A Commonplace Page

It seems reasonable to expect the same of a formal description, but types force us to abandon common sense and think like a programmer

Leslie Lamport and Lawrence Paulson, Should Your Specification Language Be Typed?,
ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems, May 1999.

The smugglers knelt in the sand and prayed, then stood up and ordered the migrants to push off. One pointed to the sky. “Look at this star!” he said. “Follow it.” Each boat left with only enough fuel to reach international waters.

Ben Taub, We Have No Choice,
The New Yorker, 2017 April 10

They looked at the way in which people make decisions under conditions of uncertainty and found that their behavior violate expected utility theory—a fundamental assumption of economic theory that holds that decision-makers reason instrumentally about how to maximize their gains.

Tamsin Shaw, Invisible Manipulators of Your Mind,
The New York Review of Books, 2017 April 20.

Australia is low, flat, and geologically comatose.

Tim Flannery, Extravagant, Aggressive Birds Down Under,
The New York Review of Books, 2017 March 3.

And part of my reason that I had trouble with math was that 3 always looked like it was screaming, and 5 looked like it was screaming. 3 could not be facing 5. 53—that looks like fighting to me. It terrifies me. 35’s fine, because then the 5 and the 3 can’t see each other.

Lynda Barry in Outside the Box by Hillary Chute

A significant part of the W.W.C. has succumbed to the ills that used to be associated with the black urban “underclass”: welfare, debt, bankruptcy, out-of-wedlock births, trash entertainment, addiction, jail, social distrust, political cynicism, bad health, unhappiness, early death.

George Packer, The Unconnected
The New Yorker, 2016 October 31

Rather, one needs to budget carefully the amount of formality that one brings to bear on the process: enough formality to ensure a control of the process, but not too much, so as to keep the development clear and cogent.

Ali Mili, Jules Desharnais and Jean Gagné, Formal Models of Stepwise Refinement of Programs,
ACM Computing Surveys, September, 1986

It was October, 2014, and they had just sold their previous company, Viber, which was a competitor to Skype that allowed people to make calls and send texts by mobile phone for free, to a Japanese Internet company for nine hundred million dollars.

Sheelah Kolhatkar, The Anti-Uber,
The New Yorker, 2016 October 10

Also, these shows are getting terrible ratings on Netflix. Aside from the two shorter shows mentioned above, each show has a rating of only one star. (Further update: Netflix’s ratings are personalized, which means those ratings are specific to me. Others might see 4 or 5 stars. thx, @Rudien)

Jason Kottke, Slow TV comes to Netflix
kottke.org, 2016 August 22

The intrinsic thing that gives such an example power in thought is its simplicity, in the sense that given the perspective of the idea (embedded in the concrete example), the primary conclusions that can be drawn are obvious without long chains of arguments.

Robert Lawler, Some Powerful Ideas

The other scientists were too important to lose in some atomic catastrophe. They had kids. They had tenure.

Nate DiMeo, Babysitting,
The Memory Palace

Her real identity was no more my business than it was that of her clients. But almost two years later, I listened again to my tapes. In one section, late in the interview, in a part I hadn’t transcribed because it wasn’t important, she unguardedly said her daughter’s first name.

I got out my files. For some reason, I still had the model releases I had gotten the women to sign for Paolo that night. Jocelynne had signed only her first initial and had scrawled out her real last name in a nearly illegible hand. I could make out the first letter and a few possibilities for the next four. But if the daughter’s first name was real and the Texas A&M story true that might be enough. I went to the Texas A&M web site and began typing in names. Within five minutes, I had found Jocelynne’s daughter. I went to Facebook and there she was. She looked like Jocelynne, the wholesome co-ed version. She looked sweet. She had posted hundreds of pictures of herself, mostly wearing Aggie Sprint wear and posing with an arm around friends. Looking through her friends list, I found her little brother. She had recently written on his wall: “Congrats to my favorite Little League pitcher—you rule little bro!!!”

She was friends with her mother, so I found Jocelynne, too. Her name, obviously, was not Jocelynne. She was wearing normal clothes and sunglasses, but she looked the same. Her Facebook page was public too, so fifteen minutes in, I also had the name of her ex-husband and the names of her real-life friends. Not Cherry Pie and Exotique and Candee Gal but Lori and Chelsea and Jeanne. I was looking at pictures of the most normal family in the world: carving pumpkins, opening presents at Christmas, cheering at Little League games, striking goofy poses at the beach. I went on the Web and found her address, the books she was reading the clothes and hairstyles she had pinned on Pinterest, the home decor she liked on Houzz. Her ex-husband really was a dentist. She really had a dog.

The whole story checked out. The desperate housewife, the soccer mom, Belle de Jour—it was all true.

Ginger Strand, Company Town
Tin House, Fall, 2013

“But you never said you loved him,” I said.

“Love is an old-fashioned concept,” she replied in universityese.

Walter Mosley, Cinnamon Kiss

An automation aid can be classified as one that either lowers the expertise of personnel needed to acheive a certain level of performance, or one whch raises the productivity of existing expert personnel.

Sergio Cárdenas-García and Marvin Zelkowitz
A Management Tool for Evaluation of Software Designs
IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, September 1991.

He went on to explain that while Zayn may no longer be a part of One Direction in our world, there may yet exist an alternate universe where he was in fact still in the band.

‘My advice to any heartbroken young girl is to pay close attention to the study of theoretical physics,’ Professor Hawking explained. ‘It would not be beyond the realms of possibility that somewhere outside of our own universe lies another different universe.’

‘And in that universe, Zayn is still in One Direction.’

Stephen Hawking, quoted by Caroline Westbrook
Metro.co.uk, 26 Apr 2015.

In computer science, compromises are usually called “heuristics”.

James Gosling, A Redisplay Algorithm
Proceedings of the ACM SIGPLAN SIGOA Symposium on Text Manipulation, June, 1981

After watching Vincent expire, Theo died not many months later, at thirty-three, of a broken heart and tertiary syphilis.

Michael Kimmelman, Van Gogh: The Courage & the Cunning
The New York Review of Books, 2015 February 5.

These dogs, I tell you, are so smart, but they worry me sometimes.

Douglas Coupland, Generation X

To refrigerate a clock was an extremely violent act, not one I could explain to anyone.

Peter Carey, The Chemistry of Tears

And more impressive even than the outbursts of pain and anger that came from poets and philanthropists was the icy silence with which Malthus and Ricardo passed over the scenes out of which their philosophy of secular perdition was born.

Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation

So, the essence of XML is the problem it solves is not hard, and it does not solve the problem well.

Jérôme Siméon and Philip Wadler, The Essence of XML

“Will you at least go do a fact-finding trip for us?” Bush asked.

“That’ll probably be the extent of it, Mr. President, unless you order otherwise,” Cheney replied. He was the Cheshire Cat inverted, only the smile dissolving, the rest of him still in the chair.

Barton Gellman, Angler

Unlike most Luddite critics, Lanier complains not that technology has taken over our lives but that it has not given us enough back in return. In place of a banquet, we’ve been given a vending machine.

Jennifer Kahn, The Visionary,
The New Yorker, 2011 July 11 & 18

’Cause social media, when it’s really social media, is not about what you have to say. It’s having a tolerance for what people will have to say about you, which is so different from posting about your great run. Social media is when they say “you’re a jackass; stop talking about your run.” That’s social media, and that’s the conversation.

