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Stories

What’s in a Name?

I am an ancient person. I existed before the internet was a thing.

You see, there was no need for usernames back then. Videogames were all offline. If there was multiplayer, it was on the same machine, and we all Player 1 or Player 2. We’d have the same character but skinned in a different color. Usually red or blue.

If I needed to enter my name for a high score, it would be my initials GW or GEO, depending on how many characters the game accepted. I remember it was a hassle to input W because not all games had a wrap-around for character inputs.

Then the internet came, and we had to pick a username for our dial-up account (Jaring). I’m not sure whose idea it was but ytwong was suggested by default – the initials of my Chinese name. Funny story, I’ve pronounced it wrong (still do) thanks to it being misspelled on my birth cert and every subsequent legal document containing it. Oh well.

Dial-up internet; Image credit

I didn’t think much of it, since that was just my dial-up username and I rarely used it. It was about a year later when Microsoft came to my school and did a presentation on Internet Explorer, Hotmail, and some other topics. We all left school that day with a CD-ROM that was chock-full of Microsoft goodies. The Internet Explorer installer, Comic Chat and I don’t remember what else.

Rushed home, popped it in, installed my new web browser, and one of my favorite chat programs til today – Comic Chat. Of course, I signed up for a Hotmail account. I wasn’t so adventurous and didn’t stray too far from my originally assigned name, geowongyt. A contraction of my first name, my last name, and my Chinese name initials.

Comic Chat; Image credit

It was easy to remember, I kept it and still do. It’s my longest-lasting email account, and I still use it today. Fun fact, I had the idea but never had the balls to register [email protected]. I thought about it many years ago and felt so clever, it’s probably taken by now, also it’s not very fitting for someone like me. Maybe one day, if I scrape up enough money to buy it off whoever owns it.

Then came the world of webchats. I was introduced to WBS and created an account on the site. I picked the name Gus091. Gus was taken, so I added 091 at the end, inspired by my favorite basketball player at that time, Dennis Rodman. This was before I became a Hawks fan and Mutombo stan, of course.

Writing about webchats, I remember running around this furry chat/game called Furcadia. I had no idea furries were a thing, I participated because my friend asked me to, and it looked like a fun RPG. Also, holy shit – the service is still up! I don’t remember the name I used on it, but it was probably Gus091. That name stuck around for a while.

Furcadia; Image credit

Then came the age of PC gaming. Back then, internet gaming wasn’t widespread yet – our home connections were too slow for that. However, we still had our fix of online gaming thanks to LAN. And the first game that I found myself playing was this first-person shooter called Quake II.

I needed a name for myself. Something that was badass. Gus091 was much too soft and not cool enough. I came up with a name I thought was clever, DeFragger. You see, kills in Quake were called frags. There was a Windows program called Disk Defragmenter which you ran occasionally to optimize the way your hard drive stored files and improved its performance. And that’s the history of my very first gaming handle. Not bad for a start, I suppose.

Windows 95 Disk Defragmenter; Image credit

DeFragger ended up being the gaming name I used for a long time. It wasn’t until college that I started playing Counter-Strike and I had some friends who changed their names all the time. It was at that point I realized that names didn’t need to have so much meaning and I let go of whatever loyalty I had to my username.

So off I went, using a name depending on my mood or whatever was the flavor of the month for me. From bands I enjoyed, mURDERDOLLS, names that would look funny on the kill feed, an old lady, to band member-inspired names, mUNKY_sLAYER, and many song-inspired names like old robot (not Young Robot because I’m old), old sausage (inspired by Old eLeVeN), and lyrics like MULTIPLE STAB WOUNDS and most recently, I'M CUMMING EVERYWHERE. Special shout out to Dank Soul, my first Dark Souls character name which I kept for all three games and Elden Ring.

Dank Soul

I’m sure there are many more I missed out in the list above, but the point is, names aren’t something I hold sacred or dear to me anymore. Like Shakespeare, I agree with the point that names have no intrinsic value and they’re merely used to identify people or objects. People spend way too much time thinking of names for things in their life.

What a way to segue into my admitting that I spent money last weekend to purchase goodnewsgeorge.com. Yes, you read that right, I parted with my money on something I deem worthless. Just kidding, it’s not worthless (also, I practically burn money buying cigarettes, see the pattern?), it’s a functioning URL, which points you to this blog – for now. Who knows what it’ll turn into in the future?

Anyway, it’s a domain name I’ve been eyeing for some time now. I’ve thought about retiring the blorgy.net domain (which is embarrassingly childish) for something I can say aloud without thinking twice. I have no idea if it’s going to fuck up the thousands of links I have throughout the past 15 years of this blog and any SEO scores I’ve built up (LOL) but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes. I still have a few months to go before I have to renew or release it.

So why, goodnewsgeorge? Why is this name so important that I needed to own the dot com? To be honest, I don’t even know why I’m attached to it. For one, it’s not even original.

It started when I listened to a band called Bad News Bears, who put out this catchy Hellogoodbye-esque tune:

I enjoyed the song so much, I looked up the band. Turned out their name was inspired by the 1976 film of the same name. I couldn’t use the name, obviously, so I decided to give it a twist. Replace Bears with George and coincidentally, Bad with Good to keep the XYX naming scheme.

Good News George was a fun alternative to Sunshine Boy (or was it Kid? I can’t remember), a nickname some college friends had given me because I smiled all the time. It was easy to remember, reflected my personality, and wasn’t offensive or cringey. Also, it was available on every social media platform I used, which made it a no-brainer to use.

Which got me thinking, what if 30 years down the line, when I’m dead and gone, I wonder if my goodnewsgeorge accounts and blog will still be around? Will the internet even function in the same way?

