Hobby Creep and Blog Focus

Each summer, I seem to run into the same problem: I realize how many things I want to do with my free time. I quickly realize each time that it can be hard to juggle multiple hobbies/interests at a time.

Off the top of my head, several things that capture my interest (in no particular order) are: reading, blogging, learning computer programming, brushing up on my math skills, learning the electric bass, learning to play Irish whistle and recorder, learning the Highland pipes, and learning the uilleann pipes. Sure those last few items are all musical instruments, but they’re different enough from one another that I think they merit their own mention.

The issue is further compounded when I realize that I want to be good at a subset of these hobbies. I’d like to get involved with a competitive pipe band and compete on the competitive solo circuit through the Eastern United States Pipe Band Association. I’d like to hone my programming chops enough that I can contribute to some open source projects or create things that other teachers find helpful. Some days I mull over the idea of getting really involved with my local recorder players’ guild and finding a group to play medieval and Renaissance music with.

Whether they be artists, dancers, musicians, etc., I think other creative types will empathize with me, especially those who have full-time jobs that take us away from our creative endeavors. I didn’t go into teaching for the money or benefits, but one really nice perk of the teaching calendar is that I can use my summers to pursue my musical aspirations with much more freedom than than afforded to most other full-time occupations, many of which work year-round and don’t get nearly as many days off as teachers do.

Thinking about these creative pursuits also prompted me to think about this blog – what it is and what I want it to be. Initially I thought it would be strictly about things related to teaching and my thoughts about getting involved with the United Federation of Teachers, the union representing many titles within the NYC Dept. of Education.

The more I think about it, the more it feels right to leave this blog open-ended to include learning about various things that interest me, whether it be my growth as a teacher, or my foray into music or technology. I want this to be a blog and artifact about my own learning, and perhaps others may find value in that. There are some NYC DOE bloggers who I enjoy keeping up with, and I hope that others find similar value in this fledgling blog one day.

Sure it’s not conventional practice to lump multiple interests together under one blog, but I also have no interest in profiting from this platform. I don’t particularly care how well this blog does in terms of SEO or number of hits. It’s always been a reflective tool for my own use, and I always think it’s nice when other folks let me know that they enjoyed a post that I made.

I’m going to go read my book for a bit and pull out the pipes for some play time. I hope you have a pleasant day as well, interested reader.

Lamenting the Limitations of WordPress

Always read the fine print before you spend hard-earned money.

When setting up this blog and other sites that I’ve worked on, I’ve oscillated between using the usual content management systems like WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot, etc. and using what’s called a static site generator like Jekyll or Hugo. The idea behind static sites is pretty straightforward. CMS’s (like WordPress) can be insanely bulky, obtuse, and possibly even present security risks. This blog post does a good job comparing CMS’s to static sites. CMS’s come ready to go out of the box, whereas a static site may take a bit more effort to setup and fine tune.

As I write this blog post, I’m mildly irritated that there’s no convenient way for me to change the default font size for my blog posts to 14pts (I favor a smaller font for my sites). Despite the fact that I paid $48 for the personal plan, it seems that $48 isn’t worth the ability to sprinkle in some custom CSS. The WordPress powers that be decided that the ability to use custom CSS is worth $96 — double the cost of the personal plan!

p {
  font-size: 14px;
}

See that? That’s literally all I want to do. p represents the body text on my site, and font-size: 14px; would globally set all fonts to 14px. I refuse to shell out any more money to WordPress, especially when I could have complete control over my site through other platforms like a static site generator.

I’ve dabbled in making static sites before, although I didn’t really take the time to learn the requisite tools/scripting languages very well. Instead I just grabbed a theme that looked decent to me and did some light customization together by clobbering code snippets together that I found across the internet.

My requirements for a personal site are pretty simple:

  • Minimal theme that is blog-friendly.
  • Use of Google Analytics and Disqus .
  • Allow users to easily view blog material by chronological order and category tag. I recently found a static site template that had chronological tags to view posts by year on the blog page itself, and a separate tags page for viewers interested in exploring posts categorically.
  • I’d like to combine my professional and music blogs onto one site, and simply keep a separate page that lists my music-related posts separately from my professionally-oriented posts.

At this point, I’m leaning towards jumping ship from WordPress and moving back to a static site, perhaps this time built in Hugo. I have the better part of a year left on my WordPress personal plan subscription, leaving me with plenty of time to do my research and build up a site the way I want it to.

I’m not going to settle for using technology that doesn’t meet my needs/preferences when there are so many options outside the worlds of WordPress, Blogspot, et al. Again, it’s ludicrous that paying $48/year doesn’t allow me the privilege of…globally setting the theme size for my blog. I hope to report back soon with some updates on what I’ve decided to do with the site.