MUSINGS OF A REFORMED COFFEEHOLIC (Maclean's)

Ah, such a beautiful morning.

The sun is up, the air is fresh and it's a lovely day.

Do I sound chipper to you? Refreshed? Restored? Amazingly so, since I am here to tell you that yes, Virginia there IS life after coffee...

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MY SIGNATURE PIECE (The Globe and Mail)

I was in a store the other day, paying for a transaction on my VISA card, when I heard it. Again. I have heard this uttered a hundred times or more.

"Boy, THAT'S an interesting signature."

The salesperson was being kind, of course. They're ALL being kind. Because the honest truth is that I possess not a signature, but a scribble. A careless, haphazard collection of mashed lines and squiggles that resembles a polygraph machine run amok. The bank manager says it can't be copied. “To forge such a mess with any degree of accuracy would be quite impossible,” he says.

I'm not so sure...

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ANIMAL HOUSE (Reader's Digest)

At the end of the school year last June we accompanied our two children to the local pet store, their reward for stellar report cards.

"Hamsters, if you please. A pair." I had a hamster when I was a kid. Canıt go wrong with hamsters.

"Very good," smiled the friendly attendant, who proceeded to a cage overrun with tiny furballs, two of which were transported home in a box. They did not go quietly.

"Are hamsters supposed to hiss like that, Dad? To which I replied, "Oh, they're probably just missing their mommy. Theyıll settle down when we get them home."

A year later and we're still waiting. The two darling, snarling tufts of fur have grown into little hellions...

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FALL CAMPING AND THE HOWL OF THE CAR ALARM (The Globe and Mail)

As enjoyable as summer camping can be, there is something about the fall camping experience that is like no other.

True, the rare but welcome salute of the songbird at dawn is scarcely heard above the drone of the portable heater one site over, but you get the idea...

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THE DIVISION OF LABOUR (Maclean's)

"So do you want the good news, or the bad news first?"

I had just finished packing the van for yet another family camping trip, and was reporting to the project manager.

"Good news first," my wife the project manager declares.

"The good news is, it all fits."

"And the bad news?"

"The kids will have to ride on the roof racks..."

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LINE DANCING (Chatelaine)

In the journey of life, I have found that the human condition extends to the pre-disposition. To catching colds. Ear infections. Putting one's foot in one's mouth. Stubbing one's toe.

Me? I am pre-disposed to getting in the wrong line, at the wrong time. Doesn't matter if it's a bank, the grocery store or the gas station. If there is a line-up for anything, you will find me in the longest, and the slowest...

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A REMOTE CHANCE

Some people collect coins, or stamps. Antiques.

I collect remotes.

I have eight now, thanks to the two new ones I picked up the other day. Heck, I couldn't resist. They each came with a machine attached. Is that a bonus, or what?

I didn't start out collecting clickers...

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AND I THOUGHT PET ROCKS WERE SUPPOSED TO BE QUIET...

There have been noise concerns in our city, of late. Snowplowing after hours. My neighbour's dune buggy (oops - how did THAT get in here...). And who could forget the hue and cry over those noisy concerts at the Festival of Lights?

I've learned that noise is a relative term; that one man's clatter is another man's tranquillity. Having lived a block away from busy Lawrence Avenue in Toronto, I can attest to how utterly noisy the tree frogs at the lake can be. Silence CAN be deafening.

Case in point: the rock tumbler my nine-year-old daughter found under the Christmas tree this year....

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BLUE BOX BLUES

This is the time of year when I open the door off the laundry room that leads to the dump where the garage used to be.

Just as well. Nobody uses the garage for the car, anyway. But it's a handy place to toss unwanted cardboard and boxes from Christmas presents and groceries. Out of sight, out of mind. And in the middle of February it's far too cold to deal with. So out it goes until spring.

It's spring. And before me looms a mountain of discarded packaging which I now have to package up for the pick-up. What's more, when it comes to the recycling truck there are rules. I know this by virtue of all the friendly reminders I've collected, generously left in my blue box where the rogue cardboard used to be, pointing out my indiscretions. If there's such a thing as a Blue Box Most-Wanted List, I'm most assuredly on it.

Well, no more reminders for me. I've reformed. I have the ball of twine I wasted two hours vainly trying to find before making a trip to the hardware store, together with a utility knife and a measuring tape. No, I'm not building a coffee table. Rather, I'm constructing a low-rise of surplus cardboard to exacting specifications, in order to throw it out...

