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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

The binomial theorem and herd immunity

Godfrey Hardy once called out another statistician's faulty analysis of Mendelian genetics, writing:

"A little mathematics of the multiplication table type is enough..."

I wish to call out some fatally flawed amateur assumptions about herd immunity. Please stay with me, because this has lockdown relevance. Be warned that the binomial theorem seems counter-intuitive, but it's a corner-stone of mathematics.

At one time, I was between jobs, and I worked as a casual (supply) teacher. I was amused once to hear some of my charges discussing me on a bus. One claimed I was their science teacher, another knew me as a computing teacher, and another thought I was their maths teacher. The fourth said "Naaah, he's Angus' dad."

They were all correct, but at the school where I taught maths, my Year 9 kids quickly worked out that I gave intellectually honest answers. I also had them to the point where a number of them came up to me in the playground to ask about maths problems I had floated past them. That's the payoff for being intellectually honest.

One of those kids, a boy, later asked me in class "what's the use of the binomial theorem?" and I said I would look into it. The next day, I gave an adequate answer. Now here's a Good Answer:
(a + b)^2 = a^2 + b^2 + 2ab. That's one form of the B.T. I keep hearing GladnBradnScotty bumbling about 70% vaccination being the Gold Standard, but consider a hundred random meetings after that time. Here are the odds: I will call single vax and no vax Nvx and double vax Dvx. P (Dvx x Dvx) = 0.7 x 0.7, so 49% might be OK. That may not be so, but let's pretend it is.
P (Nvx x NVx) = 0.3 x 0.3, so 9% are in a handbasket together. The balance of cases, 42%, involve a contact between a vaxed and a non-vaxed person (2 x 0.3 x 0.7, if you prefer). I call those people at risk, and notice that 42% > 30%. The 49% are OK, the 9% are self-selected and gone, but the 42% bloc is where the mayhem will occur. The vaxed can carry and spread the virus to the 21% of unvaxed that they encounter (and some of the vaxed can still be infected. Putting it another way, the 30% of unvaxed have a 70% chance of encountering a vaxed person: that's 21% another way.

Even with 80% vaxed, that means 16% vulnerable, and 90% vaxed leaves 9% vulnerable.

Now one of the three pollies named above once worked for me, and said numpty's papers were marked by me "not to be reemployed" due to incompetence, and I have only done that to one subordinate, ever. The other two are, in my estimation, far worse. These people should only be allowed to put the bins out, and even then, only if they are supervised.

There's a storm coming, and I want to be able to point back to this and say "Told you so!" There is no way in a sane world that you let decision-makers choose options when they haven't run the numbers. The Binomial Theorem does not make mistakes.

Please fasten your seatbelts...

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Back among the monsters

 In the first decade of this century, I had fun, over about five years, inventing a whole string of child-safe monsters, like the long-legged underbed pig and the hairyoddity. On the left, meet the mud alligator, which lived in pea soup and custard. It was nonsense, it was fun, but there was amusement there for adult readers as well, like the Post Impressionists, monsters that did impressions of posts and poles. And piano tunas

The vision was that we would, with deft handling, have the idea picked up for cartoons, and also decided that there would be a series of small booklets, similar in format to the Mr Men series. Seventeen openings, less than 100 words per opening.

The target kids were people like me (as a child) and mine, lively minds able to see the fun that underlay the literary allusions. The problem was that Marketing at Murdoch Books, a house that was going under, apparently didn't do anything literary or get anything vaguely intelligent. Just think of Scotty from Marketing.

See what I mean?

Anyhow, even though Cartoon Connection had taken an option on the series, and I had done a dozen or so story lines, bloody marketing tossed the whole thing into the remainders pile as the company collapsed, though the revived skeleton decided on keeping the ebook version on sale through Amazon. The price was, in my view, set too high.

Well, as I slip away into the mists of advanced middle age, I'm still pitching a few ideas that exist only on my hard disc, and that means the booklets are currently under scrutiny once again. Here's a sample, the title that features two mud alligators, Murray and Mustard.

The Mud Alligators who liked kitchens

“Mustard, you’re busted, get out of the custard!” shouted Big Al.

The chef’s roar made the other kitchen workers jump and drop things. They knew what it meant when Al shouted those words. He always shouted a lot, because he had an idea that it made the food taste better, but he wasn’t a good chef. He also believed that mud alligators in the pots made the food taste worse.

Mustard and Murray, the mud alligators, knew that they actually improved the flavour of the food . Everybody in the kitchen, except Al, knew that, so the workers did not tell him that Mustard had crept into the kitchen, and was in the custard pot, and that Murray was nearby.

*

The cleverer kitchen workers had already turned to the curry pot as the chef picked up a pointed stick and started poking into the custard. “Hurry, Murray, get out of the curry!” a gutter otter worker called out.

Two small snouts appeared in two pots, one curry-coloured and one custard-coloured. The crowd cheered, and the chef roared. “Out!” he cried, waving the stick and spreading globs of custard. “You’ve spoiled my two signature dishes from tonight’s menu!”

“But we make such a nice match,” said Mustard. “Me in the custard, and Murray in the curry.”

The chef waved a large mallet, the sort used to make meat tender. “Well, those pots weren’t made for you. Now be off, before I decide to add mud alligator stew to the menu!”

*

Sadly, slowly, dripping curry and custard, they went out the door into an alley. They walked along until they bumped into a gutter otter.

“Sorry,” they said.

“Oh, that’s all right,” the gutter otter said with a smile. “You’re very light. Anyhow, I’m Hibrau and I’m not mad—who are you and why are you so sad?

“We’re Mustard and Murray,” said Mustard. “We were hiding in the custard and the curry, but Al shouted “Hey!” and sent us both away.”

