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Rubik’s cube

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This is the second of the posts in which I explain and motivate the items on my 101-in-1001 list. The list itself can be viewed here, where you can also find a list of all posts related to the list. If you want to follow my progress in more detail, you should check my profile page at the Day Zero Project.

Learn to average blindfolded cubing below 10 minutes and over 90% accuracy

I had at least one goal relating to Rubik’s cube on the previous list, but I never realised that it would be something I kept developing. It’s a hobby of mine that comes and goes; sometimes I spend many hours a day, only to leave it untouched for months. Lately, I’ve grown less interested in speedcubing and more interested in blindfolded cubing (BLD), simply because there are so many cool things related to memory involved. I can currently solve the cube blindfolded about 50% of the time and around 12 minutes or so, including memorising the scramble.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 10 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Learn to solve three cubes blindfolded

Multi BLD is something I have never tried, but I want to check how difficult it is. The world record is something like 15 cubes memorised in sequence and then solved in one go, but that’s quite bizarre. I think solving three should be okay, but it will require of me to create some cool mnemonic systems to separate the cubes from each other. It will also require accuracy, but that comes with the goal above as well.

Perceived difficulty: 8/10
Estimated time needed: 10 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Solve the 5x5x5 cube without any help

Solving new kind of cube-like puzzles is quite fun, but it takes some time. I’ve solved most of the common puzzles up to the 4x4x4, but I haven’t tried the 5x5x5 yet. Admittedly, I cheated with the parity error on the 4x4x4, but I’m not going to do any cheating this time. However, I think this will be easier than the 4x4x4, so I should be okay.

Perceived difficulty: 5/10
Estimated time needed: 5 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Send a photo of myself to strangers and ask them to describe what kind of person I am

I think most people are curious about what other people think about them before they get to know each other. This is one way of finding that out. I intend to take a photo of the way I typically look and send it to people and tell them to describe what kind of person they think is on the picture. I’ve done this with shoes before and that was amazingly accurate, so I expect a photo of an entire person will be a lot more interesting. Using other people as mirrors is one way of getting to know oneself better!

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Spend one day blindfolded

What’s it like being blind? Well, being blindfolded one day probably won’t answer that question, but I think it might be interesting anyway. I’m not after finding out how annoying everyday life will be, so I’m going to pick a Saturday or Sunday when I can take it easy and when I don’t have to go anywhere. I don’t really know what to expect from this, but I hope it will give me something.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 24 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Use my left hand instead of my right for one week

I’m not sure how much trust should be put in people who say that using both sides of the brain makes us smarter, but it certainly doesn’t hurt trying. The major reason for wanting to try this is to be more versatile, because, quite frankly, sometimes it’s useful to be able to use both hands I think that a single week will help a lot.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 1 week
Progress so far: 0%

Spend three days with no contact with civilisation

I had a week on my previous list, but ended up spending only five days in the wilderness. I think one week is too long, but the experience was very valuable in itself and I want to do it again. Three days seems more reasonable, but I might end up doing it more than once.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 3 days
Progress so far: 0%

Participate in three competitions of any kind

It might come as a surprise to some of you, but I generally don’t like competitions. I’m very good at competing against myself and challenging things I’ve accomplished before, but pitting myself against others in competitions is never something I’ve enjoyed. However, I do think that competitions offer a special kind of opportunity to learn, so I want to try it out. I have one diving competition in mind, but the other two might be anything from boardgames to more diving.

Perceived difficulty: 4/10
Estimated time needed: ?
Progress so far: 5%

Collect images, quotes or scraps and put them on display

I like having clever, beautiful and funny things around me (I think I need a girlfriend), and collecting lots of cool quotes, pictures and various other things to put on the wall is a nice way of doing this. I have around 50 or so now, but they need to be rearranged and reassembled, because some of them didn’t make it to Taiwan and back.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 5 hours
Progress so far: 40%

Get some informative and fancy business cards

The only reason I don’t have some kind of business card is that I’m lazy. I mean, how difficult is to to order something basic but which still looks okay? Sometimes it’s very, very practical to have contact information in that form!

