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So we’re up to day 2 of no power due to the outage from the snow storm that made it’s way through the DC region on Wednesday night. The temperature in the house is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the street behind my house has power, the main road at the end of the street has power and the end of the block has power. PEPCO, the power company who likes to claim – “We’re connected to you by more than just power lines” – now says that they may have power restored by Sunday night at 11PM. To add salt to the wound it turns out that PEPCO waited until well into the storm before asking for help from neighboring utilities.

I’m sure I’ll get e-mail from people saying “well…go out and buy a generator” (that would probably be the Republican answer) and others will say “PEPCO should be fined for their lack of reliability” (BTW – they rank near the bottom nationwide in terms of electric reliability) (that would probably be the Democrat answer). In the end I will probably go out and buy a whole house generator as insurance that the next time this happens (and I’m sure that it will since PEPCO doesn’t seem intent on doing jack-shit about their infrastructure) I will at least be able to stay in the house comfortably and get things done. But that’s the rub – why should I have to go out and spend thousands of dollars to make sure I can have reliable power? Wasn’t that what deregulation and all that bullshit was supposed to provide? Wasn’t deregulation supposed to be a win-win for the consumer? Yes I get my power from an alternative provider – but the problem is that the distribution network is all PEPCO. There’s no way for another provider to come in and say “hey, I can provide you power distribution more reliably than PEPCO.” So in the end the consumer is screwed and has to spend his own money to do the very thing the utility is supposed to do!

I also noticed this morning that I’ve got two branches from a white oak tree on my property that broke due to the weight of the wet snow. So now I’ve got to get someone to come in and cut them back. What would probably cost me $100 in Texas will probably end up costing me $500 here in Maryland. Why? Well, because in Maryland, everything costs more. It costs more to live here, it costs more to eat here, it costs more to drive around here…it just costs more. I’m sick and tired of being asked to pay more and more for less and less. I’m no certainly no Republican or Tea-Party wannabe but I’m at the point when I think enough is enough. I realize that taxes have their place…and I don’t mind paying my fair share. What I DO mind is paying my fair share only to find that others find ways around paying THEIR fair share by sleight of hand and financial trickery and enriching themselves. Then they go around and bitch and moan about how taxes are STILL too high.

It seems that everything I buy at the store is made in China these days. Why? Because it’s cheaper for the company to make it in China…the company’s profits are higher, the CEO’s bonus is bigger and yet the products are worse. It’s all about competitiveness…uh huh…and if you believe that then I’ve got some land in Libya that you may be interested in. It’s all about profit…and making great numbers every quarter to make sure the analysts on Wall Street (who should all be thrown in the ocean anyway…What do you get when you’ve got 1000 Wall Street analysts at the bottom of the ocean? – A good start!) are happy so that the stock prices go up. That’s the truth. And if they can get you to pay MORE for the product that costs them LESS to manufacture and ship over here…well so much the better. That’s what a Capitalist market is supposed to do, I get that. But it’s getting to the point that I feel like I’m paying more for less and that less is breaking more often or not lasting nearly long enough to make it worth the “more” I’m paying for it.

So, I’m expecting PEPCO to ask for more money in a little while in order to cover their expected infrastructure upgrades to make their system more reliable. And, somehow, I figure the Maryland PUC will acquiesce and allow PEPCO to charge more. And in the end that money will go to higher salaries and bigger bonuses for executives and senior managers at PEPCO with no real change in the reliability of their infrastructure. And when the next storm rolls through here, I won’t be surprised that the power goes out again for days on end…hopefully then I’ll be sitting in a house that is powered by my own generator.

Usually I’m a very patient person with respect to people owing me money. I pay my bills on time, I donate to charity regularly and fulfill my pledges when I receive the invoice. But what irks me alot these days is when people who owe me money don’t give me the same consideration.

Case in point – the State of Maryland. This year I happened to get a refund from the State of Maryland because I apparently overpaid my taxes a couple of years ago (and didn’t realize it). Anyway, this year, instead of owing the state money I was entitled to a refund of around $240. I filed my tax return on April 15th, paid the money I owed the federal government and waited. It’s now June 15th (some two months later) and the state of Maryland has yet to send me a check or deposit the refund in my account. If I owed the state $240 and didn’t pay on time they would tack on interest and fees…but since they owe me they apparently can take their sweet time in deciding when they want to pay me back. What would add insult to injury would be if the State of Maryland didn’t pay me my refund and then sent me a W-2 (yeah, here in Maryland they send you a W-2 for any state taxes that are refunded and you have to declare it as income to the IRS) for the money…hope they don’t try to pull that nonsense.

Perhaps I’m too patient with both the State of Maryland. Perhaps I should start charging interest and fees to them…maybe that will get them to be punctual with paying what they owe…just like I am with what I owe.

Update (June 16th 2010):
After speaking with Syngress Press it turns out that royalties are paid on a semi-annual basis. In previous work I had done for other publishers there was a period of three months before royalties were paid and then they were paid monthly after that (so long as the amount of royalty to be paid exceeded a specific limit). I had assumed that Syngress followed the same schedule. Now that I know the schedule I realize that I jumped the gun on Syngress in the original version of this post. I have chosen to revise this post to remove my complaint against Syngress since it was due to a mis-understanding regarding the royalty payment schedule. My beef with the State of Maryland, however, still remains.

So the big storm is now gone (has been for about 48 hours) but in its wake it left our street without power. We lost power about 9 PM on Friday night and we stuck it out at home until Sunday afternoon. The irritating issue is that PEPCO has indicated that the majority of the customers in the Montgomery County Maryland service area could have power by tomorrow night. However, when I check PEPCO’s outage map it indicates that our outage may not be fixed until Friday evening at 6PM.

This is REALLY annoying. It seems that PEPCO has restored power to about 80% of those who lost power in the storm at this point. Why then is it going to take them four days to resolve the final 20% of the outages? Ours is simply a downed high voltage line and a transformer…I’ve seen them repair that problem in just a couple of hours in the past. Also, given the number of crews they have out in the field you’d think they could finish the work sooner rather than later.

The other annoying thing is how the plow crews have done a relatively poor job in clearing University Blvd. There are long stretches where it looks like the plows haven’t even been there. I realize that they have a very hard job but the level of effort, especially on a major road like University Blvd, appears very low. I also know from a friend that there plows yesterday who were going up and down Kemp Mill Rd plowing it over and over again – even though there was no snow left on the road – and were told by their dispatchers to continue doing so even though there were many side streets that hadn’t been plowed at all (including mine which is a Montgomery County Public School bus route). When my friend asked the plow driver why they weren’t plowing the side streets he was told that the dispatchers were telling the drivers to “stick to the plan” even though they were reporting that all the snow had been removed. When he asked the driver why they just wouldn’t act on their own the driver replied “You don’t like it? Move!” Unbelievable. No wonder the state is over budget on clearing snow given their inefficiency.

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