You can learn a lot about people from their interests, and the quotations they like to cite, so here are

42 quotations, in no particular order

with a tip of the hat to Deep Thought

Avoid people with no sense of humour. They have bad heads, bad hearts, or both.


“Do you know a cure for me?” “Why yes,” he said, “I know a cure for everything. Salt water.” “Salt water?” I asked him. “Yes,” he said, “in one way or the other. Sweat, or tears, or the salt sea.”

Karen Blixen (writing as Isak Dinesen, in “The Deluge at Norderney”)

If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking.

Lyndon B. Johnson

The intellectual content of an activity is inversely proportional to the number of people watching it.


It is never too late to be what you might have been.

popularly — albeit incorrectly — ascribed to George Eliot (Marian Evans Cross), this was first published
(without attribution) in 1881, the year after her death, and is most likely a misquotation of a
couplet from an 1859 poem, “The Ghost in the Picture Room”, by Adelaide Anne Procter:
“No star is ever lost we once have seen, We always may be what we might have been.”

I never saw a mob rush across town to do a good deed.

Wilson Mizner

If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I would limber up. I would be sillier than I’ve been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would take more trips, climb more mountains, and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would have more actual troubles but fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly and sanely hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments and, if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after the other, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.

I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had it to do over again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

variously attributed, but actually adapted from an original work by Don Herold (age 65)

Make everything as simple as possible ... but no simpler.

Albert Einstein (paraphrased)

The cheapest, fastest, and most reliable components of a computer system are those that aren’t there.

C. Gordon Bell

    ... pick any two

slogan popular among computer designers

Have you ever thought ... about whatever man builds, that all of man’s industrial efforts, all his calculations and computations, all the nights spent over working draughts and blueprints, invariably culminate in the production of a thing whose sole and guiding principle is the ultimate principle of simplicity?

In any thing at all, perfection is finally attained, not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.

Antoine de Sainte Exupery, in "Wind, Sand, and Stars"

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland", but that’s because it’s the best book on anything for the layman.

Alan J. Perlis

Cute is the enemy of beauty. Convenience is the enemy of excellence. Fashion is the enemy of integrity.

Victor Papanek

Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?

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 in any country.

Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, to interviewer Gustave Gilbert
during the Easter recess of the Nürnberg trials, 18 April 1946.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken, 1922

There are only three things in life that matter: binding up the wounds, to avoid wounding, and to improve the view from the window.

David Deacon, Canadian poet, Toronto 1994

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

Henry David Thoreau, in "Walden"

A perfectly healthy sentence is extremely rare.

Henry David Thoreau

Writers take words seriously—perhaps the last professional class that does—and they struggle to steer their own through the crosswinds of meddling editors and careless typesetters and obtuse and malevolent reviewers into the lap of the ideal reader.

John Updike, in "Writers on Themselves", 17 Aug 86

No one who has once taken the language under his care can ever again be really happy.

Thomas Lounsbury

There is only one basic plot: things aren’t what they seem.

Jim Thompson

The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries, but between authoritarians and libertarians.

George Orwell, in a letter to Malcolm Muggeridge

I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.

Martin Luther King Jr., in 1947, while a student at Morehouse Collge, for the school newspaper

The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell, in “Christian Ethics”, from “Marriage and Morals” (1950)

The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.

Albert Einstein (paraphrased)

Science is what we have learned about how not to fool ourselves.

Richard Feynman

"Science" is hard to define, but if the word appears in the name, it probably isn’t.

Fred Brooks

Science deals in disprovable assertions. If something can not, in theory at least, be disproved by experiment and/or observation, then it is not in the domain of science.

Corollary: nothing can be proven in science, only supported or suggested. However, every good scientific theory suggests situations that would be impossible if the theory were valid, and hence provides a means to disprove itself.


I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.

Albert Einstein

God doesn’t know the difference between physics and chemistry.

Stafford Beer

Eppur si muove.  [translation: It moves all the same.]

Galileo Galilei, reputedly muttered in 1633, after being forced by the Inquisition
to recant his belief that the Earth moves around the Sun

Science is a differential equation. Religion is a boundary condition.

Alan Turing, 1954

Down the Yangtze the awful prediction has been fulfilled. You expect this river trip to be an experience of the past — and it is. But it is also a glimpse of the future. In a hundred years or so, under a cold uncolonized moon, what we call the civilized world will all look like China, muddy and senile and old-fangled: no trees, no birds, and shortages of fuel and metal and meat; but plenty of pushcarts, cobblestones, ditch-diggers, and wooden inventions. Nine hundred million farmers splashing through puddles and the rest of the population growing weak and blind working the crashing looms in black factories.

Forget rocket-ships, super-technology, moving sidewalks and all the rubbishy hope in science fiction. No one will ever go to Mars and live. A religion has evolved from the belief that we have a future in outer space; but it is a half-baked religion — it is a little like Mormonism or the Cargo Cult. Our future is this mildly poisoned earth and its smoky air. We are in for hunger and hard work, the highest stage of poverty — no starvation, but crudeness everywhere, clumsy art, simple language, bad books, brutal laws, plain vegetables, and clothes of one colour. It will be damp and dull, like this. It will be monochrome and crowded — how could it be different? There will be no star wars or galactic empires and no more money to waste on the loony nationalism in space programmes. Our grandchildren will probably live in a version of China. On the dark brown banks of the Yangtze the future has already arrived.

Paul Theroux, from "Sailing Through China", 1983

I am too skeptical to believe in the impossibility of anything.


I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When,
And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling

Everybody needs money; that’s why they call it “money”.

David Mamet (spoken by Danny DeVito, as "Bergman", in "The Heist")

The Interpreter

We only see,
From pictures in the mind,
And they are always,
From a biased interpreter.

Jerry Andrus

Entropy requires no maintenance.

Robert Anton Wilson

I cannot conceive of a god who rewards and punishes his creatures or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I — nor would I want to — conceive of an individual that survives his physical death. Let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egotism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

Albert Einstein

The factory of the future will have only two employees: a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.

Warren G. Bennis

There is no way to peace, peace is the way.

A.J. Muste

As Canadian as possible under the circumstances.

sign on the late Peter Gzowski’s office wall, from a contest submission by Heather Scott