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The Balloon and the Anvil

A Never Ending Battle

Running: The Gateway Drug to Bragging

I have been running for exercise on and off since roughly eighth grade. But recently my relationship with it has changed. I used to dread running. I hated it from my first step out of the door to my last one returning home. I would have to wear headphones and listen to music just to get through it.

I only ever ran to impress people and most of the time it was just one person that I had my heart set on that I just had to be in good shape for. I ran all throughout eighth grade year and summer to impress someone in particular. Then I came to high tech, stopped seeing that person, stopped running, started stress eating, and gained 25 pounds in a year. Granted I also probably grew taller, but still.

Then later on in my high tech career I discovered another person that I was interested in and I started running again. Still hated it. Hated every second of it. Eventually, I stopped when I had nobody to impress again.

As a result of my negative relationship with running, I was never good at it. The most I had ever run was 2 and a half miles and that was after quite a long time of training. I just didn’t want to run.

Fast forward to senior year. One day I felt like crap, mentally and physically. And I decided to go for a run to see if it would made me feel any better. I could barely run down the street without stopping. I ran a little over a mile and stopped to walk probably five times. But, it improved my mood.

I was running for me. I was running to feel good. I wasn’t running to impress anybody. And I enjoyed it. A few months later and now I love running. I don’t listen to music or anything because I don’t need to be distracted anymore, the run isn’t sheer agony. I started to look forward to running because I knew it would improve my mood.

Today, after not nearly as much training as I had in previous years, I ran more than a 3 and a half miles without stopping. This is an all time personal best for me and I actually enjoyed doing it! Just goes to show what a healthy relationship with an activity can do to improve your performance in it, instead of dreading it.

This blog had no purpose, it was just all that I could think about today.

Tales of a Spoiled Birthday Boy

Everyone nowadays has pointless and expensive gadgets. That’s just the world that we live in. And as a product of this world, I am no different. I’m a spoiled millennial who just. has. to. have. the latest and greatest tech, despite that fact that my current set up works perfectly fine. Now, it’s been about 2 years (30 years in tech years) since I’ve gotten any new gadgets. You can see the problem here.

Enter: My Birthday

Oh boy, oh boy. I get to ask my mother for some new random and expensive toy! This is so exciting. The only issue was, I had nothing that I wanted. No new games, no new game console, no new phone, nothing. This was deeply troubling. What am I if not a frivolous consumer?

After a couple days of pondering, I came up with something. A new ipad! Now, I have an ipad. But it’s old and to be frank, shitty. I don’t know why it aged as terribly as it did, but it’s slow. Dreadfully slow. It also can’t be updated to ios10, so there are quite a few apps that I want and simply cannot get. And it’s much too large! If i were to get a new ipad, it would certainly be a mini. Perfect size.

ipad_vs_ipad_mini_5
The word “mini”, should always be typed in all lowercase.  It just looks so much nicer than Mini. Same goes for ross.                                 ross, Ross, ross, Ross, ross, Ross

 

I’d made my decision. It was time to test my fate in the Lion’s Den.

“Mom, for my birthday. Could I get a new ipad?”

“No.”

Okay. It was time to think of a new gift. Maybe…? No…no that’s no good.

ron-swanson
I typed a beefy paragraph about why I needed new headphones but the damn thing didn’t save

Here’s the cliffnotes version: I needed new headphones, but I’m really picky. The apple headphones fit comfortable into my ear unlike any other headphone and I wanted to get high quality headphones instead of the standard earbuds that come with the phone. So I ended up asking for these:

https3a2f2fblueprint-api-production-s3-amazonaws-com2fuploads2fcard2fimage2f2076972fairpods-660
Apple Airpods, they’re beautiful lah de dah de dah, I typed all this already lah de dah

Yippee, that’s what I asked for. Wonderful. Now I can start typing new material again.

However….. My technology craving has not been satisfied. They are not going to arrive until around 5 weeks after my birthday. So I’m still just sitting around lusting after some new shiny gadget.

It was made even worse because I played the new nintendo game system, the Switch, at a friends house and now I desperately want that.

I will never be satisfied. Thank god for raw American consumerist Ideals.

A Bad Blog about Good Blogs

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging recently. I really feel like I would enjoy blogging and I hope to one day start one that I write regularly. But for some reason, I struggle to blog. I’m not sure if it’s just that I don’t like writing or that I haven’t found the right topic or what.

I want to figure out what I’m missing… and I think that a good place to start is analyzing blogs that I enjoy. One immediately popped into my mind. Years ago I read what might not be considered a blog, but it would certainly be considered one of the nerdiest things around.

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Image ripped directly from his blog. I feel no shame.

