Campaign 2100

August 5, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Move Up a Level.

TNEO and Table Tennis

This past weekend I returned from "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual eight-day writing workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, for graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. (I'm a 2006 grad.) This was my fifth TNEO - I went in '07, '08, '09, '13, and now '14. Here's a picture of me during a reading at the local Barnes and Noble. (There were about 30-40 listeners.) Here's a group picture. (If you have trouble seeing these Facebook photos, here are other versions for the reading photo and  for the group photo.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.) 

What does this have to do with table tennis, besides the fact that I'm a table tennis player at a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop? Actually quite a bit. During the workshop I had the first seven chapters of my SF novel "Campaign 2100" critiqued, and soon I will start the final rewrite on it. The novel has lots of table tennis! I blogged about this on June 13, where I even listed the table tennis scenes and changes in the sport, including "Spinsey pinhole sponge." (One of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who, up match point in the semifinals of the national championships, walks off the court to join - and eventually run - a worldwide third-party challenge for president of Earth in the year 2100. He also coaches the son of the presidential contender, and coaches and then does an exhibition for the Chinese leadership with an alien ambassador.) The table tennis scenes have mostly gone over well with readers and critiquers, even though they are not table tennis people. 

Since I was out of town for nine days, here's the question that comes up: What does one do to stay in table tennis shape when on vacation or out of town for an extended period for some reason? Assuming you can't arrange TT times at the new location, the answer is to shadow practice. (Here's my article Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork.) I brought my weighted racket to the writing workshop. (I bought it at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.) At least once a day I shadow practiced forehand loops and smashes, backhands, and side-to-side footwork. 

Coaching Camp in Virginia

The writing workshop pretty much kept us on the go all day the entire time, so I was pretty tired when I returned - and with no break, I went right back to full-time coaching. We have a one-time camp in Virginia this week, 9AM-4PM, Mon-Fri, and so I'm leaving each day around 7:30 AM (because of rush hour) to make the journey. There are 15 kids in the camp, ages 6 to 14. Even though the camp was open to boys and girls, for reasons we still don't understand there are no girls in the camp. Only two are Asian (though two others are I believe part Asian). All 15 are right-handed. I'm head coach, assisted by John and Wen Hsu (the latter is the camp administrator as well). Since I have to leave so early, to do this blog I have to either do it the night before or get up very, very early.

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running a camp at MDTTC for disabled veterans, on Aug. 26-29. It's part of a USATT program, which has a grant for such camps. They have seven such camps scheduled - here's a listing. Special thanks goes to Jasna Rather for helping put these together!

Help Wanted - USATT National Volunteer Coordinator

Here's a new volunteer position with USATT - and an important one! 

Help Wanted - Austin Table Tennis Club Coach

Here's the help wanted article

Think Like a Coach

Here's a new coaching article from Oklahoma City coach Britt Salter. (The page is listed as Nov. 27, 2012, but that's when the page was apparently created for the coaching articles. The article just went up.) 

Contact Point for Maximum Backspin

Here's the video (3:14) from PingSkills.

Which Ball Should I Buy?

Here's the new blog entry from USATT Board Member Kagin Lee.

ITTF Coaching Course in Akron, Ohio

Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Goes Plastic for Future Events

Here's the article.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. I was posting them all here, but while I was gone they went from #38 to #28. You can find them all on the USATT News page. I'll likely start posting them again tomorrow. 

Kanak Jha and the North American Championships

Here's the highlights video (1:36), by Jim Butler.

Lily Zhang's 2012 Olympic Thoughts

Here's the video (1:41). 

Dimitrij Ovtcharov on the Two-Colored Balls

Here's the article. "More than half of the balls were broken after practice." (Includes picture with the broken balls - looks like about ten broken balls, though there seem to be 11 white halves, 9 orange halves.)

Tampa Tries Free Pingpong in the Park

Here's the article

Table Tennis Touch

Here's a video (2:33) on this table tennis game you can play on your smart phone. 

