Spong: A meal in a mincer

Advert for Spong mincer

I’m not really sure I understand this advert from a booklet, I just found on my bookcase, entitled “Getting Married” from 1972. Here’s what it says:

Now he’ll love your cooking, too!

He’ll really appreciate you when you become not only his wife, but a good cook too!

Easy to use — and very efficient in all it does — a SPONG mincer is as pretty as it is versatile.

A choice of attractive hard nylon coloured tops in olive green, honey, tangerine and sky blue will blend with any colour scheme.

With slicer/grater tops to add to your mincing you have at hand a complete aid to good cooking.

See the range of Spong mincers, slicer/graters, bean slicers, coffee grinders at your hardware or department store. Look for the N705 at £2.25, the N605 at £2.70 and the comprehensive 702 Kitchen Set at £4.31.

Well, first of all there’s the blatently sexist “he’ll really appreciate you when you become … a good cook!” Then there’s that part about “a SPONG mincer is as pretty as …” When have you ever heard of a mincer being described as pretty?! And just how versatile can it be? How many different ways can you find to mince something!

Do I even have to point out the sentence about its “choice of attractive hard nylon coloured tops” matching any kitchen colour scheme:

4 colour swatches
Four attractive colours that will blend with any kitchen colour scheme, from left to right: olive green, honey, tangerine and sky blue.

But what I find most baffling is the company’s byline: “Spong: A meal in a mincer”. I mean, I know for the early part of the 1970s I was mostly eating liquidized foods, but then I had an excuse: I was a baby. But, was there some kind of let’s-mince-all-our-foods craze that we’ve not been told about?!

Full marks, however, to the advertising company that managed to sex-up a mincer! Next week, if I’m brave enough, I’ll share the advert entitled “Better gifts are electric”. Or the advert for “the best ironing table in the world” that also offers a left-handed version! What, stand on the other side?!

I can now multiply quickly by 99

Book cover for Rapid Math Tricks and TipsLast night I was making some space on my shelves for a couple of books on PHP and MySQL that I’d got back from my friend Mike when I came across this book: Rapid Math Tricks and Tips: 30 Days to Number Power by Edward H. Julius (Wiley, 1992) ISBN 0-471-57563-1.

I’ve always loved maths; maybe something to do with Dad having been a draughtsman and electrical engineer. At high school the only Certificate of Sixth Year Studies (CSYS) I took was in Maths, Paper II: Calculus. I really wish that I’d had this book while I was at school. It’s brilliant!

The book is a 30-day self-teaching guide designed to help you master common maths problems without a calculator. It uses tips and techniques to teach the basics of multiplication, division, subtraction and addition as well as estimation and more advanced techniques.

Last night I learned in less than five minutes how to “Rapidly multiply any one- or two-digit number by 99 (or 0.99, 0.0, 990, etc.)”. Here’s how:

  1. Subtract 1 from the number to obtain the left-hand portion of the answer
  2. Then subtract the number from 100 to obtain the right-hand portion

For example, 15 x 99:

  1. Subtract: 15 – 1 = 14 (left-hand portion of the answer)
  2. Subtract: 100 – 15 = 85 (right-hand portion of the answer)
  3. Combine: 1,485 is the answer

Another example, 430 x 0.99:

  1. Disregard the zero and decimal point, and subtract: 43 – 1 – 42 (left-hand portion of the answer)
  2. Subtract: 100 – 43 = 57 (right-hand portion of the answer)
  3. Combine: 4,257 (intermediary product)
  4. Apply Test of Reasonableness: 0.99 is almost 1, so 430 x 0.99 must equal just under 430. Insert a decimal point within the intermediary product to obtain the answer, 425.7.

How cool is that!