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Aim Higher

My first thought upon reading the latest political development in Malaysia is: Come on people, are you serious? Not again!

Whatever the outcome of this sorry episode is, I would like to say thank you to the few ministers who, in my humble opinion (feel free to disagree!), have discharged their duties honourably, namely Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Dr Maszlee Malik, Hannah Yeoh, Anthony Loke Siew Fook, and Yeo Bee Yin.

Ultimately, politics will always be politics. And politicians will always do whatever is necessary to cling to power. But a nation is more than just its quarrelsome politicians. The worth of a nation is determined by the quality of its people and institutions. We can have the best politicians in the world, but if people are selfish, uneducated and not civic-minded, nothing good will come of it.

That’s why I’m urging you to ALSO look elsewhere and consider other avenues when thinking about ways to help society. Becoming a politician is NOT the only way to lead the country. In fact, I would argue that as far as truly helping other people is concerned, you can achieve more by being leaders in other fields. We need better teachers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, scientists etc.

So whatever it is you’re doing at the moment, do it better. Aim higher!

And to put my money where my mouth is, here’s my offer: if you’re interested in pursuing a career as a doctor, lecturer, and/or scientist (the areas I know more about, don’t ask me about entrepreneurship!), feel free to contact me and we can discuss how to approach this endeavour. Chances are you won’t get to be on TV or in newspapers soon, but as long as you’re helping other people, I guarantee you it’s well worth the effort.

Update: I am grateful to my friend Dr Khor Swee Kheng for mentioning this post in his article in The Star (see below):

Politicians: A new threat to public health?

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Arlington Row

Arlington Row

Location: Arlington Row, Bibury

Comment: I bet this place is full of tourists in summer.

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Lectures By Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad

Back in KL, I used to dread having to spend a couple of hours stuck in a traffic jam to go home. But ever since I started listening to lectures while driving, I began to tolerate, if not enjoy, the commute as it gave me a chance to relax and learn new things at the same time.

Here I would like to share with you some lectures I have particularly enjoyed by Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College. The one I would definitely recommend is this lecture series on the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

Sira: A Journey of Transformation

Sira: A Journey of Transformation – Experience the life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through the Qur’an, poetry, and early sources. For only $39, you get access to 12 lectures in all. Well worth the money, in my opinion.

And once you’ve completed the series above, here are some YouTube lectures on the Khulafa-al-Rashidun:

As well as the Four Great Imams:

May Allah SWT increase our knowledge and grant us his Mercy in this world and the next.

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The Poles Are Melting

The poles are melting

Location: St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford

Comment: Wake up, people!

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Musings Of A Cyclist

Since coming to Oxford in April 2019, I have relied on my trusty bicycle to get me anywhere and everywhere. This in turn has led to a few observations on what it’s like being a cyclist:

  1. Cycling is very therapeutic, especially when passing through relatively peaceful areas like the Marston Cyclepath or Jack Straw’s Lane here in Oxford.
  2. People are far more considerate towards cyclists here in the UK. Cycling is possibly a suicidal activity back in Malaysia given how ‘courteous’ our drivers are.
  3. Cycling in windy conditions should be its own form of cardio.
  4. After a while you become quite good at spotting tiny pieces of glass on the road. Unfortunately, there is often quite a lot of broken glass on the road especially after the weekend.
  5. A bit of maintenance goes a long way towards making your ride a smooth one. Don’t be a fool like me and neglect to pump air into the tyres for months!

I’m often guilty of forgetting how luxurious it is to own a car. But after many journeys on the bicycle in freezing rain, I hope my future self will be more thankful for whatever blessing, no matter how big or small, I have in life inshaAllah.

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Pigs In Blankets

Pigs in blankets

Location: Queen Street, Oxford

Comment: Pigs. In Blankets. In Mac ‘n’ Cheese!

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Learning How To Program

Here’s what it’s like to go from being a clinician to being a scientist.

You take what you know about your topic. Let’s call that Level 6 knowledge (on a scale of 0 to 10). You think to yourself, “That ain’t bad!”, after all you are a specialist in your chosen field. Medical students think you’ve memorized the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine. House Officers tremble at the thought of being quizzed by you during ward rounds, and Medical Officers bow down to your expertise.

Pretty soon after the start of your PhD, you’ll realize that what you thought of as Level 6 is actually Level 1 or 2 knowledge in the grand scheme of things. After all, you may know a little bit here and there about a variety of topics, but for your PhD you’ll need to ramp up the level of expertise. You need to push the dial to Level 11 if possible. If Level 10 is the limit of what the world knows about something, then your job is to take it up a notch and discover something new.

So yeah, in summary, it ain’t easy doing a PhD (yay it rhymes!).

Now the good news is that you don’t have to do it overnight. You have time, but seriously, there’s a LOT to learn!

One new thing I’m learning at the moment is programming. Full disclosure: I am a noob at this, so take whatever I say here with a pinch of salt. From what I can see, a lot of neuroscience research is done with MATLAB, R, and Python. Without any context available, I’d probably say that you should try to learn Python first. But the reality is you will probably end up having to learn all of them simultaneously.

MATLAB

I’ve heard that the best way to learn a programming language is by using it to solve a problem you’re having. My problem right now is that I need to analyze the data on working memory I’ve collected thus far and turn it into a presentation for my group’s lab meeting. Should be fun, right? What could possibly go wrong…

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Oats

Oats

Location: Oxford, UK

Comment: My attempt at making overnight oats.

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Integrity

One of the benefits of being in Oxford is the chance to attend lectures by people who are leaders in their respective fields. I recently went to a talk given by Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. One part of his speech really resonated with me (emphasis mine):

Many people have been asking, what does it take to be a good and sustainable leader? To my mind, beyond working hard and working smart, there are three prerequisites to becoming a good and sustainable leader; Unquestionable Integrity; Competence; and Humility.

Integrity is about “doing the right thing even when no one is watching”. Competence is about having the necessary knowledge and skills to do the job well. Whilst humility is about treating people with mutual respect, about staying grounded to our roots and about being cognisant that we all serve a greater purpose in life rather than for our self-interest. Humility is also about knowing that you don’t know everything and that you need teamwork in order to succeed.

A competent, humble leader with unquestionable integrity and who works very hard will enjoy a reputation that will precede him.