Author Archive: Plant Electrician

In Memory of Sonny Karcher – Power Plant Man

Revised 10/25/2021

This was originally posted on January 7, 2012

It wasn’t my idea to go work at a power plant for a summer job in 1979.  My dad called me in my dorm room one night during the Spring Semester at Oklahoma University in Norman Oklahoma.  I had figured I would go back to working in a restaurant during the summer as that had been my “go to” job in the past.

Dad said that a fellow Deacon from the Catholic Church in Stillwater had asked him if I would be interested in being a summer help at a new power plant the electric company was building 25 miles north of Stillwater.  Without giving it much thought, I told him, “Sure”.  Not really knowing at the time that my simple answer to that question sent me on a journey that lasted for over 22 years.

The next Monday after school was over, I took my mom’s station wagon and drove north out of Stillwater on Hwy 177.  It wasn’t until I topped the hill just before Bill’s corner that I realized that this was actually happening.  I had figured up to that point that someone was going to change their mind, and I would go back to Sirloin Stockade and work for my old manager Ken Low.  But, “No.”  This was actually happening.

Now, 42 years later, I cherish the memories of the days I spent working at the plant as a summer help during the summers of 1979 through 1982, when I became a full time Janitor at the plant.  I later worked my way into the Labor Crew, and eventually ending up in the Electric Shop, where I was an electrician for 18 years.

When I heard the sad news of the death of my very first mentor at the plant, Sonny Karcher on 11/11/11 (November 11, 2011), I wished I had been able to attend his funeral.  I did reserve some amount of time that night when I heard about his death to remember the times I have spent with Sonny.  All of them good, as Sonny was always pleasant to be with even when he was mad about something.  Here are some of the first and last things I remember:

When I first worked at the Sooner power plant the summer of 1979, The first two mechanics I worked with were Sonny and Larry Riley.  They taught me how things worked at the plant at that time.  Both of the units were still under construction, so there was no electricity being generated.

The first job we were to work on was on second day at the plant, since the first day was taking a safety class, and getting my hard hat and safety glasses and getting fitted for ear plugs. We were supposed to work on a stuck check valve in the dumper sump pump pit.  Not only did I not know what a check valve was, I wasn’t too sure what was meant by a dumper sump, though I did recognize the word “pump”.

It took us about an hour to take the truck to the coal yard, as a coal yard foreman Richard Nix had the key and wasn’t going to give it to us until one of his hands was ready to go with us.  So we sat in the truck parked in the north entrance of the maintenance shop for almost an hour.  When the guy was finally ready, and he had climbed in the back of the pickup, it turned out that he only needed to go as far as the parking lot… about 200 yards away (as the parking lot was at the Engineer’s shack at the time).  We dropped him off and drove up to the coal yard, and made our way down belt 2 to the sump pump pit at the tail end of the belt.

We tested the pump and saw that the water would run back into the sump once the pump stopped running.  So, it was determined that the check valve was stuck.  We drove back to the plant and took the morning break.

About an hour later, Sonny told me to go to the tool room and get the following items (which I thought was a joke, because he gave me such a strange list of tools that I didn’t recognize):   Two ¾ box ends (pronounced “three quarter box ends”), One four foot soft choker, a ¾ come-along, a ¾ shackle, a two foot steel choker a flat bastard file, a large channel lock, and two pry bars (I did recognize Pry Bars and shackle, which I believed was thrown in there just to make the list sound legitimate).  – I wrote down the list, because I recognized right away that a joke was being played on me and I was going to play right along.

So, I went to the tool room and I asked Bud Schoonover (a very large tall and easy going man at the time), “I need a ¾ come-along (I thought I would choose the most ridiculous item on the list first, just to get on with the punch line of the joke…).  Well.  Bud turned around, walked to the back wall, took a come-along off the top of a pallet full of what appeared to be a bunch of junk, and laid it across the tool room gate window (The tool room was still being “organized” at the time and the gate was actually a window in A foreman’s office next to the tool room).  — not the regular gate that has been in the tool room for the past 35 years.

So, I asked for two ¾ box ends (this was before anyone had been issued toolboxes by the way, that’s why we had to go to the tool room for these things).  Well, you know the rest of this part of the story.  These are all legitimate items, and I learned a lot that day and the next few weeks about the names of various tools.  I kept that list in my wallet for over 10 years as a reminder to myself of when I first came to the plant, and how much I didn’t know then.

So, Larry, Sonny and I went up to the coal yard, and went down to the tail end of #2 belt and removed the check valve from the discharge pipe and brought it back to the maintenance shop to repair.  When we returned, we went to lunch.  During lunch Sonny told me about how he was hired at Sooner plant.

He said he lived a few miles down the road and had heard that someone was building a lake up on top of the hill he could see from his property.  So, he went on over to see who was dumb enough to build a lake on top of a hill, and while he was looking around Orville Ferguson came up to him and asked  him if he was looking for a job.  Sonny said that he liked to mow grass, and Orville said that he would hire him to mow grass then.  Sonny said, if I remember correctly, that he was hired at the same time that Linda Shiever, the timekeeper, was hired and that they were the first two new hires at the plant.  The rest were already company employees that had transferred there.

After lunch we went down to the shop and took the check valve apart and what do you know….  There was a piece of coal stuck in the check valve keeping it open.  We cleaned it up and put it back together.  When we were finished, we took our afternoon break.  After break we drove back up to the coal yard and went down to the tail end of #2 Conveyor belt and put the check valve back in the discharge pipe.  When we returned to the maintenance shop, we returned the tools to the tool room and filled out our time cards.  A day’s worth of work cleaning a check valve.

I did many other things that first summer, since Sooner Plant didn’t have a yard crew yet, I worked most of the time in the maintenance shop bouncing around from crew to crew helping out.  I also did a lot of coal cleanup (especially on weekends), since the conveyor system didn’t work correctly when they started it up when they were starting to fire up unit 1.  See the post “Spending Long Weekends with Power Plant Men Shoveling Coal“.

The second day before I left at the end of the summer to go back to school, I worked again with Larry Riley and Sonny Karcher to fix the exact same check valve.  This time we jumped in a truck (we had a lot more trucks now…. Which is another story — See the post: “Experiencing Maggots, Mud and Motor Vehicles with Dee Ball“), went to the coal yard, went down #2 tunnel to the tail end of #2 Conveyor, pulled out the check valve, removed the piece of coal, put the check valve back in, went back up to the truck and back to the maintenance shop just in time for morning break. Sooner Plant had improved a lot in the short three months I worked that summer.

I worked many years with Sonny Karcher in the garage, and fixing coal handling equipment, and just about anything else.   He finally left the plant to go mow grass, when after a battle to move to the garage from coal yard maintenance to mow grass, he was told that he was going to have to go back to the coal yard to be a coal yard mechanic, because he was real good at that and they just needed him up there.  So he left the plant.

