Tag Archives: games

The Day I Conquered the Rubik’s Cube

20 Sep

For today’s display of splendor, I set about solving a Rubik’s cube for the first time.

I’m tired of being mocked by them.  I see them in movies, on tv shows, and in social circles being solved rapidly by seemingly huge nerdy nerds and I envy their dexterity and wit.  I wonder how it is that one acquires such a skill as I stare longingly at the dusty, creeky, plastic cube sitting on my bedroom shelf.  I rotate and rotate but it is of no use: my mind is feeble.

I will no longer be mocked.  Happy Lollipop Tuesday, folks.

If you’re new to these parts (welcome, vagabond!), check out the link at the top of this page labeled “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?”.  If you know the day, you’re familiar with the oncoming suck fest, and you’re as excited as I am, here we go:

For the record, I followed Dan Brown’s super fantastic tutorial on the Rubik’s Cube.  He has an incredibly famous tutorial at 21 million hits on YouTube, but I much prefer his updated, most recent version here. He has just enough enthusiasm to make you play the video over again when you massively fail.  And there were times I was in dire need. 

10:15pm – Began.  Hopeful. Assisted by a pack of caramels.  I can do anything that a YouTube tutorial can walk me through.

10:33pm – Out of caramels.  Also, completely frustrated by all this “R Prime, L2” talk.  I am so incredibly frustrated in just over 15 minutes.  I literally yell out loud in my apartment “HOW?! HOW DO I GET IT TO THE DOWNSIDE?! YOU AREN’T TELLING ME ANYTHING.”

10:45pm – I have created my first color cross on one of the faces.  I actually understand what the heck he’s talking about.  I get it! I really get it!

10:48pm – He’s moved on to the corner pieces.  He’s lost me.  He’s entirely lost me.    It’s been 3 minutes and I already have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.  It’s okay.  I take note of my state at  10:33pm and hope that I have a Eureka moment like I did at 10:45pm.

11:04pm – I’m doing what he tells me to do, but it’s not working.  I swear, I’ve done what he’s told me to do exactly as he’s told me to do it and it isn’t working.  Whaaaaaaaaaat?

11:13pm – I watched it about 10 times.  Just a tiny little 15 second segment 10 times.  Turns out I was turning D prime the wrong way all along.  Stupid stupid stupid.

11:25pm – I have an entirely green side. BALLAAAAH.

11:28pm – He just revealed that if I’ve done it correctly so far, I should have an entire layer that is correct, not just a green side.  I’m devastated.

11:29pm – Youtube Commenters had the same problem.  Apparently he missed a step.  Sonuva….

11:37pm – Everyone notes that I have to start over from here.  So… that’s awesome.  Starting over. And crying.

11:44pm – Hey I have a green cross again.  And in less than half the time as the first time around! Woot!

11:52pm – Okay.  Top layer solved.  Double woot.

12:12am – Hey.  I have two layers solved.  I ONLY HAVE ONE MORE LAYER!!!

12:14am – He says the last layer is the most complicated to solve.  This was to be expected, I suppose.  I’m nervous.  

12:17am – I’m having trouble distinguishing yellow from white.  Warning: Rubik’s Cubes may cause colorblindness.

12:22am – Just got to skip a step.  I completed the cross in the third layer and everything was perfect.  He says that doesn’t happen unless you’re “incredibly lucky”.  Score. 

12:42am – Wow. No updates during that time because I just kind of blacked out.  I was in a Rubik’s Cube frenzy.  I was also incredibly frightened that I would make a wrong move and undo all this work. 2 hours and 27 minutes worth of work, to be specific.  But in front of me, I currently have A SOOOOOLVED RUBIK’S CUBE!

Poor neglected filth cube. Chin up: all your sides finally match after years of fumbling.

I didn’t take it apart, and I didn’t reassign the stickers.  Which means I’ve come a long way since I was ten.

