Category Archives: Adventure

Letters to the Power Plant #117 — Taking a Breath 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 seventeenth letter I wrote.

5/5/05 – Taking a breath at Dell

Howdy Folks (That’s Texan for “Dear Sooner Plantians, and friends”),

It’s been about 5 weeks since I wrote last, and this is the first time I have had a moment to stop and take a breath.  Like Gimli said in the Lord of the Rings, “Keep Breathing.  That’s the Key”.

Things went well with the Kronos upgrade.  —  That’s the one where we didn’t have any consultants on site to do it.  I had found most of the reasons why “no company had ever upgraded without the consultants on site before”, but not all of them.

Their installation instructions left a lot to be desired and their code was all wrong, but that’s all behind me now and everything is running better than it has ever run before, so everyone’s happy, (except for some report formatting issues — which I’ll deal with shortly  —  You would think with a name like “Crystal Reports” that the format would be “clear”.  Like “Crystal”.  —  You know.  From the movie with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson, where Jack says, “Am I clear?” and Tom says, “Crystal”  —  Oh.  Nevermind.  I’m ramblin’ again…..).

So our business partners gave me great Kudos and they refer to me now as “#1”.  They gave me an “On-The-Spot” award for $100 and told everyone from my director down in our All-Hands meeting last week that I had done all these wonderful things and how I had solved all of their issues, and that I was such a great person to work with……

Boy.  I was just glad no one saw me slip that pocket watch on the chain back in my pocket after I had hypnotized them all or I might not have gotten away with such praise.

Gee, I haven’t had that much attention since Jasper Christensen called me to his office to tell me that I couldn’t have access to the Internet because the staff had decided that no one at our plant needed access to the Internet except for Jim Arnold and Summer Goebel, and they only needed it so they could have “e-mail”.  —  Oh.  Those were the days.

Note to Reader:  To read more about Jasper Christensen and the Internet read this post:  Power Plant Quest for the Internet.

I used to receive so much attention.  —  Almost as much as “The Birthday Phantom”.  —  I actually used part of that program in another program I wrote here a couple of years ago that sent out e-mails to users with links in it to PowerPoint presentations and Excel sheets every Monday morning.

Note to Reader:  To read more about the Birthday Phantom, read the post Power Plant Birthday Phantom.

Instead of getting hardhat stickers down here, they give us other things instead (since we don’t wear hardhats).  Today when I came to my cubicle I found a nifty key ring that looks like it is made from pewter and has a picture of the world with Dell written across it and it swivels around inside of a ring.  It says:  “America’s Most Admired Company” for 2005.

They gave us that because Fortune Magazine named Dell as America’s most admired company.  —  It reminded me of when we would get those jackets that would say that Sooner Plant was the most efficient plant in the country.  We had the lowest operating cost of over 300 or so different power plants.

I’m just glad I’m working for a company with such integrity.  —  Gee.  Now I’m sounding like a commercial.  —  We really do everything we can to be a real ethical company.  That’s refreshing.

You know.  I’ll bet no one on the staff ever figured out that one of the main reasons Sooner could produce power so cheaply was because the precipitators were so properly tuned that they hardly used any power. (hu hu  —  That’s me breathing on my fingernails like I’m acting cool.).

Normally the Precipitator uses more power than anything else in the plant  —  Normally, it uses about as much power as the rest of the plant.  —  But not at Sooner.  — Nope  —  The whole idea that a preciptator needs “Power” to work is all wrong to begin with.

That was the hardest thing to convince people who had real thick skulls (like Bohny-Headed Engineers are opt to have.  —  No.  I didn’t misspell that), because they just couldn’t accept the fact that in order to move particles of airborne ash an average of 2 1/4 INCHES to the collection plate didn’t require as much 1,000 times the energy it takes to pump that same ash 1/2 MILE in a pipe to the Fly Ash silo up at the coal yard.

It makes sense to me that the precipitator doesn’t really require “Power” to operate (well.  A small amount).  It just requires “voltage”.  —  That’s what STATIC is anyway.  It’s VOLTAGE, not POWER.  —  And that is an ElectroSTATIC precipitator.

If it’s using Power it’s not Static!!!.  Geez.  This is only “Rocket Science”.  And rocket science isn’t all that hard these days with computers.  Geez.  —  Oh.  Sorry.  Ramblin’ again.  —  You can tell I’ve been dreaming about Precipitators again.  —  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

Well.  I better go work on my IDP (Individual Development Plan) while I have the chance.  —  I’m supposed to take tomorrow off since I was on call last week.  —  Isn’t that neat?  When you are on “Hots”, they let you off a whole day the following week.  —  I’m not complaining.  Sometimes it takes me so much by surprise that I forget to breath.  I need to remember.  “Keep Breathing.  That’s the key.”