Pong Was Never Supposed to Be Played By the Public

Here's the article on this revolutionary video game. 

Cartoon Woman Smashes Winner in Front of Big Crowd

Here's the picture - what should the caption be?

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June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th, a Full Moon, and a Honey Moon!!!

Jason Vorhees says hello! (It's the first Honey Moon on Friday the 13th in about 100 years.)

Campaign 2100

I've spent most of the last four days focused on the rewrite of my science fiction novel Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates. A publisher is interested in this novel, which features table tennis extensively. The rewrite is done, for now. However, from July 25 - Aug. 2 I'll be at writer's workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the first seven chapters of the novel are being extensively critiqued, so I'll be doing more rewriting on that. And then I send the rewrite to the publisher, and pray to the TT and SF gods. (The publisher really liked the novel, but had specific areas they wanted rewritten or expanded on.)

The novel covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the entire world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. (Why did they do this? It's explained in the novel.) The novel is a drama that satirizes and skewers American politics. I hope for it to come out in January, 2016, as the presidential election takes off. I hope to be on all the political talk shows!

How is table tennis in the novel? Let's see (and there are some spoilers here):

  • One of the four main characters is the highly sarcastic and brilliant Bruce Sims. (Confession: he's really me, unleashed to say whatever I want!) He had helped run the campaign for the current president, but left the campaign over policy disagreements and because he considers the president an idiot. He plays professional table tennis on the college circuit - yes, it's professionalized - and he's quite wealthy from it. He's one of the best in the world, which is dominated by American and Chinese players. There's an entire chapter early on where he's introduced as he's playing the semifinals of the national college championships. At deuce in the fifth, he simultaneously gets into arguments with his opponent, with members of the crowd, and with the referee, all while listening to breaking news (in a mental implant) about the upcoming election and an alien ambassador who just arrived and got into a spat with the president - first contact. He walks off the court on the spot to get involved. Soon he's traveling the world running a quixotic third-party moderate challenge for president of Earth, against the conservative president and the liberal challenger. (Campaign slogan: "Extremism in the pursuit of moderation is no vice.")
  • In the year 2100, nearly all the top athletes, including professional table tennis players, are big, hulking brutes on steroid-type drugs. Bruce is one of the few who refuses to use them, and so is always at a disadvantage against his more powerful opponents. In fact, he names his racket Sling after the weapon used by David against Goliath.
  • Bruce teaches the alien ambassador, Twenty-Two, how to play table tennis. They play regularly as they travel the world during the campaign. Because her ancestors snatched flying insects out of the air, her reflexes and coordination are far beyond human - and she soon starts beating him, to his great chagrin.
  • The publisher said the best chapter of the novel is the Ping-Pong Diplomacy scene in China, where Bruce and Twenty-two play an exhibition for the Chinese leadership while trying to convince them to support their candidate. After the match, on orders from the world president, world security forces show up and arrest Twenty-two on the ping-pong court, causing an international incident.  
  • Bruce's racket Sling is the latest model of ping-pong paddle, a Maestro Prime covered with Spinsey pinhole sponge, both from Trump Sports. When the ball hits it, the Spinsey sponge compresses, forcing air out through the tiny, angled holes that permeate the surface. If he held it one way, the air shoots upward from the parallel holes, creating a topspin. If he flipped the paddle, so the backhand side became the forehand side and vice versa, then the air would shoot downward, creating a backspin. He also has shoes with variable grippiness, depending on the floor.
  • There's a scene where Bruce is walking through the Great Mall of China (500 miles long and growing, paralleling the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World introduced in the novel), and finds a table tennis store, where he buys a new racket. (His old one, Sling, had been broken.)
  • Bruce is running the campaign for president for Toby Platt. Toby's son, Tyler, age 13, is also an active table tennis player and is running for president of his middle school. Despite his running a worldwide campaign for president, Bruce gets very involved in both coaching Tyler and running his campaign for school president.
  • One of Bruce's idiosyncrasies is that he always carries a ping-pong ball around, tossing it back and forth in his hands, fidgeting with it, throwing it against walls, etc. When he's irritated at someone, he smacks him with the ball.

