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mike's web log/quotes

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And so to bed.
-- Samuel Pepys   general


Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
-- Samuel Johnson   general | education


The only cats worth anything are the cats who take chances.
-- Thelonius Monk   general | music


Never trust someone who can't say sorry to a dog.
-- James Lileks   advice | general


You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.
-- Albert Einstein   writing | general | education


The beginning and endings of all human undertakings are untidy, the building of a house, the writing of a novel, the demolition of a bridge, and, eminently, the finish of a voyage.
-- John Galsworthy   writing | general


Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.
-- Shakespeare   advice | general


Playfully doing something difficult, whether useful or not, that is hacking.
-- Richard Stallman   general | computers


Life would be dull without mistakes.
-- Oscar Wilde   general


Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.
-- Confucius   advice | general | education


What is past is prologue.
-- Shakespeare   general


I have two very cogent reasons for not printing any list of subscribers; - one, that I have lost all the names, - the other, that I have spent all the money.
-- Samuel Johnson   general | funny


I yam what I yam.
-- Popeye   advice | general | funny


I have known happiness, for I have done good work.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson   general


No one ever says, "It's only a game" when their team is winning.
-- George Carlin   general | funny | sports


Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement.
-- Mullah Nasrudin   education | general


A little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanations.
-- Anon.   general


I am not impressed by the Ivy League establishments. Of course they graduate the best -- it's all they'll take, leaving to others the problem of educating the country. They will give you an education the way the banks will give you money -- provided you can prove to their satisfaction that you don't need it.
-- Peter DeVries   education | general | funny


There's no such thing as fun for the whole family.
-- Jerry Seinfeld   general | funny


Methus'lah lived 900 years
Methus'lah lived 900 years
But who calls that livin'
When no gal will give in
To no man what's 900 years

-- Ira Gerschwin   general | funny


It comes as a shock when the truth dawns that every young person is just an older person waiting to happen.
-- Ben Elton   general


An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.
-- Niels Bohr   general


Advertising can be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.
-- Stephen Butler Leacock   general | funny


The world and the universe is an extremely beautiful place, and the more we understand about it the more beautiful does it appear.
-- Richard Dawkins   general | science


I don't need time. What I need is a deadline.
-- Duke Ellington   general | funny | advice


If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the military, nothing is safe.
-- Lord Salisbury   general


In order for something to become clean, something else must become dirty.
-- Imbesi's Law of Conservation of Filth   general | funny | laws


Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.
-- Samuel Johnson   general


Everything wants to be mediocre, so what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such a fucking act of will.
-- Ira Glass   general


The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.
-- Gabriel Zaid   reading | general


Most people prefer internal mechanisms for determining for themselves what is right and what is wrong, but perceive other people as needing to be regulated by laws.
-- Antanas Mockus, mayor of Bogotá, Columbia   general


The scientific handicapper will never beat the horses, but he will learn to be alert for subtleties that escape the less trained eye. To weigh and evaluate a vast grid of information, much of it meaningless, and to arrive at sensible, if erroneous, conclusions, is a skill not to be sneezed at.
-- Richard Russo   general


The world is spectacularly, unfairly biased towards morning people. I suspect that is because they got up first and had it all organised that way before anyone else was out of bed.
-- Charles Miller   funny | general


The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.
-- Oscar Wilde   general


First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure.
-- Mark Twain   general | funny


Have you ever noticed? Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac.
-- George Carlin   funny | general


Let me just say that, if you ever have the choice of putting your words in powerpoint or having them carved into 30-foot high marble, I'd go for the marble.
-- Peter Norvig   writing | general


What the English depict with great talent is bizarre characters, because they have lots of those amongst them.
-- Madame de Staël   general


We find nothing so consistently absorbing as our own unprecedented existence.
-- Evan S. Connell   general


There is no one, no matter how wise he is, who has not in his youth said things or done things that are so unpleasant to recall in later life that he would expunge them entirely from his memory if that were possible.
-- Marcel Proust   advice | general


One cat just leads to another.
-- Ernest Hemingway   general


I had a childhood. It's no big deal.
-- David Mamet   general


Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprung up.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.   general


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.
-- Bertrand Russell   general | politics | religion


Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
-- Albert Einstein   general | politics | religion


The worst hand in poker is the second-best one at the table.
-- Andy Bellin   sports | general


Now is the time for all good men to come to.
-- Walt Kelly (Pogo)   general | politics


