Tim Tam Strawberry Champagne

March 24, 2016 at 21:21 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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tim tam strawberry champagne packOne of my correspondents recently pointed out to me that, in writing of the latest Tim Tam range, I had mistakenly missed out one of the new flavours.

After bristling indignantly at such impertinent criticism for a while, I realised that, indeed, I had. In fact, I had missed out two! So here we are, ladies and gentlemen, and for you reading pleasure, I present the Tim Tam Strawberry Champagne. (The final version – the Tim Tam Chocolicious Bites Velvet Mudslide – I’ll come to next week.)

It’s always very exciting to have a new Tim Tam to try. I broke the first one in half for my oh-so-arty photography (move over, Instagram!), and was instantly reminded of something. The smell was very evocative…

I tried it, and once again, it all just seemed so familiar. Déjà vu. Or Déjà mangé, perhaps. But why? What was it that I had eaten before that seemed such a perfect facsimile?

tim tam strawberry champagne biscuitThen it came to me. Of course! The Tim Tam Luscious Strawberry. Arnott’s previous attempt at a Strawberry Tim Tam was not exceptional, it has to be said. So is this latest version any better? Indeed, is it any different?

Well, to be honest, it’s hardly different. The filling is a bit less lurid pink. The flavour is dialled down a bit – from eleven to, say, nine. But it’s pretty much the same biscuit as last time. There’s certainly no champagne that I can detect. It still has that slightly artificial aftertaste. It’s still a bit sickly. And it is, as before, better than your average strawberry biscuit – but still not that great.

I can’t help feeling that this new range is a bit recycled, what with the Espresso Martini / Three Bean thing. I’m tempted to up my score for the Pina Colada flavour, just as a bonus for originality. I hope the the Velvet Mudslide will be more groundbreaking too.

For now, I’m giving these a four out of ten – just like their predecessors. They are quite chompable, but nothing special. Happy Easter, everyone!

Tim Tam Pina Colada

March 19, 2016 at 20:31 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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tim tam pina colada packSo with great excitement we move on to the next in the new range of virgin Tim Tams – the Pina Colada. The piña colada is, of course, the national drink of Puerto Rico. I’m not sure that the national drink of Australia is. Wikipedia suggests beer or Bundy, but neither of these seem especially iconic. One thing we can all agree on, of course, is the national biscuit. Yes, the Teddy Bear. Just kidding…

So how does this blend of iconic Australian biscuitry and Caribbean mixology work? Well, I have to say, not that well. That’s not to say there isn’t quite a lot of pineapple and coconut going on. There’s actually a lot of both. The problem is that there isn’t any rum going on. And without it, a piña colada is just an over-sweetened, rather cloying fruit juice (as apposed to an over-sweetened, rather cloying cocktail).

tim tam pina colada biscuitSo lots of pineapple (which somehow doesn’t really go with chocolate very well, in my humble opinion) and coconut make for a rather sweet, nothingy Tim Tam. The most interesting thing is the bright yellow hue of the filling.

Sorry Arnott’s, this one’s not a keeper. Three out of ten.

 

Tim Tam Espresso Martini

March 10, 2016 at 12:43 | Posted in biscuits | 2 Comments
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espresso martini tim tam packetWell, those folks at Arnott’s keep churning out these new Tim Tams. The new strategy seems to be to launch a new flavour every day, have it in the market for perhaps a week or so, and then replace it with something new. It certainly makes for exciting shopping, if rather exhausting blogging.

The two new flavours are inspired by cocktails. Arnott’s have got into hot water with this approach before. In 2004 they launched Tia Maria flavoured Tim Tams, which apparently contained a tiny amount of alcohol. This was condemned by the Australian Drug Foundation – ‘won’t somebody think of the children!’, although the controversy I’m sure was great for sales. This time they are playing safe, with a clear ‘virgin’ appended before the name. That said, when I see ‘Virgin’ I think of slightly seedy bearded entrepreneurs, not alcohol-free cocktails.

espresso martini tim tam biscuitSo how are they? When, in many ways they are quite similar to the ‘Three Bean‘ flavour that was available a little while ago (but seems now to be discontinued). They have an attractive coffee flavour, with a slightly grown up taste, which perhaps is the virgin Martini. Stirred but not shaken, perhaps. Not a classic, but not bad at all. If you liked the Three Bean flavour, you will like these about as much. If you hated Three Bean, you’ll hate these about as much.

Not much more to say really. I’ll give them a seven out of ten. Next week, we’ll look at the other new cocktail flavour – Pina Colada, so stay tuned.