Upon revisiting the blog I noted a few of the things about it that I enjoyed. For starters, I was interested in the game (moreso when I first read it). So I suppose the obvious thing is out of the way, I have to enjoy the thing that I’m blogging about. But that is easier said than done. Who the hell knows what interests I could blog about? I certainly don’t. Perhaps that will become more clear eventually.

I also noticed the tone of the blog. The blogger was very casual. He, I’m just gonna say he, makes jokes and writes in a speaking tone. I like that, a blog that I would write would probably be the same way. It would be casual and lighthearted.

The third thing I noticed may sound silly. because it’s a video game. But the blog is educational! At least, it’s educational with regards to the game. The game he is writing about is a complex strategic game and throughout the blog he explains tactics in a way that is helpful. My ideal blog would probably be educational in some sense, I enjoy teaching and preaching.

The fourth thing that I noticed is that I really enjoy the concept of writing about and analyzing experiences. He is sitting there recounting tales of the games that he played and explaining what he learned and what he enjoyed. This style of writing is fascinating to me. I’m not sure how well it would fit into most writing topics, but I could make it work.

human_trounce_why1
An intense battle and obligatory picture. Read on to understand.

A CRITICISM. He uses few pictures. When he uses them, I enjoy them. But for the most part his blog is just blocks of text. All images added to the blog that I am writing right now have been added after this realization.

ALRIGHT. So, I’ve learned some things about what I may want to blog about. And I may potentially have some high quality blogs in the future! This blog does not count as it was more of a self help thing than a blog for people to read. Whatever, don’t judge me.

1: Choose a topic of interest

2: Be casual and fun. But remember to be literate and easy to read.

3: Have it be either educational or indicate some sort of progress

4: Perhaps analyzing events or experiences. Fun analysis. Funalysis. I’ll work on it.

5: Pictures!

New Passion Project Idea

For a while I was hoping to have my passion project be about flags. I was going to design one and have it made/make it. It was going to be sick. But for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what to make a flag for! I was originally going to make a “Flag of Ross” but that didn’t interest me. My next idea was a flag for clean energy, but I didn’t have much of a passion for that either.
And.
Then.
it.
hit.
me.

My hometown, Eatontown, doesn’t have a flag. It just doesn’t. But it is totally an acceptable and normal thing for towns to have them. Just 5 minutes ago I realized that I could legitimately produce a flag for Eatontown and propose it to the government and make it official. Sure, it’s unlikely. But it could totally happen. And it is absolutely what I am doing.

Now I just need to actually learn about my hometown. I need to find what makes it important or what grand things happened in its past that I can harp on. Gah, this is so exciting.

According to my 30 seconds on research, the important parts about Eatontown are that it used to have military bases and it has the Monmouth mall. Focusing on the mall seems like a bad idea because it is shallow and temporary. The Military bases seem like a solid choice because it is something to be proud of, but I am afraid of being another Angola:

2000px-flag_of_angola-svg
If ever a flag looked eager to go to war. Seriously, it’s the angriest flag I’ve ever seen.

I could also focus on the geography, but Eatontown doesn’t really have anything spectacular. I really don’t know what Ima base it on. We’ll see I guess.

I also need to learn how specifically I am going to appeal this to the Gov’t. I’ll find a way, it is kind of their job to communicate with and represent the public so it shouldn’t be too hard.

Wish me luck!

Good Flag Design Vs. Bad Flag Design: A Rant

I have recently developed a fascination for flags and flag design, because I am descending further and further into the void of all things nerdy. So I have spent many evenings idly scrolling through lists of flags and making judgments on each one. Some I loved and some I hated. Yet I couldn’t help but wish that there were some sort of official standard for what makes a flag good or bad.

There is. There is an actual organization called the North American Vexillological Association. And aside from its existence being absolutely hilarious, it has a surprisingly useful set of guidelines for how to design flags. Here they are (https://portlandflag.org/good-flag-bad-flag/):

1: Keep it Simple Stupid (That last part isn’t official)

2: Use Meaningful Symbolism

3: Use 2-3 Basic Colors

4: No Lettering or Seals

5: Be Distinctive or Be Related (Based on which you want)

They seem like some pretty basic and intuitive rules, but you have no idea the monstrosities that some places have for flags. Especially the United States State flags, almost all of them are just terrible. For Example:

oregon

Oregon, are you even trying? You’re breaking at least 3 of the rules man! Surely the other ones have to be better!

ks_fi

Stop putting your names on your flags! It looks atrocious! And stop it with the complex seals, the details are impossible to make out and just look atrocious. Let’s take a look at some good flag designs.

