Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Passchendale

I just finished reading the book Passchendale, based on the recent Canadian movie of the same name. The question I have to ask myself is why wouldn't more folks want to see this movie? It is wonderful that the government provided significant grants that allowed this film to be made, but it would be nice to have seen an equally large marketing budget so that the film could actually be seen.

Here I am talking like this and I havn't even seen the film. The problem is, the only place I heard it even played is at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. It sure as hell is not going to play in the backwater of Chatham, Ontario (the closest theatre to my rural home).

So I am forced to check The Pirate Bay every could days in hopes that eventually it will show up as a Torrent. Shhh... don't tell anybody. If I do download it I'll mail the cost of a movie ticket to Paul Gross.

If you are lucky enough to live in a major urban center, and you find Passchendale playing at your local theatre, please check it out.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

BROTHERLY LOVE

Just got back from a business trip to Philadelphia. It was a quick in-and-out affair, which was a shame because Philly is a beautiful and historic city and I would have loved to take some time to do all the 'touristy' things. I really wanted to run up those steps and jump around "Rocky style" but didn't get the chance. I could see from my hotel balcony a steady stream of folks attempting this at all hours of the day or night.

The real purpose of the trip was to attend a Christmas party where my company entertained some clients. It was a pretty casual affair, buffet dinner, drinks, etc. at Dave & Buster's. If you don't know Dave & Buster's it is kind of like a Chuck E. Cheese for adults. If you don't know Chuck E. Cheese then I can't help you.

I was under orders from the regional VP to be on my best behaviour. Thankfully the clients were under no such orders, and got themselves good and loaded courtesy of our open bar. I hung back and paced myself, probably only had 4 pints. Managed to play lots of video games, burning thru 2 x $50 play cards.

Around 11pm the clients decided we needed to experience a taste of Philadelphia so we all grabbed cabs over to 4th & South and the institution known as Jim's Steaks. If you have never had a Philly Cheesesteak you are not missing much. Its really just shaved sirloin beef steak fried and mixed with onions and cheese, served in a soft Italian roll. The locals like it with Cheez Whiz, which is a processed goop that glows in the dark and comes in a can. I had mine with Provolone. Don't get me wrong, they are pretty damn tasty and Jim's is apparently the best of the best.

We wandered down South Street and ended up at a little Irish pub called, suprise suprise, Murphy's. The clients were talking about how we were in a "bad part of town" and "needed to be careful". South street looked pretty cool to me. Tattoo parlors, live music venues, used clothing and record stores, groovy stores, and lots of hip young people wandering around and having a great time. It reminded me of Toronto's Queen West or New York's Greenwich village.

By this point the clients were really messy, spilling drinks on themselves and harrassing the cute waitress with a big rack. I ordered a Sierra Nevada and they were teasing me. You go ahead and enjoy your Bud Light to Nascar watching redneck, I'll enjoy my microbrew. I also had the opportunity to try a local brew called Yuengling lager, which is apparently America's oldest brewery. It was pretty good... for an American lager.

Monday, December 01, 2008

STUPID DRIVER

That would be myself. Stupid Driver. I put my car in the ditch on the way home from work today. It had been raining in London and a bit of snow on the drive home. Then the snow cleared and the roads "looked" dry. I was booting along, talking on my mobile with the wife, going about 80km in a 90km/h stretch. I came into a corner, just past a bridge and instantly knew I was in trouble. I hit a patch of black ice, back end of the car started skidding out, I took my foot off the gas, started pumping the brakes, and turned into the skid. Hit another patch of black ice and knew at that instant I was going into the ditch, only question was how bad it was going to be.

Did I mention I was yelling "NO, NO, SHIT SHIT SHIT" at the top of my lungs? And I was still on the phone with my wife.

Car skidded 180 and I ended up in the opposite ditch, facing the direction I had come, and stuck good. No way I was driving out, frankly I was lucky I had not flipped the car.

First thing I did was pick up my mobile and tell the wife I was fine. Once I pulled myself out of the car (which was very difficult considering it was sitting at a 60 degree angle) and made it up to the side of the road I called a tow truck and hunkered down for the wait.

Not the wait for the tow truck. The wait for all the folks who were going to stop and ask if I needed help. Its simply what happens when you end up in the ditch around here. Small town Ontario. Literally every single car that drove past stopped to see if I was OK. The only ones who didn't were the ones who passed while someone else was already stopped.

At one point a car went screaming past, then slammed on the brakes, swerved, and nearly ended up in the ditch beside me. A guy jumped out and came running towards me. "I'm a student Paramedic, is anybody injured?" He was salivating like a dog at the thought of giving someone an emergency tracheotomy with his ballpoint pen. He nearly caused another accident when he drove off moments later, clearly disappointed that I had not so much as spilled my Diet Pepsi.

So I am now home safe, the car is at my father-in-law's garage for an inspection before I take it out on the road again, and I am writing my first post in about two weeks. What can I say, I get into the routine of the day job and neglect the blog, which is stupid since writing in this dumb thing is one of the things I truly enjoy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

WISH I LIVED IN ENGLAND

Sometimes I really wish I lived in the United Kingdom, and not just because my ancestors trace back to Stromness, Scotland and Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.

Not only because it seems many of my readers are from "across the pond", so to speak. Also not because English beer is far superior to all others and I really love beer.

It is because I stumbled across a store called Lom Bok. I'll admit, I am a huge fan of home design and decor magazines and I often browse furniture shops and websites just looking for ideas and inspiration. I admire solid craftsmanship and top-quality design but it really seems these days you are limited to two choices, either 'cheesy modern' or 'country kitch'. Then I discovered the store I have been looking for.

Lom Bok brings classic and timeless designs to life, and successfully merges the old world of Colonial England with an Asian flair. When you think about it, many of the best aspects of English culture are what they adapted from others during the glory days when the sun never set on the British Empire. Everybody knows the the best curry in the world comes from London, and everybody also knows that the best beer for drinking with curry is an English Bitter. I rest my case.

If your going to be eating some good British curry, I can't think of a better place then some of these dining table sets. The Malang is my personal favourite, as influenced by the classic American Mission style as it is by anything Eastern.

I've already fallen in love with the Planter's Chair, (pictured left) which is part of their Colonial Collection. As soon as I saw the picture I imagined myself sitting in it while drinking a Mint Julip.

Check out the wide variety of chests of drawers, I specifically like the Canton collection. The wife and I have sort of an Eastern theme going on in our Master Bedroom already and those pieces are exactly the kind of look we are going for.

Speaking of bedrooms, these handmade wooden beds are all made of teak or oak and will last for generations. My favourite is the Seba.

Even better, and very important in our eco-conscious times, is that Lom Bok prides itself on being an environmentally friendly company. Not only do they work with suppliers to ensure sustainable practices for their furniture construction but they operate a furniture trade-in program that ensures your former Lom Bok furniture ends up in a loving home instead of a landfill. More info about the company, its history, and business practices can be found on their website.

It is not all furniture obviously. They are really marketing a lifestyle, with a variety of accessories, light fixtures, lamps, rugs, etc. are all available and (suprise, suprise) match their collections perfectly. They have 8 stores in the London area and new locations opening all over England.

While not available in Canada, they do arrange for shipping both within the UK and overseas, so I'll just put the Planter's Chair on my Christmas wish list. Now if only I had a rich benefactor...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

POST #85

This marks the 85th post on The Stupid Neighbour Blog for 2008. Why is this significant? In a nutshell I started this blog in 2002 because I wanted to share some stories about the stupid things my neighbour was doing. I never really did much with it, posting sporadically at best over the years. When 2008 started I promised myself I would try to do a better job of making this blog something worth while (slightly).

So since the beginning of 2008 I've managed to write as many posts as I had in the previous 5 years combined. I figure probably 10% were actually funny, and another 10% may have been slightly informative.

I've managed to get about 25,000 hits total over the last year, averaging anywhere between 25-50 per day depending on if I have updated the content. I havn't checked my RSS feed in awhile but last time I looked I was very suprised to discover I actually had more subscribers then I have fingers.

So a big thank you to all of the regular readers, despite me still not really being sure why you are here. My goal for 2009 will be to double the # of posts again, so depending on the pace I set for the rest of November and December I'll be aiming for somewhere around 200.

