Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cubing in a strange place

So, I escaped my local orbit over the weekend and slept in a different city Friday night. That city was Daytona Beach Shores, just south of what most people understand to be Daytona Beach.

I had not been to Daytona for a while, and it was a little sad not to see some of the buildings that I had seen there in previous trips to the city over the last 30 years or so. There are only two arcades left on the old part of the boardwalk - video game arcades, I mean. I do not refer to those slot-machine-for-dinner-coupon gambling establishments as an 'arcade', even though that word is used for that other purpose*. No, I mean Tetris, Ghost Squad, the not-so-new but still awesome Terminator Salvation light gun game, Skee-Ball, sit-down driving games, and a pinball machine or five. I was hoping to show Bubba a Pac-Man machine in the wild, but both arcades had a non-functioning Ms. Pac-Man machine and no other Pac-related games. It's cool that they put in a Ferris Wheel and a G0-Kart track, but all of the mini-golf has been relegated to the other side of the road and they are all required to have a large volcano replica, a crashed airplane replica, and live alligators (not replicas).

It was nice that Pizza King was still there - they make a great pizza with a crust reminiscent of fresh-baked French bread. They have a giant Hobart mixer there in the kitchen that's about the size of a residential refrigerator. Another thing that was somewhat the same? Parking. If you have a hotel right on Daytona Beach, you may not notice, because you have hotel parking - but if you need to go anywhere farther than you can walk, you quickly notice that you can't park anywhere worthwhile without paying for it until 9PM. We luckily found a space that allowed 30 minute parking from 9AM to 9PM at about 8:30. At the same time we pulled in, a rather rowdy group pulled in the space in front of us - the three of them had loudly congratulated each other and my wife on their excellent parking coup. One of them commented on my cube, and I did a quick solve for them while the wife and the children snuck away from the rowdiness undetected. I had forgotten how amazed the slightly inebriated can be with a cube demo. One uneasy high five later, I ran to catch up to the family already making a beeline for Pizza King.

After the evening pizza adventure and subsequent disappointing hunt for a Pac-Man machine, we watched a little beach volleyball and some guy with a bunch of snakes, three lizards, and the fattest skunk I have ever met. He was making some money by getting people to pay $10 for a picture with one of the animals. I didn't see anybody with the skunk - the albino Burmese python seemed to be the favorite, perfect for teenage girls to dare each other into a frenzy with.

The next day, my cube and I were on the beach for about 8 hours - and I only dropped the cube in the sand once. I have cubed at the beach before - usually I just have it in my hand while I'm walking, but if somebody asks me about it I'm happy to give a quick demonstration. At Daytona Beach, my cube was largely inconsequential other than as a distraction for me, and that was quite OK. Dropping the cube in the sand was not so OK. The difference was in the sand. Here at home, the sand is very coarse. If I drop a cube into the sand, it's actually difficult for a piece of sand to get in the cube because the grain size is so large. At Daytona, the sand is very small and enough stuck to the cube to worm its way inside rather quickly. Even though my cube got a thorough cleaning when I got home and a fresh application of silicone lubricant, it still has the tell-tale whooshing sound of plastic with grooves in it.

*If I am ever elected to a public office that allows it, I will mandate that the use of the word 'arcade' in signage for a public business require at least one working Pac-Man machine on the premises.

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