Friday, June 27, 2008

touch me not

One of the best times we had when we were children was to run in the school compound and make a lot of noise. We liked to play catch and we could scream with delight.

And when we were tired we would go and tease the "touch me nots".

Our science teacher Mr. Tiong had taught us about mimosa and how sensitve the leaves were. So we incorporated the term touch me not into our game of catch.

It is so strange that so many years later I can still remember the girls (and a few of the more daring boys) who would play with us and we screamed "touch me not". To stop any one touching us we would squat down and this made us untouchable. It was just such child like pure fun.

Today any kind of touching might even bring a young boy to court!! Teachers are also sensitive and are always on the look out for ways to punish and condemn boys who pinch girls. But they do not realise that some girls are worst bullies than boys. Many girls have indeed turned out to be more gangsters than their male counterparts.

But the availability of touch me nots in the school compound gave us one of our best science lessons we ever had. It was so hands - on and practical. Thanks Mr. Tiong.

Native to Brazil, this short lived evergreen sub shrub is usually treated as an annual. It is grown for its curiosity value- the fern like leaves close up and droop when touched, usually re-opening within minutes. It has prickly stems and small, fluffy, ball shaped pink flowers in summer. It grows to a height of 5 ft and spreads around 3 ft- a perennial plant, it grows to a height of 0.5m with a spread of 0.3m. In some areas this plant is becoming a noxious weed. The stem is erect, slender and branching. The leaves are bipinnate, fern like and pale green- closing when disturbed. The flowers are pale lilac pink, occurring in globose heads and appearing in summer. Indigenous to the northern hemisphere, it is adaptable to most soils in an open, sunny position, and is drought and frost tender. Due to its ability to fix nitrogen from the air it does well on poor soils. "Sensitive Plant" folds up its leaves when touched or exposed to a flame. This plant requires a medium light exposure, an evenly moist soil, and temperatures between 60 and 85 degrees. One should use caution when handling seedlings because the plant dislikes root disturbance. Mimosa may be difficult to grow and is sensitive to over watering.
Photographed in Manipur

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Rattan Clothes Basket

A photo by Stephenlnc.

We used this kind of clothes basket to keep clothes in for repair or for recycling. A pair of scissors would be in the basket with other things like threads and needles.

In some families, this kind of basket was for keeping babies' clothes. Sometimes the basket was hanged up so that ants would not crawl into the clothes. That is why you can see a smaller handle on the bigger handle.

Apart from these two uses, I would not know what else it was used for.

This kind of basket was very sturdy and hardy because the best rattan was used. That is why it can stand the test of time.

What did your family use it for?

Rattan Food Cover for the Table

This is a photo by Stephenlnc. Another family treasure.

When we were young,we used to lift the food cover up, just to have a peep at what mother had cooked for us. And hungry like wolves, we could not really wait for everyone to be gathered together for lunch or dinner.

The food cover was always a good item to have to keep away flies. But I lovingly remember that it was also a cover to keep our dishes from the prying eyes of neighbours. We would also have a good laugh when a nosey neighbour (Ah Moo) came around and wished to have a peep. And my mother would humbly say that we did not have much on the table. But she could have a slice or two of the chicken and a little bit of rice.

Our Ah Moo was quite poor as she did not have very skilled sons to bring back a good income and her husband died when he was very young. So she and her two sons and the daughters in law and grandchildren squeezed into a three room flat opposite our house in Kung Ping Road.Life was quite a struggle for all of them. She told us quite often that they could not pay their rent. But she was a very good listener in spite of her lack of education. And I am glad that her daughter in law (the first Iban Chinese I ever met) has become a really good grandmother and a very resourceful and enterprising lady. The old lady has long been gone, but her grandchildren are indeed doing well.

She was also the lady who got all our ears pierced. And according to her, we would not turn into pigs when we die. Well, that was the folk lore told by her.

I am glad that my mother not only opened her doors to the old lady, but removed the food cover for the kindly soul to share some of our food.

I still have such a food cover although it is more practical and "fashionable" to use the cellophane wrap which is so easily available these days.

My children also think that something is missing from one's kitchen if we do not have such a rattan food cover.

Aluminium Basin

A photo by Stephenlnc.

This is a treasure from our Foochow past. A basin like this was multipurpose. First of all, it is very portable and could be carried any where in the house.Secondly, it is very light weight. Thirdly, it is long lasting and the basin in the photo must have been in Stephen's family for more than 30 years!!

The basin is used as a baby bath tub, a wash basin for clothes, and vegetables. My aunt had one and she used it to make all her preserved vegetables like Chow Chai (vegetables preserved in lees, or ang chow, and salt - keng chai).

Very often, this basin in the past,was used to "warm up water for the confinement lady who was sitting out her month". That was during the time when there was no electrical water heater or even electrical kettle.

And in the evenings, warm water would be poured into this basin to wash the feet of our elders. My great grandmother used to soak her bound feet in the tub in the evenings and she would take hours in the bath room. And later any one who used the bath room for a long long time would be likened to her.

And lastly if my dear readers can remember the olden days, our mothers used to "boil" our white cotton clothes , white bed sheets and white pillow cases,in this kind of basin every now and then to starch them and to make them very white. They also used some kind of soda to whiten the clothes. Today housewives are very fortunate in having all sorts of detergents to help them do their laundry.

And finally, if the basin became dented and full of holes our dear elders would fill them with soil and grow spring onions, and any other vegetables in the backyard. What a way to make full use of a household item. It was definitely reuse,recycle and reduce.

Thank you Stephen. A picture can churn up so many memories.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Slide on My Mind

A young girl on a see saw. Black and White photo circa 1972.

Notice the puddle and the few drops of water in this very artistic photo. You feel the loneliness of being abandoned by a loved one.

This is a good model. Try to build your own garden see saw.

Asian children enjoying a good day out.

A double swing - you can share so many moments of happiness, may be just mother and daughter time, two good friends together, or now two old retirees sharing memories of the good old times.

Another see saw. A comment - Life is full of ups and downs - We tell our kids that we are happy when we are up and sad when we down. Now prices of things are going up and up.....we need to look at "up" in a different way.

Hope you like these pictures, mostly taken from various websites available in the Internet; why I never took photos of Sibu children's playgrounds with my box camera is still a mystery even to myself. I live to regret that as I have so many good memories of my childhood days in the playgrounds. But I am sure many of my readers have these pictures in their minds. Playgrounds have meant a lot to most of us when we were growing up as kids were meant to play happily and safely in the playgrounds where see-saws, swings and slides were made available for them by the local government authorities.

Children's playgrounds also bring to mind one unforgetable teaching experience. Many years ago I was teaching a "special class" English writing. I had a great deal of fondness for this bunch of kids because they were very honest, straightforward and most of the times, amusing. They were not those who eventually became doctors, lawyers and engineers. Each day offered fresh experiences to me.

And one of the gems that I gleaned from their writing was this piece from the many compositions I received on "My Wish". Each student was allowed to choose a picture to "inspire" them to write their composition. We had the usual brainstorming session for a good vocabulary list. And then we helped each other to put up some examples of sentence patterns. It was quite a fun way to start writing.

This particular naughty boy at the back grumbled a little, saying that his wishes would never come true. Some of the girls giggled. A few boys glared. And when he came to choose a picture, he took the last picture - that of a slide. And he looked at me,

"Teacher, what bad luck I have!! I have this lousy picture. Others have such nice pictures of film stars, singers, houses!!"

I comforted him by saying, "You can wish to become a builder, a contractor, an engineer, and inventor!"

He looked so sad and forlorn. And I thought he would just scribble anything and hand in a messy composition.

But I was wrong.

He wrote: " ...My life has been going downwards like the slide. Nothing but bad luck all the time.

When I play in the playground and sit at the top of the slide all I can see are happy families. A father is at the bottom of the slide to catch his son. How happy. How secure. If I have a father waiting at the bottom of the slide for me,I will then not be afraid of a fall.

But. I have no father to scoop me up and laugh happily with me. My mother is so sad, sitting on her swing, waiting for my sister to finish her time on the swing.