DOG DAYS OF NOVEMBER

L.A. County, California - The Assistant Fire Chief of L.A. County has been placed on 'Administrative Leave' after accusations that he murdered his neighbours dog. His claims of "self defence" have been cast in doubt by eye witness accounts who claim he "snapped" and started beating the dog with a large walk after becoming upset that it had escaped its owners yard. It is unknown at this time if there was a history of unscooped poop or other incidents between the neighbours.

Chicago, Illinois - A Chicago man has been sentenced to 75 years in jail for shooting a neighbour who was walking his dog past the man's house at 3am. Apparently he was upset that the dog was barking and this was disturbing his sleep. He is going to be disturbed by a lot more then just barking while spending the rest of his life in prison.

Little River, Australia - A local farmer was charged with shooting his neighbours dog. Not exactly the first time you've read about a similar story here. The twist is the dog had just attacked his flock of sheep. So perhaps the shooting was warranted. The farmer probably have avoided any trouble had he stopped at that point. Instead he tracked the wounded dog back to a shed on his neighbours property and shot it again. Then shot it a final time for good measure as it attempted to escape into its house. Suprisingly the dog survived.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

DANGER OF... STUPID

I read yesterday the Police found the body of Brandon Crisp, a young kid who disappeared from his home in Barrie, Ontario a couple weeks ago when his parents took away his XBOX. The parents have been suprisingly silent since his frozen body was found in a corn field near his home. You see, for the past two weeks they have been claiming he was abducted by some child predator who he met via the XBOX LIVE gaming service.

The truth hurts sometimes. The kid ran away from home, and then died, alone, cold, and scared in a farmer's field just a short walk from his house.

News today is his school plans on implementing a program to teach children the dangers of technology, as if the XBOX was somehow responsible for Brandon dying of exposure.

A better plan would be for someone to setup a program to teach tech-challenged parents how to communicate with their 21st century digital children.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

NEW COMMANDMENT

After a solid week of 14-hour days I finally had some free time this weekend and since I was pretty much braindead after the week of hell at the office I watched a fair amount of television.

I caught a wonderful episode of '17 and Counting' which is the latest reality show about that crazy-ass slice of Americana, the Dugger family. 17 Kids and another on the way, the wife, in all of her 'Little House on the Prairie' dress glory, has been pregnant since 1990. The episode revolved around their newly engaged 18 year old son. Now that he is engaged, to a pure and equally boring girl that he met at a home-school conference, he is allowed to hold hands. Kissing apparently is to be saved until marriage.

Tonight on TLC was another show called 'Purity Balls' (might as well call it 'Blue Balls') where this same theme came up again. They interviewed a young girl who said that "the bible forbids it" and "it is in the 10 commandments" when asked about why she is saving her first kiss for marriage.

It may be enjoyable to poke fun at the Duggers, but I'm convinced there is currently a large and very organized conspiracy ongoing to make the Evangelical flavor of Christianity a majority in this country so they can seize political power and erode our rights and freedoms via their own special brand of censorship and facism.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you are not supposed to kiss until you are married. It also doesn't anywhere forbid sex before marriage. No matter how you translate it, the 7th Commandment 'Thow shalt not commit adultery' is referring to married people engaging in sex outside the marriage. Lets not open up the can of worms involved in the traditional Hebrew word for Virgin.

After watching these two shows I'm convinced we have forgotten one of the most important of God's Commandments, specifically:

"Thow shalt not be a Dumb-Ass"

I'm all for protecting the innocence of my two little girls, but I'll do that by teaching them about the biology and science behind procreation and making sure they are educated properly and full of enough self-confidence to make safe choices and not be pressured into doing anything they don't want to do.

That being said, with my 7-year old now using the computer on her own I decided to install some parental control software. It was a bitter pill to swallow since being a fan of the EFF I have some pretty strong opinions about this type of software and the fact it blocks quite a bit of perfectly harmless content (Greenpeace webpage for example). I'll just tweak it manually over time. Right now she has access to CBC Kids, Nick Jr, Webkinz World, and a couple other child-friendly sites full of Flash games and other such diversions. No YouTube, no chatting, etc.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

WRONGFULLY ACCUSED

Somerset, England - It was just an ordinary day in February when Christian Puttock was going out to celebrate a birthday dinner with his wife and family. It became deadly when he was attacked and killed by a crazy neighbour who believed he was a paedophile. The neighbour is now being held in a psychiatric ward indefinitely.

Cardiff, Wales - Police broke down the front door and held pointed guns to the head of Simon Clemett as he held his baby in his arms. The police raided the home after mistaking his house for that of his next door neighbour, who was wanted on suspicion of murder.

FUNDRAISER HELL

One of the drawbacks of living in a country that has decided to underfund the public school system as standard policy, and where citizens complain about taxes while at the same time griping about lack of services, is the ever present 'school fundraiser'.

Thanksgiving is a special time in our family. All the aunts, uncles and cousins get together and we end up with quite the crowd. Of course nearly everybody has kids and every kid has a fundraiser for their school and we all end up buying from each other.

So in the end the fundraiser becomes a manner of everybody supporting everybody elses children. Sometimes I think it would be better if the schools just stopped fundraising all together. Its not like any children actually go door-to-door anymore selling to strangers, its all kept within the family.

I joked with my wife at the beginning of the school year. "How about I just go ask the Principle how big of a cheque she needs me to give her RIGHT NOW to guarantee that our kids don't bring home anything even resembling a fundraiser for the rest of the year?"

My problem isn't with fundraisers, its with family who cop a negative attitude and behave like this is some kind of burden. Its part of being a parent, and its part of being in a family.

For example, my kid was selling apples this year. It was a good price. A big ass bag 'o apples for $3. Probably would cost roughly the same to buy them at the grocery store. So don't give me a guilt trip for trying to sell you some damn apples. If you don't eat apples don't buy them. I'm not asking you to buy something you don't want or wouldn't buy anyway. Not my problem you don't consider fresh fruit part of a healthy diet. If your going to buy apples why not buy them from my kid so her school can buy a freakin' pencil or something?

My kid was selling spring bulbs (for the garden not for a lamp) earlier in the year. I heard someone whisper "I'm not buying apples, we bought bulbs already". Give me a break! I'm not asking you to become a gardener just for my kid. If you were going to buy some bulbs anyway to spruce up your garden why not buy them from the school. Like the apples it was a good deal, no more expensive then buying them at a garden center. Don't buy them just because my kid is selling them, buy them because you have a green thumb.

Then you have the "Did they buy from us? I'm not buying if they didn't buy from us" Seriously... buy what you would buy anyway just get it from a different source. Just don't give me attitude because your kids fundraiser is stupid magazines that I'm not interested in subscribing to. Next year why don't you recommend they sell apples. I love apples. I would totally buy apples. Or spring bulbs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

YOU WON'T SEE THIS EVERYDAY

Fairplay, Colorado - The CEO of a large Seattle software company has been charged with the murder of 32 Bison. Apparently he was upset they straying onto his ranch from his neighbours property and he took things into his own hands. Police were called after a report from the Bison's owner that someone was shooting his herd.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

BATTLE IN SEATTLE

Nearly a decade ago I was watching TV, watching riots on the streets of America. I turned off the TV, logged on (via dialup... argh the memories) and started getting the real picture. To this day I think the real success of the Battle in Seattle was not that thousands of protesters were able to successfully organize and shut down the WTO and their first attempt to hold meetings on North American soil. The success was not that millions of people were shown the true nature of a truly oppressive global organization whos only real goal is lining the pockets of elites at the expense of the everyman. The real success of this protest was that it was one of the first, probably the first in a long time, that was seen by millions of people outside of the media filter imposed by corporate America. This could be the first real protest of the digital age.

We knew that NBC, CBS, and ABC were all lies, and we didn't care. We didn't need them anymore. We had handheld digital camers uploading unedited digital video footage of police instigating the violence and corporate media feeding the public their lies. We could turn on CNN and see a headline stating the protestors had turned violent in front of some swank hotel, then login to IndyMedia to see unedited footage the same street corner and seeing peaceful folks who crossed four generations sitting in the street with their arms linked being pepper sprayed without warning.

We heard on the television about violent protestors trashing a Starbucks or a McDonalds, but could turn around and see a video of thousands of folks NOT engaging in any violence. We also had concrete evidence that nobody busted up that Starbucks until AFTER the police shot pepper spray and rubber bullets into the peaceful crowd.

