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A few good quotes - Input Junkie
June 18th, 2010
06:55 am


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A few good quotes
I was trying to find the title of the Sheckley story whose punchline is approximately "There's always another fool who wants a marble palace". It didn't turn up, but I found this:

Man shares certain significant characteristics with the rat and cockroach: He will eat almost anything. He is fiercely adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. He can survive as an individual but is at his best in swarms. He prefers to live, whenever possible, on what other creatures store or biologically manufacture. The conclusion is inescapable that he was designed by nature as a most superior sort of vermin - and that only the absence, in his early environment, of a sufficiently wealthy host prevented him from assuming the role of eternal guest and forced him to live hungrily, and more than a little irritably, by his own wits alone.
—The Aaron, in Of Men and Monsters, Chapter 24 by William Tenn

The aspect of having “worked out for the best” is the inescapable consequence of the viewpoint of the people who descended from the victors.
—Poul Anderson

One who can define kindness only as the absence of cruelty has surely not begun to understand the nature of either.
—from the Journal of David Bannerman in Angel’s Egg in the anthology Good Neighbors and Other Strangers by Edgar Pangborn

1. Most problems have either many answers or no answer. Only a few problems have a single answer.
2. The moment you have worked out an answer, start checking it. It probably isn’t right.
3. Check the answer you have worked out once more - before you tell it to anybody.
—from the article Right Answers: A Short Guide for Obtaining Them by Edmund C. Berkeley in Computers and Automation, September, 1969

Nations are like people. When they grow old and rich and fat they get conservative. They exhaust their energy trying to keep things the way they are — and that’s against nature.
—Mark Braggs, in Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

At some time in the life of every organization, its ability to succeed in spite of itself runs out.
—The Managerialization of Higher Education, from Educational Record, Summer, 1970 by Richard H. Brien

The only thing worse than being wrong is being right with nobody listening.
—Florence Capp, from the Andy Capp comic strip

No human condition endures forever, with the corollary that the more complicated such condition, the greater its susceptibility to change.
—O. C. Charle, Claghorn of the Overwheles, Castle Hagedorn, in the Last Castle by Jack Vance

The defense of civil liberties, by definition, involves the defense of persons who are most despised by the public.
—Aryeh Neier, American Civil Liberties Union

Good subjects must feel guilty. The guilt begins as a feeling of failure. The good autocrat provides many opportunities for failure in the populace.
—Duncan Idaho, in the Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

1. Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.
2. Democracy is not a form of government. It is a state of mind. People cannot arbitrarily be placed in a state of mind.
3. One measure of the urgency of revolution is the freedom the people have, compared with the freedom they want.
4. Fundamental to any democracy is the people’s right to be wrong. No democracy has ever survived the abolishment of this principle.
—from IPR Manual 1048-K in The World Menders by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. [1971-- somehow seems relevant to recent events)

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a wellarmed lamb contesting the vote.
—Author Unknown

One of the primary activities of the engineer is directing the inevitable degradation of energy so that in the process some useful result is obtained.
—Circuits, Devices, and Systems: A First Course in Electrical Engineering by Ralph J. Smith

God is subtle, but he is not malicious.
—Albert Einstein [This implies that Einstein didn't believe in Murphy's Law.]

All freedoms arise from cultural conflicts because a custom which is not opposed by its negative is mandatory and always regarded as a “law of nature.”
—Evelyn Cyril (Oscar) Gordon, in Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein [It's time to reread the book-- I don't think I'd ever noticed that line.]

It is not a foregone conclusion . . . that the problem [of understanding the origin of the solar system] has a scientific solution. For instance, an enclosure in which the air has been stirred gives, after some delay, no clue on the nature or the time of the stirring. All memory of the event within the system has been lost.
—Gerard P. Kuiper, astronomer, University of Arizona

You think people are silly to believe in ghosts? You should hear some of the silly things ghosts believe in! —in Fourth Mansions by R. A. Lafferty

Matrimony has two basic flaws: husbands and wives. Every male has an innate talent for being a deplorable husband. Females match this with a truly astonishing aptitude for being wretched wives. What the human race needs is a third sex, neuter, with a boundless domestic capacity. Then either of the present sexes could marry it and be happy.
—Jan Darzek, in Watchers of the Dark, chapter 1 by Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

I only have two things to do today, but one of them is to get through the day.
—Kathy McMillan, Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, California Monday, July 28, 1986, 7:55 AM

We know nothing of cause except as an antecedent-nothing of effect except as a consequent. Of certain phenomena, one never occurs without another, which is dissimilar: the first in point of time we call cause, the second, effect. One who had many times seen a rabbit pursued by a dog, and had never seen rabbits and dogs otherwise, would think the rabbit the cause of the dog. —Quoted by Moxon, attributed to Mill in Moxon’s Master by Ambrose Bierce in The Pocket Book of Science-Fiction

Come on! You know better! Does the contract have to say “think”?
—Linda Ray speaking on the telephone to a subcontractor General Electric Company, San Jose, California April 15, 1981

In order to ask a question you must already know most of the answer.
—Answerer, in Ask a Foolish Question in the anthology Citizen in Space by Robert Sheckley

The burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like a giving hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem.
The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless. —Jim Wiseman, General Electric Company, August, 1974

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 12:25 pm (UTC)
I haven't looked at Heinlein in 20 years and no doubt taint him with my own juvenile reading, but that "cultural conflict" quote is dynamite, comparable to Durkheim and considerably more clearly stated.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC)
The aspect of having “worked out for the best” is the inescapable consequence of the viewpoint of the people who descended from the victors.

Isn't that the anthropic cosmological principle applied to history?
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."

I think this might be from "The Turner Diaries". It certainly reflects the same sentiment.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)

It's a Benjamin Franklin quote.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 05:14 pm (UTC)
Not so. It's misattributed to him (like many quotes), the giveaway being both the sentiment and that "lunch", a slang version of "luncheon" didn't come into use until the early 1800s.

It's an old joke cited in many versions by Libertarian sorts, although when James Bovard included it in Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty: "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." which allows for Democracy's potential. The version in which Democracy is nothing but wolves and liberty is a gun is a favorite of groups which romanticize violence and tend to demonize democracy when it favors the undesirables.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
But the appeal to democracy as the absolute right of the majority to do anything it wants, and screw the minority, is a recurring failure mode of democratic governments, most often accompanied by denunciations of "obstructionist" or "activist" judges. See, on one hand, the attacks on the "Nine Old Men" under Roosevelt, and on the other hand, social conservative attacks on "activist judges" and demands that, say, popular opposition to same-sex marriage should overrule any judicial appeal to constitutional rights. People who favor the abuse of minorities characteristically appeal to "democracy" to justify their demands.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)

A very interesting expansion on the subject from a soldier's point of view.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 08:14 pm (UTC)
There's never been a virtue that couldn't be twisted into a vice.
[User Picture]
Date:June 18th, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
American democracy is two lambs and a wolf deciding what to have for lunch, and the wolf counting the ballots.
[User Picture]
Date:June 21st, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
On the original Sheckley story, I'm pretty sure the story you are thinking of is "Something for Nothing" (1954, collected in "Citizen in Space"). Which in searching I just found out was made into a movie "The Utilizer" in 1996.
[User Picture]
Date:June 21st, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)
That's plausible. Thanks.
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