June, 2010


Have you ever considered the possibility that criminals might be reading your Facebook pages? Don't bank on Facebook's privacy controls from preventing computer savvy crooks from seeing your information.

  • Don't announce your travel plans or those of your friends on Facebook. Burglars spend a lot of time on the internet looking for the names and addresses of people who are going to be away from home for a while. Wait until you get back home from your vacation before telling people about your trip on social networking web sites.
  • Check your profile page. Is there information there that would enable an identity thief to cause you trouble? It's risky to show your birthday. If you have already entered your birth date, you can go to your profile page, click the 'Info' tab, and then click 'Edit Information.' Under 'Basic Information', you can choose either 'Show only month and day in my profile' (no year), or 'Don't show my birthday in profile' (even safer.) Then click 'Save Changes.'
  • Don't use a weak password. An astonishingly large number of people use their own names as passwords or the word 'password' itself as a password. Believe it or not, weak passwords contributed significantly to Germany's defeat in World War 2! Throughout the war, the Germans relied on a coding machine called 'Enigma' for sending messages to their troops and U-boats. Enigma operators were supposed to select a random 6-letter password every day to scramble the rotors inside the machine, but they were very careless about this. Early on in the war, English codebreakers figured out that the 6-letter daily code was usually either 'Hitler' or 'Berlin.' After that, the English were able to decode German messages rapidly and with devastating consequences.


    Kitchen fires are the most common of all home emergencies. Every year, one out of every eight homes in the U.S. has a kitchen cooking fire. Fire is the most dangerous of all emergencies because fire makes people panic and do dumb things that make the situation worse.

  • If a toaster or other electric appliance is on fire, unplug the appliance and then smother the fire with an ABC fire extinguisher or baking soda. Then, get a new toaster. Never reuse an appliance that has been on 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.
  • 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.


    The Scharffen Berger Marijuana Store Update. In April, Wareham Development purchased the old Scharffen Berger chocolate factory at 914 Heinz Street here in Berkeley in order to prevent the building from becoming a giant marijuana store. Wareham owns 22 commercial buildings in the area around the Scharffen Berger factory, including 7 on Heinz Street alone. Wareham argued that the presence of a 28,000 square foot marijuana store would bring down property values in the neighborhood and alienate prospective tenants and shoppers. Wareham has not announced what they intend to do with the building.


    Do you remember 'freedom fries'? In 2003, Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio) took french fries and french toast off the menus at the restaurants run by the House of Representatives and replaced them with freedom fries and freedom toast. Ney was able to do this without a Congressional vote using his authority as Chairman on House Administration. He did it in response to French President Jacques Chirac's strong opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Chirac said that he did not believe that there were any WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq and that President Bush had not produced any credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had chemical or biological weapons or an active nuclear weapons program. It later turned out that Chirac was right, which embarrassed and infuriated the White House and Congressmen who voted for the invasion. Freedom fries, freedom toast, freedom vanilla ice cream, freedom dressing, freedom onion soup, etc. appeared on restaurant menus across the U.S. French's mustard issued a press release reassuring Americans that their product had nothing to do with France and that French's mustard was created by an American named Robert French. The French Cleaners, a chain of dry cleaning stores in California's Central Valley, were all either vandalized or firebombed. In 2006, and after much ridicule, Congress quietly went back to serving french fries and french toast, and the issue quickly faded away.

    Anti-German Hysteria. The freedom fries nonsense reminded me of the anti-German hysteria of World War I. Schools all over the country stopped teaching German. Students were punished for saying "Gesundheit!" when a classmate sneezed. People were thrown off streetcars if they were heard speaking German. For their own safety, Jews were advised not to speak to each other in Yiddish in unfamiliar neighborhoods because their language sounded too much like German. Orchestras refused to play the music of Beethoven or Wagner. A number of cities passed laws prohibiting bars and saloons from serving pretzels. People who owned dachshunds were accused of being traitors. Many dachshunds were euthanized by their owners. The federal government shut down German language newspapers, and they banned a long list of German words and listed acceptable substitutes. Here are a few of them.

