a purpose, finally: a blog for the mediocre

So, at about 10 months into this thing, I feel like I’m starting to really hit a groove. My ability to learn new algorithms has accelerated dramatically, my fluidity has really increased, and my average speeds continue to fall steadily (if not quickly). At the same time, this blog is starting to gain some traction. Having done absolutely nothing to market or cultivate it — no twitter account, no facebook account, not even sharing it with many friends and family — site visits have really increased lately, my videos have gotten more views, a few folks have subscribed, and I’ve even got a dialogue going (via my youtube inbox) with a few followers.

As I wrote in my inaugural post (and then reiterated in my second and third posts), this blog was never about showing off. I was never going to be as good as the very fast cubers — for want of time, ambition, youth, and (probably) ability. I knew that going in, and know it even more today. But I sensed early on that this would be a fun adventure. Of my many hobbies, this felt like the one most easily chronicled — the one with milestones that lent themselves to tracking, with small accomplishments susceptible of tip-giving, and with enough jargony in-crowd patois the strategic sprinkle of which would give the appearance of skill and achievement. I was correct on all fronts.

As I sit here writing this in my mid-thirties — 10 months after I first solved a cube, and about 8 months after I started the blog — I can say that I now kind of sort of know what I’m doing. But only kind of sort of. In that way, I feel like a sort of apostle for the average cuber — a junior varsity coach, if you will. And in recognizing that, I think I have finally happened upon a more refined concept for this blog. For as long as I find this adventure interesting, I will continue to allow it to serve as an online chronicle, a sort of cubing diary. But, even more so, I now have the following vision/mission/whatever-you-call-it:

MISSION STATEMENT (OF SORTS)

This blog has circled around being, and now can finally become, a sort of roadmap for the unaccomplished, a tutorial for the non-experts, a guide for the casual cuber.

The internet is brimming over with really good blogs curated by really good cubers. Youtube boasts hundred of videos of sub-10-second solves and sub-1-second complicated PLLs. Those are not the province of this blog. Personally, I found much of such material relatively useless for us un-indoctrinated lowly 45-seconders. There is the occasional diamond in the rough — the expert cuber who breaks it down in a perfectly accessible manner. I’m thinking of Badmephisto (and Andy Klise who converted his work into easy guides), Bob Burton, and the like. Speed demons though they may be, they also have made extraordinary efforts to compile annotated algorithm charts and some very good how-to videos. I would like to do what they have done, but at an even more basic, more pedestrian, more simple level. Again, for the slower among us.

And so, on this anniversary of the Occupy movement, I announce a blog for for the 99%. No, not the 99% who can’t solve a cube. Rather, the 99% who can solve a cube, but will never solve it in 10 seconds. The 99% who can’t spend 10 hours a week practicing. The 99% who just want to learn just a little bit more and get just a little faster. The Everycuber’s Blog.

So, Now What?

First, since I’m digging having a dialogue going with some readers, I want to engender and encourage discussion. And the best way I can do that is to bring the dialogue out of my inbox and onto the blog with a short Q&A. One reader asked:

When I look at that huge list of PLLs, it kind of discourages me how long these algorithms are. And most often, my PLL case is where three edges need cycled clockwise or counterclockwise. That is so frequent, that I sometimes question whether it is really important to learn the cases that I rarely see. I guess I just want to get some verification that the algorithms are not as impossible as they look and that they are worth learning.

No, they are not as impossible as they look; yes, they are worth learning. I know this from experience. As I’ve repeatedly written, I’m just awful at memorizing. That made me super skeptical that I could learn algorithms as complicated as say a V Perm or N Perm. Sure enough, with patience, practice, and making them my own, I’ve gotten these to the point where they are literally part of my auto-mechanical muscle memory. I can do them without thinking about them — without considering each next twist. Jessica Fridrich, inventor of the nearly-universal CFOP cube-solving method, describes this phenomenon well:

It is also important that your brain automatizes the algorithms into inseparable units – elementary actions, because then you will not have to think about individual moves. The individual moves will be performed “by your hands” rather than making your brain busy. At this stage, one can afford to think more about the next step rather than about the algorithm which is being performed. It is done for you automatically by your subconsciousness! I noticed that this automatization goes that far that if I am interrupted while performing some longer algorithm, I will not be able to finish it! In a sense, I do not know the sequence of moves and perceive the algorithm as one unit. This may sometimes create comical situations when somebody asks you about a specific move, and you will not able to show it slowly – and will get stuck after several moves having to start over again to see the remainder of the algorithm.

That’s EXACTLY my experience. If a cube locks or I get interrupted mid-algorithm, I often cannot finish accurately. In that sense, I’ve learned the algorithms so well that I’ve almost forgotten them — or at least relegated them to a part of my brain that I no longer need to (or can!) run through them bit-by-bit.

Also, remember that the edge cycles you refer to — the U Perm — occurs only 1/9 (11%) of the time. It may feel like more, especially because I suspect you’re often two-looking it with A Perm corner cycles first. So, 89% of the time, you could probably solve it more quickly if you learned other PLLs.

Another reader asked:

I too started with the beginner’s method, then tried my hand at the intuitive F2L. My best times with the beginner’s were upper 40’s, but consistently in the 50-55 second range. After starting the F2L, my solve times spiked up, then came down to consistently in the 40’s. My best as of now is around 37, I believe. Now I’m sort of plateauing. I asked the guy who taught me to give me some tips, and all he said was practice :/) Do you have any advice?

I think that’s actually pretty sound advice. “Practice, practice, practice,” is a clichĂ© (across all endeavors) for good reason. I will say that each time I learn a new algorithm or technique, my times tend to increase before they decrease. That was certainly true of F2L and one-look PLLs. But I eventually realized net time savings. So, don’t get discouraged by the temporary slow-down. Think of it more as two steps back, three steps forward. Also, when I’m learning new techniques, I’ve found it more useful to drill them over and over and over, rather than doing full solves. In fact, when I was learning the PLLs (only 5 to go!), I found that I almost never did full solves. I just practiced the PLLs over and over and over again.


So, there you have it. A long post. A somewhat refined vision for the blog. And some Q&A. I’d really like to keep the dialogue going. Ask questions in the comments. Make requests for video tutorials. Whatever. Cheers.

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9 thoughts on “a purpose, finally: a blog for the mediocre

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