Tags: Arnott's, biscuit, tack, water, water cracker
Along with the Sao, the water cracker is probably the most ubiquitous cheesy biscuit in the world. Small, thin, round and crunchy they can be found in every ‘biscuit for cheese’ selection. Interestingly for such a commoditised biscuit, they are made by several different brands, all of which are available in the supermarket. I, of course, eschewed these imitators and purchased the Arnott’s variety.
There’s not a huge amount to say about them, really. Their roots lie, as everyone knows, in the hard tack baked to survive long sea journeys in the 1700 and 1800s – made with just flour and water to maximise longevity. Their modern descendants are much more refined, containing other ingredients and fats, and having a shelf-live of only a few months.
These biscuits deliver exactly what you expect – a plain, crunchy biscuit. They work equally well as a base for some cheese or as something to dip into an, erm, dip, although they are not ideal for snacking on their own as they are rather dry. Having said that, the kids seem quite happy to chew on them whilst strapped into their car seats.
I’m going to give these a six out of ten.
Tags: bicycle, bike, cabby, cargo, gazelle, kids, radish, shopping, xtracycle
A big part of why I ride my bike is because it’s so convenient. It’s often the quickest way to get around, it’s easier than driving or catching a bus, and I can pretty much guarantee parking right outside my destination.
I’ve written several times about my cargo bike, and how it opens up a range of new possibilities for bicycle usage. It was brought home to me again the other day, when I needed to do the weekly shop, visit the library – oh, and I was also in sole charge of two toddlers. I guess to many people the car would be the only option, but we all jumped on the bike, and pedalled away. It was quicker setting up than getting them strapped into the car, an I could chat to them better as we went along. The actual journey (about 2-3 km) was certainly no slower then driving, and when I got to the shops I could lock up the bike right outside, rather than having to drive around and around a subterranean car-park, and then shepherd two small children to a lift. (That whole ‘parking the car’ thing just takes ages, although strangely it’s time that people rarely seem to factor into their journey when estimating travel times. I guess if you’ve never experienced an alternative you just accept it as part of life). We popped to the library, and then the supermarket for a full week’s shop, including six litres of milk, veges, groceries and cleaning things. Then it was back on the bike home again. For sure, the bike was quite loaded up, but it all fitted on fine.
Some people, however, seem unprepared to accept the inherent inconvenience that driving entails, and so selfishly impose additional inconvenience on others as the price of their transport choice. People like the driver of this Audi, CJV01T. Clearly driving along the bike lane in order to park in front of the kebab shop is perfectly acceptable, despite the problems it causes for passing cyclists. I might suggest to the driver that in future he rides a bike – this way he can experience all of the convenience of door-to-door transportation, but without having to negatively impact others.
(And yes, I was tempted to pour a small amount of water onto the drivers seat – not enough to do any damage, but enough to give the owner a rather inconvenient wet bottom. I did, of course, resist the temptation. On this occasion…)
Tags: Arnott's, biscuit, bites, chocolate, chocolicious, dark, dark chocolate, sophisiticated, tim tam
Arnott’s continue their no-holds-barred-full-frontal assault on the snack biscuit genre with the launch of yet another new range – the ‘Chocolicious Bites’ range. To be honest, I’m underwhelmed by the name; it seems very derivative and try-hard. Whilst the frankly awful ‘BigTedz‘ was designed for kids, this new range is aimed squarely at the more sophisticated adult palate – think dark chocolate squares in luxurious packaging.
So what do you get in your packet? Well, the main pack contains a number of beautiful small squares which look all the world like the thing you might find on the pillow in a four-star hotel, or on your executive meal tray in your not-quite-the-front-of-the-aircraft seat. Intriguingly, inside each little packet (which measure about 35mm across) are two small biscuits – somewhat like miniature Tim-Tams, which this range is also branded with. (Arnott’s last attempt to leverage the Tim-Tam name was a rather poor effort, btw). I rather like this – it feels like you get a little bonus inside each refined yet diminutive package.
One other thing worth mentioning is the extremely strong smell of spirits that assaults your nose when you open the main packet. There is a distinct aroma reminiscent of rum or whisky, which makes these feel even more grown up. It has nothing to do with the biscuits, which are not in any way flavoured as such – I can only presume it is the glue that Arnott’s have used to seal the packet. Just a coincidence, or smart subliminal marketing?
The construction of the biscuits themselves is a crunchy biscuit base, which as far as I can tell seems to be the same as used in a regular Tim-Tam. On top of this is what is described on the packet as ‘chocolate cream’, but this is nothing like the chocolate cream found nestling inside your everyday Tim-Tam. This is much richer and less soft – more akin to a chocolate truffle than a cream filling. The layer of cream is at least as thick as the biscuit. There’s no biscuit on top (so surely not really a Tim-Tam then?), but the whole thing is enrobed in a thick dark chocolate.
And it’s actually petty good. Very good, in fact. It’s very dark, very rich, and very sophisticated. To be honest, it comes close to crossing over from ‘biscuit’ into ‘confectionery’, but we’ll not quibble. They are very good indeed – although so rich that it’s hard to each all that many in one sitting. Which is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view, I suppose.
This is a hard biscuit to score, as it defies categorisation somewhat. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and give it an nine out of ten. Good work Arnott’s – it seems you have redeemed yourself. I’m going to have to try the others in the range too – ‘Original’ and ‘Gooey Caramel’. I actually doubt they will be as good as these Dark Chocolate ones – but I’ve been surprised before…
Tags: bicycle, bike, bike hire, california, commuting, hybrid, silicon valley
Only I didn’t; the leaves were mostly still green, the sky was blue and of course I wasn’t walking – I was riding a bike. Still, that song was still going around in my head as I pedalled around that bastion of the American Dream – Silicon Valley, California. I was there on business, and getting from the hotel to the office each day by taxi or hire car just didn’t appeal. It’s my commute to work that keeps me sane, and just because I was in another country didn’t mean I was going to give that up. So I hired a bike from a local dealer to get the five miles or so back and forward each day.
I hired a basic hybrid, which did the job admirably, although it wasn’t super comfortable – I think it was a tiny bit small. But the hire guy was super helpful, waiting for me at my hotel when I arrived (late) – so I pretty much dropped of my bags and set off finding my way to the office. I wasn’t due there until the next day, but I thought a ride would be a good way to stretch my legs after the flight and work off the jet-lag. I looked up the route on Google maps (yay for the cycling directions) and set off.
My inability to tell left from right, coupled with tiredness from the journey didn’t really stand me in good stead, as I went the wrong way at the very first intersection. Then, after finding my way back to the right road, again went wrong at the next intersection. Perhaps having to ride on the other side of the road was confusing me. Still, all this cruising up and down gave me more opportunity to experience Californian roads.
There are a lot of Californian roads. Lots and lots of them. And they are all very wide. The sheer amount of tarmac is extraordinary. What on the map are marked as minor roads have three or four lanes in each direction. I guess they need them, as everyone is driving. There are almost no pedestrians enjoying the wide, well-maintained footpaths, and very few cyclists. For sure, I was out in the burbs, not in a downtown area, but it was quite noticeable. The only time I saw people walking was when I rode through some residential complexes, where there were people walking their dogs. Evidently this is the one activity that can’t be done in the car.
In terms of cycling, it’s actually all very pleasant. Much of my route was on an off-road trail. When you do get on the roads there are bike lanes on many of them, and although they are the ‘painted on’ variety the width of the lanes means there’s plenty of room between you and the traffic. And that traffic is so well behaved. It really made me reflect on just how aggressive Australian drivers are. Drivers all gave me plenty of room, stopped well back from me at traffic lights and generally drove in much calmer way than in Sydney. Those wide, straight roads would be a invitation to a Sydney driver to floor the accelerator when the lights go green in the manner of a drag-strip driver. But the Californians just pootled along, observing the speed limits and pulling away very sedately.