Table Tennis in Recent Movies

Table Tennis has been in three recent movies that I've seen in the past two weeks or so. There was of course Ping Pong Summer, which I reviewed on Monday. Then there's that scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past where we are introduced to the superfast Quicksilver by watching him play table tennis by himself - here's an animated gif of him playing, with Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background), and Wolverine looking on. And then last night I saw 22 Jump Street, where there were several table tennis scenes where Jenko (played by Channing Tatum) plays at a college fraternity, using a wood paddle with no covering and the handle broken off. I don't have video of that, but here's video from the movie of Tatum holding up a Beer Pong shirt (link should take you directly to this, 51 seconds in). As an added bonus, here's video (10 sec) of Tatum levitating a ping pong ball with his breath, though this isn't from the movie. (The ball bounces up and down when he does it; when I do this, I not only can keep the ball in one place, but by spinning the ball I can do it sideways so the ball appears to float to the side of my head. I'll post video of this some other time.)

Building Depth Footwork Skills

Here's the coaching article.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-one down, 79 to go!

  • Day 80: Interview with ITTF’s Deputy CEO Glenn Tepper

World Hopes Week Draw

Here's the article. USA's Amy Wang is seeded #1 in girls' singles, and she and USA's Michael Tran are seeded #1 in Teams. (This is for players ages 11-12, and is taking place at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria.)

World Team Championships - Most Watched in History

Here's the article from the ITTF. 188 million watched it.

Johnny Leach's Legacy

Here's the article.

Ariel Hsing, Welcome to China!

Here's how they welcome her.

Name the Game Contest

Here's the video (49 sec) where you are asked to come up with a name for the game. Alas, it's already been done - they are playing gnip gnop (read it backwards), where you hit the ball so it hits your side of the table first instead of directly over the net. I was introduced to this game back when I first started in 1976, and it's been a favorite at camps ever since, and presumably for many years before. I sometimes teach the game to beginning kids, as it's easier for them to rally this way while they develop their hand-eye coordination, but I mostly don't because it's too addictive, and once they get started with gnip gnop it's all they want to play.

Maria Sharapova Plays Table Tennis

Here she is shortly after winning the French Open. For some reason she's playing left-handed, even though she's a righty in tennis. Anyone know who her opponent is? Here are four more pictures of her playing: photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4

Herbalife Soccer Ad

Here's video (30 sec) of an ad from three years ago for Herbalife, a nutrition and weight management company. It features Argentina's star player Lionel Messi, who is currently playing for them at the World Cup. This is a rare combination of the world's two most popular participation sports!

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June 3, 2014

Why Not Be the Strongest Mentally

Players are always trying to have the best loop, the best smash, the best serve, or a litany of other things. Why not try to be the strongest mentally? The player who's always calm under pressure, always at his mental best, and smart tactically. Easier said than done? How would you know unless you put as much time into this as you do into learning techniques? Just a thought that I might expand into a Tip of the Week later on, or at least a longer blog entry. Here's a tip – imagine you are Bruce Lee when you play.

Writing Projects

I keep on my bulletin board a list of my writing projects, including past ones which are marked "DONE." The list includes completed book projects Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers and Table Tennis Tips, and creating print-on-demand versions of past books Table Tennis Tales & Techniques and Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. Also listed are my science fiction & fantasy works, including the novel Sorcerers in Space and the anthology of my best sold stories, Pings and Pongs. (You can find all my books at the Larry Hodges Books Page.)