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Buy five new board or card games

I’m not only lazy, I’m stingy as well, even when it comes to things I like doing. Board and card games are nice, but I still only own a handful I really like. During these 1001 days, I want to increase the collection with at least five new games.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 1 hour
Progress so far: 0%

Watch the top 100 movies on IMDB

This is also residue from the previous list. I want to watch these movies not necessarily because they are great (although many of them are), but because it grants me access to social contexts that would otherwise have been closed. I’m close to illiterate when it comes to actors and only a little bit better at movies. Feeling excluded every time people talk about films isn’t my idea of having fun. I think I have seen around 40 of them already.

Perceived difficulty: 3/10
Estimated time needed: 120 hours
Progress so far: 40%

Watch 5 movies from each continent

Diversity! I don’t want to be the kind of guy who only knows about Hollywood. Asia is not a problem, but what about Africa and South America? If you have any suggestions, let me know! I will include movies I’ve seen recently into this goal, so I don’t intend to watch five new movies from Europe, Asia and North America.

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 10 hours
Progress so far: 50%

Compile a “best of Snigel” CD and trade it with 10 others for their favourite music

This is a great idea I didn’t really finish last time. The concept is simple: collect songs enough to fill a normal audio CD and trade it with ten friends for their favourite music. That way, I will get around 200 new songs to listen to, songs that someone I know and/or care about think is the best that’s ever been produced. This also gives me opportunities to find new bands I like and broaden my horizons a bit.

Perceived difficulty: 2/10
Estimated time needed: 2 hours
Progress so far: 0%

Find ten new bands I really like

Similar to the goal above, this is about broadening my horizons. I tend to listen to the same couple of thousand songs all the time. I like this, but I would also like to be more flexible and like more kinds of music. I’m convinced that liking music is mostly about habit, so forcing myself to find bands I like will probably work!

Perceived difficulty: 1/10
Estimated time needed: 5 hours
Progress so far: 0%

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Online Highlights 8

It’s been more than three months since I posted one of these small collections of useful and/or interesting links (click here to see all the previous posts). This time, it’s not because of a lack of interesting websites, but rather because I’ve had other things on my mind. One of those things (among many others) have been cubing, but since I don’t want to clutter this post with cube-related links, I created a links section on my Rubik’s Cube page instead.

Akinator, the Web Genius – I bet most people have played the game called Twenty Questions. This is a web version of the game and itt’s frankly amazing how often “Akinator” gets it right well within twenty questions, even if you think of really odd characters or persons.

Media Convert – free and on line – convert and split sound, ringtones, images, docs – This is simply a very handy online tool to convert any file format inte any other. Extremely useful since you can use it from any computer (I assume most people have decent tools for this on their own computer) and even have the converted file e-mailed to yourself when it’s done.

The Art of Non-Conformity – A promising blog I haven’t really had time to check out, but which looks really interesting.

Ultra-Realistic Modern Warfare Game Features Awaiting Orders, Repairing Trucks – Why realism is not good in gaming. Everybody who thinks that statement is wrong should have a look. Everybody else can have a look, too, because as usual, The Onion is quite funny.

Tony Fisher’s Rubik’s Cube Type Puzzles – If you’ve ever thought Rubik’s cube is tricky or special as a puzzle, you have to see this. Tony Fisher is one of the best known puzzle makers and it’s simply amazing what variety of puzzles he has created so far.

Being foreign: The others – An article from The Economist dealing with living abroad. This is spot on and extremely interesting reading. In fact, it’s so interesting I think I’ll write a post explicitly about this, but in the meantime, I’ll let you have a look at the original.

Let’s Enhance – Everybody with some grasp of technology knows that zooming on photo, catching the reflection in a persons eye and then “enhancing” the picture to show the murderer does’t work in reality. This is a tribute (or perhaps a mockery) of this phenomenon. Sometimes it’s downright stupid, but I think it’s a bit unfair to science-fiction films where they in fact could have absurdly high resolution videos and pictures.

