Saturday, June 25, 2016

33

25th June. A seemingly nondescript day to most people. Less so to me. Let’s recap some of the more eventful things that have happened in my life over the past year.


    1.  Became a dad.


This is by far the biggest and most important event in my life. Say what you will, but the position of ‘dad’ is the biggest and most overwhelming thing ever in my entire life.

I won’t go into too many details as to when my daughter was born, or how she has been. This blog is supposed to be my story and not hers. Until she can give me permission to tell her story, The Web of Fudge is primarily the story of Muhammad Fadzli.

That being said, three things are for sure:

      1. Nobody will ever love my little girl more than I do.
      2. No matter how big she grows, she will always be Daddy’s little girl.
      3. African White Rhinos are fun to feed at the zoo.


I challenge everyone to prove me otherwise.


       2.  Last-ever In-Camp Training




I’ve already discussed this matter in my previous entry on The Odyssey. There’s just a little postscript that I would like to add:


I have not yet MR-ed.


To those not in the know, MR stands for Mindef Reserve. Basically, it means that I have completed all my NSF and reservist liabilities, and I will be the absolute last to be called upon to fight a war if it ever came down to that.

Yes, odd, I know. But the way things work around here, I only fully reach MR status next year. Until then, I’m still technically liable for future callups, as unlikely as it may be.


    3.  I got silver for my IPPT.






Yes, some of you are probably rolling your eyes at this revelation. However, you have to understand that I was always ‘that guy’ who did not do well for IPPT. I was a zero-fighter (zero chin ups) in BMT. Even at my peak when I was certified a full combat medic specialist, the highest I got was silver (and even then, just barely).


After I ORD-ed, I only managed to pass once between 2005 and 2016. Again, I was barely making the grade.

So imagine my surprise when I somehow managed to get silver this time round.

The extra dosh in my bank account as a result of this silver ain’t that bad, either.



4    4. Revival of The Web of Fudge



My closest friends know that the Web of Fudge actually goes back to 2004 when I first matriculated as a freshman at the National University of Singapore. Since then it has stuck with me through thick and thin until I finally left the university in 2013. I made the ill-advised decision to shut down the blog and to delete all entries when I was about to enter the working world.

Why? That’s a good question, really.

Anyway, after three years I decided to revive the lost art of blogging. Let’s face it: there are some things in life that just can’t be replaced that easily, and blogging is one of them.
Even this revival isn’t going that well, as you can see. Half a year has passed and I’ve only come up with a handful of entries.




That’s all I’ve got. Four major items on my list.

But even so, why am I even talking about all this? What’s the occasion, you may ask?

Well, it’s simple.

My name is Muhammad Fadzli Hassan. I write the Web of Fudge.






And today, I turn 33.


Go, Web!!!!




I'm thirty three for a moment
Still the man, but you see I'm of age
A kid on the way
A family on my mind
Fifteen I'm all right with you
Fifteen, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got hundred years to live
- Five for Fighting, 100 Years


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Odyssey

Fourteen years ago, on 25th February 2002, I enlisted as a recruit in the Singapore Armed Forces.

Needless to say, it was not an easy period in my life. As every single person who knows me can attest, I'm the dork who reads lots of books, write (or at least wrote) lots of poetry, and would be far more at home behind the monitor screen instead of the battlefield.

Somehow I made it through. I became a Private.

I eventually became a combat medic, and joined an infantry unit, 3rd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment. After a year in the Army, I was promoted to Corporal. At around the same time my company's Officer Commanding decided to make me Company Medic.... which would eventually lead to my being upgraded to a Combat Medic Specialist with the accompanying promotion to the rank of Third Sergeant.

Specialists: The sandwich class of the Singapore Armed Forces.


I then rejoined the civillian world after I hit my Operationally-Ready Date (ORD) on 30th June 2004.

I was a civillian again, but the next twelve years would see me go back into the army on an on-and-off basis for my ten-year reservist cycle. If you're wondering why the ten-year cycle took place over twelve years, that's because my unit was not called back in 2005 and 2015.

In the fourteen years in the army, I had many experiences, good and bad. For better or worse, it has shaped me into the person that I am now. At the very least, I've got lots of stories to that I can tell the grandkids in the future, including but not limited to:


Poor Psychomotor Skills

My poor psychomotor skills got me into trouble with my platoon sergeant (2SG Don, as I recall) on the first day of BMT. I was the hapless dork who would march 'left arm, left leg'.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I present to you this video:






You get the point. Now, stop laughing.



Everything to Gain and Nothing to Lose


I was underweight and really scrawny when I enlisted (1.70 m/ 53 kg). By the time I became a combat medic, my weight went up to 61 kg.

Before any old birds here complain that cookhouse food is too good 'nowadays', let me just say that much of those 8 kilos was solid muscle. At least that's what I would like to think.