I play alone most of the time.

My greatest wish is that in the future I will make my mother and sister happy.

And I want to be the best father in the world if I cannot be much else."

Every day after I marked his composition I would look out for him and wish him well.

And as I write this little memory of one of my greatest lessons in life, how to be a great mother, and take my children to playgrounds and catch them when they come down the slide, I think of this poor boy. I wish too that he is a great father today.

But most important of all, I wish there are lots of safe playgrounds for children to play, to develop and to enjoy PLAY in the real sense.

I enjoyed the swings in the playground of Old Street while waiting for my grandmother to come from Sg. Maaw by the motor launch. And as I grew older, I continued to sit on the swing and ate the kompia I could buy from the last shop ,a biscuit shop on the street. The first shop,near the temple, was called Hock Chu Huo.

There were only two children's play grounds in found in Old Street and the other one at the junction of Archer Road and Tun Haji Openg Road. Other playgrounds are part of the various school compounds which had the extra space. Apart from that there were very few other actual playgrounds that I can remember. One fairly good playground was the one in Sungei Merah.

More readings:

Scott's Emulsion Cod Liver Oil

In the 1920's to 1940's one of the most feared diseases was tuberculosis or TB and the Sarawak government did try to contain it. Although TB was prevalent in mostly highly densely areas like the Chinatown of Singapore in the 50's, it nevertheless was prevalent in Sarawak. Many men were placed in the TB wards of the hospitals and in fact the Sibu Lau King Howe TB ward was often avoided. It was placed on the north side and its main door was gated. All utensils and crockery were separated from the normal patients' wards. I cannot remember exactly but it seemed that even the cooking was also slightly different. So great was the fear for the disease.

One of the fine activities of the missionary wives was to help bring some essentials to the hospital wards. Collaborating with the nursing sisters and doctors of the Lau King Howe hospital, these wonderful ladies and a few of us students helped to sell stuff like Sun Valley Orange toothpaste toothbrushes,combs .towels.etc For my friends and I it was a good opportunity to learn what it was like to work in a hospital. We were not afraid at all to go near the TB patients and sell them the things they needed. They found that we were good listeners.

We learned a few of the old wives' tales about how people contracted TB. One was that a man who had multiple wives would suffer from TB!! Another was exhaustion from work. Several old ladies even told me that if a man did not wear enough clothes because he was poor he would soon have TB.

One of the normal Foochow community practices was to give children a lot of Cod Liver Oil as a protection against this deadly disease. Many men and women who looked very thin would buy Cod Liver Oil as a supplement. So perhaps Cod Liver Oil was the first food supplement of that era.

Perhaps it was because of this association of TB with thin people that fat babies were favoured in the 50's and 60's!!

Many families would have multiple bottles of the white Scott's Emulsion Cod liver Oil. The empty bottles were used to mark divisions in the vegetable gardens! This was very typical of the then frugal society. Some people even recycle the bottles as milk bottles. But later the beer bottles became the favourite recycle-able bottles for chinese wine,soya bean milk,and others.

I still remember with fondness and a smile a typical scene of a loving mother lining up her six kids and pouring a spoon of cod liver oil for each of them. This comradeship of a sibling queue for cod liver oil must have made the swallowing of the fishy supplement easier. My siblings and I had our share of cod liver oil too and so did all my cousins, upriver and downriver of the Rejang . Mothers never seem to stop buying them. And sometimes the shops go out of stock.

Scott's EmulsionChildren's Health Supplement : Scott's EmulsionScott's Emulsion is rich in cod liver oil which is a natural source of Omega-3 Vitamin A & D, calcium and phosphorus. It helps children to build their natural body resistance to infections like coughs and colds and develop strong bones and teeth during their growing years.
It is a brand trusted by mothers for generations to help protect their children from coughs and colds, so that they will grow strong and healthy.
Scott's Emulsion is available in two variants : Original and Orange flavours.
Adult Health Supplement : Scott's Cod Liver Oil CapsulesScott's Cod Liver Oil Capsules come in easy to swallow golden capsules rich in natural Vitamin A & D and polyunsaturated fatty acids - Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which help to build resistance to infections, maintain healthy tissue and promote strong bones and teeth.
Scott's Cod Liver Oil is available in 100's and 500's Capsules pack.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Tribute to Foochow Scholar - Hii Wen Hui


孤鴻海上來, 池潢不敢顧;
側見雙翠鳥, 巢在三珠樹。
矯矯珍木巔, 得無金丸懼?
美服患人指, 高明逼神惡。
今我遊冥冥, 弋者何所慕?


Zhang Jiuling

A lonely swan from the sea flies,
To alight on puddles it does not deign.
Nesting in the poplar of pearls
It spies and questions green birds twain:
"Don't you fear the threat of slings,
Perched on top of branches so high?
Nice clothes invite pointing fingers,
High climbers god's good will defy.
Bird-hunters will crave me in vain,
For I roam the limitless sky."

He was a good man.

He was a very talented linguist, good with words, with a ton of wisdom in between.

He was a teacher, a mentor, a wise man. A truly learned man.

He was a man who straddled two centuries,20th and 21st centuries. I personally think that it is hard to find a simple humble Foochow man and teacher like Hii Wen Hui. He was a true scholar of both languages : English and Chinese at their highest, literary and philosophical,levels. His mind was a library or storehouse of knowledge. There are not many of them left in Sibu. He used to say that a man's name need not be proceeded by the beating of gongs. He was quietly a great man to all of us who knew and loved him.

The Chinese have always admired men and women who could write poems, paint, write good calligraphy and have expertise in the martial arts. But being far away from China, and Sarawak born, my uncle Hii Wen Hui had most of these expertise, and more importantly, had great mastery of the English language. His Chinese articles were admired. His speeches were thunderously applauded. His own personal writings featured his great talents in the letters, but they remained private and were not for the public eye.

Born of a poor family, he not only educated himself by dint of hardwork, but educated all his siblings. There is also a common saying, a man can always father children, but often it is the eldest son who educates the brood. My uncle was one of these great sons.

He struggled as a young student, quelling hunger pangs in order to be in school and scoring the highest marks possible. He tapped rubber in the early hours of the day before he went to school so that he could put rice and salt on the table for his parents and his younger siblings, and at the same time keeping them in school.

He was qualified to enter university during those colonial days, but he himself curtailed his own ambitions so that his ailing father could live on, and his brothers and sisters could go to school. He also made a great decision to marry the love of his life, my aunt. He astounded the community by bringing up six brothers and sisters in all while he was a student himself and then as a young father with his own children. That was the usual plight of young Foochows at that time. He bore all with stoicism and a great sense of humour. He did not make any mistake in his choices in life, he once said during one of his birthdays. He was honourable as a son and brother, honourable as a husband and father.

As a teacher in Chung Cheng, Sg. Maaw, Kwong Hua, and then the Rajang Secondary School, he literally squeezed English out of the Foochow boys and girls who came under him. I still remembered how he used two pieces of glass and mimeograph ink to make copies of English exercises from his stencils. He typed well and marked every word of his students' work in order to get them on their feet and get good jobs which required English. It was hard work. But it all paid off as he had so many "followers" and fans. His English grammar was impeccable.

Words from him were very valuable. And he was always very sharp in his judgement. He was never wrong. He gave good counselling so many simple folks came to see him for advice. Many people's lives changed for the better because they sought counselling from him.

His great sense of responsibility led him to bring up a good brood of educated children who are now serving in their respective adopted countries and in Malaysia. He was very strict with his children and he was frugal in his ways. He was more strict with his children than with his students. There was one time when he punished his young daughter by putting her in the dark in the living room, to teach her a lesson. He made his point and she saw his point.

Never a man to spend a single cent in a worthless manner, he lived simply according to his principles. He never had more shirts than he needed. He never bought an extra pair of shoes he would leave to gather dust. He pitied people who wasted time, money and life.

