January 1st is my favorite day of the year. Quiet, reflective, and full of potential. If only we could make this our every day.

– Jack Dorsey

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone … I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone … Not on a committee. Not on a team.

– Steve Wozniak

It was from Lady Wilde that Oscar learned that identity is a kind of fiction, and that being oneself is a form of playacting.

– David Friedman, Wilde in America

Interviewer: “You could have simply worn a fat suit to give the character his chunky feeling. Why did you decide to go whole hog (so to speak) and actually gain the weight?”

Jared Leto: “I really wanted to inhabit this guy’s skin, and that affected the way I stood, walked and moved. I wanted to make it clear that this was someone who felt very isolated from people, who shyed away from human contact. Also, being overweight, I felt the rejection and mockery of people who didn’t know that I was just playing a part. Their response to me as an overweight and unattractive guy just made me realize how isolated he felt, how unloved and how untouched by human beings. I kind of turned into a sculpture.”

– Jared Leto, on gaining 70 pounds vs. wearing a fat suit for the leading role of Chapter 27

The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

– Achilles to Briseis, Troy

What Bode was saying was this: Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime. I took Bode’s remark to heart; I spent a good deal more of my time for some years trying to work a bit harder and I found, in fact, I could get more work done. I don’t like to say it in front of my wife, but I did sort of neglect her sometimes; I needed to study. You have to neglect things if you intend to get what you want done.

– Richard Hamming

Another trait, it took me a while to notice. I noticed the following facts about people who work with the door open or the door closed. I notice that if you have the door to your office closed, you get more work done today and tomorrow, and you are more productive than most. But 10 years later somehow you don’t know quite know what problems are worth working on; all the hard work you do is sort of tangential in importance. He who works with the door open gets all kinds of interruptions, but he also occasionally gets clues as to what the world is and what might be important. Now I cannot prove the cause and effect sequence because you might say, “The closed door is symbolic of a closed mind.” I don’t know. But I can say there is a pretty good correlation between those who work with the doors open and those who ultimately do important things, although people who work with doors closed often work harder. Somehow they seem to work on slightly the wrong thing — not much, but enough that they miss fame.

– Richard Hamming

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind – though almost any established art form would do.

So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

– Paul Graham

The less confident you are, the more serious you have to act.

– Paul Graham

What’s so great about Lisp? And if Lisp is so great, why doesn’t everyone use it? Lisp is so great not because of some magic quality visible only to devotees, but because it is simply the most powerful language available. And the reason everyone doesn’t use it is that programming languages are not merely technologies, but habits of mind as well, and nothing changes slower…

I’ll begin with a shockingly controversial statement: programming languages vary in power.

Few would dispute, at least, that high level languages are more powerful than machine language. Most programmers today would agree that you do not, ordinarily, want to program in machine language. Instead, you should program in a high-level language, and have a compiler translate it into machine language for you.

Everyone knows it’s a mistake to write your whole program by hand in machine language. What’s less often understood is that there is a more general principle here: that if you have a choice of several languages, it is, all other things being equal, a mistake to program in anything but the most powerful one.

– Paul Graham, The Blub Paradox

Over at reddit.com, we rewrote the site from Lisp to Python in the past week. It was pretty much done in one weekend. The others knew Lisp…and they knew Python…and yet they decided liked Python better for this project. The Python version had less code that ran faster and was far easier to read and maintain.

The idea that there is something better than Lisp is apparently inconceivable to some, judging from comments on the reddit blog. The Lispers instead quickly set about trying to find the real reason behind the switch.

One assumed it must have been divine intervention, since “there seems to be no other reason for switching to an inferior language.” Another figured something else must be going on: “Could this be…a lie? To throw off competition? It’s not as though Paul Graham hasn’t hinted at this tactic in his essays…”

– Aaron Swartz, Rewriting Reddit

We keep secrets because we get to do our work free from judgement – until we’re ready to share it. We keep secrets because keeping secrets gives you space to change your mind until you’re really sure that you’re right.

– Evan Spiegel

A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

– Maya Angelou

Technology should increase the gap in income, but it seems to decrease other gaps. A hundred years ago, the rich led a different kind of life from ordinary people … Now, thanks to technology, the rich live more like the average person.

The only thing technology can’t cheapen is brand. Which is precisely why we hear ever more about it. Brand is the residue left as the substantive differences between the rich and poor evaporate … In 1900, if you kept a carriage, no one asked what year or brand it was. If you had one, you were rich. And if you weren’t rich, you took the omnibus or walked. Now even the poorest Americans drive cars, and it is only because we’re so well trained by advertising that we can even recognize the especially expensive ones.

– Paul Graham

A male mouse and a female mouse will soon tire of mating with each other. But put new partners into the cage, and it turns out they weren’t tired at all. They were just bored.

– Ezra Klein

The world is full of low IQ people that try to look intelligent and fall on their ass, and Steve, I think is a fairly high IQ person that does a great job at looking stupid, and that’s probably why he’s succesful at what he does.

– Steve-O’s Dad

Youth is the next best thing to revenue.