I was one of the very few people (perhaps the only person) in my BMT platoon who actually gained weight during BMT.



Muesli Bars and Beef Jerky


I would survive three-day outfield missions on nothing but a box of Uncle Tobys bars and a few sticks of beef jerky. All that while carrying nearly 30 kg of full battle order including my medical orderly pack and a collapsible stretcher.



Jack Link's. Allowing combat medics to carry half their weight in full battle order since your grandfather's day.



It was born out of necessity; that 30 kg of FBO did not include rations. The weight of three days' worth of normal rations would have utterly finished me off.

Needless to say, I lost an average of 1 kg of body weight per day for each mission.


Brunei Fever

I had to conquer the legendary Seven Knolls of Temburong Jungle in Brunei while running a 39-degree fever.

I wasn't being mad; the end point at that stage was actually closer than the evacuation point.

To this day I have no idea how on earth I pulled that off. With a 30 kg full battle order and on extremely light rations over three days, no less.

Oh, and I was doing double work since my company was down to two medics instead of its full complement of four.


Owwwww!!!!!!!! MEDIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

That would be a depressingly common way to summon me on the battlefield. Or any other medic, for that matter.


No man gets left behind. Otherwise, we can't book out for nights off.


I have attended to all manner of real casualties over the years, ranging from non-events (minor scratches, blisters) to potential life-threatening situations (anaphylaxis, heat stroke, asthma attacks, etc). I do not know whether what I did really made a difference in the latter case.

I like to think that it did. I like to think that what I did really did help someone.


Army Hilarity

There have been many hilarious situations I went through, not all of which can be put on the public domain. One anecdote sticks out, though.

During my outfield training in BMT, a horde of wild boars invaded our campsite. The sergeants were busy running around chasing away the wild boars.

Then one huge wild boar happened to approach me. Not sure what to do, I brandished my bayonet and stood ready to take it on.


One of the few times when there is nothing Freudian about 'forward thrust'.


One of the few times when there is nothing Freudian about 'forward thrust'.

Just then, my platoon sergeant showed up, scared off the wild boar with a stamp of his boot, and shook me up violently.

'WHAT THE #*$&#*$#$# WERE YOU THINKING OF DOING?!?!?!?!?!?!?'

Fun times.


To sum it all up......

As I said, fourteen years in the army (2.5 years full time, rest of it part time) has been quite an experience for me. Sometimes I sit back and wonder what things would be like if I hadn't been through the army. Certainly, my life would be a whole lot different.

I'm not just talking about the leadership skills I learnt being a Third Sergeant in charge of a small medical team, or the medical skills I learnt as a Level II Combat Medic Specialist. Those certainly are important. I learnt quite a fair bit about how to manage a team of subordinates. And in my like of work as a lecturer I have been called upon to use my medical skills several times.

It would, however, be unfair to say that those are the only things I took away from being in the army. One of the most important lessons I learnt in the army is that I am more resilient and more capable of things that I give myself credit for at times. If you told me half a lifetime ago that I could carry 30 kg of equipment through dense tropical jungle terrain while on slim rations and being ill with a 39 degree fever, I would have told you that you were crazy.

Of course, the crazy person is none other but myself. It is a crazy world that we live in, and sometimes, you just have to be a little crazy if you hope to be able to live in it.

My name is 3SG (NS) Muhammad Fadzli Bin Hassan.

My unit has stood down.




And so marks the end of my 14-year odyssey in the Singapore Armed Forces.
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Friday, April 08, 2016

To Sir, With Love

Dear Sir,
Please accept this gift
It's all that I can get for you
I wish I could get you more
For you deserve far more than this
More than what you have gotten
Thus far

Dear Sir,
Please accept this advice
For I don't know how else 
You can be helped
I know what it's like 
To not be helped
So do let someone aid you.... just this once.

Dear Sir,
Please accept this life
For you can't live another
And you've got to make the most of it
I know it's hard
To walk alone....

..... in the chill of the night.
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Friday, April 01, 2016

The Bookworm Gang

I recently came across a person who was selling off Bookworm Short Stories books at the absurdly-cheap price of $5 for a set of 5.

In the interest of nostalgia, I bought the whole set.


 photo 2016-03-30 21.11.18.jpg





To the uninitiated (i.e. today’s kids), the Bookworm Short Stories was a series of books containing several short stories of a group of local kids. They don’t make it clear how old the kids are, but Upper Primary (10 – 12 years old) seem to be a reasonable estimate. They would get into all sorts of adventure in the context of Singapore.

Back when I was in primary school (1990 – 1995), these books sold like hotcakes. Who could forget the exploits of Smarty, Edison, Fat Ani (seriously, bro?), Sam Seng, Porky (double seriously, bro?), Simone and all the others? In an era before there were smartphones, and the monochromatic Game Boy made one the Big Man on Campus, It was considered cool to be reading about the Bookworm Gang.

