After spending 6 weeks away from Dubai (visited England, Spain, Italy) & becoming reacquainted with a forgotten feeling called happiness, and after recently celebrating American Thanksgiving where it’s tradition to take stock (& stuffing) by listing what & who & why one is grateful, and after neglecting this blog for so long, but before the next holiday list marks me as bad for this neglect, and before the holiday list after that needs to be written in which I have to resolve to do or not do something in the New Year, and after seeing a preview to the new Jennifer Lawerence movie called Joy, and after feeding ourkittyboys lunch just now, I decided to reboot this blog with short posts & a picture: something—massive to molecular—in my life here in the desert wasteland that brings me pleasure, joy, happiness, any of those positive feelings.

It’s an old idea—for an example check out

I could start the Reboot with the idea of the Reboot, but I don’t know how to photograph that.


what’s in a name? pt 4

I remember the first time someone heard my name and knew how to spell it. I was 10.

My family took a cross-country summer vacation to see as many US states as possible. We also spent half a day in Tijuana, Mexico. I think my mom still has bruises on her arm where my older sister hung on from fear, just like she did the first time we went to NYC.

Me, I was happy to be there. My most salient Tijuana memory is seeing a street vendor, an elderly man, and his cluttered table / workshop—small metal-cutting machine, a collection of files, boxes of chunky metal rings,  and a hand-made sign: “Your name on a ring.”

Not sure why I wanted one, and don’t recall all the details, but I do remember telling the man, Dina, and he said, D-I-N-A? And said, yes. Yes!

The man found a ring that fit me, carved & filed away the negative space around each letter until my name appeared on the ring. Way better than a pre-printed personalized mini license plate from a gift shop.

Years later…

I learned why Dina might have been so familiar to that man: the name Dina has etymological roots in Spanish/Latin, plus DINA is a manufacturer of trucks and buses (the Mexican equivalent of Mac trucks)—Diesel Nacional (DiNa), which later became Diesel International, but name changes can be difficult to make stick.

Like, for a very brief moment in the early 2000s, I had the nickname (the only one I can remember having) of Diesel. I think 3 people called me this for a few months, and then the nickname died.

In Dubai

When I meet people in here, after the usual game of Where Are You From?, we exchange names. I get the same response:

You know that’s an Arabic name?

I started asking, What’s it mean?

If there are many Arabic speakers in the group, they’ll speak in Arabic. Discuss. Look confused. Discuss. Return to me and say, it doesn’t mean anything, really.


I asked someone, got the answer nothing, and told her about a Syrian guy I met at the camel races who said, It means the sun and earth. It means everything and nothing. She said, Typical Syrian.

whats in a name camels at the start line

On the Internet…

Home of all answers & misanswers, says, Dina—Hebrew—means avenged, judged and vindicated.

From Dinah:

  • The name Dinah occurs only once in the Bible, as the only daughter of Israel’s arch-father Jacob (Genesis 30:21)
  • The name Dinah is the feminine form of Dan and both come from the verb דין (din), meaning to judge or plead or govern
  • The feminine noun מדונה (medina), meaning province. BDB Theological Dictionary submits that this word is an Aramaic word, but perhaps it was so readily incorporated into Hebrew because it expresses the smallest unit of governable area larger than a single city; i.e. a jurisdiction. Note that this word also exists in Arabic, where it also became applied as the name of the famous city.


What does Dina mean?

  • (Celtic) seaman, mariner; (Germanic) brave as a bear; (Hebrew) vindicated; (Latin) steadfast, constant
  • Dina is unusual as a baby name for girls. Its usage peaked modestly in 1969 with 0.089% of baby girls being given the name Dina. Its ranking then was #199. The baby name has since experienced a substantial fall in popularity, and is today of very light use.
  • Dina is also a variant of the name Murdag (Scottish).

Call me Murdag. Maybe? Call me maybe? Maybe?

what’s in a name? pt 3

Mini license plates that you hang on your bike seat, key chains, mugs, pencils, tote bags, bottle openers—any personalized item in a gift store—will have variations of my name: Dinah, Dianna, Dana…. but never my name. I’ll look, hoping. But no.

So, I get excited whenever I see my name. Anywhere. Even as part of a typo.

Thank you, IKEA!

whats in a name plant gardina

Which, of course I had to buy.

whats in a name gardina gardinia

It’s finally about to flower. I’m very excited. (Polar bear hat and camel bone in a box, if you’re wondering.)

Excited, like when I was walking around Alserkal Ave in Dubai (or Dubayy)’s Al Quoz area (home to art galleries; work spaces; warehouses; industrial plants; an antique museum that has few antiques and isn’t a museum; car repair & modification garages), saw my name on a discarded cardboard box, and took a picture. Woo hoo! That’s me: Performance without Sacrifice.

whats in a name dina


Update on Siri’s struggle with my name:
She has started spelling it right, but has stopped saying my name at all.
Half a win!

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 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.

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.




why haven’t you been posting?

I’ve been in mourning over the death of my Honeymoon Phase. How melodramatic-poet is that statement? Here’s another:

Everything Is Death, Dying, Dead

dead fish head

  • The fish carcases by the canal (future post)
  • Our friend’s beautiful cat, Princess Baby Lamb, who finally had to be put down after fighting cancer for so long
  • Our friend’s father taken off life support—and those complications
  • We’re decomposing as we go.” –Tom Waits
  • The California fires
  • The crushed bird by the shop entrance—look over there, said Alfredo, pointing in the opposite direction
  • Censorship is death
  • Some say language is dying. Some say movies killed the novel.
  • The flat road-kill tuxedo cat on the sidewalk corner because he didn’t make it across the street—oh, the wild cats here (future post)
  • The tiny desert mouse in the beak of a massive black raven that flew over my head—please don’t drop that
  • The suicides off the balconies at Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT)
  • The many recent posts on IG by long-time followees who have lost their pets
  • Thoughts of the death of my first cat
  • Thoughts of the inevitable
  • Thoughts of the death of my co-worker
  • Thoughts of things that can never be—how they end before they begin
  • The beginning of the end of weather on this side of pleasant
  • Yes, this list has a lot of dead animals. Dead animals make me very, very sad.

This is from a moment in The Plunge, a valley on the map of culture shock.

What is culture shock?