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PoliticsI am Edi Rama, Prime Minister of Albania. Ask me anything.

Nov 16th 2016 by EdiRama • 17 Questions • 725 Points

I'm a journalist who spent three years trying to solve a Rubik's Cube in under 20 seconds. Eleven years ago, I learned to solve the puzzle thanks to Toby Mao, who taught Will Smith for "The Pursuit of Happyness." I documented my quest in "Cracking The Cube: Going Slow to Go Fast and Other Unexpected Turns in the World of Competitive Rubik's Cube Solving," which was recently featured in the New York Post. The book touches on everything from my journey into speedcubing to the story of Erno Rubik, the reclusive Hungarian who invented the puzzle, and whom I had the pleasure to interview in person. Today I'm back in the Post's office to talk more about my love of The Cube and answer your questions.

Proof: http://imgur.com/8eZ4WEg

Update: Thanks for all your questions! I had a great time answering them! I'll get to any I didn't answer later! "CRACKING THE CUBE" is available everywhere books are sold--and I'll be doing more events in the future! Check out my website at www.ianscheffler.com if you want to learn more. I'm also active on twitter at @ian_scheffler, Instagram at @ian_scheffler and @thegentlemancuber, Facebook at @ianschefflerauthor and on YouTube!

Q:

Hi Prime minister,

I'm an Albanian/Dutch artist currently living in The Netherlands. I would love to do a street-art project with local artists in Albania but I Find it hard to find any contacts to realise my dream project. Are there any organizations that you could recommend me?

A:

Did you read guides on how to get faster (such as the Fridrich method), or if you figure it out all by yourselves? And since the world record is around 5 seconds, do you think you'll keep trying to go faster to reach that?


A:

So I've interviewed hundreds of people in the process of writing this book, and can more or less count on two hands the number of people who figured it out on their own. (Obviously Rubik, the inventor, had to!) So that's really hard, and you need some pretty high level spatial and mathematical skills.

I learned initially from a person, Toby Mao, a former world record holder, and then got faster by a mix of internet stuff (like youtube--check out badmephisto's videos on YouTube) and meeting cubers at competitions and asking for advice!

As far as the world record goes, there's no way I'll ever beat that. It's down to 4.74 seconds, which was set by Mats Valk, a really awesome cuber from Holland, just the other weekend.

but I do hope to keep getting faster--my goals next year are to get a sub-11 second single and sub-15 second average in competition!


Q:

Hello Mr. Prime Minister,

I am a 16 years old Albanian, learning and working in the tech sector. I would love to hear if there's any government plans that would grow the education and involvement of Albanians in the tech scene? Is there any plan that is helpful to tech businesses or startups in Albania?

Thanks in advance.

A:

I taught him beginner layer by layer method. 4 look last layer.


Q:

Yes, we've started some initiatives. For example, the Ministry of Economy, Enterprise, and Tourism supports projects of individuals and groups in this field. There is still a lot to be done.

A:

Haha, hey Toby!


Q:
  1. Why do you think that the Albanians will vote you once again in the 2017 elections?

  2. How come that the people who have received a diploma from the terminated universities, such as "Kristal" are still employed in the public administration? (And there are even Ministers and Deputies with diplomas from these universities)

  3. Currently seeing that everything is going worse, what are your government plans for the education?

A:

What's your main speed cube?


Q:
  1. Because they know that a major work in progress is happening - this is through major reforms to modernize the country and real achievements that brought us to the new station of starting the accession talks in the EU.

  2. The Albanian public administration works in a very well-regulated framework. There is something we all call "rule of law" that defines the obligations and the rights of the people of the civil servants.

  3. It's a matter of point-of-view. I respect yours, but I don't share it. As for education, things are becoming much better, but of course, not good enough. We have embarked on a major reform which has been praised by the EU and is introducing Albanian education to a new era. Of course, there is still a lot to be achieved. That's why we need more work, more time, and more patience.

A:

At the moment, I use a Gans 356 S, but I'm thinking of switching to the Valk 3. I tried out some magnetic speedcubes recently and really liked them!


Q:

Hello im Ema, I live in Germany but currently in Tirana, I wanted to ask you about the relationship with Greece. Considering the recent disagreements, do you still see Greece as a partner country?

