The Year 2020 in Review

Ask any kid growing up in Malaysia in the 90’s ‘When will we be a developed nation?’ and the answer, without fail, would’ve been ‘the year 2020’.

Like October 21, 2015 a.k.a. ‘Back to the Future Day‘, the year 2020 was this mythical target in the future. It was far enough in the future (back then) that anything seemed possible.

Flying cars? Sure!

Self-lacing Nike shoes? Why not!

Honest politicians? Get the hell out of here…

Anyway, the reality, as we now know, didn’t quite live up to expectations. In fact, I’m constantly struggling between two diametrically opposite thoughts on how this year went. On the one hand, I’d be lying if I said nothing good happened this year. But damn it, a part of me just wants to label this year ‘FUBAR‘!

To a certain extent, I feel like this year came to an end in March, and everything else since then has been a great big dream (or nightmare, whichever one you prefer).

2020 in numbers

According to my dashboard, this year I published 85 posts (not including this one), and wrote a total of 20,211 words (again, not including these ones). These posts received 5,629 views from 3,230 unique visitors. Most of my readers are based in Malaysia and the United Kingdom, although I’ve also received visitors from unexpected countries like Romania, South Sudan, Norway, and Sri Lanka.

So to all of my readers out there, thank you very much for your time.


Despite all that has happened, one thing I’m glad about is the fact that I started writing regularly again this year. In my next post, I will try to outline my plans for 2021; strangely enough, I feel cautiously optimistic about the forthcoming year. Sure, the pandemic has caused havoc in many areas of life, but it has also opened up new opportunities for growth and self-development.

Until then, stay safe and take care, wherever you are.

The Dark Knight

Start of 2020:

It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.

Bruce Wayne

End of 2020:


Yeah…it’s been THAT kind of year.

Visiting Tolkien

Every city has its secrets, and Oxford is no exception.

The city centre, undoubtedly, is where you can find most of the major tourist attractions. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see as you venture further away.

To the north of Oxford lies Wolvercote Cemetery where several notable people are buried. Among them are:

  • Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-4-minute mile (and a fellow neurologist too!)
  • Benjamin Blackwell, founder of the Blackwell’s chain of bookshops (possibly my favourite places in Oxford)
  • Albert Hourani, historian and author of ‘A History of the Arab Peoples’

When I stopped by the other day, however, there was only one grave I really wanted to see:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of ‘The Lord of The Rings’, is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery in the same grave as his wife Edith Mary Tolkien.

On their tombstone is engraved the names Beren & Lúthien. Beren, as any Tolkien fan will know, is a Man who fell in love with the Elf-maiden Lúthien (also known as Tinúviel) , and their characters are a reflection of Tolkien’s love for his wife Edith.

The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinúviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold.
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled
He walked alone and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

As I was leaving, I caught sight of some mushrooms and thought how much Frodo Baggins would love them (if they don’t end up killing him, of course, as I have no idea if these are edible to begin with!).

Post-Lockdown 2.0

England emerged from Lockdown 2.0 into a world plagued with uncertainties, epitomised by debates over seemingly daft things like:

What exactly constitutes a “substantial meal”?

Under the latest rules, something like a Scotch egg would qualify as a “substantial meal” (according to a cabinet minister) but a Cornish pasty would not.

For my Malaysian readers, that’s a bit like saying a ‘karipap’ is a “subtantial meal”, but an ‘apam balik’ is not.

Confusing? You betcha!

I honestly have a lot of sympathy for the people in charge of writing these rules. Communicating something precisely to the general population is never easy at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

Risky Talk

While we’re on the topic of communication, I’d like to share with you a really interesting podcast I came across recently. It’s called ‘Risky Talk’ and it’s hosted by Professor Sir (or is it Sir Professor?) David Spiegelhalter, the Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge.

The latest episode, unsurprisingly, deals with communicating about vaccines.

I have a lot to say about vaccines and the vaccine refusal movement in Malaysia, but this is not the blog post for it. Some other time maybe. Anyway, have a listen to Risky Talk and let me know what you think.

Lab meeting

On top of listening to other people talk, I also delivered a brief presentation during my group’s lab meeting on Monday this week. I had hoped to present my data on visual working memory deficits in cerebral small vessel disease (SVD), but sadly, didn’t manage to finish the analysis in time for the presentation.

Instead, I talked about a recent paper in Neurology about the use of multi-shell diffusion MRI models for white matter characterization in SVD. This is an area of research I’m very keen to explore as part of my DPhil. Hopefully something good comes out of this inshaAllah.

Hello Cutteslowe

In other news, I also moved houses during the lockdown. When I first arrived in Oxford, my college (St. Catherine’s College) kindly gave me a room in their graduate accommodation building, known as St Catherine’s House, or Catz House, for short. It’s located in the south-eastern part of the city, in a district known as St Clement’s. After 6 months, I moved into a room off Botley Road in the western part of the city. This time around, I wanted to live in a different area so I chose a place in Cutteslowe, a suburb of north Oxford.

I’m lucky that I don’t have that many things with me, that is, unless you’re counting the pile of books I seem to have accumulated since coming here. But everyone knows books don’t count anyway; you can (and should) buy as many of them as you want!

Anyway, about the move…it all went well alhamdulillah, except for the fact that I have to wait for my broadband account to be activated. I know, I know, first world problem and all that. But damn, having to rely on mobile hotspot is frankly awful. I mean, take a look at this:

Which is painful when you’ve gotten used to this:

Of course, this is a trivial problem to have compared to everything else that is happening around us. I’m just being silly. I keep having to remind myself to be thankful for all the blessings and opportunities that have come my way. Alhamdulillah, always…

That’s probably enough for now. I hope all of you are staying safe, and managing to find some peace and happiness despite the circumstances. Take care.