Trick Shot

October 3, 2014

A Visit from St. Timothy

As readers here know, Tim Boggan moved in with me this past Monday so I could do the page layouts and photo work on his latest History of U.S. Table Tennis book - this is Volume 15! He's been writing and publishing these books for about 15 years, moving in with me about once a year for 10-14 days. We expect to finish the current one by the end of next week. (We've done the covers and have finished seven of the 25 chapters.) You can learn more about these books (and buy them!) at Tim Boggan Table Tennis, which I created and maintain for him.

Tim Boggan, 84, is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame - here's his Hall of Fame Profile, and here's the feature interview I did with him in 1996 (which includes lots of pictures, including ones of him growing up). His two sons, Eric and Scott Boggan, both were USA Men's Singles Champions and are members of the USATT Hall of Fame. (So am I!) Eric was top 20 in the world.

The first thing to know about Tim is that he keeps strange hours. He goes to bed around 7:30 PM each night, and gets up around 3:00 AM. This means he's impatiently waiting for me to get started each morning. While he's here I do the bulk of the blog the night before, but in the mornings before we start I still have to get any new TT items, and put it up. Typically we start work by 6:30AM. (That's why the blog has been going up extra early this week - usually around 6:00 AM - instead of the normal 9:30 AM or so. Though not this morning since I was up late last night working, alas, so the blog is going up until around 7:45AM this morning, meaning we are starting work on the book "late." Tim is grouching!) Except for a 30-minute lunch break, we work until 2:30 PM. That's when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids for our afterschool program, which lasts until 4:30 PM. I usually then have group or private coaching for several more hours, so I don't get home until sometime between 7:30 and 9:00 PM - and Tim's already in bed. So I do my blog, catch up on other work, read a bit, and go to bed. (Tim sleeps on the sofa in my office.) Then I get up by 5:30 AM and we start over. (On weekends it'll be even busier.)

This is how we actually do the work. I work on my desktop computer with Tim sitting next to me, looking over my shoulder. He comes prepared, with printouts of each chapter, and notes on where each picture goes. We move through the chapters one photo at a time. Since the books typically are about 500 pages with 900 photos, it's a huge job.

We're greatly helped by still another U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Famer, Mal Anderson, photographer extraordinaire. Over half of the photos used are by him. He also helps by scanning the large majority of photos we'll use in advance. When it's time to put in a photo (~900 times per volume), as Tim watches over my shoulder I open the photo, clean it up in Photoshop, and then place it where Tim needs it. Then he gives me the caption and the "photo by" credit, and I put them in. Then we continue. As we move through each chapter I do the page layouts, make sure everything lines up, etc.

Since many of the scans are from newsprint or from old, beaten-up or vintage photos, I spend a lot of time cleaning up the photos in Photoshop. I'm sort of an expert at that, from my 12 years as editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine. But Tim is pretty picky about one thing - he's constantly scanning the backgrounds of pictures, and always wants them cleaned up. If there's someone standing in the background that detracts from the person featured in the photo . . . well, I try not to get too emotionally attached to that person. He often mysteriously disappears. I also spend a lot of time removing blemishes from backgrounds. If there's a pixel that shouldn't be there, Tim will find it and indignantly demand that the guilty pixel be removed.

When the volume is done, I do a lot of pre-press work, getting it into proper PDF format for the printer. I also create the files so we can put it up for sale on Amazon. Then I put together the ads for the newest volume. Then I sleep for a week.

Some of the side effects off all this work? Let's just say I usually do not have Mountain Dew at 7AM. (I normally restrict my soft drinks to one 7.5 oz can per day, but I'm a bit lax on that during Tim's stays.) But on the days that I get back early from coaching (only twice a week it looks like) he treats me to extravagant meals at nice restaurants.

It wouldn't be right to not mention Tim's ongoing wars with my gate, front door, and microwave. Let's just say he and they don't see eye to eye. But eventually he always wins, but only after a lot of, well, scrimmaging and loud cussing.

I kept track of some of our interesting "discussions" today. Here they are!

~

Larry: "I didn't know you were a devout Muslim."
Tim: "I'm not!"
Larry: "Then why are you writing about a 'South Koran'?"
(He had me change it to "South Korean.")

~

Tim: "Die Lily!"
(Okay, he wasn't threatening U.S. National Coach Lily Yip; he was referring to photos of Dai Lili, former Chinese champion.)

~

Larry: "Is that a 'yes' yes, or an 'I'm not paying attention' yes?"

~

Larry: "Is that an inkblot test?"
Tim: "But it's the only photo I have of him!"
(We use the photo.)

~

Larry: "I can barely make out the guy's face."
Tim: "Then clean up the background."
Tim (A minute later): "It came out better than I thought."

