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]


Turkey’s Got Game

It’s official: Turkey has a seat at the cool kids’ table.

Yesterday’s Google search of Turkish foreign policy brought up an entire page of relevant, current news articles before it started getting weird, off-topic, or out-of-date. A whole entire page! This is madness, madness, I tell you, compared to the paltry and poultry crap that used to come up in 2008, or even last month.

Until very recently, the modern Republic of Turkey received so little media coverage in the U.S. that the two most common responses to my mentions of Turkey are still 1) (singing) “Istanbul’s not Constantinople…” and 2) “Hehe, gobble gobble.” (One-sided hilarity ensues.)

But I’m tellin’ you, the U.S. government and the American public should absolutely care about Turkey beyond Thanksgiving.

Why? Because it’s the only country in and around the Middle East that has an overwhelming Muslim majority and a functioning democratic government. Because their democracy has survived four military coups in the past 50 years (1960, 1971, 1980, and the 1997 coup by memorandum). Funnily enough, those coups overturning democratically elected governments were implemented by self-proclaimed ‘defenders of democracy.’

So besides hosting over 10,000 years of human civilization and one of the most powerful empires in world history, Turkey is also, you know, down with the cool kids. At least as much as ‘being cool’ in contemporary geopolitics is hypocritically representing democratic principles, which would make the U.S. the high school quarterback that thinks his two years on varsity are The. Most. Epic. Ever.

Turkey is really at the cool kids’ table, though, because I couldn’t find any thinly veiled insults in yesterday’s articles.

Take, for instance, this lovely gem from a piece written in February 2012:

“Turkey’s laudable objective of serving as an honest broker in some of the Middle East’s most intractable conflicts inevitably collides with the reality of having to deal with internal challenges.”

Say what? It’s a little hard to hear you through all that cultural condescension. Ohhh, I get it. Despite it’s “laudable” intentions, the Turkish government isn’t qualified to manage complex foreign conflicts, because they have “internal challenges.”

If domestic challenges count as a legitimate reason to be excused from international deal brokering, I’d like to see a joint resolution politely explaining that the U.S. can no longer participate in international affairs. See, we’ve got these serious domestic issues we’ve just got to take care of first. No worries, though, Earth– we passed S.J. RES 403, conventionally known as Mama’s Sick Note In Favor of Isolationism.

And from the same article, written by one of the few American sources of timely, nuanced policy analysis on Turkey and the U.S.:

“[A]mong Washington policy circles [Foreign Minister Davutoğlu ‘s] visit served to reinforce a quietly circulating critique that Turkey’s leadership has crossed the line of self-confidence in bilateral and international relations.”

The link within the quote does provide a more nuanced picture of the diplomatic dynamics between Ankara and Washington, but… do we really have the gall to call another country “overly self-confident” in the same sentence as vague American gossip is considered legitimate commentary on international diplomacy? Give me a break.

But here’s what’s missing: the U.S. and Europe have a hard time understanding Turkish politics because their history doesn’t match our founding values. Our founding political beliefs say secularism is liberating, religion is limiting, and military intervention is the antithesis of democratic government. Remember how Turkish ‘defenders of democracy’ have overthrown democratically elected governments four times since 1960? Those ousters were staunchly secular military institutions, and their interventions have been a celebrated symbol of Western modernity, progress, and democracy in Turkey.

So… are Turkey’s founding values secular and progressive, or religious and repressive?

Let me know when you figure it out. I’m still working on it.

But here’s what I have so far: Perhaps being secular is not necessarily progressive, and being religious is not necessarily repressive, even in politics. Perhaps this concept should apply beyond the United States’ (and the European Union’s) borders.

And perhaps “the reality” is that “Washington policy circles” are all up in arms about Turkish self-confidence for more superficial reasons: Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu snagged the Wicked One-Liner Award during his most recent visit.

At a lecture covering the Arab Spring and the ongoing conflict in Syria, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu said, “We wanted [al-Assad] to be the Gorbachev of Syria, but he chose to be Milosevic.”

Damn, dude: well-played. That’s some sharp, succinct, globally-minded analysis.

I can just hear the tizzied policy wonks in Washington: “Let’s get him on our side. I’m sure he’ll be so excited just to be involved— wait, he has an independent strategy? And he wants us to seriously negotiate with them and acknowledge that they have a seat at the table? Well then, harrumph! Harrumph, I say, to those upstart nouveau-democrats! Wait, Turkey’s bold foreign policy plays are being recognized and listened to by the international community? Oh… oh, I see.”

I’m glad you’ve backed off on the ego trip, Washington. You seem to be out of your zone.

**NOTE: This article is intended to be humorous and for entertainment purposes. Photo courtesy of The Washington Note, as found on ze Internets (a.k.a. Google images) under “davutoglu clinton.”