictionary and should be considered dictionary abuse in and of itself. Second, people love to pick one or two *pieces* of a definition that fits their needs. That isn’t how words work. “Television” can be defined, in part, as “visual media”, but that doesn’t mean I get to refer to comic books as television because they’re also visual media.

People labeling everything “clickbait” is a huge pet peeve of mine. It has become this term people use to derisively refer to any article they don’t like. Often, I see people not even being specific to titles, instead focusing on the content of the article. No. The 9th paragraph in an article cannot possibly be what got you to click a link. The title got you to click. And if it was intentionally vague, then it was probably clickbait.

An article title can be bad for many different reasons, but if it isn’t vague, it isn’t clickbait.

Thought of the day

South Park has to be one of the worst shows on television. It comes across as a cartoon written by a kid who just read Ayn Rand for the first time. If it isn’t fart jokes or Cartman speaking in an ever higher pitched voice, then it’s preachy libertarianism written for the sort of person who actively dislikes philosophy; Matt Stone and Trey Parker are little more than toddler philosophers.

I almost seriously blogged about this

I almost seriously blogged about this Onion-esque story about Michele Bachmann:

Dr. Stephen Hawking’s recent statement that the black holes he famously described do not actually exist underscores “the danger inherent in listening to scientists,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota) said today.

Rep. Bachmann unleashed a blistering attack on Dr. Hawking, who earlier referred to his mistake on black holes as his “biggest blunder.”

“Actually, Dr. Hawking, our biggest blunder as a society was ever listening to people like you,” said Rep. Bachmann. “If black holes don’t exist, then other things you scientists have been trying to foist on us probably don’t either, like climate change and evolution.”

Rep. Bachmann added that all the students who were forced to learn about black holes in college should now sue Dr. Hawking for a full refund. “Fortunately for me, I did not take any science classes in college,” she said.

Bachmann’s anti-Hawking comments seemed to be gaining traction on Capitol Hill, as seen from the statement by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Science Committee, who said, “Going forward, members of the House Science Committee will do our best to avoid listening to scientists.”

Given all the bat-shit crazy things Bachmann has said in her life, this is perfectly plausible. It wasn’t until it was pointed out to me that the author of the article, Andy Borowitz, is a comedian that I realize this was made-up. This is an indictment of a few things. Most obviously, it’s an indictment of my familiarity with Borowitz. It’s also an indictment of the career Bachmann has led, not that this is the worst thing she has ever uttered, whether fictionally or not. (The worst was when she continued the lie about vaccines and autism.) But perhaps most of all this is an indictment of the New Yorker. The reason I posted this on other social media sites first is that I saw the source was what I thought was a serious outlet. I maybe expect some tongue-in-cheek articles if I’m looking at an “Odd News” section of some site, but I don’t expect to see work from The Onion when I’m not actually on The Onion. Why does everyone want to follow CNN’s lead of making shit up?

Sexism and incoherency

I recently came across a link on Facebook about women cutting their hair short. Apparently there’s a small fringe out there that particularly cares about this one way or another. That fringe, of course, is feminists. However, an even smaller fringe – the one the feminist in the forthcoming link attacks – also cares:

The ‘manosphere’ really hates short-haired girls. On “game” forums and in personal dating manifestos, the wickedness of short-haired women pops up time and time again as theme and warning – stay away from girls who’ve had their hair chopped off. They’re crazy, they’re deliberately destroying their femininity to “punish” men, but the last laugh will be on them, because the bitches will die alone. Yes, there are people who really believe this. In 2014.

The term “manosphere” is one of those “Shut up, I win!” buttons on the Internet, much like the word privilege or, in the non-virtual world of the early to mid-20th century, “uppity” in reference to black people. It more or less comes from Anita Sarkeesian, a non-gaming female who once played a few games casually as a kid. She believes the gaming world is part of this so-called “manosphere”, even though she has admitted that she doesn’t even play games (skip to 2:40). Indeed, she thinks first person shooters are “just gross”. One might plausibly presume that she hates all movies too because the Friday the 13th series is icky. But I digress.

Getting back on the original annoying horseshit, author Laurie Penny wrote an article describing her personal experience with a select group of people who care more about her hair than she does. For her, this is a devastating indictment of the White Male Privilege Machine:

[A man on the Internet] writes that long hair is “almost universally attractive to men, when they’re actually speaking honestly…Women instinctively know this, which is why every American girl who cuts, and keeps, her hair short often does it for ulterior reasons . . . Short hair is a political statement. And, invariably, a girl who has gone through with a short cut — and is pleased with the changes in her reception — is damaged in some significant way. Short hair is a near-guarantee that a girl will be more abrasive, more masculine, and more deranged.”

The essential argument is: Men like long hair, and what sane woman would ever want to do anything that decreases her capacity to please men?