~

Larry: "Photo by?"
Tim: "Nobody."
Larry: "Three . . . two . . . one . . ."
Tim: "Sorry, photo by Mal Anderson."

~

Larry: "Does that picture add to the book?"
Tim: "No. Put it in anyway."

~

Larry: "That's the worst picture I've ever seen."
Tim: "Yes."
Larry: "Is the person important?"
Tim: "No. Put it in anyway."

~

Larry: "While I'm changing these historically accurate pictures by changing them for you, should I fix up their technique as well?"

~

Larry: "Given the choice between doing it right or doing it your way, what do you want to do?"
Tim: "My way."

~

Larry: "Where should I put this blur?"
Tim: "Right hand top of the page."

~

Tim: [Long description of where the next photo goes, how he wants it, etc.]
Larry: "I'm still cleaning up the photo."
Tim: [Continues description of where the next photo goes.]
Larry: "I still haven't got it on the page."
Tim: [Description of where the next photo goes continues.]
Larry: "Okay, photo is ready. Where does it go?"

~

Tim: "Bring up photo [photo's name]"
Larry: "There isn't any photo by that name."
Tim: "#@$#@^*&^%$#@*^%$%!!!"

~

Larry: "Are you still here?" (At 5:30 AM after getting up.)

~

Tim: "Something wrong here." (Said approximately every five minutes.)

~

Larry: "Are we done yet?" (Said approximately every five minutes.)

~

Tim: "We're doing fine. We're doing fine. (Said approximately every five minutes.)

~

Larry: "Can I go home now?" (Said approximately every five minutes. I'm already home.)

~

Ask the Coach Show - Episode 2

Here's the video (14:14) from PingSkills. Here are the questions asked and answered this episode (yeah, there are typos in the questions, but this is the Internet):

  1. How do you play deceptive shots? Do you have any tricks?
  2. I've asked and also found a lot of information about getting a lot of spin on my serve but my serve only has a little spin on it. I've also tried to brush the ball finely and fast and also the contact point is on the end of the bat. Frendy
  3. What are the best but well priced table tennis tables to get? Adam
  4. I have played Table tennis for about 4 years and 6 months ago my coach said that i should try short pimples on my backhand, i have become a much better player thanks to it but for some reason i cant block with it very good when doing drills. Fredrik
  5. Hi, I want to know that how can I play like Timo Boll. I consider him as the greatest table tennis player. Can you make a video on this topic. And I also want to know how to play with both hands like Timo Boll.

2015 Special Olympic World Games Technical Officials Application

Here's the USATT news item.

ITTF Establishes Testing Lab in Singapore

Here's the article. "The International Table Tennis Federation sets up a joint lab with Nanyang Technological University, which will focus on testing of table tennis balls and racket coverings, among other projects."

Kanak Jha Training

Here's video (61 sec, much of it in slow motion) showing Kanak training for the upcoming World Cup. Looks like a random drill.

International News

As usual, you can follow international news at Tabletennista (great coverage of top players) and the ITTF News Page (great regional coverage). Both are covering table tennis at the ongoing Asian Games.

Great Trick Shot

Here's the video (44 sec) - bouncing ball on racket's handle while rolling a tube target, then serving through the moving target.

Amazing Michael Maze Maze

Here's the cartoon!

***
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July 24, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, August 5

This will be my last blog until Tuesday, August 5. Most people take vacations at beaches, or camping, or Disneyworld, or Las Vegas, etc. Me? I go to an annual science fiction & fantasy writing workshop for nine days of continuous writing, critiquing, classes, etc. I leave early tomorrow morning for "The Never-Ending Odyssey" (TNEO) in Manchester, New Hampshire for nine days, returning late on Saturday, Aug. 2. This will be the fifth time I've attended this, which is for graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, a six-week workshop for writers of science fiction & fantasy, which I attended in 2006. At the workshop I'm having the first seven chapters of my SF novel critiqued.

Getting TT on TV
(This is from a response I gave to a question on the forum.)

One of the major reasons table tennis isn't on TV much in the U.S. is there's nobody actively pushing for this to happen, or trying to create an attractive package for the TV people. USATT is an amateur organization, and doesn't have anyone devoted to this. So it's unlikely table tennis will get much TV exposure in the U.S. until the same thing that happened in other TV sports happens to table tennis - the top players get together and form a professional organization. Their top priority would be to bring money to the sport via sponsors, and to do that they need to get on TV - and so getting on TV becomes their top priority. They'd hire an executive director who would work to get the sport on TV so that he can bring in sponsors. But until this happens, table tennis is unlikely to be on TV much in this country. 

Wednesday's Coaching

I did 4.5 hours of private coaching yesterday. Here's a rundown.

