Before I answer my phone, I always check my Caller I.D. screen first. If my Caller I.D. does not identify the caller or says that the call is from ‘Private Caller’, ‘Unknown Name’, ‘Blocked Number’, ‘Unavailable’, ‘Toll Free Number’, ‘Out of Area’, etc.; I will not answer the call. If you are calling me from a telephone that does not identify you or if you have Caller I.D. blocking, just leave a message on my voice mail. Do not hang up and call me back later. That won’t do any good. I check my messages frequently, and I will reply to legitimate voice mail messages. I am sorry if this seems rude, but I get a lot of robocalls and calls from scammers, and this is the only way I can control the problem.

You should do the same thing that I do about this. When you answer a robocall, you are telling the computer that called you 2 things: 1. Your phone number is active and 2. You answer robocalls. Doing that just gets your name put on sucker lists, and crooks sell their sucker lists to other crooks!

COMPUTER, USB, AND TV CONNECTING CABLES. Read this. It could save you money.

I recently bought a TV and DVD player and needed a couple of HDMI cables to connect everything. I thought that I would buy them locally, but at the Staples and Verizon stores in downtown Berkeley, HDMI cables were priced at $20 to $50 each. That’s ridiculous! I went online and bought them from Monoprice. They sell HDMI cables for around $3. Their customer reviews are almost 100% positive. Monoprice is a major player in this business. It is where professional entertainment system installers get their cables. Check out their web site. They sell a lot of other stuff cheap too: chargers, converters, hubs, splitters, etc. I got some extra HDMI and USB cables from them, so if you need 1 or 2, see me, and I’ll give them to you.

Cashing In On Cables. The profit margin on cables is enormous. There are a lot of stores that sell home entertainment systems and intentionally lose money on everything they sell – except the cables. These stores make all their profit on cables, installation, and service contracts. The profit margin on TVs is very small, but the profit margin on cables can be enormous, and home entertainment systems have lots of cables. It is easy to understand how these stores make money. They sell you a TV at their cost but bill you $40 for cables that cost them $4. People pay close attention to the price of TVs, but not to the other charges. That is something that never changes. My father sold televisions back in the 1950s and 1960s. He didn’t make money on the TVs themselves. He made his profit on the related charges: the delivery charge (in those days, TVs came in big wooden cabinets), the installation charge (plugging in the TV and turning it on), the rabbit ears (the antenna that sat on top of the TV), and the interest (everything my father sold was on credit.) If someone had come into my father’s store, bought a TV, paid for it in cash and took it home with him, my father wouldn’t have made money on that sale. None of his customers did that though.


A ticket for illegal parking within 10 blocks of Cal stadium on football game days will now cost $225. These tickets used to cost $98, but I think this big increase is understandable. Cal students who live near the stadium have been charging people $100 to park in their driveways and on their lawns on game days. A lot of people coming to Cal games have been intentionally parking illegally on the street in 1-hour zones and at meters that they know will expire long before they return to their cars. They figure that a $98 parking ticket costs about the same as parking in somebody’s driveway, so why not? That’s why I say this big increase is understandable. Parking tickets should discourage illegal parking.

The Fraternities.
My guess is that this big increase in the cost of game day parking tickets will have the full support of Berkeley’s fraternities. All of Berkeley’s frat houses are within a few blocks of the stadium. On the night before football games, the guys in the frat houses park their cars on streets outside the restricted zone. Then on game day they charge $100 to park at their frat houses, and some of the frat houses have a lot of parking spaces. Now that illegal street parking is going to cost $225, the fraternities will be able to charge more than $100 to park on game days, perhaps a lot more.


San Francisco recently passed a law banning cashless stores. From now on, Amazon To Go stores will have to accept cash. The argument for this law is that poor people don’t have credit cards or cell phones and so cannot shop in these stores. The argument for these stores is that cashless stores can charge lower prices because they have no cashiers and that they safer places to work for the employees, especially at night, because these places all have surveillance cameras and there is no cash to rob. Oakland is in the process of passing a similar law. I have been wondering if Berkeley is going to pass a law like this next. There are no cashless stores in Berkeley, but that probably won’t figure into the debate at the city council on this. Berkeley has lots of laws regulating businesses that don’t exist in Berkeley, like gun stores and slaughterhouses.

Cashless Society. Personally, I think banning cashless stores is just fighting the inevitable. Industrialized nations everywhere are moving to cashless economies, and that has been going on for generations. 100 years ago, there were no credit cards, and most people didn’t have checkbooks. When I first became a landlord, a lot of tenants paid their rent in cash. Now, every landlord I know has a clause in his leases requiring tenants to pay their rent by check, money order, or electronic transfer. There are lots of things that used to require cash but don’t anymore, like taxicabs and parking meters. I know several people who keep no cash in their wallets and not because they are poor. Although the San Francisco bay area is the world center of high technology business, we seem to elect a lot of Luddites here, politicians who are hostile to and fight new technology, the very businesses that have made them and their cities rich.


‘The Finland Hoax’ I recently met a young man at a barbecue who said he wanted to talk to me privately. He said that he heard that I am a Berkeley landlord and told me that he is looking for an apartment for the Fall. After we talked for a while, I asked him about his t-shirt which said: ‘Finland Is A Hoax.’ I said: “What does that mean?” He said: “Finland doesn’t exist. It’s a hoax.” I was confused. I have heard a lot of conspiracy theories before, I had not heard this one. I told this guy that I know people who have been to Finland. He said that those people were probably ‘part of the Finland hoax.’ After the barbecue, I checked out his story on Google. It seems that a lot of people believe that Finland doesn’t exist. There are even maps on Google and Wikipedia of the Baltic without Finland. These maps show the area between Sweden and Russia as just open sea. I never argue with people who are into conspiracy theories. If you tell them that they are wrong, they assume that means that you are part of the conspiracy, and then they become suspicious, hostile, and sometimes even violent. The conspiracy theory that I have heard most often in my life is that the Holocaust is a hoax concocted by Jews in order to get sympathy and support for the state of Israel. I told this guy that I don’t have any vacancies coming up, which is true.

Berkeley and Finland. Did you know that at one time, Berkeley had a large Finnish population? Beginning around 1900, hundreds of Finns settled in the Ocean View section of west Berkeley, which in the 1920s was known as ‘Finntown.’ The Finnish stores, saloons, and restaurants that used to dot west Berkeley are now all gone, but there are several Lutheran churches in Ocean View that were built by Finnish immigrants and that are still in use. In addition, there are 2 Finn halls in west Berkeley. One hall was built by Finnish communists. The other was built by Finnish anti-communists. Both halls are also still in use. Some businesses in west Berkeley that were started by Finnish immigrants are still operating, like Walter Mork Sheet Metal. When I first came to Berkeley, the Berkeley Adult School was still giving Finnish language courses, but that’s gone now too.