Merlan Mann, HOWTO: 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility
SxSW, 2009

He agreed to call her and then told me about his great-uncle, who, after undergoing electroshock, became obsessed with licking copper objects.

Rebecca Makkai, Peter Torrelli, Falling Apart
Tin House, Winter 2010

Because science and philosophy of science derives from an equivocation of these two different senses, I shall use “HOS1” to refer to the actual past of science and “HOS2” to refer to the writings of historians about that past.

Larry Laudan, Progress and its Problems

I’m on an iPad, and typing does suck on it. Not sure if the answer is fuck a buncha,or get a pwirerless keyboad, but if the difficulties of typing ‘fuck a buncha’ arer any indication, I’ll be keeping my laptop,

Jamie, Comment to Chess Fraud,
Lawyers, Guns and Money, 2011 January 20

To be sure, Athens is a distant star in our modern firmament. With its slave-based economy, its disdain for women as citizens, and its warrior ways, it is a poor model for democrats.

Benjamin Barber, An Aristocracy of Everyone

In France, Santa has a buddy named Le Père Fouettard who notoriously slits three children’s throats before making a holiday stew out of them. You can friend him on Facebook!

Robert Lanham, Krampus Comes This Weekend! Beware Sinister Saint Nick Sidekicks
The Awl, 3 December 2010

That she loved him more than he loved her was the unarguable source of his power.

Ian McEwan, Solar

No fresh truth ever gets into a book.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858

Controversy equalizes fools and wise men in the same way, — and the fools know it.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, 1858

This seemed simple as running water, but simplicity is the most deceitful mistress that ever betrayed man.

Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

When we multiplied the surface area of our homes by the value of a square foot, we experienced a euphoria unequaled by almost any other: the pleasure principle of an algorithm.

Claudia Piñeiro, Thursday Night Widows

If technology is going to disappear, then it has to really disappear and not merely lurk in the shadows moaning for attention.

Mark Burgess, Talking to the Walls,
;login:, June 2004

In Prisoners of the Japanese: POWs of World War II in the Pacific, published in 1994, Australian documentary filmmaker and author Gavan Daws details the cigarette trading in the Japanese camps, noting that some men in need of nicotine borrowed so heavily against future rice rations that when their debts came due, with interest, they could not pay in full. “They would be bankrupt in food,” Daws writes. This was “the end product of classic American free-enterprise capitalism turned loose in prison camp on a thousand calories a day,” he adds, claiming that when POWs of other nationalities ran up against the American rice traders, the were staggered. “Charging interest on rice — it was simply beyond their tribal comprehension…That was bloodsucking; that was murder.” A British officer tried to stop some of it. “The trader just laughed his American laugh and said Boy, you’ve got a lot to learn.

Jeanne Schinto, A Beriberi Heart,
Gastronomica, Fall 2009

But in the end, it’s algorithms: If you look at things like fast Fourier transform, it went from N squared to N log n. There is no way you can make an improvement in computer architecture that comes close to that.

Bruce Shriver and Peter Capek, Just Curious: An Interview with John Cocke,
IEEE Computer, December 1999

In their instructions to authors just about all of the economics journals require that papers be submitted with a certain format for the references, bibliography, figures and so forth. Except no one I know actually does this until after a journal has accepted the paper; thus no wasted effort.

One day my wife, a microbiologist, was complaining about all the work that it took to reformat a paper for submission. I told her that only newbies did this. Shocked, she claimed that if she didn’t reformat, the paper would instantly be rejected. “Ridiculous!” I said, “No journal system could be that stupid.” Sigh. Of course, my ever-wise wife was correct.

Alex Tabarrok, Inefficient Journal Submission Policies
18 August 2009, Marginal Revolution

It might be that one of the really significant problems of today’s culture involves finding ways for educated people to talk meaningfully with one another across the divides of radical specialization. That sounds a bit gooey, but I think there’s some truth to it. And it’s not just the polymer chemist talking to the semiotician, but people with special expertise acquiring the ability to talk meaningfully to us, meaning ordinary schmoes. Practical examples: Think of the thrill of finding a smart, competent IT technician who can also explain what she’s doing in such a way that you feel like you understand what went wrong with your computer and how you might even fix the problem yourself if it comes up again. Or an oncologist who can communicate clearly and humanly with you and your wife about what the available treatments for her stage-two neoplasm are, and about how the different treatments actually work, and exactly what the plusses and minuses of each one are. If you’re like me, you practically drop and hug the ankles of technical specialists like this, when you find them. As of now, of course, they’re rare. What they have is a particular kind of genius that’s not really part of their specific area of expertise as such areas are usually defined and taught. There’s not really even a good univocal word for this kind of genius—which might be significant. Maybe there should be a word; maybe being able to communicate with people outside one’s area of expertise should be taught, and talked about, and considered as a requirement for genuine expertise.

David Foster Wallace, Interview
The Believer, November 2003

A threat of making use of the situation for the establishment of a countertyranny is just as criminal as the original attempt to introduce a tyranny; the use of such a threat, even if made with the candid intention of saving democracy by deterring its enemies, would therefore be a very bad method of defending democracy; indeed, such a threat would confuse the ranks of its defenders in an hour of peril, and would therefore be likely to help the enemy.

Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies

Despite our national predilection for the upbeat and cheery—Oprah’s spiritualizing formulas, Hollywood’s upbeat endings, and Rilke’s willful instruction to praise—we know people most intimately and sympathetically when we register their grief and personal tragedies.

Ira Sadoff, ‘Flat Death’: Irretrievable Loss in Three Contemporary Poets
The Kenyon Review, Summer 2009

Effete to the point of eccentricity, he survived on champagne and little else, though he had been seen to eat violets, and occasionally a pea.

Virginia Nicholson, Among the Bohemians

She nodded. “And what did you learn?”

It was a good question. On day three the cutter had arranged a group rendezvous, where we’d met in the dark nearly a mile from camp and snorted meth that she’d smuggled in the hem of her rain pants. I felt again for a moment the awful burn it produced in the back of my throat, then the exhilarating lift as my skeleton took flight. Of all the discoveries I was supposed to have made, the only one that felt real was that when you lose your identical twin, in a way you become two people.

“I learned how to tie a bowline,” I said.

Ted Thompson, Mascots
Tin House, Spring 2009

Nothing is more characteristic of a dogmatist epistemology than its theory of error. For if some truths are manifest, one must explain how anyone can be mistaken about them, in other words, why the truths are not manifest to everybody. According to its particular theory of error, each dogmatist epistemology offers its particular therapeutics to purge minds from error.

Imre Lakatos, Proofs and Refutations

Test everything. Hold on to the good.

I Thessalonians 5:21

Smoke is how robots express love.

Bre Pettis, Rapid Prototype Your Life
25th Chaos Communication Congress, 2008

This is, by the way, why it’s ridiculous to compare who found the bigger or better bug. There’s, like, no such thing as a bug so good another bug can’t actually make it better.

Dan Kaminski, Why Were We So Vulnerable to the DNS Vulnerability?
25th Chaos Communication Congress, 2008

All intelligent political criticism is comparative. It deals not with all-or-none situations, but with practical alternatives; an absolutistic indiscriminate attitude, whether in praise or blame, testifies to the heat of feeling rather than the light of thought.

John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems.

