BLUEBERRY MUFFIN MIX. A jar of my blueberry muffin mix makes 12 – 2″ blueberry muffins or 6 – 4″ muffins. Everything is in the jar, including the blueberries! You just add water. Have you ever read the ingredients on supermarket blueberry products? Most contain no blueberries at all! Pillsbury’s Blueberry Muffin Mix says on the front of the package ‘imitation blueberries, artificially flavored.’ I don’t know what their imitation blueberries are made out of. The ingredients list on the back of the package contains a long list of chemicals. I don’t know what these chemicals are or what they do, but there are no blueberries on the list. Smucker’s Blueberry Waffles contain ‘flavored blueberry bits’, but blueberries are definitely not one of the ingredients in Smucker’s ‘flavored blueberry bits.’ Other products I found at Safeway that contain no blueberries: Krusteaz Blueberry Pancake Mix, Kellogg’s Blueberry Cereal Bars, and Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix. Some packages of Betty Crocker’s Blueberry Muffin Mix did contain blueberries, but other did not. You have to read the ingredients label with that brand. Safeway also had blueberry pies, blueberry tarts, and blueberry yogurt with no blueberries in them. All of these products had pictures of the product on the front of the package, and you can clearly see what appear to be real blueberries. Look at the picture below of Krusteaz Blueberry Pancake Mix. They certainly look like real blueberries, don’t they? I understand why food processors use imitation blueberries. Real blueberries are expensive. Fake blueberries are cheap. Duh. My blueberry muffin mix contains real blueberries from Quebec. No fake blueberries. No imitation blueberry flavor. No blue food color. The blueberries from Quebec tasted the best of all the ones I sampled. Why not give it a try?
I find it enormously frustrating, as you probably do too, when I call a company and want to speak to a real person abut instead get a robotic voice that cannot solve my problem or answer my question, but will not allow me to speak to a real person. There are some things you can do about this. First, try the 2 easy things first. First, say the words ‘customer service’ or ‘operator’, perhaps repeatedly. That sometimes works. Second, punch ‘0’ on your keypad. That sometimes works too. If those things don’t work, go to Plan B. There are several web sites that tell you the phone numbers at companies that go directly to a live person, bypassing the robot. The 2 biggies in this field are Get A Human and Dial A Human. Neither web site charges a fee or requires you to set up an account with them. Both also have free apps for Android and iPhone users.
I am not sure what is the most annoying thing that robotic voices tell me when I call a business. Here are my top contenders.
‘Your call is very important to us.’ If my call was really very important to you, then you would have a real live person would answer my call instead of a robot, and your robot would allow me to speak to a real person upon my request.
‘Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed.’ Nobody remembers or writes down what your menu options were the last time they called, so why are you telling me this?
‘We are now experiencing unusually heavy call volume.’ There are companies that always say this whenever I call them. How can they be having unusually heavy call volume all the time?
‘Would you care to answer a brief survey after you finish your call?’ The only people who answer ‘Yes’ to this question are people who want to complain – and they are complaining to a robot.
‘We are open from 9AM to 5PM. For your convenience, we are now closed.’ For my convenience you are now closed? For MY convenience you are closed? Obviously, it would be more convenient for me if you were open and answering my phone call!
Generally, I don’t support renaming long-established institutions for
political reasons; however, some institutions are named for people who did things that were so terrible that they should be renamed.
For decades, the Hastings College of the Law was the principle law school of the University of California. It is still the largest and most prestigious law school in San Francisco. The college was created by Serranus Clinton Hastings, the first Chief Justice of California. He was a very wealthy man. Hastings donated $100,000 in cash to build the college, a tremendous amount of money in the 1870s.
While Serranus Hastings was a very competent judge
, a lot of people want to rename the law school that bears his name because of his hunting practices. Hastings didn’t hunt bears or wolves or deer or mountain lions. He hunted Indians. In the 1850s, Hastings organized and led Indian hunting parties throughout Northern California. These hunting parties were organized for sport and financed by Hastings himself. Complete Indian tribes were exterminated by Hastings and his friends. After killing everyone in a tribe, Hastings and his friends would take home souvenirs of the hunt, including the scalps of the Indians that they had just murdered. These Indian hunting parties had the tacit support of a large number of white people in California. After gold was discovered, the Indians were in the way of the miners, and even worse, the Indians had land rights to the places where there was gold. Once the Indians in an area were completely wiped out, they couldn’t file land claims or mining rights.
