Passing down the heritage

Maybe it was just a coincidence. On the same week that I saw the digi sambal belacan Malaysia day ad, my mum dropped by with a tub of her sambal belacan. I ate a lot of sambal belacan when I was young, it goes well especially with fried fish. I have very little of it now mainly because I don’t know how to make it and Winnie does not either. I don’t think it is the “thing” with her family to have sambal belacan and cut chili in every meal. She thinks condiments are a Penang thing. True also, I don’t see condiments served unless asked in Kuching restaurant and weddings.

 

I realised after watching the Digi and polishing off half a tub of sambal belacan in one sitting.. that I really miss sambal belacan.

What does a man have to do to get feed his addiction.. one way is to keep bugging my mum for sambal belacan once I am out. What I did was to go shopping. Apparently, there are only two ingredients in my mum’s sambal. Chili and belacan. Sounds easy enough. I even contemplated on getting mortar and pastel, but I think the trusty blender will do.

First, I come to learn is that I have to roast the belacan. Well, I could put it out in the sun and wait for it to dry, but apparently dry roasting on a pan will work too. However, the house smells of fermented shrimp after that, so be warned. PS: you don’t want to come to my house for one week, I think the smell will stay that long.

Looks like a lot of belacan but I am not going to use it all. After that, wash and de-seed a lot of chilies.

Lagi pedas lagi bagus, masuk pedas.. keluar pun pedas…

After that it is about blending them all together to make a paste. Even my mum cannot tell me what is the proportion as the chilies vary in heat depending on the crop. So it is about tasting. I find this the hardest part because I am direct tasting ground fresh chillies. Yikes. I would like to think I got it right. The colour seems the same as my mum’s. Taste also almost the same, as far as I can tell.

We shall see how. Fried fish for dinner one of these days.

The Reveal..

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Inside that mitten, Gabriel is showing me the finger for forcing him out of the mother’s comfortable womb..

You will notice that some time has passed since the Caesarian section the wife has to endure before I posted it up in the blogs. In between, I have told my story to a few close friends. I told them that I was in the operation theater when the doctors did the operation and I narrated what happened real-time to the wife who is conscious. Most people tell me that I was brave to be there. A lot of daddy’s think they are brave but when the see the amount of blood coming out, they literally faint.

After the wife has been prepped for the operation., she was wheeled in to the operating theater. She went in first cause she was on the wheelchair (not like that she cannot walk, it has to be a dramatic effect – unless someone can tell me why). The nurses asked me in a fast tone whether I want to go in the operation theater. No hesitation – I sure. One male attendant (or is he a nurse, I did not get his details) ushered me into the changing room, dragged out a green scrub and ask me to change into it. He looks rushed so I just put the scrubs over my day clothes.

Then I was given a chair and asked to wait beside the nurses station in the OT. From the station I can see all the operating room.

I had to wait for about half hour before they asked me to go in the operation room. When I went in, the wife was already covered except for the part where they will operate on. She is conscious and I am given a chair beside her head. The blanket was raised at the neck so she could not see anything beyond her neck. I did the narration.

The Doctor came in. I was surprised that he had those rubber boots that the market people uses but in white colour. That was surprising. The doctor went straight to work. Like literally, came in, put on his gown and gloves and reached for the scalpel. That was 10.25am.

He made a cut, then cauterize the blood vessels. He works fast. Like really fast. After that, he did what I think was separating the uterus from the “meat”. One more cut and the nurses are moving around the stomach. One of them was on the top of the stomach and with all her body weight, pushes down on the stomach.

10.31am, the baby came out.

5 minutes and it is all over.

All the while, I am narrating to the wife what is going on and she said she feels nothing down there. Glad for that.

I did notice that when the baby’s head came out, he already started crying even while the body was in the womb. He was not too happy about being forced out of the mother. As the body is leaving the womb, the butt was facing me and I can see streaks of green goo from the butt all the way down the legs. It looked out of place cause the only liquid I see are blood. I think it has to be poop. Yup, baby pooped when he came out.

Which is a good thing I understand, cause that reduces the chances of jaundice. He needs to poop and we were worried that 1) he pooped in the amniotic fluid and eat his own poop since he stayed there for so long. 2) he did not poop and get jaundice.

For the next half hour, the doctor was stitching up the wife and I was asked to leave half way though the stitching.

Did I see Blood? Yup. I don’t think there was a lot of blood loss but blood was everywhere. Looks like a gruesome murder scene.

Did I faint? Nah.. you will need more than that amount of blood to make me faint. Seen worse.

The Drama..

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This would be the first time any of us got admitted into a hospital. We were unsure of the process or what is about to follow but we were going to do it together.

The appointment to check into the hospital was at 8.30 am. We walked in a check in just like a hotel. Just go to the counter and mention the name. The person at the counter escorted us up to the wards and passed us to the nurse. In less than half and hour, wife was in her hospital gown and the O&G was with us.

We were aware of some minor complication to the pregnancy. The baby is in a posterior position, making him a bit hard to come out. The head is looking up, causing the baby to be not engaged. Also, suspect there is cord around the neck. The O&G said, cord round neck is something he has handled many times and it should not be a problem.

We were given option.

We can first try to induce the baby for a normal labour. They will give her pitocin every 6 hours for a maximum of  doses. This should induce the baby to come out. BUT, there are unsuccessful cases which ends up in caesarean section anyway.  The other option that we have is to go for elective caesarean and and skip out on the pain.

I was expecting the doctor to tell us what to do, after all he is the expert. But instead we were given the choice. It was a stressful time for us. He explained what will be done for both options and we were given time to think. I really wanted him to make the decision so that I don’t have to. We both made some calls to our experienced mothers and both came to a conclusion that it would be better to skip the inducing and straight go for the operation. The logic, as I gathered, is that inducing will cause duress and stress to the baby. It is better, in such cases, to get the baby out as fast as possible.

We told the nurse about our decision and the Operation was scheduled for 10am.

So you have to imagine,  we checked in all fine at 8.30am. One visit by the doctors and a few phone calls. 2 hours later, the baby is out!

I never buy the stories about how babies are a miracle of life and stuff like that. I think they are mushy. But after seeing the baby coming out from the womb, with my own eyes.. it is a surreal experience.

Workplace Anger

I hope this post won’t get me into trouble. It is a general observations of my anger management that I face in the workplace. My post, my personal demon to control.

As I reflected on my anger management in the past month (without the help of the shrink which I owe them a visit long time ago), I do find that other than road rage, most of my anger comes from the workplace. I do find that working with people with different backgrounds can be sometimes frustrating. You know what they say about software engineers, we are like a bunch of cats. And if you know cats, you know that they each have their own individuality. Prominent Individuality.

Looking back at my ACTIONS, I do find that I snap easily when I am facing an angry moment. I have shouted at people even though it is not their fault. I have used old issues to bring guilt into the other party, like what they did wrong the last time.. makes it a good excuse for me not to help them this time. I take offense when I am given work that is not planned, and I snap at the whole issue. Thinking how stupid the workplace is. In other words, I am acting childish. Some people say that I take things to personally. Professional conduct has gone into the drain for personal feelings.

So far, my actions are basically on shouting and doing emotional hijacking, bad enough when I know those actions means that I am burning bridges and destroying trust.

Looking back at the past few months on what caused these ACTIONS, I find that my IRRATIONAL BELIEFS are centered around a few issues. Firstly is my bloated ego thinking that everyone has to pull his own weight when it comes to completing task. Well, the people in my team are great.. but I do hear stories of people from other teams that are not pulling their weight. These people have nothing to do with me and I should not concerned. But the stories give me the “impression” that they are getting paid for the easy work and I have to take all the heavy lifting around here. Secondly is the fact that nothing is ever happening as planned. Everyday I come in the office, regardless how it is planned, things will always go south. Then I have to come in and fix the issue or deal with it. It disrupts daily routine and concentration.