He talked to me about it before he went, that’s how I know what was on his mind.  He said, “Kev, you remember when you first came here and I told you how they hired me to mow grass?  Well, that’s what I want to do.  Mow grass.  So I’m going to have to go back home and do just that.”

After that, the only times I remember seeing Sonny was when he was mowing grass down at Bill’s corner, with a smile on his face waving at the Sooner plant employees on their way home from work.

During the summer of 2018, while I went through Stillwater on my way to Columbia Missouri to attend my 40th High School Reunion, I took a couple of days visiting friends from the plant.  I went to the Morrison Cemetery hoping to find Sonny Karcher’s grave.  I was not able to find it.  I searched other nearby cemeteries including the Sumner cemetery close to his house, and I was never able to find his grave.

Regardless, I can see Sonny talking to St. Peter at the gates of heaven now…..  The only words I can hear Sonny saying is, “I like to mow grass”… and St. Peter nodding with approval and points out that they have a lot of green pastures as he lets him through the gates.

Sonny Karcher

Sonny Karcher

Interview Adventures of a Power Plant Electrician

Back in November 2015 I wrote a post about how in November 2000 I realized that I was probably going to have to leave the Power Plant because I was not able to apply for an IT job in my own company.  You can read about it here:  Crack in Power Plant Armor leads to Gaping Hole in Logic.  A month later I wrote a post about how I was moving to Round Rock Texas to work for Dell:  The Heart of a Power Plant.  I thought it would be interesting to describe my experience interviewing with different companies.  The difference between companies was very noticeable.

One of the first companies I interviewed with was ABF, a trucking company.  ABF stands for “Arkansas Best Freight”.  The headquarters was in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  After my first interview they asked me to drive to Arkansas for a second interview, which I did on my day off (as we were working 4 – 10s at the time, we had some weekdays off).  I took my wife Kelly and the kids with me and made a trip out of it.  They fed us a lunch and paid for my driving expenses and they drove us around town.  I think I was more interested in the nearby Nuclear Power Plant than I was ABF.

ABF Freight

After it was all said and done, they decided not to hire me.  They were looking for someone younger who wasn’t such a troublemaker.  — I had explained how I wrote the program that wrote the script language for GLink so the foremen could take their work home and still do their mainframe work.  You can read about that here:  Power Plant Men Take the Corporate Mainframe Computer Home.

I think it was when I described the Birthday Phantom application to them, that they became a little wary.  After all, it did end up sending emails to the user from themselves announcing that it was someone’s birthday that day.  — 10 years before Facebook came around and now does the same thing.  You can read about that story here:  Power Plant Birthday Phantom.

When they sent me a polite rejection letter telling me they decided not to hire me, I wasn’t surprised.  Kelly was relieved, because she wasn’t looking forward to a possible move to Arkansas.  Even though I wasn’t surprised, Kelly was.  She figured anyone would want to snatch me up if they had the chance.  When she asked me “What’s the deal?” I just replied, “I don’t know.  I think they want someone younger they wouldn’t have to pay so much.”  We just breathed a sigh of relief and moved on.

Another company I wasn’t too excited about was DST Systems in Kansas City.  They housed the Mutual Fund transactions for all but a couple of the Mutual fund companies in the US.  I had grown up in Missouri and I had a lot of Italian relatives living there.  I had spent a lot of time there.  The company flew me up there and put me in a nice hotel for the night.

DST Systems

Then the next morning they gave us a tour of their data center that is inside a cave on the south side of Kansas City, 5 miles from my Aunt Ginny’s house.  They were real proud of the fact that their data center contained 70 Terabytes of data!  That’s funny to think about today.  Just a couple of years later, Dell’s data warehouse had over a Petabyte of data, or 1000 Terabytes.

After the tour of the data center in the cave, (where I was more impressed by their back up generators, since they looked like the ones we had at our power plant) they drove us downtown and interviewed. me.  — When I say “Us”, I mean the other college students applying for the jobs.

I had heard that they liked to ask you technical Java questions, so I was prepared for their question, which was, “If you needed to do this, this and this, how would you write the code in Java?”  My response was, “Do I need to know Java on the day I start the job?”  They replied, “No, we will teach you the way we write Java”.  — I already knew that was the case before the interview.  That’s why I asked that.

Then I said, “I took Java a year and half ago in an accelerated summer course, and made an A in it.  I haven’t used Java since, so I don’t remember the exact syntax, but there is how I would write the code….”  — They offered me the job, but the pay was too low.

The one company all the IT students wanted to work for was Williams Communication in Tulsa.  They held a reception in one of the new buildings on campus in the evening, which I attended.  I talked to a couple of classmates from the last couple of years that had gone to work for them and were now helping to recruit new employees.

Williams Communications

They told me that during the interview they were on the lookout for people who came to the interview very prepared.  They didn’t want to hire them, because they figured that their answers weren’t necessarily “honest”.  I found this rather confusing.  I was going to be well prepared for the interview, and now they are telling me that they want me to act as if I wasn’t.

So, the next day during the interview when they came to the point where they asked, “Do you have any questions?”  I responded by asking, “When someone attends a meeting at your company, do you expect them to be prepared to discuss the topic at hand when they show up, or do you prefer they just go to the meeting unprepared and make it up on the fly?”

When they replied that they expected the person to be prepared for the meeting (which I knew they would), I asked, “When I was preparing for this interview, I talked with some of the recruiters that I knew because they were in my classes in the past.  They told me that during this interview you are looking for people that are prepared for this meeting.  If they are, then you don’t want to hire them.  How does that make sense if you expect them to show up for a meeting prepared but not an interview?”

The two young guys interviewing me looked a little embarrassed and just shrugged their shoulders.  Needless to say, they didn’t offer me a job.  The following week while I was in various classes, I heard others talking excitedly about being offered jobs with Williams Communication beginning when they graduate in May.  This was the company a lot of students wanted to go to work.  They evidently gave a lot of perks to their employees.

Many of the students going to work for Williams, had arranged to moved to Tulsa at the end of school.  They had hired over 200 students.  A couple of people had already moved and were commuting to class.  Then the news hit the fan (so to speak).  Williams Communication was in financial trouble and they were not only not hiring the students they said they were going to hire, but they were laying people off.  I considered myself lucky to not have been offered the job 6 months earlier.

I had a similar “scare” during the first week of May when Dell, (who had been laying off a lot of employees all spring — This was the Millennium Internet bust) called to tell me that they were moving my start date from the beginning of June until August 20 as I discussed in the post linked above, “The Heart of a Power Plant”, so I knew what some of the students were going through.  My problem was that I was in the middle of selling my house in Stillwater, Oklahoma and buying a house in Round Rock, Texas at the same time.