Given all that, it’s astonishing that there aren’t more cyclists. The Caltrain (which runs along most of the cities in the San Francisco Bay area) even has a whole carriage dedicated to bikes, but I saw very few people riding – maybe two or three on each trip I made. When I got to the office, I asked where the bike parking was, and got a blank look, before being directed to a tiny bike rack with space for three bikes. Mine was the only bike locked up there for the whole week I was in town – and this is a large campus with over three thousand employees, on a road with a bike lane running all the way along it’s length. The weather is great, the terrain is basically flat – yet no-one rides. All very strange. Perhaps it was just the area I was in – I know San Francisco has a vibrant cycling scene, and reading about the area many of the cities proclaim they are ‘cycling friendly’. I wonder how the modal cycling share compares to Sydney?
Tags: book, exquisite, J. David Simons, review
This is the third novel by British writer J. David Simons, and is the story of Edward Strathairn, a writer born in Glasgow in the inter-war years who then spends time both in London and Japan. It is a reflection on the different cultures and attitudes across geography and time, as the book jumps between the evolving story of Edward’s life and the contemporary unfolding of the final months leading up to his death.
This switching between the present and the past is skilfully done, and the threads of the story weave together in a very satisfactory way. It is a kind of a love story, but one that explores two different types of love that Edward experiences – that for Macy, an American avant-garde artist he meets in London, and Sukimo, a Japanese hotel maid. The book also explores the various viewpoints and angles of a range of events and attitudes, and in a sense is a book about perception – how the same events can be viewed very differently depending on the background and context of the observer. The pivotal event is the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and this traumatic event in world history is beautifully echoed throughout the book.
If that sounds rather daunting, then don’t be put off – it is a very readable book that is hard to put down. If I had a small criticism it would be that the character of Edward himself does not feel completely rounded, and there are moments in the book where his motivation does not seem to ring true; as if Simons needs to move the plot along but can’t weave events together quite convincingly enough. This is really a minor point, however, which does not detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel. Definitely a recommended read.
Tags: bike share, cycling.bike, helmets, melbourne, public
I had occasion to travel to Melbun on business recently. My schedule was fairly tight, but in the end I arrived at my destination half an hour or so earlier than my appointment. And, as luck would have it, there was a bike share station right outside the door. Here was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up – I just had time for a quick ride! I have never had the opportunity to use a pubic bike share scheme before, so I was very excited.
The whole thing is very easy to use. Stick in your credit card, agree to the 60(!) pages of terms and conditions (does anybody actually read them, I wonder?), and then unlock your bike and off you go!
It costs $2.70 for a day’s hire, which seems excellent value to me. Each ride has to be less than 30 minutes – the idea being that you hop from bike station to bike station throughout the day, rather than just getting one bike and riding around on it all day.
Reviews I have seen of bike share scheme bikes tend to go on about how heavy and ponderous they are. I have to say, that didn’t really strike me. Clearly cruising around on a cargo bike for so long has inured me to big, heavy bikes. Indeed, I reckon the Melbourne bikes are lighter than the Radish, especially as I always seem to be carrying a whole load of locks, chains and straps in the panniers. Indeed, I thought they are very comfortable – the saddle height is easy to adjust, the ride position good and the handlebars are great.
They have three gears, and they are not super-low (another thing I have read about bike share bikes). Sure, first gear is a real crawler, but up in third you can get a bit of speed up and bowl along. Upon doing this, however, I did discover that the brakes are not especially good. I’m not sure if the bike I chose was somewhat defective, or whether that’s just par for the course for roller brakes, but it was hard to effect much more than ‘gentle slowing’ without hauling on the levers for dear life.
Overall, though I was very impressed. The whole thing just works really well. In my twenty-minute tootle around the block I went past two other bike stations, so there seems to be plenty of them around, at least in that part of the CBD.
