Category Archives: off beat

Benoît B Mandelbrot











Most of my readers will recognise the Fractal series known as the Mandelbrot Set.

The Mandelbrot set is named after Benoît B Mandelbrot, who studied and popularized it. It has become popular outside mathematics both for its aesthetic appeal and for being a complicated structure arising from a simple definition, and is one of the best-known examples of mathematical visualization. Many mathematicians, including Mandelbrot, communicated this area of mathematics to the public.

What has not been communicated to the general public, for reasons of national sanity, is that the “B” in Benoît B Mandelbrot stands for “Benoît B Mandelbrot”.


You Need To Know

Militant Ovines

Australia is full of sheep. And Sheeple.

Here is a group of those sheep who look ready to revolt.

They are sheeping the barricades. Planning to wipe out Mint Sauce.


Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the sheeple sing?
Singing a song of angry rams?
It is the music of ovines
Who will not be shorn again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

An Ebola Whimsy

Come along with me while I play a game of what if.

As a nation, a hemisphere, a political hegemony, we are being told to be terrified of Ebola.

It is indeed a nasty disease and results in more fatalities than cures. While Ebola is nasty it does not have a high infection rate.

What should I fear? On a medical level, of course. There is plenty else to be afraid of. So, what should I fear?

I should fear flu-mutations. Airborne infection. It only needs a nasty mutation to make the flu the worst killer in history. Many other mutations, in the past, were self-limiting because there was limited contact between groups and areas. With modern transport the infection could be world-wide in a week and need a six month research effort to develop an antidote! Ebola isn’t the biggest worry. That is reserved for the joke diseases – “Man”flu, “Bird”flu, “Swine”flu or perhaps, worst of all, “Mouse”flu!

Rodent Flu could be as bad as the Black Death which killed between 30% and 60% of the human species in the middle of the 1300’s. That was spread by the fleas on infected rats which were immune to the disease. Influenza is carried in many different forms by many different animals, including most mammals. Should mice or rats, with their close association with humans, develop a virulent, air-spread form of Flu then we could have severe problems.

While we do have expert and dedicated science institutions capable of developing a vaccine withing the apparently short period of six months we may not have that time. We are so used to “Flu seasons” which limit the spread through populations that we are totally unprepared for the alternative. A virus which is spread through the air, without reference to our accepted seasons.

Such a virus would be spread throughout the world within days rather than weeks because of our mass transit systems. Airlines would carry it across borders in hours. The research bodies my not have the required six months before their structures collapse.

Let us assume for the sake of this flight of fancy that this new mutated virus is as effective in transmitting itself as the Black Death. That is causes an around 50% – 70% reduction in the human population of the earth. What would be the results?

While I agree a 90% virus (or microbe) is a possibility it is worth remembering that the worst we have faced in known history have been around 50% – 70% death rates. That 70% was the Black Death in parts of Europe in the mid-1300’s. An interseting and probably related fact is that the Renaissance began where the disease had entered Europe, in Italy, just one ot two generations later. The Dark Ages were ended, not by knowledge but by a disease. Not by gradual change but by a social upheaval.

A virus/microbe thing was what HG Wells saw as the Earth’s salvation in his novel, “War of the Worlds”. In his case the invaders were fatally infected by the common cold.

After the plague.

We, as a society have grown to expect a Governmental and a Military response. The problem will be that they will also suffer the same death rate as the rest of the population. With that sort of attrition rate we can expect several panicking Government or Military people to send off some nuclear weapons.

Much of our infrastucture depends on the current over-population. As the infrastructure collapses (trains, Plains, roads, communications} the intial survivors will be the billionaires who are probably the least suited to survival in a depopulated world. While they may have stockpiled enough for a lifetime’s survival, it will leave their spoiled children in some disarray. There is satisfaction in thinking about that!

Groups of survivors of the New Plague will probably lose touch with distant groups as the Internet, television and radio will die fairly quickly as satellites and fibre optic cables break down. Food will become a local thing again as long distance transport dies over the generation after the disaster.Within those groups and areas, land will become more plentiful, the average worker will become more valuable and the plutocrats will lose most of their assets. The 1% will probably survive for one generation!

