THE AWESOME POWER OF THE INTERNET AND MORGELLONS DISEASE.

If you have any doubt about how much influence the internet has over the people who use it – people like you and me – just consider Morgellons Disease. (The ‘g’ in Morgellons is a hard ‘g’, like in ‘getaway.’) Morgellons is a rare, but often debilitating disease. The first known case of Morgellons Disease appeared around the year 2000. It is a skin disease. The symptoms include rashes, sores, intense itching, a stinging sensation under the skin, fatigue, and thin threadlike fibers growing in the sores. It is estimated that about 20,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Morgellons Disease. Many of them report that because of this disease, they have been forced to quit their jobs or have become disabled. Joni Mitchell, the songwriter, has been hospitalized repeatedly due to Morgellons Disease.

Now here’s where this story gets weird. (As anyone who knows me can tell you, I know a lot of weird stories.) It appears that the only way that you can get Morgellons Disease is by reading about it on the internet. (Yes, you read that right!) The only thing that everyone who has this disease seems to have in common is that they, or some member of their immediate family, already knew about this disease and knew its symptoms from things they read online before going to a doctor for diagnosis or treatment. In other words, Morgellons Disease is an internet meme. An internet meme is an idea that spreads from person to person via the internet.

 
It is not unusual for someone to go to a doctor and tell the doctor exactly what is wrong with him if what is wrong is common and common knowledge. For example, consider someone going to a doctor and telling the doctor: “I’m allergic cats. I start sneezing whenever I’m around cats.” That’s normal. A lot of people are allergic to cats, and it is common knowledge that a lot of people are allergic to cats. That happens with common medical problems like a cat allergy; however, that doesn’t happen with rare diseases. When people have rare diseases, like Waldenstroms Macroglobulinemia, (which I cannot pronounce), they don’t go to the doctor and tell the doctor what they’ve got. The doctor tells them. But just the opposite happens with Morgellons Disease. Even though this is a rare disease, nearly everyone who went to a doctor and was diagnosed with Morgellons Disease already knew that he had Morgellons Disease before he went to the doctor and knew more about the disease than the doctor did. That’s not normal.

The U.S. Center For Disease Control (CDC) studied Morgellons Disease for several years and concluded that Morgellons Disease is psychosomatic. The CDC studied 115 people diagnosed with Morgellons Disease selected at random. The CDC analyzed the fibers in the skin sores of these people and found that the fibers were cotton. The CDC concluded that the constant scratching of the skin by people with Morgellons Disease forces fibers of the clothing they are wearing into the wounds they create themselves by their scratching. The CDC no longer tracks reports of Morgellons Disease. The mostly commonly prescribed drugs for the treatment of Morgellons Disease are antidepressants and olanzapine, a drug used for the treatment of schizophrenia and manic episodes of bipolar disorder.

Think about it – Every year, thousands of people around the world are diagnosed by licensed doctors with Morgellons Disease, even though that it appears that the only way you can get this disease is by reading about it on the internet. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? This disease is not alone. It turns out that there are several other diseases that are also spread by the internet. It seems to me that most people still do not realize the awesome power of the internet to shape the way we think and act – and drive us crazy!

THE WAR ON COLLEGE EDUCATION. PART 2

Bankruptcy. In 2005, Congress changed the nation’s bankruptcy law. Before 2005, student loans were discharged in bankruptcy just like other debts. However, since 2005, student loans are no longer discharged in bankruptcy. What does that mean? Consider this situation – there are 2 brothers, Brother A and Brother B. Brother A runs up a debt of $100,000 in student loans to become a doctor. Brother B doesn’t go to college. Instead, he becomes a full time surfer dude. He runs up $100,000 in credit card debt traveling around the world so he can surf all year long. (There are people like that.) In July, he surfs in California; and in January, he surfs in Australia. Both brothers declare bankruptcy because neither can repay his debts. Brother B, the surfer dude, will leave bankruptcy court owing nothing. His credit card debts, including principle, interest, and late fees will all be completely wiped out by bankruptcy because it is credit card debt. On the other hand, Brother A, the doctor, will leave court still owing 100% of his student debt, plus interest, late fees, and penalties.

‘Undue Hardship.’ The bankruptcy law of 2005 does contain a provision that allows people with student loans to have their student debt discharged in bankruptcy court if they can prove that the repayment of their student loans would create an ‘undue hardship’; however, the law does not define the term ‘undue hardship’, and it does not delegate to any government department the right to define the term ‘undue hardship’ or to establish hardship standards. Some bankruptcy courts around the country have established their own standards for defining ‘undue hardship’, but these rules are strict and tough to prove. As a result, it is very hard for a person with student debt to have his debt discharged in bankruptcy court on any grounds.

I ask you – What kind of country will the United States become if a college education becomes just another luxury for the children of rich people?