*

As you may have noticed, gutter otters like rhymes, so Hibrau raised one eyebrow. Everything about gutter otters is heavy, so he quickly put the eyebrow down again, but the strain made him forget to rhyme. “Mud alligators are named after rivers, but where’s the Mustard river?”

Mustard pointed over her shoulder. “It’s Mustard Creek, really, and it gets its name because it’s fed by hot springs. I’ve never seen it.”

“You should go and find it,” said Hibrau. “Maybe it’s full of trout.”

*

“It’s a very hot creek,” said Mustard. “I think they might be fish stew by now.”

“Or fish soup,” said Murray.

“Yummy!” shouted Mustard. “Let’s go!”. They packed up all the disguises they used to get into kitchens, tucked up their tails, climbed onto their unicycles and headed off into the hot dry centre of Australia.

“I hope there’s water in the creek,” Murray said.

Mustard laughed as she swerved to avoid a kangaroo. “Maybe it’s full of dry mustard!”

*

They unicycled under fruitbats, slipped around wombats and almost ran into three numbats on skateboards. They saw potoroos, wallaroos and kangaroos, and then they saw a sign.

It said “Mustard Creek, 800 km. Bring yer own water.”

“I think it’s going to be dry mustard,” said Murray, but he needn’t have worried. Further north, something was happening.

A cyclone had come rushing in, over the coast, where it calmed down and now it started soaking the land. Pitter-patter, went the rain.

*

Then the rain went splish-splosh, then flimp-flump, then it went BUCKET! The ground got wet, water soaked in until no more would fit, and a flood began to flow, slowly and quietly across flat Australia. It filled the runnels, it filled the channels, and it annoyed many animals by filling their tunnels.

In the hot dry south, Murray and Mustard unicycled north and west as the water dribbled south. Long before they got there, Mustard Creek was full and gurgling.

*

Water flowed over the sunny plains, and long before they got there, Mustard Creek had disappeared, covered by a sheet of water. Pelicans and other birds flew in from the coast to build nests. Granny and Grandpa Mactavish saw the birds fly by and got worried. They lived in the dry inland, because they couldn’t swim.

“The tractor’s bust, the truck’s full of rust, but the bike works just,” said Grandpa, looking at their tandem bicycle, leaning against a gum tree.

*

“Not too sure about that, the tyres are flat,” said Granny.

“Drat,” said Grandpa. “And the boat’s got a leak, so we’re quite up the creek.”

“We’d better walk to Little Mountain, then,” said Granny, who was always the practical one.

Little Mountain was well-named. City folks who saw it called it Mount Speed-Bump or Mount Molehill, but it was the one place on the plain that always dry.

They packed tents and swags and billies, and started off for Little Mountain.

*

By the time the Mactavishes had finished setting-up, they were hungry, and that was when they realised that they had forgotten to bring food. They hurried back to their home by the billabong and filled a big wheelbarrow with food. Then they started pushing it back to Little Mountain.

That was when the flood arrived, turning the ground to mud and bogging the wheelbarrow. As the water level rose, the barrow floated, and they were able to push it along, but soon the water was too deep for them.

*

That was when the monsters came around to help. The Mactavishes had never seen them, but the billabong by their home was full of monsters.

These were music-loving monsters who lurked in the shadows and the shallows when Granny and Grandpa sat on the verandah, playing duets on the viola and violin, or listening to evening concerts on the radio.

They always hid, in case they frightened Granny and Grandpa, but now the monsters all knew they just had to help them.

*

“If they get flooded out,” said a moat monster, “they might sell up to a tuba player!” The other moat monsters quivered at the thought. None of them liked tubas.

So she and the other moat monsters swam up to help the Mactavishes, giving them something to stand on in the deep water.

That worked until Grandpa said “This is rather fishy—the ground round here feels very squishy!” As quick as a flash, the moat monsters knew they had been spotted, and they swam away, leaving Granny and Grandpa clinging to the barrow.

*

The billabong’s only moby duck tried to help, but almost capsized the floating barrow and that made the Mactavishes panic.

Then the local Schrödinger’s Cheshire cat tried to help, but every time it appeared, Granny and Grandpa screamed, and that made it disappear.

A team of Invisigoths came up in a canoe and tried to help, but the Mactavishes got worried because they couldn’t see their helpers.

The motets (which look like hats) tried to help, but Grandpa had a hat-hating attack, and started to panic.

*

Murray and Mustard had unicycled in, with just their snouts and eyes out of the water, and they had seen all this. “They’re nervous,” said Mustard.

“Yes,” said Murray. “I think they’re scared of monsters, the silly things.”

“Maybe we could help, if we used our disguises,” said Mustard,

“Good idea! “said Murray, opening the disguise kit. They put on false moustaches and chef’s hats and swam over.

“Hello,” said Murray in a bad French accent.

“Hello! Who are you?” Granny asked.

*

“We are Gascon and Gourmand, ze famous unicycling chefs of Normandy. May we help you?”

Granny and Grandpa spotted the phony accent, but the Mactavishes were both keen cooks. They thought anybody in a chef’s hat should be trusted, so they accepted their help.

When they all came ashore on Little Mountain, Granny saw that they were a funny build for chefs, but they did have unicycles, and when she unpacked the barrow, they praised Grandpa's choices of curry powder and custard powder.

*

Even when Murray and Mustard sneezed their moustaches off, the Mactavishes still trusted them. When the other monsters came out of the water and apologised for scaring them, they began to relax. The couple cooked a meal for their guests, gave them a concert, and felt quite sad when a helicopter came to rescue them, so all the monsters had to hide.

Two months later when the flood had gone, the Mactavishes came back and went down to the billabong with the violin and viola.