Being good at anything is like figure skating -- the definition of being good at it is being able to make it look easy. But it never is easy. Ever.
-- Hugh MacLeod   advice | general


It has been remarked that Mr. Pecksniff was a moral man. So he was. Perhaps there never was a more moral man than Mr. Pecksniff: especially in his conversation and correspondence. Some people likened him to a direction-post, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there.
-- Charles Dickens   general


A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.
-- Theodore Roosevelt   education | general


I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different.
-- Kurt Vonnegut   general | advice


Most people are scared to be free. They want someone else to tell them how to be free.
-- Cornell West   general | advice


Getting lost can do wonders in helping one figure out how things actually work.
-- Jenny Berger   education | general | advice


Sherlock Holmes stories have done more damage to people's understanding of human intelligence than anyone other than Rene Descartes.
-- Clay Shirky   general


Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
-- Charles Darwin   education | general


Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do.
-- Donald Knuth   general | computers


The way I see it, being dead is not terribly far off from being on a cruise ship. Most of your time is spent lying on your back. The brain has shut down. The flesh begins to soften. Nothing much new happens, and nothing is expected of you.
-- Mary Roach   general | funny


I swear to God, the longer I live here, the tinier the world gets, but as long as it keeps buying me beers, it's okay by me.
-- Sarah Brown   general


A person usually has two reasons for doing something: a good reason and the real reason.
-- Thomas Carlyle   general | funny


There is nothing sadder than mass indivdualism.
-- "Mike"   general | politics


When doing botanical work in South America, steer clear of the monkeys: They will throw sticks at you with surprising accuracy.
-- Botanist, Tricks of the Trade   general | advice


The most difficult thing in the world is to know how to do a thing and to watch somebody else doing it wrong, without comment.
-- T.H. White   general


I was such an idiot just a few short years ago. But then, it's been my experience so far that no matter how old I get, I was always an idiot a few years ago.
-- Jerry Kindall   general


I bought a TV. It's like being born again, but this time retarded.
-- Rory Blyth   general | funny


He had to comfort himself with the firm conviction that most of what he objected to in the world at large was not the result of people reading the wrong books, but rather of not reading at all.
-- Richard Russo   general | reading


Women can actually love us for ourselves, bless their hearts, even when we can't love ourselves.
-- Roger Ebert   general | advice


People buy with emotion & justify with reason always.
-- Hanan Levin   general


Most of us only get hungrier as we get older -- more eager for experience, for emotional danger.
-- David Denby   general


Going forward with your life is not always a matter of having your eye on some goal. You can also just be going down a road watching out for potholes.
-- Michael Broschat   general


One of my greatest anxieties in life is the possibility of being at the mercy of a man less intelligent than me, yet highly skilled in an arena of which I have no knowledge.
-- J. Robert Lennon   general


What surprised me about this job was the constant exposure to poor housekeeping.
-- Coroner Stories   general


Using the word accident tends to make people think safety is a matter of luck, and it isn't.
-- Motorcycle Safety Foundation   general | advice


Sort of weird that when you get to be fifty years old and you are involved with a woman with whom you have no matrimonial tie, the moniker for the relationship becomes that which you used in high school.
-- Bob Reselman   general | language


Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
-- Hanlon's Razor   general | advice | laws


Nature is cruelly parsimonious with pleasure.
-- Cocaine.org   general


Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable. [...] One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty.
-- Milton Glaser   general | advice | religion | politics


When I ask people what they regret most about high school, they nearly all say the same thing: that they wasted so much time.
-- Paul Graham   advice | general | education


If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him do it. However, the procrastinator can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something more important.
-- John Perry   general | funny | advice


I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an Islander, that I think there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us.
-- Lord Byron   advice | general | education


Facts don't really make a huge difference in people's behavior.
-- Beth Freeman   general


Mathematicians, when they work, engage in intensely serious play. They follow their curiosity into problems that interest them and toward the smell of a solution.
-- Richard Preston   general


If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
-- Thomas Pynchon   general | politics


The plural of anecdote is not data.
-- Orac   general | politics


The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.
-- Arthur Schopenhauer   general


Most institutions demand unqualified faith; but the institution of science makes skepticism a virtue.
-- Robert King Merton   general | religion


Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
-- Steven Wright   funny | general | education


It's an odd phenomenon that when you know something about technology, people assume you know everything about technology.
-- Chris Clements   computers | general


