Betsy Shebang - Column for 11/20

Login Names: Windows to the Soul

In retrospect, the UNIX login names I chose in college clearly reflected my gradual transformation from emotionally stunted college freshman to emotionally mangled college graduate. I started out as account Prosiai (pronounced "Pro-zee-eye" by me and "pro-say-ay" by everyone else) which was a character from a story I was planning to write but never did. Planning to do something and never doing it was the central experience of my college life (okay, my entire life) and it was this unconscious desire to postpone the awfulness of whatever the future might be that I expressed in my first meaningless-to-everyone-but-me account name. The character's name was "Prosiai Longwind", because he was supposed to speak with prosaic eloquence instead of doing anything, which made him a lot like me, except for the eloquence part.

The next year I became account Rocknrol, because I wanted to more fully embrace my developing sexual charisma. It worked, and for that year my computer account name brought me more prurient attention than I could handle. Whoo boy! How are attractive college sophomores with cool UNIX logins supposed to get any rest? I distinctly remember experiencing at least two moments of passion during my sophomore year or my junior year.

I'm not too sure about the chronology, unfortunately. The only details I remember that clearly separate my second, third, fourth and fifth college years from one another are the different places I lived and the successive women whose approval I craved like a scuba diver with no sense of humor wants his mouthpiece back.

I was Noise for a while, which was probably my best college account name, since it combined the adolescent rage of Rock 'n' Roll with the anarchic dread of looming mechanical failure. "What's that NOISE?" thinks the ship's captain, the race-car driver, the stealthy commando, the bumbling surgeon; a noise is always the first sign of a good thing gone horribly wrong. Whatever year that was I was called Noise became the harbinger of all that was to come, and come it did.

So, at some point I switched from Noise to Noga, or to Rocknrol, or vice versa. Thought each was cool at the time. Noga happened when I devoted fifteen seconds to thinking up a nonsense word, standing in the bottom of the Communications Building, holding the little orangeish Unix B Account Application. Noga is what I came up with. It was like naming your kid with a blindfold and a bowl of alphabet soup. I'm lucky I didn't conjure up some digestive adverb out of my subconscious, not to be discovered until my on-line flirtations had graduated from no-responseish to restraining-orderly. Years after graduation I found I shared the name Noga with a Street in Humboldt County, a math professor in Tel Aviv and a Golf Association in Northern Ohio.

Next time: Shebang and the secret of the UNIVERSE.

Copyright 2001 Betsy Shebang

Columns by Betsy Shebang