Talk to you later,

Your friend from Dell,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Services I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

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Letters to the Power Plant #118 — Things are getting Hot 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 eighteenth letter I wrote.

7/6/05 – Things are getting Hot at Dell

Dear friends from Sooner Plant,

Has it really been two whole months since I have written?  Wow.  That must be a record for me keeping my mouth shut!  I did have a vacation during that time and I did go to training, and we did have a couple of holidays and I did forget to write most of the time, even though I think about you guys and the plant about EVERY DAY!!!!

I had this real weird dream where I was at the power plant and it was in the evening when it is kind of dark.  I’m not sure what I was doing there, but I was really amazed with this new conveyor system that you guys had.

It ran all over the plant and it moved equipment and barrels around automatically and the way it worked, it could move anything anywhere on the plant grounds where they needed to go, because the entire ground was made up of strips of conveyors that looked like asphalt sidewalks, but they moved along like conveyors.

Then in-between the sidewalks was grass, but the grass moved between the conveyor systems so, for instance in my dream I was watching this barrel go by and it went down this asphalt conveyor and was pushed out into the grass, where the grass carried it over to another conveyor and then to another patch of grass until it hit an asphalt conveyor that was going in the direction where it needed to go and off to the coal yard it went.

So it was like the plant was running all by itself and people didn’t have to move stuff around.  They just moved themselves.  —  It was actually a little creepy.

I heard that your honeymoon with Wendling has already come to an end.  —  I suppose that’s too bad.  I guess he came and did what they wanted him to do, and now that Jim Arnold is gone, he can go do other things.  —  Maybe that’s why I haven’t felt the urgent need to write to you guys before.

I knew you were all in bliss in your Shangri La Palace at Sooner since you were relieved of a few trouble makers.  I hope your new plant manager is acceptable for you guys.  I know that the times I had to deal with John Parham they weren’t always the most pleasant.  But I can chalk a little of that up to my attitude at the time.

I do know that he insisted one time that the heat energy being lost out of the top of the precipitators at Muskogee equaled only around 4000 watts of power (or so).  Which was so ridiculous, I knew there wasn’t any sense in arguing with him… but you know me.  I can’t keep my mouth shut.

Anyway.  I went to see the Grand Canyon on my vacation and that was a lot of fun.  Everything went well.  When I got back after being away for over 2 weeks, it took me about a week to read all my e-mails.

Then I had training for another week.  I took a week long database course called:   Oracle PL/SQL advanced programming and performance tuning.  —  Now every time I turn around I’m looking for something to tweak to make it better.  —  I think I’m getting on some of my “cubicle mate’s” nerves.  Maybe I should stop making that squeaky “Tweak” noise every time I try to Tweak something.

Well.  Let me know how things are going up there.  What’s the latest?

Your friendly Dell programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

Letters to the Power Plant #119 — Dell Me About It

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 nineteenth letter I wrote.

9/16/05 — Dell me about it

Hello Friends from Sooner and beyond,

Remember me?  Someone reminded me the other day that it has been two whole months since I wrote to you guys.  Gee.  Has it been that long?  I thought it was only early last week.  Boy does time fly when you’re having fun (or whatever I’m having).

Well.  Things have been going well with me.  I’m on a different team now.  I’m in what’s called “Release Management”.  That means that we deploy all the applications into production for our area.  Our area has grown, so that we not only have all the Financial applications at Dell, we also have all the HR and Product Group applications also.

I’m still being asked to write programs real fast that do things that they need right away, and that’s probably the reason I have not had time to write.  I now have three computers on my desk and I’m using all of them most of the time.

It keeps me hopping, but then, that’s what my cube mates like to see.  It keeps them entertained.  —  They ask me why I enjoy working so much, and I tell them.  “This isn’t hard.  You ought to try shoveling coal with my buddies up at the power plant for a while.  That’s hard work.”

They just roll their eyes around and act like I’m crazy.  —  Well.  I might be crazy, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

So.  Now that I’m on Release Management, I’m expected to be involved on a lot more projects now.  So I’m having to learn a lot of different things.

I’m also called an “Application Administrator” for Oracle Financials.  That’s like the Financial Module of SAP.  —  Yep.  They finally decided that since I could figure out how to access everything anyway, even though Jim Arnold had told the world many years ago that no one needs Internet Access except for him and Summer Goebel, they might as well make me “Application Administrator”.

I think it’s a good title to have, since when I pass by, people seem to bow in my presence.  —  Of course, that could be because my deodorant has failed because of all of my nervous energy, and they are trying to keep their lunch down in their stomach.

I have missed you guys terribly, and I have been having some more crazy dreams of the power plant.  I heard you guys were putting up better security around the plant.  It’s about time.

You never know when an old retired Maintenance Supervisor might try to make an appearance when it’s not even “Men’s Club”.  I don’t think they should allow him into the plant, for his own safety.

