Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have a stapler?

Yes. Yes, I do. And no, you can't use it.

What's the deal with the "Do you have a stapler?" thing, anyways?

Back at UCSD, where I worked as a lowly TA, this was the single question I dealt with more often than any other. It got to be very tedious. And at the time, I in fact did not have a stapler. Nor did I carry a pocket full of paperclips. I did, however, know how to make a pretty nifty corner-fastener from a waterbomb base.

Where's LL30?

Downstairs. "LL" stands for "Lower Level".

Where's the department office?

The math office is up on the third floor. The physics office is down the hall to your right.

Where's room 256?

Somewhere up on the second floor. There are floorplans by the elevators.

Where's "Introduction to Underwater Astrophysics"?

Damned if I know. Do you have a room number?

Do people actually ask you where all these things are?

Yup. My office is by the main artery on the first floor of the Natural Science Building, so during the first week of classes I'm invariably dealing with dazed, bewildered, lost undergrads who don't know where the floorplans are.

When'd you last shave?

35 years ago.

And your last haircut?

Early summer, 2007. I've been meaning to get another one soon.

Do you ever wear shoes?

More nowadays, alas. Louisville is more broken-glass intensive than San Diego, and my department, while delightfully informal, might balk at habitual shoelessness.

Do you paint your own toenails? And why?

Yes, and because it's an emotional/creative outlet. And it's different and weird. And of course there are not nearly enough ways in which I'm different and weird.

Isn't Paul Erdős responsible for that quote you attribute to Alfred Rényi?

To start with, a quick update for those who have no idea what this question refers to. My former signature block includes the quote "A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems" and an attribution to Alfred Rényi. This quote is frequently attributed to Paul Erdős, mostly because Erdős was excessively fond of the line and repeated it often, but always attributed it properly. But Rényi really said it, and said it first.

What's your actual name? I keep seeing different first names.

I was born David Jacob Wildstrom. The "Wildstrom" part is a story in itself, but it's not my story. For the first 18 years of my life I was simply "David". This ended after I was in a class in which a third of the people were named David my senior year. Going to college is a good time for changes, so at college I introduced myself as "Jake" and nobody questioned it. And I've been Jake to everyone except bureaucrats, old friends, and family since then. I haven't officially changed my name and probably never will, so as a matter of reconciling my official and common names, I sometimes indicate my name as "D. Jacob Wildstrom". Those are the three names I use most commonly. I occasionally go by "Bishop" or "Jack Bishop" but that's another story.

How's that last name spelled/pronounced?

Wildstrom -- pronounced with a long i, short u, and accent on the first syllable, i.e. wild-strum. The only really acceptable alternative is pronounced with a short i, i.e. willed-strum. Wildstorm is a publishing company, and it isn't my name.

So what's the "Jack Bishop" story?

I've often adopted ecclesiastical pretensions, because religion's fun and wacky. Invariably I give myself the rank of a bishop, because it's a cool word, and a chess piece, and they get to wear purple, and their administrative region has a lot of different names, all of which sound nice (bishopric, episcopate, dicoese). So being a bishop seems kind of appealing. So the word made its way into my alias, first on ifMUD and later everywhere else.

As for "Jack", well, it's pretty close to my chosen name of "Jake", and also it refers to a role I've occasionally taken on, that of the MIT tour guide. So since I've been both a jack and a bishop, I call myself "Jack Bishop".

How'd you learn to knit?

My classmates in Budapest taught me, but I don't knit any more. The activity you're referring to is probably crocheting.

What's the difference?

Crocheting you do with one hook and make a heavier fabric, with a greater variety of stitches. Knitting's done with two needles, and produces smoother, less heavy fabric. They're completely different methods.

Fine, fine. How'd you learn to crochet?

My housemates at Epsilon Theta Fraternity ran a textile arts seminar, in which we covered knitting, embroidery, sewing, crochet, and chainmail. Chainmail and crochet were the only two I was any damn good at.

Do you have a stapler?

Don't make me cut you.

Do people really ask you all these questions?

Yes. If this were one of those pages of questions I wished people asked but they never did, then "What do you find appealing about math?" and "What's interactive fiction?" would definitely make the cut.

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