Saturday, January 16, 2016

Credit Swiss (Army Knife)

Recently, I retrieved my good old Victorinox Swiss Army knife from the purgatory that it had been consigned to for the past ten years.

And yes, that's my name engraved on its body.

And you had better believe it when I say that it's a Swiss Army knife. My brother got it for me while he was backpacking through Switzerland back in 2003. So, yes.... I got a Swiss Swiss Army Knife.

It saw me through my NSF days when I had to cut commscord lines (I've always wondered about the origin of the term 'commscord') and help the company signallers lay down telephone wires. As a combat medic I remember using it to cut elastic bandages and Transpore tapes.

After I ORDed, though, the knife was consigned to a little corner of my webbing, destined to spend the next ten years there. I never took it out unless if I was called down to ICT. Even then, it was only taken out if I went outfield and I ever saw I need to use it.

A rather sad existence, methinks.

I then came across an Art of Manliness article on why every man should carry a pocket knife. It was a truly fascinating article which made me think about actually doing the same. That made me dig out my trusty old Swiss Army knife, sharpen the blades with a sharpening stone, and oil the moving joints.

I have to say that that was a pretty vicious raccoon.

I was all set to carry it in my pocket everywhere I went, until a thought hit me: would it even be legal to do so?

Okay, perhaps you're thinking that I'm being paranoid, But then again, being stopped by the MRT police while on the way to work and being found with a utility knife after a quick search is probably not the best experience in the world. Sure, I would be asked if I could justify its existence, but seriously, is anybody going to buy the idea that a mechanical engineering lecturer needs to keep a Swiss Army knife in his pocket at all times?

So unfortunately, the knife now stays at home, where it gets used mainly in the highly manly activity of.....

The three constants in life: death, taxes, and tax letters.

..... opening sealed envelopes.


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Friday, January 08, 2016

The Anthology of Seasons: Introduction

In my previous self-ranting/self-reflecting post, I made a passing mention to how I used to write poetry.

I’ve decided that perhaps I should give everyone an introduction to the poetry that I used to write in the past. It all started in 1998. It was a heady time to be living in: Aerosmith didn't want to miss a thing, Gillette released the legendary Mach 3 razor, and Godzilla was busy tearing up New York City.

And all it took to kill him were two torpedoes and twelve air-to-ground missiles. Tsk.

More importantly, I was fifteen. Yes, kids, I'm THAT old.

Anyway, one fine day in 1998 I happened to be at a bookshop near home when I happened to chance upon an A5-sized A’Zone ring notebook. On impulse I bought it.   

Not the actual notebooks I used. But it’s the exact same brand and model.

Somehow I got down to writing poetry, and I never looked back. I was hooked. It wasn’t something that I had been planning on doing. It just…. happened, if you get my drift.

In a sense it was a diary of sorts. The main difference between these poems and an actual diary is that the latter is usually written in prose. The poems I wrote, obviously, were in verse. And it’s not that I wrote every single day. I wrote whenever the inspiration to do so struck me. On some days I could write five or six entries. There were times when I could go five days without writing anything as well.

I had thought that it was just a passing phase that I was undergoing and that I would quickly lose interest in it. Eventually, though, one book became two, then three, and so on. Eventually I decided to give the overall series of books a name.

The name I gave to the entire series of poems? Here it is:

The Anthology of Seasons.

Don’t laugh. Come on, people, I was only fifteen. On hindsight I realize that I was trying too hard to come up with a lofty-sounding name for my poetry collection. But when you think about it, an Anthology is a collection of stories, and the seasons reflect the ever-changing nature of life. And as you all shall see, my life was ever-changing.

I didn't stop at coming up with a name. I decided to give the Anthology a structure. It was to consist of several Parts, which each Part consisting of three books covering a unique time period in the story of my life. Each book in turn would consist of 36 to 39 entries. Roughly speaking, the Parts could be summarized as such:

Part I: The Upper Secondary Years (1998 - 1999)
Part II: The Junior College Years (2000 - 2001)
Part III: The Army Years (2002 - 2004)
Part IV: The Junior Undergraduate Years (2004 - 2006) (did not finish)

It's actually more complicated than that, and it will take quite a long entry to simply talk about them. Several entries, as a matter of fact.

So for the next few entries, I’m going to be talking about the Anthology, how it came about, its structure, and how it influenced my life for better or worse. I will also be interspersing my entries with excerpts from the Anthology, just so that you can all get a flavour of what actually went on in the brain of a younger version of myself.

In fact, just as an appetizer, I present to you the first poem I ever wrote:

Been There, Done That

I have been there;
I have done it.
I have flown into the air
I have climbed out of the pit.

I was once a human doormat
Stepped on and abused
Now I can show them all that
'Cowardice' is a word that I do not use

There is no shame or regret
In hiding away
Yet to others they are upset
They think I went astray

A dork I used to be
A fan of books and Math
I’m still one, though, apparently
Reading Op-Centre and Macbeth.

So now all of you can see
My life with a tinge of fright
I would like to come face-to-face with my destiny
Doing something right.

Immature? Perhaps. But it was the start of something special. To me, at least.

In my next entry, I’ll be talking about the general structure of the Anthology.

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Friday, January 01, 2016

That Can Only Be Me

My name is Muhammad Fadzli Bin Hassan.

That can only be me.

To the world at large, I am a lot of things. I am a lot of people crammed into a single person.

I am a mechanical engineer. 

I am an Army sergeant holding the appointment of Combat Medic Specialist.

I am the guy who runs long distance races for fun. Even if I haven't been doing so lately.

I am the guy who briefly dabbled with kettlebells as a means of building up upper body strength.

In Soviet Russia, weights lift YOU!

I am the guy who wrote bad poetry for several years and does not want to fully release them until after his death. Which hopefully happens later rather than sooner.

I am the guy who decided that in some cases at least, the old ways are better. Even if it means writing like Grandpa, brushing my teeth like Grandpa, and shaving like Grandpa.

A more elegant weapon for a more civillized age.

I am the guy who took on the job title of 'husband' five years ago.

I am the guy who took on the job title of 'dad' nine months ago.

Sometimes I wonder if whatever people see me as is just a facade. I wonder if whatever judgements that are passed on the person that I am are true, and I wonder whether whatever praise or accolades I may have gotten over the years are truly well-deserved.

Even at my current age of 32.5 years (give or take a few days), I find myself grappling with the idea that no one truly knows who I really am. Not even myself. Which gives rise to an interesting thought: if I'm not even sure who I am even at this stage in my life, then how can I expect anyone to truly know me? 

Some rather heavy thoughts there. Perhaps that's just the expected result of a fatigue-addled brain that is feeling somewhat... melancholic.

It is the first day of 2016. 2015 was a highly eventful year for me, even if many people don't seem to share the same sentiments after looking at how I've been living my life.

The truth is that sometimes I confound myself by pulling off achievements that I never thought would have been possible with this rather limited brain of mine.

At other times I am stunned at my own inability to do the things that are expected of me that should be a stroll in the park.

Sometimes I feel as though I am firmly in control. At other times it feels as though I am waddling along, winging it and hoping for the best while expecting the worse,

This is a rather weird post, I agree. If there's only one thing that can be taken away from this post, it would be this: I'm a rather unconventional kind of person. There's only one of me in this world, and I'm not even sure who this person really is. 

So... do bear with me as I carry on with this journey of self-discovery.
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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Miswak: Brush Your Teeth Like Grandpa!

I think I'm on a roll with this '..... like Grandpa' series of blog posts. I've talked about shaving, handwriting, and now I'm talking about toothbrushing.

In a manner of speaking, that is. I'm talking about a special tooth cleaning twig known as the miswak.

Shown here in packaging.

Muslims should be pretty familiar with the miswak, considering that it is part of the Sunnah to use it on a regular basis. To quote a well-known hadith on this matter:

Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, "Had I not thought it difficult for my Ummah, I would have commanded them to use the Miswak (tooth-stick) before every Salat.''

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

In fact the use of the miswak predates Rasulullah (peace be upon him) and has been used for thousands of years by many cultures for the sake of teeth-cleaning. So, yes, the toothbrush in a sense has been around for far longer than most people think.

But is it of any use? Surprisingly.... yes. A few proper scientific studies have been conducted to look into the efficacy of the miswak. The general conclusions were:

1. It is at least as beneficial as conventional toothbrushing.

2. With proper use, it may be superior to conventional toothbrushing at plaque removal and long-term cavity prevention.

You don't have to take my word for it. You can read up on some of these studies. Yes, I may have gotten the sources from Wikipedia, but I'm not using the Wikipedia article itself as the source:

Al-Otaibi M, Al-Harthy M, Soder B, Gustafsson A, Angmar-Mansson B. (2003). "Comparative effect of chewing sticks and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health.". Oral Health Prev Dent 1 (4): 301–7.

Almas K, Al-Zeid Z (2004). "The immediate antimicrobial effect of a toothbrush and miswak on cariogenic bacteria: a clinical study.". The journal of contemporary dental practice 5 (1): 105–114. 

al-Otaibi M. (2004). "The miswak (chewing stick) and oral health. Studies on oral hygiene practices of urban Saudi Arabians.". Swedish dental journal. Supplement (167): 2–75. 

So, yes, Rasulullah (peace be upon him) was really on to something when he promoted the use of the miswak.

Anyway, I stumbled upon the miswak while I was browsing through the shelves of the Islamic Bookshop at Darul Arqam (the Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore). Curiosity got the better of me. The fact that it cost $2 sealed the deal.

How to use it

No, you can't just unwrap the wrapper and stick it into your mouth and expect to get clean teeth. You have to scrape off the bark at one end, soak it in water for a while, and chew on it until the end looks brush-like.

As shown here.

Then, you take that exposed end and rub it against your teeth.

The results

I have to admit that it takes some getting used to, considering that I've been lazily using an electric toothbrush with a rotary head for my dental hygiene. However, I can truly feel that the plaque is eradicated from my teeth. Some parts of the teeth (especially the inner part of the bottom incisors) are harder to reach, but cleaning them is still doable. 

More interesting is the taste of the miswak. It's hard to describe, but suffice to say that it left quite a far bit of fragrance in my mouth. 

And all this was without the use of any toothpaste. In fact, you shouldn't use the miswak with toothpaste.


Perhaps I'm simply not used to using the miswak, but I can see it as a very useful adjunct to my normal toothbrushing. I'll still use my rotary head Oral B electric toothbrush in the morning and prior to going to bed, but I'll be using the miswak to brush my teeth after lunch.

So, if you happen to see me in the office toilet at 2 pm sticking a twig in my mouth.... don't freak out. Really.  

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Write Like Grandpa!

I think that everyone should know that I haven’t only been shaving like Grandpa. I’ve been writing like Grandpa as well for the past few months.

Enter the Lamy Safari fountain pen.

'A more elegant writing instrument for a more civilized time' - Obi-Wan Kenobi [citation needed]

It cost me $45 to get this pen. Not very cheap, I know, but after two months of using it, it’s been a pretty solid investment. Let me state the reasons why:

1.            It’s less tiring to write.

Ballpoint and ballpens require that you press the pen down onto the paper in order to write. The pressure may seem miniscule at first, but it really gets to you over time. I vividly remember having to wrap my right hand in cold towels after a marathon session of writing four back-to-back essays within three hours during my A Levels (the subject was Economics, if you’re wondering).

Fountain pens, on the other hand, only require you to glide the pen over the paper. Little pressure is needed – if anything, too much pressure would ruin the nib. On top of that, fountain pens favour whole-arm movement over finger movement. The use of a larger number of muscles in the entire arm as opposed to the smaller number of hand muscles (which are also weaker, by the way) help to stave off fatigue.

2.            It’s more environmentally friendly.

Ballpoint pens use a lot of plastic. They are meant to be used until the ink runs out. You then toss the pen out. Sure, refills do exist, but most people don’t really use them.

Fountain pens can be refilled from a bottle. Sure, it gets messy if you’re not used to doing it. 

However, at least you’re not creating a lot of waste in the process.

3.            It turns writing into an art form.

Let me put it this way: writing with a $40 fountain pen just feels much cooler and, dare I say it, manly than with a $2 disposable pen. It makes you feel as though you’re putting a lot of investment in your writing instead of writing as a chore. It feels as though you are creating a work of art as opposed to, say, scribbling a note.

Okay, that is a minor point, but let’s face it: psychology is a very real thing. If the kind of writing instrument you have affects your attitude toward writing, then power to you.  

So, there you go: a short primer into why I've gone back to writing just like Grandpa. Right now I'm trying my best to relearn cursive writing.... which might well be the subject of another blog post in the future.
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Friday, November 20, 2015

How to Shave a Life

I’ve been going old-fashioned these past few months.

More to the point, I’ve been shaving with an old-fashioned safety razor. Or as some people would put it, an old-fashioned ‘Grandpa’ shaver.

'Old-fashioned' doesn't always mean no fashion.

Meet the Edwin Jagger Faux Ebony Safety Razor. Quite a mouthful, I know. But here’s a short primer on safety razors – they were introduced in the early 20th century by none other than King Camp Gillette. Yes, THAT Gillette. Prior to the invention of safety razors, men had to use straight razors – the very same razors that professional barbers are still using. While such razors were unbeatable for the closeness of the shave (which is why your friendly neighbourhood barber still uses them), they were pretty scary in the hands of an amateur.

So came along King Camp Gillette and his safety razors. Gillette’s new-fangled (for the time) safety razors didn’t take off until WWI broke out and he had the contract to supply thousands of American GIs with safety razors. When the war ended, the GIs were allowed to keep their razors – and they took their new shaving habits along with them.