Here’s to small, satisfying accomplishments.  And hey – maybe I’ll work on getting my ~2.5 hours down to something more reasonable and human-trick worthy.  Because I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that are all like “Yeah man, I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 2 minutes.  Watch this.”

It is there, after the “watch this” that I will insert a startling display of awesomeness, wherein I solve the Rubik’s cube before their very unbelieving eyes.

Watch out world: I’m acquiring human tricks at an alarming rate.  Prepare to be amazed. 


Of Balls and Men

16 Aug

This week, adventure propositioned me while I was at a frozen yogurt shop.  As I rounded the corner to pay, I saw a stack of flyers that directed me to my destiny: The World Pinball Championships.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday Folks.

Thanks to a recent post about my overwhelming Facebook anxiety, it appears I have some noobs in the house.  Hey: thanks for reading another post.  I’m flattered.  So allow me to explain that Lollipop Tuesdays are a special series on my blog where every week I try something completely foreign to me and blog about my humiliation and learning experience for your entertainment.  For more information on this exciting day of the week , see the top of this page and click the link that says “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?” Now: onward!

So with flyer in hand and no idea what to expect, I took a day off work and drove out to explore the wonderful world of pinball.  I pulled into the parking lot of what looked like a warehouse, with middle-aged men sporting bandannas and their best game faces hopping out of trucks and piling into the place.

I opened the door and stepped right into a nerd’s wet dream. 

It was beautiful.  Nerdtastic, if you will.  There were rows upon rows of lit up, music-making, pinball machines.  They had doubles and triples of some of the more recent games and old school machines in great condition.  And every single one was plugged in and playable. But it wasn’t enough to just gawk; I had to register and compete.  Because what’s a Lollipop Tuesday without a chance for severe humiliation?

Glorious. Simply glorious.

I don’t know what I expected.  I guess in some small way I thought my life of video game rocking would somehow pay off here and I’d be able to at least spare myself embarrassment.  But as I was standing in line to play one of the four machines that would compose my ranking score, I was approached by a tall, pleasant gentleman who asked me what my story was.  I explained that I didn’t really have one, but that I was actually there representing a blog and learning about the underbelly of the pinball world as an active participant.  

He told me he was there to be the first Canadian World Pinball Champion.

No, seriously.  He was.  Because he flew in from Vancouver and up until the scrappy Canadian playing on the machine in front of us entered the picture, the guy I was talking to was the reigning Canadian Pinball Champion.    And I’m not sure if he dug the blog idea, he wanted me to get hooked on pinball, or I was one of the only five females in the room and the only one under 40, but he was kind enough to walk me over to another gentleman and introduce me and my blog.

That gentleman just happened to be the three-time, reigning World Pinball Champion.

He seemed thoroughly unimpressed with me, but I was definitely impressed with him.  Because even if I didn’t know a shred about the world of pinball before I walked in the door, I had taken some time to play on a few machines while I was there for fun and in one corner were a row of machines that were saved as relics, with little cards on them stating who won the World Pinball Championship on it in what year and what their score was.  I was staring at a guy who had his name etched on three of them, and the most astronomical scores I’d ever seen on a game.  Ever.

So after I’d had my moment to acknowledge the company I was among, I realized I was about to really suck some pretty awful rearend in front of these people.  

Allow me to further explain my relative suckness.  On the particular day of my arrival, the Classics tournament was underway. The Classics is a competition in itself where only machines made before 1987 are used and there is no skill division – it’s just one big pool of merciless competition.   On some of these old school machines, the score is not digital, but like the odometer on a car.  And as I stood in line to play one of my four games, the gentleman in front of me rolled over the score on his machine.


These people weren’t messing around.  There’s a $10,000 prize at stake for the newly crowned World Champion and a trophy that would stand almost as tall as the winner.  There were folks walking around with gloves on, folks in the ready position at the front of the pinball machine as if they were playing hockey and not just flicking flippers.  And most average Joes walking that refurbished warehouse floor owned pinball machines that they had in their homes

Where the magic happens

The two people I spoke to had over ten.

