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!
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
DON’T TAKE IN STREET FURNITURE! 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.’