For a long time, Native American organizations and tribes throughout California have argued that the Hasting College of the Law should be renamed
Fifty years ago, my father Allen Tarses and his brother Sol owned a furniture store in Baltimore, Maryland called the North Company. Most of the furniture they sold was of low quality. I remember that my father used to tell people: “The only really good piece of furniture that most people ever buy in their lifetime is a coffin. Then they bury it in the ground a few days later.” That sounds funny, but it’s true! None of the furniture in most people’s homes is made as well as the average coffin. Coffins are usually made out of wood or metal. Coffins that are made out of wood are usually made out of solid hardwood, like oak or maple, not like Ikea furniture, much of which is just veneer over particle board. The joinery in coffins is typically of the very best quality as well, with dovetail joints. Coffins that are made out of metal are usually made out of brass or stainless steel. The finishes, paint, and varnishes are also top quality, and the inside of coffins are lined with silk. Now tell me, is the furniture in your house made as well as the coffins I just described? Probably not. You see, my father was right. It was true about coffins back then, and is still true today. There is nothing in the home of the average American that is made as well as the coffins they buy. Then they bury these coffins in the ground 1 or 2 days later, never be seen again. Doesn’t it seem that there is something odd about that? It wasn’t always this way. Until the 20th Century, only rich and famous people were buried in expensive or professionally made coffins. Nearly everybody else was buried in simple pine boxes or just put in the ground wrapped in a simple piece of cloth.
HILTON HEAD COCKTAIL NAPKINS. Take a look at the 2 photos below. The first photo is of a cocktail napkin used at the bars at Omni’s Hilton Head Island Resort in South Carolina. The second photo is a close-up of the napkin showing the words ‘CAUTION. Not to be used for navigation’ in small type printed on it. (You can probably already guess what happened.) A man drinking at a hotel bar took one of their cocktail napkins back to his boat with him. The image on the napkin is of an antique map of Hilton Head Island. The man (I don’t know how sober he was) tried navigating his boat through the shallows near the island using the map on the cocktail napkin as his guide. The boat crashed onto a rock, completely destroying the boat. The man sued the hotel on the grounds that the map failed to show the rock that he crashed onto. The hotel settled with the man before the case went to trial. Now the hotel prints ‘CAUTION. Not to be used for navigation’ on their cocktail napkins. If you were on the jury, how would you have ruled in this case? Would you have awarded any money to the boat owner?
There are several carbon monoxide (CO) detectors in your apartment or house. Always remember that carbon monoxide detectors need to be able to sniff the air if they are going to protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning. If they can’t smell the air, they are useless. Do you have furniture up against a CO detector? Are the air intake holes in your carbon monoxide detector blocked by something? If so, you have effectively disabled that carbon monoxide detector. Check your carbon monoxide detectors. Do you have stuff blocking their ability to sniff the air?
Should carbon monoxide detectors be mounted near the floor or the ceiling? It doesn’t seem to matter. I went to landlord association meeting once where safety expects debated this question, but without coming to a conclusion. Carbon monoxide is heavier than air, so it would seem logical to assume that carbon monoxide concentration should be greater at the floor than at the ceiling. However, it isn’t that simple. Generally, when carbon monoxide is present in a room, it is coming from a kitchen stove or a gas furnace. All stoves and furnaces produce warm air, and warm air rises to the ceiling, taking carbon monoxide with it. Also, carbon monoxide is only slightly heavier than air, so the natural movement of air in a room can make carbon monoxide circulate throughout the room. As a result, it doesn’t seem to matter whether a carbon monoxide detector is mounted near the floor or the ceiling. What does matter is whether the carbon monoxide detector has an unobstructed ability to smell the air, which is all-important. I mount carbon monoxide detectors near the floor, where it is easier for tenants to read and test their carbon monoxide detectors. Also, if a false alarm goes off, I don’t want a tenant to have to get on a ladder to silent it.
I suppose teenagers and college students have always complained about helicopter parents, parents who overparent, overwatch their children, and keep their kids on too short a leash. For an extreme example of overparenting, I don’t think you can beat Pinky MacArthur. She was the widow of General Arthur MacArthur, a famous Civil War general. She was also the mother of General Douglas MacArthur. Douglas MacArthur arrived at West Point in 1899 at the age of 19. As soon as he got there, his mother Pinky left her home in San Antonio, Texas and moved to West Point as well, where she rented an apartment directly across the street from the military academy. As soon as she settled in to her new apartment, Pinky purchased a powerful telescope which she mounted in her front window. The telescope was aimed at her son’s dorm room. She watched her son Douglas every night while he was doing his homework through the telescope and let him know that she was watching him. She sent notes to her son when she felt he wasn’t spending enough time on his assignments or was goofing off. Strangely, Douglas MacArthur never complained about this. Wouldn’t you? Pinky’s overparenting seems to have paid off. Douglas MacArthur graduated West Point in 1904, first in his class. During World War 1, he became a nationally famous war hero, and in 1922, became superintendent of West Point. Douglas MacArthur became a 5-star general during World War 2 and Supreme Allied Commander during the Korean War.
So – would you feel that your mother was violating your rights if she did what Pinky MacArthur did when her son went to college?
Salt Lake City. Last month, I wrote that salt water taffy is the top-selling souvenir purchased by tourists visiting Salt Lake City, and tourists buy the stuff simply because they make a mental association between salt water taffy and the Great Salt Lake, even though there is no salt water in salt water taffy. Since then, 2 very well-educated people I know and who read my newsletter told me that purchased salt taffy at the Salt Lake City airport as souvenir gifts and assumed that it was made from Great Salt Lake water. Well, I saw the same sort of thing at Lake Tahoe last week. I was at the lake for a couple of days. While I was there, I visited a number of the souvenir stores that line Highway 50, the main street in town.