His only entertainment was the radio and later the tv. But his greatest joy was the brotherhood of ten brothers. Many of his "brothers" had gone before him. And for more than sixty years, this brotherhood of theirs saw the upheavals, the down turns of Sarawak history. They also saw the progress made by those around them and their own families growing into responsible citizens of the world.

The brotherhood was his joy and his utopia. It was his and his "nine brothers' idealism. Nothing could corrupt their beliefs and well being. And like the stories of "All Men are brothers" (Water Margin), my uncle had lived a good life. He was not a bully, he was not a man who turned against his own brother.

After his retirement from teaching, he became a personal assistant to a multi billionaire. Humble as he was, he never made himself rich. He did what he had to do. To help the towkay in as many ways as possible. Perhaps he was too, like a good son to him but he never asked for anything more. Like the ancient scholars, he asked only to be trusted. And he gave his all to his friend. His honour was was reward.

No one could be a better son than my uncle. He looked after both his parents for the whole of their lives, until they passed away at very old age. No one could deny that he was one of the most filial sons in the Rejang basin.

He was also very filial to his mother in law, my grandmother. And not many could be so good and so kind to a mother in law in such an extra ordinary manner. In his humourous ways, he had pampered her in so many ways, especially by calling her "Neh, Neh," all the time. Every sentence he uttered would be punctuated by this endearing term. The Foochows call this, "up sound,neh, down sound, neh". (Siong siang neh, ah siang neh.) Neh is old foochow endearing term for mother.

How did he show that he was a filial son in law? Simple : by being thoroughly faithful to his wife of 53 years. That must be a record by Sibu standard.

We will always remember him for his great sense of humour. In times of hardships, he laughed with us, in times of pain and suffering, he told jokes, and in times of mourning, he alleviated our pains with his wisdom.

His passing will leave a large hole in our hearts. He had lived an honourable life in order to fill our future with honour and strong beliefs that great traditional values must continued to be upheld by real example. His sincerity cannot be merely described by my words.

He was an exemplary ,faultless,honourable Foochow man. A good man. A great man. A man Sibu people can be proud of.


As We Look Back.

As we look back over time
We find ourselves wondering .....
Did we remember to thank you enough
For all you have done for us?
For all the times you were by our sides
To help and support us .....
To celebrate our successes
To understand our problems
And accept our defeats?
Or for teaching us by your example,
The value of hard work, good judgement,
Courage and integrity?
We wonder if we ever thanked you
For the sacrifices you made.
To let us have the very best?
And for the simple things
Like laughter, smiles and times we shared?
If we have forgotten to show our
Gratitude enough for all the things you did,
We're thanking you now.
And we are hoping you knew all along,
How much you meant to us.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Good News for the Disabled

It is rather seldom that we hear good news for the disabled apart from the giving of once a a year angpows to them, or the raising of funds for the organisations. These have always been like giving a man a fish to eat for a day.

But the following announcement is indeed heartening.

I would always remember the accountant in my British college who was wheel chair bound. And I was impressed by all the ramps and facilities made available for him and other disabled students and staff. That was way back in the 80's! And then we started to be more politically correct too,and could look at any diabled person in the eye. Having a disabled person working alongside with you has its positive effects too. Colleagues become more humane and caring.

Korean movies are taking the lead in this matter. In almost all the better movies, they have an actor in a wheel chair. And usually he is the most intelligent charactor with a broad shoulder to cry on, some one who has a lot of sympathies for the leading actress. I think Malaysian script writers should also write a disabled character into films so that Malaysians can develop their social sympathies. Noblesse oblige.

And I do hope that this piece of news will augur well for all the Sibu disabled people.

I hope registration of our disabled people will continue in a positive manner. And those who are temporarily employed by the government should become permanent and pensionable so that they do not have to be in the streets in their old age.

10,000 jobs for disabled people in civil service

KUALA LUMPUR: The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, with the cooperation of the Public Service Department (PSD), have created 10,000 jobs for the disabled, which represents one per cent of the workforce in the public sector.

Its minister, Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said the intake was endorsed at a meeting between the ministry’s task force and PSD recently, and the application forms would be distributed to the organisations for disabled people nationwide beginning next week.

“The disabled people can collect the forms from their organisations and their applications would be considered based on certain criteria,” she told reporters after presenting aid to fire victims at Jalan Chan Sow Lin yesterday.

At present, only 581 disabled people were employed in the civil service while the private sector recruited less than 5,000.

About 220,000 disabled people are registered with the Welfare Services Department.

Ng said the meeting between the ministry’s task force which was formed in May and PSD was also attended by representatives from the Welfare Services Department and the disabled people associations.

Among the issues raised at the meeting were matters pertaining to road tax, wheelchairs and the welfare of parents with disabled children and they would be brought up to the attention of the Finance Ministry.

To ease the burden of the disabled people in coping with the rising cost of living, Ng said the ministry had recently increased the eligibility of disabled people to apply for allowance from a household income of RM750 a month to RM1,200 a month.

She said the ministry had also asked Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to increase the allowance for disabled people who were unable to work from RM400 a month to RM700 a month.

Earlier, Ng presented mats, blankets, food and RM1,270 in cash from the Welfare Services Department to two families who were made homeless in a fire on June 13.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Black and White Wedding Photos 1940's - 1960's

This is going to be one of the most beautiful pages of my blog. The weddings of my elders in Sibu and Singapore. Sadly,my family does not have many of these black and white photos in our beloved possessions.

How lovely a wedding can be , captured in black and white by good photographers. I would say Amen to the blessings pronounced by the officiating Reverend at that time. These couples have indeed cherished each other over the years!!

The newly wedded Mr and Mrs. Lau Pang Kwong. The gentleman sitting down was Great Grand Father Tiong King Sing. The wedding took place in the Masland Church

Mr. and Mrs. Tiong Tai King the newly wedded couple met each other at the Yuk Ing Girls' School, Sibu.

Mr. and Mrs. Goh Soon Tioe, Singapore. My aunt Tiong Lee Sieng became a great and well respected teacher in Singapore and raised three daughters who excelled in music.

My father and mother in their 1948 wedding. After the Japanese war the economy had not recover.

My 9th aunt married Mr. Henry Lim (also from Sibu) in Kuching.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Egg Baskets of olden days

This special photo is very precious indeed. Sent to me by Halamangua (check out his blog),the photo brought back many hours of warm memories. The wire basket was the popular egg basket of the 50's and almost every household had this practical egg basket. Eggs could be carried for long distances without getting broken. And the airy basket could keep the eggs fresh for days. Besides, a hard wire basket like this could stand up and withstand any kind of shaking. All the important criteria were thought out when the designer thought of making such a wonderful wire basket!!
It could also be hung up to prevent rats from eating the eggs too!! So it was really a very significant farm basket.

My mother owned one of these collapsible egg basket, a later design of egg basket. It has to be hung but it has almost all the other features of a good egg basket.

So,I am glad "Halamangua" is very happy to share with me the photo of his mother's egg basket which is "older than him". Thank you Stephen.

This vintage wire basket is indeed a good antique to show our heritage, which is also shared by many world wide.

Starting in the 1920's the French and Americans were leading in egg production and modern agriculture was making many farmers wealthy. Eggs were sold at premium prices and restaurants were serving new exotic chicken dishes.

In 1952 Colonet Sanders founded KFC and fried chicken became a favourite food world wide. After the 1950's chicken rearing became "factory" in style!

Eggs need to be kept in airy baskets to protect its quality. And Foochow housewives knew this important rule.

An excerpt from an article by Phillip J. Clauer, Poultry Extension Specialist
Animal & Poultry Sciences Department

Collect eggs in an easy to clean container like coated wire baskets or plastic egg flats. This will prevent stains from rusted metal and contamination from other materials which are difficult to clean and disinfect.

Do not stack eggs too high. If collecting in baskets do not stack eggs more than 5 layers deep. If using plastic flats do not stack more than 6 flats. If you stack eggs too deep you will increase breakage.

Never cool eggs rapidly before they are cleaned. The egg shell will contract and pull any dirt or bacteria on the surface deep into the pores when cooled. Try to keep the temperature relatively constant until they are washed.

