Sunday, 25 December 2011

Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers

Another fine book from Oliver Jeffers to trigger the niece and nephew's imaginations and propel some funny "how"s and "why"s :)> The pictures as with all Oliver Jeffers' books are five-star and as self-explanatory as can be. And a good array of items and animals and objects that feature in the book (and get stuck in the tree!) to introduce the kids to. With the niece (aged 6) I ask questions like "what should he have done with the saw" or "how should he have used the ladder", and with the nephew (aged 3) as we progress through the story he counts the number of things stuck in the tree (and with each reading recollects more names). Good story and well-executed.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Technique for Producing Ideas, by James Young

Nice little book. Padded with extras at the beginning and end because the core advice itself - the five steps that lead to a good idea - is so short and probably wouldn't justify a book because of its shortness!.. but in terms of content: highly highly recommended reading for all. You won't look at 'ideas' the same again.

A summary of the fives steps that lead to good ideas...

First: gather the raw materials;
the old existing elements related to your topic at hand.

Second: work over these raw materials
trying to bring the old elements into new combinations,
looking to find relationships,
trying consciously to produce a new idea or application.
Keep going, persist,
endure beyond tiredness
until you reach the hopeless stage,
until everything is a jumble in your mind with no clear insight anywhere.

Third: the incubating mental digestive stage.
Turn the problem over to your subconscious mind,
dropping it as completely as you can,
to do the synthesis while you distract yourself elsewhere.

Fourth: the birth of the idea.
The "Eureka! I have it" stage.
Out of nowhere the idea will appear
when cooking or bathing or in the middle of the night;
when you least expect it.

Fifth and final: the shaping and adapting of the idea
with others
with patience
to practicality.
Taking your newborn idea into the world of reality.
And when you do,
you'll find it not quite the complete and marvellous child it seemed when you first gave birth to it.
Indeed don't make the mistake of holding your idea close to your chest.
Submit it to the criticism of the judicious.
A good idea after all has self-expanding qualities;
possibilities that you overlooked will come to light.

Monday, 5 December 2011

First show of snow


Went out for Fajr and didn't spot a thing,
got up and out for work a couple hours later
and noticed the hills to my left were covered in snow!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Eglantine Avenue, Belfast

The hills in view
stepping out of my room,
crossing the road,
looking to my left,
feeling seduced.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

I am

I am the sum of my travels.
I am the sum of my experiences.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Optimists and pessimists

Says the optimist in times of success
"My efforts came together."
and in times of failure
"External factors are to blame for this."

Says the pessimist in times of failure
"I am to blame for this."
and in times of success
"External factors came together."

Says the attentive mind:
wake; find the middle ground.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Busy

I find myself
always busy
yet I end each day thinking how little got done;
wanting change
yet I remain me all the same;
trying to pause
yet I can't help but plan my next move.

All this and
yet I know: I am where I was always destined to be
following my trail.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Make redundancy your goal

I don't understand the gloom
that surrounds the word <gloom> "redundancy" <gloom>...

Redundancy should be the outstanding employee's goal,
dream almost,
the fulfilment of putting in place procedures and people,
technology even,
to do the work, freeing one's self up, to move on...

And try and learn and do something anew,
afresh, liberated :)>

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Turkey - Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, Safranbolu

Had a really pleasant week-and-a-half break in Turkey. Went from Istanbul to Cappadocia to Safranbolu and back again to Istanbul passing Ankara located in between the three on each transit. All three towns were awesome in their own ways and the reception received from the locals (on seeing a group of young, Asian/Black, visibly practising Muslims) in the masjids and market places of each of the three places especially beautiful. There was something about Safranbolu though out of the three which really filled me with a sense of serenity. Some pics:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHlHowhGxFQ

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Bin Laden: Shoot to kill

Been forcing myself to complete this US-administration-produced propaganda piece (Bin Laden: Shoot to kill) which aired on Channel 4 and which featured President Obama and a number of US officials, insiders and commandos presenting (what they wish was) a conclusive narration of events leading up to and following the raid. Been watching it in small chunks over the past few weeks (and completed it this morning; hate leaving things uncompleted!) and I try not to be a conspiracy theorist but this one leaves me unconvinced. Lots of questions but lots more important things to do in life so we'll leave it at that.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Persepolis

On my way home from Cambridge last night I came across this quote in 'emel' magazine: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." (Attributed to Aristotle) And it was with that that I put on Persepolis which aired on Channel 4 a couple weeks back and which I had saved on my digital box. Whilst very bluntly it portrays the Islamic leadership of Iran, its followers and religionists in general as backward, culture-less beings, and sitting there remembering the unquestionable negative Western coverage of the Iranian elections a year or so back, I couldn't help think a trip to Iran in the near future should be scheduled! Not sure how welcome I would be but the only way to verify the state of a country is to visit it :)> Anyway, putting those negatives aside if you can, it was a good movie from an artistic perspective and a nice coming-of-age story following a girl growing from childhood, innonence & ambition, to adolescence, mistakes & despair, to adulthood & maturity.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

'It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be', by Paul Arden

"Your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have."

