Arnott’s Choc Hazelnut and Gooey Caramel Tim Tam Slam

March 26, 2019 at 14:27 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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tim tam slam packThere are new Tim Tams from Arnotts! How exciting. They are a new rage specifically designed for ‘slamming’.

What is the Tim Tam Slam, I hear you ask? Well, let me explain the correct way to do it. (And this is the correct way, by the way. If you read, see or hear differently then you should take it upon yourself to correct any misapprehensions).

First, you bite off the two ends of the biscuit, taking off as little biscuit as possible to expose the biscuit and filling at each end. (Not the corners, not just the chocolate. You need to take off 1-2mm of biscuit from each of the shorter sides).

Next, take a hot cup or tea or coffee (it doesn’t matter which; this is according to taste, although hot chocolate or Milo are frowned upon). Dip one end of the Tim Tam a few millimetres into the hot beverage, and place the other end between the lips, leaving the beverage on the table (so you are bending down over the cup). Quickly suck up the hot liquid, using the Tim Tam as the straw.

As soon as you feel the hot liquid reach the top of the biscuit (and you need to move fast here), grip the biscuit between your lips and / or teeth, and raise your head. Continue putting your head back, until the biscuit is pointing at the ceiling. You should not be holding it with your fingers at this point.

Now, using your tongue, allow the biscuit to slowly slide into your mouth. The effect for the viewer should be that it slowly disappears from view, sinking into your head like a sinking thing.

Close your mouth, put your head to a normal position and finish chewing the biscuit, enjoying the hot, softened confection. It is best to transfix your audience with a wild stare at this point, before breaking into a satisfied smile as you finish your Tim Tam. (The absolute master of this art, and the person I learned from, is my mate Ian. He elevates Tim Tam Slamming into an art form. Next time I’m up in QLD I’ll get him to demonstrate in a video).

tim tam slam biscuitAnyway, it seems that Arnott’s are celebrating this ritual by creating a range if Tim Tams optimised for slamming. There are three in the range, and the first one we will be looking at is the Choc Hazelnut and Gooey Caramel Flavour (which also wins a prize for the longest name for a biscuit ever).

Arnott’s seem to have attempted to engineer these biscuits with a softer strip of filing up the middle that works as a ‘straw’, with regular creme filling either side. Whilst they slammed quite satisfactorily, to be honest they were no more effective at this than a regular Tim Tam.

The flavour, though, is not quite there. It’s a bit sweet; the hazelnut is fighting with the caramel and it somehow doesn’t quite work all together. It’s not a bad Tim Tam, but not a classic. I’m going to give it a five out of ten. Perhaps the others in the range will be better?

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Antifa : The Anti-Fascist Handbook – Mark Bray

March 20, 2019 at 13:29 | Posted in books | Leave a comment

antifaThis is an important book. It is an impressive and comprehensive history of the anti-fascist movement, from its roots in the resistance to Hitler and Mussolini through to current day activism against the alt-right.

It’s a long, sometimes dense and detailed book which is not always easy to read, but it is worth it. Rather than a retailed review, I will share two startling lessons which came from it for me.

The first is the importance of denying the far-right a platform. There is currently endless debate about the rights to free speech, and how ‘de-platforming’ should not be tolerated. This book offers a much-needed perspective on this issue. What is absolutely clear, throughout history, is that far-right movements have faded when they have not had easy access to the public. Debating fascists does not work, and never has worked. It merely gives them oxygen. It’s also important to realise that for the owner of a hall or institution to deny fascists the use of their facilities to hold a meeting or rally is not denying their free speech. For a noisy counter-protest to drown out far-right voices in the street is not denying their free speech. For an internet platform to ban fascist individuals from their services is not denying their free speech. They are free to speak, to organise, to set up their own institutions, buildings, platforms and publications. But history shows when they have to do this using only their own resources, rather than subverting more liberal institutions to promote their cause, they wither.

We have no problem telling our children that certain things should not be said or done; that it is wrong do things that are mean or to hurt people people or to say things which are untrue. We do not debate our children on these topics, we simply tell them that it is not acceptable, and prevent them from doing it. We should have no hesitation or qualms about doing the same for fascist and far-right voices, and refuse to get drawn into a manipulative argument about ‘free speech’.

