Letters to the Power Plant #107 — More Training 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 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.

10/26/04 – More Training At Dell

Hey Soonerites!!  And friends of Sooner Plantians,

Well.  I thought I would take a minute to drop a line to you guys (that’s fishin’ lingo, ’cause I know how much some of you like to fish) to see how you’re doin’ up there.  I was in training all last week taking another .NET class.  (See?  I knew that .NET would peak your “Fishin’ Interest”).

Actually.  The .NET course had to do with the .NET computer programming language called C# (sharp).  You may have remembered me mentioning this before.  Well.  That’s where I was all last week.

The week before that was when we had the VP off-site, and we went to this place at Lake Travis and messed around all afternoon.  After 2:00 in the afternoon they said we could drink all the Margueritas and beers that we wanted as long as we were safe driving home.

Yeah.  Like how many would that be?  They had a boat that we would take a long ride around the lake.  —  The biggest surprise for me was that the Vice President gave me another award.  I had gotten one last quarter for “Customer Experience”, so I wasn’t expecting another one (so soon — you know how managers like to pass the awards around so no one feels left out).

Anyway.  It was actually a team award, and I just happened to be on that team.  So we each received the “Vice President’s Leadership Award”.  That was because I was on the team that implemented CMM.

CMM stands for Capability Maturity Model.  So now that you know that, I’m sure everything is clear.  I can hear you now saying to yourself, “Oh!  CMM.  Capability Maturity Model.  That explains it.”

Actually, our group was the first organization at Dell to Achieve CMM Level 2.  Which is a big thing if you are an IT person.  We are on our way to Level 3. —  I know.  (bowing), I have accidentally impressed you with my greatness……Hey…. You didn’t have to……WELL!!!!  Some people just don’t know how to accept the fact that some are at CMM Level 2, and others are NOT!!!!

Anyway.  I should change the subject.  —  I noticed the last time that I sent a letter to all you guys that a particular donut-eating person no longer had a valid e-mail address.  I had heard that this was the case, but no one so far has offered any information as to why this would be the case.  Which just makes me wonder all the more.  I have a theory, and I’m just waiting to see if it pans out.

I had a strange dream about the Precipitator the other night (How’s that for changing the subject?).  It was during overhaul and the entire roof of the Precipitator had been removed to do some major “overhaul” for some reason.

Well, for some reason, my cat was up there chasing around a mouse, and there was fly ash caked up all around the top, and I was walking around up there like I was supposed to be looking for something, but I don’t remember what it was (you know how dreams are).

Anyway, At one point, I was standing on a real long ladder that went all the way from the ground to the top of the precipitator (about 100 feet — for those who haven’t seen it), and I was trying to hold on to the top of the precipitator on the corner and my cat was dodging in and out chasing that mouse, and I was doing everything I could to keep that long ladder from falling off and trying to grab the cat every time it came close enough.  — Pretty weird huh?  Well.  You know how dreams are.

Well.  I had better get back to whatever it is that I’m supposed to be doing.  Oh.   Yeah.  That’s right.  I’m supposed to be doing something.

I hope all of you are having a good day.  Stay safe.

Your friendly Dell Programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Services I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #106 — Shivering 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 sixth 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.

10/14/04 – Shivering At Dell

Hello once again Friends at Sooner Plant and the vast beyond,

Boy.  It is fffreeezzziinnggg down here.  It made it all the way down in the 60s today.  And with that wind, it was quite nippy.  I almost thought about putting on a long sleeve shirt, but before I could think about it, I thought about breakfast, and quickly forgot to put on a long sleeve shirt.  —  That’s ok, ’cause it’s just the perfect temperature for a short sleeve shirt in my cubicle.

I had two projects go into production last night, which was fun.  I installed one from one of my computers while I was installing the other with my other computer.  I was doing the “using both mice at the same time” thing, (which I’ve gotten pretty good at doing since I’ve been working at Dell).

This morning both of my project managers were happy because everything turned out all right.  —  About a month ago when our new Oklahoma City site opened up, I was able to “rollout” Kronos to that site without doing anything.  It just went right on in there without any problem.

This afternoon we have a “All-Hands” meeting with our Director.  Since it’s my birthday this month, we get to have cake and everyone is going to sing “Happy Birthday”.  They asked me last week what kind of cake I wanted, and they gave me this big long list of options.

I chose the following cake:  French Vanilla cake with Bavarian Cream filling and Chocolate Butter cream icing.  —  Gee.  That sounded too good to pass up.