Plenty of bikes, but not plenty of riders. I didn’t see a single other bike share bike in use the whole time I was in Melbourne, and I’m pretty sure I was the only person who took a bike from that docking station that whole afternoon – I checked when I came down after my meeting, and the pattern of bikes and empty slots was exactly as it had been. This gels with the data – almost no-one is using this scheme. Yet the scheme is easy to use, the bikes are great, and there seems to be plenty of stations. In other cities around the world with comparable schemes – such as Dublin, or Toronto – they are extremely successful. So what is different in Melbourne?
The answer stares you in the face as soon as you get onto one of these bikes. ‘It is the law in the state of Victoria that you must wear a helmet while riding a bicycle‘ states the bald notice on the handlebars.
The docking station has a long list of shops you can buy a (subsidised) $5 helmet from, and indeed there are also a few free helmets on some of the bikes (there was one on the bike I hired). But the reality of this is that having to faff around with helmets, whether carrying one, buying one or using some skanky one left on the bike – is a major turn-off. Studies have shown that over two-thirds of people when questioned said that having to wear a helmet was the primary reason they did not use the bike share scheme. It’s just so sad, and so short-sighted. The safety record of these schemes is incredibly good – far better, in fact, than for regular bicycle riders. Yet the Victorian government (like most in Australia) cannot see beyond the dogma and refuse to budge on the issue, despite increasing numbers of voices (including those in local government) calling for a helmet exemption for bike share. It’s just so sad to see these fantastic bikes go unused for no good reason. Hopefully sense will prevail – because at the moment, the fine for not wearing a helmet in Victoria is the largest in Australia, at around $150.
Did I wear a helmet for my ride? Of course not. But given the size of the fine and the legendary zealousness of the Victorian police on this issue, there were few others following my stance. Still, riding around the city on an upright bike wearing my suit I hope sent out some kind of message – this is the way it is supposed to be!
Tags: Arnott's, biscuit, boring, linseed, lunch slice, savoury, seeds, sesame, soy
A little while ago, I looked at the poppy, sunflower and rye version of these biscuits, and today I turn to the soy, linseed and sesame variety. Clearly Arnott’s are doing some sort of ‘trio of seeds’ thing with this range. I have to say, I wasn’t aware you could actually eat linseeds – I always thought they were designed for spreading on cricket bats, or something. Still, you learn something every day. I wonder if it is the linseeds that are the black bits in the biscuit, making it appear at first glance as if your biscuit is crawling with ants?
As far as they taste, well, you might as well just go and read my previous review, as these taste pretty much exactly the same. Frankly, I’m not sure the change in seeds is really doing very much.
Oh dear. I’ll just call it a day there, and give these a six out of ten as well. I fear, dear reader, that savoury biscuits do not offer such a rich literary vein as their sweet cousins…
Tags: bicycle, bike, camera, commuting, cops, scofflaw, video, youtube
I’d been toying with the question for a while – it’s something that is a growing trend amongst cyclists, as evidenced by the endless youtube footage if cars carving up cyclists. Should I get a camera for my bike? The main motivation for attaching a camera to one’s bike seems to be in order to capture bad driver behaviour and, if the worst comes to the worst, to use as evidence. I don’t suffer much from bad drivers, but I was vaguely curious try out a camera.
So I bought one on eBay – a very very cheap one. $20 from China, complete with handlebar clamp and integrated headlight. What’s not to like? Well, the video quality, obviously, but I thought I give it a go before splashing out on something expensive.
So here, ladies and gentlemen, is an entirely uninteresting ten minutes of my commute – it’s the section through Sydney’s CBD on the green bike lanes. Probably the only interesting thing is the cycle cops on duty at Pyrmont Bridge (I spot them and push my bike through that section – it’s about three mins in), merrily giving out tickets to riders without helmets or those who ride through the red bicycle light at that spot (a bicycle light which, due to a wholly inadequate sensor, rarely turns green) whilst ignoring all those scofflaw pedestrians doing exactly the same thing.