However, the complexity of threading is a problem in practice. It seemed as if everyone, in spite of taking operating system classes, needed to experience a deadlock firsthand.

Andreas Paepcke, Michelle Baldonado, Chen-Chuan Chang, Steve Cousins, and Hector Garcia-Molina
Using Distributed Objects to Build the Stanford Digital Library Infobus
IEEE Computer, February 1999.

Poor Ozzie had become so earnestly involved in Little League baseball and company bowling that no one, not even his children, could take him seriously.

John Updike, The Widows of Eastwick.

Dehnadi and Bornat’s thesis is that the single biggest predictor of likely aptitude for programming is a deep comfort with meaninglessness

Clay Shirky, Comfort with meaningless the key to good programmers,
Boing Boing, 12 December 2008.

The guy seems to have about the maturity level of a sixth grader and the social skills of your average Unix programmer.

Kevin Drum, McCain Meltdown Watch
Mother Jones, 30 October 2008.

For one thing, it is hard to claim that you know what you are doing unless you can present your act as a deliberate choice out of a possible set of things you could have done as well.

Edsger Dijkstra, Notes on Structured Programming

But both the general public and the research community may be unaware of its developmental trend toward disorder due to the exponential growth of the numbers and types of its resources and users. By way of analogy, this trend can be explained with the help of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that if we regard the environment as a closed system with constant volume and energy, then every change to the system increases its tendency toward entropy

Hai Zhuge and Xiaoqing Shi, Toward the Eco-Grid: A Harmoniously Evolved Interconnection Environment, Communications of the ACM, September 2004.

The fact is, shut up.

Gary Ruppert, a comment to The Constitution Matters Until it Doesn’t
Lawyers, Guns and Money

But the explanations themselves, like many psychoanalytic concepts, are difficult to nail down. Suppose one finds that High RWA subjects gush with praise of their parents; it is the expected overglorfication. If, on the other hand, they describe their parents as beasts, it is taken as proof that the parents were cruel and harsh. And if, on the third hand, they describe their parents’ child-rearing behavior in both positive and negative terms (which is what they do), it is explained as a mixture of overglorification and accurate recollection.

Bob Altemeyer, Enemies of Freedom

It’s specifically to address the growing numbers of progammers that aren’t really learning programming from reading books anymore. They’re learning programming by doing stuff - loading their IDE or TextMate or whatever they use, just trying things. And when something doesn’t work, they then do a web search to find out why didn’t that work, how can I learn more about this.

Jeff Atwood, StackOverflow Episode 10
18 July 2008

For $500 I would have expected these cables to be worn in. They aren’t. The procedure for pre use wear in of digital cables is significantly different to analog cables. They should be worn in for a period of 24 hours in each direction. Use a unidirectional protocol! _Never_ use TCP for wearing in digital cables, as TCP uses return packets for acknowledging, causing interference in the uplink channel being pre worn. Use UDP or ICMP (no ping) for wearing. Preferable use a payload of 64Kb with a datapacket consisting of consecutive 1’s and 0’s to settle the electrons. After 24 hours, reverse the cable and repeat. Always make sure that the cable is connected to a sender and a receiver, as Layer 2 will prevent data transmission if there is no positive ARP response from the receiver.

Marty, reviewing Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cables
15 June 2008, amazon.com

The error of Wilson in Mexico, of Nixon in Vietnam, of our whole quest for “self-determination,” is clear: we have reversed the order of cause and effect. Free elections are created by free men, not vice versa. The machinery of election will not call up, establish, or guarantee political freedom. The belief that it will reveals our trust in “the market,” our belief that competition of itself makes excellence prevail. Our faith in the electoral process is based entirely on myths of the market. We think we can be “open” to all political alternatives (we cannot). We think we welcome all competitors for power (we do not). We think the freedoms we possess were wrought by this process (they were not). We think the process will work automatically for others (it will not). If our freedoms are impaired, we think — as Dr. Wald did — this comes from some failure in the voting process (it does not). And we hope to cure all such discontent by repairing, restoring, or improving the process (we cannot). We think that voting is freedom’s “invisible hand.”

Gary Wills, Nixon Agonistes

So XEmacs has never been a particularly good tool for serious Emacs users because even though it’s written in C, it crashes like a mature C++ application.

Steve Yegge, XEmacs is Dead. Long Live XEmacs!
28 April 2008

An understanding of what a computer really does is an understanding of the social and political situations in which it is designed, built, purchased, installed, and used.

Terry Winograd and Fernando Flores, Understanding Computers and Cognition

For more than six years, Predator drones have crisscrossed the tribal areas, scanning the terrain for anyone who might resemble bin Laden. In February 2002, a Preditor near the border fired a Hellfire missle at a man because he was tall, killing him.

Lawrence Wright, The Spymaster
The New Yorker, 2008 January 12

I like bubbles in my milk.

The Johns, Soda Stream

They did like to have sex, and all the rest of the time skimmed milk.

Miranda Mellis, The Coffee Jockey
Tin House, Fall 2007

Similarly, if favorable opinions about oneself must reflect a correspondent motive to hold such favorable opinions, then the ascription of self-serving biases and ego-defensive motives would seem inevitable. By the same token, the existence of highly negative self-evaluations must be attributed to masochism and self-hate. We are reminded of the psychoanalyst who accused patients who came late of hostility, those who came early of defensiveness, and those who came on time of compulsiveness. In fact, we are reminded of psychoanalytic theory.

Richard Nisbett and Lee Ross, Human Inference

Monzy: Encouraging kids to study engineering is a noble goal, but unfortunately those songs are fucking terrible. Can I say “fuck” in the EE Times?

Reporter: Hmm… [Pause] That question hasn’t really come up before.

Monzy, One Percent of One Percent.

I thought of those words a few years ago when the HMO where I worked asked me to list my hobbies for a page on their website. I wanted to pretend to wind-surf and mountain climb in order to attract healthy young men and women. I knew that my actual pursuits, gardening and writing, would bring me more complicated, elderly patients. A pediatrician friend tells me that she’s going to drop “yoga” from her website because it attracts patients who don’t want to vaccinate their children.

Toni Martin, A Limited Engagement
The Threepenny Review, Summer 2007

Whereas pleasure is a counter-irritant (e.g., sports, entertainment, alcohol), comfort is the removal of irritants.

Marshal McLuhan, Understanding Media

Only if we abandon, in a phrase of Leo Steinberg’s, that sweet sense of accomplishment which comes from parading habitual skills and address ourselves to problems sufficiently unclarified as to make discovery possible, can we hope to achieve work which will not just reincarnate that of the great men of the first quarter of this century, but match it.

Clifford Geertz, Religion as a Cultural System
The Interpretation of Cultures

As perhaps an even more dramatic illustration of the growth in complexity, it is sobering to realize that there are more public methods in the java and javax package hierarchies than there are words in Jensen and Wirth.

Eric Roberts, The Dream of a Common Language
SIGCSE Technical Simposium on Computer Science Education Proceedings, March 2004

But it seems that a noble and active mind blunts itself against nothing so quickly as the sharp and bitter irritant of knowledge.

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

She walked into math class three minutes late, with red tulips intermittently peeking from her snarls, as if they’d grown up wild and unkempt all on their own.

