Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Snow fell over much of Ontario and the North Eastern USA the other day. When this sort of thing happens kids like to have snowball fights. Sometimes a wild pitch sends a snowball into an innocent bystander. When this happens the innocent victim normally curses and shakes his fist. In some cases they may pick up a snowball of their own and toss it back. What you don't do is go home and get a gun so you can shoot the poor kid in the head.

It really is important to communicate with your neighbours. If you hire your friends son to feed your pets when you are away on vacation it may be a good idea to introduce him to your neighbours (or at least let them know) so they don't get suspicious. If you are hired by your mom's friend to feed her pets, its probably not a good idea to hang out at their house all night smoking weed and eating shrooms... it could make the neighbours suspicious.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Interesting story I found out of California. Mark Vargas of Sunnyvale has won a lawsuit against his neighbours, who will now be forced to cut down 2 large Redwood trees in their backyard. The reason? They blocked sunlight to the extent that they limited the effectiveness of solar panels installed on Vargas's roof.

We are now cutting down trees to save the planet? Vargas argues that the CO2 reductions he is going to achieve from his $70,000 solar investment is the equivalent of at least three acres of trees, so the sacrifice of the two in his neighbours yard is the right thing to do.

Vargas's neighbour, Richard Treanor, argues that the trees pre-dated the installation of the solar panels but will not appeal the lawsuit.

It turns out California law protects a homeowners "right to sunshine" and guarantees that vegetation cannot block sunlight to more then 10% of a neighbours solar panels. Experts believe confrontations similar to this will happen more frequently now that more and more people are installing home solar systems.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


My wife and I were talking today about what makes a great neighbourhood and we came to the conclusion that the single most important thing is like-minded neighbours who share a few fundamental lifestyle positions. Not to say you need to agree on politics, religion, home decor or even proper lawn care. It just helps if there are some specific things that you have in common.

For example, a University residence is a great place to live... if you are a university student. You can always find someone to drink with, there is always a party just around the corner or on a different floor, and you can enjoy as much casual sex as your libido requires.

An old folks home is a great place to live if you have one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. You have Bridge Night every Thursday, and a casino junket on Saturdays. Someone cooks for you, cleans up after you, and is there to help if you fall down and can't get up.

Can you imagine putting am 80 year old WWII veteran in a University residence? It just doesn't work. How about taking someone who lives in a $10,000,000 apartment in New York's Upper West Side moving to a Trailer Park in Arkansas?

It is not just a manner of our perceptions of luxury, utility, noise, or comfort... what I am talking about is more then all of that.

I loved living in Toronto's Corso Italia neighbourhood for many reasons that were likely shared by fellow locals. It was well linked to the transit system, serviced by 24 hr streetcars and buses and only 15 minutes walk from St. Clair West subway station. It was one of the most affordable neighbourhoods in old Toronto, where you could still buy a detached home for $200,000. (This was 8 years ago... today semi-detached are in the $300,000 range) It was a diverse neighbourhood of Portuguese, Brazilian and Italian immigrants that was predominantly working class (trades), retirees, and young families. Thanks to the ethnic influence the area was populated with wonderful boutique shops. We never drove to Big-Box grocery stores, instead buying meat at a traditional Italian butcher, bread at a Portuguese bakery, vegetables at a local Asian-owned market, etc.

At first glance we didn't have much in common with our neighbours, in fact many of them didn't even speak english. But in fact we did have many things that linked us, and created a great neighbourhood.

We all desired:

- Good access to public transit
- Affordable mix of apartments, row houses, and detached family homes
- Familiar culture and a neighbourhood with character

We all didn't want:

- Long commutes from the 905-belt (where you could buy a house 2x the size for the same cost)
- Endless rows of shoebox homes lacking mature trees
- Strip malls filled with identical chain stores and restaurants

Together we built something greater then the sum of our individual parts. That is the sign of a true neighbourhood.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


We tend to poke fun at bad neighbours and their headaches here at The Stupid Neighbour Blog but headlines like this should make us all pause and take a deep breath next time we get in an altercation over what are truly insignificant things. Think of this when reading about how a long standing feud over noise and parking leads to a double murder in Denver.

