Volodymyr Zelensky, president-elect of Ukraine

Volodymyr Zelensky was just elected president of Ukraine. He is not a politician and has never held political office before. He is a Jewish comedian. He is famous in Ukraine for playing the role of a fictional president of Ukraine in a TV series. When I heard that Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine, and in a landslide, I wondered what my grandparents, Bores and Pauline Tarses would have thought of this. My grandparents left Odessa in 1905 heading for the United States. Odessa is a major city in Ukraine on the Black Sea. My grandparents had thought about moving to the United States for a long time, but 2 things happened in 1905 that pushed them into doing it. First, my grandfather was drafted into the czar’s army – again – and was ordered to go to Siberia to fight the Japanese. Russia was at war with Japan. Second, there was the pogrom. In 1905, there was a pogrom in Odessa that resulted in thousands of Jews being beaten, stabbed, and shot in the streets. The police participated in these attacks and gave weapons to the mob. Below is a photo from the 1905 Odessa pogrom. It is a photo of Jews looking over the bodies of murdered Jews, trying to find their relatives so they could bury them. You can find other photos of the 1905 Odessa pogrom on Google Images. You will notice that in this photo all of the dead Jews are barefoot. During pogroms, it was normal for the czar’s police to allow the murderers of Jews to strip their victim’s corpses of all their valuables. Odessa was not the only city in Ukraine where pogroms took place. They took place all over Ukraine, and they went on for centuries. So – I wonder – what would my grandparents have thought of a Jewish comedian being elected president of Ukraine and getting 75% of the votes? I don’t think they would have believed it possible.


In March, I wrote about a tenant of mine who complained about a bad smell in her dishwasher, and when I went over to her apartment to investigate, I discovered that she had been cooking fish in her dishwasher. I later found out that she was also making grilled cheese sandwiches with a clothes iron. I asked her if her stove was working OK, and she said it was, but she said she didn’t like to cook food on the stove. She preferred to cook food with household appliances, but I never found out why. So – maybe it is time that I listed some of the things that people put in their dishwashers but shouldn’t.

Food. Don’t cook food in your dishwasher. There are a lot of recipes online for food you can cook in a dishwasher, but you can get sick eating food that you cooked in a dishwasher. The temperature inside a dishwasher may not get hot enough to kill microorganisms like salmonella. Use your stove to cook food.
Sharp knives. Always hand wash sharp knives, cheese graters, slicers, and anything else that has an edge to it. They can become dull or nicked in your dishwasher.
Wooden items. Wood salad bowls, cutting boards, and utensils with wooden handles should be hand washed. The wood can crack and warp in a dishwasher.
Cast-iron cookware. Washing cast-iron cookware in a dishwasher strips off the baked-on oil and seasoning that gives cast-iron cookware a slick surface and prevents rusting and food from sticking.
Computer keyboards. Yes, it is hard to clean a computer keyboard, but if you put in your dishwasher, water will get inside the keyboard and probably ruin it.
Footwear. It may seem like the easiest way to clean waterproof footwear like Crocs and flip-flops is by putting them in the dishwasher, but the heat in your dishwasher can warp and shrink footwear and make it brittle.
Delicate clothing. Some clothing items, like wool sweaters, silk scarves, and bras say on them that you shouldn’t put them in a washing machine or clothes dryer. That doesn’t mean that is safe to put them in a dishwasher instead.
Insulated mugs. Water and heat can damage the vacuum seal between the inside and outside layers of the mug. Once the vacuum seal is broken and water gets inside, the mug will permanently lose its ability to retain heat or cold.
Dishwashing liquid. Never put dishwashing liquid in a dishwasher! Only use dishwasher detergent. Dishwashing liquid is designed to make lots of bubbles. Dishwasher detergent is not. If you put dishwashing liquid in your dishwasher, your kitchen could be flooded with bubbles. Even if that doesn’t happen, your dishes will likely be left covered with a sticky soapy film.
Non-stick pans. Washing non-stick cookware in your dishwasher will shorten the life of the non-stick coating.
Electric appliances. (This is the most dangerous!) A lot of people put small electric appliances in their dishwashers, things like coffee makers, blenders, hair dryers, and popcorn makers. You should never use an electric appliance that has been in a dishwasher. Toss it out! Put it in your garbage can before you get electrocuted!

