On Life


When I was a very little boy, at the beginning of the dark ages, I used to memorize all the rules and regulations in the stories that were read to me. I knew with a divine perfection of knowledge that if I were given a mysterious box and told not to open it I should not open it; I knew that whenever I discovered a corpse in a private library I ought on no account to get my fingerprints on the gun; I knew that the foreman of any ranch owned by a pretty girl (that was what we called them then --- the charming creatures are extinct now) was a man to be wary of...

— Gene Wolfe, quoted in “Arcs and Secants,” Orbit 19.

For my part I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortune is a woman, and if you wish to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work more coldly. She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her.

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, chapter XXV.

I was appalled to think that never in my life would I have an opportunity to stride down a gangplank in a panama hat and a white suit and go looking for a bar with a revolving ceiling fan. How crushingly unfair life can sometimes be.

— Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island.

Important safety note: if you are explosively decompressed to vacuum, open your mouth and exhale immediately. (Fortunately, screaming in terror has just this effect.)

— Geoffrey Landis (and S.J. Van Sickle) on sci.space.tech.

“You know, when I think about myself and the life I've led, I feel self-loathing, shame, disgust; I'm a waste and a failure,” he says. “But when I imagine myself as a character in a novel, well, I think I’m pretty interesting: kind of off-beat, intriguing, entertaining.”

— Joe Frank, “Fat Man Down,” Somewhere Out There.

If you go in business with somebody who causes your stomach to churn, you know, I say that’s a lot like marrying for money, that it’s probably not a very good idea under any circumstances, but it’s absolutely crazy if you’re already rich. Right? And so I’m not going to do it. I mean if I can add one percent or five percent to my net worth by being around people, you know, who make me want to throw up, I’m not interested.

— Warren Buffett, Nightline interview with Ted Koppel, March 2, 1999.

Hamlet: Denmark’s a prison.
Rosencrantz: Then is the world one.
Hamlet: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
Rosencrantz: We think not so, my lord.
Hamlet: Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
Rosencrantz: Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind.
Hamlet: O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2.

Renault: And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Renault: Waters? What waters? We're in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.


“Yes, Harry, blessed as I am with extraordinary brainpower, I understood everything you just told me,” said Dumbledore, a little sharply.

— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.