People have children for all sorts of reasons, I know, but one of those reasons must be that children growing up make you feel that life has a sense of momentum -- kids send you on a journey.
-- Nick Hornby   general


So often we rush through life, never pausing to notice the little things. The taste of a flower. The feel of wet mud against the roof of your mouth. The sound of one foot clapping. But it is these trivial things that make life worth living. Plus money, sex and liquor.
-- Leon Bambrick   general | funny


Hofstadter's Law: It always takes longer than you think, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
-- Douglas Hofstadter   general | advice | laws


Placing an anti-procrastination tool on the internet is like hosting an alcoholics anonymous meeting inside a brewery.
-- Leon Bambrick   general | funny


How often in the past week did anyone offer you something from the heart? It's there in poetry. Forget everything you ever read about poetry, it doesn't matter -- poetry is the last preserve of honest speech and the outspoken heart.
-- Garrison Keillor   writing | general


goodnight you cats
Now is the time for all good cats to go to sleep
there are things to do tomorrow
And you can do them then
but now its time to sleep
and you can dream

-- martha the cat   writing | general | advice


Information is the currency of the Internet. As a medium, the Internet is brilliantly efficient at shifting information from the hands of those who have it into the hands of those who do not. [...] The Internet has accomplished what no consumer advocate could: it has vastly shrunk the gap between the experts and the public.
-- D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics   general | computers


Vocations which we wanted to pursue, but didn't, bleed, like colors, on the whole of our existence.
-- Honore de Balzac   advice | general


Its amazing how much I can remember of the worst music of the seventies when I struggle to remember the passwords to my many different computer accounts.
-- "Ancarett"   general


I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.
-- Poul Anderson   general | funny | laws


An answer (notice that I didn't write "the answer") to a question has become so easy to obtain today that when we are in a situation apart from the easy access to answers to which we have become accustomed, we will often choose not to pursue an answer, perhaps even to ignore the question.
-- Michael Broschat   general


Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out.
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.

-- Robert Frost, "Mending Wall"   general


On two occasions I have been asked, "Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
-- Charles Babbage   general | computers


Nothing so soothes our vanity as a display of greater vanity in others; it makes us vain, in fact, of our modesty.
-- Louis Kronenberger   general


I don't know how people can stand to drive at twenty miles an hour. It's dull. Really, really dull.
-- Rory Blyth   general | funny


Just because technology makes it possible for us to work 10 times faster than we used to doesn't mean we should do it.
-- Tony Long   computers | general


The inconvenience of office moves brought me to a realization. When you're young, you want to have as much stuff as possible. "The kid who dies with the most toys wins." As you grow older, you realize that material goods are a burden and you try to get rid of them in order to simplify your life.
-- Raymond Chen   general | advice


Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality.
-- Theodor Adorno   general | religion | politics


For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.
-- Alice Kahn   general | funny


If someone acts decently in the personals context, they are definitely a good person in real life, because the personals bring out the worst in everyone.
-- Oh, Please   general


One way to make a million dollars would be to work for the Post Office your whole life, and save every penny of your salary. Imagine the stress of working for the Post Office for fifty years. In a startup you compress all this stress into three or four years. You do tend to get a certain bulk discount if you buy the economy-size pain, but you can't evade the fundamental conservation law. If starting a startup were easy, everyone would do it.
-- Paul Graham   general | computers


I like going to bookstores. It's like going to a party and seeing all your old friends.
-- My friend wife Sarah   general


Nothing fascinates the American public so much as the notion that what you eat rather than how much you eat affects your health.
-- Peter Libby, Harvard cardiologist   general


Paper's Law: It's not that simple.
-- Herb Paper, via John Lawler   general | laws


Sure, anger has its bright moments -- you haven't really lived until you've known that special joy of hurling a chair across the room -- but it's also quite time-consuming.
-- Aaron Swartz   general | advice


It is a right, which all free men claim, that they are entitled to complain when they are hurt. They have a right publicly to remonstrate against the abuses of power in the strongest terms, to put their neighbors upon their guard against the craft or open violence of men in authority, and to assert with courage the sense they have of the blessings of liberty, the value they put upon it, and their resolution at all hazards to preserve it.
-- Andrew Hamilton   general | politics


Tuchman's Law: The fact of being reported mulitplies the apparent extent of any deplorable development by five- to ten-fold (or any figure the reader would care to supply).
-- Barbara Tuchman, historian   general | politics | laws