I remember when he cared so much about my safety that he told Andy to tell me that I couldn’t come out for a visit a couple of years ago because it wouldn’t be safe.  —  At least I was able to get in there in time to wish him well on his retirement.

He was probably thinking about what I said about safety in my PowerPoint presentation when I left.  I was going to make a website and put the presentation out there so that he can go look at it any time he wants just in case he forgets.

I suppose one of the reasons I don’t feel so compelled to write to you guys lately is because I know that things are looking up for most of you.  Before; I thought you might need a little cheering up every now and then.  Now that the dumbily duo have gone, I know you are doing a lot better.

I have heard about Ray Eberle’s wife and about Jimmie Moore, and my family is keeping them both in our prayers every day.  Keep me updated on how they are doing.  I haven’t heard much news coming from your way lately.  Let me know how things are going.

Your friendly Dell Programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

_____________________

Kevin J. Breazile

GFCS, HR, and PG IT

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #120 — Electrical Internet

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 twentieth letter I wrote.

10/4/05  —  Electrical Internet

Dear Sooner buddies,

Hey.  I was just reading an article about the Internet and it reminded me of one of our Power Ideas.  —  Oh.  You remember.  “We’ve Got the Power” in 1990.  And how it gave everyone that warm and fuzzy feeling for each other….and how it sort of brought everyone together in a wave of kindness…..  Well.  At least that’s the way I remember it…..or is it.

Anyway.  I remember one of our “way out there” ideas was to have our company invest in research on using the electric lines for Internet access, because that’s where the big bucks are going to be in the future.

But silly me (remember…this was pre-World Wide Web days).  I forgot that OG&E makes electricity, and even though they said that they wanted to do other things, the only thing they “really” wanted to do was spin those turbines and pour out the juice to the community.

Well.  Read this article:

Note to Reader:  I removed the link because it no longer works.  In order to read more about the “We’ve Got the Power” program read the post “Power Plant We’ve Got the Power Program” and “Power Plant We’ve Got the Power Stress Buster“.

‘Cause, here it comes.  —  Of course, I still hear our illustrious Supervisor of Equipment Support (Well.  He was over the Engineers at the time) telling Summer Goebel when she asked me how to setup her computer to use High Memory, “It doesn’t matter how much memory your computer has, it can only use the first 640K anyway.”  —  I can still hear the sound of Toby ducking under his desk in his cubicle when I gave Arnold my response.

Ok…. Note to Reader:  My response was “You may be stupid, but I’m not!”

I thought this would be an interesting article for you to peruse.

Your friendly Dell programmer.

Kevin

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Services I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #121 — Happy Thanksgiving from 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 first letter I wrote.

11/21/05  —  A Happy Thanksgiving from Dell

Dear Sooner Plantians and friends,

It has been hard these days to find the time to write, but things are starting to ease up some.  I’m on vacation this week, so I finally have “some” time to write.  Notice that even though I’m on vacation I am still logging into work to check on things.

Old habits are hard to…..well….anyway…..I thought I would log in just to see what is going on.  I’m going to be in Stillwater this Wednesday night thru Friday night to visit my parents.  I think we will be staying at the Hampton Inn, since it’s about the only good Hotel in town.

I hope everything is going well with all of you.  I haven’t really heard much lately.  Is your new plant manager keeping you so busy that you don’t have time to write either?

We just went through another Reorganization / downsizing.  I’m still on the same team I was on last month when I wrote last.  Things are finally settling down so that I’m only doing two jobs now instead of three.  I’m still the Application Administrator of the Oracle Financials application.  That’s the program that is sorta like SAP, but only the Financial module.

So, how is it with your new plant manager?

I keep having strange dreams about the plant, but it has changed so much in my dreams that it has morphed into a sort of Dellish, Power Plantish, Universityish, Europeanish, 18 century villageish sort of mystical place.

I suppose you guys have those sorts of dreams too. —  Where you are going to work on some kind of a big piece of equipment (carrying the printout of your Task List), and being chased by some mythical creature that lurks in the boiler and comes out like the monster in Beowulf, out of the furnace to snatch unsuspecting hardhatted fellows.

Then you may stumble into a meeting room in order to have a one-on-one meeting with your foreman, only to find that all the meeting rooms are booked, and there isn’t anywhere to hide, so you go darting out of the room and find your self running down a cobblestone street in the dark trying to remember if you have already taken a clearance on the bowl mill, and whether or not Bill Robinson put the tags on the right one.

Then as you are climbing the ladder up the side of the bowl mill you hear a tap-tap-tapping coming from inside the mill and realize that some tinker is sitting on his three-legged stool tink-tink-tinking away at some wooden object outside the front of his shop where his family has been tinking for centuries.  And he is singing a song that sounds like the song that is sung by Intake pumps as they hum along.

