Letters to the Power Plant #126 — Travelin’ at Dell

This is my longest post ever, so make some popcorn, sit back and read the one hundred and twenty sixth letter I wrote to the Power Plant.  I wrote it over a two week period and I probably could break it down into about 5 posts, but below is the way I sent it back to my friends at the Power Plant:

4/9/07 —  Travellin’ at Dell

Dear Sooner Plantians,

I finally have a few minutes of spare time to write to my favorite buddies up there in the frozen tundra of Oklahoma.  Right now I am sitting in the airport in Los Angeles waiting for a plane to Singapore.  From there I have to fly to Penang Malaysia to train the IT support team for a week.

I don’t know if I mentioned them before.  They are waiting to meet me because I have been telling them that I am really old with gray hair and a long gray beard that gets caught in my keyboard every now and then.

A few weeks ago one of the Penangers (That’s what I call it when they send me an IM – Getting “Penanged”), was IMing me a few weeks ago and was complaining about how Global Warming was causing all the weather to change.  I told her that it wasn’t as bad as it was in the 1930s.  It was really bad back then.

Then I said,  “Oh, but you probably weren’t around back then, were you?”  Then one time when they were “Penanging” me, I didn’t reply for a few minutes because I was working on something at the time.  So, they started to give me a hard time for not replying right away, and I told them that I am so fat that my hands can’t reach the keyboard when I’m sitting back in my chair  because my stomach is in the way and I was just taking a rest.

I asked the Penangers how far away is their workplace from the hotel where I am staying.  They told me it was about an hour and a half walk if I wanted to walk there, but that I should take a Taxi.  I told them if it was too far, then I would probably have to take my walker with me on the plane, so I could rest on my way to work.

They asked me what a “walker” was.  One of my IT friends calls them Penanguins, but I probably told you that already.  It has been a while since I wrote last, and as old as I am, my memory isn’t what it used to be.  At least I don’t think it is what it used to be, but, I can’t really remember how that was, so I’m just “speculating”.

I’m sitting at a table by some restaurants, and out the window are a couple of palm trees and a bunch of airplanes.  —  All big ones.  They are the planes that fly over the Pacific ocean.

I think my next flight is supposed to be 18 hours long!!!  Then I change planes and fly another hour and a half.  Arriving in Penang on Sunday morning.  (Right now it is Friday afternoon).  —  I am not writing this “online”.  I am just writing it in Word, since the wireless connection in the airport is not being “User-friendly”.

Anyway.  I will be teaching the IT support over there how to take care of the applications that I am in charge of maintaining.  I tried to get them to send a couple of people from there to come to the U.S. instead of having them send me over there, but they had a big “cat fight” about who they should send, because everyone wanted to meet me, so they decided that it was cheaper to send me than to have their entire IT department fly over to Austin.

One of the items on the agenda is called:  “The proper use of the Elvis Wand”.  I am bring an “Elvis Wand” (which is a fan with Elvis’s face on it that I use when all else fails.  —  It has the same effect as when I lay my hands on the monitor and yell “Heal!!”).

I am returning to the U.S. this upcoming Friday night.  Then I have to leave again on Sunday morning to fly to Boston where I am a speaker for a bunch of companies that want to know how we do Time and Attendance.  Kronos (the timekeeping software that we use) is paying my way.

Hey!  No need to pass up a free lunch.  —  So I am going to see my family in passing, on my way to bed, then on my way back out the door when I wake up early Sunday morning.

I have been getting to know people all over the country since we have been putting Kronos clocks in our Kiosks in the Malls.  If you are ever at Woodland Hills in Tulsa, or Penn Square mall in OKC, if the team lead is there, most likely they have talked to me a few times.

I have become pretty familiar with the names of malls lately.  It is interesting to see what kind of names they have.  Some of them sound pretty fancy, like “The Mall at Wellington Green” in Florida.  Some of them sound rather dull, like “Tucson Mall”.

There is one that sounds like a foreign country in Pennsylvania.  It is called “Plaza at King of Prussia”.  I suppose they have to come up with unique names.  There are two malls called “Independence Mall”.  Which doesn’t make me think they are “That” independent.

I figured I would make this a fairly long letter, since I have nothing to do for the next couple of hours except sit here and watch the people.  The interesting thing I noticed about this airport is that it really seems old and simple.

After taking a trek though the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport a few times, this airport seems way too small.  For instance.  When I arrived, I was in Terminal 4.  My next flight is in Terminal 2.  Now, in the DFW airport, you know what that means….

That means that you have to get on the sky link train which takes you around to the place where you get on the shuttle, that takes you way out to some parking lot (because you got on the wrong one!  —  don’t you hate when that happens?), Then you have to hitchhike back to the airport where you follow the signs to Terminal 2, which must be near the Red River and almost into Oklahoma.