It is hard to say how this all will be portrayed in the upcoming film, Battle in Seattle. Will it attempt to re-frame history via the lense of either corporate or counter-culture America? Or will it tell the human side of the story? I don't want to spoil it for you. You can find out for yourself on October 17th when Battle in Seattle opens in theatres in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Not only did the protests manage to shut down the planned meetings, a few other great things came of this world-changing event.

For starters we had the pleasure of former Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra getting together with Krist Novoselic of Nirvana and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden and record an awesome live album under the banner "The No WTO Combo". What can I say? I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Jello.

NANNY STATE NEWS

Brisbane, Australia - A ex-soldier who decided to erect a flagpole on his yard was surprised to learn that his new flag was found to be 'offensive' by his neighbour. The story doesn't mention the ethnicity or political affiliation of the neighbour (perhaps that he lives next door to an unemployed granola crunching hippy). An official complaint to the local municipality resulted in the order to remove the flag, citing concerns the pole may fall during a high wind and injure someone (sounds pretty weak to me).

Nottingham, U.K. - A man had multiple televisions, CDs, stereo, DVD players, cassette players, games consoles and speakers seized by local police after repeated complaints of excessive noise after midnight were reported and subsequent noise abatement notices were ignored. The man was also fined and has indicated he plans on moving.

RENTERS NEWS

I got this email today from L.S. in Toronto who has some issues with his landlord. This can always be a touchy subject and I almost hesitated posting the letter. Almost. More on that after the post.

L.S. writes:

My husband and I live with these horrible people of Asian decent. The father thinks he is still in Korea and acts like he is the king of Toronto. Apparently they moved to Ontario 7 years ago. We never knew people could act in this manner. He does not follow any rules, provides us no heat, and no air conditioning. There is noise galore from his family. They are like a bunch of animals running above us with no courtesy whatsoever.

They are greedy without providing light and no hot water, heat etc. They are in our faces constantly, about one thing or another. Their food also smells. When they don't like something, which is constantly, they scream and yell at us. The Korean grandmother who does not speak English actually kicked me and their daughter likes to push us around as well.

We don't dare do anything wrong for fear of eviction. At one point we had a garage sale on the driveway which is half ours and included in the rent, and the father comes out of the house scraming that he is the boss of the property and we have no right to do this, even though it was confirmed a day before with his family that it was okay.

These People are animals. Beware when you see a "Room for Rent" in North York. If you see this lovely Korean family who goes to church, beware! We were blindsided, it has been an ugly scene and not everything is being mentioned.

- A Very Unsatisfied Couple


Now it would be easy for me to say. "Hell Yes!" and I don't mean to discount the obvious discomfort being felt by L.S. but they do have some options.

It is one thing to purchase a home that is next door to a truly 'Stupid Neighbour'. You are stuck with a mortgage, your biggest single lifetime investment, the risk of losing your nest egg, etc. It is another thing entirely to have a bad landlord and to put up with it.

I can only assume that they have signed a lease or are unable for whatever reason to find a new apartment.

The only advice I can give is that things like providing heat, hot water, smoke detectors, etc. are legislated in Ontario and there are government agencies that you should utilize to ensure the landlord lives up to their obligations under the law. Noise bylaws apply to everyone, so don't hesitate to complain if the noise is excessive, even if the 'neighbour' is your landlord. If a friendly discussion does not improve anything make sure you send registered letters or something similar, so you have documentation of the attempts to address the situation.

From the sounds of things this apartment is probably illegal from a zoning perspective, so complaining could get the authorities to shut things down, which could be a good thing if you have signed a lease (the legal obligation evaporates).

Finally, and I almost didn't post this (for fear of alienating the few readers I apparently have) I have zero tolerance for folks who complain of cooking smells. Its pure racism, simple as that. Your food smells as well, we just are used to it. Talk to anybody who lives in a town with a Pulp & Paper Mill... they simply don't notice the smell. Its a cultural thing. Sesame oil has a very unique smell that Wonder White Bread folks like you and me are just not used to. Burn some incense or buy Febreze or potpourri or something.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES

Barefoot Bay, Florida - The neighbours of Andy Lacasse are upset about the election sign he has on his front yard. The problem? Judge for yourself. Personally I am speechless. No suprise he lives in a glorified trailerpark.

Hobart, Australia - A neighbour dispute over something that has probably been forgotten escalated quickly and several months later one of the involved has been found guilty of assaulting his neighbour with a garden gnome.

East Yorks, U.K. - A drunk idiot on a riding lawnmower ended up dead after crashing into a ditch and becoming trapped under the mower. Witnesses revealed he was not cutting the grass at the time of the accident but had actually just been aimlessly "driving around in circles". Toxicology tests revealted he was over 3x the legal limit to operate an automobile. What makes it even worse? He was drunk on wine coolers.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Leonie Writes:

I'm a photographer and a graphic design student in London.

I'm 23 years old and after living in student accommodation for a year I decided to rent a flat of my own nearer to the University. I'm quite aware the place I rented is old Victorian conversion so the ceiling are not the perfectly insulated, so footsteps from the upstairs neighbours are alright at considerable hours.

The block I live in has 3 flats with mine and I live in the middle. The person on the ground floor is the guy in charge of the flats, since the landlady lives in Australia. Upstairs are 2 girls, one which also has her boyfriend living with her. The first few days they were moving in they were awfully loud and the banging on my ceiling was unbearable (dragging chairs, throwing suitcases, heavy footsteps, etc.) which I tolerated since they moving in so its understandable. I thought they will probably be quiet after they gotten installed.

HOW WRONG I WAS! A week later it had not stopped. I was still partly living at my student flat so it didn't bother but my mother was sleeping in the flat and she kept telling me every morning how incredibly loud they were, and that it was impossible for her to sleep. One night she knocked on the neighbours door to tell them to be considerate and that other people lived in the flat and wanted to sleep.

When I finally spent the night myself all I could think was ARE THEY HORSES? It was completely unbelievable! I saw my clock twice it was 2:30AM then 3:30AM. What on earth are they doing just above my bedroom??! It felt like a horse was galloping up there. IT WAS ALMOST 4AM!

I wrapped myself in my robe and knocked on the door at 4am. A guy, breathing heavily and wrapped in ONLY a bath towel answers the door. I explain that I don't mean to bother then but that it was really noisy and it is 4am, etc.

"I was only making a sandwich" he claimed. I explained that I needed my sleep and please try to keep it down and went back to my flat.

A few days later the Superintendant had come by my flat to fix some stuff and I decided to talk to him about the neighbours and the noise. Luckily the "horses" started making the same awful noise just at that moment and I could tell that he agreed the noise was excessive. The Super went upstairs and came back a few minutes later with a strange look on his face.

"Let me guess" I said, "they told you they were making sandwiches?" I found out they tried to complain to him about me complaining, and waking them up at 4am?!?! I'm not sure what he said to them that day but thankfully they are incredibly quiet now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

In the U.K. a 72-year old "spinster" attacked her neighbour with a spade after a long running dispute over a boundry fence turned ugly. The man has a broken arm, and even worse, will now be teased by his drinking buddies for the rest of his life about getting beat up by a 72-year old spinster.

Monday, September 15, 2008

AVOID BEING A STUPID NEIGHBOUR

We hear lots of stories about stupid and annoying neighbours who do clearly crazy and insane things to earn their stripes. We rarely stop to think about the little things we all do sometimes that can add up over time. So without further ado here are some things you should avoid in order to avoid being labeled a Stupid Neighbour.