Those best suited to survive will be the substinance groups; the indigenous communities in Australia, the untamed Amazonian tribes, the Arctic groups, the San of Southern Africa. That sort of thing. All isolated from each other with new stories to tell and new religions to develop. Sadly the redneck “survivalists of the USA will also have a high survival rate. Dedicated and selfish survivors with stockpiled weapons! Luckily they will only be able to move around on horseback! And there are limits on how much ammunition any one person can stockpile.

For those small groups based on the old cities and agricultural areas there is a further limit to their recovery and survival which was not present at the end of the Dark Ages. This was a thought I had last night while peeling my home-grown broad beans for dinner. Monsanto are busy making sure as many cropping species as possible become infertile in the second generation so everyone has to but seedstock from them! They are also killing the bees so that only their own self-pollinating crops are left viable. In the new world, post virus, many of the survivors will starve because of this!

Just bye the bye, unusually for an American Corporation (irony alert) the entire board of Monsanto are practising Christians. Surely they have our well being foremost in their minds.

The possible political outcomes of a disaster of this size are also fascinating. The loss of entrenched power within large groupings and the growth of power in the hands of artisans and labourers would make for booksful of discussion. New religions and rituals will be created in response to anger at the Gods which allowed such a cataclysm.

That is where I shall leave this post. It is an interesting mind game and puts this current Ebola scare, along with the HIV, Bird and Swine Flus, and even the Spanish Flu of 1918, into perspective. Bad as they were or could have been, none of them dislocated society. Even the Spanish Flu with 85 million victims did nor “Decimate” the population as that implies the loss of one in ten. The virus I postulate will halve the population. At least the tigers will be happy.

That plague is yet to come.

Unless the asteroid hits us first!

I Love Fremantle

They do things diferently, down at the Port of Fremantle.


Hounen Matsuri (Penis Day)

We males have just ten days to prepare ourselves for this major Japanese festival.

March 15th is Hounen Matsuri (Penis Day), an ancient Shinto celebration of life.

People of the town of Komaki, about 250 miles south of Tokyo, will once again celebrate this fertility festival.

The festival’s main features are Shinto priests playing musical instruments, a parade of ceremonially garbed participants, all-you-can-drink sake, and a 280 kg (620 pound), 2.5 meter (96 inch)-long wooden phallus. The wooden phallus is carried from a shrine called Shinmei Sha (in even-numbered years) on a large hill or from Kumano-sha Shrine (in odd-numbered years), to a shrine called Tagata Jinja.

The festival starts with celebration and preparation at 10:00 a.m. at Tagata Jinja, where all sorts of foods and souvenirs (mostly phallus-shaped or related) are sold. Sake is also passed out freely from large wooden barrels. At about 2:00 p.m. everyone gathers at Shinmei Sha for the start of the procession. Shinto priests say prayers and impart blessings on the participantsi, as well as on the large wooden phallus, which are to be carried along the parade route.

It was carved from a single cypress tree trunk by a 90-year-old man, and is is offered at the shrine as a symbolic prayer for hounen, a fruitful year of abundant harvests and growth for all living things.

Over the page is not suitable for work (NSFW)

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America’s First Climate Refugees

Oh, Messrs Koch, you will be held in contempt by your Grandchildren.


Monsanto Wins Case Of Seed Patents; Planting Your Own Legally Purchased & Grown Seeds Can Be Infringing

The grasping tentacles of this monstrous corporation could do more damage to the human species than any natural disaster.

Looking closely at comment #12


Bulldozers destroy Mayan pyramid in Belize

The historian in me is dismayed and outraged!


Spaceman Hadfield touches down after ISS mission

A good bit of news at last.

Although I wonder if mankind will walk on the moon during my children’s lifetime.

Commander Chris Hadfield can sing a bit as well. Even David Bowie thinks it is a good cover.


New procedure prolongs lives of heart attack victims

This is a really good one. Lifesaving and wonderful.

Tho’ I do wonder what this will do to transplant protocols.


Japanese politician defends use of sex slaves

This one makes me see red. It is so wrong on so many levels!


Oxford Uni honours Thatcher with scholarship

I do hope they are holding her up as a horrible example!


UN urges people to eat insects to fight world hunger

I don’t mind being Green




Relax! It Isn’t A Drop Bear

My first instinct was to run.

Then I realised that drop bears do not show themselves until it is to late to escape!

But my heart was beating nineteen to the dozen for quite a while!

