Category Archives: Hobby

Give Tchaikovsky a Try

By Nikhita Datar

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. Whether it was in dance classes, family gatherings, or elementary school choral concerts, something about the infinite number of possibilities of different instruments and sounds that create music has always captivated me. By combining different fundamental frequencies and pitches from the music scale, you can create wildly different pieces of music, and I think that is amazing. 

Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

I began playing the violin at a really young age. I initially resented the idea of consistently practicing and standing still with good posture. Above all else, I was frustrated that I was unable to sound like Itzhak Perlman (a famous violinist) no matter how hard I tried. As I got older, I began playing in different orchestras and chamber groups, and the opportunity for me to engage with music in different formats and genres really helped me develop my love and passion for it. I was able to play some of the most iconic pieces of classical music from composers that I admire the most, and I was also able to build some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. During the school year, I would play in my school’s orchestra, play in chamber groups, take private lessons, and prepare for all kinds of concerts year-round. In the summers, I would attend different music programs such as Blue Lake Fine Arts or Interlochen Music Academy. What was originally an overwhelming task became a great passion of mine.

I think that I’ve always known since I picked up the violin for the first time that I wasn’t fully going to pursue a career in music. As much as I love classical music and the art of playing the violin, I knew that the pathway of being a violinist wasn’t the right fit for me. Even so, the notion of throwing away years of private lesson tuition and hard work wasn’t appealing to me. I knew I wanted to keep playing music for the rest of my life, even if this special hobby wasn’t necessarily monetarily profitable. I emphasize the notion of monetary benefits because playing an instrument does indeed have a number of other benefits. It can increase your cognitive abilities and decrease loss of memory. As you play music, there are a million things happening in your brain at once. You’re simultaneously checking your pitch and making sure to land on the right notes in the moment while also reading the key signature and time signature to play in the right key. You always have to read a few notes ahead to prepare yourself for upcoming wonky rhythms and accidentals (a note of a pitch that is not a member of the scale or mode dictated by the key signature, indicated by notation such as the sharp (♯), flat (♭), and natural (♮) symbols). 

Photo by Michel Catalisano on Unsplash

I don’t know if I would necessarily say that playing an instrument has made me smarter, but it certainly has improved my ability to think critically, and think fast. It’s also given me access to a greater community of people who share similar interests and have taught me a lot about the world we live in. Simply listening to classical music, rather than playing, can have so many benefits for your brain as well. I would highly recommend listening to or learning to play classical music to improve your cognitive function. And who knows, you might start to really like it! 

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Finding Tranquility on the Trails

By Leah King

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

Recently I picked up a new hobby that I would love to share with others in the hopes that it could bring the same joy and peace that I feel from it to you: hiking. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I felt trapped in my home and anxious from spending so much time indoors. I needed an escape from what was going on for my mental health.

Growing up, I loved spending time outdoors. I would go camping and hiking around the Midwest regularly, but for some reason, I lost touch with that side of myself in high school and in my early undergraduate years because of my other athletic commitments. So when all the gyms were closed and I was tired of running around the same block over and over again, I started researching hiking trails around California. This was around my first year of my Master’s Program. In my search, I came across this app called “AllTrails.” This incredible app shows you all the hiking trails in the area, how difficult they are, and how long they are. It also has a navigation system to help you locate the start of the trail and people’s reviews. I used this app to help plan my first hiking trip to Yosemite.  

One of Yosemite’s most popular views

During spring break, a couple of friends and I drove up from LA to Yosemite to hike for a few days. I was immediately hooked. Firstly, Yosemite is so breathtaking with all its mountains, trees, and waterfalls. I used AllTrails to help me plan what hikes we wanted to do in terms of difficulty and popularity. We hiked over 15 miles during the three days we were there, and while I was hiking, I felt a sense of calmness and peace when I was surrounded by nature. When I came back to LA to resume classes, that calmness was gone and I was eagerly anticipating my next adventure in the outdoors.

Fast forward to the second year of my Master’s Program. The pandemic had calmed down a bit and my classes were fully in person. While in class, I overheard a couple of classmates talking about hiking in Santa Monica. I gravitated to the conversation and asked You guys are hiking? Could I possibly join?”. The two girls were so sweet and invited another classmate and me that weekend to hike. During that hike, we shared our love for the outdoors and discussed how many different hiking spots there are in California. We decided to try to hike every weekend and came up with the name “Trailmixers” for our hiking group! And that’s what the Trailmixers did. We hiked almost every weekend, and with some planning, most of those trips were very inexpensive. We’ve hiked Mount Baldy, Cucamonga, San Fan, Santa Barbra, Sedona, Pinnacles National Park, Zion, camped in Big Sur, and backpacked in Catalina Island.

Photo from my Catalina Island trip
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The Magic of Sunflower Seeds

By Qianhui Ni

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

“Among all the foods in the world, only sunflower seeds can meet the conditions conducive to killing time. People who can snack on sunflower seeds are great and active implementers of leisure.” — Zikai Feng (1934), Essays in Yuan Yuan Tang

If you ask me what my most satisfying online order was last month, without a doubt my answer would be sunflower seeds. I have been a big fan of snacking on sunflower seeds since childhood. However, I hadn’t had them for a while since I moved to LA for my graduate studies. Finding packaged shelled sunflower seeds was a big surprise for me since I had only seen people here in the United States eating unshelled seeds as sides or as an ingredient to season food. As you may expect, I excitedly purchased six bags of sunflower seeds in different flavors. My most enjoyable time of day soon became the half-hour after dinner when I got to lie on the sofa, watch TV shows, and snack on sunflower seeds. 

Photo by Zobia Shakar on Unsplash

Eating sunflower seeds is a fairly simple process–you place one seed between your upper and lower incisors with its tip facing inward. Then, simply squeeze it between your teeth, and you will be able to hear a crisp cracking sound, indicating that the shell is open and what’s between your teeth is the seed inside. This sound is quite relaxing for me because is it clear, crisp, and seems to come from the inside of my own head. I guess it is the reason why eating sunflower seeds is also called “cracking” sunflower seeds. In Chinese, the verb for this action is pronounced as “ke”, which sounds almost identical to the sound when the shell cracks. After you crack the seed open, you can throw away the shell and enjoy the seed. With enough practice, the experienced sunflower seed eater (like me) can complete the above steps in one second without the shell touching their tongue or getting their hands dirty. 

After snacking on sunflower seeds for the whole week, I started wondering about the magic of these little seeds. Zikai Feng, the influential Chinese artist, summarized three advantages of eating sunflower seeds that make it the best activity for leisure and time killing. First, people never get tired of them because their flavor isn’t that strong. Imagine you are eating salty barbecue-flavored chips; you would get bored easily of the strong flavor after a while. Sunflower seeds taste like plant seeds with a very light smell. After being pan-fried, the bluntness caused by the soft textures disappears. The seeds become crispy and stiff with a light taste.

Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

The second reason is that sunflower seeds cannot provide a sense of satiety. Even after eating the whole bag of them, you will not feel full. They are too small to be a staple food. I find it hard to stop eating them once I start since my stomach never sends my brain a signal of being full.

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