Obscure hobbies can lead to unexpected opportunities

November 4, 2018

What is one thing you know a lot about that you rarely get the opportunity to talk about?

It’s a question that nearly everyone has an answer to. People’s niche interests and hobbies can span all kinds of topics and can open unexpected doors.

In 1974, a new toy invented by Ernő Rubik would become ubiquitous in the 1980s and would eventually develop into a niche hobby. Despite the continuing popularity of Rubik’s Cubes to this today, few people can actually solve one, let alone compete in speed solve competitions.

Hotchkiss’ digital and cinema arts and accounting major James Hamory is one of the few people on campus who can solve a Rubik’s cube and has competed in competitions. Hamory picked up his first Rubik’s cube ten years ago in Middle School.

“My dad always had a cube in his office, and I would play with it and try to get one side or make the French flag or something,” Hamory recollected. “One day, I thought it would be cool if I could do the whole thing, so I went online and found a written solution and read through that. I spent a couple hours on it, and then I solved it for the first time following the solution. It was exciting.”

Freshman and computer science major Jacob Hokanson, like Hamory, enjoys solving Rubik’s Cubes.

“Rubik’s puzzles are good conversation starters,” Hokanson said. “It’s pretty simple to learn and pretty fun to fidget with. But everyone is always amazed with it because it’s a legendary puzzle. No one thinks the answer is available to anyone who isn’t a genius, but it’s really just based on logic and learning.”

Hokanson has never participated in any Rubik’s Cube speed solve competitions, but when Hamory found out people competed for speed, he decided to start participating in speed solve events.

“It’s just cool when everybody in the room enjoys the same thing, like a very unique hobby that you enjoy but you don’t know anyone else who does,” Hamory said. “When you go to a competition where everybody is doing the same thing, it’s easy to make friends, so I enjoyed that for a long time. I would compete, and I got faster.”

In fact, Hamory was the number one Rubik’s Cube solver in Southern California for a while, with an average speed of 8.86 seconds. He eventually became one of the delegates of the World Cube Association, which regulates and holds Rubik’s Cube competitions.

Cubing would eventually open up opportunities for Hamory including working on a TV show set.

“A film producer found the World Cube Association and was looking for somebody in the LA area who was an expert,” Hamory said. “I got a random email from somebody who works in props at 20th Century Fox to work on a TV show. They needed somebody on set to reset the cube in the scene between takes.”

Hamory was paid to be on set for two days.

“I met the production assistant, so if I wanted to go into film I would have contacts from that job,” Hamory said. “I told them I was a film student and that I was interested in being a production assistant.”

Hamory’s interest in Rubik’s Cube has opened up other unexpected opportunities as well.

“I was paid to drive down to Pasadena and do some solves wearing these glasses with cameras so they could put it on Snapchat,” Hamory said. “It was like an hour of work, and they paid me way too much for it. It’s something that most people can’t do, but a lot of people could do if they just put their mind to it and had some patience. Not everything is as difficult as it seems.”

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