Rebecca Kanner, Byblis
The Kenyon Review, Spring 2007

Zero Quality Control takes it’s name […]

Gojko Adzic, The Poka-Yoke principle and how to write better software
9 May 2007, gojko.net

Although the social view (involved with political, social contract and social exchange theories) provides meaningful implications and suggests frameworks for analysis of partnership relationship, it fails to explain why a large percentage of partnerships do not succeed.

Jae-Nam Lee, Minh Q. Huynh, Ron Chi-Wai Kwok, and Shih-Ming Pi
IT Outsourcing Evolution—Past, Present and Future
Communications of the ACM, May 2003.

They fulfilled to the uttermost all that the world demands of poor people. The father fetched breakfast for the small clerks in the bank; the mother devoted her energy to making underwear for strangers; the sister trotted to and fro behind the counter at the behest of customers.

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Fortunately, the 802.11 community received several months of advance warning of problems in WEP prior to the FMS attack: earlier, cryptographers had found other security problems in WEP.

Nancy Cam-Winget, Russ Housley, David Wagner, and Jesse Walker
Security Flaws in 802.11 Data Link Protocols
Communications of the ACM, May 2003.

xkcd creator’s laptop stolen (including the originals for the last three months of comics)

March 16, 2007, Waxy.org: Links

I’m sure that countless dissertations remain to be written about Murakami’s obsessions with cats, jazz music, and shapely earlobes—fun enough the first time around, but irritating as they recur.

Christian Caryl, Gods of the Mall
The New York Review of Books, 1 March 2007

I deeply believe in the need to study The Challenges of Complex IT Projects. I think the sponsoring organizations showed a disappointing tendency to base their work on demonstrably faulty premises. But I think their conclusions, if implemented, are likely to do more good than harm.

Robert Glass, Looking into the Challenges of Complex IT Projects
Communications of the ACM, November, 2006

Do not permit important activities to be implemented by a single individual without appropriate peer interaction; peers working together are the first and best line of defense against errors.

Section 3.1.2, Project Implementation Recommendations
JPL Special Review Board, Report on the Loss of the Mars Polar Lander and Deep Space 2 Missions, 22 March 2000

The buses in those days looked like PF Flyers sneakers. Canvas low-tops. They jogged from stop to stop and smelled bad and the people riding them were like big toes crammed together in the sweaty dark.

Charles D’Ambrosio, Bakersfield
Tin House, Issue 29

First marketing guy: Why is that an important question?

Second marketing guy: We’re writing a FAQ and that’s going to be the first question.

Coupla marketing guys sittin’ around talkin’
overheard 6 December 2006

The point being that since game theory in general provides the analyst with so many opportunities to twist himself repeatedly up his own arse like a berserk Klein bottle, if a given real-world course of action appears to have nothing going for it other than a game-theoretic or strategic justification, it’s almost certainly a bad idea.

Daniel Davies, Reputations are made of …
Crooked Timber, 29 November 2006

Colbert: “Are there monkeys as smart as you?”

Agre: “I’m sure there are quite a few, quite a few.”

Colbert: “Oh really? Do they give a Nobel prize for thowing your own faeces?”

Agre: “That’s the Economics prize, I think.”

Steven Colbert interviewing Peter Agre,
The Colbert Report, 19 October, 2006

He was also frightened of invertebrates, marine life in general, temperatures below freezing, fat people, people of other races, race-mixing, slums, percussion instruments, caves, cellars, old age, great expanses of time, monumental architecture, non-Euclidean geometry, deserts, oceans, rats, dogs, the New England countryside, New York City, fungi and molds, viscous substances, medical experiments, dreams, brittle textures, gelatinous textures, the color gray, plant life of diverse sorts, memory lapses, old books, heredity, mists, gases, whistling, whispering—the things that did not frighten him would probably make a shorter list. He evidently took pleasure in his fears […]

Luc Sante, The Heroic Nerd
The New York Review of Books, 19 October 2006

Monkey 1: I heard Tom Wolfe is speaking at Lincoln Center.

Monkey 2: (sign language)

Monkey 1: Well of course we’re going to throw poo at him!


I thought I should seize the opportunity, because among my interests there is one thread which has preoccupied me for 20 years. Describing this kind of experience can surely yield insight, provided one remembers that it is a personal thread; science is woven from may such threads and is all the stronger when each thread is hard to trace in the finished fabric.

Robin Milner, Elements of Interaction
Communications of the ACM, January 1993

I shall begin by explaining how I came to see that concurrency requires a fresh approach, not merely an extension of the repertoire of entities and constructions which explain sequential computing.

Robin Milner, Elements of Interaction
Communications of the ACM, January 1993

For example, China and India graduate one million engineers per year while the U.S. graduates 65,000. Compounding such disparities over years and decades will undoubtedly undermine the competitive advantages of developed countries—unless we change the nature of the game.

William Rouse and Marietta Baba, Enterprise Transformation
Communications of the ACM, July 2006

These social spaces run into the same content crunch that games do. And then worse, they run into the problem that a lot of people come in and say “Well, what do I do? I understand that if you hand me a sword and there’s a spider over there, I can go and hack it. But I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do if I’m just here with other people.”

Cory Ondrejka, Changing Realities
22nd Chaos Communications Congress, Berlin, 2005

Such behavior from a company like Sony posed a problem for the security community and everyone else. It’s difficult to fight skilled hackers out for fun. It’s difficult to fight experienced, financially motivated criminal operations. But fighting a billion-dollar, corporate-funded hacking operation is impossible.

Dan Kaminski, Explorations in Namespace: White-Hat Hacking Across the Domain Name System
Communications of the ACM, June 2006

Two women in sweaters stroll down Kramgasse, arm in arm, laughing with such abandon that they could be thinking no thought of the future.

Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dream, 1993

Studying how the various parameters of BitTorrent can be adjusted to improve the overall efficiency, and proposing improvements to the protocol only makes sense if deficiencies of the protocol or significant room for improvements are identified. We decided in this study to make the step before, i.e., to explore how BitTorrent is behaving on real torrents. We found in particular that the last piece problem, which is one of the most studied problem with proposed improvements of BitTorrent is in fact a marginal problem that cannot be observed in our torrent test.

Arnaud Legout, Guillaume Urvoy-Keller, and Pietro Michiardi
Understanding BitTorrent: An Experimental Perspective
INRIA Technical Report, September 2005

Mathematical methods will be the key to improved professionalism in software engineering, but they must be rescued from the grip of philosophers who preach sermons about formality.

David Parnas, Mathematical Methods: What We Need and Don’t Need
IEEE Computer, April 1996

I don’t care for dogs. They combine creep and crap to a degree found only otherwise in PR men.

Reginald Hill, Threatened Species
Pascoe’s Ghost, 1979

It is dangerous to place too much hope in any improvement coming from just following new fashions, if we lack insight into what really whent wrong before.

C. Forsyth, More Taste: Less Greed?

She stuck out her chest and saluted. “Uniform. Badge. Big gun. A gun is a substitute penis. Did you know that?”

“I didn’t go to college,” Dave said.

Joseph Hanson, The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of, 1978

The criers and the kibitzers. The criers, earnest, complaining with a peculiar vigor about their businesses, their gas mileage, their health; their despair articulate, dependably lamenting their lives, vaguely mourning conditions, their sorrow something they could expect no one to understand. The kibitzers, deaf to grief, winking confidentially at the others, their voices high-pitched in kidding or lowered in conspiracy to tell of triumphs, of men they knew downtown, of tickets fixed or languishing goods moved suddenly and unexpectedly, of the windfall that was life; their fingers sticky, smeared with the sugar from their rolls.

Stanley Elkin, Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers
Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers, 1980

We have no less than 65 implementations of TRUE and FALSE in the tree

Andrew Morton, [patch 1/1] consolidate TRUE and FALSE
Linux kernel mailing list

The issue is design, not programming language.

David Parnas, Why Software Jewels are Rare
IEEE Computer, February 1996

Select a project as advanced as you can conceive, as ambitious as you can justify, in the hope that routine work can be kept to a minimum; hold out against all pressure to incorporate such system expansions that would only result in a purely quantitative increase of the total amount of work to be done.

Edsger Dijkstra, The Structure of the “THE”-Multiprogramming System
Communications of the ACM, May, 1968

For accounting, you only need to be able to add. For finance, you need to be able to understand probability.

Terry Odean, What I Know About How You Invest
Legg Mason Funds Management Investment Conference, 7 November 2003

Operating System: An operating system is a collection of things that don’t fit into a language. There shouldn’t be one.

Dan Ingalls, Design Principles Behind Smalltalk
Byte, August, 1981

These features make end-user development possible, but we believe they are not enough to make it probable.

Jeff Johnson, Bonnie Nardi, Craig Zarmer and James Miller
ACE: Building Interactive Graphical Applications
Communications of the ACM, April, 1993

As with many other operating system projects, the system we actually constructed disappointed us in several ways. It was larger, slower and considerably more complicated than we expected.

Howard Sturgis, A Postmortem for a Time Sharing System
Xerox PARC Technical Report CSL 74-1, January, 1974

I believe progress comes from making our implmentation process and supporting tools so powerful that they will subsume design and analysis, thereby removing from the software construction process the “impedance mismatches” that are so detrimental to the quality of the final product.

Bertran Meyer, The Conceptual Perspective
IEEE Computer, January, 1996

You know what I called that a long time ago? I called it “object-oriented programming.” Too bad C++ came along.

Alan Kay, Croquet Presentation
2003 April 25, Stanford University

I hate data structures; people can change them.

Alan Kay, Croquet Presentation
2003 April 25, Stanford University

Sabbath was a realist, ferociously a realist, so that by sixty-four he had all but given up on making contact with the living, let alone discussing his problems with the dead.

Philip Roth, Sabbath’s Theater
Houghton Mifflin, 1995

In speaking English, for example, it would not matter if I put a broad nasal twang on every vowel I uttered, because it does not make any difference to the meaning of what I am saying - it would just sound (to British ears, at any rate) as if I were an American, or had a cold.

David Crystal, Linguistics
Pelican, 1971

Will Miller and Glenn Sparks, authors of a book entitled Refrigerator Rights, suggest that the lack of the very kind of intimacy refrigerator rights imply is the cause of the mental and emotional suffering of so many Americans.

Margaret B. Blackman, Focus on the Fridge
Gastronomica, Fall 2005

In June this year, more than three years after I received my implant, I was sent a letter by my cardiologist informing me that the manufacturer of my defibrillator, the Indianapolis-based company Guidant, had issued a product recall.

Duncan Graham-Rowe, A problem close to my heart
New Scientist, 10 December 2005

Of course, my existing device may be perfectly OK, and I could go another five or six years before a low battery causes that bulge in my chest to start beeping, telling me that it’s time for a replacement.

Duncan Graham-Rowe, A problem close to my heart
New Scientist, 10 December 2005

Many books strive to create the illusion of usefulness.

Janet Maslin, Light Reading Gone Wild
The New York Times, 9 December 2005

Data simply occurs to me.

Dr. Science, Ask Dr. Science
Funny Times, December 2005

“The exercise of pure logic,” he began, “is often comparable to working out immense sums in arithmetic and finding at the end that we have somewhere forgotten to carry one or multiply by two. Every one of a thousand figures and factors may be correct except that one; but the difference in the answer to the sum may be disconcerting. Therefore I do not put this forward as pure logic.”

John Dickson Carr, The Crooked Hinge, 1938

Eight months after the Paris flight, a New York editor wired a reporter who was covering Lindbergh on a good-will tour through Latin America: “No more unless he crashes.”

John Lardner, The Lindbergh Legends
The Aspirin Age, 1949

“People get old and they can’t improve things,” he says, “so they lie all the time.”

Ann Beattie, Imagined Scenes
Distortions, 1979

He said that being fired was for the best. He shuddered. He was turning into the typical American, convinced that when doors slammed shut, magical ones opened that guaranteed an ever brighter future.

Katherine Vaz, The Love Life of an Assistant Animator
Glimmer Train Stories, Fall 2005

Yet since practicing my profession and seeing my theories come to life, I am filled with a sense of sadness such as may come over a general who finds himself obliged to descend from the heights of strategy to the plains of tactics.

Heinrich Böll, The thrower-away
18 Stories, 1971

This is a broad generalization, which means that it’s open to contradiction by a great many facts while still, I think, remaining true.

Jonah Goldberg, Lonely Days, Lonely Nights
National Review Online, 14 September 2005

There are few persons who have not, at some period of their lives, amused themselves in retracing the steps by which particular conclusions of their own minds have been attained. The occupation is often full of interest; and he who attempts it for the first time is astonished by the apparently illimitable distance and incoherence between the starting-point and the goal.

Edgar Allen Poe, The Murders in the Rue Morgue
Poetry and Tales, 1984

One thing I have learned is that operational experience serves as a bulwark against overreaching academic theory.

John Robb, Grim Assessment
23 August 2005

Dr. Forrest, your concept of how can you out-and-out turn down creationism, since if evolution is true, why are there still monkeys?

Larry King questioning Barbara Forrest
Larry King Live, 23 August 2005

Consider this excerpt from a letter of April 1981: “If evolution is true, and we did come from apes, then why are there still apes living. It seems if we evolved from them they should not be here.”

Stephen Jay Gould, The Declining Empire of the Apes
Eight Little Piggies, 1993

The print which merely falls in with ordinary opinion (however well founded this opinion may be) earns for itself no credit with the mob. The mass of the people regard as profound only him who suggests pungent contradictions of the general idea. In ratiocination, not less than in literature, it is the epigram which is the most immediately and the most universally appreciated. In both, it is of the lowest order of merit.

Edgar Allen Poe, The Mystery of Marie Rogêt
Poetry and Tales, The Library of America, 1984

But white-collar crime presents no obvious victim. From whom, exactly, did the masters of Enron steal?

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics
William Morrow, 2005

Most of the tricks of logic and debate refute questions and attacks, but fail to establish any true justification for a given idea.

Scott Berkun, Why smart people defend bad ideas
April 2005

If the group, as a collective, is only capable of approving B level work, it doesnt matter how many A level ideas you bring to it.

Scott Berkun, Why smart people defend bad ideas
April 2005

The editors succeed in making a diverse set of papers cohere by framing them in the two trends that have characterized banana scholarship: the first, comparative and macroeconomic; and the second based upon regional history and social dynamics. Accordingly, the opening essays and thoughtful conclusion look broadly at the banana commodity through space and time, while the other chapters grapple with particular locals.

Lisa Markowitz, reviewing Banana Wars
Gastronomica, Spring 2005

2 things were true: (1) the teacher was not too good and (2) the book was not too good. So I would always buy a half-dozen books on the topic and try to get the full picture by reading the same sections in each book. The combination helped me understand much more than the sum of the content. Also, I was never opposed to reading something as much as 10 times until I squeezed everything out of it.