  1. Mowing your lawn too early in the morning. You may be a morning person but some of us like to sleep in on a Saturday morning. Anytime after 8am is fine. This is still too early in my books (personally I say nothing before 9am) but I am willing to compromise.
  2. Late night construction projects. If the sun has gone down just put the power tools away. Put them down. Thats it. Good. Now open a beer and go sit on the porch. You can admire your handiwork in the daylight.
  3. Poop & Scoop. It is a no brainer that you should pick up when walking your dog. You also need to do regular sweeps of your own yard if you own a big ol' nasty dog. Your neighbours won't want their kids playing with your kids in the backyard if every time they come home they track something foul in thru the back door. To hell with the neighbours kids, what about your own? They deserve a safe and poop-free yard to run around in barefoot on occassion.
  4. Blasting the stereo when doing yardwork. You may love your new experemental Norwegian free jazz ensemble but I doubt anybody else in the free world does. Ditto for profanity laced gansta rap. I find the best choice, if you must listen to music when working in the garden (and that is a separate debate entirely), is something generic. Your local classic rock or pop station. Anything on the FM band is generally safe. If this doesn't work for you buy a damn iPod.
  5. Car parts belong in the garage, not on the driveway. Anything up on blocks is probably not a good idea. Not only does it look like you are running a chop shop it can be dangerous if children are playing nearby. It also just looks plain ghetto.
  6. Drinking beer on the front porch at 9am on a Sunday. Ghetto. At least wait until noon.
  7. Pick up the Flyers. Yes, I know you didn't ask for them and you already got that issue of the Pennysaver twice this week. Yes, I know you have a sign saying No Junk Mail and that you have phoned three times telling them to stop delivering. Ignoring them scattered all over your front yard will not make them disappear.
  8. Put the garbage out on the right day and if you make a mistake, take it back into the garage (or wherever you store it) and don't leave it out until it eventually is picked up. (Read my archives from 2002)
  9. Speaking of garbage. If a racoon (or dog or whatever) gets into it and scatters it all over... pick it the frak up. I know you didn't make the mess, but are you seriously going to just leave it rotting in the sun until the End of Days?
  10. Give everybody a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I don't have much to write about, or perhaps I do, but I am just not in the mood today and I haven't been all week.

The looming Presidential election in the USA could provide some fodder, as could the increasingly likely election here in Canada.

Stumbled across a story, not exactly unusual, about a neighbourhood in Edmonton taking matters into their own hands and torching a suspected "drug house" to the ground.

Another story out of the Nanny State about stereos and other music equipment being seized after someone failed to comply with a noise-abatement notice.

Pretty weak update I know. I'm going to have a nap and try again later tonight.

In other news, I highly recommend you rent War Inc. which I watched last night. Very cool movie that examines the absurdity of war, corporate profit, sexual exploitation and greed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

HOT NEW MOVIES

I have yet to see the summer blockbuster The Dark Night. Hell, I have the comic book, 1st Edition, purchased it as a teenager and it has been in a plastic sleeve ever since. I will see it eventually but to tell you the truth I'm not a big movie fan.

However there is one film I definately want to check out. I am a big fan of any sort of apocalyptic stories. I loved Children of Men and 28 Days Later was far more then "just a zombie flick". I recently watched Doomsday, and loved it despite the somewhat cheesy Mad Max homage.

What I enjoyed about all of them was the examination of the breakdown of society and human decency that occurs in the face of ecological or even viral disaster. That is why I am looking forward to Blindness, a new release about the a world-changing virus that causes what you can probably guess by the title. Smarter then Doomsday, and more serious, it truly examines the human element and psychology of being cast out as a leper, the fragility and destruction of society, and then having to rebuild your own. Call it Lord of the Flies for the 21st Century.

Blindness opens September 19th

Saturday, August 16, 2008

TOP 10 REASONS AMERICAN GYMNASTICS IS STILL #1

This doesn't have anything to do with Stupid Neighbours, but after watching the travesty that is the Olympic womans gymnastics on NBC just now, I simply can't help myself.

Another night, another example of obvious deductions and errors by Chinese gymnasts being ignored by the judges. I'm sick of the pussy footing around the issue, so I'll come right out and say it... the Chinese are cheaters!!!

TOP 10 REASONS AMERICAN GYMNASTICS IS STILL #1

10. America has dominated the sport since learning the secret of winning without cheating: Identify the best Eastern Bloc coaches and offer them citizenship in the greatest country in the world.

9. Alicia Sacramone kicks ASS!



8. Pubes. We have them.









7. Only the Hamm Brothers could make a bad haircut look good. Year after year. "Paul, Morgan... does your mom still use a bowl and do it herself?"








6. While our coaching is gruelling and requires 100% committment, we don't steal young children from their parents and keep them in a prison for the rest of their competitive lives.

5. Michael Phelps is one hell of a swimmer, but he is kinda a douche.

4. Two words: Camel Toe










3. Shawn Johnson, the sweet 16, All-American, girl next door... and she has an official website. Suck on that He Kexin!

2. We don't need fake ID to compete (and win). McLovin?








1. Nastia! Need we say more? Gold medal pedigree, hot, blonde, and a name straight out of Eastern European porn. She also has an official website.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

CRAZY MACHETE LADY

Renton, Washington - A crazy old lady in Renton chased her neighour and a small child around the block with a machete, lit her house on fire, and subsequently perished in the blaze. She was described as "quiet, nice and sweet" by her fellow neighbours. They said the same thing about that guy who decapitated and then snacked on the ear of a fellow bus passenger in Manitoba last week. At least he was described as "quiet", "church going", "model employee" and "a very nice polite guy". Just goes to show you should never trust anybody who isn't a drug-addled, raving lunatic.

Monday, August 11, 2008

SEIZED & DESTROYED

Authorities in Wales took the unusual step of seizing and ordering the destruction of a noisy neighbours entire CD, record and cassette collection as part of a judgement for breaching a noise abatement order. The good news is the destroyed collection was mostly crap, including Cher (who was apparently a favourite to blast at top volume). Karl Wiosna also had his stereo, speakers, tape deck, and even his clock radio siezed. Mr. Wiosna was also fined and ordered to pay court costs.

The question remains why police destroyed the collection instead of putting it up for auction. Police forces auction off assets seized from drug kingpins all the time and it would be a shame to learn that they just destroyed a bunch of rare 7" or Japanese imports.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

Brighton, England - Noisy sex results in a noise abatement notification and substantial fine, neighbours kept awake all night, and young children so emotionally disturbed they started wetting the bed. For what its worth the 29-year old single mother who is the center of attention (in more ways then one) describes her all night love making sessions as "normal". Complete with "I'd Hit It" picture and very pervy looking boyfriend.

South Ossetia, Georgia - With the world's attention towards the Olympics this week all hell has broken loose in this until now pretty much forgotten corner of the world. This isn't as simple as a David vs Goliath story of the freedom & democracy loving Georgia vs. the awaking bear of Russian totalitarianism. Headlines indicating that Russia has "invaded its neighbour" are sensationalist and only serve to fan the flames but the Russians are not exactly innocent in this whole affair. Neither is the Georgian government who thought they could quickly gain control of a breakaway province while the international community was looking the other way, breaking a ceasefire that has been in place since 1992. There is a great timeline of the conflict between Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia available via Reuters, a conflict which by the way has been going on for nearly 20 years. Like any conflict between neighbours this could spiral out of control very quickly. Hopefully someone will have the good sense to turn the other cheek (and by that I mean butt cheek) and walk away.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

BEAR ATTACK

There is an old saying that goes "A friend will help you move... a BEST friend will help you move a body".

I think Coquitlam, British Columbia resident Katy Yin may feel the same way about her neighbours, who armed with a broom and rocks fought off a Black Bear which had attacked her while she was tending her garden. So how would the saying go?

"A neighbour is someone who watches your house while your on vacation...a GREAT neighbour is someone who fends off a bear attack!"

Sunday, August 03, 2008

SHOP & COMPARE

There was a time when companies attempted to win our business with superior customer service and high quality products. These days companies just try to win business by selling cheap crap cheaper then anywhere else. Who cares if it breaks right? You can buy more cheap crap later. We are so obsessed with the psychological side of shopping that it doesn't even matter if we buy something we need or if it will last. It is more about the endorphin rush then the product itself.

There are still plenty of companies bucking this trend. Businesses that are carving out niche markets and going head-to-head against Big Box stores and holding their own. As a personal example, my wife and I had our home and car insurance with one of the big banks for years when we lived in Toronto, a large Canadian urban center. When we moved out to the country 3 years ago we went to ensure our new house and the bank wanted to charge us rates that were triple what we were paying in the big city.

I couldn't understand why, since the house we bought cost nearly $80,000 less then our house in the city. I figured it was an error or something. We had been customers for years, both home and auto, and it really seemed like they just didn't want our business.

I eventually figured out they had valued our home at over a million dollars. This had to be a mistake I thought, so another round of phone calls were in order. In the end the bank wouldn't budge, the value of the home was set and the premiums we were going to pay were a reflection of that.

