Quotes and Comments about Life

Collected by Terry L. Helser

Below are some quotations on living, provocative questions, some of Murphy's Laws on technology, comments on writing, education, smoking and a few miscellaneous ones. Enjoy.
You can also send me comments or suggestions, or return to my home page.

Words (and ideas) to live by:

  • You can't have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant. Werner von Braun
  • It has been said that a bride's attitude towards her betrothed can be summed up in three words:
  • Aisle, Altar, Hymn. -Frank Muir & Dennis Norden
  • Oh, God! Why didn't you make woman first when you were fresh? Script of "On a Clear Day, You Can See Forever" with Barbara Streisand
  • In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance,
  • everyone should have a dog that will worship him
    and a cat that will ignore him. Dereke Bruce, Taipei, Taiwan
  • ...you're as young as you think you are, but not nearly as important... Andy Capp Cartoon
  • Hate is like an acid that does as much damage to the vessel in which it is stored as to the object on which it is poured. Ann Landers, Creators Syndicate, March 30, 1993
  • If you want a place in the sun, you must leave the shade of the family tree. Osage saying.
  • Better bend than break. Scottish proverb
  • A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice. Ed Howe (1853-1937)
  • He who hesitates is sometimes saved. James Thurber (1894-1961)
  • One must learn by doing the thing; though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. Sophocles (c. 495-406 B.C.)
  • If you have tried to do something and failed, you are vastly better off than if you had tried to do nothing and succeeded. Unknown
  • Nothing works if the student doesn't. Dr. Donald Simanek, Loch Haven University
  • The highest reward for man's toil is not what he gets for it, but what he becomes by it. John Ruskin (1819-1900)
  • Surprise...the blessing that tells one that this is real - ...-
  • that even the most imaginative of us could not have made all of this up within his own mind. Uthacalthing, Tymbrimi ambassador to Garth, in "The Uplift War," David Brin, p. 601
  • I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats.
  • I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises. Neil Armstrong, OMNI (Dec. 1988) p. 49.
  • It's easier to get forgiven than to get permission. Dr. Philo Wilson, S.U.N.Y. College @ Oneonta, NY

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    Some thought provoking questions from Bud Trenchard:

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    And then there are Murphy's Laws of technology; Harvey Hutter Publishing

    1. If several things can go wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.
    2. Any instrument when dropped will roll into the least accessible corner.
    3. Any circuit design must contain at least one part which is obsolete, two parts which are unobtainable and three parts which are still under development.
    4. A failure will not appear until a unit has passed final inspection. If builders built buildings the way computer programmers write programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
    5. An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.
    6. Tell a man there are 100 billion stars in the Galaxy and he'll believe you. Tell him a bench has wet paint on it and he'll have to touch to be sure.
    7. Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
    8. To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.
    9. Any given computer program, when running, is obsolete.
    10. A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as twenty people working twenty years.
    11. A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.
    12. The only perfect science is hind-sight.
    13. Any simple theory will be worded in the most complicated way.
    14. The degree of technical competence is inversely proportional to the level of management.

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    Writing is hard work. Some quotes from the experts:

  • The writer's only responsibility is to his art..
  • If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate;
    The Ode on a Grecian Urn is worth any number of old ladies. William Faulkner
  • Often must you turn your stylus to erase,
  • if you hope to write something worth a second reading. Horace
  • Let our literary compositions be laid aside for some time,
  • that we may after a reasonable period return to their perusal,
    and find them, as it were, altogether new to us. Quintillian
  • I can't write without a reader. It's precisely like a Kiss - You can't do it alone. John Cheever
  • Writing is manual labor of the mind: A job, like laying pipe. John Gregory Dunne
  • Writing is easy.
  • All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper
    until drops of blood form on your forehead. Anonymous
  • Be careful that you write accurately rather than much. Erasmus
  • What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure. Samuel Johnson
  • An author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. Collette
  • In the writing process, the more a story cooks, the better. Doris Lessing
  • For me, the big chore is always the same:
  • How to begin a sentence,
    how to continue it,
    how to complete it. Claude Simon
  • And a poem on the pitfalls of labor saving machines:
  • I have a spelling checker,
    It came with my PC;
    It plainly marks four my revue
    Mistakes I cannot sea.
    I've run this poem threw it,
    I'm sure your please too no,
    Its letter perfect in its weigh,
    My checker tolled me sew. Chem Matters (1993) 11, #1, p. 3
  • A writer lives, at best, in a state of astonishment.
  • Beneath any feeling he has of the good or the evil of the world lies a deeper one of wonder at it all.
    To transit that feeling, he writes. William Sansom