And as you leap over the ash pipes by the Intake pumps and stumble and roll into the electric manhole because someone has left the lid off of it and didn’t put up a barricade, and fall splashing into the manhole since the manhole pump doesn’t work and water from Sooner Lake has seeped in and filled it up.

You know I watched a little open motored pump pump that hole dry one day.  It was the strangest thing to see that motor running under water.  Totally soaked with water.  That must have been some clean water.

Anyway.  You know how dreams are.  When you fall in the dark water of a manhole, you either get zapped by electricity and wake up, or you are suddenly transported to the top of the Fly Ash silo and the only way down is to walk the crosswalk across the top of the silos and make your way down the zigzag stairway since the elevator doesn’t seem to want to cooperate.

And as you walk down the railroad tracks into the dumper, you hear the pound-pounding of your feet on the metal hull of the dumper as you walk through it.  The deluge pump on the south side seems to be leaking water down the side of the dumper into the dark coal stained concrete.

As you follow the water down into the dumper and through the grid at the bottom, you crawl out through the hatchway at the bottom of the dumper hopper.  Rolling onto the floor you become drenched in the damp coal dust that soaks into your pores and heals your wounds, making you forget your cracked skull and bruised knees.

Following the faint dumper lighting, you make your way to Conveyor 2 and start the long climb to the surface.  As you climb higher and higher, you find yourself watching computers flowing by as the conveyor belt turns into rollers that swiftly and cleanly shifts computers this way and that sending them on their way to the customers waiting patiently at their door.

Where they eagerly open their computer boxes and madly assembling the monitor and keyboard and plugging it into the wall, connecting it to the generator that hums in the power plant, being spun by the steam that is made by the coal that came to the plant on the train that was dumped into the hopper and carried on Conveyor 2 up and up to the top of the stackout tower where it is dumped onto the coal pile.

Where brave men in their large yellow coal moving machines run like ants over the surface.  Packing and moving and packing again…..

Then the engineering professor points to the chalkboard with his long wooden pointer and his bushy moustache and eyebrows, and funny hat and glasses, and he says “that is the circle of life”.  And the crowd roars with applause, and the professor bows and the applause becomes more and more tinny until it is nothing more than a tink-tink-tinking sound that sounds like the sound of the tinker.

Or is it the sound of the footsteps of that horrible creature that lives in the boiler and comes out every now and then to snatch unsuspecting fellows in their yellow hardhats?  Creep-creep-creeping up on you.     —-  You know.  Dreams like that.  I’m sure you guys must have them all the time.  Or perhaps you “Live Them!!!”

Your Friendly Dell Programmer,

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 it 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

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….

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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

Power Plant Safety As Interpreted by Curtis Love

Original posted on January 28, 2012:

I vividly remember four events while working at the power plant where I was at the brink of death. I’m sure there were many other times, but these four have been etched in my memory almost 30 years later. Of those four memorable events, Curtis Love was by my side (so to speak) to share the wonder of two of those moments. This is a story about one of those times when you are too busy at the time to realize how close you came to catching that ride to the great power plant in the sky, until the middle of that night when you wake up in a cold sweat trying to catch your breath.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, safety is the number one priority at the power plant. But what is safe and what isn’t is relative. If you are the person that has to walk out onto a plank hanging out over the top ledge on the boiler in order to replace a section of boiler tube before the boiler has cooled down below 160 degrees, you might not think it is safe to do that with only an extra long lanyard tied to your waist and a sheer drop of 200 feet to the bottom ash hopper below (which I incidentally didn’t have to do as an electrician, but had to hear about after some other brave he-man had the privilege), you might not think that this is safe. But the Equipment Support Supervisor who has spent too many years as an engineer behind his desk doesn’t see anything wrong with this as long as you don’t fall. So, he tells you to do it, just don’t fall.

Safety is also relative to the date when something occurs. In 1994 OSHA implemented new rules for confined spaces. A confined space is any place that’s hard to enter and exit, or a place where you might be trapped in an enclosure because of converging walls. So, before 1994, there were no safety rules specific to confined spaces.

No rules meant that when I was on labor crew it was perfectly safe to crawl into a confined space and wind and twist your way around obstacles until the small oval door that you entered (18 inches by 12 inches) was only a distant memory as you are lying down in the bottom section of the sand filter tank with about 22 inches from the bottom of the section to the top requiring you to lie flat as you drag yourself around the support rods just less than 2 feet apart. Oh. and wearing a sandblast helmet…

Sand Blast Helmet

Sand Blast Helmet

and holding a sandblaster hose…

Sand Blast Hose

Sand Blast Hose

with a straight through Sandblast Nozzle….

