Sunday, March 30, 2008

I know there's something hopelessly wrong with me...

...when it's way late into the night and I'm out taking photos of cars and plants instead of sleeping.

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My lonely Xantia. Left it out in the street because I got home late after drinks with Khong Chuan and Hoon Fei, and didn't want to wake the monster that is my sleepy dad. Taken at about 0300 on Saturday, because I couldn't sleep.

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Transit's been out for maintenance a few days already, so the Multipla gets a snug and dry spot in front my bedroom. I just love it's frog-like eyes. Taken at 0530 this morning, because I wanted to sleep but had to get up.

I'm so hopelessly attracted to cars...

Cleaning Gong Gong's grave

Went out for drinks with Felix, Duncan, and Jason at Friends' last night, and got home at about 0130, was 0200+ when I slept though, after emails, reading blogs, friendster, facebook etc etc :p

Mom woke me up at 0515 this morning, I just brushed my teeth and did my hair a bit, then off we went to Li Gu's home with Sis in tow. Li Gu means 2nd uncle in some Chinese dialect :) We waited for everybody to get ready and set off for Rimba Panjang in 3 cars. Ken Vin drove Li Gu, Li Gim (2nd aunt!), and Ken Jin in the elephant arse Camry while Si Gu (4th uncle!) lead in his SEG with Si Gim (4th aunt!) and Ken Ee.

The drive to Rimba Panjang was pretty fun actually, the roads are mostly unlit, but the little traffic at that hour of the day means we don't need to get stuck behind people doing 30km/h on the right lane :) We set off at 0620 and arrived at the grave site at about 0645.

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My Xantia's actually in the left corner of this pic. What, can't see anything? Neither can I :p It's THIS dark when we arrived, but we're already used to it, can't remember how many years we've been doing this now.

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Preparing to light incense for prayers at the altar. It's a nice feeling, getting down in the dark, inhaling the fresh and cold morning air, smelling the incense and taking in the distant glow of the candles. Plus, you can pee near the oil palm trees and nobody could see you in the dark!!

After lighting incense at the altar, we went down to the graves and started the clearing work. We cleared quite some dead plants from the top of my maternal grandpa's grave, and topped it up with new sand, then we used the remaining sand and repaved the puddle-riddled mudway in front of the grave. I'm sure it won't be long before most of the sand gets washed down the river in front though :p

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Si Gu working hard, levelling the sand and paving off the puddles.

Dwa Gu and Dwa Gim (Eldest unc and aunt) arrived on a bike, next was Yew and Keong arriving with the latter's fiance in the Sunny. (Cool, so I'm getting another adopted sis-in-law next month, another nephew/niece sometime this year, and another sis-in-law in December, more good times with my wacky/drunken relatives, I like!!!) Cousin Toong arrived with his son a little bit later too.

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Si Gim and Yew retouching the plague's golden wordings. Li Gu's in the background, giving the sand we piled up earlier some tender loving care, nobody dared to put foot on it anymore after that ^^

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Scattering colourful papers on the grave. We normally stand on the sand to distribute the papers evenly, but Li Gu made a "masterpiece" of it this year so we left it at that ^^ On the left-bottom corner is one of two "Money Trees". Li Gim mentioned that apparently, we should shake the Money Trees before burning them, or that's what she heard. Apparently too, that was exactly what we DID NOT DO last year, ahh, so that kinda explains why the fortune didn't roll in last year, LOL, anyway, we gave those trees a good shaking this time round, so here's hoping things do a turn for the better for everyone this year ;)

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The red ornaments are in need of fresh paint this year, so Mom scrubbed em clean and had them dried with newspaper. Dwa Gu had the brilliant idea of drying it with heat from burning newspaper (smart eh?). Li Gu was suggesting that Keong or Yew blow the other ones dry with their mouth and cheeks instead of letting their dad do all the job ^^

Everybody else at the surrounding graves were burning firecrackers like it's CNY. We are different.
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Yes, Li Gim thought it's a good idea to sprinkle small, shiny, coloured pieces of cracker papers instead, like it's Christmas!

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ROFLWTHBBQ. Now my grandpa will have something else to brag about in the underworld.

All this while, Ken Ee is still enjoying his sleep in the car:
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Even the sleeping position's so stylo...

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The Chuah family's 10 month old poodle, Nana! Ken Jin here has got to be the brightest of my younger cousins, ever. 12 years old, and he knows about rising oil prices, how basic electronic and machines operate, how people's attitude differ from one area to another, and who's who in politics (I don't even know this)! He and Ken Ee were in my Xantia on the way home, and he noted how the engine temperature gauge readings went up faster compared to other cars he's rode in. The temperature rise is due to my car's failing engine. Darn observant too eh, this kid? I'm impressed :D


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Poor Nana, I placed her on the Sunny's boot, which was so cold it still has mist collected on it, and she was freezing from butt to nose!

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The grand finale of the ancient Chinese tradition where we convert real, useful money into fake money and paper stuff, then go on to convert the fake money and paper stuff into useless ashes. The vegetation will benefit from the ashes, though, for they shall thrive, and grow healthier, than ever. Then come back we shall next year and uproot them, again. Brilliant.

