RIP, Zhanchi No. 1

PROLOGUE: We can make type look like HEADLINES or fine print; emphasize the important parts with color, boldfacing, italics, or highlight; use superscript or subscript notation; strike-through to show edits,

blockquote (like this) to draw focus,

and switch to fixed-width to show code. But there is no neat, and tidy way to indicate “hey, I’m about to get all facetious and sardonic on you.”

I hereby propose Comic Sans as the official signal of sarcasm on the internet.

And, even if you never read another word on my blog again, I’ll be ok — as long as you promise to read this McSweeney’s opus: “I’m Comic Sans, A**hole.” So. Friggin. Good.

My Zhanchi died last Thursday. FUBAR. In the middle of learning the N Perm, it locked up on me. And not just an align-better-and-proceed lock up (à la Rubik’s brand cubes). Jammed. Stuck. No bueno. With some elbow grease, I eventually got it unstuck, by which I mean that the yellow-green-orange corner and yellow-orange edge each violently ejected. The corner piece was gnarled and twisted so badly that, even after straightening it by hand, the cube would barely turn when I replaced the pieces. Open heart surgery — some heat, crazy glue, counter-twisting, etc. — barely helped. The re-assembled cube just didn’t want to turn any longer. I pronounced the cube dead a few minutes later.

This Zhanchi was my first speed-cube. Six months ago, I was overjoyed to find in it a remedy to Rubik’s thumb — the Zhanchi (as I remember it) perfectly hewed, perfectly weighted, perfectly engineered, and perfectly lubed. My times dropped dramatically. My carpal tunnel problems and tennis elbow disappeared. The sea parted and a land bridge to cubing nirvana appeared. All was good again in the world. I solved it probably 200 times before deciding that it had to come to work with me, with a white replacement for at home. (Hey, white worked for Feliks.) At work, it kept me entertained between meetings, kept me sane during droning calls, and scored me a to-date personal best of 34 seconds. I solved it probably 1500 times. So, pulling the plug was no easy task.

Amazon dulled the pain. A $15, 48-hour detour, and I’d be right back on track with a new Zhanchi….

The Zhanchi arrived on Friday, and I immediately dove in. It felt like cheating, sure, but it was time to move on. But, as I learned quickly, moving on would be harder than I thought. I had completely forgotten what an OEM, out-of-the-box Zhanchi felt like and my initial “this is the cube that everyone rants about!?!” reaction. The edges were sharp to the touch and the cube was loose, clicky, prone to pops, greasy and yet scratchy at the same time, and impossible to control. I forgot how much TLC it took to get that cube just right:

  • sanding it with 400 grit sand paper
  • re-stickering it with a Cubesmith fluorescent set
  • branding it with a custom-made G-sticker
  • lubing it, realizing I’d overlubed it, cleaning it, and then lightly re-lubing it with silicone grease (Ace Hardware)
  • tensioning it just right (a seemingly never-ending iterative process)
  • breaking it in — with solve after solve and U-perm after U Perm after U-Perm

Like any good relationship, it just took nurturing. It felt akin to an observation 7×7 Magazine made about San Franciso when I used to call the city home (paraphrasing): “Living in the City is like dating a supermodel. She’s easy on the eyes and you’re excited to show her off to your friends, but she’s a pain in the ass to live with.” That was the early days of Zhanchi No. 1. Perfect in all respects, but high maintenance through and through. And now that it’s DOA, I miss it.

Time to break in No. 2….


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