Pretzel Mania 2022 🥨

We had so much fun at Simon’s first official cubing competition in Pennsylvania over the weekend! It was a treat in itself to finally attend an event where children are approached with full respect, where no one uses a condescending tone when speaking to children, where no one cares how old you are at all. That is the inclusivity I’m after, when the default is that no one cares how old you are (or any other labels), but people look at you as an individual. It’s funny how we felt more at ease than at dedicated homeschooling gatherings. I think interest-based gatherings generally work better than lifestyle based.

Simon, who is normally rather uninterested in group activities, seriously and thoroughly enjoyed taking part in every way: judging and competing. When I say “seriously”, I mean he treated it with serious responsibility, staying up at night to double-check the results in the solves he judged, waiting patiently for every round (even when that involved literally just sitting still and waiting), revising the rules to the letter. He also got up at 7:00am all on his own, having slept just a few hours. The only time he lost it for a bit was when he was judging famous YouTubers for the first time (got too excited), but he quickly took control of his emotions. One of the famous cubers Simon judged had just broken the World Record the same day!

The competing part also went pretty well, especially considering he hasn’t really practiced at all lately. He managed to get to the second round in three events and even reached the finals in skewb. This is the same Simon about whom back in The Netherlands, the teachers used to say he had problems with automatization and sent swarms of “specialists” our way to help resolve Simon’s “fine motor delay” 🖖😉

Simon doing a 3×3 solve on the second day of the comp
Simon’s PB in 2×2 on the first day: 3.018 seconds!
Simon doing a solve in skewb final on the second day of the comp
Simon judging the legendary Zayn Khanani after Zayn had just set a World Record in skewb earlier on the same day
several amazing comp winners in the background
Simon waiting for his turn to compete
even waiting was fun
judging the famous Dana Yi
the awards table
Simon has just won two GAN cubes in a raffle!
On the way to Philly, Simon flexing his treasures. He had actually left the precious backpack on the plane on the way back and we had to ask the airline staff to go search for it! They were very kind and fetched it for us from the aircraft.
early morning on day 1

Lancaster, where the comp was held, had an unexpected Caribbean vibe. We also saw several Amish families (guests from 200 years ago) riding their horse carriages along the roads between Philly and Lancaster. Simon was scared of them.

met a very impressive intellectual of Indian-South-African descent at this food hall who used to work in IT and now runs a farm and treated me to the most delicious fermented hibiscus drink

Back in the streets of Philadelphia, after the comp:

didn’t compete in square1 this time, although has once coded a pretty cool square1 simulator in p5.JS

We also went to see the world’s most famous broken object to pay our respects to the spot where America started (although the kids aren’t really in a history-loving phase of their lives at the moment 😉):

in the background: Independence Hall where both the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were debated and signed
bored squirrel
our last summer season ’22 pool day with a view
Magic Gardens

Simon disliked the trippy Isaiah Zagar space at the Philadelphia Magic Gardens and the surrounding neighborhood, he found it too chaotic and too busy, but Neva and I were intrigued. It was a Parc-Guell-gone-mad experience, with some interesting inscriptions and citations worked into the floors and the walls. One of them even referred to Synesthesia and we heard a couple next to us saying they should “look up what Synesthesia is” ☺️. Neva, an audio-to-visual synesthete, who is usually more stimulated by sound or text than by pictures, always prefers art and design that contains words, so she went around reading the citations. Besides, there was a recurring owl face in every part of the maze, which reminded the two of us of the Jheronimus Bosch-inspired Owl House favorite character. We still have the cute owl candle we once bought at a big Jheronimus Bosch exhibition in his native Den Bosch in The Netherlands when Neva was 3.

“I built this sanctuary to be inhabited by my ideas and fantasies”
About Cezanne. “The synesthetic quality makes looking equivalent to touching”, Jasper Johns.

As for me, I really enjoyed the textures in Zagar’s mosaics, the glazed and protruding reliefs. I didn’t have to touch them to feel their texture. That is probably the artistic synesthetic experience he hoped to share.

Neva took this picture of me

I also loved how extreme, how immersive the artwork feels in its totality when you become part of it and blend in with it. In our current bedtime book, Allie Brosh’s sharp, eyeopening Solutions and Other Problems, we had just been reading a chapter about Brosh meditating about a guy she barely knew and imagining he loved knitting: her imagination got completely out of control and she began picturing the guy take his love for knitting to such an extreme that he ended up knitting a whole new knitted universe for himself. I guess this is what Zagar did in real life in his domain at South Street. He mosaicked everything he could lay his hands on. I feel happy to have had the opportunity to step into his universe and will always carry it with me in my tactile memory.

Funny how Simon’s cubes also blended in. We recalled that cube mosaic is a whole genre and you can get huge sets of cubes to create mosaics with them.

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