    Dachshund. Dash hound.
    Frankfurter. Hot dog.
    German measles. Liberty measles.
    German shepherd. Police dog.
    Hamburger. Salisbury steak.
    Kaiser roll. Crown roll.
    Kindergarten. Preschool.
    Sauerkraut. Liberty cabbage.

    Some restaurant owners refused to take hamburger or sauerkraut off their menus. They were arrested and sent to prison. Over there, Germany was doing the same thing. After Italy entered World War I on the Allied side in 1915, restaurants in Germany replaced Italienischer Salat (Italian salad) with Mittelmeer-Salat (Mediterranean salad.)

    Baltimore in World War 1. My home town of Baltimore had a large German population. In 1914, there were 100,000 Germans living in Baltimore, about 20% of the city's population. In the decade prior to the war, shiploads of immigrants arrived in Baltimore every few weeks from ports in Germany. My grandparents, Bores and Pauline Tarses, came to America on one of those ships, the 'Brandenburg.'

    H.L. Mencken. The most famous German-American in Baltimore during World War 1 was H.L. Mencken, the editor of the Baltimore Sun. For over 20 years, Mencken was the most famous newspaper editor in America, perhaps the world. He was a brilliant writer. Mencken was silenced by government censors during World War 1 for his anti-British, pro-German editorials. My father hated H.L. Mencken. Mencken didn't like democracy, which he called 'boobocracy', or government by the ignorant and foolish. Mencken didn't like Jews, but he was one of the first U.S. newspaper editors to denounce Hitler's persecution of the Jews. Mencken didn't like Black people, but he fought the Ku Klux Klan. In the 1930s, Mencken lost much of his credibility because he opposed the New Deal, he thought Hitler and Mussolini were merely buffoons, and he opposed U.S. participation in World War 2. Mencken was once again silenced by government censors.

    The Saboteurs on German Street.

    The anti-German hysteria of World War 1 wasn't just paranoia. There was real danger, and not just for dachshunds. If you are ever in Baltimore, take a look at the beautiful Hansa Haus at 2 East Redwood Street. This charming Bavarian-style half-timbered building was constructed by the German Lloyd shipping line and served as German Consulate. During World War 1, the attic of the Hansa Haus was used as a meeting place by German spies and saboteurs operating across the United States. It was also the place where German agents went to get paid. Huge sums of money were dispensed from a safe in the attic. On the night of July 30, 1916; German saboteurs blew up the Black Tom ammunition depot in Jersey City, New Jersey. Over two million pounds of ammunition awaiting shipment to England exploded, equal to the force of a 5.5 earthquake. The explosion shook buildings as far away as Philadelphia and could be heard in Maryland. Many buildings were damaged beyond repair and had to be demolished. Thousands of windows were broken in New Jersey and lower Manhattan. Store windows in Times Square were completely shattered. Prior to the Black Tom explosion, visitors to the Statue of Liberty could climb up the arm and stand on the torch, but the explosion did so much damage to the statue's internal structure that the arm and torch have been closed to visitors ever since. The Black Tom explosion and many other acts of sabotage were planned and financed in the attic of the Hansa Haus. Prior to 1918, Redwood Street was called German Street.


    I've Had Bad Luck With Landlords. I got an application from a guy who wanted to rent a house I own in Berkeley. After reviewing his application, I said: "You forgot to write down the name and phone number of your current landlord." He said: "I didn't forget. I don't want you to call my landlord. He's evicting me." I said: "Why is he evicting you?" He said: "It's for no good reason. The guy is nuts. He's really crazy." Frankly, I know some crazy landlords, so I said: "I see that you've been living at your present address for 4 months. Perhaps I could get a reference from your previous landlord." He said: "No. That guy evicted me too. So did the landlord before that." I said: 'So you've been evicted by 3 landlords in a row? What did you do?" He said: "Nothing. Really. I've just had bad luck with landlords." I didn't like the sound of that explanation, so I rented the house to somebody else.


    Fire Extinguisher. Every kitchen should have an ABC (dry chemical) fire extinguisher with a visible pressure gauge. If you don't have one or if you have one but the pressure is low, let me know. You can pick up a free fire extinguisher at my chocolate room.

    Mark Tarses

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