It’s ok though.  I worked off the extra “fat” by walking up and down the stairway one extra time today — when I ran out to McDonald’s to get my lunch (2 double cheeseburgers —  You know.  Double Cheeseburgers at McDonald’s are only one dollar a piece!!).  —  See.  I’m trying to be “healthy” and frugal, and have my cake and eat it too!!!!

Tomorrow we are going to have an All-Hands meeting with our Vice President.  We are going to a place called Carlos and Charlies.  I don’t know what kind of place it is, but it’s over at Lake Travis and they said there was going to be a surprise, so I’m curious.  It’s one of those all day things, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Well.  I’m turning 44 on Monday.  Yep.  Some of you might remember when I first showed up at Sooner Plant the first time in the summer of 1979 when I was 18 years old.

It seems like Ray Eberle was working for Brown and Root that summer.  —  I’m not sure if he was there that summer or came the following summer….I remember that because I remember Bill Gibson having this very interesting drawl that he would go into where when he would tell stories, he would start to drag out his sentences in a funny way, and after marveling at that for a few weeks, I heard him talking to this Brown and Root guy (Ray), that was talking the same exact way!!

I thought that was kind of neat that these guys had their own special way of talking when they were telling stories.  And everyone knows that Bill Gibson can tell stories.  I couldn’t believe how many jokes Bill Gibson could tell.  I thought after a couple of months that he would run out and start repeating them, but he just kept on coming up with new ones for 20 years.

Anyway.  I remember working with Jerry Mitchell, Sonny Karcher and Larry Riley a lot that summer.  They didn’t have a yard crew yet, so I was able to work in the Maintenance shop as a helper.  I remember the last couple of weeks of that summer working with Aubrey Cargill (what ever happened to Aubrey?)and Ben Hutchinson gathering up driftwood and boards that had washed up on those long dikes out in the lake and throwing them into the new dump truck.  We were kind of “breaking it in”.

It was the truck that Dee Ball wrecked when he went to Oklahoma City to pick it up and brought it back with a dent right down the front because he had run off the road and hit one of those reflectors when his cigarette fell down between his legs while he was driving down the Interstate.

I also remember working with Dee Ball.  Every time he would get in a vehicle he would end up tearing it up some way or other, or at least getting it stuck somewhere.  Marlin McDaniel was the A foreman and Orville Ferguson was the Supervisor.  Since I worked for Marlin McDaniel, he would assign me to whatever crew needed help (after I had finished sweeping (or shoveling) out the maintenance shop each morning), or where I would get in the least amount of trouble.

I still have a list somewhere at home that I made when Larry Riley and Sonny Kendrick told me to go to the Tool room and get some tools.  They told me that I needed to get a 3/4 come-along.  As soon as they said that, I thought I’d better write this down, because this is going to be a really funny joke, and I’ll want to remember it.

So I wrote down 3/4 come-along, and a 3/4 box end, and a large bastard file (uh huh.  I knew they were pulling my leg right off).  Then they said they needed a 4 foot soft choker and a 1/2 inch shackle.  —  That was the first thing I had heard of before, after all, a shackle IS something that you put on someone’s ankle when you throw them in a dungeon.

So I went up to Bud Schoonover (meeting him for the first time), and I leaned on the window and said with a grin, “I need a 3/4 come-along”.  —  I was surprised when he turned around, took a few steps and grabbed some contraption that had chains and hooks and a handle hanging in every direction and he handed it to me (Yeah.  That was in the days when there was plenty of tools in the tool room and Bud would actually give them to you).

So I went down my list and he gave me all those things.  Boy.  So I thought, this wasn’t a joke after all.  —  I began to think that it was  joke a little while later as we carried all these things down to the bottom of Belt 2.  I was thinking about those shackles and the choker and how this was looking more and more like a dungeon as we descended down into the darkness.

I remember working with Dale Hull.  He was interesting.  He had aligned the tires on his car himself and got over 100,000 miles on one set of tires, so I thought he must know what he’s doing.

I also remember that someone was selling 100 pound bags of potatoes that summer, so I split a bag with Ray Butler.  I took those 50 pounds of Potatoes home and we ate potatoes until they were growing out of our ears (oh.  Wait, that’s what happens when you don’t clean your ears. —  Never mind).

Anyway.  It was that summer that I learned how to eat raw potatoes.  It’s like eating a turnip. (Did you ever wonder why they call them “turn ups?” — Oh.  Neither did I.  I was just wondering if you did).

Oh My Gosh!!!  (That’s OMG if you are chatting with someone online).  Look what I’ve done!  I certainly didn’t plan on writing an aimlessly rambling letter to you guys when I first started.  I was just going to tell you about the cold weather that we’re having.

