On Names and Logos

by

Larry "Harris" Taylor, Ph.D.

This material is copyrighted and all rights retained by the author  

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Many times over the last couple of decades, I have been asked about the origin of my nicknames and handles. My typical response is “it’s a dull, boring story.”  So, here I will tell of the origins and confirm that there is nothing exciting in their use. 

Nickname “Harris”

I am the oldest of four children. My mother named her children Larry, Gary, Perry and Sherrie. As a child, I lost count of the number of times I heard adults say, “Oh, how cute!” The rhyming did not appeal to me. 

In junior high, I started playing some Class A fast-pitch softball. Most of the guys on the team were a few years older than I. We did not socialize (a few years age differential is very significant during male adolescence). During our first game, a very high, slightly foul ball was hit my way. (I played first base.) At the time, the “in” thing for me and my peers was to make a “Willie Mays basket catch” (the mitt is held horizontal at the waist and the fielder moves entire body as a unit until the ball drops into the mitt. It looks “cool” when successful and is most embarrassing when it fails.) As first baseman, I did the usual “wave-off” to let the team know that I had spotted the ball and was indicating the “play was mine to be made.” I then went into the “Willie Mays posture.” My older teammates did not know what I was doing. I kept hearing the short stop (As team captain, it was his job to let the infield know who was making the play) yelling “Harris!” Each time he screamed, it was louder and more desperate! I remember wondering why he was yelling some one else’s name ‘cause I had clearly indicated the play was mine and my teammates were giving me space to make the play. Eventually the ball dropped into my mitt and the trivial little incident was over. I walked the ball back to the mound and then asked the shortstop why he kept yelling, “Harris.” because my name was Larry. He told me he had thought my name was Mike Harris and that for the rest of the season, my name would be “Harris.” Since Harris did not end in the “ary” sound, I adopted the name for playing ball and gradually extended it to general use. (In addition, my mother hated the nickname, so I suspect that this was an additional incentive for me, as a teenager, to use it!)   

"Old Indian Name"

I once overheard a student in my 100+ -hour master diver class ask one of my divemasters why I always used my nickname, "Harris", on the dive site. My divemaster smiled and said, "Harris is an old Indian name that means, "He who dives with much equipment."" The photos below bear testament to that observation..

 Scuba Closet 1

 On A Local Dive

 Scuba Closet 2

Larry “Harris” Taylor, Ph.D.

I have always thought of myself as an informal sort of person. I typically introduce myself as having only one name, “Harris.” If I could, I would live my whole life in jeans and tennis shoes. My first formal diving paper, “What Nobody Wants To Hear” was submitted to NAUI News in the early ’80's with the one word by-line. The then-editor, Jim Arkison, called me to tell me that he could not publish an article with a one-word by-line. I told him that the local diving community knew me only as “Harris” and it was important to me that people associate me with my writing. The name “Harris Taylor” did not sound right to me (It still does not, but that’s a socio-pathology best left unsaid). So, Jim suggested the by-line be my nickname in the middle of my legal name. Thus, the author, Larry “Harris” Taylor, was created as a condition for publishing my first diving paper. Jim also wanted to put my degree in the by-line (some folks feel an earned Ph.D. gives respect (g)) so, with the exception of a few events (beyond my control); all my work has had the three names, followed by a degree by-line.

Over the years, I have noticed at least eight different Larry Taylor’s (it is a common name) writing in the underwater-related literature. By using the “three names, degree by-line” I maintain a consistent body of work. I use it as a signature in diving e-mail and newsgroup posts simply to maintain the association between my posts and my publications. Besides, I would not want those other Larry’s blamed for some of my more outspoken editorials.

That people associate me with the three names was clearly identified when Skin Diver magazine published my 2000 Feet Below Lake Erie article with an altered by-line (i.e. no “Harris.” I most strongly believe that no editor has the right, without consent, to alter or delete the by-line of an author. I also believe it is improper to assign authorship to another party, but that is an entirely different can of worms.) The local people wondered why I had not written the article. (They knew I was diving at the PDK detector site.) Since the PDK facility was near Cleveland,  many Ohio divers thought the Ohio diver, Larry Taylor, had written the article. The bottom line was Skin Diver denied me credit for authorship by altering my pen name. Ever since then, I have made it very clear that, for the sake of consistency, I want the “three names” pen name associated with my work. (In fairness, I should point out that the now defunct Skin Diver was not the only recreational diving publication or recreational training organization to alter or remove my name from submitted manuscripts.)

The Diving Unicorn Logo

As a newly certified diver (and voracious reader), I began to accumulate diving information. I had been trained at a dive shop that told its students that all piston regulators were inferior. (Obviously, this was before I realized the extent to which franchising and greed controls our sport. Pistons were “bad” simply because this vendor did not sell them). More and more I felt that our sport was promulgating mythology, presenting opinions as facts, or simply not-informing people. To me, mythology is best clarified by the acquisition of factual information. So, when I became an instructor, I told my students that one of my goals was to differentiate between myth and reality. In one class, I mentioned that some day I would find an artist to draw me a logo of a diving unicorn for this “myth and reality” theme. It turned out that one of my students was a graphic designer (graduate of the prestigious Detroit Arts & Crafts Institute) who had a passion for drawing unicorns. The next day I was presented with a drawing and ever since then, it has been my logo (trademark). 

River Rat

In the early 90’s, I was a participant in the GEnie on-line scuba bulletin board. This was pre-internet (using a “fast” 2400 baud modem on an IBM XT). I did not want some number (LTaylor221) as a logon ID. Tracy, alias Divemaster, of that forum told me he could get me a personalized ID. Since I have a real passion for extremely swift water (local St Clair river has current flow of 90 million gallons a minute, one of most intense current flows navigated in North America), I chose River Rat as my sign-on ID. Eventually, I became part of the SysOp staff. I have always been proud of my association with the GEnie group .It was a friendly place where divers assembled on-line to share their knowledge and experiences. Clearly, it was one of the most worthwhile expenditures of my time in this sport. The drawing of a River Rat on my "about" page was a gift from one of the GEnie SysOps, Scuba Mom. 

DiveGeek 

When GEnie died, I was left without a provider for my recreational browsing. By the time I joined Earthlink, river rat, as a unique name had been taken. (So had just about any other name I could think of related to either river diving or science fiction and I did not want to be a name/number.) Given the volume of my library/video/DVD/software collection DiveGeek seemed appropriate. (But in my heart, I will always be a river rat!)  

Which Name?

I will conclude this with a brief story. On my wedding day, I overheard someone asking my late ex-Mother-In-Law what I should be called. This woman had noticed that I had responded to either Larry or Harris and she wondered about the distinction. My ex-Mother-In-Law (a delightful lady, who, to her death kept orange juice and blueberry muffins in her kitchen for me) responded, “His mother calls him Larry, but his friends call him Harris.” The lady smiled and said, “Well, I guess I will have to call him Harris!”

Divers, please call me by my one-word nickname,  “Harris”  

Photo documentation  that "divegeek" is appropriate for me: My home office

 

   

 

Which shows a bit of technological progress since the days when I wrote my dissertation:

     Final Thought          

I leave you with this aspect of my personality: (known by all who work with me)

The sweatshirt I am wearing in my office is a chemical periodic table done in brown squares displaying the elements:  

 

C_H_O_Co_La_Te 

 

Its good chemistry

 

Acknowledgement:

 

Scuba Smiley from GabaSoft's Emoticon application

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