Monday, February 23, 2009


I heard recently about something being called Do Over Day, a new day where we can all revisit and or repair significant moments of our lives. Details are available on the official Do Over Day Website and the Facebook Group.

Some people believe the worst thing you can say in your life is "If only I could live it over again". They would like you to believe that you should live your life so as to have no regrets. Personally I don't buy into this philosophy. We all have, and will have, regrets based on how our experiences shape us as individuals. It is a natural part of our spiritual growth. For example, I have plenty of regrets about things I've done in the past but at the same time I recognize that the life lessons I learned from these mistakes have made me the person I am today. Not having made that mistake or those choices wouldn't have taught me the corresponding lesson, and as such I would not be the person I am today. This is why the idea that you could go back and relive your life is so dangerous. If you didn't take with you the memories of what you felt went "wrong" the first time you would just end up making the same mistakes again.

Not all mistakes fall into the above category obviously. I remember one drunken night thinking it would be a good idea to hang out the window of a school bus driving down the 401 Highway so I could shake the hand of a guy driving in a car next to the bus. Pretty @#$%ing stupid and I'm pretty sure I didn't learn anything from the experience other then I was lucky to be alive and lucky that the guy holding onto my legs wasn't as drunk as I was.

The Do Over Day website has a bulletin board where you can post your regret stories, send e-cards, upload videos and generally connect with others.

Realistically one of my bigger regrets is not taking University more seriously. Not that I have some dream about that translating into having a better job or more money today. For all I know I would end up in the exact same career. When I think back I just remember being lucky enough to have had some very talented Professors, and I guess I regret just not actually showing up to class in order to interact with them more often.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I got a call Sunday morning from my neighbour across the street giving me the heads up that he had a foot of water in his basement and it was rising fast. I had seen on the news the night before that flooding had been expected due to some very mild weather and the amount of snow we have had this winter. To be honest I assumed we were far enough from the river that there would be little impact on my street.

I had noticed the day before a small creek that runs one block over had overflowed its banks and was flooding the backyards of the houses on the street. The Thames River itself, which runs along the East end of town about 1/2 km from my house had flooded its banks as well. The roads and bridges were still passable, but not by much. According to the weather reports the water was 17 feet above normal levels, which is just 3 feet short of the record around these parts, the "Great Flood of 1937". The link takes you to a picture gallery available at The Virtual Museum website.

The more I think about it, we are pretty much due for another one of those. I check out the basement and sure enough, it is submerged in about 6 inches of water and rising fast. For a short period of time I was down there with my wet-dry ShopVac, which was a bit like trying to bail out the Titanic with a teacup. Within the hour my father-in-law showed up with a pump rented from a hardware store about 20 minutes away. Within a couple hours the basement was empty but the water was still coming. Later that afternoon I started to get worried again, as the water was rising faster then the pump could get it out. We seemed to gain the upper hand in the early evening, and today I can thankfully say the basement is if not dry, at least no longer flooded.

I don't have a finished basement thankfully, but I will likely need to replace some drywall and insulation or risk mould. My wife cleaned out the ruined stuff today while I was at work, basically a pickup truck full of junk that wasn't worth much. Old paperback novels (Heinlein, Asimov, etc.) and boxes of old University textbooks that I didn't even read when I was in University. A couple boxes of old shoes and clothes that don't fit and assorted boxes of crap that for some reason I never got around to throwing out.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Whiteroses Writes:

I'd lived peacefully in my home and neighborhood for 16 years before a new truly dysfunctional family moved in next door. They've done horrible things since moving in. They trampled and sprayed weed killer on my annuals, scratched up my car parked in my driveway, put holes in my tires, and recently it appears they tried to break my car window.

I've reported them repeatedly to the police, who claim they will do extra patrols on my block, but I have yet to see anyone. My neighbors apparently are unhappy with me because I asked them to trim back a tree that was leaning on my house. It was so far on my property I was told I could legally cut it down. Only the roots and the trunk are on their property. I didn't cut it down, just cut it back because I like trees much more than I like my neighbors.

The family also is most upset that I insist they pick up their dog's poop. They walk the dog over in front of my house everyday and encourage it to poop on my yard, the sidewalk in front or on the strip of grass in front of my house. There is an ordinance that requires them to scoop it, but they refuse. I've reported them several times after witnessing this transgression, but again the police could care less. The last time I insisted that the male of the home pick up after his dog, he ran up on my property and threatened to beat me, a woman. I had been doing yard work and had a small shovel in my hand. I threatened to beat him with the shovel if he didn't leave my property immediately. I had to raise the shovel to make him leave. He stood on his property for five minutes and shouted obscenities at me while I continued to clean up my yard. I finally called the useless cops and they of course did nothing about it. If the neighbor kills me, I guess that might warrant some action.

