sixthseal.com wishes all a Happy Chinese New Year 2009

gong-xi

My Photoshop skillz are legendary for being mediocre at best, which is why I outsource most of the stuff that requires design. ;)

I’ll not be going back this CNY, but to those of you who’re doing the reunion dinner, Happy Chinese New Year and may the Year of the Ox bring happiness, prosperity and all that is Good (TM) to your lives. =D

For those in the PJ area who is not going back and not having a reunion dinner a.k.a. orphans of circumstance like me, wanna go dinner or movie? The latter is a bit unorthodox but I’m driving down to Ipoh tomorrow morning so I can’t do drinking or stuff like that. Berhati-berhati di jalan raya and all that. ;)

Text me @ 016 888 2069

Gong Xi Fa Chai everyone!

Anyone NOT going home for CNY?

cny ppl

I just woke up, having repaid my sleep debt for the week. I’m still feeling a little groggy though, slept for more than 18 hours (!). I was looking out my window while having a smoke, and saw two groups of people packing their bags into their cars to head home for CNY.

I’m not going home this Chinese New Year. :( I’m sure going to miss my friends back home and the traditional grand fireworks display by the good citizens of Sibu. The tickets are too expensive and I didn’t think it was worth it to be going back for just four days.

(Un)fortunately my workplace decided to implement a one week compulsory holiday since too many people are taking long leaves for CNY. I checked AirAsia when I heard the news but the tickets are sold out to be in time for the reunion dinner (tomorrow night). The return tickets are also too expensive so I think I’m just going to chill here in KL.

train man

I’ll be reading a lot, catching up on my sleep and all that. I just started on this book – Train Man, literally a translation of Japan’s 2-Channel forum about a nerdy young guy who hooks up with this girl Hermes (which was dubbed so due to the teacups of the label she gave him when he “saves” her from a drunk on a train).

train man book

Engrossing read, I love the forum format of the book. Its funny and endearing at the same time.

Anyway, more updates later tonight. I haven’t properly woken up yet, I shall go in search for food.

Since this is a random post, I shall embed a viral video that’s been going around the office like crazy December 2008. I heard it just hit a friend’s workplace:

Anyone else not going home for CNY? Come, email me and we’ll work out something. Trip to Genting perhaps? Uncle Lim’s son owes me money from a disastrous trip there last year (lost on the fourth day after a winning streak on the first three days – arrgghhh) and thus I have decided to go back this year and get it back…with interest. ;)

Fun with indoor firecrackers or "How I Nearly Burned Down the House"

How not to light a firecracker 101

firecracker this is stupid

I was alone at home last night and decided to add some Chap Goh Meh cheer to the place. I had a couple of Chai Lei firecrackers
[sixthseal.com] around (it’s a loud firecracker) and I have let them
off in the enclosed space that I call home before without adverse
consequences. However, this time I had to man the camera AND light the
firecracker at the same time, and unfortunately God, in His infinite
wisdom only gave Man two hands.

firecracker on fire

Download: Firecracker box burning [sixthseal.com]

I lost my lighter and had to use a match to light the firecracker
and me in my infinite wisdom, decided it was a good idea to light it
straight from the box which contains the rest of the Chai Lei
firecrackers. I lit the firecracker, prepared to aim the digicam at it,
and then I noticed that the shrink wrap on the firecracker box was
burning (!!!).

I tried to blow out the flames (again, me and my infinite wisdom)
and it just accelerated the burn rate AND the lit firecracker was still
in my hand. I had a brain fart and threw the firecracker away before
overturning the burning box into a towel and hoped for the best.

firecracker bad thing

My hands were shaking from the nearly adverted catastrophe. It would
not have been pretty for the box of Chai Lei firecrackers to go off all
at once indoors.

It would be decidedly a Bad Thing (TM).

firecracker singe fuse

Download: Firecracker fuse singed [sixthseal.com]

I did another take and bad luck seems to come in twos (or is that
threes) coz I dropped the (still lit) match into the box, before it
bounced out, making it come into contact with an unlit fuse and
singeing it. I did not realize it and only noticed it after the fact.
The tip of the Chai Lei firecracker fuse nearly caught on fire and
would have set off a chain reaction which would probably burn the place
down (since I didn’t even know it happened).