Now I should mention I didn't pay anything close to a million dollars. Hell, I didn't even pay $200,000 for the house. This is rural SW Ontario. This is farming country. Now, if my 2800 square foot house (and more importantly my 75' x 130' lot) was located in Toronto it may just be worth a million bucks, but out here it is worth what I paid for it. The bank still wouldn't budge.

In the end it was clear the big banks were just not used to dealing with rural properties. I spoke to some folks who live in the area and more then one had similar experiences with the "big city banks". Eventually a fishing buddy of my father-in-law told us about a small insurance company that deals exclusively with farm and rural properties. One phone call later I had a quote that was both reasonable and fair, and learned that there are plenty of alternatives to the big banks. If it wasn't for that word of mouth advertising I don't know what we would have done.

Last week a friend pointed me towards the Home Insurance widget from Kanetix.ca. Having access to something like this 3 years ago would have saved me a lot of time, money, and stress. You simply type in the details and you are provided multiple quotes from different insurance companies, and not just the big banks. You can re-calcualte and customize options including the deductable (increasing your deductable is an easy way to save money).

CRAZY RAT SISTERS

A crazy story caught my eye today. The first I will admit first came to my attention via a spot on BoingBoing so most folks have probably seen it already. It is the story of what could be called the Pacific Palisades Rathouse. You've heard of crazy cat ladies? The ones who die and people discover they had 100+ cats living in the house? Well these twin sister crazies didn't die, and it wasn't cats... it was rats. Thousands and thousands of them, being fed for years, and completely taking over the neighbourhood. Apparently various levels of local government were completely aware, and despite multiple complaints nothing was ever done. So if you think your municipal government is useless, read up on these winners, who are pictured in the dictionary next to "inefficient government bureaucracy".

Thursday, July 31, 2008

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

São João Novo, Portugal - A man has been jailed for 5 and 1/2 years for shooting his neighbour. That headline alone wouldn't mean much. Unfortunately it happens all the time. What makes this one special is the neighbour who did the shooting believed his neighbour had sodomized his pet cat, and by doing so had turned the cat into a homosexual.

Laureldale, Pennsylvania - A man angered by the sound of a lawnmower pulled out a shotgun and threatened his neighbour. The weapon wasn't loaded, but that didn't seem to matter to the police who were called by other concerned residents. I could understand if it was 6am on a Saturday morning after a night of heavy drinking, but this occurred at around 7:45pm on a weeknight. I guess the sound was disturbing his enjoyment of America's Got Talent.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

BARRIE WIND TURBINE

Barrie, Ontario - My old drinking buddy, former college roommate, and Barrie City Councillor, Rod Jackson, is leading a campaign to bring a 1.5 Megawatt wind turbine to the city of Barrie. The plan is to build the turbine on the site of his father's Toyota dealership, Jackson Toyota. Rod has started a Facebook group "Support Barrie's First Wind Turbine" where you can find out all the details and join in the discussions (both pro and con).

For those not on Facebook, you can send email to barriewindturbine@rogers.com. There is also an online petition to Barrie City Council in support of wind power.

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

Galway, Ireland - A pregnant neighbour with a history of depression, drug and alcohol abuse asks you to take care of her dog. You sell the dog for $135. She stabs you in the chest and you die. She goes to jail for 9 years. Need I say more?

New Dehli, India - You own a goat and don't want to keep it tied up in your own yard. The logical thing to do would be to tie it up in your neighbours yard. When they object you ignore them. So don't be suprised when they beat you to death.

Brighton, U.K. - A wanna be karaoke singer was fined $5000 when finally being taken to court over noise complaints related to her continuous singing of the 1980's Whitney Houston hit "I Will Always Love You". Next stop is The Hague where she will be tried alongside Radovan Karadzic for crimes against humanity.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

FRONT GARDEN?

A bit of a follow-up on my last post about pesticides. There are plenty of folks (including myself) who have backyard vegetable gardens. Not many who have converted their front yard.

I stumbled upon this story from the Windsor Star, where a guy has replaced his entire front lawn with a vegetable garden. A series of raised beds containing tomatoes, beets, peas, beans, lettuce, etc. has taken over the front yard of his average suburban home.

The enactment of local and state/provincial pesticide bans has lots of folks converting from your standard turf grass lawn to perennial bedding plants, native species of tall grasses and wildflowers, etc. This is the first time I've heard of someone converting their entire front yard to a vegetable garden.

I've heard many stories of things like this causing plenty of neighbour tension. Especially in more upscale neighbourhoods where the esthetic is often "environment be damned". That being said, I think the general public mood towards environmental causes has shifted quite a bit over the past 10 years. There are, however, still issues to seriously consider. Native grasses grow much higher then turf grass and along a boulevard or near a driveway can create blind spots where a child playing or riding a bike could be seriously injured or killed.

I am all for the promotion of native species, low-maintenance and drought resistant plants in order to protect the environment. I think it is important to recognize however that letting your backyard (or frontyard) go to hell and then claiming it is "for the environment" is weak. Weeds are weeds so don't hop on the green bandwagon just because you are lazy and can't be bothered to get outside on weekends.

I personally have seriously considered taking my side lot and turning it into a large vegetable garden. Our current garden is just a small raised bed, about 6' x 2'. Large enough for a few tomato plants, and some cucumbers and peppers. Last year we tried lettuce but didn't eat it soon enough and it went to seed. I live on a 1/2 acre lot, so I could easily have quite a large garden along the one side. I would even consider planting a couple rows of sweet corn.

WHO LOVES WEEDS?

One of the new battlegrounds shaping up between neighbours is going to be regarding the use of lawn and garden pesticides. I will admit to not exactly having an '100% organic' lawn, but I am not exactly chemical dependant either.

I fertilize in the spring with Scott's Turf Builder Pro with Weed Control. This single application keeps my lawn dandelion free for the season. I hit the lawn at one point during late spring or early summer with Scott's Killex, mostly just to spot treat any crabcrass or broadleaf weed outbreaks. Then in the fall I use a single treatment of Scott's Wintercare.

I use some MiracleGro on my annuals located in flower boxes on the front porch but that really sums it up. None of these products I use on my backyard, only the front and side. The back garden is fenced in and with a big stinky dog, two crazy kids, a swing set, a patio, a sandbox, and a kiddie pool... you get the picture.

Since the backyard is also the location of our fresh herb garden and vegetable garden (limited this year to about 6 varieties of heirloom tomatoes we ordered from Vesey's) I don't use any products of any kind.

So I would think I am pretty typical when it comes to lawn and garden pesticide use. My lawn is no golf course but at the same time is healthy and mostly weed free. It smells like a lawn, not like the lawns you sometimes walk past that smell more like the chemical aisle at the Home Depot. It is by no means uniform in thickness, colour, etc., but it feels good under your bare feet and that to me is pretty much the most important thing.

I have a neighbour who has taken Eco Living to new heights. A huge renovation of his 1950's era ranch have been recently completed and frankly the house is gorgeous. I could probably devote an entire post to his home but lets just say he has the latest in high tech everything and the house can now be run year-round on total utility costs of roughly $100/month. This includes winter heating and summer cooling costs. It is a pretty amazing house.

This neighbour decided to get rid of his lawn and plant White Dutch Clover. He raved about this for weeks. About how from a distance it will look just like a lawn. How it will never need to be cut. How it will always be green with little to no watering. So he hired contractors who came and scraped off the existing turf. Then they added a layer of top soil and hydro-sprayed the clover. Then he forgot to water...

Once established the clover doesn't really need water, but as anybody who has seeded a lawn knows, the first couple weeks are critical. Those seeds cannot dry out and need to be watered daily.

So nothing grew... except of course weeds. Now of course a single treatment of Killex would have been fine but my neighbour was insistant on being 'green' so he was out there every day for weeks hand spraying agricultural vinegar on the weeds. Now I read up on this stuff, and with a warning that read "keep away from children, wear gloves. eye protection, and a respirator" I have a funny feeling that Killex is probably safer. One thing I've learned about the 'Green Revolution' is that perception is more important then reality.

After two weeks of daily vinegar treatments the weeds were held at bay, so a fresh layer of topsoil was delivered last week, and I believe re-seeding will be attempted again soon. I wish him the best.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

BELL SUCKS

I've been offline for a week because Bell sucks. Let me explain. Bell Canada is the Telco where I live. They have some competition but in the end its always Bell. Sure you can get highspeed DSL from other providers but in the end they are just buying wholesale from Bell. Same thing goes for local phone or long distance service.

