mike's web log/quotes

advice advice computers editing education funny general language laws music politics reading religion science sports technology working writing (all)

And so to bed.
Samuel Pepys   general

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.
Blaise Pascal   writing | editing

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

You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.
Sam Levenson   advice | funny | education

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

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
Mark Twain   advice | funny

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

Outside of a dog, a book is probably man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx   funny | reading

I think animal testing is a terrible idea; they get all nervous and give the wrong answers.
Hugh Laurie   funny

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

BORE, n. A person who talks when you wish him to listen.
Ambrose Bierce   funny

EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.
Ambrose Bierce   funny

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 never let my schooling interfere with my education.
Mark Twain   advice | funny | education

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

Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
Gene Fowler   writing | funny

Writing a book is an adventure: it begins as an amusement, then it becomes a mistress, then a master, and finally a tyrant.
Winston Churchill   writing

You have what you have not lost;
you have not lost horns;
ergo, you have horns.

Anon.   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

I write books to find out about things.
Rebecca West   writing | education

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

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Thomas Mann   writing

One cannot but be impressed by the amazing hospitality of the English language.
Robert Burchfield   language

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 Gershwin   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

What grammarians say should be has perhaps less influence on what shall be than even the more modest of them realize; usage evolves itself little disturbed by their likes and dislikes. And yet the temptation to show how better use might have been made of the material to hand is sometimes irresistible.
H.W. Fowler   language

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

All the dreams I have in which we are successful are dreams in which we succeed in reducing the Yankees to a more appropriate stature in life.
Bill James   sports | funny

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

A language is never in a state of fixation, but is always changing; we are not looking at a lantern-slide but at a moving picture.
Andrew Lloyd James, linguist   language

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams   funny | writing

Don't get too attached to your deathless prose, because the editor will change it. A good editor will improve your writing, but any editor will change it. In this respect editors are the same as dogs; when they see something new, they simply must mark it with their own scent.
Mike Gunderloy   editing | writing

To know another language is to have a second soul.
Charlemagne   language

My resolve at the age of 61 is to have more fun. Basketball and steam rooms are part of that plan. I am guilty of obsessive work habits, hunkered over a laptop, pushing, pushing, pushing, when a sensible man would know that an hour's break, shooting baskets, walking, steaming, would be good for him and good for the work. Why does one not learn this simple truth, even at the age of 61?
Garrison Keillor   advice

Cringley's Second Law: Ease of use with equivalent performance varies with the square root of the cost of development. That means that to design a computer that's ten times easier to use would cost 100 times as much.
Robert Cringley   computers | laws

It is enough for an author to have written something for it to be true, with no proof other than the power of his talent and the authority of his voice.
Gabriel García Márquez   writing

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

Everyone should have a Louis Jordan record in their medicine cabinet.
Joe Jackson   music

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

People studying literature rarely say anything that would be of the slightest use to those producing it.
Paul Graham   education | writing

One of the things that draws writers to writing is that they can get things right that they got wrong in real life by writing about them.
Tobias Wolff   writing

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

Seven Deadly Sins Rated
Sloth: Sloth is cheap, and easy to get. B+

Gluttony: Gluttony can be hard work. C+

Wrath: Unsociable, bad on the nerves, and drives property values down. D

Lust: Ah, lust. Putting the "deadly" back into the Seven Deadly Sins. B

Pride: My high school counselors were always pushing self-esteem on me. Were they pawns of the Adversary? C

Envy: All you have to do is covet something of someone else's and boom, you're a brimstone hors d'oeuvre. C-

Avarice: Greedy people inevitably end up looking goofy in public. D

Lore Fitzgerald Sjöberg   funny

With sufficient leisure I can compose excellent impromptus.
Jean Jacques Rousseau   writing

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

To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.
Hippocrates, physician   advice

Looking at code you wrote more than two weeks ago is like looking at code you are seeing for the first time.
Alzheimer's Law of Programming (via Dan Hurvitz)   computers | laws

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

Facts might be the best way to substantiate an argument, but lies are the next best thing.
Wes Boyer & Samuel Stoddard   funny

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

Technology smells fear.
William M. Akers [also: #]   computers | technology | funny

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

Go off, you young people, and make a disgrace of yourselves. It will make you better citizens in the end.
Garrison Keillor   advice | funny

I'm thinking I'd like to be God of Atheists, 'cause I'll bet there aren't that many duties, and I really value my free time.
Westur   religion | funny

German has done for consonants what Hawaiian has done for vowels.
Leo Kottke   language | funny

There are 10 types of people in this world—those who read binary and those who don't.
Anon.   computers | funny

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

Novels could be called thought experiments. You invent people, you put them in hypothetical situations, and you decide how they will react. The 'proof' of the experiment is if their behaviour seems interesting, plausible, revealing about human nature.
David Lodge   writing

I don't believe any more than Spinoza did in the utility of denouncing vice, evil, and sin. Why always accuse, why always condemn? That's a sad ethics indeed, for a sad people.
André Comte-Sponville   advice | religion

The cure for the blues is to go to sleep and wake up in the morning. A good night's sleep can change everything. Don't base your life on what you think at 3:00AM.
Garrison Keillor   advice

Luckily language is never in the exclusive control of scholars; it does not belong to them alone, as they are often inclined to believe; it belongs to all who have it as a mother-tongue. It is governed not by elected representatives but by a direct democracy, by the people as a whole assembled in town-meeting.
Brander Matthews   language

The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling.
Paula Poundstone   funny

Author: A fool, who, not content with having bored those who have lived with him, insists on tormenting the generations to come.
Montesquieu   writing | funny

I'd rather be rich than stupid.
Jack Handy   funny

Wherever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship.
Harry S Truman   politics

I'm writing a book. I have all the page numbers down, now I just have to fill in the rest.
Steven Wright   writing | funny

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

Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.
King George V   advice

Happiness is good health and a bad memory.
Ingrid Bergman   advice

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

In the language as it exists clearness is not so easily won. Even under the most favorable conditions, it is exceedingly difficult to attain.
Adams Sherman Hill   language

There's no point going into a discussion unless you assume that the person you are disagreeing with has a clue.
Charles Miller   advice