I had an interview with Wal-Mart and they offered me a job.  The pay wasn’t that good.  Before I even considered whether to accept it, I went to a “social” where they had a meeting to explain what working for Wal-Mart would be like as an IT employee.  While they were talking, one of the people giving the presentation recognized someone in the room and asked her if she would like to stand up and tell how it was last summer when she worked there as an intern.

Wal-Mart

The young girl stood up and walked to the front of the room.  She looked around at the Wal-Mart representatives and smiled.  Then she looked at the audience of eager students waiting to hear about all the great things about working for Wal-Mart.  Then she spoke.  She hesitantly said, “Well (pause).   I cried a lot.”  The room burst into laughter.

The Wal-Mart recruiters were as surprised as everyone else.  They asked her to explain.  So she told us that one day she went to run a job on the mainframe and when she did, she shutdown all of Argentina for about 30 minutes.  They informed her that they lost millions of dollars in that time.  She said that no one told her that you weren’t supposed to run jobs like that during working hours.

I knew exactly how she felt.  I had tried compiling a program on our mainframe at the Electric Company one day just for fun, and a little while later someone from the IT department called the Power Plant wanting to speak to Kevin Breazile.  — Yeah.  I had locked up the mainframe until the program finished compiling.

They asked me if they could kill the job.  I told them “Sure!”  This was after I had been scolded by Tom Gibson, our Electric Supervisor after the plant had been contacted by the President of the company because I had sent something to everyone’s printer and messed up all the billing, payroll and work order jobs.  See the post Power Plant Customer Service Team Gone Wild.

Then came Boeing.  I was interviewing for a job in Wichita.  When they found out that I was both an IT person and an Electrician they offered to hire me right on the spot.  They asked me to give my 2 week notice and they would move me to Wichita where I could start as soon as possible.  They said that I could work on fighter planes, both wiring them and programming them.  This was very tempting.

I told the recruiters that I would like to get my degree before I would leave the electric company.  After all, they were paying for my classes.  I only had 6 more hours after the current semester, and if they wanted to talk next semester, I would be willing to discuss it with them then.  They said that if I went to work for Boeing I would receive a $3,000 bonus when I receive my degree, if there was some way to make that work.  That was the last time I heard from them.  My wife wasn’t too keen about moving to Wichita anyway, so, I took that as a good thing.  Although….

I also interviewed with Koch Industry in Wichita and they did interview me on-site (twice).  When they offered me a job I told them that the pay was not enough.  Then they called me back a few weeks later and I went up to interview again. This time with their pipeline switching team.  It turned out that they were using a system called “PI” that we used at our Power Plant.  I mentioned this in the post:  Power Plant Control Room Operator and the Life of Pi.  By that time I had the offer from Dell and Koch said they couldn’t pay me what I was asking.

Koch Industries

An interesting thing happened when I was on site for the interview.  That morning they had found one of the Koch Industry employees brutally murdered in his home (I think I watched a Forensics Files many years later about this murder).  This had unnerved the employees and they were sort of on “lock down”.  They didn’t really want to advertise that, but when the recruiter was having lunch with me in their cafeteria, she mentioned it to me.

JD Edwards was a competitor with SAP at the time.  I had an advantage when I interviewed with them, because I had been working on SAP for the past 3 years.  They flew me to Denver and I stayed in a nice hotel just across the parking lot from their office.  By this time, I was used to flying with a few other 4.0 students who had been offered jobs from the same companies I had.  Some who ended up working at Dell when we were all said and done.

JD Edwards

While I was in the interview and they found out that I knew the SAP Maintenance Module and worked for the company that had worked with SAP to develop it, the person interviewing me became excited and left to go find another person to come into help with the interview.  JD Edwards wanted to develop their own Maintenance Module and since I knew both systems (as I had taken a computer course in school where we worked on JD Edwards’ One World application), They were eager to hire me.

They offered me more than any other company, but when I looked at the cost of living in the area around their office (which was not far from Columbine High School), I told them they would have to go higher.  They went back and forth with me, but couldn’t come up to where I would accept their offer.

As a follow-up to this story…. In the year 2005, I went to Denver for some training with Kronos, our timekeeping system.  I ended up staying in the same hotel where I stayed when I interviewed with JD Edwards.  Their building was just across the parking lot.  It was abandoned.

JD Edwards had been bought by Oracle a couple of years after I interviewed with them, and they just liquidated their IT department in Denver.  So.  I dodged a bullet with that one.

The same thing happened with Sprint.  This was another company a lot of students were interested in.  They had a nice campus in Overland Park Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.  I began the interview by joking around with the recruiters who were older people like me.  I told them where they could find a nice place to eat dinner and other stuff like that.

Sprint

They didn’t like my answer to the question, “Who is Sprint’s number one competitor?”  I told them, “Technology”. They asked me to explain, and I told them that in one day a new technology can come out and make their company obsolete.  They didn’t seem to like that answer.  I know they were looking for the answer, “AT&T and T-Mobile.”  Like I said, I wasn’t too eager to move to Kansas City.

Sprint didn’t offer me a job, but they did offer it to another older student who was eager to move to Overland Park in May.  I suppose he eventually did.  Then in 2003 when I was in another training class in Overland Park for Kronos, I met up with my best friend of all time Jesse Cheng.  While we were driving around town we passed the Sprint campus where my friend from class would have worked.  The campus was abandoned.  Jesse said they closed it about a year before.  — Whew. Glad they didn’t offer me a job there.

My favorite interview story is this:  I interviewed on campus with Fleming Foods.  A Supermarket chain in Oklahoma City.  Many of the people on the board of directors of our electric company were also on the board of directors for Fleming Foods.  After the first interview I received an email stating that my next interview was going to be in Oklahoma City on the Monday afternoon two weeks from then.  I immediately responded and said that I had a prior commitment during that time and would not be able to attend the interview (I had a test in one of my classes during that time), and I asked if they could reschedule the interview.

Fleming Foods

I didn’t hear back from the recruiter to reschedule the interview.  The next time I received an email was the Friday before the Monday when the interview was scheduled.  It reminded me to show up for the interview and gave instructions as to where to go, etc.  When I received the email, I immediately wrote and told them that as I had already indicated, I would not be able to attend the interview on Monday due to a prior commitment, and I had asked if the interview could be rescheduled.

The recruiter wrote back saying that it was very inconsiderate of me since a lot of trouble had been put into scheduling the people for the interviews and  that valuable time would be wasted by important managers if I didn’t show up for the interview.  — I thought….. “Wow.  This is a great way to inspire students to come and work for Fleming Foods.”  So I responded…..

I said this:  “In my past experience I have found that the culture in the HR department generally reflects the overall culture of a company.  I thank you for showing me the culture found at Fleming Foods.  First of all, you totally ignored my response when I indicated two weeks ago that I would not be able to attend the interview by not responding and not attempting to reschedule it.  You have shown me that Fleming Foods is not a company that I would want to work for.  Please cancel the interview and do not try to reschedule it.  Thanks again for the heads up.”

