Monthly Archives: March 2016

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 then soon we had a small brood.

Now and then, we got some chicks which had a bare zone around the necks.  Completely botak.   We called them “Japanese chicks”, but to this day I don’t know why they had this feature.   Could be due to some Exhibitionistic traits in their DNA ?

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.

Strike While The Iron Is Hot

And they did that literally !  Blacksmiths at work.

Those were the days when heat-toughened men of old with brawns — and brains, of course — fashioned red hot pieces of iron and steel into tools and implements needed by the community.

Items made were varied – cangkul, spades, sickles, butcher’s cleavers….in fact anything that can be forged – ‘hot forging’ is the proper technical term.   The job was tough, requiring precision strikes with big and small hammers, and constant pumping of the bellows to keep the furnace hot.

Our little kampong in Butterworth had one such shop, just opposite the bus stop where we used to board the bus to school.   All gone now, but the rhythmic “ding-dang-ding” keeps ringing in my memory.

Me Too Loved Mee Koo

Remember that puffy chubby lump of almost pure carbohydrate in pink garb ?

In Hokkien, we call it “Mee Koo”  or Flour Tortoise.   Traditionally, it was made for birthday celebrations, both of mortal humans and immortal celestial beings (the latter apparently have also acquired an affinity for these cutesy earthly buns).

Over the years, the plain oval shape has also evolved into more modern versions, which may sprout legs, tails and heads, and also a variety of inscriptions  of the wishful-thinking kind on the back; others with an alluring pinched-in waistline.

In my younger days, me too, had a liking for them, especially when dipped into a bowl of curry.  Hmm, yummy yum yum.

My Brother Was Not A Singer

Sometime in the 1990s, we decided to trade-in our old Singer sewing machine for a secondhand Brother, with some high expectations.  It came in a nice glistening white…but alas it was really another animal.   Nothing seemed to fall in the familiar “right places”. For instance the shuttle was staring at the user and kept nodding up and down, instead of facing the left.   And the motor-drive really drove us crazy.

Oh how we struggled to tame the beast, instead of giving attention to the sewing jobs. Finally we traded-in that white elephant for……guess what…an old-fashioned leg-powered Singer !

Not that Brother is bad, just that it was the beginning to dawn on us that we were getting old, and finding it harder to cope with new things.

Siamese Marching Powder ??

No kidding !  That’s the Chinese description – 行軍散 – (as per my limited Chinese prowess).   Yes, the 5-Pagoda Medicinal Powder that has been trusted for generations for ailments of the alimentary system.

But why was it called such ?  Perhaps because it did an awesome job in giving the Marching Orders to whatever goblins inside us that were causing the tummy to bloat, or the guts to flush like a monsoon drain.

For old-timers, it was like magic silver bullets (just look at the small aluminum canisters).  Just one canister of that minty brown powder was all it took to restore peace and order.

Alas, these days this stuff is shunned – even banned in some countries – in favor of modern chemical weapons.