Spreading the Arnott’s love around the world…

August 27, 2015 at 20:16 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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twitter arnotts message‘A rather unreasonable plan’. This was how my correspondent on Twitter put it.

Not that I get a great deal of correspondence on the twitter. I suppose the three real people and the twenty spambots who follow me love to get notified that yet more random musings on the world of Australian biscuits are available for their reading pleasure, but for the most part I rarely think about it.

Until someone contacted me, having read my blog, asking for help. To be honest, I was so excited to hear that someone actually read my blog, I was immediately minded to help. And as it happens, the problem was a real one.

It was all to do with Lemon Crisps. That oh-so-moreish biscuit. Apparently, you can’t get them in Germany. This I can imagine would be a problem – especially if you have developed a full-blown addiction to them whilst visiting Australia.

Well, of course I had to help. Us Lemon-Crisp-addicts have to stick together. So I put together a small emergency pack of them, together with a few other choice varieties (choosing the most addictive ones. Oh, yes, really I am just an evil pusher..) and send them over to Germany.

The result, as you can imagine, was a great deal of consternation. When an unlabeled parcel arrives full of highly addictive substances, one is bound to be a bit suspicious. However, I understand that it took only a few minutes for the suspicion to be replaced by delight as the packets were torn open to reveal their sweet delights.

facebook arnotts world

So there we go. Spreading the Arnott’s love around the world. Perhaps I should start an export business?

 

 

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Fly6 rear bike camera review

August 21, 2015 at 16:17 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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fly6boxAs will have been apparent to regular readers, a little while ago I kitted myself out with a rear-facing camera – the Fly6.

This has already been the subject of numerous reviews – not I’m not going to let that stop me offering my own opinions! What attracted me to it was that is is uncompromisingly designed for cycling – this is not an ‘action camera’ that also works for cycling, but was designed from the ground up for putting on the back of a bike.

To that end, it has an integrated rear light (with the usual flashing and steady modes), the necessary fixings for a seatpost and is waterproof. This last point is crucial – a fair weather camera is no good to me, and given it’s position above the rear wheel it’s going to get pretty drenched in the rain.

The other thing I liked about it is that is records video on a loop, automatically deleting the oldest footage once the memory card is full. This means you never have to worry about having to delete old files, or it stopping recording because the memory is full. As far as I know this is the only such camera that has this small but exceptionally useful feature. It records in 10 minute segments, each recorded as a different file, which does mean if you want to make an epic movie of your ride you will need to stitch them all back together in a video editor. It also means it’s much easier to locate the footage of a particular bit of your ride, and the file sizes remain manageable, which I think is on balance more helpful.

It has a an integrated rechargeable battery that is good for about 5 hours of recording, and good for several more hours of just lights after that – claims that seems about right from my general use. Hence you don’t need to be recharging it too often – twice a week is fine for me. The various bleeps and flashes when you turn it on tell you the current battery level, and are clear and easy to understand. Once the battery is getting low the recording stops, but the light remains working for several hours – another bonus, and much better than my other rechargeable lights, which have a habit of dying mid-ride.

It comes packed in a lovely box with every accessory you could imagine – shims for different seatpost angles and also for aero posts (for those hardcore time triallers out there). There are two clips, so you can have a clip on a couple of bikes, a charging / data cable and a 2GB memory card (enough for about 1.5 hours of recording). There are also a bunch of stickers, and a small manual to get started (the full manual is available as an online download).

fly6 cameraThe video quality is I think good. It’s up there with the lower-end action cameras  – it records at 720P, which for some purists is not good enough, but it’s plenty OK for most purposes. Details are crisp, number plates are easy to read. You can see some footage here, but there’s plenty more around on the web. In the dark obviously things are a bit less successful, but by no means useless; on a street with good streetlighting you can still make out most of the details. If it is very dark, then things do just become a blur of points of light, but I guess for a sub-$200 camera that’s asking a lot. The sound is OK – it’s never going to be that good on such a small device, but it is better that I expected, without too much wind noise. It will pick up intelligible speech in the vicinity, providing there isn’t any background noise – so essentially sound recording works if you are stopped (if you are moving, then it’s unlikely you’ll hear anything over the wind / tyre / traffic noise).

Since I’ve had it, I’ve used the footage once to go to the cops to report someone for poor driving, and taken many many hours of entirely boring footage of me cycling to work. It’s been drenched by heavy rain, with no problems at all, and the battery life holds up well.

fly6 on bikeSo it everything unrelentingly positive, then? Well, there are a few niggles. The clip design is not the best. As I mentioned, it comes with two clips. I mounted it into one of the clips to fit to the bike – and it was immediately clear that it is very unwilling to come out of that clip. I’ve been at it with some tools, lubricated it with oil, hauled at it – but it took a lot of effort to get it out. (top tip – do it with the clip mounted on the bike). It’s also impossible to get out without some sort of tool such as a small screwdriver (or the tip of a key), as you can’t push back the tab on the clip with your finger whilst pulling the unit out of the clip. All this means that half the time I just use the rubber straps to take it on and off (which is easy to do in any case), but it does mean the little rubber shim can get lost (if has a sticky pad to hold it to the clip, but repeated taking it on and off loosens this quite quickly).