Sand Blast Nozzle

Sand Blast Nozzle

Which means, the person sandblasting has no way of turning off the sand or the air on their own. If you wanted to turn off the sand, you had to bang the nozzle against the side of the tank and hope that the person outside monitoring the sandblaster was able to hear you above the roar of the Sandblaster and the Industrial Vacuum.

Sandblasting machine. Would run about 15 minutes before it would run out of sand.

Sandblasting machine. Would run about 15 minutes before it would run out of sand.

You also had a drop light that left you all tangled in wires and hoses that blew air on your face so that you could breathe and a 4 inch diameter vacuum hose that sucked the blasted sand and rust away, while the sandblaster blasts away the rust from all things metal less than a foot away from your face, because the air is so full of dust, that’s as far as you can see while holding the drop light with the other hand next to the sandblast hose. The air that blows through the sandblaster is hot, so you begin to sweat inside the heavy rain suit that you wear to protect the rest of you from sand that is ricocheting everywhere, but you don’t feel it as long as cool air is blowing on your face.

The week I spent lying flat trying to prop up my head while sandblasting the bottom section of both sand filter tanks gave me time to think about a lot of things…. which leads us to Curtis Love…. Not that it was Curtis Love that I was thinking about, but that he enters the story some time in the middle of this week. When I least expected it.

Similar to these Sand Filters only about twice the size

Similar to these Sand Filters only about twice the size. If you look closely you can see the seam around the bottom. Below that seam is where I was lying while sandblasting

Curtis Love was a janitor at the plant when I first joined the Sanitation Engineering Team after my four summers of training as a “summer help”. Curtis was like my mother in some ways (and in other ways not – obviously). He was always looking for something to worry about.

For instance, one Monday morning while we were sitting in our Monday Morning Janitor safety meeting and Pat Braden had just finished reading the most recent safety pamphlet to us and we were silently pondering the proper way to set the outriggers on a P&H Crane, Jim Kanelakos said, “Hey Curtis. Don’t you have your mortgage at the Federal Bank in Ponca City?” Curtis said, “Yeah, why?” Jim continued, “Well I heard this morning on the news that the bank was foreclosing on all of their home mortgages.”

Curtis said that he hadn’t heard that, but that as soon as it was 9:00 am he would call the bank to find out what he needed to do so that he wouldn’t lose his house. About that time I gave a report on the number of fiddleback spiders I had killed in the main switchgear the previous week. It seemed like no one was listening to my statistics as Doris Voss was still pondering the P&H Crane hand signals, and Curtis was shuffling his feet in worry and Ronnie Banks was staring off into space, as if he was stunned that Monday was already here again, and Jim Kanelakos was snickering under his breath.

When the meeting was over and we were standing up, Jim told Curtis, “Hey Curtis. I was just kidding. The bank really isn’t foreclosing on their mortgages.” Curtis replied, “I don’t know. I better call them to check anyway.” Jim replied, “Curtis, I just made that up! I was playing a joke on you.” Curtis said, “I better check anyway, because it still is possible that they could be foreclosing on their mortgages”. So Jim just gave up trying to explain.

I know you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at me now, but there were only two of us at the plant that were small enough to crawl through the portal into the Sand Filter tanks (Ed Shiever and myself), because not only was it very tight, but the entry was so close to the edge of the building that you had to enter the hole by curving your body around the corner and into the tank.

I have tried to paint of picture of the predicament a person is in when they are laying in this small space about 20 feet from the small portal that you have to crawl through. with their airline for the sandblast helmet, the sandblast hose, the drop light cord and the 4 inch vacuum hose all wound around the support rods that were not quite 2 feet apart in all directions. Because this is where I was when without my giving the signal (by banging the sandblast nozzle on the tank three times), the sand stopped flowing from the nozzle and only air was hissing loudly.

This meant one of two things. The sandblast machine had just run out of sand, or someone was shutting the sandblaster off because it was time for lunch. I figured it was time for lunch, because I didn’t think it had been more than 10 minutes since the sand had been refilled and amid the roaring blasts and the howling sucking vacuum hose, I thought I had caught the sound of a rumbling stomach from time to time.

Industrial Vacuum used to suck out the sand as I was sandblasting

Industrial Vacuum used to suck out the sand as I was sandblasting

The next thing that should happen after the sand has blown out of the sandblast hose, is that the air to the sandblaster should stop blowing. And it did…. but what wasn’t supposed to happen, that did, was that the air blowing through my sandblast hood allowing me to breathe in this sea of rusty dust shut off at the same time! While still pondering what was happening, I suddenly realized that without the air supply to my hood, not only could I not breathe at all, but my sweat-filled rain suit that I was wearing suddenly became unbearably hot and dust began pouring into my hood now that the positive pressure was gone.

