Eric's Eccentric Emporium of Egregiously Effervescent Effluvium, Etc.

hacker emblem Blog: What's all this brouhaha?
Mind-numbingly dull personal information
Obligatory collection of bookmarks.

Personal Interests:

Smith's Laws

  1. Any sufficiently optimistic statement is indistinguishable from sarcasm.
  2. Object code is the ultimate documentation. You can't bullshit the processor.
  3. With great power comes great configuration hassles.

Smith's Laws of Network Security

  1. It doesn't matter how many places two networks are not connected.


Mostly my own random rants, but with a few guest editorials from other authors. older stuff

The eBay Curse

The eBay Curse: May you find everything you're looking for.
— Al Kossow

"The more corrupt the government, the greater the number of laws."
— Tacitus

"If there's going to be a Big Brother in the United States, it's going to be us. It's going to be the FBI."
— Paul George of the FBI, 5-April-2000, as quoted in Wired News

Compact and Efficient Software: a Lost Art?

And in those days many a clever programmer derived an immense intellectual satisfaction from the cunning tricks by means of which he contrived to squeeze the impossible into the constraints of his equipment.
— Edsger W. Dijkstra, "The Humble Programmer", 1972 ACM Turing Award Lecture

Reliable Software: an Unattainable Goal?

...there are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies.

The first method is far more difficult. It demands the same skill, devotion, insight, and even inspiration as the discovery of the simple physical laws which underlie the complex phenomena of nature. It also requires a willingness to accept objectives which are limited by physical, logical, and technological constraints, and to accept a compromise when conflicting objectives cannot be met. No committee will ever do this until it is too late.

— C.A.R. Hoare, "The Emperor's Old Clothes", 1980 ACM Turing Award Lecture, CACM vol. 24 no. 2, February 1981

Teaching programming

[...] the bottom line is that nobody, including a full university staff, can create a programmer. Only somebody that loves to play with the damn things can do that, for themselves. [...] Being able to "write a computer program" and being a programmer are as different as being able to "read and write" and being an author. Only the first can be taught. The other has to be learnt.
— Donald Tees


Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
— Antoine de Saint Exupery
[Which is why Microsoft software will never achieve perfection - they aren't even headed in the right direction!]

Who are they?

"Who are they?", Bill asked.

"They are everyone who wants to be one of them." ...
"They are both a state of mind and an institution." ...
"They die off and are replaced, but the institution of they-ness goes on."

— Harry Harrison, Bill the Galactic Hero

Sheridan: "Who are you?"
Justin: "Now, that's really not important."
Sheridan: "Who are you?"
Justin: "Who decides that the workday is from 9 to 5, instead of 11 to 4? Who decides that the hemlines will be below the knee this year and short again next year? Who draws up the borders, controls the currency, handles all of the decisions that happen transparently around us?"
Sheridan: "I don't know."
Justin: "Ah! I'm with them. Same group, different department. Think of me as a sort of middleman, and the name is Justin. Come in, sit, sit. The tea is getting cold."
— J. Michael Straczynski, Babylon 5: "Z'ha'dum"

Only an Individual

Carmody Overlark: "Miss Clutt, this is a world problem. You are only an individual."
Cecilia Clutt: "I am not only an individual. There is no such thing as only an individual. If ever a person can be spoken of as only an individual, then humanity has already failed."
— R.A. Lafferty, "McGonigal's Worm"
Never underestimate the power of a skillfully used rubber chicken.
—Ben Fuller

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur.

Never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity.
Hanlon's Razor
Sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice.
— Mike Albaugh

The only freedom which counts is the freedom to do what some other people think to be wrong. There is no point in demanding freedom to do that which all will applaud. All the so-called liberties or rights are things which have to be asserted against others; who claim that if such things are to be allowed, their own rights are infringed or their own liberties threatened. This is always true, even when we speak of the freedom to worship, of the right of free speech or association, or of public assembly. If we are to allow freedoms at all there will constantly be complaints that either the liberty itself or the way in which it is exercised is being abused, and, if it is a genuine freedom, these complaints will often be justified. There is no way of having a free society in which there is not abuse. Abuse is the very hallmark of liberty.
The Dilemma of Democracy, Quintin Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St Marylebone

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Last updated October 15, 2016

Copyright 1995-2008, 2014, 2016 Eric Smith

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