Yeah.  That’s all I had to talk about.  —  The weather.  —  Go figure.  Anyway.  I think all that cold air whistling through my ears must have done something to my brain.  —  Yeah.  I think it did.

I’m bobbing my head back and forth now and I can hear something rolling around in there (and the guy in the cubicle across the aisle snickering).  If I get the motion down just right I can hear something bouncing off both sides of my skull like a ping pong ball.  Hey!  That’s kinda neat.  —  Did I mention that it was Ramblin’ Ann’s Birthday today?  —  Well if it isn’t, it should be, ’cause I’m celebrating it!!!!!

Your friendliest Dell Programmer and Support person,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Services I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #105 — Well 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 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.

10/7/04 – Well At Dell

Dear Sooner Plant Friends and Friends from everywhere else,

—  No.  I know you all are curious to know if we found a new “well” at Dell because of the subject line.  —  No.  Boy!  Some of you farmers are Soooo predictable.  Geez!!

That has to do with Dell’s concern that we all stay healthy here. —  I’m just telling you about the “Well at Dell” thing that we’re doing here, because after being here for over three years I have finally gotten my first hardhat sticker from Dell!!!  Yeah.  Really.  It says, “Well at Dell, Know Your Numbers”.

Ok.  So down here it’s more like a “binder” sticker, or a “laptop” sticker than it is a Hardhat sticker, but it’s the thought that counts, and I “thought” it was a hardhat sticker when they gave it to me.

It’s talking about your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body fat.  They came around and took our blood yesterday.  It was almost as easy as if they had a cart come right by your cubicle.

You just walked up to one person and they took your blood pressure, then this other guy took some blood, then you had to take off your socks and shoes and everything from your pockets and you had to stand on this thing that looked like a bathroom scale, only it was better than that.  It somehow calculated your body fat.

I would tell you what it said about my body fat, only I quickly forgot.  That happens sometimes you know.  Besides, I figured that most of the fat was in my head anyway and there wasn’t much I could do about that.

Not only did I get a bunch of free blood work, I also took a class last week for CPR and First Aid.  And the Red Cross gave me a “First Aid Fanny Pack” so when someone gets a cut, or a heart attack, I can run up there with my red bag strapped to my waist and everyone will automatically know that I have been “medically trained”.

They also send people to school to become a First Responder.  I think I’m going to take that next year.  —  They will pay for it.  We have so many people in these buildings where I work that the odds are pretty good that someone is going to need the aid of CPR.

Oh yeah.  We have the AEDs too.  The Automatic External Defibrillators.  I was trained in those last week too.  So I feel almost as safe as I did when I was on the Confined Space Rescue team, except that they didn’t teach us how to tie different sorts of knots in a rope.

I wasn’t sure if it was real “safety training” since they didn’t teach us how to tie a double figure-8 follow-through.  The Safety instructor had all sorts of “horror” stories just like Randy Dailey used to have, so I figured it must have been a real safety class even if we didn’t tie a bunch of knots behind our backs with the lights out.

Note to Reader:  To learn more about Randy Dailey and the Confined Space Rescue team see the post Power Plant Confined Space Rescue Team Takes It to the Next Level.

The latest Off-site we had was the week-before-last.  Our team went out to watch a movie.  It was called Collateral.  It was “ok”.  The best part was that we went to that movie theater where you get to eat dinner while you’re watching the movie.

So as we were watching all the blood and guts on the movie screen, we were snarfing down a bunch of pizza and drinking Dr. Pepper.  —  I think I was able to eat three more pieces of pizza than I normally would because I was drinking “Diet” Dr. Pepper!!!

Well.  I’d better get ready for my next meeting.  It’s a one-on-one with my manager.  I’ll write later. —  I figure you guys are all on overhaul now anyway.  The other day when the wind was blowing from the north, I thought I got a whiff of the precipitator when it starts to smell sour.  —  Well, at least the weather is cool.  Let me know how things are going.

Note to Reader:  To learn about how the precipitator turns sour see the post What’s That Strange Power Plant Smell?

Your Well friend from Dell,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Services I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #104 — Quick Note 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 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.

9/17/04 – Quick Note from Dell

Dear Sooneridians and friends,

I have just kicked off a database job and I am sitting here watching it hoping that it will finish before it is time to go home.  So I thought I would take this opportunity to write to you to tell you how things are going down here.  Congratulations to Toby for getting his new position!!!!  That’s great.  Now maybe he will stop moving around from job to job every two years.

Note to reader:  To learn more about Toby O’Brien, see the post “Toby Teaches Power Plant Time Management.

