Being Tim Wilson: Data Management, 2,142.7, and My Gilligan Moniker

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It’s a bit of a curse in the world of social media and personal branding to sport a John Smith-like name, and “Tim Wilson” certainly qualifies. From a data management perspective, I definitely fall in the “FirstName + LastName” is nowhere close to a unique identifier. I’ve had interesting “<groan>” moments over the years on that front:

  • High School in Sour Lake, Texas — my sister’s name is Kim, and our 400-person high school had two Kim Wilsons and two Tim Wilsons…and a lousy intercom. My sister and I kept our noses pretty clean, which was not the case for our counterparts (who were not related to us or to each other); we both got used to ignoring any between-class announcements for “..im Wilson, please come to the office.” Generally, someone was in trouble, and, generally, it was not one of us.
  • Registering for College Classes — as a small-town teenager in the big city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the registration card that got handed to me was for Tim Wilson the graduate student, who was also registering for classes. That caused a bit of confusion that took a day or two to straighten out. Interestingly, that Tim actually cropped up on Jeopardy last month. I catch maybe 10 minutes of Jeopardy a year, but I happened to catch the end of Final Jeopardy a few weeks ago and saw Tim Wilson. He’s now a professor. In a quick Google search to track him down — using “Jeopardy” as part of the search — I turned up a post where the blogger calculated (with some help from the commenters…one of whom was Tim promoting his own appearance) the maximum theoretical one-day take on Jeopardy: $566,400.
  • Buying a House while On the Lam — when Julie and I were working on the mortgage approval paperwork for our first house, we hit a snag, in that “I” had a 4-year-old outstanding arrest warrant in Austin. We’d only lived in Austin for a year, and I had had no brushes with the law of any sort during past visits to the city (see first bullet above).
  • I’m a Funny Guy…but Not Professionally — in the early days of e-mail, I used to get occasional messages from random people telling me how funny I was and asking when I would next be in [random city]. These were followers of Tim Wilson the Deep South Comedian. I was tempted to respond by telling them I would be at [some club in the city they were asking about] on [a date in the near future] as an unpromoted surprise show, and that I would leave four tickets in their name at the door. I ultimately decided that would be too cruel. <sigh> See bullets above.

You get the idea. So, when I started this blog, I partially stole a page from Avinash Kaushik’s figurative book, in that his blog is Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik. “Gilligan on Data by Tim Wilson” was born.

So, where did “Gilligan” come from? That’s a trail name I picked up when thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine back in 1993 when I graduated from college. It’s a tradition on the Appalachian Trail to adopt a new moniker for the duration of your hike. There are practical reasons for this (“Buck,” who I met and hiked with quite a bit on the trail, was a female who was hiking alone, and she thought it wise not to advertise that fact when signing trail registers along the way). There were descriptive names — “Chowhound” really did eat like a horse, and “Bearanoid” did have a heightened fear of encountering a black bear.

At the time, the Appalachian Trail was 2,142.7 miles from the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia to the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine. The length of the trail varies from year to year as improvements are made and routes are updated, but that is what it was in 1993. I’m using my personal blog to enter my journal entries from that experience 15 years later. “Gilligan” — a name chosen largely in haste one evening with the assistance of the other hikers I was camping with that evening — remains fairly appropriate. I’m still clumsy. I still get myself into any number of improbable predicaments. And I’m skinny as…okay, so maybe that Bob Denver characteristic no longer particularly applies.

If “I had a common name” is one of the larger hurdles I face in my life, I’ll count myself fortunate, I suppose. But, sites like searchme.com just aren’t as much fun for me as they are for those of you who have more distinct names.

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  1. Pingback It’s Time for a Change, and I Need Your Help | Gilligan on Data by Tim Wilson

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