So I was thinking….. “Oh great.  I have a lot of time today to go from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2, but when I’m coming back, I only have an hour and 45 minutes.”  And that means, going through customs, going out of the secure area and getting my American Airlines boarding Pass, (since I will be on Singapore Airline), then hoofing it to Terminal 4 and going through the security check, all in time to just see the plane taking off without me (or so I imagine).

So, as I exited my last plane, I made my way out of the building to a man standing there looking like he was trying to help people.  So, I asked him.  “What is the fastest way to get to Terminal 2?”  He whipped out a map and said, “See this blue line here?  That is this sidewalk.  If you walk around this sidewalk, you will see Terminal 3, then you will see Terminal 2, and there you are.”

I’m thinking… “Boy.  If that is the fastest way, then the traffic around here must really be bad, or all those buses only take you to parking lots out in some field somewhere.  So I said, “Thanks a bunch”,  and I headed around the sidewalk.  I hadn’t walked 50 yards, and I was already at the main terminal and I could see from what his map had showed me that these terminals are not very far apart, and they aren’t that big.  For instance.  In terminal 4, I came in at gate 48, and guess what?  That’s the biggest number.  48.  This is Los Angeles, after all, isn’t it?  Isn’t this like one of the biggest cities in the country?  —  The distance around all these terminals doesn’t look much bigger than walking around the two boilers and T-G building.

Well.  I’m going to stop here, to save my battery, until I can find a place to plug my laptop in.

Ok.

Now that was very fun.  I made the long trek (not really), to the gate where my next ride is going to arrive in two hours or so.  I noticed that a few gates down from my gate there was a plane going to Moscow, so I thought I would watch the people boarding the plane, just to see the kind of folks that were heading that way.

There were a handful of serious looking people wearing bland clothes, and the rest looked like regular Joe’s, so I thought, “now would be a good time to test out the camera on my new mobile phone.”  So I stood alongside the line of people getting on the plane, and looked around at them through the camera lens on the phone for about a minute.

Then I zeroed in on two of those bland blokes and acted like I was taking their pictures as they boarded the plane.  Then I put my phone back in the holster and picked up my bags and walked off.

So, after doe-see-doeing (imagine that.  My spell checker didn’t have “doe-see-doeing” in it  — does now) around quite a few pillars, I finally found a place to plug in my laptop.  So now, I’m sitting at a gate going to Guadalajara Mexico.

This is definitely a different set of people taking this plane.  I suppose it is spring break and some of these people are just heading to a beach somewhere.   A much more laid back crowd.  This gate is more fun than my own gate.

Besides, I can tell what they are saying over the intercom…. Oh, wait…. They just said something that sounded like “Dos es los quervo por favor”.  Does that mean they have Margaritas on that flight?  The word Quervo caught my attention.

Looking outside, I see a seagull flying by.  It had the appearance of admiration as it flew over those jumbo jets out there.  I wonder what must be going through its mind when it sees a big plane like that.  —  Probably, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

I suppose there must be an ocean around here someplace.  —  At least, there is when I watch Perry Mason.

I suppose I should be taking a nap right now.  After all, it may be 4:30 pm here, but it is 7 tomorrow morning over in Penang right now, and I just stayed up most of their night.  I’ll try to make it up on that long plane ride.

Hey, they just announced over the intercom that the plane to Dublin is now boarding.  I should go watch them.  That should be interesting…… No, I should probably head back to my gate to make sure they didn’t make any last minute changes and move my gate over to Terminal 6 or something like that….

————————————————————————————————————–

Well.  It has been a while since I added anything to this letter…. Actually, I’m on my way back home and I’m sitting in the Singapore Airport.  Yep.  It’s Friday again, and I have spent my week in Malaysia.  —  Boy.  Was that an adventure.

So, here is the scoop.  If you have to fly over the Pacific Ocean, the way to do it is with Singapore Airline.  They treat you real nice, and keep giving you drinks (I mean the alcoholic type) and they have foot rests that come up so you can sleep better, and they have a TV screen right in front of you where you can watch Movies On Demand, and play video games, and even make a play list where it plays the songs you choose over and over again.

So here is how I spent the 18 hours:  I spent 6 hours sleeping.  6 hours playing video games.  3 hours talking to the guy next to me, and hour and a half watching a movie (The Night at the Museum) and an hour and a half eating and looking around at what other people were watching on their TVs.

So, I have something I would like to talk to the Electricians and Instrument and Controls guys, so the rest of you can skip the next few paragraphs:

I was sitting next to a guy that works for “AutoDesk”.  You probably don’t remember, but that is the company that makes AutoCAD.  The blueprint drawing program.  They have this real neat program now for Electrical Schematics, and PLC drawings and you name it.  The guy showed it to me and it was impressive.

You can actually have a drawing of a Junction Box, with all the relays in it and wiring (which you can build by selecting the correct model of relays and stuff), and you can click it and go to a schematic diagram or even a Parts List.

You can view PLC programs as a Ladder Diagram and look at the parts, or even look at the layout of the wiring to the different contacts, based on the model number of the PLC.  I told him about our meager attempt to come up with a Red Lining Program, back in the Ron Kilman Regime.

Now I want to talk to just Toby O’Brien:

I asked him if AutoCAD had something like that for Piping, and you should see what they have.   It was real impressive.

You can build 3D images of piping, then look at the layout diagram, or click on a section of pipe and have it give you all the part number information about it.  When designing something, all you have to do is pick your parts, and put them together and it builds a 3D image on the screen.  If you want to modify it, you just choose different parts or rotate something, and it builds the thing before your eyes.

Now I want to just talk to the Boiler Rats…  Oh yes.  You know who you are.

I told the guy that works for AutoDesk about how they need to build an application that would have the racks of boiler tubes that are in a boiler, where you have the ability to remove sections of tubing and put in new tube, with all the serial number and ASME data that you have to keep track of, so that your boiler tubes are “certified”.  You know what I mean.  I just don’t know the correct term to use.

I explained to him how it is important to keep track of all the tubes sections that go in the boiler, and if they could build something where you could just move your mouse over the different sections of the boiler, then zoom in, then rotate it and zoom in some more, and then just hover your mouse over the tubes and see all the information about that section of tube.  —  He said he would pass that on to the people who make those decisions.

Ok, for all of you that I haven’t been talking to….. I’m back to just my regular rambling again.

So, I arrived in Penang last Sunday Morning after leaving home on Friday Morning (it was Saturday evening Austin time when I arrived in Penang).  I was only there about half an hour before the Penangers called me and told me they wanted to take me out to eat and to look around Penang.

So, instead of resting up after my long trip, I quickly took a shower, and met the team I was going to be training.  They took me to a Mall that is much like a regular American Mall, except for a few things.

They wanted me to eat every kind of food they could imagine, so I actually spent most of the week eating whenever I wasn’t teaching.  After we ate lunch, they took me to go see a Buddhist Temple on a hill.  It has the biggest bronze statue in the world of a god that I think is called something like “Look-See”.

So I started climbing the long winding path up to the temple through all the souvenir shops that literally created a tunnel all the way up the hill.  The weather was like Oklahoma in August.

Every once in a while I would turn around and find that I had left the Penangers, somewhere down the hill through the maze of souvenir shops.  —  It wasn’t that they had stopped to shop.  They just weren’t in very good shape.  They were all as thin as a rail, (unlike me, who has the distinguished look of a miniature Buddha or Alfred Hitchcock, or both), but they were not in very good shape.

The last leg of the journey, they insisted on taking a cable car.  So we did.  We came to a temple where it was packed with people all kneeling and praying with a big pile of shoes outside.  There were monks inside praying real loud and it reminded me of watching Kung Fu, because the monks were wearing robes just like the monks in Kung Fu.

The team tried to take me to see the temple where there was a statue of “Sleeping Buddha”, but it was closed.  Across the street from that temple there was another temple, and when we went in it there was a monk sitting on a chair to one side of a very tall statue of some god that I don’t know…

So I went over to him and asked him what was the significance of taking off your shoes when you entered the temple.  He was a Burmese Buddhist monk, and knew very little English, so after waving my arms around and talking real slow, and making gestures like I would think Kwai Chang Caine would make, I finally gave up trying to find out, though I think by what he tried to tell me in the language of a Burmese Buddhist monk, I think he said that it was to keep the floor clean.

When people drive in Malaysia, it is quite different than driving in the U.S.  For instance:  They drive on the wrong side of the road like England…  So, they were probably an English Colony at some time or other.

The other peculiar thing they do, is that the lines that distinguish between one lane and another lane does not have the same meaning as it does in the U.S..  I think in Malaysia, the dashed lines in the middle of the road is more of a “suggested” boundary that can be ignored whenever you want.

So, even though you are traveling down the road in one lane, it doesn’t mean that two other cars may not decide to come up right alongside you in the same lane at the same time, while a string of little motorcycles go weaving back and forth between the cars.  —  The whole act of driving reminded me of a large flock of birds all flying in a whirl, but not running into each other.

I think in Malaysia, they drive more by instinct than we do in the U.S.  —  Oh.  They have accidents.  I think I counted three that I saw just on the way to the office and back.

When you get a ticket for doing something wrong, you can usually just give the police some money to go buy coffee and they will let you go.  One guy I was with did get pulled over, because I think it was lunch time and the Police needed some extra cash to go out to lunch.  – Pretty weird, huh?

So, my entire week was spent eating, teaching and being driven around the island (Penang is on an island, just off the coast of Malaysia).  I ate every kind of Asian food they could find.  Most of which I can’t pronounce.

One guy (let’s call him Farid, because that is what everyone else calls him, because, well, that’s his name), asked me if I felt nervous when Soo Yuen was driving.  I told him that after the first day, I just realized that everything was in God’s hands at this point, and I would just let him take care of me, so I didn’t have to worry about it.

I gave the team I was teaching the Elvis wand and showed them how to use it correctly.  Now Farid has it sticking up above his cubicle so that the whole team can feel blessed by Elvis’s presence when they have a difficult issue they are trying to resolve.

So, now I’m on my way home.  I will try to send this e-mail to you guys sometime on Saturday, if I remember, or I might just continue it on my way to Boston on Sunday morning.  —  I will be back from there next Wednesday.

While I was in Penang I went to the website of my High School and found a few of my friends from my High School and grade school days in Columbia Missouri, so I’ll try to remember to include them on this e-mail as well.  They haven’t seen me since High School and don’t have a clue what I’ve been doing with my life, so this can help fill them in.

From what I gather, one guy named Tim (Knight) is a brain expert in Washington State (so I should probably call him Doctor Tim —  Like I sometimes refer to my friend Jesse as Doctor Jesse  — “come get your Chili!!”), another guy also named Tim (Collins) is in Florida working on a SWAT team at the Kennedy Space Center.  How cool is that?

Boy.  I never realized how much trouble those astronauts were causing down there.  Matt Tapley, my other friend just happens to be getting his Masters in Math down here in AUSTIN!!!!  Isn’t that neat?

So, by the way…. I am sending this letter to my friends at my previous job where I worked for 20 years.  18 of those years as an electrician.  Sooner Plant is a large coal-fired plant that makes Electricity for the folks in Oklahoma (I said that for the benefit of my “old” friends that don’t understand why I was calling you “Sooner Plantians” at the beginning of this e-mail).

By the way, I include Mark Schlemper and Brent Stewart on these e-mails.  They are in Columbia still.  And a couple of other people here and there that you know, and some that you don’t.   —  But they know who they are. —  I hope.

Some lady just came up to me while I was sitting here typing this letter and told me that if I have a long wait in this airport (which is more like a shopping mall than an airport), then they actually have a free tour of Singapore while you wait.

Well.  I better start making my way toward my gate.  I won’t have time to stop and write when I’m in Los Angeles.  I will barely have time to make it between flights.  —  I’ll let you know if I missed it when I finish this letter later…

————————————————————————————————————–

All right.   To make a long story a bit longer, I’ll try to be brief for the rest of this letter….  (yeah…  Like that is going to happen).

I made my flight just fine.  I didn’t lose any bags, because I carry everything on the plane with me.  I arrived back in Austin around 11 pm, and was home by midnight.  I slept most of the next day and had to get up around 3 in the morning to get to the airport to catch my flight to Boston to attend a Kronos Tech Summit where I was a guest speaker.

I spoke to 350 engineers that developed their Timekeeping application.  I talked for two hours to them, and then they came up to me after it was over to ask me a bunch of questions.  Then the following day (which was a Tuesday), I flew back home.

Because it took me so long to write the last part of this letter, I might as well continue….  I knew I couldn’t keep this short….

Last week, (April 3), three of us on our team drove up to Dallas to accept an award from Kronos for “Best Practices”.  We spoke to over 250 people about how Dell uses Kronos and why we are so good.  They gave us a big award and then I met with people from all sorts of companies (including the Oklahoma State Government) that wanted to know more about how we did this or that with Kronos.  Then we drove back home (on April 4).

My wife was wondering why my voice was so hoarse when I returned from my trip to Dallas.  I told her that my voice became hoarse while I was listening to the guy that was driving the car tell stories all the way to Dallas and back…..  —  Yeah.  Right….  She didn’t believe it either.

Needless to say.  My friends in the car (as Ed Shiever can testify), now knows a lot more about you than you know about him.  — Specifically, they know a lot more about Walt Oswalt than anyone else at the plant, because by the time we made it to Dallas (about 2 1/2 hours later), I was just about done telling stories about Walt.

Three times I had to grab the steering wheel because the car was swerving off of I-35 while Stephen (that’s the guy that was driving), was laughing so hard he couldn’t stay on the road.  — I have only started to introduce him to Bud Schoonover!!!!!

So, now I have finally filled you ‘all in on all I have been doing the past month.  It has been real crazy.  I hope things will finally settle down now so that I can catch up with the 3,000 e-mails I have in my Inbox!!!!

I hope to hear from you soon.

Your friend,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

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