October 14, 2015

Hobbies (and Another Basil Review)

Busy morning: a new site design (and host) and a new post about my hobbies and @kbaxter’s fantastic Basil app.

I recently enjoyed Nick Offerman’s stand-up special, American Ham and was especially challenged by tip for delicious living #5: Get a hobby. Or as he clarifies, learn a trade. Of course, it’s funny because it is clichéd. I have not always understood how hobbies fit into my life, though. I fancy myself a reader, a writer, a cook, a tech guy. The list goes on, but the list is one of nouns, not of actions and I always thought hobbies would need to be defined by their actions. In this way, I would not be a cook, instead the hobby would be one of cooking. In addition, I read and write, but I always assumed that was a normal way to spend ones time. Little did I know at the outset that I don’t have a hobby, I have (probably too) many hobbies.

Hobby (noun), as defined by Apple Dictionary:

An activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.

Jay Ray, one who writes

You may or may not have noticed that I once again redesigned this site. Even back in my Tumblr days, I tried not to change my site’s layout lightly, opting for a consistent user experience and the hope that when I did redesign the site, any new design would be one of which I could be proud for awhile. This redesign, as with the last one, came with a move of hosting providers; for those keeping track, I started my blog in 2009 on Tumblr, moved it to GitHub Pages in 2014, and am now moving to Blot.im. In my Blogging About Blogging series, I spoke to the services I tried, the reason I had begun to disliked Tumblr and other available (free) services, and why I had settled on GitHub Pages for the next chapter of the blog. Blot combines many of the good things about both of my previous choices with the addition of an active (and responsive) developer behind it and a more concrete feeling of ownership and security due to a fair annual cost.

What I realized a short time ago was that by design GitHub was not an easy platform on which to quickly blog. I ended up accosting every software developer I knew to make me a text editor that integrated with GitHub Pages, so as to make the workflow for me.1 That barrier to entry ended up causing me to blog less frequently; I would hold onto posts until I had more to say, a time that would often not come at all. However, I enjoy writing and have on occasion been good at it. With each provider move, one of the things I try to do is move my host of archive material and, thereby, my permalinks and RSS feeds with me. There are technical hurdles to moving between providers in this way, but I have done relatively well, so feel free to check out the Archive for the full list. The point of hosting a blog has always been about my ability to share out my thoughts, though, so finding a solution that would ease my own writing hobby became paramount. I hope that the move of hosting providers will give me that boost to get back into the rhythm of writing again, especially given my continued economic investment in the trade.

Jay Ray, one who reads

Recently, I tried my hand at weekly roundup posts. It was fun and dealt with some of the issues I was having with the GitHub Pages platform nicely, but most of all, it got me reading consistently again; I was actually getting through my Instapaper queue and magazine stack. I have always enjoyed reading and I have always seen it as a necessity to who I am and what I do; technology people have to read or else they are left in the dusts of obsolete technology. However, I ended up feeling moderately guilty when I would read books instead of articles throughout the week, as I couldn’t post about something I hadn’t completed reading. I quickly realized (after about 8 weeks) that roundups were unsustainable the way I was doing them and no one wants to read a review of, discussion of, or blockquote from the most recent 200 pages of a book.

That being said, I continue to read, whether or not I actual share said reading activity; I now must consider reading a hobby because a hobby should be defined by those things in which one invests time, money, and effort.

Jay Ray, one who cooks

I bundle all of my food loves into the moniker of cooking–coffee, kitchen appliances, actual food–but I call myself a cook because I enjoy being in the kitchen and the majority of what I do with food consists of cooking it for others. Yet cooking was the hobby that took me the longest to fully realize as a hobby. Sure, cooking is both a skill and a passion (because, frankly, it has to be for someone to be any good at it), but it is also a necessity in daily life. Basically all of my hobbies are some type of necessity, which means that in my normal grind, I pursue some form of them no matter where I am or what I am doing. Hobbies are often those that allow you to break up the daily rhythm, but that doesn’t mean that cooking has to become less important in who I am or how it nurtures my sanity. Cooking happens outside of work, it is not what I do for a living, and I invest a lot of time into getting better at it over time with better tools and a better understanding of techniques and practices.

It’s still hard for some people to believe that I am the cook in my household, but not only is it true, it is my preference. I have often shared this love of food on my blog with recipes and food-related link posts, but not nearly as much as I would have preferred. I hope to be able to pursue sharing that love with some of the performance gains and formatting tricks of my new hosting provider.

Jay Ray, one who beta tests

And, of course, my day job engenders a hobby of mine since my schooling was not strictly in the pursuit of understanding technology. I am a tech guy, an Apple enthusiast, and a fairly accomplished beta tester, which brings me to my Basil review. I beta test every Basil release because I want to assist independent developers to release products as good as Basil is. On day one, Basil was ready for iOS 9. The developer, Kyle Baxter, is almost always on top of the ball in this regard, taking advantage of new and interesting features in each iOS release. This time around, he offered a major upgrade to all current owners: the addition of a iPhone counterpart to what was once an iPad-only app.

When I first starting using Basil, I was an avid iPad user, but since getting my current job and all the technology opportunities that come along with it, I have become an iPhone and MacBook Pro type of person, meaning there is little room for another device in my life. It saddened me for a time that I was not using Basil as often as possible; I even cheated on Basil with a few of its competitors to try out life with recipe books on Mac and iPhone, but I kept coming back to Basil. Now, I am overjoyed that my favorite recipe app is on iPhone and I use it constantly.

Kyle is the type of developer that pays attention to all the details when crafting this type of update and though many of Basil’s key features have not changed with this update, the amount of work that went into making the iPhone version is enough to awe-inspire. That said, Basil now uses a save extension instead of a javascript bookmarklet to save recipes from the web and it is a much more streamlined experience because of it. An iPhone version, an iPad update, and a new save extension, along with all the things that make Basil great otherwise—shopping lists, auto timers, auto unit conversion, and more—allow me to once again call it a no brainer purchase.

Jay Ray, one who…

I have yet again covered a lot in a single blog post. I have to stop going on writing hiatuses and trying to cover a week’s worth or more of thoughts, news, etc. in a single post. However, I can’t say that this is an exhaustive list of my hobbies because I am sure there are things that I do every day or even just once a month that would count, those items that aren’t technically a part of my day job but also come naturally into my schedule. Either way, I’ll be happy doing them and, at some point, I will think to write about them.

Welcome to Engineered Eloquence 4.0.


  1. Even now, there is only one app in the entire Apple ecosystem that supports GitHub Pages out of the box.

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