What was the strangest thing that a tenant of mine put in his dishwasher? Well, I once had a tenant who put an expensive North Face tent in his dishwasher. The heat from the dishwasher shrank the fabric so much that it would no longer fit on the tent poles. He also put his hiking boots in the dishwasher. They were also ruined. He expected me to buy him a new tent and hiking boots. Predictably, he blamed the dishwasher. I refused to pay him, which surprised him, but not his roommates.


Once a year, I conduct a safety inspection of my Berkeley rentals and fill out a form, Schedule A, as required by the city of Berkeley. Below is an article that I recently wrote for the Berkeley landlord association newsletter regarding this form:

When I fill out the Berkeley Rental Housing Safety Inspection Program Schedule A, I would like to answer several questions with: “I don’t know. In order to answer this question, I would need the ability to see through walls, and I can’t do that.” There are a number of questions on Schedule A like that. For example, one question asks landlords if the wiring inside the walls of an apartment is greater (thicker) than 14 gauge. Well, undersized wiring is dangerous, but without the ability to see through walls, I have no way of knowing if there are undersized wires inside the walls of my rentals. I have good vision, but I can’t through walls. There are several other questions on this form like that. There is a question in the plumbing section that asks landlords if there are any vent pipes that terminate inside the walls of an apartment. Well, vent pipes that terminate inside walls is quite common in older buildings, and it can be dangerous, but without the ability to see through walls, I have no way of knowing for sure where the vent pipes go. I could guess, but the city isn’t asking me for my best guess. This form gives landlords only 2 ways of answering questions. A landlord can answer the questions with either ‘verified’ or ‘not applicable.’ There is no place on this form for landlords to answer questions with ‘don’t know’ or ‘unable to determine.’ Now before you laugh at this, remember – we landlords have to answer these questions and sign this form under penalty of perjury! I attended the meetings at which this form was originally put together, and I raised this issue then, but I was ignored. I keep hoping that someday the city of Berkeley will revise this form and eliminate questions that require landlords to have x-ray vision in order to answer them, but that never happens. It never seems to occur to the people who run this program that landlords cannot see through walls like Superman.


It is dangerous to put a regular light bulb in a refrigerator, freezer, kitchen oven, microwave oven, or stove exhaust hood. All of these appliances need appliance light bulbs. Putting a regular light bulb in an oven is especially dangerous. It can start a fire in your kitchen or can give you an electric shock by touching the stove. As I said, putting regular light bulbs in appliances that get hot or cold is dangerous. Appliance light bulbs are designed to withstand both high and low temperatures and have rugged filaments designed to resist vibration, like the vibration created by opening or closing a refrigerator door. If you have a burned out appliance light bulb or if the bulb is just missing, come over to my chocolate room and get a replacement. I always have appliance light bulbs in stock, and they are free. Please, do not bring me burned out or broken light bulbs. There is nothing I can do with them. Ace Hardware and Home Depot stores will accept used light bulbs for recycling.


At the end of the school year in Berkeley and other college towns, a lot of furniture is dumped on streets, sidewalks, and lawns around the city. Never, never take street furniture into your home. That is the principle way that people get bedbugs, fleas, ticks, lice, and mold in their homes. For the same reason, never take in furniture from basements, outdoor sheds, unknown sources, or garages. Free furniture that you find on the street is not a bargain!


