Quotes

A vintage selection of quotes I either find amusingly wit, or otherwise worthy of being shared here, and thus decide to do so. Links provided when available.

Computers, et al.

C{something}

Comment in this post in Coding Horror, by this guy:

“C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot; C++ makes it harder, but when you do it blows your whole leg off.”

C# makes it harder still, but when you do, you don’t know where your [sic] hit.

Coding in your free time

In his blog post explaining why he doesn’t code in his free time, Ted Dziuba writes this (emphasis mine):

I don’t enjoy programming so much as I enjoy the satisfaction I get from cracking hard problems. In that case, computer code is a means to an end, but so is my Craftsman socket set. I like to spend free time wrenching on a car or a bike, but I don’t set out on Saturday morning and say “I’m going to learn how to use a torque wrench today, because those things are the future of tools”.

Programmers and duct tape

Carlo Roveli, a theoretical physicist, was responsible for this wonderful thought:

An overly pragmatic attitude is not productive on the long run.

Not just a few times, I’ve wondered why couldn’t programming be more like this. The answer* is, of course, that “you’re not here to write code; you’re here to ship products”. And you can’t ship products by thinking in the long run (because then a competitor will come along and ship a competing product before you do—and then you’re boned).
Still, once in a while, it would be fun to be able to code, just for the fun of it (as oppose to having a manager loitering above your head, so to speak…)

* assuming the reader writes software for a living
(and if you’re wandering what’s with the “duct tape” part, go read the “answer” link above!)

Advice from an old programmer

Emphasis added:

What I discovered after this journey of learning is that the languages did not matter, it’s what you do with them. Actually, I always knew that, but I’d get distracted by the languages and forget it periodically. Now I never forget it, and neither should you.

Which programming language you learn and use does not matter. Do not get sucked into the religion surrounding programing languages as that will only blind you to their true purpose of being your tool for doing interesting things.

From here: the whole text worth reading.

Life

Erich Hartmann was a German pilot and flying ace of WWII, who upon capture by US troops, was handed down to the Soviets. He spent over a decade in Soviet prisons and forced labour camps. Years after his release, he was asked if he hated the Russians. Here’s his response:

“One thing I’ve learned is this: Never allow yourself to hate a people because of the actions of a few. Hatred and bigotry destroyed my nation, and millions died. I would hope that most people did not hate Germans because of the Nazis, or Americans because of slaves. Never hate, it only eats you alive. Keep an open mind and always look for the good in people. You may be surprised at what you find.”

Academic Freedom

In the year that it celebrates eight hundred years from its foundation, the University of Cambridge is trying to put forth a reform of its statutes, that among other things, will curtail academic freedom, and ease the task of sacking lecturers for disciplinary reasons. Arguing against such change, Ross Anderson wrote a short note, from which I quote its ending remark:

We live in an age when ministers sack science advisers
whenever the tabloids don’t like the science. The duty of
universities is to provide a platform from which the truth
can be spoken. As Archimedes said, Πα βω και κινω ταν
γαν : give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.
We are the fulcrum, not the knowledge manager.

He also wrote an unofficial account of the history of the University of Cambridge, attempting to explain what is it that makes it such a favourable place for the production of iconoclasts: Erasmus, Cranmer, Newton, Darwin, Russell, Turing… the list goes on.

The same author, in response to a “request” from a bank to censor research regarding its e-commerce infra-structure, had this to say:

Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton, and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values.

Right on!