I went to work for Dell in the end.  The Post “The Heart of the Power Plant” linked above tells the story about moving down to Round Rock to work for Dell.  As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now you know the Rest of the Story”.

Dell

Power Plant Desk Job

I have always been a late bloomer.  It wasn’t until I was 60 before I realized that every time I yanked a hair out of my nose, I had one less hair on my head.  Imagine my surprise.  Now that I have to wear a hat when I go outside to prevent a sunburn on my dome, I wish someone had told me about this a long time ago.

As a young boy, I knew something was up the day my mom received a letter with the results from the IQ test we had taken at school.  She seemed excited at first as we were standing at the mailbox.  After opening it and quickly reading the results, she suddenly folded it up and put it back in the envelope without divulging her findings.  At first I took that as meaning that I was such a genius that my mom didn’t want me to know in case it would go to my head.

I thought to myself…  “Well, if I knew it meant that much to her, I would have paid more attention when I was taking that dumb test.”  I was more interested in the instructions the teacher had given us at the time, which was that when we had finished this test, which had nothing to do with our grades, we could go outside and play for the rest of the day.

I knew I looked at the world differently than my classmates.  Sometimes I would answer a question or make a comment that seemed perfectly obvious to me, and the rest of the class would suddenly go silent as if I had just said something very stupid.  I would look around at them like, “Am I not making myself clear?  The answer is obvious.”  I couldn’t help it if they didn’t understand.  But then again, I realized that maybe it was just me.

Even at 60 years old, I still have that same effect on people.  Often when I give my input in meetings, everyone seems to pause as if to indicate that I just said something rather dumb.  I’m used to it.  As I said, I knew I see the world differently even at an early age.  I also knew all along that I didn’t know a lot of things that other people just seemed to know instinctively.

That was why the first day I showed up at the Power Plant as a summer help in 1979, I was rather cautious about my first encounter with Power Plant Men.  I didn’t want them to immediately know that I was “slow”.  I had years of practice at hiding that fact, so I put on a look of “confident kindness” thinking that if I was friendly, then who cares if I’m dumb.  I looked young for my age.  Even though I was 18 I knew I looked more like I was 15 or even younger.

My first encounter was with Sonny Karcher, as I described in the post In Memory of Sonny Karcher – Power Plant Man.  Before long, I was working with a number of Power Plant Men that took me under their wing.  Especially after I had told them that some day I might write a book about them.  Which for someone as dumb as me, I thought was a brilliant idea.

I soon became so popular that a number of crews would ask if I could go along on jobs with them.  I had never been one for being lazy, and manual labor suited me just fine.  I was a perfect “gopher” who didn’t mind taking the truck back to the shop to “go for” parts and tools.

Even though I was just a temporary employee for the summer, I was invited to help disassemble and reassemble pumps and gearboxes, as the plant at the time was going through something called “check out” before they actually came online and began producing electricity for the first time.  I was enjoying my notoriety.  Never before in my life had I experienced the feeling of friendship that I received from the men in the maintenance shop.

The A foreman, Marlin McDaniel (or Mac) came up to me one day and explained that some people in the shop were complaining that I was working on things that they should be doing.  Since I was going to be going back to school at the end of the summer, they should be the ones working on the equipment, since they will need to know everything going forward.  They made a good point.

I knew that I probably would never need to know about the tolerance level between the size of a bearing and the bearing housing of a pump end bell, but they would.  I would be gone, and they would have missed the opportunity to learn at a critical stage of their training.  So, I was not surprised when Mac gave me my next job.

Mac took me over to a corner of the maintenance shop where pallets of large boxes had recently been unloaded from a truck that had backed into the shop that morning.  He said that these were office desks that needed to be assembled.  There were 15 of them all together.  Some would be used as work benches in the shop, and others would be brought to the office area upstairs.

I was going to assemble the desks by myself in a corner of the maintenance shop, so I dragged a box over to an open spot on the floor and pulled the parts out of the box and looked at the instructions.  It seemed as if each desk consisted of the parts for each of the drawers, and the desktop and sides and back, and about  10,000 little bolts.

As I started working on the first desk I realized that it was going to take all day just to assemble one of these.  Using my exceptional brain power, I quickly calculated that this amounted to 15 days of work, or three weeks.  It so happened that I was going to be at the plant for only 3 more weeks before I left to go back to school.  It looked as if this was going to be the only job I was going to be doing the rest of the summer.

I began feeling a little sick about my prospects, after spending two months working side-by-side with other Power Plant Men that had treated me as an equal.  Now I was consigned to my own little corner of the shop where I was going to be spending my days alone.  I was surprised by how much this seemed to rub me the wrong way.  The monotony of using a nut driver to install each bolt seemed like such an overwhelming burden to me.

This surprised me since my life up to this point was spent enjoying menial tasks such as this.  It was my new friends I was missing.  As they carried their tool boxes to their trucks to head out on a job, I watched them as they glanced over at me, sorry that I wasn’t going to be able to go with them.

That morning on the way to work I had been looking forward to whatever job I was going to be doing that day.  On the ride home that evening, I was silent, sitting the in back seat of Dale Hull’s Volkswagen Sirocco.  My knuckles were scraped up from the protruding bolts as I reached into tight spots to assemble drawers, and the cabinets that fit under the desks.  I was painfully aware of my over reaction to my turn of events.

The next morning when I began assembling my second desk, I waved goodbye to the various crews that had adopted me in the previous weeks as they took off to do their jobs.  I noticed that after building the first desk, I was able to assemble the second one a lot faster.  By lunch time, I had almost finished it.  This meant by the end of the second week I should be done.

After I came down from the lunch room and began my work finishing up the second desk something remarkable happened.  Dale Hull came up to me and said,  “Mind if I help?”  Overjoyed for his help, I tried to appear calm as I gladly said, “Sure! That would be great!”  He walked across the shop and grabbed his tools and came back with Ricky Daniels.  They each grabbed a box off of the stack of desks, and began assembling them.

I thought, “With 3 of us working, we could be done with 5 desks by the end of the day!  1/3rd of them in 2 days!

While I was hoping that Dale and Ricky would be able to stay and finish their desks before being called away, Tom Dean came over and slid a box off of a pallet and began working without even saying anything.  Sonny Karcher, Larry Riley and Jerry Mitchell were the next three that grabbed a box.  Before long desk parts were strewn over half of the shop as Power Plant Men were building all of the desks!

Someone had brought a radio over and plugged it in and everyone was listening to music and talking as if they were having a party. By the end of the day all of the desks had been assembled.  My 15 day lonely task had turned into a 2 day task ending with a party of Power Plant Men all pitching in to help.

That evening during the drive home, sitting in the back of Dale Hull’s car, I was overwhelmed at how quickly things can turn around when you have friends.  Little did I know that the next day, I would be given quite a different task.  Not one where I worked alone, but one that would keep me busy for the next 2 weeks until I left to go back to school.  You can read about that in this post:  Power Plant Painting Lessons with Aubrey Cargill.