"Without having a goal it's difficult to score."

"Talent helps, but it won't take you as far as ambition."

"You will become whoever you want to be."

I had a menial task at work today so I flicked through this book from my manger's book shelf in 30-second spells when stepping away from my computer for short refresher breaks. It's a small book by a former leading figure in the advertising industry containing advices along the theme of the quoted passages above. What really struck me though was one of the closing remarks at the end of the book...

"I wish to thank my old friend and mentor... the first person to make me feel I wasn't quite as useless as I thought I was."

... and there was the answer to something I had been thinking about this past week: if I will need to find a new job (because there's no new project secured for me to move onto after the present one at my current work place), it's not so much the right job I should seek (whatever that is) than it is a good mentor who'll expand the bounds of my being.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ambition

"Ambition creates work."
Three words.
Simple.
Yet,
these words
have me rocked.

I guess it's because I've always held 'contentment',
being happy, satisfied with what I have,
to be my high virtue,
my 'ambition' almost,
but contentment alone,
I'm starting to see,
is like living life in neutral.
It's ambition that's the gear that moves us...
and makes the world a better place :)>

Saturday, 6 August 2011

'The Mind Gym: Relationships'

Read the bulk of this book towards the end of 2010 and then left it in London and kept forgetting to pick it up and complete the last few chapters. Did so this week...

Got this book because it was recommended (and partly put together?) by the people at Management Today, whose monthly magazine I enjoy reading, and I wasn't disappointed. Strangely though, despite it being a book on 'relationships', learnt less about other people and more about myself! That's not a bad thing of course. As well as the content of the book, I liked the way it was structured too - small bite-size chunks (mixed with examples and stories) rather than long narratives.

If any one point stood out for me, it was to worry less about what others think of me and to understand that people think about us less than we think they do! The exception to this being parents and grandparents of course who without doubt think about us more than we realise they do. Rabbi-r7amhum.

A couple of nice quotes from the book to end with:

"It's happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust." Samuel Johnson

"Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true." Robert Brault

Friday, 5 August 2011

Online presence and persona

I'm quite a fan of Behavioural Economist Dan Ariely's short monthly piece in Wired UK and found his extended feature in the August 2011 issue especially noteworthy. The piece was entitled 'You are being gamed - How online companies trick you into sharing more, joining more and spending more' and analysed briefly some of the ploys employed by organisations such as Amazon, Apple, Groupon, Zynga and Faceobok. Short article; worth the read.

About Facebook, I liked the point about the Wall which I guess applies to Blogging too: We want our Walls to reflect ourselves. Users want to display a self that is somewhere between their real self and how they would like to be perceived.

Wound infection

Had an excruciating wound infection start up on my lower leg this week and (did what I do and) been putting on films in the background (one a day) to get my mind off the pain so as to keep the number of painkillers consumed otherwise near-zero. Still not able to walk, though the pain has gone down a fair bit alhamdulillah. Left my work laptop in my room in Cambridge so not able to code again til Monday and might just write a film review or two in the meanwhile. About the infection: learnt my lesson and won't be so careless with open wounds in future!

Sunday, 31 July 2011

'The Kennedys' TV mini-series

Been watching The Kennedys TV mini-series the past few weeks and finished the last episode this morning. Don't know why exactly but found it fascinating, the portrayal of John Kennedy's younger brother Robert Kennedy especially. Followed my older brother's suggestion and read the prologue to Evan Thomas' 'Robert Kennedy - His Life' and found it also to be quite intriguing.

Added to post:
Thought about it some more and thinking the fascination may have been nothing more than the entertainment that a good story (mixed with conspiracy) brings. There were a couple of memorable things in the tv series and prologue to the book which stood out though. Firstly, the portrayal of Robert Kennedy as a morally and religiously upright individual whose faith takes a knock and shouts out "Why, God" upon hearing news of his brother's murder. This didn't register so much with me at the time but when I got a painful and incapacitating infection earlier this week I found myself thinking the thought "Make it stop God, please" and thoughts went back to how subconsciously scornful I had been. Secondly, the extreme hiking and rafting adventures Robert Kennedy is reported to have engaged in in the later years of his life; commentators alluding to possible guilt he carried for not having served a greater role in the World War than he did. Lastly, a few nice quotes below taken from the Robert Kennedy wikipedia page attributed to the man himself:

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."

"Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital, quality for those who seek to change a world which yields most painfully to change."

"Men without hope, resigned to despair and oppression, do not make revolutions. It is when expectation replaces submission, when despair is touched with the awareness of possibility, that the forces of human desire and the passion for justice are unloosed."

