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Archive for March, 2009

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Sapphire and Steel

Posted by Big Boo on March 20th, 2009

sapphire-and-steelIf you were the sort of person who used to hide behind the sofa when watching Doctor Who then you’d better build a barricade out of the cushions as well if you watch Sapphire and Steel!  Whilst it may not have been a kids show it was shown in the early evening so I definitely remember watching the show.  I may not have understood much of it at the time, but it certainly left a big impression on me.

Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) were “elemental forces” who were assigned to clear up problems in the space-time continuum.  OK, this was a bit of a misnomer, as neither sapphire nor steel are elements, but ignore that because the show itself was otherwise very cleverly written, and was capable of scaring the willies out of you quite easily.  The idea was these substances could take human form to solve problems, with the aid of their special powers.

Sapphire was able to control time, winding it back for brief periods and sensing when time wasn’t quite flowing the way it should.  Steel on the other hand was strong and had a very cold demeanour, so it was just as well he was partnered with Sapphire.  During their adventures we also met other agents including Silver, who was a very jokey, laid back character who obviously had a bit of a thing for Sapphire, and Jet, who was a large muscley black guy!  More were mentioned in the title sequence, but we sadly didn’t get to meet all of them.

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School Mathematics Project Cards

Posted by Big Boo on March 19th, 2009

blackboardI’m not ashamed to admit that I have always found a certain joy in numbers.  I’m certainly no mathematical wizard, but I still know my square roots from my cosine curves, things which I’m sure many of us (myself included) wondered why we needed to know when still at school.  Before I became a stay at home Dad, my chosen profession was as a games programmer, and so mathematics came in very useful for that, especially the aforementioned square roots and cosines!

My Mum first gave me an interest in maths, giving me simple sums to do before I even went to school, but it was at primary school that I really got hooked on maths.  Sure, reading, writing and art were fun, but my school taught mathematics using a series of exercise cards known as SMP cards which I loved to bits.

SMP stood for Schools Mathematics Project, although many kids made up their own ideas for what SMP stood for – Stupid Maths Problems for example.  My school issued us all with yellow covered exercise books containing paper covered in a grid of 1cm squares.  In the front cover was stapled your SMP worksheet, which listed all the SMP cards divided up into categories such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions and so on.

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Bird’s Ice Magic

Posted by Big Boo on March 18th, 2009

ice magicI was (and still am) partial to the odd bit of ice cream, and a bit of chocolate or strawberry sauce drizzled over the top only makes a good thing better if you ask me.  So how could you possibly improve on this?

The answer came with the launch of Bird’s Ice Magic, a new topping which to a kid literally did appear to be magic, for after you squeezed this stuff all over your ice cream it would set hard to create a crackable shell.  Clever stuff, and very tasty too!

Ice Magic also came in very interestingly shaped containers, which added to the appeal.  The bottle was cone shaped, and the lid had a wobbly edge that made it look just like a coating of the ice cream topping had been applied to it.  If I remember correctly it was available in Chocolate, Chocolate Orange and Chocolate Mint varieties, the latter of which was particularly good when applied to Mint Choc Chip ice cream!  There was another variety, as the TV advert embedded below shows, but I don’t know what it was.  Chocolate Banana perhaps, given it had a yellow lid?

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Posted by Big Boo on March 17th, 2009

viewmasterOn Sunday my nephew showed me one of his new DVDs, the computer animated film Fly Me To The Moon, about three flies who hitch a ride on a space craft to the moon.  One of the interesting features of this DVD was that as well as the standard version there was also a version of the film that was in 3D, requiring you to wear a pair of those funny glasses with the blue and red lenses.

We watched a bit of it, but soon switched back to the standard version so we did have to watch everything in a strange purple tinted monochrome, and because it made your eyes ache after a while.  The 3D effect was quite good though, assuming you could get the cardboard 3D glasses close enough to your eyes to make it work – tricky if you wear glasses.

Anyway, all that aside, this reminded me of the good old View-Master toy, which was capable of generating an incredibly good 3D effect, even if it was only with still images.  The View-Master was usually made of red plastic, and looked like a really odd pair of binoculars.  Insert one of the special picture discs and look through the eye holes and you’d see a scene which popped out at you in three dimensions.  Pull the little lever at the side of the toy and the disc would rotate to reveal the next image.

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Stocking Fillers - Suppliers to Father Christmas
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The Hole in the Ozone Layer

Posted by Big Boo on March 16th, 2009

ozone layer holeIt was during the mid 1980’s that scientists first detected the hole in the ozone layer that had appeared over the South Pole.  These days it doesn’t get that much press, since global warming and melting ice caps have stolen most of the limelight, but the ozone layer hole is still there and is being monitored.

I don’t know who coined the term Ozone Hole but it isn’t strictly correct.  I suspect it was a journalist wanting to create a scare story, as the word hole implies a complete lack of ozone, which isn’t actually true.  The hole is in fact an area where the levels of ozone are below a particular level, rather than a complete lack.  Of course this is still a serious problem, but it isn’t actually a hole.

Nor does the “hole” permanently exist.  Ozone levels only actually drop significantly during the antarctic spring (August-October).

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Favourite Chip Shop Food

Posted by Big Boo on March 14th, 2009

When I was growing up if you mentioned take away food there were really only two options that counted – Fish and Chips, or Chinese.  My family didn’t like Indian food that much, and it wasn’t until I was about 8 or 9 that my home town got a McDonalds, let alone a pizza restaurant, so the Chippy or the Chinky it was (apologies if anyone finds that last term offensive – that was what everyone called the chinese take away back when I were a lad).

So, my post earlier this week about Fish and Chips being wrapped in newspaper led me to wonder what everybodies favourite Fish and Chip shop food is.  And if you’re wondering what scrags are, its the little bits of crispy batter from the bottom of the deep fat fryer which you can sometimes buy.  I can feel my arteries hardening  just thinking about them and their oily goodness…

What's your favourite chip shop food?
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Posted by Big Boo on March 13th, 2009

kids from fameThere are some TV shows and films which somehow manage to seep into the public consciousness, whether you ever watched them or not.  A good example of this is Fame, a film (and later TV show) that was about the staff and pupils at New York City High School for the Performing Arts, and which was around for most of the 1980’s.

Now, I fit firmly into the “didn’t watch” group, yet somehow I still remember a fair bit about the show.  OK, I probably saw the odd bit of an episode here and there, but I never actually purposely watched it, so how come it sticks in my mind so well?

I think there are many reasons, most of which come from the TV series rather than the film, but I’ll start with the biggest reason, the theme music.  The title track, called simply Fame, was originally sung by Irene Cara for the film, and later by Erica Gimpel,  for the TV series.  Gimpel played the part of Coco Hernandez in the TV show.  This song was a highly bouncy and energetic song with the chorus proclaiming “Fame!  I want to live for ever, I want to learn how to fly!“, words which will no doubt be familiar to many as the track performed well in the charts at the time.

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Fish and Chips Wrapped in Newspaper

Posted by Big Boo on March 12th, 2009

fish and chips in newspaperDo you remember the good old days when you went to the fish and chip shop and came out clutching a little parcel wrapped in newspaper?  Today this is a dying practice, with only a handful of shops remaining that serve one of UK’s finest dishes wrapped the way it should be, instead of being in white paper, white paper printed to look like newspaper (why bother) or most heinous of all, a polystyrene tray.

I’m not sure exactly when the tradition of using newspaper to wrap your chips was phased out, but certainly by the end of the 1980’s you’d be hard pressed to find a chippie serving in this manner.  So why did the practice stop?

Well, as usual it was a Health and Safety concern.  Despite the fact nobody has ever died of fish-and-chip-paper-poisoning, at least not as far as I’m aware of, it was deemed unsafe in case the ink used for the newsprint came off on the food.  I dare say that in order for this to be a problem you would have to eat fish and chips for breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper every day for every year of your life, and by then you’d die from your blood having slowly turned into a mixture of cooking oil and batter.

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