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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Anonymity is your name"

When I started this blog over a year ago, I intended to keep it purely anonymous. As it has developed, however, the notion of anonymity has diminished in my mind as something to care about. This is partly motivated by a large portion of my reader base actually knowing me in real life (as well as a few very obvious failures on my part at maintaining anonymity, such as accidentally responding to emails using my name rather than my online label), but it is also partly because I have gotten to the point where I figure if people are doing Google searches for my name anyway, they might as well find this instead of cross country statistics from my junior high days. Plus, for those readers who don't actually know me in person, the following story from this past weekend would not make any sense.

You see, this weekend I took a trip to the German town of Calden. It is not much of a town, with a population of not quite eight thousand, and it was also rather difficult to get there as it is one of the seemingly few places in German not to be situated on a rail line. The reason I wanted to go there, though, is because my name is Calden Wloka. It is an unusual name, chosen by my parents based on the inability of my two year old (at the time of my birth) sister who was unable to say their original choice of Calvin. In my entirely non-objective stance, though, I am rather a fan of my name and prefer it to Calvin (also, being a precocious blonde child named Calden already netted a significant number of references to Calvin and Hobbes... I can only imagine how much more common that would have been had I actually been named Calvin). It is an unusual but not exceedingly difficult name. However, as a child and adolescent, there were times when I lamented it. One thing I always wanted as a little kid was one of those souvenier objects (keychains and the like) that had my name on it. Of course I never actually found one, and that always seemed rather sad for me. When I went through the awkward adolescent experience of moving to a rural town in a foreign country, having not only a Polish last name that had the temerity to follow a 'W' with an 'l' without an intervening vowel, but also an unusual first name meant there was always an awfully unwelcome pause at my name when teachers took attendance. For people with names that they do not have to repeat a few times when they meet someone new (and subsequently just settle for whatever pronunciation seems to suit your new aquaintance best), my giddiness about going to an entire town with my name (replete with signs and business names testifying to that fact) might not make sense. You will just have to take my word, then, that this was an exciting trip for me. Of course, I made the mistake of taking the trip on a Sunday, when everything in Germany seems to be closed, but I still managed to make it there, get plenty of pictures, and then make it back without too much hassle and lack of food (the only thing I found open was an icecream parlour, which wasn't much of a lunch). There were a few awkward moments when I had to explain to people why I was taking pictures of random signs and company names, but on the whole I got through it without too much embarrassment.

Even better than visiting a town with your name, though, is the experience of discovering that your name has an associated coat of arms displayed in stone. Behold, the Calden Coat of Arms:
For a geek, that is an awfully exciting discovery.

10 comments:

Robert said...

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

So, I do not have that problem in the slightest. Somethings my last name gets mispronounced, but mostly be telemarketers. It does get misspelled all the time. Like, 100 percent of the time, by people I first meet. THey spell it Eldridge. In the states, as far as I have been able to tell, there are not that many people with the last name Eldredge (I have never met one, other than, of course, my family).

As for anonymity on the internet, I struggled with whether or not I would put my name on my stuff. Mostly, by parents and girlfriend feared that someone would see what I wrote, not like it, and come and kill me. But I was never too worried about that. Mostly, what I am worried about right now is getting a job. A lot of government jobs have policies that restrict your speech or actions outside of the of the job. For example, when I worked for the city of greensboro (this is a real example) they said I could not nude sunbath in my backyard (something I NEVER do) because if a neighbor saw me, and knew I worked for the city, they would call and complain to the city, and would what type of weird incompetent people work for the city. Not that I think such policies routinely get enforced, but considering a occasionally call god a myth and dis on Christianity, and that I would like to stay in the southeastern US it is a small fear that this may come back to bite me.

I typed in my last name into google maps, and found a small town in Colorado. Looks like it might have 10 residents.

Congrats on visiting the German town which was, obviously, named after you!

Mozglubov said...

I have to admit, when I first read your comment and got to the part about your last name being misspelled, I mentally thought, "Eldridge?" before noticing that it is, in fact, Eldredge... despite all my past visits to your blog I somehow never noticed that. I apologize for my mental misspelling of your name...

Yeah, more than a crazy person tracking me down and killing me, it was more the potential reaction of employers/supervisors/other people with power over my future that prompted me to initially go the anonymous route. It's a debate, particularly, as you say, if one criticizes religion. Oh well, here's to hoping it bites neither of us...