The second is related to the first, and is the important of direct action. Organising, marching, campaigning, shouting and physically restricting have always been important tools in the fight against fascism. This does not need to mean violence (although this book reveals an uncomfortable truth, and that is that violent protest has protected our societies from fascism on many occasions), but does mean confrontation. As an example, an annual (and growing) far right rally in Germany was in recent years disrupted and destroyed simply by concerned citizens campaigning directly against it – blocking access to railways stations when trains of fascists arrived, holding counter-marches in the same streets, chanting loudly when fascists tried to speak, forcefully engaging individuals in the fascist groups and telling them they were not welcome, that their ideas were unacceptable and that they should leave immediately. Within two years, the largest far-right rally in Germany was abandoned by its neo-nazi organisers as support for it withered away.

We live in a world where fascism is on the rise. Far-right propaganda is now piped into our homes from mainstream media outlets and politicians. This scourge can be defeated. It has been before. But we will not do so with debate and liberal engagement. Fascist hate can only be shut down with concentrated and direct effort.

This book at the end has a section of ideas and practical tips for disrupting fascist networks. Some require a lot of courage and time. Others you can do by writing letters.

Read this book. Then join the fight.

It died. It lives! It died again…

March 15, 2019 at 10:15 | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

fly6For quite some time I have had a Cycliq Fly6 camera on the back of my bike. Lots of fun, and capable of capturing what is sometimes quite dramatic footage. The camera is now about four years old, and the battery life had gradually been getting less and less as the internal rechargeable battery degraded.

Then one day I went for a longer ride than usual, and the battery depleted totally. Given that it was already degraded, it seems the function that switches off the camera when the battery is low did not work as expected, and the battery underwent a deep discharge. And from that moment, it would not hold a charge – at best it would work for perhaps ten minutes.

This is both to be expected and frustrating. Rechargeable batteries do have a limited life, especially one on the back of a bicycle that is exposed to extremes of temperature, being left out in the sun as well as frozen in winter. So it is to be expected that it would need replacing.

However, the battery in the Fly6 is not user replaceable. And Cycliq do not offer a battery replacement service. So it seemed my $250 camera was now useless. This is frustrating.

Or was it? One of my cycling contacts (aka BikeBot) has actually managed to successfully replace the battery in his Fly6 several times, and helpfully has written some very clear instructions. So I bought the bits I needed from Jaycar for about $20, and set to work.

It was quite fiddly. The hardest part is the ‘wire glue’. Here’s a thing about wire glue. It isn’t. When it dries it holds the wires, but before then it has absolutely no stickiness whatsoever. It’s like trying to glue things with graphite paste. I got it everywhere. All over the battery, the table, the ceiling and myself. If you attempt this yourself, think about some kind of jig to hold the contacts to the battery whilst you are gluing it. Or better, find a qualified solderist who can solder the terminals to the battery. (And here I reinforce the warning on BikeBot’s instructions – DO NOT solder directly to a Li-Ion battery unless you have the right equipment and know what you are doing.)

Once I had finally done it all, I left the glue to cure for a day. And then I tried to charge it up. It was alive! It charged up nicely, bleeped as expected and came on, happily recording video for an hour or so before I switched it off, to hear three bleeps indicating the battery was still quite full. I was very pleased with myself. I had resurrected it!

Now the hard part – I had to put it all back in the case; the above test was done with it still in pieces. So I set about packing it all back into the case. It was all going well until the last PCB screw; the board was a bit high so I pressed it down against the battery to get it into place.

And there was a kind of very quiet ‘phut’ sound, and the camera went off (it had come on from me pressing the buttons whilst re-assembling it). There was also a very faint smell of hot electronics. Oooops.

It seems what had happened is that I had not quite lined up the battery, and the small battery protection circuit on the contact strip was over to one side. This was then directly underneath the protruding metal of the switch on the PCB. Pushing it down had caused the metal of the switch to pierce the insulating tape I had put around the battery, and either shorted out or damaged a component on the battery protect circuit.

And so it was dead. Properly, finally dead.

Oh well. At least I tried. And hopefully someone else reading this who tries the same thing will now not make the mistake I made.

Arnott’s Vita-Weat Cracker Chips

March 12, 2019 at 09:45 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment

vita weat chips boxLook, I know. These really aren’t a biscuit. They are a chip. But they are a chip made out of a biscuit. You get Vita-Weats, and then you crush them up, form them into chips and cook them. Or something like that.

They come in individual packets, for snacking – ideal for lunchboxes I suppose. Seven packs per box. Ahh, Arnott’s do love their prime numbers. A numerologist would have a field day at Arnott’s HQ, I feel.

vita weat chips

So, how does this sort of cross over thing work? Well, not all that well, to be honest. They are rather dry, rather tasteless and rather hard in texture. They are better for dipping, but then that’s a bit odd as they come in little packets, and it seems weird to open a load of little packets to put them in a bowl and put them out with some dip.

So I’m going to give these rather unfortunate cross-over hybrids a three out of ten. If you want a savoury snack, there are much much much better options…

 

Arnott’s Vegemite and Cheese Shapes

March 9, 2019 at 09:25 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment

shapesboxThis, ladies and gentlemen, is what redemption looks like. This is genius. Superlatives fail me.

You may remember the shapes debacle. New flavours that were revolting, backlash, back pedaling, PR disaster and finally back to how it was before, but with a tarnished brand.

Well, those folks at Arnott’s have clearly done a lot of soul-searching and late night recipe development because Shapes are BACK. Oh yeah.

These are amazing. They are hands-down the best Shapes EVER. I would go as far as to say they are Arnott’s finest savoury biscuit (yes, I know it’s sort of actually a snack, but who cares). They are better than Cheds. And that is high praise.

shapesbiscuitCrunchy biscuit. That glorious umami of the Vegemite, the richness of the cheese. Like WIlly Wonka’s amazing chewing gum, it’s like you are actually eating Vegemite and Cheese on a cracker.

They are moreish. Very moreish. Eating a whole box of Shapes is not that hard. But with these, when you finish one box, you will reach for another. And another.

I’m going all out with a ten out of ten for these. Glorious. Oh, and did I mention that they are Australia-shaped?

 

Back and angry…

February 23, 2019 at 10:10 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments

Hello everyone. As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted anything new on my blog for about six months. After nearly ten years of regularly posting, I took a break.

There are various reasons why. Life is busy, I was doing other things. Maybe I was getting bored of biscuits (what? surely not!). But a large part of the reason for stopping was that I was angry. Increasingly angry. Angry about our corrupt politicians who have sold out our futures to vested interests; who laugh and clap as our planet literally dies around us. And angry at an entitled population that grows every more selfish and resentful as they continue to grab more than their fair share of our finite resources.

And nowhere is that selfishness more evident than when people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. And it is getting worse. Much worse. It’s always been the case that cars brig out the absolute worst in human beings, but over the past few years, in Sydney at least, the level of selfishness, impatience and malice on display has been rising to hitherto unknown levels, mirroring the ever rising temperatures of a planet on the brink of ecological collapse and stoked by increasingly shrill neo-fascist voices in the mainstream right-wing media.

Anyway, I stopped blogging because I was getting so angry that I didn’t really want to write. But now I’ve decided to start again. I’ll try and keep the anger in check, or at least turn it into something constructive. Let’s see how we go.

And again….

July 23, 2018 at 21:57 | Posted in bicycles | 10 Comments
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Yes, it happened again. Again, when I was stationary. Festooned in hi-viz and flashing lights. A car drove into me – a sort of low-speed crunching as my bicycle was devoured by the front of his gas-guzzling SUV. Thankfully the driver stopped before he got to me, leaving my bike jammed under his car, my saddle (where I was sitting) hard up against his bonnet. (video here)

It is getting worse out there. Drivers are increasingly distracted. Mobile phone use is endemic, and rarely properly policed. Most modern cars now feature touch-screens that take drivers attention away from the road for ten or twenty seconds at a time as they prod at it to change the radio or operate the sat nav.

Against this near-universal back drop, in Sydney it is further stoked by the increasing aggression shown by drivers towards cyclists. This is rooted in the aggressively anti-cycling stance of the state government, coupled with heavy handed anti-cycling policing, all capped with a broadly anti-cycling safety ‘industry’ that seeks to blame cyclists for the increasing road toll and a populist media near universally playing the ‘law-breaking cyclist’ and ‘war on the roads’ angles constantly.

I am now at a point, sad to say, where I would not recommend to anyone they cycle in Sydney. I used to encourage my colleagues to cycle to work. I no longer do that. The environment is so hostile that I can’t recommend it. This, of course, makes me very sad, and also very angry. The sheer stupidity and short-sightedness of our policy makers and media is breathtaking. In the latest NSW budget, there are zero dollars for cycling, and all mentions of cycling targets or programs have been expunged from the Transport for NSW website. Pretty much all that remains are pages telling cyclists to wear helmets and ‘share the road’.

Well, I was sharing the road the other day. It just seems others don’t want to share it with me.

 

PS The police, predictably, refused to take a statement or follow up the incident, even when given the video footage. Too busy policing deserted stop signs, perhaps.

Arnott’s Tiny Teddy Cheesy Crackers

July 23, 2018 at 21:31 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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There is a definite phenomenon in my life that when I like something, they stop making it. It all started with ‘All Butter Crunch’, an own-brand biscuit from the UK supermarket Sainsburys. It was a feature of my youth – all the elder Chillikebab clan loved them. In some ways, my passion for biscuits perhaps stems from that one sweetmeat, fondly remembered from when I was eight years old. And then they stopped making it. (The same thing happened with Coffee and Walnut Angel Delight, I recall).

More recently, they stopped making Cheesy Stars. These were a star-shaped cheesy snack that you could buy in Coles. They were quite a feature in the contemporary Chillikebab household – especially by Mrs Chillikebab, who loved them, ploughing through packs ostensibly bought for the kids lunchboxes. Anyway, they stopped making those too. But never fear, dear friends, for into that breach has stepped Arnott’s, with a re-imagining of the Tiny Teddy into a whole new dimension.

Yes, savoury Tiny Teddies. Who would have thought? They are cheesy, and crackery. This brings a whole new level of chompability to the genre – they have an excellent crunch, and a good salty, cheesy flavour. We like them. Not quite as much as cheesy stars, but almost. I wonder if Arnott’s are planning any over savoury cross-overs? Other than the famous cheese Tim Tam, of course.

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

New Camera – Shimano CM-2000

June 27, 2018 at 21:40 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A few months ago, the Shimano camera I have facing forward on my bike fell off. The clip isn’t all that great, and I apparently hadn’t secured it properly. After pinging across the road, it still worked – but the lens was cracked. A new lens cost $40, so I didn’t buy one; after all the camera came with a spare one (of a different shape for using under water) which I thought would be fine. Except that I couldn’t find it anywhere. And then it seems what remaining stocks of spare lenses that might have been around evaporated, and were no longer available anywhere.

The great thing about Shimano bike cameras though is that they are absolutely awful. Not the actual camera bit;  the physical design (apart perhaps for the clip) and the video quality is fine. No, rather all the other bits are awful. They WiFi connection is flaky as. The battery life is ordinary. The app is a disaster. The promised video editing software to overlay your data has never made an appearance. This means that, when launched, they retail at $500 but after a while are available for a song as no-one wants to buy them.

And it seems Shimano made a version 2 bike cam, and this too is awful, and is now also available for a song. A $149 song, in fact – which is not a bad price for a high-quality HD waterproof camera, even if none of the other features work. So I bought one. Although they still don’t include a handlebar mount, I was able it improvise a stem mount from the helmet mount and some cable ties.

It’s definitely better than version 1 – especially in low light. But the clip is exactly the same. And on the third outing with the new camera, it too pinged across the road after going over a bump. Luckily, the lens was not broken (the design means it’s a bit less vulnerable than version 1), and it still works…

Another perfect pass

June 4, 2018 at 09:25 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You may remember a little while ago I blogged about a truck driver who gave me plenty of room. Well, I had another very positive experience the other day with a cement truck driver. It was around the same spot, at a point where the bike lane (a painted on one of course, so not proper bike infrastructure) follows the road around to the left, and I wanted to go straight on – meaning I have to go across the car lane.

I was looking behind me, and saw the truck was coming up behind, so I slowed to enable him to pass so I could cross behind him. However, he realised what I needed to do, and was very helpful in making room, not overtaking me and ensuring my safety. I called out thanks, and he gave me a thumbs up from his cab as he went by. Top notch stuff from Hanson Cement – I took a moment to drop a complimentary line to them via their website.

The warm fuzzy feelings evaporated a few seconds later, however, when a bus went roaring past me a few inches from my shoulder. This incident perfectly illustrates why these painted on bike lanes can be worse than no bike lane at all. Because I am in the ‘bike lane’, I am invisible (or at least can be disregarded). But the effect of a large, fast vehicle going past that close to you is extremely unnerving – and the pulse of wind it produces can be quite destabilising.

If you are a driver who does not cycle, please learn from these two incidents. Be a lovely person spreading warm fuzzy goodwill on our roads, not a thoughtless person spreading fear and aggression.

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