Commonplace Book: Page 1

First things first, but not necessarily in that order.

The Doctor

In John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch's Meglos

And so it begins.

Kosh, in J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5: "Chrysalis"

The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.

Douglas Adams

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

A book of quotations... can never be complete.

Robert M. Hamilton

Preface, Canadian Quotations and Phrases: Literary and Historical

Perhaps the reader may ask, of what consequence is it whether the author's exact language is preserved or not, provided we have his thought? The answer is, that inaccurate quotation is a sin against truth. It may appear in any particular instance to be a trifle, but perfection consists in small things, and perfection is no trifle.

Robert W. Shaunon

"Misquotation," The Canadian Magazine, October 1898

Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.

T.H. Huxley

In reality, though, the first thing to ask of history is that it should point out to us the paths of liberty. The great lesson to draw from revolutions is not that they devour humanity but rather that tyranny never fails to generate them.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau

"When the People Are in Power"

"I cannot endure doing nothing," [Charles Darwin] told Jenyns in 1877. It was almost as if he feared the moment when his mind might be empty, when his work might be done; and to stave off this abyss constantly found old and new topics to pursue. If not dread of idleness, then dread of decrepitude. He often said that his work made him feel alive, helped his mind sing, was the one thing that blotted out his cares. Although he called himself "a kind of machine for grinding out general laws out of a large collection of facts," the truth was he only felt himself when immersed in some demanding new project.

Charles Darwin

Quoted in Charles Darwin: The Power of Place (2002), Janet Browne.

He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder.

M.C. Escher

The most merciful thing in the world... is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.

H.P. Lovecraft

"The Call of Cthulhu"

He did not mean to be cruel. If anybody had called him so, he would have resented it extremely. He would have said that what he did was done entirely for the good of the country. But he was a man who had always been accustomed to consider himself first and foremost, believing that whatever he wanted was sure to be right, and therefore he ought to have it. So he tried to get it, and got it too, as people like him very often do. Whether they enjoy it when they have it is another question.

Dinah Craik

The Little Lame Prince

To hate is to study, to study is to understand, to understand is to appreciate, to appreciate is to love. So maybe I'll end up loving your theory.

John A. Wheeler

A physicist is an atom's way of knowing about atoms.

George Wald

"Non-fiction", on the other hand, declares itself to be the carrier of fact, an expression of reality, and thus of truth. Why then does most fact-based work have a remarkably short shelf life? The reply might be that additional facts come along. That we are learning all the time. In that case, it was never an expression of reality or truth. And even if the facts are overtaken, the arguments built upon them should not date with such terrifying rapidity. Decade-old serious "non-fiction" often seems arcane, irrelevant. The written style itself seems to become old-fashioned. Two-centuries-old decent "fiction" on the other hand can easily remain fresh.

John Ralston Saul

On Equilibrium

Government, today, is growing too strong to be safe. There are no longer any citizens in the world; there are only subjects. They work day in and day out for their masters; they are bound to die for their masters at call. Out of this working and dying they tend to get less and less.

H.L. Mencken

One trouble with being efficient is that it makes everybody hate you so.

Bob Edwards

The Calgary Eyeopener, March 18, 1916

ABROAD, adj. At war with savages and idiots. To be a Frenchman abroad is to be miserable; to be an American abroad is to make others miserable.

Ambrose Bierce

The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary

Nobody can be exactly like me. Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.

Tallulah Bankhead

It is easy -- terribly easy -- to shake a man's faith in himself. To take advantage of that to break a man's spirit is devil's work. Take care of what you are doing. Take care.

George Bernard Shaw


It is ordinary for us to poison rivers also; yea and the very elements whereof the world doth stand, are by us infected: for even the air itself, wherein and whereby all things should live, we corrupt to their mischief and destruction.

Pliny the Elder

The Natural History, tr. Philemon Holland

I am a design chauvinist. I believe that good design is magical and not to be lightly tinkered with. The difference between a great design and a lousy one is in the meshing of the thousand details that either fit or don't, and the spirit of the passionate intellect that has tied them together, or tried. That's why programming -- or buying software -- on the basis of "lists of features" is a doomed and misguided effort. The features can be thrown together, as in a garbage can, or carefully laid together and interwoven in elegant unification, as in APL, or the Forth language, or the game of chess.

Ted Nelson

Two paradoxes are better than one; they may even suggest a solution.

Edward Teller

Monty Python's usual schoolboy humour is here let loose on a period of history appropriately familiar to every schoolboy in the West, and a faith which could be shaken by such good-humoured ribaldry would be a very precarious faith indeed.

The British Board Of Film Censors

In their report on Life of Brian

If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, "Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number?" No. "Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence?" No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

David Hume

Those who write software only for pay should go hurt some other field.

Erik Naggum

In gnu.misc.discuss

You'll have to leave my meals on a tray outside the door because I'll be working pretty late on the secret of making myself invisible, which may take me almost until eleven o'clock.

S.J. Perelman

"Captain Future, Block That Kick!"

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.

Niels Bohr

Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total.

Forsyth and Rada

Machine Learning

Yes, Agassiz does recommend authors to eat fish, because the phosphorus in it makes brain. So far you are correct. But I cannot help you to a decision about the amount you need to eat -- at least, not with certainty. If the specimen composition you send is about your fair usual average, I should judge that a couple of whales would be all you would want for the present. Not the largest kind, but simply good middling-sized whales.

Mark Twain