  • Sameer, 13, about 1600 player (two-hour session): We pretty much covered everything, as you can do in a two-hour session. The highlight of the session, however, was when I introduced him to the banana flip. It only took a few minutes before he was able to do this in drills, and then we practiced it for about ten minutes. Since he just came off playing three tournaments in a row - see my blog about his progress in my blog on Monday - we're focusing on fundamentals as we prepare him long-term for his next "big" tournament - the North American Teams in November. We did a lot of counterlooping. As a special bonus that he begged and pleaded for, I let him lob for five minutes.
  • Tiffany, 9, about 1750 (70-min session as part of the MDTTC camp): Tiffany is the top-rated under 10 girl in the U.S., and the stuff she did in the session shows why. During those 70 minutes she did 55 minutes of footwork drills. The only interruption to her footwork drills was ten minutes when I looped to her block, and five minutes where we pushed. The rest of the time it was non-stop footwork drills for her. When she seemed to slow down between rallies at one point, one of the Chinese coaches playfully called her "lazy," and she immediately picked up the pace again. Today she'll be right back at it, while I'm still sore from the ten minutes of looping. Tiffany's in an interesting point in her game as she's gradually making the transition to all-out looping.  
  • Matt, 13, about 1600 (one-hour session, plus 30 minutes of games): He has an excellent forehand and good footwork, but is in the process of transitioning to a more topspinny backhand. We spent most of the session doing backhand-oriented drills. These included side-to-side backhand footwork; alternate forehand-backhand footwork (forehand from forehand corner, backhand from backhand corner); and the 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand corner, forehand from backhand corner, and forehand from forehand corner). I was planning to work on his receive after all this, but Matt wasn't happy with his 2-1 drill play, and wanted to do more of that. How many players volunteer to do extra footwork? (Perhaps he was inspired when I told him how much footwork Tiffany had done.) So we did another ten minutes or so of the 2-1 drill, about twenty minutes total. Then we did a bunch of multiball, focusing on backhand loop. It won't be long before he hits 1800 level.

    At the end of the session with Matt we played games - I stayed an extra 30 minutes for this, so it was really a 90-minute session. (I often do this when I'm through coaching for the day.) An astonishing thing happened here. After I won the first game, he came back in the second game on fire, and went up - I kid you not - 10-2!!! So on to the third game, right? Wrong. On his serve I switched to chopping (mixing in heavy chop and no-spin), and on my serve I pulled out an old Seemiller windshield-wiper serve (racket going right to left), which he'd never seen before. He got tentative both against the chops and serve, and suddenly it was 10-all. We had a rally there, where I chopped four in a row, and then I threw a no-spin chop at him, and he looped it softly. I tried smashing, but missed, and he had another game point. But he missed the serve again, and I finally won 14-12. He was very disgusted with blowing the game, and was now playing tentative where he'd been on fire just a few minutes before, and the result was he fell apart the next two games, even though I went back to playing regular. I finally had him do a few forehand drills to get his game back, and he ended it with a relatively close game. I'm feeling kind of bad about this because I completely messed up his game when I switched to weird play, when my job as a coach is to help him play well. But he's going to have to face "weird" players in tournaments, so he might as well get used to playing them now.

    The thing Matt needs to take away from this is that if he can play so well that he's up 10-2 on the coach (and I still play pretty well!), then it won't be long before he can do that all the time. The thing I need to take away from this is I better start practicing or Matt, Tiffany, and Sameer are all going to start beating me. (Age, injuries, and lack of real practice have dropped my level down to about 2100 or so, but that should be enough to beat these three, right? Maybe not…)

Liu Shiwen: Hard Work Always Produces Good Results

Here's the article. Liu is the world #1 ranked woman.

Twelve Curious Facts about Table Tennis

Here's the article.

U.S. Open Blog

Here's the final blog on the U.S. Open by Dell & Connie Sweeris.

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the latest overseas coaching course taught by USATT coach Richard McAfee.

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Sixty-two down, 38 to go!

  • Day 39: Ian Marshall Feels Privileged to Do What He Loves

Lily Zhang at the ITTF YOG Camp

Here's the video (34 sec).

Another Great Trick Shot

Here's the video (36 sec) of Shi Wei.

Craigslist Ping Pong Table Negotiation

Here's the text of this rather crazy discussion. (Side note - I once met Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.com. At the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention I was in the Science Fiction Writers of American suite - I'm a member - and after grabbing some snacks at the buffet table I joined two others sitting around a table discussing the future of the Internet. One of them began asking lots of questions about my science fiction writing. At some point the discussion turned to how we used online tools, and I mentioned I was in the process of renting out the first two floors of my townhouse, and that I was advertising it on Craigslist.com. The third person said, "Larry, do you know who you are talking to?" I said no, and that's when he pointed out that the guy I'd been talking with for half an hour was THAT Craig. He was at the convention as a member of several panels that involved the Internet.)

***
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