January, 2010


The rainy season has begun, and that means it's mildew season as well. Mildew is a living organism. It produces stains on walls and an unpleasant musty odor. Mildew is unhealthy. It gets into the air you breathe. There are 3 conditions that promote the growth of mildew: humidity, heat, and stagnant air. To eliminate these conditions:

  • Keep air circulating, particularly in high humidity areas like the bathroom. Keep a window ajar or use an exhaust fan.
  • Let in sunlight. There are many unhealthy microorganisms that thrive in darkness and that are killed by sunlight.
  • Don't overheat the house. Contrary to a widely held misconception, furnaces do not put out more heat the higher the thermostat is set. All a thermostat does is turn your furnace on and off. It does not regulate the size of the flame.
  • Don't let damp clothes or towels to sit on the floor or in a pile.

    MILDEW REMOVAL. They sell mildew remover at most supermarkets and drug stores. It costs around $5 a bottle. Read the label before use. Some of these products cannot be used on walls. Don't use laundry bleach to remove mildew. While bleach will remove mildew, your bathroom will smell like an over-chlorinated swimming pool when you are done, bleach may damage the paint, and bleach is much less effective than mildew remover in keeping mildew from returning. The safest and easiest way to remove mildew from a bathroom ceiling is with a sponge mop. Using a sponge mop on a stick, you can clean the ceiling without getting on a ladder. Remember, mildew is not only unattractive and smelly, it is also a health hazard, one that you can easily and cheaply control.


    Ghirardelli's Double Chocolate cocoa mix is my favorite. It produces a thick beverage with good chocolate flavor. However, when made with milk as directed, a cup contains a hefty 260 calories. By comparison, Nestle's Rich Chocolate cocoa mix only contains 80 calories a cup. Unfortunately, Nestle's cocoa mix does not really taste rich, but weak and watery compared to most other brands. A good middle choice is Hershey's Goodnight Kisses cocoa mix. I like this product despite its silly name. Hershey calls it 'Goodnight Kisses' because the cocoa mix is 99.9% caffeine-free; however, there is very little caffeine in any major brand of cocoa mix, certainly not enough to keep you awake at night. When buying cocoa mix, read the label. Some brands are designed to be mixed with milk, others with water.

    COCOA POWDER. Before buying cocoa powder, read the ingredients. Hershey, Nestle, and Sharffenberger cocoa powder are all 100% cocoa; however, Starbucks Cocoa Powder, which is one of the most expensive brands, is mostly just sugar.


    TwoDaLoo. For me, the most interesting thing at the annual landlord convention is the exhibit hall. I often find wonderful new products there, but I also often find horrible new products as well. The worst product at this year's convention was the TwoDaLoo. See photo below. The sales literature says: "The TwoDaLoo is the first toilet two people can use at exactly the same time." The literature claims that "The TwoDaLoo brings couples closer together" and that it "saves rocky marriages." (I am a little skeptical about that claim.) This toilet is expensive. The basic model costs $1,400, but the 'upgraded version', which includes a TV and an iPod docking station, costs a lot more. You have to buy these toilets in multiples of 12 because the target market is landlords and hotels. I didn't see anyone placing an order at the landlord convention. If you want to buy 12 of these toilets, go to: TwoDaLoo.


    The Pontiac Silverdome. Predictably, the biggest real estate markdown in 2009 was in the Detroit area. The Pontiac Silverdome is one of the largest domed stadiums in the world. The Silverdome was the home of the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Lions. Pope John Paul II held mass here for 93,000 people. Hulk Hogan bodyslammed Andre the Giant here during Wrestlemania III. Super Bowl XVI was held here. The Pontiac Silverdome cost $55 million to build in 1975. Adjusted for inflation, that would be over $200 million today. In November, a Canadian investor bought the Silverdome at auction for $583,000; less than the price of a 1 bedroom house here in Berkeley. The new owner of the Silverdome bought it sight-unseen and says he doesn't know what he is going to do with it. He says he wasn't expecting his bid to win.

    NEW WORDS OF 2009.

    This is a follow-up to my December newsletter, which was all about my Uncle Maurice and the definition of words. A lot of new words entered the language in 2009. Here's are a few of them along with my definitions.

    Birther. A person who believes that Barack Obama was born in a foreign country and is therefore not legally president of the United States.
    Climategate. The belief that politicians and scientists know that global warming is a hoax and are suppressing the evidence.
    Death Panel. A group of bureaucrats that decides which patients will receive medical care and which patients will be denied medical care, thus condemning them to death. The term 'Death Panel' was popularized by Sarah Palin, although I don't know if she created the term herself.
    Deather. A person who believes that the Democratic health care reform bill contains provisions to create Death Panels.
    El Stiffo. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says: "I'm no El Stiffo" meaning a weak-willed, timid, colorless character. (In Yiddish, a person like that is called a 'nebbish.')
    Government Motors. A nickname for General Motors, which is now principally owned by the federal government.
    Mini-Madoff. A small Ponzi swindle.
    Obamacare. A derogatory term for universal health care.
    Tea Party. A organized meeting of anti-government, anti-tax, anti-Obama protesters.
    Teabagger. A person who attends 'Tea Parties' described above or who mails tea bags to politicians as a form of protest.
    Tenther. A person who believes that most federal laws and regulations are invalid or illegal because they violate the tenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Unfriend. To remove someone from a social networking web site, such as Facebook.
    Zombie Bank. An insolvent bank that continues to operate because of government financial support.


    There was a time when very few mail order retailers offered free shipping, but today, over 70% of the largest internet retailers in the U.S. offer free shipping. However, almost all free shipping offers have strings attached, like order minimums, and many internet retailers only give free shipping to customers who know a secret free shipping code or PIN number. lists over 2,000 stores and mail order retailers that offer free shipping. Free Shipping's web site shows the terms and conditions of each retailer's free shipping offer, and they show you the secret code and PIN numbers required to get free shipping from hundreds of retailers. This web site is a real money saver. I have used it, and it has saved me money on shipping.


    'It's Like A Dog.' I am always suspicious of applicants for apartments who become evasive when I ask them questions about their pets. I once had an applicant who wrote "Yes" after "Do you have a pet?" on his Application Form; however, after "Describe your pet," he left the line blank. I said to this guy: "I see you have a pet. What have you got?" He said: "It's like a dog." I thought that was an odd way to answer my question, so I said: "What do you mean by 'it's like a dog'? Is it a dog?" He said: "No, but you know, it's like a dog." I said: "No, I really don't know what that means." I refused to accept this answer and rephrased my question. I was determined to find out exactly what this animal was, but no matter how I worded my question, the answer was always "It's like a dog." Finally, in frustration, I said: "Look, I'm not going to process your application until I know exactly what sort of animal you own." However, he just stuck with: "It's like a dog" until he left. For some time afterward, I wondered what this animal was. It might have been a wolf. I have seen pet wolves before, and a wolf is 'like a dog,' but who knows? It could have been anything. He didn't get the apartment.

    Mark Tarses

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