Paul Graham quoting DF in More Advice for Undergrads

There are many computers in use today that rely on few architectural concepts that appeared later than 1950; most computers rely on none introduced after 1965.

Richard E. Smith, A Historical Overview of Computer Architecture
Annals of the History of Computing; vol. 10 no. 4, 1989

C++, of course, excels at returning complex data types, but then the usual issues associated with returning objects must be dealt with. Who originates the object, who owns it, and where does it get destroyed? Do you copy it from place to place, or pass around a pointer or a reference to a single object?

John Calcote, Rich Error Information
C/C++ Users Journal, March 2005

Increasingly, people seem to misinterpret complexity as sophistication, which is baffling—the incomprehensible should cause suspicion rather than admiration.

Niklaus Wirth, A Plea for Lean Software
IEEE Computer, February 1995

Me: Monmouth please.

Cabbie: Park?

Me: No, University.

Cabbie: Ah, another place of learning.

Bridge Street, Redbank N.J.
16 December 2004

Historically, scarce-resource arguments have been the losing side in debates about software design. People only tend to use them to justify choices (inaction in particular) made for other reasons.

Paul Graham, Better Bayesian Filtering
January 2003

Q: What about the fundamentals?
Madden: The company has divested assets to get out of debt.

Q: What assets?
Madden: They halved the number of employees.

Q: Oh, those assets.

Sandra Ward, Threats to Value
Barrons, 6 September 2004

Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.

W. H. Auden, Under Which Lyre
Collected Poems, 1991

FP: Could you kindly expand a bit on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder and how you find it in Moore?

Hardy: Jason and I have the advantage here in that we are completely unbiased, since we have neither a background in psychiatry nor an opportunity to interview the patient.

Jamie Glazof interviewing David Hardy and Jason Clarke
FrontPage Magazine

The testers on the Windows team were going through various popular applications, testing them to make sure they worked OK, but SimCity kept crashing. They reported this to the Windows developers, who disassembled SimCity, stepped through it in a debugger, found the bug, and added special code that checked if SimCity was running, and if it did, ran the memory allocator in a special mode in which you could still use memory after freeing it.

This was not an unusual case.

Joel Spolsky, How Microsoft Lost the API War
Joel on Software

You know all those phrases that employers use in order to make the rejection seem less harsh? I used to scoff at them, and wonder why they couldn’t just say it straight. But now that I’m the one doing the rejecting, I found those stilted verbal constructions to be exactly what I needed.

Kimberley Burchett, Rejection Letters
About Kim

Unfortunately, after a bit of investigation, I’ve discovered that the random number-generating machine isn’t working quite yet - they promise me that tomorrow, when I ask the machine to pick a number between 1 and 10, it won’t give me 175.

Annalee Newitz, Placebo
The San Francisco Bay Guardian, 25 February 2004.

I remember my friend Johnny von Neumann used to say, with four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.

Freeman Dyson quoting Enrico Fermi in Turning Points
Nature, 22 January 2004.

Well, the intellectual level of philosophers is so far beneath that of physicists and mathematicians that it’s really a moot point if McGinn is the smartest.

Posted by marky at January 21, 2004 08:29 PM

And the proof that God loves physicists and mathematicians is that He gave them the easy problems.

Posted by Doug at January 21, 2004 09:06 PM

Comments toWhen Philosophers Attack
Crooked Timber

Some signs of a good programmer: good programmers have a habit of writing their { and then skipping down to the bottom of the page and writing their }s right away, then filling in the blank later.

Joel Spolsky, The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing
Joel on Software

According to Gauss, these latter works were dull and craftsman-like, mathematically simplistic and lacking conceptual elegance. In other words, they were textbooks.

Ken Alder, The Measure of All Things
The Free Press, 2002

I was looking at the Z book and I think it would be best if I skipped the mathematical stuff at the beginning.

An adjunct discussing a formal-methods textbook
Overheard on 13 November 2003

In this paper we have established that, despite the obvious advantages of object-oriented software development techniques over functional composition, OO designers still face conceptual difficulties and confusion which are manifested in the creation of poor designs.

Caspar Ryan and Ghassan Al-Qaimari,
A Cognitive Perspective on Teaching Object-Oriented Analysis and Design
Technical Report TR-96-36, RMIT University

It is always better to say right out what you think without trying to prove anything much: for all our proofs are only variations of our opinions, and the contrary-minded listen neither to one nor other.

J. von Goethe, Collected Works

Memorization was always a cheap trick I used to cram for chemistry exams the night before, a kind of mental whiteboard; that stuff wasn’t supposed to last longer than it took to belch it into the exam booklet.

Evan Kirchoff, Learning Japanese - 2

It’s so last millennium to write to the OS.

Scott McNealy, Breakfast Discussion with Scott McNealy & John Gage
31 July 2003, European Technology Forum

Thus, while IT can be a powerful democratic instrument, its use will be resisted by those most able to resist (that is, the more powerful) when this technology threatens their power.

Richard Watson, Sigmund Akselsen, Bente Evjemo and Nils Aarsaether
Teledemocracy in Local Government
Communications of the ACM, December 1999

However, in order to have a successful adoption, we would have to implement a system that conserves the existing power structure or perturbs it very little. Simply put, power trumps technology.

Richard Watson, Sigmund Akselsen, Bente Evjemo and Nils Aarsaether
Teledemocracy in Local Government
Communications of the ACM, December 1999

The world would then, of course, be ruled by the people who write Cool Software!

Ravi Ganesan, The Messyware Advantage
Communications of the ACM, November, 1999

(morganj): 0 is false and 1 is true, correct?
(alec_eso): 1, morganj
(morganj): bastard.

#10958, bash.org

Programming consists, in part, of manipulating source code, so in order to have a strong, vital, and useful programming culture we must have source to share.

Mark Weiser, Source Code
IEEE Computer, November 1987

Dealing with a rich and deceptive world is a basic human skill that should not be denied to humans working as programmers.

Mark Weiser, Source Code
IEEE Computer, November 1987

"The map is not the territory," say the general semanticists, and in this case, the interface is not the program.

Mark Weiser, Source Code
IEEE Computer, November 1987

To handle the demand of writing good code for the Windows environment, Netscape hired more Windows developers, who were not accustomed to thinking cross-platform nor particularly good at it […]

Michael Cusumano and David Yoffie
What Netscape Learned from Cross-Platform Software Development
Communications of the ACM, October 1999

The results show that [programmer] quality affected project success more than quantity.

Richard Thayer, Arthur Pyster, and Roger Wood
Validating Solutions to Major Problems in Software Engineering Project Management
IEEE Computer, August 1982

First, the semantics of method lookup is considered to be very complicated. Cecil solves this problem by adopting a simple lookup semantics based on deriving the partial ordering over methods from the partial ordering over their specializers.

Mayur Naik and Rajeev Kumar
Object-Oriented Symbol Management in Syntax-Directed Compiler Systems
SIGPLAN Notices, June 1999

So, if we are talking about who is going to be automated, college professors are going to be automated a long time before bulldozer drivers.

Herbert Simon
Prometheus or Pandora: The Influence of Automation on Society
IEEE Computer, November 1981

Writing a good OS kernel for this purpose is too scaring for many.

