Ernie the Attorney : searching for truth & justice (in an unjust world)
Updated: 7/1/2003; 11:31:13 AM.


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Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Well the drought finally ended last night, and it looks like we got about 2 inches of rain.  I know this because I measured the rain collection in my BMW X5's center console cup holder.  So how could I be so stupid as to leave all four of my windows and the sun roof open during a major downpour?

Believe me I didn't.   Here's what happened.  Last night, during the rain storm, the car spontaneously lowered all of the windows and opened the sun roof.  Really. 

And this is not a design flaw, or a bug.  It's a feature.

Here's how it works: BMW makes their ignition keys so that you can wirelessly lower the windows to your car by holding down a button on the key.  It takes a good 30 seconds of holding to open all of the windows, but you can do it just by holding down that button.  Obviously, the problem occurred not because of a key button being held down, but because of some stray electrical signal in the car's vicinity (perhaps from the electrical storm).

So I asked the service manager (after I explained this problem, which apparently has occurred before) if he could disable the "feature."  He said "it can't be done."  I asked him if he thought it was a good idea for a car to be susceptible to opening all of the windows because of some freak electrical activity in the car's vicinity.  He made an effort to understand my point, but obviously I'm biased.  He said most people like the ability to open the windows with their key.  So he didn't think there was any sort of design flaw.

Oh, and any damage that might have occurred won't be covered by the BMW warranty.  Remember, guys, this is not a bug it's a feature.  And a mandatory feature. 

So what if, while parked outside a downtown restaurant, the car decides to open all the windows and invite a few thieves to get inside and poke around, where they can find the valet key and drive away?  (hint to the thieves: bring a bathing suit)

I can't wait to talk the boys from BMW NorthAmerica and commend them on their fine engineering.  I am definitely going to ask them what frequency their key system operates on. 

Later (2003-06-07) - the car was repaired without cost and the problem turned out to be this.

7:01:06 PM    

Jerry Lawson has a great post about why it's important to get a domain name for your website.  It used to be important because you wanted a memorable name. 

My blog URL is clearly not memorable, but the problem isn't that people can't find me (Google solved that problem).  The problem is: what happens if I move my site?  A lot of people have linked to and those links won't redirect if I move.  But if they pointed to a domain name, then when I move all I have to do is redirect the domain name and all those links would be preserved.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda....

11:52:36 AM    

Larry Lessig needs your help to preserve the Public Domain:

"We have launched a petition to build support for the Public Domain Enhancement Act. That act would require American copyright holders to pay $1 fifty years after a work was published. If they pay the $1, the copyright continues. If they don't, the work passes into the public domain. Historical estimates would suggest 98% of works would pass into the pubilc domain after 50 years. The Act would do a great deal to reclaim a public domain. This proposal has received a great deal of support. It is now facing some important lobbyists' opposition. We need a public way to begin to demonstrate who the lobbyists don't speak for. This is the first step. If you are an ally in at least this cause, please sign the petition. Please blog it, please email it, please spam it, please buy billboards about it -- please do whatever you can. And most importantly, please help us explain its importance. There is a chance to do something significant here. But it will take a clearer, simpler voice than mine."

Click here to sign the petition.  It takes less than a minute to sign.  Thanks.

11:39:45 AM    

Today's mail brought a brochure on a legal writing seminar by Bryan Garner that will be in New Orleans on July 18th at the Hotel Intercontinental.  I always pass this brochure on to the newest associates in our firm and tell them that they should attend.  The seminar is sponsored by LawProse (caution!!! slow-loading website!!!), and will be given in the following cities: San Diego (June 11), Washington D.C. (June 18), New York (June 25), Atlanta (July 1), New Orleans (July 18), Minneapolis (July 23).

Bryan Garner is a two-eyed man in a land of the blind.  His tips for effective writing are gems that every lawyer--young and old--should savor.  His first tip is to "have something to say and think it through," which means figure out a way to describe your point so that even a non-lawyer friend can figure out what you are trying to say.

I wish I had been exposed to Bryan Garner at an earlier stage in my legal career.  And I wish that more lawyers and judges would attend his seminars.  Most legal writing is overly jargonistic.  Some smart person once said that if you can't explain a complex idea in a simple manner then you don't really understand the idea.  Maybe that's the problem with a lot of legal writing.

Whatever the source of the problem, each lawyer has a responsibility to improve their own writing.  And attending a writing seminar is a big step in the right direction.  Even if you have to pay for it yourself.

11:15:33 AM    

© Copyright 2003 Ernest Svenson.

Comments by: YACCS

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