G said...

Why are you bloggers so worried about religion? Do you think of Lewis' It Can't Happen Here or Atwood's The Handmaid Maiden. There are some vitriolic religious persons just as there are vitriolic atheists, but most have neither poison nor fangs.

Mozglubov said...

We are not all concerned with religion, and I will not try to speak for Robert or others, but religion concerns me for a variety of reasons. There are a myriad of practical aspects that concern me, such as the exploitation of large numbers of the faithful by televangelists and mega-churches (as well as other things), religious persecution and discrimination of both adherents of religion (primarily women, in that regard) and against those not part of a given religion, as well as religious support for policies that are damaging and irrational (including things like abstinence-only education). I also have philosophical problems with religion, in that I see no evidence for anything beyond deism, and I see no requirement for deistic tendencies (although I know you adhere to what I would largely characterize as a deistic outlook). Anyway, this comment is going to get away from itself, but I guess the primary reason for a preoccupation with religion is its ubiquity. As you point out, I do not essentially have a problem with your average religious person, but neither do I have a problem with your average political conservative. I think there are aspects of their world view which are wrong, and I therefore think it is productive to engage the subject with debate. This is particularly important to me in the case of religion because it is, in general, given a deference that I think is undeserved and illogical.

Robert said...

I will not attempt to speak for any one else. But my concern with possible discrimination based on the ideas expressed on my blog is not necessarily that i think we are all headed toward a theocratic fascist world, or that I think my boss would be herself anti-atheist. But that religion is hallowed in America, and just about any speech against religion is considered controversial. And in an attempt to avoid controversy, because even a small number of vitriolic religious persons can bring a lot of negative attention to a person or organization. So, when I am reviewed for a job, the person who is doing the hiring may say, Robert is slightly more qualified than this other person, but this other person is a Christian and exposes Christian values on their blog, which is not considered controversial, so I will hire the other person.

Hell, we live in a country where billboards that say "don't believe in god? You're not alone." get national media attention and are questioned as controversial and have religious people protesting them while billboards that say "Without Jesus Christ you will spend entirety in hell" (http://www.mindspring.com/~sjayg6/satan.gif) are considered, well, not controversial, and frankly, protected speech. Telling someone they are going to spend forever in a torture chamber...and deserve that...because they do not believe in a imaginary sky pixie will not prevent a person from getting a job, or will it get a person fired from a job. Or, if it did, it would shock the national conscious, and cause protests and negative media attention against the business or person that fired, or did not hire, the individual who engaged in such speech. Currently, my feeling is (at least in America) if an atheist gets hired and then calls god an imaginary sky pixie, there will be more media attention focused on when they will get fired and how controversial the speech is instead of if they will get fired and whether the speech should be protected.

g said...

Touche, both of you. Interesting how a simple comment brought forth such lengthy statements.

Mozglubov said...

It was a simple comment, but it was a query without a simple answer. It's like asking what a phase response is... it's a simple and short query, but it doesn't have a simple and short response.

Robert said...

Yes, I hope our lengthy responses did not make it seem as though we were personally offended. It just means that the issue is a complicated one, and one that cannot be answered simply without relying on unfair generalizations and inaccurate stereotypes.

jbrydle said...

Oh wow, I wish I had my very own coat of arms. That one rocks!

I'm a fan of Penn Jillette (who I just hung out with the other day! Squee!), and he's talked about his unique name in much the same way you have. He always wanted a vanity license plate for his bike as a child, but in adulthood he's a big proponent of being the only person in any crowd with your name. If I ever have children, I'm giving them ludicrous, unique names.

Congratulations on shedding your anonymity as well :) It's a bit of a scary step, considering, as you say, that potential employers (or girlfriends!) can now find everything you've written. I tend to think of it as a bit of a social filter - I don't want to work for a company that is intolerant of my opinions.

(NB - as I write this, the famous mentalist Banachek is walking back and forth in front of me. Squee!)

Mozglubov said...

Jesse, that sounds like some enjoyable skeptical hobnobbing! I find Penn Jillette pretty funny, and quite enjoy his debunking of woo... I don't always agree with him on politics and social things, but oh well. He's still a pretty amazing performer/speaker. I bet he'd be pretty fun to hang out with. I could see being pretty starstruck...