August, 2011


One of the questions that I am often asked at this time of year is: "How do I get rid of blocks of styrofoam?" Many of the products that college students buy at the beginning of the school year are packed in blocks of expanded polystyrene; a.k.a. styrofoam. How should you get rid of this stuff? First of all, let me say what you shouldn't do with it.

  • Don't put styrofoam in your recycling can. The recycling pickup guys won't take it away.
  • Don't dissolve styrofoam. You can dissolve styrofoam in a number of chemicals, like acetone. Nail polish remover is acetone. But...if you dissolve styrofoam in a chemical bath, then what do you do? How do you get rid of the toxic sludge you produced? It's illegal to put it in your garbage can.
  • Don't burn styrofoam. That is illegal and dangerous. Burning styrofoam gives off toxic fumes.
  • Unfortunately, the only thing you can do with a block of styrofoam is put it in your garbage can. Styrofoam is not an environmentally friendly product. It does not disintegrate at the dump. The good news is that in the future, we will probably be seeing fewer products packed in molded styrofoam. A number of companies are making biodegradable molded packaging, like EcoCradle, and manufacturers all over the world are under economic pressure to find alternatives to styrofoam, which is made from petroleum. The world price of oil has quadrupled over the past decade, and so has the price of petrochemicals. The photo on the right was taken at the back door of Tokyo's wholesale fish market.

    Styrofoam pellets. If you have styrofoam pellets (foam peanuts), you can bring them to me in a plastic bag, and I will reuse them for shipping. Make sure the pellets are clean and that there is nothing else in the bag.


    Sweet iced tea has never been as popular as it is today. You see it featured on restaurant menus everywhere. Sweet iced tea is extremely easy to make. Here are the recipes for the four most popular types.

  • Thai Iced Tea. 95% iced tea, 5% sweetened condensed milk.
  • Arnold Palmer. 50% iced tea, 50% lemonade.
  • Boston Iced Tea. 50% iced tea, 50% cranberry juice cocktail.
  • Southern Sweet Tea. 85% iced tea, 15% simple syrup. To make simple syrup, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar dissolves completely, and the syrup is clear. Cool before using. Most commercial sweet tea is made with corn syrup, but simple syrup made with sugar tastes better.

    Whenever somebody tells me that he is doing something in order to teach someone a lesson, I automatically smile because it almost always turns out that the thing that he is doing is just plain foolish.

    Have you ever heard of somebody shooting his car in order to 'to teach it a lesson?' Strangely, this happens fairly often. In 1974, Elvis Presley purchased a yellow Pantera sports car. He shot the car on several occasions when the car would not start or the engine stalled. See photo on the right of the dashboard of Elvis' Pantera. Note the bullet hole in the steering wheel. When people asked Elvis why he did this, he said it was: 'to teach it a lesson.' See: Elvis Shoots Car.

    On April 13, 2011; Lauriano Lawrence Lovato of Kingman, Arizona got into his car, a Chevy Camaro, and tried to get it to start. He turned the key, but the engine would not turn over. After trying several more times to get the engine to start, Mr. Lovato shot his car twice through the windshield into the dashboard. Neighbors called the police. Mr. Lovato barricaded himself inside his house. After a lengthy standoff with the police, he finally surrendered and was arrested. He is now doing jail time.

    On March 18, 2011; a large crowd of people gathered in downtown in Qingtao, China to watch the destruction of a $600,000 Lamborghini. In 2010, a Chinese businessman purchased a Lamborghini Gallardo. He became increasingly annoyed by the car's many mechanical problems. Private ownership of guns is illegal in China, except for licensed hunters, so he could not shoot the car. Instead, he hired a crew of men with sledgehammers to smash the car to bits, which they did. If you would like to watch a video of the car's destruction, go to: Smashing Lamborghini. The man in the video with a sledgehammer and wearing a black suit is the car's owner. He told the car in Chinese: "I teach you!" Let's hope the Lamborghini 'learned it's lesson.'


    When somebody living in Berkeley writes a book that makes the New York Times bestseller list, it is usually on some academic subject, but when Adam Mansbach wrote 'Go The F**k To Sleep', he was definitely not trying to impress the professors on campus. 'Go The F**k To Sleep' has been at or near the top of the New York Times bestseller list for over 2 months now. Incredibly, the book reached the #1 spot on Amazon even before it's official publication date. 'Go The F**k To Sleep' is also the #1 best selling audiobook in the country, and it will soon be made into a movie. The book is written for adults in the style of a children's bedtime story. Adam Mansbach is a Berkeley resident and father of a 3 year old child. Here is a passage from the book:

    The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
    The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
    You're cozy and warm in your bed, my dear,
    Please go the f**k to sleep.


    ON THE 'B' LIST. In June, I got an application to rent the house next door to me from a woman who runs an interesting home-based business. She makes pricey reproductions of medieval beeswax candles and candle holders that she sells to museums and gift shops. At first, she seemed like a great applicant; however, she spent very little time inside the house looking around and a lot of time in the back yard taking measurements and writing them down. That seemed very odd to me, so when she returned to the house, I asked her: "Why were you measuring the back yard?" She said: "I wanted to make sure there is enough room for my hives." I said: "What hives?" She said: "I have 3 bee hives." I said: "How many bees are in your hives?" She said: "Between the 3 hives, I've got about 100,000 bees." I said: "No way! I'm not having 100,000 bees in the back yard - and next door to me. I'm not even sure that's legal." She said: 'Oh yes, it is legal!" Then she gave me a flyer from the city of Berkeley titled "Bees in Berkeley" which stated quite clearly that it is legal to keep bees in the city. I told her I would think it over.

    Bay Area Bees. After she left, I did some investigating and found that urban beekeeping around San Francisco Bay is far more widespread than I imagined. Many prominent businesses in this area have rooftop bee hives, including Blue Bottle Coffee in Oakland and the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. The Fairmont Hotel has 200,000 bees living on it's roof. The hotel uses honey from it's own hives to make baked goods and for the hotel's afternoon tea service. I also found a Beekeeping Supply Store on Ashby Avenue, just a few blocks from my house. I didn't know it was there.

    Bee Rights. The Berkeley city flyer recommended a Bee Rights web site. At this site, you can learn all about the 'rights' of bees and the history of man's cruel 'enslavement of bees.' Do bees actually have rights? I don't think there's anything in the Constitution about bee rights. The 13th Amendment bans slavery, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't apply to the 'enslavement of bees.'

    Defenseless Bees. According to the Bee Rights web site, most people don't think about bee rights because "bees are small and defenseless." Defenseless? Really? When I was a kid, my father used to send me to Camp Airy in the Appalachian Mountains of western Maryland every summer. There were a lot of bees at Camp Airy, and every summer, I got stung at least once. So did a lot of the other kids in my cabin. You can take my word for this - bees are definitely not defenseless! I don't want to seem unreasonable, but frankly, I do not want to live next door to 100,000 bees. I put this woman on my "B" list and rented the house to somebody else.

    Mark Tarses

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