*

They played, and all the monsters came out of the water. Now, as soon as Granny Mactavish hears the swish and clang of unicycles on the cattle grid, she starts making a large pan of curry, while Grandpa makes the custard.

Murray and Mustard live as happily as two mud alligators in curry and custard.

The other monsters have settled back into the billabong and started the world’s first and only lagerphone band that provides backing for violin and viola duets.

******************************

Notes (for groan-ups):

All words in this story were prepared in hygienically monster-free kitchens (if you don’t count the sue-troll and the plongeur bucket bogle).

Please note that on alternate Sundays, the sue-troll becomes litigious and should not be annoyed.

The flood was provided by Cooper Creek, where it takes three rivers to make a flood.

The third moat monster was played by Madame Brownell, our willing morphing murphy stand-in.

Warning: curry powder in this story may contain traces of lead chromate. This was the Visigoths’ idea, so don’t blame us if your toes fall off!

I mean, when did we suggest paddling in the custard, huh? Take it up with the sue-troll, but be warned: this is the second Sunday, and we told him you called him a suet roll. He isn't happy!

Reference

Glenn Miller, In the Mud.

Here's the full list of titles that are ready to go:

·        The Quarking Duck who hated bridges

·        The Invisigoth who wanted to stand out

·        The Mud Alligators who liked kitchens

·        Deconstructionist who liked books

·        The Sensible Cow who wanted to grow

·        The Molar Mole who wanted to live outdoors

·        The Sensible Cow who wanted to be bigger

·        The Hairyoddity who wanted to be smooth

·        The Piano Tunas who forgot their scales

·        The Mud Alligators who liked kitchens

·        The last of the Copywrong Pirates

·        The Dwarf Underbed Lion who went outside

·        The Gobblesock who was scared of water

·        The Schrödinger’s Cheshire Cat who forgot how to smile


Monday, 16 August 2021

A cretinous critic: William B Palmer

William B Palmer is about to learn that making outrageously untrue statements about my work carries a cost. I have granted myself permission to make manifestly true statements about him and his pathetic excuse for "work".

On the evidence set out below, he is a clown, a fool, a drivelling idiot, of that, there can be no doubt.

I don't look much at reviews of my books, so this 9-year-old review of The Speed of Nearly Everything has only come to my attention now, as I prepare a second edition.

You can see what it will look like, on the right, but I will have more to say about that later. Here's the most offensive part of Palmer's misleading review:

Note his first claim: the botfly is not in the index. Let's test that, with a small sample from my index: let's see what we can see...

Well, now, the moron didn't look very hard, did he? But it gets worse, when he says there is no "further explanation". Is this true?

Not really. Take a look at pages 17, 18 and 19, as indicated in the index. What a pity he didn't read this, instead of demonstrating his scintillating research skills by looking in Wikipedia.


That stupid, incompetent, illiterate and misleading review is featured by Amazon as its "top review", and there appears to be no way that I can respond, or contact Amazon to have these arrant lies taken down.

This same farrago of nonsense will no doubt be attached by Amazon to my new edition, and that is unacceptable.

His blunders are inexcusable, I want the whole load of dreck gone. As my friends know, and my enemies recall with regret, I am a scorched-earth person.

So I am going after this galah's head. He lives in Brighton Victoria, says he is a "retired university science lecturer", and this appears to be his mugshot.

Until such time as I get a grovelling apology and a complete removal of his damaging clumsy and stupid untruths, this stays up.

He lives in Australia (or did in 2020, when he posted his most recent review). If any of my Australian friends know him, please direct him to this, and tell him he's got a large load of crow to eat.



Australian history

The past 18 months of pandemic bungling have seen me staying closer to home, and pondering stuff. I'm not getting any younger, so I have been getting my back-burner cleaned up and tidied. Basically, I don't want to fall off my perch without saying quite a few things.

I'm not an historian, even if lots of people call me one: I am an enquirer after facts who writes accounts of history, and there are tiny minds out there who are fearful of the truth. Good: I like frightening tiny minds so they shrink and blink out.

Conservative politicians whine that standards are dropping, that children are no longer taught the important dates and names (meaning the names of those same conservative politicians). They want unquestioning and regimented learning of the names of lots of dead white males.

If you push them to define Australian history, their version comes down to Bushrangers and Convicts (all scum, of course), Diggers (the military ones), Explorers (brave openers of untamed wilderness), Farmers (who turned the sterile wilderness into riches at no cost) and Gold (ours by right of conquest). I call this the BCDEFG model of Australian history.

If you question these politicians about their favoured categories, they may be able to name three of the more than 2000 bushrangers who once flourished (Ned Kelly, Ben Hall and Thunderguts, usually); their understanding of the convict’s lot is pitiful; they could not locate a single battlefield on the world map; they would be lucky to name more than four explorers worthy of note (and no, “Captain” Cook and Burke and Wills don’t count); they have no notion of the harm done to country by agriculture; and their “history” of gold is codswallop.

So their BCDEFG history of Australia is a set of worthless scribbles, and only one in fifty of them will amend that to the ABCDEFG, because the ‘Aborigines’ don’t come into it for most of them—and don’t confuse the poor dears by amending it to a more polite IBCDEFG. Mention the role of Indigenous Australia in our history, and they will look at you like a Speewah back paddock bull that’s just run at full tilt into Crooked Mick of the Speewah. (Yes, I've done a book about him, as well.)

Then I had a brainwave and adopted Inga Clendinnen's name that she gave the original custodians in Dancing with Strangers. I call them Australians, so now I have my ABCDEFG, all stitched up, though I also look at the  homes we made, immigration and journeys, so I guess it's really ABCDEFGHIJ, but I have drawn the line there. Until I work out how to wedge in kaolin, liniment and medicine...