I live alone and feel this family of 8, including a juvenile delinquent, feels completely at ease walking on my property to reach their cars on the street, letting their animal defecate, etc. They are walking all over me, but I have no recourse except to sell my home. This was supposed be my retirement home and the last of my family has moved out of state. I refuse to bring friends into this mess, although I've asked my neighbors to look out for me. They swear they've seen nothing. I'm not happy. But all I can do is vent. This horribly ignorant family has yet to be held accountable for their actions. Anyone have any solutions short of hiring a guard dog?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Interesting story regarding the price of groceries in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood of Toronto. For those who don't know this is one of the more "economically challenged" areas of Toronto. While being far from a ghetto it has a reputation as a high crime area, home to many recent immigrants, and has lots of families living on social assistance.

You would think therefore that groceries would be cheaper then in more well-to-do areas of town, but in fact a recent study showed that prices for staples (bread, milk, flour, rice, beans, etc.) was higher in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood then anywhere else in Toronto.

The biggest reason for this is that the major chains have long since pulled out, leaving only smaller chains or independents to fill the void. They lack the wholesale purchasing power of the likes of Sobey's and Loblaw's which control the Canadian grocery marketplace.

Making the situation even worse is that studies have shown that one of the biggest challenges for people living on social assistance is that they lack basic cooking skills. They end up spending what little money they do have on pre-packaged foods that are lower in nutrition, higher in fat, and much higher in price then what they could prepare themselves.

British Chef Jamie Oliver has talked about this frequently on several of his television shows and in his books. For the price of a single meal for a family of 4 at McDonalds you can purchase fresh vegetables, rice or potatoes, a budget cut of meat and feed the same family of 4 for several days. Personally I credit Oliver for if not teaching me how to cook and least giving me enough basic skills and confidence to fumble around in the kitchen and occassionally produce something special. I learned from Jamie that the secret to cooking is 3 simple things:

1) Fresh Ingredients
2) Fresh Herbs
3) Olive Oil (and lots of it)

You stick to the above three basics and you pretty much can't go wrong unless you either burn or undercook whatever it is you are making.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


A misguided proposal to ban the use of wood-burning stoves is gathering steam in the Canadian city of Montreal. A proposed city bylaw who prohibit the installation of wood burning stoves in any new residence and give citizens around 7 years to convert existing wood fireplaces to natural gas. The bylaw would become the strictest in the nation but does contain exemptions for commercial establishments to allow for things like wood-fired stoves at restaurants or one of Montreal's famous bagel bakeries.

While I don't dispute that the city has its heart in the right place, they are clearly basing their decisions on both faulty logic and poor science. The fact that old-style fireplaces and stoves are inefficient forms of heating is well known, however recent technological advances in wood-fired stoves make them one of the most ecologically sound choices for heating your home.

Modern, two-stage wood stoves are actually a greener and can be an even cheaper energy source then natural gas, especially for those who live in a rural area or who have access to their own wood lot. Those in urban areas may not see a significant cost savings but should not be fooled by propaganda funded by municipal utility companies that have a vested interest in keeping us dependent on thier grid. The Canadian Wood Heat Association has a great website that is packed with information for anybody interested in the benefits of heating with wood or for someone who is hoping to stand up against city hall.

The government points to studies about the huge amount of pollution caused by burning wood for heat. These studies are flawed because they include the pollution of fireplaces, as if they are comparing apples to apples. Everybody knows fireplaces look great but really don't heat the home, as the bulk of heat is lost up the chimney and they produce significant pollution and particulate discharge due to how the wood burns.

If Montreal was smart they could simply outlaw the installation of old-fashioned wood fireplaces and mandate that any wood-stoves installed in homes be of the high efficiency variety, specifically stoves that are approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as "low-emission". The stoves that carry this approval burn 1/3 as much wood to produce the same heat as a standard wood stove and produce virtually no smoke. Nearly every major manufacturer builds models that meet this standard in a variety of styles and a price point for every budget.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


I found this post on Sunday night, it was saved in my draft folder. I must have attempted to update late Friday night but didn't make it. It was Poker Night and I had purchased a variety of high-alcohol content "Winter" beers from the local LCBO.

Trafalgar Spiced Belgian Ale - This one was very nice, dark and rich, with a hint of clove and berry. Bottle size 650ml, alcohol content 6.5%

St. Peter's Winter Ale - I did not enjoy this one. Will leave it at that. Bottle size, 500ml, alcohol content 6.3%.

Mill Street Brewery Barley Wine - I couldn't call this beer. It was sweet, like maple syrup, and reminded me of an Ice Wine. Very nice treat and I loved the ceramic bottle that it came in but you couldn't drink this all night, it would make your teeth ache it is so sweet. Bottle size 650ml, alcohol content 11%

Great Lakes Winter Ale - I enjoyed this one. More red then dark, with a very evident taste of orange and cinnamon. It came in a 750ml bottle, alcohol content of 6.2%.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


A resident of Corner Brook, Newfoundland, who was only trying to be a good neighbour, found himself on the wrong side of the law recently. Pat Hickey owns a riding lawn tractor with a snow-blower attachment. This winter he has taken to clearing the driveways of 10 neighbours who live along his quiet residential street. His crime? According to municipal authorities it is illegal to "operate a recreational vehicle on a city street".