What if some kid thinks of the same username and tries to register it for himself? He’ll then stumble upon this blog on the Wayback Machine and learn the story about some old geezer who took the name first. And he’ll never be able to use it.

Sorry, goodnewsgeorge, I’ve got some bad news for you.

Cultivated Loyalty

Whenever I need to pump gas into my car, I’d head to the nearest Shell station. And for the longest time, I didn’t have a reason why I chose that petrol station. Not that anybody asked. I didn’t know how to justify my loyalty to the brand.

I was like a soccer fan who couldn’t tell you why I supported a specific team. Even when any excuse would have sufficed because you didn’t know anything or care about the sport, you were just being polite trying to make conversation.

Just say you watch them because they have the hottest guys, or they can always pull crazy comebacks. Or they wear your favorite color. Or shoes. Anything! It doesn’t matter!

Why did I choose Shell? After all, fuel from all major brands is meant to be interchangeable without damaging your vehicle. There’s no particular reason to use one brand over another other than for convenience’s sake.

And so, the other day, on one of my introspective drives home, the answer came to me. My obsession with Shell started a long time ago. Back when I was a kid tasked with pumping petrol for my mom, while she waited in the car.

She would hand me the cash or credit card to pass to the attendant or cashier, I’d grab the pump (after making sure it wasn’t diesel), slot it into the fuel tank, and pull the trigger. If there was no lock, I’d hold it until I felt the pump stop.

I enjoyed the smell of petrol and it felt like such a grown-up thing to do. I enjoyed the chore. My mom got to relax in the car. It was a win-win situation.

Back then, we didn’t have any gas station loyalty. It was whichever happened to be on the way to our destination, we played no favorites. One day, that changed.

I don’t recall the exact point in time but it was at least 1998 because that was when BonusLink launched. My mom got herself a card and because Shell was the only petrol station they partnered with, she made sure that she would only get gas from there. She wanted to collect as many points as possible.

In addition to giving the cash or credit card to the staff, I also had to hand over a BonusLink card.

The only time when we didn’t pump Shell was when our fuel tank was reaching empty and had no other choice. Even then, we wouldn’t pump the car to full. We’d only get enough gas for the current trip and head back to Shell to top off the remainder. We had to maximize our points!

Not that it was a bad thing, mind you. If I owned a reward card for a particular gas station, I would have done the same thing.

For years I helped my mom pay for gas at Shell stations until I was old enough to drive. Then I was given a BonusLink card (which was under my mother’s account) to buy Shell fuel for my own car as well.

I don’t remember when we stopped using BonusLink but it didn’t matter. All those years of pumping gas at Shell stations had done a number on my brain. Until this day, I haven’t stopped filling my car at the McDonald’s-themed gas stop (it’s red and yellow too).

I have no incentive to fill my car at Shell. My family hasn’t used BonusLink for years. I still do it anyway.

Hearing anecdotes over the years about how Shell fuel is more efficient than other brands also reinforced the belief, in my already biased brain, that I’ve been making the right choice. I tell myself and other people that I’m not picky about where I pump gas, it doesn’t matter to me. But somehow, I always find a Shell to pull up into.

When I know there’s a Shell up ahead, my brain tells me to push the car a little further to get fuel from there instead of Petron, Caltex or Petronas. Or god forbid, BHP. I can’t even rationalize why their stations look so unappealing to me. Something about the orange and yellow, even though I normally like those colors.

Thank you, BonusLink. One day, I’ll break the cycle.

Thirty K

How much does it cost to transplant hair from the back of your head to your face? Today, I learned the answer, it’s a lot of money. Thirty thousand ringgit to be exact. Well, that’s if your face is as sparse as mine and you have dreams of rocking a full beard like you front an easycore band.

Beard Game Strong

How did I find out? If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you would know my obsession to look like a pirate. On a side note, it’s unfair to call it an obsession since I didn’t try every single thing — exercising and diet are a thing. But I did try Minoxidil and if that didn’t work, nothing else will. I don’t have any more hair follicles on my face.

A couple of weeks ago, I googled facial hair transplant and stumbled upon a website of DHI Malaysia. It was “the best hair transplant clinic” according to its listing on Google Maps. I dicked around the website, and there was no mention of pricing. Saw a form to fill up for a free consultation and I did.

Earlier this week, I received a text from the company asking me when I was available for a meeting with them. I had completely forgotten about the clinic by then so I thought it was spam. I had to go back to the website to remind myself why I gave up my phone number.

Curiosity got the better of me and I set a date for the meeting, which took place this morning. The consultation went well, with the doctor telling me that Chinese men usually weren’t there to get a beard (I laughed). It was straightforward and they explained the process thoroughly — if you’re curious you can read about it here.

They extract hair follicles from another part of your body (the back of my head) and implant them where you’d like the hair to be (my face). The whole process takes a couple of days because it is done by hand. Imagine planting thousands of hairs by hand, I can’t.

Then for a few weeks, you’ll need to take care of your scalp and face while you recover. If everything goes well, you’ll have a glorious beard for the rest of your life. They had a surgeon come in to draw lines on my face to estimate how many hair follicles were needed for the transplant.

According to them, my ideal beard would require me to move 6,000 follicles. At RM7 per hair, the process would cost RM42,000. But they were willing to give me a big fat discount if I did the operation in June — from RM7 to RM5 per hair. 30,000 bones to look like a rock star with none of the talent.

I thanked them for the free consultation and went on my merry way. Am I willing to spend the price of a car on my face? Not right now. Maybe one day I’ll hit the lottery I don’t play and secure enough dough for the procedure.

Either way, it was an interesting morning I don’t regret. It’s always cool to learn new things. Thanks for reading my blog.