To be sure, while I did read a few Bookworm Gang books, they weren’t my series of choice. That honour would go to The Three Investigators.

That’s another story for another time. Pun fully intended.

Anyway, for some reason the company that published Bookworm Short Stories went out of business sometime in the early 2000s. Which doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, really. I suppose the rise of technology and the general lack of reading habits among our young has contributed to the decline of the company.

That makes me feel sad. I will be the first to admit that Bookworm Short Stories will never win a Pulitzer or some other literary prize. However, certainly it is a major improvement over Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga or any of those darn games that seem to occupy many a smartphone screen these days. The thing about stories is that they force your brain to think and imagine and to act out whatever is being read by the eyes. If the eyes are reading a passage involving a knight brandishing a sword and trying to save the damsel from the evil wizard, the mind tries to imagine the scene. In contrast, when you’re playing Angry Birds, all you see is…. A bunch of angry birds kamikaze-ing into a ramshackle structure.

And Bookworm Short Stories are stories that many kids can relate to. It can be as simple as little Simone searching for his lost puppy, or Kumar losing his touch in basketball. When you put the setting in a local context, it becomes even easier for the reader to relate to whatever is being read.

But alas, print media is dead. Or dying.

And humanity is the poorer for it.

And yes, I see no reason why Bookworm Short Stories shouldn’t be revived and reintroduced to the current generation. 
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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ningfeng NF-997-III shaver

Hot on the heels of the Gillette Rubie Click! comes another el cheapo safety razor. And I dare say that this one is a lot better. I came across it in one of those 'Ah Beng' hardware/sundry shops at Haig Road (near One KM mall).

Introducing the Ningfeng NF-997-III shaver.


 photo c3d15585-3560-4236-9c73-7cf4813bc70e.jpg


If you have not heard of it, then don't worry. Almost no one has ever heard of it either. It's just like no one has ever heard of the company that created it: Zhejiang Cixi Changhe Town Shengfeng Daily Use Utensils Factory.


They might seriously want to think of a shorter name.

On a more serious note, this shaver was created with the traveller in mind, what with its packaging in a sweet little plastic case:




Opening the package led to a welcome surprise: a mini mirror. Perfect for those occasions when you have to shave at a weird location (e.g. your office desk):




It evens comes with a mini brush to brush off any loose hairs that may have been left behind in the shaver head from the previous shave.


I'm not going to use that blade, though.

The shaver itself doesn't look half bad. Certainly it is much more solidly built than the Gillette Rubie Click! I'm not sure what steel they use for this shaver, but it does look like stainless steel. I see no sign of corrosion or discolouration that comes with mild steel.




It feels a little hefty - which is a good thing. As all safety razor users know, unlike cartridge razors, you should NEVER apply pressure when you're using one of these shavers. The weight of the safety razor itself will apply the required pressure onto the facial hair. 

True, it doesn't quite have the heft of the Edwin Jagger that I'm using - but that's just a minor quibble.

One thing about the Ningfeng Shaver truly impressed me though: butterfly doors for the blade.




If you're not sure what's going on, twisting a knob at the bottom of the Ningfeng Shaver opens a set of 'doors' at the location where you're supposed to insert the blade. 


Blade (SuperMax Chromium) loaded.

If you're not impressed at that function, consider this: my Edwin Jagger does NOT have that function. I have to physically take apart the entire razor every time I need to switch blades. Admittedly that's a very minor chore that only takes place once a week, but you really have to wonder why a $55 razor does not have a function that a $2 razor has.



Blade locked and loaded.
Obviously it would not do to buy a cheap $2 shaver and not apply it to my face in the morning. So in the interest of science, that's what I did.


THE VERDICT

It's not half bad. True, it lacks the heft of the Edwin Jagger, and that forced me to use a little extra pressure (which led to a couple of minor cuts). However, if the Edwin Jagger gets a score of 10/10, then the Ningfeng comes in at 8.5/10. And that's a truly impressive thing when you consider that the Ningfeng costs less than a plate of nasi lemak.

I won't use the Ningfeng on a daily basis. However, it has thoroughly and definitely displaced the Gillette Rubie Click! as my travel shaver of choice. It gets the job done, and I wouldn't mind one little bit if it got damaged or missing. All I have to do is to go down to that same Ah Beng shop at Haig Road.

If anything, if you gentlemen are still hesitant about making the switch to safety razor shaving, you might actually want to try getting the Ningfeng shaver as a proof of concept. No, seriously. The most that you have to lose is $2 and a couple of cuts on your face. And if it turns out that you like it, then buy all means go all out and splurge on a good Merkur or Edwin Jagger.