I used to have an Bell highspeed plan that was billed as "up to" 1.5Mbps download speed and unlimited bandwidth. This plan cost be roughly $60/month after taxes. Then about a year ago I downgraded in an attempt to save money. The lowest priced DSL plan Bell offered was a 512kbps download with 2GB in bandwidth, with of course extra charges for bandwidth above 2GB but capped at a max of $30 extra per month.

So my plan to downgrade left me with a service 1/3 as fast as my previous plan, and after paying the additional bandwidth charges (which I always maxed out despite my attempts to limit my downloading habits) I was paying $25/month plus $30/month in bandwidth charges for a total of $55/month. Saving myself a big fat $5/month.

So I tried to upgrade, but Bell no longer offered the "up to 1.5Mbps unlimited" plan. Now the next available upgrade is a "up to 5Mbps with 60GB bandwidth" plan for $60/month. Except they tell me this plan is not available in my area.

So I was stuck on this stupid 512k plan. Now I understand how DSL works, and I understand the speed is not guaranteed. I also understood that they could very easiliy of signed me up for the "up to 5Mbps" plan and I would be able to get around 1.5Mbps (because I got that speed before). However Bell would not budge.

So I switched to TekSavvy, a smaller ISP that in the end buys the DSL wholesale from Bell and resells it. They sold me an "up to 5Mbps" plan with unlimited bandwidth for $39.95/month.

Everything went smooth, service is great, speed is what I expected (around 1.5Mbps download and 512k upload when I check via SpeedTest.Net.

Then Bell went and pulled the line card for no reason whatsoever and I was without service for 3 days. Teksavvy was great, but they were at the mercy of Bell, who never really provided an explanation as to why they disabled my DSL.

Strange thing is they phoned me the day before this happened and asked why I had switched. I told the lady the same story I just relayed above, and she offered to sign me up for the very plan I had been previously told was not available in my area.

This really doesn't have anything to do with neighbours, but it pissed me off.

Monday, July 14, 2008

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

Berkshire, USA - File this one under 'Lassie'. Sarah Lee Guthrie was driving down the dirt road to her home when her neighbours dog came chasing after her car and barking. The dogs unusual behaviour prompted Sarah to stop. Upon glancing around she noticed her neighbour lying on the ground among some tall grass and in obvious distress. Apparently he had falled off and then been run over by his tractor. Benny (the dog) and Sarah are being given the hero treatment, and the neighbour Gene Burnell, is recovering from his injuries in the Albany Medical Center.

Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada - A man has been found guilty of break and enter after he led his drunken party guests in a robbery of his neighbours apartment, stealing 20 pairs of workboots. Sandy Brown, a first time offender, is ordered to pay damages and is sentenced to 12 months probation. The question I have is why did his neighbour have 20 pairs of brand new workboots in his apartment?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

GET SULKY

Despite living in a small town there is never a shortage of interesting things to do around here, especially during the summer months.

Two weeks ago was the 33rd Annual 'Threshing Festival', which while paying tribute to the agricultural history of the area is really just a big excuse for a piss-up. I'll never forget when we first moved to town, it was only a few weeks before the festival that year and I remember someone trying to convince me to go to the beer garden with the argument "No matter how drunk you get they never cut you off". I'll give you more details about this event in a separate post.



Another fun summer activity is heading into Dresden, which is about 15 minutes away, to spend a Saturday afternoon at the track. When I was younger I would stick to the slot machines and stay away from the horses. I probably was trying to convince myself that horse racing was for old men or something, but in truth I was most likely just scared and unsure about strategy, placing bets, etc.

That all changed one afternoon after placing a $6 bet. It was one of the first times I had bet on horses and I almost hit the Trifecta (correctly guessing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place horse). I correctly guessed #2 and #3. I don't remember how much money I won, it was not very much, but the adrenaline rush of excitement I had when those horses came thundering around the final turn was WAY better then the flashing lights and ringing bells of a slot machine.

The Dresden area is no newcomer to the world of harness racing, with the first organized races run in 1889 under the banner of The Dresden Driving Club. Horseracing has come a long way since the days when my Grandfather hung out at the track. In those days it was almost a private men's club. These days horse racing, and especially harness racing is being rebranded as a hip and happening sport for both the young and young at heart.

Part of this re-branding can be seen in the new GETSULKY website that is being promoted by the Ontario Harness Horse Association. The site even features a cool little flash animation harness racing game, hopefully to get you over the fear of placing that first bet.

Internet gambing is a huge industry and I'll admit to playing a little poker online every now and then. The problem of course is that no matter what, you are still sitting on your ass indoors. Our Canadian summers are short enough as it is, so why not get outside and get some sun and fresh air as part of your entertainment dollar?



Tuesday, July 01, 2008

CANADIAN AMERICAN RELATIONS

Today is July 1st, known as 'Canada Day' around here. Technically we celebrate the anniversary of Confederation, July 1st 1867 when the three British Colonies of Britsh Columbia, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada joined together to create a nation.

Some historians argue this event occurred mostly because the American Civil War had recently ended and American armies were turning their sights North. The creation of an organized state out of several separate British Colonies was a good way to secure British control over land north of the 49th parallel. The rush to build a railway across the vast Canadian prairie from Ontario to British Columbia was seen as another important means of security British sovereignty.

Regardless, Canadians celebrate Canada Day pretty much the same way Americans celebrate July 4th. Family, Alcohol & Fireworks.

Which brings me to todays news. A recent survey on both sides of the border came to some suprising results. It could be the impact of 8 years of George W. Bush, or it could be something else, but here are the results:

  • Canadians overall are "happier" then Americans
  • Canadians live longer
  • Canadians have fewer diseases
  • Canadians are more adventurous in bed
  • Canadians drink more
  • Canadians take more vacations
  • Canadians spend more time with family
  • Canadians have their debt more under control
  • Average Canadians are 30% wealthier then your average American
How you like them apples?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

A full week since my last post. The day job has been busy recently and I could not bring myself to do anything other then drink beer and sit in front of the television like a vegetable when I got home from the office every night.

Even this weekend was shite, our Director had the brilliant idea that I should attend three difference conference calls on Saturday and two on Sunday. So now the weekend is over and I don't even fell like I had one.

However I stumbed across a couple stories worthy of posting and I even went and checked my traffic reports. Not a single update in a week and I still averaged over 50 visitors a day.

So on to the unbelieveable stories...

A New York State man has been charged with felony assault and assault and battery after stabbing his mother with a fork and then attacking his neighbour with a frozen chicken.

A really interesting story from Scotland. A man who was sick of the noise coming from his downstairs neighbours decided to get his revenge. He rigged up a complicated system of timers connected to home applicances. While out of his apartment for the evening the plan was the timer would create an alternating sequence of one-minute bursts of noise from a vacuum cleaner, air compressor, radio, television and stereo. Unfortunately the timer malfunctioned and all 5 devices went off at once, creating a sound described by witnesses as "like a jet engine", which didn't just disturb his downstairs neighbour but every residence in the apartment block.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Victoria Writes:

I've owned my townhome since 2005. When we first moved in my female roommate always said hello to the older couple who lived next door. They always had their grandson over and at the time my dog was 6 months old and in the process of being housebroken...so we were outside quite a bit. Well, we share a plot of grass between our two driveways and the path way leading to the front of our home is shared with the elderly Polish neighbors. It all started here on this grass, which is owned by ALL residence.

I have my Masters in ESL, so I work with many foreign non-english speakers on a daily basis. In fact my own parents are also immigrants. So, I approached these neighbors with respect and always tried my best to be cordial. Well, at night even though a safe neighborhood, the dog always had to go out, sometimes 4-5am, and the easiest place to go was the grassy area outside our front walkway. In the beginning the grass was soooo dry, it began to die quickly and sometimes where the dog went to the bathroom it would leave a ring....well, even before anyone complained I called my association and asked them what I could do to fix the grass. They asked me to notify the landscapers and if it persisted, they would ask me to replant the grass. Fair enough. Literally the same day, my roommate was taking the dog out and she went to the bathroom on the grassy side closest to their driveway. The polish woman opened her door and just stared waving her finger at my roommate. She just waved and tried to go up to the door to say hello. The woman must have gotten nervous and shut the door. After this instance, she would peek through her blinds every time we were outside, whether it was front out back...she would always watch us. Her husband seemed quiet and not as paranoid.