– WSJ on Snapchat

Never underestimate the importance of making money from making music. Let go of any weird taboos you have about it. Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you’re adding value to people’s lives. Making sure you’re making money is just a way of making sure you’re doing something of value to others.

– Derek Sivers

My opinion, then and now, is that C and other languages without memory checks are unsuitable for writing secure code. Plainly unsuitable. They need to be restricted to writing a small core system, preferably small enough that it can be checked using formal (proof-based) methods, and all the rest, including all application logic, should be written using managed code (such as C#, Java) …

The fact is that no programmer is good enough to write code which is free from such vulnerabilities … in languages without bounds checks … All non-bounds-checked languages expose multiple levels of the computer to the program, and you are kidding yourself if you think you can handle this better than the OpenSSL team.

– HackerNews on The HeartBleed OpenSSL Bug

You’ve got potential, kid, more potential than any wizard I’ve ever seen, but you’ve got to learn how to use it, you know? Be a bit sweeter to them, learn some spells to clean up that mess you call hair. Above all, you need to hide your evilness better – not too well, but better.

Nice well-groomed boys get girls, and Dark Wizards also get girls, but nice well-groomed boys suspected of being secretly Dark get more girls than you can imagine.

– Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.

The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.

“Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”

Print has one supreme flaw: ink is indelible. An ink-and-paper design is static-it must display all its data, all the time. However, a reader typically only cares about a subset relevant to her current situation. The designer is faced with the challenge of organizing the data so that hopefully mutually-relevant subsets are grouped together, and the reader has the challenge of visually or physically navigating through the entire data space to find the group of interest.

Liberating us from the permanence of publication is the undersung crux of the computer-the dynamic display screen. Its pixels are magic ink-capable of absorbing their context and reflecting a unique story for every reader. And the components surrounding the display-CPU, storage, network, input devices-are its peripherals for inferring context.

– Bret Victor, Magic Ink

I made a bug once, and I need to tell you about it. So, in 2001, I wrote a reference library for JSON, in Java, and in it, I had this line

private int index

that created a variable called “index” which counted the number of characters in the JSON text that we were parsing, and it was used to produce an error message. Last year, I got a bug report from somebody. It turns out that they had a JSON text which was several gigabytes in size, and they had a syntax error past two gigabytes, and my JSON library did not properly report where the error was – it was off by two gigabytes, which, that’s kind of a big error, isn’t it? And the reason was, I used an int.

Now, I can justify my choice in doing that. At the time that I did it, two gigabytes was a really big disk drive, and my use of JSON still is very small messages. My JSON messages are rarely bigger than a couple of K. And – a couple gigs, yeah that’s about a thousand times bigger than I need, I should be all right. No, turns out it wasn’t enough.

You might think well, one bug in 12 years you’re doing pretty good. And I’m saying no, that’s not good enough. I want my programs to be perfect. I don’t want anything to go wrong. And in this case it went wrong simply because Java gave me a choice that I didn’t need, and I made the wrong choice.

– Doug Crockford

Start your life already, you’re gonna be a rich bastard on your own someday, waiting’s a bunch of bullshit.

– Tom, Mad Men

But being great isn’t as easy as just picking a hard goal – in fact, picking a really hard goal avoids reality almost as much as picking a really easy one. If you pick an easy goal, you know you’ll always succeed; if you pick a really hard one, you know you’ll never fail (because it will always be too early to tell). Artificial intelligence is a truly big problem – how can you possibly expect us to succeed in just a decade? But we’re making great progress, we swear.

If your startup is eventually going to make a million dollars, can it start by making ten? If your book is going to eventually persuade the world, can you start by persuading your friends?

– Aaron Swartz

A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer’s idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all.

However, it is very real. It can perform intellectual work. It can answer questions. It can affect the world by disbursing money at a bank or by controlling a robot arm in a factory. The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer’s spells.

– Abelson and Sussman, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (1984)

At an art school where I once studied, the students wanted most of all to develop a personal style. But if you just try to make good things, you’ll inevitably do it in a distinctive way, just as each person walks in a distinctive way. Michelangelo was not trying to paint like Michelangelo, he was just trying to paint well; he couldn’t help painting like Michelangelo … The only style worth having is the one you can’t help.

– Paul Graham

Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.

– Kevin de Leon (California Senator) and Anthony Rendon in response to Trump winning the 2016 election

Here is my promise to you as your mayor: We will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people. If all Muslims are required to register, we will take legal action to block it. If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it. If the federal government wants to deport law abiding citizens … we will step in. If there are threats to federal funding for planned parenthood, we will insure they get the funding they need.

If Jews or Muslims or members of LGBT are victimized or attacked, we will find their attackers, we will arrest them, we will prosecute them. This is New York, nothing about us changed on election day. (in response to Trump winning the 2016 election)

– NYC Mayer Bill de Blasio

The minute that you begin to follow your senses, and not your itinerary, you may begin to find pleasure in many things you would ordinarily overlook. The many sights, smells, sceneries of Paris.

– Anthony Bourdain

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo