Bukys's Not So Familiar Quotations Page

Carl Sagan gave a half hour's performance so arrogant he might have been confused with, well, me.

— William F. Buckley, Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist

If you're one in a million, then there's 768 of you on the net and you can find each other.

— Marc Smith, Microsoft Research, O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2004 [via Will Davies]

This won't set a precedent -- and anyway, we've done it before.

Bill Cohen via Tom Grey via Eugene Volokh

Actually, Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever. I am informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution. I invite all of you to work with me to strengthen our copyright laws in all of the ways available to us. As you know, there is also Jack Valenti's proposal for term to last forever less one day. Perhaps the Committee may look at that next Congress.

— Mary Bono, speaking to the House of Representatives: Congressional Record, Vol. 144, follow templink to the Mrs. Bono testimony just before the page H9952 link

"Any problem in computer science can be solved with another layer of indirection."

— David Wheeler, chief programmer for the EDSAC project in the early 1950s.

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility - there are so few of us left.

— Oscar Levant

You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence.

— C.A. Beard

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

At least a wild goose chase gives you some exercise.

-- Neal Stephenson

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.

-- Robert R. Coveyou, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Anyone who considers arithmetic methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.

-- John von Neumann (1951)

Do not compute the totality of your poultry population until all the manifestations of incubation have been entirely completed.

-- William Jennings Bryan(1860-1925) - American lawyer, speaker, polititian, presidential candidate

I love deadlines - I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

-- Douglas Adams

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that you have to spend much of your life defending sons-of-bitches.

-- H.L. Mencken


-- Voting instructions, Palm Beach County, Florida, according to Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic, posted 11/22/00, issue date 12/04/00.

Defensive indifference

Now in this context the excesses of the dot-com era are seen more clearly. Had Netscape grown organically, and carefully, with regard for Web developers (people who use HTML, not Java or XML), we'd have a two party system, and progress wouldn't have to happen outside the browser.

Instead the VCs played the hype organ, put figureheads in charge, people who know nothing about developer communities, or even anything about the Web. They made noises like they understood, and who could contradict that, people were making so much money, they were happy. But the technology died. The developers went nowhere. And Microsoft took over the market without opposition.

In the last game of the World Series in the 9th inning with the Yankees up by two and tasting victory, Bennie Agbayani took second base, and the Yankee catcher didn't bother trying to throw him out. I wondered how the scorekeeper would record this. Was it an error? A stolen base?

I looked it up. "Defensive indifference." I had never heard that term before. And that's exactly what Silicon Valley and the rest of the tech industry did with the Web. We let Microsoft steal the base and never put up any realistic opposition.

-- Dave Winer, software developer, from Scripting News, November 1, 2000

Part of being a developer is commitment. This isn't a wishy-washy concept. If it hurts your stomach to think of what you would lose if you gave up, you have commitment.

-- Dave Winer, software developer, from Scripting News, September 18, 2000

Indeed, one of my major complaints about the computer field is that whereas Newton could say, "If I have seen a little farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants," I am forced to say, "Today we stand on each other's feet." Perhaps the central problem we face in all of computer science is how we are to get to the situation where we build on top of the work of others rather than redoing so much of it in a trivially different way. Science is supposed to be cumulative, not almost endless duplication of the same kind of things.

-- Richard W. Hamming, "One Man's View of Computer Science," 1968 Turing Award Lecture, quoting from Sir Issac Newton's letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675/76. See ACM Turing Award Lectures: the First Twenty Years: 1966-1985. (ACM Press. 1987). See also this 1986 talk.

A similar quote... "Pigmei gigantum humeris impositi plusquam ipsi gigantes vident"
"Pigmies placed on the shoulders of giants see more than the giants themselves."

-- Lucan AD 39-65, The Civil War, Book II, 10
Note: Wikipedia states that this connection to Lucan is spurious.

See also:

If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders.

-- Hal Abelson

Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.

-- Pablo Picasso

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.

-- Will Rodgers (anyone have an exact citation?)

Engineering Specifications Explained:

The US Standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number.

Why was that gauge used?

Because that's the way they built them in England, and the US railroads were built by English expatriates.

Why did the English people build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Why did "they" use that gauge then?

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

Okay! Why did the wagons use that odd wheel spacing?

Well, if they tried to use any other spacing the wagons would break on some of the old, long distance roads, because that's the spacing of the old wheel ruts.

So who built these old rutted roads?

The first long distance roads in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

And the ruts? The initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagons, were first made by Roman war chariots.

Since the chariots were made for or by Imperial Rome they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

Thus, we have the answer to the original questions. The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches derives from the original specification (Military Spec) for an Imperial Roman army war chariot.

Why did the Romans choose that width? Because the Imperial Roman chariots were made to be just wide enough to accommodate the back-ends of two war horses.

So, the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right.

-- From: "Richard J. Solomon" , Date: Friday, July 10, 1998 07:36:08
-- Via: Dave Farber , Date: Mon, 13 Jul 1998 10:38:57 -0500

Here is an alternate ending that is attached to many versions:

Now the twist to the story.............. There's an interesting extension to the story about railroad gauges and horses' behinds. When we see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank.

These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs might have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory had to run through a tunnel in the mountains.

The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

So, the major design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a Horse's Ass!

The earliest version of this that I can find is from Tom O'Hare, University of Texas at Austin, see http://www.nada.kth.se/kurser/kth/2D1310/97-98/M/labfiler/RAILROAD.TXT. I suspect, however, that it has been passed from engineer to engineer for years. If anyone can supply the correct attribution or more history, let me know.