The advantage of articles like this, pantomimic though they be, is that they make misogyny legible. There was a time when feminists had to do that all by ourselves, but now we don’t have to point out the underlying assumptions of a lot of the bullshit we deal with every day, because there are people on the internet doing it for us.

Who gives a shit? Yes, there are people who are really vocal about their personal preferences. Some of them even have these preferences for dumb reasons. That isn’t an indictment of anything except the individual expressing his opinion.

I’ve experimented with growing the crop out twice, encouraged both times by men I was dating. It seemed like the thing to do to make myself more pleasing to potential boyfriends, potential bosses, and other people with potential power over my personal happiness. Both times, it looked awful. It took a lot of effort and a surprising amount of money to maintain, and it still looked awful, and I didn’t feel like myself. Growing it past my chin took determination, because every day I’d look in the mirror and want to take the razor to it right then and there.

And yet, the amount of male attention I got – from friendly flirting to unwanted hassle – increased enormously. Not because I looked better, but because I looked like I was trying to look more like a girl. Because I was performing femme. Every time I cut it off, I noticed immediately that the amount of street harassment I received, from cat-calls to whispered sexual slurs to gropes and grabs on public transport, dropped to a fraction of what it had been – apart from total strangers coming up to tell me how much prettier I’d be if I only grew it out.

In addition to being a social justice warrior extraordinaire, apparently Penny is also a psychic. Why, that flirting and hassle had nothing – nothing! – to do with her looking better. Clearly it was because she fit into the feminine mold society demands of women. Forget that she is merely begging the question since her entire premise is that society (aka the “I win” button of ‘The Patriarchy’) demands women fit into a particular mold – which, to spell it out – is also her supporting argument.

I responded to this on Facebook, taking care to note that I prefer longer hair on a woman. I also prefer the color green to the color purple. In both instances, my preference is attributable to me as an individual. I don’t prefer these things because I demand one thing or another from women – or even from the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The fact is, the consequence-oriented ‘philosophy’ of feminism has a tendency to ignore the individual in favor of sweeping generalizations. It’s offensive on a personal level – I needn’t be stereotyped because of my sex – and it’s offensive on a scientific level in this case: anecdotes do not a case make. Of course, in saying this I got some responses. Here’s one of the first ones from Adam Hirschfeld:

So, you found generalizations offensive on a personal level? hm.

So. Basically, every time someone says you don’t like, it’s offensive at a personal level. Should that be punishable?

The sheer dumbness of this comment should have told me to ignore it, but I didn’t. I responded that, yes, it’s offensive when a person makes a daft generalization about an entire group. Let me add here, I can’t fathom how someone wouldn’t understand how stereotypes offend individuals. As for the red herring about punishment or whatever the hell he was trying to bait me into, I ignored it and instead pointed out that in high school I had long hair. Many people told me to cut it, which I eventually did on my own accord. However, I never attributed the opinions of those people to whatever group to which they happened to belong. Their opinions were their own. Here’s the amazing response I got:

And apparently that just happened. You made a generalization about people who make generalizations.

You see, the problem is- making generalizations is a matter of communication. What you said is akin to a witch hunt. It’s just as dumb as the war on terrorism, or bullying. It does nothing to stop any of them- and ignores all of the actual causes.

If you wanted people to stop generalizing- you’d encourage people to be individuals, to be themselves, and it’s that simple. You don’t have to put a fuckin political action committee together. Yes, people wrongly generalize, yes, terrorists and bullies really do exist- there’s absolutely nothing you can do about that but be the individual you’d like others to be.

…wat

I pressed Hirschfeld to clarify just how I was generalizing. Specifically, I asked if I was generalizing about the author when I said she was generalizing (again…wat) or if I was generalizing when I said I experienced many individuals telling me to cut my hair. I also made the mistake, unfortunately, of noting the incoherency of the rest of his post. Here’s the response:

You mean- you simply don’t want to- or can’t address it. Okay. All you’re doing is redefining the word generalization. We can go down that road, I’m not sure you’re going to like where it leads.

I’m going to skip ahead at this point with a quick summary: After pointing out his inability to use en dashes in any way resembling what one might call “correct”, I said he introduced two random topics (bullying and terrorism) which are seemingly unrelated to the discussion. Apparently there’s some connection in his mind, but he’s assuming I share his views on those topics. Since he never bothered to explain his views, his comparison sucked big balls. His argument was worse than a junior high English paper that was missing an introduction paragraph. He didn’t understand any of this, so I explained it again. Then, instead of explaining how I generalized anything, I got this incoherent masterpiece:

My position is the obvious. Or rather, the obvious for anyone who’s spent two minutes actually thinking about them.