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Rubik’s Cube

Having a wide variety of more or less obscure hobbies seems to be an integral part of who I am. Some of these hobbies only remain in vogue for a short period of time and are then left fallow, perhaps indefinitely. I thought that Rubik’s cube (henceforth cubing or speedcubing) might be such a transient pastime. I was wrong. It has come back more than once, and since I want to keep track of what I’m doing and also post some updates, I thought that creating a page for the cube would be a good idea, so here it is. The structure is based on the various kinds of puzzles related to Rubik’s cube, with a list of all related posts at the very bottom.

This post was last updated 2012-03-30.

Why Rubik’s cube?
Rubik’s 3×3
Rubik’s 3×3 blindfolded
Rubik’s 3×3 multiple blindfolded
Fewest moves
Rubik’s 4×4
Megaminx
List of related posts
Interesting or useful links

Why Rubik’s Cube?

The most common question I hear when cubing is: Have you solved it? The correct answer is, yes, tens of thousands of times (including blindfolded, backwards, one-handed and in my sleep), but I never say that. Most people don’t realise that the challenge is not gone just because the cube has been solved once. It can be solved in many ways (such as few moves, quickly or blindfolded), all which require a different way of thinking and a different kind of understanding of the puzzle. To be frank, I’m not extremely talented at this (no, I’m not being modest here), but I can understand the methods others have developed and learn. Striving for ever more elegant or quicker solves is like any sport (compare attaining high scores in a computer game or perfecting a golf swing). Trying bigger and/or harder puzzles (such as the 4×4 or Megaminx) is of course also a challenge I enjoy overcoming.

In addition to this, cubing fills a completely different function: it occupies my hands while my brain is doing something else. This phenomenon should be familiar to anyone who likes knitting or spinning pens using their fingers. Some algorithms and moves are so well-rooted that I need no conscious effort to execute them, which means that I can listen to a lecture with full concentration and solve the cube simultaneously, although not at top speed, perhaps. Sitting on the bus, I find it boring to only listen to audio books, but if I cube at the same time, it’s suddenly a lot more interesting. Thus, most of the time, the cube itself is only a sideshow. Cubing is a kind of meditation and/or therapy.

3×3 Rubik’s

This is the original cube and the puzzle I’ve spent by far the most time on, although I only started “seriously” during the summer of 2009. I use Lars Petrus’ method, but use Friedrich for the last layer. Since 2009, the cube has been lying untouched for months at a time, so this is not something I take very seriously, although I occasionally cube quite a lot. I have written about the 3×3 before, please refer to the following posts: Speed cubing, My first solve (Swedish), Christmas puzzles. Related posts: See below.

Best time: 0:16.75
Best average of 5: 0:21.27
Best average of 12: 0:22.20
Best mean of 100: 0:23.82

3×3 Rubik’s one handed

Of course, the 3×3 can also be solved one handed, something I started in early 2012 when I felt I didn’t really get anywhere with normal 3×3 solving and wanted to try something new.

Best time: 0:32.33
Best average of 5: 0:39.48
Best average of 12: 0:44.80
Best mean of 100: 0:53.29

3×3 Rubik’s blindfolded

As soon as I started achieving times below one minute for the 3×3, I started looking at blindfolded cubing. I’m using a 3-cycle orientation permutation method (3OP). Blindfolded cubing is a two stage problem: the cuber first has to memorise the state of the cube and then, while not looking, solve it. Although this is a lot harder than ordinary cubing, it’s not superhuman in the way it might look to an outsider. I’ve written about blindfolded cubing in more detail here: Solving Rubik’s Cube blindfolded. Related tags: Blindfolded cubing.

Best time: 5:51:13
Best average of 5: 8:13:68
Best average of 12: DNF

3×3 multiple blindfolded

Same as above, but instead of trying to solve one cube quickly and accurately at a time, you look at several cubes at once, memorise them and then solve them in sequence without looking. The method is the same as for one cube, but obviously requires a lot more memorisation and clever memory tricks. I haven’t done this very much and so my memorisation is very, very slow.