2000px-flag_of_hong_kong-svg

Hong Kong, your flag is beautiful. Downright gorgeous.

1280px-flag_of_the_united_kingdom-svg

The UK flag, on top of being iconic and aesthetically pleasing, has an amazing history. It is surprisingly well done combination of the 4 countries that make up the…country… of UK. Well, it leaves out Whales but who cares. The UK clearly didn’t. (Seriously it’s bizarre to me that they just leave out one of the countries and this isn’t some huge thing)

“But Ross”, you might be saying “Those are country flags, of course they would be better than state flags!”

Okay fine, since you’re such a confident little skeptic. Here are some of the Japanese Prefecture Flags. A Japanese prefecture is basically a state, I have no idea if it works the same way a US state does, but its how Japan is divided up.

1024px-flag_of_tokyo_prefecture-svg
Tokyo
3000px-flag_of_osaka_prefecture-svg
Osaka
1024px-flag_of_kyoto_prefecture-svg
Kyoto

THEY’RE SO COOL. I fangirl hard over these flags man, they’re just so amazing. It is worth noting that the prefecture flags use a lot of purple which some flag nerds don’t like. But I do! They’re glorious.

So yeah, there is good and bad flag design at all levels of government. Country, state, city, you name it. There is good and bad.

And now this post will come to an abrupt end. This has been a rant with Ross “The Sauce” Marotta, thank you.

 

Who am I?

Honestly I had thought this to be a boring question for a long time. Yeah, it is interesting to think about from time to time. But for the most part conversation was often trite and people just used it as a pathetic means to feel smarter.

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“Well, what if like, your brain isn’t actually being controlled by you?!?!”

But a few interesting concepts that were tossed my way recently really brought this question to new light. The first one being that a long long time ago, people used to think that their inner monologue was gods speaking to them. Nowadays scholars tend to scoff at that notion and laugh at it. But being introduced to that archaic strand of thinking really shook me. Up until I had heard of that example, I had been following Descartes’s theory of:

“je pense, donc je suis” or “I think, therefore I am”

This is a concept thought up by a 1600’s  french philosopher who basically thought of the plot for the Matrix 400 years before the movie came out. He thought to himself, my senses lie to me all of the time…what if they are lying to me right now about everything? What if nothing that I know is real? What if I’m not real? Ahhh!!! He then settled his mind by decided that, because he, right now, is thinking. That he must be real. What his senses are picking up on might not be real. The reality that he knows might not be real. He may currently be living in the matrix. But at least he, and his thoughts, are real.

 

apple-bucket-clipart-1

Descartes frequently likened his thoughts to a bucket of apples. He thought that in order for the whole bucket of apples, or thoughts, to be considered good. That each and every apple had to be examined for rot and that if one of the apples had rot, then none of the apples were to be trusted.

 

 

And that whole theory seemed fine and dandy to me, I was content with it. But the fact that my thoughts might not be my own really threw a wrench in their plans. Someone could potentially be controlling my every thought. I could be like a video game character. Constantly acting and making decisions that to any onlooker, could be mine. But in reality they are not, they are controlled by some cosmic hand pulling invisible strings. I know that it seems far-fetched, but it still freaks me out sometimes.

The second and much more jarring mindfreak occurred as a result of this lovely video.

If you don’t want to watch it, here is a “quick” summary:

Your brain is composed of two hemispheres and each of them controls specific processes and functions that the other has no control over. For example the left side of the brain controls all forms of communication from language to hand signals, and the right brain is capable of recognizing faces which the left is not. Another example is that the left brain controls the left side of the body while the right brain controls the left side. These hemispheres interact and communicate with each other through a nerve that can be cut. Cutting this completely separates the two and eliminates any means of communication that they have. The eerie part of this is that it also seems to eliminate any means of cooperation that they had. The separate sides of the body will begin to fight over things, such as which candy bar to choose or whether or not you should be picking something up. You can even ask the sides of the brains questions and get different results from each. Asking the subject with a split brain to”Pick up the shape that is your favorite color” can result in each hand picking up different colored shapes. There is also a famous instance of a woman who got the nerve cut as a treatment for epilepsy (which used to be common practice) and afterwards one of her hands would constantly try to kill her.

brainorg
I don’t know how accurate this diagram is. I just ripped it off of google images and am not a Neurologist, so take it with a grain of salt.

Sorry this is  a complex topic and it is not easy to summarize. There are quite a few things to be curious about after learning this news but I am going to approach it in the most self-absorbed way possible! So what does this mean about me? Is there a second conscious living inside of me? Am I repressing a sad, tortured person who is only given the opportunity to act on its own once a second nerve is cut?