The sort of history I write is about How Things Worked, based heavily on contemporary descriptions. In my works, you learn about the things that don’t get mentioned in school, almost all of them things that happened after the white invasion in 1788, and from a legal point of view it WAS an invasion.

I like to explain how all the early Australians swam naked; wrote dreadful poetry; played strange sports; were fooled into believing in bunyips; feared foreign invasions (French, Russian or American); how convicts came to Australia; how free settlers travelled in the days of sail; what they ate, drank and wore; what the shops were like; town life and bush life; what diseases they got and how they treated them; how they used animal, wind and steam power; how they travelled across the land; coaches, trams, omnibuses and bicycles; ferries and ships; inns and pubs, and we’re only just half-way.

I look at how “explorers” followed established foot tracks (they called them “native roads”); how farms got started; how homes were made and managed; how society worked; how justice worked (not very well); punishment; race riots; the coolie system which exploited Indians, long before the Chinese were here; how Indigenous people were treated; newspapers, telegraphs and communication (some early Melbournites used smoke signals, and Port Arthur had a semaphore station!).

Getting the bit between my teeth, I look at education, democracy and science in a colonial setting; the people who visited, the plants and animal pests that came in; bushfires, floods, droughts and storms; the materials the early settlers used; the minerals they dug up (including the real story of gold in Australia, which is very different from what the school books say).

I also romp through the rogues, scallywags and conmen, and examine the armed forces and wars that changed Australia and the Australian myth.

I did that through four editions of The Big Book of Australian History, an exercise in truth telling for younger readers, published by the National Library of Australia, but the NLA seems to have fallen silent on a fifth edition, and I have, in any case, moved on to write for a more adult readership.

That brings me to my most recent effort, where I have cut loose from the apron strings of traditional print publishers, because I can do the job faster and cheaper. You Missed a Bit is a large collection of stuff I have written over the years in a number of books, all pulled together in one volume. On the left, you can see the cover of the ebook version.

And on the right, the cover of the necessarily more pricy print version, both available from the link above. At 813 pages and 1.4 kg, it's almost two inches thick (46.7 mm, if you want precision).  This is in-your-face history, boots and all, warts and all history. I have taken in stuff from this blog on occasions, but also from many of my earlier and now out-of-print books. This is a conscious effort on my part to keep the inconvenient truths out there for people to find.

Please, shed the word.



Saturday, 14 August 2021

One hundred questions for Book Week

 Yes, I notice that the answers aren't here. This will, I am sure, annoy a few clever children. When I was a student teacher, more than fifty years back, my former history teacher told me I would have no problems, because "Whatever they try on, you've already done it, and better than they could."

Here's a literary clue that may or may not help.

The answers are hidden in plain sight.

Multiple choice format

1.  How many lines are there in a limerick?
            (A) 5
            (B) 7
            (C) 8
            (D) 6

2.  What kind of bird is Hedwig?
            (A) an owl
            (B) an eagle
            (C) a hawk
            (D) a parrot

3.  When the princess slept on twenty mattresses, what could she feel under them?
            (A) A pumpkin
            (B) Her shoe
            (C) A cat
            (D) A pea

4.  Who created Miss Marple?
            (A) Leslie Charteris
            (B) Agatha Christie
            (C) Adam Dalgliesh
            (D) Ellery Queen

5.  Which writer created the fictional character Black Beauty?
            (A) Emily Bronte
            (B) Anna Sewell
            (C) Charles Dickens
            (D) Anthony Trollope

6.  Who wrote the play 'Hamlet'?
            (A) Henrik Ibsen
            (B) Ben Jonson
            (C) William Shakespeare
            (D) Christopher Marlowe

7.  Who wrote the poem 'Bell-Birds'
            (A) Breaker Morant
            (B) C. J. Dennis
            (C) Henry Kendall
            (D) Dorothy Wall

8.  What language did Julius Caesar most commonly speak and write in?
            (A) Latin
            (B) Romany
            (C) Greek
            (D) Etrurian

9.  Who created Sherlock Holmes?
            (A) Ian Rankin
            (B) Agatha Christie
            (C) G. K. Chesterton
            (D) Arthur Conan Doyle

10.  Who wrote 'The Man from Snowy River'?
            (A) Breaker Morant
            (B) C. J. Dennis
            (C) Hugh Ogilvie
            (D) Banjo Paterson

11.  Who wrote 'Fox in Socks', 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'?
            (A) Dr Seuss
            (B) Charles Dickens
            (C) James Joyce
            (D) Aldous Huxley

12.  Who created Noddy and wrote about 'The Famous Five' and 'The Secret Seven'?
            (A) Charles Dickens
            (B) Enid Blyton
            (C) Mark Twain
            (D) John Galsworthy

13.  Which poet created the character Hiawatha?
            (A) Henry Longfellow
            (B) Rudyard Kipling
            (C) Leigh Hunt
            (D) A. E. Housman

14.  What book which describes Gallipoli was written by Albert Facey?
            (A) My Fortunate Career
            (B) A Fortunate Life
            (C) 1915
            (D) On the Beach

15.  Which poet created the character Gunga Din
            (A) Tennyson
            (B) Rudyard Kipling
            (C) William Wordsworth
            (D) Shelley

16.  Which Australian artist also wrote novels and a children's book, but was best known for his nudes?
            (A) Sir Russell Drysdale
            (B) Norrman Lindsay
            (C) Pro Hart
            (D) Tom Roberts

17.  Which Andersen story is commemorated by a statue in the harbour of Copenhagen?
            (A) The Ice Maiden
            (B) The Little Mermaid
            (C) Thumbelina
            (D) The Little Match-Seller

