Shapes Barbecue – New And Improved

August 29, 2016 at 16:19 | Posted in biscuits | 1 Comment
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shapesboxesIt’s taken me a bit too long to catch onto this, but there has been a veritable social media frenzy going on recently that dwarfs even gossip about failing censuses or the latest from The Donald. Yes, it’s the reaction to Arnott’s ‘New and Improved’ Shapes.

Shapes are, of course, a range of savoury snack biscuits that boast the unusual feature of having ‘flavour you can see’. Except that, in the new version, apparently you can’t.

Arnott’s have launched a whole new range, including new and improved version of some of the classic flavours. However, I guess to hedge their bets, they are also still making the original version of two types – BBQ and Chicken Crimpy. So, when I saw both the original and new on sale at the supermarket, I bought a packet of each to do the definitive taste test.

But before we get to the comparison, let’s take a look at a few choice comments on Arnott’s facebook page.

shapesfb

Oh dear.

And on twitter?

shapestwit

Hmmm.

So what prompted Arnott’s to change this iconic snack – which has been in production for over 50 years? Well, apparently people were complaining that they wanted more flavour on their Shapes, and that the flavour wouldn’t stay stuck to the biscuit. Pesky stuff that visible flavour. I must admit, reasonably tuned into to the biscuit world as I am, this was not an issue I was aware off. Indeed, for many people having the flavour fall off is kind of the point, as it means the last biscuits in the pack accumulate the flavour that has dropped of the ones above. And then, at the end of the pack you get the pleasure of running a finger inside the pack to collect the dregs of flavour that remain. The whole thing could have been designed to deliver a gradually-increasing dose of Flavour You Can See, culminating in that last, luscious hit of salt and monosodium glutamate. But apparently this way of enjoying Shapes was passé, and a redesign to get more flavour, more consistently on each biscuit was required.

shapesbiscuits

This redesign was about more than just the flavour adherence mechanic, however. It was also about the flavour itself. Changes to the recipe were made, which somehow also yields the New And Improved versions an extra health star. Looking at the nutrition panels on each box, it seems pretty much everything is the same, except the new ones have less salt and more sugar.

Anyway, enough of all that. How to they compare? Well, you can read about the original ones here, as I looked at them some time ago.

Compared to the originals, the new ones have a slightly lighter, more open texture, which actually I quite liked. However, things are not so happy in the flavour department. The new ones are clearly much sweeter (that extra sugar), and amazingly even more artificial tasting. Besting the originals on artificial-ness was a big ask, but the Arnott’s team have managed it. Overall, the new flavour is not very nice. Too sweet, to cloying. It’s hard to eat a whole box of these in one go; they get sickly. The originals, by contrast, are highly addictive and are gone in a flash.

Having drawn my own conclusions, I put out the two types in different bowls next to each other in the office. The Original flavour bowl was empty in about 10 minutes; an hour later there were still some left in the ‘New And Improved’ bowl. So clearly my co-workers agree with my assessment.

So will Arnott’s relent? Will they retire the New And Improved, and quietly revert to the originals? In the meantime, I’m going to give these New And Improved BBQ Shapes a 2 out of 10.

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T1 bike trailer / towable luggage…

August 23, 2016 at 11:05 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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trailerPushy’s had a mid-season sale recently, and there were some bargains to be had. And given that the objective of buying things ins a sale is not to buy things you actually need, but rather save as much money as possible by buying things you probably don’t need but which are heavily discounted, I found myself purchasing a DOM T1 bike trailer – reduced from $650 to $99. I mean, who could pass that up?

It duly arrived, and my initial impressions were favourable. It’s well made, with a high quality finish and some nice design touches. It hitches to the bike via a small loop / hook which bolts onto the rear axle (an extra-long QR skewer is supplied for those needing such a thing).

So what it is? Well, it’s advertised as a trailer, but to be honest ‘towable luggage’ would be a fairer description. It’s a large-ish suitcase with oversized flip-out wheels and a towing handle that can be attached to the back of a bike. The wheels are pneumatic, but are small and skinny – think pram wheels, rather than bike wheels.

hitchIt’s perhaps for this reason the instructions stress that the maximum recommended speed is 25km/h – less if you are riding on uneven surfaces. A ‘go anywhere’ adventure trailer this is not. It’s not really a touring trailer. It’s for doing short-ish flat-ish slow-ish rides. Think riding to the station or airport (when folded down, it can be checked in as hold luggage – it comes with an external cover to protect it in transit).

I think it could actually be quite useful for me; I’ve been looking for a solution to allow me to cycle to the airport when I travel on business, and this might just work – as is for longer trips, or for shorter trips I can put a smaller cabin bag into the trailer for the airport trip, and leave the trailer locked up with my bike whilst I’m away.

I’ve never ridden with a trailer on the bike before, and it does feel a little odd – you feel it kind of tugging at the bike as you pedal. But overall it goes along quite well. The warnings about excessive speed and bumps are necessary though – I manged to tip it up on the first trip. Admittedly this was with it empty, and it bounced around much less when loaded. However, it does underline the need for caution – if it hit a pothole, there’s a risk it could go over – which might not be fun if you were in heavy traffic.

trailerfoldedThe only aspect of the design I think could do with a rethink is the way the wheels fold. It’s all very cool they way the fold away (they work as pull-along wheels when folded in), but they fold up kind of backwards. This means that when you are riding, the pressure on the wheels pulling them backwards makes them want to fold up – especially on uneven surfaces. This means you have to do up the quick-release cams super-tight to ensure this doesn’t happen, which makes folding and unfolding harder than it needs to be. Some sort of locking mechanism to prevent the wheels folding when in use would be handy,

Anyway, I’m very excited about my new purchase. A genuine bargain for $99! Now we’ll see how often it actually gets used…

 

Here’s a video of me riding with it, and tipping it over going up a pram ramp…

trailervid1

Nod – Adrian Barnes

August 15, 2016 at 21:57 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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nod adrian barnesHurrah! I finally got around to reading another book. Regular readers would be forgiven for thinking that the ‘book’ part of my blog title seems rather irrelevant. Apologies for this, dear readers. I will do my best to make amends.

I picked up ‘Nod’ by Adrian Barnes from my local library, when I was there with the junior Chillikebabs. Aren’t libraries great! Just like bookshops, except the books are free, and there is fast wifi. We go there a lot, but only ever get out kids book. So my new resolution is borrow (and then read) at least one grown-up book on each visit.

Nod is a dystopian novel, set in a contemporary world where, suddenly, almost no-one is able to sleep. As sleep deprivation takes hold, society falls apart alarmingly quickly. A few lucky individuals, including the books main protagonist and narrator, Paul, are able to sleep – but they all have the same strange dream. And some children are also able to sleep – but are rendered mute and unemotional, moving to live rough in a park all together.

At all sounds very weird when I write it like that, and I guess it is; as the book progresses it becomes more and more dream-like, mirroring the decaying mental state of the ‘Awakened’ – those that are unable to sleep. Strange cults begin to develop, behaviour becomes savage and violent, and through it all glide the serene ‘Sleeper’ children.

I enjoyed it a lot, although felt it was just a bit short of being a great book. Some of the literary allusions are a bit too forced, and at times it descends into a zombie-horror-flick parody. However, those are minor criticisms, it’s a book that stays with you for a while after you read it and which has some thought-provoking themes.

 

Kids, helmets and changing play

August 8, 2016 at 12:07 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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kids on bike helmetsHere’s the Chillikebab kids, ready for an outing to the park for a picnic. See the excited faces! And check out how different they look form a few years ago

There’s also another difference you may have spotted, too. Yes, they are wearing bike helmets. Not because I made them or even asked them to, of course. But because they wanted to. And whilst I’m no fan of helmets, I am all for personal choice – and if they want to wear them, and feel more comfortable with them on, then that’s what we will do.

However, it does bear some examination. I stopped wearing a helmet before they were born, and up until now they have never had one. So what changed?

Well, going to school. Their teachers promote helmet wearing as part of ‘safety awareness’. They have had in-school visits from Kidsafe (an organisation I have very little time for, btw). And there is peer pressure from their friends.

I have gently asked them about all of this, and told them it’s up to them if they want to wear one or not – that some people do, and some people don’t. But they now prefer to have them on.

This makes me somewhat sad. Not because they are wearing helmets per se, but because of what it is doing to the way they play. They often have their bikes and scooters out in the garden, and used to charge around on them from time to time, in the middle of whatever game. Now they have to come and find one of us to put their helmets on. And then take them off again. Which kind of kills the spontaneity – which means they ride their bikes and scooters less.

It’s quite noticeable. The negative pressure on bicycle usage from helmet compulsion is something I am very familiar with from the academic literature, of course. But it’s very sad to see it first hand, with your own kids. To see that they are discouraged from doing something safe, fun and healthy because of the insidious pressure from the plastic hat brigade.

 

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