Letters to the Power Plant #128 — Figured it out

After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going.  This is the one hundred and twenty eighth letter I wrote.  Keep in mind that at the time when I originally penned this letter I didn’t intend on it being posted online.

11/30/07  — Figured it out

Dear Power Plant Men (Women and Old Timers),

Thanks Ben for remindin’ me.  Larry Wyskup was the other guy, and Don Spears was the Electrical Supervisor at Muskogee.   —  But there was another thing…..

Early this morning I woke up in a cold sweat when I realized that it wasn’t Bob Kennedy that was on that overhaul with us, it was a guy named Joe Flannery.  I had him confused with Bob Kennedy because they were both very tall.

There were a couple of things that I remember about Flannery.  One was that he was real strong (and I don’t mean in an odor sort of way).  If you needed your car moved over one spot in the parking lot, all you had to do was ask Flannery and he could move it over for you.

I also remember that he was always arguing with someone in the Muskogee Electric Shop (I think it was Ellis Moore  —  At least I think that’s his name).  —  Bein’  the good ex-janitor that I was (and Psychology School Graduate), he asked me to help him out with his personality.

He wanted to know why people didn’t like him very much even though he had the innocent face of Goober on the Andy Griffith Show (and we all know how likable Goober is —  Especially when he grins).

I told him that it wasn’t enough just to be helpful by carrying their 2 ton motors over his shoulder for them, but that when he set it down he had to make sure he wasn’t crushing someone’s toolbox.  —  Well.  It was something like that anyway.  We worked on it over the three months we were there.

I just thought I would clear that up for all of you who really didn’t care in the first place…..

Your friendly Dell Programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

Dell Inc.

Application Management Analyst

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Letters to the Power Plant #127 — Shufflin’ Around at Dell

After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going.  This is the one hundred and twenty seventh letter I wrote.  Keep in mind that at the time when I originally penned this letter I didn’t intend on it being posted online.

11/27/07  —  Shufflin’ Around at Dell

Dear Friends at Sooner Plant and Beyond,

I realize it has been a long time since I have written, even though as I get older, it seems like only a few weeks.  I received an e-mail yesterday from my old “roomie” at Horseshoe Lake that reminded me that I haven’t written to you guys for quite a while.

I went to a User Conference in Phoenix for our Expense Reporting tool the week before Thanksgiving, and I just now caught up on all my backlogged e-mails!  For the last two years I have been in the Finance department, and yesterday I was told that I will be moving back into IT.

It seems that since I am doing mainly IT work, I should be in the IT department….. Imagine that.  That’s ok.  I enjoy working in IT.   That’s why I came to Dell in the first place.

So, how are things going at OG&E?  I haven’t heard from anyone lately until my old roomie sent me an e-mail with a copy of the Merry Christmas Power Plant Man poem in it that someone had sent him.

I’ve call Steve Trammel my Old Roomie ever since we were working on an overhaul at Muskogee Power Plant in 1985 and we were sharing a Camper down at #3 plant by the river.  Bob Kennedy was there and there was another guy, who,  I can see his face, but I can’t remember his name….  And we would go out and eat dinner together every night.

Note to Reader:  To learn more about my Roomie Steve Trammel and the Overhaul at Muskogee that I am referring to throughout this post, see the post “Lap o’ Luxury at the Muskogee Power Plant“.

The other guy, that I can’t remember his name, had a son or some relative who was in a contest for a free car, and they had to keep their hand on the car until they were the last person left.  I think they had been at it for three days when we went to see them.

It’s funny how things start coming back to you kind of slowly as you get older, but it seems that the guys last name began with a “W”.  Like Wickert or Watson but it wasn’t that…..

I think he worked at Seminole and probably early retired on the second go-around in ’94.  —  My old roomie will probably come back and tell me that his name was John Smith, or something completely different than I remember.

I’ve gotten to the point at work where I don’t try to remember things.   I just let people remind me what they want me to do when they come by and ask me if I am done with their stuff yet.  It’s a lot easier that way.

I try to fix or create stuff as quickly as possible when they ask me to do something so I don’t have to remember it for very long.   I think its just that I’m doing too many things at the same time to remember everything.

I’m back to three computers on my desk and I am working on all of them at the same time, most of the time…..  (actually, even while I was typing that last sentence someone came to my cube asking if I could create  a new program that would process some files for payroll that they have to start using next week….

They have already left my cube and I have forgotten exactly what they wanted, but they will go back to their desk and write everything out and send me an e-mail (and a task) so that I can work on it.  They just wanted to make sure that it could be done.

No, it wasn’t Willard Stark…..   I met him the following Spring at Mustang Plant when I went to work there with Ted Riddle.  This was the time when I was working at Muskogee with Ben Davis and we kept slipping out the back on Friday afternoon and the Supervisor over the Electricians kept trying to catch us, but we kept getting away….

Note to Reader:  To learn more about Willard Stark and when Ted Riddle and I worked at the Mustang Plant during overhaul, see the post “Working Power Plant Wonders with Willard Stark“.

But I can’t remember his name either, but I can remember that he looked like the coach from Oklahoma University, —  You know who I mean…. I know his name…. It’s Barry Switzer….. Geez… finally a name came back to me.   And…..

Maybe that first guy I was trying to remember whose last name began with a “W” had a first name like “Terry”.  Or maybe I’m just remembering someone from High School (or was it grade school — yeah.  Grade school….) who had a name like:  Terry Wizniski (of coarse, I’m not spelling that right, but my friends from High School, Brent and Mark — At least I can remember their names — will remind me…).

Note to Reader:  To read more about the person whose name I couldn’t remember read this post:  Something is in the Water at the Muskogee Power Plant.

Unless Terry used to go to the Catholic school that I went to,   but I don’t think so, because it seems like I can remember my grade school friend Brent saying his name at some point in my life…..).

Anyway…..  Is it a sign of “old-timers” disease when you can’t remember names like that?  I don’t think it is when I just keep changing the subject and keep rambling on, because that was an affliction that I gained in College when I met “Ramblin’ Ann Bell.

It does seem like it’s an “old-timers” symptom to start remembering odd things from your childhood as if it just happened….. Like graduation day from High School when there was a big lightning storm, and lightning hit the transformer for the school and all the lights went out just as Matt Tapley (who had white hair) was walking across the stage, and all we could see in the dark (as the emergency lights lasted about 10 seconds before they died), was Matt Tapley taking a bow with his glowing bright white hair….

And like I said.  I can remember my friend from elementary school Brent saying Terry Wizn-whatzHisName’s name during recess or art class or something like that…..  —  I know…  I know…. I’m not that old.  I just like pretending that I am, because then it lends a little credence to my inability to remember simple things like the name of the Electrical Supervisor at Muskogee.

