Roy Watt Miller
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Some of my favorite quotations:
(Text last updated May 25, 2024)

  • As Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden, one said to the other, "We are in [for] a period of profound change."
  • (Canada's 28th Governor Generator and former McGill Principal David Johnston opening words from his book "Getting Canada Online" published 1995.)

  • Life is like a teacher who routinely hands out the exam before teaching the lesson. It is up to us to decide whether we're interested enough to take the lesson.
  • (David Johnston paraphrased from his book Empathy published January 2023.)

  • The most unexpected connections can lead to incredible progress -- and make the world a better place. (Bill Gates, posted on 2024-03-29.)

  • Economic projections are not weather forecasts. The difference is that we can change the economic future.
  • (Former Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his book "A Path to Canadian Prosperity".)

  • As a corollary to the above, while we cannot [currently] control the weather, most other outcomes or futures can be altered.
  • (Roy Watt Miller)

  • We can easily control our local environment with heating and cooling systems. Unfortunately, these efforts have long-term effects on our environment, which we cannot easily control.
  • (Roy Watt Miller)

  • We think about our daily lives in terms of three dimensions that are described by our physical location. Relating our experiences to others involves including the extra fourth dimension of time. We might, for instance, say today ... or in my day we did ... The person hearing the story will often add a fifth dimension of age. They might think, for instance, that is not the best way to do it, or only older people feel that way. A sixth dimension has to do with upbringing, which includes education, language, religion, culture, country and group or club affiliation. Appreciating at least these six dimensions will lead to better understanding and feelings between people.
  • (Roy Watt Miller)

  • To err is human; To really foul things up requires a computer.
  • (William E. Vaughan crafted this phrase in 1969 although it is possible he was influenced by an Agatha Christie passage in her 1969 book "Hallowe'en Party".)

  • To make a complete mess of things make sure there is a single point of failure (SPOF) in the computer system. The SPOF will turn a simple problem into a disaster. This disaster can be made much worse by relying on humans to avoid the SPOF conditions.
  • (Roy Watt Miller, the FAA system-wide shutdown of January 11, 2023 is a prime example of humans not following a simple procedure and thus creating a problem which had a wide-ranging consequence and a long time to repair.)

  • Every oak tree started out as a couple of nuts who stood their ground.
  • (Henry David Thoreau, an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher born in 1817. He anticipated the methods and findings of ecology and environmental history, two sources of modern-day environmentalism.)

  • Think for yourself, or others will think for you without thinking of you.
  • (Henry David Thoreau)

  • Complex Quantum Physics principles illustrated with common Internet occurances -- Part 1: Schroedinger' Cat. In a Dilbert cartoon Pointy Haired Boss says to customer call center "Your app won't let me sign up because it says I already have an account. And it won't let me recover my password because it says I don't have an account." Dogbert says "That's because you accidentally selected the "Schroedinger' Cat" account type when you signed up. Your account exists and does not exist at the same time."
  • (From Scott Adams' cartoon published 2022-12-04)

  • Complex Quantum Physics principles illustrated with common Internet occurances -- Part 2: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle -- You can either know where your account is, or know what the password is, but never both with any degree of accuracy. The more certain you are that you have an account, the less likely you are to remember the password and the more certain you are that you remember the password, the less likely it is to be for the account you are thinking of. [Same principle applies to remembering a filename and its location. -Editor]
  • (Jeebus in response to Scott Adams' cartoon mentioned above)

  • Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.
  • (Bill Gates)

  • As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.
  • (Bill Gates)