18.  Who wrote the story of Robinson Crusoe?
            (A) Thomas Hardy
            (B) George Eliot
            (C) Daniel Defoe
            (D) Rudyard Kipling

19.  Who wrote the story of Peter Pan?
            (A) James Barrie
            (B) Rudyard Kipling
            (C) George Eliot
            (D) Thomas Hardy

20.  Which writer created the fictional character Oliver Twist?
            (A) Rudyard Kipling
            (B) Charles Dickens
            (C) Mark Twain
            (D) William Shakespeare

21.  What sort of an animal is Hairy McLary?
            (A) a dog
            (B) a spider
            (C) an angora goat
            (D) a caterpillar

22.  Colin Thiele wrote a book about a boy on the Coorong with an unusual animal friend. What was it?
            (A) an eagle
            (B) a shark
            (C) a pelican
            (D) a dolphin

23.  What sort of animal was Blinky Bill?
            (A) a hopping mouse
            (B) a koala
            (C) a possum
            (D) a kangaroo

24.  What sort of bird said "Nevermore" in a poem by Edgar Allen Poe?
            (A) a raven
            (B) a parrot
            (C) a macaw
            (D) a dodo

25.  Who wrote 'Storm Boy'?
            (A) Colin Thiele
            (B) May Gibbs
            (C) C. J. Dennis
            (D) Dorothea Mackellar

26.  Who wrote 'Mrs. Dalloway', 'To the Lighthouse' and 'A Room of One's Own'?
            (A) Virginia Woolf
            (B) Enid Blyton
            (C) Charles Dickens
            (D) F. Scott Fitzgerald

27.  Who created D. I. Rebus?
            (A) Agatha Christie
            (B) G. K. Chesterton
            (C) Leslie Charteris
            (D) Ian Rankin

28.  What was the real name of Henry Handel Richardson?
            (A) Mark Twain
            (B) Miles Franklin
            (C) George Sand
            (D) Ethel Florence Lindesay Richardson

29.  How did Captain Hook lose his hand?
            (A) A crocodile ate it
            (B) Peter Pan cut it off
            (C) He lost it in a shipwreck
            (D) He lost it in a fight

30.  Who wrote 'The Triantiwontigongolope'?
            (A) John O'Brien (Father P. J. Hartigan)
            (B) C. J. Dennis
            (C) Henry Kendall
            (D) Dorothy Wall

31.  Which famous poem contains the line "He stoppeth one of three"
            (A) Casey at the Bat
            (B) The Charge of the Light Brigade
            (C) The Ancient Mariner
            (D) How the Melbourne Cup Was Won

32.  Who wrote the story of Anna Karenina?
            (A) Leo Tolstoy
            (B) George Eliot
            (C) James Barrie
            (D) Charlotte Brontë

33.  Who wrote 'Possum Magic'?
            (A) May Gibbs
            (B) Mem Fox
            (C) Manning Clark
            (D) Norman Lindsay

34.  Tiny Tim has the last words in a famous Christmas story. What does he say?
            (A) Bah, Humbug!
            (B) I want some more!
            (C) God bless Us, Every One!
            (D) Merry Christmas!

35.  In Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book', which animals brought up Mowgli?
            (A) monkeys
            (B) tigers
            (C) wolves
            (D) bears

36.  In a famous cricket poem, 'Vitai Lampada', where was there a breathless hush?
            (A) on the green
            (B) around the ground
            (C) in the stands
            (D) in the close

37.  Which writer created the fictional character Jeeves?
            (A) P. G. Wodehouse
            (B) G. H. Hardy
            (C) H. G. Wells
            (D) P. D. James

38.  Who were the three men collectively known as the Three Musketeers?
            (A) Aramis, Porthos and d'Artagnan
            (B)  Athos, Aramis and d'Artagnan
            (C) Porthos, Athos and d'Artagnan
            (D) Aramis, Porthos and Athos

39.  Who wrote the play 'The Club' and 'Don's Party'?
            (A) Ray Lawler
            (B) Tom Stoppard
            (C) David Williamson
            (D) Louis Nowra

40.  Who wrote 'It was a Lover and his Lass'?
            (A) William Shakespeare
            (B) Lennon and McCartney
            (C) John Donne
            (D) Robbie Burns

41.  How many lines are there in a sonnet?
            (A) 5
            (B) 14
            (C) Between 8 and 12
            (D) 24

42.  What is a clerihew?
            (A) a verse of four lines
            (B) a type of garment
            (C) a type of animal
            (D) a disease of cattle

43.  What was the Mabinogion?
            (A) a collection of Welsh legends
            (B) a horde of gold in Rhiw
            (C) a Druidic ritual
            (D) a train near Blaenau

44.  In a famous children's book, Dot had a friend. What was it?
            (A) a kangaroo
            (B) a possum
            (C) a pelican
            (D) a hopping mouse

45.  Who met Mole on the river bank and took him for a boat ride?
            (A) Rat in 'Wind in the Willows'
            (B) the white rabbit in 'Alice in Wonderland'
            (C) Bunyip Bluegum in 'The Magic Pudding'
            (D) a kangaroo, in Dot and the Kangaroo

46.  Who wrote 'Emma' and 'Jane Eyre'?
            (A) Enid Blyton
            (B) Aldous Huxley
            (C) Mark Twain
            (D) Charlotte Bronte

47.  They were philologists and linguists, but we recall them for their fairy tale collections. Who were they?
            (A) Brothers Karamazov
            (B) Blyton sisters
            (C) Brothers Grimm
            (D) Brontë sisters

48.  At the start of 'A Christmas Carol', we are told that somebody is dead. Who is it?
            (A) Marley
            (B) Scrooge
            (C) Bob Cratchit
            (D) Tiny Tim's sister