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    And of course, education is the answer:

  • A little learning is a dang'rous thing. A. Pope An Essay on Criticism (1711) part II, line 15.
  • "Why do we have to go to Labs?"
  • I hear, and I forget.
    I see, and I remember.
    I do, and I understand. Chinese saying in D. Beach & H. Stone (1988) J. Chem. Educ., 65, 619.
  • Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything. John Kenneth Galbraith
  • And this from Arthur C. Clarke (1965) Voices from the Sky:
  • There are many people in the world who have been educated beyond their intelligence, but there are far, far more who have not been educated to within hailing distance of it. They are the ones who provide fodder for the demagogues and cranks, who listen to false prophets and sponsor absurd or evil causes. They cannot always be blamed, for society has robbed them of what should be everyone's right - an education to the limit of their ability, whatever their financial status, creed or colour. No wonder that, dimly realizing their deprivation, they seek any substitute that they can find.
    ...the events of the last few years have made it obvious to everyone that a society that despises brains is on the one-way road to oblivion.
  • Ultimately it is the yearning to believe that anyone can be brought up to college level that has brought colleges down to everyone's level. William A. Henry III, 8/29/94, Time, p. 65
  • One purpose of a liberal arts education is to make your head a more interesting place to live inside of for the rest of your life. Mary Patterson McPherson, President of Bryn Mawr College
  • In the first place, God created idiots. That was for practice.
  • Then he made school boards. -Mark Twain
  • The Purist by Ogden Nash
  • I give you now Professor Twist
    The conscientious scientist.
    Trustees exclaimed "He never bungles"
    And sent him off to distant jungles.
    Camped on a tropic riverside
    One day he missed his lovely bride.
    The guide informed him later
    She had been eaten by an alligator.
    Professor Twist could not but smile.
    "You mean" he said "a crocodile!"

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    And then step over to the dark side:

  • Imagine our nation's outrage if two fully loaded jumbo jets crashed each day, killing all aboard. Yet that's the same number of Americans that cigarettes kill every 24 hours. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) 1994, Science News, 145, 314
  • No one has ever become a cigarette smoker by smoking cigarettes without nicotine. William L. Dunn, Philip Morris Research Center, Richmond, Va.
  • And what of [the] charge that nicotine users don't exhibit the compulsive behavior of hard-drug users?
  • Even after surgery for lung cancer, nearly 50 % of smokers return to cigarettes.
    Some 38 %...will light up even before they leave the hospital following a heart attack.
    And among smokers who have had a cancerous larynx removed, 40 % will attempt to smoke again... David A. Kessler, FDA Commissioner, 1994, Science News, 145, 315

    Miscellaneous quotes I just like:

  • One picture is worth (more than) a thousand words. Chinese proverb.
  • A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound. Turgenev in Fathers and Sons (1862).
  • Pollution is nothing but the resources we are not harvesting. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
  • When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. Eric Hoffer
  • Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. -Galbraith's Law
  • Some Points to Ponder:
    1. The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
    2. Weather forecast for tonight -- Dark.
    3. Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" until you find a stick.
    4. Be an optimist, at least until they start moving animals in pairs to Cape Kennedy.
    5. There is so much pollution in the air now that if it weren't for our lungs, there'd be no place to put it all.
    6. An organized person is one who is too lazy to look for things.
    7. Nothing makes a person more productive than the last minute.
    8. You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
    9. The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
    10. Never eat more than you can lift. unknown

    FOR THOSE WHO TAKE LIFE TOO SERIOUSLY... CHED Newsletter, Fall 1999, p. 13
    1. A day without sunshine is like, night.
    2. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
    3. I just got lost in thought. It was unfamiliar territory.
    4. I intend to live forever - so far so good.
    5. Borrow money from a pessimist; they don't expect it back.
    6. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
    7. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
    8. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be without sponges.
    9. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.
    10. The hardness of butter is directly proportional to the softness of the bread.
    11. p. 69    I drive way too fast to worry about cholesterol.
    12. Quantum mechanics: the dreams stuff is made of.
    13. A conclusion is a place where you get tired of thinking.
    14. p. 79    No one is listening until you make a mistake.
    15. The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.
    16. Always try to be modest and be proud of it!

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    If you have questions or comments, write the:

      Author of this page: Terry Helser - helsertl@oneonta.edu
      Web Coordinator: Steve Maniscalco - maniscsj@oneonta.edu
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      Last Modified on 2/18/2K

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