Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: the Infinite Monkey Theorum

"'It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times?' You stupid monkey!"

-"Last Exit to Springfield", The Simpsons


"The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare."

In this case, the monkey's a mathematical metaphor. While the probability of a monkey exactly typing a complete work such as Shakespeare's Hamlet is minuscule, it is not an impossibility. 

The Infinite Monkey idea has a long history that can be traced back to Aristotle, though, obviously, without typewriters. 

In 2003, an experiment was performed with six Celebes Crested Macaques, but their literary contribution was five pages consisting largely of the letter 'S'. This, of course, is a greater contribution to literature than the last Twilight book. Hey-yo!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting my ass kicked

For the past few weeks I've been attending twice-weekly Bootcamp sessions on the south side. 

After a good year and a half of watching my ass slowly meld to my office chair and eating crap, I decided to do something about it and get back into shape. My biggest issue with working out is the motivating factor. It's difficult for me to find the motivation on my own, especially when I'm so out of shape that I can't remember how to do a pushup, let alone perform the feat. 

So I signed up for Survivor Bootcamp, one of several in the city, for four weeks of hour-long cardio, weight training and calisthenics. Fun, right? Well...sure. If your idea of fun involves feeling your arteries chugging along and wishing your calf muscles would stop their screaming so you could hear your iPod better. 

Ok. So it's not that bad. The classes are fairly short and consist of changing patterns of cardio and training, so you're never doing any one thing long enough to get too exhausted from it before you're onto another exercise. 

I haven't noticed any physical differences yet, though my heavy panting at walking up a flight of stairs has somewhat diminished. 

I'm most impressed with my ability to actually show up to class. The first class was in the middle of a snowstorm, and my instructor didn't even show. But I stayed for the whole hour while more experienced girls showed me the ropes: and by ropes, I mean endless sets of lunges. Since then, I've done situps in the pouring rain and worn a toque and mittens to every class, but there is something to be said about the open air. 

How in shape I'll be by the end of this is debatable, but the purpose of the class is to get me motivated to start doing more workouts on my own and feel slightly more confident on a treadmill than a month ago. 

Although I'll have to dress more appropriately for future endeavours. While changing before class today, I realized that I'd forgotten my expensive Lululemon sports bra, and had to wear an underwire for the duration of the class. For those of you sans breasts, let me put it thusly: ouch. While even small-chested girls have issues running without support--bruises, stretching, bouncing--I spent my run trying to hold mine down to keep from knocking myself in the eye. Serious discomfort. Next time, I'm packing duck tape in my trunk, just in case. Otherwise, I'm liable to throw myself off balance and go tumbling into the street in front of a moving vehicle. 

PS - If there is such a place as Hell, and if I am indeed destined to serve an eternity there, my most dreaded punishment would be an endless set of burpees. How I loathe burpees.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


So I started up with the PoF again. I've had a profile on and off for the past 3 years and have had mild to moderate success with the dating game. I have had some friends find great success and love online, and others, like me, with mixed results somewhere between terrific and horrific. 

Most are 'meh'. My greatest bane is a man who is 'meh'. There is always a coaxing of the inner line where the deal's off. Where you must balance your needs with your wants and figure out how to get those needs fulfilled and still get a deal of your wants in there, too, without coming off as some grotesque real-life Seinfeld episode who breaks up with someone for having turned-out feet. 

My married friend and close confident, Mrs. P, is always devil's advocate. She's looking out for my best interests and pushes me to question my preconceived notions in an effort to better me and better my chances of snagging someone truly noteworthy. She pokes at me for my snap judgments and criteria for dismissal of potential suitors. I've countered that there must be SOME criteria, lest I date every single person online, which is neither feasible nor desired. 

I know I am attracted to a particular 'type', and that some aspects of this may benefit me, while other aspects may leave certain needs unfulfilled.  These aspects may, in turn, simultaneously satisfy some of the pettier wants on the list. Does this mean that I should broaden my scope? Sure. Does it mean that I should give up my preferences completely? No. I am aware of what I go for and make a concerted effort to assess my needs and what sort of person could fulfill those. At the end of the day, though, my inner romantic wants the 'spark!' and places her bets on the horses that might provide said 'spark!' more readily. 

