How to Ping + Pong

This guy’s got some balls.

Unless you’re this guy, playing ping-pong is about fun rallies. And it seems pretty straightforward, right? Tap the ball over the net, then tap it back. I was recently reminded, however, that tending to lively balls with a firm surface can result in some volatile interactions. (*Snickers*) Inappropriate jokes aside, ping-pong is a great analogy for personal communication. I’ve come to understand that, in both table tennis and conversations, my enthusiasm to play can interfere with my ability to serve hittable shots. Split-second triggers sometimes override neutral analysis, and it’s wall, net, awkward table edge, aiiirbaaalll. I’m so ready to make every hit count, that I forget to see the longer picture, that the person on the other side needs to return the ball for the game to be fun. The exchange is more important than any of my individual shots.

So what’s the secret to a good rally? How do you illicit a sweet pong using a well-played ping? Well, based on my own shortcomings, here’s what I’ve got so far:

An equal and opposite reaction

And this guy needs some brains.

1.    Use appropriate force.

Remember that guy Newton, and how he’s kind of a big deal? For every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Sometimes it takes lobbing a soft one to gather useful information about your opponent’s ability to respond. If you just smack the shit out of it in an attempt todisplay Ultimate Superiority in Trivial Matters, the situation will rapidly deteriorate into a whole lot of foolishness. This often includes grasping incompetently at random, flying balls. No bueno, indeed.
Always bring a towel, and the answer is 42

2.    Prioritize a thoughtful mindset over a frantic one.

Panic is not your friend. It results in excessive activity and a lack of control, which means you’re already behind for the shot coming right back atcha. Panic escalates. Outward spiraling of defensive tactics ensues. Balls in and around everywhere. Yikes.

3.    Have an eye for angles.

This involves vectors. And points of contact. And forward motion. And backspin. And friction. There are a lot of factors in the interaction, but there’s a lot to be said for a split-second sense of the situation. Just paying attention to where the ball is coming from and how that affects where it’s going can go a long way.

What a douchbag

The epitome of Crushed-Little-Balls Syndrome. Please, don’t contribute to the cause.

4.    Be prepared for random, crazy shit.

Those little white balls get around. (Alright, so I’m not setting the dirty jokes aside.) You can’t always tell by looking at them what kind of dents they may have sustained or repairs they’ve undergone, and when that past will intervene for a wild, unanticipated trajectory. This is why the first three steps are the most important. You can’t anticipate everything. Ultimately, it’s about instinct. The more calm and steady your starting point, the easier it is to rely on your instincts and trust the process of on-going practice and self-correction. (And just say no to douchebaggery.)

So now what? Get to the table. Learn from your own downfalls. And let me know how it goes in that lovely comment box below– especially with all the stuff I’m sure I missed 😉

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Photocredits (in descending order): Daily SpeculationsYour Extra BaconTragically

[Reposted from]


Oh I wonder, wonder…

Oh I wonder, wonder

 …how has our experience of love changed? With so much information in our lives, and so many options before us, does it still make sense to be looking for The One? Could a person have multiple ‘Ones’ in a lifetime? Could those relationships happen at the same time?

Romantic and sexual relationships hugely influence our identities, our choices, and our homes and families. I believe the joy is worth the anguish, though our emotions in intimacy are often much more complex than mainstream media portrays them. These four panels are my Book of Love thus far. Are there other ways to represent love that captures its complexity? Please, please me…by sharing your skin and shedding some light on the situation.

[Illustration: smurk media, 2012]

Materials: Resume paper, colored pencils, Mr. Sketch Scented markers (you know the ones…)

Supplementary materials: “The Book of Love”  – The Monotones

Graduation Speech 2010

I gave this speech on June 13, 2010, for the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Humanities and Fine Arts graduation ceremony. The grandstand area and lawn accommodated approximately 900 graduates and 5,000 attendees. David Marshall, the Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts and Executive Dean of the College of Letters and Science, introduced me after the keynote speaker’s address.

Note: Floatopia was a short-running, daytime event in Isla Vista on par with Halloween. Isla Vista is a small town with an overwhelming majority of student residents; it sits on scenic coastal bluffs just north of UCSB’s campus.


Thank you, Dean Marshall.

Last year during Floatopia, I was bright orange. By accident, I had dyed my skin that morning at a Hindu festival and that afternoon, walking through Isla Vista was more surreal than usual. Looks of bikini-clad distress greeted me from every direction.

(stylized voices) “Oh. My. Gosh.” “Are you ok?” “Do you need an ambulance?” Everyone thought I had a violent sunburn, and everyone stopped their debauchery to help me.

Regardless of your thoughts on the Isla Vista life style, it is a spectacular place to spend your college years. Extraordinary acts of community happen there and strangers look out for each other amidst all the chaos.

That got me thinking: what does community mean to us on our journeys after college? Congratulations fellow graduates! (breathe) To honor the parents, grandparents, friends, and professors who’ve supported us along the way, we should propel their generosity and love forward — and add a little Gaucho spirit to keep things interesting.

Right now, life after graduation might feel like an (effect) abyss. You might worry about floundering alone or that one wrong step will doom your future. But look around you: you are not alone. And today? Today is a no more a defining moment than yesterday or tomorrow. I know I’ve been most successful when I belong to others, and I have grown more when I act as a community member instead of an individualist.

We all have diverse communities in our lives, and our experiences with them affect our state of mind. These groups are beds of conflict, as anyone with family members can understand. Instead of bickering or blaming, I ask you to think about conflict in a new way. Conflict and contradiction are powerful because they can fuel creativity and growth. (Repeat.) In fact, I think daily personal conflicts are the best opportunities for self-discovery.

Belonging to a community is really hard work. We don’t get to choose the people we work with, but we rely on each other to accomplish our goals. My biggest challenge in college has been slowing down, (inhale) listening (exhale) and practicing patience when I’m frustrated with other people. In the end, though, striving to see other perspectives shaped me into a better person.

After one of many Isla Vista nights, I walked home in the silver glow of early morning. Amidst lonely seagulls’ cries and rolling red cups, I sat on the sidewalk and thought to three years before. I remembered dreaming of what I wanted to be: confident, focused, open-minded. My friends’ easy vitality felt just out of reach, and so I pursued perfection relentlessly.

A crashing wave brought me back to the morning and something fell into place. I’d become what I’d dreamed of — but imperfect, fragile, and with so much more to learn. More importantly, I knew it would be ok. I didn’t know what ‘it’ was or what it would be, but I still believe in my ability to fight for it. The strength I found in that quiet moment came from the incredible people I’ve been blessed to meet and the community spaces that tested my potential. To those who’ve guided me, who’ve challenged me, who’ve dismissed my mistakes and nurtured my triumphs, I offer my achievements in thanks. They belonged to you already. By letting me into your lives, I’ve learned about intimacy, growth, and resilience, skills more valuable to me than any first post-graduate job. You’ve taught me to be comfortable with who I am, to embrace my strengths and my weaknesses, and to open up to those who disagree with me. You’ve shown me how to let go of fear and anger and self-serving defenses in favor of connection and joy. You can reach the top as an isolated entity, but the journey and its outcome are more rewarding with friends.

Graduating class of 2010: put your whole self into this moment and all the opportune ones to come. Find your peaceful strength, your inspiration, and reach out to those around you, and you will thrive.

Thank you.