Now a logical person would think that this city bylaw is clearly aimed at preventing residents from driving an ATV or perhaps in the winter months a snowmobile along a roadway and getting into a collision with another vehicle or a pedestrian. That seems reasonable. I'm not sure in what world a snow blower is considered a "recreational vehicle" but apparently in some nanny-state city councillors mind there is a serious problem with irresponsible snow blowing in the town of Corner Brook. They also get a lot of snow in this part of Canada. More then you can shovel, and lots of people own snowblower attachments for thier lawn tractors. However, once again, I don't think the word "logical" was ever part of this debate.

Hickey has been ticketed by the city and ordered to cease driving his snowblower on the street when moving from house to house clearing the driveways of his elderly neighbours. City authorities have said he is free to "push or pull" his snowblower while on the city streets, but any driving of the snowblower will result in further charges. Clearly the most efficient way to move a motorized piece of equipment that weighs close to a thousand pounds is by pushing it by hand through 3 feet of snow.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Apparently HGTV is casting for a new reality TV show about neighbour disputes. If you are interested in airing your dirty laundry on national television you can check out the Reality Wanted website.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


A very cool little project is underway in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. The West Coast has always had the reputation of being a bit more ecologically progressive so hopefully something similar will eventually spread Eastward. The program currently being tested among 40,000 residents by Puget Sound Energy allows you to track and compare your power consumption to that of of your neighbours in order to evaluate your own conservation efforts and your homes energy efficiency.

No personal details or specifics are released, so its not like you can use the data to determine if the guy next door is running a Hydroponic operation in his basement. What you do get is a tool that allows homeowners to compare their own energy consumption against an average based on 100 similar sized homes in the vicinty. Running above average? Turn down the heat a notch or remember turn off the lights, then compare again. The best part is that if everybody starts paying attention to their own energy use, and keeps trying to get "below the average", the average drops. Even more energy is saved as everybody tries even harder to leave a smaller carbon footprint.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Growing up in Calgary, Alberta the city of Edmonton was our arch-rival. The joke used to be, "What do you call a pretty girl in Edmonton?" A tourist. Of course they had similar jokes about Calgary. Anyway, I digress...

The city of Edmonton is currently holding nominations for its "Good Neighbour Awards". Citizens are encouraged to nominate someone who makes a difference in their neighbourhood. There is no prize money involved, just some recognition, a nice certificate suitable for framing, and your picture and story posted on the Good Neighbour section of the City of Edmonton website.

The city even has implemented what they call 'Good Neighbour Postcards', a way to formally thank a neighbour for an act of kindness. The postcards are available at city libraries, police stations, and recreation centers.

It is such a simple idea, but one that many cities have not implemented, or at least not as well. As their website puts it, it is all about "recognizing the small daily gentures and actions we sometimes take for granted that enhance the fabric of our lives." Simple stuff, really. It is a shame more municipalities don't take their cue from cities like Edmonton who have managed to implement a simple but very effective program on a shoestring budget.

I'll leave you with some more Edmonton jokes:

Q: What is the best thing to come out of Edmonton?
A: Highway #2 South

Q: What do you get when you cross a pig with an Edmontonian?
A: Nothing, even a pig has some standards.

Q: Why do Edmontonians cheer for the Oilers?
A: They prefer the Oilers over professional hockey.

Q: Whats the best defense when fighting an Edmontonian?
A: Soap

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Great picture showed up yesterday of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper demonstrating his marching skills at the Quebec Winter Carnival. I don't recall any Canadian leader in recent years who has worse luck with unflattering pictures. Now I've had my suspicions about the true political leanings Harper for some time. The goose stepping of carnival mascot Bonhomme came as a bit of a surprise however. Perhaps he was born in Vichy?


The biggest neighbour story percolating thru the media right now has to be the ongoing stupidity about Ashton Kutcher and his neighbour, some screenwriter that nobody has ever heard of.

It all started with Aston went on a rant Thursday about construction noise at 7:30am. The trouble is, he recorded and broadcast his rant over Twitter and posted video online. As it turns out most folks were not as supportive as I guess he thought they would be. He probably should have also checked local construction noise regulations, because it has since been confirmed local bylaws allow for construction to occur anytime after 7am and all the necessary permits were in place.

The next step was the backtrack, claiming it was all a joke. When that didn't work out as intended Ashton finally stepped up to the plate and apologized for calling his neighbour a "dickw--d a--hole" and "a--clown" and promised to be more tolerant in the future. It seems the neighbour was subject to some serious and long term construction noise from their side of the fence recently due to a $3,000,000 renovation and didn't bat an eyelash.

Word of advice? Keep your mouth shut and buy some earplugs. While this story only hit the airwaves due to the celebrity status of the participants similar conflicts (perhaps sans the video rant) erupt between neighbours all the time. It is very easy to justify the construction noise when it is the leaky roof on your house being repaired. It becomes critically important to step back and look at actions from the perspective of a bystander.

For example, its a beautiful Saturday and you head out into your backyard with the intention to mow the lawn. You notice your neighbour next door is just sitting down on their patio for a meal with their family. Stop and think. Do you really need to mow the lawn at that minute? Can it wait an hour or until tomorrow? Trust me your neighbour will appreciate it.