Addressing the Senate Inquiry

March 4, 2016 at 17:17 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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parliamentWell, goodness, hasn’t it taken a long time to get around to writing this. For whatever reason, life seems to have been getting in the way of blogging recently, and whilst I carry around with me umpteen ideas for interesting items (using ‘interesting’ in the loosest terms there), I’ve struggled to actually put fingers to keyboard to make them real.

If you cast your mind back, you will recall I was asked to give evidence to the Senate inquiry into ‘nanny state laws’, following my submission to the same. The date unfortunately fell during the Chillikebab annual holiday, and initially I said I wasn’t available. However, Mrs Chillikebab, being a rather good sort, told me that I should go even if it meant interrupting our holiday. I guess she was worried that if I didn’t go I’d feel forever bitter and twisted that I missed my opportunity to actually do something vaguely useful in the field of cycling advocacy.

So I booked a ticket, and duly left the rest of the Chillikebabs lounging around the pool at our holiday home on the Sunshine Coast and flew to Melbourne for the day.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, and when I got to the parliament building and explained I was there to give evidence to the committee they seemed rather nonplussed and didn’t know what to do with me.  Luckily I made contact with a fellow free-cyclist, and he kindly showed me to the committee room.

I was just in time to hear the evidence from the medico-safely lobby. A whole bunch of worthy doctors, professors and road safety experts all intent on ensuring Australia remains one of the very few places on earth where it is illegal to pedal along a cyclepath with the breeze in your hair.

They started predictably enough, with little speeches emphasizing how well helmet laws were working to reduce injury, and how Australia led the world in such safety initiatives, and how many lives were saved every minute of every day due to these wonderful laws.

Then the Senators started to question them. There were just two senators – the maverick David Leyonhjelm (the only elected representative of the tiny Liberal Democrat party), and Mattheew Canavan, from the governing LNP alliance, and a member of the smaller National party.

I have to say, the Senators were superb. They were across all the material, all the science, understood all the shonky arguments put forward by the medico-safety lobby and grilled them very effectively – pulling apart their arguments and reveling the lack of substance in their submissions. It’s rare the medico-safety lobby are ever held to account, as they avoid public debate, and tend to shut down any attempts at dialogue with high-handed appeals to authority. In this forum, however they couldn’t hide, couldn’t bluster, and couldn’t walk away. They had to admit that the evidence for the effectiveness of MHL was ‘mixed and contradictory’, they had to take endless questions on notice because they were not really across the material, they floundered badly on many very basic points and got extremely rattled and aggressive.

It was terrific. I enjoyed every moment of it.

senateThen, after a short break, I was on. I shared my slot with Nic Dow, of the Australian Cyclists Party, a cycling freedom campaigner I have corresponded with online, but never met. Indeed, one of the nice things about going to the inquiry was meeting up with so many people I have either emailed or corresponded with online but never met.

We made our opening addresses; I had some illustrations of motoring helmets that have variously been proposed, and I used them both to highlight some of the contradictions in the medico-safety folks comments, and also to show the inquity of forcing helmets only on cyclists.

Nic was all over the science, and outlined some of the most recent research that directly contradicted the ‘expert’ evidence from the doctors.

Then we had some questions from the committee. I outlined some of my experiences with going to court and so on, and spoke about bicycle hire schemes. Nic spoke more about different types of cycling, noting that a (helmeted) Neurosurgeon out for his high-speed Sunday morning bunch ride was at far higher risk of head injury than an unhelmeted cyclists on an upright bike pootling along a cycleway.

A few points I mentioned that they seemed interested in; one was my proposal to decriminalize helmetless riding by making the penalty $0, but maintaining it as an ‘advisory’ law. Thre was quite a bit of discussion about this; both Nic and I made points about the political nature of the debate – however much we might want to, a full repeal of the whole helmet law is unlikely to happen, so we explored various options for staged withdrawals and compromises.

Finally I spoke about my framework for assessing helmet laws (and similar nanny state legislation), making further points about  the inequity of MHL.

It was sort of fun, although I felt I didn’t really express myself the way I would have liked. It’s a bit hard to do when you are being questioned, rather than following your own agenda. But I’m very glad I did it.

It was also noteworthy that not one of the ‘pro helmet’ lobby stayed to listen to any of the other evidence. They all trooped in prior to their session, and then all trooped out again immediately afterwards. Symptomatic of their closed minds and unwillingness to engage in any debate, I think.

We will see what comes from this inquiry; whilst the final report is not due for a while I think it will be quite critical of MHL. What impact that has, of course, remains to be seem. But perhaps, just perhaps, in ten years or so when MHL are finally banished and we look back at the fight, my small contribution to this small process might just have played some part in that achievement.