We may sometimes hate our neighbours animals, but if you find dogs roaming around in your backyard I would recommend calling the Humane Society, who will hold them for a time and keep records in case the owners come looking for them. Whatever you do don't just drive them down to the Wal-Mart parking lot and give them away to the first person you see.

It is always important to be on friendly terms with your neighbours whenever possible. That way when a registered sex offender breaks into your house and attacks you can count on your neighbour to come to your rescue and kill the bastard.

Friday, February 15, 2008


A few months ago I was having a drink with an old friend and he was talking about how he and his family are carbon neutral. I am not honestly sure if he was being serious or not (we had more then a few pints), he could just as easily been mocking the entire exercise but it got me thinking. Being carbon neutral seems to be a buzzword lots of people throw around right now, especially to display their 'green cred'. Just as a gangster flashes hand signs, guns and bling we show off our compost heaps, organic gardens and CFC lights and expect to somehow be absolved for maintaining a lifestyle that is still clearly unsustainable if lived by any more then the tiniest percentage of the worlds population.

I am not here to discuss the pros or cons (and obvious Western hypocrisy) regarding the environmental impact of phenominal growth in Asia and India and the billions of additional humans who will soon be living in larger homes, driving cars, and eating a diet rich in processed grains and meats. I'm going to limit this little discussion to the concept of being 'Carbon Neutral'.

The first thing you are supposed to do is calculate your footprint. There are dozens of free 'carbon calculators' online. You can start with this one hosted by British Petroleum, which is customizable for pretty much anywhere (many I've found are US only).

Based on their calculations my household uses roughly 18 tonnes of carbon per year. This is well above the Canadian average of 11 tonnes, despite our household energy saving, composting and recycling habits. Ground travel actually represents 75% of our footprint and is mostly due to my commuting to and from work.

Lets assume then you want to brag at a coctail party that you are carbon neutral. Once you have worked out your CO2 usage the next step would be to purchase what are called carbon 'offsets' or 'credits'. There are literally dozens of websites where you can purchase these credits. The concept is pretty simple. These organizations use your money to do something 'green' that will even out your carbon usage. Your money funds things like energy projects, reforestation campaigns, etc.

This is nothing more then branding. You have been able to donate to organizations like The Nature Conservancy or The Sierra Club and dozens of others for years. Instead of making a contribution to an eco-charity because it is the right thing to do we are now being sold the concept of buying credits. This is truly brilliant marketing. To make matters worse, some of the organizations selling these credits appear to have just come out of the woodwork and could be unethical. For a list of reputable vendors check out the David Suzuki Foundation site.

One of the larger sites is CarbonFund, where you can purchase credits for $5.50 per tonne. So for a mere $99 per year I can be carbon neutral. Their site claims that CarbonFund projects that would be supported by my $99 include wind and solar power initiatives and various reforestation campaigns all over the world.

Now you can call me crazy (many people have) for thinking this is stupid, but I just can't get past the notion that I would be better off if I took that $99 and bought my own damn solar panel (after saving up for a few years). I could easily just budget an extra $99 for landscaping next spring, perhaps planting a couple new trees each year.

In the end this is all about branding your charitable donations, and has nothing to do with carbon neutrality. I'm not against the idea, the notion that you can calculate a fair contribution based on a simple formula like yearly CO2 ommissions is a good concept. Lets just be honest with ourselves about it. Personally, I'm budgeting an extra $99/year on landscaping.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Drunk Idiot Crashes Truck Into Neighbours House - Not only did this Texan crash his pickup truck into his neighbours living room, but he was so drunk he apparently didn't notice, and kept his foot on the gas until sparks ignited the carpet and the house caught fire.

Man Kills Neighbour Over Unmowed Lawn - This one speaks for itself. I'm just curious exactly how high the lawn really was. Are we talking 6 foot tall prairie wild grass? Or are we talking "didn't mow for two weeks and looking a little shaggy" grass?

Monday, February 11, 2008


When I was in college my roommate and I used to get paranoid about the smell of marijuana smoke escaping from our dorm. We tried air fresheners of all kinds, including aerosol spray that made our room smell like we were smoking pine trees. We had small electric filter appliances that didn't appear to do anything other then hum continuously. Towels by the door, fans by the window, scented candles, cheap incense... we tried everything. Despite our best efforts everybody knew that the residents of room 902 were chronic.