No one can save you from yourself. If you want someone else to keep you safe- let that be the government or some private contractor, they will try. As they fail, you will demand more of them, and they will respond in the only way they know how. They will spy on every thing you do, they will control everything they can and eventually you’ll find yourself in a prison you built yourself.

Because that’s the point of terrorism, it’s not about Islam or Christianity or Judaism, Liberalism, Conservatism, fuck all that. Bad people do bad things, and people go bad for lots of reasons. They enjoy making people suffer and most of the time the only thing you can do is kill them. There is no place you can hide. There’s no low you can sink to that will satisfy these people. No amount of airport scanners can stop this. No amount of roadside checkpoints. And well, if you’re going to kill them, that requires someone to do the killing. The thing they never tell you about war- nobody wins. It’s a blind jab, a last ditch effort. There is no “coming back” what’s done is done, there’s only moving forward.

It’s said that while hunting monsters you need take care you don’t become one yourself. And we have become monsters, or to a large degree anyway. And this type of thing manifests itself in our society in all sorts of nasty ways. One of the most prevalent is bullying. We’ve totally failed as a society to even acknowledge our peoples needs- which we have not been meeting for a very long time. The result is a decay. A societal decay of intellectual, moral, philosophical, educational, political, governmental and pretty much any other realm you can imagine. It seems to intensify as if reaching some kindof singularity- a black hole of stupidity. Where the educated are educated out of thinking, and the thinking aren’t thinkers without an education.

Our society is burning, and we are working very hard to ignore the ashes. So when Billy or Britney- who’s lives are being destroyed around them- takes that to school or wherever and takes it out on another person, we who also feel the same pressures and are adamant to acknowledge it, take it out on them- Someone who really is just another victim. Because to see them as anything but a villain would force us to question our own place in all of this, where we’re really coming from, what we’re really doing, where we’re going- because the answer, is horrible. And you all know it.

Unfortunately for all of us, the first step to solving any problem is acknowledging its existence. So when I make an analogy involving bullying or terrorism to articulate the level at which ordinary people have failed to not only understand a simple problem regarding generalizations but what a generalization even is- there are very few conclusions one can come to, the foremost being that they don’t *want* to know what the problem is.

While I can’t give you even my most basic view on what that is without going on much further, I think it should suffice to say- just start giving a shit, and stop letting other people tell you how and what to think. Your political parties, governments, companies, ideologies, religions, social groups- do not give a rats ass you even exist. They’re just people going along to get along. Making it up as they go along. I’d hold them responsible- but you’re the ones who elected them. So who’s to say who’s to blame? Because damn, it’s starting to look a lot like everyone is.

The way Adam Hirschfeld managed to get off on a tangent about two absolutely random issues while sounding so monumentally arrogant and stupid at the same time is amazing. None of what he said makes a bit of sense. None. What does make sense, though, is that some people like long hair on women. Some prefer short hair. Others don’t care. Just don’t be a douche and lump an entire group together because some of those people happen to be vocal about their personal, singular, individual, entirely-on-themselves preference.

Honeygate

The Internet is filled with a lot of annoying people. Sometimes they’re simply irritating because their educational level is so clearly so low. Other times they’re just trolls. It’s that latter category that mostly latched onto the “honeygate” ‘scandal’ involving Richard Dawkins, but I suspect a fair number are just unable to think beyond a very superficial level.

Briefly: Richard Dawkins made a Twitter post complaining about having a jar of honey confiscated as he made his way through a UK airport. The Internet lit up with mocking posts on Twitter and in the blogosphere about how Dawkins lost his dear jar of honey. Here’s his post:

Bin Laden has won, in airports of the world every day. I had a little jar of honey, now thrown away by rule-bound dundridges. STUPID waste.

Again, most of these people were simply trolls. They damn well know this isn’t about a jar of honey or any other particular liquid. The complaint is about overly strict airport security that does little to nothing to secure anything other than the paychecks and inflated egos of TSA and other needless agents.

But this is the Internet. This is where people go to be assholes.

This post isn’t so much about the annoyance of Richard Dawkins by a bunch of mooks. It’s about the fact that people routinely ruin worthwhile and potentially very fruitful discussions because they just want to watch the world burn. Or, less dramatically, they’re dickface trolls. These people are like less skilled versions of people who spread computer viruses. Viruses that are designed simply to hurt the computers of people, not to gain money, scam people, make political points, etc, but simply to cause harm are the worst ones out there. It’s like a vandal throwing a rock through your kitchen window. There’s no reason behind it. There’s no logic or thought behind it. The entire ‘point’ is to be an asshole. These are bad people.

Now, I don’t have the blog traffic for anything to come of this post, but I suspect a recounting of this post by these sort of people would paint me as a defender of honey or Dawkins or something this post isn’t about. Because why not? Intentionally misunderstanding something isn’t dishonest assholery. No, no, it’s just funny. Sure.