Eventually if our cars arrived at the same time hers did, she'd stay in her car and wait for us to go inside....or if she was taking groceries in, she'd stop in the middle, lock her car, shut her trunk and go in until we were done. Then finally, one day I went through the garage and her whole family was sitting in the driveway with lawn chairs having a picnic. We do have our own patios..but whatever, well as I started to walk the dog she started to yell in polish at her family and pointing at me. So I walked up and asked, is there a problem. She started saying broken grass i no dog...over and over. So again I asked her can you explain to me again. And then her husband said take dog to the other yard....I said excuse me? She wanted me to go to the yard area next door. To which I replied, this is a common lot and pets are all over the neighborhood, we all share the grass. They said to me, no this is our side, stay on yours...well by now I was annoyed, so I called the association and asked them if I could get another letter to give to the polish people stating, I'm not doing anything wrong by taking my dog on public grass as long as I pick up her poop. They mailed me a copy which I gave to the neighbors the next week. I rang their doorbell and tried to explain to them the letter and just so they know there are many dogs in the neighborhood they were still not happy with the letter.

Well, I rented my house out for 2 year and now we're moved back in. I resolved this time to be cordial and try to be a better neighbor by saying hello and starting over. I'm married now so my husband lives here and I only said to him, when you see the neighbors always say hi no matter what. Well last week she ran after me after I brought the dog back to the grassy area. She's older and we have no problems with the grass being damaged. She followed me up our walk way yelling...to which I said I don't understand, and she said you break grass again. I said we've been here 3 weeks, this is the first time that I've taken her out here, and she said no husband take out 11 times. Apparently her and her daughter have been counting and watching us. So she called her daughter who speaks better english to come over. And basically she said my mother has been upset about this and she just yelled at you because she's so angry. I said well, if she saw my husband out there, she can come out and explain in a civil manner. I mean she yells and she scowls. I told her daughter, we are respectful and we don't want to cause problems but yelling at us and peeking out of blinds does not help, it's annoying. She said well the other people were nice and this and that, I said we have been nice too, we've brought chocolates for Christmas previous years we've said hello etc...

Well, she's starting again. Yesterday we had a family BBQ, she was reading in her driveway when we pulled in. We started getting our grill ready out back and she came on her patio, and put her back towards us facing a wall. She sat outside the whole time we were out, when we went in so did she. I went to meet some new neighbors across the way, and the woman said that over the years my neighbors have built some enemies because they always spy and are paranoid. Tonight she watched me from her driveway with my dog down the block. I could see her peeking around the corner until I got in my own house. I have never detested someone sooo much. I've tried to talk to them and let them know, please if there is a problem come speak with us instead of hiding and yelling at us from afar....ugh, I had to get this off my chest. We enjoy living here, but seriously, I'm also disappointed these neighbors have to be like that....I would like to be friends, but if we can't do that, than I just want them to mind their own business!!!! My husband isn't as nice, he said if they say something to him, he'll say something back...but I try to be civil and explain....well I'm about done doing that. I finally said when we have a pet sitter again out of respect I will tell them to use other grassy areas, but I asked if they would refrain from spying or yelling. And if out sitters do happen to take the dog their they can let us know and we'd take care of it. So we shall see....

Friday, June 13, 2008

+10 CLOAK OF SILENCE

This is awesome! It could be the end of all noisy neighbour complaints forever. Imagine the end of banging on apartment walls. You could crank your stereo to 11 and not feel even the slightest bit guilty. The technology, which Scientists have dubbed an 'acoustic cloak' or a 'cloak of silence', is outlined in the latest issue of the New Journal of Physics.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CANADIAN COPYRIGHT LAW

So the government introducted new copyright legislation today. If you are in the dark about the changes to Canadian copyright law here is a brief outline.

The Canadian government loves taxes. Always has. Quite some time ago they introducted a tax on all blank media. It used to be blank VHS and cassette tapes, then blank CD and DVD's, and eventually they extended it to include blank hard-drives and MP3 players.

This little tax on blank media had an unintended side-effect. Courts in Canada went and ruled that because consumers have paid this tax they possessed the right to copy any recording from the original copy even those they do not personally own. This right was extended to include P2P downloads, effectively making the downloading of pirated music legal in Canada. Uploading technically remained illegal but has not really been inforced.

The money raised by this tax was distributed to music publishers via some complicated formula that had nothing to do with the popularity of an artist and mostly to do with the whim of some idiot bureaucrat and the lobbying powers of various record labels or industry insiders.

Today the Conservative (business friendly and in love with all things American) government introduced new copyright legislation in Canada. I'm not going to get into the details around rights for educational uses, libraries, etc. because frankly they seem pretty well thought out and fair. (The publishing industry hates them so you know they are probably balanced)

The scary part of the law involves new technologies. The internet, personal digital music players, etc. The law contains provisions regarding breaking digital "locks" and fines for downloading pirated music or movies for personal use.

If music or movies you legally purchased contain no locks you are legally allowed to copy/transfer the content to any device you own. So you can buy a CD and copy it to your iPod (something technically illegal in many jurisdictions including the USA) without worry. You can purchase a movie and copy it to your computer or purchase a movie online and create a copy to watch on your DVD player. You can copy your old vinyl album to mp3 or to CD if you want.

What you can't do is copy the CD or movie to another device if it contains a digital lock. "Breaking" or circumventing this digital protection is a serious offence, and can carry huge fines, even if you are only doing it only for personal use. The creation or use of software that can be used to break these digital locks would be illegal.

So technically I could legally purchase a music CD at Wal-Mart, and if it is digitally locked, I am not allowed to put a copy of that music on my iPod, forcing me to carry around a bulky and very unsexy portable CD player circa 1995 if I want to enjoy my tunage. I have to buy the "digital" version as well. I have to pay twice for the same music.

This is the same as me purchasing a t-shirt and the designer of the shirt and government telling me I can only wear it on Saturdays. If I wear the shirt any other day of the week I can go to jail. Sounds stupid doesn't it? That is because it is.

I'm not an advocate of software or music or movie piracy (at least not on this blog and publicly), but if I legally purchase something I should be allowed to do whatever the hell I want with it. This includes copying it to my iPod, making a backup copy in case the original is damaged, loaning it to my friend, selling it on eBay, etc.

More information is available from the following sources:

Canadian Copyright Law from Wikipedia. Covers the basics, an introduction to the law.

Fair Copyright for Canada - Lobby group started by copyright lawyer and University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist. Start here if you want to fight the government and industry attempt to limit consumer rights and personal choice.

Canadian Music Creators Coalition - Industry group that opposes DMCA "locks and lawsuits" style copyright legislation. Members include Canadian artists such as Barenaked Ladies, Sarah McLachlin, Broken Social Scene, Avril Lavigne, David Bidini (Rheostatics), Matthew Good, Metric, Raine Maida, Randy Bachman, Richie Hawtin (Plastikman), Sum41, etc. Basically anybody who actually creates and sells great Canadian music. Does not include the shite artists that are created by stupid television shows like Canadian Idol.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

LONG OVERDUE

It has been a week since my last update. No excuse other then the job that pays the bills. We had a tornado sweep thru the area on Sunday which was a bit unusual as we don't really live in a "tornado prone" area. This isn't Kansas or anything. The family took refuge in the basement, there was lots of crying from the children, especially when the power went out. No damage to the house, a couple large branches snapped off the trees in my yard but none of them came down. A few large trees around town were down, only one across a road that I found (we did a tour in the car after things calmed down).

Only one thing I wanted to write about today, and it is hardly neighbour related. Folks everywhere but Canada will probably say "WTF?" and not understand what I'm talking about but here it goes. Big story in Canada this week is that the CBC lost the rights to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song after 40-years. The network, which has been using the song as the theme for every hockey broadcast since 1967, had been in tense negotiations with the rights holder, some old lady named Delores Claman who was born in Canada but now lives in England. For the last few years the contract paid this old hag $500 every single time the CBC played the song, which was pretty big $ if you consider they probably broadcast 50+ games each season.

The story is that Claman wanted to sell the CBC the rights to the song for $2.5 million, the CBC didn't want to pay more then $1 million and so both sides walked away. Claman promptly sold the rights to the song to rival network CTV who plans on using the theme for the hockey games broadcast on TSN (a Canadian all-sports cable network similar to ESPN).

