Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything--or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance. Ignorance is not just a blank space on a person's mental map. It has contours and coherence, and for all I know rules of operation as well.
"But I can't open the pack," she'd try to explain. "If I did all this would collapse. A successful external reality depends upon an internal vision that is left intact."
They glared at her the way any intelligent persons ought to glare when what they need is a smoke, a bite, a cup of coffee, a piece of ass, or a good fast-paced story, and all they're getting is philosophy.
For me, wellbehaved books with neat plots and worked-out endings seem somewhat quaint in the face of the largely incoherent reality of modern life; and then again fiction, at least as I write it and think of it, is a kind of religious meditation in which language is the final enlightenment, and it is language, in its beauty, its ambiguity and its shifting textures, that drives my work.
In the past we have always assumed that the external world around us has represented reality, however confusing or uncertain, and that the inner world of our minds, its dreams, hopes, ambitions, represented the realm of fantasy, and the imagination. These roles, it seems to me, have been reversed. The most prudent and effective method of dealing with the world around us is to assume that it is a complete fiction - conversely, the one small node of reality left to us is inside of our own heads.
J. G. Ballard
I like bats much better than bureaucrats. I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.
C. S. Lewis
Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.
Nothing is true, everything is permitted.
William S. Burroughs
Television is coitus interruptus brought into aesthetics.
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
It used to be the program's purpose to instruct our computers; it became the computer's purpose to execute our programs.
E. W. Dijkstra
Another noteworthy characteristic of this manual is that it doesn't always tell the truth ... The author feels that this technique of deliberate lying will actually make it easier for you to learn the ideas. Once you understand the simple but false rule, it will not be hard to supplement that rule with its exceptions.
Donald Knuth, from the preface to The TeXbook
Think 'free speech,' not 'free beer.'
Richard Stallman, talking about free software
Criminals today have guns. Soon they will have computers and other weapons of mass destruction.
A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn't even know existed can render your own computer unusable.
I would rather write programs to help me write programs than write programs.
If you do chose to use a computer, beware the temptation it offers to let manuscript preparation displace composition. They are two separate activities, best done separately. Hyphenation and exposition are at war with one another. Pagination vies with content. The mind busy fretting over point size has no time left over to consider clarity. If you need a break from the ardors of composition, try the time-honored ones like poking the fire or baking bread. They smell good, and they don't give you any illusion that your paper is making progress while you indulge in them.
Mary-Claire van Leunen
Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.
E. W. Dijkstra
We could, for instance, begin with cleaning up our language by no longer calling a bug "a bug" but by calling it an error. It is much more honest because it squarely puts the blame where it belongs, viz., with the programmer who made the error. The animistic metaphor of the bug that maliciously sneaked in while the programmer was not looking is intellectually dishonest as it is a disguise that the error is the programmer's own creation. The nice thing of this simple change of vocabulary is that it has such a profound effect. While, before, a program with only one bug used to be "almost correct," afterwards a program with an error is just "wrong."
E. W. Dijkstra
And I still buy books at B&N, Borders and Elliot Bay ... I probably shouldn't admit this. But I don't care. I love great bookstores.
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