Oh, you’ll also see me ignoring a whole load of similarly useless bicycle traffic signals that give cars priority (any signal that only gives cyclists four seconds of green per phase is just asking to be ignored, IMO), whilst paying closer attention to those where pedestrians might be crossing. The other strange thing is the camera perspective – it seems to be quite a narrow angle, which gives the impression I am much closer to things than is really the case. At 7.15, for example, you’d think the guy on my right was seriously invading my personal space – it looks like his elbow is right in my face. But actually he was probably two metres in front of me.
I would probably use the camera more, but the battery is pretty hopeless (it only just lasts out for my thirty minute commute), and, more to the point, after I’d had it about a week I dropped it onto my concrete garage floor. It now rattles a lot, and whilst the pretty lights all flash away merrily it no longer appears to actually record any video. Oh well. It was an interesting experiment, but not interesting enough to make me want to splash out on a more expensive camera. Or not until I’ve carpeted the garage, at least.
Tags: 100s and 1000s, Arnott's, bigtedz, biscuit, charmless, chocolate, hundreds and thousands, tea, terrible
I became aware a little while ago of a new biscuit appearing in the supermarket aisles – although with my new enthusiasm for cheesy biscuits I wasn’t especially quick off the mark to sample some and share my thoughts with you, my dear readers.
However, on a more recent supermarket trip, they again caught my eye – as they were marked with a prominent ‘REDUCED TO CLEAR’ tag. And of the two varieties placarded on the shelf only a few packets of the ’100s & 1000s’ remained – all of the plain half-chocolate coated ones were gone. Is this just a stocking issue at my local store? Or is this a short-lived biscuit, already on the way out after failing to take the snack biscuit genre by storm? Either way, I thought I should secure one of the remaining packs to try them out.
Arnott’s have been desperate to get into the ‘snack’ genre for a long time. It’s something they keep trying to do – think mini chocolate chip cookies, fun sticks, and of course tiny teddies. So just how desperate is this attempt to crack the magic ‘kids lunch box’ market?
Well, I hope I’m not spoiling the surprise by answering ‘pretty desperate’. This really is a terrible biscuit. It has no style, no finesse, and no quirky styling nor unusual angle to redeem itself. But before we get to that, lets take a look at it.
In the ‘snack pack’, you get nine individually wrapped BigTedz (and can I just say the uncalled-for ‘z’ on the end and the lack of a space in the name really doesn’t win if any marks with me either). They feature an oh-so-cool teddy character who’s favourite things are his skateboard and his hoodie (so the pack informs us). Oh dear. When you unwrap them you are presented with a fairly large, quite thick biscuit with an utterly charmless teddy bear countenance. The hundreds and thousands give it a rather mottled appearance, and the back of the biscuit is coated in milk chocolate. You will be relieved to hear this is real milk chocolate, not ‘choc’ coating.
When you come to eat it, is it much harder that you expect. I suspect this is a design decision taken to prevent the biscuit disintegrating into crumbs in a boisterous child’s lunchbox, but as biscuit textures go it’s quite unappealing – not really crunchy, certainly not hard like the Ginger Nut, more just kind of dried out and stale. Despite the apparent high bake, however, it has a rather strange undercooked, doughy taste. Perhaps the use of tapioca and ‘vegetable fibre’ in the ingredients contributes to this. The 100s and 1000s do very little except add a little sugary crunch, and the whole thing gets terribly stuck in your teeth. The milk chocolate is fine, but doesn’t add anything very much – this is certainly not a biscuit that is greater than the sum of its parts (unlike the transcendent Wagon Wheel, for example).