I went to some more training this week.  I went to one class called, “Building better I/T Client Relationships”.  We learned all sorts of neat ways that you approach different people in order to get them interested in what you are trying to get them to do.

They said that people fall into 4 different categories.  Some are Analyzers, others are Facilitators, then there are Promoters, and there are also Controllers.  —  I thought.  Hmmmmm.  I wonder which category some of my old bosses would be in?

Well let’s see.  There was the Equipment Support Supervisor.  He was definitely a Controller.  Then there was the Human Resources Supervisor.  She was definitely a Controller.  Then there was the plant manager,  He was undoubtedly a Controller.  —  Gee that about sums it up.  Doesn’t it?

Well.  That means that there is only one way to deal with all these “leaders”.  That’s right.  Sit back and watch them all try to control everyone else.  It’s kinda fun when you think about it.  With all that controlling going on, there wasn’t much room left to “Facilitate”.  —  Anyway.  I’ll stop all this Psychology sounding talk and get on to more pleasant conversation.

You realize that when the database job finishes, I’m outta here, so if I suddenly end this letter without so much as a “How-do-you-do”, you’ll know why.  So I’ll just say all that now before the job finishes.  “I hope you guys are doing great!  Write when you can.  Your Friendly Dell Programmer,  Kevin James Anthony Breazile”.  There.  Now I don’t have to worry about putting that at the end of the letter when my job finishes.

I normally wouldn’t start a job running like this, but my manager sent me an e-mail a little while ago and he said that we were about ready to run out of licenses for our timekeeping application and he was wondering if I could run some sort of database job on the application and terminate a bunch of useless employees.  —  Well.  He didn’t quite word it like that.

He said he was wondering if I could terminate a bunch of employees in Kronos that haven’t used the application since the beginning of the year so that we could free up some licenses for all the new people we are hiring.  —  We have started hiring all those people in Oklahoma City, and other places, and we are in the middle of…..  Oh.  I better not talk about that.

I just saw a big burly guy walk down the main aisle, and I suppose he’s coming over here to check what I’m saying so I don’t spill the beans about anything that is “Confidential”.  So I won’t.  Anyway.  I wrote this SQL statement (that’s stuff that databases like).  —  Oh.  My job just completed…….

Oh.  I can’t help it…..

I hope everything is going well with you guys.  Let me know how you are doing when you get the chance.  Talk to you later.

Your friendly Dell Programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Services I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #103 — OSHA 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 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.

9/2/04 – OSHA at Dell

Hey Sooner friends, and friends of Sooneridians,

Last week was interesting.  OSHA came and inspected our building to see if we were complying with all the OSHA regulations.  Of course we were.  They gave us some Star or some kind of Plaque to put on our wall down at the front entrance to say that we were a “Stellar Site”!!!

I was invited to eat lunch with the OSHA team twice last week.  The OSHA people asked us to tell them stories about when we did something dangerous and/or was almost killed.  My biggest problem was figuring out which story to tell them.  I had so many.  I finally settled on telling everyone about the first time I ever went inside the Precipitator.

It was when I was on the Labor Crew and Bill Rivers told me (and Curtis Love) to go in the precipitator and wipe down insulators on the sides of the hoppers.  Bill told us not to drop anything in the hopper or we would have to go get it because we couldn’t leave anything in there or it would clog up the feeder at the bottom.

I confidently told Rivers that I wasn’t going to drop anything.  This was when the fly ash suits were not very good.  They only went down to your ankles and didn’t have a hood or elastic around your wrist.  They were basically useless.

So anyway.  I went in the precipitator and worked my way back with flashlight in one hand and a scotch brite pad in the other.  I climbed down onto the edge of the first hopper that I was going to work on.  The hoppers at the top are 12 feet by 12 feet square.

It happened to be full of ash up to about two feet from the top.  I sat down and started scrubbing the insulator with the scotch brite pad when “bloop”, I dropped my yellow flashlight in the hopper.  It disappeared into the ash, and it was suddenly very dark in there.  Well.  The first thing I thought was, “So that’s why Bill had a string tied to his flashlight.”

Well, anyway.  I leaned forward and reached down into the ash trying to feel for the flashlight.  I couldn’t find it, so I thought it must have sunk farther down in the ash.  So I slid down into the hopper holding onto the edge by one hand and reaching down into the ash with my other hand.

I reached down far enough that the side of my head was laying on the ash and clogging up one half of my half face respirator (yeah.  This was before I had a Full Face Respirator.  This only covered my mouth and my nose).  Anyway.  I thought maybe it had gone a little farther over to the left, so I climbed around the side of the hopper reaching down into the ash, and at one point I was hanging on by only a couple of fingers when I thought, “maybe I ought to just bail off into the ash and find that flashlight.”