49.  Who wrote 'Crime and Punishment'?
            (A) Eugene Onegin
            (B) Boris Pasternak
            (C) Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
            (D) Count Leo Tolstoy

50.  Who wrote 'The Selfish Gene'?
            (A) Richard Dawkins
            (B) Gregor Mendel
            (C) Francis Crick
            (D) James Watson

51.  Who created the first true English dictionary?
            (A) George Bernard Shaw
            (B) William Shakespeare
            (C) James Boswell
            (D) Samuel Johnson

52.  By what name is Mary Ann Evans better known?
            (A) Henry Handel Richardson
            (B) George Eliot
            (C) George Sand
            (D) June Bronhill

53.  From which Shakespeare play did Tom Stoppard lift the line "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead"?
            (A) King Lear
            (B) Julius Caesar
            (C) Macbeth
            (D) Hamlet

54.  Who wrote 'Robbery under Arms'?
            (A) Rolf Boldrewood
            (B) Henry Lawson
            (C) Ruth Park
            (D) Marcus Clarke

55.  Who wrote 'Moby Dick'?
            (A) Herman Melville
            (B) Dr Seuss
            (C) Henry Lawson
            (D) Mark Twain

56.  Who wrote the poem 'Said Hanrahan'?
            (A) Henry Kendall
            (B) Breaker Morant
            (C) Michael Massey Robinson
            (D) John O'Brien (Father P. J. Hartigan)

57.  Who wrote a short story called 'The Loaded Dog'?
            (A) Miles Franklin
            (B) Henry Kendall
            (C) Banjo Paterson
            (D) Henry Lawson

58.  Which poet created the character Nicholas Nye
            (A) Leigh Hunt
            (B) Henry Longfellow
            (C) Walter de la Mare
            (D) Percy Shelley

59.  Which famous poem contains the line "the boy stood on the burning deck"?
            (A) Drake's Drum
            (B) Casabianca
            (C) Tom Bowling
            (D) The wreck of the Hesperus

60.  Which country had playwright Vaclav Havel as its leader?
            (A) Yugoslavia
            (B) USSR
            (C) Poland
            (D) Czech Republic

61.  According to Ray Bradbury, what is the flash point at which paper ignites?
            (A) 451 degrees Fahrenheit
            (B) 100 degrees Celsius
            (C) 451 degrees Celsius
            (D) 911 degrees Celsius

62.  What sort of an animal was C. J. Dennis' Triantiwontigongolope?
            (A) a three-legged horse
            (B) a giant rabbit
            (C) a spider
            (D) a caterpillar

63.  Who dictated The Jerilderie letter?
            (A) Ned Kelly
            (B) Dan Kelly
            (C) Black Caesar
            (D) Ben Hall

64.  Which two Australian poets played the lead roles in the 'Bush Controversy'?
            (A) John Neilson and John Shaw Neilson
            (B) John O'Brien and Father P. J. Hartigan
            (C) Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson
            (D) Breaker Morant and Adam Lindsay Gordon

65.  Which Australian poet won the 1996 £5,000 T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry for his Subhuman Redneck Poems?
            (A) Mark O'Connor
            (B) John Tranter
            (C) David Campbell
            (D) Les Murray

66.  Dr Dolittle had a talking dog.  What was his name?
            (A) Crab
            (B) Lassie
            (C) Jip
            (D) Fido

67.  Which writer created the fictional character Tarzan?
            (A) Edgar Rice Burroughs
            (B) Rider Haggard
            (C) H. G. Wells
            (D) Fenimore Cooper

68.  Which American author went by train over the Blue Mountains and said the coffee was like sheep-dip?
            (A) Washington Irving
            (B) Mark Twain
            (C) Harper Lee
            (D) Ernest Hemingway

69.  Which writer created the fictional character Major Major Major?
            (A) Henry Lawson
            (B) Ian Fleming
            (C) Enid Blyton
            (D) Joseph Heller

70.  Which famous poet used the line 'Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!'
            (A) William McGonagall
            (B) Samuel Taylor Coleridge
            (C) William Wordsworth
            (D) Henry Lawson

71.  Which poet wrote the poem that includes the lines "At the going down of the sun and in the morning/We will remember them"?
            (A) John McCrae
            (B) Henry Newbolt
            (C) Laurence Binyon
            (D) Rudyard Kipling

72.  Where did fictional cracksman Raffles commit his first robbery?
            (A) outside Melbourne
            (B) in Perth
            (C) in central Sydney
            (D) in Adelaide

73.  Who wrote several geology books, including The Antiquity of Man, and inspired Charles Darwin?
            (A) Erasmus Darwin
            (B) Josiah Wedgwood
            (C) Jeremy Bentham
            (D) Charles Lyell

74.  Which Australian naturalist wrote 'The Future Eaters'?
            (A) Jared Diamond
            (B) Isaac Asimov
            (C) Jeremy Bentham
            (D) Tim Flannery

75.  When Muslims speak of 'the children of the book', which other religions are they referring to?
            (A) Judaism and Hinduism
            (B) Hinduism and Buddhism
            (C) Christianity and Judaism
            (D) Christianity and Buddhism

76.  About when was the Book of Kells created?
            (A) Early 9th century
            (B) Late 12th century
            (C) Mid-16th century
            (D) Mid-4th century

77.  Gradgrind and Squeers are both evil schoolmasters. Which two books do they appear in?
            (A) Oliver Twist' and 'Hard Times'
            (B) 'Hard Times' and 'Nicholas Nickleby'
            (C) 'Nicholas Nickleby' and 'David Copperfield'
            (D) 'David Copperfield' and 'Oliver Twist'

78.  Which of these authors is or was really a man?
            (A) P. D. James
            (B) Henry Handel Richardson
            (C) George Eliot
            (D) H. G. Wells