At times I've taken risks on men that didn't seem to fit, and was pleasantly surprised. Conversely, I've had terrible dates with men who seemed a perfect fit to my preconceived mold. So sure, sometimes they sneak in past my more judgmental filters.

For the most part, however, when all you have to go on is the covers, you have to judge books on the most readily-available criteria.  And those criteria aren't always fair or logical. Most seem picked at random or through trial and error (ie: many, many dates). 

Photo attractive enough to suit? Check. Interests align to a degree? Check. Semi-literate articulation of self? Aye--there's the rub. My dealbreaker.

The profile. The chance to wear that heart out on your sleeve. To pour your soul into a haiku or demonstrate your ability to turn a well-crafted phrase. I have a high standard for self-description and look for particular elements to determine if someone's worth my time. It's not a matter of trying to be a snob or too picky or pretentious. It's a matter of gauging who might be compatible. 

Spelling is one area of contention that gets me eyebrow raises from Mrs. P and other "you're being a pretentious c**t" looks from my friends and loved ones. But hear me out. 

Ok, boy who messaged me: so you can't spell. Hmm...well, you could be really great and amazing and what the fuck does spelling matter in the long run? Nothing, really. It could even put my English snobbery under the microscope and challenge me to look beyond such surface notions. Will a man's use of 'your' in place of 'you're' really matter on a day-to-day basis? Of course not. However, the fact that you don't bother to proofread your entry or at least have a go with an automated grammar tool available anywhere on the interwebs means you're either willfully lazy or too stupid to manage it. 

Saying something is important. I get bored easily, am intelligent, and communicate for a living. Sorry, buddy, but you'll have to keep up at least some portion of the time. You're basically pitching yourself. And if I don't like the concept, I'm not going to invite you to play the role of boyfriend in the movie of my life. You don't have to be boastful or make shit up (the truth will out in the end, so honesty is always best) but put your best self forward. Would you show up to a job interview and half-ass it, then expect to land the gig? 

Charming? Ok, lay it on. Like to laugh? Give me joke, even if it's a groaner. As we writers like to say "show, don't tell." 

And no, being a bad writer is not an excuse. You're talking about the one subject even a four-year old can give a short presentation on: yourself. You know you, inside and out. You can't string two sentences together on the subject? Seriously? If you can't sell yourself, then why should I buy it? There are too many people out there to bother with the mediocre or the well-intentioned. Because I too have good intentions. And I actually have put forth the effort to showcase myself and my interests. I could care less if you've got blonde hair or brown. If you've got a six pack or a bit of a belly. Because personality will trump belly, any day of the week. And has with a number of men I've chosen to see.  But you've got to show it. 

Yes, it's hard to do online. And that's why they have nifty tips for those who don't come by the gift of communication naturally. Take a look around you and see the zillion other profiles available. Take your cue from your peers and apply it to your own self. It's not fucking rocket science. Well, I hope. 

Oh, and another thing: for baby kittens' sake, stop posing with your car. Wow. You can drive. Congrats. Stop embarrassing yourself and just do a straightforward headshot like everyone else. 

I would apologize for being shallow and going for the arty over the athletic, the pretentious over the precious. Maybe my soulmate's the bass fisherman who loves red label and Jebus. But unless he can make a compelling case for it, then I'm going to go for what attracts me: smarts, sass and a dash of nerdy/artiness. I don't care if you drink merlot or margaritas. But you have to hold your end of the conversation up. I have nothing against shy guys or quiet guys. I know some wonderful men who are just those types. But that doesn't make them the ones I want to take home. Because I would gnaw my own hand off to get away from a lifetime of quiet reflection. I don't want antics over security. I think I can find both in some sort of balance. I just choose to seek the comfortable and low-key in the creative and extroverted, rather than try to tease extroversion out of an adorable mute. 

But then I second guess myself and this premise flawed? Am I going about it all wrong. And if can I make it right?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tasty, tasty pain.

Fuck, my neck hurts. My shoulders hurt. Through those connected muscles and tissues runs a thin, tight wire straight to the back of my skull, which throbs and pulses in time with my heartbeat. The wire wraps around my ears and pulls at my temples, until even the tiny follicles of my hairline are taut. My eyeballs are going to squeeze out of their sockets and roll under the couch, where they'll be safe collecting lint, far away from the dull ache they're currently enduring. 

Tension headache. Not nearly a migraine, but nauseatingly painful nonetheless. The kind of pain you could nearly chew. A slow, taffy-like gnawing that flexes your jaw and grinds your teeth. You'd bite something, but it'd be the inside of your cheek or tongue. And that won't be pleasant the next morning. 

Some people take physical risks for their lifestyles. They break bones pursuing 360s or malnourish themselves and go into hyper sleep-deprivation to endure med school. Me? I write. Constantly. Ceaselessly. Even when I'm not writing for the 8 hours I'm at work, I'm reading something online or on a printed page. Then I'm typing at home. Words are many exquisite things, but for now, they are literally a pain in my neck. Fortunately, they still leave me the ability to describe my discomfort and try to lessen it in the recounting. My pleasure is my poison. God, I'd make myself sick with all this tedious meandering, if I wasn't feeling physically ill already.

Advil would help. Or a chiropractor. The latter is unavailable. The former, unwanted. I'm going to be sucking those babies down for the rest of my life if I keep this up. Maybe I need a dictaphone, so I can stop working on my hunchback while I'm sifting through sentence structures. 

It's not old-timey romantic like an impressionist painter dying of heavy metal poisoning from licking brush tips. Fuck, it's not even a sexy typewriter-induced injury, like a sprained wrist or a broken toe from knocking the damned thing on my foot in a fit of writer's block. Nope. It's a 21st century repetitive stress injury from poor posture and a lifestyle that has me staring at words day in day out. They say you hurt the ones you love the most. But I've never hurt the words. Why are they now hurting me? I need less squinting at the screen and more downtime on a feather pillow. 

Ok. Fine. I'm taking a muscle relaxant. Maybe some alcohol. What? It'll help. And hey, that sounds like just the kind of dangerous drink lifestyle my fellow wordsmiths adopt to lubricate the creative fervor. Hemmingway did it. And look where he...oh. I see. Ahem. Bad example.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Clotheshanger Gorilla

Who knew the remnants of drycleaning could look so...imposing?

This is artist David Mach's Coathanger Gorilla. It's made from thousands of welded-together coathangers placed over a plastic base. As you can see, it's quite impressive in size. Mr. Mach is also known for sculpting teddies gone bad art with plush toys. I'm not sure what Freud would have to say about it. But it looks neat. See the freaky stuff online.


86 year-old Republican WWII veteran makes impassioned speech at marriage rights rally in favour of gay rights. Touching.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ayn rand popular in new delhi

Found this super-fascinating article on Foreign Policy's website that explores the takeoff of Objectivism in the world's most populous democracy.

For those unfamiliar with Objectivism, it is a philosophy created by Russian-American writer and thinker Ayn Rand back in the earlier part of the 20th century. Her two most famous works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, put the Objectivist philosophy into practice, and have had an enormous impact on Western culture in the past half-century. 

Back in high school I read some Objectivist philosophy and found the idea of self-centered idealism rather distasteful. However, in my early 20s I read the Fountainhead and loved it. While I don't enjoy Atlas Shrugged as much (too much beating you about the head with her philosophy--and you may as well skip the last 200 pages) the book has sold more copies than pretty much any book other than the Bible. 

Choice quote from FP article:
"Rand's celebration of independence and personal autonomy has proven to be powerfully subversive in a culture that places great emphasis on conforming to the dictates of family, religion, and tradition...Rand's theory of the supremacy of reason and the virtue of selfishness adds up to "the antithesis" of Indian culture, which explains the attraction for...many rebellious Indian teens today."

In recent years, Rand has fallen out of favour as the economic monolith of the US has collapsed upon itself. In burgeoning democracies like India, however, this newly-discovered philosophy is a runaway hit. It's interesting to see the progression of capitalist ideas in society so completely different than ours in North America. Its impact on future world events could be interesting, especially since 1/6 of the world's population is involved. 

And hey, if nothing else, maybe we'll get a really great, musical number-filled Bollywood version of John Galt's speech. Rousing. 

More immunization yakkity yak

I know I keep coming back to this vaccination topic, but really, I am so concerned about our desire to do the right thing overcoming our better judgement that I'm going to publish every rational, fact-based bit of information I can find that puts the Jenny McCarthys in a corner.

This is an article from a parent in the US whose immuno-compromised child (Cancer--much more serious than a vaccine.) couldn't go to daycare because other parents had decided not to innoculate their children on "religious or moral" grounds.

"I realize that anti-vaccine sentiment has been around as long as the vaccines themselves. People who choose not to immunize their children may do so out of the best possible motives: They believe those vaccines endanger their children. But I wonder whether they have fully considered that the herd immunity, of which they are taking advantage, is designed to protect those who cannot be vaccinated."

EXACTLY. Because the more kids are immunized, the better off the rest of the kids will be. People need to stop taking disease for granted and weigh the real pros and cons. And just for the record, no, this does not apply to kids with severe egg allergies, as, obviously, the higher risk of dying from a severe reaction is worse than dying from mumps. But that is a separate (and PROVEN) reason against compared to the autism or "I don't believe in immunizing my kids" argument.

Anthropologist to modern men: ‘You’re the worst’

Another book to add to my ever-growing reading list. I think I'm at about 150 titles this year. Better get on it.
Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male by Peter McAllister.

The National Post published an article by this prominent anthropologist, explaining all the ways in which our bodies suck compared to our ancestors. For those who would use Darwin as means of explaining our superiority to what came before, Mr. McAllister would beg to differ. For all our longevity, nutrition and disease prevention, we're not quite on par with the Olympic-calibre athletes of the past.

See, as our brains get bigger, our bodies get punier and less able to succeed out in the jungle. Kind of makes you wonder what'll happen when the apocalypse is nigh. We'll have mighty strong thumbs from all that video game playing, but otherwise, our soft underbellies will be ripe for the disembowelling.

Take it from someone who's just entered week two of a strenuous bootcamp exercise class: our physical prowess is pathetic. (Also: burpees are the worst form of torture in existence.)

Even fit people aren't as fit as a lazy one-legged cro magnon. We seem to be exercising only one muscle. And while we've succeeded with that muscle beyond any scope our ancestors could have imagined, ignoring the rest of our muscles seems like it could spell trouble for us in our future.

Although, being a head floating in a jar of fluid aboard a spaceship has its perks, I'm sure. If I remember my Futurama correctly, however, things tended to go awry when the heads couldn't get around and were stuck sloshing about in saline.

“We are so inactive these days and have been since the Industrial Revolution really kicked into gear. These people were much more robust than we were." - Peter McAllister

Time to get off the couch and back to being chased across the Serengeti by a pack of lions?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Doting monkey mum

The Daily Mail ran this anthropomorphizing article over the Thanksgiving weekend. Seems that monkey mums go just a gooey over their cute little monkey babehs as human mums do. Reason #3,425,972 why monkeys are the radness.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

HPV Vaccine for Boys

An interesting article that takes a different tack from most: why not innoculate boys against HPV, not just girls? It relates to the sexual determinacy aspect of my previous post. Thoughts?

Friday, October 09, 2009

France returns egyptian artifacts

Back in the days before I became a word ho, pimpin' out my grammatical flash for cold, hard cash--I yearned to be and studied at being an anthro/archaeologist. Yeah, I'm one of those Indiana Jones, "this should be in a museum!" types. So this caught my eye.

