“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” — J.M. Barrie
From a letter by Isaac Asimov, July 20, 1965:
You have a vacation when you do something you like better than your work. But there isn’t anything I like better than my work. My vacation therefore exists all year long — except when I am forced to go away.
But James Thurber wrote, “I suppose that even the most pleasurable of imaginable occupations, that of batting baseballs through the windows of the RCA Building, would pall a little as the days ran on.”
“[John] von Neumann gave me an interesting idea: that you don’t have to be responsible for the world that you’re in. So I have developed a very powerful sense of social irresponsibility as a result of von Neumann’s advice. It’s made me a very happy man ever since. But it was von Neumann who put the seed in that grew into my active irresponsibility!” — Richard Feynman
He expands on this in Christopher Sykes’ No Ordinary Genius (1994):
“I got the idea of ‘active irresponsibility’ in Los Alamos. We often went on walks, and one day I was with the great mathematician von Neumann and a few other people. I think Bethe and von Neumann were discussing some social problem that Bethe was very worried about. Von Neumann said, ‘I don’t feel any responsibility for all these social problems. Why should I? I’m born into the world, I didn’t make it.’ Something like that. Well, I’ve read von Neumann’s autobiography and it seems to me that he felt perpetually responsible, but at that moment this was a new idea to me, and I caught onto it. Around you all the time there are people telling you what your responsibilities are, and I thought it was kind of brave to be actively irresponsible. ‘Active’ because, like democracy, it takes eternal vigilance to maintain it — in a university you have to perpetually watch out, and be careful that you don’t do anything to help anybody!”
“Feynman somehow was proud of being irresponsible. He concentrated on his science, and on enjoying life. There are some of us — including myself — who felt after the end of the Second World War that we had a great responsibility to explain atomic weapons, and to try and make the government do sensible things about atomic weapons. … Feynman didn’t want to have anything to do with it, and I think quite rightly. I think it would be quite wrong if all scientists worked on discharging their responsibility. You need some number of them, but it should only be a small fraction of the total number of scientists. Among the leading scientists, there should be some who do not feel responsible, and who only do what science is supposed to accomplish.”
“I must say I have a little of this sense of social irresponsibility, and Feynman was a great inspiration to me — I have done a good deal of it since. There are several reasons for a scientist to be irresponsible, and one of them I take very seriously: people say, ‘Are you sure you should be working on this? Can’t it be used for bad?’ Well, I have a strong feeling that good and bad are things to be thought about by people who understand better than I do the interactions among people, and the causes of suffering. The worst thing I can imagine is for somebody to ask me to decide whether a certain innovation is good or bad.”
“Why can’t somebody give us a list of things that everybody thinks and nobody says, and another list of things that everybody says and nobody thinks?” — Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
“Isn’t it strange that we talk least about the things we think about most!” — Charles Lindbergh
“Mr. Hoover, if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them.” — Calvin Coolidge, to Herbert Hoover
“Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.” — Seneca
“In dreams I do not recollect that state of feeling so common when awake, of thinking of one subject and looking at another.” — Coleridge
“In dreams you sometimes fall from a height, or are stabbed, or beaten, but you never feel pain.” — Dostoevsky
“In a dream you are never eighty.” — Anne Sexton
“The waking have one common world, but the sleeping turn aside each into a world of his own.” — Heraclitus
“Not to know what happened before you were born is to remain forever a child.” — Cicero
“The animal needing something knows how much it needs, the man does not.” — Democritus
“My living in Yorkshire was so far out of the way, that it was actually twelve miles from a lemon.” — Sydney Smith
“The thoughts that come often unsought, and, as it were, drop into the mind, are commonly the most valuable of any we have, and therefore should be secured, because they seldom return again.” — John Locke, letter to Samuel Bold, May 16, 1699
- Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.
- EMBARGO spelled backward is O GRAB ME.
- The numbers on a roulette wheel add to 666.
- The fourth root of 2143/22 is nearly pi (3.14159265258).
- “A prosperous fool is a grievous burden.” — Aeschylus
Six countries have names that begin with the letter K, and each has a different vowel as the second letter: Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan.
“I have always observed that to succeed in the world one should appear like a fool but be wise.” — Montesquieu
“It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.” — Aeschylus
“All wisdom is folly that does not accommodate itself to the common ignorance.” — Montaigne
“I don’t believe in playing down to children, either in life or in motion pictures. I didn’t treat my own youngsters like fragile flowers, and I think no parent should. Children are people, and they should have to reach to learn about things, to understand things, just as adults have to reach if they want to grow in mental stature. Life is composed of lights and shadows, and we would be untruthful, insincere, and saccharine if we tried to pretend there were no shadows. Most things are good, and they are the strongest things; but there are evil things too, and you are not doing a child a favor by trying to shield him from reality. The important thing is to teach a child that good can always triumph over evil, and that is what our pictures attempt to do.” — Walt Disney
“One will rarely err if extreme actions be ascribed to vanity, ordinary actions to habit, and mean actions to fear.” — Nietzsche
“How wonderful opera would be if there were no singers.” — Gioacchino Rossini
“No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.” — W.H. Auden
“People are wrong when they say that the opera isn’t what it used to be. It is what it used to be — that’s what’s wrong with it!” — Noël Coward
“All men are mortal. Socrates was mortal. Therefore, all men are Socrates.” — Woody Allen
“I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.” — Albert Einstein
“I want to be a human being, nothing more and nothing less. … I don’t suppose we can ever stop hating each other, but why encourage that by keeping the old labels with their ready-made history of millennial hate?” — Isaac Asimov
“Patriots always talk of dying for their country, and never of killing for their country.” — Bertrand Russell
“If I knew of something that could serve my nation but would ruin another, I would not propose it to my prince, for I am first a man and only then a Frenchman … because I am necessarily a man, and only accidentally am I French.” — Montesquieu
“Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” — George Bernard Shaw
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” — G.K. Chesterton
“If you choose to represent the various parts in life by holes upon a table, of different shapes, — some circular, some triangular, some square, some oblong, — and the persons acting these parts by bits of wood of similar shapes, we shall generally find that the triangular person has got into the square hole, the oblong into the triangular, and a square person has squeezed himself into the round hole. The officer and the office, the doer and the thing done, seldom fit so exactly, that we can say they were almost made for each other.” — Sydney Smith
“When lost in a forest go always down hill. When lost in a philosophy or doctrine go upward.” — Ambrose Bierce
- What time is it at the North Pole?
- The shortest three-syllable word in English is W.
- After the revolution, the French frigate Carmagnole used a guillotine as its figurehead.
- 823502 + 381252 = 8235038125
- PRICES: CRIPES!
- “Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.” — Martial
When Montenegro declared independence from Yugoslavia, its top-level domain changed from .yu to .me.
“Life is like playing a violin solo in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.” — Samuel Butler
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein
“You cannot learn to skate without making yourself ridiculous — the ice of life is slippery.” — George Bernard Shaw (quoting the motto of the Cambridge Fabian Society)
“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it’s impossible to count them accurately.” — Oscar Wilde
“Whether you can observe a thing or not depends on the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides what can be observed.” — Albert Einstein
“When we observe nature, and especially the ordering of nature, it is always ourselves alone we are observing.” — G.C. Lichtenberg