The facts themselves have been looked into by Cecil Adams "The Straight Dope" February 2000, see http://www.straightdope.com/columns/000218.html.

Significant related discussion at http://lists.essential.org/1998/am-info/msg01555.html (Richard Solomon at UPenn, citing really old Encyclopędia Brittanica and other contemporary books circa 1810) and http://www.spikesys.com/Trains/st_gauge.html.

The controversy continues at http://www.urbanlegends.com/misc/railroad_gauge.html.

My thanks to Jim Jardine for keeping me up-to-date with the twists and turns on this story.

Writer Arthur C. Clarke was participating in a panel discussion via the Internet as a part of Cyberfest '97. This was held at the University of Illinois at Urbana, the "birthplace" of HAL 9000, the intelligent, self-aware computer in his novel 2001:A Space Odyssey.

At the conference, which included a competition to write HAL's first words, Clarke offered his preference for HAL's first spoken sentence.

"Good morning doctors. I have taken the liberty of removing Windows 95 from my hard drive."

-- Submitted by Terry Labach Oct. 17, 1997 to the "quote of the day" mailing list. (Send list changes or requests to qotd-request@ensu.ucalgary.ca.)

I work on the help desk here, and have just gotten off the phone with a customer who was asking us about her network connection. She insisted that the 3com card in her PC was not powerful enough for her needs and that she had "looked into it" and had decided she wanted a 4com card instead as they were obviously better.


Tip: If a customs officer asks for your visa, don't say, "I have cash. Do you take that?"

-- from Dilbert Newsletter 16.0

"Blink your eyelids periodically to lubricate your eyes."

-- An actual tip from page 16 of the HP "Environmental, Health & Safety Handbook for Employees."

No one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first magistrate in foreign pay without being able to guard against it by displacing him.

-- James Madison, on impeachment (I'm still looking for the exact citation)

I recently had someone evaluate my computer system and make recommendations for improving speed and efficiency, but all he did was make fun of my setup. The mistake was mine: I had accidentally hired an insultant.

-- Richard M. Romano <rromano@pipeline.com>. [LOTD, 4/12/96.] [as quoted in Computists Communique Vol 6 No 32, see Ken Laws <LAWS@ai.sri.com> for subscription information]

Here is a simple experiment that will teach you an important electrical lesson: On a cool, dry day, scuff your feet along a carpet, then reach your hand into a friend's mouth and touch one of his dental fillings. Did you notice how your friend twitched violently and cried out in pain? This teaches us that electricity can be a very powerful force, but we must never use it to hurt others unless we need to learn an important electrical lesson.

It also teaches us how an electrical circuit works. When you scuffed your feet, you picked up batches of "electrons", which are very small objects that carpet manufacturers weave into carpets so they will attract dirt. The electrons travel through your bloodstream and collect in your finger, where they form a spark that leaps to your friend's filling, then travels down to his feet and back into the carpet, thus completing the circuit.

Amazing Electronic Fact: If you scuffed your feet long enough without touching anything, you would build up so many electrons that your finger would explode! But this is nothing to worry about unless you have carpeting.

-- Dave Barry, "What is Electricity?"

See, when the GOVERNMENT spends money, it creates jobs; whereas when the money is left in the hands of TAXPAYERS, God only knows what they do with it. Bake it into pies, probably. Anything to avoid creating jobs.

-- Dave Barry

The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn't need its brain anymore so it eats it! (It's rather like getting tenure.)

-- Daniel Dennett, CONSCIOUSNESS EXPLAINED, p. 177

The other major kind of computer is the "Apple," which I do not recommend, because it is a wuss-o-rama new-age computer that you basically just plug in and use. This means you don't get to participate in the most entertaining aspect of computer owning, which is trying to get the computer to work.

-- Dave Barry 2/6/94

By this point, Goble was getting pretty good times. But in the world of competitive charcoal-lighting, "pretty good" does not cut the mustard. Thus, Goble hit upon the idea of using - get ready - liquid oxygen. This is the form of oxygen used in rocket engines; it's 295 degrees below zero and 600 times as dense as regular oxygen. In terms of releasing energy, pouring liquid oxygen on charcoal is the equivalent of throwing a live squirrel into a room containing 50 million Labrador retrievers. On Goble's World Wide Web page (the address is http://ghg.ecn.purdue.edu/), you can see actual photographs and a video of Goble using a bucket attached to a 10-foot-long wooden handle to dump 3 gallons of liquid oxygen (not sold in stores) onto a grill containing 60 pounds of charcoal and a lit cigarette for ignition.

What follows is the most impressive charcoal-lighting I have ever seen, featuring a large fireball that, according to Goble, reached 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The charcoal was ready for cooking in - this has to be a world record - 3 seconds.

There's also a photo of what happened when Goble used the same technique on a flimsy $2.88 discount-store grill. All that's left is a circle of charcoal with a few shreds of metal in it. "Basically, the grill vaporized," said Goble. "We were thinking of returning it to the store for a refund."

Looking at Goble's video and photos, I became, as an American, all choked up with gratitude at the fact that I do not live anywhere near the engineers' picnic site. But also, I was proud of my country for producing guys who can be ready to barbecue in less time than it takes for guys in less-advanced nations, such as France, to spit.

-- Dave Barry

Among the anthropophagi,
One's friends are one's sarcophagi.

-- Ogden Nash (reputedly)

Last Change= 2005/05/26 / Liudvikas Bukys / <bukys@cs.rochester.edu>