See, the French are preparing to return a hoard to the country of its origin. Yes, the article's from a Sun paper (*ptooie*) but bear with me.

'Cuz wow. This is huge. It could set a precedent for other European countries, or at least shame those (*cough* England *cough*) that are home to thousands of historical artifacts from around the world.

Museums loan a lot of items to display things from other cultures they might otherwise not have access to. But the pillaging of late 19th and early 20th centuries has led to decades of bickering about who owns priceless treasures like the Pantheon friezes and King Tut's tomb contents.

Good on the French for returning some of these artifacts. I know the issue is deeper (would some of these items be in danger if returned to their home countries? I mean, no offence, but the site of ancient Babylon isn't exactly a safe place for people, let alone artifacts, right now.) but the principle is sound. I'm sure the British Museum wouldn't like to see its tourist dollars drop, but if the artifacts could be safely returned to Greece and displayed in a safe, secure setting, then shouldn't they be? It seems silly to travel the world to see the sights, only to be redirected to Berlin or London or Paris because that's where the actual artifacts from these sites are being kept.

Cultural imperialism has now given way to the "possession is 9/10ths of the law" philosophy all the way to "neener neener"-hood. Well, my ancestors stole it, not me, so I don't owe you anything. Well, we pay reparations to the descendants of enslaved and mistreated peoples, so why wouldn't we do the same with items that represent those peoples? Because Western culture's so much better? Because absconding with another's civilization makes us all the more civilized? Hmm...

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Brass Monkey

Origins: from the Oxford Dictionary online:

"The story goes that cannonballs used to be stored aboard ship in piles, on a brass frame or tray called a 'monkey'. In very cold weather the brass would contract, spilling the cannonballs: hence very cold weather is 'cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey'. There are several problems with this story. The first is that the term 'monkey' is not otherwise recorded as the name for such an object. The second is that the rate of contraction of brass in cold temperatures is unlikely to be sufficient to cause the reputed effect. The third is that the phrase is actually first recorded as 'freeze the tail off a brass monkey', which removes any essential connection with balls. It therefore seems most likely that the phrase is simply a ribald allusion to the fact that metal figures will become very cold to the touch in cold weather (and some materials will become brittle)."

Brass Monkey in Popular Culture:

Beastie Boys: "Brass Monkey", License to Ill
"Brass Monkey that funky Monkey
Brass Monkey - junkie
That funky Monkey

Brass Monkey:
A cocktail consisting of equal parts beer, and orange juice, or to a mixture of gin, triple sec, tequila, orange juice, sour mix and grapefruit juice, or to a mixture of rum, vodka and orange juice (with or without galliano).

Is there anything they can't do?

Pets rule.

Here's the latest example: a reading program set up by the Edmonton Public Library to encourage literacy in kids six to 12. The Paws for a Story program has volunteers who bring their pets along to read to kids.

Kids reading aloud to an animal develop greater confidence than reading in front of classmates or parents.

"When a child reads to a dog or a cat along with their trained volunteer, they don't have to worry about being judged or corrected based on their skills.It makes learning and practicing reading an enjoyable experience, instead of an intimidating one."

Reading = good. Pets = good. Pets and reading = amazing.
Good boy!
PS - the program mascot's a volunteer's pet Papillon. Just like my Colby. Well...he's a half-Papillon. But a brilliant dog, nonetheless.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Pfft. Whatever.

The New York Times published the results of a telephone survey (American, of course) that discovered the most annoying word in the English language.

"Whatever" won, beating out "it is what it is" and "you know"? Not to be a stickler, or anything, but those other terms are phrases, not words. I know, I know: whatever. Right?

I'd personally vote to have "irregardless" taken out of the lexicon, given that it's a conflation of two completely separate words: regardless and irrespective. Both are far superior to irregardless, no?

Also, I'd venture that "like" ranks up there. However taking it out of our vocabulary would leave many young people (me included) tongue-tied whenever we tried to describe a line of dialogue.

He was all like...and then I was like...erm...I mean, he said, and then I replied.

Eh. Whatever.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Pawns on a political chessboard.