The worst thing is, my fire extinguisher hasn’t even been inspected
since I moved in and I live on the top floor and the any fire-related
incidents would probably leave…er, collateral damage.

Yeah, I know, I’m the epitome of a responsible citizen. ;)

firecracker perfect

Download: Indoor Chai Lei firecracker [sixthseal.com]

firecracker dont try this at home

This is a perfect take. It’s fun to light Chai Lei firecrackers
indoors for a change. It’s also fun to throw several into an electric
kettle indoors and see if the metal/plastic would hold the blast or
send sharp shards all over the enclosed space.

You just might win the Darwin award. ;)

CNY firecrackers and fireworks roundup – a sixthseal.com Chap Goh Meh special

chap goh meh 06

Chap Goh Meh marks the end of the Lunar New Year.
Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days and Chap Goh Meh literally
means (the) 15th night. Firecrackers and fireworks are usually let off
liberally to mark the end of Chinese New Year. There is a wide variety
of firecrackers and fireworks available in Malaysia and the large
self-contained box type is the most popular ones.

cny06

Download: Chinese New Year 2006 [sixthseal.com]

I’m a big fan of firecrackers and fireworks (and everything else
that goes “boom”) and it seems that the trend in 2006 shifts markedly
to industrial grade fireworks. The market in Sibu and Kuching is
flooded with display shells – the catch-all term for the 3″, 5″ and 8″
shell that shoots up before exploding in fascinating pyrotechnics.

Shellshock

shellshock

This is an example of a “consumer grade” display shell fireworks. Shellshock
comes in a box containing 12 pieces of “double break shells”. It’s made
in China, that’s where firecrackers and fireworks in Malaysia is
sourced (read: smuggled) from.

shellshock open

The Shellshock box opens up to reveal a foot long tube launcher
embedded into the package with 6 shells lining each side of the box.
The shells are inserted one at a time into the launch tube with the
flat end (base) making contact with the bottom of the launcher tube.

shellshock shells

The 1.5″ shells is shaped like a gourd and there is a long
conventional green fuse bound intricately around the shell and held in
place by a colored string on the top indicating the color of the
display shell when it is…well, displayed.

shellshock double

Here is a closer look at this consumer grade firework. There are
double spheres in the shells – this is a double report, double flare
display shell. The shells have a flat base and a visible fuse starter.
This firecracker requires the launcher tube to launch the shells into
the air and the long fuse is to accommodate for the launcher length.

shellshock launcher

The Shellshock ones come in a disposable cardboard and plastic launcher.

shellshock insert

The display shell type fireworks (regardless of grade) should always
be used in conjunction with a launcher tube to guide the shell upwards.
I’m sure everyone has tried not using a launcher tube at least once in
their lives (at least I did, with a 3″ shell) and the results are not
pretty.

shellshock fire
The Shellshock launcher tube does the job well enough…

It’s pretty dangerous since the shell just explodes on the ground,
sending out burning debris over a wide area. Notice how large the
dispersal area is when it’s airborne? That’s the coverage you can
expect when it goes off on the ground. Most residential areas cannot
accommodate for this kind explosive power.

shellshock topple
…though it topples after each launch…and the cardboard burns.

The one time I did it resulted in a cracked glass door (with an
industrial grade shell), flaming explosions all over the front of the
house and shocked family and neighbors. Oh, and I set the lawn of the
neighbor on fire too. In my defense, it was dry grass. :p I never did
dare to repeat that stunt again, since I didn’t want to pay for damages
to vehicles, property and possibly human life. ;)

Industrial grade fireworks

shellshock meet big bro

Meet big brother. ;) This is a custom made launcher tube for 3″ industrial grade display shells.

industrial launcher

The display shells (3 inch, 5 inch, and the expensive 8 inch ones)
are sold in boxes with instructions on the dimensions of the launcher
and the instructions are passed on to a local blacksmith (metal smith)
to be custom made.

industrial launcher dimensions

It’s usually made of solid metal alloy so it can be reused without
the force of the initial primer explosion from the shells (which is
quite substantial) wearing out the launcher tube. The base of the
launcher tube is very important – perhaps the most crucial part of the
component – it must be heavy enough to hold the structure or wide
enough to allow other weighing material (bricks etc.) to weigh it down.

industrial with shells

This is the launcher tube displayed with 3″ display shells.
These things are ordered in bulk and come with a sticker specifying the
exact pyrotechnics to expect from the particular shell (see below).

display shell boxes

It’s sold in boxes made of heavy paper stapled together to form a
“box” of sorts and each box contains a mixed bag of pyrotechnics
goodness, with different “grades” of shells e.g. Grade A would be a
shell which goes “Purple with sparkling to red ball” (three stages with
large initial purple explosion bloom, followed by sparkling edges and a
single slowly descending red ball) while Grade B would be a shell that
goes “Green to silver” (one explosion, color change at fringe of
explosion).

display shell box open

This is a close look at the grenade like display shells. It’s
wrapped with heavy reinforcing paper and these fireworks are considered
industrial grade as it’s the same ones that the government lets off
during official celebrations. Heck, some of them are even “diverted”
from official celebrations. ;)

red green crackling

The grenade like display shells are individually wrapped and come
with a label in two languages of what to expect from that particular
display shell. This Grade A shell goes “Red to Green to Crackling”.

blue to silver

This Grade B shell goes “Blue to silver” (two phase change) while a
Grade C shell would be a single phase explosion e.g. “Red & Blue
wave”.

3 inch shell

I have relatively large palms and this is a size comparison of what
a 3″ display shell looks like. It’s remarkably similar to a grenade,
except you have to use a launcher tube instead of igniting it on the
ground (which would cause a lot of Bad Things (TM) to happen).

industrial launcher insert

The industrial grade shells are inserted into the correctly sized
launcher tube with the base of the shell level against the base of the
launcher, and with the fuse sticking up and out of the launcher tube.

display shell

Download: Industrial grade fireworks [sixthseal.com]

I probably should mention that the industrial grade fireworks do not
have a long fuse delay, despite its looks. The fuse lights slowly at
the top and then *zaps* goes straight down the remaining length of the
“fuse” and its pyrotechnica!

The blast is pretty substantial and it’s fun to be close to the
launcher when it goes off. It’s a mini shellshock effect, right at your
doorstep. ;)

Consumer grade fireworks, these are not.

chinese firecrackers

Lest we forget our roots, these are the traditional Chinese firecrackers.

horse brand firecrackers

I love the 50,000 Horse Brand firecrackers.

horse brand expand

It’s fast and furious, burning through 50k of individual sticks of firecrackers in the span of a few seconds.

50k firecrackers

Download: Fast and furious firecrackers [sixthseal.com]

It got all over me in the video, though I thoroughly enjoyed it. Classic!

Happy Chap Goh Meh everyone!

Firecrackers in Malaysia – photos, videos and descriptions

A sixthseal.com Chinese New Year special

Coloured Flowers – Chai Lei

colored flowers box

This is the classic Colored Flowers a.k.a. Chai Lei (translates to
“coloured mine”). It costs RM 7 at your friendly local fireworks
retailer – usually operating with a single shutter open and stacks of
canned drinks obscuring the view. Please do not be mislead by the
benign sounding name – Coloured Flowers is a not something you light
and watch the pretty sparks fly. ;)

colored flowers
Red and green, intertwined

Well, actually it does sparkle for a bit before it explodes, but
anyway. These are the classics for people getting into all sorts of
mischief i.e. time delay fuse (mosquito coil lar) rigged up, stuck into
toilet cistern and pity the poor guy who’s taking a dump while it goes
off. The time delay fuse is obviously to put a suitable amount of time
between the act and the deed so an alibi can be established.

chai lei fuse
The fuse of the Coloured Flower burns…

This is the Jin Yue Brand ones – the choice of connoisseurs. It
comes in a pack of 20 firecrackers – with 10 green tops and 10 red tops.

chai lei green

The green tops make a horrific shriek (and a green flare if you’re lucky) as the fuse burns into the primer before exploding.

chai lei red

The red one actually produces a nice, short burst of colourful
sparks before exploding. Otherwise, they are similar, the different
color determines how the primer reacts.

coloured flowers green
The green one lights…

coloured flowers red
The red one lights…

I would say that these are louder and more powerful than the new
Coloured Flowers (below). It costs RM 1 extra per box, but it’s worth
the premium.

chai lei explode
Red and green Chai Lei’s explode the same way.

