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Pil Seung

Location: Penang, Malaysia

August 15, 2005

Parlez-Vous Français?

An angmo asked me an interesting quick question last week. It caught me off guard and I was wondering how he had that kind of idea.

Angmo: Do all your taxi drivers here speak French?

Me: What??? How do you come to this kind of conclusion?

Angmo: Well, when I was in France, the taxi drivers say "thank you" in their language to the cashier after paying the toll at expressway. In French, "thank you" is "merci".

Me: What did you hear our taxi drivers say exactly?

Angmo: They said something like "lassi", "messy" or something similar. I'm not really sure.

Me: Why didn't you try asking whether they speak French? Parlez-vous français?

Angmo: As far as I know, French language is not really common here. So, I was really wondering...

Me: OK, I got you. I think they say "resit". Is that right?

Angmo: Yeah! Yup! That's what they say.

Me: Well, the expressway, including the Penang bridge toll receipt is only issued upon request. So, they are actually asking for it. Hehehe...

Angmo: Hahahaha...

August 13, 2005

Fund raising the Chinese way - The all souls day

Last Thursday, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese agricultural calendar, I attended the Chinese all souls day celebration dinner at my place. Before we go into the details, here is some information about the Chinese all souls day. It is actually a special day dedicated to the wandering or hungry ghosts. They are known as "preta" in the Sanskrit language. Prayers and food will be offered to them. The Cantonese (Guangdong) people celebrate this festival on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, while the Hokkien (Fujian) and Teochew (Chaozhou) people do this a day later (the fifteenth day).

In any areas with significant number of Chinese people, they will form some kind of clubs or organizations. This has not changed much since the day Chinese immigrants were brought into Malaya by the British to work at tin mines. Thanks to the government who keep playing the racist card, marginalizing the Chinese. I am not going to discuss this here as it requires a whole new blog altogether. In order to take care of the needs of the Chinese staying in area far away from temples, the 盂兰胜会 (yu lan sheng hui) is formed.

The 盂兰胜会 at my place organized a pretty grand celebration this year. Of course, there is no forcing or compulsion. Anyone who wanted to participate could register with the organizaing committee. First of all, they collected money for buying the jumbo size "dragon" joss sticks. Next, was money for erecting multi-colour triangular flags. Then, a dinner for the occupants was organized and money was also collected for this purpose. Nothing is free, of course. From this "exercise", it was actually helping the economy where money was changing hand and jobs were created. At the same time, some kind of administration fees were taxed from the collections. This is fair enough, I think, as someone must be paid to do all these jobs.

The preparations were not without problem. There were people who believe there is no god but God protested to the management. These extremists do not believe other people have their rights to their own religion. Maybe their faith is so shallow that they are afraid of their own shadow. These fanatics failed as all these were done with proper approvals from the authority. Thanks to these people, it made the Chinese wanting to participate even more.

On the night of the dinner, local politicians were invitied. They arrived in their official car with their silky batik shirt on. It was some kind of message to people that this dinner was sanctioned by community leaders. It started with roasted pork as the first dish. The whole roasted pig was one of the offerings to the gods and souls during the prayer session in the morning.

Fund raising activities the Chinese way was being run throughout the dinner. First of all, they had a few persons carrying a dontaion box going from table to table. The attendees spontaneously dropped some money into the box. Since the whole procedure was done under the eyes of the public, most will not refrain from donating, to avoid "losing face". The next thing was auction. They started by announcing that the Laughing Buddha (Matreiya) had been auctioned at an unbelievable price. Everyone responded with a "Wow!". The went on with other items (symbols of good fortune). They managed to fetch a few times the original price of the items as they were blessed by the God, so they are priceless.

One more technique that really impressed me was "angpow borrowing". There were 50 red packets containing money in them. I don't want to disclose the amount of money in angpow. The master of ceremony announced that the angpows were blessed by the God. Take it home and keep it at the altar. It will bless the whole family with luck, good fortune and prosperity. Come back next year and pay back two packets to the God. What a great idea to make 100% per annum interest from the money you lend out?! One more thing to be sure, there will be at least 50 families participating next year.

