Turns out the Rubik's cube is just right for this stage with A-

| parenting, fun, cubing

I spend a lot of time waiting for A-. Sometimes I'm waiting for her to finish reading a book or watching a video. Sometimes it takes her forever to get to bed. She can sometimes amuse herself independently, but she often still wants me around somewhere in the room. Someday she won't, so in the meantime, I wait. I can't be on my phone or laptop during times like that, because then she'll want screentime too. Sometimes I tidy, sometimes I read, sometimes I write.

It turns out that learning to solve the Rubik's cube is an interest that slots neatly into my life with A-. We picked it up recently because A- was interested in my old Pyraminx.

Our order from Cubing Out Loud turned out to be a pretty good introduction to the world of speedcubing:

  • a MoYu RS3 M 2020, a magnetized 3x3x3 cube for $10 CAD
  • a YuXin Little Magic 3x3x3 M, another magnetized 3x3x3 cube for $9 CAD
  • a YJ MGC 2x2x2 M, a magnetized 2x2x2 cube for $11 CAD
  • and some lubricant

The speed cubes were way smoother than the Rubik's cubes I remember from high school and university. The 2x2x2 cube was great for helping A- practise simple algorithms and get that feeling of success. She quickly graduated to the 3x3x3 cubes. She loves solving it from the fish position, so W- and I solve the first two layers, and then she solves it from there. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she picked up the beginner algorithms that we showed her, and she took great delight in learning finger tricks and being able to do the Sune move in three seconds. I can do the Anti-Sune just about as fast as she can do the Sune, so we trade cubes back and forth. Sometimes I mix things up so that she has to permute the last layer, too. She's gradually branching out to more algorithms, and will sometimes even take on solving it from a full scramble.

Cubing seems to be a good way for her to practise distinguishing left from right, clockwise from counter-clockwise. We talk about averages, minimums, and moves per second. She likes taking apart our cubes, tweaked the tension, and lubing them. (Reassembling them is a job for grown-ups, apparently.) She likes playing around with different patterns. It spread into her pretend play too. She loves watching JPerm and parroting his lines.

For my part, I enjoy slowly learning different algorithms and feeling things start to click. I can usually solve the 3x3 in under two minutes now (nothing remarkable; most beginners get there), and have lately been averaging around 1:30. I'm getting the hang of solving colour-neutral crosses by moving edges around and ignoring centers, and of solving the first two layers together. I like practising algorithms while keeping an eye on her at the playground. I'm getting better at smiling even when A- snatches the partially-solved cube I was working on with the timer running. I'm not aiming for any records, anyway.

Since W- has gotten into cubing as well, we have determined that we need more cubes. Also, to save our phones from A-'s rather enthusiastic timer use, a StackMat timer and a mat are probably a good idea. Speed Cube Shop had a wider selection than Cubing Out Loud, so we ordered a few cubes and accessories from there. She insisted on getting a Gan cube with some of her savings. Hey, at least these highly-engineered bits of plastic generally stay in one piece, don't get scattered all over the floor, don't need to be sorted into various bins, and don't get stepped on. (I'm kidding, LEGO, we still like you.)

In terms of Android apps, I like Nano Timer. It's free and allows me to keep times in different categories, like a regular solve, A- starting from the fish, or co-op. There's even a multi-step timer for breaking down things like CFOP. A- likes Finger Timer because it looks like a StackMat timer.

Naturally, I'm getting the urge to do something about Rubik's cubes and Emacs. A timer that will let me quickly reassign my current time from "Regular 3x3 solve" to "Solved until A- grabbed the fish"? (It'll have to work on my phone - maybe Termux or SSH, or a web-based approach…) An Org Babel block type for visualizing cubes and moves so that I can make my own notes and blog posts? An SVG version of that text-based Rubik's cube that someone wrote for Emacs? A scramble generator that lets me pick the type of scramble I want and then uses the Kociemba algorithm to generate the steps for scrambling it? Anyway, it'll have to wait until I get a few things off my plate, like EmacsConf and the usual year-end paperwork.

In the meantime, I have things to learn while I wait. I think I'd like to get to the point of being able to do the cross blind. I'm also working on memorizing the rest of 4LLL, and then full OLL/PLL after that.. Anyway, so that's what we've been up to in the evenings while waiting for A- to go to bed.

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