So of course I played, and of course I sucked.  In fact, on one of the machines I had the absolute lowest score out of all the people who played that day.  But on another, 100 folks went at it and my score rested safely at twentieth position. And that ain’t so bad.  I know this because The World Pinball Championships are actually pretty darn organized.  And as soon as I signed off on my score, it was uploaded into a database that is searchable by anyone who wants to go to the Pinball Association website and check out scores for a particular player, machine, or tournament.

I must admit that I went online to check out the final standings at the end of the 4-day tournament and was sad not to see my Canadian friend’s name as the reigning champion.  But after a bit of networking, I found that there’s another tournament coming up in March.  And aside from the overwhelming suck I brought with me that day, I actually had a fantastic time.

Who knows: maybe I’ll brush up on my game, throw on a pair of gloves and a bandanna, and try to give my new friends a run for their money in the Spring. 

For more information on the World Pinball Championships and other Professional and Amateur Pinball Association tournaments, check out www.papa.org

Final Fantasy: My Gateway Drug

4 Aug

I want to quit my job and play Final Fantasy all day.

It’s been a growing concern ever since Dave started playing the most recent installment of the game series.  Not so much because I’m an avid Final Fantasy fan (I’ve played several, but not all and thus wouldn’t dare starting a geek war with anyone), but because I actually want to play World of Warcraft.

It’s been a long time since I’ve found something to fill the void of that gloriously epic massive multiplayer online game that zapped the life out of me, added 15 pounds, took all my money, and catapulted me into a world of eternal bliss not many years ago.   Of course, I wasn’t achieving anything “real”.  My only achievements were chronicled in the quests I completed while roaming the world of Azeroth.  My real life achievements were nill.

It probably had something to do with my schedule at the time.  It went something like wake up, sit at computer and play, get hungry, order pizza, eat, get sleepy, go to bed.  Somehow I managed to make those small tasks last me an entire day – and sometimes all night.  

It’s surprising how long one can live off leftover pizza if rationed appropriately.

And though it wasn’t a particularly proud existence, I could have happily carried on in my nerd cave until the end of time without caring much for the consequences.  Unfortunately, World of Warcraft costs money and sitting in my bedroom unshowered for days on end didn’t pay well.  Sooner or later I needed money and realized that listing “raid leader” and “super epic elf hunter” on my resume wasn’t exactly setting myself up for success.  So I swore off the game and vowed never to return.

Until less than a year later.

But the second time I quit, I quit hardcore.  I uninstalled the program from my computer hoping that the ridiculously long installation process would be a deterrent for future relapses.  And in a startling blow to my inner desires, Responsible Jackie got a laptop that isn’t capable of supporting the game’s graphics.  So if I ever want to start up again, I have to buy a whole new computer.

Enter Final Fantasy.

Though FF could never fill the void that WoW has left in my soul, it does offer a decent and safe alternative.  Though it will also propel me into months of slavery to a machine and stats, it is far healthier than WoW because it 1) has an ending and 2) isn’t online.  It also doesn’t punish the player for not achieving things in a certain amount of time or reward them frequently with enormously epic gear.  But the gameplay is pretty much the same.  I get to use magic and I get to kill things.

I also have Dave to hold me accountable, who is fully aware of my sordid past and is prepared to leave me should it resurface.

I have yet to pick up a controller and try my hand at Final Fantasy 13, but I have been seriously letting the idea brew.  I keep getting glimpses of release from reality and true relaxation juxtaposed against images of my fat, greasy, college shut-in self.   Will picking up the controller catapult me into a life without a job, without Dave, and without sunlight?  If I stop posting, you’ll know why.

Tell the rescue team to check under the pile of pizza boxes for a pale, smelly non-contributor. 

An Evening (in Hell) with the Scrabble Club

28 Jun

I feel like I’ve had a lot of intense moments in my life to date.  But  none so far can match the incredibly intense moment when I told the head of the Scrabble club that I was going home early.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday folks.

