what’s in a name? pt 2

whats in a name siri

Siri knows her name. She knows I know her name. She’s still having trouble with my name.

When asked, Siri withheld an opinion about her name.

whats in a name wires Text Graffiti in Dubai: Wired to Everything Feeling Nothing

what’s in a name? pt 1

Imagine a multi-layered burst of bright red at the end of a stem of green. What is this?

Ceci n’est pas une rose.

C’est William. With a name like that, he had it easy. Will. Bill. Billy. Willy—someone must have. Will.I.Am—he thought of this first, no doubt.

If people see my name, they can’t say it. If they hear it, they can’t spell it. I’ve spent my life correcting them. In the same way James Dean’s Jim from Rebel without a Cause couldn’t let it go when someone called him chicken, I let these mispronunciations & misspellings get to me.

In my family, I was known by my relative labels: sister, daughter, or by generic terms of endearment: sweetheart, dear. The family as a unified entity with a single direction, one voice, was favored over being an individual. My DNA didn’t get the memo.

I want to be separate. I want to have an identity. I want people to get my name right.

A salesman once told me there’s no way, with that spelling, that’s how you say it. Dude, did you seen The 40-Year-Old Virgin? Not because I think you’d relate, but because of this exchange:

While we were in Paris a couple of weeks ago, we bought new iPhones. Went from 2009’s iPhone 4 to the new iPhone 6—(not the 6ridicuplus). This is my first experience with Siri.

A few weeks before we moved to Dubai, my computer died. I took Alfredo’s old one, which got connected to all my devices—iphones, ipods, etc, meaning in the digital world, I was Alfredo.

  • Siri: What can I help you with, Alfredo?
    Me: I’m not Alfredo.
    Siri: I’m sorry. I do not understand, I’m not Alfredo.
    Me: My name’s not Alfredo.
    Siri: I’m sorry. I do not understand, My name’s not Alfredo.
    [Google: Siri calls me by the wrong name]
    Me: Call me Dina. [Siri spells this as Dena. Click to change. I change.]
    Siri: Ok, I shall call you Tina. Is this correct?
    [Google: Siri difficult name to pronounce]
    Me: Siri, how do you pronounce Dina? [Siri spells this as Dena. Click to change. I change.]
    Siri: Which one? [Siri gives me a list of all my contacts named Dana.]
    Me: Call me Dina. [Siri spells this as Dena. Click to change. I change.]
    Siri: Ok, I shall call you Gina. Is this correct?
    Me: [redacted]
    Me: Siri, how do you pronounce Dina? [Siri spells this as Dena. Click to change. I change.]
    Siri: You have no contacts named Dinah.
    Me: Call me Dina. [Siri spells this as Dena. Click to change. I change.]
    Siri: Ok, I shall call you Dianna. Is this correct?
    Me: Dina.
    Siri: I’m sorry, I do not understand, Denna.
    Me: [redacted] [redacted]
    Me: Siri, how do you pronounce Dina? [Siri spells this as Dina.]
    Siri: Which one? [Siri gives contact info for a few Danas and for me. I click on my name.]
    Siri: Ok, how do you pronouce this name?
    Me: Dina.
    Siri: Select one. [Siri provides 3 sound files. I listen. Dina. Dana. Dina. I chose the first one.]
    Me: Siri, what is my name?
    Siri: Why are you asking me, Din-nah?

Can you hear me above the din?
Would you like some gin?
Is that made of tin?

  • Me: Siri, I give up.
    Siri: I do not understand, I give up.
    Me: Ok, Siri. What’s in a name?
    Siri: Here’s some information. Input interpretation: A name means nothing.
    Me: Thank you, Siri.
    Siri: You’re most certainly welcome.
close up to center of flower
This is a rose.

dubai or dubayy?

Noticed yesterday that Gmaps changed Dubai to Dubayy. Wikipedia says Dubayy is closer to the Arabic pronunciation.

Dubai Dubayy is new & old. Things changes. Things stays the same.

If everything is a circle, I’m living at the point where the snake’s teeth & tail meet.





what do you miss?