Hebrew tattoos have become quite popular. I have seen several of them here in Berkeley. The problem is that very, very few tattoo artists can actually read Hebrew. As a result, a high percentage of Hebrew tattoos have serious spelling mistakes in them. See the photo below. A Jew named Shmueli Newman was shopping at a Walmart store in Bentonville, Arkansas. He saw a Hebrew tattoo on a customer’s arm and asked him what it said. The man said that it said ‘strength’ in Hebrew. He said that he got the tattoo when he was in the army and that several other men in his unit got the same tattoo as well. Mr. Newman says that he didn’t have the heart to tell the man that the tattoo artist misspelled the Hebrew word for strength. The tattoo actually says ‘matzo.’


German’s chocolate was not invented in Germany or by Germans. In 1852, a man named Samuel German invented the first practical sweetened chocolate bar. Samuel German was employed by Baker’s Chocolate Company, America’s oldest chocolate company. Very little else is known about Samuel German. According to some accounts, he was an American baker, and according to other accounts, he was an Englishman who emigrated to the U.S. If you look at the package carefully (pictured below), you will see that the label doesn’t say ‘German Chocolate.’ It says ‘German’s Chocolate.’ Note the apostrophe and ‘s’ after the word ‘German.’ Before Samuel German’s invention, chocolate bars were unsweetened. Unsweetened chocolate bars are made for baking and beverages, not for eating.


The recipe for this popular cake was invented by a woman in Texas named Mrs. George Clay. She worked for the Baker Chocolate Company, which makes German’s chocolate. Her recipe first appeared in print in a Dallas newspaper in 1957. She called her dessert ‘German’s chocolate cake’ because German’s chocolate is the principle ingredient. The cake was an immediate hit. The recipe was reprinted in newspapers all over the United States. Within 1 year, sales of German’s chocolate shot up by over 70%. Over time, most magazines and cookbooks dropped the apostrophe and ‘s’ after ‘German’ when reprinting the recipe. Today, most cookbooks and bakeries just call it German chocolate cake. It is now widely believed all over the world that German chocolate cake is a traditional German dessert, which it is not. Ironically, many restaurants in Germany now sell German chocolate cake because American tourists expect and demand it. Many German restaurants in the U.S. also serve German chocolate cake for the same reason. Several U.S. presidents have served German chocolate cake at state dinners for German politicians in the mistaken belief that German chocolate cake is a German dessert. The first U.S. president to do this was Lyndon Johnson, who served German chocolate cake at a state dinner to honor German chancellor Ludwig Erhard in 1963. Erhard had never seen German chocolate cake before and asked what it was. The most recent U.S. president to serve German chocolate cake to honor a German statesman was Barrack Obama. I don’t know if Donald Trump has ever served German chocolate cake at the White House. It is widely known that he has a sweet tooth. Trump’s favorite candies are Starburst and See’s chocolates. Incidentally, See’s gets their chocolate from the same place I do – the Guittard Chocolate Company. And remember, ‘National German Chocolate Cake Day’ is June 11.


My favorite real German dessert is apple walnut strudel. My Aunt Johanna used to make it for me when I was a boy. First, she selected the apples. She was fussy about that. She would point out to me at the produce store which apples were good for strudel and which were no good. Some types of apples turn to mush when you bake them. Then she made the puff pastry by rolling out dough until it was as thin as a sheet of paper. The dough covered a sheet of plywood that she kept in her kitchen. Then she folded the dough over and over with butter between the layers. It was a big job. A few minutes after Aunt Johanna put her strudel in the oven, the odor of the apples, cinnamon, sugar, and butter all caramelizing together filled her apartment. It could make a dead man salivate. I have never had strudel anywhere as good as Aunt Johanna’s. Most commercial bakeries in the U.S. make apple strudel with canned apple pie filling, which is just awful. Aunt Johanna was one of my elderly relatives who staunchly denied being German, even though she spoke with a German accent that was thicker than molasses in January. She also spoke in the imperative. They say that Italian is the language of love, but German is the language for giving commands. Aunt Johanna would say things like: “Mark, come into the kitchen. You eat a piece of strudel, and you will like the strudel.”

