December, 2010


If you have never heard of the 'one free bite' rule before, you might find this story hard to believe. In many states, dogs have a legal right to bite you, provided they only bite you once. The 'one free bite' rule is a 16th century English legal principle that was adopted by British colonies all over the world. It is still the rule of law in many places in the United States.

Maryland. I grew up in Maryland, which is a 'one free bite' state. If a dog bites you in Maryland, you cannot sue the dog's owner if the dog only bites you once, unless you can prove that the dog's owner had foreknowledge that his dog was dangerous. If, for example, the owner of a pit bull brings his dog into a child day care center in Maryland, and the dog bites a toddler, the child's parents cannot sue the dog's owner unless the dog takes at least two bites out of their child. The first bite is free, even if that bite results in permanent disfigurement of the child. (Sounds unbelievable, doesn't it?) The 'one free bite' rule is not one of those silly old laws that is still on the books but that nobody enforces. No, no. The 'one free bite' rule is still rigorously enforced in the courts of Maryland and many other states.

California. Dogs do not get a 'free bite' here in California. California is a strict liability state, which means that a dog's owner can be sued for any and all injuries inflicted on another person by his dog. In a dog bite lawsuit in California, the judge and jury are mainly interested in finding out much damage the dog did, not how many times the dog bit his victim.

The subject of dog bite liability comes up all the time at landlord conventions. Personally, I think that the 'one free bite' rule should be abolished - everywhere and immediately. This archaic, medieval legal concept runs contrary to modern thinking about personal responsibility. Right now, in 16 states, you cannot sue a person if his dog rips a finger off your hand in one bite, but you can sue if the dog rips off your finger in two bites. Isn't that ridiculous?


All of the apartment houses built in Berkeley over the past 20 years seem to have one thing in common - you get very little space for your money. The rooms are tiny, and there is no place to store anything. You might think that in a building where they charge $2,000 a month for a 500 square foot apartment (that's slightly bigger than a 2 car garage), there would be some place on the premises to store the stuff that you can't fit into your apartment, but you would be wrong. I don't know why so few landlords around here provide storage. All of my units have storage rooms or storage sheds. I tell landlords that providing tenants with storage space is good for both landlords and tenants. Every Berkeley landlord knows that most college students have bicycles. When an apartment house has no storage area, the tenants have to park their bicycles in their living rooms. Where else can they put them? When that happens, things get messy, especially in the rainy season. The carpets get muddy and stained with bicycle grease, the walls get scuffed up, and the tenants wind up with little or no usable living room.

Have you seen the new 'store your stuff' buildings along the freeway? They look more like Class-A office buildings than storage buildings. See the photo to the right of the Extra Space building in Emeryville. At the Extra Space complex here in Berkeley, a 10' x 10' space costs $250 a month, and a 20' x 20' space costs $550 a month. There is a waiting list to get the larger spaces. Can can imagine spending over $6,000 a year to store your stuff? A lot of people do.


The Motorized Ice Cream Cone. In September, I reviewed the Ove' Glove, which I said is an excellent product even though it is sold on long TV infomercials. It seems like most of the products sold on infomercials are silly gadgets that get used once and then go in the Goodwill box. A good example of this is the Motorized Ice Cream Cone. The pitchman claims: "A lot of kids don't like ice cream cones because they have to keep turning the cone." I don't believe that's true. Did you ever turn down an ice cream cone when you were a kid because turning the cone was too much work? The device works this way - you put ice cream into the Motorized Ice Cream Cone (pictured below). You turn the On/Off button to On, and the cone rotates the ice cream counterclockwise so you can lick ice cream off the painted plastic cone without turning the cone. The pitchman also claims: "The Motorized Ice Cream Cone is great for people on low carb diets because there is no cone to eat!" That's not true either. People on low carb diets don't eat ice cream, with or without a cone.

The Marshmallow Turner. The same company that makes the Motorized Ice Cream Cone also makes the Mechanical Marshmallow Turner. This $30 device has a hand crank at one end of a metal rod that rotates a marshmallow placed on a on the other end. This allows you to toast a marshmallow over a campfire without having to turn the stick over. What's the point of this product? It seems to me that turning over a stick with a marshmallow on it is less work than constantly turning a crank.

EZ Cracker. There have been a lot of long TV commercials lately for "EZ Cracker." EZ Cracker is a machine that cracks eggshells. In the TV ad, people are shown cracking eggs by hand and making a mess out of things. In the commercial, none of the hand cracked eggs lands in the bowl. Then someone is shown cracking eggs with EZ Cracker, and all the eggs land in the bowl. The implication is that EZ Cracker is an egg aiming device, like a Norden bombsight. The pitchman for this product says: "Now you can crack eggs just like a professional!" Are there really professional egg crackers? That sounds like an extremely boring job.

So, which of these jobs do you feel is the most strenuous: turning an ice cream cone, turning over a marshmallow, or cracking an egg? I think that any one of these 3 gadgets would make a wonderful Christmas present for someone you don't like but have to buy a gift for.


Another product that is advertised frequently on TV infomercials is MagicJack, a VOIP (voice over internet) device that attaches to your computer. Admittedly, MagicJack is a useful product (unlike a mechanical marshmallow turner.) The clarity of phone calls is good, on par with my cell phone. I bought a MagicJack about a year ago, but I ditched it after just a few days of use and went back to my old land line. There are a number of problems with MagicJack. The biggest problem is this - in order for MagicJack to send or receive phone calls, your computer has to be on, and your internet service must be working. If your computer is turned off or has gone into sleep mode, your phone will not ring. All incoming calls will automatically go to voice mail. If your internet service is down, you also cannot make or receive phone calls.


Mr. Bringdown. I just got a dilly of an application. A guy came to an open house with his girlfriend. He looked the place over and filled out an application form. In the income section of the form, he said he was self-employed and that his business is "growing medicinal herbs." I asked him if there was some way for me to verify his income. He said "No." He told me that he does all of his business in cash and does not file income tax returns. I told him that I don't rent apartments to people who have no verifiable way of paying the rent. He turned to his girlfriend and said: "I'm going outside. You talk to Mr. Bringdown here." He went outside for about 10 minutes. When he returned, he looked stoned, he sounded confused, and his pupils were dilated. I wanted to say to him: "You are not making a favorable impression on Mr. Bringdown," but I didn't. Instead, I said to his girlfriend that I thought she should drive the car back home. She told me that she was planning to do that. I could tell from the expression on her face that she knew that I wasn't going to rent this apartment to her boyfriend - and she was right.


Turtles and English Toffee. I have gift-boxed chocolate turtles and english toffee. Pick up a box before you go home for the holidays! I also have Christmas and Hanukkah wrapped chocolate bars.

Mark Tarses

Back to Mark Tarses Home Page