Honestly a lot of the evidence seems to point in that direction. But then more questions come into play, such as which of the brain hemisphere’s is really me? It is easy to assume that the hemisphere that can communicate is the real me, but why do we assume that? There is no real reason to. Both hemispheres…both people… are equally me. That is, to put it in the words of the video,”deeply creepy”. And it brings me back to the question originally posed by the title, Who am I?

P.S. I had hoped to bring some sort of new thoughts to the table instead of mindlessly babbling like the potheads that I mocked in the first paragraph. But now I fear that I ended up sounding exactly like them. So if I did, sorry!

 

 

 

 

Be Friendly! +Blog Intro

Welcome to the Balloon and the Anvil, where the optimistic balloon constantly struggles to remain buoyant against the unyielding, pressing weight of the pessimistic anvil. This blog will discuss optimism, pessimism, culture, and philosophy in an often opinionated manner. Today we are going to discuss:

The Importance of Friendliness

Being friendly doesn’t simply mean smiling and holding doors. Being friendly means making connections with people, genuine ones. Learn something about the person, get to know them. Just because you will only know that person for five minutes of your entire life doesn’t mean that you cannot make a meaningful connection with them. One-sentence interactions have the potential to make your day, or better yet, make someone else’s.

“Everyone you will ever meet knows something [that]* you don’t” -Bill Nye

*90% of the sources I’ve found say that the quote doesn’t have the “that” in there, but it just makes it sound sooo much better, doesn’t it?

Bill Nye has an excellent point and it fits perfectly into our theme of friendliness. If you go into every interaction with the intention of learning something, you are bound to have a meaningful and pleasant conversation.


Time for a personal anecdote about how I learned to be friendly. I have done Jiu Jitsu, a martial art, for a few years now. And throughout the vast majority of the time at my gym, I never really spoke to people. Sure I said hello and chatted, but I never learned people’s names, never learned about who they were, never made a connection with anyone. Every once in a while I felt like trying to be friendlier, but nobody else was being friendly… so I decided against it. This all changed when I met the hero of this story, Justin. Or better known to everyone that I’ve told this story to as “Justin, that guy from Jiu Jitsu. I told you about him the other day, remember? Gah, whatever.”

jj
What Jiu Jitsu typically looks like (I promise it’s actually a complex and elegant sport)

Justin is just an average dude, he’s about thirty and short with orange, scraggly hair. He looks a bit (exactly) like a leprechaun. When he arrived at his first day of Jiu Jitsu, he walked around and introduced himself to everyone! What is he crazy? I thought to myself. You can’t do that at Jiu Jitsu! But sure as hell he went around to every single person there, “Hey, What’s your name? I’m Justin. It’s nice to meet you!” This may sound like I’m overreacting, but you have to understand what my Jiu Jitsu class is. It’s a bunch of “Tough Guys” who don’t talk, don’t smile, don’t feel pain, and have never watched a romcom in their entire lives. My Jiu Jitsu classses are silent. Justin’s friendliness was blasphemous.

That was the end of his shenanigans for the first day, perhaps he knew that it was all the shock that my heart could take. But the very next class he came in and he remembered their names. “Hi Tommy, how are you?” “Whatsup Nick, go easy on me today. Haha” “Hey Omar”. Then he did something that has genuinely influenced the way that I act on a daily basis. He complimented someone. “Tommy, those are some cool tattoos. Do they have any special meaning?” And Tommy smiled.

Since then, Justin’s influence has spread throughout the entire class. Jiu Jitsu went from a place of pure silence and testosterone to a place of laughter and conversation. We all know each other’s names and chat pleasantly instead of sitting alone, stone faced and quiet. We’ve made friends and we’ve made connections, all because one person made an effort to be friendly.


Since hearing that quote from Bill Nye and meeting Justin, I have been trying to learn how to better make meaningful conversation with people. Here are some thing tips that I have picked up:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make conversation

    Most people are friendly and will be eager to chat. Don’t be discouraged if every once in a while people shoot you down, everyone has bad days and you shouldn’t let it change the way that you treat people.

  2. Listen with the intent to understand, do not listen with the intent to reply

I have to be honest, I stole this from a Ted Talk. But it is genius! If you are thinking, you’re not listening. I guarantee that no one will be offended if it takes a few seconds for you to come up with a response to whatever they were saying. If anything, they will be happy that you are putting thought into it.

3. Compliment People

I don’t mean empty compliments such as “I like your skirt!” or “Your hair looks really pretty today!”. Give people genuine compliments, compliment their character. “You have a really comforting way of speaking” or “You’re a really good story teller” are much more meaningful compliments and have the potential make people’s day.

 

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