When there's a schmuck involved, you can't analyze a situation as if there weren't a schmuck involved.
Calvin Trillin   advice

Just because a question is asked does not mean it merits an answer.
Dear Prudence   advice

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

Have fun, and if possible take pictures.
One of my cousins   advice

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

It's sort of romantic to buy a mooshy greeting card for your loved one, but to be really romantic, you should sign it.
Samuel Stoddard   funny

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.
Cornel West   general | advice

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

Here's a piece of advice: if someone proposes a grammatical principle that is violated by the titles of two or more classic novels or stories, you should think twice before paying them money for further advice on grammar and usage.
Mark Liberman   language | advice

Without variables, programs would not be very interesting.
Kenny Kerr   computers

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

The software product cycle is a little like a pregnancy I suppose. The first few months are easy, even enjoyable. The last few weeks are mostly discomfort and pain. But then, the product is finally "born", and the world suddenly seems to make sense again.
Eric Sink   computers | writing

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

Writers like to think that writing is like Arctic exploration or flying the Atlantic solo but really it's more like golf. You've got to go out and do it every day and live by the results. You can brood over it but in the end you've got to take the club out of the bag and take your swing. You hit the ball to where it wants to go, a series of eighteen small steel cups recessed in turf, on a course that others have traversed before you. You are not the first. You accomplish this by practicing an elegant economy you learned from others and thereby overcoming your damn self-consciousness which trips you up every time.
Garrison Keillor   writing

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

Look, you don't get good at writing by deleting adjectives. Writing is difficult and demanding; you can learn to get moderately good at it through decades of practice writing millions of words and critiquing what you've written or having others critique it.
Geoffrey K. Pullum   writing | education

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

Of course, the real problem with software development is the users. It's unbelievable. They've caused problems with every program I've ever written.
Jeff Atwood   computers | advice

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

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary.
James D. Nicoll (#)   language

Let me tell you what a handy life skill blogging is. It's like telling people you are really awesome at filling things up with water. The literary equivalent of the girl with the great personality.
Dusty Scott   writing

Steak and puns: a rare medium done well.
Richard Lederer   language | writing | funny

To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there's no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.
Jack Handy   funny

If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid with regard to external things.
Epictetus   advice | education

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

A writer who fixes too much attention on the correctness of his punctuation, or a reader who does the same, is missing the point: the job of text is to communicate, not satisfy pedantic rule makers.
Michael Quinion   language | writing

Even on the small scale, when you look at any programming organization, the programmers with the most power and influence are the ones who can write and speak in English clearly, convincingly, and comfortably. Also it helps to be tall, but you can't do anything about that.
Joel Spolsky   computers | writing

Sometimes I feel guilty about having a weblog. As hobbies go, it's a pretty narcissistic one, and it takes time away from worthy endeavors like paying bills and cleaning the bathroom.
Becky S   writing

Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.
Viktor Frankl   advice

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

Ask yourself frequently, "Am I having fun?" The answer needn't always be yes. But if it's always no, it's time for a new project or a new career.
Stephen King   writing | advice

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

This process of digging up the details and learning how things work leads down many side streets and to many dead ends, but is fundamental (I think) to understanding something new. Many times in my books I have set out to write how something works, thinking I know how it works, only to write some test programs that lead me to things that I never knew. I try to convey some of these missteps in my books, as I think seeing the wrong solution to a problem (and understanding why it is wrong) is often as informative as seeing the correct solution.
W. Richard Stevens   writing | computers | education

If I wanted slow, buggy, and crash-prone, I would have written it myself.
Jeff Atwood   computers

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

In the beginning there was nothing, and God said, "Let there be light!" Then there was still nothing, but at least you could see it.
Flying Karamazov Brothers   religion | funny

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

Good usage is written on the sand.
Richard Lederer   language

Whenever someone asks me to define love, I usually think for a minute, then I spin around and pin the guy's arm behind his back. Now who's asking the questions?
Jack Handy   funny

If you ever wonder if you will regret not having gone fishing with your dad, shut up and make it happen.
Dusty Scott   advice

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

As for kissing on the first date, you should never date someone whom you would not wish to kiss immediately.
Mr. Blue (Garrison Keillor)   advice

When life hands you lemons, ask for a bottle of tequila and salt.
Richard Harter   advice | funny

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.
Thomas Szasz   advice | education

I have a blog and a search engine, and I am not afraid to use 'em.
Michael Bérubé   writing | funny

Anything worth doing is worth doing nekked.
Graffito at the Tractor Tavern, Seattle   advice | funny

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

You don't have to wait to be an adult. There's no switch inside you that magically flips when you turn a certain age or graduate from some institution. You start being an adult when you decide to take responsibility for your life. You can do that at any age. [...] The only real difference between adults and high school kids is that adults realize they need to get things done, and high school kids don't.
Paul Graham   advice

If all the procrastinator had left to do was to sharpen some pencils, no force on earth could get him to 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

In object oriented systems, there is a bit of mental judo going on whereby you convert a system from imperative statements like "print x" to a more message oriented "to: x; message: go print yourself".
Sam Ruby   computers

Sometimes, writing code means you've failed. So much of what we do already exists, and in more mature, complete form. The real challenge in modern programming isn't sitting down and writing a ton of code; it's figuring out what existing code or frameworks you should be hooking together.
Jeff Atwood   computers

I have nothing against God, except his fan club.
Jenny Berger   religion

90% of success lies in returning phone calls, not being late, following up, and finishing the job on time.
Dusty Scott   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

Anyone who does research knows you have to stay focused on your topic and not go down every interesting avenue you pass, or you will end up wandering aimlessly in attention-deficit limbo.
Ian Frazier   advice | writing

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

In the absence of authentication evidence, clients must assume that all servers are run by evil hackers and servers must assume that all clients are run by evil hackers. Once you accept that fundamental design principle then it becomes much easier to reason about client-server interactions. Think like an evil person!
Eric Lippert on Web security   computers

Try a thing you haven't done three times.
Once, to get over the fear of doing it.
Twice, to learn how to do it.
And the third time, to figure out whether you like it or not.