WHY YOUR HOMEMADE PIZZA DOESN’T TASTES AS GOOD AS RESTAURANT PIZZA.

The problem is probably the cheese you are using. Most people use pre-shredded mozzarella cheese to make pizza at home. Even though mozzarella doesn’t have much flavor, its texture and elasticity make it the ideal pizza cheese. The problem with mozzarella is that it is that it has a lot of water in it compared to cheddar, Swiss, or American. Because mozzarella is soft and has a lot of moisture in it, pre-shredded mozzarella sticks together very easily. Because of that, nearly all the pre-shredded mozzarella cheese sold in the United States is coated with cellulose, or sawdust. (Yes, you read that right. I did say sawdust.) The next time you are planning to buy a bag of ‘pizza cheese’, read the ingredients on the bag. Most brands will list the cellulose. A few brands use potato or corn starch instead of sawdust. All these all powdery coatings keep the cheese from sticking together into one big glob, but they also prevent the cheese from melting the way you want it to. The solution is simple. When making pizza at home, don’t buy pre-shredded mozzarella cheese. Buy a ball of mozzarella and shred it yourself when you are making your pizza. Its a little extra work, but the texture and appearance of your finished pizza will be entirely different from what you get when use supermarket ‘pizza cheese.’ Also, try to get mozzarella that is made from fresh milk. A lot of mozzarella cheese is made from condensed skim milk or nonfat dry milk, both of which are cheaper than fresh milk but they make inferior cheese. A good mozzarella cheese ball costs about the same price per pound as pre-shredded mozzarella cheese covered with sawdust, so why not use the good stuff?

PLUMBING MYTHS.

#1. You Can Sharpen The Blades In Your Garbage Disposal With Ice Cubes. There is no need to do anything to sharpen the blades in your garbage disposal because there are no blades in a garbage disposal. Garbage disposals have grinders called impellers. Garbage disposals do not have sharp blades like knives. The impellers grind solid garbage into liquid as they spin. You should never put hard things in your garbage disposal like ice, bones, or corn cobs. You can damage your garbage disposal doing that.

#2. You Can Save Money And Water By Putting A Brick in Your Toilet Tank. This is another myth that can damage your plumbing. You already have a low-flush toilet. They are now required in California. You should do nothing to further reduce the amount of water per flush. Furthermore, bricks deteriorate under water. Chips of the brick will eventually break off and can clog or damage the flush mechanism.

#3. You Can Flush Grease With The Hot Water Running. Yes, you can flush grease down your sink with hot water running, but then the grease will congeal in the pipes below and clog up all your drains. You should never flush grease.

#4. Flushable Wipes.  You should never flush ‘flushable wipes.’ They should go in the garbage can. Flushable wipes do not dissolve in water like toilet paper. Flushable wipes do incredible amount of damage every year to plumbing and sewage treatment plants.

FREEBIE OF THE MONTH. FIRE EXTINGUISHER.

Every kitchen should have an ABC (dry chemical) fire extinguisher with a visible pressure gauge. If you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen now (its usually under the sink), check the pressure gauge. If the pressure is low, you need a new one. You can pick up a new fire extinguisher from me anytime. They are in the chocolate room.

Kitchen fires are the most common of all home emergencies. Every year, 1 out of every 8 homes in the U.S. has a kitchen cooking fire. Fire is the most dangerous of all home emergencies because fire makes people panic and do stupid things that make the situation worse.
Appliance Fire. If a toaster or other electrical appliance is on fire, unplug the appliance and then smother the fire with an ABC fire extinguisher. Then, toss out the toaster and get a new one. Never reuse an electrical appliance that was on fire.
Stovetop Fire. If its a stovetop fire, turn off the burner and smother the flames or just put a lid on the pan. Never try to put out a grease fire with water. It can splash the burning grease around the room and set you on fire. Never carry a burning pan outside! It can set your whole house on fire if flaming grease spills as you are carrying the pan.
Oven Fire. If its an oven fire, don’t open the door. Just turn off the heat. If you leave the oven door closed, the fire will run out of oxygen and go out by itself.

PAYING YOUR RENT WITHOUT WRITING CHECKS.

If you do not want to write out a rent check to me every month, you don’t have to. Almost every bank has a Bill Pay program, including Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase. Go to your bank’s website, find their Bill Pay program. Instruct your bank to mail me a check on a certain day every month on a recurring basis. The money will be deducted from your account when I deposit the check. It’s really that simple. Most banks charge nothing for this service. You can change the amount of your payment or cancel Bill Pay at any time. I have been using my bank’s Bill Pay program for many years to pay recurring fixed expenses, and I have never had a problem with it or been charged a penny for the service.

NOT ALL PLASTIC IS RECYCLABLE.

