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Quotes of the day: Jerry Pournelle

Published Thursday, August 06, 2015 @ 7:51 PM EDT
Aug 06 2015

Jerry Eugene Pournelle (b. August 7, 1933) is an American science fiction writer, essayist and journalist who contributed for many years to the computer magazine Byte. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


(A)s a practical matter, property is whatever the government allows you to keep.

Bureaucracies are progressive. meaning they have a burning fear that someone, somewhere, is doing something without permission.

History doesn't change. Attitudes can.

I've noticed that just about every time I find a large program with known glitches that no one seems able to fix, that program is written in C and is likely written by a programming team in a remote location.

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

In any ethical situation, the thing you want least to do is probably the right action.

In the Beginning, the Big Bang emitted Chaos; and the Chaos was without form, and void, for it was homogeneous and isotropic. And the Singularity moved upon the face of the Chaos and emitted light; and the Universe was no longer homogeneous, for the light was divided from the darkness. And there came forth firmaments and dry land and seas and stars and moons; and the worlds brought forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit trees yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself. It is quite literally true that if you can believe that, you can believe anything; more, you must believe anything. To exclude anything you must make an act of faith.

Nitwit ideas are for emergencies. You use them when you've got nothing else to try. If they work, they go into the Book. Otherwise you follow the Book, which is largely a collection of nitwit ideas that worked.

Of course most people underestimate the warrior characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman peoples anyway. It takes a heap of piety to keep a Viking from wanting to go sack a city.

One of the first things they teach stockbrokers is to stay out of the stock market. Brokers make their pile from selling advice, and from commissions on stock transactions.

Saving the world is expensive, and there comes a time when you must pay the bill.

Software does precisely what the programmer told it to do, and that may not at all be what you wanted.

That which does not kill me, has made a grave tactical error.

That's the thing about people who think they hate computers. What they really hate is lousy programmers.

The definition of a Dark Age is that we no longer remember what we once could do.

The importance of information is directly proportional to its improbability.

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity of reflection.

We juggle priceless eggs in variable gravity. I am afraid. I will taste fear until I die.

We're basically after Joe's beer money, and Joe likes his beer, so you better make sure that what you give him is at least as pleasurable to him as having his six-pack of beer would be.

With what we spent in Iraq we could build nuclear power plants and space solar power satellites and tell the Arabs to drink their oil.

You won't learn much about capitalism at a university. How could you? Capitalism is a matter of risks and rewards, and a tenured professor doesn't have much to do with either.


(August 7 is also the birthday of James Randi and Garrison Keillor.)

Categories: Jerry Pournelle, Quotes of the day


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