During my first year the worst that would happen would be the House Don giggling his ass off, usually because he was baked as well. We could tell the winds of change were blowing by second year. By the end of that term getting caught would involve a stern warning and threats of informing the Residence Tutor. Everything came crashing down in 3rd year, when upon moving in we were informed of a new "zero tolerance" policy. Get caught smoking weed in your dorm room and you were kicked out of residence. Period. No second chances.

The changes probably had a lot to do with two key incidents that happend on campus during my 2nd year. The first involved a drunken idiot who threw himself against an elevator door, and was suprised to discover it give way and send him crashing 4 floors down and into a wheelchair for the rest of his life. The 2nd involved another drunken idiot going thru a plate glass window and severing an artery in his arm in the process, bleeding out on the hallway carpet long before paramedics arrived. Neither of these had anything to do with smoking weed but it was an easy thing for the administration to attempt to curtail and boast about their success. In their defence, they did a good job on cracking down on drunken stupidity as well. The "all you can drink" residence parties that were a regular monthly event during 1st and 2nd year were banned completely, and getting cut off at the pub was a regular occurance for anybody who tried for anything more then a light buzz.

Now as much as I hated these rules I understood them, especially the zero-tolerance for drugs. They are illegal. This didn't stop with weed however... society has moved on to cigarettes.

Back then you could smoke cigarettes in the common areas of the building, in the cafeterias, the arcade, and even the campus pub. You could even smoke in some designated hallways, mere steps from the lecture halls. My old alma matter has changed considerably in the 14 years since I graduated. These days all residences are non-smoking, even your personal room, the one you pay close to $6000 to rent for the 8 month school year. Smoking in the pub or anywhere indoors for that matter is banned. The last I heard the administration is planning to ban the sale of cigarettes completely. Just for reference, this is a 650 acre campus, and walking to the nearest gas station/variety store is a good 25-30 minutes if you live in one of the dorms.

The whole point of this long-winded rant has been lost completely. Oh wait, now I remember... you see my point was to give some background on this story from the New York Times, about a woman who is being sued for smoking cigarettes in her own apartment.

I'm going to end this here, since I've gotten so far off track I doubt I could find my way back to any kind of coherent argument about how while I agree with anti-smoking laws in bars and restaurants once we enter into private homes things have gone too far.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008


Steve writes:

I moved to Massachusetts from California about 12 years ago. I'm now married and have a wonderful four year old son. However, I have to say, these people are the dumbest collective group of people I've ever encountered in my life. They can't reason their collective way out of a paper bag and most have never traveled outside of the county (yes county not country) they've lived in their entire life. If I say more, my blood pressure will rise and I may in fact walk outside and inflict harm on one of them.

Actually, most of the problems have arisen from the petty women in the neighborhood. My wife works from home and has an I.Q. well above room temperature, so she doesn't have the time to sit around with the neighborhood coffee clutch gossiping about everyone else, nor do I with their weak husbands who are ruled over by these petty women, thus we've become the "outcasts". That actually came out of the mouth of one of the women who can barely put a sentence together and whom I'd only met once before when I was giving out candy on Halloween to her children. She and her husband look like extras from the movie Waterworld or Mad Max, live in a single family home with three other families (all relatives), but we are the outcasts. The experience living here has been like living in a parallel universe.

One of these heavily medicated women actually came over and punched me in the arm several times because I'd dared say something to her husband after she'd called our home one evening out of the blue when she was clearly medicated or drunk. She told me that my wife and I were "fucking freaks" who moved into the neighborhood to "be mean to everyone else." On the face of it that's a strange comment, especially considering we were one of the first to move into a new 12 home development. This all after my wife and I found $2,000 of cash in the street we happened to trace back to them and returned it immediately. Or the times I've helped plow out their driveway because they were snowed in and the list goes on and on. Yes, we are the freaks. I told her husband he was going to have to back up his wife's mouth to my face and suffer the consequences or get her in line or in a hospital. He said his wife is "emotional" and "had a bad day" and decided to take it out on me. I must just be naive to the ways of the women out here in this crazy little state. These are just a few of the weird things we've experienced from these folks.