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

'The Life of Muhammad' by Rageh Omar

Just finished watching Rageh Omar's three-part series on the Life of Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) which was aired on the BBC. Not breathtaking but not bad I thought and quite liked the final minute of the third part - Rageh Omar's closing remarks on the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

When a fall is due...

Got a ticket last week for parking my scooter against regulation (more on this another time) and took my first tumble off my bike earlier today. Quite the experience! It happened so fast I had to sit by the curb for twenty minutes afterwards to make sense of it all... I pulled out of my place of residence and remember thinking how strangely close to the opposite, right edge of the road I had curved out to. Next thing I know, in a flash, as though destiny had propelled me to my place of falling, my bike is side-to-side with the left edge of the road; something clips my bike and down we go. I fell off the bike, slid, spun and twisted forward until the momentum slowed and I sat on my bottom, legs forward, knees raised, arms around my shins, hands clasped, thinking: hmm. I sat there for a while allowing my head, which had a taken a thump against the pavement, to spin its course and would have sat there longer still were it not for a young lady to come over and ask me whether I was alright. Knowing no other way, I got up and said I was fine: just a small knock. She advised me in good spirit to keep my eyes on the road when I rode. I laughed, thanking her for the advice. When she left, I picked my bike up and sat by the curb reflecting on the moment and thinking how complacent an individual I had become in recent past. I don't know if it's just me but I find that there's something graceful, humbling, about taking the occasional fall. Got some small cuts and grazes so the complacencies (and vows to overcome my complacencies) should stick with me for a while insha-Allah.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

What makes a good team great

Statement I came across;
Paul Scholes (formerly of Manchester United and now retired)
commenting on present day Barcelona FC,
perhaps the best team in the history of the sport:

"I think the biggest thing about their players is their unselfishness.
I know [Lionel] Messi scores 50 goals a year,
but not one of them is out for personal glory."


Quite profound words I thought,
and not just in the context of football,
but organisations and compositions of people in general.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

'The Road to Mecca' by Muhammad Asad

It takes me ages to get through a book and then I finish three within the space of two weeks subhaana-Allah. Absolutely loved this book. Gave up first time round after going through the first few pages but after hearing such high praise from such a variety of people, picked it up again and the only disappointment I felt was its coming to an end! Regretting somewhat now my recent years of dormancy but regret is ill-advised and so adventure will have to do instead :)> First stop Turkey, by train insha-Allah. Just need to figure out a route with some nice Masjids and communities to stop at on the way.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

'Boy' and 'Going Solo' by Roald Dahl

Finished this book yesterday on my way home up from London to Cambridge. Really enjoyed it and there's nothing quite like a story to explain a time, place and situation (early-mid 1900s, second world war). Wonderfully told in light-hearted fashion. Reading this alongside 'The Road To Mecca' (a slightly more serious book) really has me bubbling to get out and hit the road.

Focusing my weekends on getting back to London and practising my driving at present. If all goes well and I can pass my driving test mid-July, my weekends (plus 25 working days annually!) shall be a bit more free for travel God-willing.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

My first scooter

Ok so I lost the girl I very nearly almost got married to but as with any 'difficulty' (if it can be called that) along comes a double 'comfort' and here it is... I got myself my first scooter - a Honda Dylon 125. Cycling 13+ miles every day (from my room east of Cambridge to my workplace south of Cambridge) and not being to able to make it to the Masjid (in the centre of town) was starting to get quite tiring... but not any more... Now doing a daily round trip from my room, to my workplace, to the Masjid and back to my room no problem alhamdulillah. Scooting is definitely the way to go, and questioning now what I've been doing with my life all these years!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Sources of happiness at work

Employees should feel that...
Goals are being achieved.
They themselves are having a positive impact.
They are being recognised for making a contribution.

Managers should be...
Creating a sense of shared purpose.
Paying attention to the team's development.
Generating enthusiasm and energy.

How?...
Setting (tangible) goals that are inspiring; which employees can relate to.
Connecting each person's output to the goal's achievement.
Praising employees; thanking them for their contributions.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The five tasks of a manager

Delegation.
Communication.
Motivation.
Handling tricky relationships.
Connecting people.

(Pulled out from an article in the May 2011 issue of Management Today entitled 'Rebuilding management's good name')

Monday, 16 May 2011

Nikah on a hill

Nikah on an open hill. Not mine lol. I wish. A friend of my sister's. Small, simple affair. Very cool I thought. Not one for the faint hearted.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Leadership of Muhammad

Writing this blog post whilst listening to a talk by John Adair about the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of God be upon him) which took place at Imperial College London a month ago. Couldn't decide whether to stick this post on this Blog or my 'faith' Blog. Put it here in the end. Not quite sure why. Anyway, some qualities of a leader which the speaker identified...

