You Have to Be A Specialist

Pasadena’s Water and Power Department (PWP) is one of my favorite city departments. For one thing, they have the best swag at community events…nice bottles of water, suggestions on planting not-too-thirsty plants…I even got a low-flush toilet and a low-flow shower head from them a few years back.

My Star-News did not show up today. Never mind. Here’s from their web site:

PWP seeks input on resource plan

PASADENA – Pasadena Water and Power is encouraging input from its customers in response to the proposed Integrated Resource Plan.

The proposed 20-year plan will ensure reliable and environmentally responsible electric service with stable rates and energy independence.

The IRP, in development, takes into account future energy demand, advances in renewable energy resources, conservation, forecast changes in regulatory requirements and more. It is PWP’s blueprint for meeting the future needs of its customers over the next two decades.

The proposed plan is available at www.cityofpasadena.net/waterandpower; for a hard copy call (626) 744-7567. Comments, documents, studies and reports relevant to the proposed draft IRP should be submitted by April 23, 2007, via e-mail to sendo@cityofpasadena.net; or to Pasadena Water and Power, 150 S. Los Robles Ave., Suite 200, Pasadena CA 91101; or fax to (626) 744-6432.–From staff reports

I think it is great that they are soliciting public comment. I don’t feel qualified to comment, but how great is it that I can if I want to? Just the invitation to think 20 years in the future is awesome. I want to read the proposed plan to see how someone else does that.

Ah, I’ve just downloaded it. Yet another city document in Times New Roman. I regret to say that I have come to associate Times New Roman with bloated bureaucratic bulls#@*. Thank God my church uses Garamond.

I hope that some community members who have some knowledge about energy issues take the time to comment on the plan, some Caltech-ers or JPL-ers or anyone with the requisite background. My MA in Theology equipped me to deal with the white-shirted Mormons who just knocked on my door. Am I qualified to comment on an energy plan?

Well, I am interested in the topic of how people change their behavior. How do we become more efficient consumers of energy? How does the plan address the people who let the fridge door stand open as they take the mayo over to the counter? Or those who let the water run while they brush their teeth?

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A general observation about modern life: It helps to be a specialist. The thing is, you need to be a specialist on every topic. Having a baby? Start reading now. Birth is not a pathology, but women go to the hospital to have babies. How medical do you want this natural process to be?

Buying life insurance? Well, just what is the purpose of life insurance? Is it to protect income, or is it an investment vehicle? I’m from the school of thought that believes the best thing is to “buy term and invest the difference.” But I only know that because my mom used to sell term life insurance.

Any time I do anything big…have a baby, buy a car, pick a vacation destination…I research like crazy.  I read so many prenatal books when I was pregnant that the only thing left was the medical textbooks.  But I had a home birth, so all that reading was the responsible thing to do.

It is terrifically time consuming to become a specialist.  It isn’t practical.  But I want to know what I’m doing.  I want my thinking to be informed.  I rely on the Internet for information, and the Internet relies on energy to keep it running.  So my city’s 20-year plan on energy is of vital importance to me, no matter what my academic pedigree is.

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Wacky “Insurance” Charges

Discount Tire.  I have been a customer of Discount Tire for many years.  They used to be on South Arroyo Parkway, but had to move because a big ole Whole Foods  is going to open at that location, so now they are on east Green Street.  Their prices are pretty good, and the location is convenient.

But read the fine print. “Waste tire disposal charge” is $3.00 per tire (up from $1.95 last July). Then “State required tire fee” is $1.75 per tire. Isn’t that also a disposal charge?

A few days ago, I had to buy a tire (unrepairable flat).  We had paid the $8.95 for “Life of the Tire Service Agreement” but apparently it doesn’t cover tires once they get old. Well, first they told me if I could find my original invoice, I’d get the tire for free. When I made it clear that I was going to do that, the story changed.

The guy said the life of the tire was over, the treads were too worn down.  The $8.95 covers tires that are still good (still “lively”). I couldn’t really argue with this (the tire was pushing 3 years old), though I was tempted to get out a penny and see what Lincoln’s head had to say about the issue.

I pointed to my other old tire and said, “Well, is that tire still covered?” The answer: “That tire is old too, so if you had to replace it, your new tire would be prorated. You’d have to pay about $25 for the new tire.”

I didn’t press the issue, but I don’t think any of this is spelled out in print anywhere. The whole discussion seemed to be based on the opinion of the Discount Tire employee, not any written policy. Probably I should just go back there and get my tire for $25 before it busts and I have to pay $65.95 (plus $2.95 for new valve stem, $10.95 for wheel balancing, $3.00 for waste disposal charge and $1.75 for state required tire fee). Then the big decision…do I plunk down the $8.95 for the “Life of the Tire Service Agreement”?

Charges like that $8.95 are in the category of funky insurance to me, like the $4.99 that Verizon  charges to “insure” my mobile phone.  What the $4.99 per month really provides is assurance that if I lose my phone, I will only have to pay $50 to replace it. Which I guess is better than paying the retail prices that wireless companies charge when you buy a phone without a service. I have used this “insurance” on several ocassions (like when I accidently flushed my phone down the toilet).

On their website, Discount Tire lists the ten reasons to buy from them. Reason #3 is “Free flat repair with tire purchase.” Wait a minute…I think it’s really called “Life of the Tire Service Agreement” and they charge $8.95 for it.

How about a little truth in advertising? Consumerist to the rescue…

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