Friday, October 29, 2010

Doomed To Success

Doomed LusitaniaAt first I hoped that such a technically unsound project would collapse but I soon realized it was doomed to success. Almost anything in software can be implemented, sold, and even used given enough determination. There is nothing a mere scientist can say that will stand against the flood of a hundred million dollars. But there is one quality that cannot be purchased in this way -- and that is reliability. The price of reliability is the pursuit of the utmost simplicity. It is a price which the very rich find most hard to pay.

-- Charles Antony Richard Hoare (11 January 1934-), British computer scientist, creator of the Quicksort algorithm, on the programming language PL/1, 1980 Turing Award Lecture; Communications of the ACM 24 (2), February 1981: pp. 75-83

Thursday, October 28, 2010

No Obvious Deficiencies

DeficientThere are two ways of constructing a software design. One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies. And the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.

-- Charles Antony Richard Hoare (11 January 1934-), British computer scientist, creator of the Quicksort algorithm, 1980 Turing Award Lecture; Communications of the ACM 24 (2), February 1981: pp. 75-83

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


When code and comments disagree, both are probably wrong.

-- Norm Schryer, computer scientist and head of AT&T Broadband Services Research, More Programming Pearls: Confessions of a Coder, Column 6: Bumper-Sticker Computer Science

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Sand Castle on the BeachEphemeral documents help to destroy the effect history has on present-day decisions.

-- Comment by EH on Bruce Schneier's blog posting, Declassified NSA Documents", 25 October 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Little More Stressful

StressWhen it comes to the point where you occasionally look forward to being in prison on the basis that you might be able to spend a day reading a book, the realization dawns that perhaps the situation has become a little more stressful than you would like.

-- Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowers' Web site, New York Times, 24 October 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010


MacinCrash Sad Mac LogoTechnology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.

-- John Tudor

Thursday, October 21, 2010


HalloweenThere are so many questionable aspects to this thing it's scary.

-- Rebel A. Cole, professor of finance and real estate at DePaul University, on banks' handling of mortgages, New York Times, 21 October 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Christine O'Donnell during her debate with Democrat Chris Coons, 19 October 2010You're telling me that's in the First Amendment?

-- Connecticut Republican (Tea Party) senate nominee Christine O'Donnell, in a debate with Democratic opponent Chris Coons, after Coons stated that the separation of church and state springs from the First Amendment to the US Constitution, 19 October 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just The Opposite

OppositesTo do just the opposite is also a form of imitation.

-- Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799), German scientist, satirist and philosopher, Notebook D (1773-1775)

Monday, October 18, 2010


Mandelbrot set with continuously colored environmentThe Mandelbrot set covers a small space yet carries a large number of different implications. Is it a fitting epitaph? Absolutely.

-- Benoit B. Mandelbrot (20 November 1924 - 14 October 2010), Poland-born French-American mathematician known as the "father of fractal geometry", interview in New Scientist (November 2004)

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Modern Corporation

Corporate flagWhen the modern corporation acquires power over markets, power in the community, power over the state and power over belief, it is a political instrument, different in degree but not in kind from the state itself. To hold otherwise -- to deny the political character of the modern corporation -- is not merely to avoid the reality. It is to disguise the reality. The victims of that disguise are those we instruct in error. The beneficiaries are the institutions whose power we so disguise. Let there be no question: economics, so long as it is thus taught, becomes, however unconsciously, a part of the arrangement by which the citizen or student is kept from seeing how he or she is, or will be, governed.

-- John Kenneth Galbraith (15 October 1908 - 29 April 2006), Canadian-American economist and author, Power and the Useful Economist (1973)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Your Shift Is Over

Luiz Urzua being greeted by the Chilean presidentMr Urzua, your shift is over.

-- Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, speaking to Luis Urzua, the shift foreman and last of 33 Chilean miners to be rescued from entrapment 2041 feet underground that lasted from August 5th until October 13th, 13 October 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Root Of All Evil

Root symbolThe belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it, seems to me the deepest root of all that is evil in the world.

-- Max Born (1882-1970), German physicist and mathematician, 1954 Nobel Laureate in Physics, grandfather of Olivia Newton-John(!), Natural Philosophy of Cause and Chance (1964)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not Yet

WaitingThe families are clear, the miners are clear what still needs to be done and the time it will take. We still haven't rescued anyone.

-- Laurence Goldborne, Chile's mining minister, after a drill pierced through volcanic rock to reach 33 miners trapped underground, New York Times, 10 October 2010

Friday, October 08, 2010

Getting It Right On Wiretaps

Graber's allegedly surreptitious helmet camThose of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public. When we exercise that power in public fora, we should not expect our actions to be shielded from public observation. 'Sed quis custodiet ipsos cutodes' ("Who watches the watchmen?"). ... [The encounter] took place on a public highway in full view of the public. Under such circumstances, I cannot, by any stretch, conclude that the troopers had any reasonable expectation of privacy in their conversation with the defendant which society would be prepared to recognize as reasonable.

-- Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr., ruling for the defense in the case of Anthony Graber, a motorcyclist who used a helmet camera to film a plainclothes trooper after being stopped for speeding in Maryland. Graber then posted the video, which shows the officer approaching him with his gun drawn, to YouTube.

Plitt also dismissed a charge of possession of "a device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications," (the helmet camera), saying it would render illegal cell phones and other handheld recording devices used by many.

The 27 September 2010 decision is available online at

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Rock

Constitution printThe Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand.

-- Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the US District Court in Manhattan, who barred testimony from a crucial witness in the first trial of a former Guantanamo detainee, New York Times, 7 October 2010

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

You May Know

Image of currency and coinsYou may know how little God thinks of money by observing on what bad and contemptible characters he often bestows it.

-- Thomas Guthrie (1803-1873), Scottish divine and philanthropist, Man and the Gospel (1865)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


Resident EvilThe real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations. --How is this?

-- Rutherford B Hayes (4 October 1822 - 17 January 1893), 19th President of the US (1877-1881), diary entry for 11 March 1888

Monday, October 04, 2010

Our World Is Different

John Perry Barlow lecturing at European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Tenth Anniversary of The Declaration of the Independence of CyberspaceWe are forming our own Social Contract. This governance will arise according to the conditions of our world, not yours. Our world is different.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.

We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.

We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.

-- John Perry Barlow (3 October 1947-), American poet, essayist, and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace (1996)

Friday, October 01, 2010


FrenemiesWe will have to see whether we are allies or enemies.

-- Rehman Malik, Pakistan's interior minister, on strained relations between his country and the United States following deadly American air strikes inside Pakistan, New York Times, 1 October 2010