May, 2011


Junk haulaway services are always busy in college towns at the end of the school year. Hauling away bulky items, like furniture, can be expensive, but did you know that the cities of Berkeley and Oakland offer free bulk junk removal? Every house and apartment in Berkeley and Oakland is entitled to one free pick-up a year. They will take away almost anything, including big stuff like sofas, tables, mattresses, box springs, and appliances. This is a wonderful free service! If you live in Oakland, give me a call if you want a free pick-up. In Oakland, the owner of the property has to make the appointment. If you live in Berkeley, go to: Berkeley Free Junk Pick-Up. At this web site, you can make an appointment yourself for a free pick-up and see a complete list of what they will take away and what they won't take away. For example, they won't take away boulders, plutonium, or dynamite. Hopefully, none of my tenants has plutonium, but this is Berkeley, so I'm not sure. Two years ago, I got a call from the Berkeley police informing me that a group of my tenants were blowing up dynamite in their driveway at 3 o'clock in the morning. (You know who you are!) The next day, after these guys sobered up, I went over and asked them: "Were you blowing up dynamite in your driveway last night?" They said: "Yes", and then added with some embarrassment: "But they were only half sticks." I pointed out to them that blowing up dynamite on the premises, even half sticks, is grounds for eviction - even in Berkeley!


In my February newsletter, I debunked the 'birther' myth that the president has to be born in the United States. See: February Newsletter. Now I'd like to dispel another 'birther' myth - that the president has to have and make public his birth certificate.

Very few U.S. presidents had birth certificates. Abraham Lincoln didn't have one. Neither did Andrew Jackson. I don't know if any U.S. president born in the 18th or 19th century had a birth certificate. Why? Because preparing and recording birth certificates is a 20th century idea. Prior to 1900, most people were born at home, and few doctors or hospitals had birth certificate forms. States only started recording birth certificates about 100 years ago, and the federal government has never had a birth certificate registry.

Ronald Reagan. Some 20th century presidents had birth certificates, and some didn't. For example, no birth certificate was issued when Ronald Reagan was born. When Reagan tried to enlist in the army during World War II, he was asked to show his birth certificate. Since he didn't have one, Reagan asked the state of Illinois to make one up. That was a common practice. At the Reagan Presidential Library, Ronald Reagan's birth certificate is on display. It shows his date of birth as 1911, but the document states at the bottom that it was prepared in 1942. Several other 20th century presidents also had retroactively issued birth certificates. For example, the state of Missouri created a birth certificate for Harry Truman while he was in the White House. So, to summarize - there is no Constitutional requirement that the president has to be born in the United States or that he have a birth certificate. Besides, despite what many 'birthers' say, Barack Obama does have a birth certificate, and he has made it public. You can see it at Google Images.


An Unhealthy Health Food. Let's face it - turkey burgers are not as tasty as real beef hamburgers. The reason that people buy turkey burgers is because they think that turkey burgers are better for you than beef hamburgers; however, that usually isn't true! Yes, turkey meat is very low in fat, but most turkey burgers have turkey fat and turkey skin ground in with the meat to make the burgers juicy. As a result, most restaurant turkey burgers have more fat and calories than beef hamburgers. At Ruby Tuesday, a Bella Turkey Burger contains 1145 calories, with 500 of those calories coming from turkey fat. At In-N-Out Burger, a Double Double beef hamburger with cheese and sauce only contains 670 calories. Of course, you can buy low-fat ground turkey meat at a supermarket and make your own low-fat turkey burgers, but you also buy low-fat ground beef, so what's the point of turkey burgers?

Turkey Breakfast Sausage. Most people buy turkey breakfast sausage because they "want to start the day off right." They think that turkey sausage is a healthy alternative to other breakfast meats. Most brands of turkey sausage claim to be low in fat. For example, Jimmy Dean's turkey breakfast sausage patties say: "Contains 60% less fat" on the box, but 2 of these pre-cooked patties contain 240 calories, and most of those calories come from turkey fat. On the other hand, 2 slices of Oscar Mayer center cut bacon, real bacon, only contain 70 calories cooked.

When buying turkey hot dogs, sausages, bologna and other processed meats, you should read the nutritional label. Some brands are mostly just turkey fat and skin. 80% to 90% of the calories in some turkey sausages come from turkey fat. Is turkey fat healthier than other kinds of animal fat? Maybe, but I haven't seen any evidence of that. My grandmother, Pauline Tarses, who was an excellent cook, used a lot of 'schmaltz' (rendered chicken fat) in her kitchen, but she had no illusions that it was health food.


'My Dog Has Issues.' I recently got an application for an apartment from a man with a dog. He told me that his dog's name was Blackjack and that "he is some kind of terrier." I asked him if he had a photo of his dog with him. He said "No." I asked him if he could e-mail me a photo of his dog when he got back home. He told he didn't have any photos of his dog back home either and added: "I don't want to talk about my dog." That made me very suspicious. I know from experience that when an applicant says that he doesn't want to talk about his dog, that means that there is something wrong with the dog, and when someone tells me that he has a terrier but won't tell me what kind of terrier it is, that means it's a pit bull. A pit bull is a terrier. I asked this guy if I could meet his dog. He said: "I don't think that would be a good idea." I said: "Why?" He said: "My dog has anger management issues." I did not like the sound of that! I had heard the term 'anger management issues' before, but never in reference to a dog. I asked him what these 'issues' were and how these 'issues' affected his dog's behavior. He told me that his dog had "some bad experiences when he was a puppy" and that as a result, "he sometimes lashes out at authority figures." I thought: "Hmmm. Isn't a landlord an authority figure?" I decided to rent the place to somebody else.


A woman in Oklahoma is fighting efforts to evict her - and her kangaroo. The woman says that she's got a legal right to keep the kangaroo under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act.) Her therapist says that due to her depression, she needs a 'therapy kangaroo.' I've never heard of a 'therapy kangaroo' before, but I have heard of disabled tenants who had 'therapy' monkeys, pigs, snakes, and horses. I would like to know - is there any 'therapy' animal that a landlord can refuse to allow? Is there a point at which the health, safety, and quiet enjoyment of the other tenants in the building and the neighbors trumps the ADA? Can you imagine what it would be like to live directly beneath an apartment in which a kangaroo is hopping around day and night? Boing. Boing. Boing. I have also wondered: 'What would I do - what could I do - if a disabled tenant moved a 'therapy' lion or alligator into his apartment? Although that may sound ridiculous, I know of several cases in which a tenant had a lion in his apartment, and I once worked for a realtor who sold a house in Pleasant Hill that had large concrete alligator pits in the back yard. The realtor made the owner remove his 'pets' from the premises before we showed the house to the public. Exotic 'therapy' animals is a topic of conversation that comes up fairly often at landlord get-togethers. See: Therapy Kangaroo.


Old Fashioned Chewy Molasses Cookies. Chewy molasses cookies were very popular in America 100 years ago. Back in those days, molasses was a kitchen staple. It was widely used instead of sugar in baked goods, desserts, and candy. Today, relatively few people still use molasses. About a month ago, I started making chocolate-dipped chewy molasses cookies. I didn't think they would be particularly popular with college students. Most young people have never tasted molasses. However, these cookies have been a huge hit! I am going through surprisingly large quantities of them. They are mighty tasty.

Molasses had a sad history in America. It was a key part of the African slave trade. Molasses is a byproduct of sugar production. It is the sticky syrup that is left over after all the sugar is extracted from sugar cane. For over 300 years, plantations in America and the Caribbean imported slaves from Africa to produce sugar. They shipped the sugar to Europe and turned the molasses into rum, which they then sent to Africa to trade for more slaves. Although rum can be made from other things, all the top brands of Caribbean rum are still made from molasses.

Mark Tarses

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