Tidbits & Quotes: April 2004


  • This is a collection of tidbits and quotes.
  • eMail: stefan@smalla.net


  • Everything here is my very personal collection and does not reflect the opinions of current or past employers, nor does it stem from confidential information obtained there. Also, I do not personally share the opinion of all of the quotes posted here.



I am not young enough to know everything.

Oscar Wilde, Writer

Posted Apr 30, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.

Horace, Roman Poet


Posted Apr 29, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.

Mark Twain

Posted Apr 28, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.

Samuel Johnson


Posted Apr 27, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

To write brashly about some things, it is almost necessary not to know much about them.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Writer


Posted Apr 26, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

The White Birds

I would that we were, my beloved,
white birds on the foam of the sea:
We tire of the flame of the meteor,
before it can pass by and flee;
And the flame of the blue star of twilight,
hung low on the rim of the sky,
Has awaked in our hearts, my beloved,
a sadness that never may die.

A weariness comes from those dreamers,
dew-dabbled, the lily and rose,
Ah, dream not of them, my beloved,
the flame of the meteor that goes,
Or the flame of the blue star that lingers
hung low in the fall of the dew:
For I would we were changed to white birds
on the wandering foam—I and you.

I am haunted by numberless islands,
and many a Danaan shore,
Where Time would surely forget us,
and Sorrow come near us no more:
Soon far from the rose and the lily,
the fret of the flames, would we be,
Were we only white birds, my beloved,
buoyed out on the foam of the sea.

William Butler Yeats, Poet


Posted Apr 25, 2004 | # | Category: Poetry & Music

Be competitive, intense, and accountable.

Craig Conway, PeopleSoft President

Posted Apr 24, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

In business, people rarely plan to do a thing only once ... It messes up the spreadsheets.

From the book "Cryptonomicon"

By Neal Stephenson

Posted Apr 23, 2004 | # | Category: Books

I'm, like, 98% excited, and maybe 2% scared. Or maybe it's backwards. Maybe I'm 98% scared, and, like, 2% excited. But that's that makes it so great---I'm so confused!

Owen Wilson (as Oscar Choi)

From the movie "Armageddon"

Posted Apr 22, 2004 | # | Category: Movies & TV

Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down. And this is all life really means.

Robert Louis Stevenson, Novelist & Poet


Posted Apr 21, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

Let's face it: VC investing is gambling. Very sophisticated gambling, with players that can stare down other players with a vengeance that no Texas two card gambler can match. And it is survival of the fittest. The folks left standing are very good at this game.

W. Wyatt Starnes, CEO of Tripwire

From Alwayson

Posted Apr 20, 2004 | # | Category: Magazines & Sites

The actual content of the business plan hews to a logical structure straight out of the Principia Mathematica.


MISSION: At [name of company] it is our conviction that [to do the stuff we want to do] and to increase shareholder value are not merely complementary activities–they are inextricably linked.

PURPOSE: To increase shareholder value by [doing stuff]

EXTREMELY SERIOUS WARNING (printed on a separate page, in red letters on a yellow background): Unless you are smart as Johann Karl Friedrich Gauss, savvy as a half-blind Calcutta bootblack, tough as General William Tecumseh Sherman, rich as the Queen of England, emotionally resilient as a Red Sox fan, and as generally able to take care of yourself as the average nuclear missile submarine commander, you should never have been allowed near this document. Please dispose of it as you would any piece of high-level radioactive waste and then arrange with a qualified surgeon to amputate your arms at the elbows and gouge your eyes from their sockets. This warning is necessary because once, a hundred years ago, a little old lady in Kentucky put a hundred dollars into a dry goods company which went belly-up and only returned her ninety-nine dollars. Ever since then the government has been on our asses. If you ignore this warning, read on at your peril–you are dead certain to lose everything you've got and live out your final decades beating back waves of termites in a Mississippi Delta leper colony. Still reading? Great. Now that we've scared off the lightweights, let's get down to business.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: We will raise [some money], then [do some stuff] and increase shareholder value. Want details? Read on.

INTRODUCTION: [This trend], which everyone knows about, and [that trend], which is incredibly arcane that you probably didn't know about until just now, and [this other trend over here] which might seem, at first blush, to be completely unrelated, when all taken together, lead us to the (proprietary, secret, heavily patented, trademarked, and NDAed) insight that we could increase shareholder value by [doing stuff]. We will need $ [a large number] and after [not too long] we will be able to realize an increase in value to $ [an even larger number], unless [hell freezes over in midsummer].