Wash eggs as soon as you collect them. This helps limit the opportunity of contamination and loss of interior quality.

Wash eggs with water 10 degrees warmer than the egg. This will make the egg contents swell and push the dirt away from the pores of the egg. If you have extremely dirty eggs, a mild detergent approved for washing eggs can be used.

Never let eggs sit in water. Once the temperature equalizes the egg can absorb contaminants out of the water.

Cool and dry eggs quickly after washing. Store eggs, large end up, at 50-55ÉF and at 75% relative humidity. If eggs sit at room temperature (75ÉF) they can drop as much as one grade per day. If fertile eggs are kept at a temperature above 85ÉF for more than a few hours the germinal disc (embryo) can start to develop. If fertile eggs are kept above 85ÉF over two days the blood vessels of the embryo may become visible.
If eggs are stored properly in their own carton or other stable environment they should hold a quality of Grade A for at least four weeks.

The Methodist Primary School Staff Photo

This is a rather unusual staff photo of the Methodist Primary School, Sibu, taken in the 50's. All the ladies, except two, are sitting in the front. The lady in the middle is Miss Annette Constantine, the School Supervisor.

The Headmaster at that time was Mr. Wong Kie Mee, standing on the second row.

My grand aunty is seated on the front row.

What a nice way of arranging these teachers, giving the ladies due recognition. I wonder if many organisations would ask ladies to take their seats in the front nowadays.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kampei - Shaoxing Wines

Here is a display of different products of Pagoda Brand Shaoxing Wines.

A crock of Shaoxing wine is always a great gift for any friend who is interested in Chinese Cuisine.

In the days gone by, drinking amongst the earliest Foochows in Sibu was kept at a minimum because the Methodists have a tradition of being teetotallers - no drinks allowed.

The Hoovers kept the early Foochows in line, but exceptional cases also occurred. During one of his travels down the river to visit his flock, he was once called, by letter, to rescue a man who had been arrested for moon shining. He made a hurried trip back and had him released from police remand because what the man had done(brewing for home use) was very minimal to deem arrestable. By vouching for the poor Foochow, Hoover was given the honour of seeing him released almost immediately, and the culprit was repentant. That was 1905 or thereabout. The Reverend Hoover was always very humourous about Foochow misdemeanours.

However in modern days Sibu, wines continued to be favoured by both men and women especially during the various festivals and particularly during the Chinese New Year. Birthday dinners are opportunities for all, both young and old ,to help ourselves to the bountiful drinks available. Weddings seem to be a excuse for us to drink ourselves silly most of the times.

My first wine was my youngest maternal aunt's wedding when I was about 10. It was a great temptation to drink more but when I saw my uncles happy and a little tipsy, I held myself up and thought, one or two glasses of kampei would be enough and my mum was there sticking out her tongue and laughing at the same time. My mother was never a drinker like the rest. My father was a very controlled drinker. But my third uncle was a great drinker. The wedding banquet was held in my grandmother's mansion in Sg. Maaw and more than 15 tables were filled by relatives and neighbours from far and near. It was a merry time. My aunt had been matched to one of the most eligible young man of the Rejang Basin, well educated, English and Chinese speaking, handsome and a man of good reputation. She had several suitors but she only wanted to marry this young man. So every one was fantastically happy. By evening time, my third uncle, was extremely happy, satisfied with all the food he had prepared and had enough. He eventually was snoring away to everyone's delight.

(I would continue to enjoy my third uncle's good company and drinking sessions for many years. He was just so sporting and helpful. It was also a well known fact that my grandmother lived a very long life because she always had a glass of wine every evening. She was never sickly in her life time.)

Shaoxing wine was used in the cooking of most of the dishes, and bottles of it were passed around next to beer,XO, Martell, Black Label and others during a wedding or a birthday celecration. The the bride and groom, the new in laws, and the celebrants would go from table to table to drink a toast or kampei. They had to do at least one round.

At a wedding feast, the best man was a very important figure. He was the one who was the life and soul of the party, as he was expected to call the shots and give to cue for any activity. He would lead the toasting.

That kind of celebration is what I consider. until today, a real Foochow celebration.

The Shaoxing wines are most favoured for cooking. In most Foochow kitchen a bottle or a crock of Shaoxing is never missing. The ubiquitous mee sua in Sibu tastes very much better with a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine.

According to my grandmohter, when the rubber prices went up in the 50's, some imported wines started to arrive in Sibu and Shaoxing was definitely the number one imported wine. She said that it was the best wine she ever had. Unfortunately she never lived to enjoy the more recent Australian and American wines.

Homemade Foochow red wine,on the other hand, continued to be brewed for confinement, cooking and every day consumption right up to these days. Because this is still not not legal, the Foochows continue to brew in secret. And sales have always been done in whispers.

Shaoxing wine continues to be the most valued of the table wines. This is because it is good for confinement, general health, celebration dinners and gifts.

There is a lot of information about this wine nowadays.

Below is an article about Shaoxing and other drinks:

China has produced a variety of fermented wines and distilled spirits for centuries. Most are still available in Taiwan. The most popular dinner beverage is Shaoxing wine, a smoky brew fermented from rice. Dried plums are steeped in the wine, which is served piping hot. The best grade is a fragrant, amber vintage called huadiao. Always drink Shaoxing wine at blood temperature and reject cold Shaoshing wine. Maotai is a potent spirit distilled from sorghum and used mainly for venerable Chinese custom of toasting. For serious drinkers. Kaoliang and Bai-Gar are also made from sorghum but repeatedly distilled until they reach 150 proof. But the overwhelming choice of people who eat in Taiwan or anywhere Far East is chilled beer. Although imported, the adaptable Chinese find beer is the perfect beverage for the Chinese cuisine. Taiwan produces its own brand of brew called Taiwan beer.

Note : Try the popular Pagoda brand which is considered the best bottled Shaoxing - Hua diao . It can be found all of the world in fact.

You can also try a Shaoxing in a brown ceramic crock with red ribbons (Shaoxing Hsieng Hsueh Chiew) and the content is usually dark and fragrant .

Final note : if you cannot find Shaxing wine for your cooking, any Sherry can take its place. A tablespoon of Shaoxing wine in your meat soup, and any meat dish will definitely improve your cooking.

An here's kampei to a good writing life!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Grandmother's Travelling Basket and other memories

During school days, whenever we saw Grandmother's rattan basket in the living room even before we set our eyes on her, we would scream with delight.

Her basket was so much part of her and we knew that she had come for a visit. We would check the number of pieces of clothes she brought. If she brought only one change of clothes it would mean that her visit was going to be very short. A few more samfoo tops and black trousers, it would be a nice, and longer visit. What a comfort to us when she was staying with us.

"Why are you bringing so little to wear? Aren't you going to stay for a long long time?" we would ask.

We would be disappointed when she said that she would only stay " three nights". Her way of reckoning days was in the number of nights. It was as if a night was 24 hours and a day, was indeed just a few hours of a trip in day light. Having her sleep over was the greatest news for us.

I cannot remember her not staying a night. And I cannot remember her not bringing a basket. It was her "handbag". She never carried a modern leather handbag as she was fond of little purses, with a zip. Abd she would hide it under the folds of her clothes.

Remembering grandmother's travelling basket also helps me to remember the rattan maker of Sibu. Grandmother' travelling basket was made by hand, by the rattan maker whose shop was in Blacksmith Road, next to Chop Wang Ming. The shop was there until the 80's. It must have been started in the early 40's.

The shop was a half shop. All the rattan items he had made could be hung from the ceiling to save space. There were no shelves in his shop. All items which were made to order had to be taken away as soon as possible. His craft work was very traditional and he did not use any machinery to help him. The old man would sit very patiently on his low stool to weave the baskets,big and small, and other items like baby chairs. I ordered a rattan baby car chair from him before the on set of the safety baby car seat from the United States. This rattan baby car seat was used until my youngest outgrew it. Many foreigners enjoyed buying rattan goods from him. One favourite item made by him was the table food cover, or the "doh now". Restaurants ordered their baby high chairs from him. His rattan wares are indeed very durable.

