The Berkeley city council voted unanimously last week to ban gender-specific words. That means that words like ‘landlord’ and ‘landlady’ are out. So – what am I supposed to call myself? Should I call myself a ‘landperson’? To me, ‘landperson’ sounds like a person who lives on the land, as opposed to a person who lives in the sea, like Aquaman. I suppose we can’t say Aquaman either in Berkeley. ‘Aquaman’ is gender-specific. I guess he’s now ‘Aquaperson.’ I asked an aide to a councilmember what city employees intend to call landlords now. He said ‘property owners.’ I told him that ‘property owner’ and ‘landlord’ do not mean the same thing. Most property owners in Berkeley are homeowners, not landlords. He said he knew that; however, a lot of the new words the council approved do not mean the same thing as the words they replaced. For example, according to the new law, a ‘sportsman’ is now to be called a ‘hunter’ in Berkeley, but those 2 words don’t mean the same thing. You don’t have to kill something in order to be a sportsman. A yachtsman is a sportsman. So is a professional soccer player. In most European languages, the word for ‘landlord’ doesn’t carry the emotional baggage of the word ‘landlord’, which sounds sinister and arrogant. You know, we aren’t actually ‘lords of the land.’ In most Latin-based languages, the word for ‘landlord’ means ‘proprietor.’ In French, the word for landlord is ‘propriétaire.’ That sounds far nicer than ‘landlord.’ In German, the word is Vermieter, which means ‘he who rents’. That also sounds nicer than ‘landlord.’ So back to my original question – what am I supposed to call myself now?
The Nobel Peace Prize. Some people with a lot of blood on their hands have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes, people like Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger, who got a Nobel Peace Prize during the Vietnam War. This happens because the Nobel Prize committee sometimes gives peace prizes to people as an incentive to make peace rather than as a reward for actually making peace. And sometimes they award a Nobel Peace Prize to somebody for no apparent reason at all, like the one they gave to Barack Obama soon after be became President of the U.S. As at a press conference shortly after the prize was announced, Obama said he truly had no idea why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nobel Prize for Chemistry and/or Physics. This award is
usually noncontroversial and goes to worthy recipients like Marie Curie and
Albert Einstein. However, some terrible people have also received a Nobel prize in science.
Who was the worst of them? My vote goes to the
German chemist Fritz Haber. Fritz Haber was the father of chemical
warfare. He invented the first poison gas weapons, beginning with chlorine gas,
which he invented shortly after World War 1 began in 1914. Later that same
year, Haber invented mustard gas, which is even deadlier. Fritz Haber’s wife
Clara, who was a noted chemist in her own right, was horrified by her husband’s
work and tried unsuccessfully to get him to give it up. She became increasingly
depressed as her husband enthusiastically invented ever more deadly poison
gases. In 1915, Clara shot herself in the heart and died. In her suicide note,
she begged her husband to give up his work with poison gas. By the end of World
1, over 1 million men were killed or permanently disabled by poison gases
invented by Fritz Haber. In 1918, at the end of the war, Fritz Haber was
awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. What were they thinking!?! In the
1920s, Fritz Haber invented Zyklon, a form of cyanide gas, similar to mustard
gas. Zyklon was used by the Nazis to murder millions of Jews, including most
of Haber’s own relatives. When Hitler came to power in Germany, Fritz Haber
moved to Switzerland, where he died unrepentant right to the end. Shortly
before World War 2 began, Fritz Haber’s son Hermann Haber moved to the United
States. He too became depressed thinking about his father’s work and committed
suicide in 1946. Fritz Haber reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein, the mad scientist
who was completely oblivious to the moral dimension of what he was doing. It
seems to me that the Nobel Prize committee was also completely oblivious to the
moral dimension of what they were doing when they awarded a Nobel Prize to
This is the stupidest mass transit system in the U.S. The Las Vegas monorail runs behind the big hotels on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip; however, the majority of the big hotels are on the west side of the Strip and set back from the street. As a result, monorail stations are a long walk from most hotels. For example, from the entrance of Caesar’s Palace to the Caesar’s Palace Monorail Station is over 1/2 mile. From the Mirage, the monorail station across the street is over a mile away. How many tourists and convention goers are going to walk that far? But the route isn’t the stupidest thing about the monorail. The stupidest thing about the Las Vegas Monorail is that it ends across the street from the airport. The last station on the monorail is the MGM Grand hotel. From the MGM, you can see the airport across the street, but you can’t get there on the monorail, and you can’t walk there either. The entrance is on the opposite side of the airport, almost 2 miles away. The reason that the monorail doesn’t go into the airport is because the taxi and limo drivers in Las Vegas objected to the monorail going into the airport; however, the investors decided to go ahead and build it anyway. This is another example of: ‘What were they thinking?’ Predictably, the Las Vegas monorail went bankrupt after just a couple of years of operation, and there is still no plan to extend the monorail into the airport across the street from the last station.
Every kitchen should have an ABC (dry chemical) fire extinguisher with a visible pressure gauge. I put them in all my rental units, usually under the kitchen sink. If your fire extinguisher is missing or if the pressure is low, see me and get a replacement. You can pick up a new one in my chocolate room. All fire extinguishers lose pressure over time. Check the pointer on the pressure gauge. See the picture below. If the pointer is in the red zone, it is time to replace your fire extinguisher. Do you know where your fire extinguisher is? If you can’t find your fire extinguisher or if the pressure is gone, it is useless to you in an emergency. Remember, every year, 1 out of 8 homes in the U.S. has a kitchen cooking fire.