The guy that came into the electric shop around 2pm to watch Ben Davis and I to make sure we wouldn’t leave early, so I went in the office and sat in his lap and told him that he was the cutest thing I ever saw… then he got up and ran out the other door as we headed for the parking lot…..

I can see his face so clearly with his jaw hanging down in utter disbelief as I put my arms around his shoulders like I was going to give him a big kiss…..  Maybe I figure that if I keep talking about him that his name will finally come to me….

About 2 months ago I moved to a new team and so I have a new manager and today I was explaining to him how we drop tested the stack elevators.  He just looked at me like it was crazy (of course, that may be because of other reasons than the story I was telling….  He may just think I’m crazy, because, well, because…..).

Maybe that is why he agreed to have me move back into IT.  So in a few weeks, I’ll have a new manager again….  That’s just how things work around here.  —  Believe it or not, but in the time I have been writing this e-mail I have already received over 30 other e-mails….  Pant…pant…pant…..

It’s no wonder that I can’t remember the name of the Electrical Supervisor at Muskogee…  Help me out Ben!

Ok.  I know.  I’ve rambled long enough.  You guys probably quit reading this letter right after the phrase “…and Beyond”.  But that’s ok.  At least I was able to take a fifteen minute break today and type a letter to all my friends!

Your friendly Dell Programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

Dell Inc.

Employee Services

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

This is my longest post ever, so pop 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 them.  — 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

Letters to the Power Plant #125 — Dell Kiosk Heaven

After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going.  This is the one hundred and twenty fifth letter I wrote.  Keep in mind that at the time when I originally penned this letter I didn’t intend on it being posted online.

11/8/06  —  Dell Kiosk Heaven

Dear Overhaulin’ Soonerites,

I figured this is overhaul season and that you are all in Overhaul Heaven, so I’ll try to be brief, since I know you are all “chompin’ at the bit” to climb back into that boiler and ride those sky climbers back up into the vast darkness of space…..

Note to Reader:  To learn more about working in the boiler read the post Sky Climbing in the Dark With Power Plant Boiler Rats.

I was very sorry to hear about Floyd Coburn, as the first I knew something was up was when I sent my last e-mail and his address came back undeliverable.  —  Microsoft is working on it, but it will be a while before we can send e-mails to Heaven.  I’m sure Floyd is up there dancing with the Angels now…. Not quite wishin’ that he could be back in that boiler patching tubes…  Or….. Maybe he is (in there with you guys)!  He can help keep the boiler ghost at bay!

Well.  The title of this e-mail is about Kiosks….  And that’s what I should talk about…. Since that is the topic after all….  So…

Dell has Kiosks in malls all over the country.  And we have put Kronos clocks in those Kiosks so the employees can use them to clock in and out…. Using their finger.  —  How about that?  You just put your finger on the little reader and it clocks you in and out.  No time cards, no nuthin’.

I know that wouldn’t work exactly right at Sooner Plant, but a few weeks ago I was in Orlando Florida going to a Kronos Conference at Disney World and they showed me this nifty wireless device that you could wear on your belt and record your time right there with you.

I kept thinking about how when I was at Sooner, I used to say how someday we would be carrying our computers around with us on our belts, and “by golly” there it was.  It would allow you to log in and record your time and all, and if you had wireless at your plant, it would automatically be recorded in the system.

You could use it to log your time working on an M.O. (Maintenance Order for all you “non-plantians”).   If you don’t have wireless, then at the end of the day, you just go to the shop, plug the device into the recharging cradle and “voila” (remember.  That’s French for….well…it’s French for something that you say when you’re trying to say “There it is!”).

Anyway.  I just kept thinking about that and how it would be so much easier than filling out timecards every day….  It’s easy to interface Kronos to SAP, so that’s no problem….  It even has a barcode scanner on it, so you can print out your M.O.s for the day with barcodes, and just scan them.  You don’t even have to enter anything, just scan it.

So, I’ve been talking (e-mailing) to people in all these Malls all over the country.  The clock in Penn Square Mall in OKC was having an issue and I wrote back to them and told them that I wasn’t able to connect to their clock and I gave them instructions on how to fix it.

When I sent the e-mail I had copied our IT support people in Penang Malaysia, just to keep them in the loop.  A few minutes later, I received an IM (Instant Message) from one of the Penang folks (I call it “getting Penanged” when I am IM’ed from someone in Penang).  Asking me what we had to do when we can’t connect to a clock.

I explained to her that the problem will have to be corrected at the clock since we can’t talk to the clock until it has been setup on their end.  She asked me again.  “So, what do we do when we can’t connect to a clock”.

So I spent about 15 minutes walking her through logging into the server and testing the clock, and how she could see that we couldn’t connect to the clock….  Then she asked me again, “What do we do when we can’t connect to a clock”.

So, I told her to open a browser and go to the Dell Home Page.  Then click on “You and Dell”, and then click on “Travel And Expenses”  Each time waiting to make sure she was following my directions.  Then I told her to go to the “Online Booking Tool” and make plane reservations for Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.

She said she didn’t know her logon name.  Then she asked why she would have to go to Oklahoma City and I told her that the only way to fix the clock so that we can connect to it is to fix it at the clock.  That’s what she asked me, so I was just showing her how she could fix it if that is what she wanted to do…..

I have the Penang folks all confused about me anyway.  I told them I was very old and very fat.  I told them once that I kept making mistakes while I was typing because my long grey beard kept getting caught in the keyboard.

Then one day, one of them asked me about a server and I said that it was old and probably would have to be replaced soon since it was over 3 years old.  She said that her computer at home was 5 years old, and I said, mine was too, but my daughter had one of those new XPS computers and it was new and very fast.

She asked me how old my daughter was and I told her she was 53 years old.  The Penang person just about had a cow.  She said, “How old were you when you were married?”  I told her that I was married when I was 26 years old.  She said.  “You’re not 79 years old!”  I said.  “Golly Gee No!  I was married 4 YEARS before I had my first child!  I’m not a young whipper-snapper you know.”  —  So they don’t know what to think about me….

I was training them online one night and I had them all on the phone for about 2 hours doing a Live Meeting.  Toward the end I started talking using an old man voice, and I quickly stopped and apologized.  I said, I usually just use my young person voice when I’m training people, because it’s hard to understand me when I talk normally….  They didn’t know what to think about it…..

Anyway…. I can see that I’ve been rambling again….gee…  When my shirt gets all wet from drool, I can tell I’ve been talking too much, or I just fell asleep for a while and drooled over all my shirt before I even knew I was asleep.   I’m not sure which, but I should probably just get back to work.  I still have about 100 more clocks to configure.

Talk to all of you later.  Have fun, but be SAFE!!!!

