Christmas Light Festival

The start of any festive season isn’t an exact science. In Malaysia, for example, as we approach the fasting month and Hari Raya Aidilfitri, more and more places start to sell ‘kuih raya’, or play Raya songs or offer Raya-specific discounts for random items like washing machines, curtains, and cars (!).

Here in the UK, I am beginning to see more and more signs of Christmas season, albeit with the threat of ‘storm clouds‘ (according to Boris) following a dramatic rise in Covid cases in Europe.

The Oxford Christmas Light Festival is one such sign. Various events are happening around the city between the 19th and 20th of November (yesterday and today) including a Victorian Christmas Market, light trails & shows, as well as a photography workshop.

Right next to our house, Cutteslowe Park has been turned into its own festival of light. I’ve written before how trees often remind me of neurons (see ‘Neurons in Nature‘, ‘Dendrite‘, and ‘Dendrite Again‘) but yet again, I was reminded of this fact upon seeing the trees illuminated from below. Here are some pictures from our area:

My favourite picture is this one, which I call ‘Ice & Fire’ in honour of George R. R. Martin.

Ice & Fire

Hopefully this will motivate him to finally finish the novels before, you know, the inevitable happens. All the best George! 🧙🏼‍♂️

Oh, and in case you wanted to see some videos of the light trail, I’ve got you covered as well:

One Keyboard To Rule Them All

I have a dream.

In that dream, I am the owner of a house.

And in that house, there is a room which serves as my refuge from the outside world. It is the place where I can work, think, read, and write in peace. On the wall there is a map of the world courtesy of National Geographic, next to some framed pieces of Islamic calligraphy. The walls are lined with bookshelves full of my favourite books.

In the middle of the room is my desk, complete with a top-of-the-line Mac desktop. Why would I need a top-of-the-line computer? God knows, but hey, it’s MY dream, so I can put any computer in it that I want, mmmkayyy?

More importantly, in front of the Mac is this beautiful keyboard from Drop, complete with its Lord of the Rings keycap set:

It’s a nice dream.

Stars #2

Living next to a park has its perks. One of them is being able to get to a relatively dark area to do some astrophotography. I am a complete beginner when it comes to photographing the night sky, but I thought I’d give it a go anyway.

Attempt #1
Attempt #2

The images coming out of the iPhone were a bit too bright for my liking so I’ve darkened them a bit using the Photos app. I’m also experimenting with the tint (colour? temperature?) of the photos, making it slightly greenish and the other more red/purple, to see if that helps to bring out the light from the stars a bit more.

If you look closely at the bit of sky above the goal post in the third picture above, you will be able to see a streak of light in the sky. I’d love for that to have been a comet (or is it asteroid? I’m confused!) but it was probably a plane making its way somewhere exotic while the rest of us carry on with our lives on the ground.

All photos were taken with an iPhone 11 Pro Max fixed to a JOBY GorillaPod; using a tripod allowed me to increase the exposure time to 30 seconds in Night Mode.

The Beauty of Autumn

Autumn is my favourite season of the year.

It’s difficult to put into my own words why I like it so much, so I’m not even going to try. Recently, however, I came across a really wonderful quote on the beauty of autumn in a James Clear newsletter.

The quote itself comes from inventor and writer Lin Yutang:

“I like spring, but it is too young. I like summer, but it is too proud. So I like best of all autumn, because its leaves are a little yellow, its tone mellower, its colours richer, and it is tinged a little with sorrow and a premonition of death. Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, nor of the power of summer, but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. It knows the limitations of life and is content. From a knowledge of those limitations and its richness of experience emerges a symphony of colours, richer than all, its green speaking of life and strength, its orange speaking of golden content and its purple of resignation and death.”

My Country and My People

Confessions of a Football Fan

Things were not looking good for Manchester United. By half-time they were already 0-4 down, at Old Trafford, to Liverpool (of all teams).

“What was the worst United game you’ve ever been to Dad?” the kid sitting next to me asked his forlorn-looking father. In front of me, I could see a lady captioning a picture of the match for her Instagram followers. “F***ing boring!” it said in large letters. Very classy!

I have been a Manchester United supporter since 1995. November 1995, to be exact, the month I saw Paul Scholes gracing the cover of United, the self-proclaimed ‘official magazine of the world’s greatest club’. This guy means business, I thought; this is what it looks like to be a champion. True enough, a few years later United went on to win their famous Treble thanks to a last-minute goal courtesy of one Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Fast forward 21 years and I was sitting in the stands at Old Trafford, watching Solskjaer’s team getting smashed (to quote Khabib) by their arch rivals. Harry Maguire, their captain, looked clueless; Victor Lindelof, his partner in defence, wasn’t any better. Even Cristiano Ronaldo failed to conjure up any of his old magic on that occasion. By the interval, people were leaving the Theatre of Dreams in droves, having experienced an absolute nightmare of a first half. Liverpool went on to win 0-5 despite taking their foot off the pedal in the second half; Mo Salah, United’s chief tormentor, did not play well but STILL ended up with a hat-trick.

I suppose I should be more depressed by the state of this United team. And yet, I’m not, because a few years ago, after watching United during the Moyes, van Gaal, and Maurinho era, I finally decided to stop putting all my eggs in one basket and just enjoy the football instead.

Anfield

That was how I ended up at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC, in July this year. Here are some pictures from the stadium tour:

Now, put away those rotten eggs, set aside those pitchforks, and bear with me for a second. Have you ever asked yourself: why must I only support one football club? Why can’t I support a few? Better still, why can’t I enjoy the game no matter who’s winning?

These were the questions I asked myself a few years ago, having watched one too many mediocre games involving United. I decided there and then to stop worrying so much about which team wins, and to just enjoy the beautiful game. I even bought a Liverpool jersey for myself and my 3 kids, oh yes I did!

Some people are very passionate about a single football team and will remain loyal no matter what. I respect that, but I also know that my philosophy when it comes to football is a bit different. I treat it more like music, where it would be unusual to stick with only one artist regardless of how good or bad their songs are.

Ultimately, football is just a game, a form of entertainment, not some life-or-death situation. That’s why I no longer obsess over which team is playing, as long as the game itself is entertaining. So yes, I did end up enjoying the match last weekend, even if I had to keep quiet every time Liverpool scored seeing as I was surrounded by hardcore United supporters!

Anyway, here are some pictures from my two visits to Old Trafford (August and October 2021). I hope the current United team will prove themselves worthy of playing at this magnificent stadium, this Theatre of Dreams.