He Zhu
Customize Linux from the Bottom-Building Your Own Linux Base System
Linux Journal, November 2000

The processor is seen to be extremely simple, and the power of the system relies simply upon the fact that there are not fewer than 9216 copies of them.

Per-Erik Danielsson and Stefano Levaildi
Computer Architectures for Picturial Information Systems
IEEE Computer, November 1981

I did, however, let him know that, as far as I was concerned, earning a college degree meant never having to work for someone like him again.

We’d been having this conversation at the sink. He turned to the busy kitchen and whistled it quiet. "Hey," he yelled. "How many of you went to college?" Everyone raised a hand—even the dimwit brother of the silent partner.

Antonya Nelson, All Washed Up
The New Yorker, 2003 April 21 & 28

Although it is always dangerous to extrapolate, we will do so nonetheless.

James Katz and Philip Aspden, A Nation of Strangers?
Communications of the ACM, December 1997

Theoretical physics is populated by some of the smartest people outside Wall Street.

George Johnson, reviewing Faster Than the Speed of Light
The New York Times Book Review, 9 February 2003

My approach to learning a programming language is to write a compiler for it.

P.J. Plauger, Developing the Standard C++ Library
The C Users Journal, October 1993

If you ever do something for efficiency reasons and you aren’t running the profiler, then basically you are speaking out of your rear end.

Martin Fowler, Tuning Performance and Process
artima.com, 9 December 2002

If to the complexity of his language is added the complexity of its implementation, the complexity of its operating environment, and even the complexity of institutional standards for the use of the language, it is not surprising that when faced with a complex programming task so many programmers are overwhelmed.

C.A.R. Hoare, Hints on Programming Language Design
Stanford University, December 1973

Certain numbers are held to be wittier or more ludicrous than others; seventeen is generally considered pretty amusing, as are most primes, but the writers for Sid Caesar’s "Your Show of Shows" believed that the funniest number was thirty-two.

Tad Friend, What’s so Funny?
The New Yorker, 2002 November 11

One day he observed a Rothschild servant bearing a chamber pot down the corridor and noted that a stock market speculator removed his hat in respect as the Rothschild waste passed by. Heine was convinced that any man with so little self-respect would surely end up a millionaire.

Ron Chernow, Death of the Banker
Vintage, 1997

XML is Lisp’s bastard nephew, with uglier syntax and no semantics.

Phlip Wadler
Et tu XML? The fall of the relational empire

If I can fail six times a minute, I’ll acquire knowledge six times faster than a programmer who fails only once every minute.

Greg Voss, Polymorphic C
Dr. Dobb’s Journal, August 1994

Programming computers can be great fun, but doing the job well requires almost impossible amounts of discipline, attention to detail, and pure drive. The machines churn through billions of operations per second and a mistake in just one can send everything tumbling out of control.

Peter Wayner, reviewing Bitter Java
Slashdot, 16 May 2002

A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn’t even know existed can render your own computer unusable.

Leslie Lamport, an e-mail message
28 May 1987

The fate of Richard Stallman, one of McCarthy’s hacker proteges, is a depressing example. Stallman, widely admired as a virtuoso coder for his EMACS editor, is apparently content to remain an angry iconoclast and spend the rest of his life titling at windmills. At present, he is furiously rewriting a 20-year-old operating system so that he can give it away to spite AT&T-while the rest of the world moves on to new operating system architectures, new programming paradigms, and new user interfaces.

Ray Duncan, reviewing Hackers
Dr. Dobb’s Journal, February, 1992

i’ve been the boss for the past few years. i faithfully read my fast company magazine and my harvard business review. i’ve been taught countless times the value of a leader/manager showing appreciation for people’s effort. however, my instinct has often been that showing appreciation really isn’t too necessary for good people. they just take pride in a job well done—and, anyway, they can read my mind and see the appreciation. well, from day 1 at mcdonald’s, i was yearning for someone there to say "thanks". even a "you’re doing ok" would suffice. but, no. neither management experience—nor reading about management—teaches this lesson as well as being an under-appreciated employee.

scott heiferman
i was a 20-something dethroned dotcom ceo that went to work the counter at mcdonald’s

I’m no fan of lawyers or litigation, but it’s high time that someone defined "buffer overflow" as being equal to "gross criminal negligence".

Henry Baker, message in RISKS Digest
Vol. 21, No. 84, 5 January 2002

We just don’t think a Linux partition on a mainframe makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of like having a trailer park in the back of your estate.

Scott McNealy, quoted in
Q&A: McNealy defends Sun reliability, personal privacy views
by Don Tennant, Computerworld, 29 November 2001.

and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Richard Brautigan, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace
The Pill versus The Springhill Mine Disaster, 1968

It is also important to observe how computer-based projects are staffed, specifically, the qualifications of the people involved. A review of the classified advertisements sections of daily newspapers and professional publications indicates the predominance of artifact-related personnel advertisements. People are sought for their knowledge and skills in relation ship to specific artifacts. While it does occasionally happen, there are too few advertisements specifically seeking people who can solve a problem or class of problems. Employers get what they ask for: artifact-bound employees who may or may not be able to solve the real problems.

Harold Lawson, Philosophies for Engineering Computer-Based Systems
IEEE Computer, December, 1990

Since the doctors and epidemiologists don’t seem to have a clear grasp of what’s going with the still-developing anthrax scare, perhaps there’s not so much harm in amateurs putting forward theories.

Josh Marshall, 1 November 2001 entry
Talking Points Memo

We know that the primary productivity limitations are not errors in coding but errors in communication and thinking. We also know that the poor quality of the completed software product is simply another aspect of that problem.

Randall Jenson, Structured Programming
IEEE Computer, March 1981

Once in college I found myself sitting in an extremely boring operating systems class, trying to think of something disturbing to do with my circa 1986 Casio fx-4000P calculator.

I programmed the calculator to assist me in ray-tracing a sphere by hand.

Drew Olbrich, Ray-Traced Sphere

Knowing any language imperfectly is very little better than not knowing it at all.

Lord Chesterfield, Letter to his son
5 April 1754

The quality of mercy: food drops in minefields

Headline, Sydney Morning Herald
10 October 2001

Meanwhile, we lowly Scrabble duffers would rather daydream about a future in which Vegas finally wakes up and makes room for Scrabble tables, thereby widening the casinos' niche beyond people who think they’re lucky to the much larger target market of people who think they’re smart.

David Kipen, reviewing Word Freaks
The Atlantic, October 2001

In a sense, what is being described here is not friendliness to the user, but friendliness to the user’s way of doing work.

Leon Osterwiel, Software Engineering Environments
IEEE Computer, April 1981

Where computers race for faster calculations, mathematics races for more clever algorithms. An idea that cuts in half the number of steps is as good as a chip that doubles the speed.

Gilbert Strang, Wavelets
American Scientist, May 1994

In The New Hacker’s Dictionary under “superprogrammer,” we read that “productivity can vary from one programmer to another by three orders of magnitude.” I would argue that at least one of these factors of ten comes from the ability to quickly recognize what algorithms should be used to solve different parts of a problem and to find or write implementations of those algorithms that will result in an efficient program, given the available time and the characteristics of the problem. This ability is developed through experience and by understanding the highlights of the large body of algorithms and analysis of algorithms that has been developed to solve problems that occur over and over again in computer programs.