Upcoming projects include updated versions of Table Tennis: Steps to Success and Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; possibly writing a Table Tennis Training Center Manual; a new anthology of my best sold science fiction & fantasy stories (More Pings and Pongs); and creating the online store TableTennisBooks.com.

The possible Table Tennis Training Center Manual is problematic. First, it's a huge amount of work for a very small market. It'll be quite useful to those actually interested in opening a full-time training center or running a junior program, but how big is that market? My other books sell in the thousands, with (for example) Table Tennis: Steps to Success selling over 28,000 copies, and Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers hopefully reaching that level. The market for this manual will likely be in the dozens or at most hundreds. So it's basically volunteer work. (Plus the ones who will gain from it would be other training centers – new and current ones –which are often competitors with my own club.) So we'll see. But I won't worry about it for a while as I have these other projects to do first, and I have limited time, considering I'm also coaching 20-25 hours/week, doing the blog and weekly tips, and way too many other projects, most of them volunteer. (I spend more time on the "way too many projects" than I do coaching.)

At the moment my primary project is the rewrite of my science fiction novel Campaign 2100. (This is a satire/drama that covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system.) One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player who walks off the court at deuce in the fifth in the semifinals of the USA Championships to run the worldwide campaign for president. (At the time he decides to walk off he's actually listening to political events unfold via a futuristic computer implanted in his brain.) I have a publisher who's interested – a larger one than the one that published my humorous fantasy novel Sorcerers in Space – but they asked for a rewrite on certain aspects. It's a big project, but I hope to finalize it before our summer camp season begins on June 16. (However, I won't be done yet – I have the first seven chapters - out of 56 - getting critiqued at a writer's workshop in July, with the publisher's blessing, so I'll finalize that probably in August and then send the final version to the publisher.)

Recently I've been involved in several extensive email discussions regarding certain USATT projects, plus I keep getting recruited to help out on other issues, whether it's USATT, MDTTC, or helping out various individuals. If anyone is even dreaming of asking me to do anything time-consuming over the next two weeks, don't!!! (This doesn't include my TT coaching, where I'm helping prepare our players for the upcoming U.S. Open in four weeks.)

How to Deal with Heavy Topspin Opponents

Here's the article.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov is Getting Married!

Here's the story.

Transcending Table Tennis

Here are three videos from 2010-11 that show lots of great table tennis action in slow motion, set to music.

Ping-Pong Park

Here's a park in China full of outdoor tables.

Aerobics on the Table

So that's how you return a short ball!

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July 24, 2012

Table Tennis Shoes

In my SF novel "Campaign 2100" (which covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, and is currently making the rounds of publishers and agents), one of the characters was a championship table tennis player who quit the sport to run the election campaign. I stuck in three table tennis scenes. One of the innovations I used was that his shoes had adjustable traction, which he'd vary based on the floors. Why don't we have that?

Okay, the answer is we don't have the technology. But more specifically, why don't we use different types of shoes for different conditions? I see two main variations: grippiness and support. On slippery floors you'd want grippy shoes, but on grippy floors a grippy shoe might be too grippy, making it grippingly difficult to move. (Isn't that a gripping sentence?) Older and overweight players, and those playing on cement, would want shoes with more support, while others might want a shoe with little support so they can "grab" the floor better with thinner, more flexible soles.

I envision a scatter plot on a square graph where the higher on the graph you are, the more support; the more to the right, the more grippiness. Then players could choose the shoe that fits their condition and the playing conditions.

I used to have both my regular playing shoes, and these "suction cup" table tennis shoes from China that were super grippy. On slippery floors I'd pull out the suction cup shoes. Also, when I had knee problems, I started using shoes with more support. But now that I play almost exclusively on red rubberized flooring designed for table tennis (at the Maryland Table Tennis Center), and my knees seem fine, I prefer shoes with little support and thin soles. They don't need to be grippy - you can move on the red flooring with iced soles. However, I never wear the low-support table tennis shoes outside the club. (You do carry your table tennis shoes to the club in a shoe bag, right? NO ONE in their right mind would wear them outside the club, where you might hurt your feet or get the shoes dirty!)