This week, I found my adventure by flipping through the classifieds in my local paper.  There, I found an ad for the city’s Scrabble Club chapter.   I’m sorry – Competitive Scrabble Club Chapter.

That word makes all the difference in the world.

I was really hanging on tightly to the part in the newspaper ad that said “Beginners Welcome.”   When the head of the local chapter (let’s call him Socrates) responded to my inquiry, he reported an average attendance of 15, with ages ranging from 13-85.    I was pretty comfortable with the idea of playing anyone at the very bottom or the very top of that statistic, and since I’m an ex English major who does pretty well around the kitchen table and family, I thought I could at least avoid embarrassment.

I was sorely mistaken.

When I first arrived I was greeted by Socrates, who started started running down the official tournament rules.  He handed me  a cheat sheet with all the 3-letter and 2-letter words in the English language, common words to dump vowels with, and a list of common Bingos (when you clear your rack).  He was wearing a Scrabble Champion t-shirt (legit, probably won in the 70’s).

After he had rattled off all the standard tournament rules, I was informed that as a special treat for being a first-time guest I could have an extra 5 minutes on my clock.

I’m sorry – what?

Apparently, competitive Scrabble is timed.  You get 25 minutes altogether, which ticks down during your turn.  When you’ve completed totaling your tiles, you announce your score for the round and hit the buzzer to switch to your opponent’s timer.

For someone who just learned what a Bingo was and didn’t even know ten of the 2-letter words, a timer is a frightening thing.

I got paired with a sweet, older woman named Connie.  Connie was very pleasant to me, but she was also incredibly serious about the game of Scrabble.  She had special professional grade tiles that could not be used for sneaky handed bag cheating.  

That’s a term I made up for when someone dips in the bag and feels the letters to know which ones to pick.  

She asked if I had my own board and I said I had the game at home.  She asked if it was a turntable (no) and if I had the brown, wooden, cheater letters (yes).  She was sorely disappointed.  Connie had her own hand-sewn bag to slip over the board at the end of the game that poured the letters into it.  The drawstring featured her name, spelled out in individually sewn buttons.

I did not.

I kept even with her score for about 6 rounds.   After that, it was all downhill.  By the time the game finished, she had doubled my score.  Somewhere in between the lines were 4 triple-word scores that she managed to reach with my help, and several 40-point plays featuring only 2 letters from her rack.

I’ve never felt so stupid in all my life.

As it turns out, I don’t really know how to play Scrabble.  I thought Scrabble was about making big words, connecting them to other words, and holding out for a Triple Word Score.  What Scrabble is actually about is getting scores of 500 and over by wedging a word directly beside another word and matching up a series of 2-letter-words up and down the word you play.   It’s about saving F’s and H’s and putting them in an unsuspecting corner that reaps enormous multi-word benefits.

At several points that evening, I looked at the board and not even knowing if it was safe to put an “s” on the end of something because I realized I have no idea what that word is.

So after Connie gave me a painful whoopin’, I decided I would head out.  They had an odd number of people with me there anyway and I thought I was doing everyone a favor.  After all, they have one of the top 500 ranked players in the nation in that room – I’m sure she wanted to get a bit of playing time in.

Socrates was very upset by the suggestion that I would head out.  “Leaving early” they dubbed it.  Apparently, they stick around for 3 games.  Because “people who love Scrabble stay”.  I felt incredibly pressured, but equally miserable and decided there was no way I was going to let a crotchety old Scrabble champion tell me what to do.

…So I kindly let him know that I wasn’t aware that I would be playing 3 games in a row and I thought I could use a good deal of studying.  

He was very, very disappointed in me and asked me if I wanted to stay on the email distribution list. I said yes.

