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Vol.26 No.4

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Volume 20, No.2

Editorial: Quotable Quotes

Stefano Lanzavecchia

What is a quotable quote? Everybody knows that a quote is a word, a sentence, a paragraph extracted from somebody’s speech or writing. A quotable quote is a quote that should be used, perused and misused. Back in the days when television hadn’t yet plagued our social lives, people used to meet and spend the evening mixing brilliant drinks and brilliant conversation. In those days of the quick rise and decline of somebody’s popularity, the tool of survival was a good bag of quotable quotes to inflict on the gathered. The rules didn’t prescribe originality nor the need to associate correctly the quote with the source. In fact, it’s always been much better to leave the boundaries of original creation and opportunistic plagiarism in a confusing mist of the unsaid.

A quotable quote is something that should be remembered and, sometimes, something that should be forgotten; something that should be attributed and, sometimes, something that cannot or must not be attributed; something that inspires, amuses, something that can be used in context and, some other time, out of context. The quoter should never feel too ashamed about the use he is about to make of his little treasure.

With all the bright people who met at the recent Dyalog User Group Meeting, somebody well versed in the art of catching and collecting quotable quotes would certainly have made a big catch. I contented myself with writing down a few that tickled my fancy and that I am now going to report.

“Crude oil is more or less the same as wine”
Steve Levine

The beauty and the power of quoting out of context is self-evident in this pearl that could be used by both an engineer who cannot distinguish between a glass of kerosene and one of Amarone della Valpolicella (I am not an engineer but have the same fine taste for wines -– er -– liquids) and an outstanding sommelier, who studied organic chemistry at the university.

“LISP came out from people who didn’t see the progression raw binary->assembler->FORTRAN”
John Scholes

LISP would be a so much better language if instead of having just semantics it had also syntax…

“I should be working in a power plant (I am no statistician; I am no programmer either: I am an engineer specialised in nuclear power plants) but Sasha’s guys blew up Chernobyl”
Veli-Matti Jantunen

The Finns may be people who have a hard time expressing their emotions, especially by facial expressions, but they sure know how to entertain their audience. And, personally, I am really happy Veli-Matti became part of the APL community even if that meant changing his well-laid plan. I am also happy that his friendship with good Sasha allows him to make sapid comments on their respective and respectful jobs.

“Statistics are an important aspect of modern society: had the Iraqis produced good statistics about their weapons of mass-destruction, a certain incident could have been avoided”
V.M.J.

It’s amazing how one’s insight in a particular topic can change perspective on historical matters, whether it’s classic history or modern one.

“In Finland there are 456 municipalities. Excel can only handle 256 columns in one spreadsheet: somebody suggested to merge municipalities to reduce their number”
V.M.J.

It’s a known fact that I have a soft tooth for Microsoft and their products. It is a joy for me to see that there are people who instead of complaining (as one would) about the weak points in Excel, come out with a bold but basically good suggestion for a workaround.

“Chunking: sounds like a Chinese restaurant”
“Beware of chunking”
“I am the man who used to be Maurice Jordan”
“The SIGAPL conference is dead”
Various anonymous

These quick spots bring me to my last point: I am sure that you, dear reader, who for many and various reasons could not attend the first Dyalog User Group Meeting in sunny Horsley (believe me or not, it was sunny for real! England is no more what is used to be… how are we going to find the rainy afternoons required to do some serious hacking?) would like to know what chunking is and how the meeting was, silly jokes apart. I can tell you in one sentence: you should have been there! It was just that good.


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