After all is done, we packed up and settled down for breakfast at a restaurant by the main road. Li Gim ordered this for us:
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Dau Ma Qie, handmade noodles cut with a knife as they go. It's got a stringy, wavy texture to it as you slurp it up and sprinkle the sauce on your shirt. Good food, just wish I can have it here in Ipoh.

Junkyards

Been following Dad to junkyards around town a lot lately, sourcing materials and machinery needed for an upgrade project in Pagoh, things are a bit slow but definitely progressing.

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This was where I spent most of Monday (24032008) afternoon, selecting used stuff, for a few hours, under the hot sun. Yay. RM16 for a piece of used 9 inch x 1 inch x 8 feet plank anyone? Dang, junk sure have gotten expensive. Don't even ask about used rubber sheets; the price sure makes it sound like those are made of silk. It's little wonder Dad's always been thinking of getting into the junk business; you buy dirt cheap and then sell it for a nice profit, nice prospects. I left my E900 at home that day so I brought the C160 I bought on the 20th, managed to let it slip and it came back from the ground with a nasty looking gash near the top of the screen. Yay again. Good thing it was super el cheapo at RM199; I bought it with mishaps and abuse in mind, but too bad it couldn't stay handsome a little bit longer :p

Went to junkyards in Menglembu and Silibin on Saturday, Dad went one extra at Pusing. I fetched Sis from school with Mom, we then met up with Dad again and had lunch at See Kee, just behind the Shell petrol station near the Menglembu groundnuts roundabout; they serve rice with assorted dishes there, and the food tastes good, price was reasonable too, so it looks like we've got another lunch spot on the rare occasions we're stuck in Menglembu in the afternoons :)

Got home at about 1430, weather was unbearably, stuffily, warm that day, and I've been driving since 8 in the morning, so I plonked down to bed and didn't wake until 1745!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Iron ore mining dredge

On Saturday (22032008), I sent my Xantia for repairs before the trip to Lawan Kuda and read about a mining dredge in Tanjung Tualang that has been partially restored, and it's open to the public now. Me, Bro, Sis, Dad, Mom, Yen & Tat went there after breakfast on Sunday morning.

The dredge is located on the 5th Mile of Jalan Tanjung Tualang; just descend the flyover in front of the bridal store in Batu Gajah town, do a right turn at the traffic lights, keep left to exit the town, and head straight for a few kilometres until you see a yellow signboard for the dredge in the left of the road. Keep your eyes peeled for a deforested piece of land with parking space on the left.

We knew we've got the right place when we saw this:
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I still remember seeing dredges operating just slightly down below the Smoke House in Cameron Highlands when I was a kid of 6 to 7 years old, but this is different; this is big, way bigger.

Entrance fee is RM10 for a walk around the lower pontoons, RM15 for a full and guided tour of the whole goliath. Full tour of course!!!

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Contraptions for rolling out rubber sheets were displayed under the trees, just by the entrance.

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HUGE, though probably not the largest of dredges.

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An improvised bell, does the job well; ring is distinct and loud!

The theme everywhere on this dredge is HUGE:
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Huge gears,

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Huge lock valve wheels,

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Huge generators,

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Huge clutch mechanisms (I think that's what it is, feel free to correct me :p),

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Huge chains, and the list goes on. This is where the buckets responsible for scooping up iron ore-laden earth goes into the water and subsequently, mud.

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The dredge is not only huge, it's pretty tall too; measuring roughly 5 storeys or 50 feet+ high.

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You do not want to be left hanging off the roof of this one, I know I wouldn't :p

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Weird well-like structures like this one are abundant on the pontoons..

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..they're supposed to lead under the pontoon but some have been flooded. I can hear water gurgling inside but dare not put my head in for a peek, it's scarily dark down there :p

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An equipment and supplies store room.

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One of the platforms leading to the upper levels.

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The business end of the dredge. Here, the buckets, having being filled with earth and iron ore deposits, emerge from the water and starts their journey up.

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I just dig huge constructions like this, something's very cool about the way these things look :)

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Lines, beautiful lines...

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So complex and mesmerizing...

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The cables remind me of some very large yatches I've seen, those have lots of cables attached to yaw and sails too :)

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An anvil! I wondered for quite some time what did the workers made with these back in those days... Btw, those dots on the cables in the background are actually birds, lots of em!

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Mr. Ng, our tour guide, came sometime later. He's also the person responsible for the restoration of this dredge, and formerly Kellie's Castle, too! Cool, now I know who's responsible for laying those fugly and historically-incorrect tarmac layers on the roof of the castle. Seriously, you can go drive go-karts on the roof of Kellie's Castle anytime now.

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Buckets, not your typical household ones; these are made from manganese steel, imported from England (like everything else that goes into the construction of this dredge), and weighing 2.5 tonnes each!!

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Pay attention to the rim of the bucket and see the welds. This is done to reinforce the rim against the abrasive effects of mud, sand and rocks.

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Buckets on the chain, lining up to reach the top. In a complete chain, there will be 115 buckets linked together, which adds up to 230 tonnes, for just the buckets. I know, wow. How they managed to achieve that linkage, I've no idea, the wonders of engineering.