I don't envy the CBC, who is now being roasted by the press and public. If they had spent $2.5 million they would be getting roasted for "wasting taxpayers money". It was really a no-win situation.

The problem now is that the CBC has announced a contest to have somebody compose a new theme song. The prize is $100,000 and obviously the CBC then owns the song permanently, avoiding any such royalty/licensing conflict in the future. The problem is the winning song will most definately be 100% crap and suck supreme because the idiots who decide the winner are neither hockey fans and will need to pick some bland and sugar-coated boring crap that is guaranteed to not offend anybody.

Enter, 'The Hockey Song', the 1973 classic by Canadian icon Stompin' Tom Connors. Connors has made it very public that he is more then interested in licensing the song to the CBC for use on their broadcasts. The CBC needs to jump on this. The song is a classic, it is already played at nearly every game at nearly every arena in N. America, and it is known by hockey fans everywhere. They can replace a classic with a classic, and nobody would miss the old theme music for even a minute.

Please take the time to write the CBC and ask them to enter negotiations with Stompin' Tom.


Hello out there! We're on the air,
It's Hockey Night tonight;
Tension grows, the whistle blows,
And the puck goes down the ice.
The goalie jumps, and the players bump,
And the fans all go insane;
Someone roars, "Bobby scores!"
At the good old hockey game.

Oh! The good old hockey game,
Is the best game you can name;
And the best game you can name,
Is the good old Hockey game!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

CORNER LOT WOES

My house sits on a corner lot and I love it. I think one of the biggest benefits of living on a corner lot is usually just plain size. There are plenty of drawbacks obviously. If you live somewhere it snows you have at least twice as much shovelling. Mowing can also be a chore, at least for me. My lot is too small to justify a riding mower but large enough that I find myself prosrastinating whenever possible. Traffic noise can be a concern no matter where you live, but a corner lot can double the noise. You also have to consider the safety of playing children. Ideally at least one of the streets (if not both) are quiet and traffic is not a concern. One of my pet peeves are dog walkers who don't pick up after their pet, and having a corner lot effectively doubles the available area where this nasty business could occur. Since I have a dog myself I don't mind that much. Picking up the occassional mess from my side and front lot just becomes part of the regular cleanup that comes with owning a dog.

For some folks the biggest issue that comes from living on a corner lot is that folks will cut across your lawn in order to save themselves a few steps. This has never been a problem for me, mostly due to some strategically placed trees and a kidney shaped area of perennials that work together to create both a physical and psychological barrier that keeps people on the sidewalk. Not so for a resident of Annavile, Texas who was so sick of people cutting across his corner lot that he strung up 20' of barbed wire.

Last weekend was our bi-weekly poker night, and the weather was nice enough that we held the game outside. We setup a TV outside on my neighbours back deck and tuned into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. We probably made a bit of noise, but nothing serious. At least nothing that would result in an angry neighbour wielding an axe.

Friday, May 30, 2008

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

Tokyo, Japan - A bachelor, suspicious after food began disappearing from his fridge, installed security cameras in his apartment. He was shocked to discover a 58-year old homeless woman had moved into his closet and had been living there undetected for a year.

Tracy, California - The community of Tracy is under seige... by Peacocks! It seems the birds first showed up over 25 years ago but the population has grown over the years and now somewhere around 60 of the birds roam this suburban neighbourhood. Some residents believe they are a nuisance and others love the birds, causing some friction between those who shoot them when they enter their yards or have trained their dogs to chase them away against those who encourage the birds to remain in the area by feeding them.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

WEEKEND

This weekend I hired my wife's cousin to shingle my porch roof. I did this for a couple reasons.

1. Give me tools and I am a disaster waiting to happen.

2. He is a professional and family, so I know the job is done right and I know I got a fair price.

3. It freed up my afternoon for golf.

I've managed to hit the links the last three weekends in a row. June has not even started and I've already played more golf this year then I did in the previous 3 years combined.

Unfortunately the Wardsville course we have usually been playing was booked solid with two separate tournaments. There was also a big tournament at the Ridgetown course. We could have played the Black Creek course in Oil Springs, but instead I booked a tee time at Gentleman's Creek.

I have not played the creek in 4 years, and frankly my last experience was not all that great, but the place is under new ownership & management this year. I had heard that there was a lot of improvement planned for the course, but I guess things are still in the planning stage. The fairways were in rough shape, covered in weeds, patches and generally just shabby. The rough was a jungle. I lost more balls today then in my previous 4 games combined. The final straw was no beer cart.

I ended up shooting my worst game of the year, but even a bad round of golf is better then shingling a roof.

NEIGHBOUR HEADLINES

Fleetwood, U.K. - Charles Hart was upset that his neighbour built a rooftop deck because he felt it interfered with the privacy he previously enjoyed in his garden. So he built a very attractive 16' high wall of cement blocks. Not only is his garden private again, but his backyard looks something like the no-mans land that separated East and West Berlin. Local bylaw inforcement officers informed Hart the wall was a violating, but he built it anyway. Now both neighbours get to spend months and lots of $$$ as they fight this out in the courts.

Bacalod, Philippines - Image your neighbour's dog bites or attacks your child. Smart people would file a formal complaint with the authorities, perhaps try to have the dog put down for being a danger to the community. If your child was not seriously hurt you may have a heated discussion with your neighbour, demand he keep the dog leashed and under control, or at least in his own backyard. What you probably should not do is march down to your neighbours house and shoot him 6 times in the chest. Especially if you are a Police Officer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

THE STRANGERS

Over the years I have posted lots of stories about neighbour relationships gone wrong. If I was to review them all and try to find some universal truth I suppose it would all come down to patience, respect and communication. I think the best thing about starting this site is that so many people were able to share their own stories with others. I've lost track of the number of emails I received with comments about people being glad to have found others who are experiencing the same types of neighbour headaches.

Quite often the stories shared make you realize that you don't have it so bad after all, or that they could be a little bit unreasonable in their expectations.

I've even posted a few news stories I stumbled across about people who have attacked, tortured, or in some cases killed their neighbours over some perceived insult or offense. I am very glad I have never had (and none of my readers have ever shared stories regarding) any direct experience with something like that. The horror stories I found while surfing the web and posted here at least made my own neighbour pet peeves seem pretty insignificant. In most of these stories at the very least there was something that set the whole horrible event off, a loud stereo, a barking dog, a fence, etc. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that the acts themselves were not completely random. When something has no meaning at all, it becomes that more distrubing...

One such grim tale has inspired one of this summers possible sleeper hit movies, The Strangers (starring the always gorgeous Liv Tyler). The film claims to be 'inspiried by' a true story, most likely the famous Manson Family Murders from 1969 or the 1981 murder of the Sharp family in the California resort town of Keddie Cabin. In the film a young couple plan on spending a quiet and romantic week at a remote resort but instead find themselves under siege from a gang of psychopaths. The Strangers opens May 30th.

Monday, May 19, 2008

FIREWORK FUN

Victoria Day is one of the biggest holidays in Canada. It is also one of only a couple of times each year you can legally purchase (and set off) fireworks in Ontario. Last year we had a bit of an event here, with a group of parents each chipping in some $$$ for a package of fireworks which we then set off on the corner while all our kids (14 in total) sitting in lawn chairs and cheering along. This year we had 16 kids and 8 adults and I bought the fireworks from a wholesaler in the big city instead of the local corner store (and thus getting twice as much for the same price). We also planned the show a little bit, starting small and working our way up to a big 50-shot cake called the "Grand Finale". The kids loved it, and I can honestly admit I just like blowing shit up, so the kids are just an excuse. So I propose a toast to Queen Victoria, who in her day truly ruled the civilized world, in a time when the sun never set on the British Empire. If you are planning a holiday fireworks display in your area here are a few words of advice.

1. Lots of kids. Nobody is going to complain about a bunch of kids having a good time. A bunch of 20-somethings mixing fireworks with alcohol is another situation entirely.

2. Do it early. We had our show just after the sun went down at 9pm. Our little display was only about 10 minutes in duration, but it also wasn't at 1am.

3. Warn everybody. For the most part all the neighbours in the immediate vicinity were not only informed but invited to setup their lawn chairs and take in the display.

4. Safety first. No need to elaborate on this one. I launch my fireworks from a large planter filled with sand which I use to bury them for stability.