I bought a school book basket from him to fit onto my bicyle. I used this basket until I completed my secondary school. Years later, I used it to keep my baby things and other stuff to go to the hospital and for travelling. It never seemed to wear out.

We enjoyed her visit because she had tales to tell, extra food to share and most significant of all, she would be there to make the dumplings for the festivals for us.

The best time was the Duan Yu Chieh or or the Chang Festival. My mother would buy all the ingredients and she would make as many as she could, and more than we could eat. So we had the great pleasure of sharing the dumplings with others. Her dumplings were of good quality, perhaps the best in the world , by my standard.

A birthday would not be missed by her too. She would remember all our birthdays, especially my father's. That was really nice of her as she would help with the cooking and the whole household would be so much merrier.

I liked her visits especially because she was good at sewing. I would watch her cut her materials, and sew the pieces together usually by hand. And then it was amazing to watch her do all the patching. She had a special way of patching clothes. Her handiwork was so good that we could feel very confident about wearing the item. And she was particularly good at patching up her samfoo collar. As a Chinese,I learned from her not to throw away good clothes.

The life of a blouse or a skirt would not even end when it was a little faded and worn. It would be cut up to make into a patch work quilt. I love the blankets made in this way. Some of them are still around, because they are of great value and beauty.

Another specialty that she had was her neatness. She could fold clothes in such a way that the clothes looked as if they were ironed. Her deft hands would run over the clothes lovingly and smooth them out. Each fold wasd a perfect straight line. Each piece of clothing would be identical in size and shape. And the neat stacks would be placed so perfectly on the shelves in the cupboard. Chores never seemed to be difficult when she was around.

My little boy once asked, " Can grandmothers last forever?"

Sibu's Own Peng Guan Distillery

丙源貿易有限公司, Syarikat Peng Guan Pencarakan Sdn. Bhd. ( )
No.16, Market Road, P.O.Box 151,
96007 Sibu, Sarawak, Malaysia.
Tel: 084-331768, 084-330421, 084-311549 Fax: 084-321748 E-mail:
Contact: 孫春福 ( Soon Choon Hoo )
Category: 製造業 (Manufacturing,winery)

The Peng Guan Distillery in Lanang Road was started by Khoo Peng Loong and the Soon family. This distillery has been around for more than 50 years!

If it can be upgraded, and slightly refurbished, it could become one of the tourists' interest areas. With growing wide interest in wine drinking, Sarawak rice wines can become popular. Rebottling the Bai Jiu and improving its taste and quality, the distillery can even make it into the global market.

When we were young, we were often very keen to visit the distillery and learn more about it. But teachers being conservative would never make Peng Guan Distillery a part of our educational tours.

From what we generally know from our parents, our wines in China are traditionally made from grains like rice, kaoliang ,wheat, barley, millet and sorghum. But wines from the Fujian province from where the ancestors of the Sibu Foochow came from are made from glutinous rice.

Traditionally, the making of rice wine is rather simple. The glutinous rice is polished and then steamed.

However, in a large factory, the process is slightly more scientific.

Different kinds of acids are used in order to destroy the microbes found in the process of making wine, which if not destroyed will spoil the production. According to some wine connoissuers, this also gives the various wines a unique taste.

Water is an important component in the wine making process. So in order to bring out the best wines, often spring water is used. Therefore in many parts of Fujian, places with special fragrant natural water would encourage wine making. The pH and mineral content of the water would enhance the flavour of the wines.

It is therefore often claimed that the Ibans in the past made good rice wines because they used very clear natural mountain water.

The wine making process also requires a liquor starter or "starter cake" (麴餅; pinyin: qū bǐng) or "liquor medicine" (酒藥, 酒药; pinyin: jiǔ yaò), the liquor starters for Chinese wine are cakes or pastes containing a complex mixture of various yeasts, molds, and bacteria, which are used to inoculate the grains. The starter converts the grain starches to sugars, and sugars to ethanol. Certain starters also acidify the grain mixture. Each brewery uses a different type of starter cake that was made at their facilities from previous starter cultures, which are handed down from generation to generation. Larger factories often use pure cultures of each organism in a starter instead of the actual cakes themselves.

There are three main types of starters:

Small starter (Chinese: 小麴, 小曲; pinyin: xiǎo qū): Rice that had been cultured predominantly by molds of the Rhizopus (Chinese: 小麴菌, pinyin: xiǎo qū jùn or 根霉菌, pinyin: gēn meí jùn) and Mucor (Chinese: 毛霉菌, pinyin: maó meí jùn) genus, as well as yeast and other bacteria. The mixture generates less heat, so they are mostly used in the tropical South of China.
Large starter (Chinese: 酒麴, 酒曲; pinyin: jiǔ qū, or 麥麴, 麦曲; pinyin: maì qū): Rice that had been cultured predominantly by Aspergillus oryzae (Chinese: 麴菌, 麴霉菌, 曲霉菌, pinyin: qū meí jùn, Japanese: 麹菌, koji-kin) , other molds, yeast, and bacteria. Almost all famous alcoholic drinks in China belong to this type. Wine made from a small starter is usually finished using large starters for flavor.
Red starter (Chinese: 紅麴, 红曲; pinyin: hóng qū): Rice that had been cultured with yeast and Monascus purpureus (Chinese: 紅曲菌, pinyin: hóng qū jùn) or other red rice molds of the Monascus genus. This starter gives the wine a purple red colour and is used to give wines a unique colour and flavour.
The starter is either mixed in water using only the filtrate of the mixture, or the starter is dried, ground, and applied directly in the form of a dry powder. Although the manufacturing process requires only one type of starter for fermentation, many Chinese wines are brewed their liquors from two of more types of starters.

In Peng Guan distillery, little is really known to the outside world. But it has been producing adequate distilled liquor to satisfy the consumers' needs in Sarawak. On purchasing of a bottle of liquor from Peng Guan, you need to check the alcohol content, which may be very, very high.

The high alcohol content comes from one extra step called distillation. Once distilled the rice wine becomes a more potent alcoholic drink called baijiu (白酒; pinyin: bái jiǔ; lit. "white liquor"), which can sometimes be as high as 70-80% alcohol.

The production of baijiu is so similar in color and mouthfeel to vodka that some foreigners refer to it as "Chinese vodka" or "Chinese white vodka." However, unlike vodka, baijiu is generally distilled only once (as opposed to five or more times for some vodkas) and less thoroughly filtered, which gives each liquor its own unique and sometimes penetrating (or even somewhat harsh) flavour and fragrance.

(adapted from Wikipedia)

The Secret behind Your Teh C Peng and Teh Tarik

In Sibu, when you order a cup of tea, you actually get a cup of white tea, ie tea with condensed milk.

When you order tea without milk or sugar, you have to ask for Teh O Kosong.

Teh O means plain tea. Kosong means - not sweet.

Now another important element is the "C" in your tea. "C" is for evaporated milk. If you forget that, you get condensed milk which you may not like.

Many people order Teh C Kosong . They are asking for tea with evaporated milk but no sugar.

Add Peng to your tea, you get iced tea. You can work out the rest of the permutations.

Now you also need to know what is three layered tea. This is a special tea with a layer of apong sugar at the bottom, a layer of evaporated in the middle and then a layer of tea at the top. When it comes to you, it is beautifuly layered. You have to give it a hard stir andthe concoction is heavenly , if you have a very very sweet tooth.

Teh Tarik is different again. The tea brewer will give your tea a few "pulls" with his tin cup to add in some air bubbles. Teh Tarik is made with evaporated milk. Again you have to make sure whether you want it with sugar or with. (Kosong or not?)

However, when you make you own iced tea at home, the piquant taste is not there. And the milk is different!!
The secret lies in the tea most coffee shops use. They use Ceylon 888 Brand.

give it a try and you can tell the difference.


