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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.

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Happenings

October 31, 2009 Leave a comment

This is my first “I haven’t posted in a while because…” post, and I’m sure there’s more to follow. Well, I haven’t posted in a while because I was a bit under the weather and generally busy.  So in true Lifehacker style here’s a roundup of what happened this past week or so.

Last Saturday my wife took her RTA driving test.  The real thing, not the assessments / mock that driving schools put you through and on the basis of which subject you to further lessons.  Long story short she didn’t pass.  Not being there in the car with her I will stop short from saying that the examiner was at fault.  It is however very commonly heard that very able drivers are still failed and only manage to get their license after two or three attempts.

On the day I dropped her off at the driving school and, anticipating a very long wait (it turned out to be over 3 hours), I headed over to Times Square where I planted myself in Caribou Coffee and pretended to look busy on the laptop.  I enjoy doing this from time to time (wife permitting) – sitting unnoticed in a corner, just watchig people pass by, trying to guess what people do and if they are regulars. 

One such instance:  A couple of ladies strolled in, one behind an empty pushchair, the other (very visibly pregnant) holding an infant.  They were greeted warmly by the staff behind the counter, as always happens, and the manager (or so I assumed due to his lack of uniform and previous shuffling of papers) did the baby-talk thing and held out his arms.  The mother without any hesitation whatsoever obliged and handed over the package, to the delight of said manager.  He went on to croon and entertain the kid, going over to show him off to the other staff. They spent a good five minutes enjoying the baby’s laughter, after which it was duly returned to the mom. 

Now this is what surprised me – in this day and age of H’s and N’s, airport infrared checks, pandemic alerts, campaigns advocating less contact with strangers and fear of the almighty germ, this lady trusted her most precious possession in the hands of a stranger.  Granted, she could have been a regular and known the manager for a long time.  Also granted, working in a food preparation environment one expects a certain level of hygiene.  But still.  I doubt that I could have done the same thing.  It shocked me in a truly positive way, and left me feeling upbeat. Until I learned of my wife’s exam outcome of course.

On Thursday I had my first serious near-crash experience, through no fault of my own.  I was at the exit from Emirates road going to Qusais waiting for lights to change, when I see a Prado coming up fast behind me.  It skidded, missed me by an inch and ended up beside my car.  Don’t know if the skid took the Prado to the side or the driver’s skill.  These are the things that one risks on the roads of Dubai I guess.

Friday saw us meet up with a bunch of cool people I speak to on Twitter at Wild Peeta, for a #wildtweetup.  The company was great, met like-minded folk, and the food was brilliantly fresh – both in concept and in preparation.  It was the first time I saw an Emirati (actually two – they’re brothers) running the show AND working behind the counter.  Had a killer breakfast peeta (at 1pm) and a fusion cold green tea / juice comonly known as the Magic Juice.  Now if they can just confirm delivery to my office.