The five strangest questions I get asked by readers

As someone who has been writing about technology and a few other subjects since the mid-1990s, I tend to get a lot of email from readers. Most of the messages that I receive are pretty mundane and are along the lines of what you would probably expect. For example, I just finished answering a message from someone who was having some issues with configuring a DNS server. Even so, not all of the messages that I receive from readers pertain to these types of technical questions. I also tend to get a lot of messages that fall well outside of what might be considered to be the norm. Sure, I am periodically contacted by an alleged Nigerian prince who wishes to speak with me about a sizable inheritance, and of course, I also get one off messages from seemingly disturbed individuals. Putting all of those types of messages aside, however, there are some really bizarre things that people contact me about with surprising regularity. I thought that it might be fun to do something out of the ordinary and talk about some of the more outlandish and strangest questions that I get asked on a regular basis. As far as I can remember, this is the first time that I have publicly answered any of these questions.

1. Can you give me certification exam answers?

This one probably shouldn’t surprise me, and yet it still does. From time to time, I have people who contact me because they want the answers to a certification exam that they are about to take.

These messages no doubt stem from the years that I spent writing exam prep guides, and from my role as a Subject Matter Expert in the development of various IT certification exams many years ago.

Let me just say that I do not have the answers to your exam. No one does. Microsoft, for example, makes sure that every exam is different. Microsoft creates a large pool of questions for each exam, and those who are taking an exam are presented with a sampling of questions that have been drawn from the much larger pool. It is impossible to predict which questions will be asked as a part of an exam.

Even if I did have an exam answer key, handing out exam answers would destroy my professional credibility, and would probably also get me blacklisted from the tech industry.

2. Can you send me free stuff?

strangest questions

At least once a week I get a message from someone who wants free stuff. The first time that this happened, it totally caught me off guard. About two months into my first writing gig, someone sent me an email message that reminded me of some of the letters that children write to Santa Clause. The message consisted primarily of a long list of all of the things that the guy wanted for me to send him. The list included books, software, and even a few laptop computers.

At the time, I remember thinking that the message was one of the most audacious things that I had ever read. Since that time, however, it has become somewhat routine for me to receive email messages from people who are trying to score free stuff. Admittedly, it has become increasingly rare for me to receive “letters to Santa.” However, I do still get a lot of letters from people who want free software licenses.

As much as I wish that I could grant these types of requests, the software companies almost never give me free licenses to pass out to my readers.

3. Would you run for public office?

I have no idea why, but every couple of months I will get an email message from a reader who wants to know if I would ever consider running for public office. I am flattered by the idea that someone would consider voting for me, but I have absolutely no political aspirations. If I am to be brutally honest, I find politics to be extraordinarily boring, and I consider myself to be completely apolitical.

4. Is there a celebrity connection?

Buster, not Brien. Credit: Wikimedia

The one nontechnical question that I get asked more often than any other is whether I am related to Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants. As far as I know, I don’t have any family connections to Buster nor to any of the other famous Poseys. Even so, my last name did lead to one particularly amusing incident.

A few years back, I had to travel to San Jose to meet with someone from one of the big tech companies. Because of some other things that I had going that day, I had to take an evening flight from the East Coast. Since there weren’t any San Jose flights that fit my schedule, the company flew me into San Francisco instead and had a limo waiting to take me to San Jose upon my arrival.

When I got to San Francisco, I made my way to baggage claim and found the driver holding a sign that said B. Posey (The sign also contained the name of the company that I was meeting with.) I introduced myself to the driver and had no idea why he looked so disappointed until he told me that he thought that he had been sent to pick up Buster Posey.

5. Why do you perpetuate NASA’s scam?

strangest questions

As many of you know, I have spent the last several years training to fly on a commercial space mission. Shortly after being selected for the mission, I began receiving email messages from people who claim that the Earth is flat and that space travel is impossible.

I have to admit that I was completely blindsided by these messages. Over the years, I have met a few people who believed that the moon landings were a hoax, but I had no idea that there are so many people who believe in the flat Earth theory. I was also really surprised by how aggressive some of the flat-Earthers are.

In all fairness, I have not yet been to space, so I cannot claim to have personally verified that the Earth is round. Even so, I know quite a few test pilots and astronauts who have seen the curvature of the Earth. I have seen some of the pictures that they have taken with their own personal cameras. Another friend frequently performs high altitude balloon experiments, and I have seen some of his unedited video footage.

Even if you were to completely disregard photos and videos, the evidence for a round Earth is overwhelming. The Earth’s shape plays a major role in everything from seasons to weather patterns.

The science of orbital mechanics is also based around a round Earth, and the Earth’s shape can be mathematically proven. By using various mathematical formulas, it is even possible to accurately predict when the International Space Station will pass overhead (and if you step outside you can see it). Incidentally, if you would like to know more about orbital mechanics, you can download a free copy of my book, “Conversational Rocket Science.”

If you really want to see for yourself that the Earth is round, just go for a boat ride on the ocean and keep an eye on the tall buildings on shore. If the Earth were flat, the buildings would simply appear to be getting smaller as you get further away from them. Because the Earth is round, however, sailing toward the horizon causes you to lose sight of the bottom of the buildings before you lose sight of the upper floors.

Hopefully, you’ve found this article to be lighthearted and fun. Please know that I am in no way trying to disrespect any of the people who have asked me these questions.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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