DONALD TRUMP IS JUST PLAIN WRONG ABOUT CALIFORNIA FOREST FIRES.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to cut off FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds for California firefighters. Trump claims that California’s forest fires are the result of poor forest management by the state. In January, Trump tweeted: “Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forrest (sic) fires that, with proper Forrest (sic) Management, would never happen. Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!”

There are 2 big problems with Donald Trump’s argument.

1. Most really big forest fires in California start on Federal land, not land owned by the state of California. That’s not surprising since the Federal government owns 48% of all the land in California, including most of the forest land in the state. For example, this past summer’s Carr Fire started in a recreation area owned by the United States Forest Service. The fire then moved onto private land and then into the city of Redding itself, where the fire destroyed over 1,000 houses. The most destructive and deadliest wildfire in California’s history was this past summer’s Camp Fire, which also started on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service. It was the world’s costliest natural disaster in 2018. A long list of Federal agencies own big chunks of California real estate in addition to the Forest Service, including the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. All of these agencies are under the direct control of President Trump. While it is true that forests in California have been and are being badly managed, most of these forests are under the control of the president of the United States, not the governor of California.

2. Climate change and global warming are major factors in California’s forest fires. Over the past 100 years, the average temperature in California has risen by 3 degrees. In addition, the average annual rainfall in California has fallen. This warmer, drier air sucks water out of plants and the soil, leaving trees and grass drier than they used to be. The California fire season used to be late summer, but now, it is nearly all year round. California used to get some rain in late October that wet things down, but now, the rain doesn’t come until November or December. Global warming is not a controversial theory within the scientific community, but unfortunately, President Trump and most of the people in his cabinet believe that it is.

Sonny Perdue. The U.S. Forest Service is under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue. Perdue believes that global warming is a hoax. He calls global warming “junk science” and “a running joke.” Perdue is also one of the neo-Confederates in Trump’s cabinet. For as long as I can remember, neo-Confederates have always frustrated me. I grew up in Maryland, which was a slave state until the end of the Civil War. When Perdue talks about slavery and the Civil War, he sounds like the pro-Confederate schoolteachers I had when I was a kid. When Perdue was governor of Georgia, he tried to put the Confederate battle flag back into the Georgia state flag, and he made April ‘Confederate Heritage Month’. Perdue believes that most slaves supported the Confederacy and that large numbers of them fought for the Confederacy too. Perdue’s claim that there was widespread support for the Confederacy among the slaves has come under a lot of criticism from historians, just as his speeches on global warming have come under a lot of criticism from climate scientists. When I was living in Maryland, I knew white people who shared Sonny Perdue’s belief that black people didn’t mind being slaves and that during the Civil War, their sympathies were with their owners and the Confederacy, just like in ‘Gone With The Wind’; however, I have never met a black person in my life who shared that view.

MOLD MYTHS.

It’s mold season in the San Francisco bay area. In winter, we get the ideal conditions for mold: rain, high humidity, cold, and overcast skies. There are a lot of myths about mold. Here are the myths that I hear most often.
 
Black mold is toxic. I don’t know how many times I have heard this one, but it isn’t true. Admittedly, black mold looks scarier than lighter colored mold, but there is absolutely no way to tell if mold is a health hazard based on its color.
 
Mold needs to be tested. Testing mold is virtually useless. Mold testing gives you an idea of the amount and type of mold you have, but that really isn’t important. There are over 100,000 types of mold, and there are no safety standards for mold levels, so testing doesn’t give you much useful information. All mold should be removed regardless of type.
 
The best product for killing mold is bleach. That isn’t true. Bleach will kill mold, but it’s not very effective, and it’s hard on your lungs when used in a confined space like a bathroom. Bleach can also damage your walls, clothes, and bath linen. Tilex and Lysol mold remover are far more effective than bleach in removing mold, and they will keep mold from returning longer than bleach. If you want a bottle of mold remover, you can pick one up free in my chocolate room. My grandmother believed that medicine had to taste bad in order to work, but as any doctor can tell you, that isn’t true. The same thing applies to bleach. Just because bleach smells a lot more unpleasant than mold remover doesn’t mean that it is more effective.
 
Listerine. Have you ever tasted Listerine mouthwash? It tastes awful. Nobody likes the taste of it, and that’s intentional. It’s part of the company’s marketing strategy. A lot of people believe that because Listerine tastes terrible that it is more effective in killing germs than pleasant tasting mouthwash. Listerine makes a pleasant tasting mouthwash, Cool Mint Listerine, but it doesn’t sell anywhere nearly as well as the bad tasting stuff.
 
Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream. When I was a boy, my father used to regularly and vigorously rub Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream into my hair and scalp. I had dandruff. There were other products on the market for the treatment of dandruff, but Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream smelled like rotten eggs, which is why my father bought it. He believed that something that smelled that awful had to more effective than products that were odorless or had a pleasant smell to them. Ramsdell’s Sulphur Cream was a waste of time and money.  It had absolutely no effect on my dandruff. My dandruff went away by itself when I became a teenager. On school days, I would wait for my father to leave the house to go to work and then go to the bathroom and wash the sulfur cream out of my hair. I didn’t want to go to school with hair that smelled like rotten eggs. That was one of my many boyhood secrets that I never told anyone about. They still make sulfur cream for the treatment of dandruff, and people still buy it for the same reason my father did – it smells so awful that people assume it must be good stuff.
 
Sulphur vs. sulfur. When I was a kid, sulfur was usually spelled ‘sulphur’, but not anymore, at least in the U.S. They still spell it ‘sulphur’ in England. The spelling of a lot of words has changed in my lifetime. Halloween used to have an apostrophe in it. We used to spell it Hallowe’en when I was a kid. I still don’t know if barbecue or barbeque is the right spelling. A lot of restaurants put ‘BBQ’ on their outdoor signs, which should stand for barbeque, with a ‘q’, but on their menus they spell it ‘barbecue.’ My sister once said to me: “If you are worrying about things like this, you have too much time on your hands.”
 
But I digress. (I do that a lot)….About mold…The most important thing to remember about mold is that mold lives on humidity. Moisture is essential for mold. Almost all the reports that I get about mold are in bathrooms. Work on keeping the humidity in your bathroom down in winter. Leave your bathroom door open after a steamy shower. If its a cold day, close the door to the bathroom and open the window or turn on the exhaust fan if you have one. Don’t leave wet clothes or really wet towels in the bathroom. All of my units have free-operation clothes dryers, why not use it to dry out your wet towels?
 
Also read my previous article about: Mold.

HALF PRICE SALE ON MISSPELLED U.C. BERKELEY MERCHANDISE.

This morning, I went into a big store on Shattuck Avenue downtown that just sells licensed U.C. Berkeley merchandise. Next to the cash register was a table advertising half-off on all misspelled U.C. Berkeley merchandise. That caught my eye. At first, I thought this was a joke, but it wasn’t. I looked at the stuff in the display rack, and sure enough, everything was misspelled! See the photo below. The most surprising thing about this stuff is that it was all licensed by the university! This store doesn’t sell unlicensed knockoffs. However, even at half price, is this stuff really a bargain? Would you really want to walk around campus wearing a t-shirt that says ‘U.C. BERKLEY’ on it?
 
Johns Hopkins. At the Ashby BART flea market, there is a vendor that sells unlicensed baseball caps with ‘John Hopkins’ embroidered on them. I’m from Baltimore, and in Baltimore, spelling Johns Hopkins ‘John Hopkins’ is a very big No-No.
 
Miami University. I also saw a t-shirt for sale at the Ashby flea market with the Miami University logo on it, with a palm tree on one side of the logo and an alligator on the other side. Miami University is located in Ohio just north of Cincinnati. Although I’ve never been there, I am pretty sure that there are no palm trees in Cincinnati. Miami University is often confused with the University of Miami, which is in Florida, where they have lots of palm trees and alligators. They have alligators in Cincinnati too, but they are all in the city zoo, unlike southern Florida; where people often find alligators in their swimming pools. I don’t believe people find alligators in their swimming pools in Cincinnati. (I’ll have to confirm that with my relatives in Cincinnati.)

MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TABLE IS NOW OPEN!

Come on over and pick up a gift from my Christmas gift table. It’s first come, first served, so I recommend that you come sooner than later. The best stuff get taken first of course.
 
LAUNDROID.
 
