Category Archives: business

By Hooke, Not By Crook

Clearing out my store room recently, I came face-to-face with an old “friend”.  It was that 50 kg capacity spring-activated weighing machine, that I acquired in 1997 when I started my 3rd business venture.

For those techie-minded folks, yes, it operated on Hooke’s Law; these types however, have been steadily replaced by electronically-operated ones over the years.

Nothing spectacular, but this machine brings back many memories of past follies and glories in my forays into business.  Many lessons weighed in, as I recall that doing business was not as simple and straight forward as applying engineering principles. 

Many times, it had to be either by Hook or by Crook to get a deal —  that went against my grain and so, finally I decided to get back to Bolts and Nuts,….and…,Springs.

Weighing In On The “Dacing”

Before the advent of spring-activated weighing machines with dial faces, the “dacing” in varying sizes, was universally used in all kinds of retail business.

It was also widely known that sellers sometimes manipulated the implement to cheat customers either through deft handwork while shifting the counter-weight, or by stealthily pre-loading the weighing pan (a favourite technique was to coat the underside of the pan with assam paste – thus gaining several tahils’ worth for the seller).

Our family used to have one set at home, with which we re-weighed everything we bought.  The neighbourhood sundry shop knew we had this Weapon of Mass Discernment and wise enough never to have tested its awesome power. In fact, the proprietor always added a little bit more to what we asked for, as a “safety margin”.

Mid-Sea Rendezvous

No romantic frolicking but an economic activity borne out of necessity.

In the days before the deep-water wharves were constructed along the shores of Butterworth, wooden boats — called tongkang — would line up alongside cargo ships (from various nations) in the waters of Penang Harbour.   Using shipboard cranes, goods of all kinds were transferred from the tongkangs onto the ship, and vice-versa. 

There were many ships at anchor each with its attendant tongkang flotilla.   So, the cross-harbour ferries usually had to do some deft zig-zagging amidst them to ensure crossing in one piece (and still floating).  As a kid, it was a thrill to watch these cargo ships at close quarters from a ferry.

Some fascinating memories to share.

For better or for worse, the advent of containerization has practically sunk this mode of cargo transport for ports around the world.