Robert Evans   advice | education

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

When I was a kid, I remember reading about how democracies ended. What surprised me was how often it was a peaceful takeover. Fascists took power in many places not through force, but through rigged elections, broken rules, and consolidation of power, all hidden behind flags and God and promises of glory.
Bob Harris   politics

The language isn't falling apart. We don't know whether we'll be able to pay for our lunch in 10 years, but we'll certainly be able to order it.
Geoff Nunberg   language

Politicians who act from moral certainty, from the sense that any and all opponents are beyond the pale because they're morally reprobate, have no patience for and no commitment to democracy's limitations to power, its provisions for compromise by its inclusion of different viewpoints at the table, and its commitment to the legitimate right of all contending political factions to be in the majority in some instances.
Michael Bérubé   politics

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.
Mary Schmich   advice | funny

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

To stay young, To save the world, Break the mirror.
Nanao Sakaki   advice

A person almost always burnishes his reputation by shutting up: I learned that as a boy.
Garrison Keillor   advice

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

You save time when you don't need to have an awards ceremony every time a C statement does what it's supposed to do.
Steve McConnell   computers

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

An unfortunate side effect of editing is that you'll find it difficult to simply read ever again.
Judith A. Tarutz   editing

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

The secret to a satisfying career is to make only projects you believe in.
Robert Altman   advice

Nobody is really smart enough to program computers. The only way you'll ever succeed as a software developer is through humility and the Zen concept of beginner's mind: approaching everything as if you were seeing it for the first time. Most of all, that means not being afraid to ask the stupid questions.
Jeff Atwood   computers

The assumption that humanity at large shared the democratic Western idea of freedom was an American delusion.
Barbara Tuchman, historian, on Vietnam   politics

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

War is always about betrayal. It's about betrayal of soldiers by politicians. And it's about betrayal of the young by the old.
Chris Hedges   politics

I think anybody who believes that they understand the will of God and can act as an agent for God is dangerous.
Chris Hedges   religion

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

AJAX: Finally, a technology that can be universally applied to solve any problem, except maybe paranoia, since they won't turn javascript on.
"nate"   computers

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

Whoever builds upon patriotism as a sufficient basis for conducting a long and bloody war will find themselves deceived in the end ... for a time it may of itself push men to action, to bear much, to encounter difficulties, but it will not endure unassisted by interest.
George Washington   politics

Political freedom cannot exist in any land where religion controls the state, and religious freedom cannot exist in any land where the state controls religion.
Samuel James Ervin Jr.   politics | religion

When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kind of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.
Robert T. Pirsig   religion | politics

It's 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

The goal of a GUI is to present the user with as few decision points as possible. Remember the Macintosh dictum that the user should never have to tell the machine anything that it knows or can deduce for itself. "As few as possible decision points" is another way of stating the guiding principle of good UI design for end-users: Allow the user the luxury of ignorance. This does not mean that you can't reward acquired knowledge with more choices and more power; you can and should do that. But the user should also be able to choose to remain ignorant and still get all their basic tasks done. The more thoroughly software developers internalize the truth that real users have better things to do with their time and attention than worship at the shrine of geek technical prowess, the better off everyone will be.
Eric Raymond   computers

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

The rules [of language] are precise and strict and are understood and followed by every speaker of idiomatic English, even though they're not usually taught in school. Fluent speakers don't know they know them and couldn't explain them, say to someone learning the language, but they know immediately when they've been broken. Native speakers pick up the rules for using such idioms by example and experience and only suffer confusion when these real-life rules conflict with the ones that grammarians of an earlier period would have had us believe were correct.
Michael Quinion   language

Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
Herman Goering   politics

Modern English is the Wal-Mart of languages: convenient, huge, hard to avoid, superficially friendly, and devouring all rivals in its eagerness to expand.
Mark Abley, journalist   language

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 aspects of usage (and mathematics) that really matter are not learned easily and are not learned early.
Geoff Nunberg   language | writing

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

The fine (and gross) points of literacy—spelling, punctuation, grammar—elude the vast majority of the Internet's users. To believe that J. Random Users will suddenly and en masse learn to spell and punctuate—let alone accurately categorize their information according to whatever hierarchy they're supposed to be using—is self-delusion of the first water.
Cory Doctorow   writing

The use of more than one exclamation point side-by-side, in any context (except comics), is a sign of mental insanity, a marketing degree from the University of Phoenix Online, or both.
Rory Blyth   writing | funny

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

A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.
Samuel Johnson   writing | advice

I believe that there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.
James Madison   politics

To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
John Jones, U.S. District Judge   religion | politics

Final source code is the real software design.
Jack W. Reeves   computers

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

If you have two choices, choose the harder. If you're trying to decide whether to go out running or sit home and watch TV, go running. Probably the reason this trick works so well is that when you have two choices and one is harder, the only reason you're even considering the other is laziness. You know in the back of your mind what's the right thing to do, and this trick merely forces you to acknowledge it.
Paul Graham   advice

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.
Dwight D. Eisenhower   politics

It appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.
Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University, in a study of brain activity and political bias.   politics

I wonder what laws have been broken to make me safer today?
Get Your War On   politics

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

Look and you will find it—what is unsought will go undetected.
Sophocles   advice | education

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

The rule of thumb to remember is that your own desire to believe something or your own opinion about how great the belief is will not convince anyone else. To do that, you need logic and evidence.
"How to Win Informal Arguments and Debates"   advice

If you want to know your past, examine your present circumstances.
If you want to know your future, examine your present thinking.

