Frozen in Austin – Day 8 – February 19, 2021

UPDATE: 4PM Central – Power is definitely back on and has not gone out since restoration at about 9AM this morning. We stayed at the hotel for about 3 hours and took our first hot shower in several days and I worked morning team meetings to re-establish proof of life with co-workers. 😀 (They knew what was up and are totally understanding.

Big thank you to everyone who checked on us through this situation so far. (So far because the water is still on a boil notice.) My parents, the wife’s parents, Uncle Jim, Sean, John, Brad, Jeff, my co-workers and everyone at Equinix, Terry, Will (I should have accepted that hotel room sooner), Bryce, Jason, Kim, Tim, Matt, Uncle Marty, Arcelia.

I will get some photos up soon for this adventure. Here is where our house was temperature wise when we got home.

48F actual temperature as of 1PM, Friday. The sun had been out for a minute and we hypothesize the house was at about 45F over-night.

Friday AM Update: We reached our breaking point this morning after the longest window of time without power: 50 hours ± 3 hours. I lost track. We found a room at a Pflugerville hotel who has water and power. If nothing else we just wanted to get out of the house for a bit and take a shower. The temps inside the house were about 48 degrees.

Wouldn’t you know it however, just like the first time we came to a hotel last week, the power comes back on right as we check-in. #NORAGRATS That shower was worth it.

We will likely get our bearings here and charge everything just because thats our world right now. Then head back home to make sure nothing is going nuts. Also the wife has to work tomorrow so we need to figure out how to get her downtown without issues well ahead of tonights freeze.

Frozen in Austin – Day 7 – February 18, 2021

Power summary for the day: no power all day. 36 hours with no power as of 330PM Central.
Fresh water summary for the day: no fresh water flowing, drip only, boil precautions in place as of last night. We were able to capture a significant amount of drip water from the faucets and boil that. Up to about 20 x 500ml’s of water.

Update at 330PM: Went and got take out from Himalaya Kosheli (our favorite Indian/Nepalese place) just up the road. Also stopped into Big Lots to get some dry goods and non-perishibles. Big scores: Pepsi Max Zero Sugar, V8 Tomato Juice (as a mixer with our remaining stash), giant oatmeal container, dried fruits for the oatmeal, peanut butter, and some chocolate wafers. 🙂
The owner of Himalaya Kosheli let me charge everything while I waited.

No power overnight; we are unsure if there is a problem somewhere with the infrastructure in our neighborhood or if we are still a part of the blackout. I am thinking the former because most of the state is coming back online.

The bigger issue will be water over the next couple of days. Today will likely be below freezing for most of the day and so pipes around the city will continue to burst. This means upstream pressure will either be cut off or severely regulated to prevent massive water shortages, which will cause downstream water shortages.

Currently have about 15 liters of fresh water on hand and plenty of grey water captured from the snowmelt yesterday. The faucets still drip so we could theoretically capture water over time from that and boil it.

We are fortunate to be able to boil because we still have natural gas flowing to the house…for now.

Food thoughts: trying to get through everything in the fridge as quickly as we can. We have cooked or consumed most of the fresh meat. Frozen and mostly non-perishable foods remain.
We have a large jar of protein powder and dehydrated peanut butter (PB2 with cocoa) that is very tastey.
As a last resort, we also have a ton of Gatorade Endurance gels and chews. Straight sugar but calories are calories?

Frozen in Austin – Days 1 through 5

DAY 0 – Thursday, Feb. 11th – Lost power around 130PM. Got power back at 9PM.

DAY 1 – Friday, Feb. 12th – Lost power at 730AM; got a hotel for 2 nights for really cheap up North of us; power came back at 9PM so we stayed the night and came home the next morning. In the afternoon we went over to the Arboretum shopping mall to charge things. That was fun; we were grateful that the road was clear enough to drive 3 miles.

DAY 2 – Saturday, Feb. 13th – Power on all day! Were we through the worst of it? Ha, no.

DAY 3 – Sunday, Feb 12th – 10AM lost power; offline most of the day. Slept through the night without power.

DAY 4 – Monday, Feb. 15th – Lost power at about 545PM.

