Monday, August 23, 2010

Monterey Regional Water Project

Someone on a discussion forum directed me to this website for the Desal Response Group. It provides the most concise explanation I have yet seen for the proposed Monterey Regional Water Project, which would build a desalination plant to provide for Peninsula water needs.

The more I look into this project the less I understand it. The physical plant seems straightforward enough. A desal plant in Marina, and a pipeline to The Peninsula. All well and good.

What makes my head spin is the array of different agencies who would have responsibility for the project. Apparently, one agency, the Monterey County Water Resources Agency, would own the intake pipes. Another, the Marina Coast Water District, would own the desal plant while Cal-Am ratepayers (you and I) would pay for it. Yet Cal-Am would only have control over the pipeline to the Peninsula. Yet another agency would be responsible for the salty water discharged back into the bay. And the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District is nowhere to be found.

So who would be responsible? So many agencies are involved that if something goes wrong it would be all too easy to do the BP Shuffle, with each agency blaming the others and none taking responsibility themselves.

In the mid '90s I voted for two water projects, a desal pant in Sand City and a new dam on the Carmel River. I'd vote for this plan, too, if the management agreement was as straightforward a the physical plant. But the management plan is such a bureaucratic mess that if it came up for a vote I would have to vote NO.

Monday, August 2, 2010

More fun with Comcast

Last week we had a little adventure with Comcast cable TV technical support. On Tuesday July 27th, we noticed that our on-screen program guide had disappeared, along with On-Demand service and every other on-screen display. We could still watch TV, but had to use the newspaper TV listings (remember those?) to decide what to watch.

The first thing I tried to solve the problem was to reboot the cable box by disconnecting the power for a few seconds and plugging it back in. That trick worked for some other problems we've had, but not this time. 

When the problem persisted into Wednesday I called Comcast and got a woman with an accent so thick I had to keep asking her to repeat things. She said she was sending a signal to our box to do something, but nothing happened. She then concluded that we needed a technician, and said one could be sent to our home a week from Friday. What? Nine days? I protested that was too long to wait. After all, I told her, the last time we needed service the guy came the next day. 

She said technicians who were qualified to handle On-Demand problems were few and far between, and that was the earliest one could come. I suggested that any technician could at least swap our box for a new one and determine if that was the problem. She agreed and said someone could come out Sunday. OK, that's better than a week from Friday, but still pretty slow.

About an hour later I remembered seeing a message indicating that Comcast was upgrading the on-screen menus on the 27th. Wait a minute! That would mean the problem was on Comcast's end, not mine. I called back and got a nice man named Howard who had an excellent command of English. He agreed this might have been the cause, and sent a signal to reboot our cable box. It didn't solve the problem. Howard said to keep our Sunday appointment because our box was apparently unable to take the new program guide and would need to be replaced. 

So we were resigned to using newspaper listings for the next four days to find our favorite programs. But on Thursday I turned on the TV and found everything was back to normal (except that our "favorites" channel lists were erased). It wasn't our box after all! As near as I can tell, Comcast just took its sweet time doing the on-screen menu upgrades, doing the deleting of the old program on Tuesday and not installing the new program until Thursday. 

One must conclude that Comcast's upgrade department didn't communicate this delay to the technical support department so the support people couldn't properly diagnose the problem. In other words, the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.

The irony of all this is while we were in the midst of this problem Comcast was broadcasting commercials telling us how competent they were, and how they would respond to service calls promptly and effectively. Uh-huh. Didn't you guys learn anything from BP? Flashy commercials telling us how good you are don't mean a blasted thing. So, Comcast, drop your stupid commercials, and focus your resources on doing the job right. Remember that your actual practices are the only true form of public relations. Everything else is transparent fluff.