Tibetian saying   advice

Here's a good rule of thumb: For every spelling error you make, your apparent IQ drops by 5 points.
John Scalzi   advice | writing

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

Furrygoat's Law: Every program expands until it can read RSS feeds.
Steve Mafosky, based on Lett's Law: All programs evolve until they can send email.   computers | laws

You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
Anne Lamott   religion

If it's crap, just change it.
Testy Copy Editors   writing | editing | advice

Tuchman's Law: The fact of being reported multiplies 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

When educated people disagree with you, it has nothing to do with political bias. They disagree with you because you're wrong.
Greg Saunders   politics

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

Some people have a way with words, others not have way.
Steve Martin [attr]   writing | funny

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

Being in the dictionary is not a badge of honor. People aren't limited to words I've managed to capture and pin down. A dog doesn't have to be registered with the American Kennel Association to be a dog. It still fetches your slippers; it just isn't pedigreed.
Erin McKean, American lexicographer   language

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

Better to insist on clarity of thought and fight bad style, than to fight little battles over bad usage.
Erin McKean   writing | editing

McKean's Law: Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.
Erin McKean (also cited as Hartman's Law of Prescriptive Retaliation)   language | editing | writing | laws

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.
Edward R. Murrow   politics

I have the natural ability to become frustrated.
7th grader   funny

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
Aristotle   politics | religion

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.
Samuel Johnson   writing

Editors remain expert on grammar and mechanics, but they offer so much more: analysis, evaluation, imagination, and good judgment applied to information design and management.
Carolyn Rude   editing

Watching non-programmers trying to run software companies is like watching someone who doesn't know how to surf trying to surf. "It's ok! I have great advisors standing on the shore telling me what to do!" they say, and then fall off the board, again and again.
Joel Spolsky   computers

European public opinion will apparently tolerate people being fired in industries where they really care about performance. Unfortunately the only industry they care enough about so far is soccer.
Paul Graham   politics

If in your office you as an intellectual worker were supplied with a computer display backed up by a computer that was alive for you all day and was instantly responsive to every action you had, how much value could you derive from that?
Douglas Engelbart (December 9, 1968)   computers

The remarkably wide range of programming languages would seem to offer something for everyone. We could celebrate diversity. We could let a thousand flowers bloom. What actually happens, more often, is that we launch a crusade to convert the infidels—or else exterminate them.
Brian Hayes   computers

The time-tested way to overcome language problems - the approach I used to learn French in the first place - is of course to find a volatile girlfriend who is fluent in the language. There is nothing like hysterical weeping over the phone at 3 a.m. to really flex your listening comprehension.
Maciej Ceglowski   language | funny | advice

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

If you do need to optimize for speed or space in your application, attacking anything other than the bottleneck is a waste of time.
Philip Chu   computers

Don't send a comma to do a period's job.
"David"   writing | editing

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

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.
Frank Tibolt   advice

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

Documentation should be treated like any other requirement-estimated, prioritized, and planned for accordingly. In other words, don't blindly create documentation simply because it makes you feel comfortable; instead do it because it adds value.
Scott Ambler   computers | writing

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

As it turns out, computers have a hard time with the concept of "good".
Jeff Atwood   computers

What is the Internet, if not the world's most efficient way to say something bad about someone—and post pictures of cats?
John Scalzi   computers

We have accepted that the only way to stop the terrorists is to let the government become just a little bit like the terrorists.
Keith Olbermann   politics

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 more writers you meet, the more you think that writers are cranks, weirdos, no-hopers waiting to get invited out to dinner. As a group, writers are not big, powerful people. They look it, perhaps, because of their books, but who are they? I have great regard for them, but the average person doesn't give a shit one way or the other.
Paul Theroux   writing

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.

Arnold Lobel   reading | funny

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

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

Standard English is, of course, the version of the language that has resulted from years of hand-wringing about the speed with which it has changed.
Kitty Burns Florey   language | funny

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

Language isn't a china doll we take out of the cupboard to dust off once in a while. Language is for using. And in being used, it changes. Once language stops changing, it dies.
bradshaw of the future   language

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

Anybody who reads the newspaper can easily look at the high-tech industry and see that stupidity is like beer at an NFL football game: Half the people have got plenty of it and they keep spilling it on the other half.
Eric Sink   computers | funny

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

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who can write know anything.
Walter Bagehot   writing | reading

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?
Henry Ward Beecher   reading | funny

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

You cannot persuade someone to consider an idea by debating them into submission.
Reg Braithwaite   advice

He who gets his users past the suck threshold and into the kick-ass zone the fastest wins.
Kathy Sierra   advice | computers

The best friend of a nation is he who faithfully rebukes her for her sins—and her worst enemy, who, under the specious and popular garb of patriotism, seeks to excuse, palliate, and defend them.
Frederick Douglass   politics

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

Your users don't give a damn what framework and language you're using. The only people who care about that stuff are other software developers. And God help you if your users are software developers; then you're really in trouble.
Jeff Atwood   computers

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

The designer of a new system must not only be the implementor and the first large-scale user; the designer should also write the first user manual. ... If I had not participated fully in all these activities, literally hundreds of improvements would never have been made, because I would never have thought of them or perceived why they were important.
Donald Knuth   computers | writing

There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to other animals as well as humans, it is all a sham.
Anna Sewell   religion

We copy editors are the skeptics, the nay-sayers, the fault-finders. We look at a text expecting to find it defective and are seldom disappointed.
John McIntyre   editing

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

If proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can't allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative. It's my attempt to remain invisible, not distract the reader from the story with obvious writing.
Elmore Leonard   writing | editing

Making mistakes is inevitable, but repeating the same ones over and over doesn't have to be. You should endeavor to make all-new, spectacular, never-seen-before mistakes.
Jeff Atwood   computers | advice

Recognizing your shallowness is perhaps the most profound act of your intellectual life. It's the recognition that you're mortal, that you're busy, that you've got to survive in a cruel world, and that there's more to read, more to write, more to think about, and more to solve, than you could ever possibly manage in your lifespan.
Grant Campbell   advice

There's no point improving the implementation of a bad idea.
Raymond Chen   advice | computers

Any sentence containing the phrase the media will be an overbroad generalization, probably to score political points. On the left, the media are faceless tools of corporate interests, narcotizing the public into acceptance of mindless bourgeois-consumerist oppression. On the right the media are Marxist subversives undermining religion and morality by narcotizing the public into a porno-atheistical torpor.
John McIntyre   politics | writing

Top tip, spend time in front of your wife for some more analog experiences ;)
"Jimmy"   advice | computers

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

Making it easy to do good stuff is obviously goodness; thinking about how to make it hard to do bad is actually more important.
Eric Lippert   computers | advice