Oh well, we're moving out of this God forsaken neighborhood where we doubt it can get much more bizarre than this experience.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008



Not at all. They are true angels = 4%
They are not perfect but we get along just fine = 18%
You know what they say about good fences = 36%
I often dream about causing them physical harm = 40%

Frankly I am a little bit suprised about the results, I didn't think that many people would be dreaming of physical harm. I guess it is better to only dream about it then actually do something that could land you in jail.


One of the easiest ways you can evolve from good to great is to help a neighbour in need, and one of the most common ways to do this is with food. You could be cooking a meal for someone who is sick, or just showing up with something great for the next potluck. There is a reason why neighbours from miles around drop off food when there is a death in the family. Today I'm going to share with you the secret to making a great cream of vegetable soup.

For starters, any type of vegetable will do, as this recipe is universal. Some suggestions could be standards like carrots, cauliflower, leek, or asparagus. The vegetable doesn't really matter. I usually try to use whatever is on sale at the local grocery or farmers market.

Secret #1 = Equal amount of chopped onion. If you have 3 cups of carrots you need 3 cups of chopped onions. Cook the onions and your vegetable of choice in a large pot with a nice sized chunk of butter or margarine. I find roughly 1/3 cup if you had a total of 6 cups of whatever vegetable and onion you are using. Keep stirring this on medium heat until the onions are softened. This should take about 20 minutes

Secret #2 = Add about 1 parts peeled and finely chopped potato for every 3 parts of vegetable. So once again for those not good with math. 3 cups of insert vegetable here, 3 cups of onion and 1 cup of potato. You are using the potato to help thicken the soup instead of using cream or homo milk, so your soup will be a lower fat option.

Once you have added the potato, go ahead and add your stock. Chicken stock works best in most soups, but a nice tomato stock really bumps up a carrot or squash based soup. Vegetable stock is an alternative for you granola crunching hippy vegan types. You know what tastes good together, trust your instincts. My standard is 8 cups of chicken stock based on the amount discussed above (3 cups of any vegetable, 3 cups onion, 1 cup potato).

Bring all of this to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer until all vegetables are soft or until you are ready for the next step. The longer you simmer, the richer the soup.

The next step involves a hand blender, a must-have kitchen appliance. You don't need to spend alot of money, the one I use cost less then $20. Blend everything until the soup is creamy. Just stick that hand blender into the pot like it is an outboard motor and giv' er. Watch out for hot soup splashes! Once the soup is fully blended add salt and pepper to taste and about 1/3 cup of whole milk or cream to finish it off. Give it a quick stir and you are ready to serve.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


The Stupid Neighbour Blog posted a story a few weeks ago about proposed legislation in Ontario that would guarantee homeowners the right to dry their clothes on outdoor lines. The movement is continuing to pick up some steam, (or wind if you prefer) and similar legislation is being proposed and introduced in other Canadian Provinces and across the U.S.A. The website 'Project Laundry List' is a great resource and news source for tracking progress in what has come to be known as the 'Right To Dry' movement.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Alice, Texas - The Mayor of the small Texas town of Alice has resigned after being hit with felony dognapping charges over her theft of a Shih Tzu named "Puddles". Apparently the Mayor was asked to care for the dog while her friend was on vacation. Upon her return the friend was informed the dog had died. Suspicions were raised when the dog was spotted at a local groomer three months later.

Brampton, Ontario - A quite suburban home in Brampton, Ontario is receiving a lot of police attention lately, and it is not the "Big Suprise Another Grow-Op" kind. The home is owned by Amit Kumar, the notorious Dr. Kidney, ring leader of an Indian criminal organization that stole/harvested kidneys from impoverished peasants and then implanted them in rich businessmen and anybody else willing to pay. Interpol is working closely with the local RCMP and while the whereabouts of Kumar are currently unknown, his family is hiding out in their $600,000 Brampton home. Kumar is accused of harvesting and then implanting roughly 500 kidneys into wealthy clients who paid $50,000 for the operation. Kumar is said to possess at least 6 fake passports and fled India just as the police closed in. Friends and neighbours of Kumar indicated he had talked about planning to open a hotel in Canada. That is one place where I would be scared to fall asleep at night.