One Tin Slice recipe

When Kate and I went to the show the other month, we of course visited the Country Women’s Association of Victoria stand. It’s a mandatory visit to have tea and scones there, and admire the extensive tea-towel collection of its members.

What leads to this post is that Kate impulse-bought a copy of The A to Z of COOKED & UNCOOKED SLICES. A retro self-published cookbook without any pictures, but with eight different Caramel Slice recipes, seven different Lemon Slice recipes, and this recipe called One Tin Slice from someone by the name of Stella Warton from Benalla.

It’s functional name belies the sheer tastiness of this sweet slice. I feel compelled to share it with others! Thanks Stella.


125g Arnotts Nice (or equivalent) biscuits, i.e. half a 250g pack
100g butter
180g choc bits
1 cup of mixed nuts (try to include almonds)
1 cup of dessicated coconut (or shredded coconut)
395g sweetened condensed milk


Get things ready by preheating oven to 180 degrees, then finding a 28cm x 18cm slice tin, greasing it, and lining it with greaseproof paper. Also, crush the biscuits well so there are no big pieces, and crush the nuts so they’re about the size of peanuts. (Don’t crush the biscuits and nuts together, in case you were thinking about that.)

Melt the butter (e.g. in the microwave), and pour into the slice tin so the butter covers the base.

Now, sprinkle in the ingredients into the tin in layers. Start with the crushed biscuits (make sure there are no big gaps), then add choc bits, then half the coconut, then the crushed nuts, then the rest of the coconut. Lastly, pour the sweetened condensed milk over it all.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the slice has turned brown. Cool in the tin a little before removing and slicing.

Should make about 24 pieces.

Enquiring minds

I want to know if there are any answers to parenting’s big questions.

  • What topics of conversation are there, aside from spew and poo?
  • How long can your baby scream for before you can expect a knock on your door from the police?
  • What is the legal limit of poo that you can dispose of via the garbage?
  • Exactly how unpleasant was life as a parent before nappies were invented?
  • What is the line between jiggling a baby to sleep and unhealthily shaking a baby?
  • Is lack of sleep a valid defence against loss of humour?

Seven Segment Displays

You probably haven’t thought much about them. However, they are everywhere! You might know seven segment displays from the digital watches that we all had in the 80s, making up each digit of the time, as well as from many other electronic clocks, thermometers, radios, CD players, VCRs/DVDs, calculators and even in lifts.

In fact, seven segment displays premiered in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey and were later to appear in the first digital watch – the Pulsar – which came out in 1972 and cost $2,100. It’s ironic that by the time 2001 came, the digital watch had already gone out of fashion.

Anyway, in the early hours of the morning recently, I was staring at the clock and started wondering about the fact that although seven segments are used, only 10 different patterns are displayed. There are 128 (i.e. 2 to the power of 7) different patterns that can be displayed on a seven segment display, which is a few more than are really needed. In fact, you should only need four segments to display 10 patterns, so three of the segments are, in a sense, redundant.

I wrote a quick and dirty computer program to see which segments could be removed, or burn-out, and you would still be able to tell the difference between the different digits. It turns out that the bottom and bottom-right segments could be removed, and the standard patterns that make up the digits one through zero are still unique. This is shown in following the diagram:

However, we can do better. There are a number of variations on the patterns used for some of the digits. There are alternatives for one, six, seven, nine and zero, as shown here:

I remember my Dad’s precious digital calculator from the late 70s used the variant for zero shown here. Although, I admit I don’t recall having seen it anywhere since.

Using the software I developed, I looked for whether by using any of these alternative versions of the digital numbers, if there was a way of removing three segments from the display but still being able to tell the difference between the numbers. In fact, there was a way to remove another segment, if we use the variants for zero and six (and also nine, since we might as well have them match, although it’s not necessary). This special set of digits is shown here:

From this set of digits, we can remove both right segments and the middle segment, and the remaining patterns for the digits can still be distinguished. Although, to be honest, it is a bit strange.

It does show that we don’t need the full seven segments, and only need four. But, clearly, it’s not possible to go any fewer.

I can’t think of any applications for this four segment display, but it makes me happy to know that it’s possible to make one that is also compatible with existing patterns for the ten digits. And if the special set of digits is used, then up to three segments can fail on a display while it remains (somewhat) useful.


Kate has this theory that new-born babies, aside from mostly looking like what babies look like, resemble mostly their fathers so that any disputes on paternity are cleared up quickly. Well, here is a side by side comparison of what I looked like at Harriet’s age compared with her.

It’s those powerful Scott genes at work. However, I’m a little worried: at some point she better stop looking like I did or we’ll need to rethink schooling options.

A different perspective

It’s something that Kate and I are doing together, but we’re clearly having very different experiences. I don’t think we’ve been so divergent since that time we saw Bowling For Columbine. But this time Marilyn Manson isn’t making a guest appearance.

We’re both caring for Harriet, but due to anatomical differences, we have different roles. Kate handles all of the feeding, while we share the playtime, and I do most of the settling.

Currently the breakdown in hours is something like this:

  • Sleeping – 14 hours
  • Feeding – 5 hours (including mid-feed nappy change)
  • Settling – 4 hours (including bath-time)
  • Play – 1 hour

There’s no play at night-time, and happily she requires minimal settling after midnight, so my participation is generally limited to civilised hours. However, Kate is involved 24/7.

The other aspect is that I’m involved to this level for only these weeks before I return to full-time work, while Kate is looking at doing this for months and months into the future. I’m hoping that at the six-week mark, when I go back to work, the most dependent and most unsettled parts of Harriet’s early life are behind us.

But we are living different lives here, despite spending all our hours together. I guess I wasn’t expecting that.

The moral of the storey

We’re all thankful for the RBA’s recent 1% cut in the cash rate. Hopefully it will help Australia avoid a recession. However, it seems that the Tenants Union of Victoria is trying to leverage this into improvements in rents for their members, using the argument of ethics. The claim is that landlords are morally obliged to reduce rents when their costs fall.

I am sympathetic to the plight of renters: I have been one for most of the time I’ve lived out of home, and it is possible I will be one again in the future. However, I am also a landlord and I speak from experience when I say that the price of rents is generally unrelated to the level of interest rates. The current rental crisis is more due to population pressures driving a level of demand beyond that of the existing supply. Market forces set rents, not the mercenary nature of landlords.

Over the last decade, up until the last two years, I have had to keep my rents more or less static, despite rising interest rates, since it was a renter’s market, and market forces meant I had to wear the increase in costs. In the last couple of years, it has swung around and it’s more of a landlord’s market in Melbourne (although less so than 12 months ago), so rents rose in line with demand. When more apartments are built, supply will increase, and things will balance out again. I know, this isn’t helpful to those renting today, but housing is a long term proposition. People renting can get a house of higher quality than if they bought, as they are paying off a historical mortgage (i.e. when the house was cheaper) rather than a current mortgage (assuming house prices have risen).

Another flaw to the proposition by the Tenants Union of Victoria is that if you extend their argument to its logical conclusion – that rents should be set at a fixed margin above costs – then you get absurd outcomes. For example, rents would be cheaper on properties where the owner had paid off more of their mortgage, and almost free when there was no mortgage left at all.

However, there are some ethically grey practices by landlords around rents that do deserve scrutiny and complaint. I am thinking here of when a property is advertised at a particular weekly rent but then the landlord expects prospective tenants to offer to pay above that level of rent, or selects tenants for the property based on offers of above-advertised rental payments. The issues here are transparency and fairness: all tenants should be given equal opportunity to apply for a property. If landlords wish to receive higher rent, then they simply need to advertise their property at that level of rent. There is no need for secret, above-advertised payments.

But even with such dodgey practices in the market, overall rents will respond to market forces. It’s simple supply and demand. No matter what the Tenants Union of Victoria demands.

Birth notices are dead

Harriet in mittens
Harriet in mittens

Several days after the birth of our baby girl Harriet, I realised that I hadn’t bothered to put an announcement in the paper. This was shortly followed by the realisation that there was no point – her arrival had been SMS’d, telephoned, emailed, Flickr’d and Facebooked to pretty much everyone we think would care, so why bother putting it in print? It doesn’t seem that many years ago that you would typically have put this sort of thing in the paper, if only as a keepsake, so there’s been rapid change here.

I checked the newspapers for the last few days to see if anyone else had put in a birth notice for Harriet. Nope. Tellingly, I confirmed this by using the web search interfaces for both The Age and the Herald Sun. The online world really has replaced the printed world in this regard.

It was also clear that hardly anyone was putting their birth notices in the papers either. There are just a handful of such announcements, and their number is dwarfed by the volume of death notices, which have at least five times as many. Understandably the demographic that death notices are intended for is not as web-savvy as the demographic that puts in birth notices.

Another aspect to this is that not only is online the more “traditional” means of notification for today’s parents, but it’s significantly better than newspapers. You can’t tell people about your new kid without also providing pictures, based on the demand we received for photos when we were a bit slack about making them available. Newspapers have never supported large, colour prints of your baby, unless you were at least on the A-list. Or they were born on an auspicious day, such as new year’s day, or the day when the Federal Government commits to maternity leave. While online, you can provide almost limitness photos to sate even the thirst of the most eager relation.

But now the question – if a newspaper cutting isn’t available as a keepsake, for the child to look back on in years to come, what is the online equivalent?