So much of leadership is learning to give a damn about other people, something that us programmers are notoriously bad at. We may love our machines and our code, but our teammates prove much more complicated.
Jeff Atwood   computers

The perfect website is exactly one page, the one the visitor wants. But nearly every page on the web is about changing your mind—"There's more over here!"
Paul Ford   computers | writing | editing

When your abilities are modest, always hire smarter people.
John McIntyre   advice

Language is an invaluable support in our efforts to identify people to look down on.
John McIntyre   language

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

Because novels don't get yanked out of the front of the brain, they can't be bullied into existence by increased focus or a Calvinist work ethic. A lot of what you need is in that great junkshop of memory and experience and emotion that's located in the back of the mind, and it's a place that can't be systematized, made orderly. You can't go in there looking for one thing and hope to find it. All you can do is browse, see what looks interesting, hold it up to the dim light and ask yourself what its relevance might be to the task at hand.
Richard Russo   writing

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

Like many people, I started blogging out of an urgent need to procrastinate.
Alex Ross   writing | funny

Why don't you go read about it and write a blog entry summarizing what you've learned?
Raymond Chen   writing | advice

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

Documentation is necessary, but users do NOT want to read it. If your users are asking you for more documentation, the lack of documentation is not really the problem. Your application is too complicated.
Scott Watermasysk   computers | writing

The grammar of the language can't be deduced from an appeal to "logic", but must be discovered by examining practice.
Arnold Zwicky   language

The main thing you don't learn with a CS degree is how to develop software, although you will probably build up certain muscles in your brain that may help you later if you decide that developing software is what you want to do.
Joel Spolsky   computers | education

As long as you don't write your own algorithm, secure encryption is easy.
Bruce Schneier   computers

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

What does it mean for a [computer] language to be powerful? It doesn't mean that you can write programs in a particular language that do things you can't do in some other language. Instead, the power of a language is a way of measuring how much the language helps you concentrate on the actual problem you wanted to solve in the first place, rather than having to worry about the constraints of the language.
Brian Harvey   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

The problem with most attempts to make products on the web is that developers assume that the only way to beat the competition is through laundry lists of new features. The reality is that people spend the majority of their time using the core of your product and ignore most of the extraneous fluff.
Steven Spalding   computers

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

One of the first rules of product design is that where possible, don't try to fight sociology. Moreover, if you are going to wage a war against human psychology, do it elegantly. Most Web 2.0 product design assumes that the world at large behaves in a way that it simply does not.
Steve Spalding   computers

[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 know plenty of copy editors that are fully aware of their role as editors of one text at a time and who don't claim to be guardians of language. They are not peevologists. They don't feel attacked by mistakes and they don't hope to change all language into one register. They respect decorum and they trust that most users do so as well as they do.

The peevologists are looking to change something that will not change. They seek a power that is not theirs and they express frustration based on a sense of entitlement that is not only arrogant but irrational. They hope to change the rotation of the earth and live with constant frustration, throwing stones at every sunrise and sunset.

Michael Covarrubias (wishydig)   language | editing

I learned that you cannot follow the entire Bible. It's impossible. You must pick and choose. Everyone does it, whether they admit it or not. Otherwise, we'd end up stoning adulterers on the street. Some call this "cafeteria religion," and it's meant as a disparaging phrase. But I say: There is nothing wrong with cafeterias! I've had some great meals at cafeterias. The key is to choose the right dishes—the ones about compassion and tolerance, and leave the ones about hatred and intolerance on the side.
AJ Jacobs   religion | advice

War brings out the patriotic bullies. In World War I, they went around kicking dachshunds on the grounds that dachshunds were "German dogs." They did not, however, go around kicking German shepherds.
Molly Ivins   politics

Greatness is far too difficult, too abstract, too daunting. Being good—consistently good—is the real goal, and that takes hard work and discipline. Being good—that's something concrete you can roll up your sleeves and accomplish.
Jeff Atwood   advice

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

Inspiration is wonderful when it happens, but the writer must develop an approach for the rest of the time ... The wait is simply too long.
Leonard Bernstein   writing | advice

The whole integrity of editing rests on the editor's ability, when challenged, to give a reasonable and persuasive explanation for every change in the text—and that disagreements over judgments can be worked out collegially, in discussion.
John McIntyre   editing

Perfect grammar—whether written or spoken—never solves a problem (except the problem of imperfect grammar). It doesn't make a person more creative or a better thinker. It can't turn a bad idea into a good one, or an unclear thought into a clear one. It doesn't guarantee that we will be understood.
Stuart Froman   language

When a technology goes from 'bleeding edge' to usable ... well there's a lot less bleeding involved.
Leon Bambrick   computers

Encounters with readers are bracing. They remind us that nobody cares how hard we work, what obstacles we face, how good our intentions are. They don't see that, and they don't want to. They see the product. When the product is defective in some way, they conclude that we are dim-witted, lazy, incompetent or all three.
John McIntyre   language | editing

In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.
Paul Dirac   writing | science | language

The predisposition for languages is as mysterious as the inclination of certain people for mathematics or music and has nothing to do with intelligence or knowledge. It is something separate, a gift that some possess and others don't.
Mario Vargas Llosa   language

We translators are merely useless. Be we don't harm anyone with our work. In every other profession great damage can be done to the species. Think about lawyers and doctors, for example, not to mention architects and politicians.
Mario Varga Llosa   language

Some innocent people are under the impression that writers prepare their manuscripts correctly, as the articles appear in the paper. Not so, my son. In many cases, if an article should appear as originally written, the author would refuse to father it and never make another effort. But they must be encouraged, and so their productions are trimmed up in the office and made presentable.
Unknown, as printed in the Arizona Daily Star, May 21, 1882   writing | editing

There is nothing in human nature or human history to support the idea that we are morally advancing as a species or that we will overcome the flaws of human nature. We progress technologically and scientifically, but not morally. We use the newest instruments of technological and scientific progress to create more efficient forms of killing, repression, and economic exploitation and to accelerate environmental degradation as well as to nurture and sustain life. There is a good and a bad side to human progress. We are not moving toward a glorious utopia. We are not moving anywhere.
Chris Hedges   religion