Coloured Flowers – Chai Lei Wang

coloured flowers box

This is the new breed of Coloured Flowers and one which most people
would be familiar with. It’s made by another company and also comes in
a pack of 20. It costs RM 6, one dollar less than the classic ones but
it can hold it’s own to the originals. The box is slightly smaller than
the Chai Lei box and each firecracker is also slightly smaller.

coloured flowers

However Chai Lei Wang (literally “colored mine king”) differs
physically from the first in its effects. It also has a primer but the
primer produces normal flame coloured sparks before the firecracker
explodes. It registers a little lower in the decibel meter but not by
much. These are the common ones that we used to play as children; we’ll
wait for the primer to flame before chucking it.

chai lei wang

We soon learnt that the time it takes after lighting the fuse and
chucking it does not have a direct correlation with the size of one’s
balls and also another more important lesson – Chinese factories does
not have the rigorous quality assurance process that we take for
granted in other factories. Not all Chai Lei Wang has a primer, some
just explode as soon as the fuse burns out, though these are rare.

Here’s a short movie of how the Chai Lei Wang works:

sixthseal.com’s Chai Lei Wang video [sixthseal.com]
(2.84 MB zip file, right click, save download as)
Extract from the zip file – it’s a .mov file (Requires QuickTime Player)

My apologies for the bad take – we shot several times. It sounds
much louder than it does in the video due to hardware limitations. The
first two we messed up, and I forgot to wait till the primer ignites in
the third shot (which is the one you see above) and I did remember in
the forth one, but the cracker rolled into a longkang and it was a bad
take. Also, I noticed I felt the need to protect the family jewels in
the last minute in the video above. Heh. Anyway, the dog got a bit
freaked by the loud noises after that, so we did not attempt any more
shenanigans.

chai lei wang 1
This is the primer of Chai Lei Wang burning (not to be confused with
the fuse (forgive the pun), the fuse has already burnt out before the
primer – it lights the primer).

chai lei wang 2
It burns into the cracker…

chai lei wang 3
which explodes.

Disclaimer: Waiting for the primer to ignite is the “correct”
way for teenage boys to play Chai Lei Wang, but is not recommended due
to the variable nature of the primer and fuse.

Dadi Single Voice

dadi single voice

I love these things…I would pick this as my favourite firecracker.
It’s loud and it’s destructive. Throw it too close to a window
and…well, you’ll have to call for the glass cutters. It costs RM 10
for a box of 20 and the premium price is worth it. These babies are
larger than Chai Lei’s (both variants) and leaves a nice red carpet
after it ignites and explodes.

dadi firecracker

The aptly named Da Di Lei Gong (literally “big earth thunder king”)
used to be my favourite when I was young. I remembered a funny incident
from many Chinese New Years back. I was lighting one of these and saw
this rubbish collector trundling along with his basket. Mischief can be
allowed for at that age, so I rigged up a short time delay with a
sparkler. I sauntered back in, and watched from inside my compound as
he reached it…I knew I had the timing right.

dadi lei kung

Just as he was picking up my garbage can, the DaDi cracker exploded
and as I stand here today, I swear he jumped a meter up. Heh. These
things are loud, no doubt about it. :) Anyway, the damage potential of
these firecrackers is all blown (excuse the pun) out of proportion,
IMHO. While its common sense not to hold onto the crackers while it
explodes, anything else is pretty much okay for adults.

dadi fuse
Lights…and,

I take the shots close and my digicam lens didn’t crack or anything
(though I have tinnitus in one ear)…even as kids we used to throw
them around and yeah, I can attest that one of these going off right
beside you would not cause any damage (except, as stated previously to
your hearing ;)), did that several times just now while fooling around.
While I won’t make this into a call for the re-legalization of
firecrackers, I feel that there’s no reason to ban what is a
fundamentally Chinese way of ushering in the New Year.

dadi explode
action! My favorite photo – Dadi Single Voice exploding.

I can’t imagine a Chinese New Year without firecrackers. I do think
that they should not be sold to people below a certain age, say 16, but
I do not support an outright ban. It’s always “for the kids”, someone
always has to say “Oh, won’t someone think of the poor children” when
someone gets hurt and just like that, it’s banned. I call it lack of
parental supervision. It’s your fault, no one else’s, stop pushing the
blame around. It’s the same with drugs. Come on, let your citizens
think for themselves; don’t do their thinking for them. I digress.