One of the best ways to get to know someone is to look at their bookshelf.
-- Kathy Sierra   general | advice


Phishing is a major problem because there really is no patch for human stupidity.
-- Mike Danseglio   general | computers


Stress is directly proportional to the delta between who you are and who you are projecting to be.
-- Jnan Dash   general | advice


I would have to say that most instructions I come across are unimportant and some are harmful. Most instructions I get about software development process, I would say, would be harmful if I believed them and followed them. Most software process instructions I encounter are fairy tales, both in the sense of being made up and in the sense of being cartoonish. Some things that look like instructions, such as "do not try this at home" or "take out the safety card and follow along," are not properly instructions at all, they are really just ritual phrases uttered to dispel the evil spirits of legal liability.
-- James Bach   writing | general


Good luck exploring the infinite abyss!
-- Garden State   general


If you don't know whether you're a bad manager, then you're a bad manager. It's the default state, the start-state, for managers everywhere. So just assume you're bad, and start working to get better at it.
-- Steve Yegge   general | advice


It's clear that a high IQ alone probably won't get you very far in life--unless you find a job taking intelligence tests.
-- Steve Sampson   general


Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at the moment.
-- Robert Benchley   general | funny


For civilization to survive, man must remain civilized.
-- Rod Serling   politics | general


A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt   general | advice


Perhaps the most fundamental truth about nature is beyond the human intellect, the way that quantum mechanics is beyond the intellect of a dog.
-- Jim Holt   general


The real reason I want to go to a University -- and the reason, when you get right down to it, everybody else seems to be interested in as well -- is the people. I want to go to a place filled with people like me, but smarter; a place where you can't help but learn.
-- Aaron Swartz   general | advice | education


The best that modern science can say for sexual abstinence is that it's harmless when practiced in moderation.
-- Alan Farnham   general


To be unacquainted with what has passed in the world, before we came into it ourselves, is to be always children.
-- Cicero   general | advice


As someone who observed a graduate department of English from the inside for six years, I can assure you that any correlation between the award of a Ph.D. and actual erudition is often coincidental.
-- John McIntyre   general | funny | education


One of the best things about teaching undergraduates is how much you learn.
-- Mark Liberman   general | education


The way I figure it, the only reason to grow up is so you can afford to buy yourself all the crap your parents wouldn't buy you when you were a kid.
-- Jeff Atwood   general


Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.
-- Richard Feynman   general | religion | science


It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be approached without some humor and some bewilderment.
-- Freeman Dyson   general | advice


The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.
-- Carl Sagan   general


The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.
-- Frank Herbert   general | education


There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.
-- George Washington   general | advice | politics | education


If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
-- Isaac Asimov   general | education


I can tell you that there is this multi-billion dollar automobile industry that works on this principle: people want to be a little better than their neighbour, but not so much better that they are different than their neighbour.
-- Reg Braithwaite   general


A new week always seems such a hopeful thing before reality sets in.
-- Mike Gunderloy   general | funny


One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.
-- A. A. Milne   general


Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways.
-- Samuel McChord Crothers   general


One of the hazards of rearranging books is that it is nearly impossible to pick up a book without opening it and reading a bit. This may be pleasant and instructive, but it does rather slow the process down.
-- Bill Poser   general | funny


I have reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland

-- Paul Simon   general | religion


The more I learn from my teachers and mentors, the deeper I am in debt for all they have taught to me.
-- Rajesh Setty   general | education


Some people may sit back and say, "I want to solve this problem" and they sit down and say, "How do I solve this problem?" I don't. I just move around in the mathematical waters, thinking about things, being curious, interested, talking to people, stirring up ideas; things emerge and I follow them up. Or I see something which connects up with something else I know about, and I try to put them together and things develop. I have practically never started off with any idea of what I'm going to be doing or where it's going to go. I'm interested in mathematics; I talk, I learn, I discuss and then interesting questions simply emerge. I have never started off with a particular goal, except the goal of understanding mathematics.
-- Michael Atiyah   general


I've tried management a time or three and ended up unhappy every time.
-- Mike Gunderloy   general | computers


I'd always assumed that the people who lived in those fancy houses in the suburbs were financially better off than I was, and only once I'd joined them did I come to understand that it's all just a more sophisticated and elaborate way of being broke.
-- Jonathan Tropper   general