I made my way back to the ledge where I had been sitting.  My eyes were starting to get used to the pitch dark, so that I wasn’t bumping into things anymore.  And I climbed out of the hopper and made my way back to the door on the side of the precipitator.  —  I was covered with fly ash from my head to my toes.  It was hard to breathe through my respirator because I had clogged it all up with ash.

Anyway.  I went and told Bill Rivers that I had dropped my flashlight into the hopper, and I showed him which one.  So he gave me a key and a big hammer and told me to go down and open up the door on the side of the hopper and see if I could get it out.

So Curtis Love and I went down and opened up the door.  As soon as we opened the door, out flowed a huge stream of ash, re-covering me with fly ash so that I looked pretty much like an albino.

The ash poured through the grating and made a big pile on the ground below.  It was then that I realized that if I had bailed off into that ash, I would have been suffocated right quick.  I hadn’t realized how deep the hopper was.

Anyway.  After all the ash came pouring out there still wasn’t a flashlight.  So I started digging out the ash from the hopper below the door.  I dug and dug until I had my whole body upside down inside the hopper and Curtis Love was holding my legs and I was reaching down into the throat of the hopper which was an 8 inch pipe.

I could just feel the flashlight with the tips of my finger when all of the sudden my whole head went dipping down into the remaining ash as Curtis let go of my legs.  I grabbed the flashlight, and my newly cleaned respirator was again all of the sudden clogged with ash and I couldn’t breathe.

I was so furious.  I backed myself out of the hole by pushing against the hopper walls, all while trying unsuccessfully to breathe through the respirator and hold onto the flashlight.

I came out of the hopper door all ready to jump all over Curtis when he said, “I’m sorry Kevin, I’m sorry.  Those guys were tickling me.  I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.  They were tickling me and I couldn’t help it.  I”m sorry.  I didn’t mean to let go.  I’m sorry.  Kevin, I’m sorry.”

So what could I say?  —  anyway.  I recovered the flashlight, and I didn’t die.  So there were two good things that came out of that.  —  By the way.  I never dropped a flashlight a hopper again.  —  But isn’t that interesting that the flashlight fell through over 10 feet of ash down into the throat of the hopper?

Note to Reader:  To learn more about my adventure that day in the fly ash see the post Angel of Death Passes by the Precipitator Door.

Well.  I didn’t tell this whole story to OSHA.  Just the part about my climbing around looking for my flashlight at the top of the hopper and almost bailing off into the fly ash.

I do have a few other stories about near death experiences and Curtis Love.  I don’t know if you guys would want to hear about them or not.  Anyway.  This letter has been way overdue for an ending, so I’ll just finish it here.

Stay Safe!!!

Your friend from Dell,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Systems I/T

Dell Inc.

Letters to the Power Plant #102 — Dell Learning and Learning and Learning

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 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.

8/13/04 – Dell Learning and Learning and learning….

Dear Soonerites and associates,

Everything is going pretty good down here.  That is… I still have a job.  Dell is growing rapidly.  I’m getting used to my new job as each day goes by.

Interestingly, even though I’m on the support team, I keep getting assigned to new projects.  Right now I’m on 5 different projects.  Three of which I’m the main developer.  One of my projects goes live next Monday, so that will make things easier.

They are going to send me back to Dallas in September for some more training on Oracle Financials so that I can start writing programs for that in the future.  Oh boy!!!  I can’t wait.  For those of you who know me well, you know I like writing programs.

They don’t even have to be really fancy ones.  Just things like some HR Supervisor getting sucked down a whirlpool or a fish jumping out of the water, or an e-mail telling you who has a birthday today.  Just as long as I get to program something I’m happy.

Note to reader:  To learn more about the HR Supervisor being sucked down the whirlpool read the post Hitting the Power Plant HR Cardboard Ceiling.  To learn more about the birthday emails see the post Power Plant Birthday Phantom.

Actually, I’ve been doing more programming since I have been on the Support team than I was doing on the Development team.  I think I was doing more of the paperwork on the development team than programming.  Moving to the support team is supposed to be “good for my career”.

If you move around and do the different roles, then you become more familiar with all the aspects that are important in writing good programs.  For instance, now that I’m on the Support Team, I am not necessarily so thrilled that when I was on the development team, I wrote a program that after you stayed logged on for a time, but didn’t use the application, it started snoring, and then it started making a tapping sound, like it was trying to wake you up.

Well.  Being on the support team has taught me that when I write programs, I don’t need to add all those extra features into the program because the users do enough of that already.  —  I mean the snoring part and the tapping on something to wake you up (like when you are in an “eye-lock” and staring off into space), not the “adding features to the program” part.