At a meet-new-people event the other night, a guy said to me, So, you’re new in Dubai—how do you like it? It’s… fascinating. What do you miss? I miss seeing things that have history. I have a small collection of vintage typewriters at home, and I miss having them around, looking at things that are older than I am. Everything here is so new. Yeah, he says, but history—too much history—can get in the way sometimes. What do you mean? Well, he says, I’m German.


dubai and the big apple?

The biggest. As in, the largest Apple store in the world. ‘Cause Dubai only does superlatives. Rumored to be coming to a mall near me.

I’ve found it funny to leave LA & SF where 99% of everyone (’cause exaggeration, as I do) has iPhones, to be here where 99% of everyone on the Metro holds Samsung…. (I had to look this up, Galaxy) phones.

Occasionally, I’ll see iProducts. Like this guy, thinking he could take video on his iPad without anyone noticing.

ipad video on the dubai metro

But there are Apple fans here. Once, I saw a woman on the Metro who had a large Apple logo, made of many gold sequins, on either arm of her abaya. (aka aba. men wear a thobe, kandura, or—I’m not fond of this name, especially when said by Westerners—dishdasha.)

I tried to get a picture of the woman and her American-branded traditional-Arabic dress, but was so concerned about being caught and insensitive (unlike the guy above), I ended up with this. You can see the cuff of her garment in the center of the image.

apple logo abaya on the metro obscurred by thumb

All this is to say, I’m excited for an Apple store here. And very excited about the iPhone 6. Soon. September soon.

happy 4-year cativersary to #ourkittyboys!

Four years ago today, July 20, we brought home 2 nearly-5-month-old kittens, brothers, who were in a Volunteers of the Burbank Animal Shelter foster home where they went by Dillon & Bij. They had the best foster mom—and, in the last 4 years, we’ve raised many glasses to Brittany.

A full week after we brought the kittens home, plus a spreadsheet, plus an important trip to Starbucks, Dillon & Bij became Del & Finn.

On July 17 (a few days ago), the four of us celebrated our 4-month anniversary of arriving in Dubai. Since then, ourkittyboys have forgotten & forgiven us for the few weeks they needed to be boarded while we found an apartment.


Ourkittyboys got many treats today. Including, their favorite, tuna juice martinis straight up. Because they’re macho cats.

No they’re not. They’re spoiled. And they’re very photogenic. And we love them. And I may have said to Alfredo when we were discussing the possibility of Dubai, if the cats can’t go, I don’t go.

So, here we are: the four of us in a one-bedroom apartment, 27 stories above the city. Settling in.


Brotherly Love





how hot is it?

It’s so hot—anything and everything you can think of can be delivered to you: from pharmacy items to furniture, food, clothes…. office, plant, patio, pet supplies—if there’s a store, they deliver their stuff.

Because, let the delivery guy deal with the heat.

So, hello, Caribou Coffee. Two drinks, please.

caribou coffee chai tea latte   caribou coffee chai tea latte

Plus, it’s Ramadan. Those celebrating cannot eat or drink anything (including water) at all during the daylight fasting hours, and no one can eat or drink anything (including water, gum, cough drops) in public without risking arrest, or worse—until Iftar arrives (sunset & breaking of the fast). (Also, no smoking during daylight for those celebrating. And no daytime smoking in public for those not.)

There are a few Western-centric restaurants that cover their doors & windows with black curtains—as not to offend anyone walking by. Other restaurants, cafes, etc, are only open for take-away or delivery. The rest of the restaurants are closed during the day, and reopen at Iftar with a buffet feast.

To answer the question, it’s a cool 102F/39C—with 42% humidity, bringing the heat index to 118F/48C—still walkable weather, especially to Caribou, which is down 27 flights from our apartment, exit our building, cross the bridge over the canal to the corner cafe, and stumble in for caffeine. Cool off, come home.

But, sometimes hot = lazy.




where is your child, ma’am?

Ma’am, your child?

That feeling of wearing a wristwatch for years, in a rush one morning, forgetting.

Later, panic.


  • ….next to the bed  ….in the drawer  ….on the dresser  ….by the coffee pot ….the bathroom sink.

I left it on the sink. I must have left it on the sink.