Disney World is much, much bigger than Disneyland in California, but I think Disneyland beats Disney World hands down. It’s the climate. When Walt Disney bought the land that became Disney World, it was a tropical swamp, which is why Disney got the land cheap and why it wasn’t already developed or being used by others. Walt Disney dramatically reshaped the land, but he couldn’t do a thing about the climate. In summer, the high season at Disney World, it is hot and muggy, and it rains 20 days a month. In July, the humidity often exceeds 90%. In other words, climatically, it is still a tropical swamp. Disney World is also expensive. I know families that visited Disney World in summer and spent $10,000 for a week there, and it rained every day. When it stops raining, it doesn’t dry out. Someone who went to Disney World last summer said to me: “When you leave your hotel, it feels like you are walking into a sauna.” On the other hand, at Disneyland in L.A., it never rains in the summer.
Alligators! Take a look at the photo below. There are alligator warning signs like this all over Disney World. These signs are there because they need them. Disney employees have captured hundreds – literally hundreds – of alligators at Disney World, some weighing several hundred pounds. Guests at Disney World hotels frequently report seeing alligators. You may recall that a couple of years ago a 2-year old child was killed by an alligator at Disney World. After that, Disney put up more warning signs, but there is no way to rid of the alligators. I’m sure that Disney would if they could, but they can’t. That is because it is impossible to get rid of alligators in an ideal alligator habitat like the land inside and around Disney World. The American alligator has been living in Florida for over 100 million years. The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs and most other animals 65 million years ago failed to wipe out any of the 20 or so species of alligators and crocodiles that were alive at that time. Most are alive today and virtually unchanged. That is how tough these critters are. Today, there are over 1 million alligators in Florida. Think about that – 1 million alligators just in Florida. And what about Disneyland in California? There are no alligator warning signs at Disneyland. They don’t need them. If you are in Los Angeles and you want to see an alligator, you have to go to the zoo. In California, we think that’s where alligators belong!
Bad recycling habits have consequences. Putting things in your recycling can that can’t actually be recycled can contaminate everything else in the can. This contamination is the main reason why countries that used to take America’s trash for recycling – China, India, and the Philippines – have stopped taking it. Here are some common items that you shouldn’t put in your recycling can.
- Padded shipping envelopes. Millions of padded envelopes are shipped every day, mainly from internet retailers. Most
padded envelopes are made out of mixed materials glued together, paper
on the outside and plastic bubble wrap inside. These envelopes should go
in your regular trash can. Like a
lot of other products, padded shipping envelopes are theoretically
recyclable, but from a practical standpoint, they actually aren’t.
- Mixed materials glued together. Coffee
bags, like shipping envelopes, are made from mixed materials, paper on
the outside and plastic inside. Cardboard boxes with metallic foil glued
on the outside is also not recyclable. See photo below.
- Plastic bags and shrink wrap. They
are not recyclable, and they screw up the machinery at recycling
facilities. Shiny plastic bags, like the bags that potato chips come in,
are also not recyclable.
- Anything that can tangle around other things. This includes rope, wire, garden hoses, netting, gift wrap ribbon, and clothes hangers. Even if these things are made out of recyclable materials, put them in your trash can. They create a lot of problems at recycling facilities.
- Anything with food still in it. A
pizza box with the crusts inside or cheese stuck to the box is not
recyclable. The same goes for cans and jars with food still inside them.
Recycling centers don’t want the mice, rats, bugs, and mold that come
with these items.
- Toothpaste tubes. These are also made with mixed materials.
- Styrofoam. Shipping peanuts, molded foam packaging, and foam coffee cups and plates should all go in the trash can.
- Batteries. You can get a fine in California for putting batteries of any kind in your trash or recycling cans.
- Sharps. Don’t put sharp things in your recycling cans. They could injure the people handling it at recycling centers, things like broken glass or ceramics, nails, razor blades, and sharp can lids.
I know quite a few vegans. Their numbers seem to be growing, but I’m not one of them. I believe that if God didn’t want us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them so delicious. To me, there is no question that a real hamburger is much tastier than a tofuburger. Nevertheless, I always keep a few vegan items in my chocolate room. My favorite vegan item is my dark chocolate orange slices. Last month I went to a dinner party. I knew that 2 of the people who were coming to the dinner are vegans, so I brought 2 chocolate bars that I made just for them, semisweet chocolate with toasted almonds However, this couple refused to take them, saying that almonds are not vegan. I thought about that for a moment and said: “Why aren’t almonds vegan?” They said that all almonds require honey bees for pollination. No bees means no almonds. I already knew that. I told them: “But you aren’t eating the bees. You are eating the almonds.” The husband pulled up a web site ‘Almonds Are Not Vegan’ on his cell phone and told me to read it. According to this web site, vegans shouldn’t eat almonds because the bees that pollinate almond trees are “exploited” and are “not paid for their labor.” I don’t know how an almond farmer would go about paying bees for their labor. I also don’t know what bees would do with paychecks if they got them. It isn’t just almonds that are dependent on honey bees for pollination. Without honey bees, we wouldn’t have any tree fruits or nuts; including apples, pears, cherries, oranges, avocados, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, etc. All of the vegans who I know personally eat tree fruits and nuts, so this doesn’t seem to be a universally accepted definition of the word ‘vegan.’ I intend to continue to put almonds and other nuts in my chocolate bars and without paying the bees. Here’s that web site: Almonds Are Not Vegan.
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.