Week ending 4/4/2021

Chrome Tabs : 76 -> 86

Gmail Inbox : 63 -> 73 Unread, 67 -> 78 Total

Tools, Productivity, and Google frustrations)

I’ve been a Google Hangouts user since as long as it has been available in Gmail. Since I’m in Gmail all day, every day, it is a natural chat tool to use, and once they integrated SMS, it was even better. For a long time it was the only SMS app you could use from a computer! Or at the very least the only free one. There are several more options now, but it turns out none of them work with Google Voice phone numbers. Which… is a real problem for me since I moved my primary number to Google years ago to make it less of a hassle to migrate between cell phone providers.

Google has been threatening to kill Hangouts for years, and finally this past week they officially turned off SMS support. Now I have to use the barely competent Google Voice web interface to SMS from my computer, and it’s really been a bit of a productivity killer. Shockingly it doesn’t even provide message notifications in Windows! And meanwhile a few people continue to message me on Hangouts, so now I have fragmentation. Google’s own Messages app might be a fine alternative, except it doesn’t (yet?) seem to support GVoice. So Google’s muddled product strategy continues to frustrate. :shakes fist: Damn you Google!

So if you’re also a GVoice user and have any suggestions, let me know!

I’m the kind of person who likes to finish things once I’ve started. Unfortunately this doesn’t really work for a wide range of tasks, especially when one has numerous other obligations. In many cases it becomes a choice between dedicating a big chunk of time to something and thus delaying other things, or simply putting it off for ages to avoid doing that, neither of which are great outcomes. So for a long time have intended to work on being better at doing things in pieces, and this past week I was able to do some more serious experimentation with that, with fairly good results so far… Not perfect, but I made progress on a couple things that I probably otherwise just wouldn’t have made time for.

I, Naturalist

As I mentioned recently, last year I raised a couple different kinds of caterpillars into various moths and butterflies, and captured some cool images/videos. I even have a few pupae that still haven’t emerged (sometimes they overwinter, even emerging in some cases after several years!). I enjoyed it so much I figured I’d do it again this year, so I’ve been keeping an eye on a fennel patch on my daily walks, as well as other possible spots. It’s now officially spring, and sure enough, I saw my first caterpillars and eggs, so I brought some home to begin again!


The first image shows an anise swallowtail egg as I found it, followed by a hoverfly egg. A couple days later the signature dark band forms on the swallowtail egg, showing the eggs have been fertilized and are developing. Just wait until you see what I was able to capture on the day they emerged! (next week’s update)

Of course with nature there is always something new to learn. This time I brought home some caterpillars, but was puzzled when they seemed not to like eating the plant I’d found them on. It turns out they were hoverfly larvae (which looked very much like butterfly or moth caterpillars) and they’re carnivorous - they eat aphids! So I put them out onto my rose bush, which every year is plagued with aphids, and I hope they do some good. :grin:

Communities and Tools

After building The Productivists forum, I have only become more interested in community building in general. This is something I have some past experience with, but it has been dormant for a while. I’d say I’m now reinvigorated on the topic, and since building my digital garden on Discourse, I have continued deepening my experience and knowledge in working with it as a platform. This site is hosted with Communiteq (affiliate link), the most affordable Discourse host I’m aware of. But even the base plan is $20/mo, and gives you no access to custom plugins. So the clear next step was learning how to host and administrate Discourse on my own. I got an instance up and running on Digital Ocean (affiliate link) this past week ($10/mo droplet) and that was an important next step. Now I can experiment with various plugins for possible future use here (if I migrate to self-hosting, for example).

I’ve also been involved in the Anytype community for quite a while now, and this week they had their first group audio call with the development team. I hopped on and got to ask a few questions, and it was cool to have direct AMA-style access to their team. I hope they do it again!

Meanwhile my weird COVID-era live streaming addiction Big Rig Travels continues to capture my interest. Steve, the trucker who runs it, has apparently been working on his own custom streaming app to improve his streams, and he debuted it this past week. Since I have some video/audio compression and troubleshooting experience I spent a while giving him some feedback and ideas via email, and I think things are heading in the right direction.

In Other News

Finally, I don’t know if you do this, but I Google myself semi-regularly (every couple of months). Since I have such a unique name, this actually pulls up interesting and relevant(ish) things often times. This week I discovered some actually new things. I was already aware that the name related to some area in Iran, and now I’ve learned that there appear to be 2 neighborhoods with the same spelling as my name, “Oshyan”, and several businesses in each that also share the name (such as “Oshyan Mercantile”). I have no idea how they pronounce it though!

I also learned an interesting but fairly random and useless fact, which is that Oshyan transliterates into Tamil (an Indian language) as ஓஷியன், which translated back into English (phonetically) is… “ocean”. But the actual Tamil word for “ocean” is பெருங்கடல் (Peruṅkaṭal). :thinking: Google Translate is weird sometimes.