DR BALWANT SINGH BAINS… "Unless we change our lifestyle, especially the teh tarik culture, the occurrence of stroke in the next coming generation is going to be very, very high indeed." Pix: Rushdan Abdul Manan

By Azman Ujang

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 (Bernama) -- Malaysians enter the New Year with a warning that the number of people prone to stroke in this country is alarming and their ages getting younger and younger.

And consultant physiotherapist Dr Balwant Singh Bains, who counts VVIP's and even members of the royalty from the Middle East as among his stroke patients, blames it on the "teh tarik" phenomenon and Malaysia being a very high meat-consuming nation.

"Unless we change our lifestyle, especially the teh tarik culture, the occurrence of stroke in the next coming generation is going to be very, very high indeed," Dr Bains told Bernama.

Expressing concern over the high intake of teh tarik, the main ingredient of which is condensed milk, he said: " Diabetes and high blood pressure are the biggest killers in the country. A person who has diabetes and high blood pressure is like a time-bomb and they are many walking time-bombs in Malaysia waiting to explode anytime".

Sibu based Sarawak Coastal Ships 1950's-1970's

These two coastal vessels served Sibu well right up to the 70's when land and air transport became supreme and time was a crucial element in business. These are reproduced photos. I have no idea who took these photos originally in the 50's..

Sibu was a bustling town in the 1960's. Timber was making every one prosperous and business had never known a better day.

The MV Sian Hong (in English ,Vanguard), was owned by MV Sian Hong Co, and managed by Mr. Ling Tee Hwah (Readers please correct me if I am wrong). Any one wishing to travel by coastal vessal to the third , fourth and fifth divisions from Sibu could go right up to Market Road, No.13, Chop Chip Siang. Chop Chip Siang is still very strong and prosperous in Miri today. One of its owners is Temenggong Lawrence Lim, a popular community leader of Miri.

The services of this coastal vessel included cargo handling, "hot water for the travellers,and complete meals". Good and satisfying services were guaranteed. And the company advertised that all were welcome. However according to some travellers the journey was really rough and most of the time they were sea sick and could not stand up straight. Lying down was also difficult. Many Sibu and Sarikei students took this boat to Miri for their education in Tanjong Lobang School. There was another better boat called Keningau.

Travelling to Miri in such a small wooden coastal vessel was not at all considered dangerous. This was because no sea tragedy had occurred before then.

Several of my aunts and uncles, who were teachers, travelled in this boat and visited Miri for the first time in their lives. Because they were young, they stayed in the upper deck, and not in the cabins throughout the night. They said that it was quite romantic as they could watch all the stars in the great night sky . It was very memorable and meaningful.

Years later, they could visit their children and grand children in more comfortable and air conditioned planes. And perhaps travelling has lost the essence of adventure to them, and time is of paramount importance.

the MV Lian Ho Hin was a bigger vessel. It travelled between Sibu and Kuching. In fact it was a double decker vessel, if you count the levels above the hull. Its hull which could carry a lot of cargo was nicely covered by a green taupaulin, an older product to canvas of to day. And passenger wishing to travel on this particular vessel could just walk in. No booking was necessary it seemed. It's representative in Sibu was Mr. Ting Nguong Chui. The other bigger vessel, not in the same categroy, was the tragic Pulau Kidjang.

My grandmother took MV Lian Ho Hin a few times to Kuching to visit her eldest daughter and had no complaints about the vessel. Aunts and uncles all had experience of using the vessel before the air transport became more popular and very affordable too.

A great deal of changes have indeed taken place in the last 50 years in our coastal shipping history.

Three Red Marbles

Growing up in Sibu, my siblings and I had our share of marbles and marble stories. Some kids had plenty. We had plain marbles made from clay, but the most popular ones were the glass ones made in China.

We played the usual "tikam" game with our marbles and won some, and lost some. But all of us have a respectable bag of marbles, and we tried not to lose them. We tried not to spend money buying more. We liked winning them in our marble games.

On the other hand, I also tried my best not to lose the marbles in my set of Chinese checkers. We played a lot of Chinese Checkers.

Then we grew out of the "marbles age" but somehow we still kept a few in the house and remember our childhood.

Recently I received a great story in the email. It is not often that we do receive such diamonds. So instead of forwarding it to all my friends, I will just post it here.

Even if it is neither a Foochow nor a Sibu story.

Here you go.


I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes.

I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily
apprizing a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes, but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas.

I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I
couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store
owner) and the ragged boy next to me.

'Hello Barry, how are you today?'

'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas.
They sure look good.'

'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?'

'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.'

'Good. Anything I can help you with?'

'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.'

'Would you like take some home?' asked Mr. Miller.

'No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.'

'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?'

'All I got's my prize marble here.'

'Is that right? Let me see it' said Miller.

'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.'

'I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go
for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?' the store owner asked.

'Not zackley but almost.'

'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way
let me look at that red marble', Mr. Miller told the boy.

'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.'

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me.

With a smile said, 'There are two other boys like him in our community, all
three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for
peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever.

When they come back with their red marbles , and they always do, he decides he
doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for
a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man.

A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story of this
man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one.

Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community
and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.

They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to
go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the
deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men.

One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and
white shirts...all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's

Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with
her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped
briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket.

Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of
the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her
husband's bartering for marbles.

With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They
just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them.

Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size.. .they
came to pay their debt.'

'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,' she
confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in
Idaho '.

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband.
Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

The Moral : We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds.
Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our

Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles ~ A fresh pot of coffee you
didn't make yourself.

An unexpected phone call from an old friend.

Green stoplights on your way to work.

The fastest line at the grocery store.

A good sing-along song on the radio..

Your keys found right where you left them.

Send this to the people you'll never forget.

If you don't send it to anyone, it shows you are in way too much of a hurry
to even notice the ordinary miracles when they occur.

It's not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life
you have lived!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Man and His Rolleiflex

My late father, Chang Ta Kang with his Rolleiflex, circa 1955. Photo is a little faded because it is a photo of a very good black and white photo.

Great photographers who used squaFormat cameras

 In the book "Worlds in a Small Room", Irvig Penn wrote; "All the photgraphs in this book were taken with Rolleiflex Camera..". Rolleiflex was the first camera he owned, bought before he ever thought of being a photographer. By the way, I have read in some books that Diane Arbus used twin-lens reflex camera. Does anyone know what kind of camera she was using?

©1970 Stephen Frank
Originally posted at 5:17PM, 27 January 2005 PDT ( permalink )

Richard Avedon and his Rolleiflex.

Display block at the back of the camera. It really helped you make your decisions.

What a beautiful picture!

"All I want for Christmas is a two lens-Rolleiflex...."

A Box of Joy.

Or, speaking of Bond, there is the Rolleiflex in "From Russia with Love"
that contains the tape recorder.

Cameras from this Century

"We asked several personalities from the U.K. photo industry to chose three cameras taken from those made over the last 99 years that in their opinion, made the greatest contribution to photography.

David Bailey's choice: the Rolleiflex TLR (Twin lens Reflex), the 35mm SLR (Single lens Reflex) and the original Olympus Trip.

Gray Levett proprietor of the Nikon shop, Grays of Westminster in Pimlico, London chose the Nikon F, the Polaroid land camera and the Brownie 620 Box.

Pixel magazine December 6th 1999

In this particular posting,I will attempt to post portraits of Sarawak men and their Rolleiflex slowly, from time to time. This could lead to a very interesting discussion. Perhaps you can send me a photo of yourself if you are from Sarawak and you own a Rolleiflex from the 1950's.

Why does a man like a Rolleiflex? Why would any man be seen carrying a strange looking upright box(?) camera like that? The Germans, by the way have created very innovative designs with the most unusual shapes . Think Volkswagen. And yet, I know of a few men who did, found the Rolleiflex, their favourite camera. One of them was my father. Another man is Soon Lee Ang of Sibu. And may be Mr. KF Wong owned several of them!!Richard Avedon (USA), who took loads of photos of the Kennedy family, did.