There is an inherent and pervasive bias in pure-text communication which makes statements intended to be good-humoured sound sophomoric, makes statements which were intended to be friendly sound smarmy, makes statements which were intended to be enthusiastic sound brash, makes statements intended to be helpful sound condescending, makes statements which were intended to be precise and accurate sound brusque and pedantic, makes statements which were intended to be positive sound neutral, and makes statements which were intended to be neutral seem downright hostile. [...] Writing is hard.
Eric Lippert   writing | language

You have to do it yourself. Nobody one else will do it for you.
Mistress Krista   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

Correcting one's drinking buddies on grammar is a good way to end up drinking alone.
"Lancaster"   language | editing

It appears from the evidence that there was never a golden age in which the rules for the use of the possessive apostrophe in English were clear-cut and known, understood, and followed by most educated people.
Tom McArthur   language

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

Anyone nit-picking enough to write a letter of correction to an editor doubtless deserves the error that provoked it.
Alvin Toffler   writing | editing | language

"Does this break a rule?" is the first question and "Does it work?" is the second question. If "Does it work" outweighs "Does it break a rule," then it's OK to break the rule.
Merrill Perlman   writing | editing | advice

People who would never dream of allowing themselves to be ordered around in other walks of life are prepared to bow meekly when a language expert speaks.
David Crystal   language

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

Learning and mastery are not states you get to by accreting years of service. You learn by doing, so go do something.
Kent Sharkey   advice | education

In this day and age, it seems, an injunction against splitting infinitives is one of those shibboleths whose only reason for survival is to give increased meaning to the lives of those who can both identify by name a discrete grammatical, syntactic, or orthographic entity and notice when that entity has been somehow besmirched.
Chicago Manual of Style Q&A   language

My opinion after 40-odd (and some of them were very odd) years of teaching is that good writing can't be taught, though it can be learned.
John Lawler   writing | education

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

Not writing is not a useful way of expressing your ideas. Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy.
Seth Godin   writing

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Michael Pollan   advice

Writing computer programs is important and takes great intelligence and skill. But it is really child's play compared to everything else that a good programmer must do to make a software system that succeeds for both the customer and myriad colleagues for whom she is partially responsible.
Robert L. Read   computers

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

I say: LOOK, if perceived norms did not exist it would not be possible to mark a text as departing from norms, it is not possible for the texture of a text to be different, to be perceived as original, without marking itself off from norms by departing from them.
Helen DeWitt   writing | editing

Dictionaries are the second-to-last refuge of scoundrels.
Phillip Blanchard   writing | editing

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

Given a sufficiently large framework, any application can be a one-liner.
Leon Bambrick   computers | funny

Sometimes, you are so close to a great solution that if the wind blows a certain way, you'll hit upon it, but if it blows another way, you dismiss your line of thought and move onto other plans. Try as you might, it is very difficult to get the design just right the very first time all of the time.
Phil Haack   computers

Officially Correct English, like the Tooth Fairy and Civic Virtue, is a product of grade school mythology and rarely leads to satisfying answers or useful decisions. The truth about language is always far more interesting—and far more complex—than what Miss Fidditch told you.
John Lawler   language

People think that you have these things called ideas and that writing is a matter of imposing them on the subject material, whereas it's only in the writing that I discover what it is that I think.
Anthony Lane   writing

Copy editors are the last set of eyes before yours. They are more powerful than proofreaders. They untangle twisted prose. They are surgeons, removing growths of error and irrelevance; they are minimalist chefs, straining fat. [...] The copy editor's job, to the extent possible under deadline, is to slow down, think things through, do the math and ask the irritating question.
Lawrence Downs   editing

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

The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer. It turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your novel is two years after it's published, ten minutes before you go on stage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all of the pieces of dead wood, stupidity, vanity, and tedium are distressingly obvious to you.
Zadie Smith   writing | editing

Winning a Presidential election doesn't require being all things to all of the people all of the time, but it does require being some things to most of the people some of the time. It doesn't require saying one thing and also saying its opposite, but it does require saying more or less the same thing in ways that are understood in different ways.
Hendrik Hertzberg   politics | funny

Those who do not edit do not understand the keen pleasure that comes from taking up a text and leaving it tighter, clearer, and more accurate.
John McIntyre   editing

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

Good writing is good because of what words are not there rather than what words are.
"Inept writer"   writing

Muphrey's Law: a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written; (b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book; (c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault. (d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.
John Bangsund, a variant (one of several) of Hartman's Law of Prescriptive Retaliation   laws | editing | writing

Once you figure out what you draw value from, why not drop the rest of the cruft and start doing it?
Steve Spalding   advice

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

You cannot converse if you cannot listen, and you cannot sustain a conversation if participants cannot be somewhat fair and respectful to one another. These same traits, of course, are morality's minimal requirements.
Edmund Blair Bolles   language

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

When the rhythm isn't steady, no one will start to dance. No one will start to smile. No one will start to cheer. Because that's your task when you play in front of people, or when you play for yourself ... you don't smile to yourself if the groove isn't there as you like it to be.
Siggi Mertens   advice | music

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

I look at it this way: I am a native speaker of English. I grew up in Northern New England. I went to Harvard. I know a bunch of languages. I have a Ph.D. Therefore my usage is standard. Your mileage may vary.
Bill Poser, writing about what constitutes "standard English."   language

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

Piracy is the world's most efficient software distribution network.
Jeff Atwood   computers

Make a habit of enjoying whatever it is that you do. It's really easy to hate your life, but why should you? There are plenty of people out there more than willing to do that for you.
Steve Spalding   advice

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

Commas are the single worst thing about being an editor. How can such a tiny little piece of punctuation cause so much time-sucking anguish?
L. J. Sellers   editing | writing

One obvious problem with the whole “liberal academy” argument is that free inquiry and open consideration of diverse viewpoints is itself a liberal value - and not a conservative one, since what's conserved is a predetermined truth. So the university itself would be impossible on conservative grounds.
Carl Dyke   politics | education

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 it comes to .NET, if you think something is impossible you are probably thinking too hard.
"Doc Detective"   computers

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

The hardest thing about writing is getting yourself into a state of not not writing.
Matthew Baldwin   writing | funny

Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life—save only this—that if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole purpose of education.
John Alexander Smith   education

Ruling, of course, must be distinguished from governing, which is a more nuanced process that entails give-and-take and the kind of compromises that are often necessary to find a consensus and solutions that will best serve the interests of all Americans.
John Dean   politics

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

Knowledge of etymology is completely unnecessary for using a language. What's necessary is not what words used to mean, but what words mean now. [...] Sometimes it is claimed that an earlier meaning of a word is its literal or real meaning, but really all that can be said is that an earlier meaning is an earlier meaning.
"goofy"   language

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

I protect my right to be a Catholic by preserving your right to believe as a Jew, a Protestant, or non-believer, or as anything else you choose. We know that the price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that they might some day force theirs on us.
Mario Cuomo   religion | politics

I think that a 35-hour workweek should be the goal for any person who wants a decent life and that by the time you're 50 you should be carving that down to around 30. Shoot me but it's true.
Garrison Keillor   working | advice

So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.
George Lucas   politics

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

I think one metaphor accurately reflects the way software is built in the real world: flail around randomly and pray you succeed by force of pure dumb luck. Sometimes it even works. Not very often, but just enough to confuse people who should know better into thinking they're smart, when what they really were is lucky.
Jeff Atwood   computers

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

Get something wrong. Do something badly. Achieve nothing and make certain to fall short of your goal. [...] No one brings it up but in business and in life failure is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal, if you know how to use it.
Steve Spalding   advice

Associating yourself with groups that do not actively question their goals and objectives, or consider opposing views, will in the long run close your mind, rather than open it.
"How to Think For Yourself"   advice

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

The religion of compassion is followed only by a minority; most religious people are content with decorous worship in synagogue, church, temple and mosque.
Karen Armstrong   religion

Learning, be it chemistry, physics, or biology, is not a spectator sport. A student doesn't learn sitting on the aisle in a lecture room watching a spectacular performance by a star lecturer.
Robert Morrison   education

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

It seems like the less a statesman amounts to the more he adores the flag.
Kin Hubbard   funny | politics

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

Remember, loops are nothing more than a more pleasant way to write a "goto".
Eric Lippert   computers

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

Semicolons are like advanced positions in the kama sutra: not for everyone, and certainly not to be attempted by folks who don't have a grasp, so to speak, of the basics.
Brett Zalkan   writing

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

Much was said this night against the parliament. I said that, as it seemed to be agreed that all Members of Parliament became corrupted, it was better to chuse men already bad, and so save good men.
James Boswell   politics

If the product is used as a tool, its interface should be as unintelligent as possible. Stupid is predictable; predictable is learnable; learnable is usable.
Mencius Moldbug   computers

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

If the goal of prescriptivists [is] just to guard against things some readers find annoying then their primary obligation would be to shut up. No error of grammar can be as annoying as someone who lectures people about their grammar.
"TruePath"   language

PRAY, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.
Ambrose Bierce, the Devil's Dictionary   religion | funny

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

Anyone who has a favorite book hasn't read very many books.
John Cowan   reading | funny

While it may seem counter-intuitive, teaching is an amazing way of learning—I learned more about programming by teaching it to others than I did by actually writing code. Different developers have different (sometimes way different) ideas about what is good code, and by discussing it with them, you grow (even if you were right in the first place). It also helps solidify your own arguments by forcing you to actually think them through and explain them in ways that others can understand.
Kent Sharkey   advice

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.
Josh Olson   writing | editing

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

Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves.
John Danforth   religion

Laymen are generally lousy linguists: they do not know what questions to ask, they do not know how to look for answers to them and they are too ready to accept generalizations to which they could easily find counter examples.
James D. McCawley   language

I don’t know much about cryptography; the most important thing that I do know on the subject is that I don’t know nearly enough about cryptography to safely design or implement a crypto-based security system.
Eric Lippert   computers

It's probably unnecessary to point out that while Labrador Retrievers possess a cheery and endearing temperament, they are not Mensa candidates in the kingdom of canines.
Carl Hiassen   funny

That's the nice thing about historical fiction. The facts fit my needs.
Michael Covarrubias (wishydig)   funny | writing

The only way to learn anything at all is to do it over and over again until your brain is too annoyed at you to forget it.
Steve Spalding   advice

If you think about it, you could actually say that software design boils down to "Where should this code go?" I think there’s a watershed moment in every developer’s career when they start to look more at their code as a structure and less as a bag of statements.
Jeremy D. Miller   computers

Para gozar lo rico
Tienes que conocer
Lo bueno y lo malo
Y lo que te dé placer

Javier Garcia   advice

Reading other people's raw copy is like looking at your grandmother naked.
Rafael Alvarez   editing | writing

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

Good luck quoting Jesus to rich people.
Mxrk (Mark)   religion

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

Language is like geology. Novelties periodically erupt, some of which remain a feature of the landscape, but most of which subside. More commonly, language is a collection of tectonic plates that separate or grind together very slowly over a long period as some features of the landscape erode and others metamorphose.
John McIntyre   language

Earn a reputation over time through excellent work. This is much more powerful in commanding attention than intellectual prowess.
Jason Crawford   advice

The English language was carefully, carefully cobbled together by three blind dudes and a German dictionary.
Dave Kellett   language | funny

One indispensable qualification for a professional copy editor is possession of a filthy mind.
John McIntyre   editing

Writers don't always know what they mean—that's why they write.
John Lahr   writing

Patriotism is proud of a country's virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country's virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, "the greatest", but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.
Sidney J. Harris   politics

Most people are so worried about looking good that they never do anything great. Most people are so worried about doing something great that they never do anything at all.
Derek Sivers   advice

The way to avoid needless bad choices in the grammatical structure of your writing is not to learn a short list of things you must always avoid; it's to be sensitive to what's a good idea and what's a bad idea, on a basis of knowing the difference.
Geoffrey Pullum   writing

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

We need a state, and we need to exercise democracy so firmly that companies scream and whimper about all the money they didn't make because we didn't grant them dominion over our society.
Richard Stallman   politics