Other training that I will be doing in the near future is “Safety Training”.  I am signed up to take a CPR course.  —  Actually, we have a bigger chance here that someone will suddenly drop dead than we ever had at Sooner Plant.

For one thing, we have a couple of thousand people in our building.  Second, the stress level is a lot higher around here than it is at the Plush and Oasis-like environment of the Sooner Plant Resort.

I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen an ambulance pull up at the front door to rush someone off to the hospital.  —  Of course we do have a higher recovery rate here than you have at Sooner Plant.  One reason is that they have a really good Heart Hospital not too far away from Dell, and at Sooner Plant, the only choice you have when you are put in an ambulance at Sooner is to end up at the Ponca City Hospital!!  And we all know what that means.  “Whenever anyone goes in.  They never come out”.  —  It has been a few years since I have taken CPR, so it is about time.

Next week I will have been gone from Sooner Plant for Three Years!!!!  Does it seem that long to you?  (I know.  I know.  Three years of not having to put up with my rantings and ravings.  Three years of relative calm, and lack of controversy).

August 20 is my anniversary.  — This means that next year, I will get an extra week of vacation.  —  I like that idea.  I already get four more days off by being on the support team (because they feel sorry for us —  though I don’t know why).  And I get 5 or six days off for Christmas break.  —  So I’m just about up to 5 weeks of vacation again, which is what I would have had if I had stayed at Sooner.

Our “Boot Camp” group is going out to lunch next Friday to celebrate our 3 year anniversary.  I have been talking to some of them, and no one feels like they have been here for 3 years.  —  Of course, some of them haven’t had any sleep for 3 years either.

I have a knack of scheduling time to sleep in my Outlook Calendar so no one schedules a meeting for me between 10:30 in the evening until 8:00 in the morning.  —  That’s using “Time Management” to improve my “Work-Life Balance”.

I am taking some training next week called “Effective Business Presentation Skills”.  It is a two day class at a meeting room in a hotel down the highway.  Just think of the kinds of PowerPoints I will be able to come up with after I take this course!!!  —  Gee!  If only I had those skills when I left Sooner.  I might have been able to make a “really good presentation” at my going-away party.

Note to Reader:  To learn more about the presentation at my going away party see the post Power Plant Final Presentation.

Well.  This letter has gotten a little long, and you guys have been bored since I said “Everything is going pretty good down here.”  So I should probably wrap this up.

It was good hearing from some of you last week.  When you write, It really makes my day.  Of course those people coming by my cubicle to see what strange thing is going on today, get a kick out of reading over my shoulder at all the things that happen up there in Soonerland.  —  It’s good to hear from you guys.

Keep up the good work, and don’t let the bed bugs bite,

Your friendly Dell Programmer,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Systems I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #101 — Dell Summertime

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 first 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.

8/3/04 – Dell Summertime

Dear Sooner Plantians,

I realize you guys probably don’t remember me anymore.  It has been about a month and a half since I have written to you, and like most people who leave the plant, after a couple of weeks you sit around trying to remember what that guy’s name was.  “You know.  That guy who used to sit there in that chair that used to read the dictionary for fun….What was his name?”

I have actually started a few letters in the past weeks, but I was never able to finish them because I was called away to some meeting, or had to go work on an application that all of the sudden quit working.

I am in an interesting position in my new job.  I have been learning all these new programs and how they run.  At the same time, Dell is opening new call centers all over the world, and I am the only one that knows how to program the timekeeping system, so I have to continue writing all the interfaces for those while I am doing my support job, at least until I can transition my knowledge over to another developer.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to this position.  This is a lot like what happens when someone at the plant moves from one position to another and they still have to work on things in their old job because no one else knows how to do it.

Oops.  I just had two “ad-hoc” meetings while I was trying to write this letter.  Also Charles Foster just sent me an e-mail that I had to respond to, so now it is already 5:00 and time to go home.

Instead of just deleting this letter as I have done in the past, I will go ahead and send this to you so that you don’t think I have been totally ignoring you.

I hope everything is going well up there.

Let me know…..

Your friendly Dell Programmer and Support Person,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Systems I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #100 — Supporting 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 hundredth 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.

6/18/04 – Supporting Dell

Dear Sooner Plantonians and other noble figures,

I have returned from my vacation and I am happy to say that everything went well.  I was able to see the Pope, go to the top of a mountain and ride on trains, so I’m happy.

When I came back I found myself in my new group.  I am only here because the support team found out that I could cure computer problems by just laying my hands on the monitor or waving my “Elvis Presley Face” wand over it.