Today, it is easy to make great apple strudel at home! The time-consuming part of the job is making the puff pastry, but now, really good frozen puff pastry dough is available nationally. It wasn’t available in my Aunt Johanna’s time. I recommend Trader Joe’s all butter puff pastry or Dufour puff pastry. I don’t recommend Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, which unfortunately is the only brand that most supermarkets carry. It contains no butter and is made with palm oil and corn syrup. Yuck. Pepperidge Farms puff pastry looks buttery, but that is because there’s yellow food coloring in it. Selecting the right kind of apples is still very important. My first choice is Granny Smith. They retain some firmness when baked, and they are tart, which offsets the sugar in the strudel. If you want a somewhat sweeter apple that bakes well, try Golden Delicious. Strudel doesn’t have to be made with apples. It can be made with other kinds of fruit as well, including pears, cherries, and blueberries. Whatever kind of fruit you use, always make sure that the fruit is fresh and top quality.


If you have a lease with me that expires on May 31, you need to take action soon. Your lease requires you to give me written notice by April 1 whether you are leaving or staying for another year. (An email is not a written notice.) If some of you are leaving but some of you are staying, you need to find new roommates right away. The tenants who be replacing the ones who are leaving need to fill out application forms, meet with everyone in your group who is staying, be interviewed by me, I need to run credit checks, prepare a new lease and get it signed by everyone, and get checks – all by April 1. That is why I said that whether you are staying or leaving, you need to take some action soon. If you are leaving, but some of your roommates are staying, this concerns you too. You are co-tenants. You need to make sure that the people who are staying have new co-tenants and a new lease with me by April 1. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for the rent after you have moved out.


Did you hear about this? A landlord in San Jose rented an apartment to 2 cats. See: Renting Apartment to Cats. The cats belong to a girl whose father pays the rent. High paid, high tech people in the Bay Area are famous for spending a lot of money on their pampered pets. That includes cat personal shoppers, dog bakeries, dog and cat psychiatrists, pet spas, pet party planners, and dog massage and stress relief clinics. I’ve been to Le Marcel Dog Bakery in San Francisco. The stuff they make is really beautiful but expensive. I once met a cat personal shopper. She buys and makes custom-made products for cats. Custom-made play and sleeping structures for cats can cost thousands of dollars.


King Christian X of Denmark and the Jewish Star. I have a friend here in Berkeley who was born in Denmark. I have known her for over 40 years. She is a retired U.C. Berkeley professor who grew up in Copenhagen during World War 2 when Denmark was under German occupation. She has told me several times that one of her most vivid wartime memories was seeing King Christian X riding through the streets of Copenhagen on his horse in a military uniform and wearing a yellow Jewish star on his tunic. I don’t argue with her about this, but that never happened. My friend is not the only Dane who remembers seeing this. Lots of people in Denmark remembered seeing King Christian wearing a Jewish star to protest the persecution of the Jews. A lot of Americans also remembered seeing photographs of King Christian wearing a Jewish star. I think the first time I heard this story was when I saw the movie ‘Exodus’ with Paul Newman when I was a teenager. The King Christian Jewish star story is in that movie – and in other movies as well. Now the story is partially true. King Christian X did ride through the streets of Copenhagen on his horse every day during the war and in a military uniform, but he never wore a Jewish star. This story illustrates a strange thing, collective false memory. It’s not unusual for an individual to remember something that never happened, but sometimes, hundreds or even millions of people distinctly remember something that never happened, and they all remember the same thing. Collective false memory has always fascinated me.

Casablanca. I know people who have seen the movie ‘Casablanca’ many times and who very clearly remember Humphrey Bogart saying: “Play it again Sam”, but that line is not in the movie. When people who have seen ‘Casablanca’ multiple times are asked what was the most memorable line in the movie, the Number 1 answer is always: “Play it again Sam”. The Number 2 answer is: “Drop the gun, Louie.” That line is also not in the movie.