What I Did Yesterday

  • Wrote the Tip of the Week
  • Wrote the Tip of the Week for next Monday
  • Wrote Monday's blog
  • Did three hours of coaching at MDTTC Training camp. (Spent much time with three new beginning juniors.)
  • Took the kids during lunch break to 7-11 (after they'd eaten lunch).
  • Changed sponge on both sides of my racket
  • Weeded yard, then went to Home Depot and bought new mulch, and put it in.
  • Did two rewrite requests on SF stories, one for a story already sold, and one for a story that's a "finalist."
  • Submitted seven short stories to markets (I'd let it go for a while)
  • Responded to about ten emails
  • Watched tapes and took notes on several prospective opponents at upcoming Southern Open and Junior Olympics in Houston. I'll be coaching there Fri-Wed, July 27 - Aug. 1.)

How Ping Pong Saved the World

Here's the trailer (2:18) for the upcoming documentary "How Ping Pong Saved the World." It includes short statements on how they got started in table tennis by Connie Sweeris, Tim Boggan, Errol Resek, Jack Howard, Judy Hoarfrost, Rufford Harrison, George Brathwaite, John Tannehill, and Olga Soltesz.

And here's an email I received regarding the documentary and the book series that features table tennis by Jerome Charyn.

I'm Lenore Riegel, partner-in-crime of Bronx author Jerome Charyn, the well-known player who wrote Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins: Ping Pong and the Art of Staying Alive.  Charyn is featured in the upcoming documentary, How Ping Pong Saved the World

Ping-pong figures heavily in the first two of his ten Isaac Sidel crime novels, recently re-released, and soon to be an animated adult TV series, Hard Apple

I know you already have a picture of Charyn on your site, but it occurred to me that you might like to read Charyn's ping-pong books - I'd be happy to send them.

Meanwhile, the book trailer features ping-pong.

I've attached a sketch from the animated TV series based on Charyn's crime novels - there will be lots of ping-pong in them.  I've also attached a few pictures you might enjoy for your site.

Here is the Facebook page and the Tumblr page

Charyn plays regularly at SPIN in NYC.

Table Tennis Rulez

Here's a new table tennis promotional video with lots of great points (7:12). It starts off with two very long and great points, then the music starts.

Ford Uses Ping-Pong Balls to Measure Vehicle Space

Now we'll know how many ping-pong balls fit in the glove compartment.

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May 17, 2012

My writing

This blog has a lot about my own writing. It wasn't planned - it just happened. So be it!

How table tennis will change, according to "Campaign 2100"

I've long wondered how table tennis will change in the future. Here are some possibilities that are straight from my book "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," a 117,000-word SF novel I wrote that is currently making the rounds of agents and publishers. (It covers the 2100 election for president of Earth, where the whole world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. I describe it as "West Wing in the 22nd century," with the underlying theme moderation in politics; some will read it as a Moderate Manifesto.)

One of the main characters, Bruce, is a professional college table tennis player, and one of the dramas is when, at 19-all in the fifth in the semifinals of the college championships against his nemesis, he loses interest and defaults the match to join the presidential election campaign. (Yes, the game has gone back to 21-point games in my future. Hey, it's my future!) Throughout the novel Bruce often has a ping-pong ball in hand, which he nervously fiddles with, tosses about, or throws at people.

Here is an excerpt that describes Bruce's futuristic paddle, which he calls Lore.

Lore was the latest model of ping-pong paddle, a Maestro Prime covered with Spinsey pinhole sponge, both from Trump Sports. When the ball hit it, the Spinsey sponge compressed, forcing air out through the tiny, angled holes that permeated the surface. If he held it one way, the air shot upward from the parallel holes, creating a topspin. If he flipped the paddle, so the backhand side became the forehand side and vice versa, then the air would shoot downward, creating a backspin.

