Moving On

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

And so it happened, I have finally left the no cost, secure functionality of the wordpress.com blogging platform and am attempting to run the show on a self-hosted site.  This was the next logical step since I’m a tinkerer (read: wannabe geek) at heart.  Please update your links / readers / pen-and-paper scribbled address to:

http://muteherald.com

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Anatomy of a (Twit)Book Club meeting

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

October 16th 2010

11 o’clock, I arrive at Wild Peeta, the current venue for our book club gatherings.  The place is quiet on a Saturday morning, so it is the ideal location to host our sometimes loud and often bizarre discussions.  Nominally the meeting kicks off on the hour, but I only see @TDAllonsy, set up behind her mac.  “UAE time,” she says with a sigh.  I empty my pockets at my seat, a habit I display when my better half is not around to supply carrying capacity in the form of a handbag, and get a coffee.

We catch up, and the others start trickling in – @WajihaSaid, who charged herself with snapping some pictures of the meet. Which of course didn’t stop half of everybody else from later on snatching the camera to try their hand at it. @Theregos, who as always provides the extra incentive in the form of cupcakes.  Today it was coffee and walnut. Enough said. @Zooberry, @Shaahima, @Hamna_ (dubbed our resident Niqabi), @Aabo0 and @RupertBu, the man behind the twitter handle of the Sharjah International Book Fair (@ShjIntlBookFair / #shjibf).

Order is brought to the table and we settle down to the business of the day. First on the agenda is discussing the choices made two months back.  Previously titles used to be discussed one month after being selected, but people found it hard to find availability in the local stores, so the gap was widened to two months for this purpose.

Next up we discuss each person’s submission for next month’s selection, after which a vote is taken to choose three.  Other book clubs might choose just one per meeting, but in our case the idea is to have a wider selection to read from to further encourage reading.  Previously four books used to be chosen, but now, to keep true to the “Twit” element of the TwitBookClub, the last book is chosen via online submissions and voting.  Current selections can be seen here.

To see the full tweet-by-tweet update on the goings on, you can either lookup @TwitBookClub (the official twitter handle for the club), or search twitter using the hashtag #TwitBookClub to catch other people’s contributions to the conversation.  I would have liked to include a snippet here on the post, but I have on this occasion found myself to be technologically impaired.  Note to non-Twitter users: the “at” sign @ indicates the twitter handle, or nickname, a person uses on Twitter.  The “number” sign, properly known as a hashtag, is used to index certain terms so that one can search tweets containing said terms and keep track of such mentions.

Before closing Rupert briefed us on the upcoming Sharjah International Book Fair (26th Oct – 6th Nov), now in its 29th edition.  Previously this used to showcase literature in Arabic only,  whereas this year they opened up the scope to include English literature.  A number of authors and industry names will be making an appearance in talks or workshops, among them:

  • Zohra Saed & Sahar Muradi (American Afghan lecturers and authors of “One Story, Thirty Stories”)
  • Samar Jarrah (author of “Arab voices speak to American Hearts”)
  • Yasmina Jraisatti (First European based Arabic Literary Agent)
  • Shelina Janmohammed (Number 1 best selling author of “Love in a Headscarf”)
  • Octavia Nasr (previously with CNN)

Other info, date and location details on the site.

People sometimes exclaim on twitter that they didn’t have the time to read any of the selections, usually on the eve of the meeting.  It is a misconception that reading the books is compulsory, when in fact it is not.  It is desirable of course, as that’s the point of the whole show, but anyone is welcome to come and join the discussion.  In the end it is just a gathering of like minded people discussing a common interest.

Baglioni in Maltese

October 4, 2010 Leave a comment

This blew my mind. Somebody posted on Facebook a recording of Italian singer/songwriter Claudio Baglioni (household name in Italy, check out his bio) singing a Maltese song L’Ahhar Bidwi F’Wied il-Ghasel (lit. translated as The Last Farmer in Honey Valley).  Enjoy:

For a well-known (in his country at least) singer to take the effort to learn the phonetics and pronunciation of such a different language just for the song, is remarkable.  It’s quite a leap, we’re not talking Italian singing in Spanish.

Compare it to the original version sung in Maltese, with the added benefit of some local landscape visuals:

From the journal of a cat owner

September 27, 2010 2 comments

Day 432

Peace, not just for the subject

One would think that by now, the cat, Paua, would have settled in.  Yet she surprises us with wildly shifting behaviours in a very short time.

From hovering at the brink of sleep at the foot of our bed one moment, to meowing mournfully, nose touching the front door, the next. Shortly thereafter playfully tossing around a tatter of cloth or bag, followed by a heightened sense of fear of everything that moves. That would be us. She’d dash from one room to the next, climbing on the furniture and fittings, or cower in a corner, back arched, tail huge.  As if nothing was amiss, she would then drop on the floor belly up, inviting attention.  All the above in the space of a few minutes, but of all the activities, the meowing would last the longest.  I fear for her mental health.

And ours.

Categories: Cat Tags: ,

Anniversary Thanks

September 26, 2010 4 comments

Not the marital kind.  Yesterday was the blog’s first anniversary.  I would like to thank all the multitudes of regular readers, as well as all those who stumbled onto it using search terms like “sims 3 jacuzzie buy”, “delhi metro in Antonov”, “i”, “magna carda examples”, “mute word of car”, “i m very tayer”, “can you stay at the atlantis palm dubia”, “gzira sex scene”.