We cannot allow engineers to build products for an idealized rational user when real humans are irrational: we must design for the way users actually behave.
-- Jakob Nielsen, "The Paradox of the Active User"   computers | general


If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.
-- Charles Kettering   general | advice


I take the first approach that jumps into my mind and run with it, no matter how complicated it may be. This is the beauty of group work, because my overly elaborate and complicated solution usually ends up as inspiration for someone else's.
-- Son Zack   general | computers


Dogs are my favorite role models. I want to work like a dog, doing what I was born to do with joy and purpose. I want to play like a dog, with total, jolly abandon. I want to love like a dog, with unabashed devotion and complete lack of concern about what people do for a living, how much money they have, or how much they weigh. The fact that we still live with dogs, even when we don't have to herd or hunt our dinner, gives me hope for humans and canines alike.
-- Martha Beck   general


Feature matrices suck. A feature matrix says: "Here is what everyone else is doing. To be competitive you must do the same." Where's the differentiation? Where's the innovation in doing exactly what everyone else does, ticking the boxes, shaving off one or two points in each row so you get the green tick?
-- Charles Miller   computers | general


[I]f once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination. Once begin upon this downward path, you never know where you are to stop. Many a man has dated his ruin from some murder or other that perhaps he thought little of at the time.
-- Thomas De Quincey   general | funny


I'm happy to explain that you can still be a freak and a gainfully employed grown-up.
-- Jillian Venters   general | advice


The simpler the problem at hand, the more people think they're experts in it.
-- Asa Dotzler   general | laws


It's shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult.
-- Frank Herbert   general | education


My mother would always point out that Jesus didn't tell anyone what to do. He simply told parables. It was up to each of us to draw the lesson that we needed. Then she would prove that she wasn't Jesus by telling me exactly what to do.
-- Megan Sukys   religion | general


Teacher: a capacity for enthusiasm for the obvious.
-- Theodore Roethke   general | funny | education


Making up stupid songs is one of the best reasons to have children.
-- Kevin Sampsell   general


Be not too hasty to trust or admire the teachers of morality; they discourse like angels but they live like men.
-- Samuel Johnson   general | advice


Such as hold absurd tenets are seldom dangerous. Perhaps they are never dangerous, but when they are oppressed.
-- John Witherspoon   general | politics | religion


The reality is that everything in science is tentative. Tomorrow's experiment, observation, or theory may well show that current beliefs need revision or replacement. However, our minds work differently. Most of us usually take what we hear or see and accept it as "fact." Once we do this, it is very hard to change our belief on the subject.
-- Neil Comins   general


The days are long, but the years are short.
-- Gretchen Rubin   advice | general


Let me tell you, I've been emotionally involved with companies before, and it rarely ends well. I find that corporations never reciprocate your love in quite the same way.
-- Jeff Atwood   general | computers


Hierarchical and sequential structures, especially popular since Gutenberg, are usually forced and artificial. Intertwingularity is not generally acknowledged—people keep pretending they can make things hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can't.
-- Ted Nelson   computers | writing | general


It's doubtful that people on the whole are more ignorant or stupid than they used to be. Ignorance and stupidity were in ample supply among the populace when I was a young man, as far as direct observation goes, and the literature going back to Plato and further provides supplemental evidence beyond dispute.
-- John McIntyre   general | language


An ant is incredibly strong for its size. But nobody uses ants to do useful work, because they all run around in different directions.
-- Mike Mayberry   general


What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
-- Gretchen Rubin   general | advice


You don't have to be good at everything.
-- Gretchen Rubin   general | advice


Learn to fail with pride — and do so fast and cleanly. Maximise trial and error — by mastering the error part.
-- Nassim Nicholas Taleb   general | advice


You cannot think when you're ecstatic.
-- Garrett Lisi   general


Academics are always suckers for arguments that extol the virtues of superior intelligence.
-- Charles Morris, writing about classic liberal economics of the early 60s   general


I've shaken things up with a redhead. I learned my lesson.
-- "Don Draper"   general | advice


What existential journey hasn't been aided by chemistry?
-- David Shields   general


We are never more culturally primal than at breakfast.
-- J. Maarten Troost   general


When the Sun-Times appointed me film critic, I hadn't taken a single film course. One of the reasons I started teaching was to teach myself.
-- Roger Ebert   general | education


