“There has never been a just one, never an honorable one – on the part of the instigator of the war. I can see a million years ahead, and this rule will never change in so many as half a dozen instances. The loud little handful – as usual – will shout for the war. The pulpit will – warily and cautiously – object – at first; the great, big, dull bulk of the nation will rub its sleepy eyes and try to make out why there should be a war, and will say, earnestly and indignantly, “It is unjust and dishonorable, and here is no necessity for it.” Then the handful will shout louder. A few fair men on the other side will argue and reason against the war with speech and pen, and at first will have a hearing and be applauded; but it will not last long; those others will outshout them, and presently the anti-war audiences will thin out and lose popularity. Before long you will see this curious thing: the speakers stoned from the platform, and free speech strangled by hordes of furious men who in their secret hearts are still at one with those stoned speakers – as earlier – but do not dare to say so. And now the whole nation – pulpit and all – will take up the war-cry, and shout itself hoarse, and mob any honest man who ventures to open his mouth; and presently such mouths will cease to open. Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”
– Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger
“…the purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline – a problem that largely goes away if you have the right people in the first place. Most companies build their bureaucratic rules to manage the small percentage of wrong people on the bus, which in turn drives away the right people on the bus, which then increases the percentage of wrong people on the bus, which increases the need for more bureaucracy to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline, which then further drives the right people away, and so forth.”
– Jim Collins, from Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
“Cutting the space budget really restores my faith in humanity. It eliminates dreams, goals, and ideals and lets us get straight to the business of hate, debauchery, and self-annihilation.”
— Johnny Hart
“One of the strongest motives that lead persons to art or science is a flight from the everyday life. With this negative motive goes a positive one. Man seeks to form for himself, in whatever manner is suitable for him, a simplified and lucid image of the world, and so to overcome the world of experience by striving to replace it to some extent by this image. This is what the painter does, and the poet, the speculative philosopher, the natural scientist, each in his own way. Into this image and its formation, he places the center of gravity of his emotional life, in order to attain the peace and serenity that he cannot find within the narrow confines of swirling personal experience.”
– Albert Einstein
“Since I’ve violated the Golden Rule of Helping Friends with their PC Problems and attempted to help a friend with his PC problem, expectedly wiping out his hard drive in vain, I had many opportunities to explain the Programmer Paradox: how can a programmer fail to make a computer do as he wishes? While the difficulty of debugging a program without the source proved hard to explain to laymen, I think I’ve found a metaphor that does a good job. A programmer is to the blue screen of death what Mikhail Kalashnikov is to a loaded AK-47: just as helpless a victim as any other mortal, except for having a profound understanding of the mechanisms of his execution.”
– Yossi Kreinin
A fun nugget from my new favorite blog, Futility Closet:
Show this bold Prussian that praises slaughter, slaughter brings rout. Teach this slaughter-lover his fall nears.
Grim, no? But remove the first letter of each word and the mood changes:
How his old Russian hat raises laughter — laughter rings out! Each, his laughter over, is all ears.
Check out Futility Closet for more fascinating curiosities tinted with language, math, science, antiquity, puzzles, and amusement. I especially enjoy The Random Item Button.