I understood from these various signs of discomfort that I needed to head back to the exit as quickly as possible, as I was forced by the thick dust to hold my breath. I pulled my hood off of my head and everything went black. I had moved more than a foot away from the drop light. I knew that the exit was in the direction of my feet on the far side of the tank, so I swung around a row of support rods and dragged myself along by the rods as quickly as I could unable to see or take a breath. Working my way around the cable, the air hose, the sandblast hose and the vacuum hose as I pulled myself along trying to make out where the exit could be. Luckily, I had figured correctly and I found myself at the exit where in one motion I pulled myself out to fresh air and the blinding light of the day gasping for air.

Furious that someone had turned off my air, I ran out of the sand filter building to the sandblast machine where I found Curtis Love of all people. Up to this point, Curtis had never had the privilege to operate the sandblaster and was not aware of the proper sequence to shutting down the machine…. without shutting off the air to my hood. Incidentally, both the sandblaster and the air hose to the sandblast hood were being fed from the same regular plant air supply (which OSHA might have frowned upon back as far as 1983, and which caused you to blow black oily stuff out of your nose for a few days).

Needless to say, about the time that I came bolting out of the sand filter building Curtis had figured out that he had shut off the wrong valve. He was apologizing profusely in one long drawn out sentence….. “Kevin, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry….” I stopped myself short as my hands were flying toward the area where his neck would have been, if Curtis had had a neck.

I looked over toward the crew cab parked nearby. It was full of hungry labor crew “he-men in training” all smiling and chuckling. At that moment I knew that both Curtis and I had been on the receiving end of what could be construed as a “power plant joke” (refer to the post about Gene Day to learn more about those:  “Power Plant Humor and Joking with Gene Day“). So, I spent the next 30 seconds as Curtis and I piled into the crew cab telling Curtis that is was all right, he didn’t have to feel bad about it. Evidently, someone had told Curtis how to shutdown the sandblaster, but failed to tell him exactly which valve to turn off when turning off the air to the sandblaster.

Needless to say. Lunch tasted extra good that day. Possibly the rusty dust added just the right amount of iron to my sandwich.

Carpooling with Bud Schoonover

This post was originally posted on February 4, 2012.  I have added some detail and pictures:

Coal-fired power plants are built out in the country away from any major town. I used to think this was because they didn’t want to pour ash and fumes on the nearby civilians, but now I think it has more to do with the kind of people that work at the plant. They like wide open spaces.

They like driving through the countryside every morning on the way to work, and again in the afternoon on the way home. In the morning, it gives them time to wake up and face the day ahead, as they can see the plant 20 miles away looming closer and closer as the dawn approaches. It gives them time to wind down in the evening so that by the time they arrive at their homes, the troubles of the day are long behind them and they can spend time with their families, their horses, and cows, and tractors, and their neighbors. But enough about Walt Oswalt for now.

Some brave power plant workers reside in the nearest towns 20 miles in either direction. This is where I was in 1986 when I moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma. I had a few good friends in Ponca City that worked at the plant, and so we decided it would be best for us to carpool to work each day. There were four of us and we would alternate drivers each day. We would meet early in the morning in the parking lot of a grocery store and all pile into one of the cars and make our 20 mile trek to the plant. Besides myself, there was Jim Heflin, Dick Dale and Bud Schoonover.

For those of you who don’t know these three, let’s just say that they were on the hefty side. At that time I was slightly on the pre-hefty stage of my life. I owned a little 1982  Honda Civic that would normally get 40 miles to the gallon on the highway.

A 1982 Honda Civic

A 1982 Honda Civic

With all four of us in the car, I couldn’t get past 32 miles to the gallon, as my car would spit and sputter all the way to work like the little engine that could trying to make it over the mountain.

Just like my Blue Honda coasting down the Hill with Jim, Dick and Bud!

Just like my Blue Honda coasting down the Hill with Jim, Dick and Bud!

Bud was very tall and in the front seat of my little Honda Civic, his knees would almost touch his chin and his feet were cramped and his head had to bend down a little. It was comical to watch us all pour out of my car in the parking lot. it was almost magical how we could all fit in there.

Bud Schoonover and Dick Dale worked in the tool room and the warehouse, and Jim worked on a mechanical maintenance crew. I was an electrician and called the electric shop my home at this time. I had worked with all three of these men from my early days as a summer help and we knew each other very well. Jim Heflin reminded me of an old hound dog that the kids like to climb all over and he just sits there and enjoys it.

The Splittin' Image of Jim Heflin

The Splittin’ Image of Jim Heflin

He rarely had a cross word to say. I could go on about Jim, but this is a story more about Bud Schoonover than it is Jim. I will save him for another day.

Dick Dale was a jolly kind of person in general, but he had more wits about him than his other companions, and that tended to make him a little more agitated at some things, which he would work out verbally on the way home from work on most days.