Best result: 2/3 in 47:58:93

Fewest moves

Fewest moves is what it sounds like. You receive a scramble (a string of moves to scramble the cube) and the you have one hour to find the solution to that scramble that requires the fewest moves. This is really interesting and there are lots of creative and fun stuff you can do, the only problem is that it takes quite a long time and that luck actually matters quite a lot. I don’t do fewest moves very often, but I still think it’s cool.

Fewest moves: 36

4×4 Rubik’s

I bought my first 4×4 in the autumn of 2009. I haven’t spent that much time with this one, but I think its quite interesting. It combines all the tricks of the 3×3 solve with some new ones (I use centres first, two edge-pair swap and then Petrus’). In a way, this puzzle is more interesting than the 3×3, because it adds two fairly creative steps to the process (though I suppose bigger cubes do this to an even higher extent). I haven’t written anything detailed about the 4×4, but I did write briefly about it here: Christmas puzzles. Related tags: See below.

Best time: 2:05:80
Best average of 5: 2:26:99
Best average of 12: 2:42:92
Best mean of 100: N/A

Megaminx

I first solved the Megaminx on Christmas Day, 2009, after borrowing it from a friend. I’m not sure what I think of the puzzle in terms of speedcubing (speeddodecahedroning is not a very pleasant word neither to write nor to say), I might need an new megaminx. As it is now, I can finish it in about ten minutes, but most of that time consists of looking for pieces and trying to remember which side is supposed to be up. My current colour scheme must have been designed by an idiot, because even I (with normal colour vision) think it’s really hard to tell some of the colours apart quickly. I wrote about the Megaminx and my first solve in this post: Christmas puzzles. Related tags: Megaminx.

Posts


Useful or interesting links

Speedcubing on Wikipedia
The Petrus method
CFOP tutorial Erik Akkersdijk
Bob Burton’s CubeWhiz.com (my favourite)
3OP blindfold method by Shotaro Makisumi
Speedsolving.com (forum)
World Cube Association (competitions, official site)

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Christmas puzzles

I don’t know about Anglo-American or Taiwanese culture, but in Sweden, collaboratively solving puzzles (mostly jigsaw ones) seems to be a tradition, or at least it used to be. I’ve never liked jigsaw puzzles and I don’t have a flat surface big enough for that even if I wanted to. There are other puzzles though, such as Rubik’s cube, which has mostly been something I fiddle with at the same time as doing something else (listening to the teacher, going by bus to Taipei, and so on). The 3×3 requires almost no mental effort nowadays, if I stick to what I already know.

However, on Christmas Eve, I visited friends in Taipei and found out that Gunnar is also interested in solving puzzles like this, although I have a feeling he’s on an altogether different level when it comes to real understanding rather than familiarity. I can understand what I do, but I find it hard to create entirely new algorithms, for instance. Anyway, he lent me a Megaminx, which I solved last night before I fell asleep. It took only a couple of hours of serious thinking, because I reused and adapted lots of algorithms I was already very familiar with either from normal cubing or blindfolded cubing (those algorithms were extremely useful!).


Solved Megaminx.

As is the case with the 3×3, the only difficult part of the Megaminx is the last layer, everything else I could solve without thinking about it too much and at reasonable speed. I ended up correcting last-layer edge orientation the same way as in Petrus’ 3×3 method (i.e. swapping bad edges at an earlier step), and then correcting edge permutation. Corner permutation was done using a variant of Petrus’ 3×3 again, but for the corner orientation, I relied entirely on the quite long algorithms from blindfolded cubing. In all, I would say the Megaminx is a lot easier than the 4×4, for reasons explained below.

During this semester, I’ve also bought and solved a 4×4 (even though that was three months ago now). The problem with the 4×4 is that the centres aren’t fixed as they are on a 3×3 or Megaminx, but rather have to be constructed. Figuring out how to do this is rather easy, and after that, the rest is identical to a 3×3.