_____________

If you want to read the Hansard transcript (yes, I am now in Hansard!), it’s here.

Ouch.

December 31, 2015 at 13:04 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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drainsI like riding in wet weather. It’s fun, like being a kid again. Of course, you do have to take a bit more care. Wet roads can be slippery. Especially when cornering. Especially when cornering over a whole load of white paint and metal manhole covers. Wet metal is very very slippery.

Yes, you guessed it folks. I was bowling along in a world of my own, cornered over the metal drain, and down I went. I got a bruise to my hip, a graze to my elbow, and a large dent to my pride. The irony is that normally I’m cautious at that corner to avoid the drain covers, as they can be slippery even when dry. I suppose I could rant on about their poor placement, the hazard they create and the generally un-cycle friendly state of most of Australia’s roads. But then again, I did bowl over them in the wet when not paying attention.

It’s been over five years since I last fell off my bike*, so I’m a bit annoyed with myself. But I did get to test the ‘crash mode’ of my Fly6 camera, which auto-shuts off after a stack. So at least I know that works!

Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2016 be full of effortless and safe cycling, interesting books and delicious biscuits.

 

ouchvid

 

*excepting careless motorists driving into me…

Flat tyres and flat caps

November 23, 2015 at 21:30 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Flat tyre

flat tyreI got my bike out of the shed the other day, and the tyre was flat. Flat as a proverbial pancake. This was a great shock, as I never get punctures. People always look at me incredulously when I say that, but it’s true. Punctures are such unusual events that I write about them on this blog every time I get one, and a quick search reveals the last one was in February 2012. I never dig out all the bits of broken glass from my tyres, and run them until they are practically disintegrating, but never seem to have any problems. (Probably because I run wide (32mm) tyres at low-ish pressures. If you’re still running horrid narrow tyres at 100PSI+, well, more fool you.)

I dug out my puncture repair kit, and set to work. It was the same wheel I struggled with when I replaced the tyre a little while ago, but I figured with my new-found wisdom on how to remount the tyre, things should be much smoother.

And indeed they were, although as it turned out it wasn’t a puncture at all, but the patch I had put on the tear in the tube had failed. This was the tear, you may recall, that I made with tyre levers whilst struggling to remount the tyre last time.

This did make me a little embarrassed. I mean, having a patch fail. Come on. In my defence, it was a large-ish tear (perhaps 8-10mm across) which can be hard to patch successfully, and given I have so few punctures my repair kit is invariably dried up and dusty. Not that’s really much of an excuse. Anyway, I put the spare tube on in its place, and all was well. I even managed to re-mount the tyre using only my thumbs.

Flat cap

hunters hill cycling signI was quite taken by this poster for the Hunter’s Hill family ride. Well done, Hunter’s Hill, for holding a ride not predominantly aimed at sports cyclists, and also for not including a single sports cyclist in the picture on the poster. I was of course most taken of all but the fact that the front two riders appear to be not wearing Australian regulation headwear, given one has a sun bonnet, the other a flat cap. I hope this subtle message is a deliberate anti-MHL stance by Hunter’s Hill Community Services. I wan’t able to go to the ride, but was heartened when I saw that the website was similarly devoid of any mention of helmets. Indeed, they didn’t even mention in the ‘rules‘ that you had to wear one, which is almost unheard of (every other organised cycling event I have ever looked at says ‘helmets must be worn’ almost as the first thing). Next year, I must try to get along. Wearing my best flat cap, of course.

 

Arnott’s Vita Weat Multigrain

November 18, 2015 at 21:05 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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vita weat packI had to double check that I hadn’t already looked at the mainstay of the Arnott’s savoury cracker range, but it seems it has been thus far overlooked. Or perhaps I had thought about it, but always struggled.

You see, there’s really nothing whatsoever to say about these biscuits. You see that picture of them, a bit lower down? Well, they taste exactly as you expect from looking at that picture. They are plain crackers, perfectly nice with some cheese, with a few grains in them to add texture. They taste like, erm, plain crackers with some grains in them.

vita weat biscuitOh dear, this isn’t going too well, is it? I mean, I do have some standards, and a minimum word count is one of them. After all, you are paying to read this, and you expect at least something for your money.

The only other vaguely interesting thing I can say about these is that Girl Chillikebab #2 liked the box, and stuck a load of glitter, ribbons, cotton wool and coloured paper to it before announcing she had made it into a marshmallow machine. Fully working, I might add. That is if you like imaginary marshmallows.

I’m going to give these really quite nice crackers a seven out of ten, but then subtract a penalty point for being boring.