I saw a Laundroid at a recent landlord convention. The salesman said: ‘All your tenants will want a Laundroid!’ I have no doubt that he was right about that; however, you aren’t going to see a Laundroid at my Christmas gift table. A Laundroid is a clothes folding machine. It works this way. You take your clothes out of the dryer and put them in a Laundroid. Using artificial intelligence, the machine figures out what each item of clothing is, folds it, and puts it in a neat pile with other clothes of the same type – shirts in one pile, pants in another pile, etc. It folds everything except socks. Apparently, folding socks is too complicated for the machine to figure out. A Laundroid is quite large, about the size of a stacking washer and dryer; however, that isn’t the reason I’m not putting a Laundroid on my Christmas gift table. It’s the price. A Laundroid is $16,000. So sorry, I know rent in Berkeley is high, put you are going to have to continue to fold your own clothes until the price and size of this machine comes down – a lot. Laundroid video.
 
GIFT CARDS.
 
If you get gift cards this Christmas, remember that gift cards do not improve with age, like fine Spanish sherry. If you have gift cards from troubled retailers or restaurant chains, you should spend them as soon as possible. Once a company goes bankrupt, its gift cards can become worthless overnight. Americans are holding onto millions of useless gift cards from bankrupt retailers. When Toys R Us declared bankruptcy and closed all its stores, their gift cards became worthless. Even though Toys R Us stores remained open for months after they declared bankruptcy to hold inventory liquidation sales, they would not allow customers to pay for stuff with Toys R Us gift cards. Now, what about Sears? Sears declared bankruptcy last month. For the time being, Sears continues to honor their gift cards, but if the company is forced to liquidate, Sears gift cards could become impossible to redeem. Sears is the parent company of K-Mart, which is also in serious financial trouble. I wouldn’t hold onto K-Mart gift cards either. My advice is to spend gift cards from financially troubled companies as soon as you can and for whatever you can get.

WHAT IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE U.S.?

Is It Sharks? I know people who will not go into the water at Santa Cruz or Stinson Beach because of fear of sharks. Yes, there definitely are sharks off the California coast, and we see shark attacks on TV more often than we used to. However, that is not because there are a lot more sharks off the California coast than there used to be. It is because people now go the beach with cellphones and make videos of sharks, so now we can see sharks and shark attacks on TV, whereas in the past we only heard and read about them. But just how common are shark attacks? Fatal shark attacks in the United States are actually rare, averaging less than 1 per year. You are far more likely to be killed by many other animals than sharks. Here are the numbers of deaths by various animals in the U.S. per year.
 
Sharks. Less than 1 per year. Over 75% of all fatal shark attacks in the U.S. happen in Florida.
Alligators. 1. All in Florida.
Venomous snakes. 6.
Horses. 20. Almost all from falls. I knew a woman here in Berkeley who rode a horse to the edge of a cliff. The horse fell off the cliff, killing them both. That surprised me because the woman worked at a stable and rode horses every day. Many famous people died from falling off a horse, including William the Conqueror, Genghis Khan, Geronimo, and Christopher Reeve, the actor who played Superman.
Cows. 25. This one surprised me. People don’t think of cows as dangerous animals, but some farm workers and ranchers are gored to death by cows every year, and a kick from a cow can be fatal.
Dogs. 30. About half of all fatal dog attacks involved pit bulls and similar dogs.

Bees, wasps, hornets. 80. Mostly allergic reaction to stings.

Deer. 200. Far more Americans are killed by deer than any other animal, making deer the most dangerous animal in the U.S. Who would have guessed?! Deer commonly leap into traffic on highways, and when they see oncoming traffic, they tend to freeze in the middle of the road and just stare at the oncoming cars, a.k.a. ‘deer in the highlights.’ I almost hit a deer last week in the Oakland hills, which is what prompted me to write this. The deer keep running slightly ahead of my car, running onto and off the road. I nearly ran into the deer several times. When I slowed down, so did the deer. It was very frustrating. This went on for almost half a mile.
Sharks. Galeophobia (fear of sharks) seems to be built-in to our DNA. Donald Trump frequently tweets about his hatred of sharks, and he is not alone. Sharks have very few friends. However, fatal shark attacks are quite rare compared to other risks you face on a trip to the beach. So Yes, it is possible that you could be killed by a shark at Santa Cruz; but it is far more likely that you will be killed by a deer running across Highway 17 on your way home.
 
Mosquitoes. On a worldwide basis, mosquitoes are, by far, the deadliest animals on Earth. Almost 1 million people die every year from diseases they get from mosquitoes, mainly malaria and yellow fever. At the time of the American Civil War, malaria was one of the 5 leading causes of death in Louisiana and Florida. Scientists only figured out that malaria was caused by mosquito bites in the late 19th Century. Before that, people thought that malaria was caused by breathing hot, swampy air; hence the name ‘malaria’, from the Italian ‘mal aria‘, meaning bad air.