DAY 5 – Tuesday, Feb. 16th – Got power at 3PM after a morning and afternoon of no power. The power came back in rolling phases of 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off. Lasted through Wednesday morning at about 5AM.

Frozen in Austin – Day 6 – February 17, 2021

Lost power sometime between 5AM and 6AM. Not sure when, but it was before we got up. A bit of a restless night trying to find the warmth; we turned our heater down to 64 to conserve power and gas. #doingourpart

Got out of bed at 730AM; ground coffee in the hand grinder, the last of the Ethiopian, and started the water boiling. Made coffee in the chemex for the wife and I. Pretty darn tasty. Down to 2 cartons of milk (we normally stock 4 because I go through Mootopia like a mad man.)

Started working about 8AM on getting quick tasks done. Setup my temporary desk at the kitchen table and Cassandra made us breakfast at about 10AM. Eggs, Bacon, Roasted Potatoes, and Melinda’s hot sauce. Not a bad meal with no power.

We have agreed that we are basically camping in our own home.

I let work people know that my batteries would only last until about 1PM and everyone agreed the best thing for all of us was to worry more about living and less about work at that moment.

I started operating under the assumption that any meeting for which I was a major participant occuring within the next 36 hours would need to be pushed out to next week. So far Tuesday and Today’s meetings were all moved to next week. Maintaining a solid work attention span when it is 50F inside the house is difficult. Small, quick tasks are easy.

There is also a lot of checking the power situation online and comisserating with others going through the same thing.

Luckily, the cell towers in our area stayed online. We have been using the AT&T 4G network on our phones instead of the LTE network. We don’t get a great LTE signal in our homes and so it was unreliable. Though the 4G network is technically slower, it is more reliable and has a stronger signal.

There has been lots of speculation today in the news about who or what is responsible for this happening in Texas. Almost no one is talking about climate change. Only about how the state wasn’t prepared despite being warned in 2011 when this happened the last time.

We started collecting the snowmelt from the roof for non-potable water purposes. Fliushing the toilet and washing disshes or ourselves. Why do we need to collect water? Well the power outages have lead to the water supply freezing up and so…just as our power is likely to come back sometime soon, we will have no water.

And that might not be a huge deal for us, the hospitals here are already starting to feel the effects. Some South Austin hospitals are already having to transfer patients to other area hospitals. Dell Seton Medical downtown being one of them.

All this to say, I am grateful we have not had too rough a go of this one. There are so many more who have it way worse than we do and that’s what really upsets me about the lack of political ownership in this state.

The motives of those in power in this state are pretty simple: party over people, values over progress, and blind ignorance over science.

Texas failed its people this week. The people failed the planet this last half century. What will change?

Roku 3810x Streaming Stick Wifi/Remote Connection Issues?

After a lot of bashing my head into a wall metaphorically, I have figured out why my Roku Remote (RC-AL2) wouldn’t connect to my Roku 3810x streaming stick. It is the USB cable. If you aren’t using the supplied Mini USB cable which came with the Streaming Stick, nothing will work. Why? Because there is an antenna inside the USB cable. Yep…that’s it. So if you have a Streaming Stick and it is stuck on the “Pairing Remote” screen, you need to make sure you have the actual USB cable which came with the Roku connected. I have it pictured below. If you need a replacement, Roku has them in stock as of this writing at: https://www.roku.com/products/accessories/streaming-stick

Magic Roku USB Cable with the Antenna Built-in. Image Credit: The Verge (https://www.theverge.com/2017/10/6/16438266/roku-streaming-stick-mini-usb-why)

Apple Face ID on iPhone Less than Efficient During a Pandemic

Often while going to some of my favorite retail establishments, I am in the habit of not taking my wallet inside because I could use Apple Pay. However, during the current state of in-store shopping, face-masks are a must to keep everyone as safe as possible. This creates a slight problem when trying to use an iPhone with Face ID when you have a face-mask on.

Additionally, despite Apple’s recent efforts via iOS update to make Face ID work even when you have a mask on, Face ID still is mostly broken. This is even more important when you are trying to use a shopping list, text your spouse to remember that thing you forgot, and most importantly check out using Apple Pay. All these things require Face ID to unlock and if you have it setup, you know that getting to the PIN Input screen can take a few moments. Add all these “moments” up and you can get a pretty frustrating experience.

