Monthly Archives: April 2017

When The Going Gets Tough, Call 911

From the 60s to perhaps the early 90s, one make dominated the big-truck industry. Be it a plain 6-wheeler, an extended 10-wheeler or a prime mover of the somewhat intimidating “Treler Panjang”, the Mercedes-Benz 911 was the favorite workhorse of choice for the haulage business owners as well as the drivers.  Per my reckoning, it probably carted off more than 50% of the market share.

My dad and two of my uncles were lorry drivers before, and they were huge fans of the big Merc. Whether it was negotiating tight hairpin turns or labouring the steep gradients of Bukit Berapit, no assignment was too tough for the 911.

 As a mechanical engineer, I loved classic MB diesel engine sound which it emitted, and that of the triumphant release of excess air from the airbrakes (it sounded like “chhhh”). They were music to my ears.

More & Less Not The Same

The external packaging looks more or less the same as before, but inside emaciation seems to have set in on our beloved sweet old thing.

In the later part of 2016, Toblerone decided to send its signature triangular-section chocolate through a “Before-and-After” slimming course in what its claims to be a much-needed cost-cutting exercise.  So, the Alpine peaks are still as high, but narrower, and the valleys are now twice as wide.

Though one may or may not have to pay more, but will surely get more air and less chocolate.  Sounds like a very familiar theme these days. 

I have not bought a bar of the new Tobie yet, but surely the old, better-endowed version would be missed by many.

1001 Dreams Less One

Before the advent of Sports Toto, Magnum 4D , etc, it seemed that dreams were limited in number to 1000. Of course that applied only to the folks with incurable gambling propensities coded into their DNA.

I recall that historical pink booklet, known as [千字图],or “Thousand Character Map”. It was revered like a religious book by die-hard punters. Inside were exactly 1000 pictograms, labelled 000 to 999.  Each depicted a unique object (both animate and inanimate) or a situation.

Waking up from a dream, adherents would quickly grab that “sacred” book and search for the pictograms which best matched their dreams.  Guess the next move?  Bets would be placed with their favourite bookies for the three-digit numbers which the respective pictograms were assigned.  It mattered not if no strikes were made.  There was always the next dream.

Homes On The Range

Each of the 3888 units of dwelling in the 9 blocks of flats gave thousands of economically-disadvantaged folks a home – well, no buffaloes roamed, and no deer and antelopes played, but never mind.

They were tiny, averaging only 360 sq feet!   Built in the mid-to-end 1960s, the Rifle Range Flats, Penang, were the first high-rise apartments in the state.  I still remember watching intently from the adjacent Batu Gantong cemetery as the pre-cast concrete slabs were lifted up by cranes and put into place.  Many people in Penang wondered if this kind of ‘Lego block’ assembly technique was safe.

Well, nearly 50 years have gone by, and they are still standing there as solid as ever.  Unfortunately the super-high density design spawned many social problems that have worsened over the years.

I believe the Federal government has a plan to demolish these flats and re-develop the area. 

Rice To The Occasion Of The Full Moon

Make it yellow, sticky and lemak. And don’t forget the Curry Chicken, please.  Folks, remember the Nasi Kunyit of old? 

Long before pathetic western cakes became incomprehensibly (to me, at least) fashionable, the successful completion of the first month on Earth for a baby was celebrated with the preparation and serving of Nasi Kunyit – which is steamed glutinous rice, laced with santan and colored with turmeric, and stuffed with some pepper corns.

When eaten with thick Chicken Curry ( I preferred to add a little fine sugar), it was scrumptiously yummy yum yum!  Of course at that time carbophobia was not yet invented, so no one was worried nor had any guilt-hangovers!

I remember that Nasi Kunyit was also a favorite serving on other festive occasions – as and when there was reason to get “high” other than Full Moons.

‘Twas Good To Drink & Drive

I loved to drive up and down Peninsular Malaysia, especially at night, even though there was no PLUS* yet.  Before embarking on each drive, my dad would pass me two bottles of Brand’s Essence of Chicken.  Said he, “Drink before you drive and along the way; good for staying alert”

What to me was essentially watered-down chicken in a bottle was highly valued and venerated by many folks of that time. (Not sure if that is still true today).  Many nursing mothers were required to consume at least one bottle a day.  Apparently, it was also the magic brew that helped students to score high marks in exams. 

Ok for me, but some people find the taste and smell awful. Nonetheless, it is the epitome of an immensely successful branding campaign.  

note : PLUS = abbreviation for Project Lebuhraya Utara Selatan, or the North-South Highway in Malaysia

Saga Of A Beleaguered National Car

32 years have rolled by since Dr M’s brainchild drove off the assembly line at Shah Alam — heralding the arrival of a new chapter in Malaysia’s industrial capability. A bold move indeed.

But right from the beginning, it was dismissed by Malaysians from all roads of life.  They ridiculed it and invented names like “Potong Harga”, “Ben Dan Sha Gua” (笨蛋傻瓜), etc to mock it.  

I drove a 1991 SAGA model, and later, an ISWARA model before.  True, there were minor irritations here and there.  Most infamously, the power windows never failed to malfunction after 2 months.  There was not much by way of refinement, but on the whole they were quite reliable.

Nevertheless. after 3 decades, the saga continues, as Proton struggles to gain acceptance and trust from Malaysians.  Will national disdain one day become national pride?