MOLASSES COOKIES.

Have you tried my chocolate bottomed molasses cookies? They are one of my favorites. Molasses cookies are an old Southern staple, a little chewy, and flavored with molasses and ginger. Molasses isn’t as popular as it used to be. 100 years ago, everybody had a bottle of molasses in their kitchen, but the popularity of molasses has been on the decline for a long time. That’s too bad. Molasses has a lot of flavor to it, and molasses is far more nutritious than white sugar. During World War 1 and World War 2, molasses sales skyrocketed. That was because during the World Wars, white and brown sugar were strictly rationed, and even if you had the required ration coupons to buy sugar, stores were often out of stock. Liquid sweeteners, including honey, maple syrup, and molasses were not rationed during World War 2, so cooks made a lot more cookies and cakes with molasses and honey. The reason that liquid sweeteners were not rationed during World War 2 is because it was easy for the army to ship white sugar to the troops overseas, but liquid sweeteners like molasses are hard to ship and make a terrible mess if a bottle breaks. When sugar rationing ended in 1946, most people went back to using white sugar.

FACEBOOK & HOLIDAYS.

Before you leave town for Winter Break, remember — tell your friends about your trip after you return, not before or during the trip on social media websites. Burglars scan Facebook, Twitter, etc. to find out who is away from home. Yes, burglars really do that! Also, ask a friend or neighbor to check your porch for parcels, newspapers, advertising circulars, and other things that might tip off passers-by that no one is home. Put a lamp on a timer. If you don’t have a lamp timer, see me, and I will lend you one.

THE CALIFORNIA HOUSING CRISIS. All explained with just one statistic.

We need to build 200,000 housing units in California every year to keep up with population, but we are only building 80,000, and this has been going on for 20 years. This one fact explains everything. It explains why rent is so high, why house prices are so high, why people are doubling up in apartments, why recent college graduates in California move back home with their parents, and why even high paid software engineers in Silicon Valley are living in RVs. All this is happening because we are building less than half the number of housing units that we need to keep up with population. Why is this happening?
 
NIMBYism. It’s all due to NIMBYism. California is where the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) movement began. While everyone in California knows that we need to build more housing, everybody wants that housing to be built someplace else, not near them. You can see the effect of this very clearly at BART stations. When our subway system was built 50 years ago, everyone assumed that high density housing would be built around BART stations, but for the most part, that never happened. The area immediately around most BART stations looks exactly like it did 50 years ago. Why? Because the people who live near BART stations want new housing to be built at somebody else’s BART station, not their BART station. Just stand in the middle of the parking lot at the North Berkeley BART station and look around. All the buildings you see are old, built before the subway was constructed. The same is true at the Ashby, Rockridge, Orinda, Lafayette, and most other stations in the BART system. Why? It isn’t because real estate developers wouldn’t like to build high-rise apartment houses and condos near BART stations in desirable neighborhoods. It is because the people who already live in those neighborhoods won’t let them. Unless this attitude changes, and I see no evidence that it is changing, California’s housing crisis will only get worse. It is sad. This is, after all, aside from the high cost of housing, the best place in the world to live.

LATE FEES.

Late fees on credit cards are a major source of revenue for banks and credit card companies. Some banks make more money on late fees than interest. How can that be? If you make a late payment on a credit card, you will typically find a charge of $25 to $35 on your next monthly statement, but that isn’t where banks rake in the dough on late fees. If you make a late payment on a credit card – just one – the interest rate on your unpaid balance may automatically skyrocket. That’s particularly common on low interest rate credit cards. If you make a late payment on one of these credit cards, the interest rate on your balance may automatically go from 0% interest to 30% a year! Yes, that’s legal and, as I said, it is a very common practice. You agreed to that in the fine print of the terms and conditions of the credit card offer, the fine print that nobody reads. Plus, there are other negative consequences to having a late fee charged against you. The late fee will likely show up on your credit report because banks report late fees to the credit rating agencies. That can lower your credit score, which can lead to other negative consequences.
 
