Tomorrow is something of a significant anniversary for yours truly. On

Aug. 31, 2001, the first issue of Geek Trivia that I authored was

published. Those of you around in the old days will recall that Geek

Trivia was once a very different animal. The articles were shorter (200

words as opposed to 800 words), the mail delivered three times a week

(M-W-F as opposed to just Wednesdays) and there was no on-site archive.

One issue of the mail would ask a question, and the next issue would

provide the answer, along with a new question. Of course, you could get

a sneak-peak pop-up window of the answer via an in-mail hyperlink, but

those HTML files are lost to dustbins of history.

I did, however, save the original Word file I submitted to my editor.

So, here you go folks, the Geek Trivia Q&A that launched my


TITLE: Talent borrows, genius steals

Q. Matt Groening

has achieved international fame and a devoted fan following for his work as

creator of the animated sitcoms The Simpsons and Futurama. When

asked about his inspiration for The Simpsons, Groening credits his

upbringing in Oregon and the experiences of his family. Indeed, each member of

the Simpson clan is named after someone in Groening’s own family – except one.



A. We asked you

which member of the titular family from the animated sitcom The Simpsons

is not named after someone from series creator Matt Groening’s own family. The

answer is Bart Simpson, whose name is an anagram for “brat” rather

than a direct reference to the Groening clan. Homer and Marge Simpson are named

after Groening’s parents, Lisa and Maggie are named after Groening’s younger

sisters, and Abraham “Grandpa” Simpson is named after Groening’s

youngest son (his oldest son is also named Homer). Despite the original name,

Groening claims that Bart represents both himself and his brother Mark.

Groening’s older sister Patty enjoys a namesake in Marge Simpson’s older

sister, Patty Bouvier.


Yeah, it’s pretty lame. In the intervening years, I’ve had to up the

quality level quite a bit, which I like to think played some small part

in saving the mail from cancellation. Of course, I could

also be the

reason the mail was considered for cancellation in the first place.

Geek Trivia was one of the very first e-mail newsletters TechRepublic

had ever launched, and it

existed for quite a while before I ever worked here. When I was hired

on as an e-mail editor in March of 2001, one of my first assignments

was as a fact-checker on Geek Trivia. Back then, a great guy named

Gregory Aye was contracted to write Geek Trivia, and he did a fine job.

A few months into my editing gig, we started rearranging our

contributor budgets and–not surprisingly–Geek Trivia was not a high

priority, especially as the “anything goes” spirit of the dot-com rush

died down. My editor asked if I would consider writing Geek

Trivia–temporarily–just to keep it alive until we sorted through the

contributor priorities. I agreed, and four years and 200 articles

later, I’m still at it. Geek Trivia has been up for cancellation more

than once since then, which is why it has been reduced from

thrice-weekly to just weekly (but I and my editors beefed it up in

compensation, largely without telling anybody). Then in 2003 we

actually cancelled the mail, only to receive an outcry of support from

the fans that forced us to revive it.

That was sweet. Seriously, one of the great experiences of my life.

Probably the only time I really felt like my writing had an impact on

people, even if it was only as a disposable distraction.

In the subsequent year and a half, I’ve fought to keep Geek Trivia, even

though I’m now a Community Admin and no longer a part of the e-mail

operations here at TechRepublic. I imagine I’ll keep doing it as long

as I work here, or at least as long as they let me. It’s very, very

hard work, but I’ve had way too much fun doing it. I guess like some of

my fans, I’m just way too fond of Geek Trivia to ever let it go. Here’s

to another four years.

[Postscript–A special mention should be made of my past and present

editors, Mary Weilage and Jenna Marks, respectively. These two have

done as much if not more than I ever have to ensure the quality of the

Geek Trivia product, despite the immensely disproportionate workload

this mail requires (I research weird crap). Of course, these two ladies

have been fighting the good fight in our newsletter operations for

longer than I’ve been an employee, and most good things that happen in

that area have their lovely fingerprints upon them. I couldn’t have

done it without them.]