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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

What an awesome event. From the early-morning TV stints to the end-collateral acrylic cube, I had the best time. These are my people, yo.

The Caltech Summer Tournament happened on Saturday. The first job I had? The appearance on our local ABC affiliate, with The Why Guy! And, because the Internets are awesome, you too can watch as Tyson Mao and Chris Hunt battle it out - and then I gab about the event: Link. Like my Escheresque "cube vest"?

I was interested to find out that they use timers "borrowed" from competitive cup-stacking (google it, you'll be amazed) which essentially gauge the amount of time your hands are active. The cube is placed in front of the competitor. They're given a brief examination period during which they pick it up and strategize. Then, they must put it down and place their hands on two sensors on a mat. When they're ready, they pick up their hands and begin to solve (the timer starts when their hands leave the sensors). When they're finished, they place their hands back on the mat and the timer stops. A judge examines the cube to assure it's solved. If a layer is offset a little bit, it's okay, it just can't be twisted further than the line formed by the adjacent layer (Tyson made up that rule to avoid the need for a non-intrinsic measuring tool). Nice.

This is Tyson Mao, the President of the Caltech Rubik's Cube Club and organizer of the event. In this picture, he looks like he's competing, but he mostly did tons of logisticizing throughout the event. He was a cool guy:
He thinks I'm nerdy? He felt uncomfortable leaving messages on my cellphone, the outgoing message of which says, "This is Summer. Talk nerdy to me." Heh. (Though honestly, Tyson, when The Why Guy was like, "All the hip-and-with-it kids are taking up Rubik's Cubes in earnest," I nearly lost it. Hip you're/we're not.)

Saturday Morning, Macky (pretty much the best cuber out there), Leyan (the then-world-record-holder in blindfolded solving), Macky's mom, and I went to the CBS 11 studios in Fort Worth to appear on Daybreak. That was fun; the newscaster had taken a class on the Cube in high school and "the only thing [she] learned was that they come apart really easily." On cue, Macky and Leyan popped their cubes apart. It was hilarious, and it led me to an awesome I-heart-my-job moment: The removal of an edge piece of a cube reminded me of the day we had a group of visually-impaired kids visit the museum, and one of them popped his eye out for me. Yeah, what other job can you have that encourages pop-outs of both prosthetic eyes and Rubik's cube pieces? Yay!

We then trucked it back to the museum for the competition. Luckily, the AC came back on. And the competing began.

From the start of the day was totally taken with this kid:
His name is Clayno Hawley. I loved his (s)punk!

We had cameramen from affiliates of FOX, ABC, and the WB show up, plus a reporter/photographer from the Lakewood People newspaper. I glimpsed myself on the news that night on FOX, and I quote: "There's three by three by three, four by four by four, five by five by five, one-handed, and ummmm, what's the other one? Oh yeah! Blindfolded! And it's amazing!" Meh. I sounded pretty lame.

Six official world records were set at the event (in minutes:seconds.hundredths):
5x5x5 Solve -- 1:51.41 (Frank Morris)
5x5x5 Mean of Three Solves -- 2:20.99 (Frank Morris)
3x3x3 Blindfolded Solve -- 2:18.58 (Shotaro Makisumi)
Rubik's Magic Solve -- 1.28 (Bob Burton)
Rubik's Master Magic Solve -- 3.05(Bob Burton)
Rubik's Master Magic Mean of Five Solves -- 3.54 (Bob Burton) is a resource if you're interested in getting onto this subculture. The thing that probably struck me most was the totally amicable nature of their competition. Everywhere, participants were sharing hints, joking, smiling, and getting to know each other. I've never seen such a friendly group of competitors. 'Twas grand.

And here I am with Shotaro "Macky" Makisumi, the King of Competitive Cubing:

My brush with fame! That one's for you, Mike! At one point, there were a couple of teenage girls who went gaga over the fast cubers, and as they approached Macky to ask for a photo, one of them said, "Um, is it okay if we put our arm around you?" So I asked him the same thing.

I ended up getting a Rubik's Cube for myself, and I had it signed by some fabulous cubers: Shotaro "Macky" Makisumi - 1st (and world record holder) in 3x3x3 solve, world record holder in blindfolded 3x3x3 solve. Leyan Lo - 2nd in 3x3x3 solve, American national record holder in blindfolded 3x3x3 solve. Frank Morris - 3rd in 3x3x3 solve, world record holder in 5x5x5 solve. Bob Burton - Rubik's Magic world record holder. Chris Hardwick - world record holder in 4x4x4 solve. And Jorge Best - Mexican national record holder. Awesome.

Here are full results from the day's proceedings.

Finally, the commemorative acrylic cube they gave me:
Link to my Flickr set.

Now, to find some lube so I can start my cubing journey...


UPDATE: And, check out the sighingly skilled video-camera stylings of Chris Hunt here, with Dallas tourney videos here. They're much better than my photos. And, you get to hear the maddeningly soothing (yep, the oxymoronic is often true!) sound of cubes being manipulated. It's like white noise, but clickier!
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