A:

I just switched from the Gans 356s to the Valk 3. Its amazing I would recommend it for a main.


Q:

Hello Ema, Albania has long been dedicated to forge an ever-closer cooperation and friendlier relations with Greece. We consider our southern neighbor a strategic partner and we believe a better understanding of each other will contribute to a greater stability in the whole region. The relations with Greece continue to be friendly, but we believe that a more direct approach and a more frequent discussion regarding our remaining issues will serve to build a better future for the next Albanian and Greek generations. In this perspective, the large Albanian Community in Greece, which admirably has conducted a number of great achievements, has contributed and will continue to contribute more than any possible policy to the strengthening of the friendship between the Albanian and the Greeks

A:

I have one! It's almost too fast for me, though. It supercharges my TPS and then I lose my lookahead. :(


Q:

What will be the future of the Albanian relations with Serbia?

A:

I read your book and I would like to know whether you started going to competitions because you had the idea to write the book or vice versa.

So when did you decide to write the book? Was that before you attended US Nationals 2012 or did you have the idea there?


Q:

I'm a believer of the idea that Albanians and Serbians can do for the Balkans what France and Germany did for Europe after the second world war.

A:

So, I knew i wanted to write a book, or rather to write something that was long and ambitious, but didn't really have a subject--so I suppose that came first. But it also went hand in hand with going to competitions--Toby Mao, the veteran cuber who taught me to solve the puzzle years ago, basically challenged me before my first comp, in 2012, saying "How can you write about this if you don't do it?"

At the same time, I wasn't sure this would turn into a book--I didn't have a publisher or anything at the time, and figured maybe I'd write an article about this--but the more and more I went to competitions and realized there was so much to it, and it hadn't been written about with much depth, the more I thought it could be done!


Q:

Hello Mr. Prime Minister,

I would like to hear the answer of those questions:

  1. What was the most difficult decision you had to make in your first term?
  2. What is your stance on legalizing marijuana?
  3. Why was it necessary to add a 22.4% tax to internet shopping for items with a value over 20 euro?

Faleminderit (Thanks)

A:

-What are your thoughts on patent holders vs actual manufactures. Are they just trolls?
-what brand model do you prefer?
-what's your current 3x3 pb? -do you enjoy solving other cubes? 2x2, 4x4, etc? -What's you wca id?


Q:
  1. Starting the painful energy reform.

  2. It's a good idea to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, but I am convinced that the time for Albania to do so is still far away.

  3. It's a standard procedure that we had to apply to Albania to fight informality which was also fueled by internet shopping.

A:

1) This is a really complicated issue. I try to walk a fine line in the book between explaining that without the titans of Rubik's Cube history like Tom Kremer, the founder of Seven Towns, none of us would be talking about Rubik's Cube today, and to make clear that you don't have to have a speedcube to enjoy the puzzle. But it's also true that speedcubes and the progression in puzzle design are an integral part of the world of speedcubing.

So I think my hope is that both parties can collaborate--if cubing is going to keep growing, they'll have to!

2) I like a lot of different cubes and brands, but QiYi Mofange (which makes the Valk 3, and sponsors Mats Valk) and Gans puzzle are doing great work right now. (And I'd also like to point out that, for beginners, the new Rubik's brand speedcube is a great option!)

My current main is the Gans 356 S, which is a bit old, BUT i've spent a long time breaking the cube in and lubing it, etc., so it works for me.

3) My 3x3 pbs are 11.94 lucky at home, 13.xx nl at home, and 16.xx single in competition. (My best average at home is 16.5 and in comp is 18.4)

I do enjoy solving other cubes, but don't enjoy the other cubic puzzles as much as the classic 3x3, because you're always basically turning them into 3x3s. What I really want to get into is BLD and Megaminx!

My WCA ID is 2012SCHE03


Q:

Hello Mr. Prime Minister, You have been a supporter of Albania becoming part of the EU in the past. Does the current instability in Europe change your stance on this matter? What do you consider to be the most important steps that Albania must take to have a successful integration in Europe socially and economically?

Thank your time Mr. Prime Minister!