  • The No. 1 thing that has made us successful by far is obsessive compulsive focus on the customer. (Jeff Bezos, founder, executive chairman, and former president and CEO of Amazon Inc, and one of the wealthiest billionaires in the world.)
  • Learn from the mistakes of others. You can't live long enough to make them all yourself. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
  • Speak softly and carry a big stick. [Meaning: use the tactic of caution and non-aggression, backed up by the ability to carry out harsh action if required] (Theodore Roosevelt in a letter to Henry L. Sprague January 26th, 1900)
  • You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy. (Said by Jane Marczewski [stage name: Nightbirde] about her fights against recurring cancer on America's Got Talent [AGT] TV show after her live performance of her Golden Buzzer Awarded song "It's Okay", August 11, 2021. Watch online at It's Okay )
  • We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win. (John F. Kennedy during address at Rice University, Houston, Texas, 12 September 1962.)
  • Moon challenge specifics: At the time of Kennedy's Moon challenge, no one knew how to navigate to the Moon. No one knew how to build a rocket big enough to reach the Moon, or how to build a computer small enough (and powerful enough) to fly a spaceship there. No one knew what the surface of the Moon was like, or what astronauts could eat as they flew there. On the day of Kennedy's historic speech, America had a total of fifteen minutes of spaceflight experience -- with just five of those minutes outside the atmosphere. Russian dogs had more time in space than US astronauts. Over the next decade, more than 400,000 scientists, engineers, and factory workers would send twenty-four astronauts to the Moon. Each hour of space flight would require one million hours of work back on Earth to get America to the Moon on July 20, 1969. (Charles Fishman in his excellent book "One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon")
  • Boy this thing sure flies nice. (Pete Conrad, Apollo 12 commander at the controls of lunar module Intrepid, preparing to fly to a pinpoint landing on the Moon as quoted by Charles Fishman in his excellent book "One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon")
  • When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor. (Elon Musk founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer at SpaceX; angel investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc.)
  • I think you should always bear in mind that entropy is not on your side. [Entropy is the lack of order or predictability that results in the gradual decline into disorder.] (Elon Musk founder, CEO, and Chief Engineer at SpaceX; angel investor, CEO, and Product Architect of Tesla, Inc.)
  • The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, acclaimed astrophysicist)
  • Have a nice day, unless you already have other plans. (Unknown source)
  • Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present. (Various people)
  • Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. (John Lennon. Similar expressions were used by others prior to Lennon's use of this line.)
  • We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow )
  • Dilbert's boss: "Every expert in the world says your idea can't work." Dilbert replies: "Experts only know about old ideas, if they knew about future ones they would be entrepreneurs not experts."(Scott Adams Dilbert strip 2021/01/15)
  • I've never learned anything while I was talking.(Larry King)
  • You should dig a well before you are thirsty. (Gerry Turcotte, a former President of the Communications Research Centre Canada (CRC), the agency of the Canadian federal government's Industry Canada responsible for conducting applied research and development in communications and related technologies.)
  • The one who says it cannot be done should never interrupt the one actually doing the work. (Unknown source)
  • [As a consequence of the above quote ...] A great pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do. (Walter Bagehot)
  • Anyone who follows a crowd will never be followed by a crowd. (Unknown source)
  • Doing nothing is different from having nothing to do. (Douglas Coupland)
  • If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't. (Michael Pollan in his book Food Rules: An Eater's Manual)
  • Our vision is every book ever printed in any language [fetched and viewable on our eBook Kindle device] in under 60 seconds. Jeff Bezos, CEO of during presentation at Pace University May 6, 2009

  • Remember half your users (or readers) are below average. (Unknown source)
  • Write net. ["Net" in this context does not refer to the Internet. "Net" is used in the context like "net cost". So the expression means to "write briefly".] (Seen in the office of a technical writer. Unknown source)
  • All I ask of you is one thing: please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. Conan O'Brien, as he signed off the "Tonight Show" January 22, 2010 after an ugly shakeup at NBC.
  • Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires and that, were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical value. (From an 1865 editorial in the Boston Post, applauding the arrest of Joshua Coopersmith, who had been attempting to raise funds to develop a telephone. Quotted by Denzil Doyle in his excellent entrepreneurial book Making Technology Happen)
  • One rarely does well what one rarely does. (St Francis de Sales. [Born August 21, 1567, into a family of nobility, he was educated by the Jesuits where he earned a Doctorate in both Civil and Church Law.])
  • It matters little how one begins, provided that he be resolved to go on well, and to end well. (St Francis de Sales.)
  • We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insolvable problems. (Unknown source)
  • Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do... The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn't violate too many of Newton's Laws! ( Alan Kay while working at Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1971. Alan Kay was the "father" of windowing based systems including Mac, Windows, NextStep, X-Windows, etc.)
  • By the time I got to school, I had already read a couple hundred books. I knew in the first grade that they were lying to me because I had already been exposed to other points of view. School is basically about one point of view -- the one the teacher has or the textbooks have. They don't like the idea of having different points of view, so it was a battle. (Alan Kay (see above for who he is) as quoted in the book Out of their Minds: The Lives and Discoveries of 15 Great Computer Scientists)
  • You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to loose sight of the shore. (Unknown source)
  • Change is inevitable. Progress is optional. (Unknown source)
  • A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn't like the tune. (Unknown source)
  • When you're finished changing, you're finished. (Benjamin Franklin)
  • The most important thing with communication is to hear what is not being said. (Unknown source)
  • Today's trend ends up in tomorrow's landfill
  • (David Amram, composer/conductor/multi-instrumentalist)

  • Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, "We've always done it this way". I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock that runs counter-clockwise. (Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, mathematician, computer scientist, teacher. Her many accomplishments include the invention of the first computer compiler which formed the basis of COBOL, and the person who coined the term computer bug.) 1906-1994)
  • It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change. (Charles Darwin)
  • The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas-covered planet going around a nuclear fireball ninety million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be. (Douglas Adams)
  • On one planet [earth], and possibly only one planet in the entire universe, molecules that would normally make nothing more complicated than a chunk of rock, gather themselves together into chunks of rock-sized matter of such staggering complexity that they are capable of running, jumping, swimming, flying, seeing, hearing, capturing and eating other such animated chunks of complexity; capable in some cases of thinking and feeling, and falling in love with yet other chunks of complex matter. (Richard Dawkins)
  • Change requires individuals who recognize that new things can be done and who take the initiative to get them done ... The existing bureaucracies, public and private, will not take on the job of changing what is. (Lester Thurow in his book Building Wealth.)
  • You manage things, you lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. (Grace Hopper)
  • The future is here -- it just has not been uniformly distributed. (William Gibson)
  • The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. (Lily Tomlin)
  • Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. (Groucho Marx)
  • No matter how absurd I try to make the Dilbert comic strip I can't stay ahead of what people are actually experiencing in their own workplaces. (Scott Adams in his book The Dilbert Principle page 1)
  • If you're one in a million, there are about 8,000 other people just like you -- and more than 5,500 million of them are on the Internet. (Hal Rubenstein in his book Paisley Goes with Nothing. Updated for the Internet by Roy Watt Miller. (Original quote updated October 2022 for current world population and the number of people on the Internet from
  • Computing is not about computers anymore. (Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 book Being Digital. The book is also available on audio tape.)
  • Even in the developing parts of the world, kids take to computers like fish to water. (Nicholas Negroponte)
  • Long distances used to be a moat that both insulated and isolated people from workers on the other side of the world. But every day, technology narrows that moat inch by inch. Every person in the world is on the verge of becoming both a coworker and a competitor to every one of us ... Technological change is going to reach out and sooner or later change something fundamental in your business world. (Andrew S. Grove, President and CEO of Intel Corporation, from his book Only the Paranoid Survive page 5.) The book is also available on audio tape.)
  • Get Innovative or Get Dead! (Title of book by Matthew J. Kiernan which includes many other quotable phrases.)
  • To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. (Thomas A. Edison)
  • All the atoms we are made of are forged from hydrogen in stars that died and exploded before our solar system formed. So if you are romantic, you can say we are literally stardust. If you are less romantic, you can say we're the nuclear waste from fuel that makes stars shine." (Sir Martin Rees, Britain's astronomer royal.)
  • Stay clear of foolish discussions which lead into the sin of anger with each other (Bible: 2 Timothy 2:16)
  • Imagine if your had been born in a completely different country. You would probably speak a different language and have a different religion. You'd like different people, different foods. Maybe you'd hate all the people you now like. In short, you'd be completely different person but it would still be "you." (Jim Unger, from his cartoon collection The Best of Herman, page 61.)
  • It is our nature to yearn for change; adapting to it is what we fear. Chaos does not loom over our future, only our own fears do. But those willing to think the unthinkable will see opportunity rather than chaos, and fortune rather than fear. Such individuals will know how to navigate to the next millennium. (Frank Ogden, from his book Navigating in Cyberspace: A guide to the next millennium. page 11. Text is also on CD-ROM at the back of the bound book.)
  • From the classroom perspective, the computer is not a tool to automate teaching but an environment in which students can learn and develop their cognitive skills through exploration and discovery.

    In the world of work, the computer is not just a tool to increase productivity but a learning environment in which employees continuously develop their information-processing and communications skills. (Robert K. Logan from his book The Fifth Language: Learning a Living in the Computer Age page 9.)

  • All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. One man in his time plays many parts... [in later years] he is full of wise saws [sayings] and modern instances...
  • (William Shakespeare from his play As You Like It first published in 1623, 400+ years ago.)

  • Don't worry. Everything always works out in the end... Except once, and then you'll be dead. So who cares?
  • (Brian Crane in his Pickles cartoon published 2023-04-15)

  • Poem: To The [Coy] World Problems/ Had we but world enough and time,/ These problems, sir, would be no crime./ We would sit down, and think which way/ To solve them all our life-long day/ Nor could I solve at a slower rate./ But, at my back I always hear/ Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near:/ And yonder all before we die/ Deserts of vast problems lie./ Whose beauty shall only be found/ When we wrestle them into the ground.
  • (Roy Watt Miller [2023] inspired by the infamous poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell published posthumously in 1681.)

  • Eye awl wheeze Czech four hypos inn may massages. Donut ewe? Thinks two spelt chequers its sew essay! [Hint: quote will pass spell checking even though every word is used incorrectly.](Roy Watt Miller)

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