bunt sign

Thursday, May 17, 2001

I don't suppose DSL or even cable Internet access will ever come to the wooded glen where I now live. If I'd stayed in town, I'd have it by now. The way things are, though, I'm stuck with a dial-up connection to an increasingly inadequate ISP.

It's a matter of time. In time, somehow, I'll have high-speed access. In the meantime, I waste a lot of time trying to make connections. Because my modem and fax share a phone line, I have to stay offline most of the day. I'll check in every couple of hours to get and send mail, and to open a couple of browser windows for later reading.

Some days, that works out fine. Today was another story. Everything was slow, and I couldn't send email at all, on either of my two accounts. I have Internet mail accounts as well, but that would mean going online to write, and I didn't have the time to do it.

It's so frustrating not to be able to send mail. I could receive, even though it was painfully slow and I wondered the whole time if someone was trying to send me a fax. But I couldn't respond, and I hate having people think I'm ignoring them.

It could be that a broadband connection wouldn't be any more reliable, but I'm thinking it couldn't be much worse. The more I'm online, the more frustrated I get with the little things that go wrong sometimes. When the little logo in the corner of the browser is swirling around endlessly and nothing is happening on the screen, it makes me want to put my fist through it.

My time isn't so valuable that I can't wait a minute or two for a page that would download in seconds (or less) for someone else. If I weren't trying to get three or four things done at once, I wouldn't get so frustrated.

While I'm at it, I might as well admit that I get ticked off at almost every electronic device I own, just about every day. I'm so tired of the phone ringing and no one being on the line. Since I work at home, I have to answer it, at least during the day. And I have to try to be pleasant. Then when I hear nothing but dead air, I lose what little composure I haven't already squandered.

Is it so hard to say, "Sorry, wrong number"? All day long I get startled by the clanging of the cordless phone, and when there's no one there, I have these urges. I want to rip someone's throat out, or at least scream in someone's face. But, irony of ironies, there's no one there to yell at. I can't be rude because someone else is being ruder.

And then there's the computer, which is crashing almost daily now, and picking the worst times to do it. I suppose I'll have to reinstall some programs, maybe the whole operating system, at some point. But why should I? Why can't these things be stable, especially since I don't play any games or run any programs larger than a spreadsheet or word processor?

It seems I have more power in the machine than I need, but it works much less often than I need. What's up with that?

mockingbird on the roof

I'm not sure what to make of the new utility rates Californians are expected to pay, retroactively back to last March. I checked my last bill, and I used 2.4 percent over the "baseline" quantity of electricity.

So I'm okay, because I don't think the new rates, designed to make the biggest power wasters pay the most, kick in until you've gone thirty percent over baseline. And the highest rates are for those using more than three times the baseline amount.

For this to be tolerable, you have to accept the idea that consumers should pay the highest rates in the nation, even though Californians use the lowest electricity per capita of any state.

This is the market at work, according to my limited understanding of it: When the rates the utility companies pay for power were deregulated, the power companies took advantage of the situation by manipulating supply, which had the effect of artificially raising prices. Because consumer rates were still controlled by the state, and kept artificially low, the utilities, which had always been successful and profitable, began to lose money.

I'm sure I'm missing some important concept here, but I have no idea where I'm going wrong. The government should never have regulated the prices the utilities can charge while not regulating the amount they pay. These issues are so obscure that citizens lose their oversight privilege. No one outside the industry can understand, so the state can sell us any bill of goods it wants. We believe them, or at least hope they know what they're doing, but we can't call them on it until it all starts going wrong. By then it's too late.

Now the citizens have to pay for the suppliers' corrupt business practices, the government's ineptitude, and the utilities' mismanagement. How fair is that?

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