Your Pal from Dell,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Employment Services Support

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #124 — Time Warp at Dell

After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going.  This is the one hundred and twenty fourth letter I wrote.  Keep in mind that at the time when I originally penned this letter I didn’t intend on it being posted online.

9/26/06  —  Time Warp at Dell

Dear Soonerites and other important people,

Has it been forever since I have written?  I don’t even remember the last time.  I have been so busy with my new team that I haven’t had a moment of rest…. Except when I went on a three week vacation this summer.

So, here’s what has happened with my new team.  They immediately turned around and  “loaned” me back to I/T as a resource so that I could work on the projects that they wanted done.

You see.  I/T had said that they couldn’t work on the projects because they just didn’t have the resources, so they hired me, and then loaned me back to them and said.  “Here’s Kevin, he can do it.”  —  So, I have been doing more programming as a business person than I was doing as an I/T person….  Go figure.

But it has been fun, because you know how much I like a challenge.  —  Especially if someone says, “It can’t be done.”

Well.  We have just finished moving all off our European countries and a bunch of Latin American countries into our “Global” Expense reporting tool.  Besides that, we have upgraded Kronos again (that’s our Timekeeping application), (and I’m actually right in the middle of applying a Service Pack to it as I type).

This was the first moment in a number of months where I looked at my calendar, and I looked at my tasks, and I realized that I actually had about 1/2 hour where I could write a letter to my old friends in Power Plant Land.  —  I don’t mind.  They recently gave me a promotion.  So I’m happy.

So, Charles Foster told me that there is going to be a lot of construction goin’ on around there.  I read the article about the big plant that is going to be built.  That’s really exciting.  That reminds me of the days when the plant was being built the first time.

Everything was all muddy (because there wasn’t any grass) except for the parking lot which was very nice and clean, because our wonderfully insightful management realized that if we couldn’t park in the parking lot then it would stay cleaner longer.  —  Wasn’t that a brilliant idea?  I thought it was….

It is like the idea that Stanley Elmore had about not letting anyone drive that little blue Mitsubishi tractor for a year so that the warranty could run out before we could actually see if it ran.  — I was only a summer help at the time, but I do remember telling him that I thought it was a brilliant idea to let the warranty run out before you let Jim Heflin get on it.

Of course.  A few years later…. It was quite a site watching Ken Couri riding it around.  —  That was a good little tractor.  —  I was thinking about Ken Couri the other day.  I was remembering how he used to help teach the Safety courses.  That was one guy that usually had a big smile on his face.  — oh well.  I’m reminiscing again….  I guess the thought of Construction at the plant sent me back almost 30 years….

Talking about 30 years…  Do any of you remember Colonel Sneed?  —  Well if not, I’m sure you remember Gene Titus.  He was around a lot longer.

It’s funny, but for some reason, the two guys that I always think about when it comes time to pray for someone is:  David Hankins and Grant Harned.  I’m sure you ol’ timers remember David, but Grant wasn’t around very long.  He was the receptionist for a while before he moved to Tulsa, and later died in an automobile accident (I used to carpool with him when I was a janitor).

From what I knew of David, he was one of the kindest people I ever met.  —  I remember when I came back for my second (or was it third) year as a summer help and I was riding down the road in a yellow cushman cart with Jim Heflin, and I asked him, “Where’s David Hankins?  I haven’t seen him around?” and he stopped the cart in the middle of the road and said, “You didn’t know?  He died in a car crash last fall.”

For some reason — I often think about David and Grant.  Don’t know why.  I have a photo of each of them that I keep on my bookshelf.  —  Ok…. I guess I’m sounding a little like Randy Daily now.  Remember when he wrote a list of all the people that had died that had worked at the plant on the Chalkboard upstairs in the tool room?

I added Jerry Mitchell and Grant Harned to the list.  I figured most people didn’t realize Jerry had died.  I only knew because my wife took care of him in the hospital as he was dying.  She didn’t know him before he was her patient, but she said she thought he was a really saintly person during the time that she knew him…..

Note to Reader:  To learn more about Jerry Mitchell read the post “A Power Plant Man Becomes an Unlikely Saint“.

Which brings me to Eldon Waugh.  —  The last time I was in Stillwater (which was a little over a year ago), I met Eldon Waugh in the Hampton Inn.  —  He sneaks in there in the morning to eat a free breakfast with his friend.  — I introduced my kids to him so they could see the person that I pushed around in the elevator once when he came to a Men’s Club a couple of years after he had retired…

Note to Reader:  To learn more about Eldon Waugh and the elevator read the post “Power Plant Art of Making a Bad First Impression“.

The guys at Mustang told me that when Eldon was a plant manager there, he would pick through the rags in the trash can and pull out those that he didn’t think were dirty enough to throw away. And put them back in the rag box.  — Now that’s being frugal…don’t you think?

When Ted Riddle and I were on overhaul at Mustang, one time we went to work on something and all the light bulbs were burned out, so we decided, “by golly”, we’ll just go around and replace all the burned out bulbs.  — The Electric Supervisor just about had a cow.  He was going to have to order more light bulbs, and that was going to stretch his budget, all because we replaced all the burned out lights.

He told us that we should only replace lights if we are going to be working in the area, and not go around replacing any lights needlessly….  — Can you imagine that?  How many lights are there at Sooner?  About 80 Ba-zillion?

I can see turning off some lights, or something like that, but leaving them all burned out seems a little strange….  —  Anyway, they figured they had to keep Ted and I busy the rest of the time we were there or we might come up with some other “bright” ideas.

Well.  I know I have been rambling enough for one letter.  I haven’t told my new team about Ramblin’ Ann yet, but I did warn them that that story was coming….

I hope all is going well with you guys,

Your Friendly Dell Technical Advisor,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

Letters to the Power Plant #123 – Dell Me More

After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going.  This is the one hundred and twenty third letter I wrote.  Keep in mind that at the time when I originally penned this letter I didn’t intend on it being posted online.

3/16/06  — Dell Me More

My dear friends at the Sooner Power Plant Palace,

I could tell by the response to my last letter that some of you would like to know how I’m getting along in my new job……  Well.  Right now I have my headphones on and I’m listening to Louis Armstrong singing “What a Wonderful World”.

Alan told me that you guys are in the middle of the “Mother of all Overhauls”!!!  Gee.  I really miss those.

I miss dressing up in that fly ash suit and crawling around in the precipitator searching for plates out of the clips glaring through my full face respirator into the dark, or the bright reflection of my flashlight off of the pure white ash on the plates, blinding me to any hidden clip out of alignment.

Well.  Anyway. I can still dream about it.  I can romanticize it any way I want when I do that.  I can pretend that the dust isn’t running down my back and filling up my rubber boots, and that I’m not even breaking a sweat that doesn’t fog up my face plate and run down my shirt causing it to become all caked with ash……  It just doesn’t happen when I dream about it.

I don’t even smell that strange odor that smells like…well.  I don’t know what it smells “like” since it has a smell all of its own….