Would you own a Rolleiflex?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rolleiflex 2.8F TLRRolleiflex is the name of a long-running and diverse line of high-end cameras made by the German company Rollei. The "Rolleiflex" name is most commonly used to refer to Rollei's premier line of medium format twin lens reflex (TLR) cameras. (A companion line intended for amateur photographers, Rolleicord, existed for several decades.) However, a variety of TLRs and SLRs in medium, 35 mm, and digital formats have also been produced under the Rolleiflex label. The Rolleiflex series is marketed primarily to professional photographers.

The Rolleiflex TLR film cameras were notable for their compact size, reduced weight, superior optics, durable and simple mechanics and bright viewfinders. An ingenious tapered mirror allowed the size of the viewing lens (the top lens) 'internal compartment' to be reduced, and this smaller compartment was dovetailed with the bottom taking lens 'compartment', which decreased the overall size and weight of the camera. The high-quality lenses, manufactured by Zeiss and Schneider, further differentiated the Rolleiflex TLR from many of its competitors. The mechanical wind mechanism was robust and clever, making film loading semi-automatic and quick. A wide range of accessories made this camera a more complete system, allowing close-ups, added filters and quick tripod attachment. Some art photographers still shoot with Rolleiflex TLR film cameras and black-and-white film, the later 2.8F and 3.5F models being very popular. Modern Rolleiflex TLRs are still being manufactured; available focal lengths include 50mm, 80mm, and 135mm. The late-model cameras are collectible, particularly in Japan.

Notable models

Original Rolleiflex

Rolleiflex Original with Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar f/3.8This first Rolleiflex was introduced in 1929[1] after three years of development[2], and was the first medium format roll-film camera, which was used with unpopular 117 (B1) film. It was a Twin-Lens Reflex camera.

Rolleiflex Automat
Introduced an automatic film counter; this counter senses the thickness of the film backing to accurately begin counting frames, obviating the need for the ruby window that forced the photographer to read the frame number off the back of the film itself.
This model won the Grand Prix award at the Paris World's Fair in 1937.
The first Rolleiflex to offer a Schneider Kreuznach Xenar taking lens as an option, in addition to the Carl Zeiss Tessar.

Rolleiflex 2.8A
Incorporated the first f2.8 taking lens (either an 80 mm Carl Zeiss Tessar or Opton Tessar) into the Rolleiflex line. It also added an X flash synch contact.

Tele Rolleiflex
This camera used a 135 mm/f4.0 Carl Zeiss Sonnar taking lens.

The new Tele Rolleiflex uses 135mm/f4 Schneider Tele-Xenar taking lens

Rolleiflex MiniDigi
A miniature 2-megapixel digital TLR released in 2004; a red version with 3.1 megapixels was introduced in 2006, a 5MP version available in red & black was released in Feb 2008, check out this link The new AF5.0 version is licensed by Rollei in Germany and made in Japan. It is being distributed by Direct Source Marketing (D.S.M.).

James Bond and His Gadgets

A short, short story for the day.

What movies did you watch? I watched every Bond movie twice, or even thrice. Call it "nothing to do but watch movies" in places where culture was not a popular word, and money was everything. A woman with brains was nothing. Being sexy was everything.

But money bored me. Money made me unhappy. I ate to live. How much money did I need to eat? May be only 5 ringgit a day, then.

I spent days philosophising on how much I really needed. I needed food and I needed money for my Bond Movies.

The rest was unimportant.

Quick. I needed a fix. A James Bond movie. Then. In the past tense. It was like that.

And now? It is still the same I suppose. Present tense.

End of discussion.


Enjoy another article below, if you are a James Bond addict.

Bond Gadgets

Take a look at some of the gadgets James Bond has used over the past 40 years courtesy of Q...

From 'Dr. No' to 'Die Another Day' a Bond film has always had Gadgets, and here is the complete list end to end:

Dr. No

Relatively gadget free film, but the introduction of the Walther PPK 7.65mm firearm was more than a match for Bond's adversaries

From Russia With Love

Specially designed attaché case containing knives, tubes of ammunition and a canister of tear gas; Rollifex camera with recording device; Armalite rifle.


Aston Martin DB5 equipped with machine guns, oil dispenser, smoke screen, bullet-proof shields, ejector seat, wheel hub tire slasher blades, Homing/Tracker device.


Dell-Textron jet pack; miniaturized breathing apparatus; underwater jet pack; compressed air missiles with explosive heads.

You Only Live Twice

Gyrocopter (known as 'Little Nellie'); homing missiles; helmet camera; cigarette with rocket-powered dart

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Armalite machine gun; portable computerised safe-opened and copying machine

Diamonds Are Forever

'Voice Box' that alters a voice to imitate others; device for winning jackpots on slot machines; pocket mousetrap-style clamp for snapping prying hands; artificial fingerprints

Live and Let Die

Shark gun; high-pressure capsules; wristwatch with built-in circular saw; bug detector in toilet kit.

The Man With The Golden Gun

Rocket Firing Nikon Camera; villains 24-carat golden gun, homing device disguised as a clothing button.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Lotus Esprit that transforms into a submarine, equipped with underwater and sea-to-air missile launchers; cigarette case that converts to a microfilm reader; wristwatch with ticker-tape readout.


Cigarette lighter camera, cigarette case X-ray device for opening safe's, Seiko watch with demolition apparatus and detonator; high speed Gondola and Hovercraft; powered hang glider; speedboat equipped with mines and homing torpedo; nerve activated, wrist dart-gun;

For Your Eyes Only

Binocular camera; car demolition device


Acrostar Jet; 3-wheeler Honda auto rickshaw; TV watch and video camera; homing device and microphone in Fabergé egg; homing device in watch; pen/bug receiver containing metal-cutting acid; Crocodile submarine; hot-air balloon with CCTV cameras and receiver screen in basket

A View To A Kill

Small robot surveillance machine ("Snooper"); watch with a garrote cord; fountain pen which causes the writing to burn; bug detecting device under the head of a Philishave razor; video camera that determines from a central computer, the identity of a subject.

The Living Daylights

Aston Martin Volante automobile with bullet-proof glass, fireproof body, guided missiles, jet engine booster rocket, convertible ice tires, snow ski's hidden in door sills, laser cutting device in wheel hubs, self destruct mechanism; portable radio which fires mini-rocket ("A Ghetto Blaster"); pen which duplicates what another pen writes by using radio receiver; key ring which emits a stun gas on whistle, and explodes on another whistle command - A wolf whistle.

License to Kill

Travel alarm clock packed with explosives, standard British passport that detonates on opening; Hasselblad camera that can be broken apart and reconstructed as a signature recognition hand gun; Polaroid camera that emits laser beams and takes X-Ray photos; explosive disguised as toothpaste.


Leather belt with a 75-foot grappling cord built into the buckle; gun that fires a piton attached to a power-retractable high tensile wire designed to support Bond's weight; silver tray which doubles as an X-Ray document scanner; pen that becomes a class four grenade; laser emitting watch that also serves as an arming device; leg cast that becomes a missile launcher, BMW Z3 car with stinger missiles behind the headlamps

Tomorrow Never Dies

Modified BMW 750 iL, all the usual refinements, plus remote control from a mobile phone, the phone also includes a 20,000 volt tazer, and fingerprint scanner; lighter/grenade concealed in an Omega wristwatch.

The World Is Not Enough

A new BMW Z8, with rocket launchers and a compact remote control stored in the car keys; Omega watch with grappling hook launcher and an 800 lb strength filament wire to support Bond's weight.

Die Another Day

Aston Martin Vanquish V12 with adaptive camouflage technology, capable of making the car virtually invisible to the human eye, projecting the opposite image from each side of the car, onto each other side of the car. Fully remote controlled, with missiles, auto tracking machine guns, on screen display and intelligent self-repair system; Also an ultrasonic ring capable of shattering any known glass even bullet proof glass with a simple twist of the ring.
© David J Kellas 2002 Images Copyright of MGM

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Radio Controlled Planes - Sibu Padang

In the 1970's and 1980's Sibu had a new craze led by Dr. Ding Siew Hua - Radio Controlled Planes. If I am not mistaken, a club was even formed to gather more enthusiasts together. One of the enthusiasts was an alumni of Methodist School, and a student of mine - Wong KXX XXX. When he went to study in Australia he brought his hobby along. I am wondering if he had continued his hobby to this day.