 

Tim Tam Raspberry Choc

November 11, 2015 at 19:24 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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tim tam choc raspberry packWell, somehow this one slipped through the net. Apparently it was created for Valentines Day back in February, but I only just came across it. It’s another Zumbo flavour, and I have no doubt that it came about as a direct result of this very blog. You see, when I looked at the previous Zumbo attempt at a raspberry Tim Tam, I noted that, based as it was on the exceptionally ordinary Tim Tam White, it was never going to amount to very much. An improvement, yes, but with such an unprepossessing foundation it was never going to be a classic. I’ve also previously noted that the Tim Tam Dark is the best Tim Tam. No, I’m not going to argue the point. If you disagree, you are wrong.

Evidently Mr Zumbo has been reading this, put two and two together, and made  – well, we’ll see how much in a little while.

tim tam raspberry choc biscuitThe Tim Tam Raspbery Choc, you see, is made with that fabulous rich, moreish Arnott’s dark chocolate. This puts it firmly on the path to success from the outset. I suspect that Mr Zumbo has also tweaked the filling, as it has a slightly more scented, aromatic quality – almost like a liqueur.

The net result is a smooth, satisfying and decidedly grown-up Tim Tam. Which I am shamelessly going to take all the credit for. In this case, then, putting two and two together comes out with a solid nine out of ten for the Tim Tam Raspberry Choc. Good stuff.

Choc Chip Scotch Finger

November 5, 2015 at 12:45 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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choc chip scotch finger packFor the most part, I avoid the whole internet slang and emoticons shtick, but just occasionally I see something for which they just seem perfectly apt. Which is why, when I saw Choc Chip Scotch Fingers for the first time, my reaction was simple.

OMG.

It’s all just so obvious, but so inspired. ‘Twisted’ indeed.

These biscuits, I felt, could be dangerous. You just say the words ‘Scotch Finger’ and ‘Chocolate Chips’ in the same sentence, and it begins. you just want some. You just want some really really badly. Before you’ve even tried them, you need more of them.

choc chip scotch finger biscuitI was trembling with excitement as I opened the packet. Here they were.

My first thought was actually that they don’t look very attractive. Kind of blotchy and a bit odd. Something to do with embossed lettering and choc chips, I think. Oh well, never mind that, let’s press on with the devouring.

And devour them I did. the whole packet was gone in a matter of minutes. They really are pretty good.

But but but. Note quite as good as I hoped. Somehow they just don’t quite hit the mark. Possibly a tough gig, given the high expectations. But the chocolate just wasn’t pronounced enough. They need larger chocolate chunks, I think. Not necessarily more chocolate, but fewer, bigger pieces (This is a problem I’ve had before; Arnott’s seem to struggle with larger-than-normal chocolate chips. Perhaps they could upgrade their chocolate-chip machine?). Overall, I’d probably say the Chocolate Coated Scotch Finger is actually better.

All of this is, on reflection, perhaps a good thing. Perhaps Arnott’s deliberately restrained themselves when creating these, knowing just how dangerous they could be in the wrong hands.

I’m going to give these a seven-and-a-half out of ten. They are good. But nowhere near Lemon Crisp territory.

Senates and Helmets

October 27, 2015 at 20:49 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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australia in stackhatsI don’t write about bicycle helmets much any more. I probably should, as they make for good click-bait, getting lots of hits on my blog. But to be honest, I’m rather bored with the whole thing. After spending years debating, scrutinising, reading and analysing research and commentary about them, it’s just so obvious they helmet laws are a complete disaster in every respect, and bicycle helmets in general are a drag on a healthy cycling culture that I can’t really be bothered arguing any more.

However, a senate inquiry has been set up to look at the issue of the ‘Nanny State’, and one of the specific terms of reference is bicycle helmets. So I found the energy to put pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard) to make a submission.

There are lots of other submissions too, and most of them seem to be about bicycle helmets, despite the terms of reference including other topics such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Apparently we love debating bicycle helmets almost as much as we love forcing people to wear them.

Some of the submissions are predictable; one-dimensional perspectives from the medical fraternity somehow claiming that repealing the helmet law would cost millions  as every cyclist in Australia instantly falls victim to incapacitating brain injury. Yawn. I’ve dealt with all this before.

Lots of them are more interesting. Quite a few from people saying they cycle less or not at all because of helmet laws. Which is interesting, as according to many helmet zealot ‘academics’ these people do not exist. Many well researched and argued submissions pointing out the flaws in the helmet law. And a lot of refreshingly short ones, which basically say ‘please repeal the helmet law as it is rubbish’. Hurrah for them.

Anyway, if you are interested in my lengthy discourse on the topic, it is here. Be warned, though, it’s very boring. You’d be better off riding your bike.

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