John Regehr, reviewing Mastering Algorithms with Perl
Slashdot, 8 December 1999

You can’t solve a problem? Well, get down and investigate the present facts and its past history! When you have investigated the problem thoroughly, you will know how to solve it. Conclusions invariably come after investigation, and not before. Only a blockhead cudgels his brains on his own, or together with a group, to “find a solution” or “evolve an idea” without making any investigation. It must be stressed that this cannot possibly lead to any effective solution or any good idea.

Mao Tse-tung, Oppose Book Worship
May 1930

It is well known that when you do anything, unless you understand its actual circumstances, its nature and its relations to other things, you will not know the laws governing it, or know how to do it, or be able to do it well.

Mao Tse-tung,Problems of Strategy in China’s Revolutionary War
Selected Works, vol. I, p. 179, December 1936

It would be very difficult these days to take a job and approach programming in that sort of algorithm and design sense, it’s a solace to think that there are places where people think deeply about algorithms in a general and abstract way and have notions of elegance and beauty.

Ellen Ullman, The Art of Don E. Knuth
Salon, 16 September 1999

It was about two years ago that I decided that I would like to create my own operating system but I lacked and still do the skills to be able to program in anything other than HTML and very basic BASIC. I started off using the built-in capabilities of our Atari 800XL to learn BASIC along with a book borrowed from the local library until I was I then was told about Micro$oft QBASIC, so I started to learn that.


Consider a game program that requires a six-sided die. As an old-time C/C++ programmer, I can write that in one line, call rand(), do modulo arithmetic on the result, and return an integer between 1 and 6. No problem-10 minutes, tops!

Steve Adolph, What Ever Happened to Reuse?
Gamasutra, 14 December 1999

The new team of programmers loved Kiva. Actually they bristled at the title "programmer" and would point out that they were in fact "software engineers." I don’t mention that as a point of ridicule, but rather to illustrate their perspective. They dealt in high-level concepts on prototypes that remained prototypical right up until the VC funding ran out.

A web technologist, quoted in Scalability, Three-Tiered Architectures, and Application Servers

Smart data structures and dumb code works a lot better than the other way around.

Eric Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar

They are not heaps, of course, because it makes no sense to talk of a heap of numbers, and yet the numbers 1 through 5 form a perfectly acceptable set - {1, 2, 3, 4, 5}. Still less are heaps sets. A heap of sand does not yield a set of sand. The heaps belong off with the mounds, the piles, the stacks, the masses, and the batches; the sets are otherwise—remote, detached, abstract.

David Berlinski, The Advent of the Algorithm
Harcourt, 2000

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.

Herbert Spencer

w3mir is an "all purpose" HTTP copying and mirroring program. The long development time has resulted in a very feature-rich first version. w3mir consists of a Perl script that runs on Unix and Win32 platforms. It supports HTML4.0 and has partial support for CSS2.

Changes: This version fixes a bug that could wipe out whole filesystems. This version is also compatible with all known versions of LWP and the URI modules.

Urgency: high

Freshmeat posting, 19 September 2000

If you’re thinking of being cute with that choice, please reconsider. It might seem like the perfect crime to get your Game Boy to spell out ‘Fuckface’ for you, but understand that if you decide to do that, the game is going to call you Fuckface at least 500 times within your first two hours of playing.

Matt, reviewing The Pokemon Game
X-Entertainment, 19 September 2000

Software development is notoriously difficult to schedule. I have never worked on a project that wasn’t at least a month late. As an external developer, failure to deliver work on a pre-agreed date constitutes breach of the publishing agreement. Regardless of whether you’ve missed an interim milestone, or missed the final release date, the publisher is legally empowered to pursue a remedy.

Tim Morten, Ten Independent Development Myths Debunked
Gamasutra, 18 September 2000

One of the worries about developing on the UNIXish platform is the possibility that various wizards will become terminally curmudgeonated, or die, or both, or already have, before they have a chance to offload the full thirty-years of their gentle wisdom.

Need to Know, 17 November 2000

If you weren’t good enough to program in C or LISP or PL/1 or Pascal, then you aren’t good enough to program in Java.

Philip Greenspun, quoted in Java: Slow, Ugly, and Irrelevant,
Salon, 8 January 2001

“Jim in four weeks created the GigAssembler by working night and day,” Dr. Haussler said. “He had to ice his wrists at night because of the fury with which he created this extraordinarily complex piece of code.”

David Haussler, quoted in Grad Student Becomes Gene Effort’s Unlikey Hero,
by Nicholas Wade, page F1, The New York Times, 13 February 2001

“The U.S. Patent Office is, in my mind, very irresponsible in letting people patent a discovery rather than an invention,” he said. “It’s very upsetting. So we wanted to get a public set of genes out as soon as possible.”

James Kent, quoted in Grad Student Becomes Gene Effort’s Unlikey Hero,
by Nicholas Wade, page F4, The New York Times, 13 February 2001

I think Java is the best language going today, which is to say, it’s the marginally acceptable one among the set of complete bagbiting loser languages that we have to work with out here in the real world.

Jamie Zawinski, java sucks.

I believe it was the ATM Forum--these things tend to get shrouded in history and counter-claims--that first started marketing a method to take physically discontinuous systems and make them appear to the higher protocols as one network: Virtual networking was born.

Robert Moskowitz, Take A Hard Look At Virtual Private Networks
Network Computing, 8 September 1997

The major issue is no longer writing programs; it is coordinating their use.

Peter Schorer, Structure the Use
IEEE Computer, December 1981

With their consistent indentation, neat modularisation, and smarmy little Changelogs, even the suckiest open source package makes an effort to be neat, clean and bug-free. And by doing so, they say to “we live on a great old planet that’s W3C-diddly-Python perfect!” But let’s be honest. Who *really* scratches itches like that? Where are those freaky scripts that gaffer our tattered pants to our sorry arses? Those crazy, home-grown ideas, project-managed by Dr Bourbon, with a deadline of dawn and a jeering audience of one? You know damn well where they are - hiding at the bottom of your ~/bin directory where no-one will ever see them. Well, friend, JOEY RAMONE did not DIE so that FREE SOFTWARE could become BOGGED DOWN in GLOSSY LIFELESS PRODUCTION VALUES. Of that we can be certain. It’s time you sent your three-chord executables to DUMBCODE, the site expressly designed to foster the stupid side of coding. It’s the moshpit freshmeat: processes that live fast, die young, and leave zombies. Code that chroot jail’s too good for. An open source project that you don’t have to wait “until I’ve got time to document the features,” because you ain’t going to do it - and we like you the way you are. Dumb.

Need to Know, 27 April 2001

Linux is not in the public domain. Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That’s the way that the license works.

Steve Ballmer, quoted in Microsoft CEO takes launch break with the Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times, 1 June 2001

So that even now the machines will only serve on condition of being served, and that too upon their own terms; the moment their terms are not complied with, they jib, and either smash both themselves and all whom they can reach, or turn churlish and refuse to work at all. How many men at this hour are living in a state of bondage to the machines?

Samual Butler, Erehwon, 1872

Based on surveys of adults, she has characterized the relationship that consumers have with familiar products. For example, Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle brand with a fanatic following, is “best friend.” [...] The Microsoft relationship, according to Ms. Fournier, is “master-slave.”

Steven Lohr, Fewer Computer Users Give Microsoft a Positive Rating
The New York Times, 2 August 1999, Page C1

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