And then I remember: I don’t have kids.

no bbq ing the baby


  • How many children do you have, ma’am? (Followed by confusion & disbelief & confusion.)
  • But why not, madam? (Oh, that familiar judgement.)
  • How old are you, ma’am? (The answer is still none.)
  • What school do your children go to, ma’am? (Perhaps the most presumptuous, with bonus points for acknowledging the judgement that’s coming.)
  • Where are you from? (That, I’ll answer.)

Cab drivers, Filipino expat women who work service jobs, the apartment agents, people I meet at cafes, in the elevator… everyone wants to know.

Every grocery store in Dubai has shelves & shelves stocked with condoms. Stocked, I joke, because no buys them. Everyone here has kids. So many kids.



how did you spend your 4th of july?

One of my father-in-law’s favorite jokes is to ask, Do they have Fourth of July in Dubai? Of course they do! Do you think the calendars go from July 3rd to July 5th?


We were going to spend the evening at a British pub—have dinner with an ex, prove we’re still friends.

Started the day looking for a Farmers’ Market at a hotel near the World Trade Center / Convention Center. Despite what their Facebook page said, it was “closed during the fallow season of the hot summer where there isn’t enough produce to run it.”

Took a wrong turn (happens frequently), ended up (by habit?) at Al Quoz industrial area—home of Al Serkal Avenue my new home away from…

Found the Bookworm book warehouse—despite the massive footprint Google maps gives it, it was a tiny, cramped, shelves lined with books, boxes being packed by 2 Filipino women, 3 tiny room warehouse, not store—also should have checked Facebook: all children’s books.

Next, went in search of Vendome Paris—a Parisian bakery. AKA Alfredo’s heaven. Had to kill time to wait for it to open (shorter hours because of Ramadan).

Checked out More Cafe—a long line at the door, buffet as the main attraction, place packed with SUV baby strollers, screaming children, exasperated parents—AKA my idea of hell. (though, there were books—for adults…will have to check that out during a weekday.)

Drove past a guy walking around looking for the Sand & Surf shop. Gave him a lift to the store; it was hot.

Returned to Vendome as they were unloading their trucks, unlocking their doors. Met the founder (the guy on the left). We bought a chocolate croissant, a mini plain croissant, a sticky raisin amazingness, 2 cookies made by angels, and a local sweet of semolina & almond flour & almonds shaped into a square and soaked in rose water—also very sticky. Plus, a loaf of fantastic French country bread—and a bread bag. It’ll have to do until Alfredo starts baking again.

Anyone know where we can find a Lodge cast iron combocooker in Dubai?

Brought our French treats home (take-out only at most places during Ramadan, or fines for the restaurant).

Enjoyed them all. All of them: the American way.

Alfredo sketched, I read for the rest of the afternoon.

Met one of his coworkers for dinner at a hotel in JBR—hotel restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol, but only after 8pm during Ramadan. No fireworks, no British pub, just a simple burger, veggie wrap, pizza—plus, a mojito, Tiger beer, and, of course, a Bud—to toast to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Hope you’re enjoying the downside of your 3-day weekend!

National Protective Coating Lacquer Thinner in red white and blue
Red. White. Blue. National pride.
Tabaco bottle label with Arabic
Tabasco bottle. Try Tabasco in foods such as Tabbouleh, tomato stew, beans, Dams, eggs with potatoes, Kofta and Samosa, Pearls cholate. Product of United States.
american garden U.S. Ketchup Born in the USA US Grade A
Posted before, still funny. Born in the USA!

3 years of 108F / 42C?

We’re here for the next 2, 3 to who knows years.

It’s 106F/41C right now. It’ll be 111F/44C tomorrow. There’s a rumor it gets to 125F/52C—with humidity, which has been on the rise lately.

November is when people say it becomes tolerable again.

Until then, can someone explain what non-AC cold, outside cold feels like, please?

What is this thing in my closet? I think I used to call it a …. what’s the word … jacket? The word coat sounds oppressive.

Even the birds keep their beaks open, panting.

Wasn’t there something called … snow? A childhood memory. A Rosebud enigma.