Note to Reader:  To learn more about the strange odor at the Power Plant see the post “What’s that Strange Power Plant Smell?

Anyway.  I think back to those days with great happiness and while I do, I scritch-scritch the spot on my back where I used to have psoriasis that was “not caused” by the extremely dry conditions of being covered in Coal Ash or by the not-so-toxic gases that formed as the ash combined with the moisture from the “real world” causing it to fall gracefully from the plates in sheets.

I also miss working on the top of the precipitator where we had to clean and inspect and replace all those insulators.  And how we would take those gaskets that were 98% asbestos (2% wire), and stuff them into the plastic bag so that we could have some semblance that we knew how to handle the stuff.  I think I still have a few of those fibers lodged in my lungs there somewhere, just to remind me of the “good-ol-days”.

Hey.  This morning, (to quickly change the subject), I read an article in Information Week that said the following:  “Arizona Electric Power Cooperative Inc. (AEPCO) is turning to SAP AG’s “Safe Passage” program to support growth and consolidate legacy applications, the non-profit cooperative said Tuesday.”

What?  Didn’t they know that OG&E did that over 9 years ago?  Where have they been all that time?  That’s why OG&E was “Best-In-Class”.  —  Of course it would be nice if the Corporation Commission would let OG&E keep some of their profits.

Well. I better start work now.  I’m all done reminiscing about overhauls…..for now…  Maybe I’ll do that again in a few hours when I’m eating lunch and I can remember biting into my peanut butter sandwich and having flakes of fly ash or coal dust falling from my hair onto my bread to add that extra-special flavor only found in the Power Plant Palace.

Have a safe day.

Your friend from Dell,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

Letters to the Power Plant #122 — Job Battles at Dell

After I left the power plant and went to work for Dell on August 20, 2001, I wrote letters back to my friends at the plant letting them know how things were going.  This is the one hundred and twenty second letter I wrote.  Keep in mind that at the time when I originally penned this letter I didn’t intend on it being posted online.

3/3/06 – Job Battles at Dell

Dear Sooner heroes,

I know it’s been a long time since you’ve heard from me.  I have finally finished the “battle of the jobs”, and now I’m in quite a different position than the last time I wrote to you.  I have one arm and two legs all stretched twice as long as usual and that makes it hard to walk and eat, but I’m very happy about it anyway.

I am now called a “Technical Advisor” and I work in the Finance Department in Payroll.  It’s was quite a battle, but here I am…  —  Well.  Right now I’m actually in Denver Colorado getting ready to go back home.   I’ve been taking a class all week learning new things about Kronos.

I realized today that OG&E would really benefit from a timekeeping application like Kronos.  —  Do you realize that Dell has over 50,000 employees and only 3 people that support timekeeping? — and I’m one of them.

So, here’s the scoop.  There I was minding my own business…– working about 60 hours a week in I/T Support.  I was on a team that was redesigning the way that I/T rolled projects into production and I still supported the applications that I was supporting before because we were shorthanded —  When The manager of the Employment Services Group asked me if I would join their team.

My first reaction was that it was an absurd request.  How could I, who loves I/T with a passion ever make a conscious decision to leave it to go to the business?  I told the manager that it was tempting and that I would consider it (I was saying that to be polite), but I didn’t think I could justify it.

She said that she understood, but just wanted to give it a try anyway since their entire team, when they heard of the job opening said that the only person that could fill that position was me.  —  I was flattered, but didn’t give it much real thought.

I talked it over with Kelly (my wife), and she said I should do whatever I thought was best.

Daily I would receive e-mails and IMs (Instant Messages) from the team describing how better my work-life balance would be if I moved to their team.  I talked it over with my former manager and he thought it would be a good move for me.

The team invited Kelly and I to their Christmas party with the intention of talking Kelly into talking me into moving to their team.  —  The last time I had this much attention was when Jim Arnold argued for me to stay in Equipment Support instead of letting me have the Training Director position because he just loved me so much….

So we went to the Christmas party and everyone tried to convince Kelly why I should go to their team.  —  No more pagers, regular hours.  —  I could even work 4 – 10’s if I wanted to.

When I first told my former manager (from the Program Development group) that I had applied for the job, he quickly rushed me into a team room and told me that it had gone all the way up to his Vice President that they were going to force the I/T Support group to move me over to Development because they needed my skills and couldn’t find them anywhere.

He is a good friend of mine and I told him that I would like to go back to the Development group, but (and then rubbing my fingers with my thumbs) I said, “show me the money”.  He said that he understood and hoped that I got the job.

Well.  Also, when I applied for the job, I told my current manager that I had applied for it (I had told him about a month earlier that they were asking me if I would take it, but that I wasn’t seriously thinking about it), he said that he would talk it over with my director and let her know, but he didn’t think there would be a problem with it.

Then the day before I had an interview with the director over the new team, my own director took me into a room and told me that she wasn’t going to let me go because they couldn’t afford to lose me right now.  I told her that I was going to go one way or the other and that when I decide to do something, I do it.  She reiterated that she couldn’t lose me and wasn’t going to let me go.

So the next day when I went to the interview with the director for the new position, the first thing I told her was that my director had told me the day before that she wasn’t going to let me move to this job.  The director said that she couldn’t just say that without a valid business justification and that she was going to take it up to her Vice President to make sure that they didn’t let her get away with keeping me back.

I told her that I appreciated any help she could give because I was beginning to look forward to this new position especially since I was looking forward to working a more regular schedule.

Well.  Needless to say:  I was being pulled in three different directions all at the same time.  It was almost as stressful as working at Sooner Plant on a Friday afternoon at 4:00 when you hear the shift supervisor calling the Equipment Support Supervisor, and visions of shoveling Coal all weekend pops into your mind!!!

I really like my new team.  They have a lot of work for me to do, and I stay real busy, but for some reason I feel like I’m playing all day long, because I’m really doing something that I know how to, instead of swimming up stream all the time working on so many things at once on things that I’ve never worked on before.

The team lead on the team that I left was really fighting for them to keep me there.  I asked him why, since the only thing I was an expert on supporting were applications like Kronos, Oracle Financials and Concur (our expense program).

He said that it wasn’t that I knew a whole lot about everything but that I was able to troubleshoot programs that I had never seen before faster than anyone else.  —  I told him that was a skill that I learned working at the power plant, because that is what we did every day as an electrician but that they couldn’t penalize me by keeping me in one place.

I told him that the only reason I became an electrician was because I was a good janitor and the electric department (Charles Foster) noticed and asked me if I would consider working for them.  What if they said that I was too good of a janitor to let me go to the electric shop?  This was the same situation.  I had worked writing programs and supporting applications for this group and that is why they wanted me.

So.  Here I am.  No longer in I/T, but a “technical consultant”.

Maybe now I will have more time to write.

Your friendly Dell friend,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile