Monthly Archives: March 2016

Public Displays of Affection @ KLIA

Not about couples engaging in smoldering hugs and kisses at the airport – but just an old man here fondly reminiscing with affection this day 18 years ago.

28 March 1998 : my tiny crew of workers and I set out to test and commission the Public Information Displays at the spanking new KLIA at Sepang.   It was only with 200% passion and dedication that my team (including my HM) managed to design, develop, manufacture and commission in record time the total of 157 displays boards.   And saved my client – the main contractor – a ruinous penalty of RM15,000 per day.

Just in time for a site inspection by the YAB Dr M the following week.

I wonder if the displays are still there at KLIA.

Ada Udang Di Atas Kueh

Yea, bukan semua udang perlu sembunyi di sebalik batu (not all prawns need to hide behind a rock).   In this case, they were nicely stuck to the top of the yummy old-time delicacy known as Cucur Badak.

Half a century back, while I was in primary school, I ate a piece of this nearly everyday at the school tuckshop, where the ‘kak-and-makcik’ team sold a variety of traditional Malay kuih.  That Kak always reserved the pieces with the fattest udang for me !  Adoih, Sedapnya ! 

Am blessed with a wifey who is good at making them : these days, few people in Singapore have heard of this stuff, fewer still have eaten one. On rare occasions where these are encountered, cost-cutting has taken a toll : one can toss the round things around, look di hadapan, di belakang, tapi cannot find any  Udang.

Served By The Well

In the old village where I grew up there was no tap water for homes, except for the few houses that lined the main road.   However, our drinking and washing needs were well-served.   Each house had its own well – no need to pay any bills and unlimited usage !

Everyone took cold showers by pouring pail after pail of water over the head, but no one fell sick.  For cooking, we would pass the well water through a sand filter first.

During the dry season, sometimes the water level dropped to less than a bucket height.  But in the rain season the water level rose up to almost floor level, and often we got ‘cacing’ (worms) as long as 6 inches in the water.

The Lore Of Beverages

Back in the 60s, Ovaltine and Milo were the two rather “classy” beverages and they ran head-to-head.  Whenever a guest came avisiting to our humble abodes, a cup of one of these hot drinks would be served.

Ovaltine was favored in my home due to its perceived higher nutrition value (supposedly had eggs in its composition), but some vegetarians stayed away from it and went for Milo.

Over the years, Ovaltine seems to have retreated further and further into obscurity (my perception) whilst Milo seems to have gone from strength to strength. If I walk into a coffeeshop now and ask for Ovaltine, chances are that I will get a few blank stares. “Apa tin lu mahu ?”

Photo shows the honest-to-goodness packaging designs of the 1960s – without fanciful photos or pictures printed on them. 

Happiness Came In Nine Layers

Remember the traditional Nine-Layer Kueh (九层糕) ?  

When we were kids, these came with alternate layers of light pink and magenta, topped by a cover layer of strong red. Sweet, slightly chewy and lemak, these were well loved by everyone.  I think they were made from a mixture of rice flour, tapioca flour and cornstarch.

One of the favourite ways of eating was to peel off layer by layer – somehow it added more fun.  And we often we would put a light pink layer on our tongues and let it hang out like that of a dog, and showing off to our siblings.   Woof ! Woof !

These days, the Nine-Layer Kueh has acquired a whole gamut of colours, to the extent that it is rather hard to find the original version.  And they are nowhere near as tasty !

They Kept Me in Suspense – Y ?

Remember Y-suspenders ?   These accessories for men seemed to be fashionable in most of the Westerns – the menfolk appeared to be wearing these all the time.

When I was a kid, I used to wear these too.  But it was less of being a hipster of the day and more of upholding a down-to-earth need.   I was growing quickly in size, and being relatively poor, we could not afford to buy new clothes frequently.

So my mum found a solution – she bought pants for me that were 2 sizes larger.   When new, those were really loose and thus the Y-suspenders came in handy.  By the second year, I probably did not need those anymore.  (But by the third year,  the pants were rather tight)

King Of The Forest

The Chinese in Malaysia used to call them “San Tai Wong” (in Cantonese, which means King Of The Forest).  Others called them Lori Hantu or Ghost Trucks.   Now you see them, now you don’t ?

In the old days, I used to see a particular type of truck being used to haul huge logs (kayu balak, in Malay) to the sawmill near my house.  They looked rough-and-tough but pretty beaten up and, they did not have license plates on them.  My research seems to say that these were probably ex-WW2 surplus Chevrolet CMP trucks used by the British.

I believe some of these veterans are still running around and the remains of many others are scattered around the country.

Some Rules Can Be Bent…

Yet others can even be folded to suit the circumstances, depending on the needs of the user !  Nah, am not talking politics here, rather, of an indispensable measuring tool used by craftsmen of old, especially carpenters.

The foldable ruler came in various lengths, but the most common was a two-foot long type with 4 sections.  When fully collapsed, it was 6 inches long, and could be slipped into a pocket.   In fact, any Tukang Kayu worth his wood – professional or amateur –  “needed” to subtly (but prominently) display this tool, to authenticate his competence.   LOLX.

I have not seen this rule for decades now – perhaps these days, fewer and fewer people are “hands-on”.

Botak Necks – An Unfeathered Fowl Expression

When I was a kid, we used to buy fertilized eggs from a dealer, took them home and then incubated them in a home-made incubator and waited for the chicks to hatch.  Slowly, one, two…and then three,..and soon we had a small brood of cute fluffy ones running around.

Now and then, we got some chicks which had a bare zone around the neck.  Completely botak.   We called them “Japanese chicks”, but to this day I don’t know why they had this feature, nor why they were so named!   Could it be due to some Exhibitionistic traits in their DNA, traceable to ancient Japan?

I think the chance of getting one was less than 1:20, so whenever one showed up in the new batch, the siblings would often fight for the right to “own” it.

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Are Meshed

Anyone remembers that kind of wire netting, with repeating hexagonal patterns ?  Yes, it is Chicken Wire Mesh, or simply Chicken Wire.   How did you use it ?

Many years ago, this kind of galvanized steel wire netting was very popular in the kampong.   Due to its low cost, flexibility and ease of cutting and forming, it found widespread use –  besides keeping our fowls from accidentally wandering into our neighbors’ cooking pots, or laying their eggs elsewhere.  LOL !

We also used it to build a fence – with wooden frames – around my kampong house, mainly to keep out stray dogs and unwanted guests.  The mesh itself was not very strong – a dog could bite through if it was determined enough, especially if some corrosion had set in.