My 4×4, exceptionally good quality.

With one exception. Sometimes you end up with an edge pair flipped, which is impossible on a 3×3. The problem is that solving this last edge is really, really horrible. I cheated and got the algorithm from the internet (r ² B ² U ² l U ² r ‘ U² r U ² F ² r F ² l ‘ B ² r ²), and I think I wouldn’t have been able to find this on my own, even given years of time I’m in reality not prepared to waste. Flipping the edge pair earlier is also difficult, because it’s hard to spot this phenomenon early on. With this shortcut, it took me less than an hour to solve the cube the first time. I don’t say this to boast, I do it because I want to show that if you know the 3×3 well, 4×4 is no biggie.

In other cubing news, I’ve also taken a look at a really cool concept, which looks impossible, but turns out to be mechanically identical to a 3×3 (and is thus solved the same way), but uses shape instead of colours. This means that it’s very easy to solve if you can already solve a 3×3, but the feeling in doing so is still extremely odd and well worth the money even if you do it only once. This is what it looks like…


..scrambled


…and solved!

I should also note that my new 3×3 record is 39 seconds, but on the other hand, I’ve almost forgotten how to solve the cube blindfolded. Well, even if it’s Christmas, I suppose I can’t have everything.

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Online Highlights 6

It’s time for another round of Online Highlights. Since all things on the internet are found through linking or references by others (such as this post), thanks to those who, passively and actively, helped me out this time.

Blog Metrics – When I wrote the post celebrating post 1000 a couple of weeks ago, I said that I’d written about two million characters. Martin kindly pointed out that there is a WordPress plugin called Blog Metrics, which calculated such things. It only returns the number of words (461 530), but a checking my average character-per-word ration (around 6), that gives closer to 2.8 million characters. Using the same comparison as Martin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment consists of a mere one million characters.

Hi-Games.net – This site provides a free virtual Rubik’s cube (of various sizes), as well as some other games, such as Tetris, Minesweeper and a typing test.

Method of Loci – Learning to solve Rubik’s cube blindfolded, it’s essential to learn some basic memory techniques, and the loci method is probably one of the oldest in the game. It’s a bit crude, but the concepts used are extremely powerful and can be improved in many ways.

Mind Tools – I haven’t yet had time to explore this site in any greater datail, but it’s also the result of my blindfolded cubing. On this site, there are lots of techniques and tricks to improve mental capacity. So far, I’ve mostly been interested in memory, but there is much, much more.

Photographic memory – Not many people have photographic memory, but this guy certainly has (he has autism, too). After a viewing Rome, a city he’s never seen from the sky, from an aircraft for less than an hour, he spends three days drawing an almost perfect 360-degree panoramic picture of the city.

Google’s opt-out village – I always like people who can say something quite serious, but still make people laugh. This time it’s The Onion who’s done it again, aiming for the information gathering aspects of Google’s dominance. If you don’t like their monitoring you, perhaps you would like to move to the opt-out village?

BensonThe Economist is on average very well-written, but few sections are as good as the obituaries (they are even published in a best-of format separately for people do buy). Last weeks edition sported an obituary of a deceased fish, Benson, beautifully concluding with a parallel between Benson and wisdom: “And there she lay, like Wisdom drawn up from the deep: as golden, and as quiet.”

Personal Library Kit – I always say that I want to live in a library, and this $16 kit takes me a bit closer to my dream. Part of the reason to have a library is of course that you can lend books to your friends, so why not do it properly with this handy kit?

Last.fm Normalizer – I’ve been using Last.fm for more than three years to keep track of what I’m listening to. One complaint has always been that Last.fm only counts the number of times a track has been played, ignoring the length of the track. This should disrupt the stats, since some artists have on average very long tracks. This was confirmed by this handy website. On my top 50 artists list, the biggest winner was Shpongle, who rose from 34th to 16th place, and the biggest loser was Robyn Miller, who plumeted from 13th to 34th place.