Here's a listing of the changes to the sport I put in the novel:

  • Table tennis is the #1 sport in world. Everyone watches it.
  • As noted above, the sponge has microscopic holes that shoot air out when ball hits sponge. The holes are angled so they put topspin on the ball. If you flip the racket, it puts backspin on the ball.
  • College players are all highly-paid professionals.
  • Professional players use steroids as matter of course, except for Bruce, who refuses to use them even though they are completely safe. This is a huge handicap for him.
  • Striped balls.
  • Playing shoes have adjustable traction.
  • Tables have sensors that detect hits.
  • Games are back to 21 points

Regarding the "Campaign 2100" novel, it's currently at a publisher who, after reading the opening three chapters, wrote the following:

"I found your premise interesting and your opening chapters engaging -- I was a great fan of The West Wing when it aired, and the show might have been influential in my misguided decision to attend law school for a semester.  I wised up about my own incompatibility with law school, but I remain intrigued by real and fictional political drama like yours. I enjoy the succinct narration and explanations from Toby Platt's point of view and the intriguing twist chapter three provides with the introduction of a student on vacation for Earth's first contact. I would like to consider the full manuscript for CAMPAIGN 2100: RISE OF THE MODERATES. Please send the manuscript as an attached Word document or .rtf file at your earliest convenience."

The novel has multiple table tennis scenes, including the following:

  • Bruce's introduction scene, described above, where he defaults out of the college nationals at 19-all in the fifth to join the presidential campaign.
  • Bruce teaches table tennis to Twenty-Two, an alien ambassador who is observing the election, and they play constantly in the "floater," the flying vehicle the campaign uses to campaign around the world. Since his ancestors snatched flying insects out of the air, the alien has fantastic reflexes and coordination and becomes very good very quickly, and is soon beating Bruce, to the latter's great chagrin.
  • Bruce and Twenty-Two do a table tennis exhibition in front of the Chinese leadership in a packed stadium. The scene ends with Twenty-Two getting arrested on orders from President Dubois, leading to major political ramifications.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

The book is basically done, but I'm going to do one last reading on screen (where I'll undoubtedly make lots of minor wording changes, and probably add new stuff), and then I'll print it out for one last proofing. It's currently at 91,000 words, which is 395 double-spaced pages in Courier.

I'm leaning toward changing the title to "Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development." What do you think? I'm also leaning toward self-publishing. I do have a convention publisher interested, but that'll mean putting off publication for at least a year, plus lots of likely rewrites for the publisher, who have their own idea on what they want. More likely I'm going to put this and my other books all in ebook and POD (print on demand) formats, and sell them online by the end of the year or sooner.

New full-time clubs in NYC and Philadelphia

A Mini-table as a Graduation Gift?

RealSimple.com has it as one of their 29 "unique" graduation gifts!

Pneumatic Ping-Pong

Flashing lights, blasting music, high-powered fans, toys dropping on you, tables covered with hundreds of balls . . . this is the ultimate ping-pong challenge, right? Brought to you by Table Tennis Nation.

Non-Table Tennis - Two story sales

In my separate science fiction & fantasy writing career, I sold two stories in the last two days. "The Oysters of Pinctada" (4400 words) went to Flagship Magazine yesterday (Wednesday), my fourth sale to them. It's the story of a space pirate's kidnapping of the king of the planet Pinctada to find the secret of where they get the giant pearls they sell - and the lengths the Pinctadan's will go to save their king, and the terrible secret the pirate learns.

"The Devil's Backbone" (7000 words) sold to an anthology on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the editor asked that I not publicize which anthology until he's ready to announce the entire lineup. It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape?

This makes 61 short stories sales. And while we're at it, here are my complete writing stats: 1356 published articles in 133 different publications, including 1224 on table tennis. Here's my science fiction & fantasy page, and here's my complete publication history.

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