So I am now supporting a bunch of applications that I otherwise had no knowledge.  This reminds me of the week I first became an electrician.  I remember that I had only been an electrician about a week when people were all of the sudden asking me about different ways to wire their houses, and they were bringing ceiling fans in for me to rewire, etc. as if I was all of the sudden endowed with the supreme electrical knowledge of the “Good Ol’ Boy” Electrician.

That’s how this week has been.  I’ve been responding to trouble tickets all week and people have been calling me up asking me how to do things with all these programs that I hadn’t even heard of before this week.

So I tell them things like, “Have you tried turning your monitor around so that it is facing the back of your cubicle for about 10 minutes?  Monitors hate being put in time out and after doing that a few times, they will make sure that your programs stop messing up on you.”

I have even ordered a new headset so that I can talk all day on the phone while my hands are free to type, or twiddle my thumbs or pick my… well.  Whatever I might need for them to do. (I was going to say “teeth” —  pick my teeth.  What did you Think I was going to say?  Geez!).

I found out the other day that while I was away, our Vice President had an “All-Hands Meeting”.  They held it at some amusement park called “Austin Park and Pizza” or something like that.

Anyway.  The Vice President gave me the “Vice President’s Award for Customer Experience”, though I wasn’t there to accept it.  I am still wondering what it means that I win the award for best Customer Experience by going out of town for two weeks.  I guess when I left, everyone felt like I had given them some sort of a gift or something by my absence.

I heard they said a whole bunch of nice things about me, but I don’t know what they were.  That is sort of like when you die and people all of the sudden come out of the woodwork to say nice things about you, only you aren’t there to hear it.  I’ll let you know what they said when I find out.

I can only imagine what they said…..

“Kevin was always considerate.  He would leave us alone for days at a time without bothering us with needless rambling conversations about things that we really don’t care about.”

“Kevin on occasion would take a shower before coming to work, so that we would be able to freely breathe the air without hinderance.”

“Kevin would floss his teeth on the first of every month so that we would be able to look at him grinning after he told a joke that none of us understood, and we would see only his pearly whites instead of his previous month’s combined collection of meals.”

See what I mean?  All those nice things people say about you when you’re gone.

Well.  I see that it is beginning to get late and it is Friday, so I had better get ready for the weekend.  —  I’ll be in training all of next week (Learning more about Oracle PL/SQL), so I won’t be checking my e-mail regularly, though I will probably be looking at it in the evening.

Write and let me know how things are going.

On a serious note.  I heard that Diana Brien’s father has passed away.  I am sorry to hear that, though I know he has been suffering for a long time now.  My prayers are with her and her family.  I only met Diana’s father twice, and I found him to be a very kindhearted person.  He must have been a good father.  Just look at how well he raised his daughter.

Until I write again….  Work Safe.

Your friend from Dell,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

_____________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Systems I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #99 — Working at the Speed of 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 ninety ninth 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.

5/18/04 – Working at the Speed of Dell

Dear Soonerites and beyond,

I can’t believe that it has been over a month since I have written to you guys!  It seems like a century!!!  I think the last letter I wrote was about “The Boiler Ghost” story I wrote for Bob Lillibridge.I have been working on so many projects all at the same time that only now do I have about 15 minutes to write to you.

We like abbreviations here at Dell, and the projects that I’m working on now have names like:  CART, STAR T-DiRT, VIP, ISM, and I’m doing an enhancement to the Kronos Application that I worked on for so long last year.  I am also going to be working on an application called “Oracle Financials”.  I’m supposed to be their “Subject Matter Expert” (SME) on that some time in the future.  So I have been royally tied up lately.

There is some light at the end of one of the tunnels I am travelling through.  I am going to go to Europe on vacation next week for two weeks.  So I will leave behind all of my computers in my cubicle and let someone else deal with all this stuff for a couple of weeks.  I am looking forward to a vacation.

I am going to change teams in a week or so, so I worked out my vacation during the transition since my new manager won’t be expecting me, and my old manager will be glad to see me go (on my vacation, I mean.  —  He really likes me.  Believe it or not).

Actually, the manager that I am leaving is very sad that I am going over to the “other” team, because he enjoyed all those tricks I kept playing on him (no.  Honest.  He really did).  I think that’s why he insisted (actually, I think the word is “encouraged”) that I go to this other team so that I can gain all sorts of valuable experience learning new applications like Oracle Financials.

Note to Reader:  To read about jokes being played on others see the post Power Plant Humor and Joking with Gene Day.