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Considering that there are quite a lot of problems in the world at the moment, I decided to take first things first and learn how to solve Rubik’s cube blindfolded, just as I said I would a week ago. I also guessed it would take slightly more than one week, which it did. Just to explain what I’m talking about here, this post is about solving Rubik’s cube blindfolded, i.e., first look at the cube, then obscure vision in some way (I turned off the lights in the room) and then solve the cube. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast, but just a few minutes ago I had the satisfying experience of turning on the lights and looking at a completely solved cube.

Most people, including me up to a few weeks ago, believe that solving Rubik’s cube blindfolded is almost impossible and that one has to be some kind spatial memory wizard to do it. This isn’t true. I’m fully convinced that an averagely talented person can learn to solve the cube blindfolded with some effort. My memory is good, but it isn’t exceptional. Of course, from scratch it would take a lot more than one week (my personal best at sighted cubing was around 43 seconds when I started). I’ve seen people recommend that one should be able to solve a cube in the normal fashion below one minute before attempting blindfolded cubing, or BLD as it’s commonly called. This is because one needs to be familiar with the cube and also be able to execute fairly long algorithms without a moments hesitation. Solving the cube blindfolded, one can (almost) never correct mistakes, one has to know it’s right.

I’m not going to explain how to solve the cube blindfolded in detail (see the links at the end for further details if someone is really interested, or go directly to Macky’s 3OP guide), but I am going to explain how it works in principle. To start with, solving the cube blindfolded is completely different from solving it sighted. Most sighted methods rely on a step-by-step approach where one can see what’s happening and figure out what needs to be done once a step has been completed. Naturally, such a method would be useless for blindfolded cubing, indeed requiring the kind of superhuman memory and spatial awareness most people would instinctively attach to it.

Instead, blindfolded cubing relies on manipulating as few pieces as possible, meaning that it’s possible to change the state of a couple of pieces and leave the rest of the cube unaffected. This entails that it’s possible to learn the condition of the scrambled cube and then memorise which algorithms need to be applied to turn each piece into its correct state. For permutation (where pieces are located, rather than how they are twisted), the method I used utilises cycles, thus being called 3OP (Three Cycle Orientation Permutation).

This is quite simple. Looking at an edge piece in position 1, one then looks where it needs to go, then where the one in that place needs to go, and so on, until the cycle is complete and back where it started. Thus, permutation of corners and edges can be remembered as two strings of numbers. Applying algorithms, three of these numbers are shifted and removed from the cycle. Continuously doing this will eventually remove all, which means that all pieces are positioned correctly (this isn’t strictly true, but it works as an example).

The biggest problem here is that the algorithms only can be applied under a strict set of rules and only from certain positions. This means that the cuber has to apply a number of set-up moves and then perform the algorithm. And then remember the set-up moves and do them in reverse order. These set-up moves constitutes the true challenge when solving the cube in this way, at least for me.

So, about memory, why doesn’t one have to be a mnemonic wizard to solve the cube blindfolded? This is what a sample memorisation looks like (I still remember it from my first successful solve). It’s not a difficult scramble, but as far as memorisation goes, it’s quite average.

EO: 4 8 5 6
CO: (2 3 4 cw) (6 8) (7 5)
EP: (1 9 6) (2 7 11) (3 12 5 10)
CP: (1 7 2 6 5 8 3)

Learning to memorise this set of numbers is pretty easy, using the right methods. For EO I use a translation from numbers to letters and then create words, so (4 8 5 6) becomes “ruby” and “accommodation”. CO is purely visual, I imagine myself using various colours to paint a room in the fashion the corners should be turned. For EP, I have a noun and a verb associated with each edge piece, so the numbers above become “smurfs flying like superman, landing on an oliphant”, “Santa Claus fires a crossbow at Ronaldo” and “Space police eating on Dart Vader, who explodes”. CP I use the same method as for EO, but combining them to make a story, in this case “a girl is fired by cannon, landing in Chile, which is burning merrily in pink fire”. Remembering this isn’t even hard, but it takes a while to learn how to create mnemonic methods effectively.

