Tim Tam Choc Brownie

May 25, 2014 at 16:28 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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tim tam choc brownie packI do like a good chocolate brownie. Squidgy, rich and decadent. I am lucky in that Mrs Chillikebab makes what are undoubtedly the Best Chocolate Brownies in the World. A big claim, yes, but a justified one, I think – and I’ve yet to meet anyone who, having tried them, disagrees. The key is, of course, to use the best quality chocolate you can get your hands on, and to undercook them. Or rather, not to undercook them, but cook them just perfectly – which means taking them out of the oven far earlier than your instincts (and often the recipe) tells you, so they finish cooking and firming up in the pan before you turn them out in all their squidgy glory.

I’ve never had an Adriano Zumbo brownie, but I presume he can make a half-decent one, given people seem to queue around the block just to get into his store. And it is this that forms the basis of the final Zumbo Tim Tams – the others being Raspberry White Choc and Salted Caramel.

Those of you who read the Raspberry White Choc review may be getting nervous at this point, as the dreaded ‘choc’ rears it head again. Normally this means nasty chocolate substitute in place of the real thing. You’ll be pleased to know that in this case the name is misleading – there is real chocolate aplenty in these Tim Tams. Why they didn’t call them ‘Chocolate Brownie’ I don’t know. Maybe the shorter name is how Adriano Zumbo refers to them in his store, in some kind of post-modern ironic manner.

tim tam choc brownie biscuitThey present pretty much like a regular Tim Tam. However, they are somewhat different on the palate; the chocolate cream is much darker and richer, and generally has a more chocolaty taste. They amazingly actually do capture something of the essence of a chocolate brownie; perhaps it’s a hint of vanilla, or the buttery richness. They are pretty good – I’d say the best of the Zumbo trio.

I’m going to give these an eight of of ten. I like them.

Danger danger- catastrophe averted

May 21, 2014 at 20:07 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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There is a golden rule in cycling. If you hear something on your bike creaking, stop riding and check it out. Creaking is bad news. Very bad news.

So what happened to me on the way to work this morning? Yes, the bike started creaking. Well, not creaking exactly, but sort of pinging. Certainly not a normal sound. I did stop and have a look, but couldn’t see anything. However. I did drop the bike into the bike shop near work when I arrived.

The guy there had a look over it, and at first glance couldn’t see anything. I’d mentioned the sound seemed to be coming from the drivetrain or back wheel, but there wasn’t anything he could see. He was about to hand it back, but just looked quickly over the whole bike just in case. And noticed this:

cracked salsa forks

Yes, that is a massive crack in the front forks, just below the Salsa logo. (Here’s a close-up.) You might also see a matching one on the other side. The whole fork is literally in danger of folding up at any moment – and it’s going to fold up forward, not backward. Indeed, it’s not clear in this picture but you can actually see the bend in the forks.

I had this bike serviced a few weeks ago, a specifically asked the tech to check over the forks, as I am mindful of this incident from two years ago. Two weeks ago, they got a clean bill of health, so these cracks have developed very fast. Quite extraordinary; the guy in the bike shop was gobsmacked.

So the question is what to do now? Given that this is the second set of Salsa forks that has failed on me, and that my old bike shop (who were a Salsa dealer) said they had seen several other failed Salsa forks of this type, I’m not much inclined to put in yet another one, even if it would be covered under warranty.

For now, the bike shop is putting a fairly cheap new fork on, just to make it safe and so I can ride it. Perhaps I’ll just stick with that, it if rides OK. I will tell Salsa about it, though. For a fork to fail like that after less than two years is very bad form.

(And for the record, I haven’t had any kind of stack on the bike and I don’t jump curbs. For sure, I bump over an occasional pot hole or badly-set lip on a pram ramp, but that’s just Sydney roads for you…)

The Believing Brain – Michael Shermer

May 16, 2014 at 19:22 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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shermerAs humans, we revel in our ability to think. To judge. To see the world around us, to fathom its intricacies, to understand and communicate its nuances, and above all to be able to discern its truths.

Except that we are deluded. We are actually pretty terrible at objectively weighing up the evidence around us, preferring to use a range of mental shortcuts to arrive at a ‘truth’ that is often utterly at odds with reality. Furthermore, once these ‘truths’ are lodged in our brains, we resolutely stick to them, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. The strength with which we cling to our beliefs is extraordinary, and in many cases we simply refuse to ever give them up, however ludicrous they may seem to an objective observer.

This behaviour is familiar to everyone, of course. We are also rather good at spotting this behaviour in others, even as we are blind to our own delusions.

But why should this be so? Why do we cling to our beliefs? How are they formed? And why do certain topics – religion, politics, spirituality, –  seem to be at the heart of so many powerful belief systems?