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"I DON'T CARE IF IT'S A WEB SITE - I'LL TAKE IT!"

For campers everywhere, 'tis the season of our discontent. "How long have you been trying to get through?" Sherrie has been sitting at the phone, alternating between the hook and the speed dialer for what seems like hours. We tried going on-line to book a campsite, but that fosters an entirely different bundle of frustrations. "It's not the end of the world you know." Oops. Wrong thing to say. "It WILL BE if I don't get through, or it takes me so long to GET somebody that we DON'T get a half-decent site, and therefore we WON'T be going at all! "Any more DUMB questions?"...

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I SEE RED IF I DON'T BEAT MY TIME

At mid-life I'm discovering a side to me that I never knew existed.

Competitiveness. Not balls-to-the-wall, break-a-record-at-any-cost competitiveness. I have no designs on running a marathon or becoming a terribly famous humour columnist. That said, I have found a great deal of satisfaction in the setting of small, attainable goals for myself and, once achieved, bettering them.

As an example, I've recently taken up running. Someone suggested a five-minute kilometre is a good pace. I therefore have this as a goal when running, either for pleasure or within competition. Nice when I make it, but not upsetting when I don't.

Same with cycling. If I can shave a couple of minutes from my time during a long-ish cycle (75 kilometres or more), I'm pleased. If not, no biggie. It's fun to pursue a goal, but if I don't get there well, no skin off my nose.

But nothing - and I mean nothing - comes close to my competitiveness when it comes to giving blood.

Giving blood, you say? Surely he must be referring to frequency. The number of donations.

Not exactly...

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I DID A GOOGLE SEARCH THE OTHER DAY

No, I wasn't looking under the couch for one of the kid's playthings. Rather, I was on-line and trolling for information.

Most who are conversant with the Internet will recognize Google as one of a myriad of search engines tuned, torqued and ready to blast you onto the cyber highway with little more than a keyword and tolerance for the uninvited pop-up. The world at your fingertips.

But whose world?

Do a search on 'Gordon Gibb,' for example, and you will discover that I am a Buddhist living in California. I'm also an assistant professor at the David O. McKay School of Education, wherever that is. My grandmother would be so proud. But I digress...

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A VIEW FROM INSIDE THE SANTA SUIT

I've never had a particular desire to see the world from inside a Santa suit. They can be hot, and the padding confining: any movement might disturb the pillows. And if you're claustrophobic at all, the last place you want to be is stuck behind a huge fake beard reeking of the previous occupant's halitosis, full of minute hairs that tickle your face mercilessly. And you have to SIT there. And sit. And sit some more.

And yet, I have done my time. I have gained that perspective. And every yuletide since, as I make my rounds amidst the mall Santas and mistletoe, my mind goes back to the time when I was in that chair, a child happily perched on my knee, bubbling over with Christmas wishes. Yes, Virginia, I was a Santa Claus...

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ONE MAN'S TRASH...

If I'm home alone, it must be Saturday morning.

My wife is passionate about yard sales. If there's a sale she'll find it, a hidden treasure she'll unearth it, a bargain and she'll beat it. Get 'em down fifty cents, she will. It's a skill - especially the way she goes about it, researching her route beforehand so as not to waste precious time or fuel.

And to a fault she always respects the posted start time. Politeness is a virtue.

That said, if they were to issue hunting licences for early-birds, I'd be first in line...

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THE GARBAGE BAG RUNNETH OVER

In life and domesticity there remains a time-honoured unit of measurement which serves to balance the ups and the downs of our meagre existence.

The Glass. Half-full, or half-empty? It depends on one's approach, but given a relatively positive spin it can mean the difference between a life of misery and triumph in the perspective game. Parents have always known this;

"Gee, Mommy, it's just a little bump."

"Yes, my child, but you COULD have BROKEN your NECK!"

It's a principal to which self-help gurus swear allegiance and build multi-million dollar infomercial dynasties, all to convince us that a life we view as half EMPTY, is in reality half FULL. It's all in the interpretation.

Try as I might, taking a glass and half-filling it with water does nothing to make me feel better. But it will come in handy when addressing the leak in our ceiling. My glass will be full in no time.

In our household the half-full, half-empty debate is a daily occurrence given the vessels my wife and I are charged with filling, and our diverging opinions on the subject.

The stage, in this debate, is our kitchen. Be It Resolved - Fullness As Individual Preference. The Dishwasher vs: The Garbage Bag...

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