To DISPUTE the Belief, I am drilling into myself that everyone is working hard, no one is goofing off and the stories I hear, are just stories. I should not look at myself and compare with other people so much, that is what my parents always drill into me when I was a kid. People can do whatever they want, as long as I achieve better than what I was last year. I also have to drill into myself that I work in an engineering department. Things screw up all the time. The fact that I get it fixed, means it is not that serious and it means customer will see one less issue.

Will I be able to achieve a zen-like attitude after this? NAH.. one step at the time..

A job for Ted

You remember Ted? Ted d’ Bear? He is the teddy bear that I bought for the wife when I was in US for a week on business trip. He has been sitting on the bookshelf since then cause he was too irresistible for the bed. Well, we have a new use for him.

Testing diapers!

Wife bought some reusable cloth diapers. Those nice expensive ones that acts as good as disposable diapers but re-usable. Wife got these diapers as a “tester package”, a set of 4 diapers that we can try then decide on what brands to get. I vote for the cow prints, but wife will be the final decision maker.

We bought from Baby Pit Stop. She is based in Penang and does COD. Which is a good thing cause you can go to her place and talk to her, get some tips on how to use these things.

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From Happy Heinys. With those “prings”, any daddy would be happy, not to mention the heinys..

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This is rumparooz.

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The famous gro baby.

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Bumgenuis

No review on the performance, comfort and quality of the products till we get a suitable and reliable tester.

Dusty old bear.

Eating in KL

Normally when we head out to KL, we tend to stick to the malls. So we eat in the mall, especially the outlets that we cannot get in KL. Chilis was a usual spot till they have one here in Penang. But in KL, there are constantly new eating outlets opening up that Penang cannot catch up.

This time around, we could not make it to the mall in time. Well, we prefer to hit the mall before 11.00 am when the crowd is still bearable. So we decided to stay away from the malls, for once.

Wife found out about Betty’s Midwest Kitchen from some blog and she said there are ribs and juicy lucy. We had just watched man vs food at that time and the thought of a juicy lucy is just salivating.

This place is strictly non halal and it is so rare to find a non halal western food these days. Go to the malls and it is always halal. I have nothing against halal food, just that I want to know how pork ribs taste like when they are cooked the right way.

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My baby back rib sauce was good, the ribs were so fall-off-the bone tender that I think my grandma can eat it. Just that it has a lot of the soft bone parts that may not be appetizing. But I sucked t he bones clean.

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Wife’s juicy lucy was good as advertised. Stingy on the cheese but the meat was really thick. If you hate cilantro, like the wife… well you may want to eat something else. The cilantro was a bit overpowering the meat.

We had something called “dog food”, fries baked with cheese and gravy. It was good by itself but it killed the appetite.

We were expecting the place to be full and we were worried not to get a place to sit or having to wait hours outside. We were surprised for a weekend, it was just nice. We got a table and while the restaurant was full, no one had to wait. The customers came in and out quickly.

Finding the place was a challenge as it was a new unexplored area for us and the map on the internet was good till the turning from LDP. We just followed our guts and kept driving. The shop is actually facing the ELITE highway.

As with out luck, we found the place in the first try. Will get the wife to update the location of the place and link to some blogs here.

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We also went for kolok mee. The sarawak favourite. People keep telling us there is this kolok mee place in Puchong that taste JUST LIKE Kuching. Then I have to go.

As with out luck, we found it the first try. Wife to update the location 😀

As for the noodles, the taste is JUST LIKE Kuching. But somehow the texture of the noodles was a bit off. It is a but crunchy, I might say. Maybe overcooked or under cooked or maybe the noodles were stored too long. Wife says she read somewhere that the noodles were imported from Sarawak.

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Think yong tau foo and you think Ampang. I wanted to meet up with some old classmates and they recommended me to Puchong Yong tai foo which they swear is better than the Ampang one. That is a tall order but I thought it was a good place to start, since it is near where we were staying. Less time traveling, more time chatting.

My friend was trying to tell me how to get there and his directions made no sense to me so wife decided to google the place and found it. Apparently the place is so famous, it is on the top of the google list. Try it. It is in Batu 14.

Again, found it in the first try. Wife can really read maps.

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Wife loves this place and so do I. They put pucuk manis in the soup. What you call the vege in pan mee. Wife loves those stuff. The fried yong tau foo, very crispy and light. Not hard like the ones we normally get. Fluffy is another word I would use. The place is PACKED. Six of us wallop 80 bucks worth of yong tau foo, sat there and chat from 7 till almost 10.. when they are closing.

When you arrive there, take a seat and know the table number. Head down to the counter and pick the vege or things you want stuff. They will stuff the vege / tofu AFTER you pick them. Also, knowing cantonese would be good as I have no idea what they were asking. Apparently they were asking how many tou foo or how many wan tans I want. Not sure what I ratted but who cares. Food came and we stayed on.

Grandma’s passdown

After successfully recreated grandma’s roti babi for the folks in Kuching and also getting the seal of approval from my mum, we want to learn how to make the dipping for the roti babi. It is called the white man’s vinegar, in hokkien.. ang mo chor. The commercial equivalent is the Worcestershire sauce by lea and perins.

We start the dish with a variety of spices and herbs… the quantities which are “up to taste”.

Then the ingredients are pounded the old fashioned way.

Grandma said it is not advisable to use iron or steel pot. She uses an old rice cooker pot which is made up of aluminum. The reason is that later, vinegar will be added which will react with the metal in the pot. Glass or aluminum pots do not react to the vinegar.

Pounded ingredients are then boiled to release the flavour. This is where sugar, salt and mustard is added in the mix.


A whole bottle of rice vinegar is added, boiled for a little longer.

And everything is strained with a coarse strainer.

Sewing Machine Part 2

The sewing machine that I got from grandma was still working as is. The only thing missing is the table. Some of the establishments are also rusty so I headed down to the sewing machine spare part shop in town to get replacements. There is a shop called Swee Hoe Pomar at the start of Carnavon street, nearest to Komtar. Well, if you can call it a shop because you really cannot “shop” around. You ask the man what you want and he finds it for you. They have spare parts for old sewing machines. So we bought a wooden table. It has to be either Singer brand or some locally made ones. The locally made table tops are bad quality. We can see that the workmanship is bad, some of the parts are not even aligned. The show owner said that Singer don’t actually make the table tops. They come in a set with the sewing machine but he has customers who wants the machine but not the table. That is how he gets the table.

So we went home with a table top and some parts.

Once we reached home, we put singer oil (also bought in that shop) in all the moving parts of the machine. WD40 whatever that we cannot reach with the oil. The machine now runs like new. We then proceed to replace some of the parts and find that they don’t fit!

Worse, the table is too small for the legs… I can still use the table but the legs are protruding out.

The leather drive belt is also too short.

And even if I can get the drive belt to be longer, it won’t come up nicely to drive the machine. It will always scratch the side of the table where the hole is.

Serious engineering reconsideration needed.

We went back to the shop immediately. Lucky they are open late. I think they stay in the shop so they can open late. I told the lady boss that the legs were too big but we will use it. The belt is too short and some of the parts didn’t fit. There was an old lady who was watching TV in the shop. The shop owner’s mother I come to understand. She quickly stood up said that if the legs don’t fit, then it has to be a very very old machine. I told her it was bought in 1955. Both of them started to smile and became very excited. They say there are very few of those machines left. They do a lot of service and rarely see machines like that coming into the shop.

WOW! Wife says if there is anyone to trust on the value of the machine, they are the ones because they can appreciate the machine more.

We decided the way to fix the issue that we have is by using an electric motor. She was showing me how to install the electric motor. She said there has to be a hole beside the machine for the hole and explained how to take out the “wheel” to install the drive belt.

We did it.. motor installed.. Tested and working.. the machine and up and running..

now I need a place to put it in the house :D/

At the end of the day, we wondered if buying a new machine would be cheaper. We went to Singer shop in Bayan Baru. A new machine (old fashioned one) is RM700 over. A new electric one is close to RM1K.

So yes, it may be troublesome. I have an oversized legs for the sewing machine table. But it is a working antique and still cheaper than getting a new one

New parts are Singer, old parts are Pfaff… a mismatched pair but they work

Antique Sewing Machine.

Last week, I was at grandma’s place after prayers and saw her sewing machine placed in the car porch. My mum and aunt saw it too and asked grandma why is it out side. She said she does not want it anymore as the table has been chewed to pieces by termites. Aunt said the sewing machine legs are still good as table legs, just buy a tabletop and put it on the legs as a way to salvage the remains of the sewing machine.

I gave a better suggesting. I will take the machine and restore it for my own use. The wife has been asking to buy a sewing machine for some time. Since this is free, why not! It is technically still working other than the chewed up table. So we stripped off the table, with the a whole colony of termites wiggling inside it. We literally chopped off the table from the legs and machine with a machete and burn the remains.

What I have is the legs, the machine… and the receipt. The machine was bought for $272 at staff price in… 1955. Wife says, she likes to use the term pre-merdeka. The sewing machine is older than the nation. 55 years old.

And it still works! Grandma said when grandad was around, he took good care of the machine. I guess now that it is in my possession, I need to take greater care of it.

Pfaff is a german made machine.





The embellishments are all rusty but the mechanical parts are still good. The sewing machine was working when I took it out from the table but decided to give it a good coat of WD40 and singer oil anyway.

A little bit more about the masters class

The MSC program that I am attending is called MSC in Reliable Embedded Systems. It is offered by university of leicester. It is a 2 year part time program covering 6 modules. Each module is done in 5 days, Saturday till Wednesday. That means I need to take leave on 3 working day. Every year, there will be 3 such classes and the lecturers will come all the way down form UK to deliver the class.

The course, is paid in Pounds sterling and compared to other masters class offered locally, they are one of the more expensive classes.

All assignments and exercises that you would expect to finish in one semester, is done in that 5 days. So normally lab work that usually takes one week in school, we have 20 hours to finish it. So you can say it is an intense 5 day class.

The stress is only for 5 days, 3 times a year but the schedule fits all of us. Short and stressful.

Some people tell me that is not a good way to learn as I am not given much time to digest and absorb. Yup, I agree. That is we are given notes and books to read up AFTER the class is over. There are exams.. yup.. I am rushing for a final assignment now which is due in a few more days for a draft review.

One thing I admired, even after paying them so much.. you would expect them to let you off easy.. but they are very strict when it comes to exercises and assignments. Need to hand in on time and no cheating, no copying.. no peeking. The lecturers are there to help if you don’t understand but most of the ground work is done by the students.

It is a tough 5 days and we did ask the lecturer why is it so.

He said that at the end of this class, we should have a sense of achievement. a sense that we have worked our ass off, sacrificed a lot of effort and time and then get the masters. You need to feel that you have worked for it. Otherwise, getting the masters after 2 years, is not something that you feel you have achieved.

I think so too.

Update:

Since the classes are in compressed modules, I asked to take couple of the classes in UK. One of the reason is that I wanted to see the university (to make it look more legit that I am studying in a UK university) and secondly because I signed up late for the course so the subject that I missed will be available in UK. I had to pay for my own stay and travel, which has the feel that I am legitimately a foreign student, especially during the border control questions. Few of the the classmates also went along, it was a good trip

Photos of our 2011 trip to Leicester.