Unfortunately, I broke the camera lens recently in my Face ID capable iPhone which sent me down this rabbit-hole and I stumbled upon a solution. I am using my backup phone: an iPhone 8+ which has only Touch ID!

Instantly I thought to myself how much easier my retail life will be during this pandemic not having to move my mask out of the way to unlock my phone everytime I need to look at that recipe or shopping list.

Call it a minor annoyance, yes. Call it a first world problem, yes. But for anyone with a Touch ID based device, now is the time to dust them off and use them as your main device for a while.

Keeping the R0 Low will be on the Individual

I started composing this post on May 28th. Here we are a month later on June 25th and the data is supporting the claim I made via the title of this post one month ago.

Despite what our leaders would have you believe via their mixed messages around this pandemic, keeping our communities and business safe is on you. Wearing a mask and limiting your exposure, especially by not being indoors with strangers, is the best way to keep the spread of COVID19 at a minimum.

Masks are not a political thing. CoV-SARS2 doesn’t care about your political alignments.

Streamline Salesforce Activity Logging via BCC Email to Salesforce

OUTLINE

  • The Logic and Workflow Overview
  • Setting Up “Email to Salesforce” in Salesforce
  • Setting Up the Salesforce Contact in Outlook
  • Executing the Workflow

LOGIC

Are you needing to constantly log Salesforce activities? Are you tired of Outlook plugins breaking or not being allowed by your IT department? There could be a better way; if this works for you then awesome.

This workflow allows you to initiate ANY activity as an email but does not limit your ability to change the activity later nor does it limit your ability to use any other workflow. However, the account/opportunity attachment logic in this workflow is still manual. This is because Salesforce’s logic for attaching activities to the proper account or opportunity is imperfect at best. While all of your emails will land in Salesforce as an email activity, you can always go back and change specific tasks to other activity types later.

This method works well if you need to log activities frequently but only need to change a handful to a different activity type. If you are needing to log calls as a “call” activity then this flow might not be the best for you. If your leadership is only interested in the fact that you logged an activity and care less about the type, this might be great for you.

SETTING UP SALESFORCE

  • Login to Salesforce.
  • Go to your Email to Salesforce Settings.
  • Find the Email to Salesforce settings on the left side of the screen and select it to dive into those settings. We are going to change some things.
  • We are now on the Email to Salesforce Settings page! Here you want to 1. Add your Source Email address to the Acceptable Email Addresses field. Because only you should be sending things to your Unresolved Items. 2. Click the Radio Button under Email Associations to “ALWAYS SEND TO MY UNRESOLVED ITEMS.” 3. Make sure to check the box that says ALWAYS SAVE EMAIL ATTACHMENTS. This is so your fancy PPTX and screenshot files get saved on the activity (though some organizations do not save files automatically, even if you enable this.) 4. Copy YOUR EMAIL TO SALESFORCE ADDRESS. You will need this for the next step.
  • Bookmark or save the “MY UNRESOLVED ITEMS” URL linked on this page. Launch it in a new tab; you need this page to tag your activities later.
  • Now that you have your Email to Salesforce email address. Head over to your email client. Create a new Contact in your email client and save your “EMAIL TO SALESFORCE” email address (which is a really long and odd looking string of text) as a name that is easy to type in the BCC field. I call mine “Notes” because it is easy to type and it autocompletes quickly.
  • Give it a test! In your email client, compose a new message and BCC your Salesforce Notes contact. Wait 30 seconds or so and then head to My Unresolved Items —> https://equinix.lightning.force.com/6AC?src=7
    Do you see your email? You are ready to execute the workflow.

EXECUTING THE WORKFLOW

If you haven’t setup the flow yet, skip this section and come back when you’re ready to try the workflow.