Leon’s Loan Offer. One of my cousins recently got a loan offer in the mail. (See photo below.) The loan offer says: ‘Skip the Fees‘ in bold type. Then in smaller type it explains what ‘skip the fees’ means. It says: “There are no late fees as long as you pay on time.” Gee, what a great line! Maybe I should use that line the next time I get a move-out notice from one of my tenants. I could say in my rental ad: “No late fees as long as you pay your rent on time, and no returned check fees as long as none of your checks are returned.” I could also advertise: “No cat deposit required if you have no cat.” That reminds me of an ad I once saw from a jewelry store chain. They advertised: “100% Satisfaction Guaranteed! If after you have purchased a diamond ring from us, you are dissatisfied with your purchase for any reason, you can keep it.”

WHAT SHOULD WE CALL AMERICAN INDIANS?

I haven’t figured this one out. The word ‘Indian’ to describe Native Americans (as opposed to people from India) is considered politically incorrect by many people, and not just here in Berkeley. But what term should we use? There is no agreement on this. When American Indians are asked by pollsters what collective name they would prefer the general public to use, most say that they would prefer to be called by their tribal names rather than a term that encompasses all the native people of North America. In Berkeley, the city council passed a law a long time ago that says that American Indians should be called Indigenous People. On Berkeley parking meters, one of the free days is listed as ‘Indigenous People’s Day, formerly Columbus Day.’ The Federal government still uses the word Indian, as in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Gaming Act. Some states mandate the use of the term Native Americans. In Canada, Indians are called First People. In Mexico, they still use the word Indian. As I said, I still haven’t figured out what is the right term to use.
 
William Tecumseh Sherman. William Tecumseh Sherman was the nastiest of all the U.S. generals at war with American Indians. He was the person principally responsible for forcing the Indians off the Great Plains and onto reservations. He did this by making total war on Indians, not just on one tribe or another, but all of them. It made absolutely no difference to Sherman whether a tribe was friendly or hostile or whether they had a treaty or not. Sherman’s principle method of forcing Indians onto reservations was starvation. He learned this tactic in the Civil War, where he used it to great effect against the Confederacy. Sherman’s army shot all the American bison they could find, very nearly bringing the species to extinction. This was very popular with White settlers in the West. Killing off the bison got both the bison and the Indians off the land that they wanted for themselves. With their food supply gone, the Indians had no choice but to go onto reservations. Sherman was brutally candid and shameless about what he was doing. When Sherman was called to testify to a Congressional committee, he was asked by a Senator how he defined the term ‘Indian reservation.’ Sherman said: “An Indian reservation is a completely worthless piece of land, completely surrounded by White men, all of whom are thieves.” He wasn’t laughing when he said it. What has always struck me as particularly ironic about Sherman is that he was named after a famous Indian orator and peacemaker, Chief Tecumseh.
 
Indian Summer. Indian Summer is defined as a period of unseasonably hot dry weather that occurs in the Autumn just before the start of winter. California gets Indian Summer nearly every year, and predictably, this is when we usually have a lot of wildfires. Nobody knows who coined the term ‘Indian Summer’ and it is not clear when it first came into use in the English language. I know that the term Indian Summer predates the Civil War because Indian Summer is mentioned in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem ‘Hiawatha’ which was published in 1855.  Indian Summer occurs all over the world in the Northern Hemisphere. In Europe, Indian Summer is known by other names, but these names all seem to be just as politically incorrect as well. In Poland, Indian Summer is called ‘Bable Lato’ meaning ‘Old Woman’s Summer.’ It is called ‘Old Woman’s Summer’ in other Slavic countries as well. In Germany and Austria, it is called ‘Altweibersommer’, which also means ‘Old Woman’s Summer.’ In many Roman Catholic countries, the season has a religious name. For example, in France and Spain the season is called St. Martin’s Summer. In Bulgaria, Indian Summer is called Gypsy Summer. All these names would offend somebody. If we have to rename Indian Summer, I think that we should use the Turkish name for this season ‘Pastrami Yazi’ which means ‘Pastrami Summer.’ In Turkey, early November is considered the best time of the year to make pastrami. I like pastrami; however, I know that the animal rights activists here in Berkeley would have serious (perhaps even violent) objections to renaming Indian Summer ‘Pastrami Summer.’ Well, I give up. I don’t know what we could call Indian Summer that wouldn’t offend somebody.
 
Indian Pudding. I’m also not sure what we should call Indian pudding. Indian pudding is a traditional New England dessert made from corn meal, eggs, milk, and maple syrup. I haven’t seen Indian pudding in a long time. I never liked it, and it was never popular on the West Coast. I have never seen it on a menu here in California. I suppose we could call it Indigenous People’s pudding here in Berkeley, but I know that some people would have objections to that too.