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

You don’t get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling yourself how great you are, or even from other people telling you how great you are. You get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that you find estimable.
Gretchen Rubin   advice

Anyone who tells you that HTML should be kept “pure” (presumably by ignoring browser makers, or ignoring authors, or both) is simply misinformed. HTML has never been pure, and all attempts to purify it have been spectacular failures, matched only by the attempts to replace it.
Mark Pilgrim   computers

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

We must be very careful when we give advice to younger people; sometimes they follow it!
E. W. Dijksrta   advice

What the Internet seems to do best is make commonly available enormously vast resources of mis-information that we never knew existed.
Charles Petzold   computers

Google is the greatest programming resource that has ever existed. You cannot look down on someone for using the most powerful learning tool computer science has ever known.
Steven Brenner   computers

If you're [practicing something], beware of too many successes. If the exercises make you "look bad", you're probably headed in the right direction.
Chad Fowler   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

The secret to a successful life is hardly a secret; it requires you to be self-centered as all fuck, is all. So long as it’s not at the expense of others, make yourself the center of your universe. You only get to do this ONCE, so try to take as much stress out of the process as you can.
Kevin Smith   advice

[T]he biggest reason we write unclearly is our ignorance of how others read our writing. What we write always seems clearer to us than it does to our readers, because we can read into it what we want readers to get out of it. And so instead of revising our writing to meet their needs, we send it off as soon as it meets ours.
Joseph M. Williams, Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace   writing

Here is a thing to carve in pokerwork and hang over your typewriter. "No one will ever complain because you have made something too easy to understand."
Tim Radford   writing

[Strunk and White's] larger rules are something you could never disagree with: "Omit needless words." If you knew which words were needless, you would not need the advice.
Ben Zimmer   writing | editing

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

Disappointment is educational.
Jonah Lehrer   advice

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

Writing manuals is a very special and privileged task in a computer company, for in the process of writing them you are forced to go over every detail of the hardware and software the company sells in an attempt to make it understandable and usable in our extremely broad customer base. In the process a conscientious writer will discover nearly every good and bad feature of the system, and can provide valuable feedback to the designers and implementers.
Jef Raskin   writing | computers

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

Of course, the only practical use of the en dash is as subtle code to communicate, from one publishing professional to another, the abstract concept, "I am copy editor. Hear me roar." Recognizing the en dash can be like a secret handshake to our club.
"Editor", commenting on the "Subversive Copy Editor" blog   editing

Languages certainly do follow rules, but they don't follow orders.
Peter Sokolowski   language

It's ok to head out for Wonderful. For on your way to Wonderful you're going to have to pass through All Right. And when you get to All Right, take a good look around and get used to it, because that may be as far as you're going to go.
Bill Withers   advice

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

The era of blogging, and now Twitter, has turned linguistics into a real-time sport.
Rex Hammock   language | technology

If it's possible to do something, then it's possible to do something wrong.
Raymond Chen   computers | advice

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.
Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.   politics

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.
Noam Chomsky   politics

[Creative writing can be taught] about the same way golf can be taught. A pro can point out obvious flaws in your swing.
Kurt Vonnegut   writing

Learning anything is 10% material and 90% being excited to learn.
Daniel Bourke   education

It's okay to dislike something with your mouth closed.
Wendy Barron   general | advice

Most English speakers accept the fact that the language changes over time, but don't accept the changes made in their own time.
Peter Sokolowski   language

One of the big things Grammar Nazis are wrong about is that you're somehow "saving" English if you're correcting people's grammar. English is fine. English has been around for centuries. English has a half-billion speakers. It's not going anywhere.
James Callan   language

One's house style oughtn't to be visible from outer space.
Benjamin Dreyer   editing

It’s [an editor's] job to make writing clear and effective, but I don’t think it’s necessarily our job to hold the line against changing usage or to defend the language from its own users. That is, nobody hired us to be in charge of the English language.
Jonathon Owen   editing | language

Be well. Do good work. Keep in touch.
Garrison Keillor   general | advice

Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny nonny.

Shakespeare   general | advice

If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
Gospel of Thomas   general | advice | religion

There never was a child so Lovely but his Mother was not glad to get him to sleep.
Ralph Waldo Emerson   general | funny

What hath night to do with sleep?
John Milton   general

We must wrestle with Time for some seven decades, and he is a weak and puny antagonist in the first three bouts.
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Lord Dunsany   general

People should stop listening for the performance they think they want to hear and listen to what the musician is doing that's unique.
"OrchestrationOnline"   music | advice

It's always been incredibly challenging for me to put pen to page, because writing, at its heart, is a solitary pursuit, designed to make people depressoids, drug addicts, misanthropes, and antisocial weirdos (see every successful writer ever except Judy Blume).
Mindy Kaling   writing

There are two kinds of geniuses, the “ordinary” and the “magicians.” An ordinary genius is a fellow that you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they have done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it. It is different with the magicians. They are, to use mathematical jargon, in the orthogonal complement of where we are and the working of their minds is for all intents and purposes incomprehensible. Even after we understand what they have done, the process by which they have done it is completely dark. They seldom, if ever, have students because they cannot be emulated and it must be terribly frustrating for a brilliant young mind to cope with the mysterious ways in which the magician’s mind works. Richard Feynman is a magician of the highest caliber.
Mark Kac (quoted by James Gleick)   science | general

Ordinary people, faced with what are for them deviant, "wrong", bits of language, see nothing but a mistake, period. They are resistant to the linguist's idea that there could be a rationale for the "mistake", even a system to it, or that, in fact, the very same thing could result from different sources or represent different systems. (This attitude presents a tough challenge when we teach beginning linguistics courses -- not only when we talk about dialects, but also when we talk about language acquisition. One of the hardest lessons for many students is that instead of saying what's wrong, what people "can't" or "won't" do, they should be describing what people *do*, and making hypotheses about *why* they do that.)
Arnold Zwicky   language

When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies. And lies won’t help us in this fight.
George RR Martin (as Jon Snow)   general | politics

Convince me that homeschooling is a good thing for society, and not just about information control, distrust of authority and reinforcement of insularity.
"Occam's Battleaxe"   education | religion | politics

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