When I was still earning a lawyerly living, I had the most wonderful crew working for me, and we had a lot of fun. Generally bored with the law, I’d engage them on things I actually found interesting, when work permitted, and I used to poke and prod them in an effort to get them more excited about the broader topics of general knowledge that seemed fascinating to me. They weren’t all that excited, of course, but I liked to pretend they were. One outgrowth of that delusion was a little game I tried to make them play: I would send around a list of 50 questions, and see how many they could answer. The rules were that I had to pose the questions off the top of my head, and be able to answer them all likewise.
This went on for a while, with me the only one playing the game – they all ignored me as politely as they could, while I was having a ball. Indeed, I had so much fun that I finally resolved to sit down and write out answers to all the questions I’d posed, still adhering to the rules to the fullest extent possible – it all had to be off the top of my head. With a few exceptions (sometimes I checked certain facts when I was sure my memory was playing tricks), that’s what I did.
Since this was all done from memory, I may have made some mistakes, but overall I was quite pleased with the result. I think some of my best stuff is contained within all those answers to my own questions, despite the admittedly luke-warm reception my magnum opus has received thus far. I do realize that if I couldn’t get my own friends to have a read, nobody out there in the gen. pop. is ever going to look at any of this, but since I already had it in the can, I figured I’d post it anyway.
The whole set is chock full of pictures I gathered quite indiscriminately from all over the web, so as usual, if anyone wants to complain on copyright grounds, I’ll be sure to remove the offending image. If it helps any, I’m not making any money off anything (so this isn’t “commercial use”), I just wanted the answers to be illustrated for greater clarity and interest.
Below is the introduction I wrote when I sent the answer sheets around to my team members.
NOTE: the documents may take a little while to load.
A Word of Explanation
Some of you will recall that for some reason I developed a passing mania for sending quizzes around to you all, 50 questions each, and then sometimes, but not always, supplying the answers.
I found it fun to assemble all those quizzes in one document along with illustrated answers. It puts everything in one place, and gives you all something to remember me by. A lot, actually. Over 1,200 pages and approximately 140,000 words.
As I look over this big mess o’questions, it’s obvious that I posed them only on topics of interest to me, which I guess is inevitable since I only asked questions to which I already knew the answers. Therefore, you’ll see a bias towards history, literature, science, technology, politics, nature and natural history, a little bit of pop culture, a little bit of music and art, and quite a lot about war and geopolitics. With one exception, there isn’t anything at all about law, which is, as you know, the subject in which I display the least aptitude. You’ll see a bunch about navies and airplanes (you won’t like that, but eat your broccoli). A few about sports. Overall, I guess a lot of “guy topics”.
Though I consulted the internet here and there to flesh out the answers, and make sure I was remembering correctly, I tried to keep it as much off the top of my head as possible. Thus you’ll see a general lack of specificity when it comes to numbers and dates – “around 1500”, “about 500,000 pounds”, “just after WW I”, that sort of thing. I don’t think precision on such things is really the point. This is general knowledge stuff, and a general but accurate sense of the flow of things should do. Of course, some dates one simply remembers – June 6, 1944, for example. Or years like 1215, 1588 and 1969. It’s the same with numbers, like 186,000 MPS, the speed of light. If I could remember exactly I set it out, and if not, you get a ballpark estimate.
The fun part is of course the pictures. See? It’s fun! There are pictures!