A:

Why do you suggest the Rubik's speedcube for beginners? From what I've heard it's not that great. Also, it's really expensive compared to cubes like the Qiyi Thunderclap (under $6 on cubezz.com). If a beginner is willing to spend that much money on a cube, why not just get a Valk?


Q:
  1. I think that the current situation is a makeup call for more Europe rather than less.

  2. There are too many to count, but I suggest going through the pages of the last progress report from the European Commission.

A:

Well, if you're at Target and want to get a cube for your niece or nephew, it's perfectly appropriate. Also, when you start out, hardware will have a much smaller impact on your times than getting more move efficient.

But if you want to get into speedcubing, and you know what speedcubing is (and I mean the general "you" here), speedcubes clearly make the most sense, both for price and performance; but, again, most folks who pick up the cube for the first time probably don't even know what sub-10 is! (Or if they do, they're a long way from getting there.)

Also, to be clear, I'm not trying to pick favorites. (I'm trying NOT to.) Any speedcube will be good for beginners, regardless of the brand, since there's so much learning to do before things like corner cutting technology really start to matter. Personally, I think it's much better to turn slowly when you start out, so you can develop your lookahead!


Q:

Hello Mr. Rama, I am an Albanian immigrant that came to the United States in 1997. Politics was not your first love, I assume art and sport were. At the collapse of the regime, I have read that you became active in democratic representation. What made you decide to break into politics as a Socialist, when there might have been general apathy against leftist doctrine? Thank you for your time.

A:

If you had to go back in time and choose some other competition/hobby besides cubing to get into, what would you choose and why?


Q:

I was inspired by the Third Way and the outstanding reform in left politics that Tony Blair and the Labor Party introduced to the world.

A:

So I actually have a lot of hobbies--I used to swim competitively, for instance, and have considered doing that at an adult level (like with masters swimming). So I wouldn't say cubing is my ONLY competition/hobby.

But I would have LOVED to do the spelling bee growing up--only my school never did one! :(


Q:

How do you plan to bring back all the talent that Albania has lost to the USA, Germany, etc?

The overwhelming sentiment among Albanian Americans is that Albania is incredibly corrupt. What are you doing to change this?

I have heard of multiple instances of doctors/nurses neglecting patients or even cutting them open for surgery, not doing the work, and then stitching them up. How do you combat this?

A:

R2' F2 R2 is a little nicer and ergonomic


Q:

I don't think that talents that are blossoming in the US, Germany, and elsewhere are losses for Albania. Fortunately, we live in a free world where Albanians and all other Europeans are free to move and free to choose.

On the other hand, they remain Albanians wherever they go. They help Albania wherever they are and they add value to the country when they come back.

As for the "incredibly-corrupt Albania", I suggest you read the very last report from Transparency International. You may be positively surprised to read about the steady progress Albania has made in fighting corruption. Of course, there is still a lot to be done.

A:

So I've heard! Thanks for the reminder. Now that I have time to focus on other events, I'll definitely pick Ortega up :)


Q:

Mr.Rama who will take part in the Diaspora Summit?

A:

Have you always been interested in puzzles? Are there other puzzles that have helped craft your cube skills?


Q:

More than 800 leading personalities from the Albanian communities around the Globe are invited. In this first Summit, more than 40 communities, spread around the five continents, from United States to Australia will take part during the three working days. A large part of the Guest are coming from Kosovo and the other regional territories inhabited by Albanians, such as Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, etc. This Summit is open for all the Albanians, despite their place of birth or origin.

A:

So, I have always liked puzzles, but I've never been obsessed to such a degree with any other puzzle. I think the cube is fairly unique, because most puzzles you play with as a kid (or that i played with as a kid) are two-dimensional, jigsaws and the like. (Although my mom did love her some three-dimensional jigsaws.)

I would say I'm now super-interested in puzzles of all kinds. I particularly love the work of Oskar van Deventer, a puzzle designer in Holland, and Kagen Sound, who designs these insane wooden puzzles that cost as much as sports cars. (One of them is basically a functional pipe organ the size of a desk, which is ALSO a desk, and you have to play the right sequence of notes by opening and closing the drawers, which activates the pipes, to open hidden compartments, which reveal still FURTHER puzzles.)


Q:

What do you think is the largest accomplishment in the cubing world?

