frequently-asked questions

This is a list of questions I get asked by my students and others that know me well enough to ask, but not well enough to know the answer. And no, I'm not making these up. I get asked these often enough to put them here.

How old are you?

As mentioned in my bio, I was born on July 1st, 1974, which makes me some number of years old.

Is it true you once went a year without home Internet access?

Yes, I went without Internet at home from Monday, June 21, 2004 to Thursday, July 25, 2005. For the reasons why, see my entry from August 9th of that year.

Is it true you don't watch television?

I didn't use to, but now that I'm married, I've gotten into several of the shows my wife watches. I enjoy House, 30 Rock, Community, The Soup, South Park and what's left of Dollhouse.

Are you ever going to grow your hair out again?

Probably not.

What kind of computer do you have?

My computer is one I built myself from parts back in the summer of 1998. I have since upgraded everything at least once.

My processor is currently an Intel i7-4790K. I have been running Linux on the desktop since 2001, and have been Linux-only since June 2003. As of August 2016, I run Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus), though I do have Windows 10 installed and boot into Windows at least once every few months for something or other. You can read more about the specifics of my computer on my wishlist.

Are you a vegetarian/vegan?

Yes, I am now effectively a pescatarian; I've eaten virtually no meat other than fish since the August 2009. I also have some semi-complicated dietary guidelines, which are ordered by importance. This means that a rule higher up trumps a later rule in the case of a conflict:

  1. Glorify God in all I eat or drink. (I Cor. 10:31)
  2. Eat what's put in front of me.
  3. When possible, prefer organic, free-range and locally-grown foods.
  4. When possible, prefer plant-based foods over animal-based foods.
  5. When possible, prefer eggs, fish, and poultry over red meats and pork.
  6. When possible, eat larger meals earlier in the day and smaller meals later.
  7. Avoid excess alcohol.
  8. Avoid excess carbohydrates, especially sugars.
  9. Avoid excess caffeine.
  10. When the food's free, don't be shy about eating plenty.

Where do you go to church?

Life Church - Leander (formerly Lakeline Church). I play bass guitar for the worship team and sometimes lead worship there.

How many/what programming languages do you know?

A bunch, though the exact number depends on what you mean by "know". If you mean languages I've understood well enough at one time in my life to write a program or two using a reference manual, then well over a dozen. If you mean languages I know well enough to write something complicated off the top of my head, then four or so.

At the moment, I'm quite fluent in C++ and Perl, which means I almost never have to look anything up at all, and can pretty much code anything I want in either language.

I'm also comfortable with C and Java, though for Java in particular I find myself looking up utility classes a lot. I have written substantial programs in both languagaes, and could also pretty much write anything I want in either as long as I could have a manual or two nearby.

I've done some messing around with PHP, and I know enough to get a lot of things done, but the language is inconsistent enough that I still have to look up basic syntax a lot of times.

I also spent an intensive week over one summer learning Scheme, and I knew it fairly well by the end of the week, but I've hardly used it since then, and I just think better with procedural languages.

In college I learned a ton of programming languages, and I wrote a program or two in each, so here's a list of them, roughly in the order in which I learned them. Given a manual and a few days, I could pick any of these back up again, but for most of them I'd have no desire to. Everything before Pascal was learned in middle school, and everything after Java was learned after I graduated college.

I also know various semi-programming languages like DOS batch file language, tcsh and bash shell scripting, and the basics of SQL, and I'm pretty comfortable with the unix command-line tools. I can write trivial makefiles and have even written a Sys-V-style init script or two. And there are probably some I'm forgetting about.

Oh, and I know HTML quite well and a lot of CSS level 1, but those aren't programming languages at all.

And finally, I speak English fluently, a fair smattering of Spanish, and had three and a half semesters of Russian in college, but I remember very little of that.

What did you make on your SAT?

1400. This was in 1992; keep in mind that the SAT is normalized every few years, so scores from different years are not directly comparable.

How many digits of pi do you know?

It depends. Sometimes more than others. I almost always know at least eighteen, but at times I've been up to 40 or 50. I also know sixteen digits of e, the base of the natural logarithm. Note that knowing so many digits of pi is quite useless; check out the following example from mathematician Hermann Schubert (stolen from Paul's Page of Pi):

Conceive a sphere constructed with the earth at its center, and imagine its surface to pass through Sirius, which is 8.8 light years distant from the earth [that is, light, traveling at a velocity of 186,000 miles per second, takes 8.8 years to cover this distance]. Then imagine this enormous sphere to be so packed with microbes that in every cubic millimeter millions of millions of these diminuitive animalcula are present. Now conceive these microbes to be unpacked and so distributed singly along a straight line that every two microbes are as far distant from each other as Sirius from us, 8.8 light years. Conceive the long line thus fixed by all the microbes as the diameter of a circle, and imagine its circumference to be calculated by multiplying its diameter by pi to 100 decimal places. Then, in the case of a circle of this enormous magnitude even, the circumference so calculated would not vary from the real circumference by a millionth part of a millimeter.

This example will suffice to show that the calculation of pi to 100 or 500 decimal places is wholly useless.

Are you a nerd?


Are you a genius?

It depends on who you ask. My mother would say so. Most would consider those with an IQ of 140 or higher to be genius-level, but my IQ has never been formally tested. My SAT score qualifies me for Mensa, though I am not a member. Maybe many of the people I meet are less intelligent than I am, but that would just mean I'm above average (by definition, in fact). And I know lots of people who are smarter than I am.

To be sure, I test well, and I'm good at school. And that counts for a lot.