Phase 1: After taking vows of celibacy and abstinence and forgoing all of our material possessions for homespun robes, we (viz. appended resumes) will move into a modest complex of scavenged refrigerator boxes in the central Gobi Desert, where real estate is so cheap that we are actually being paid to occupy it, thereby enhancing shareholder value even before we have actually done anything. On a daily ration consisting of a handful of uncooked rice and a ladleful of water, we will [begin to do stuff].
Phase 2, 3, 4, ..., n-1: We will [do more stuff, steadily enhancing shareholder value in the process] unless [the earth is struck by an asteroid a thousand miles in diameter, in which case certain assumptions will have to be readjusted; refer to Spreadsheets 397-413].
Phase n: Before the ink on our Nobel Prize certificates is dry, we will confiscate the property of our competitors, including anyone foolish enough to have invested in their pathetic companies. We will sell all of these people into slavery. All proceeds will be redistributed among our shareholders, who will hardly notice, since Spreadsheet 265 demonstrates that, by this time, the company will be larger than the British Empire at its zenith.

SPREADSHEETS: [Pages and pages of numbers in tiny print, conveniently summarized by graphs that all seem to be exponentional curves screaming heavenward, albeit with enough pseudo-random noise in them to lend plausibility].

RESUMES: Just recall the opening reel of The Magnificent Seven and you won't have to bother with this part; you should crawl to us on hands and knees and beg us for the privilege of paying our salaries.

From the book "Cryptonomicon"

By Neal Stephenson

Posted Apr 19, 2004 | # | Category: Books

I'm desperately trying to figure out why kamikaze pilots wore helmets.

Dave Edison

Posted Apr 18, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

A coward dies a thousand deaths, a soldiers dies but once.


From the song "If I Die 2Nite", 1995

Posted Apr 17, 2004 | # | Category: Poetry & Music

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

H. L. Mencken, American Writer


Posted Apr 16, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

When you put that uniform on, that Titan uniform, you better come to work. We will be perfect in every aspect of the game. You drop a pass...you run a mile, you miss a blocking assignment...you run a mile, you fumble the football, and I will break my foot off in your John Brown hind parts and then you will run a mile. Perfection...it's what I want.

Denzel Washington (as Coach Boone)

From the movie "Remember the Titans"

Posted Apr 15, 2004 | # | Category: Movies & TV

If the definition of complexity is that which is beyond an individual's understanding, how will that individual know when it happens?

Mark Anderson, Publisher of SNS Newsletter

Posted Apr 14, 2004 | # | Category: Magazines & Sites

The four stages of scientific acceptance:
This is worthless nonsense.
This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
This is true, but quite unimportant.
I always said so.

JBS Haldane, Scientist

(1892 - 1964)

Posted Apr 13, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

In nature there are neither rewards nor punishment - there are consequences.

Robert G. Ingersoll, Political Speechmaker


Posted Apr 12, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without the first you really want them to be dumb and lazy.

Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway

From Omaha World Herald, 1994.

Posted Apr 11, 2004 | # | Category: Magazines & Sites

[And] grad students existed not to learn things but to relieve the tenured faculty members of tiresome burdens such as educating people and doing research.

From the book "Cryptonomicon"

By Neal Stephenson

Posted Apr 10, 2004 | # | Category: Books

To be a number one, you will have to train like a number two.

Maurice Green, Olympic Gold Medal Winner

Posted Apr 09, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

The Example

Here's an example from
A Butterfly;
That on a rough, hard rock
Happy can lie;
Friendless and all alone
On this unsweetened stone.

Now let my bed be hard,
No care take I;
I'll make my joy like this
Small Butterfly;
Whose happy heart has power
To make a stone a flower.

William H. Davies

Posted Apr 08, 2004 | # | Category: Poetry & Music

Never argue with a fool. They'll only drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

Laszlo Finnegan

Source unknown.

Posted Apr 07, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

Do, or do not. There is no try.


In the movie "The Empire Strikes Back"

Posted Apr 06, 2004 | # | Category: Movies & TV

What is the major problem? It is fundamentally the confusion between effectiveness and efficiency that stands between doing the right things and doing things right. There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.

Peter F. Drucker (Management Thinker)

Posted Apr 05, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Attendee: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace -- shut up!

Reg: There is not one of us who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.

Dissenter: Uh, well, one.

Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah, there's one. But otherwise, we're solid.

Dialogue from the movie "Life of Brian"

Posted Apr 04, 2004 | # | Category: Movies & TV

Sure, there are a zillion things I wish I'd done differently. But I think the things you most regret in life are things you didn't do. What you really regret was never asking that girl to dance.

Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

Fortune Magazine, November 9, 1998, page 58

Posted Apr 03, 2004 | # | Category: Magazines & Sites

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

John F. Kennedy

Inaugural Address 1961, Source

Posted Apr 02, 2004 | # | Category: Speeches

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Posted Apr 01, 2004 | # | Category: Quotations


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