Then you guys know what happened – we got twin bladed razors (Gillette Sensor), three bladed razors (Gillette Mach 3), four blades (Schick Quattro), five blades (Gillette Fusion). At the rate we’re going, we’re going to see 100-bladed razors by the time we all have grandchildren.

And one thing that every mother’s son who has to shave will agree upon – the cost of blades is just getting too much. A set of four blade heads for the Gillette Fusion Proglide Pro costs $30…. and lasts for, like, four weeks for me. Six weeks if I really pushed it.

In the end I started reading up on alternatives, and ended up on the Art of Manliness website. Or more specifically, the article on How to Shave Like Your Grandpa.

And yes, one thing led to another, and I ended up buying one of these old-fashioned shavers on Carousell. I got it from a guy who just couldn’t get the hang of it and sold it off to me with a whole bunch of free blades. The off-the-shelf price of the Edwin Jagger was $75. The guy offloaded it to me (with enough blades to last for six months) for just $45.

Then I went out to buy a pure badger brush (another $50), and some Body Shop shaving cream ($20).

And a really cheap metal bowl from NTUC Fairprice, but who's counting?

So the total damage was..... $120. But I'll go into that later.

The verdict?

Shave quality: Surprisingly quite good. I can’t tell any real difference between the closeness of the shave when I’m using either the Edwin Jagger or my expensive Gillette Fusion Proglide Power.
Ease of use: I won’t deny it. There’s a bit of a learning curve. In fact I cut my face in a few places the first time I was using the Edwin Jagger. The thing is, you’re not supposed to press the shaver into your face. The weight of the shaver itself gives enough pressure to cut the facial hairs properly.

But once you get the hang of it…. Wow.

And yes, the brush makes a LOT of difference. It forces up the hairs, making it easier for the blade to slice them. It also has a mild exfoliating effect, which helps clear up your face.

Aftereffects: Apart from cutting myself the first time I used it, I hardly ever damaged my face again. If anything, I feel a lot less sting and rawness on my face after using the Edwin Jagger. It must be due to the face that I’m using just one blade instead of five.

Cost: This is where you’ll see the greatest benefits. Previously I spent something like $30/month on new blades while I was using the Gillette Proglide Power. With the Edwin Jagger, $1/ month is sufficient.  So even after the initial sunk costs of $120, I get to make my money back within four months. Which really isn't a long time in the grand scheme of things.

And before you say it, new blades for the Edwin Jagger aren’t too hard to find. Your friendly neighbourhood Econ minimart should have safety razor blades for sale. Examples include Gillette’s Nacet and 7 o’Clock lines. Yeah, I know, the irony…..
If you’re still not convinced, then may I refer you to the following Youtube video made by the brilliant people at the Art of Manliness:

P.S.: I am in no way linked to The Art of Manliness. I just think it's a really cool site for men.
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Sunday, November 01, 2015

Welcome to the Web of Fudge

Hi everyone,

I've been thinking.

I've been thinking about thinking.

I've been thinking about thinking about think-..... oh wait, I'll stop myself right there.

The Web of Fudge has been my personal blog started in March 2004, in the last days of my National Service Full-time liability. After my final ATEC mission in Thailand, I found myself having a fair amount of time on my hands, and I decided that writing a blog would probably be a pretty neat thing to do.

The years passed. 

I got out of the army.
I entered university. 
I got a girlfriend. 
I got my B.Eng (Hons). 
I married my girlfriend. 
I got my PhD. 
I started work. 

Somewhere along the way, The Web of Fudge became more and more neglected. Eventually I gave up on it altogether, seeing it as not much more than a fool's errand.

I did try to revive it over the past couple of years. The key word here is 'tried'. Somehow I just couldn't find the energy, time, or passion to write as much as I used to. 

And boy, did I used to write. I used to write about all sorts of things. 

I wrote about my two cents' worth on current issues. Social, economic, you name it, I wrote it.
I wrote about my life. What I did. What I had to eat. What I experienced.

I never really did reach the dizzying heights of Mr Brown or Kenny Sia. But I like to think that I had my own little dedicated fanbase. Even if that said fanbase consisted mainly of family or friends.

After some thought (hence that seemingly disjointed string of sentences at the beginning of this post), I decided that it's about time that I got back to my roots. It's time I got back to writing posts and putting them on this blog.

It won't be the same as before. Nothing ever will be. I'm 32 now. This will be a far cry from when I was 21 or 22 years old, with less money in my pocket but with fewer responsibilities on my shoulders.

I was once just Fudge.

Now I'm still Fudge, with full adult responsibilities. I have a full-time job, and it's not much of a stretch to say that 'hubby' and 'dad' are both major responsibilities in themselves.

But no one said that I can't try. 

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