Why did I say yes?  Why didn’t I just say I didn’t like it and they were really high-pressure for such relaxing-looking old folks.  I had absolutely no intentions of returning to Socrates’ condo for another whoopin’.  The experience was one of the most incredibly stressful ones of my entire life.

At least, until I write an email to Socrates saying I’m breaking up with the Scrabble Club. 

Lord, give me strength. 


Today’s RAK:  At the end of the day, held the elevator for a ridiculous amount of time so that a random woman could get on without waiting.  She was my most appreciative RAK victim yet.


Nice People Can’t Win Monopoly

19 Jun

Image by Christopher Dombres. Click to check out his Flickr PhotoStream

I don’t know why I play Monopoly.  It is absolutely impossible to have a pleasant time. 

It isn’t even just that I never win.  Which I don’t.  It’s that no one has a good time.  Correction – the person who wins has a good time.  They have a ball.  They’re rolling in paper money, lording over their hotels and making everyone around them feel insignificant.  It’s everything we wish real life could be.

For a moment last night, I was that person.  I thought the tables had turned and that for once, I was actually going to win.  About ten rounds in to the game, I was the only person on the board with a Monopoly.  I had decided to prescribe to my brother’s age-old tactic: buy everything, cut breaks to no one.  Being mean is the key to winning – absolutely ruthlessness is necessary.  It was working really well, but I wasn’t having any fun.  Everyone was just galloping, driving, and thimble-ing around the board and paying me money along the way, but there was no joy in it.  My opponents’ faces drooped, hope sank, and the game had become dull.

So I decided to trade.

It’s almost never a good idea to trade.  Trading is what causes all the problems.  But I considered how many properties I owned, how few everyone else did, and the fact that I’d already landed on Free Parking (house rule: Free Parking = Cash Bonanza) three times.  So I made a little trade.  Just a little red-property-monopoly-for-me, yellow-property-monopoly-for-my-brother exchange.

It was the beginning of my epic downfall.

I ran around the board several times, relishing in the fact that I had given him a false sense of hope.  I had inspired a security in him that would be torn down once I lorded over him with my magenta and red monopolies.  

That wasn’t how it happened.

How it happened was that my brother mortgaged all his properties except the yellow ones and invested in hotels.  And every time I went around the board, I  landed on one and had to fork over a thousand dollars.  Every time he went around the board, he landed on Community Chest.  No amount of house and hotel building I did on my properties could equal the wrath I faced on Atlantic Avenue last night.  

I can’t stand it.  I don’t even know why I play.  We could have been playing Scrabble or cards – games that involve intellect and laughter.  But we played Monopoly – a game of treachery and sadness.  And the thing is – I could have won.  I could have just hung on to my one Monopoly and let the game play out as I bled my opponents dry.  But I decided to trade so that people could actually enjoy themselves.  I thought it might shake things up a little bit – let people have a smile.  Because I’m a nice person.  That’s right.  Nice people can’t win Monopoly because it’s impossible to suck someone dry so slowly that each round they have to mortgage another property or offer to give you their firstborn son.  Nice people will ease off, and nice people will inevitably lose.

There are lots of board games out there, folks.  

Don’t fall for Monopoly. 


Mama Needs a New Pair of Shoes!

17 May

There are some weeks that Lollipop Tuesdays sneak up on me like the Hamburglar.   And it’s usually those weeks that I find myself doing something ridiculously late and in a ridiculous location, which is why last night at midnight you could find me playing the slots at the casino.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, friends.

I have to admit that when I thought I’d mosey on over to the casino, I had a few concerns.  Well, really just one concern: addiction.  I read all the tips and I had a good game plan.  I took a hundred bucks and split it off into five 20’s.  I would play a 20 at each game, and if I got a big win on it I would immediately cash out, pocket the ticket with the winnings, and moved on to the next 20.   It was a good plan and I felt confident it would do me well.  

Until I remembered the World of Warcraft addiction of ’06.  