As a young mother then I took my kids to watch the planes flying from , and over, the Sibu Padang which was originally named King George Memorial Ground for the Duke of Edinburgh's visit. It was good for children to learn about aeronautics and let their imagination develop. Einstein once said that "Imagination is everything. It is a preview of life's coming attraction." And thus stories began to build up in everyone's mind , set against the beautiful setting sun, tall coconut trees, amidst diverse races and religion, rich and poor in Sibu.

This padang has the most unusual history as there were so many name changes ,as and when VVIPs came to visit. We just called it the Padang as there has has been too many name changes and today, it is not even there! Sibu has this habit of painting names over with new names. It is sad that this is happening and I am worried that in the end there is very little historical meaning and value in many places and buildings our previous generation built.

It was always good to bring the kids out to "makan angin" in the padang in those days. And fresh air did do wonders. This activity brought back a lot of memories because I remember when we were younger, parents did not know where to bring their children for recreation!! The highlight of any one's life was a visit to the old Sibu Airport and watch panes take off and land!! The evening time was the best to visit the old Sibu Airport then.

It is interesting that a check on the Net reveal a few quick facts about rc flying:
It's never been so easy or affordable to get started in rc flying as it is today.

RC airplanes & helicopters are easier to fly and more available than ever before.

RC airplane clubs are more common now than ever before.

Almost anyone can enjoy flying rc aircraft of all kinds.

RC flyers are a very friendly and helpful bunch of people!

The Rattan and Wood Plantation Chair

My paternal grandfather owned a very beautiful rattan and wood plantation chair which he loved. It was very similar to the one in the photo. In fact this kind of chair is very hard to find unless one can find an antique shop which stocks this model. This type of chairs were very popular in the 1920's. Indians and the Thais made a lot of these chairs for the South East Asian market.

Grandfather would sleep on it in the afternoon as he had this siesta habit. The chair was very cool and airy because of the rattan used. He placed this chair in his little room where he had some privacy from children and visitors. Having very set habits no one should disturb his afternoon rest and my grandmother made sure that the rules were kept in the house.

Sometimes we naughty children would climb up the beautiful chair and try to sleep in it. But unfortunately, because we were small, we could not raise our feet onto the foot rest and the chair was too long for us. So we did not have the pleasure of getting a good afternoon's rest in this excellent, ergonomically made chair.

We will always remember with fondness that we tried our best not to disturb grandfather when he was having his afternoon sleep.

Barefoot Basketball Players

We were just nice kids on the block. One part of the Methodist Secondary School was called English Department and the other part was called Chinese Department. We had one Principal, and two senior assistants who each looked after the two different departments.

Students were wary of each other. One department had lessons all conducted in English and we were made up of Ibans, Chinese, Malays, Melanaus and a few Kayans. We all spoke English pretty well and all our books were in English.

The Chinese Department students were all Chinese and they spoke Chinese or their own dialects. It was not fashionable at that time for non Chinese to be studying in a Chinese school.

Socially we were quite divided by the language differences. Sometimes we had basketball competitions between the two departments. And we felt that the schism was also amongst the teachers although they tried to be very civil to each other, pretending that there was no divide.

On one of the tournaments I noticed that some of the boys from the Chinese Department were playing barefooted. But I knew that many students at that time did practice without wearing shoes.

"Kaki ayam" or barefootedness was nothing new to us at that time. It was either the boy could not afford the shoes or he was used to playing without shoes.

On the day of one particular game between Form Four Boys and the Senior Middle Class, the boys played on the hot cement court next to the library at about four in the evening. The Chinese boys of course played very well. One of the Chinese boys was barefooted.

Upon seeing that I sort of concentrated on the barefooted boy's playing. He played very well. He was just not conscious of the fact that he was barefooted. It was a heart melting moment for me. And not long after that I noticed to my surprise two of the boys in the English Department team also took off their shoes, the blue rubber and cloth basket shoes which today would be as cheap as peanuts for most people. This was a very impactful on me.

In spite of the differences boys could sense that perhaps fairness needed to be brought about.

Naturally the English Department team lost as they were weaker and less talented players. But the gesture helped cement the good relationship amongst the different races in the school. My heart still went out to any boy or girl who played basketball barefooted then.

Years later when I started teaching, after getting my qualifications, I went to teach in a government school where basketball was popularly played amongst the multi racial student population. And the boys and even the girls played either barefooted or wearing their school shoes. It was a kind gesture that the Principal who decided to pay for some of the basketball shoes for the students when they went on tournaments. The teams looked wonderful handsome and were full of new confidence. They won a few inter-school tournaments. The school paid for their jerseys.

Today life is just too good for our youths. They could buy the best shoes , with the best brands and for any kind of activity. With all the knowledge about sports injuries, most parents are absolutely careful and therefore would pay through their nose for the right shoes. But I am sure somewhere out there, there are still boys and girls who play basket ball barefooted.

I am glad that many of my humble friends go jungle trekking wearing 7 ringgit Sarawak Addidas.

Would you still play basketball barefooted today?

Mosquito Nets

What a beautiful picture!! It has a thousand tales to tell.

Lat's take on or cartoon drawings of mosquito nets sent me laughing for a long time. And he got me to remember the old square mosquito nets in the old house inb Hua Hong Ice Factory. And that there were lots of stories to tell about mosquito nets. My two siblings and I, before the rest were born were often put under one single mosquito net so that we could not be bitten by the huge mosquitoes flying around at night. All windows did not have mosquito netting at that time.

In the day time, we were often placed under a mosquito net when adult relatives and visitors came. My mother had this ingenius way of keeping us under curfew or "Kurong". She later told us that we were very well behaved and we never did crawl out of the mosquito net.

My father always slept under a mosquito net by habit. He could not sleep without one. And in those days Sibu seemed to be cooler and we did not even need a fan at night. Two big windows in a bed room, without any mosquito netting , was airy enough. So a rich, well made mosquito net was a beautiful addition to a lovely tropical bedroom.

There have been several good paintings of mosquito nets in bedrooms and of course today, fashionable magazines often advertise delectable hotel rooms with beautiful mosquito nets.

The world still loves a good mosquito net. What are your tales under a mosquito net?

Mosquito net
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A bed covered by a mosquito net.A mosquito net offers protection against mosquitos, flies, and other insects, and thus against diseases such as malaria. Its fine, see-through, mesh construction stops many insects from biting and disturbing the person using the net. The mesh is fine enough to exclude these insects, but it does not completely impede the flow of air.

Mosquito nets are often used where malaria or other insect-borne diseases are common, especially as a tent-like covering over a bed. For effectiveness, it is important that the netting not have holes or gaps large enough to allow insects to enter. Because insects can bite through the net, the net must not rest directly on the skin.

Mosquito nets treated with insecticides -- known as insecticide treated nets (ITNs) -- were developed in the 1980s for malaria prevention. These nets, impregnated with a pyrethroid insecticide like deltamethrin or permethrin, kill and repel mosquitoes. Unfortunately, standard ITNs must be replaced or re-treated with insecticide after six washes and, therefore, are not seen as a convenient, effective long-term solution to the malaria problem.

As a result, the mosquito netting and pesticide industries teamed up to develop so-called long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets (LLINs), which also use pyrethroid insecticides, but are also treated with a chemical binder that allows the nets to be washed at least 20 times, allowing use for three or more years.

Mosquito nets do reduce air flow to an extent and sleeping under a net is hotter than sleeping without one, which can be uncomfortable in tropical areas without air-conditioning.

One alternative for reducing mosquito bites is to use a fan to increase air flow, as mosquitoes prefer still air; however this is far less effective and less preferred to a mosquito net, in areas with insect-borne diseases.

Another alternative is to apply an insect repellent to the skin; this also may be less effective (reducing rather than eliminating bites) and may pose health risks with long-term use.

Mosquito control measures are often appropriate and effective, but may be impractical to undertake effectively on an individual or small-scale basis.



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