You make my day.

Beautiful Machines

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I was casually surfing, I mean researching on the internet today, when I stumbled upon this photo in a site header (linking instead of pasting since it’s in Flash).  As is wont to happen to me I was immediately taken back to when I used to perform that task, marshalling in aircraft to their parking position.

I never actually handled an IL76 unfortunately (I did climb into one undergoing repairs in Libya though).  The awesomest aircraft I had to guide to a stop was one like this:

Antonov AN12 / Copyright Angara at Airliners.net

It may not look like much – old, what with the props and all.  But it was noisy, even through the ear defenders. And big. And coming towards me.  I sometimes used to have perverse thoughts on the lines of: what if the pilot didn’t see me? What if one of engines shot off it’s mounting and came towards me?

A turboprop is slow to accelerate, so I used to play these mind games that if something happened, I could duck out of the way, or between the landing gear. Or something.  It was a completely different story with one of these beauties, the private jets:

Bombardier Global Express / Copyright Luc Van Belleghem at Airliners.net

The high pitched whine of the turbine engines gives these aircraft a restless air.  They were built for speed, not for crawling around.  I felt as if the engineering feat was not putting them in the air, but keeping them in check, restrained and obeying the pilot’s commands on the ground.  Which is why, when marshalling one in, I felt like I had the barrel of a (quite large) cannon being slowly pointed towards me, with a shell that was crying and begging to be fired.

I was not scared, I would not have done the job otherwise.  Those thoughts were merely fleeting products of my imagination, which I would shrug off, and get back to there and then.

It was a job I performed with mixed emotions – on one hand I absolutely loved the idea of being close to these high tech machines, climbing on board $50 million VIP aircraft, or being involved in some tricky cargo loading operation.  On the other hand there were the odd timings, the associated running around and the whatever-the-weather requirement.  It could get quite cold in Malta when raining on a February pre-dawn morning.  The office job wouldn’t look so drab then.

Android Luvin, part deux

September 14, 2010 2 comments

When it comes down to it there are basically two things that one can do with an Android phone:

1.  Use it like any normal phone. Make calls, download apps, show it off, brag about it, spar with ifanboys, and/or

2.  Open the metaphorical lid, thus invalidating the warranty, and customise the hell out of the thing.  More correctly known as rooting the device and flashing a custom ROM.

Guess which one I did?

But first, a disclaimer.  I am no phone hacker, nor will I ever claim to be one.  I just scoured the interwebs for how-tos and tutorials, which are not that difficult to find. The task is finding the one that is applicable for your situation.

It is actually funny in retrospect because about a month ago I had commented to a friend that I wasn’t the type to mess with the phone, as it was “outside my comfort zone”.

So what happened?  In my expanding thirst for Android gadgets I decided that I was going to get my hands on one of the tablets coming out in September / October.  I was particularly ogling the Samsung Galaxy S Tab (take a look here).  This would make my Nexus One semi-redundant (since I don’t use it for phone calls anyway), so I decided to step outside the comfort zone, unleash the wannabe geek in me and experiment with the thing.

Ironical side note: after I took the plunge, the pricing info for the Samsung tablet was released, and I decided it was out of budget.  Since I intended to use it mainly to buy and read ebooks I settled for the Amazon Kindle, so I went ahead and ordered the 6″ wifi Kindle 3.  It is currently out of stock, but if all goes well I’ll describe that process in a separate post.  Actually even if it doesn’t go well, as I’d need to vent.

Back to the thread, what I did was very roughly as follows:

  1. Backed up all my important stuff and downloaded apps.
  2. Accessed the bootloader and unlocked the device.
  3. Installed a recovery image, to be able to load the original software in case the device bricks (becomes as useful as a brick, maybe less so as you wouldn’t be able to stack them and end up with a solid structure).
  4. Through the recovery make a backup of the entire current OS. You know, just in case.
  5. Installed a custom ROM – in my case Cyanogenmod v6-point-something.  Not that I knew exactly what I was going into, but it seemed to be the most talked-about and praised ROM.

Oh there were many in-betweens.  One had to find the right site to install the Android SDK on the PC and hook it up via USB, download the recovery and the ROM, find the latest stable version, get blocked off the main Cyanogen site and thus having to find a costly roundabout way, find the right instructions / guidelines, none of which assumed my very basic level of knowledge so a lot of guessing was involved.

So why go through all this hassle?  One thing is that the custom ROM takes the device and puts every setting at your disposal.  This is not done out of the box to protect the owners of the devices by ensuring that it is stable and works well.  After all tampering isn’t for everyone.

Performance is also greatly increased.  Out of the box the software somehow limits the hardware’s performance, for whichever reasons (battery life, compliance with carrier restrictions, alien interference).  After installing the custom ROM even the basic handling on the phone noticeably improved.  One can also overclock the device, that is make the CPU run at faster speeds, but I haven’t tried that out yet.  Actually at this point there I many things I have to try out, it is wide open: tweaks, themes, apps, whole new ROMs, etc.

I will probably not bore you with the details.