I also had a bunch of problems connecting it to my PC. When I got it, I connected it, and it appeared as a drive, and I was able to set the time and date and so on. But then, a few days later, it stopped connecting. My PC then started reporting ‘USB driver failed to load’ when I plugged it in. I tried it on several PCs, and got the same result each time. Reading the Fly6 forums, this is not an uncommon issue.  Since then I have upgraded the firmware on the device (which entailed using a different PC it apparently would connect to) which seems to have helped, as it now connects to my home PC. My work PC still won’t connect though (although it did once, but never again, so I don’t think it’s a permissions thing). Not a major drama as I can just remove the memory card to get the footage, but it’s a bit frustrating.

Those gripes notwithstanding, I am very happy with my purchase. It does what I need it to to do with a minimum of fuss, is low-profile and discreet and is easy to use.

Apparently there is a Fly12 front camera in the offing. Something to consider….!

The Children Act – Ian McEwan

August 15, 2015 at 16:19 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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It’s always a pleasure to open a nmcewan children actew book by Ian McEwan. Familiar as an old pair of jeans, yet always fresh and new. From the moment you sink into the luminous prose to the point when you emerge, blinking, from the fine textured world McEwan conjures, you are swept along by the sheer technical mastery of the medium. McEwan is truly a great author, a master of his craft.

And yet, and yet, something niggled with me slightly about this novel. Not that it wasn’t executed with the customary brilliance. Not that the plot wasn’t intriguing and though-provoking, and the characters fully rounded and believable. No, somehow, there was this niggle in my mind that it was somewhat formulaic. A really good novel, yes, but ‘just another Ian McEwan’, rather than some new statement. It sounds almost sacrilegious to say it, but I was strangely reminded of  Dick Francis’ novels – basically all the same story, but made (somewhat) interesting by the illuminating background research into whatever the protagonist happened to be – a photographer, a wine merchant, a computer teacher etc etc.

In ‘The Children Act’, the main character is a family court judge, and the book revolves around both her troubled marriage and her caseload, most particularly Adam, an intense teenager who wishes to refuse lift-saving treatment for religious reasons.

And, à la Francis, we also get quite significant discourses on the processes and ethics of the family court system in England, coupled with expositions on the religious mores of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This is a much, much better novel than an airport thriller. But somehow, for me, the assemblage of raw materials failed to gel into a great book.

Arnott’s Letter Jumbles

August 9, 2015 at 18:53 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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letter jumbles packWell, that was a surprise. I opened the kitchen cupboard to find something for the kids to eat, and discovered a new and hitherto unknown Arnott’s biscuit.

Like that other scholarly biscuit in the Arnott’s range, these are evidently designed to assuage parental guilt about sugary kids snacks. Hey, they’re educational!

They are also exclusive to Woolworths, I note. It seems this is a growing trend. I hope Arnott’s also make some biscuits ‘exclusive to small corner shops‘ and the like, rather than just our grocery behemoths. I think that would be nice.

So what are Letter Jumbles? Well, they are small biscuits with letters on. They are actually tiny Milk Arrowroot, and seem to be exactly the same recipe as their larger brethren. As well as being smaller, though, they are also a little bit thinner, which yields a slightly crunchier texture.

letter jumbles biscuitsI opened just one small packet for the junior Chillikebab’s to share, and it contained eight biscuits. Thankfully, it contained an ‘E’ and an “B’, so both the little darlings were both able to have the first letter from their name. I assume all the letters are equally represented, although this would take some significant research to verify.

All in all not bad, but all that packaging for so few biscuits seems a bit over the top. Why can’t parents just buy a regular pack of Milk Arrowroots, and put one or two of them into a kids lunchbox, perhaps wrapped in a little twist of  greaseproof paper? And for that matter, why don’t we still wear flat caps, and why do school children have to wear shoes, and why aren’t kids allowed to clean chimneys any more, at least on the weekends?

I’m going to give these four out of ten. Bah Humbug.

 

Tim Tam Three Bean

August 2, 2015 at 14:36 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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timtam3beanpackGoodness. Another new Tim Tam. They really are churning them out. But is it all quantity at the expense of quality?

The latest incarnation is ‘Three Bean’ – the three beans in question being vanilla, cocoa and coffee. Some years ago I used to drink coffee with a friend in a cafe called ‘Three Beans’. Rather good coffee it was too, and many a worlds wrong we set to rights over a short black.

Would this new range (exclusive to Woolworths, it appears), live up to those memories? Or is this going to be another Peanut Butter debacle?

A few years ago, I’d have been pretty prejudiced from the start. I never used to like the whole coffee / chocolate combo thing, but I have to say as I get older and mellower it is growing on me. I have become rather fond of those chocolate-covered coffee beans you can buy – or at last I was, until I found that after eating a handful of them (well, several handfuls really), I was unable to sleep for about a week. I am rather sensitive to caffeine, you see, but it never occurred to me that eating whole coffee beans was really just one massive stimulant boost.

timtam3beanbiscuitSo how does the Tim Tam Three Bean fare? Well, actually I thought it was rather good. Coffee taste was rich and authentic, the vanilla added a nice sweetness and the chocolate finished it off nicely. I ate rather a lot of these in one sitting quite late at night – and then wondered if I would be unable to sleep. Luckily I didn’t experience any insomnia, so the caffeine content I guess must be quite low.

I’m going to give these a solid seven out of ten, but it’s probably worth mentioning that they were not a 100% hit around the office – some people were not so keen, so caveat emptor and all that.

 

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