At This Rate We'll Soon Be Known as Fat City

We're coming up on America's Finest City Week, when we pat ourselves on the back for being a great place to live, work and vacation, Rand McNally notwithstanding.

This year's civic party, sponsored by the Junior Chamber of Commerce, will run Aug. 16-24 and has, among other affairs, any number of opportunities to eat.

There will be several conventional food offerings. Balboa Park will be turned into "The World's Greatest Home States Picnic" from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 17, with tables reserved for San Diego transplants from each of the 50 states. And the Broadway Pier will be turned into a smorgasbord from 1-5 p.m. on Aug. 23. For $8, you'll be able to sample seafood and deserts prepared by San Diego restaurant chefs.

But if your tastes run more like ours, you may be more interested in Sweet Sundae on Aug. 24 at the Vacation Village Resort on Mission Bay. Ice cream will be given away free by Baskin Robbins, after the "celebrity team sundae building contests." Entertainment will be provided by the Spud Brothers (not sure if they're flaked or mashed).

And perhaps most enticing is the Festival of Chocolate, a fund-raiser for the City of Hope's cancer and research hospital, from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 20 at the San Diego Hilton on Mission Bay. Ten bucks gets you in the door and to the candies, cakes and truffles.

We don't know what chocolate's got to do with San Diego being America's Finest City but, then, chocoholics don't need much of an excuse.

Wishing Him Well

Retired Adm. Elmo Zumwalt Sr. and family were at Hotel del Coronado on Monday to celebrate the 40th birthday of his son, Elmo Zumwalt Jr.

There was special reason to celebrate; the younger Elmo underwent a bone marrow transplant six months ago to fight off cancer, and friends say his future looks bright. Father and son also are preparing a joint publishing effort, with the working title "My Father, My Son."

Monday's birthday party in the garden patio was attended by a half-dozen family members. A quiet affair. But not exactly a private affair. A crew from ABC's "20/20," doing a piece on Elmo Jr., was on hand too.

Switching to School

San Diego Gas & Electric usually asks persons with no credit history or a poor record of paying their utility bills to pay a "meter deposit" of $100 or more--refundable with interest after a year--to make sure the customer pays his bill. No minor detail; last year, SDG&E; and its shareholders got stung for $4 million in uncollected billings.

Now, SDG&E; is giving these credit-poor customers an alternative: They can attend five hours of classes at "Energy School," designed to teach the customer how to conserve energy and--maybe more to the point--how to budget money so SDG&E; gets its share at the end of the month, along with the rent, the groceries and the insurance.

More than 600 people have attended Energy School so far and, apparently, the alumni generally are current on their bills, said consumer affairs coordinator Joanne Reel.

About a third of all credit-poor customers enroll in Energy School rather than pay the meter deposit, she said.

Meese May Return

U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III hasn't exactly come to the rescue to save the Center for Criminal Justice Policy and Management, which he founded in 1977 while a law professor at University of San Diego. In fact, Terry Eastland, Meese's spokesman in Washington, said the other day that it was unlikely that Meese himself would ever return to USD and resume teaching.

"He has indicated he would probably go into the private sector and practice law," Eastland said earlier this month. "The San Diego law school is a longtime ago for him."

Well. Eastland called back a few days later to say he had talked to Meese and things have changed a little.

"He told me that going back to the University of San Diego Law School is a real possibility for him," Eastland said.

"It's one of several things he is considering. My guess is he'll probably combine a number of things, maybe practicing law, combined with being a professor there."

Prof. Mike Navin, acting dean of the USD law school, said Monday the door's open for Meese to return, as if the university would shun the nation's No. 1 attorney.

"The students liked his teaching and the faculty thought he did a good job," he said.

Phones With ESP

Meanwhile, the big news at UC San Diego is that Ma Bell is out and a new telephone system, called Ericsson, is in--as well as a new prefix. The university's old prefix, 452, could only handle 4,000 numbers. So the growing university got its own exclusive prefix, 534, which can handle 10,000 numbers and which will tie in all of the university offices, ranging from the main one at La Jolla, to ones at Point Loma and the computer center in Kearny Mesa.

Until the transfer to the new system is complete, everyone's got two phones on their desk--Bell's and Ericsson's. But secretaries say they like the new system better already, even before all the bugs are eliminated and the ultra-technology is figured out.

Becca DePue, a receptionist in the Psychology Services Department, said: "The new phone's got a digital readout so, if the call is from someone on campus, you can see the number and figure out who's calling you before you answer it."

And that advance tip, she said, just might affect how you answer the phone--or whether you answer it at all.

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