Then, one just goes through the various stories, applying the cycles and removing elements as they are solved. When nothing remains, the cube is solved. Scrumptious.

Links
My first post about Rubik’ cube (in Swedish)
My post about breaking one minute(sighted)
3OP as explained by Macky
Blindfold cubing (forum)
Lars Petrus’ method for sighted cubing (the one I use)

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Online Highlights 5

It’s time for another round of Online Highlights. Since all things on the internet are found through linking or references by others (such as this post), thanks to those who, passively and actively, helped me out this time.

Card Crusher – This Japanese gentleman is, at least for the moment, my idol. In these two short video clips, he demostrates how to make people angry. Even though the conversation is in Japanese, that shouldn’t be a problem (all the information necessary is contained in the introduction). The second clip is the card crushing, although the first one is quite nice, too.

Genie Game Server – This is a server set up to run games such as Race for the Galaxy by Rio Grande Games online. It was down for a while due to legal issues, but is now up and running again. This game is pretty good and it suits me perfectly to play online. The client is all server-based and works fine with no serious bugs and an adequate interface.

Rubik’s Cube Blindfolded – This is a guide to a 3OP (3 Cycle Orientation Permutation) method of solving Rubik’s Cube blindfolded (see my post from last week about Rubik’s Cube in general, which is my latest craze). I started yesterday and I can sort of solve the cube using this method if I can watch the cube. The next step is to do it only using pen and paper for notes and the last step is to be able to memorise instead of jotting down the seuences on a paper. Give me a week or two and I’ll write something about it.

Worlds Without End – I stumbled upon this nice-looking portal for science ficiton literature more or less by accident (my review of Connie Willis’ Bellwether was automatically referred to). I haven’t had time to explore this site, but it seems to be a very good way of keeping track of what’s going on in the genre.

Toyota Robot Running – It seems I’m far from up to date when it comes to recent developments in the humanoid robot industry. This robot designed by Toyta can run at 7 km/h (and it looks rather elegant, too!) and withstand pushes. Here is another robot climbing stairs (it isn’t graceful; I almost feel sorry for the poor bugger).

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Speed cubing

“Do those things still exist?”
“I also had one when I was young!”
“How do you do that?”

These are the three most common things I hear when speed cubing (perhaps it should be quotation marks around “speed”), which simply means trying to solve Rubik’s Cube (Wikipedia) as quickly as possible (see also this antique post in Swedish I wrote the first time I solved the cube, which is almost five years ago now). This is a hobby of mine which has come and gone a number of times, usually with fairly long intervals. This time around, though, is probably the longest, which is why I now choose to expound on the topic a little bit. I also decided to write this post now because yesterday I finished the cube faster than one minute for the first time (58 seconds) and this is the goal I specified on my 101-in-1001 list. In this post I’ll try to answer two questions: how and why, which should be the most common ones.

First of all, solving Rubik’s Cube the first time is pretty hard. If you don’t have access to any help whatsoever, it would be almost impossible for normal people, or require an extraordinary amount of time (far more than I would be willing to invest). Even using help, it’s not easy, even if there are superb guides out there. Of course, solving the cube the first time is radically different from trying to solve it as quickly as possible. The first time, it’s a struggle to understand the cube, but after that, it’s a creative quest for more and more optimised movements and sequences (not only ways of actually moving layers of the cube, but also physical ones, i.e. how to rotate the layers with your hands). Here’s how it should be done (standing world record, set in 2008 by Erik Akkersdijk):

Solving Rubik’s Cube for speed isn’t even potentially boring at my level, but might be if you’re going for the world record, because it would involve memorising a vast number of perfect sequences leading up to a solved cube from various positions. I use Lars Petrus‘ model (already linked to above), because it’s possible to complete only memorising two sequences of around 15 rotations in all. I think it is one of the better methods for beginners as well, because it fosters understanding of the cube and Lars doesn’t freely give away advice he feels the beginner should find out on his or her own.