In this book Michael Shermer dissects the patterns, systems and neuroscience of belief, to explain how and why we get so caught up in our beliefs, and why the more they are challenged the more entrenched they become. He breaks this process down into two broad categories – patternicity, or the tendency humans have to see patterns in everything, even when none are present; and agenticity, the tendency we have to ascribe an outside purpose to random events. He also explores the nature of objective truth and how to arrive at it; the power of sceptical thought and the scientific method.

There are some fantastic observations and evidence. For example, he describes how easy it is to make mice and birds ‘superstitious’ –  associating a food reward with some random, unrelated  action. He then goes on to describe how trivial it is to get humans to do the same things; his accounts of otherwise perfectly normal, rational people doing weird dances, or touching every wall before hitting a button because they think it might influence the number of ‘points’ they score is both hilarious and somewhat disturbing (the number of points they actually received, by the way, was completely random).

Overall this is a good primer to the subject, and is for the most part well written – although there are sections than ramble on somewhat. He takes entertaining potshots at all sorts of institutions along the way, from faith healers to economists, from religion to political parties, and shows how they are slave to biased thinking.

The book is not startlingly original and doesn’t have a great deal of new material for anyone reasonably versed in sceptical and scientific literature (think Dawkins, Harris, Grayling, Sagan etc). He amusingly also gets very caught up in his own US-centric libertarian political views which significantly colour the chapters on politics – apparently Shermer is not immune from the effects he describes. However, as an entertaining and well-written introduction to the subject it is to be recommended.



Terrific driving

May 8, 2014 at 07:08 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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burns bay rdI had a great experience riding to work the other morning. I was trudging up Burns bay Rd (I’m back on the road at the moment, as the traffic is lighter), and the traffic started to build up somewhat. Behind me was a battered white truck, which I could hear changing gears and grinding behind me.

There was a stream of traffic in the RH lane, and he couldn’t get past. So he just stayed behind me, a respectful distance behind, all the way up the hill, with no aggro, no getting closer, no gunning the engine.

He followed me like that all the way to the lights at the top of the hill, and as it happened I got across the lights, but they changed just as I went over, and he had to stop. (I was actually quite impressed he did stop, as a lot of motorists seem to think that because they were ‘held up’ buy a bike, they have some sort of moral right to follow me across the lights even if it means they go over on red).

He caught up with me again after the lights at Epping Rd. I was in the LH lane, but there was a semi-trailer parked ahead of me. He was coming up behind me in the RH lane, but slowed right down so I could pull out. He then waited until the LH was clear in front of me before going past.

I caught up with him again at the lights at the Pacific Hwy as I was threading through the traffic queue, and he had his window down, so I was able to say thank you. He high-fived me, and laughed and smiled.

I guess it’s kind of sad that these experiences are ones I remember, as this should be every interaction with motorists. Still, it made a nice change from the abuse I have copped on occasion riding through Chatswood.

Tim Tam Raspberry White Choc

May 1, 2014 at 14:34 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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tim tam raspberry white choc biscuit  Choc. Four letters to strike fear into the heart of the biscuit aficionado. Four little letters that spell ‘disappointment’. Because, you see, ‘choc’ is what legal eagles insist biscuit marketers write when the biscuit does not contain any chocolate, merely flavoured vegetable fat. But somehow ‘Raspberry & flavoured vegetable fat’ does not have the same ring to it.

Now, I have no doubt the pedants will jump in here, making all sorts of claims about white chocolate not being chocolate in any case, and that cocoa butter is a vegetable fat, so all chocolate can be called flavoured vegetable fat. Well, hurrah for all you Wikipedia readers. All the rest of you need to know is that there is no chocolate in ‘choc’, and is best avoided.*

tim tam raspberry white choc biscuit 2For all that, what are these new Tim Tams? Well, they are another in the range ‘by Adriano Zumbo’, and consist of a white choc Tim Tam with the filling exchanged for a lurid red raspberry variety.

And that filling really is lurid. I wondered if the pack artwork was exaggerated on this point, but if anything the actual biscuits feature an even brighter-hued interior than depicted, as if biting into them inflicts some kind of wound.

tim tam raspberry white choc biscuit insideSo how do they taste? Well, I have to be honest and say ‘better than I expected’. If Adriano Zumbo set out to improve the worst Tim Tam ever made, he succeeded brilliantly, as these are quite chompable. But if he set out to make something truly great, well, he failed. These are not bad; they pass the time and are not an embarrassment. But they are, at best, a mediocre example of the Tim Tam genre.

I’m going to give these a six out of ten.

*The exception that proves this rule is, of course, the Wagon Wheel, a glory of choc that defies all known science.

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