79.  Before Robert Louis Stevenson started publishing, what was his family famous for?
            (A) Building lighthouses
            (B) Mucking byres
            (C) Distilling whiskey
            (D) Stealing cattle

80.  The three writing Bell sisters were better known as what?
            (A) The Brothers Karamazov
            (B) The Brontë sisters
            (C) The Brothers Grimm
            (D) The Weird Sisters

81.  Who was the British poet-laureate who wrote detective novels under the nom-de-plume Nicholas Blake?
            (A) Adam Dalgliesh
            (B) Alfred, Lord Tennyson
            (C) Robert Graves
            (D) Cecil Day-Lewis

82.  Which Welsh poet lost a foot while 'jumping rattlers' in the USA?
            (A) W H Davies
            (B) Dylan Thomas
            (C) Ann Griffiths
            (D) Dafydd ap Gwilym

83.  In which Charles Dickens novel does a character keep "a copper-coloured woman in linen, with a bright handkerchief round her head, to serve her Tiffin"?
            (A) Oliver Twist
            (B) David Copperfield
            (C) Barnaby Rudge
            (D) Nicholas Nickleby

84.  Near the home of the wombles, there is a windmill, in which a famous book for boys (and girls) was written: what was the book called?
            (A) Beau Geste
            (B) Treasure Island
            (C) Swallows and Amazons
            (D) Scouting for Boys

85.  Who wrote a short carol: 'May all my enemies go to hell, Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel'?
            (A) Robespierre
            (B) Ebenezer Scrooge
            (C) Hilaire Belloc
            (D) G. H. Hardy

86.  What was Giraldus Cambrensis discussing when he said "... you might believe it was the work of an angel rather than a human being"
            (A) Trinity College
            (B) The Book of Kells
            (C) Gallarus Oratory
            (D) Guinness

87.  Who was the famous brother-in-law of the author who created Raffles?
            (A) Charles Dickens
            (B) Somerset Maugham
            (C) H. G. Wells
            (D) Arthur Conan Doyle

88.  Which poets, father and son, took out the senior and junior prizes for poetry in an Australian Natives Association competition in 1893?
            (A) Pixie O Harris and Rolf Harris
            (B) Henry Lawson Sr and Henry Lawson Jr
            (C) Surgeon John Harris and Pixie O Harris
            (D) John Neilson and John Shaw Neilson

89.  Long John Silver was based on an editor and poet. What was his name?
            (A) W. E. Henley
            (B) Leigh Hunt
            (C) Samuel Johnson
            (D) Henry Newbolt

90.  What disease was running riot at the time of Boccaccio's Decameron?
            (A) mumps
            (B) measles
            (C) tuberculosis
            (D) the Black Death

91.  What disease is mentioned in the title of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?
            (A) poliomyelitis
            (B) porphyria
            (C) cholera
            (D) tuberculosis

92.  Mr. Micawber became a magistrate: where did he take his place on the Bench?
            (A) Port Esterbrand
            (B) Port Middlebay
            (C) Port Arthur
            (D) Port Macquarie

93.  At the start of 'Bleak House', what creature does Dickens picture, waddling up Holborn Hill?
            (A) A megalosaurus.
            (B) An elephant.
            (C) Queen Victoria.
            (D) A wildebeest.

94.  Who was the murderer in Dickens' 'Hunted Down'?
            (A) Uriah Heap
            (B) Smike
            (C) Slinkton
            (D) Sykes

95.  In 'Pickwick Papers', Mr. Pickwick has written a paper about Hampstead Ponds and
            (A) cricket bats
            (B) numbats
            (C) wombats
            (D) tittlebats

96.  Which writer correctly predicted that Mars would have two moons, 100 years before they were seen?
            (A) Jonathan Swift
            (B) H G Wells
            (C) Charles Dickens
            (D) Jules Verne

97.  Which Australian poet died in an English poorhouse after being deserted by her husband?
            (A) May Gibbs
            (B) Jennings Carmichael
            (C) Dorothea Mackellar
            (D) Dorothy Wall

98.  Who wrote the play 'The Sport of My Mad Mother'?
            (A) George Bernard Shaw
            (B) Ann Jellicoe
            (C) Christopher Marlowe
            (D) Arthur Miller

99.  Before he became famous, Joseph Conrad met another future author in Adelaide in 1893.  Who was it?
            (A) Mark Twain
            (B) Rudyard Kipling
            (C) H. G. Wells
            (D) John Galsworthy

100.  Who was given two cows by Governor Macquarie in about 1819 for his services as colonial "poet laureate"?
            (A) Henry Lawson
            (B) Manning Clark
            (C) Michael Massey Robinson
            (D) C. J. Dennis

 