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The business end, another side.

Mr. Ng lead us up a staircase and we got to see more of the dredge..
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The buckets, all they do is collect water nowadays...

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The control room; the movements of the dredge is directed from in here.

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A peek at a HUGE pulley with thick cables outside, I'm guessing the pulley is at least 40 inches in diameter. The cables and pulley work to lower or raise the lower arm, effectively controlling the digging height of the buckets where the arm is attached.

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The controls.

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Seriously old style gauge, things haven't changed much since, couldn't find the brand insignia on it, bet it's quality stuff though.

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This piece of pointed metal, together with the marked plank at the back, serves to display the distance, in metres, that the dredge has travelled in both sides. Of course, being a barge and all they don't call it left or right. It's the olde "port" to the left...

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...and "starboard" to the right :) Learn this well, aye, matey!

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Bakelite switches, the standard of an era long since gone.

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One of two multiple-bolted cables serving to release and retrieve an extended platform outside the control room, even Godzilla will have a hard time yanking this one off :p

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A mechanism used to adjust hook reach for a crane on the extended platform. The wheel is apparently made by "Morris", more proof of the dredge's heritage.

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Clean the roof and you'll have a nice surface to cook lamb chops on!!!

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Tranquil. It wasn't always like this, the water must have been really murky and filthy back in the heydays of mining, and the place filled with activity, tools, and dust.

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A view of where we came from earlier. These are not your typical zinc plated roof sheets. These are galvanised steel sheets of at least .38 gauge thickness. Tough enough to withstand corrosion for years, or in this case, decades. Some of the plates have since rusted and been replaced, but most are still the original pieces.

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The buckets, finally reaching the top of the dredge! Here's where the buckets dunk their load and start the journey down again.

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More steel shafts and cables, this dredge is quite an impressive monster. You can see the rusty roof here.

We've reached the refinery, in here is where the precious iron ore is extracted.

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Heavy duty valves that are tasked with locking and keeping water pressure in the dredge. There are no platforms here, so the workers will have to climb and stand on the pipes to operate the valves, so I'm guessing these ones have a rare need to be operated, and they are probably 8 inch inner diameter ones, I know, because I've been following Dad to the used iron and junk yards a lot lately :)

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The oscillating screens, or palong, as the locals call it. These trays move in a circular top, right, bottom, left motion, hence the name. The motion disturbs the water and mud mixed with iron ore. The heavier iron ore will sink into the small compartments while sand and other impurities, which is lighter, will eventually be washed out of the tray along with the water. This technique supposedly has a very high efficiency rate.

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The revolving screen. This is a cylindrical tube with small slits opening at the sides. During it's constant rotational motion, water will be sprayed at 15 psi on the cakes of mud, deposited in it by the buckets. The spray acts to break the cakes of mud, eliminating most of the useless mud, leaving only iron ore and a smaller amount of impurities, which will slip through the slits, and then distributed for further refinement at the oscillating screens.

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A safety notice on top of the revolving screen.

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Washed mud and other useless deposits from the revolving screen are unceremoniously dumped back into the pond thru this slide. Looks like a fun ride though!!!

And on top of the slide, where all the cables connect, is this:
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Staircase to Heaven? Or just a nasty fall into the water and a stay at the hospital?

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Overview of the refinery. Pipes, valves, ladders, platforms, screens, all business.

The refinery covers the final part of the dredge we need to see and we went back down after that.

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Yen being cheeky :D

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Dad made Sis try out her balancing skills on one of the pipes, she managed a few steps and slipped soon enough :D


Mr. Ng's a funny guy and he spent a few more minutes cracking jokes with us back on the pontoon, he also revealed to us he is inflicted by Leukaemia, and it's a rarity he conducts tours on his own, as he is usually too tired to pull it through, and so gives his employees the job. I admire his dedication and optimism. Heartfelt.

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Full view of the Dredgezilla!

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Camwhoring with Dredgezilla!!

After taking pics, we followed Mr. Ng into the office, where he showed us a video of smaller dredges working, and also a diorama of a typical mining site. Man, the dredge sounds scary from what I hear in the video! Lotsa loud creaking and grinding sounds as the buckets and chain move up the dredge! Mr. Ng also gave Sis and Yen a souveneir each, it's of Kellie's Castle :)

Oh, before the video started, we also saw this lizard on an old bicycle in the office. We clamoured over it for a while but it looks unfazed:
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A tin billet weighing 30 kilograms, this piece cost Mr. Ng RM1k+ when he bought it more than a decade ago.

We were famished after the dredge tour, so we had lunch at Toong Lok beside the Tanjung Tualang wet market, one of our favorites. Coincidentally, Mr. Ng was suggesting this restaurant too! He also gave us ice creams just before we left the tour site, nice guy :)

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First of many dishes to come, delicious!!!

We went back to Ipoh after lunch, I sent Bro and Tat to Simon's house, where they carpooled back to KL :) Bro and his friends will be back for class in Subang while Tat will visit his relatives in Kl before taking the Monday morning flight back to Hong Kong. It's been an interesting and fun weekend with Bro and Tat back around :)

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