  1. Compose an email message related to an activity. This could originate as notes from a meeting you had or an email you are sending to a key contact or peer. Point is you need to compose a meaningful email of some sort.
  2. Put your unique Salesforce email address in the BCC field (or TO field if you are only sending notes to Salesforce.) DO NOT EXPOSE YOUR SALESFORCE EMAIL TO OUTSIDE AUDIENCES. When in doubt, use BCC always.
  3. If you are sending only notes to Salesforce, change your Subject line to something meaningful so you and others can clearly see what the notes are related to. Example: CALL NOTES – Zoom Meeting – CUSTOMER NAME – THE TOPIC OF THE MEETING
  4. Repeat your activity logging for about a week or so…don’t worry we are going to collect activities through the week until you are ready to assign them to accounts/opportunities.
  5. When you are ready to assign your tasks to specific accounts/opportunities, go here: My Unresolved Items (bookmark this page; you will visit this page frequently.)
  6. In the Unresolved Items page, you should see all the emails you sent to Salesforce. Awesome! Now you can go through this page and assign them to the account or opportunity to which they should be assigned.
    Type in the name of the opportunity or account and click the “Magnifying Glass” icon to the right of the text field. This will look for your account or opportunity name via a pop-up window. Your input should result in something meaningful; click the opp or account that should be attached. This manual step takes a moment to do but in general will save you time by batch processing it here on the Unresolved Items page.
    (Why is this a manual step? Because Salesforce is not always smart enough to assign them automatically. We collect our activities into this bucket so you can assign them all in one place. This takes a bit of time but it is easier than trying to hunt down your activities when they are in the wrong place.)
  7. Hit the Save Button. When you do this it will apply your selections to the activities and the activities will magically disappear and be assigned. Should there be an issue, Salesforce will let you know you need to pick the appropriate account.
    A pro-tip if you know the exact account name, copy and paste it into every activity related to that account; when you click SAVE, Salesforce will ask you to confirm your input by making an educated guess and offer you a drop-down of options.
  8. Go back and manually edit the handful of activities you want to change to another activity type. Maybe your leaders want to see “Strategy Briefing” as the activity type but don’t care that everything else is an “Email” activity even if it was really a phone call or in-person meeting.
    If your leadership is asking you to explicitly mark the exact activity type, consider asking your leaders how much time they want you doing Salesforce hygiene. Seems like a waste of time to me. Quantity is better than type in this example.

Outlook Online…You had me at hello.

Anyone who has worked with me for longer than a day knows how much I deplore email as a way to conduct business. It is a platform abused by many as a way to shirk responsibility for things they should just take care of themselves or to excuse themselves from helping at all. “If I just +Erik on this email it will serve in-place of a nice, pleasant phone call where I explain the context of the 40 pages of replies and forwards that linger just below my convenient addition of Erik to the ‘thread.'” Then when that +Erik email gets lost in the 100s of properly formatted, contextual emails that I actually read, the responsibility shirker is upset that I didn’t reply. Not because I didn’t want to but mainly because it looked unimportant based on the effort you put into it.

Geez, what were we even here to talk about? I know, sorry; I didn’t mean to get us so worked up.

We are here to talk about Outlook Online.

If your company or yourself are a subscriber to Office 365 services on Microsoft, I feel the email best interface you can get right now, application or web based, is hands-down, outlook.office.com (the new Outlook online interface.)

Why is this? For me, one reason, the search engine.

Because I do not organize email into folders but rather just send everything to “Archive,” having a great search function on that archive folder is vital to finding things I worked on last year and need to produce for some obscure request in a +Erik email. The genius behind the search function is that when you search, you are not nailing your laptop/desktop’s CPU to the cross to find that awesome-marketing-final.pptx from Karen. When you search through the Outlook Online interface, the results are damn near instant and the recommendation engine normally finds what I want and just puts it at the top.

A slight runner up in the “Reasons Outlook Online is awesome” category are the keyboard shortcuts. Microsoft has demonstrated great user sensing by adding the keyboard shortcuts from your other favorite online email experiences, including Gmail. So if you are like me and spam the ever-living hell out of “E” in gMail (or GMail? or Gmail?), you will be pleased to find out this works in Outlook Online as well.

Is Outlook Onilne as feature rich as a Windows Outlook App? Maybe not but I have not found a need to launch a Windows version of Outlook since using the online interface.

YMMV.