Shazaam. This is even stranger than people’s memories of ‘Casablanca.’ Do you remember the movie ‘Shazaam’, made in the 1990s and starring the comedian Sinbad, who played a genie? A lot of people remember seeing this movie very well. Thousands of people have commented about ‘Shazaam’ and written reviews of it online. You can sometimes find DVD copies of this movie being offered for sale on Ebay. The only problem is that no such movie was ever made! So how come so many people remember seeing ‘Shazaam’? And what do you suppose people get, if anything, when they buy a DVD copy of this movie on Ebay?

The Mandela Effect. The Mandela Effect refers to people who remember of the death of Nelson Mandela in prison in the 1980s. This started in 2010 when a woman shared her memories online of the day that Nelson Mandela died in prison in 1985. Very quickly, lots of other people who also remembered the death of Nelson Mandela in prison began sharing their memories of that day. Thousands of people have now posted online their memories about Mandela’s death in prison on blogs and in chat rooms. I have read some of these memories. Many people distinctly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the shocking news that Nelson Mandela had died in prison. However, Nelson Mandela did not die in prison. He was released from prison in 1990 and was elected president of South Africa. He died at his home at age 95. Although Nelson Mandela’s death in 2013 was front page news all over the world, people are still posting their online memories of the day Nelson Mandela died in prison.

The Lindbergh Confessions. In 1932, the 1 year old son of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped. A large ransom was paid to the kidnappers, but the child was never returned. The murdered body of the infant was eventually found in a wooded area near the Lindbergh home. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby was front page news all over the world. Within days of the kidnapping, people started walking into police stations across the United States to confess to the crime. Police were astonished at the number of confessions they got and the sincerity and detail with which some of these people told their stories. Ultimately, over 200 people confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. Some of these people were just publicity seekers, but most of them were ordinary people with no prior history of doing anything like this. Keep in mind that it was common knowledge that kidnapping and murder were capital crimes in New Jersey, where the Lindberghs lived. In other words, these people knew that they were confessing to a crime that was punishable by death. Most of these 200 people had never been to New Jersey, and some of them lived in foreign countries.  There were people in England, Scotland, and Germany who confessed to killing the Lindbergh baby even though they had never been to the United States or ever traveled outside their home country.Editor’s Note: In case you were wondering, Yes, a great many articles have been published in psychiatric journals about both the Mandela Effect and the Lindbergh Confessions. And Yes, I realize that this is another one of my stories that sounds so improbable that people are going to check it out to see if I made it up. – Mark.

About King Christian X of Denmark. Although he did not wear a Jewish star, King Christian X was sympathetic to the plight of the Jews. How do we know that? In 1943, King Christian was tipped off that the Nazis were about to round up all the Jews in Denmark and ship them to death camps in Germany. The king asked members of the Danish resistance to meet with him at the palace to discuss this matter. The king told the resistance that they had a moral obligation to smuggle the Jews out of the country before the Nazis nabbed them. The king promised to help them with information and cash. True to his word, the king did supply them with much of the money they needed to finance the operation, and it was an expensive operation. A lot of people had to be bribed and paid off. (Everyone in Denmark knows the story of how the Danish resistance smuggled the Jews out of the county, but strangely, I’ve never met a Dane yet who knew that King Christian personally financed the operation.) At considerable personal risk, the Danish resistance along with many private citizens transported nearly all of the Jews in Denmark to Sweden in small boats. Sweden was neutral throughout the war. Below is a photo of a Danish fishing boat taking Jews back to Denmark in 1945 after Germany surrendered. Also below is a photo of King Christian X riding through the streets of Copenhagen on his horse during the German occupation. Notice that the king is not accompanied by bodyguards or policemen. What European king would do that today?