Drop Bears are scary beasties.

On a road outside the small township of  Woorooloo.

No! I don’t know why.

Getting his own back!

Living the Jane Austin Dream

IT is a truth universally acknowledged,Jane Austin, Kate Middleton that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

So wrote Jane Austin ((1775-1817) in Sense and Sensibility.

Now  her eleventh-cousin-six-times-removed’s is living the dream. Kate Middleton has found a young man with a middling-sized fortune and she has become his wife. has found they are linked through Henry Percy, the second Earl of Northumberland, who was born in 1392. Percy was the second great-grandson of King Edward III, making King Edward a distant great-grandfather of Kate’s.

So Kate has simply married back into the family.

The famed genealogical site has made the announcement exactly 200 years after the English novelist published her first literary masterpiece, pippa middleton, pippa middleton's assSense and Sensibility.

<<< We now need to find a fortune-holding young man interested in buying marrying this interesting artifact.

The Purse Demon


Chihuahua Demon

Cats Are Evil!

Teh Awesome

After What Animal are the Canary Islands Named?

And other useless information about the islands which

may reduce the amount of General Ignorance in the world.

Dogs.The birds are named after the islands (where they are indigenous), not the other way round. The archipelago gets its name from the Latin name for the largest of the islands, which the Romans named ‘Isle of Dogs’ (Insula Canaria) after the large numbers of dogs there, both wild and domesticated.

Canaries are a kind of finch and were originally a mottled greeny-brown, but over 400 years of cross-breeding by human beings produced their familiar yellow colour. No one has ever bred a red canary but it seems a diet of red peppers may turn them orange.

Only the male canaries sing; they can also mimic telephones and other household devices. ‘Tweety ‘ in the Warner cartoons is, of course, a very precocious canary.

For centuries, British mining regulations required the keeping of a small bird for gas detection. They were used in this way until 1986, and the wording wasn’t removed from the regulations until 1995. The idea was that toxic gases like carbon monoxide and methane killed the birds before they injured the miners. Canaries were favoured because they sing a lot, so it’s noticeable when they go quiet and fall over.

Other interesting stuff about the Canary Islands

While there is a possibility that a previous civilisation had existed on the Archipelago, the original inhabitants appear to have arrived sometime between 1000BC and 100BC. Named the Guanche, they have linguistic affinities with the  Berber people.

In ‘Canarian Wrestling’ the participants face each other in a sand circle called a terrero; the aim is to make your opponent touch the sand with any part of his body other than the feet. No hitting is permitted. The sport originated with the Guanches, the islands’ pre-Spanish indigenous people.

The Silbo Comero (Gomeran Whistle’) is a whistled language used in the Canary island of La Gomera to communicate across its deep valleys. Its speakers are called’ silbadors’. Although it was originally a Guanche language, it has been adapted so that modern silbadors are, effectively, whistling in Spanish. It’s a compulsory subject for Gomeran schoolchildren.

The volcano on La Palma in the Canaries is said to have the potential to cause a catastrophic collapse of the western half of the island, creating a tsunami that could cross the Atlantic and hit the eastern seaboard of the United States of America eight hours later with a wave as high as thirty metres. New York is in for an interesting day, some day.

 A Coincidence

London’s Isle of Dogs was first so-called on a map dated 1588: perhaps because it was home to the royal kennels, though it may simply have been a term of abuse. It’s an odd coincidence that Canary Wharf is located there.

Much of the information in this post was discovered in “The Book of General Ignorance”; Lloyd and Mitchinson, 2006. Faber and Faber

Twitter Stuff

Some of the Twitter stream which has caught my attention over the past few days.

@tom_cowie Hosni Mubarak’s suit pinstripes are actually his name repeated over and over

@howespaul I love the NT News

@jonkudelka Gillard has seven letters and starts with G just like Gaddafi…

@Colvinius NOW do you see why I care about spelling?… via @zmkc

@eric_afterdark Search begins for giant new planet in our solar system “bigger than Jupiter” – #Science, #News – The Independent

@Glebe2037 RT @mactavish: beware of tall chihuahuas:

@vizcomic RT by FantonEsquire BREAKING NEWS from a North Wales chip shop:

@RacistWallaby I’d say these birds fell in with the wrong crowd, but there’s no right crowd where they’re concerned: