Sunday 21 June 2020

Too Stupid For a Life Lesson

Rhombic Tuttminx from Leslie Le's VeryPuzzle
I do apologise for missing a week! I am incredibly proud of the fact that I have posted something here every week for many years with only my mother's death and now my own frailty preventing me keeping a perfect record! Let me explain a little...

There had been a rather large outbreak of Covid-19 on one of the wards in the hospital that I get to visit pretty frequently. Quite a lot of staff and patients who have visited that ward have unfortunately been struck down. I was unaware that they had a problem there and visited to assess patients for surgery as I always do. The aortic aneurysm repair went well and I had no inkling that there was a problem at all until 4 days after visiting the ward. Whilst working one Saturday doing an orthopaedic trauma list, I developed a headache (literally that was it - just a headache!) I didn't think much of it - I was not aware that I had been in contact with anyone infected and I had no fever, no cough, none of the "cardinal" symptoms! The headache got progressively worse and at the end of the day, I was glad to get out of the PPE (7 hours in an FFP3 mask is VERY unpleasant with a stonking headache!) On the Sunday the virus hit me...hard! I had a high fever, muscle aches, feeling very unwell and just a slight cough. Oh damn - here we go! I spent most of the day in bed and arranged for a Covid test the following day. The drive to the testing area at work was unpleasant with a high fever. I was absolutely not going to risk having a false negative test! The false negative rate is 40% partially due to the fact that taking the swabs properly needs a really good swipe and is very unpleasant (I suspect that most people who do that to themselves don't do it properly. Swabs taken, I had to wait 5 minutes before my eyes would stop watering enough to be able to drive away! At 7pm the virologist called to tell me the result - Mrs S was convinced already because, of course, I had managed to infect her already and she was feeling really rotten! She's too weak just now for a Whack! Ouch! but I am sure it won't be long! In my wake, over the next 24 hours, a whole bunch of people were sent home to self-isolate and I appeared to have become the Typhoid Mary of Sheffield - they're calling me "Covid-Kev"!!! In my defence, I had none of the suspicious symptoms until 2 days into the illness. As far as I know, no-one has caught it from me.

This virus is horrific! For many there are no symptoms but for others it kills and you do not know which way it will go until it reveals its' path to you. I had already been a little worried, due to pre-existing health issues, that I might fare badly and was really very worried that I might have killed Mrs S! For me, I have never been so ill in my life! The fever lasted another 2 days and the myalgia with it. Cough has been a relatively mild symptom but the fatigue has been appalling! Every small thing has required me to lie down afterwards. I spent 9 hours or so writing the on-call rotas on Thursday (if I was forced to be at home, I figured that I might as well do some office work) and the following day I felt like I had been run over by a truck. A colleague summed up my stupidity:
"Thanks for summoning the energy to do a rota whilst infected with a life-threatening viral illness"
That sort of puts my stupidity at the forefront! I should have realised how sick I was when I just left a fabulous package of new toys from Mine unopened in my porch! A puzzle parcel remaining unopened for 6 days is an indicator of just how severe this illness can be!

Please continue with the social distancing, wear a mask when you have to be close to people outside your immediate family bubble and, for goodness sake, stay away from Trump rallies!!! Nothing clever will be said there and you may well catch something lethal!

Now, before I got ill I had been playing with one of the wonderful spherical puzzles from Leslie Le's VeryPuzzle. I started with the Behemoth that is the Rhombic Tuttminx - I own an ordinary Tuttminx and have never had the courage to scramble it. Like the original, the Rhombic Tuttminx consists of pentagonal and hexagonal faces but they differ in that the hexagonal ones are not able to rotate through 60º angles, they are limited to 180º turns. I figured that this should make the puzzle a little simpler to solve.

It is an absolute beast at 14.5cm diameter (5.7in) and weighing in at 0.37Kg/082lb. I paid a few dollars for the stickering to be done for me and I have to admit that was worth every penny - it looks like an absolute nightmare to sticker. When I showed it off at work, it got plenty of admiration for being a very attractive puzzle.  Derek, told me that it wasn't that tough to solve but he's a genius and I was really not sure that I would be able to solve it. It finally took me about 2 weeks of carrying it around with me before I got the courage to scramble it:

Just as gorgeous scrambled
It took me about 2 hours to achieve an adequate scramble and move the pieces as far away from their origin as possible. Then where to start? On Facebook someone had suggested that a Megaminx (standard dodecahedron) approach would probably suffice and I tentatively agreed with them. Hence, I started with a pentagonal centre which would leave me as another pentagon as my final face to solve. The movement is stunningly smooth (considering there are 302 visible moving parts) and the initial solve process is nothing more than intuition. The texture on some of the stickers adds a little to the complexity but not too much and the recreation of the solved conformation progresses in a very pleasant and fun manner. I almost found it soothing!

Having reached the equator, I was a little worried that the level of difficulty would escalate but just carried on as a fully intuitive solve. I really enjoyed it despite the sheer size of the process. Finally, I was left with the last pentagon and surrounding hexagons. Far less movement was now possible and I realised that it was very similar to a Megaminx except for the 180º limitation. This actually made the puzzle rather similar to a 3x3x2 cuboid. Once I had realised this then solving the corners around the pentagonal centre proved to be remarkably straight-forward until I was left with this:

Just 2 pieces were interchanged! What on earth? I spent an unfruitful hour or so trying out various 3-cycles to unravel it before realising that this scenario is physically impossible! On a puzzle that is "odd order", a 2 piece swap or parity cannot occur without there being an error elsewhere or without someone having peeled stickers off.

I knew that no-one had spent enough time with it to peel any stickers off behind my back so I had to spend a frustrating time hunting for my mistake. Many of the colours are pretty similar and in the end I had to go out into the garden to get really good sunlight and discovered the error of my ways:

So similar - it took me 2 days to find it!
One face has lovely shiny sparkly stickers which unfortunately look almost indistinguishable from each other except in very bright light. Having discovered this, a bunch of set up moves and 3 cycles were quickly arranged and it was solved!

This puzzle is stunning! It is gorgeous to look at, beautifully made and a fun solve which is 95% intuition. If you have any kids who are just getting into twisty puzzles and they may want something that looks fearsome but still within their capability then this is just the ticket! This was the last puzzle I played with before I got sick and I am looking forward to playing with it again when my attention span improves. I also have a few new toys from Mine to play with as well.

Stay safe everyone - do not take any risks! It just isn't worth it! If you work in a hospital then you have no real choice but if you don't have to go and mingle with people then don't do it!


  1. I am happy that you are back: take care also of Mrs S.

  2. Welcome back!
    You should be punished by puzzles, not by the nasty virus.

    1. ... nor by Mrs. S.
      Cheers. -Tyler.

  3. I hope that you are feeling better!

    I'll definitely stay away from rallies with Melania's older, cheatier, beloved hubby. And I'll definitely continue to protect (and respect) others by keeping my mask on when I do venture away from my home office. I've known several people with the deadly virus, including one whose mom died from it. Others were rocked to their core.