September 13, 2013

Friday the 13th and a Cold

I've still got my cold, and was tempted to skip the blog again this morning. After all, what worse combination is there than a cold on Friday the 13th? Alas, I dragged myself out of bed and forced myself to do this. Let's all have a round of pity for poor, poor me. (Anybody know where I can get cheap Kleenex? I'm going through a lot.) I managed to do my two hours of coaching last night, but am not sure about tonight's 2.5 hours scheduled.

Wallet and Other Old Stuff

Since I'm feeling very old right now due to my cold, I thought I'd tell the story of my wallet, which turns 32 years old this month. This is only peripherally table tennis related, but since it's a source of legend among the locals, I might as well tell the story.

 In September of 1981, when I was 21 years old, I started classes at University of Maryland. (I'd taken two years off to train for table tennis in North Carolina.) On the very first day I went to the Student Union for lunch, where there were a number of restaurants. I went to the pizza place. When I reached the front of the line I ordered a pepperoni pizza, pulled out my wallet, and paid. As I handed the cashier the cash, I placed the wallet on the counter for a few seconds. When I reached for it, it was gone. I looked around, but couldn't find it. Someone behind me said, "Excuse me, was that your wallet on the counter?" I said yes. The person said someone had just picked it up and left. I ran out into the hallway, but I never saw the wallet again.

That afternoon I bought a new one, and vowed it would last me a lifetime. That was 32 years ago, and I still have the same wallet. It's rather beat up, with several holes, including one in the change purse. (I have to be careful or coins fall out.) The Velcro that closes it is almost gone, but there's still a tiny bit that sort of keeps it closed. Anyway, this month is the 32nd anniversary of someone stealing my wallet, and it's never happened again. Here are two pictures of this ancient wallet, top and bottom.

Unfortunately, while my wallet has remained safe, a lot of other stuff has gotten stolen, mostly in table tennis tournaments. My playing bag was stolen at a U.S. Open or Nationals back in the early 1990s; it not only had my rackets, but also all of my coaching files as the then-chair of the USATT coaching committee. I've had my laptop computer stolen twice, once right off the USATT desk at an Open or Nationals in the 1990s, where I was doing coverage, and once at a tournament in Philadelphia in the 1990s. (That time I made the mistake of leaving the laptop in the back seat of my car, and someone broke a window to get in and steal it. Always leave your laptop in the trunk!!!) Surprisingly, I've never had a racket stolen, though I once had my hardbat racket "borrowed" - just before my Hardbat Singles Final at the Nationals against Marty Reisman in 1997, forcing me to borrow a racket for the match (I lost), with the racket later returned anonymously. (But that's another story.)

Actually, it's been a long time since I've had anything stolen - the playing bag and laptops were both stolen in the 1990s. Maybe I've learned to be more protective of my stuff.

Review of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Here's a review of the book by Alex Polyakov, the author of "Breaking 2000." And if you want to improve your game (as opposed to its smoldering away like a burning ember that'll never quite catch fire), then buy the book! (While debating whether to buy the book or allow your game to never reach its potential, you can read the other 22 reviews there.)

Interview with Ferenc Karsai

Here's a video interview (8:57) with Coach Karsai, coach of 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager of Austria, the last European World Singles Champion. He talks about talent in table tennis and working with Schlager.

Creepy Pong

In honor of Friday the 13th, here's Creepy Pong - see how many Halloween ghouls you can beat at table tennis! I couldn't get it to work in Chrome, but it worked fine in Explorer. It starts with an irritating 30-second Power Rangers ad. Note that when you do play, you can hit the ball harder by moving the cursor in as you hit; otherwise you'll just rally and never score.

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