Then the big question: Why? Challenge, therapy and something to occupy my hands with, in roughly that order. Let me explain. Solving the cube for speed is a challenge in many ways. It’s intellectually stimulating and requires a number of very different skills. Not only do you have to be able to understand how the cube works, but you have to work out the fastest way of doing something. Constantly, you must scrutinise your method to find better alternatives. Also, Rubik’s Cube is therapeutic in the same way I can imagine knitting to be. It puts the mind at rest and if really focusing on new ways of doing something, it’s difficult to think of something else. However, the opposite is true when relying on experience. I can easily solve the cube and have a normal conversation at the same time (more often, I combine cubing with listening to audio books on trains, flights and so forth). It keeps my hands occupied and my mind can roam freely.

In short, Rubik’s Cube today is an underrated, challenging and cheap form of entertainment. I don’t know how long my current cubing period might last, but even if I’ve accomplished my original goal of one minute, I don’t feel satisfied and when I put it down, the cube will probably keep resurfacing now and then as a somewhat eccentric pastime.

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Online Highlights 2

I haven’t spent much time browsing the Internet lately, mostly because I’ve been too busy with applications for next year, as well as normal studying. However, I have come across a few websites I feel are worth sharing (see other Online Highlights). Below, I’ve tried to explain why.

5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy –  I think the title is sefl-explanatory, this is an article about five soldiers with exceptional performance records, some of them so outstanding that Hollywood decided to reduce them because the audience would think it uneralistic if the true story was told. This is a good read.

Open Yale Courses, Game Theory –  This is also what it sounds like. Yale University has started a series of free courses that can be downloaded from the web. I haven’t finished this one about game theory yet, but it’s very good so far and I can recommend it if you’re interested. Even though it’s possible to listen to most of it, I suggest downloading video.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine – I learnt about this project in the most recent edition of the Economist. Basically, it’s an archive for the web, storing old versions of website. For instance, you can have a look at what your own website looked like five years ago. This might also be useful for retrieving lost data.

Lars Petrus on Rubik’s Cube – My interest for Rubik’s Cube has ben revived lately and this is the best site I’ve found so far. His method is intuitive and pretty good, and it does not require you to memorise a whole lot of sequences. Admittedly, Petrus’ method has declined in popularity among the world’s fastest speedcubers, but it’s still perfect for beginners and intermediates.

Chinese Language and Culture for International Students – I provide this link not so much because I think somebody else will apply, but rather because somebody might be interested in what I’m doing. Right now, that’s trying to apply for this program at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, a four year Bachelor’s Degree program. Nothing is decided yet, though, because I need to aquire a scholarship as well. I will post something specifically about this as soon as I have more information.

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Rubiks kub

Jepp, nu har jag äntligen lyckats få ordning på den. Det tog ett tag innan jag lyckades lösa de sista kantbitarna, men nu har jag en metod jag tror fungerar i de flesta fall. Jag måste medge att det var en del micklande och att jag chansade lite innan jag kom på hur det fungerade. Nu kanske inte det här är jättehäftigt för er som redan fixat den, men för mig är det en mycket bra start på dagen! Här kommer en lite bild också, där ni samtidigt får njuta av min fina snigelmatta! Ja, jag vet, den är rätt smutsig.

I övrigt pysslar jag inte med så mycket, det mesta går ganska segt. Jag har kommit lite vidare på magneter och mirakel, men inte sådär jättemycket. Fogge visade mig en trevlig bild som till stor del stämmer överens med hur jag har tänkt mig magnetlåsskyttarna. Kolla här. De kommer att ha mer gevärsliknande vapen, men i alla fall. Jag har också klurat lite på hur de fungerar och kommit fram till en hel del. Det jag inte bestämt ännu är ifall detta ska med i själva spelet eller om jag istället ska släppa det senare som extramaterial på något sätt. Nåja, det får vi se. Nu ska jag väcka Alva, god morgon!

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