The Internet owes its success to two pillars of human activity: masturbation and procrastination.
-- Chris Wilson   general | computers | funny


Leadership is like pornography. I can't define it, but I know it when I see it.
-- Colleague David   general


We have a problem with human nature.
-- Robert Shiller, economist, about bubbles   general


You know, in many people's cases, they decide they want to pass most of their wealth on to their children, and that's a perfectly legitimate choice. In my case, I think it's better for society and better for my children if the vast bulk of the wealth that I'm lucky enough to be shepherding at this point, if that goes back to causes that are important, things like access to technology, education, medical research, social services and a variety of things.
-- Bill Gates   general


The skills proper to a college education are critical thinking, rigorous interpretation, and sensitivity to perspectives, alternatives and complexities. Such skills don't pay off immediately and they're in a sense value-neutral, but they're what we need to become more thoughtful, reflective, effective, and actively moral people in the longer run.
-- Carl Dyke   education | general


When I think "What is my positive impact on the world?", I realize that Microsoft is this giant lever that you can do something that immediately affects a huge swath of the world. That really floats my boat.
-- John Platt, who helped develop ClearType   computers | general


When you try to measure people's performance, you have to take into account how they are going to react. Inevitably, people will figure out how to get the number you want at the expense of what you are not measuring, including things you can't measure, such as morale and customer goodwill.
-- Joel Spolsky (summarizing Robert Austin)   general | advice


What I began to realize was that in economics we are always making silly assumptions; it's just that some of them have been made so often that they come to seem natural. And so one should not reject a model as silly until one sees where its assumptions lead.
-- Paul Krugman   education | general


I just tricked my son into eating a corn dog by calling it a lollipop. Parenting is essentially just a series of lateral thinking puzzles.
-- Matthew Baldwin   funny | general


It's to the detriment of other companies that they believe employees should look a certain way, act a certain way, speak a certain way, go to certain schools, or study this certain discipline in order to be a fit for their company.
-- Aradia Correnti, about working at Microsoft   general | working


All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.
-- John Stuart Mill   general | politics


Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.
-- Joseph Wood Krutch   general | funny


In the early days, the chief engineer was very often also the chief test pilot. This tended to result in the elimination of poor engineering.
-- Igor Sikorsky, aviation pioneer   general | funny


We love the objects we think with; we think with the objects we love.
-- Sherry Turkle, MIT   technology | general


Purists will fret, but they enjoy that. It gives their lives meaning.
-- John McIntyre   language | general | writing | editing


It's amazing how many early advancements in math were based on gambling. I guess it's sort of the same historical relationship between video technology and pornography. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
-- Jeff Atwood   general | funny


Once a group gets large, it has to dumb down. We know this with regard to corporations. Same rules apply to religions.
-- Paul Denlinger   religion | general


Some of the best things in life aren't free.
-- Gretchen Rubin   general


The blues is as indestructible as titanium and malleable as gold.
-- Kevin Whitehead   general | music


I mess up all the time. It's how I know things.
-- Carol Fisher Saller   general | advice


Truth might be stranger than fiction, but it needs a better editor.
-- David Benioff   general | writing | editing


But though I am much against too much spending, yet I do think it best to enjoy some degree of pleasure, now that we have health, money and opportunity, rather than leave pleasures to old age or poverty, when we cannot have them so properly.
-- Samuel Pepys   general | advice


There are three things men can do with women: love them, suffer for them, or turn them into literature. I've had my share of success and failure at all three.
-- Stephen Stills   general


Being an adult can be a very stressful way of living.
-- Seventh grader   advice | general


As a college instructor, I am long past thinking that students will heed my advice. God knows I've tried. So with each new class I limit myself to one saying, the most useful one I know: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." What most students don't know is that showing up will be the hardest part about college.
-- Brian Burrell   advice | general


Young people don't know anything, especially that they're young.
-- "Don Draper"   general


Where you don't have demonstrated collective excellence, you have process.
-- "Mini-Microsoft"   general


Every man is rich or poor, according to the proportion between his enjoyments and his desires; any enlargement of wishes is therefore equally destructive to happiness with the diminution of possession; and he that teaches another to long for what he shall never obtain, is no less an enemy to his quiet, than if he had robbed him of part of his patrimony.
-- Samuel Johnson   general


I can't complain
but sometimes I still do
Life's been good to me
so far

-- Joe Walsh   general


The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.
-- Jessica Hische   advice | general


Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.
-- Richard Wright   general


People don't do right because of the fear of God or love of him. You do the right thing because the world doesn't make sense if you don't.
-- Dorothy Allison   general | religion


Email is the cockroach of communication mediums: you just can't kill it.
-- Jeff Atwood   computers | general


The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.
-- Bertrand Russell   general


I feel like being wrong is really important to doing decent work. To do any kind of creative work well, you have to run at stuff knowing that it's usually going to fail. You have to take that into account and you have to make peace with it. We spend a lot of money and time on stuff that goes nowhere.
-- Ira Glass   general


Learning from experience is the worst possible way to learn something. Learning from experience is one up from remembering. That's not great. The best way to learn something is when someone else figures it out and tells you: "Don't go in that swamp. There are alligators in there."
-- Clay Shirky   general | advice


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.
-- Anna Quindlen   general


I don't have much control over the big realities, such as the economy, but I'm an expert at programming my own delusions. I make no apology for that. A well-crafted delusion can be a delicious guilty pleasure. And best of all, it's totally free.
-- Scott Adams   general


One likes to think that literature has the power to render comprehensible different kinds of unhappiness. If it can't do that, what's it good for?
-- Elif Batuman   general | writing


Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise.
-- David Brooks   advice | general


In criminal court, you see bad people at their best; in family court, you see good people at their worst.
-- Eugene Volokh (attr. to others)   general | funny


If you read or hear about a scientific result in the mainstream media, the odds are depressingly good that it's nonsense.
-- Mark Liberman   general


1) Everything that’s already in the world when you're born is just normal; 2) Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it; 3) Anything that gets invented after you're thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it's been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
-- Douglas Adams   general | funny


When I see what makes me happy as a designer, the easiest answer, of course, is is to do more of the stuff that I like to do and much less of the stuff that I don't like to do.
-- Stefan Sagemeister   general | advice


The curse of being several decades into this earthly existence is that it's easy to tell from the title when a book is complete bullshit.
-- Scott Adams   funny | general


The usual way in which we plan today for tomorrow is in yesterday's vocabulary.
-- Edsger W. Dykstra (PDF)   language | general


Litigation is ridiculously expensive, hopelessly unpredictable, and does a piss-poor job at vindicating values like "justice" or "fairness" or "truth."
-- "Ken"   general


Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
-- Mark Twain   funny | general


I get plenty indignant. But I don’t let it escalate to outrage. If you get outraged, you never learn anything.
-- Nathan Jurgenson's father   politics | general | advice


If you want rapid adoption, keep technology simple.
-- Graham Atkinson   general | advice | technology


Do not fear the unfamiliar: learn.
-- The Spaceage Portal of Sentence Discovery   advice | general


If you have a deep-seated need to be loved and admired every day, you shouldn't be in politics. You should go work at a pet store.
-- Michael Nutter, mayor of Philadelphia   politics | general | advice


By the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it.
-- George Orwell   general | writing


If you look at that blank canvas and say, "Now I’m going to create a masterpiece" — that's just foolhardy. You just have to make the best painting you can, and if you're lucky, people will get the message.
-- Susan Kare, designer of many of the Mac's original icons   general | advice


Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.
("Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.")

-- Anon.   language | general | funny


An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't.
-- Anatole France   general


At a certain point, we need to hold people responsible for what they choose to fail to know.
-- Mark Liberman   general | education


What is the wisdom of age but a condition of perfect indifference to the lineaments and paraphernalia of youth.
-- Howard Jacobson   general


As any scientist can tell you, when confronted with two possible theories, the scientific method dictates that we must go with the one that is awesome.
-- Juan Arteaga & Danny Harkins   general | science


It would seem that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, well, the facts.
-- "Angie"   general | science | politics


My interest in education is unglamorous. I don't have an enormous desire to help children, but I have an enormous desire to create better adults.
-- Alan Kay   general | education


I don’t think any 15-year-old girl will turn down the chance to be called beautiful. You don’t realize at that point that you are also going to be called ugly.
-- Paulina Porizkova   general


Mainly, the complaint about the young is that the complainers themselves are no longer young.
-- John McIntyre   general | funny


Thought does not crush to stone.
The great sledge drops in vain.
Truth never is undone;
Its shafts remain.

-- Theodore Roethke   general


You can't damage a person by giving him something to read.
-- Chuck Klosterman   general

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