December, 2011


There is an apartment house in Laguna Beach that the tenants claim is haunted. Laguna Beach is an affluent seaside resort and artist community about 40 miles south of Los Angeles. Many current and former tenants have reported seeing ghosts and hearing strange noises in the building. The landlord has done a few things to try to allay his tenant's ghostly concerns. Some tenants felt that the red carpet in the halls may have been contributing to the building's ghostly infestation. Red is the color of blood, so the landlord replaced the red carpet with a neutral colored carpet, but uunfortunately, that didn't solve the problem. The tenants are still seeing apparitions and hearing eerie noises. See: Laguna Beach Haunted Apartment House. I sympathize with this landlord's situation because something like this once happened to me.

Bad Vibrations. Many years ago, I rented a small house in Oakland to a young woman. Soon after she moved in, she hired a psychic to analyze her new home. After walking through the house, the psychic told my tenant that the house had 'very bad vibrations'. He told her that living in a house with 'bad vibrations' was very bad for her health. The psychic concluded that my house urgently needed a $2,000 exorcism - to be performed by him. Sadly, my tenant believed him. She watched a number of movies on video tapes lent to her by the psychic about people dying or going insane living in a cursed building, including 'The Shining.' She didn't have $2,000 herself, so she asked me to pay for the exorcism. I said: "No." She then went to the Oakland Rent Arbitration Board and asked them to order me to pay for an exorcism. Predictably, they refused to get involved. A month later, she moved out. I owned that house for over 20 years, and the only other time that a tenant reported 'bad vibrations' there was during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

This story is typical of how psychics and fortunetellers make money. They convince people that bad things are going to happen to them and that the only way to prevent these bad things from happening is by giving money to the psychic or fortuneteller. It is my opinion that all professional psychics and fortunetellers are fakes and scoundrels. I have a cousin who makes a good living defending fortunetellers in court, and he has been doing it for decades. I used to go to court to watch him in action.

Landlords and Exorcisms. I have heard of landlords who paid for exorcisms in order to placate worried tenants, but a landlord who pays for something like that is just setting himself up for a lot of trouble. By paying for an exorcism, a landlord is acknowledging that there is something wrong with the building. After all, if there is nothing wrong with the building, then why is the landlord paying for an exorcism? Since there is no way for a landlord to prove that that his building has been completely cleansed of supernatural spirits, he could go on paying phony-baloney 'ghostbusters' forever.

Ronald Reagan and Francois Mitterrand. When Ronald Reagan was president, all of his trips, cabinet meetings, and press conferences were scheduled by Joan Quigley, a San Francisco psychic and astrologer. Donald Regan, the White House Chief of Staff, complained that he could not meet with President Reagan until he got Joan Quigley's approval. In her book "What Does Joan Say? My Seven Years as White House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan", Joan Quigley took credit for ending the Cold War herself. (A lot of people took credit for ending the Cold War.) The White House had difficulty arranging meetings between Reagan and French President Francois Mitterrand. Mitterrand also had an astrologer, and the 2 presidential astrologers were giving their clients differing advice as to when meetings should take place. Mitterrand's astrologer, Elizabeth Teissier, also wrote a book taking credit for ending the Cold War.

Fortunetellers and Lotteries. There are a lot of storefront fortunetellers here in Berkeley. There is one just a block from my house. Many of them advertise that for a fee, they will tell you what the winning numbers are going to be in the next lottery jackpot. I wonder - Doesn't the obvious question occur to any of the suckers who pay fortunetellers for winning lottery numbers? If this fortuneteller can really predict winning lottery numbers, then why is she still working in this seedy fortunetelling parlor? Why doesn't she just spend a buck and buy the winning lottery ticket for herself?

Fortunetellers and College Students. Many fortunetellers in college towns also sell 'loan spells.' One fortuneteller advertises that for $39.95, she will cast a spell on the holder of your student loan, causing him "to forget the loan" and promising that he "will never ask you to repay the money." Do people actually buy 'loan spells'? Obviously they do. Otherwise, fortunetellers wouldn't be advertising them. Frankly, I have met some very naive college students in my time, but I think I don't know any that are this gullible.


Have you ever wondered why pre-shredded cheese doesn't stick together? If you shred mozzarella cheese at home, the shreds start sticking together almost immediately, but the bagged pre-shredded mozzarella cheese they sell in supermarkets doesn't stick together, even when it's been on the shelf for a long time. Why? Most pre-shredded cheese is coated with cellulose made from sawdust to prevent it from sticking together. Sawdust coated shredded cheese doesn't melt as well as cheese that you shred yourself just before using it. Because of the sawdust coating, pre-shredded cheese should not be used to make cheese sauces or hot cheese dips. Cellulose is also commonly found in bargain-priced and low-fat ice cream. Sawdust cellulose makes ice cream taste creamy even when there's very little cream in it. I go to several wholesale food shows every year because that's where I meet my chocolate suppliers. When I'm at these shows, I'm often amazed (and sometimes horrified) at the stuff that is put into processed foods. Sawdust is harmless, but how many people do you suppose would buy pre-shredded cheese if the label said "Cheese Covered With Sawdust'?


Since its introduction in 1981, McDonald's has brought back the McRib sandwich 8 times, most recently, last month. Every time it returns, the McRib becomes even more popular. The McRib has fanatically devoted fans. Many people routinely drive 100 miles or more to get a McRib sandwich. Not all McDonald's locations have McRibs, so McRib fans maintain locator web sites that list all the McDonald's in an area that have McRibs. Here's one: McRib Locator. So why isn't the McRib sandwich a permanent part of McDonald's menu? Well, it's all up to pork prices. When pork prices are high, the McRib disappears. When pork prices are low, McDonald's brings it back. Right now, pork prices are low. The meat in a McRib sandwich is shaped to look like a small rack of ribs, but it is not actually pork rib meat. It is a pureed mixture of inexpensive pig parts like tripe, pig hearts, and scalded pig stomachs. The McRib sandwich also contains a long list of chemicals, including azodicarbonamide, a chemical that is commonly used to make yoga mats and the soles of gym shoes. I know the head of the Judaic Studies department at UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County.) I haven't checked with him, but my guess is that the McRib sandwich is probably not kosher.


One of the questions that I have been asked many times over the years is: "How can I buy stock in Trader Joe's? I can't find it listed anywhere." Well, you can't buy stock in Trader Joe's because there isn't any. It is a privately owned company. Trader Joe's is owned by a family trust created by Theo Albrecht, one of the co-founders of the Aldi supermarket chain. Shortly after World War II, 2 brothers, Theo Albrecht and Karl Albrecht, took over their parent's small grocery store in Essen, an industrial city in northwest Germany. They renamed the store Aldi and advertised having the lowest prices in town. They added more and more stores and are now the largest food retailers in Europe. Theo Albrecht is the richest man in Germany, and until his death in 2010, his brother Karl was the second richest man in Germany.

Trader Joe's has fanatically loyal customers and employees. I am one of their loyal customers myself. Trader Joe's pays above-union wages, and has exceptional fringe benefits. Both full time and part time employees at Trader Joe's get health, dental, and vision insurance. Very few companies in the U.S. give health insurance to part time employees, and it's unheard of in the grocery business. I know people who got jobs at Trader Joe's mainly to get the health insurance. Although Trader Joe's is now a national chain, about half of all their stores are located here in California.


If you would like to serve chocolate fondue at your next party, I can supply you with electric fondue pots, chocolate fondue, and skewers. All you have to get is stuff to dip in the fondue. The most popular things to dip in chocolate fondue are strawberries, chunks of bananas, marshmallows, and cubes of pound cake.

Mark Tarses

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