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Thoughts On Social Media

Social media usage is a complete disaster, mmmkayyy?

Next question!

I’m joking, obviously. It’s like the title of Ben Goldacre’s superb book, ‘I Think You’ll Find It’s A Bit More Complicated Than That’. In fact, if you’re really interested in the non-glamorous side of social media, I’d definitely recommend a couple of books about the topic:

  1. Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
  2. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

I am somewhat undecided when it comes to social media use. If anything, I’d probably lean towards saying the net effect is to cause more harm than good. Although information is a good thing, too much information, without any kind of context can lead to conflict. I often tease my wife whenever she shares with me stuff she finds online. “OMG, apa kata netizen nanti???” (OMG, what would the netizens say about this?).

Here’s what one netizen (i.e. me) thinks about some of the social networks available these days:

Facebook

Hate it and love it. I hopped onto the Facebook bandwagon fairly early on, back when you had to have a university email address in order to become a member. I have a lot of content, and more importantly, friends on Facebook that I would lose if I deleted my account. But damn do I feel like deleting my account every time I come across another ignorant comment, rude remark, or false claim there. To be clear, I don’t expect it to be any different on other social networks, but most (if not all) of my social media use is restricted to Facebook these days, so that’s where I encounter this sort of behaviour most often. And don’t get me started on their utter lack of respect for your privacy!

Instagram

Used it for a while, long enough to come to the conclusion that I wasn’t getting anything out of it. Decided to switch to posting photos on my own blog, so instead of Instagram, I now have Imran-stagram! Deleted my account, and now some random guy on a motorcycle owns the account. If you were following me previously and are now wondering why I’m sitting astride a yellow motorcycle, well, that’s the reason why…

Twitter

I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for Twitter as I’m pretty sure it helped me get a place to do a DPhil at Oxford. I know a lot of scientists use it very effectively. Sadly, I’m not one of them. I’ve tried various apps to make it a more useful tool, but ended up being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tweets and giving up on it.

LinkedIn

Maybe if I worked in the corporate world? But as for now, I have zero interest in LinkedIn.

To be clear, I’m not a hermit. I enjoy chatting with people. However, I must admit I’d prefer to be in a conversation with two or three people at most. I feel like that’s how all the interesting, deep, and useful conversations begin. YMMV, obviously. Thanks for reading!

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Bicycle

Bicycle

Location: Radcliffe Square, Oxford

Comment: I like the mood of this picture (if that makes sense).

 

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The Music Of Civilization VI

I’ve always thought that if I hadn’t been a neurologist, I would’ve chosen to become a historian instead. 

Therefore it’s hardly surprising that my favourite game on the planet is Sid Meier’s Civilization VI. It even has Oxford University as one of the wonders, although I reckon none of us here can be compared to Mr. Toad:

“The clever men at Oxford…know all that there is to be knowed. But they none of them know one half as much…As intelligent Mr. Toad!”

Kenneth Grahame

Sure, I had enjoyed many other games as well. I spent hours playing WWE Smackdown during SPM week back in 2001. During my undergraduate days, I probably spent more time leveling up my Undead Warlock in World of Warcraft than writing essays on anatomy or physiology. But the Civilization series is different. It doesn’t force you to keep playing when you don’t really have time. Unless you’re in a multiplayer game (which I’ve never tried), the game is perfectly happy for you to spend as long as you like on a single turn. None of that frenzied shooting and jumping around commonly found on games like Fortnite or PUBG or whatever the hell it is kids play these days. Get off my lawn!

Anyway, where was I?

Ah yes, the reason I mentioned Civilization VI is because I am fascinated by how much work goes into crafting a masterpiece like this. In particular, the music in Civilization VI is top notch. I still get this tingling sensation when the main menu appears and the music starts. For those of you curious about what it sounds like, here’s a YouTube video of the composer Christopher Tin conducting the world premiere of “Sogno di Volare”, the theme song for Civilization VI:

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The One Ring

The One Ring

Location: Mordor, Middle-earth

Comment: Left my keys next to the heater, and the next morning some markings appeared on the heretofore plain golden ring. Should I be worried?

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Notes On Notes

Like many people who are interested in the productivity sphere, I am always on the lookout for a better app/website to help me organise my life.

And like many of us discover sooner or later, I often end up spending more time learning how to use a shiny new piece of software vs. actually doing the important tasks I had planned.

I mean, why bother being productive when you can spend hours setting up intricate new planning systems in Evernote, Todoist, or Notion instead? The curse of perfectionism strikes again! I knew I had to go back to basics, so that’s what I did.

Nowadays I mostly rely on a combination of the standard-issue Notes and Calendar apps, with a sprinkling of OmniFocus for productivity-ninja type of stuff. I’ll write more about this setup in the future, but in the meantime, here’s a preview of what my Notes app looks like:

The emojis are there to make the app more pleasant to use. Don’t judge me!

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Marston Cyclepath

Marston Cyclepath

Location: Marston Cyclepath, Oxford.

Comment: The Marston Cyclepath is so cool that is has its own website. People go there mostly to check if the path is flooded or not.

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Kuwait Library

Kuwait Library

Location: Kuwait Library, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies

Comment: My favourite library in all of Oxford, for its tranquil atmosphere and beautiful interior.

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Hello World

Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakaatuh,

Welcome to my blog.

Ever since I first dabbled with HTML in 2004, I have tried many times to keep a blog going without much (read:any) success. The main reason for this is my desire to wait until an article is perfect, whatever that means, before publishing it online. To this day, I have various articles half-written and scattered all over the place because I wasn’t confident enough that anyone would want to read them.

In short, I had fallen into the trap of aiming for perfection, not progress.

Striving for perfection is a worthy goal, but not at the expense of making incremental progress as that is how everyone learns any new skill. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes how a class of film photography students are divided into two groups:

  1. Quantity: To be given a grade based on how many photos they had submitted by the final day of class.
  2. Quality: Judged purely on the excellence of their work. Although they only had to submit one photo during the semester, it had to be nearly perfect in order for them to get an A.

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, all the best photos came from the Quantity group.

Now obviously the real situation is more nuanced than that, but the story above illustrates a very important point: you get better at something not by thinking about it, but by doing it. Or to put it more crudely, loser plan, winners execute.

In the interest of not being a loser, I have decided to finish writing and publish all these semi-completed articles in my collection. The one nod to perfectionism I’ll make is to change their publication dates close to when they first appeared in my mind. This article, for example, was originally crafted in December 2019 with a view to making it a New Year’s Day post, so I’m just going to set its publication date to 1 January 2020. I hope you will excuse this time-bending experiment of mine.