A lot of people think that the recycling can marked ‘Cans and Bottles’ is the place to put unwanted plastic, but not all plastics are recyclable. The following plastic items are not recyclable. Styrofoam: ​including pellets, molded blocks, dinner plates, bowls, cups, and food packaging. All plastic cutlery: knives, forks, spoons, etc. Clamshell food containers​, no matter what kind of plastic they are made out of. Non-rigid plastic food packaging, ​like​ potato chip bags and​ any kind of​ pliable plastic packaging. Plastic 6 pack rings. Juice boxes. ​Many of these products say they are recyclable and have recycling symbols on them; however, these products are not recycled because its just not practical. For example, juice boxes are made out of layers of paper, metal foil, and plastic, all glued together. It costs too much to separate these materials, and nobody does.These products will not get recycled if you put them in your recycling can. All these products should go in your regular garbage can​ instead​.

SIMPLE WAYS TO GET FASTER WI-FI.

Tenants often complain to me that their wifi is too slow or that some parts of their homes are dead zones where they can’t get a wifi signal at all. If you are frustrated by slow progress bars on your computer, before trying a solution that costs money, like buying a signal booster, try these simple solutions first.

1. Make sure your router stays cool. Heat can significantly slow down a router and shorten its life, and all routers produce heat. Don’t place a router near a heater or in a place where direct sunlight falls on it or where it is boxed in, preventing the heat produced by the router from dissipating.

2. Place your router in a central location in your home and high up in the room, above obstructions. Height is an advantage.

3. Don’t place your router next to appliances that emits electrical waves or signals, like microwave ovens or remote controlled TVs. Any electrical device that has a remote controller emits radio signals that can screw up your router’s signal to your computer.

4. Think about the physical barriers in your home that might block a signal. For example, don’t place your router on one side of a fireplace chimney or metal door when  your computer is on the opposite side. Router signals can’t go through brick walls or metal doors.

5. Turn your router off regularly and then restart it. Some router software gets slow over time, and a restart can get the bugs out. Just unplug your router, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in.

6. Update your router’s firmware. All router manufacturers update their software periodically.

7. If none of the things above solve your problem, consider a new router, especially if your router is more than 3 years old or your router’s WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) standard is 802.11b or 802.11g. They are the oldest and slowest versions and have a maximum speed of 54 Mbps (megabits per second.) Consider replacing your router with a new one with a minimum speed of 1 Gbps (gigabits per second). They sell them at Amazon and Best Buy in Emeryville.

WHEN DID RELIGIOUS MINORITIES GET THE RIGHT TO VOTE?

It is a widely-held myth that America was founded on the principle of religious freedom for all. That isn’t true. 8 of the 13 British colonies in America had an official state church. Everyone who lived in those colonies had to pay taxes to support it, but people who did not belong to the official church could not hold public office or vote. Another myth is that the First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to vote to everyone, regardless of his religion, but that isn’t true either. Neither the Constitution nor the First Amendment say anything about the right to vote. The Constitution allowed every state to decide for itself who was eligible to vote. Some states had laws prohibiting Roman Catholics from voting unless they renounced their religion or signed a statement rejecting papal authority. Some states required voters to promise that they would fight in future wars to prevent Quakers from voting. Some states banned Mennonites, Baptists, Jews, and others from voting. Between 1800 and 1828, all state laws restricting the right to vote based on religion were repealed.

MARYLAND. Maryland was the last state to stop discriminating against unpopular religious minorities. (Yes, once again I am trashing my home state.) In 1828, Maryland became the last state to get rid of religious restrictions on voting when the state legislature passed a law allowing Jews to vote. The Maryland state constitution still contains a provision that says that only Christians can hold public office or practice law in the state, but the U.S. Supreme Court no longer allows Maryland to enforce this provision. However, it is still in the Maryland state constitution. The Maryland state constitution also prohibits atheists from holding public office, serving as jurors, or testifying in court as witnesses, even in their own defense. Maryland enforced this provision until 1961. In 1960, Governor Tawes appointed Roy Torcaso a Notary Public. When Mr. Torcsao refused to sign a declaration saying that he believed in God, his appointment was immediately revoked. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Maryland law was unconstitutional. The court’s ruling applied to a number of other states that had similar laws. As a result, an atheist can now become a Notary Public, a bail bondsman, a coroner, a sheriff, or a juror in Maryland.

WORD OF THE DAY: FUDGEL

Fudgel is a word that is no longer used, but it should be. The word fudgel was widely used in England and America in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Fudgel means to pretend to be working while actually doing nothing. The word fudgel reminds me of a joke that Nikita Khrushchev used to tell. Although Khrushchev was a harsh ruler of the Soviet Union, he liked to tell jokes, and he was good at it. Khrushchev frequently told reporters a story about an inspection tour of Russian factories that he took in the 1950s. After touring a large factory, Khrushchev asked the general manager: “How many people work here?” The manager looked at the employees, thought about the question, and said: “About half of them.”