Random ramblings of a anonymous software engineer. Contains occasional profanity. Personal opinions, not related to employer.

The Story of Cynthia

Some have seen my Github username and have wondered why is this dude calling himself Cynthia? Of all things?

So here is the background story. It isn't a very interesting one. If you were expecting me talking about gender identity and what not, this isn't it. (Although I do wonder sometimes if I am a fish. More on that sometime later.)

So if that was what you were looking for - feel free to hit the back button.

Back in 1995, there was a public and free Unix system which one could sign up, login and try well, anything. This was provided by a Korean company that probably had an unused SunOS machine just doing nothing, and one of the employees probably just thought it would be a cool idea.

Back then - stuff like this was fine to do - nowadays, well - you know what would happen to services like this.

(I had already completely destroyed my dad's computer attempting to install Linux with a pile of bad sector polluted floppy disks and a poorly written guide on how to do it - so having a Unix compatible system at home really wasn't an option.)

So it turns out - this free service had a couple limitations - one was that your shell account was limited to 4-8 characters, was case insensitive (requests would be lowercase converted) - and thanks to that little quirk, almost any commonly imaginable English word - including my surname and my name were all taken. (I was at a friend's place - who also happened to have a slightly better modem than I did, and parents who wouldn't go crazy on the phone bill.)

If I roughly remember what we tried - this is the rough list: (Personal information redacted)

  • moon
  • sangwhan
  • moon[birthYYYY]
  • [birthYYYY]moon
  • moon[birthmmdd]
  • [birthmmdd]moon
  • ...and some other ones, can't remember them all.

Then we pulled out a dictionary looking for anything useful under the word "moon", because we ran out of options.

  • lunar
  • lunatic: This would have been cool.
  • ...and through the entire list. Which wasn't long.

No avail. However, it turns out that my friend's father was a hard core Christian and even doing a part-time program in graduate school studying related topics - and had an old Korean-Latin dictionary sitting around. So we took that, and went through the list of words that meant "moon".

The first option was diana, which was clearly a feminine name - so we that skipped that one. The next one in the list was cynthia. Little did this dictionary note that it was the goddess of the moon, not just the moon - so I went for that. This wouldn't have happened in 2018, since - Wikipedia. Google. Or well, actual internet.

I have never heard anyone with this name, so little did I know this was feminine [1] - only having limited exposure to the western world. [2]

So, to this day - all of the accounts which are somewhat related to PAM authentication of some form are "cynthia". I don't really have a good excuse - my fingers have been typing that for 22 years and counting, and I'm too lazy to have different account names across different machines.

I learned the lesson about muscle memory the hard way, as my previous employer forced me to use something that resembled my name - "smoon" in this case. Now at my new workplace I am back to cynthia. If I do hire a real Cynthia, then well - sucks to be her.

To give you a rough idea of how reluctant to change I am - my current macOS home directory (on a Retina 2012) is a cumulative migration which started from a Titanium Powerbook G4 in 2002.

[1] There was a gut feeling that this sort of felt feminine, but shit - it was supposed to be Latin, what would I know.

[2] This is probably why "English" names from people of Chinese heritage countries (e.g. Taiwan) around my age have some occasional surprises. My favorite to this day is Piggyboy - who was a customer contact at my previous workplace. I am not making this up.