Free response format

1.  How many lines are there in a limerick?

2.  What kind of bird is Hedwig?

3.  When the princess slept on twenty mattresses, what could she feel under them?

4.  Who created Miss Marple?

5.  Which writer created the fictional character Black Beauty?

6.  Who wrote the play 'Hamlet'?

7.  Who wrote the poem 'Bell-Birds'

8.  What language did Julius Caesar most commonly speak and write in?

9.  Who created Sherlock Holmes?

10.  Who wrote 'The Man from Snowy River'?

11.  Who wrote 'Fox in Socks', 'The Cat in the Hat' and 'Green Eggs and Ham'?

12.  Who created Noddy and wrote about 'The Famous Five' and 'The Secret Seven'?

13.  Which poet created the character Hiawatha?

14.  What book which describes Gallipoli was written by Albert Facey?

15.  Which poet created the character Gunga Din

16.  Which Australian artist also wrote novels and a children's book, but was best known for his nudes?

17.  Which Andersen story is commemorated by a statue in the harbour of Copenhagen?

18.  Who wrote the story of Robinson Crusoe?

19.  Who wrote the story of Peter Pan?

20.  Which writer created the fictional character Oliver Twist?

21.  What sort of an animal is Hairy McLary?

22.  Colin Thiele wrote a book about a boy on the Coorong with an unusual animal friend. What was it?

23.  What sort of animal was Blinky Bill?

24.  What sort of bird said "Nevermore" in a poem by Edgar Allen Poe?

25.  Who wrote 'Storm Boy'?

26.  Who wrote 'Mrs. Dalloway', 'To the Lighthouse' and 'A Room of One's Own'?

27.  Who created D. I. Rebus?

28.  What was the real name of Henry Handel Richardson?

29.  How did Captain Hook lose his hand?

30.  Who wrote 'The Triantiwontigongolope'?

31.  Which famous poem contains the line "He stoppeth one of three"

32.  Who wrote the story of Anna Karenina?

33.  Who wrote 'Possum Magic'?

34.  Tiny Tim has the last words in a famous Christmas story. What does he say?

35.  In Rudyard Kipling's 'The Jungle Book', which animals brought up Mowgli?

36.  In a famous cricket poem, 'Vitai Lampada', where was there a breathless hush?

37.  Which writer created the fictional character Jeeves?

38.  Who were the three men collectively known as the Three Musketeers?

39.  Who wrote the play 'The Club' and 'Don's Party'?

40.  Who wrote 'It was a Lover and his Lass'?

41.  How many lines are there in a sonnet?

42.  What is a clerihew?

43.  What was the Mabinogion?

44.  In a famous children's book, Dot had a friend. What was it?

45.  Who met Mole on the river bank and took him for a boat ride?

46.  Who wrote 'Emma' and 'Jane Eyre'?

47.  They were philologists and linguists, but we recall them for their fairy tale collections. Who were they?

48.  At the start of 'A Christmas Carol', we are told that somebody is dead. Who is it?

49.  Who wrote 'Crime and Punishment'?

50.  Who wrote 'The Selfish Gene'?

51.  Who created the first true English dictionary?

52.  By what name is Mary Ann Evans better known?

53.  From which Shakespeare play did Tom Stoppard lift the line "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead"?

54.  Who wrote 'Robbery under Arms'?

55.  Who wrote 'Moby Dick'?

56.  Who wrote the poem 'Said Hanrahan'?

57.  Who wrote a short story called 'The Loaded Dog'?

58.  Which poet created the character Nicholas Nye

59.  Which famous poem contains the line "the boy stood on the burning deck"?

60.  Which country had playwright Vaclav Havel as its leader?

61.  According to Ray Bradbury, what is the flash point at which paper ignites?

62.  What sort of an animal was C. J. Dennis' Triantiwontigongolope?

63.  Who dictated The Jerilderie letter?

64.  Which two Australian poets played the lead roles in the 'Bush Controversy'?

65.  Which Australian poet won the 1996 £5,000 T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry for his Subhuman Redneck Poems?

66.  Dr Dolittle had a talking dog.  What was his name?

67.  Which writer created the fictional character Tarzan?

68.  Which American author went by train over the Blue Mountains and said the coffee was like sheep-dip?

69.  Which writer created the fictional character Major Major Major?

70.  Which famous poet used the line 'Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!'

71.  Which poet wrote the poem that includes the lines "At the going down of the sun and in the morning/We will remember them"?

72.  Where did fictional cracksman Raffles commit his first robbery?

73.  Who wrote several geology books, including The Antiquity of Man, and inspired Charles Darwin?

74.  Which Australian naturalist wrote 'The Future Eaters'?

75.  When Muslims speak of 'the children of the book', which other religions are they referring to?

76.  About when was the Book of Kells created?

77.  Gradgrind and Squeers are both evil schoolmasters. Which two books do they appear in?

78.  Which of these authors is or was really a man?

79.  Before Robert Louis Stevenson started publishing, what was his family famous for?

80.  The three writing Bell sisters were better known as what?

81.  Who was the British poet-laureate who wrote detective novels under the nom-de-plume Nicholas Blake?

82.  Which Welsh poet lost a foot while 'jumping rattlers' in the USA?

83.  In which Charles Dickens novel does a character keep "a copper-coloured woman in linen, with a bright handkerchief round her head, to serve her Tiffin"?

84.  Near the home of the wombles, there is a windmill, in which a famous book for boys (and girls) was written: what was the book called?

85.  Who wrote a short carol: 'May all my enemies go to hell, Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel'?

86.  What was Giraldus Cambrensis discussing when he said "... you might believe it was the work of an angel rather than a human being"

87.  Who was the famous brother-in-law of the author who created Raffles?

88.  Which poets, father and son, took out the senior and junior prizes for poetry in an Australian Natives Association competition in 1893?

89.  Long John Silver was based on an editor and poet. What was his name?

90.  What disease was running riot at the time of Boccaccio's Decameron?

91.  What disease is mentioned in the title of a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

92.  Mr. Micawber became a magistrate: where did he take his place on the Bench?

93.  At the start of 'Bleak House', what creature does Dickens picture, waddling up Holborn Hill?

94.  Who was the murderer in Dickens' 'Hunted Down'?

95.  In 'Pickwick Papers', Mr. Pickwick has written a paper about Hampstead Ponds and

96.  Which writer correctly predicted that Mars would have two moons, 100 years before they were seen?

97.  Which Australian poet died in an English poorhouse after being deserted by her husband?

98.  Who wrote the play 'The Sport of My Mad Mother'?

99.  Before he became famous, Joseph Conrad met another future author in Adelaide in 1893.  Who was it?

100.  Who was given two cows by Governor Macquarie in about 1819 for his services as colonial "poet laureate"?