Huckleberries. Huckleberry food products were – by far – the best selling edible souvenir at Lake Tahoe. Several gift shops at South Lake Tahoe had big displays of huckleberry products, including Lake Tahoe brand huckleberry jam and jelly, huckleberry taffy, huckleberry syrup, huckleberry truffles, etc. All of them had the name of the lake on the label. However, there are no huckleberries at Lake Tahoe. They don’t grow anywhere in the Lake Tahoe basin. So why do tourists buy this stuff? It is simply because people mentally associate huckleberries with the mountains, and there are plenty of mountains at Lake Tahoe. The fact that there are no huckleberries at Lake Tahoe doesn’t matter at all.
Moose. Nearly every souvenir shop at Lake Tahoe had clothes for sale with pictures of moose on them. I also saw plenty of carved moose figurines and moose ash trays with ‘Lake Tahoe’ on them as well. People buy moose clothes at Lake Tahoe for the same reason they buy Lake Tahoe huckleberry jam. People make a mental association between moose and pine-covered mountains. However, moose are not mountain dwellers. Moose do not live in steep terrain, like mountain goats. Besides, there are no moose at Lake Tahoe. In fact, there are no moose anywhere in either Nevada or California. The nearest moose are hundreds of miles away.
Clam Chowder. I am beginning to think that this sort of thing happens at all tourist destinations. People buy souvenirs based not on what is actually there but rather based on the things that they mentally associate with the place. I suppose that is why the Number 1 selling menu item at restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco and the Santa Cruz Pier is clam chowder served in a hollowed out bread bowl. However, the only restaurants in California that I am aware of that offer this dish are at places where tourists eat. It’s not a local dish. You won’t find clam chowder in a bread bowl at restaurants where native Californians eat. Besides, clam chowder is a New England dish, and New England is a long way from California. All of the clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf is made from concentrate or from imported canned clams. There is no commercial clam fishing in California.
Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods, I hope – and sincerely hope – that they will get rid of the snake oil section at Whole Foods stores. It’s is a pretty big section of their stores. Have you ever read the labels of the health and beauty products at Whole Foods? You should! They sell products that sound like they can treat all sorts of medical problems, but don’t actually say that they do anything at all; products like ‘herbal liver cleanser’, ‘herbal colon cleaner’, & ‘kidney tonic.’ Products like these remind me of the traveling snake oil salesmen of the 19th Century. Whole Foods sells a lot of medicine of dubious efficacy, like homeopathic headache remedies, but they don’t sell aspirin, Tylenol, or Advil. Why? Store employees will tell you that they don’t sell these products because they aren’t ‘natural.’ The fact that they work is irrelevant. Never forget this – ‘natural’ does not mean ‘good for you.’ Arsenic, cyanide, and rattlesnake venom are all natural products. They are all found in nature, but that doesn’t mean that they are ‘good for you.’ They also sell a lot of gluten-free toiletries at Whole Foods, such as their own store brand of gluten-free baby shampoo. Now OK, the baby shampoo they sell at Safeway and Giant supermarkets doesn’t say ‘gluten-free’ on the label, but so what? You aren’t planning to feed shampoo to your baby, are you? I never buy anything at Whole Foods health section, but I do sometimes look at the people buying stuff there and wonder: “What is that person thinking?” Most of the customers buying these products look intelligent and well-educated. Today, I overheard a customer at Whole Foods ask a store employee: “Do you sell gluten-free eye shadow?” Yes, it turned out that they did have gluten-free eye shadow.
“I Have a Jack Daniels Terrier.” I recently rented a big house here in Berkeley. I once got an application for this house from a woman that immediately aroused my suspicion, but as my sister Bonnie says, I have a suspicious nature. Why, I asked myself, would a single woman want to rent a 5 bedroom house by herself? Of course that’s legal, but it’s not normal. After reviewing her application form, I said: “I see you have a pet. You wrote down that your pet is a Jack Daniels Terrier. Don’t you mean a Jack Russell Terrier?” She seemed annoyed by my question. She said: “No. I meant what I said. I have a Jack Daniels Terrier.” I said: “Uh, you own a dog, right?” She said: “Yes, you know I do,” sounding increasingly annoyed. I said: “Well, I’ve never heard of a Jack Daniels Terrier before. Are you sure you don’t mean a Jack Russell Terrier?” Then she blew a gasket! She said angrily: “I’ve told you 3 times now that I own a Jack Daniels Terrier. You’re one of them, aren’t you?” I didn’t reply to that question. I didn’t know what she meant. Then she stood up and gathered up her stuff and said as she left: “I know you’re one of them.” She said that several times, but she never explained what she meant by that. When I went home, I looked up ‘Jack Daniels Terrier’ on Google, just to make sure that there really is no such breed, and as I suspected, there isn’t. I decided not to rent my house to that woman – or her Jack Daniels Terrier. I rented the house to a nice bunch of U.C. Berkeley chemistry grad students instead. Here is a photo of a Jack Russell Terrier. Notice the distinctive upturned tail, a characteristic of this breed. I wonder what a Jack Daniels Terrier might look like.