My Dear Friend Richard Dale

My Dear Friend Richard Dale

Once before I started carpooling with Bud, Jim and Dick, Bud was driving home after work one day, and Dick was talking about his day. Every once in a while Bud would say “…and what about Jim.” After they had passed the Otoe-Missouri tribe and were close to the Marland turnoff, just after Bud had said, “…and what about Jim” for the fifth time, Dick stopped talking and said, “Why do you keep asking about Jim Heflin?  What does he have to do with this?”

Bud answered, “Well. Jim did ride to work with us this morning didn’t he?” Sure enough. They had left Jim behind. So, they turned around and headed back to the plant. 15 minutes later, they arrived back at the plant, and there was Jim just waiting by the roadside with his lunch box like a good faithful hound dog, just as sure that they were going to come back and pick him up as he could be.

Bud Schoonover (or Scoot-On-Over Bud as I used to call him from time-to-time when we were climbin in the car), was a tall large man. I want to say that I saw him angry only one time, and it was kind of scary seeing this huge guy chasing after you like a large troll with a big grin on his face and tongue hanging out flailing his lunch box like a giant mace. Bud was really a mild mannered person most of the time, and though he might complain from time to time each day, you felt like he was someone that made an art out of remaining calm when faced with an angry mob lined up at the tool room gate demanding tools and parts. He wouldn’t move any faster if there was just one person or an entire crowd.

I could go on about Bud, and I probably will later, but today I am focusing on the act of carpooling with Bud Schoonover. Each morning Bud would watch the weather on TV before heading out of the house, and he just couldn’t wait for someone to ask him what the weather was going to be like, because he knew in his heart that he was providing a service to his fellow man by making sure that he never missed the weather report in the morning. So I would always oblige him. I would wait until we were on the road on our way out of Ponca City, and then I would ask, “Hey Bud. What’s the weather goin’ ta be like today?” Bud would squint his eyes (mainly because Bud seemed to naturally squint a lot. Sort of like Clint Eastwood) and he would look off into the distance and say a long drawn out “Well…..” Then he would go into the weather report.

To Describe what Bud’s face looked like you will have to use a little imagination…  First, by starting with Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son…

Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son

Aunt Esther from Sanford and Son

Then you need to make her a white person.  Then you need to make her a man.  Then you need to add about 150 lbs.  And you would have Bud Schoonover.  Actually, Bud would make the very same expression that Aunt Esther is making in this picture.  I couldn’t watch Sanford and Son without thinking about Bud Schoonover.  I think Aunt Esther probably took lessons from Bud about how to move your jaw back and forth at some point in her life.

I remember one morning when we were driving to work and Bud was telling us that it was going to start clearing up around noon, and Dick Dale and I were sitting in the front seats looking out the window at the cloudless sky and the morning sun shining brightly across the meadow, and I said, “…going to clear up around noon?”, and he replied, “Yep, around noon”. I answered, “Well, that’s good, it’ll be about time.”

There was another time where Bud’s weather report one morning said that if we didn’t get rain soon the wheat farmers were sure to lose all their crops. When Dick Dale and I looked around, the wheat fields were all just as green and growing like there was no tomorrow. — There was a drought, but it was in the southern part of the state and didn’t effect us.

Because of this daily report, Dick Dale and I developed a way of speaking to each other without saying words. We would look at each other and move our eyebrows up and down and make small gestures with our mouths, and we both knew exactly what each other was saying.

My favorite Bud Schoonover carpooling story has to do with one morning when Bud was driving us to work and we were heading down the highway when we topped a small hill and were getting ready to head down into a valley just inside the Ponca Indian tribe.  Bud slowed down the car and stopped right there in the middle of the highway.

We looked around trying to figure out what happened. Bud acted as if everything was just normal, and so the three of us, Jim, Dick and I were spinning our heads around trying to figure out what Bud was doing stopping the car in the middle of the highway with cars beginning to pile up behind us. Ideas flashed through my mind of some Indian curse that had possessed Bud, and I half expected Bud to start attacking us like a zombie.

So, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I had to ask, “Bud? Why did you stop here?” He said, “School bus.” Dick then chimed in with the next logical question and said, “School bus?” Bud came back with “Yeah, the school bus down there”. Sure enough. Down in the valley about 1/2 mile in front of us was a school bus heading toward us that had stopped to pick up some children along the highway and it had its red flashers on and its stop sign out.

A school bus with its flashers on about 1/2 mile down the road

A school bus with its flashers on about 1/2 mile down the road

So, Dick Dale said something to me with his left eyebrow, and I replied by raising the right side of my lip while tensing it up some.