There is also a "lor-choo" and "tau-keh" election process which is quite complicated to pen down now. I will share once I managed to obtain the full details someday.

It is really interesting to see people believing that if they can afford to burn expensive dragon joss stick, their family will be blessed. They also believe that they have a higher place in God's eye than others who can't afford to buy a flag, etc. I don't think such a materialistic god exist. Anyway, it is a good event to have people coming together, get to know each other, and have those rich people parting some of their wealth.

Happy All Souls Day!

August 12, 2005

The haze is back

Visibility at the capital city, Kuala Lumpur had been tremendously reduced in these few days. Thanks to the stupid neighbour who keep burning the forest at this time of the year, annually. They claimed that they are opening land for agriculture. On the other hand, it was believed that the real cuprits are some stupid Malaysians as they are the owners of the land there. As usual, all kind of lame excuses, while some clowns will try to be heroes. Some will try to hide certain statistics, etc. Adding on the situation, we have a new rendition of the national anthem (please don't believe this last statement). Try to look at the new lyrics too. A fellow blogger, Khanasai, sent this to me.

Negaraku tanah tumpahnya jerebu
Rakyat hidup bersesak dan layu
Rahmat bahgia penjual topeng muka
Raja kita kena pakai juga
Rahmat bahgia penjual topeng muka
Raja kita kena pakai juga

August 08, 2005

36V/42V automotive electrical system

Once upon a time, when Morris Minor cars roamed the roads in Malaysia, automobile electrical system was pretty simple. There was no air-conditioning in the car, all you have was a little triangle window to divert wind into the car interior. Power requirement is quite low. Car battery was rated at 6 volt then, light bulbs are of the 6V type. If I recalled correctly, the battery manufacturer was Lucas.

Later, people installed more and more stuffs. Power requirement went up, and thus more current was needed, and thicker wires were needed. The solution was to use 12V, so that you can have more power without increasing the current. Hence, you save some money from getting thicker conductors. Due to "compatiblity" issue, two 6V batteries were connected in series. In this case, you can continue to have 6V stuffs running at the same time.

After some time, 6V stuffs died off and finally, it is more economical to have a single 12V eletrical system in the car. People started to use the 12V battery. During the charging cycle, the alternator is pumping out 13.8V. This is the reason why people call today's modern automobile electrical system the 12V/13.8V electrical system.

People keep adding stuffs to modern cars. To keep up with the demand, car manufacturer will be moving to the 36V/42V eletrical system. This is essentially three times the voltage used today. This can be realized immediately by employing three 12V batteries in series. Of course, the charging voltage is also triple the 13.8V used currently.

The 36V/42V automotive eletrical system is coming soon to a neighborhood near you...

Diospyros blancoi

While wading through the sea of humans at the pasar malam, one kind of fruits which is pink in colour really attracted my attention. After talking to the seller for a few minutes, I decided to buy some. The guy was kind enough to let me sample some for free. He told me that kampung folks called it "buah seralat". Another name for it is buah mentega (butter fruit). It was my first time seeing such a fruit.

Well, curiousity kills the cat. I did a search on Google based on the little information I have in hand. At last, managed to find some information on this exotic fruit.

Scientific name : diospyros blancoi (official), diospyros discolor (illegitimate binomial)
English name : velvet apple, butter fruit, velvet persimmon
Malay name : buah seralat, buah, sakhlat, buah mentega
Indonesian name : bisbul
Chinese name : 毛柿 (mao shi)
Japanese name : ケガキ (kegaki)
Thai name : marit
Filipino name : kamagong, mabolo
French name : pommier velours
Spanish name : camagon

This plant belongs to the Ebenaceae family and is native to the Philippines. It is also cultivated in Malaysia (of course), Taiwan, India, and Indonesia (Sumatra and Java) . It has also been introduced to other tropical areas, including Hawaii, southern Florida; Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Trinidad, Bermuda, and Honduras.

It is a relative of the common Chinese persimmon or sharon fruit (diospyros kaki).