A:

Well, I'd have to say this last weekend is up there--there are some records that are just so hard to break. So Kaijun Lin breaking all the BLD records (except multi-BLD) is pretty exceptional. Not to mention Mats Valk using his own method--VLS--to get a 4.74!

But for me, personally, the biggest accomplishment implies something more: it's not just a record, maybe, but a result, or something personal overcome.

So, here's a couple of contenders for me:

  • Yu Da-Hyung becoming the first female world record holder (she broke the Megaminx WR, for the first time in 2014)

  • Feliks Zemdegs getting that insane 7x7 single WR at the World Championship in Sao Paulo in 2015. Basically Kevin Hays got the WR, left the stage, said to Feliks I hope you don't break the WR, Feliks goes on stage, breaks the record, all the while Kevin is tearing his hair out, and Feliks was just so nonchalant about it--he told me he didn't expect the solve to be nearly that fast. (Which is always how fast solves feel!)

  • Basically Feliks's whole career, which is just nuts, and includes everything from the first sub-10 average to his 6.88-second OH WR.

  • The way so many cubers have given so much to make this hobby so lively and thriving; from taking cubes to competitors abroad, who might not have the money for the equipment, to the Gutierrez Cuba brothers in Peru busking with their puzzles at traffic intersections to make money and get to Brazil for worlds. Really, as Natan Riggenbach, the former WCA board member, once put it, we're all in this together, and our only enemies are time itself and the cube; it's amazing that we've managed to build a community that is at once so competitive and so supportive, which is my favorite accomplishment :)


Q:

Not to mention Mats Valk using his own method--VLS--to get a 4.74!

a tad pedantic but it's a subset, not a method :P

A:

True! Thanks for the correction


Q:

Not Ian, but there is no better feeling for a cuber than figuring out a puzzle on your own.

A:

I have to agree. You should give it a try; I regret not trying harder as a kid to figure it out on my own, because that sense of solving a puzzle is super unique and really worth experiencing.

(Still, I don't regret at all learning from Toby! Had a great time falling sidways into the world of cubing.)

When I got a pyraminx (someone gifted one to me a couple of years ago) I was determined to solve it on my own, which is obviously a lot easier, since it has millions of permutations, not quintillions.


Q:

A lot of cubers like to do a lot of the various WCA events, is there any other event that you excel at?

And what do you think of some of the cubing legends like Feliks Zemdegs and Marcin Maskow Kowalczyk?

A:

Man, those guys are amazing! I think it's really incredible what Feliks and Maskow have accomplished! (Especially Feliks--and he's stayed so humble, which I think is just as cool as his times!)

I don't excel at any other events aside from writing about cubing, sadly. But I do want to get decent at BLD!


Q:

What kind of music do you like?

A:

I played a lot of classical music growing up. So I like that a lot. (To be more specific: I played clarinet for about a decade, so I have a lot of familiarity with orchestral works and chamber music and solo clarinet pieces; Sabine Meyer is my favorite clarinetist.)

But I listen to lots of things. I have some family in the American south that turned me on to bluegrass, and I really like French hip hop. (Grand Corps Malade, the spoken word artist, is a BIG favorite of mine!)


Q:

When you try timing yourself solving the cube, do you first get to study the layout of the colors before starting the time, or does the studying happen only once the time ticks? And how does that work when they time the official record at 4+ seconds? If you get to study it before, how long does that take?

A:

Yep! According to WCA regulations, you get up to 15 seconds to inspect the puzzle. (Except for blindfold solving, where inspection is part of the overall time.)

And are you referring to Mats Valk's 4.74 second record?


Q:

I'm about a quarter of the way through the book, and enjoying it so far. You tell the stories well, especially in how you describe other people. My question is, what do you think of the Youtube scene for cubing reviews, like JRCuber, the Cubeologist, RedKB, et al.?

A:

Good question! I've met quite a few of them, but it didn't wind up being a big part of the book; I'm all about spreading the word about cubing, and really enjoy many of the videos. (Also, glad you're enjoying the book!) I was more focused on learning to solve fast, and my understanding is that a lot of the YouTube scene is about the personalities of the reviewers, which is great, but I was over here in the corner devouring slow solve videos from Collin and Feliks.