Not so long ago in a land not too far away, I was huddled up on my desk chair, 3-days-unshowered, with pizza boxes piling up on my bed, running around the land of Azeroth as a Night Elf  Hunter, raiding over and over again until the epic shoulder pads I needed would drop in the dungeon. I wasn’t sure how big the difference was between gambling and WoW, but last night I was a little concerned for my well-being.

I have to admit that when I first walked in, I was pretty disappointed.  Well, actually I was shocked that casinos are open 24/7, was baffled by the variety of machines, and I was pretty darn overwhelmed by the size of the place.  But then I was disappointed.   Pretty much everything I know about casinos is based off movies that feature casinos.  You know, like Sister Act, Ocean’s 11, Rounders…  I was expecting people to have cards at the table and levers for the slots.  

As it turns out, it’s all digital.

Call me crazy, but if I’m going to stick a twenty in a machine and lose it all in 10 minutes, I’d really like to be pulling a lever.  Clicking a button 100 times per bill is incredibly lame.  And even if I could have afforded a buy-in at a table, I wouldn’t have done it.  Because there’s something so unsatisfying about watching a bunch of cards flip up on a screen instead of holding them in my hands.  Illogical, perhaps, but true.  So I stuck to the slots for the evening.  At least there I could click more times.

Apparently people must find slots to be very straightforward and in no need of explanation because aside from a few cryptic images above the machine, there was never any indication as to what you were hoping for when you clicked the button.  I, for one, could have used a bit of help.  Because half the time I didn’t know whether to get excited or whether to sit there clicking until my eyes glazed over.  There were two times that my screen said “Big Win!” and had a bunch of coin and cash images on the screen, but I didn’t know what my “big win” was relative to.  I mean, when we’re on penny slots, big wins could be 10 bucks.

And as it turned out, they were.

For the most part, I found them uninspiring and wished I could go over and lay down my black jack prowess. I hated not having any control whatsoever on whether I won.  That was, until I found the Wizard of Oz slots.

There were only 5 of them and they were tucked over near the bathrooms, but there were folks filling every single seat.   I had a friend that was willing to come along with my for the night and she suggested that they were the best because “there was actually a chance of winning something.”   That was really all I had to hear to wait around awkwardly mouth-breathing behind folks as I waited for one of them to rip their sweaty backs of the seats.  

I got myself a seat and finally found the magic fun of the slot machines.  It probably had a lot to do with winning a big bonus where a bunch of flying monkeys came and ripped my images off to reveal wild cards.  Then something about a “big win” came up on the screen, my machine got real loud, everyone grumpily stared at me, and I sat there for 2 minutes while my winnings piled up.  I made 40 bucks.  Not bad.

I pocketed the ticket and stuck in my next 20, waiting to see what the Emerald City had in store for me next.  

I think the real appeal of the game was that the seats had speakers built right into them.  The biggest wins came from matching three bonuses across the board, and every time one came up in the right place, a huge drum sound would rattle the bejeezus out of your seat and make you pee yourself with anticipation.

Or maybe that was just me.

At any rate, I spent the rest of the evening on the Oz slots, hoping that Glenda the Good Witch would pay me a random visit and switch my rows to wild cards, or that I would link three bonuses together and get some flying monkeys to come give me a big win.

But alas, I stuck to my plan.  And though I went through the hundred I put aside for the evening, I had pocketed 70 bucks of winnings.  It  may sound like a lose-lose situation, but believe me – if I didn’t have a plan beforehand, there would have been no tickets in my pocket and I would have walked out at 100 in the hole instead of just 30.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening.  You know, in comparison to someone just coming up and mugging me for 30 bucks.  If I were a baller, I could have sat down and used some of my card-playing skills to see what I could rake in.  Because let’s face it: the slots are a total ripoff.  Unfortunately, the lowest buy-in at a table game was 10 smackos.  And since I only came with 100 to gamble, that didn’t seem like a wise way to spend my evening.  

Apparently, clicking a button 100 times and waiting for flying monkeys to descend upon me was. 


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