Guest Post: You always need a challenge

It started innocuously enough:  “Okay—since you always need a challenge…”, along with a video of Justin Bieber solving a Rubik’s cube in what seemed at the time to be a VERY fast solve.  I was intrigued by the commentary of my challenger:  “Bieber is in the zone.  Look at his face.  He is absolutely focused.  Any way you look at it, turbo-cube, sticky cube or otherwise, 1:20 is incredibly fast.”  And so it began.

My Christmas stocking included a cube at my request, and a book by Dan Harris called “Speedsolving the Cube”.  I became anti-social during the holiday season as a result, tending to my familial obligations only as obligated, but always returning to the puzzle that is the Cube.  The algorithms were mind-boggling, not only by their complexity, but their sheer number.  I was frustrated only more by the fact that my original challenger was rapidly progressing.  Status updates consisting of screenshots from came less and less frequently, but only because the times were getting faster and faster.  And I remember thinking that when Adam hit 1:09, not once but several times, I would never get within a minute of that time.  Too many algorithms to remember, and I had the manual dexterity of an elephant with elephantiasis of the feet.  But my response:  “I am motivated to do this.  Not for speed, necessarily, but for entertainment.”  

Entertainment.  Um. Yeah.  Right.  Obsession, maybe.  The only thing separating me from the loony bin with this damn cube is that it has not yet visited me in my dreams, as did Tetris and more than a couple Sudoku puzzles.   It’s only a matter of time, though.  But like a hacky sack, the Cube is all-consuming, and all-focusing.  And it provides a welcome break from the other side of my brain while billing hours at work.  And four minutes became three.  I bought a cube for home.  Three minutes became 2:30.  I bought a cube for the car, ostensibly for times when waiting for the kids, but knowing that stoplights would be a temptation.  And 2:30 became 2:00.  I felt like a nationally-ranked athlete when I first broke two minutes, but my challenger was still nearly a minute faster.  So, it was time to train harder.  Learn more algorithms.  Learn new techniques.  

Then, he drops the bomb and says he’s started F2L.  Something I can barely comprehend.  I had gotten competent and was regularly in the mid-1:40s, and here he pulls out the “pro” technique.  No matter.  I continue to train.  And the times are dropping.  He posts a sub-1:00 solve, then a couple 51 second solves.  With video, as if to taunt.  No matter, I continue to train.  I learn his final layer technique, and adopt the parts that add speed to my techniques, discarding the rest.  And the times continue to drop.  Regularly in the 1:30s, and occasionally, with luck, in the 1:15 range.  Then, 1:10.  And finally, six weeks after I first picked up a cube again for the first time in 20 years, sub-60.  But no matter, I continue to train.  Learn one more algorithm to shave off a second here and there.  Disassemble the cube, lube it, reassemble.  Realize that the lube was the wrong kind, so start again with silicone lube.  

And then it happened.  Focus like none other, and a healthy dose of luck.  Actually, a lot of luck.  The final layer required one set of turns, and done.  


Faster than my master.  For today.  Tomorrow that will not be true.  I know it is fleeting, but a two-month crash course on something that seemed enormously perplexing on initial glance, based off the off-hand comment “since you always need a challenge”.  As if everything in life could be solved with two months of focused practice.    

My hands are no faster, and I’m not entertained, but rather tormented.  But I can solve a Cube faster than Justin Bieber, and there is some satisfaction in that.  There is greater satisfaction in just being able to solve it at all, really, because it’s not something the average person can do, let alone do quickly.  And the challenge of F2L remains, so I cannot rest long on whatever laurels may be awarded for being able to twist 27 pieces of plastic really quickly.  

So, Adam–there’s this 4×4 cube….since you always need a challenge.

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