I suspect there’s a very good reason why this biscuit is fast disappearing from supermarket shelves. I’m not quite sure what came over Arnott’s biscuit development team when they came up with this – perhaps they were under pressure from some hot-shot marketing type who insisted that they had to have another crack at the snack market with yet another teddy variant. But I can’t help feeling they are probably all a bit embarrassed about this one, and hope it will slide into obscurity and be forgotten. Sorry folks, this one gets a one our of ten – and the ignominy of being awarded the lowest ever score for a biscuit on this blog.
Tags: bicycle, bike, conti, continental, cycling, fixie, inflation, pump, sportscontact, tyre, tyres
I have, in the past, been a vocal supporter of Conti SportContact tyres. I’ve been running the 32mm wire bead version of this tyre on the fixie (and also a tourer, whilst I had one) for many years, with huge success. They are grippy, highly puncture resistant, they roll well and last for ever. I’ve had examples of these tyres that have lasted well over 10,000km, and even when the kevlar was starts to show through the rubber they just keep going.
Interestingly though, others have voiced a dissenting view – that they have found they just didn’t last long, and disintegrated on them rather quickly. Caveat emptor, and all that.
I have to say, my own faith in them was temporarily shaken recently. I was riding to work, and could hear this ‘tink tink’ noise every time I used the front brake. It was clearly something on the wheel, but even though I stopped a few times to have a look there was nothing obvious – no bit of gunge stuck to the tyre than might catch on the brake callipers, and nothing on the rims. When I got to work I had a proper look, and was somewhat alarmed by what I found. The tyre was bulging off the rim, and the sidewall of the tyre seemed to be splitting. Along the split there was threads hanging off the tyre, and it must have been these I could hear hitting the brakes. Even more worryingly, when I looked around the rest of the tyre, it seemed as if similar threads were coming away all around.
This was very very strange. This was the first tyre I had mounted since the bike got a new front rim. Could it be that the tyre was not sitting on the new rim very well, and it was somehow putting pressure on the sidewall? I took a look at the rear tyre, and was even more alarmed to see that it too seemed to be shedding threads. This is the original rim that came with the bike, which made the rim hypothesis rather less likely.
I hotfooted it down to the LBS to get their opinion – and a new tyre, so I could safely ride home that evening. I showed it to the mechanic, and he quickly said, ‘I’ll just let the air out of that tyre before it blows up in our faces…’ He examined the rim, checked the wheel for trueness and so on, but there was nothing obviously wrong. I showed him the back tyre, and he was also a bit nonplussed, although he did point out that the tyre was pretty worn. It hadn’t really occurred to me that they were getting worn out. I guess I’ve probably ridden about 5,000km on those tyres since they were new, so compared to my previous SportContact experiences they are just broken in. I mean, you can even see a glimmer of tread pattern in a few places!
I got a replacement tyre on the front (another SportContact – I’m not ready to give up on them yet). The LBS guy didn’t think the rear one was a problem right now, although he did recommend I keep a close eye on it. And then I rode home, contemplating whether getting 5Ks out of a tyre was reasonable, and/or if the stories I have heard about Conti’s quality control being a bit variable were true, and the experiences of some of my correspondents with these tyres.
And then I had another thought. Around the time I got those tyres, I also got a new floor pump, as my old one gave up the ghost. It was very cheap, but seems to work just fine. However, I have always had a nagging doubt about the accuracy of the pressure gauge. At the shop, the guy had asked me what pressure I usually inflated it to, and accordingly pumped it up to 85psi using his fancy shop pump – the maximum recommended for the tyre, and what I usually do it to at home.
When I got back, I attached my cheapo pump to the valve, fairly confident that the tyre was at or around 85. I put in one small stroke of air to stabilise the reading, and… my gauge only read ’60psi’. Ooops. So it seems that I have been significantly over-inflating the tyre for it’s whole life. Who knows what it was getting up to, but I guess it could easily have been in excess of 100psi. Could it be that this is the problem, and that the sides of the tyres are literally cracking under the pressure?
Time will tell if the new tyre lasts better now I have inflation under control, but I suppose the moral of this story is if you have a cheap pump, don’t rely on the gauge!