A great buy at an Ah Beng shop. Who would have thought.

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Sunday, March 06, 2016

Gillette Rubie Click!

The title is not a parody or a typo. That's the actual name of a really, really cheap safety razor that I happened to come across at a provision shop. Exclamation mark included.




You thought I was kidding about the exclamation mark, didn't you?


And as you can see from the picture, it cost me a grand total of $2.00 for the razor and one (1) single blade. Which is a steal compared to the $50++ I had spent on the Edwin Jagger safety razor.

A little bit of history about the safety razor: Gillette was THE company that came out with the safety razor in the early 20th century. Nothing short of King Camp Gillette himself invented the safety razor, which then became commonplace after WWI after millions of it were issued to American doughboys who were sent to Europe to fight. Somewhere down the line, though, Gillette made the transition to cartridge razors, and for the most part have pretty much given up on safety razors.

With the notable exception of the Rubie Click! though.

Anyway, I'm digressing. After coming across the Rubie Click!, curiosity got the better of me. I was willing to test how it would fare against my Edwin Jagger that was outfitted with a Feather blade (reputably the sharpest razor blade in the world).



As seen above, the Rubie Click! came with one (1) safety razor blade. The thing is, my facial hair is tough enough such that even the fabled Feather blade can only last a week of daily shaving against it.

The Edwin Jagger is made of heavy stainless steel. The Rubie Click!, on the other hand, is made of cheap plastic. Not sure exactly what, but PVC comes to mind. 

Loading the Rubie Click! isn't an easy prospect. You have to use your thumb to flick the razor head apart. I can imagine the mechanism failing within a few days of daily use.


Flick the blade head up.....



In goes the blade.....

.... and flick the razor head back into place.

I have to admit that I was filled with trepidation when I tried to use the Rubie Click! for the first time. To the uninitiated, let's make one thing clear: safety razor shaving is not the same as cartridge razor shaving. You apply little to no pressure on the face when you use a safety razor. As I mentioned earlier, the Edwin Jagger is made of heavy stainless steel; the weight of the razor itself supplies the required pressure to cut the facial hair.

Unfortunately, the Rubie Click! is simply too light to do anything of that sort. I was going to have to apply pressure to my face. In other words, I was going to have shave my face with a safety razor using the technique of a cartridge razor.




Surprisingly, it didn't turn out all that bad.

Sure, I didn't have the usual smooth experience I have come to expect from an Edwin Jagger with a fresh Feather blade, but... it's hard for me to say that I hated the Rubie Click! experience. The smoothness of my face post-shave wasn't too far off from my average experience. Sure, my face stung a fair bit, but aftershave took care of that pretty well.

Let's be clear about this: the Rubie Click! is not something I would want to use on a daily basis. However, it's certainly something I can pack in my travelling toiletries set. If it got lost or confiscated by an overzealous customs agent, I wouldn't cry myself to sleep over my losing it. And if I get to use it, I can get by with it pretty well for a few days.


So, there it is: a look at the rather odd and quirky Rubie Click! produced by the Gillette company.

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Saturday, February 20, 2016

This, Too, Shall Pass

A few years back I came across an adage that pretty much struck a chord with me. I'm pretty sure at least some of you have heard of this one before:


From artofmanliness.com.

'This, too, shall pass'. Four simple words that convey a huge amount of wisdom. Different people interpret it in different ways, but I doubt that many of those interpretations are any different from mine: both difficulties and success are temporary. You can be facing seemingly-crushing problems, but you need to realize that tough times do not last forever.

Likewise, you may soar to dizzying levels of success. However, one ought to bear in mind that success comes from God, and that it has always belonged to Him. I'm not trying to be a wet blanket; all I'm saying is that one should always strive to keep his feet firmly planted on the ground regardless of whatever favourable circumstances he may be in.

Anyway, the motto struck such a chord with me that I printed it out and displayed it in my office cubicle. I placed it there to remind myself that a tough day at work is all it was: just another day at work, and there's always the promise of tomorrow being a better day. Likewise, it was there to remind me that every success at work should not be allowed to go to my head. Enjoy the moment, but move on with my feet still firmly planted on the ground.

It got me to research about the origins of the motto. A lot of people seem to think that it's from the Bible (and that's what a couple of my colleagues who read it on my cubicle wall thought as well), but it's not. It actually originated in the works of Persian Sufi poets, which some say went on to be reproduced in Jewish folklore. Whatever its origins, it should not detract from the fact that this phrase has struck a chord with so many people over the centuries.

Nothing short of Abraham Lincoln himself had this to say about this adage:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction! (Source)


The name of that top hat is Abraham Lincoln.
My research has yet to uncover the identity of the dude under it.


So whatever the situation you may find yourself in, always remember this: This, too, shall pass.
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