Paula Simons really hit it out of the park today with her article on the Alberta Hospital shutdown. Invisible fist bump for Paula.

"On average, according to Alberta Health Services's own figures, two mentally ill patients arrive at an Edmonton emergency department every hour. That number will surely grow without Alberta Hospital's beds and services in the mix. Every metro ER will feel the consequences, and so will every shelter. For a provincial government that claims to be committed to ending homelessness and keeping communities safe, the shutdown of most of Alberta Hospital seems a grotesque step backward. Nor could the timing be worse, given that the province is just about to implement long-awaited legislation to make it easier to commit chronic psychiatric patients for care."

Not to sound too 14-year-old here, but "duh."

Monday, October 05, 2009

I have readers?

Wow. My last post won the "most comments" award at the Ms. Fitz bloggies. It's mostly me gifting myself with cheap trinkets and shiny bits of foil until I'm distracted and forget what I was typing.

...what was I saying?

Oh, yes. 

I like the debate and thinkatude that has resulted from said post. It was done in a whirlwind moment: I just found something that twigged my brain, and I typed it. Perhaps this is the key to longevity and presence online? Interesting. I like having readers. Though with enlarged fan base comes great responsibility. 

It pleases me to have people pay attention to me online without me having to take my clothes off or say something racist/sexist/hateful. 

Ok. Sometimes I say slightly hateful things. But it's justified, so I won't apologize. Twilight really does suck that bad. 

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Aw, shit.

**new: found this Monday morning:

British girl dies after HPV vaccine

As if the anti-vaccine nutjobs needed any more reason to deny girls a lifesaving shot.

Not only do anti-vaccination people grate on me (the Jenny McCarthy types who refuse to inoculate their kids and encourage others to do so based on the completely unfounded assumption that booster shots lead to autism) but the anti-HPV crowd have to go and throw sex in the way.

See, according to these silly folk (who could have used a few more hugs as children...or maybe a few more smacks upside the head. Maybe a combo.) young teenaged girls shouldn't get these shots, because it's only the fear of dying from horrible cervical cancer that keeps them in check and ensures that they keep their naughty bits in their pants.

Once young girls get vaccinated against HPV, it's like society is giving them license to spread their legs at will and contribute to our moral decay. So basically, HPV is the new AIDS. Well, at least what AIDS was in the 80s. Oh? A gay man got AIDS? Well, that's too bad, but really, his lifestyle choice was a sin against God, so the bum-lover deserved it. What? A woman died of cervical cancer? Well, it's probably because she was a promiscuous tart and this is her comeuppance.

Like abortion and birth control before it, the HPV vaccine threatens society's assumed right to control women's sexuality. What? You want to control your own body? Nay. The patriarchal overtones inherent in even the most progressive Western societies dictate that women's bodies are proprietary, and thus a threat to our civilization entire if left uncontrolled.

Now, a young girl dies from a vaccination. This is a statistical reality: some people react to shots. It's tragic, yes. But does that mean that girls should stop getting vaccinated? Hell no. Trust me, if there was a magical testicular cancer vaccine on the market, there would be no arguments on any side. Because it would be about men's health and vitality. Sure, testes are sexual organs, but it's men's lives we're talking about. Cervical cancer, though? Well, women's sexuality is always everyone's business, so if she develops cancer from HPV, it's most likely because she was a slut and deserved it. We can make assumptions about her because of an illness, no matter how unfounded. And what message would be sending to young girls if we encouraged them to get vaccinated? Either way, apparently, they'll end up dead.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ms. Fitz's Monkey of the Week: Nazca Monkey

 The Nazca Lines are nifty geoglyphs (geo = rock, glyph = shape/carving) in my "before I die" travel destination of Peru. High on a desert plateau, hundred of these shapes--including spiders, birds and simple lines--were carved by the Nazca people over 1,000 years ago. They can be seen from space! 

The geoglyph combines two of my favourite things: archaelogy and monkeys. There are more around the world, though none quite as cool. Go ahead, offer him a giant banana.