Enthusiasm.

Integrity
(Loyalty; Truthfulness; Trustworthiness).

A certain amount of Toughness, matched with Fairness.
(The good chief has no relatives.)

Warmth. Humanity.
(Sharing in the hardships of your people.)

Humility. The lack of arrogance.
(They won't hear what you say if who you are is thundering at them.)

Vision. Tangible vision:
about a world different from today; about people.
(The grace to be the catalyst,
organising the vision to continue on without you.)

Intelligence. Experience. Goodness.

... There are other additional qualities of a leader without doubt (consulting, inspiring, and so on) but these are the ones which the speaker mentioned. I liked how the speaker kept his talk short, to the point, memorable, and allowed more time to interact with the audience. Good example of good leadership!

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Resonant Idea

Based
in that it's coolly calculated and thoughtfully designed.
Sensible
in that it's consistent and coherent.
Practical
in that it's focused and limited.
Purposeful
in that it's intensely personal yet genuinely communal.
Convincing
in that it's precisely articulated and unambiguously clear;
simple on the ear.
Penetrating
in that it's sincere and built on love...
or oft-repeated and oft-received...

Friday, 22 April 2011

'3 Idiots' film

Watched this Indian film ('3 idiots') earlier today (since it had a rating of at least 7.5 on IMDB [passing my Litmus test]) and was really impressed. Well thought-out movie with good morals in mind. Made me really appreciate the choice I made a few months back not to go for a consulting or banking job and pursue instead that which I enjoy and am not so bad at... (software) engineering. No joke, I really enjoy it and would pay to work with the people I work with if I didn't have life's bills to pay :)>

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tough Love

The difference between good and bad relationships
is not whether there is conflict
- all relationships have conflict;
it's how we get to know one another -
but how we deal with it.
Vital and nourishing,
seeing it for what it is,
it's time to worry instead
when not sharing views is the more attractive course.

(Consolidation of the chapter entitled 'Fight Club' in the 'Tough Love' section of 'The Mind Gym: Relationships'. Good book!)

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The fail fast, fail small philosophy

Be not afraid to try.
Failure isn't fatal.
The idea is to fail fast
in an idea that's wrong,
not getting emotionally attached to a sinking ship,
and move on,
not repeating mistakes.
See failure as a stepping stone to whatever you do next;
one step smarter.

(Summary of a feature article in this month's Wired magazine)

(Social) Networking

It's only a single letter away from "not-working".
Yet it's an important part of work:
knowing who's doing what
and making one's work known.
Throw in the desire to make one's self look good
and to feel liked,
and I can very easily find myself losing touch with...
me.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Sound of Freedom

"From every street in my country
The sound of freedom calls...
We broke all boundaries
Our weapon was our dreams."


Very good analysis of the Arab awakening/uprising in the February 19th issue of The Economist. The feature was entitled "After Mubarak: The autumn of the patriarchs". The Banyan (Asian) Blog feature ("The wind that will not subside: Hearing Egyptian echoes, China's autocrats cling to the hope that they are different") was very interesting too.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

When Irish Eyes Are Crying

Some snippets from an article by Michael Lewis entitled 'When Irish Eyes Are Crying' found in the March 2011 issue of Vanity Fair on the economic crisis that hit Ireland:
"... Googling things, [Morgan] Kelly learned that more than a fifth of the Irish workforce was employed building houses. The Irish construction industry had swollen to become nearly a quarter of the country's G.D.P.—compared with less than 10 percent in a normal economy—and Ireland was building half as many new houses a year as the United Kingdom, which had almost 15 times as many people to house. He learned that since 1994 the average price for a Dublin home had risen more than 500 percent...

... Since 2000, Irish exports had stalled, and the economy had been consumed with building houses and offices and hotels. "Competitiveness didn't matter," says Kelly. "From now on we were going to get rich building houses for each other."...

... The Irish had discovered optimism...

... Their real-estate boom had the flavor of a family lie: it was sustainable so long as it went unquestioned, and it went unquestioned so long as it appeared sustainable...

... A banking system is an act of faith: it survives only for as long as people believe it will..."

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Mission Command

Six steps to getting leadership right: establish beyond doubt the aim and purpose of your enterprise; get the organisation right; get the right people into your organisation; get the right spirit into your people; get your communications with them right; and then let them get on with it. No plan survives the first five minutes of adversity so... Do not command more than is necessary, or plan beyond the circumstances you can foresee.

(Summary of a book review (book entitled 'The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps Between Plans, Actions and Results' by Stephen Bungay) found in Management Today January 2011 issue. Book review entitled 'Penetrating the fog of war' by Colonel Tim Collins about how insights gained in battle can be usefully applied to the world of business, not least knowing when to lead and when to delegate.)

ps. Note for future: Browse the meaning of the word/phrase "Mission Command".