Anyway, obviously I haven’t conducted ballistics testing on these
things but qualitatively, DaDi Single Voice seems to be the loudest one
and it seems to be the “stronger” one of the three. Let’s put it this
way – if I had to choose between Chai Lei and DaDi to hold onto in my
hand while it explodes, I would choose the former. ;)

My apologies for not featuring the other classics like Chung Tien
Pau (“rush sky cracker” – the double report bane of housing estates
everywhere ;)) and Thunder Clap. They were not in stock this year.

Other firecrackers:

Chinese firecrackers

chinese firecrackers

This is the traditional Chinese New Year staple to be let off at the
stroke of midnight. It’s a long string of firecrackers with a big boxy
cardboard thing on top that explodes to reveal a banner with Chinese
writing for good luck.

Shun Lee Hung firecrackers

shun lee hung

This is the other type of Chinese firecrackers. Shun Lee Hung
firecrackers are much like the one above and is common nowadays as a
replacement for the traditional rolled up ones. It doesn’t have the
lucky banner though.

Display shell

display shell

This looks like the great balls of colourful fire in the sky, you
know the ones. They let similar ones off during special events too so
most people have seen these.

display shell fuse
The fuse on top

It’s a long and largish tube that needs to be tied down (or have someone holding it in place).

display text
I am still searching the dictionary for an entry on “repotr”.

It does stand properly when it’s not lighted like now, but when it’s
lighted, the force of the first ball will topple the construction
without support.

Magical shots

magical shots

The favourite of children during Chinese New Year – each tube
propels several small, different coloured balls over a short distance.
The balls are multicoloured and it’s sold in a pack of 12 for RM 20.
It’s fun for the kids, basically, you hold it in your hand and let the
balls of fire shoot out. :)

Happy Chinese New Year everyone!

Gong Xi Fa Chai!

Waxed duck – the fake looking meat

waxed_duck.jpg
Waxed duck at a store display

Waxed duck, otherwise known as lup ngap (Cantonese) or lak yak
(Mandarin) is an oily, waxed meat. Lup and lak both mean “wax” in the
respective dialects although the romanization is different. I had
always thought it looked like plastic meat when I was younger and never
really had a chance to eat it. It’s a salty, preserved meat that needs
to be cooked (i.e. steamed) before serving. The seller mentioned that
it needed to be cooked before eating, but I was adamant at trying to
eat it raw and didn’t have much success:

eating raw lap ngap

It was simply too tough to bite off that way. The skin of the duck
went through some unholy preservative measures that made it look waxy
and rendered it all but impossible to tear off with the canines without
softening it first. It retails for RM 4.50 per drumstick (including
thigh area) and the price increases as the size of the fowl increases,
up to RM 25.00 for a full bird (it’s duck).

raw lak yak

Anyway, the above is a photo I took at home while I prepared it for
steaming. There isn’t any fancy ingredients added – this is the
unadulterated experience, just the duck and nothing else, thank you
very much. ;) I covered the plate with another plate as instructed and
then put it over some boiling water (no direct contact, steaming it)
and after about 20 minutes, it turned into this:

cooked waxed duck

It looks much more edible now, though the waxy looking exterior
remains. It also seems quite oily as the photo shows. I ate most of it
with kueh tiaw, though eating it with steamed rice would be a better
choice to offset the salty taste. It’s very salty, no doubt. It’s also
very tough but it was edible, if not palatable (at least to me) after
the first few bites. The choking oiliness and “waxy” feeling of the
duck makes the skin very hard to consume but nevertheless, I liked it
for the novelty value and hey, these things only come around once a
year. Happy Chinese New Year! :)

Chinese New Year Eve dinner

This is what I got for the New Year reunion dinner without the reunion today.

cnydish1.jpg

Honey chicken, kai lan in oyster sauce, sliced fish with scallops and ginger.

cnydish2.JPG

Steamed rice, garlic prawn and char kueh tiaw.

cnydish3.JPG

Magnum almond ice cream, Sara Lee Bites – frozen cheese cake and fudge brownies.

Mmm…I’m going to attempt to eat everything in a gross, disgusting and totally unacceptable manner. :)

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