Finally the bus resumed its journey toward us, and Bud began moving again, much to the delight of the long line of cars behind us. The bus went forward about 300 feet and stopped at another driveway  to pick up some more children. We were only about 1/4 of a mile away from the bus at this point, so Bud stopped his car again and waited for the children to board the bus. I think I could see Bud squinting to get a better count of how many children were climbing into the bus. It occurred to me later that maybe when Bud squinted his eyes he magnified his sight so that ‘objects appear closer than they really were’.

Anyway, that was the first and only time in my life that I had waited twice for a school bus going in the opposite direction. It could only happen while carpooling with Bud Schoonover.

I now have a picture of Bud:

Bud-Schoonover

Bud Schoonover

Indian Curse or Brown and Root Blunder

Originally posted on February 18, 2012.

I worked at Sooner Coal-fired power plant about a month during the summer of 1979 before I heard about the Indian curse that had been placed on the plant before they started construction.  It came up by chance in a conversation with Sonny Karcher and Jerry Mitchell when we were on our way to the coalyard to do something.  I was curious why Unit 1 was almost complete but Unit 2 still had over a year left before it was finished even though they both looked pretty much identical.  When I asked them that question I didn’t expect the answer that I received, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to hear about an Indian Curse.  It did explain, however, that when we drove around by Unit 2. Sonny would tense up a little looking up at the boiler structure as if he expected to see something.

The edge of the plant property is adjacent to the Otoe-Missouria Indian Tribe.  It was said that for some reason the tribe didn’t take too kindly to having a huge power plant larger than the nearby town of Red Rock taking up their view of the sunrise (at least until the tax revenue started rolling in from the plant building the best school in the state at the time).  So it was believed that someone in the Indian tribe decided to place a curse on the plant that would cause major destruction.

I heard others say that the plant was built on Holy Indian Burial ground.  At the time it seemed to me that this was a rumor that could easily be started and very hard to prove false.  Sort of like a “Poltergeist” situation.  Though, if it was true, then it would seem like the burial site would most likely be located around the bottom of Unit 2 boiler (right at the spot where I imagined the boiler ghost creeping out to grab Bob Lillibridge 4 years later.  See the post Bob Lillibridge Meets the Boiler Ghost).

I am including an aerial picture of the immediate plant grounds below to help visualize what Jerry and Sonny showed me next.

This is a Google Earth Image taken from their website of the power plant.  In this picture you can see the two tall structures; Unit 1 on the right with Unit 2 sitting right next to it just like the two boilers that you see in the picture of the plant to the right of this post.  They are each 250 feet tall.  About the same height as a 25 story building.  Notice that next to Unit 2 there is a wide space of fields with nothing there.  The coalyard at the top is extended the same distance but the coal is only on the side where the two units are.  This is because in the future 4 more units were planned to be built in this space.  Sooner Lake was sized to handle all 6 units when it was built.  But that is another story.

At the time of this story the area next to Unit 2 between those two roads you see going across the field was not a field full of flowers and rabbits and birds as it is today.  It was packed full of huge metal I-Beams and all sorts of metal structures that had been twisted and bent as if some giant had visited the plant during the night and was trying to tie them all into pretzels.

Sonny explained while Jerry drove the truck around the piles of iron debris that one day in 1976 (I think it was) when it was very windy as it naturally is in this part of Oklahoma, in the middle of the day the construction company Brown and Root called off work because it was too windy.  Everyone had made their way to the construction parking lot when all of the sudden Unit 2 boiler collapsed just like one of the twin towers.  It came smashing down to the ground.  Leaving huge thick metal beams twisted and bent like they were nothing more than licorice sticks.  Amazingly no one was killed because everyone had just left the boilers and were a safe distance from the disaster.

Needless to say this shook people up and those that had heard of an Indian Curse started to think twice about it.  Brown and Root of course had to pay for the disaster, which cost them dearly.  They hauled the pile of mess off to one side and began to rebuild Unit 2 from the ground up.  This time with their inspectors double checking the torque (or tightness) of every major bolt.

This brings to mind the question…  If a 250 foot tall boiler falls in the prairie and no one is injured… Does it make a sound?

In the years that followed, Sooner Plant took steps to maintain a good relationship with the Otoe Missouria tribe.  Raymond Lee Butler a Native American from the Otoe Missouria tribe and a machinist at the plant was elected chief of their tribe (or chairman as they call it now).  But that (as I have said before) is another story.

Comment from Earlier Post:

eddie hickman March 20, 2013

I was there the day unit 2 fell, I was walking to the brass shack, just came down from unit 2 when we noticed the operator of the Maniwoc 5100 crane did not secure the crane ball to the boiler or the crane to keep it from swaying in the wind. I kept watching the crane ball slamming into the steel causing the boiler to sway and within a minute I watched it fall from 50 yards away and took off running,the whole unit was going up quick because B&R were behind schedule,and the most of the steel hadn’t been torqued yet by the bolt up crew.