Oracle Financials is like the Finance Module of SAP.  So you guys sort of know what I am learning.  This is like learning SAP all over again, except I am dealing with things like The General Ledger, and Accounts Payable, and stuff like that instead of Task Lists, and Bill of Materials and Work Orders like you guys use in the Maintenance Module of SAP.  Oh Boy!!!

I hope everything is going well with you guys.  I haven’t heard the latest news about how Sooner Plant is doing.  I suppose the Dumper is all reassembled, and dumping coal trains at a record pace.  During that downtime did they have the foresight to install PLCs to control it, or are they still using all those relays?

I had this weird dream a couple of weeks ago where I was standing in the Maintenance shop and there was this Maintenance Supervisor who worked at Sooner when Marlin McDaniel was the only A foreman, and he was telling me why he thought that every kid when he graduated from High School should spend two years in the military, and I was standing there trying to remember his name.

I’m sure all of you remember who I’m talking about.  The guy that went to Mustang Plant before he retired.  I kept thinking in my dream that his first name began with an “O”, but I couldn’t come up with a name that sounded right.  I thought it might be “Oscar”, but that didn’t seem to be it.

So in my dream I went through the entire alphabet in my head trying to come up with this guys name.  —  I know.  You guys are all jumping out of your seats yelling his name to me, but I finally came up with his first name.  “Orville”.

So then I tried to remember his last name, and I immediately thought that it was “Ferguson”, but somehow I thought that Orville Ferguson was a different guy that worked in the Coal Yard, who had the daughter that worked for Brown and Root doing construction building the plant.

So I kept going through the alphabet trying to remember his last name.  Finally I realized that the guy in the Coal Yard’s first name wasn’t Orville, it was Gerald.

Note to Reader:  To read more about Gerald Ferguson see the post A Power Plant Man Becomes and Unlikely Saint.

So, it was Orville Ferguson all along.  —  I just thought I would pass that experience on to you guys, because I’m sure the same thing happens to you all the time just like it does me.  —  Remember.  A few months ago I was so busy I couldn’t even remember my own name. — Honest.  I sat there for about 5 or so seconds trying to remember what my name was so I could log into my computer.

Well……..

Ok.  Have a good day.  Talk to you later,

Your Friend,

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Global Financial Systems I/T

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527

Letters to the Power Plant #98 — The Boiler Ghost

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 ninety 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.

4/13/04 – The Boiler Ghost

Dear Friends from Sooner Plant and others,

Kelly was cleaning out our closet over the weekend, and she ran across some old papers from my former life at Sooner Plant.  She asked me if she could throw them out, so I sifted through them, and I ran across a piece of paper that was folded up and all stained with Fly Ash.  When I opened it, I found that it was a short story that I had written when I was on Labor Crew 21 years ago.  I had written it for Bob Lillibridge.

When we were on Labor Crew and we had to work in the Economizer tubes cleaning the caked up ash with Cross-cut saws welded end on end, we would climb into the small crawl space halfway down the tubes to spread the tubes from below.  Bob used to grab Ronnie Banks by the legs and Yell, “Boiler Ghost!!!”  Ronnie Banks had Claustrophobia, and it would throw him into a panic.  So I had written this story to Bob.

It went like this:

From the darkness of the boiler it came.

The Boiler Ghost, black, enormous, full of hate.

I watched with disbelief as it edged its way along.

Its eyes, red and piercing, with a stare of terror

It glanced first this way and then that.

As its eyes passed through me I was filled with

Such a terrible fright that I felt near the point of death.

The massive head hung down between two pointed

Shoulder blades vulture-like.

The most terrifying thing of all was the gaping mouth

That hung open.

It was full of such a terrible darkness,

So dark and evil as if it were the gates of Hell.

Just then I noticed its eyes had fixed on Bob.

Bob Lillibridge.

He was pressed against the wall by the piercing stare,

His mouth open wide as if to scream.

Eyes bulging out in utter terror.

Mindless with pure fright.

I tried to scream, but felt such a choking force

On my throat I could make no noise.

With steady movement the monster advanced toward Bob.

Bob was white as ash staring into that dark empty mouth.

Smoke poured out of a flat nose on that horrid face.

It reached out a vile and tremendous hand

And grabbed Bob,

Who burst into flames at his touch.

In one movement he was gone.

Vanished into the mouth of pure darkness.

The Evil Ghost glanced first this way, then that,

And into the darkness of the boiler it went.

All was quiet,

The roar of the boiler told me I was safe once again.

Until the boiler ghost should decide to return.

Kevin James Anthony Breazile

______________________

Kevin J. Breazile

Programmer/Analyst III

Dell Inc.

(512) 728-1527