The Failure of Dreams

Yesterday was ANZAC Day, and it is a day that looms large in the Australian psyche. Why is it that we always retell the story of Gallipoli, an overwhelming Australian defeat in the first World War? In some way, while failure is pathetic, it is somehow heroic. And the recent book club selection had a similar message.

I Was Bono’s Doppelganger

A cathartic tale of musical dreams crushed.

This is Neil McCormick’s autobiography. We learn that from a young age, his life’s ambition is to be lead singer in a world renowned pop group. Although we all have crazy ideas, and our friends set us straight, McCormick has the misfortune to be school-friends with Bono. Yes, that Bono.

Since you’ve never heard of McCormick, it’s not giving anything away to say that he never became world famous. However, the story of his musical disasters set against the rising star of Bono and U2 is quite incredible. Even if you’re not a U2 fan, this is a very engaging book that quickly sucks you in with intimate and honest details of the band before its mega-success, behind-the-scenes in the record (as it was at the time) business, and the unbelievable bad luck that seems to follow McCormick.

I don’t normally make a habit of reading autobiographies, but this one had a special magic that attracted me to it. McCormick is not some star-struck U2 fan, but apparently a genuine friend of Bono’s, who writes the Forward in the book. His take on the rewards, ravages and addiction of fame is particularly well-informed, and left me with hope, despite his own failure.

My rating: 4.5 stars

The websites listed at the back of the book have ceased working, but if you read the book, you really should listen to some of his music. It will allow you to judge for yourself if he had the stuff to make it really big. The following links are from the Internet Archive:

You may also want to check out his CD on as it sounds like it would make a fine companion piece to the book. Ghost Who Walks is the name that he releases his music under, but the picture there is definitely him.

Mrs Fields, eat your dough out

Classic Toll House Chocolate Chip CookiesI’ve been munching on these for the last week, so I might as well share the pain. I’ve had that extra incentive to go to the gym, too. But it must be healthy – it’s got nuts in it!

When Kate came back from the States a couple of months back, she brought me a souvenir: an American-style biscuit (err.. cookie) cookbook called “Old Fashioned Cookies”. I’ve made a couple of things out of it now, and they’ve been fab. This recipe was just like those Mrs Fields cookies, and the book calls them “Classic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies”.


2 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (not powder)
1 teaspoon of salt
250g softened butter
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
375g pack of dark chocolate buds (e.g. Nestle melts)
1 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 190 celcius.

In a large bowl, mix together the butter, white sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and stir them in. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into the mixture and stir through.

Coarsely chop the chocolate buds and the nuts (if necessary). Mix into the dough.

Make balls of dough approximately one rounded tablespoon in size, and place on a tray lined with baking paper.

Cook for 9 minutes. Then remove and allow to cool slightly and set before moving them to a cooling rack.

Best eaten when still slightly warm, although should keep for several days after if stored in an airtight container.

The above is the recipe that I followed, although if I made them again, I would use more nuts (perhaps 1 1/2 cups) and slightly less baking soda (perhaps 3/4 teaspoon).

Easter French-toast Recipe

Well, Easter’s coming up this weekend, and everyone will be eating chocolate. But, before then is Good Friday – the day of the Hot Cross Bun. Once you’ve eaten your fill (and then some) of the buns, and a couple of days have past, the buns will be starting to go stale. Instead of throwing them out, recycle them in this recipe, as it will be many months (at least 8) before you see them on the supermarket shelves again. And, it’s a fantastic way to recover from too much chocolate (it’s healthy, it’s got fruit in it!)


3 or 4 slightly stale Hot Cross Buns
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
Small amount of icing sugar (for decoration)
Maple syrup (for decoration)


Slice the buns in half, so you have a “crossed” half and a plain half. Set aside for a second. Beat the egg and milk together until it’s fluffy and well-mixed. Heat a frypan on the stove, and start to melt the butter in it.

Place one of the sliced buns into the mixture. Wait no more than a minute, flip the halves over so that the other side soaks for a little. After it, too, has soaked a little, place the pieces into the frypan. Cook one side, flip, then cook the other. It doesn’t take very long.

Remove the french-toasted bun pieces and put on a plate. Dust with icing sugar and lightly drizzle with maple syrup. Serve!

Repeat the soaking-frying-dusting for each of the buns until you’re full (again) of bun, or have run out, and will need to wait until next Easter (or January, whatever comes first).

The BOM gets it wrong

Well, we all know that they get it wrong, but that’s not surprising since it’s a tricky job to predict the future. However, since they don’t ever tell us how accurate they are, we never knew exactly how wrong they were. Until now.

Average of differences between temperature forecasts and observations (Melbourne, Sydney and Perth)

The chart above is the result of some analysis on the data I collected over a month (between 25th February and 25th March 2007) for the cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. The first thing you’ll notice is that the 7-Day forecasts are not as accurate as the 1-Day (i.e. tomorrow) forecasts, and that as the forecasts head off into the future, they get less accurate. This is as you’d expect.

Other things to notice are that (i) Maximum temperature forecasts are generally less accurate than Minimum temperatures, (ii) The Melbourne Maximum temperatures are the least accurate, while Sydney Minimum temperatures are the most accurate, and (iii) none of the curves are heading towards zero, i.e. the forecasts for the following day are still a surprise.

Since the data is collected over the course of only one month, it’s hard to say if this sample is representative of all Bureau of Meteorology forecasting, but at least we now have some idea of their accuracy. The rule of thumb seems to be that the next day forecast will be out by on average 1.5 degrees, and the 4-day forecast will be out by on average at least 2 degrees. This is better than I thought it was going to be, to be honest.

I’ll probably continue to crunch the numbers and see if anything interesting comes out, but I think I’ve won my bet.