A chicken and egg dilemma

A fresh egg can get your day off to a great start.Everyone should have chickens. I’ve said it before and, right here I’ll say it again: I’d vote for a politician who promised to make sure all Australian families had a chook in a shed. You have no idea how happy it makes your day to start with a fresh egg.
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As far as farm animals go, chickens are the easiest to maintain. They won’t jump on your car like a goat, or attack you for no reason like a goose, or be totally useless like an alpaca, or destroy your marriage like an unpenned pig.

If you feed them, they basically worship you. Chickens are the perfect minion, they would help you take over the world as long as you gave them all your scraps, fresh water and somewhere dry to sleep.

Just stay away from roosters. It’s interesting that kids always want a rooster around, completing the family circle, no doubt, and creating the sense of order that males clearly bring to the table in all situations. Yes? Are you with me, my brethren? Hello, anyone?

Sure, I know the evidence of having two roosters in the room is pretty grim. Witness the great debates in the past few weeks of the election campaign. All you needed to do was attach a sharpened claw to their Berlutis and let them loose.

So, no, you don’t want roosters. I am feeling as if I need a change, though. I’ve been raising isa browns for 12 years. I’m pretty sure the kids think they are the same half dozen chickens, but due to natural attrition (a fox), old age and a rampant pig, we are on to our 12th generation at least.

So when I was at a wine show in the real country recently, out Forbes way, I came across some information about chicken breeds that caught my interest. I’m a long way from being a chicken fancier, but these things have a habit of creeping up on you. One minute you are content just collecting eggs then – boom – you have hundreds of rare breeds, you are a member of a strange society and you spend your time travelling to poultry shows the world over. Alone, yes, always alone.

Just recently, here in the ACT, we had the Wyandotte Club of Australia 2013 national show. Did you go? This is a majestic breed from the United States, very popular in Australia before the isa browns came with their promise of 300 eggs in the first year.

Isa browns are a cross between two Rhode Island breeds and are very easy to look after, but they tend to lay all their eggs when young, which is why you should never buy an old isa. I’m drawn to the flamboyantly named Transylvanian naked neck. Now these guys, much like our political leaders, have a look that only a mother would love. They seriously appear to have been strangled and have the auspicious desirability as a meat chicken as there are fewer feathers to pluck.

That all said, the variety I have my heart set on is the ”modern game” breed, solely because the chickens look like a road runner, as in the Wile E. Coyote nemesis, only with a chicken head. They look fast, long of leg, as if someone has stuck a chicken on heron legs. Luckily, and this is quite common, there is a society devoted solely to this breed: the Modern Game Promotional Society.

It is a bit elusive, even though its website calendar appears, as you would expect, devoid of any commitments, but I think they should be able to help me in my new campaign to raise a feathered army.

Getting back to where I started, an egg is nature’s perfect food. No one is hurt in its production, other than the hen if it’s her first, but after that, she’s just fine. Eggs are meant to be eaten, albeit by a baby chicken as it grows, but that’s splitting hairs. And they are a complete food. I just love them. Each morning walking back with a shirtful of eggs, I’m thinking of all the potential. All the cakes and tarts, pastries and custards, pancakes and terrines that you can think of rely on an egg or two, and that’s just scratching the surface.

For breakfast, a perfectly poached egg, sourdough toast, good butter (and on this topic, look for Pepe Saya’s cultured butter, the best around; the Spence supermarket has it regularly), a sprinkle of Murray River pink salt, a grind of pepper and I’m in heaven.

You know an egg is fresh if you can hold the yolk in your fingers and it holds almost a perfect globe. Given some heat, this fresh egg becomes a great way to start a meal, a dipping sauce for raw and cooked vegetables or grissini. Some of the greatest restaurants in the world serve eggs as a starter. As tricky as chefs get, nothing proves their worth more than dealing with such simple pleasures.

The way to a perfectly cooked egg, cooked through but soft and oozing, is to cook it very slowly in water at a temperature just above hot tap water. You need to hold the water at 60C for about 45 minutes, which isn’t that hard; it’s not as if you’re cooking a short rib or beef cheek, which can take days.

>> Bryan Martin is a winemaker at Ravensworth and Clonakilla; bryanmartin上海夜生活m.au.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Breaking Bad: ‘Fire in the hole, b–ch’

Realising his mistake … Walt goes to his stash site to find it undisturbed. Sick of being under fire … Saul Goodman in a bullet-proof vest warning.
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The end game for Breaking Bad has begun. To’hajiilee is the fourth last episode and the wheels are spinning quickly now.

There is no turning back and ramifications will be felt, almost certainly in a painful manner. The cliffhangers are no longer about whether something will happen, but rather to whom it will happen.

It’s hard to imagine, for example, that the furious gun battle, which begins as this episode ends, can be resolved without loss of life.

A week ago I pointed out that Walt’s call to the dutiful Todd to hire his neo-Nazi Uncle Jack for another hit wasn’t explicitly linked to Jesse. But a few minutes in, after Lydia tries to point out to head cook Todd and his uncle that the meth needs to be a better quality and blue – “blue is our brand,” says the perpetually edgy Lydia – Walt is confirming that his former de facto child has to go: “Just one target, not currently in jail – Jesse Pinkman.”

This was one of the lines Walt had tried not to cross, only to self-justify stepping across. But this is no longer about building a criminal empire as Heisenberg; he’s trying to protect what may be his final months as Walter White and taking care of his immediate family.

Walt is staggering – literally, due to his cancer – to the finish line, and the best he can do now is ask that Jesse’s death be “fast and painless”.

Walt’s reversion also leaves him on the back foot. He hires Uncle Jack, paying with the agreement to cook one more time as a tutorial for Todd, but Jesse is already scheming with Hank and Gomie. Jesse and Hank are a dream team when it comes to plotting Walt’s downfall – the former pinpoints his weaknesses, the latter figures out how to exploit them.

After conning Saul Goodman’s bodyguard Huell with a mobile phone picture of Jesse showing his brains supposedly blown out by Walt’s assassin (they were animal brains), they hatch a plan to find his money. While they don’t have the location, they know he used a van to transport it into the desert.

Even as Walt visits Andrea and Brock, getting her to call Jesse in the hope he’ll blindly dash over, they prepare their own superior scam (Jesse never gets the call because Hank has confiscated his phone).

Jesse’s call to Walt is one of several scenes where long held rage gets satisfied with triumphant deliverance. A faked picture of one of Walt’s seven money barrels convinces him Jesse has found them, and Jesse stokes his panic by announcing that he is going to burn the contents. “Fire in the hole, bitch!” he declares, promising to torch $10,000 every minute.

Walt, driving desperately, tries to avert Jesse, but his powers of persuasion with the younger man are gone and he makes a damning confession; reminding Jesse of the people he had killed to help his young protege. Do Hank and Gomie have that on tape?

When Walt realises he’s been duped, after finding no-one at the stash site and the ground undisturbed, he is furious – even with a coughing fit wracking his body.

He calls Jack when he sights a car, but tells him not to bother once he realises Jesse is there with Hank. His brother-in-law appears to be the final line Walt won’t cross, although he has a habit of manufacturing circumstances where others obliterate the line for him.

That’s the question that underpins this episode. Looking at a close-up on Walt’s face as Hank calls for him to show himself, and it isn’t clear whether there is regret, rage or reluctant acceptance to be seen. Will he go down fighting or give up? And did he make a phone call – to Saul or Skyler – we didn’t see before he came out?

Walt calls Jesse a “coward” after Hank handcuffs him, although there’s no response to the quiet but powerful vindication of Hank finally reading him his rights.

This is what Hank wants most, and he calls Marie to let her know he’s done it; a moment – when combined with him acknowledging his love for her – that signals he is in grave danger. Jack and his heavily armed gang arrive, and the swastika-tattooed killer weighs up an arrested Walt, who is screaming at him not to start something, with the profits to be gained by Walt giving Todd a master-class. He goes for the money, and the automatic rifle fire is torrid.

No-one gets hit. Walt cowers under the crossfire and Jesse looks to slip away. But then again by this point of the show, who hasn’t been badly wounded in one way or another?


– “Don’t drink and drive, but if you do, call me.” Saul, wearing a bulletproof vest, makes Jr’s day at the carwash.

– Jack’s white power army look like serious business, but they’re not great shots. They’ve got the accuracy of your average Imperial Stormtrooper (Badger would back me up on this).

– How unnerving was the vibe between Todd and Lydia when he drew close to her? She gave him much the same look that a breakfast cereal-eating Brock gave Walt when he showed up. We don’t how Walt poisoned Brock, but on some level Brock appears to know that Walt is bad news.

– She Blinded Me With Science: Is Todd’s ring tone, taken from Thomas Dolby’s quirky 1982 new wave hit, an all-purpose ring or one specifically reserved for the greatest meth cook in the world?

Three episodes to go – Is this the end for Hank? His moment of triumph and affirmation from Marie are bad portents. I think that the final episodes won’t end where we anticipate – they’ll get there earlier and then venture beyond, into the fallout and the tragic aftershocks.

What do you think? Has Walt given up? Is Gomie doomed? Is Jesse revitalised or about to descend once more? Who will end up with the barrels of cash?

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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No bang for buck: White House Down tops sinking box office

Paranoia, starring Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth and Harrison Ford, failed to gain traction at the box office.Jobs takes a small byte out of box office earningsFull movies coverage
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The film distributors took out the trash last week, with the films that the North American summer rejected pitched onto a quiet, election weekend, in the hope Australia might mistake one of them for fresh produce.

The result was the worst box office weekend of the year.

White House Down suffered in the US for releasing in the shadow (and stench) of the remarkably similarly plotted (if vastly inferior) flick Olympus Has Fallen, making a weak debut in June.

The extra time granted to the film was of some benefit as it easily dominated the Australian box office on the weekend with a $1.8 million haul, with almost double the takings of the nearest film.

That said, in North America the film opened against the success story that was The Heat, whereas in Australia the competition was, shall we say, less impressive.

Paranoia, starring Australia’s Liam Hemsworth alongside Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, had an even worse time in North America, laying claim to the unenviable title of being the worst wide release of the year. It opened in 13th position in the middle of last month. Australia clearly got the message as the film stumbled into 10th position on its opening to take a meagre $144,000 for the weekend.

The impact of these flaccid releases was to drag box office revenue for the weekend to $7.6 million for the 93 films – 14 per cent worse than the previous weekend and the lowest for the year.

But films such as Now You See Me (down 30 per cent) and We’re The Millers (down 19 per cent) held their positions with very soft declines in ticket revenue.

One new release that had something to crow about was The Gatekeepers, the documentary about six former heads of Israel’s counter-terrorist security agency. It brought in $26,000, which sounds low, but the film screened in only four cinemas, making for a respectable screen average.

The results weren’t as good for the other high-profile documentary, Salinger, which took $19,000 on a wider release of 22 screens.Australian box office (September 6-8)The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Senior Liberal Sophie Mirabella in danger as independent Cathy McGowan holds lead

Liberal candidate Sophie Mirabella: The answer is in the post. Photo: Ben Eyles / Border Mail In front: Cathy McGowan, independent candidate for the seat of Indi. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
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Sophie Mirabella, still in danger of losing her seat of Indi. Photo: Mal Fairclough

Federal Election 2013 coverageFederal Election 2013 resultsFederal Politics

The seat of Indi in north-east Victoria is on a knife-edge as postal votes continue to be counted, with prominent Liberal Sophie Mirabella still in danger of losing her seat to independent Cathy McGowan.

However, the gap has narrowed on the latest count.

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Ms Mirabella, who is assured of a cabinet post in the Abbott ministry if she manages to return to Parliament, is now reliant only on a strong postal vote to save her.

With more than 80 per cent of the vote counted, Ms McGowan was leading by just 759 votes at 5pm Tuesday.

Earlier in the afternoon, Ms McGowan was leading by 1049 votes.

This translates to 50.5 per cent of the two-party preferred vote for Ms McGowan, leading Ms Mirabella’s 49.5.

Ms McGowan has won all booths in the larger cities of Wodonga and Wangaratta, swept Beechworth and took the majority of the vote in Benalla. However, Ms Mirabella retained strong support in most smaller towns and rural areas.

The final result now hinges on postal votes.

While these usually favour the incumbent, close observers point out that most of these votes would have been cast before Ms Mirabella and her team, recognising they were in serious trouble as the campaign progressed, mounted a final desperate effort to try to persuade voters not to back an independent.

However, Ms Mirabella would earlier have sent the vast majority of postal vote applications to constituents, each with a plea attached to cast their vote for her.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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The tower that’s dividing Melbourne

Proposed megatower at 54 Clarke Street, which will be almost 240-metres tall.Its creators have labelled it an ”elegant” urban icon, but a damning Melbourne City Council report has warned a new apartment building almost as tall as the Rialto would oppress and stifle the neighbours.
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The 72-storey Southbank mega-tower was previously approved by the state government before changes to planning controls saw the developer Urban Matrix sent back to the drawing board.

Months later council staff still do not like the plans for 54 Clarke Street, which are currently before the Minister for Planning.

A report to be presented to councillors on Tuesday said the tower, at almost 240 metres high, will cast a shadow on ”a great number” of public spaces and dominate the view of those who live in nearby south-facing Bank Apartments.

”The sense of containment would be substantial and oppressive, particularly for dwellings at the lower levels,” the report found.

But those conclusions have been fiercely rebuffed by the building’s designer BKK Architects. Director Simon Knott said the tower will instead become a landmark for those driving along the West Gate Freeway.

”Because it twists as you move around that bend, the whole building will twist and turn. It’s almost like the building is alive,” he said.

Mr Knott said they had also done computer modelling which showed the south-facing apartments in the neighbouring building would still retain extensive views, including of the Royal Botanic Gardens.

”The building will sit down one side of the view – it’s anything but oppressive,” he said.

Meanwhile across the other side of the Yarra, the Melbourne City Council has also raised significant concerns about another tower hailed by its creators for its innovative design. The 145-metre office and retail tower currently before Minister for Planning is the latest addition to the $1.3 billion Collins Square development in Docklands.

Council have taken exception to the design by the joint-winners of the Flinders Street Station design competition, HASSELL architects, describing the building’s oversized top as having ”an ungainly relationship to the building below”.

Meanwhile, 3D modelling by the City of Melbourne shows the tower will overshadow the south bank of the Yarra during the winter solstice – a finding disputed by developer Walker Corporation.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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